Thursday, August 19, 2010

New lofts project is headed to the arts district in downtown Bakersfield, and a gas war heats up in Shafter

 * ... CITY LOFTS: Downtown Bakersfield received some good news this week when the city Redevelopment Agency approved a $612,000 loan for finishing construction of the 1612 City Lofts Project at 19th and Eye streets. The money will go to finishing nine upstairs lofts in the building that houses the Metro Galleries, Ellie Jaye's Kids Boutique and Jezebel's Boutique. The building is owned by local Realtor Eydie Gibson and a partner and is located in the core of the emerging downtown arts district. I'm told the owners have already spent $1 million on the project and the loan will allow them to complete the project in six to nine months. These will be rental lofts - not low income rentals - and will go for between $895 and $1,395 a month.  They are designated "affordable moderate income" rentals, meaning they will be available to single people with an income not higher than $47,000 and a couple with a gross income of not more than $53,000. The building itself was constructed in 1893 and is said to be the second oldest still standing commercial structure downtown. It was originally a rooming house. Let's hope the lofts attract more young urban professionals to the downtown area.

* ... AIRFIELD: I continue to receive a lot of feedback about the old La Cresta Airfield that was located off Panorama Drive near Bakersfield College. One reader asked when it was built, which I could not answer. Any history buffs out there know? Another reader, Mickey Pearson, recalled a small cafe at the airfield that served burgers, fries, sandwiches and a great bowl of chili. He said it was run by his grandparents, Ezra and Myrtle Pearson. "While eating lunch you could try your luck at the punch boards. Pay your money for a chance to win cash. They had a small tool about the size of a toothpick. You would push a small rolled up paper out the back of the board, unroll it and see if you won."

 * ... CRIME WATCH: A reader who lives near Pacheco Road and Hughes Lane called with a horrifying story of a break-in at her home in May and a warning to others to be on guard for the unexpected. She was outside in her yard and had left the front door unlocked, like we all do when we are puttering around the yard. Turns out a group of robbers slipped inside when she wasn't looking and when her daughter showed to pick her up to run an errand, she locked them inside. When she returned, she surprised three men in her house who scattered out through the back yard. "The police were down the street investigating another burglary and were here in two minutes! Now I never leave the house without locking every door even if I am outside five minutes. This is happened all over town, not just out here."

 * ... GAS WAR: Folks in Shafter are abuzz over a local gas war, started when a new ARCO station opened at the corner of Lerdo Highway and Highway 43. One resident, David Vanderpool, told me the ARCO opening forced the local Fastrip to drastically cut its prices to the point where Fastrip now has some of the cheapest gas in the county. "Most people in Shafter, before the ARCO opened up, would buy their gas in Bakersfield since it was cheaper than Shafter on any given day. So yes, competition is great!"

* ... MEMORIES: Reader Paula Rodenburg touched based to share her memories of shopping for clothes with her mother at Brock's, Fedway and JC Penney. "After Brocks we'd go down the street heading east on 19th to Woody's Toy Circus and Thompson's Petland (Woody's moved to Chester Avenue later after a fire, I believe). LOVED Thompson's-puppies and kittens in the back and I'd always beg for more pets even though we were full up at home. And Zippy the Clown-he was at my sixth birthday party. I believe he was on the George Day show. Good times."

 * ... REMEMBER WHEN: Carole Lynn Anderson wrote to recall the days when "you could see the tops of the West High School locker buildings from the corner of Stockdale Highway and California. The only building between Stockdale Highway and California was the White Front store ... everything else in between included oil pumps, scrub brushes and the occasional kit fox!"

* ...  DALEY LEAVES: Heard from reader Pattie Otts that Dr. Patrick Daley has left Bakersfield to assume a family practice in Ojai. His last day at the Mohawk Medical Group was July 30. He had been in private practice specializing in sports medicine for some 20 years and was active in the Kern County Medical Society, where he served one year as president.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're a Bakersfield old-timer if "you still have a copy of Isabel Forker's guacamole recipe."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

California schools among top rated public universities

 It was nice to see California well represented in the annual ranking of top public universities by U.S. News. We certainly have our budget and funding issues in this state, but in spite of all that our public universities are simply first rate and remain a relative bargain. In fact, given this recession, one has to question the wisdom of anyone sending their son or daughter out of state when our public schools are so good. Topping the list of the best public schools were Cal Berkeley and UCLA, followed later in the list by UC San Diego (7th) and UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara tied at ninth. Tied for second with UCLA was the University of Virginia, then the University of Michigan, North Carolina-Chapel Hill, College of William and Mary and Georgia Tech.

Is there a proper etiquette to spitting? And pulling for a quick recovery for a youngster who crashed on her bike

* ... ON THE MEND: I was sorry to hear that Kimberly Keathley, the engaging and athletic 21-year-old daughter of Corey and Duane Keathley, suffered a nasty crash on her road bike this past weekend. Kim was returning from a ride to Glennville, going down hill at 41-plus mph, when she went down and suffered a broken collar bone and two broken ribs. Father Duane, a partner in the local CB Richard Ellis commercial real estate office, told me Kim is on the mend and will be headed back to Point Loma Nazarene University next week to begin her senior year. Here's to a rapid recovery. (picture courtesy of Kim's Facebook)

* ... SPITTING: Esther Brandon just can't seem to get a break. A few weeks ago the Valley Public Television board member was in a local Blockbuster store when some nitwit next to her decides to spit on the floor while perusing the slasher flicks. Then, scarcely a week later, she leaves the downtown Padre Hotel when a stranger let's go another mouthful of spittle on the sidewalk directly in front of her. Is this proper spitting etiquette?

 * ... CHEAP GAS: Retired endodontist Bob Smith, who keeps track of these kinds of things, tells me some of the cheapest gas around can be found at the Fastrip in Shafter, where regular was recently going for the relative-bargain price of $2.75 a gallon.

  * ... CAL COLLEGES: It was nice to see California well represented in the annual ranking of top public universities by U.S. News. We certainly have our budget and funding issues in this state, but in spite of all that our public universities are first rate and remain a relative bargain. In fact, given this recession, one has to question the wisdom of anyone sending their son or daughter out of state when our public schools are so good. Topping the list of the best public schools were Cal Berkeley and UCLA, followed later in the list by UC San Diego (7th) and UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara tied at ninth. Tied for second with UCLA was the University of Virginia, then the University of Michigan (4th), North Carolina-Chapel Hill (5th), the College of William and Mary (6th) and Georgia Tech (7th).

* ... EBB AND FLOW: Make sure you catch the opening on an interesting new art exhibit called "Ebb and Flow: Kern's Vanishing Water," a show that uses art to bring awareness to the water crisis faced by our state. Sponsored by the Arts Council of Kern, the show uses five visual artists to "communicate messages that can be used for hope, influence and change." The opening will be Thursday, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Center for the Arts, 1700 Chester Avenue. Hors d'oeuvres and no host bar and RSVP to (661) 324-9000. The artists involved are Barbara Reid, Chris McKee, Claire Putney, Becky Overdock and Stacy Holland.

* ... GEORGE DAY: Mention an old local television show and you are bound to spark other memories when life was simpler. These thoughts come from reader Julie Lewis. "I was born in Bakersfield in 1952 and your column brought back memories of the George Day Show. I watched it every day ... and appeared on it at one time. I was one of the children in the audience. One of the stars of the show was Zippy the Clown. I think the highlight of my childhood was Zippy coming to my birthday party... I also want to add that we loved Don Rodewald and Harry Mitchell." Lewis went on to add that she lived in Kuwait for two years and often grew homesick. "One day while I was shopping at The Sultan Center... I noticed that they sold Grimmway Farm carrots. From then on, we always had a fresh package of Grimmway carrots in our refrigerator. I know it sounds odd but that little piece of home meant so much."

 * ... SCOTT COX: I will be guest hosting the Scott Cox radio show on KERN News Talk Radio 1180 on Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Among others, I will be chatting with Brett Miller, the new owner of The Padre Hotel,  about its history and upcoming grand opening, and we'll try to connect with Police Chief Greg Williamson to get his read on the rash of burglaries across our community.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield when half the passengers on your flight to Phoenix have seat-belt extenders.

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."