Friday, June 14, 2013

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy remembers a member of the Greatest Generation in marking Father's Day

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield and House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "This Sunday, fathers, grandfathers and father figures in our communities will be recognized. There is probably no more important responsibility for me than being a dad.

 "I look back at all the great memories I have watching my two children, Connor and Meghan, grow up. And I'm sure most parents can agree, when you have children, your life becomes centered on
ensuring the well-being of your kids. I think of all the things my father did for me - from working on Saturdays moving furniture to help provide for our family to helping me start my deli. He taught me the values of hard work, commitment, and dedication.

 "Many of the fathers and grandfathers in our community were part of the Greatest Generation. I had the honor of meeting one of them recently – a true hero who was a soldier in WWII and also a father and grandfather, former Army Staff Sergeant Raymond Weber to Washington on the most recent Kern County Honor Flight.

 "Over Memorial Day weekend, Ray made the journey from Bakersfield to Washington to see his memorial for the first time. The group was greeted at the airport with handshakes and cheers and Mr. Weber’s family said he was overcome with joy.  Before Ray was able to make it to his memorial, however, he was rushed to the hospital for an emergency surgery.  I had the honor to talk to Ray while he was in the hospital.  He shared with me his stories from the Battle of the Bulge, and what struck me the most was his courage in the face of capture by the Nazis.  He told me that as the German Panzer tanks and infantry approached their position, Ray and his men grabbed nearby fallen tree limbs and camouflaged themselves in their foxholes.  As the tanks drove overhead, their position was finally given away only by the condensation of their breath, rising above the branches.   Ray was taken away at gunpoint and, for the last few months of the war, served as a POW under the Nazis before being liberated by the U.S. Army.

 "Ray never made it back from the hospital, passing away this past Sunday in a Washington-area hospital.  But, before he passed, I was able to present him with a flag that flew over the Capitol in his honor on the anniversary of D-Day and that was walked through the WWII Memorial for him. In the short time that I got to know Ray, I saw the love he had for his country and for his eight children. Four of his children made the trip to Washington, and it was clear how much they admired their father and cherished his stories of courageous moments in battle.  His legacy as a father reminds me of my commitment to family and love for my children.  With Father's Day coming up on Sunday, I am looking forward to spending time with Judy and Meghan and Connor.  I wish all the fathers and caretakers in our community a very Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

First Kern County Nut Festival and a fund raiser for a documentary on Billy Mize on tap for Saturday, and who remembers an old honky tonk called The Tank?

 * ... WEEKEND: Organizers of the first Kern County Nut Festival are hoping for a good turnout for the inaugural Saturday event, which will be held on the grounds of the Kern County Museum. But if you are looking for something different, you might drive up to the Aviator Casino in Delano where folks are putting on a fund raiser for a documentary on The Bakersfield Sound and the life of musician Billy Mize. It all starts at 5 p.m. Saturday and there will  be poker, impressive prizes (guitars signed by Merle Haggard and Billy Mize, tickets to the Bakersfield Sound exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame etc) and music. Tickets are $75 per person and that includes dinner.

 * ... BAD FORM: When are we all going to understand that our intense heat is simply not good for our animals? This from Craig Holland: "A family walking a small, long-haired, well-groomed dog across the hot pavement (at the Marketplace).  The dog was yipping in pain with every step.  (Clearly an indoor dog). The lady told the dog to shut up. I told her the hot pavement was burning the dog's pads. She gave me a look which could kill, and did not pick up the dog. Classy!"

 * ... PIT BULLS: And speaking of dogs, reader Sindee Irelan wrote to thank a young preschool teacher who rescued her and her Bichon from an attacking pit bull on District Boulevard near Campus Park South. "The dog was circling me as I had picked up my dog. She (the teacher) noticed, stopped and gave us a ride home. This would have been the fifth attack in five years in two different neighborhoods in Bakersfield from a stray and unleashed pit bull. Sometimes there have been very severe injuries. Animal control did try to find this dog."

 * ... DOWNTOWN: Good news for folks who live downtown: the remodeling of the Smart and Final near Golden State is well under way and the store now features a full fresh produce and vegetable section.

 * ...DANCE HALL: James Irwin shared a memory of another dance hall that existed actoss Chester Avenue from the Blackboard back in 1947. "It was called The Tank. It really was an old ground built water tank that had a door and three or four coolers in the sides with a hole in the roof for exhaust," he said. "It was 40 or 50 feet across with a steel center beam and four, eight-foot tables around the dance floor." A search on the internet revealed an old book of matches advertising "The Tank Club, 3800 Chester Avenue, Telephone 179."

* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: This nugget comes compliments of reader Joe Stormont, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Crystal Palace recently. Only in Bakersfield: "West Drive is in east Bakersfield, College Avenue is nowhere near a college, and Lake Street is nowhere near a lake (although it does have a canal running down it's center). When driving Nord Road between Stockdale and Rosedale, about half of the signs label it as 'Nord Road' and the other half say 'Nord Avenue' in no particular order. There is no Old Stine Road although most locals will say otherwise."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Bakersfield Racquet Club rallies to stay alive, remembering the old Blackboard bar and a little known band called The Spats

 * ... BRC: The Bakersfield Racquet Club is holding an open house barbecue Thursday afternoon to reintroduce the place to old and new members. The club, struggling with an aging and declining membership and trying to redefine itself as more than a tennis club, is on a drive to gain new members. Lots of changes there, including the departure of longtime club pro Jeff Hedberg. The open house starts at 6 p.m.

* ... BAD FORM: A young man is served a free glass of water at the Starbucks at The Marketplace, uses the restroom and then runs out the door after grabbing the tip jar. What happened next was good form: customers pitched in and refilled the tip jar.

 * ... BLACKBOARD: Tommy Hays, one of the last living members of the great musicians who created The Bakersfield Sound, wrote to share a memory or two of the old Blackboard bar. "There is some confusion regarding previous location of the Blackboard. The building located where Floyd's used be on Chester was similar to an Indian tepee on a large scale: all one room in a circle. However, I remember it as The Tex's Barrel House which the business later moved to the Garces Circle and I played my first 'union' engagement there back in 1947. I had been told I needed to join the musicians union which I did. They sent me out on this gig; the leader did not pay me the required $10.50 scale and also took the tip jar as a leader's fee. Of course I complained to the union and was told to attend the meetings and not vote for the admission of this man (I forgot his name). I attended three monthly meetinsg in which he did not show. I missed the fourth meeting and even though there was a filed complaint, he was voted in. I still hold the grudge against the musicians union. The union no longer exists and we were transferred to the Fresno branch. I am one of the few remaining Bakersfield Sound guys that were active in that era."

 * ... MORE BLACKBOARD: And speaking of the Blackboard, local architect Wilson Call remembers when the original Blackboard was heavily damaged in the 1952 earthquake and had to be razed. It was replaced with a framed stucco building that stood until it too was demolished in 2001. How does he know? He was the architect. At the time he said it was owned by Joe Lima and Frank Zabaleta. 

* ... GRASSHOPPER: An earlier reader who commented on a bar called the Green Grasshopper brought this correction: "I remember the Green Grasshopper, but in my memory it was called Billy the Blue Grasshopper," wrote another reader. "Almost directly across the street from Mexicali downtown, and yes next to the canal. I believe Harvey Hall was the bouncer/owner, always smiling and kind and he kept us safe.  I loved to dance and didn't miss a weekend there. There was a bar where a hot teenage dancer could buy Cokes and other soft drinks. I also remember dancing to Ike and Tina Turner."

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: Another reader, Roger Bailey, said this about the Blue Grasshopper: "I used to gig there years and years ago. It was named after a song by a group called The Spats out of LA.
The song was called 'Billy was a blue grass a blue grass hopper. They had another novelty song called 'Gator Tails and Monkey Ribs.'"

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Ron Froehlich says you may be a Bakersfield old timer if you remember when the county dump was located at the corner of Brimhall and Jewetta. A caretaker's house was located near the location where Fresh and Easy is today.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Remembering the fiberglass Big Indian who once stood on the Garces Circle, and recalling when Buck Owens and the boys would play at the old Blackboard honky tonk

 * ... BIG INDIAN: How many of you know the history behind the fiberglass "Big Indian" that now stands in front of Ethel's Old Corral on Alfred Harrell Highway? On Tuesday, at 9 a.m., local Realtor Ken Barnes will join me on First Look with Scott Cox (KERN 1180 or video streamed on to talk about the history of the statue. It turns out Barnes' family brought the Indian to town in 1965 to promote their tire store that was located on the Garces Circle. The original price: just $1,400. On some weekends, teenagers would drive by and fill it with arrows as a kind of adolescent rite of passage. Call in at (661) 842-5376 to share your memories.

 * .... BLACKBOARD: There has been a lot of talk on this blog speculating if there were two locations for the old Blackboard bar, birthplace of the Bakersfield Sound. Charlie Duran says back in 1953 he worked at Wayne's Dairy up the street and as far as he knows, there was only one location for the honky tonk. "On the south across the street from the cafe side of the building was the Hammaroph Hotel," he told me. "Farther south near the train overpass was the Tower Motel that had weekly rates. I and my milkmen pals used to enjoy going to the Blackboard to down a few cool beers while playing poker dice... Little did we know we were listening to the invention of the Bakersfield Sound."

 * ... GOOD DEED:  Al Caetano and his pals always have lunch on the first Monday of the month as a way to network and stay in touch. What happened last week at La Mina at the corner of Brimhall and Coffee roads was a pleasant surprise. "The five of us were sitting at a table near the buffet and across from us, in a booth, was a 'young' fellow with two ladies. Since they were in front of me, I glanced at them but didn't recognize any of them. After they had left, a La Mina employee came to our table and said that the gentleman had picked up our check, treating us to lunch. I've heard about this happening but this had never happened to any of us. The man was gone before we had a chance to thank him and I'm guessing that was on purpose. When we asked the waiter, he said that the gentleman was a regular customer and that he just wanted to do something nice. It was certainly a nice gesture and I'm sure that sometime in the future each of us will do the same."

 * ... ACHIEVER: Hats off to Anthony Wonderly, a graduate of Garces Memorial High School, who was honored this week in Fort Worth, TX., as one of the 'Forty under Forty.' Wonderly has emerged as a leader and principal of Olympus Property along with his brother, Chandler Wonderly. Anthony was recognized as one of the Elite 40 at an awards ceremony held by the Fort Worth Business Press as well as featured in their May magazine.  He is currently serving as the president of the Tarrant County Apartment Association.  He graduated from UT Arlington with a communication and business double major, and along with his wife and children, calls Texas his home. His parents Bill and Avon Wonderly of Bakersfield couldn't be prouder.

* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: From Dixie Crane: "You might be a Bakersfield old timer if you remember the Green Grasshopper Teenage Night Club (no one over 20 allowed). It was located on 18th Street right in front of the canal. Before that it was a cola bottling plant."