Remembering King Stahlman

Photo courtesy of Union Tribune

Photo courtesy of Union Tribune

While on Twitter the other night, I got word that “King” George Stahlman had passed away last week.  If you’ve lived in San Diego for any length of time (or are a native), then you probably are familiar with the successful bail bondsman and local fixture.

I have a unique connection to George Stahlman — my father, Jerry Reeder, worked for Stahlman as a bail agent when we first moved to San Diego in 1978.  As a five year old child, I only knew “Uncle George”, as a very warm man who was kind and generous with me. I didn’t know him well, but he and my father had what I perceived to be a somewhat father/son-esque dynamic.

Within a year or two, they had a falling out (though as a kid, I have absolutely no idea what it was about — but it must have been a biggie) and my father quit working there… with gusto.  He opened up his own bail bonds agency two doors down on Union and B St. and went on to become a very successful bondsman in his own right, eventually dubbed locally as “The Prince of Bail”.

This, for obvious reasons, didn’t sit well with the King of Bail.  Their rivalry went on for years and years… more than a decade.  Being so young, I didn’t understand why they kept tormenting each other.   Stahlman would sneak onto the golf course during my dad’s charity golf invitationals and put “King Stahlman” signs all over the green.  My dad would send marching bands through his office for no reason.  And so on and so on.

While I do think their grudge match had root in something specific that went down between them, I realized as I got older that even if they were rivals… I think they liked it.  I think they had a mutual respect for one another that went beyond their disagreements and that over the years, the rivalry took on a life of it’s own.

When my father passed away in 1994, I thought of George Stahlman and wondered how he felt about it.  I hadn’t spoken to him since I was in my early teens, so I thought contacting him might be odd, but I still wondered.  As an adult, when I moved out of state for several years, I was pleasantly surprised to find the King still in the same place when I returned.  There was comfort in that for me somehow.

George Stahlman seemed to really live his life and was, especially to our fair city, a well-loved and respected businessman and family man.  I was quite saddened to hear of his passing.  It will be hard to imagine San Diego without him.   I wish I could have understood the relationship between my father and him better, but maybe they still get a kick out of tormenting each other… wherever they are.

1 Comment so far

  1. Benjamin Forrest (morrisato) on February 17th, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

    I remember both the local ads, and this little Jason Miraz didy:

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