Louise “Babs” Somacal

By Mary Rivers

Louise (Babs) Reader Somacal was born in in Fallbrook in 1917. Babs graduated from Fallbrook High School and lived within the same few blocks since birth.

Replica of Fallbrook Mercantile
Josephine and Babs Reader

Babs was a very devoted daughter to Rex and Josephine Reader who owned and operated the Fallbrook Mercantile Store on N. Main Street. She worked daily in the store with her parents and when her father died in 1952 she continued to help her mother run the store. In 1953 they closed out the grocery stock but continued to carry dry goods. Babs sold the store in 1969 when her mother became ill. She felt that after 35 years it was time for a change.

“She is kind an loving,” says Janice Murrah, a close friend for many years. “Babs has a kind heart and is a good listener. Her biggest philosophy is to ‘let go and let God.’ Neither she nor her husband Geno ever complained about anything.”

Babs and Geno Somacal wedding photo

Babs married Geno Somacal. Geno’s mother moved to the United States from Italy and settled in Fallbrook in 1911. Geno was born in Santa Barbara. His parents moved to Fallbrook when he was only 3. For many years Geno and his father worked for the Pratt ranch dairy and helped make many containers of olive oil in their olive press. Geno worked at at the ranch until he retired.

Babs tells the story of her and Geno’s honeymoon. They drove until they used all their gas tickets (tickets were issued because of rationing during WWII). They reached Idyllwild and then hiked to the top of San Jacintio. Then they had to wait until their relatives sent them more gas tickets to get home. In their years together they traveled to many countries and loved to hike.

Babs had been given a helpful marriage tip. She and Geno practiced the three C’s: Never criticize, never contradict and never correct.

Babs and Geno had one daughter, JoAnne Stratton. When asked about her childhood JoAnne says she has happy memories with Babs and Geno. “We had great trips. Once we went on a trip to New Yourk and say Niagra Falls, Chiocago, and Washington DC. It was a great time.”

When Geno was 50, he was watching a television quiz show with his wife Babs and his mother-in-law. One of the contestants had difficulty selecting a prize. “If I were that young man, ” Geno said, “I’d pick the model train.” When Christmas came around, his mother-in-law presented him with a model train.

Geno’s model train setup

Geno proceeded to convert his basement garage into a hobby workshop. His train display expanded to about 400 feet of ‘O” and Super ‘O’ gage track, eight locomotives, nine bridges, two different inclined grades, nine tunnel and several mountain ranges.

Geno then constructed replicas of historic Fallbrook buildings, requiring a unique combination of talent, improvisation and patience. According to JoAnne, each building was built with many hours of “Love.” The old Baptist church on the hill took 175 hours; the old Naples Hotel took 1500 hours. Little people were added to the buildings, crafted by friend, Edith Cornell.

Napels Hotel
Fallbrook School

Several weeks before Christmas each year, the entire system was put into full operation for the benefit of countless persons, both young and old, who dropped by. Over the years the Somacals entertained many thousands of people who trooped down the cellar stairs. Babs in her Santa Claus hat would furnish cookies and punch. Two, perhaps three generation of Fallbrookians remember the happy time. The Somacals were horrified at frequent suggestions that they charge admission. “we wouldn’t dream of it,” Babs said, “this is our joy?”

Geno was never finished with his “construction”, he continued building as long as the was able. The collection is now on permanent display at he Fallbrook Historical Society, thanks to the generosity of the Somacal family.

Babs and Geno loved to travel. They were charter members of the Fallbrook Exploradore Travel Group and made numerous trips with the group around Southern California. They also traveled with their close friends, the Corenells and the Garnseys.

Babs was the longest standing member of her church, St. John’s Episcopal. She also has worked tirelessly at St. John’s Thrift Shop. One of her friends commented, “She really has unconditional love for people.”

Somacal House

Babs has been a member of the Fallbrook Camera Club longer than she can remember and is a wonderful photographer. The Somacal house on the hill above Fallbrook on Wisconsin Street is a wonderful place to view our community.