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Remembering a Time When the City Gave Its Heart to a Dog Named Bum

No Christmas season in San Diego should pass without a moment dedicated to that turning point in local history: The arrival of Bum the dog.

It was near Christmas in 1886 when Bum--part St. Bernard, part spaniel, all mutt--arrived from San Francisco, a stowaway aboard the steamer Santa Rosa.

In the next 12 years, Bum barked and scrounged his way into the hearts of San Diegans, still reeling from one boom-and-bust cycle to another.

Most of the politicians of that era, and all of the newspapermen, are long forgotten, but a picture of Bum still hangs in the city clerk’s office at City Hall. Check it out.

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Bum’s chronicler was a Confederate Army captain-turned-journalist named James Edward Friend, a tiny, dapper soul with a jaunty cane and waxed mustache. He wrote a column for the Weekly Drift.

His Bum tales were numerous: Bum (a Republican) giving political advice, Bum saving drowning children, Bum leading torchlight parades, Bum tangling with Tootles the fire dog, Bum’s battle with hard liquor.

Suddenly, the ownerless Bum, free to roam downtown streets, became bigger than “Cap” Friend.

A restaurant boasted, “Bum Eats Here.” Matrons in Golden Hill fed him sirloin. He was in the official party that greeted President Harrison in 1891.

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The City Council granted Bum a lifetime dog tag. His likeness henceforth appeared on all dog licenses.

Not to be outdone, the Board of Supervisors granted Bum a sinecure as guard dog at the county hospital.

“Everybody wanted to do something for Bum,” said historian Henry Schwartz, who devoted a chapter to Bum in his book, “Madam Ida & Other Gaslamp Tales.”

Beset by rheumatism and an old trolley injury, Bum died in November, 1898, and was buried in Mission Valley. Newsboys mourned his passing, and newspapers printed lengthy obituaries.

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No one is suggesting that San Diego’s current swirl of political chaos began when it lost its first and only town dog.

On the other hand, do you have a better explanation?

Campaign Season All Over Again

People and other things.

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* Jim Ryan, former aide to Rep. Bill Lowery, is the first would-be replacement for San Diego Councilwoman Linda Bernhardt to put up campaign signs.

He just resigned as executive director of the Taxpayers Assn.

* Jeff Marston says he has no interest in running to replace Bernhardt. He’s writing a book about his (brief) experience in the Assembly.

* The food for Pete Wilson’s inaugural bash in Sacramento will come from El Indio Mexican Restaurant in Middletown.

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A caravan of trucks bearing burritos and more will head north.

* There’s so much crime near a K mart in East San Diego that the cops have a reserved parking place. No kidding.

* Vane M. Bennett of Lakeside has been named California’s “Senior Adult Student of the Year.”

He’s studying computers at Grossmont Adult School. He figures anybody who doesn’t want to seem old-fashioned better learn about data bases, spreadsheets and hard disk management.

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He’s 82, a retired Navy captain.

* Negotiations have broken between the Urban League and its former president Herb Cawthorne over the $13,000 he allegedly owes the league for airline tickets, meals, dental work and a painting.

Look for legal action to heat up soon.

Reindeer Rustler

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‘Tis the season.

Somebody swiped one of two 9-foot-tall white fiberglass reindeer early Tuesday from the outdoor display at University Towne Centre.

But this is no hand-me-down reindeer. Estimated value of the 70-pounder: $7,000 to $8,000.

So far, no ransom notes or claims of responsibility have been phoned in to news organizations.

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UTC general manager Mark Ashton promises to “treat this caper as a prank” if the exhibit is returned unharmed. No questions asked.

He has also ordered round-the-clock security to guard the remaining reindeer.


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