Remembering Dee’s Diner

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We all know the 1910s Richfield gas station on Foothill Boulevard west of Archibald Avenue, which may be resurrected as a museum. You’d have to have lived here a long time to┬áremember the old railroad car that rested in the lot next door.

In later years it was camouflaged as a pseudo-respectable structure, as the photos below show, but as the photo at bottom makes clear, there was a railroad car underneath.

It was operated as Dee’s Diner from 1959 to 1974, according to research by the diligent Kelly Zackmann of the Ontario library’s Model Colony History Room, and stood at 9656 Foothill. The dining car may have a longer history; the same address had the Milmar Drive-in in 1948 and Mil Mar Diner in 1951.

Lore has it that Dee’s can be seen in the 1974 B-movie “Big Bad Mama” with Angie Dickinson and William Shatner, or possibly the 1987 sequel. Both are available in full on YouTube (the links are embedded in the previous sentence) but I don’t have the patience to watch them. If you spot Dee’s, let us know where.

After the original version of this post went up, John Hauge sent me the wonderful photo above after finding this blog post. He writes:

“My uncle Peter Ferrero and his wife Delia Ferrero owned Dee’s Diner. They retired in 1974. Both were long time Cucamonga and Guasti residents. Previous to owning the diner they owned Nellie & Dee’s on the northeast corner of Benson and Holt. They sold it in the late ’50s and it became Antonio’s. Previous to that they owned another Italian restaurant of the same name, Nellie & Dee’s, for many years in Cucamonga on the northwest corner of Archibald and Foothill.”

Hauge’s photo (click on the image for a larger view) shows the restaurant name, the outdoor entrance for the women’s room (men’s was around the corner), signs reading “Breakfast” and “Lunch,” and another one for Shady Grove ice cream.

The other photos, from top to bottom below, came from Ed Dietl’s “Images of Rancho Cucamonga” book, Jane Vath O’Connell and the Ontario library’s Kelly Zackmann. Note the distinctive gas station’s garage in the background. None of the photos are dated, but now that we have the Dee’s Diner photo above, I’m guessing the ones without the name were from the second owner, in the 1970s.

Hauge says the restaurant was sold in 1974 to a couple without restaurant experience and folded not long afterward. He said the structure sat vacant for some years before being razed. I’d been told by the architect for the gas station’s restoration, Joe Ramos, that the car exists somewhere but that the owner, a friend of his, prefers anonymity.

The lot next to the gas station is still vacant, but a commercial development is expected. I suspect it won’t include a restaurant in a beat-up railroad car.

If you remember anything about the diner, leave a comment, please!

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It’s 100 years and counting for Besse Fogle

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Besse Fogle, a retired restaurateur in Pomona and Ontario, turned 100 on Monday. The day before, her friends, including yours truly, threw her a surprise party in Rancho Cucamonga. That’s the subject of my Wednesday column. Above, Fogle talks to friend Norm Stutzke.

A 45-second video of the party can be seen here, although you’ll have to turn your computer, or head, sideways…I shot it in the landscape format and there didn’t seem to be a way to turn the video right-side-up.

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Route 66 plan could be a gas, gas, gas

Plans are in the works to renovate the 1920s Richfield service station on Foothill Boulevard (the old Route 66) at Archibald Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga and turn it into a museum and visitor center. That’s the leadoff item in my Friday column, followed by items from around the valley, plus two news items from the Rancho Cucamonga library.

The scene above is from Wednesday’s kickoff ceremony.

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RC’s Magic Lamp changes hands

Friday’s column (read it here) is about the Magic Lamp, the venerable Rancho Cucamonga restaurant on Foothill Boulevard, which changed hands this week. The new operator, Sartaj Singh, has a proven track record: He also has Antonino’s in the same city. Feel free to comment if you have thoughts about the column or stories about the restaurant.

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Sideways stoplights in RC

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If you’ve traveled in western Rancho Cucamonga along Foothill Boulevard of late, you may have noticed with curiosity the new traffic lights at Baker Avenue just east of the new overhead crossing. The lights are arranged horizontally, not vertically.

What gives? Is this temporary, or a retro design to match the bridge? Neither. Curt Billings, associate city engineer for Rancho Cucamonga, said it was done to ensure motorists heading east could see all three phases of the signal from as far away as possible.

“The signal heads were rotated horizontally to increase the sight distance for eastbound traffic because of the overhead obstruction of the bridge,” Billings says by email. “This horizontally mounted signal head provides the greatest amount of time to see all the lights, most importantly the red light, and as far ahead as San Bernardino Road.”

There’s a second signal like this in Rancho Cucamonga, at the intersection of Etiwanda and Miller avenues, due to sight issues because of the 15 freeway overpass, Billings said.

Nice to know that Rancho Cucamonga doesn’t mind bending over backward, or at least tipping sideways, to make us safe.

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Big top Rancho

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Reader Will Plunkett, who contributed these photos, says: “There’s a house in northern RC that looks like a castle (in the appropriately named Castlegate tract of homes), and I see it often while driving past. The other day, I noticed it was tented for bugs (I guess) and snapped a picture. They finished and now you can see it, sans tent. I liked how they wrapped up the turret part of the roof in a separate tent. Do the termites do a trapeze act?”

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Ray Ford gas station, Cucamonga

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The Ford family operated a service station on the southeast corner of Foothill Boulevard and Archibald Avenue for decades. Copies of these two wonderful photos were recently given to Nancy’s Cafe owner Nancy Westenhaver by a Ford descendant for display in her restaurant, and she loaned them to me for use here. Both are thumbnails; click on them for a larger view.

On this blog we’ve been working our way around that intersection, once known as downtown Cucamonga. Previously we’ve run vintage photos of the former Bank of America on the northeast corner and of the northwest and northeast corners, with a contemporary photo of The Deli on the southwest corner as well.

According to family lore, the young boy in the top picture is Bob Ford, Ray’s son. As Bob was born in 1918, the photo must date to the early 1920s.

Ray built a gleaming modern station on the same corner in the 1930s, seen below. I love the Streamline Moderne tower. After World War II, Bob ran the station until 1963, when the property was sold to Bank of America, which built a new bank and moved across the street from its old digs.

The bank is there yet. Ford’s filling station is but a fond memory for a lot of Cucamongans.

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Column: ‘Manzanar’ author recounts shameful chapter

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Wednesday’s column (read it here) is about last Friday’s appearance at Victoria Gardens of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of “Farewell to Manzanar,” a memoir about her childhood at the Manzanar internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. The Rancho Cucamonga Library brought her here. That’s Houston above, flanked by Robert Karatsu, library director.

Without my noticing, the library’s Michelle Perera snapped a couple of photos of me interviewing people, which she shared. What the heck, I’m including them here. At right, I’m chatting with Tayeko Hashitsume, a Manzanar internee. Below, I’m interviewing Wakatsuki Houston. Editors, please note the blur in my right arm as I hasten to scribble down a pithy comment!

Incidentally, my knees may never forgive me for all the squatting. With no chairs handy, I didn’t see any other way to conduct the interviews politely.

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