* … BAD FORM: A friend of mine who lives in The Oaks had a rude awakening on Mother's Day when she awoke to find one of the family cars stolen and the other ransacked. Her husband, as it turned out, had left her Mother's Day gift in his car and went outside to find it gone. "He also left his wallet in the car and we are terrified of identify theft," she told me. The thieves tried unsuccessfully to hot-wire the second car, popped open the trunk and left a duffle bag of a girl's personal items. The lesson: never leave anything of value in your car, no matter where you live.
* … CASPER'S: Kelly Casper Donovan is the grand daughter of the founder of the old Casper's Men's Store downtown. She was surprised when a reader wrote to me with his fond memories of the place. "Thanks to reader Greg Cowan and his memory of downtown and Casper's Men's Store. The day the article was printed was my birthday, and what a wonderful birthday present that my grandfather's store was mentioned. I worked at the store from childhood through the time I went away to college, working at the front desk and wrapping gifts for our customers. I watched as men from all over town came in to be fitted for suits and clothing, and watched my grandfather and his staff provide a place where the customer knew he would find a quality product with superior customer service. Casper's was truly a Bakersfield institution, and I am so proud to have been a part of my grandfathers dream.
* … DREAMMAKER: Good news for the folks over at DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen of Bakersfield. First, they were recognized as "Best Home Improvement Building Contractor" in the annual Best off Kern County readers' poll, and now they have been recognized on a national level with the BIG50 title, published in Remodeling Magazine. Fifty contractors are chosen each year to join an elite group of professionals from all over the country that have performed exemplary business practices, management skills, community service, design, and craftsmanship.
* … ACHIEVER: And kudos to Nicole Bonna, a student at Tevis Junior high who will perform at Carnegie Hall next month with the Honors Junior Band as a trombonist. This is all part of the Middle School Honors Performance Series that highlight some of the most promising young musicians in the country. Nicole currently is a member of the Tevis Symphonic Band and Jazz Band under the direction of Kelly K. Willey.
* … KERNVILLE: Bob Hyde from Kernville weighed in on the panhandling issue: "We live in Kernville and 'go to town' (Bako) with our lists every three weeks or so and the panhandlers are everywhere. We usually have breakfast at the IHOP off Buck Owens and about 9 a.m. and we always see a group of young men with their signs and pets pass through the parking lot on the way to the Rosedale/Buck Owens intersection. It is almost like they are unionized-they meet and then disperse to their assigned corners. We also encounter panhandlers in the parking lots at Costco, Wal-Mart, Smart and Final and Trader Joe's, and even at the Fast Trip gas stations. Encountering or trying to avoid them is very stressful, but we have little compassion for "'the regulars.' And, yes, we do have our share in the Kern River Valley. The Valley Plaza in Lake Isabella is a panhandlers haven but Ms. Hotchkiss should not include our 'tamale lady.' She and her family make the tamales at home and sell them in various locations around the valley. She is nice, never pushy, and her tamales are excellent. I am guessing she drives up from Bakersfield and I cannot imagine she takes much back at the end of the day, but she is producing not begging and for that she deserves credit and our respect."
* … MORE PANHANDLERS: And finally, Riley Parker of Santa Maria noted "we have a couple that have set up a permanent post near a driveway into the Costco/Trader Joe’s parking lot. They rotate on the hour, sharing the well done, easily read sign asserting that he/she is unable to work since their 'accident.' They are both clean and well dressed. Her long, nicely coiffed blond hair appears to be professionally highlighted, etc. They arrive daily at about 10 a.m. driving their late model, clean and well maintained Toyota pickup. It appears that they are operating a lucrative, all cash business preying on the kindness of others. I particularly like the fleece lined jacket and high quality western hat that he wears on cool days. Nice touch with his well-trimmed grey mustache. Some days they bring the dog along…must appeal to the animal lover in all of us. After so many months, now days they just wave like old friends when I pass them by."