"Legendary Locals of Encinitas" author Alison Burns signs copies of her new book at a packed reception in the Old Schoolhouse in downtown Encinitas on May 16. Photo by Wehtahnah Tucker

New book highlights city’s unique residents

ENCINITAS — Hundreds of people attended a reception to usher in the new book “Legendary Locals of Encinitas” on May 16. As author Alison Burns signed books, many of the people featured in the 128 pages mingled and recalled a bygone era while catching up on recent events.

“It really brings back the old times,” Richard Scott said as he said as he watched the slideshow of historical and modern photographs on the big screen. “We had more fun back then,” Scott said with a smile. “People have modernized too much.”

Indeed, Scott, who was born in Olivenhain in 1926, has seen innumerable changes in the area during his lifetime. His family’s fields of lima beans and barley that once stretched further than the eye can see are now paved with roads and covered with homes.

While the author is a relative newcomer when compared to many of the subjects in her book, her love of the community and history are evident in each page.

“My husband and I put a pin on the map really,” Burns said of her decision to relocate to Encinitas. “It was my twentieth move.”

Catherine Blakespeare (left) and her aunt, Rosemary Smith KimBal attended the "Legendary Locals of Encinitas" book signing and reception, as both are featured in the new book by author Alison Burns. Photo by Wehtahnah Tucker


A native Brit, Burns has spent the last three decades living in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a newspaper columnist and magazine editor. “I think I’ve become a professional expat,” she said.

Her love of times past was ignited when, at the age of 11, she co-authored her first book on her town’s local history.

Burns currently indulges her passion for history by working at the Encinitas Historical Society as editor, web designer, board member and docent. Her spare time is spent learning new moves to ancient music with the San Diego English Country Dancers.

Just as comfortable bird-watching in China’s Mai Po marshes as she is hunting through Parisian flea markets, her greatest delight is traveling to far-flung places. With four children scattered all over the world, her globetrotting isn’t likely to end anytime soon.

Burns hopes her book will have a lasting impact. “Encinitas has grown by huge leaps and bounds since the Hammond family arrived in 1883 – swelling the town’s population from 11 to 22 the moment they stepped off the train,” she said.

“Now the combined population of the five communities that make up the City of Encinitas easily tops 60,000, yet the majority of these modern inhabitants are totally unaware of the blood, sweat and tears that were expended to turn this once barren land into the amazingly desirable beach town it is today,” Burns said. “This is a town where, according to (deceased) local historian Ida Lou Coley “reality meets magic.””

“Researching this book has opened my eyes to the people who went before,” she said, “the sheer willpower and optimism and physical strength that was needed every single day to make it the place that we, the generations that followed, are so proud to live in yet often take so much for granted,” Burns said.

This book aims to capture the many individual stories and bring them to life again before they entirely fade out of sight according to the author. “Even though space restrictions mean that many are just short vignettes, hopefully their impact will encourage readers to see Encinitas through a different prism, dig deeper into the lives of the people who built this city and take from these pages a different perspective on what it means to be a part of such a privileged environment,” Burns said.

From the earliest settlers to artists, government officials, action sports icons and seemingly ordinary people who contribute to the fiber of the community, Burns reveals a vibrant city rich in character.

“The intention of this book is to remember all those people who had the courage to follow their dreams, who laid the path for us to follow,” she said. “Their names should never be forgotten; we owe them so much.”