Carl Turnipseed – Island Icon

Written by Coronado Historical Association Volunteer Peggy Eddy

Carl Turnipseed (far left) with Charlie Free, Jim Carlisle, and Marco Polumbo help at the 1968 Rotary Pancake Breakfast

This article was originally written in the March 2021 Issue of Coronado Magazine. To read this article and more from Coronado Magazine, click here or the button below.

The monthly column, Island Icons, of historical vignettes from the Coronado Historical Association features insights and personal memories of locals. An initiative of CHA and its community volunteers, it is the product of a special archival oral history project that records the local personal histories that may be lost in the near future. This month’s Island Icon is Carl Turnipseed, local World War II veteran who celebrated his 93rd birthday on November 30, 2020.

Although he was born in 1927 in Elrod, Alabama, Carl Turnipseed has lived in Coronado for ninety years. Carl moved to Coronado with his family when he was three months old, as the mill had closed in Alabama. His mother’s sister was married to the fire chief in Coronado, and they invited the family to town to find work. His father last worked with the city of Coronado as their tree trimming expert. Carl said to his knowledge, his father “was the first person to climb and decorate the Christmas tree at Rotary Plaza.”

Growing Up in Coronado

Carl fondly recalled the freedom he and his young friends had to ride their bikes, construct forts on vacant lots, and “play on the rocks on Ocean, dodging the rats there. We also would try to get from the North Beach sandspit to the Hotel on our bikes. My buddies and I would be gone all day without our folks worrying about our safety.”

For spending money, the boys would catch gophers, exchange them for tokens at the fire station, and redeem the tokens for 15 cents each at City Hall. They used their earnings to buy treats on Orange Avenue.

As a Coronado High School freshman, he weighed in at 108 pounds and five foot three and spent the next three years quarterbacking on the varsity football team. In his senior year he was a 142-pound quarterback and blocking back as well as class president.  His graduating class of 1945 had 75 members. His girlfriend Elise was also beauty queen that year. He fondly remembers going to Anderson’s Bakery with fellow seniors and getting pie from Bud and Claire at the backdoor of the bakery.

Coronado Memories

As a junior and senior high school student, Carl spent his summers working for the Coronado City Parks Department and on trash trucks. “It was fun collecting trash with my buddies,” he recalled. “I was paid $42.53 for five and a half days of work!”

He learned to drive in a 1937 two-door sedan that was shared among family members. He still remembers his youthful encounters with high tides on Ocean Boulevard “when waves broke over the sea wall and over the car!”

How has Coronado changed?

“Density, density, density” is the biggest negative change Carl has seen in his beloved Coronado. Carl enlisted in the Army in 1946 and completed basic training at Ft Bliss, Texas. The following year, he was assigned to a Signal Battalion in a small German town outside of Kassel.

After the Army, Carl’s first job was with Standard Oil of California at a local Chevron station. Soon after, he launched his entrepreneurial life by buying the gas station at Broadway and Kettner in San Diego. Carl can still rattle off the numerous purchases and sales of his various Chevron, Mobil, Shell, and Texaco stations—even recalling the dates.

In 1969, Carl sold his Texaco station located at 8th and Orange.  After a brief stint as a coin laundry owner, in 1970, he returned to the business he knew best and went to work for the owner of an ARCO station, “where MCP’s Patio currently stands.” Carl eventually bought the station and owned it until his retirement.

A vigorous island icon after nine decades of life, Carl reflected on his legacy.  “I was always a happy child”, he said. “I would like to be remembered as an old guy who likes people and loved his city.

Carl has two sons, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Three times married and twice divorced, he finally got it right. The third time was the charm—and that marriage to Marianne lasted 46 years. Marianne passed away in December of 2019, Carl still lives in the white stucco house on C Street he’s owned since 1963. He stays busy—walking his two dachshunds twice daily and taking care of flowers and cactus in his huge backyard. “I’ve won lots of blue ribbons in the Coronado Flower Show,” he said.

Island Icons is an archival project of the Coronado Historical Association. If you would like to nominate someone as an Island Icon, email us at or call 619-435-7242

This article was originally written in the March 2021 Issue of Coronado Magazine. To read this article and more from Coronado Magazine, click here or the button below.

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