John Drehner's Senior Portrait, courtesy of the CHS 1956 Beachcomber
Trollies running down the middle of Orange Avenue, a furniture store, car dealerships, a “five and dime” store, empty lots, a lumber yard, a nursery, two theatres and much less traffic are all things that John Drehner remembers about growing up in Coronado.
John was born May 8, 1938 to John and Louise Drehner and is an only child. (Happy early 73rd birthday John!) His father was a professional violinist, a talent that ultimately brought him to Coronado to play at the Hotel del Coronado. John, Sr. would drive the laundry truck for the Del during the day and then put on a tuxedo and play the violin at night. His wife Louise worked at the Coronado Pharmacy for some thirty years.
Louise Drehner with her newborn son John at the Coronado Hospital in May 1938.
John, Jr. was born in the hospital when it was located on Orange Avenue in a building that is next to present day McP’s Irish Pub. He was only about four pounds, so was in an incubator for nearly a week before being photographed at 6 days old with his mother. Their room overlooked Orange Avenue. Some of his earliest memories include attending Miss Bunny’s Tiny Tots at age four. He is quick to point out that he shares a birthday with Harry S Truman, Ricky Nelson and that May 8, in 1945, was also VE day in Europe.
John fondly remembers days of riding the ferry back and forth for a nickel. He says he and a friend would each bring a stack of comic books and when they finished reading their stack, they would trade. He recalls that there was a lot for kids to do back then. Young people could spend time at the Recreation Center located on 6th Avenue between F and G playing ping pong or a game of pool. There was even a dance floor. The village boasted a hobby shop and arcade at one time too. John laments that there was space to fly kites and many vacant lots where he and friends would build forts.
Tennis excerpt from the CHS 1956 Beachcomber recording John's excellent 1954 and 1955 seasons.
John played tennis all four years at Coronado High School and graduated with the class of 1956. He was ranked 1st as a senior and enjoys the sport so much that he still plays here in Coronado twice a week.
Tennis player John Drehner in a photo from the CHS 1956 Beachcomber
After high school, John attended a couple schools before eventually transferring to SDSU and graduating in January 1962 with a degree in English. Having received a military draft notice as a college senior and postponing the commitment with an education deferment, John joined the Army National Guard after graduation. While John was serving with the National Guard, he lived with his mother and step father at their house on F Avenue. He eventually secured an apartment of his own and was employed part time at the Post Office while working towards a Master’s Degree in English.
John completed all the course work and was writing his thesis on Joseph Conrad when he decided to take a full time job with the post office. He particularly liked his duties as a “special delivery” driver. Most days he would drive 130 miles and always had to make up his own route, as it was different every day. Presently there is no “special delivery” from the post office. We know it now as “express mail” and it’s delivered by the regular mail carrier.
In 1972, John bought a cute 1929 bungalow in North Park where he has lived ever since. He retired from the post office in 1992. He maintains ownership of the F Avenue house and spends quite a bit of time in Coronado. In addition to playing tennis twice a week, he loves to visit the senior center and the library. He spent about five years after retirement performing outdoor Shakespeare in Balboa Park. He can do quite a few impressions including John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Humphrey Bogart.
John never married and offers the reason that he is a devout coward and likes to keep the presence of lawyers in his life to a minimum. Since the bridge was built, things have certainly changed. He believes that the merchants like it because it increases the ease of travel to Coronado. John bemoans the fact that Coronado is so expensive. He remembers that in the 1950’s if one had a steady job, it was feasible to buy a house here. It is still a nice place to live and visit, but, he offers, “It’s not what it used to be.”
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