My mom recently met a man on the shuttle that she rides that said he worked for 30 years at Del Mar. My mom’s interest was piqued, because we spent many a family outing there over the years.
We would take the train to the Del Mar Racetrack. The track’s slogan is, “Where the turf meets the surf” and it probably is one of the more picturesque race tracks in the country. The train ride offered inviting glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. It was a little over an hour-and-a-half away but as a kid, it felt like a real getaway, probably because the ocean scenery was in great contrast to the bland suburbia I grew up in.
All I remember about the actual track was that it was pretty, as horse race tracks go. I have snapshots in my mind of some interesting architecture that could be found on the grounds, and I seem to remember towering arches. For whatever reason, I also remember after the races, when the buses would all be gearing up to go, and the sun would be slowly setting. It was funny how patrons would be loud and boisterous on their way to the track, but on the way back, you could easily tell who had won and who had lost. (As well as who had too many beers in the hot sun.)
I poked around for some Del Mar track history, and now I know why Dad liked the track so much: Bing Crosby greeted the first patrons when the track opened back in 1937! Also, I had forgotten about Trevor Denman, charismatic racetrack announcer. He started at Del Mar in 1984, when I would have been 10 years old. We watched many a race that he began with his trademark, “And away they go!” Dad liked him because he thought he was Australian, and he had a sister that lived there, but Denman was actually from South Africa.
But the main thing I remember about these Del Mar trips was the candy. That’s right, a mysterious candy from Asia that had a clear wrapper that you could eat! Well, at least that’s what my mom said. I was probably 5 or 6 at the time but old enough to suspect she might be playing a joke on me. I went to Dad, who was busy looking over the horses in the paper, plotting out his strategy for race day. “Daddy, Mommy says I can eat the wrapper. Is that true?”
Dad barely glanced my way. “If that’s what Mommy says.” Gee, big help Dad. He also declined my offer to try one.
Finally, I tried them and sure enough, the wrapper melted in my mouth, giving away to a slightly fruity, chewy candy underneath. It became a Del Mar trip tradition, a sweet bonus to our family excursion.
(And of course, I researched the candy as well. It’s called Botan and it still exists, in the same packaging that I remember as a kid!)
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