Don’t be surprised by any of the costumes people are wearing on the street, as this is the last weekend before Halloween. Have fun but be careful and stay safe while celebrating, and please don’t drink and drive.
There have been some scary things going on in Madera this week. According to a press conference held by Police Chief Steve Frazier and the department’s Facebook page, two of the three people who allegedly shot at a police car rather than be pulled over for a traffic violation are in custody. The dashcam video of the incident appeared on “Good Morning America.”
It is sad the only time Madera makes it to the national spotlight is when something horrible happens. Additionally a three-county high-speed chase hit the surface streets in Madera on Wednesday before the mini-van crashed on State Route 99 in Merced. I am really glad I missed getting tangled up in that mess as I was driving on Pine Street and Yosemite Avenue within an hour of the chase.
At the risk of sounding like my dear late friend Leon Emo, have you noticed that Bethard Square is getting a major makeover? The last few years Madera’s first shopping center has had a very tired appearance with the Rite Aid drugstore as the only major anchor business.
My husband had a doctor’s appointment in the offices across South I Street, which gives a great view of the work in progress. The other patients in the waiting room were also longtime Madera residents so we played what I’ve heard called the Madera game.
It started out with what were the original tenants in Bethard Square? Mayfair Market was on one end with Thrifty Drug on the other side. The end of the building housed a laundromat. Next door to it was a popular cocktail lounge called the T-Room run by the LaMattina family. They had bands on the weekends and it was a fun place to party and dance.
The bonus round question is, “What was the original name and location of this establishment?” When it was at the Parkwood Bowling Alley it was called the Tangerine Room. The bar in the Madera Bowl was the Maple Room. Another popular tavern during the 1970s was the one on Howard Road adjacent to the Mexican restaurant at Pine Street and Howard Road called Paseo del Sol. Before it was that it had been a barbecue restaurant called The Chuck Wagon owned by the Ragus family. There was a large Holstein-type cow on the roof that was later painted black and pierced with swords, like from a matador. It was operated by the Espana family.
When my old friends Mike Crafton and the late Gib Virgo bought the business they renamed it Some Place Else. The reasoning behind the moniker came from one of Virgo’s daughters. Because, when the party lagged, people often say, let’s go someplace else. There was also a furniture and light fixture store on the other end of the building. After the original building burned they reopened on the backside of 47th Place Plaza at what is now known as Backstreet Bar.
When Bethard Square was shiny and new, James Department Store moved in from downtown and was a great place to buy blue jeans. Perlongo’s Bakery had its shop there too. Close to Madera High School, a slice of pizza heated in the first microwave oven I ever saw cost a quarter during lunch hour. After eating pizza a single ice cream cone from Thrifty cost a nickel. If you walked fast enough, you could make it back to school in time for fifth period.
In my junior and senior years, my first class after lunch was a cappella choir taught by the late Lois Worthington. Being late for her class was cause to be kicked out of choir. It was the one class where I was never late.
Now a new Dollar World has moved in where James was and the original Mayfair Market is a gym. On Thursday, I saw they are renovating the two stores on the end. Other former businesses in the center were the dress shop Sally’s, the dry goods store Coronet and later the Coast to Coast hardware store.
We also reminisced about the Larsen family’s Yosemite Boot and Shoe. Jeff Larsen and Larry Reese repaired my favorite sandals about 25 times. Their industrial sewing machines were a thing of beauty. People rarely repair shoes anymore; they just replace them.
Rumor has it the old Duncan and Scheid building downtown is being refurbished into a coffee shop with the arts council to occupy the upstairs room. It would be nice to see that large space in downtown being used again.
Have a spooktacular weekend.