This undated postcard image, presumably from the 1950s, is in the collection of the Ontario Public Library. This was downtown Cucamonga.
As Frank Zappa wrote in his autobiography:
“Cucamonga was a blotch on a map, represented by the intersection of Route 66 and Archibald Avenue. On those four corners we had an Italian restaurant, an Irish pub, a malt shop and a gas station.
“North, up Archibald, were an electrician’s shop, a hardware store and the recording studio. Across the street was a Holy Roller church, and up the block from that was the grammar school.”
His memory was pretty sharp. In 1965, the year Zappa left, this would be what you’d have found at or around this intersection, according to research by Kelly Zackmann of the Ontario City Library into phone books and criss-cross directories:
NW corner: Caf Italiano (9690 Foothill), the Zappa-mentioned “Italian restaurant.” Ancil Morris’ Cucamonga Service Station was next door to the west and still stands, albeit closed and fenced off.
SW corner: Cucamonga Caf (9671 Foothill), which is listed under ice cream in the phone book. Must be Zappa’s “malt shop.” Now it’s The Deli and Carl’s Liquor.
NE corner: Cucamonga Hardware (9710 Foothill) must be the “hardware shop.”
SE corner: Ray Ford’s Texaco station (9705 Foothill) was there, if apparently not operating by 1965. Nearby was The Tavern (9741 Foothill), which may be the “Irish pub” Zappa mentions. Was this the same pub known as Shanty Devlin’s?
Zappa’s studio was at 8040 Archibald, on the west side above Estacia Street and next to Citrus Electric (“electrician’s shop”) at 8036. South of them, below Estacia but above Foothill, were the Cucamonga Justice Court at 8076 and Cafe Italiano.
The “grammar school” Zappa mentions was Central Elementary, which is still there (7955 Archibald). Zackmann couldn’t locate a Holy Roller-type church across the street from the studio via phone records. But then, why have a phone if you’re going to speak in tongues?
If you’ve never been to The Deli, by the way, not only is the place worth it for the food, but one wall boasts a series of B&W and color photos of the intersection from various eras. Well worth a look.
Zappa maintained that when Archibald was widened in the mid-’60s, his studio was among the casualties. I think there’s a drive-through dairy there now. Is the courthouse building still there? I don’t know. There is some disagreement among old-timers as to whether the row of older buidlings on the west side above Foothill is original or not.
Feel free to add to or correct any of the information and suppositions above.