Ramon Sanchez, iconic Ontario restaurateur, dies

Ramon Sanchez, the founder and proprietor of Ramon’s Cactus Patch, the oldest restaurant in Ontario, died Wednesday evening at home at age 98, according to his family.

Sanchez on March 30 closed his Mexican restaurant, which he opened in 1938, due to illness. He was suffering from colon cancer. I wrote about that earlier in April.

Services will be private, at Sanchez’ request, and he also told his family he didn’t want an obituary or any fuss. “No fanfare. That was his way,” daughter Claudia said.

That said, I’ll be writing about him anyway. (That’s my way.) His family is fine with that and I’m sure he would be too. In the meantime, farewell to a local institution.

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Franco’s School of Tattooing, Ontario

When Ontario officials told me (upon the opening in December of the first licensed tattoo shop within city limits in recent memory) that they didn’t believe there had been a tattoo parlor since the 1950s, I was skeptical and made sure not to treat that as fact.

Good thing, because two readers soon contacted me to say that a man named Franco had a tattoo shop on East Holt Boulevard, two blocks east of Euclid Avenue, in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Note that this puts his shop within blocks of both City Hall and the Police Department, so if he was hiding, he was doing so in plain sight.

One reader said she got her second tattoo there circa 1979. (She asked me not to use her name because “my mom would cringe if she read that as she still hates my tattoos!”) Another said Corey Miller, now of the Six Feet Under tattoo shop in Upland, apprenticed at Franco’s.

Indeed, Miller’s website gives this history:

“A year later [1984], Corey went to Franco’s, the local tattoo parlor in Ontario, California. Franco was a 360-pound Sicilian with gold teeth, a Mohawk, and a .357 magnum slung in a shoulder harness. Corey and his buddies would go to Franco’s after school to drink beers and do whatever else they wanted to do. By summertime, Corey was drawing designs and taking out the trash at the shop, and Franco and the boys started calling him the shop hand. Franco’s soon closed after what Corey describes as some ‘pretty insane nights of fights, drunkenness, gunfire, arrests, and tattooing,’ but not before Franco sold Corey what he thought was a broken tattoo machine that turned out to work just fine.”

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Evel Knievel at Ontario Motor Speedway, 1971

Evel Knievel’s Feb. 28, 1971, jump over 19 Dodge vehicles (18 cars, one van) at Ontario Motor Speedway is seen in the photo above. And here, you can see a short video: the opening of the “Evel” biopic that mixes a few seconds of the actual jump with stuntwork, stand-ins and scenes with George Hamilton as Knievel. The jump was part of the entertainment at the Miller High Life 500 at the speedway. There will be more in Sunday’s column. Do you remember the jump? Were you there?

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Ontario practically had a monopoly on irons

Monopoly’s decision to retire the iron, one of its eight original tokens dating to the 1930s, reminded me that Ontario had an important role in the electric iron, through GE’s Hotpoint factory, and that a permanent exhibit at the Museum of History and Art (225 S. Euclid Ave.) is devoted to the household appliance. All that is the subject of my Wednesday column.

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