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Making film history: A tribute to Joe Maestro

Posted: September 11th, 2015 | Communities, Community Voices, Featured, North Park | No Comments

By Pat Maestro

It was 50 years ago Sept. 14, 1965, when my father passed away of a heart attack. He was only 52 years old. During his short life, he was a master carpenter who manufactured vegetable stands and automatic check-out stands for family-owned grocery stores. He did all the work in his shop behind our house at 4053 Idaho St. in North Park, where the family moved in 1945. He was very active with the Optimist Club and North Park Lions Club and always was available for volunteer work in the community.

In 1950, he became very interested in motion picture photography and began filming country and western shows and commercials for local TV stations. He became good friends with Monte Hall, Terry Preston (Ferlin Husky), E. Earl Allen, Smokey Rogers and everyone who met him in San Diego. He donated his time whenever anyone called him, especially in North Park.

Joe Maestro using a Auricon sound movie camera during the 1950s (Photo courtesy of Pat Maestro)

Joe Maestro using a Auricon sound movie camera during the 1950s (Photo courtesy of Pat Maestro)

Dad gave away records and played music at sock hops during the 1950s at the University Heights Playground in North Park, which was located across the street from our home on Idaho Street.

During the late 1950s, he was the official photographer for San Diego State College football under coach Don Coryell. In 1961, when the L.A. Chargers moved to San Diego, head coach Sid Gilman hired my dad to be the official photographer for the San Diego Chargers. He continued this position until his untimely death in 1965.

Because my dad did not like flying, he drove to all the out-of-town games and I came along as his assistant. During the 1961 season, coach Gilman asked him to come up with a way to utilize two 16 mm cameras — one for filming the offense plays when the Chargers had the ball, and one for filming defense plays when the visiting team had the ball. Usually only one camera filmed the entire game, which required hours of post-game editing by the coaches.

When my dad came up with an idea of using two Arriflex motion picture cameras mounted on one tripod side by side, visiting team photographers would make a joke asking him if he was shooting stereo. Joe Maestro was, in fact, an innovator of utilizing the two-camera method for filming the offense and defense. The idea caught on, and within a year all AFL teams required their photographers to use the same method of filming the offense and defense on separate cameras.

Joe Maestro (left, behind announcers) filming a parade in the mid-1950s (Photo courtesy of Pat Maestro)

Joe Maestro (left, behind announcers) filming a parade in the mid-1950s (Photo courtesy of Pat Maestro)

Along with filming San Diego State College football games and the San Diego Chargers, Dad also filmed the Pasadena Rose Parade, and his independently produced film was shown to many organizations throughout San Diego. He loved filming parades and every year he would be seen along the parade routes of the North Park Toyland Parade and Mother Goose Parade with his specially made camera platform mounted on his Oldsmobile. He also filmed the Maytime Band Review and Ozzie’s Marching Band, a youth band run by Oscar (Ozzie) Wissell of Ozzie’s Music Stores; this band became Ozzie’s Marching Chargers and played at many Chargers games.

He used an Auricon camera for filming the western TV shows and commercials for Channel 8 and Channel 10 in San Diego, among other events, and was the only photographer in San Diego with this expensive camera. Auricon cameras are 16 mm film single system sound-on-film motion picture cameras. They are notable because they record sound directly onto an optical or magnetic track on the same film as the image is photographed on, thus eliminating the need for a separate audio recorder.

Joe Maestro filming a Chargers game in 1963 with his two-camera system (Photo courtesy of Pat Maestro)

Joe Maestro filming a Chargers game in 1963 with his two-camera system (Photo courtesy of Pat Maestro)

Joe Maestro was also the official photographer for the Portland Rose Festival in 1958 and 1961 through 1965. He is survived by my two sisters, Annette and Karen, and myself. Our mother, Pearl Maestro, passed away in 2009. I was the Polaroid photographer for the Chargers from 1963 to 1973 except for two years in the Army as a photographer. The Polaroid photos were taken from the press box where the assistant coaches were located. They would look at the pictures of the visiting teams’ formations at the start of each play and show some of these photos at half time to the team. They now use digital pictures.

I was always interested in broadcasting and after graduation from Grossmont College in telecommunications in 1973, I went on to pursue a career in radio and television. I have been in Yuma, Arizona since 1974 and have worked as an announcer and in sales at KXO Radio based in El Centro, California since 2003.

—Pat Maestro wrote this tribute about his dad in connection with the North Park Historical Society, which contributes regularly to San Diego Uptown News.

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