Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Padre Hotel promises a red carpet grand opening and Mary K. Shell looks back at La Cresta Airfield

*  ... PADRE OPENING: Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 30, when the newly renovated Padre Hotel will celebrate its official grand opening. Owner Brett Miller is promising a red carpet gala that will long be remembered. He's selling 700 tickets at $125 each which gets you into the door and includes all food and drinks as well as a lot of extras like free photographs of yourself in front of iconic Padre images. There will be live entertainment and a "casino" night on the outdoor second floor restaurant lounge. A part of the proceeds from the event will go to benefit the new pediatrics care unit at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. Call the Padre to reserve your tickets. There also are package deals if you want to make a night of it and stay at the hotel.

 * ... LA CRESTA AIRFIELD: Received a nice note from Mary K. Shell, one of our community's prominent citizens and our city's first woman mayor. She recalled the old La Cresta Airfield (not air park, she corrected me) up on Panorama Drive between Bakersfield College and Greenlawn Mortuary and Cemetery. "Right after World War II I worked at the Kern County Airport and in 1947 moved over to La Cresta Airfield on the bluffs. It was owned by Ralph Smith and partners, but managed by John G. 'Monte' Montijo, a former P-51 pilot who saw combat in the European Theater. Flight training was one of the opportunities under the GI bill so flight schools sprung up all over, including at La Cresta.... Almost all of the pilots for Atwood Crop Dusters, based at La Cresta, were veterans of WWII including Bill Jukes and Steve Straub who had flown for the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as Jim French, a highly decorated Navy pilot. There was no control tower. You just used your eyes to land and take off when it was safe. One great advantage at La Cresta was when you took off toward the northwest you had an immediate increase in altitude as you flew over the bluffs. I was young and it was fun to work there."

* ... OLD MEMORIES: Does anyone out there remember a little cafe called the Belly Full? According to 85-year-old Betty Isaacs, the cafe was located at the southeast corner of California and Union avenues prior to the construction of the Bakersfield Inn. Betty's family owned a service station and grocery store and there was an apartment over the store where the family lived. There was also a blacksmith shop just east of the store on California where folks would bring their horses to be shod. She wonders if there is anyone left who remembers the place.

 * ... ENGAGEMENT: It was nice to run into old friend Ken Carter the other day, even if it was at the funeral of former Judge Joseph Noriega. Ken shared with me the happy news that he is getting married next month over on the coast. His fiance is Renee Cherie Redmond, who works as a marketing representative for Old Republic Home Warranty. Ken is the owner of Watson Realty Co. and is involved in many community activities, including the downtown Rotary Club. Ken's father, former Bakersfield resident Warren Carter, will officiate at the wedding on September 8.

 * ... LAW SCHOOL: David Partida, son of Armando Partida, just completed his first year at Columbia Law School and is on the staff of the Columbia Law Review. David graduated from Bakersfield Christian High School and then the University of Notre Dame. Thanks to Rick Isle of American National Insurance for alerting me to this high achieving youngster.

* ... WACKY WORLD: One of the nuttier areas of our community has to be downtown in the block between the Greyhound Bus terminal and the old Post Office. You've got the downtown homeless denizens with their mangy dogs on rope leashes, the lost souls who pace along the sidewalks having animated conversations with invisible partners, and the scary looking parolees in white tee shirts who get off the buses and blend into the community. Sometimes entertaining and sometimes alarming, but always there.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: From reader Riley Parker: You know you're a Bakersfield old timer if "you ate apple pie at Tiny's for 35 cents and went to Saturday afternoon movies at the Tejon Theater for a nickel."

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