Ted Vallas: A Man for All Reasons
By Tom Morrow
One of my most unforgettable characters I have known in my eight decades on this good earth was Oceanside and Carlsbad entrepreneur Ted Vallas. Unless you live in Southern California there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him, but Ted was the epitome of a self-made man. Actually, several self-made men.
While in elementary school, Ted began working to help support his widowed mother and family six brothers and sisters. He still managed to continue in school, becoming a standout in football, basketball and baseball.During the war Ted attained the rate of Chief Petty Officer and became the youngest CPO in the Navy.
In 1940, when it became obvious the United States would soon be at War, Ted joined the Navy, qualifying for flight training in Pensacola, Fla. While in training, he made the air base’s football team as a halfback. He played alongside bigger and older college athletes, with one or two former professional players.
Before Ted could finish his pilot training, he and most of his classmates were commandeered as crew members aboard the recently-launched USS Wasp, at that time the Navy’s newest carrier. What was supposed to be a temporary duty for the “shakedown” cruise, became a permanent duty station.
“The Navy needed deck hands more than pilots. If they didn’t have sailors to man carriers, pilots wouldn’t have anything to land on,” Ted said, chuckling in his recollections.
One of the first missions for the Wasp was to cruise to northern Scotland to pick up a number British “Spitfire” fighter planes. They were loaded via crane and the Wast headed for Malta destined for the Royal Air Force base on Malta. Officially, America hadn’t entered WWII, hence the “Spitfire” mission was a secret. A few weeks later, Ted and the Wasp had gone through the Panama Canal and were cruising in the Pacific. The attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the War. Ted found himself a gunner on a two-man TBF torpedo bomber, attached to squadron VT-7 (torpedo squadron 7).
“One day we were mustered and told we were being split-up to form a new squadron, VT-8,” Ted recalled. “I became a crewman in VT-8, which was assigned to the USS Hornet. During the infamous Battle of Midway, Ted former squadron, VT-7 was wiped out without one of the squadron’s dozens of torpedoes hitting a Japanese ship. Only one crew member survived. Pilot Ens. George Gay floated on a life raft while watching the epic naval battle take place.
After the War Ted enrolled in college, primarily for the purpose of playing football (halfback). After a year or so, Ted ended up in San Diego. He played for a short time as a member of the San Diego Padres, then a minor league team of the Pacific Coast League.
By age 30, Ted figured he was getting a little too old for professional baseball so he began a career in business. In telling his long story, which of Ted’s more than 30 businesses do I tell you about? At one time he owned or salvaged at least seven golf resorts; designed golf courses in the Virgin Islands, England, Ireland, France, Holland, and Morocco where he built a personal course designed for the king of that North African nation.
In the fifties, one of Ted’s most successful acquisitions was the El Camino Country Club in Oceanside. He staged one of the West coast’s first PGA golf tournaments and would go on to resurrect at least four more golf resorts in Southern California. In the sixties he built the Olympic Club Resort & Spa in Carlsbad. Ted learned how to fly helicopters, and later bought a small commuter airline (Air Resort) from American Airlines, operating it out of San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.
I first met Ted when I helped him write his autobiography, “Life is an Opportunity!” I then worked with him for the next 11 years to get another airline off the ground. And, he did it, sort of … California Pacific Airlines actually flew one 50-passenger jet on a daily schedule between Carlsbad, San Jose, Phoenix, and Las Vegas the month of November, 2018. But a succession of governmental obstacles as well as a lack of finance grounded CPA. But to the end Ted maintained his dogged pursuit of one last goal to his multi-layered business legacy.
Unfortunately, Ted died Friday, Nov. 13, falling short of his 100th birthday next March 11. His nephew, T.G. Vallas, plans to continue his uncle’s quest to re-establish a scheduled airline to fly out of Carlsbad airport.
I can truly say Ted was one of my most unforgettable characters. He was a talented guy, a good friend and one for the history books.