The History of the San Diego County Archaeological Society
By Patty McFarland
In June of 1973, a small group of people interested in archaeology gathered at a private residence in San Diego’s North County. The meeting lasted into the wee hours of the night and when the bleary-eyed participants finally left for their own homes, it was with a sense of satisfaction for they had established the foundation for what was soon to be known as the San Diego County Archaeological Society (SDCAS).
Where Did We Come From?
Why was the Society formed in the first place? What inspired the seed to be planted? According to Frank Walker, the first President of the SDCAS, and other charter members, an adult education course in archaeology held at San Dieguito High School during the Spring 1973 session was the springboard for the creation of the Society. Students in the class who became members of the San Diego County Archaeological Society included Frank and Carol Walker, Lee and Sheila Neiswender, Bob Booher, Carol Farr, JoAnne Kinney, Mickie Gaither, Janet Hightower (as a high school junior, the youngest member of the class and requiring special dispensation to attend), Laurie Lilburn, the McCorkle family (Ken, Dorothy and daughter Rebecca), and Don and Sherry Dedera. The Walker’s and Neiswender’s were friends prior to the class, but most of the students were strangers to each other.
Depending on whom you talk to, the qualifications of the instructor as an archaeology teacher and the quality of the instruction vary from atrocious to OK. The teacher was a civil engineer and an ex-Navy man with teaching credentials according to Frank Walker. Connections to a Lieutenant Commander at Fallbrook Weapons Depot opened the door for the class’s excavation of a site on the base. Reportedly, no grids were laid out nor were records kept. It was dig to see what you could find. And it was a wonderful site to excavate with a black midden, many projectile points, a clay pipe and grinding stones.
Eventually it was learned that the teacher had misrepresented himself and that no permits had ever been obtained to excavate the site that was located on federal land. Despite the illegality of the dig and the apparently slip-shod archaeological techniques employed in the field, the students thoroughly enjoyed themselves and did additional readings on the subject of archaeology. Subsequently, the students realized they were doing archaeology the wrong way. It was decided that they should form a society to do it right and to see that this type of illegal and unstructured archaeology was not allowed to occur again in San Diego County (personal communication with Walker and R. McCorkle-Apple).
On June 1st, 1973 the organizational meeting of the San Diego County Archaeological Society was held in Encinitas. The first officers to be elected were Frank Walker, President; Mickie Gaither, Vice President; Carol Farr, Recording Secretary; Sheila Neiswender, Corresponding Secretary; Lee Neiswender, Treasurer; and Bob Booher, Curator. According to Bob Booher, all attendees at this first meeting were elected to office except for Carol Walker. Thus, he appointed Carol Walker Assistant Curator. Society objectives, formation of a constitution, and future incorporation were discussed at this meeting.