Betty Reynolds – Island Icon

Written by Coronado Historical Association Volunteer Zoraida Payne, Public Historian

top image: Reynolds in 5th grade, Coronado; above image: Reynolds Fall 2021

This article was originally published in the December 2021 Issue of Coronado Magazine. Click here to read this story and more from Coronado Magazine.

At the end of the summer of 2021, an elegant Mrs. Reynolds welcomed us to her home on Pine Street and shared her wealth of memories of growing up in Coronado. While surrounded by beautiful decorations from her many years abroad with her late husband of 67 years, Captain Casey Reynolds, Betty Mott opened a photo album, and a cascade of vivid experiences emanated.

Just before Pearl Harbor, at the age of 10, Betty Mott moved from Saint Louis, Missouri, to Coronado with her Mom, grandmother, and sister. On December 7, 1941, running over to their home, their neighbor told them that Pearl Harbor was bombed. She recalled that their home was designated a First Aid Station. There, her nurse mother could assist injured citizens if the expected attack occurred. Other dwellings were selected as bomb shelters, where they could run into and be safe if an air raid occurred. She also remembered seeing a warden in every block, having blackout curtains and barrage balloons flying over San Diego.

While all of Coronado was preparing for the imminent attack, kids were still playing in its streets. Mrs. Reynolds joyfully reminisced digging trenches with her friends in the many vacant lots and playing the dirt-clod battle after forming two teams -the good guys and the enemies. Among other adventurous pastimes was collecting scrap metals for the war effort and proudly posing with the huge pile for the picture on A avenue. Though war preparedness and ubiquitous soldiers were in the city, those were exciting times for Betty Mott and her schoolmates.

During the last months of WWII, Betty, with a group of friends, started a newsletter called Junior Scuttlebug.  With a sparkling smile, she shared her fun project “we were in the 8th grade at that time, and one of our friends had a printer press of some kind; so, we were would-be reporters. We would give out all the information… We had a huge group of friends, both boys and girls. We always have a little bit of news about the war, and just what kids were doing, who was doing what, maybe a little gossip….”

Curiously, skilfully playing with pocket knives at school was another quotidian game at the time, “We all took pocket knives to school so we could play Mumblety-pegs at recess and nobody said anything… Nobody tried to stab anybody, we never thought of them as weapons, we thought of them as toys.” Pondering about her childhood, she shared, “We always went to the children’s matinee on Saturdays at the old Coronado cinema, which is where Lambs is now. Every kid went in the afternoon on Saturday. It costs 11 cents. We drove our bikes and piled them unlocked on the sidewalk.” She also remembered playing hide and seek at the Hotel Del during the winter months –when the Hotel was hardly occupied at all.

In her sophomore year, Betty Mott took dancing lessons with the famous instructor Arthur Murray. She animately shared, “He and his wife used to vacation at the hotel every summer, and he would teach dancing in the circus room, and he took a shine to me for some reason. So, he would teach me all these wonderful dances…He was always a gentleman. He was a lovely man.” She joyfully reminisced about Oscar’s Drive-in. After all the football games, parties, and proms with all the teenagers in Coronado, this trendy restaurant was the hang-out place. She also said going to North Island early in the morning and playing with enormous inner tubes. Candidly thinking upon it, she expressed, “We never thought about drowning or being caught in a riptide, and there were no lifeguards down there. It was just safe.” A palpable and recurring sense of freedom and safety flows throughout her recollections.

Reflecting on the best advice that she has ever gotten, “It was from my mother, she said:  Always be on time, and that’s what I do, and I pass that onto my three children; so, I’m always on time.” Many lessons could be learned from Mrs. Reynolds’ lively style beyond being on time. The importance of playing with friends outdoors,  enjoying life abroad, and the treasure of living in charming Coronado. As wisely expressed in her own words, “Coronado is a great place to grow up and it is a great place to grow old.”

This article was originally published in the December 2021 Issue of Coronado Magazine. Click here to read this story and more from Coronado Magazine.

More photos of Betty Reynolds:

Reynolds’ Scrapbook Excerpt
All School Beach Party – 1949 – Left to Right: Linda Lehardy (Jr.), Gracia Cochran (Sr.), Betty Reynolds (Sr.), Anne Harvey (Sr.) Suzy Lahmann (Sr.), Gladyz Gladdin (Jr.), Alicia Weelds (Jr.) Jean Harvey (Jr.)
Kids on scrap metal; Coronado; c. 1942
Reynolds Fall 2021

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