ENCINITAS — Sid Shaw was often called the mayor of Encinitas. It didn’t matter that he never officially held the title.
“He was involved in so many local things that people referred to him as the mayor,” said LaVerne Shaw, who was married to Sid for 69 years.
“People would tell him, ‘thanks for your help Mr. Mayor,’” she added.
Sid, who passed away several weeks ago at the age of 92, certainly left his mark on Encinitas.
In 1946, Sid purchased the downtown Encinitas staple Surf Cleaners. Most mornings, he woke up at 4 a.m. to run the business. After a hard day’s work, he dedicated what was left of his afternoons to his family and the community.
While the mayor moniker was less-than-official, Sid held a laundry list of distinguished titles. A sample: founder of the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, member of the Encinitas School Board of Trustees for 10 years and president of the Encinitas Business Association.
He first became interested in city affairs in the early 1950s, about 35 years before Encinitas’ incorporation. Back then, getting approval for city infrastructure required going before the county.
“The city badly needed stop signs on Highway 101 at that time,” LaVerne said. “It was dangerous. And he decided he was going to do something about it. He formed a committee, and he would drive down to San Diego in the afternoons to address our needs.”
She noted that Sid was eventually successful in getting approval for Encinitas’ first stop sign on Coast Highway 101. Later, he advocated on behalf of Encinitas for additional traffic improvements and other community projects.
Bob Bonde, Sid’s longtime friend, noted that they didn’t always see eye-to-eye. Notably, Sid was against the city’s incorporation in 1986, while Bonde was a key player in its passing.
“We would join forces for some debates,” Bonde said. “We would be against each other at other times.”
“He always had a strong opinion that he would let you know about, but he was respectful,” Bonde added.
Sid’s diplomatic tone was especially important during a contentious, decade-long debate over where Interstate 5 should run in Encinitas. Several local businessmen, along with many at the state level, believed that I-5 should go where Coast Highway 101 is currently located.
But LaVerne said that Sid’s respectful persistence helped sway many in the community to build I-5 a bit further east. If words failed, LaVerne noted that Sid would sometimes explain his points with drawings.
“He had a talent for visualizing where exactly a project should go,” LaVerne said.
At one point during a debate with someone who wanted the freeway near the beach, Sid drew a picture illustrating how I-5’s current location would suit both businesses and residents. LaVerne recalled that the coastal I-5 advocate “took a look at that and said, ‘well, you’re right.’”
Before his artistic skills convinced, they charmed. LaVerne remembers relishing funny cartoons Sid sent her from throughout the U.S. while flying blimps during World War II.
“They all included little inside jokes between us,” LaVerne said, adding that he “had a sense of humor that wouldn’t quit.”
The couple met in 1942 while Sid was training as a pilot in LaVerne’s hometown of Yuma, Ariz. They married two years later. Shortly after, Sid was stationed at other places throughout the nation, returning to Yuma once the war ended.
At that time, the couple, with their new baby girl, bought a dry cleaning business in Yuma. But Sid, who was part of San Dieguito Union High School’s first graduating class in 1938, still had his eye on Encinitas.
“He considered it his town,” LaVerne said. “He told me ‘you grew up in Yuma so you don’t know the difference, but it’s too hot here.’”
LaVerne noted that Encinitas was much smaller when they moved here. There were few roads. And the number of shops in downtown Encinitas could be counted on two hands.
“Everyone knew everyone,” LaVerne said. “You knew them, their cats, their dogs, their kids.”
While settling in Encinitas and buying Surf Cleaners was a big transition, LaVerne explained that Sid was always looking forward. Even in his early 20s, he was already planning for the couple’s retirement.
To him, buying land was a long-term investment that would provide for the future. Over the years, Sid and longtime friend Bob Grice purchased properties throughout Encinitas and the rest of North County.
“He had an instinct for which properties to buy,” LaVerne said. “And Bob was an accountant who knew the finances. They were a good team.”
His penchant for planning was evident even when LaVerne first met him. She noted that he sold his Model A Ford, which he bought for $100 in 1936, before joining the service. He loaned part of that money to others in the military, earning the nickname “10 percent Shaw.”
Norm Keith, another of Sid’s longtime friends, said that Sid was not only business savvy, but also a great family man.
Three daughters, seven grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren survive him.
“He was always talking about his family when we met up,” said Keith, noting that they had lunch together most Wednesdays.
LaVerne said Sid should also be remembered for wanting what’s best for all of Encinitas.
“He thought of the whole area as a community that’s in it together,” LaVerne said.