* ... NEW YEAR: By all accounts 2010 was another tough year in this prolonged Great Recession, so let's all hope the new year ushers in better times. I compiled my own list of hopes for our community for the new year. Here's a sampling:
2) I pray for the recovery of our real estate market and better times for our hard working local Realtors.
3) I hope for more of a civil discourse in our nation, and that all sides - liberals and conservatives - learn to work together for the common good.
4) For all those out of work, here's hoping there are paychecks and health insurance on the horizon.
5) For all those ailing and battling sickness, both physically and emotionally, here's to a rapid recovery and good health.
6) If just a few of those come to pass, it will be a good year.
* ... PADRE: Local risk management consultant John Pryor shared with me a letter, penned on old Padre Hotel stationery, that was written to him when he was just six days old. It was written by R.L. Hendrickson, who was an insurance company "special agent" who worked with Pryor's insurance broker father. "I was six days old when he wrote this letter," Pryor wrote to Brett Miller, the Padre's new owner. "The Padre Hotel was just four years old. Bakersfield's population was about 27,000. Our family's phone number at the time was 89 - without any dial until later. The Padre's phone number wasn't listed on its letterhead. It wasn't needed. Callers simply picked up the phone and asked for the Padre Hotel. The friendly operator complied and made the connection." The original owners were Roy Cummings and Fred Widmer. The letter gave Pryor some advice about obeying his mother and father and ended with the line, "A Merry Christmas to you and the OLD people."
* ... MORE PADRE: Speaking of the Padre, I'm also hoping the historic hotel emerges from its latest round of worries and successfully renegotiates a $8.4 million loan to keep the old girl open. The Padre's dilemma is a metaphor for the long-tail effect of this recession: a loan taken out two years ago by a La Jolla bank that no longer exists and now called by a new bank (OneWest) that has no ties to our community. The irony is that the Padre is doing well - sold out rooms for New Year's and cash flow positive. I work and live downtown and spend a lot of time at the Padre and know its owners well, so I am not unbiased here. But these are folks who put their own capital at risk to bring life back into downtown, and it serves absolutely no one to see this venture fail. It's in all of our interests that the Padre stays open and under its current ownership.
* ... MORE MIGS: Yet another person has come forward to recall, with great fondness, former East High teacher and football coach Migs Apsit. This time it was John Brock who wrote to recall when he joined the group of kids who Migs took across the country every summer. "Others will know more about him than I but I happened to go with him on one of the trips for high school kids he organized during summer vacations. It was called the USA Tour and it essentially circumvented the U.S. over a period of about six weeks. I recall that there were about 70 kids and we traveled in two buses. We stayed in hotels, motels and camped out occasionally. It was a fantastic experience." And so it sounds.
* ... DID YOU KNOW? Some of the rumored Chinese tunnels downtown actually do still exist. During the retrofitting and renovations to the basement of the Hay Building (soon to be 1612 City Lofts) workers uncovered and then resealed tunnels leading out under Eye Street and also 19th Street.
* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're a Bakersfield old-timer if "you remember when almost every doctor in town had an office in the Haberfelde Building."