Jacquelyn Littlefield

As the newspaper obituaries will show, Jacquelyn Littlefield challenged to big boys on a diamond that stretched from Beverly Hills through New York City and back west again to San Diego / La Jolla. 

I met Jacquie in 1979, on my return to San Diego, after a second extended stay in Puerto Rico. It was a whirlwind, professional relationship, centered in the master suite of the now-historic Spreckels Building and Theater in downtown San Diego.

spreckels

The last time I saw Jacquelyn Littlefield was when the Spreckels Building and Theater celebrated their 100th birthday, in 2012. 

Manzanero Mexico My Dear Old San Juan Moi

Rather than attempt to repeat my telling of the Jacquelyn Littlefield story as it appears in my memoir, “Manzanero – Mexico – My Dear Old San Juan – Moi,” I thought if more practicable to reprint that portion here below:

Jacquelyn Littlefield was the owner of the Spreckels Building and Theater, a perennial landmark at Broadway and First Avenue. After a short stint as Mrs. Littlefield's secretary and office manager, and after the unceremonious departure of her building manager, I was suddenly installed as temporary manager of the building and the theater (there were pending performances of "Chicago" and "Jesus Christ Superstar," for which I was now responsible in all respects). The Spreckels Building, which at that time housed the downtown redevelopment commission, was itself listed as an historic building, with all the protections prescribed therein. The only part of the redevelopment that would affect the Spreckels concerned a vacant area directly adjacent to the rear of the building which, if not incorporated within a plan for the Spreckels that would be acceptable to the commission, would be designated for other use. That area behind the building was the key to José Rosa's vision of dramatically raising its profile.

The old theater building was quite prominent among other structures that were subject to similar height restrictions in the formerly sleepy Navy town. Jose's concept was–without affecting the original building–to construct a skyscraper directly over it. The new structure would be designed to blend in with the old Spreckels appearance, thereby giving the illusion of a single building. José shared his idea to Fred Meyer, the architect with whom he was working, and they came up with a striking artist's conception of how the completed project might appear. It was a very impressive undertaking.

Now, this is where I come in. Cognizant of my position, José felt that if he were able to hold Mrs. Littlefield down long enough for her to absorb the drawing and his spiel–in other words, get her in his corner–the battle would be half won. The problem was that Mrs. Littlefield was not that available–at least in the flesh. Her visits to the office were rare, and only upon specific occasions. Usually, she could be found in La Jolla or Beverly Hills–and, upon lesser occasion, New York City would complete her triangle of residence. The custom was that I would receive a telephone call, on a daily basis, from some point along the triangle. But, this was not always the case, and a particularly drawn-out departure from this routine caused me considerable angst and required that I draw upon all of the impromptu reflexes I had managed to internalize over many years of uncertainties and unrequited expectations.

Suite Number 666 of the Spreckels Building was a spacious enclave inhabited only by Mrs. Littlefield, the building manager, a female bookkeeper and me. It can already be seen that Jacquie Littlefield is not the ordinary, run-of-the-mill businesswoman. I have not mentioned the diversity of her personality. The variety of her reactions during interpersonal encounters ranges from being completely solicitous up to the highest point of the mercury thermometer. I mentioned the sudden departure of the building manager; he left with the high point of the thermometer protruding prominently from his derrière. Upon that occasion, and completely without any fanfare, I was advised that I would have to take over the building until arrangements could be made to interview building manager candidates. I assumed that this would involve merely a perfunctory holding-down of the fort, where all but routine matters would be suspended. That could not have been further from the truth. I had not a single communication with Mrs. Littlefield for a whole week thereafter!

Fortunately, the building maintenance crew had a foreman through whom I was able to coordinate its activities. Then, I began receiving telephone calls from new office lessees, wanting to know when they could come in to sign their contracts. I discovered that they were ready to move in and that the leases had not been written. I knew from experience that contracts in like situations tend to be basically the same, so I perused the files and was able to adapt the new information appropriately. It turned out that other lessees were not that advanced, and I was required to negotiate even the type and color of carpet to be installed. I had known about the musicals that were scheduled to start the next week, but had no idea I would wind up having to coordinate all of the intricate components, including the box office personnel; ordering the popcorn, candy and soft drinks, as well as hiring the counter crew; arranging for the backstage deliver of scenery; and accommodating the producers and cast. Mrs. Littlefield did not call until two days before the first production was to start. She was in New York! She wondered why I was all excited, saying she would be there by opening night. She arrived the day of the performance, and graciously received the theater people in her office as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

So, here was José with his beautiful drawing, asking me simply to arrange a sit-down with La Folle de San Diego. However, before managing to set up anything, I was off to the Computer Science Corporation at El Segundo (near Los Angeles) to participate in what was the first computer-assisted translation unit formed in the United States, with half of the crew assigned to Mexico City (I had already been there–done that).

Subsequently, I asked José to refresh my memory as to whether he and Fred Meyer actually got to see Mrs. Littlefield. Here is his reply.

No. She had us meet with her "board". They were very conservative and backwards, as is proven out by the fact that rather than use our proposal or at least something else, they lost 25% of her property to the city. I remember being in the meeting and telling them that because of fuel prices and other economic factors the U.S. would "tilt over" and the population come tumbling down into the Southwest. They laughed in a very condescending way, like they were listening to a "kid" who was blowing smoke. Sometimes, it's a curse to be able to see the future.

Curtis W. Long

Curtis W. Long

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