Memories of San Dimas

Reader Bette Cooney of San Dimas writes:

“I have read your stories and continue to remember those days around the valley. I have a bit of information for you that you may find interesting. In San Dimas on the corner of San Dimas Canyon Road and Bonita Avenue there used to stand a shopping center for many years that included several shops in a strip mall. The most famous you would recall would be the Pizza Royal and Canyon Theater from back in the early ’70s. Also the Bravo Burgers that was originally a Bakers Tacos, also in early ’70s.

“This center has been a eyesore for many years while the tenants finally finished the leases. While there was some disagreement with the city of San Dimas and the owner of the lot, they are finally going to put up some town homes. (Like we need more of those)!”

I’m familiar with those businesses only by reputation, I’m afraid, having only moved here in 1997. I can report that corner is also getting a small shopping center that is rumored to contain a small Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. I asked Bette about her recollections of Pizza Royal, which still has a restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga.

She replied: “They had a piano player and also played the banjo. They played Dixieland music. Was a fun place for the whole family.”

I missed out on all the good stuff.

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  • Teri Siaz

    I used to hang out on that corner in the ’80s. I was the original “Fresh & Easy.”

  • JMac

    As I recall, that shopping center was the only one in the area that had an A&P.

  • Gene Harvey

    Yes, those days of the Pizza Royal and Canyon (they were immediately next door to each other) were jumpin’ days. Both of us were quite busy most of the time, and the synergy of the two places was quite nice.

    The heavy traffic in and out of each contributed to the constant awareness and success of the other. The big (quite huge) guy named Neal who was the main pizza chef appeared to be right out of a cartoon and the guys who played the banjo and piano ragtime music were really fun.

    [Gene was owner and manager of the Canyon Theater. -- DA]

  • Bryan Jones

    I spent just about every Saturday in the summer from 1968-1974 at the Canyon Theater watching double features for 50 cents. Still miss the Pizza Royale. Best pizza to this day that I have ever had.

    [Have you tried the Pizza Royale at Base Line and Carnelian in RC, Bryan? -- DA]

  • Tim Beckstrom

    I remember the Canyon Shopping Center well! The Canyon Theatre used to have double features and it was a decent family-oriented place. Saw many movies there from around 1976 until 1990.

    Pizza Royal reversed its name at one point to become “Royal Pizza” — but the name never took. It had that Shakey’s kind of feel. Our little league teams used to go there after games and I remember that we got in trouble one time playing ‘buns up’ (playing tag and throwing a hard ball at the wall) in the alley behind the theatre.

    A small thrift store was situated between the pizza place and the Canyon Market, which eventually got a bit run-down. Anyone remember O’Briant’s five-and-dime? It was next to the market and it seemed to have a little bit of everything. It changed hands over the years, eventually becoming an Ace Hardware before closing.

    Perpendicular to that strip was a smaller strip which housed smaller businesses such as LaBaron TV Repair, Video Shakk and a formal wear shop.

    Bravo Burger lasted for a while, but I remember it was a donut shop for a time before that. Pioneer Chicken was a mainstay in that lot, and I vaguely recall a Fotomat (geez – early ’70s?) being near the Bravo Burger as well.

    It was a shame to see the shopping center go downhill in the mid-’80s, as it was such a fun place to go as a kid.

    We used to ride our bikes up and down San Dimas Canyon Road and there was a big hill at the end of S.D. Canyon Road that had a clump of trees at the top. You could see Puddingstone Lake from there — fantastic view! We used to hike up there and sled down on old cardboard mats.

    Great memories!

    [Thanks, Tim. -- DA]

  • Andy

    For a while, I remember TG&Y being the cornerstone of that property for some time. I think there was a dry cleaner next to it, some type of hair salon, then Pizza Royal, then Canyon Theatre. My old State Farm agent was there for quite a while. I remember Bravo Burger being there for quite some years. I vaguely remember it being a Bakers. I remember the Pioneer Chicken and the old shoe cobbler store. I have been to the Pizza Royal in Rancho a few times over the years. Almost the same look. I have found a few Pioneer Chickens still in existence in the LA Area. Anyone remember the opposite side of San Dimas Canyon Road? Where the “secluded” people live? LOL. Any one remember the tales of the “satanic rock” in the valley up there? Bringing back faded memories.

  • Grace

    This brings back so many memories. Some of my best childhood memories took place in that shopping center.

    Does anyone remember Fazios grocery store? That was the original anchor. I have vague memories of watching a news report saying all the Fazio stores will be closing down due to some kind of scandal. I remember my mom saying it probably involved mafia. The shopping center seemed to slowly go downhill from there.

    I used to love going to TG & Y with my mom and looking through all the pattern books in the yardage section. I remember buying candy at TG & Y and trying to sneek it into the theater. They would actually check your bags and purses and wouldn’t let you bring it in.

    There used to be a Sears catalog store at the far end of the shopping center. I also remember a bike shop at one time. Definitely remember Bakers and El Manny’s. My 2 best friends and I would add up our change to buy the Mt. Baldy Nachos for $3.50. It was a huge plate of nachos. I loved Pizza Royal. They would actually toss the pizza dough. I remember the piano player. My friends and family went to Canyon Theater just about every week. Oh, and there used to be one of those Fotomat shacks in the middle of the parking lot.

    In those days there were still lots of citrus groves. Directly across the street from Bakers there were horse stables and citrus trees where all those homes are now. That shopping center holds so many dear childhood memories. I’m glad to hear others feel the same way.

  • Tiffany Campbell

    I do indeed remember Fazio’s market, TG&Y, Canyon Theater, Pizza Royal, Bakers Burritos, El Mannys, Pioneer Chicken, Sears catalog store, the Bike shop and Fotomat. I still have photos in their original envelope with receipts from that place.

    I have such wonderful memories of walking there from Payson St to the movies. When my dad passed away, I found an old Fazio’s card amongst his belongings. At Pizza Royale he would always order a spaghetti and meatballs and would sometimes get it for free because he was a bit of a local celebrity (the chicken man from the Aames Home Loan commercials).

    The horse stables across the street were referred to as “the ditch” by the boys in the neighborhood because they used to go down there and jump their bikes before it was turned into housing. My first memories of a payphone are of the one right outside Fazio’s, and it was a dime to make a call. I have many dear childhood memories from that shopping center, and when I get the chance to drive by I am saddened by its condition.

    Tiffany

  • http://www.tfr.com M.D. Goofhead

    Well, I found that Shopping Center in 2005. My friends and I would sneak in the gated off areas and go explore all the old rundown buildings. We would get on the roof. We once actually went down the oven shaft in the old pizza place you old timers are talking about, haha.

    The State Farm, we found old signs in there, blueprints of old houses. The movie theater, that was the best, I remember seeing Jurassic Park: Lost World there, but it closed soon after that. We would sit in the seats, and look for bats on the ceiling. The screen was ripped, the red velvet drapes were moth eaten. Graffiti everywhere, bathrooms were used by bums. It was awesome, a great place to explore, heck even the San Dimas Sheriff helicopter would circle by a few times a night to make sure we weren’t up there.

    Found a set of golf clubs, a old black license plate (the ones from the 50s you can’t get anymore). That place had a lot of good memories for me too. Now that they finally dozed it, it’s disappointing, but I was 15, Young and Stupid, with my Punk rock friends and that warehouse/pizza place, Bravo Burger where we would eat, one of the last places to survive, yet when it closed we spilled the old fryer grease everywhere.

    A paper mache man sitting on a wicker chair and named BatMan from someone before us, gave us a pretty good scare. Crawling in through the department store dressing rooms into the main big building through a hole in the cinder-block wall. Then throwing 50 old industrial-sized 5 foot long fluorescent light bulbs. Good times. The ladders were sketchy to climb up onto the roof, the roof sunk in when you walked on it. Random bum tents and mattresses, that place was sick. Good Times.

    TFR for Life

  • Mark McLean

    I remember the canyon shopping center very well. I worked at the pizza royal from 1971 to 1974 and then i worked at fazios from 1974 to 1975. I have a lot of great memories of working at pizza royal with Les and Neal Bob Tom Mike Pat Paul and so many others. About 1980 or so me and my dad bought the pizza royal from the Tom Thomas and it went into escrow. I could not come to am agrement with owner of the shopping center and i took it out of escrow. I am so glad i did because the center went downhill. In 1975 i went to work at Stater Bros and i am still there today in Victorville.

    Mark Mclean

  • Jonathan Sargent

    I remember going to fazios as a small child in the mid 70s with my grandparents. Then to the other grocery store that was in the middle I think it was called san dimas canyon market. They eventually moved down to where safeway was on bonita.

    I worked at the canyon theatre with Arnold, Jamie, Bonnie, Tanisha and several others I forget all the names from about 87-88. It was an awsome job. Mr Harvey tought me how to splice film to add in the previews. I usually worked the snack bar. I went back a few times after that.

    I graduated in 89 then moved to hollywood so I didn’t get back as often after that. During my lunch breaks I’d eat at bravos. they had the best zuckini fries with blue cheese dressing and great burgers. Pizza royale was always a slice of pizza and a coke. If anyone can tell me how to get in touch with Mr harvey it would be great to talk to him…. Jon Sargent

  • Suzi L

    I worked at El Manny’s in 1980ish — Mt. Baldy Nachos were a big hit! Next door to El Manny’s was a donut shop called “What a Donut.”

    We used to ride our horses across the street (corner of SDC Road and Juanita). The big ditch was referred to as Shady Rest, and yes the boys used to ride their bikes up and down the ditch. We also would ride the horses to the shopping center and tie them up at the small island areas in the parking lot, lol. We once went through the drive thru at Bakers/Bravo’s on horseback.

    Such fun times!

  • http://www.facebook.com/angrybakery Angry Baker

    I loved the Canyon Theater… we’d hit the TG& Y beforehand, load up with candy… then go to the theater. In the summer they would have a special deal where you’d get 2 movies and a cartoon for 50 cents. Amazing.

  • http://www.chadkeller.daportfolio.com Chad Keller

    I saw the original Batman with Jack Nicholson at The Canyon Theater when I was 9 years old. I later shopped at the Thrift Store there and skateboarded on the smooth concrete of the extra-wide sidewalks as the businesses slowly closed one at a time, eating pastrami burgers at Bravo’s when I needed a break from the smoggy heat.

    The dry cleaners and the hardware store were the last to go before the Canyon Theater itself. The Canyon was struggling and eventually relegated itself down to showing movies for a $1 during the week to stay alive, but to no avail. They often showed cool oldies movies in black and white, and even had a Wednesday morning movie with donuts and coffee.

    A strange moment in time happened before Canyon Theater closed its doors for good though. Since no was taking care of the internal upkeep of the theater anymore and no one seemed to care about the seats and such, The Canyon Theater became an ideal location to show The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    The best memories I have of the Canyon Theater was its short-lived showing of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW every Saturday at midnight. I was a regular during that time and shot water pistols, yelled responses at the screen, danced the Time Warp in the aisles, dealt cards for sorrow & cards for pain, and threw toast and Scott bathroom tissue into the air at all the right moments of the movie. A group called ‘Cracked Actors’ was there, they performed the movie live on the stage with full costumes and make-up while the movie was showing on the screen. It was a vibrant late night group of society’s eccentric misfits who showed up every Saturday, it was definitely an era in time, rare, and I was happy to be a part of it.

    Being nostalgic, I am a bit sad that it now being eaten up into urban sprawl of Town Homes and Fresh N Easy’s, however, change is what allowed that show to take place during the time that it did.

    Thank you for having this page.

    Sincerely,

    Chad

    [Chad, you're welcome, and thank you for the vignette about the Canyon. -- DA]

  • ruth modrow (richardson)

    Hi. This is too awesome and brings back lots of memories. I lived right next door to the canyon theater and spent many Saturday afternoons watching all kinds of kid movies. I went to 1st and 2nd grade @ Ekstrand and went to kindergarten and 1st grade @ allen ave. I remember spending lots of time in the TG NY. I also ate a lot of chicken @ pioneer chicken and got a slice of pizza and a coke @ the pizza royal. My mom’s friend’s son, ronnie johnson, used to work there. I haven’t been back to California since, I was 10 years old and that was in 1976.

    Thanks for great memories.

  • T.D.

    Played little league baseball from 1979-82 at Merchant park. Won the Championships with the PeeWee Dodgers in 1981 after a double-header. Great times!

    Used to ride my bike all over that area delivering the Progress Bulletin around 1985-86 after school. Collecting $5 a month for it (door-to-door!) was terrible since none of my customers ever paid on time. Receipts were on a tear-slip flip binder issued to us paperboys. Pretty professional! haha. Nicer times, for the most part (except for some bullies on Payson St. who used to terrorize me during my paper deliveries).

    I switched to delivering the SGV Tribune (those customers all paid by mail, thank goodness!) and my dad would throw half of my route in the early mornings on his beach cruiser – he’d throw the whole route if I was sick. Dad passed away 3 weeks ago and his support of me and moments like that I really appreciate much more now.

    I also played a year of flag football for the SD Recreation Dept. in 1983 for the SD Colts?, I think the name was.

    I remember the big strawberry fields along Allen Ave. on the left as you headed up the hill toward SD Canyon Rd. That whole area was just a barren field back in the 70′s and mid-80′s. Alpha Beta on Foothill was popular until Vons took off….so much development there now from what I hear.

    My big memory as a kid was riding in my dad’s big blue Chevy in pajamas through the In N’ Out on ‘D’ Street and Foothill for burgers on the way to Mt. Baldy Drive-in. My brother and I’d fall asleep in the back seat on our pillows about a half-hour into the movie! I remember the first set of speakers my folks drove up to (over the hump) never worked…they always had to drive up to the next set. Dad ran over a bottle on the way out once and we had to call for a tow…everyone honked at us and yelled as they drove by. haha. Oh, the 70′s….!

  • Francis Stanisci

    My parents owned and operated “Canyon Sew Vac and Sound”, originally just “Canyon Sew Vac”. I have an image I’d like to post, but not sure how. I was attending Ramona when my parents opened the business. By the time my father passed he had over 50 years in the sewing machine business.

    I remember riding my bike in the area before there was a center. I was one of the “boys” who rode bikes in the groves across the street. The “ditch” by the way referred to the “wash” which was for flood waters. Interesting no one mentioned the Church just up the street, “St. Mary’s”? I remember Mike Zachweiga (sp?) who was related to the Segeuins (sp?) who lived across the street from us on Pattiglen. Mike worked at Pizza Royal.

    This may be a real test, but at MDX Adam West came by for some promotion, I think related to Hot Wheels or Johnny Lightning toy cars. That was pretty cool.

    I remember our mother giving us $5 so me and my 3 brothers could go to the movies. At 50 cents we had enough for snacks and drinks. We would often pick up candy at TG&Y. As for Bakers, biggest bloody burritos anywhere. They had one that was a two pounder! Fun times. Too much to list.

    [Francis, thanks for the memories. There's no way here for readers to post photos directly, but if you'd care to email it to me at david.allen(at)inlandnewspapers.com, I'll take a look and consider posting it here. -- DA]

  • SAS

    I stumbled on this site because I (for some reason) was going crazy trying to remember the main stores at that corner shopping center.

    I recall Pizza Royal. It was a popular after-little-league hangout. I went to the cinema many times. All of it familiar, yet vague. It’s been 30-35 years since I haunted that part of the world.

    No one has mentioned What-A-Donut, located in the separate smaller strip of stores behind the Chevron (?). That was my first “real job” in 1984. All the donuts I could eat. That cured me of donuts :).

    My last memory is coming back to that shopping center in 1988, after spending a year abroad, with the express intent to gorge myself at Baker’s. By then, the place was in decline.

    • davidallen909

      SAS, glad to hear this blog post was useful in jogging your memory — and thanks for bringing up What-a-Donut.