Walker Scott Department Store Records
Scope and Contents
This collection documents the activities of the Walker Scott Department Store Company, run by George A. Scott. The records date from 1915-1993, with the bulk of the documents created in the 1960s during the company’s expansion to other branch stores. The series are Management Files, Minutes, Newsletters, News Clippings, Photographs and Artifacts. The Management Files are further divided into Business files and Civic files. The Minutes include records of company meetings. The Newsletters include various company publications. The News Clippings include articles from local newspapers. The Photographs include pictures from formal events. The Artifacts include various audiovisual materials, attire, scrapbooks and portraits.
The Management Files series includes Business Files and Civic Files. The Business Files document the activities and business throughout the company’s existence, and contain such topics as advertising, store openings, stock, leases, financing, insurance, contracts and interactions with other retailers. It also includes opening plans of the College Grove branch and its groundbreaking ceremony which included family night, constructors’ night, symphony night and all faiths night. The Civic Files contain certificates, correspondence, budgets and project plans that Scott sponsored. He planned fundraisers for organizations such as the Boys Club, Salvation Army, USO and the War Chest. These files are labeled by subject and filed alphabetically.
The Minutes document the board meetings from 1939-1986. The minutes document issues, events and personnel affiliated with the department store. They reflect the efforts of department managers, executives, fashion, expense or salary committee members. A range of topics such as sales, promotions, and customer service are covered and range from specific store issues to overall district trends. They illustrate the problems the company had encountered in retail competition and loss of profits. The minutes are labeled by date and committee and filed chronologically.
The Newsletters include various company publications including The Clarion, Time and Tide, The Friendly Chatter and Walker Scott News. The Clarion documents the earliest newsletters from Walker’s Department Store in Los Angeles. Time and Tide and The Friendly Chatter document the first newsletters in Walker’s Department Store in Downtown San Diego. The bulk of the company newsletters are Walker Scott News which range from 1955 to 1986. The department store had expanded during this time so the newsletters included columns for each branch store as well as overall trends for the district. It also featured employee accomplishments, store events and sales advice. The newsletter issues are labeled by date and filed chronologically.
The News Clippings include articles from various local San Diego newspapers from the Downtown Store opening in 1935 until his death in 1993. The clippings include the department store’s advertisements, sales, promotional events and philanthropist events. Many of these articles discuss the success of the company. There are two large sections of a newspaper covering the opening of the Walker’s Department Store in Downtown San Diego in 1935. There is also a large section in the College Grove Independent in 1960 that advertised Walker Scott merchandise. The bulk of the clippings are small articles. The clippings are labeled by date and filed chronologically.
The Photographs collection consists of photographs from 1954-1976. It includes photographs of Scott with friends, colleagues and associates at various events and associations. These photographs have no internal arrangement and are housed in 11 folders.
The Artifacts consist of booklets, scrapbooks, loose pages of scrapbooks, portraits, posters, attire, awards and other memorabilia. The scrapbooks and loose scrapbook pages include newspaper articles, photographs, certificates, programs and other paper material. They are numbered in no discernible order. The posters and booklets describe the company or store events. The awards include a bronze plaque and a large certificate for Scott’s philanthropist work. There are several sound recordings including 7 magnetic tapes records of store meetings, a cassette of Scott’s memorial service and a record of the company’s 25th anniversary. Attire includes commencement gowns and a mortarboard, traditional Mexican clothing and a sombrero. The portraits are of Walker and Scott. The smaller artifacts are labeled by subject and filed chronologically in folders while the larger artifacts have no internal arrangement.
- Majority of material found in 1960-1969
- Walker Scott Department Store (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The copyright interests in these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections is such that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. When granted, permission is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.
The Walker Scott Department Store was founded in downtown San Diego in 1935. The store's original owner, Ralf M. Walker, who already owned and ran Walker's Department Store in Los Angeles, passed away in New York six weeks before the San Diego store's opening. A former stock boy at the Los Angeles store, George A Scott, whom Mr. Walker had sent to the New York University of Retailing (1930) opened the San Diego store with Mr. Walker's widow, Eliza Fitzgerald Walker. Eliza Walker became president of the company while Scott held the title of vice president. Walker’s Downtown store opened on October 3, 1935, situated on 5th and Broadway. It eventually expanded to eight stories, and held San Diego County’s first escalators.
Upon the death of Eliza Walker in 1951, Scott became the president, director, chief executive and principle stockholder of the company. Three years later, the board of directors changed the company’s name to Walker Scott Department Store. In 1955, the company established a Service Center for additional accounting and shipping operations. In 1959, they purchased Stevenson’s in La Jolla, a store that continued operation under its original name. In 1960, the company opened what was the largest Walker Scott Department Store in the College Grove Shopping Center – San Diego's first suburban shopping center. It was situated on the north side of State Highway 94 at College Avenue with direct access from all major traffic roads in the area. The shopping center was surrounded by a parking area capable of accommodating 5,000 cars at one time.
Walker Scott’s Department Stores opened in the Linda Vista Shopping Center in 1963, the Escondido Village Shopping Center in 1964 and Oceanside in 1976. In 1970, the company added a fabric store in Lakeside, Ocean Beach and El Cajon. In 1968, Walker Scott purchased the Whitney’s Department Stores and operated two stores ran by that firm in Claremont and El Cajon. The company also operated branch stores in Palm Springs (1970), San Carlos (1973), Mission Valley (1973), Mira Mesa (1975) National City (1982) and Pacific Beach (1983). Each department store featured women’s, men’s, children’s apparel, and accessories, and sold yardage, bedding, appliances, radios, televisions, house wares, draperies, floor coverings, China, silverware, jewelry, furs, cameras, gifts, books, cosmetics, notions lingerie, millinery and toys.
In 1975, Robert J. Dicker and Boyd E. Alvord bought controlling interests of the company. The Board of Directors named Dicker as president and chief executive officer of Walker Scott Co. and Alvord as company vice president and secretary. Although sales peaked at $45.5 million in 1983, profitability declined. On January 5, 1989 the downtown store officially closed because it had lost its lease. The combination of a population shift to the suburbs and a new shopping center, Horton Plaza, with four major department stores, opening across the street from Walker Scott’s Department Store had pushed the company out of business. Dicker sold the chain to Harold Kapelovitz. He and his investors concluded that substantial loss for the company was imminent due to increased competition in the San Diego retail environment. Kapelovitz decided to close the remaining stores when the leases expired in 1986.
In addition to business affairs, George A. Scott was involved in numerous civic organizations such as the Boys Club, Salvation Army, USO Advisory Council, Community Chest, Fiesta de Pacifico, YMCA, San Diego Transit, San Diego Council of Churches, San Diego Hospital Association and many other committees. Scott was named “Mr. San Diego” by the Grant Club in 1954 and was the 1964 winner of the Golden Man and Boy Award of the Boys Club of San Diego. In 1976, the Central City Association named Scott “Man of the Century.” Scott wrote his book Your Future in Retailing in 1961 and donated all proceeds from the book to the National Distributive Education Clubs of America Program. Scott lectured extensively on retailing and merchandising as chairman of the Committee On Careers In Retailing of the National Retail Merchants Association. During his lifetime, he raised over $75 million dollars for local causes and received more than 200 civic and service awards.
Scott was born in Scotland in 1907, lived in Canada briefly and came to the United Sates and became a citizen in 1931. In 1952, he married Evelyn Hjelm. Their two children are George Walker Scott born in 1953 and Andrea Cox born in 1955. He died at the age of 86 in 1993.
16.61 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
I. Management Files, 1930-1985
1.) Business Files, 1930-1985
2.) Civic Files, 1943-1983
II. Minutes, 1939-1974
III. Newsletters, 1915-1986
IV. News Clippings, 1935-1993
V. Photographs, 1954-1976
VI. Artifacts, 1930-1993
Source of Acquisition
George Walker Scott and Andrea Cox
Processed by Alex Tea, May 2006.
- Corporate Records
- Department stores--California--History
- Department stores--California--San Diego County--History--20th century--Sources
- Scott, George A.
- Scott, George A.--Portrait
- Walker Scott Department Store Company--Archives
- Walker, Eliza Fitzgerald
- Walker, Ralf M.
- Walker, Ralf M.--Portrait
- Walker Scott Department Store Records
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note