Montclair Plaza at 40

It was on Aug. 3, 1968 — 40 years ago today — that Montclair Plaza opened for a sneak preview, prior to an Aug. 5 opening.

That’s the subject of today’s column — which you knew already, right?

Lots of you must have memories of the Plaza. Stores and restaurants you enjoyed over the years (Bob’s Big Boy, the Hollander Cafeteria…). Shopping trips from childhood. Movies you saw back when the Plaza had a couple of theaters. Features of the mall you liked — the big clock, for instance. If you’re old enough, you might have been around to know what life was like before the mall, or what opening day was like.

So post away and we can create a sort of informal history of Montclair Plaza.

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  • Brian Hurst

    Hey Dave, during the late ’70s while I was attending Montclair H.S. I worked at the Farrell’s Ice Cream parlor, on the N/W corner of the mall. It was a fun job and a great place to go celebrate a birthday. Various ice cream dishes: the “Zoo,” over 30 scoops of ice cream; the “Pigs trough,” a banana split times two; the “Nutty, Nutty, Fudgey, Fudgey,” tons of peanuts and fudge.

    The Marriott Corp. bought out the chain right about then and let it run into the ground. They closed up in the early ’80s. I hear a new Farrell’s opened in Temecula, I’m going to have to go try it one day. Thanks for the memories.

    [Likewise, Brian. -- DA]

  • Elisa (Alta Loma)

    I was nearly 10 years old when the Montclair Plaza opened. My family lived in Hacienda Heights, and had to shop in either the Whittier area, or in the West Covina/Covina area. It was a drive for us to get to Montclair, but I do remember visiting the mall and the novelty of it was that there were no parking meters (since there were in downtown Whittier) and lots of parking surrounding the mall area. This was great since in Whittier, you had to cross the streets to get to some other stores.

    I don’t remember that the mall was enclosed at first, but rather the stores were in an outdoor setting all facing each other with no vehicle traffic on the inside of the shopping area. I know eventually the mall was enclosed, and air-conditioned, however, I don’t remember when that occurred.

    It’s ironic that those features that drew our family and others to that original concept of shopping is now itself considered a bit passe’. The “new” concept of shopping is the old “stand-alone” type of shops, and “lifestyle centers.” I have to admit that when Victoria Gardens opened, and I visited there, it reminded me of the old Whittier feel and I do enjoy that open feeling, crossing the streets, and actually plugging a meter once and a while!

    Getting back to Montclair Plaza, it has seemed to survive when other indoor malls that improved on the grouped-store concept (i.e. Puente Hills Mall) have not. I fondly remember going to the Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor that was at the northwest corner of the parking area, just north of what was May Company’s location. It was a stand-alone store.

    [Thanks, Elisa. My understanding is that the mall was enclosed and air-conditioned from the beginning, so I'm wondering if your childhood memories may have mixed up Montclair and something else, say, the Indian Hill Mall in Pomona which was more like you describe, eventually getting a roof and a/c. -- DA]

  • Phil Carty

    My wife and I paid about $15 apiece to go to the “VIP” preview of the mall.

    We were really impressed with the entertainment: Stan Kenton and his full band at the Broadway end, and Les Brown and his full band at the May Company end.

    [Wow! No foolin', those are big names. -- DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    I got lost when I was a youngster there, around Christmas time; but it was one of those I-can’t-be-lost-I-know-where-I-am things. And in more recent years, I remember the sand castles and sculptures they built in the middle of the mall.

  • Bob Terry

    What about the Jolly Roger restaurant which is now the police substation? They used to run a coupon back in the “days” for two teriyaki steak dinners and all the fixins’ for $10.99. Me and the first Mrs. couldn’t wait for that coupon to come out…but wouldn’t go the first day of it because it would be too crowded.

    [The Jolly Roger? Yo ho ho. -- DA]

  • Ms. Lois

    Oh, man, I loved Farrells. My friends and I went there all the time. It was a great place to celebrate your birthday and who could forget the Zoo???

    I knew a kid who worked there named David. He sang Happy Birthday like this: Hoppy Burthday tu yu … It was awful! Thanks, Brian, for bringing up Farrells!
    (David: I trust you sing better than the other David…)

    [Don't be too sure. -- DA]

  • http://www.myspace.com/the_ron Ronald Scott

    I moved to the Inland Empire (Chino) in 1986 from Cerritos so I was spoiled by Cerritos Mall and before that Del Amo Mall and Old Town Mall in Torrance, but I quickly grew fond of Montclair Mall.

    Some of my favorite places that are gone are Time Out Video Arcade, Walden Books and B Dalton (although I love Barnes and Noble), CapTron — which was a stand that sold Nintendo games, A&W — which used to have curly seasoned fries smothered with cheese and chili.

    When the Disney Store first opened it had a restaurant inside of it.

    Rock Around the Clock was an oldies music club in the parking lot and I remember seeing Kool and the Gang there and of course there was a Laff Stop Comedy Club.

    [Thanks, Ron. Most of that was new information to me. I do remember A&W. -- DA]

  • Warren

    Again, the blog on the Montclair Plaza brought back memories. I graduated from high school the year the mall opened. It had become “the” place to hang out on a Friday or Aaturday night when cash was short.

    I moved away from Upland in 1972. My wife and I returned to the Los Angeles area in 1988 when I was reassigned from Europe. We stayed with some friends in Victorville when we got back. Nancy wanted to do some shopping at the Montclair Plaza. Of course I only remembered the mall in 1972 and thought to myself “Why would anyone want to go to the Montclair Plaza?”

    When we got there, there was a second story, food court and a second parking deck. Quite a change.

    I still remember the rumor (only because I don’t know if it is true) that the City of Montclair named the main entrances and considered them streets so that the police could enforce traffic laws on the property. Gee, I wonder if the friendliness of the City and the developer, as you reported, had something to do with it.

  • Don J

    There’s another Farrell’s in Santa Clarita — if you hit up any area motel’s brochure rack they’ve got coupons. It looks like Stuckey’s. These places are coming back from the dead. I heard the ice cream they used nationally was merely Thrifty’s — but I’m sure Dr. Bob’s Ice Cream is better.

    http://www.foupons.com/restaurant/?locationID=3bb1eab2-4ca5-46e2-8ea9-59a7a0a48db5

  • DAve

    It was all about Farrell’s and the creme de la creme of birthday party throwing was if your parents threw your party at Farrell’s.

    Mine never did.

    I do have a helluva reminiscince about the 210 to Glendora that I’ll share in advance since that anniversary is next year (1969):

    I grew up in Glendora. To get to the freeway we used to take Citrus down past Eastland to get to the nearest freeway (the 10). The Eastland, boys and girls, is where we used to have to go to visit Santa until modernity blessed us in the form of Montclair Plaza.

    Anyway in 1969 the 210 was opened in Glendora and we got on it at Grand going west (pretty much by ourselves on the freeway) and I remember thinking that no way could they ever make enough cars to fill such a colossal freeway.

    I remembered that when I used to work in Glendale and it rained one morning and it took me two and a half hours to get from La Verne to Arcadia (12 miles).

    *That’s progress!!*

    Montclair Plaza used to have a Bob’s. Gustatory nirvana after a hard day’s Christmas shopping. Now I have to go to Diamond Bar to restock on the BB.

  • DAve

    Actually Les Brown used to be the house band at some place that used to be on the corner of Lone Hill and Arrow in Glendora at about that time.

    Damn, I guess I should try to remember my memories while I still remember them.

    Ha HA there used to be a Van de Kamp’s across the street (north side) of the Plaza with a real rotating windmill architecture. So there.

    I’d say there was an Alpha Beta across the street but I’d probably be going too far.

    ["Remembering memories while you still remember them" could be the mission statement of The David Allen Blog. -- DA]

  • http://sakionline.net D.L. MacLaughlan-Dumes

    The Montclair Plaza was indeed enclosed and air-conditioned from the beginning, a real draw for shoppers during the typical August-October heat in the region.

    My favorite places were Pickwick Books, well stocked and brightly lit, particularly willing to do special orders (they got for me a Russian “Winnie the Pooh”, which I ordered because I was just about to start studying Russian at Claremont High), and a shop whose name I’ve forgotten but carried imports from India…lovely incense burners, brass vases, paisley fabrics.

    There was also a garden center at the south end of the mall outside the enclosed area, not top-notch like Upland’s Mt. Fuji or Pomona’s Kimura, but quite serviceable for everyday gardening needs.

  • http://annthomasdesign.com Ann Thomas

    Hey David … Montclair also had an opening for its “Entertainment Plaza” on the southwest side by the freeway. I believe it was in about 1981 or so … I sang at its opening and John Lynd of Chino was the M.C. Long, long time ago!!

    Ann

    [Circa '81 sounds about right from what little I've read. I may post separately about that sometime as it's a totally separate operation from the mall. -- DA]

  • http://www.rightnation.us/forums/blog/mr__naron/index.php? Mr. Naron

    I have great memories of taking my kids to see Santa at Montclair Plaza. It seems my own pre-children favorite memories are of Christmas shopping there as well. While we had a mall in our little town of Greenvill, MS, we had to go to New Orleans to do any real shopping, so when we moved to Claremont when I was 15, having a mall like Montclair’s nearby was quite the luxury.

    I have some not so fond memories including how my co-workers at the Home Club across Arrow Hwy used to ditch work and hide out at the mall leaving me as the lone runner. Then there was the time I was hanging out with a Crip friend of mine (the ’80s were a time when middle-class white kids from Claremont could have friends in the Crips) at the mall and we nearly got tossed over the second story by a couple of huge Bloods.

  • Chuck Brasch

    Hi David, nice article on the Montclair Plaza. You missed mentioning the “famous icon” of the plaza: the Clock Tower. I guess most people don’t even know about it now, since it was removed years ago. It was a well-known spot to meet people at. I’ve lived in the valley since before 1968, so I remember the plaza being built.

  • Sandi Grimley

    Many years ago, when my toddler daughter and I would visit Montclair Plaza, we had to stop at Bob’s Big Boy, and not necessarily for lunch.

    My little girl had a crush on Big Boy, who graced the entrance of the restaurant. She insisted on hugging and kissing the pudgy statue on our way into and out of the mall. In fact Stephanie much preferred Big Boy to the other big guy who also held court at the mall, Santa Claus. I have photos of her crying on Santa’s lap.

    Unfortunately, I have only memories of her moments with Big Boy.

    Stephanie, by the way, turns 29 this month. Thanks for the memory!

    [Thanks for sharing that cute story! -- DA]

  • Charles Bentley

    GREETINGS:
    When the Montclair Plaza first opened, it changed the shape of shopping throughout the area. Downtown merchants in Ontario, Upland and Pomona saw a dramatic drop in customers. That trend in turn would eventually lead to the exodus of large chain stores like Sears (on Indian Hill) and JC Penney (Ontario), stores that for years had been keystones in the retail economy.

    Christmas traffic at the Montclair Plaza was incredible. It was really wild on weekends starting at Thanksgiving, with special signs on the freeway and extra police to help move things along. For a while they asked employees to park off site (at the defunct Malibu Grand Prix?) and provided them a free shuttle to and from.

    To its credit, the Montclair Plaza has successfully repositioned itself on several occasions, adding the food & entertainment segment in the SW corner (a direct response to “restaurant row” in West Covina) and a second story (to negate the effect of the larger Puente Hills Mall).

    As for memories, “Meet me at the Clock” was an inspired effort to provide families a place to regroup and friends to gather. But because it became so popular, at one point my family said “let’s meet in front of the Broadway” just to make it easier.

    There was Sunday lunch after church at the Hollander Cafeteria; a meal at Bob’s Big Boy after a busy day of shopping; hours playing arcade games at Time Out (Jeff setting the record on Breakout on 7-7-77 that stood until the machine was taken out) always followed by winners and losers enjoying a drink at the Orange Julius (10 cents extra for a raw egg); and being forbidden by parents to enter Spencer’s Gifts because of some of the “adult” merchandise it contained (not to mention the great “black light” posters!).

    How many remember the area’s first Trader Joe’s store was on the south end of the parking lot, along with a record store and the GTE store? Or that May Company had its own little restaurant? Or that the Jolly Roger actually offered breakfast for a while and was able to open earlier/close later than the rest of the Plaza because it had its own entrance from the parking lot as well as the one inside the mall?

    You say it has been 40 years since the Montclair Plaza first opened? Truly a landmark in local history.

    [Montclair had a Trader Joe's before Upland? May Company had its own restaurant? As always, I always learn something from Charles' comments. Speaking of the record store, was that Discount Record Center? -- DA]

  • JMac

    That would be correct, David. It was Discount Records, which morphed into Hitsville, then the Wherehouse Corp took over and renamed it Hits For All.

    As a former employee of the original, I’ve waxed nostalgic before, somewhere on your blog. Duggans Music was next door, the Marinello Beauty School to the west of Discount, and the aforementioned GTE store at the end. I’m trying to recall if the Trader Joe’s occupied that space before the GTE store, but I do recall there being one.

    DAve said:
    Actually Les Brown used to be the house band at some place that used to be on the corner of Lone Hill and Arrow in Glendora at about that time.

    Wasn’t that Johnny Catron’s place?

  • Chris

    I remember when construction began on the Montclair Plaza. I remember the helicopters lifting the air conditioners and other equipment and placing them on the roof top.

    When it first opened, it was “the” place to go hang out and try and look cool. Lots of my friends worked in the stores, including myself. I worked at the Broadway, others worked at May Co., Penney’s, Jolly Roger, Mullen & Blueitt (sp!), Chic Accessories, and others I can’t remember.

    There wasn’t much in the way of business in that area prior to the mall. There was the Union furniture store.

    Oh how it’s all changed!

  • Kathy Huff

    My husband proposed to me at Montclair mall in 1973. We will celebrate 35 years of wedded bliss in March.

    [I've always thought starry skies and elegant dinners were overrated and your husband's mall proposal confirms it. Congratulations. -- DA]

  • nadine

    Reading about the old places at Montclair Plaza does bring back memories, some of which I had forgot all about. Like the clock tower, Hollander Cafe, some of the bookstores. I loved Bob’s Big Boy and Jolly Roger.

    I worked at J.C. Penney’s from 1970 till 1972. It has really changed, since it used to have a hardware department, sewing and yardage, toys, toiletries and a yummy candy department where you could buy 25 cents’ worth of anything. It also had a garden shop and lawn mowers in the back. It sold fish… also a gas station out back with gas for 19 cents a gallon… lol.

    I found something I did like a lot in the sporting goods department. He was nice, cute and happy and we have been married for 36 years now. Thank you J.C. Penney’s and Montclair Plaza…

  • Phil Carty

    Was the Glendora dinner house on Lone Pine called The Timbers? Local big band leader and VW dealer Johnny Catron played there a lot.

  • Renee MacLaughlan

    David, your blog brings back many memories of the early days of Montclair Plaza. I remember shopping trips with my family (my sister, D.L. MacLaughlan Dumes, has already commented on some of the stores I remember) but I do remember the Hollander Cafeteria, Bob’s Big Boy and Farrell’s — who could forget Farrell’s?

    We don’t get out to Montclair Plaza very much anymore since Ontario Mills and the Tyler Mall (I refuse to call it the Galleria at Tyler) are closer to home. But visiting it brings back loads of memories.

  • Charles Bentley

    GREETINGS:
    Phil Carty is absolutely correct, it was The Timbers. I know this because during my days working on the air for KBOB-FM (as part of the University of La Verne’s studio workshop with that West Covina Big Band station), we used to advertise The Timbers. And Johnny Catron was leader of the “house” band.

    [Another mystery put to bed. -- DA]

  • Jenn

    I just recently moved back to the Inland Empire (Chino Hills) after 8 years in Las Vegas, and last week I went back to the Montclair Plaza for the first time in a almost a decade.

    Growing up in Carbon Canyon in the ’80s, it was always a tossup whether we wanted to go to the Brea Mall or Montclair. But I had a best friend who lived off of Mills, so we would meet there (and also go to Bullwinkle’s, which I just noticed has been renamed).

    Just walking through it recently brought me so many memories — school clothes shopping at JC Penney, making my mother stop at the Great American Cookie stand (but wasn’t it something else back then?), the little bonsai tree cart, A&W, Waldenbooks. I can’t believe someone remembered a Jolly Roger restaurant. I only remember one in Anaheim, but that name just takes me back!

    [Oh yeah, the bonsai tree cart. -- DA]

  • DAve

    Ah yass, the Timbers.

    Makes me want to go to the Woodshed or the Golden Spur to get over it.

    Back then the Timbers was as far as the maps would go to the east. The rest was uncharted territory. I believe that area was marked on the maps “here be monsters.”

  • mvarney

    I think the candle shop might have been named El Poco and then there was also an Indian Shop, Raj of India.

    The Montclair Plaza was “the place” to be and everyone went there. Yes, the Jolly Roger was great and the servers were friendly and helpful and they served liquor. I think they were the only restaurant at the plaza that had a bar. It was always packed.

    David…thanks so much for this neat trip down memory lane. Friday nights after the football games the place to be was Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. Top-notch blog by David once again!

  • ray

    Timbers location ??? Foothill/Alosta & Lone Hill … Johnny Catron was also with Catron VW’s (Ontario & West Covina). Does this sound correct ??

  • Charles Bentley

    GREETINGS:
    A host of thanks to mvarney! I and my family have been trying to come up with the name of the shop that “carried imports from India…lovely incense burners, brass vases, paisley fabrics” (as first mentioned on this blog by D.L. MacLaughlan-Dumes). Raj of India. And El Poco also sounds right for the candle store that I believe also carried some nice wood furnishings.

    As to the Ontario VW dealership — I remember it as Woolverton Volkswagen on Mountain Avenue. But I just know the name, not the ownership or history.

  • Tad Decker

    This is getting a bit off point for this thread, but just a couple of memories about Johnny Catron, whose name has surfaced several times here.

    When I was a kid, he owned a VW car lot at the SE corner of Holt and San Antonio Avenues in Pomona (“Catron Motors”). At least for the latter part of his life, he lived in a large house on Yorba Drive, behind my house. He was housebound for a number of years, and I was never able to meet him. Sadly, he died shortly after a severe house fire, maybe 8 to 10 years ago.

    On the topic of this thread, my memories of the early Montclair Plaza are recorded in the world famous David Allen Blog “things that aren’t here anymore” thread — way back in the archives.

    It has been great fun reading these recent entries. I hope they keep coming!

    [As Tad alludes to, a search for "Montclair Plaza" on this blog will turn up more history, including No. 10 in the now-famous "Hal Linker" series of posts. -- DA]

  • David

    I remember going to Hollanders all the time. Great comfort food at good prices. Too bad they went out of business.

    Farrell’s too. Went to elementary school in Pomona and we took a field trip to Farrell’s. What a great time. They had sarsaparilla and this green soda, forget the name.

  • David

    Some more memories.

    Even though the Puente Hills Mall was closer to me, I liked going to Montclair Plaza. So I took a couple dates in HS to the movie theater.

    Dated a girl who went to Pitzer and we saw “Bull Durham” at Montclair.

    I bribed a guy to buy a Playboy for me at Waldenbooks, when I was 15.

    There used to be a Pioneer Chicken, on Central, south the 10 Freeway. I can remember having dinner at Pioneer and then ice cream at Farrell’s!!!!!!!!

  • SDM

    My mom used to take me to the Montclair Plaza in 1984(?). I remember Nordstrom, Judy’s, Wild Pair and the best part of the day, eating at Hollander’s.

    I went back to visit the Plaza since I heard it was under construction and it was a sad sight. It was not what I remembered. The food court was the worst place to eat lunch ever! But the new H&M is going to make the Plaza incredible. I might have to go back just for that! No matter what the Plaza turns into it will always hold great memories of my mom and I shopping and me and my friends hangin’ out.

  • Rick L.

    The “green soda” at Ferrel’s was called the Green River. What a terrific drink! I was PO’d when they took it off the menu.

  • Darlene Henry

    I grew up in Montclair. My dad was a police officer for Montclair. I remember when the Montclair Plaza was being built, my mom and I would walk our police dogs on the property. Farrell’s also brings back a lot of memories for me too. I remember walking home from Moreno Elementary School with my friend Cathy Hall, and going to Farrell’s for candy and buying their big jawbreakers that seemed to last forever.

    I just recently went to the Montclair Plaza with my family. Wow, so much has changed since I was a kid.

  • Jovany Crespo

    Well I remember Montclair Plaza. I used to shop at Anchor Blue-Warner Brothers store-Gloria Jeans etc and eat at Tony Romas. But I’ll remember Montclair Plaza well. I used to live in Pomona but I moved to Fort Worth Texas.

  • Susan

    Well, I don’t know if I should reveal this, but I actually “worked” at the Van de Kamp’s restaurant across the street from the Montclair Plaza in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Ah yes, the royal blue dresses with the white apron, crisp bow in the back, and “flying nun hat” to finish off the ensemble. I don’t think you could pay anyone enough in this day and age to wear that outfit! But I do remember it being a very special time, and have many fond memories of it.

  • Susan

    I forgot to mention that my very first job was at The Show Off in the Montclair Plaza. It was a clothing store for teenage girls just inside the mall between the May Co. and The Hollander Restaurant. There was a jukebox in the store that played the same songs over and over and over again all day long. Ah yes, another great memory!

  • Janet MacDonald

    I still remember feeling grown up and free when my Mom would drop my sister, Kathleen, and me off at the Plaza when we were in our teens.

    Though we loved the styles at Show Off we often ended up buying our clothes at the May Co. “basement,” where we could get more for our buck. I am still searching for those 70′s smells that wafted out of El Poco Candle shop. If I ever find that aroma again, I’ll buy dozens of whatever it is.

    Our church youth group shared many a pig trough at Farrells. I preferred the 70-cent hot fudge sundae, however. I still have fond memories on the 10 every time I pass by the Plaza.

  • ralph duran

    As an 8 y.o. child, I watched the Plaza’s construction from start to finish. I lived directly across from the site. We had a huge tree in our front yard.

    Daily I would perch on the top branch and watch for hours.

    I watched in wonder as they skinned the second story and installed the Broadway sign.

    During the early 70′s it was a cool place to take your date — and just hang out.

  • barb m.

    I remember Farrells pig trough, my brother ate it all and proudly received a blue ribbon! Bob’s must have tried to compete with Farrells as they used to have a make your own sundae bar… with tons of toasted coconut, YUM! I remember Jolly Roger in Puente Hills Mall, and there is still a Jolly Roger restaurant in Dana Point. Good times!

  • Tim M

    When Omnitrans first started operating, they had a line that stopped right by my house in Chino and took me straight to the Plaza. Until I was old enough to drive, I used that service a lot, both to shop/hang out and to see movies at the Cinema I and II where Elephant Bar and Romano’s are now. I liked those theaters better than the ones they later built with the Entertainment Center.

    I remember my brother’s birthday party at Farrell’s in the mid-’70s. Two workers carried out a fake Zoo and “accidentally” dropped it on someone (It was a common gag). Then they brought out the real one, tripped, and dumped it in some poor lady’s lap.

    [Ha ha! -- DA]

  • Eric W

    As a young child growing up in Pomona in the 1960′s, I remember being dragged to a store in Monclair on the northeast corner of Central and Moreno before there was a Montclair Plaza. It was an early “discount” store called something like “Union ABC Store.” My parents used to frequent that store and another “discounter” called Unimart on the far west side of Pomona (on Holt west of the Corona Expressway).

    I distinctly remember looking out from the parking lot of the Union ABC store to the construction site of Montclair Plaza. It looked huge!

    A short time after the new mall opened, my mom started working for the Penney’s store which was opened after the rest of the mall. She worked at that Penney’s when it was a full department store: clothing, tools, hardware, paint, candy counter, snack bar, garden center, gas station. I used to love their soft-serve chocolate ice cream cones! Those were the days.

  • Kevin Patz

    I have some Kodak 35mm color slides from 1961 of business called Pomona Sports Cars, it shows some custom VWs and Brittish sports cars, a shortened VW Dune Bus with a canvas top. And a pink VW bus from a dance studio, as well as a King Midget.
    One shows an address of W. Holt Ave. Another has 637 on side of building in another location. Would like some more info please.

    Thanks,
    Kevin Patz

  • Bob House

    Kevin Patz: don’t know if this is helpful or not, but my uncle bought a 50s MG roadster from a lot on W. Holt in the late 50s or very early 60s. I don’t recall today, but the lot must have specialized in sports cars because my uncle was from El Centro and we didn’t drive around looking for a car he wanted, we went right to the lot where the MG he wanted was located. This lot was on the north side of Holt, near the Catholic church, so my guess is it would have been around the 1100, 1200, 1300 block of W. Holt. Also noticed on a Google search that “Pomona Sports Cars” sponsored several cars in road races at the Fairgrounds in the 50s.