In my growing up years, I recall that almost all the junior high schools in town were named for American authors.
There was Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Sidney Lanier and others. My favorite, however, one that I do remember, was Washington Irving, principally because the school was a few blocks from where I lived and because Irving wrote scary stories.
While thinking of the Proctor Valley monster the other day I also thought of Irving and remembered that I had nothing by him in my meager library. So off to the Bonita/Sunnyside Library I went and enlisted the aid of two library veterans, Linda Julian and Shirley Mitchell, who probably know as much about books and authors as anyone around.
With little trouble they put me in line with some great scary stuff that included a volume of Irving’s works, the famed “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” among them.
It has been many years since I read The Legend. I reread it this time slowly and with relish. For sheer story-telling I don’t think Irving has a peer.
The story of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman holds most of us spellbound. We marvel not only at the tale as it neatly unfolds but also the choice of language, usage seldom found in today’s literature.
Of course, Irving wrote of incidents in New York. We, here, in the South Bay, have our own brand of scary stories and these generally are resurrected today, Halloween.
The most notorious one, of course, is the aforementioned Proctor Valley Monster. I had a letter from retired Sweetwater Union High School District teacher and counselor, Marilyn Pluss, that sheds a bit of light on the origin of this legend.
Marilyn and husband Paul, longtime residents of the valley attest to the authenticity of the tale.
“Otto Rollin and his friend, John Eaton both grew up on dairy farms in Bonita/Sunnyside,” she wrote. “Otto’s family owned the Rollin Dairy on Dairy Road across San Miguel Road near Proctor Valley Road. John’s family owned the Eaton Dairy on the corner of Bonita and Otay Lakes Road. The boys were the same age and very close friends.
“The year was 1947. One day Otto and John were riding their horses on San Miguel Road (a seldom used dirt road) on the way to Ricky Lake to go fishing. Ricky Lake was located in what is now the Eastlake area.
“While they were riding, they saw a cow in distress and went to help. The cow was giving birth but the calf had died. Both boys had watched the veterinarian assist with difficult calf births so they knew what to do. They operated and took the calf, freeing the cow.
“When they had the stillborn calf they decided to play a prank. They created a story of a monster living on Proctor Valley Road. Their story was that the monster killed a newborn calf and chewed on it, then left it there. They used their knives to make a few cuts on the calf to make it look like something had chewed on it. They then hung it on a barbed wire fence. It had previously rained so they stamped some tracks in the mud nearby.”
The only thing left, Pluss said, was to spread the story. They went to the only two outlets in Bonita, the Sunnyside store and then the Bonita store and told their tale.
The next day they repeated the story at Chula Vista Junior High School and at every other opportunity. It apparently worked because each night the boys would see numerous cars going in the direction of Proctor Valley, all trying to get a glimpse of the monster.
It is said that the monster has been seen a few times since but there are no positive confirmations.
If the monster is out there, he will surely be out tonight. Who knows? A drive out Proctor Valley Road tonight about midnight might reveal more about the legend.
If anyone sees him, let us know. We will be sleeping in.
By the way, Otto Rollin is still around and lives in Pine Valley. John Eaton was killed in Korea in 1951. The old fire station, the present site of the Bonita Museum, is named for him.
Richard Peña is on vacation. This column first ran on Oct. 31, 2003.