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Opinion: Longing for the past

A surprise phone call from a friend invited me for breakfast or early lunch on Wednesday. A former Maderan, Ron Fletcher lll and I have been friends since his sister Audrey worked with me at Madera Radio Dispatch in the late 1970s.

Our relationship actually goes back to when I was in the fifth grade, but that is another story for another time.

For the unaware, back when there wasn’t a cell phone in every pocket,t the Massetti family, owners of Radio TV Hospital, provided “car phones,” by two-way radio.

To place a call the subscribers asked their dispatcher to dial a number and connect their call.

During this time I knew the telephone number of most businesses in Madera and Chowchilla. These days I can barely remember my own phone number much less anyone else’s.

It is true that if one doesn’t use a skill, one loses it.

Writing this I am trying to remember some of the phone numbers from that era.

Before Madera adopted a seven-digit telephone system all numbers began with either a three or four and then four more numbers. In the very early days of the Madera telephone system, there were three and four-digit numbers.

The phone numbers I can still remember come to me as five-digit numbers. All Madera phone numbers began with 67, then with 3 or 4 and four more digits. All Chowchilla numbers began 665, all Merced numbers with 722 or 723.

Placing calls for our customers was a simple process. They asked us to place the call, we dialed the number and then flipped a switch to patch the call through. Each subscriber had a four-digit number identifying its unit.

We wrote the unit number on a ticket, along with who they called and how long they talked.

The service was a relativity expensive one with a set amount of minutes allocated per month. It was very important to keep an accurate count of how many minutes each client spoke on “the radio.”

The numbers I can still remember each beginning with the prefix 67, are Schoettler Tire, 4-4678, Kuckenbecker Tractor 4-2496 and Berry Construction, 4-2491. When it opened Madera Community Hospital was 3-5101.

Before the invention of smartphones, all those familiar numbers were rattling around in my brain. Now just about everyone I know has more than one telephone listed in my digital Rolodex.

This was my first experience with an office job. I so enjoyed going to work clean and returning home without smelling like fresh-fried donuts or chili-dogs from the SnoWhite.

While choosing a restaurant to meet my friend Ron, a list of now-defunct dining establishments came to mind.

A favorite meme on Facebook asks members if they had the chance of one more meals from a favorite restaurant from the past, what would it be?

Growing up in Madera, our family rarely dined out. When we did it, was often the Village Restaurant, since neither of my parents cooked Chinese food.

Many of my peers would agree that the Chinese food from the Village is the best ever served. While I might not go that far, it is what Chinese food is supposed to taste like.

These days, when I order take-out from a local restaurant, I am always disappointed that my favorite dish — sweet and sour spare ribs — fall far short of the mark.

My other favorite dish from the Village was called “Mokey’s Special.” It is simply pan-fried noodles, covered with beef and soy sauce gravy. Named for local, Mokey Cowger, it is the dish he would order as a child when he went there with his parents. Another off-the-menu dish was called the GBS Special. If anyone remembers how that was prepared, drop me a line to my email at the bottom of this column.

Other restaurants fondly remembered include Farnesi’s, Luccas and The Fruit Basket.

What restaurant from the past makes you nostalgic for a by-gone era?

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix at or @tamijonix on Twitter.


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