This past month an icon from our Mission Hills community was getting ready to celebrate his 100th birthday. Unfortunately, Eugene Price didn’t make it to the February 10, 2012 celebratory date. I was informed us his birthday and passing by neighbors who reminded me that the Mission Hills News, which preceded the Presidio Sentinel, had an article on Price. It was dated November 1998. The author of the article was “Dr. A” Lucy Abernathy.
Price I learned was a Mission Hills native and a third generation musician. His grandfather, Orrin Barnett, was a pianist, organist and accomplished musician. However, Price’s mother, Alice Price Barnett Stevenson, was even more talented. It was noted that Stevenson began composing original songs at the age of six. Later, yet still a child, she became a pupil of Dr. Florence Ziegfeld. He was the father of Florence Jr. who started the Ziegfeld Follies. She was a serious student and graduated from the musical college with the highest honors. Then she moved to Berlin to study under Hugo Kaun, one of the best music teachers in Germany. While there she met an aspiring violinist, Samuel Price. They married and moved to San Diego.
The marriage didn’t last long. Single, Stevenson elected to send her two young sons to a boarding school in Point Loma, The Theosophical Seminary of Madame Tingley. The seminary was an experiment in communal living and Hindu practices with strict 10 hours of daily silence.
At the same time, Price’s mother was making use of her musical talents. Her “art songs” had become very popular. Some were introduced by Effram Zimbalist and G. Schirmen’s of New York City. Royalties from the songs brought the boys home from boarding school to an alpine chalet at 1816 Sheridan Avenue in Mission Hills. For forty years the home was a music salon for musicians who entertained at the house.
Price attended Grant Elementary and took piano lessons at an early age. He graduated from San Diego High School and received a scholarship to the famed Eastman School of Music in upper New York State. Then he attended Julliard in New York City. After graduating, Price went on a concert tour. That’s when he met his wife, Anna Francis.
It was the early in the 1940s that Price also pursued other employment, to support his love for music, his family and his philanthropic interests, including the San Diego Opera.
During World War II he worked for Convair as head of contracts, and later he did the same for Kaypro.
I learned that in 1945, Price purchased a house on Valle Vista in Mission Hills. The house was built by Richard Requa. It was Requa’s original home. Now it was the home of Anna and Eugene Price and their growing family. They were happily married for 56 years and had four children.
During those 56 years, Price and Anna were very involved in the music scene in San Diego. Their home became the ideal setting for many art events. Anna had art displays of her glass and ceramic work. Price gave performances for friends. Price recalled one evening in particular, “It was the night of a full and brilliant autumn moon. We began about 9 p.m. All the guests arrived in oriental attire. We assembled among the Chinese lanterns and Buddhas in the patio to read ‘Teahouse of the August Moon.’ It was a magical evening with refreshments and lively discussion.”
Price went on to say, “This is how one entertained themselves before VCRS!”
At the time of the original article by “Dr. A” Lucy Abernathy, Price was 86 years of age. In a closing statement to Abernathy, he jokingly referred to the year he was born, “Three important things happened in 1912: the Titanic sank, the Horton fountain froze over, and Eugene Price was born.”
Obviously, Price and his family appreciated music, the arts and had the means to share this with others in the community. That is reiterated by his current neighbors and family members who wanted him to be remembered and recognized for the legacy he created. They thank him for his music, his contributions and all the special memories.
Category: Local News