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Miya the Wonder Dog

Miya, looking a tad matted and scraggly from her life on the run when we first met her at the Devore Animal Shelter.

By John Murphy

It’s been about two months since Miya the Wonder Dog has graced our lives. She is the white toy poodle/terrier mix we rescued from the Devore Animal Shelter.

The match was not love at first sight. Led into our outdoor cubicle at the shelter by worker Melissa, Miya took one look at The Caltrans Girl and me and scurried out the gate.

But the pooch warmed up to us in a hurry once she arrived home and realized we’d provide food and lodging. She lives a charmed life, spending most of her time eating, pooping, peeing, walking and sleeping.

Walks are a major deal. Miya is convinced that whenever I put on my black New Balance shoes or when she hears the jingle of my keys that she is about to go for a walk. She then sprints around the house like a loon until I put the leash on her and open the front door.

If it’s cold the Caltrans Girl outfits her with a sweater. That, combined with her pink collar and the fact she’s a seven-pound toy poodle/terrier does not give her a ton of street cred. This doesn’t stop her from trying to charge and snarl at every German Shepherd, boxer and pit bull in the neighborhood. Fortunately, they are all behind fences.

Miya has her quirks. A few days into her residency here I returned home and could not find her. I scoured every room and there was no dog. Finally, I glanced at the wall in the family room and there she was, perched on the very top of a couch looking down at me. I don’t know why she likes it up there – just part of her uniqueness, I guess.

Miya has brought much to our lives. She takes us outside ourselves, as creatures tend to do when they need to eat or poop or walk and require your attention. She interrupts my episodes of Bonanza and the Big Valley occasionally, but that’s OK too.

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Regarding the albatross and hummingbird

My beloved sister, Anne, who has always been there for me.

By John Murphy

Wednesday night in true pandemic version we gather on Zoom to celebrate one of the world’s newest septuagenarians – my sister, Sr. Anne Murphy.

Yes, Anne turns the Big 7-0.  

I had to look up septuagenarian because I’m not yet one. My agony will come soon enough.

Anne has always been unique, as detailed in her grade-school autobiography, “From the Incubator to You.” A media darling early, she was also celebrated with a photo in the pages of the San Bruno Herald when treated with a local dentist’s new “painless” drill. I’m not sure how painless it was.

Anne was always a good soul, her being a nun and all. She loves children and animals and was charitable with me as a youth about playing board games and helping me with math. My extreme difficulty understanding an algebra problem about an albatross and a hummingbird was an inside joke for years.  

Anne didn’t hold grudges. As a young boy I took umbrage at some imagined slight and responded by dumping a full bucket of water on her.

“Oh, you bad boy!” I can still hear my late father saying. I sprinted to the bathroom and locked myself in there until the heat was off.

One weekend night my mom went all out and made a huge pot of chili for dinner and Tollhouse cookies. I devoured a few bowls of the red and then went to work on the cookies. By now the sibs were gone and I had them all to myself and ate pretty much every last one of them.

This irked Anne upon her return and she really let me have it. Then the ground beef, tomato sauce, chocolate, sugar and cookie dough began percolating in my gut and the result was not pretty. I got sick several times as punishment, as if Anne’s rebuke wasn’t enough.  

Anne entered the convent after high school but her influence – and some of her clothes — remained. So it was that a friend of mine who I’ll call Steve wound up attending a costume party in Anne’s Mercy High School uniform. Unforgettable was dad waking me in the middle of the night and exclaiming, “It’s 3 a.m. and Steve’s at the front door in your sister’s Mercy skirt and he’s bombed.” How does one respond to that?

So a lot of fun memories and some amusing anecdotes about Anne and loved ones, but what is this essay really about? Why, it’s about the albatross and the hummingbird, of course.

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Back in the saddle

The sky is red and blue behind the old Smith house on Olive Avenue.

By John Murphy

Dog walking interrupted my bicycling for a while, but Saturday I got back on track with a trek from Highland to Redlands.

My breathing was a little heavier than usual as I have not put in many miles on the bike lately. But I was moving more rapidly than many on Olive Avenue who were leisurely walking their dogs, some of them dressed in sweaters I’m sure they detest.

I stopped at the Olive Avenue Market because I needed a break and craved something sweet. An employee was out front, allowing people in a few at a time. There was another lady lurking about dressed in a fluorescent green grinch costume. I’m not sure why.

Once inside I opted for a huge chocolate chunk cookie. It was the best cookie I’ve had in recent memory, with entire chunks of chocolate and walnuts embedded. I consumed it all and then it was time to start riding again. No rest for the weary.

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Saturday stroll

Palm trees all in a row near the old Smith house on Olive Avenue in Redlands.

By John Murphy

Saturday my refurbished Schwinn Voyaguer remained in the garage for a change as I hit the streets of Redlands for a long walk.

I chose familiar territory – Olive and Fern avenues – where many ambulatory people head and the scenery is pleasant. It didn’t disappoint.

There’s a monstrous, old house near the bottom of Olive that has been vacant for many years that has sprung back to life.  It’s painted gray and white now, has windows, a few sets of steps and is looking good. It will be a show-stopper when finished and will probably fetch $700,000 or so.  

Saturday was crisp and clear and without a cloud in the sky. Christmas decorations have appeared along Olive and women walked dogs in sweaters. At the ancient Olive Avenue market, customers huddled over cups of coffee at the outside tables.

Walking is a different experience than whizzing by on a bike and in front of the old Smith house I noticed palm trees all in a row and oranges being sold by the bag for the first time in many months.

Opposite the Smith house an old, white Thunderbird automobile with Ohio plates has sat for a few years. I paused to take a photo and a long-haired guy riding a bike and rocking a Wayne Gretzky hockey jersey said it has been there “for a while.” At $13,000, it might remain.   

Toward the top of Olive near Terracina Blvd. a young mom pushing her baby up the hill in some contraption was making good time until she tired and began walking. I didn’t blame her and felt tired too, but unfortunately was not even halfway through.

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Ride on

As of last Sunday, outside dining was still a thing in downtown Redlands.

By John Murphy

Sunday I made another cycling foray into Redlands, following my familiar route.

That’s down Church Street in Highland, left on 5th Street, out to Boulder and then south to R-Town.

This trek was not so scary, as I waited until daybreak for a change. There’s something to be said for vehicles being able to see you.

The two-lane road into Redlands deposits me on the middle-class North end of Redlands. That’s where my house is (I rent it out), as well as the school district office, the community center and some of Redlands’ finest thrift stores and tattoo parlors.

Crossing Colton Avenue and into the historic downtown, I rode until I reached the bottom of State Street where there’s a bench. I got off my bike, took a load off and struck up a conversation with a man who I figure was the owner of Darby’s Cantina. He was setting up chairs.

“How’s the outdoor dining been going?” I said.

“Oh, pretty good,” he said, “but it’s been getting colder, so people have been going home earlier.”

Back on bike now, I rode on. Up Cajon, to Terracina and back on Fern all the way to Cajon again. It’s a picture-postcard gem of a town and I enjoy seeing landmarks like the Olive Avenue Market, the Morey Mansion, Beverly Ranch and all of the quaint Craftsmen homes, Queen Anne cottages and Spanish Colonials.

At 64 years old though, six miles on a bike is no joke. So I am always always glad to get back to Church Street in Highland to see the weathered Portofab building because I know I’m close to home and an afternoon of watching football and eating.

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Nightmare at the ‘Stick

Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to a big comeback over the 49ers in a 1972 divisional playoff game at Candlestick.

By John Murphy

The other day I was tooling up the 210 freeway to my elementary school gig in Fontana when I saw it: A vehicle with twin decals on the back window. One was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ “LA” and the other the “star” of the Dallas Cowboys.

I considered, for a split second, ramming this innocent driver’s car with my late-model Toyota. Then I got a grip and drove on.

The Dodgers won the 2020 World Series and I salute them. They were the best team. But as a third-generation native San Franciscan, I wasn’t pleased.

The Cowboys are an even greater evil. My antipathy dates to Dec. 23, 1972. The 49ers hosted the Cowboys in a divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park. San Francisco had defeated Dallas 31-10 on Thanksgiving Day but had lost to the Cowboys in the NFC title game in 1970 and ’71. This was going to be a good one.

I mentioned to my late dad that it would be great to go. Somehow, he secured a couple of tickets. We drove out to the ‘Stick on a cool day to watch John Brodie and Gene Washington and the guys do their thing.

It was all going so well. Vic Washington returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. And the 49ers led 28-13 entering the fourth quarter. But then Cowboys coach Tom Landry replaced struggling quarterback Craig Morton with Roger Staubach. The rest is history. The Cowboys kicked a field goal. Then they scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 90 seconds left. Then the unthinkable … an onside kick bounced off 49er receiver Preston Riley and the Cowboys recovered. Less than a minute later Staubach tossed another TD pass and the Cowboys had won.

The Dallas players jumped and hugged and rolled around Candlestick’s dreadful artificial turf. There was almost no sound in the stadium as they exulted. It was surreal.

The Faithful were mostly silent as we trudged through the ramps leading out of the stadium.  

The agony was not over. Returning to the parking lot, my dad turned the ignition on his Oldsmobile and the engine light went on. Dang. We then sat in the dank parking lot until it was nearly empty, waiting for a tow truck to take us to a Hunters Point gas station. It wasn’t our day.  

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Good-bye, San Bruno Rec

Many a San Bruno youth learned to play basketball at San Bruno Rec, dribbling through cones and practicing lay-ups.

By John Murphy

The other day I received a text from my brother Jim. It said, “What years did the Warriors practice at the San Bruno Rec? They are going to raze the current facility and pool and replace it with money from the PG&E fire settlement.”

If this wasn’t a writing prompt, then I don’t know one. The San Bruno Rec – or Veterans Memorial Recreation Center as it’s officially named – was my life as a kid.

Growing up in San Bruno, then a middle-class suburb of almost impossible simplicity, San Bruno Park and its venerable rec center were the hub. The rec is where we went to shoot baskets, play pool and hang out.

The rec was also our home court. It’s where Menlo School basketball coach Keith Larsen and I played our games for St. Robert’s School. It’s where I cracked my two front teeth on the floor during a sixth-grade practice.

The Golden State Warriors also practiced at the rec. When I was a kid you knew the Warriors were there because Nate Thurmond’s maroon Rolls Royce was parked in front. We’d scurry over to see our heroes like Thurmond, Jeff Mullins and Rick Barry play and coach Al Attles with that deep baritone voice direct traffic.

One day at a Warriors’ practice, the power went out. Warriors star Jerry Lucas came over and sat right next to me. He was nice. I think he asked how old I was and if I played ball. It was a thrill.

The best player ever from the rec was Mike Mitchell. He starred at St. Robert’s and at Capuchino High where he scored 50-plus points in two consecutive home games. The amazing thing was, fans walked away talking about his tremendous passing. He got a full ride from coach Digger Phelps at Notre Dame and later became the CEO of Dreyer’s Ice Cream.  

So they’re going to tear down the rec, huh? It’s part of the $70 million in restitution from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for the 2010 pipeline explosion that killed eight and destroyed 38 homes.

It’s a good thing, I guess. The building is cramped and antiquated. The outdoor pool next door is sub-par. But, I wonder, will the new gym have the same soul? Hmmm. We’ll see.

At the rec, with the fellas … that’s (left to right in back row) rec leader Paul Accinelli, me, the late Joe Krumm, Keith Larsen and rec leader Jim Beck. Front row is Mitch Fontaine and Mike Mitchell.
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Sunday rider

Tough to beat the view from Terracina Avenue on a clear Sunday morning.

By John Murphy

Sunday morning it was pitch black as I flew down Boulder Avenue on my retooled bicycle, headed from Highland to Redlands.  

It’s a rough, two-lane road and as loud rock music poured through my earbuds, I had a thought. Rocking all dark colors and without a headlight and unable to see what’s coming from behind, this was not the safest thing to do.

But I arrived in R-Town unharmed and one of my first stops was the El Nayar Bakery on Orange Street. It’s a must stop for for tamales and the line was out the door. As I parked my bike I watched three masked friends greet each other with elbow bumps, a very pandemic-like thing to do.

Inside I ordered two cheese tamales and consumed one on the spot. It was creamy and had a nice kick. Paired with a Mexican Coke, you can’t go wrong.  

Onward I rode through the downtown area. I left the old Fox Theater in my wake and took a right on Olive Avenue. From there it was a straight shot to Terracina where I photographed the Morey Mansion for the umpteenth time. My crack research team said it was built in 1890 and there is no known architect. A pity.   

Tooling along Terracina I heard a hearty “good morning”  from a bicyclist who zipped past me. “Uh, hey – how’s it going?” I said, as he disappeared just beyond Redlands Community Hospital.  

I was in a nice rhythm now, taking a left on Fern and following it all the way to Redlands High School. I rode by the well-secured South Campus and crossed the street to find – ta-da – an open gate. Naturally, I entered. This allowed me to explore Dodge Field in all its splendor.

Around the track I went on my Schwinn Voyageur. I took photos, learned Redlands won a state track title in 1918 and scurried up the stands to enjoy a breathtaking view. It was fun.

Then I was off, retracing my route until I was back in Highland. Best thing was, I had one tamale left.  

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Senior moment

Yeah, I know I look dorky in this helmet I’m not wearing correctly, but it was my first ride.

By John Murphy

The other day I told of walking from Highland to Redlands to pick up my refurbished bike.

Friday night I took my first ride, trekking from our home in the St. Adelaide’s area of Highland out to Tippecanoe Avenue in San Bernardino. Round-trip it’s 6.4 miles, or slightly more than a 10-kilometer footrace.

I wasn’t sure where in Highland I’d ride because our neighborhood is hilly. But I wound up crossing Palm and getting onto 9th Street. From there it’s a flat, straight shot out to Tippecanoe.

It felt good around 5 p.m. cutting through the cool air on my retooled Schwinn Voyageur. It reminded me of when I was a teen-ager and I’d ride my Raleigh 10-speed around San Bruno or down to Millbrae to play baseball games.

Props to Redlands’ Cyclery USA which replaced seemingly everything on this used bike and has it running like a dream. Well worth the $288 I plunked down.    

Riding a bike is more invigorating but also scarier than walking. It seems like it’s a law in Highland and nearby San Bernardino that homeowners own at least one big, angry dog. Tooling along at dusk down some lonely streets, I was thankful fences separated me from these canines. Otherwise, I’d be dead.   

I also knew I looked more than a little Forrest Gump-like, being a big, goofy white guy on a Schwinn bike whisking through a predominantly Latino area. It was all good until the return trip from Tippecanoe as I headed up a closed road near Indian Springs High School.

I was approaching a concrete barrier and applying the brakes when I went off a curb I couldn’t see in the dark. Splat. I tumbled off the bike right onto my big senior citizen butt. Oh, the embarrassment.

“You OK bro,” I heard a kid in the distance yelling. “Are you all right?”     

“Yeah, I’m OK,” I said as I struggled to my feet. The polite teens walked on with their skateboards tucked under their arms … and I resumed pedaling toward home, properly humbled.   

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Very superstitious

Menlo School basketball coach Keith Larsen, who formerly coached at Stanford, Cal State Stanislaus and Menlo College, can attest to my superstitious ways.

By John Murphy

This morning I woke up early, turned on channel 4 and learned it is Friday the 13th. A feeling of dread filled me.   

I am, yes, superstitious.

Immediately I pondered what might go wrong on this unluckiest of days … car won’t start, distance learning goes awry, a letter arrives from the IRS requesting an audit? The possibilities are endless.  

Some think the whole Friday the 13th deal stems from Jesus’ last supper. There were supposedly 13 people there the night before He died, which was on a Friday.

Superstition of course flies in the face of intelligence and logic. There’s something decidedly medieval about it. Psychologists even have a name for those like me who suffer from it: Paraskevidekatriaphobes.  

The ranks of the superstitious are legion. That’s why many hotels skip the 13th floor. And why some planes don’t have a 13th row.

Sports fans are notoriously superstitious. When my San Francisco Giants won their three World Series in five years last decade, I was a mess. If the Giants won a series game with me rocking a specific T-shirt, then I HAD to wear it the next game.

Keith Larsen, the Menlo School of Atherton basketball coach, can attest to the craziness. We watched Game 7 of the 2014 World Series between the Giants and Kansas City Royals together.  

The Giants took an early lead, but the Royals tied it up 2-2. I nervously slipped a cassette tape of the 1980s rock group 10,000 Maniacs — who I find calming — into my boom box.

The Giants nudged ahead but the last five innings were excruciating as we watched Madison Bumgarner methodically retire each batter.   

“Do I change cassettes?” I asked Larsen as we heard Natalie Merchant sing “Peace Train” for the third time.

“No!” my old pal said. “We’ve got the good ju-ju going. Let’s not upset it.”

The ninth inning was tense but the Giants prevailed. Bumgarner got the final out on a foul pop-up to third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

Pandemonium. Larsen and I danced and screamed like loons in my crummy apartment and I started banging on a miniature gong I keep for such occasions.

We had the good ju-ju.

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Veterans Day march

It’s a long, hot march from Highland to Redlands, but I had Lefty Frizzell and Tammy Wynette with me and the miles just melted away.

By John Murphy

Veterans Day I left the Caltrans Girl and Miya the Wonder Dog behind and walked to Redlands.

It’s a five-mile trek and the destination was Redlands’ USA Cyclery to get my refurbished bike.

I have a Schwinn Voyageur I bought 4-5 years ago at the San Jose Salvation Army. I think it was owned by a Stanford student who discarded it when he graduated.

Highland to Redlands along Palm Avenue which turns into Alabama Street is a long march. Nobody else was out walking this terrain, nor even riding. My goal was to stay safe while eluding coyotes, vagrants and Dodgers’ fans.

It was a pleasant 65 degrees and I had my Smart phone tuned to some country classics – since I’ve already heard every rock song in the world 1500 times. Lefty Frizzell and Tammy Wynette, I’ve found, can brighten any day.

Along the way I saw the wash to my left up close and the San Bernardino International Airport to my right. The brightly colored jets twinkled in the sunlight.

The route crosses the I-10 freeway with cars and 18-wheelers whizzing by underneath. Eventually I descended into Redlands and from there it was a short hike to the bike shop.  

There I met an elderly but fantastically fit man, John Evans, 80, who was removing his high-tech bike from the back of his rig. I struck up a conversation with him and learned he taught at Moreno Valley High for 30 years. His wife was the athletic director’s secretary for a while. I told him I formerly was a sportswriter for the Riverside Press-Enterprise and that piqued his interest.  We tossed names like former Mo Valley coaches Rocky Ford and John Dahl and I quizzed him about his bike rack. It was a fun chat.

Finally, the store opened and I was first in line.  Time to pay up, grab my bike and ride home.

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Memory Lane, Berdoo style

Downtown San Bernardino has seen better days, but it’s still fun to visit and has more than a few fascinating old landmarks.

By John Murphy

Sunday I eschewed Redlands and got my walking fix in downtown San Bernardino.

Berdoo old-timers call it. Or “Dino” as the young kids like to say.

It’s a tough town. Seen better days. In 1977 it was named an All-American City. But three recessions around the end of the 20th century and start of the new millennium took their toll.

Now the downtown area is a shadow of its former self. But it’s where I worked as a sportswriter for the San Bernardino Sun from 2000 to 2009. So I have fond memories of the area, my old boss Paul Oberjuerge and my former co-workers.

The Sun building had its quirks though. It took up an entire city block and was built on the site of the old Fox Theater and a former hotel. The place was ancient and had more than its share of pests (besides the publisher and editors). They included cockroaches, rodents and bats. Yes, bats.

Passing the Sun I eventually reached the majestic San Bernardino County Court House, built in 1926. I’ve appeared there a time or two, but nothing serious.

Next to the courthouse is the San Bernardino County Government Center. Back in the day it had a cafeteria. I recall in September of 2000 having lunch there with the previous Sun prep sports editor, Louis Amestoy. I quizzed Louis about the job he was leaving and wrestled with my decision about taking it. Eventually I did and that’s how I got to work with such wonderful people as Oberjuerge, Chuck Hickey,  Brian Goff, Suzie Ahn, Chris Wiley, Mirjam Swanson, Dennis Pope, Derek Rich, Michelle Pereda, Mark Reinhiller, Michelle Gardner, Harvey Cohen, Danny Summers, James Curran and the rest.

Having circled the old Sun, I headed down North D Street and took a right on Court. Good to see Molly’s Café still there and featuring a burger-and-drink special for $3.99. Then I padded past an ornate building that used to be a sports bar (I don’t recall the name) and past the equally old and beautiful American Trust Building where a pawn shop resides.

Hanging a right at E Street I eventually came upon the spectacular California Theatre at 562 W. 4th Street. The old girl was part of the Fox Theatre chain and opened in 1928. Can’t say I’ve been inside, but I’ve read it still has its original Wurlitzer Style 218 pipe organ. Humorist Will Rogers gave his last performance there before dying in a plane crash in 1935.

The dark skies had opened now and it was pouring rain, but I trudged on. My trek took me around the Rosa Parks Memorial Building on W. 4th Street, past Franky’s Donuts and Deli and then back to my car.

Out of the cold and rain at last, I checked the Fit app on my phone and saw I only walked a mile. But it was a pleasant stroll down memory lane and it’s one I’ll surely take again.

The Rendezcous Back to Route 66 car show in downtown San Bernardino was canceled this year due to the pandemic.
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Top Kebab for the win

Top Kebab owner George Daoud (and his sidekick Brianna Daoud) serve up some tasty Mediterranean food and popular broasted chicken.

By John Murphy

Thursday night I ventured into Redlands and then stopped in Highland on the way home to pick up some Mediterranean food.

That led me to Top Kebab at 27355 West 5th Street, which opened in July of this year – five months into a worldwide pandemic.

But first I had to get into the restaurant parking lot which sits between Top Kebab and an Arco station. Blocking my path heading west on West 5th was a huge 18-wheel truck that occupied the better part of a four-lane road.

Finally, I deduced that nobody was driving this rig and it had been left if the middle road. A bit odd, but this is the Inland Empire and I’ve seen stranger.  

“Hey, what’s with that truck out there?” I said to Top Kebab owner George Daoud upon my arrival.

“It belongs to this guy,” George said, pointing to the burly man directly in front of me in line. The quiet truck driver paid little mind and gathered up his bags of food and then left. But before he did George handed him a menu and told him to call ahead next time and he’d bring the food right out to him on the roadside.

“I feel bad for him,” George said. “There’s no place for him to park and he’s got to eat.”

I couldn’t argue that. I’m also not a food critic. But I’ve ordered take-out twice at Top Kebab and the CalTrans Girl and I have enjoyed it. The fact it’s just down Church Street from our house is a plus.

The restaurant offers a variety of plates ranging in price from $10 to $18. They include Chicken Shawerma, Lamb Chops, Shish Tawouk, Kefta Kebab and mixtures of all those mentioned. The vegetarian plate featuring falafel, hummus, tabbouli, mutabbai, grape leaves, eggplant and salad is a home run.

A drawing card for Top Kebab is its scrumptious broasted chicken. I ordered eight pieces Thursday and it didn’t disappoint. Broasted chicken differs from fried in that it’s made using special equipment that combines deep-fat frying and pressure cooking. The frying produces a crispy exterior, while the high pressure retains the moisture and juices without letting the fat penetrate. Or at least that’s what I read on the Internet.

George, a native of Syria, said the original idea was to offer the chicken as a catering item only, but it has become so popular that regular customers snap it up. I ordered my chicken with sides of Greek salad and rice that were, unfortunately, uninspired on this night.

Overall, though, Top Kebab is a winner, as proven by its steady stream of mostly blue-collar customers. Give it a try and if you tell George it’s your first visit, he’ll probably throw in a few $1 desserts (Baqlawa or Namura) at no charge.

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Fifteen minutes of fame

Back in the 1960s and the 70s, the Warriors practiced at San Bruno War Memorial Gym where I played as a kid.

By John Murphy

You’ve heard of “15 minutes of fame?” Well, this was mine.

Back in 1975, when I was 19, the Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets four games to zero to win the National Basketball Association title. My friends Keith Larsen and Steve O’Brien and I were giddy.

I will never forget Game 4 with the Warriors on the cusp of the title. A TV camera focused on Golden State coach Al Attles in the huddle with the game and title already secure.

“When the game ends,” Attles said in his deep baritone voice, “Somebody grab Barry’s kid and we’ll go out that tunnel.”   

The Warriors won and the Bay Area flipped. Then word leaked the Warriors’ plane coming back from DC would land at San Francisco International Airport. Well, that’s right where we lived and we just HAD to go.

So it was we wound up on the tarmac at SFO waiting for the plane to arrive and our heroes to emerge. It didn’t take long.

The big bird pulled in and the Warriors disembarked … Rick Barry, Clifford Ray, Keith Wilkes, Bill Bridges, Derrek Dickey and the rest. A stage was set up and the plan was for the team to gather there for a few brief speeches.

Well, there might have been a few Lucky Lagers involved … because as the Warriors strode from the plane to the stage, I got a brilliant idea. I ducked underneath a rope and hopped up on the stage with the champs.

“Look at Murph!” I could hear my buddy O’Brien screeching in his high-pitched voice. “What’s he doing up there? How’d he get up there?”  

Intoxicated by victory and cheap beer, I was in all my glory. I stood with my oversized new friends and waved at the cheering crowd … then nodded at my disbelieving pals who could only shake their heads in amazement.  

It was all great fun until a Warriors’ PR type noticed and gave me the boot. Didn’t matter. I had my 15 minutes of fame and a story to tell for the ages. What a night.  

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New addition

By John Murphy

More coveted than clean water or hand sanitizer in these pandemic days are dogs. Man’s best friend. Everybody wants one, it seems.

So the CalTrans Girl and I were tickled Saturday morning when the Devore Animal Shelter called and said they had a pooch for us – a 3-year-old, toy poodle/terrier mix named Nadia. She was found with another small dog running loose in an unincorporated area of San Bernardino.

The dog was advertised on the shelter’s site and we expressed interest along with some other folks. A lottery was held and we finished fourth – but were moved up the ladder because the winner pulled a no-show and two others didn’t answer the phone. You snooze, you lose.

So it was that we tooled up the 210 freeway Saturday afternoon and took the Kendall turnoff.

“Go through that door and wait in the cubicle on the right,” the shelter volunteer said. Five minutes later a woman named Melissa led a skittish, unkempt mutt into the cubicle who was at first curious, then decided to turn tail and run. We didn’t take it personally.

Melissa rounded up the shy canine and brought her back. I got down on her level so I wouldn’t be so imposing and pet her dirty, matted fur.

“Who’s a good dog?” I mindlessly asked. She responded by licking my hand, a good sign.

Then I gathered up the scrawny dog and delivered her to the CT Girl. It would be her dog after all. That works well for me as I won’t have to buy her food or clean up poop. I’ll take her for some walks though, as I’m OK doing the fun stuff.

The meet-and-greet went well and it’s a match. We have a dog! We changed her name to Miya and will pick her up Monday at a pet hospital in Highland.

This fills a void for the CT Girl who misses her old pooches, Bert and Beya — who both died of old age within the past few years.   

My better half has been on Cloud 9 since the adoption and has even stopped hammering me for all the wrong stuff I do. I think I love this dog already.

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Morning rush

By John Murphy

Awakened this morning and glanced at the alarm clock. The four-inch high numbers said “4:00” – damned early, but I didn’t care. It was time for my morning walk.   

I rose and put on the exact same clothes I was wearing Saturday, right down to the socks and underwear. Figured I could squeeze an extra half-day out of them.

Then I padded through the kitchen, grabbed a bottled water and opened the front door. A bright full moon greeted me in all its post-Halloween splendor.

Tooling up Base Line Street in my Corolla, I saw the AM-PM in this distance. My morning cup of coffee awaited.  

“Hey, how’s it going?” I said to the security guard,” as I entered the store. Then I fell into line behind a portly woman with three bags of chips spread out on the counter. “Pack of Camels” she said to the clerk. I shook my head in amazement.

Forty-seven cent cup of joe now in hand, I left AM-PM and drove across the vacant Fitness 19 parking lot and onto Boulder Avenue. From there I headed south toward Redlands where on the way I passed not one, not two, but THREE drivers pulled over to the side of the road with their emergency lights flashing. Stranded motorists, no doubt.

I could have stopped and helped, but I didn’t. Needed to get my miles in.

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Never played the game

By John Murphy

Tonight the Los Angeles Dodgers try to win their first World Series in 32 years as they meet the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Game 6 of the World Series.

But the game still on my mind is Game 4. You know, when the Dodgers’ so-called “Little League” screw-up at the end wrested defeat from the jaws of victory. Next thing we knew the Rays had won and their hero was running around the outfield like a loon. Great theater.

Twitter exploded. And a Los Angeles sports anchor on the post-game nearly melted down. Among the misguided things she said was that players being paid “millions of dollars” shouldn’t make such mistakes. Uh, no. You’re wrong.

Anyone who has played baseball past Little League knows that baseball at its core is still a game. The best hitters fail nearly 70 percent of the time. And nothing is guaranteed in the field where things happen so fast and a momentary lapse in judgment or physical gaffe can turn a routine play into an error. Just ask Bill Buckner.  

A forgotten play from Game 4 but one I found interesting happened at second base. The Dodgers had just taken the lead and Max Muncy did a pop-up slide into second base and was called out. The Dodgers thought the Rays’ fielder had pulled Muncy off the base before tagging him. The ump and the dude in the replay booth disagreed and the Dodger star was ruled out.  

My take is that Muncy shouldn’t have attempted a pop-up slide on a close play. My older brother up in Burlingame who played at Serra High and at Santa Clara University agreed.  

Curious, I texted recently retired San Gorgonio High baseball coach Bill Eatinger and quizzed him. He thought the pop-up slide was OK because of the possibility of the ball squirting away. He also thought the fielder pulled Muncy off the bag and Muncy should have been ruled safe. I agree with the second part.

Whatever. The point is that baseball is a perfect game played by imperfect people. Even my boyhood hero Willie Mays probably flubbed a basket catch or two. Anybody who doesn’t get this, doesn’t understand baseball. They never played the game.

That’s me in 1966, as a 10-year-old third baseman for Rams Sporting Goods in San Bruno. Where has the time gone?

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Leaner, meaner

By John Murphy

The CalTrans Girl put her foot down. I need to shed some excess. No, not weight – but the crushing amount of memorabilia around our place.

I’ll start small. Up for grabs (email me at berdooman@gmail.com) are an array of newspapers that once belonged to the beloved area sportswriter Harvey Cohen.

To wit:

–It’s a party of two: McGwire joins Maris by hitting 61at homer. San Bernardino Sun, Sept. 8, 1988. Includes a grab-bag column by Paul Oberjuerge, an Aquinas High football preview by the late Brian Goff and a $5 off coupon for the Club Temptations gentleman’s club in Riverside.

Yaz finally gets No. 3,000. San Bernardino Sun, Sept. 13, 1979. Features an Oberjuerge story on the San Francisco 49ers’ OJ Simpson (“Has the Juice gone sour?”). Also, Claude Anderson previews Bloomington High and the Desert-Mountain football league.  

Duran survives the brawl in Montreal. Riverside Press-Enterprise, June 21, 1980. Has an Angels’ game story by Alan Lassila and a Dodgers’ gamer by Jim Alexander. I was two years into my career at the time, but 30 years from joining Lassila and Alexander at the Press-Enterprise.

Ali tops Spinks. Orange County Register, Sept. 16, 1978. Hard to miss is an ad touting Spires’ ham and eggs special for $1.69. It included hash browns, toast, jam and butter – all contrary to my current doctor’s admonition to lower my cholesterol. If it was 1978, I’d be at Spires.

Yes They Can – And Did, 4-1; Tanana, Angels Defeat Kansas City to Clinch AL West Division Title. Orange County Register, Sept. 26, 1979. Has AP gamer on Ron Cey and the Dodgers slamming the Giants 11-2 (lucky win) and an ad for the Remington correcting selectric typewriter.  

715. Aaron Sheds Ghost of Ruth With Record Homer in Fourth Inning. Houston Chronicle, April, 9, 1974. It was “just like any other home run,” Aaron said.

Magic Moment. World Has Changed Considerably Since American College Kids Shocked the Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice” 20 Years Ago. Los Angeles Times, Feb. 22, 2000. There’s a story on Ken Griffey Jr. joining the Reds and more column inches about hockey than I will read in a lifetime.

***

That’s it. Package deal – contact me first and you get them all for nothing. We’ll have a pandemic-friendly, contact-less exchange and the CalTrans Girl will be happy. At least for a nano-second.    

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Role model

My three older siblings — brother Jim and sisters Cathy (middle) and Anne. Cathy is married now to husband Joe Fama and lives in San Bruno.

By John Murphy

Other than my parents, my first real glimpse of success was of my oldest sibling, Cathy.  

My best times with Cathy came when I was a pre-teen when she’d take my buddy Keith Larsen and me to University of San Francisco basketball games. We’d watch stars like Dennis Black and Pete Cross do their thing, then repair to Front Room Pizza for a pie.

Cathy studied nursing at USF and I saw her inner toughness as she poured over her thick nursing books, yellow highlighter in hand. When I asked her what she chose to highlight she said, “Anything I don’t understand.”

Once my big sis became a nurse, I recognized her generosity as she bought me thoughtful and expensive gifts – a wristwatch on my birthday and a portable typewriter to write my newspaper stories.

Cathy still followed USF basketball after graduation. And in 1971 or ’72 she took me to a game against Santa Clara University at San Jose Civic Auditorium. This was a big deal. The schools are bitter rivals and my brother Jim, then an SCU student, would be there.   

My sis wanted it to be a special night, so she whisked me to San Jose’s 5-spot Drive-In. It’s now a Mexican restaurant but back then was like something out of American Graffiti. It was all good until it took an hour to get our chili burgers. Ah, well.

Then it was game time. Spirits were high. Two revved-up cheering sections. Nine or 10 fistfights. And the Dons and Broncos battling.  

San Francisco dominated most of the game as its dandy of a coach, Bob Gaillard, watched. The Dons led by 10 or so with 3-4 minutes left.

Then the unthinkable. Santa Clara started fouling, USF missed free throws and the Broncos roared to victory.   

Don fans were downcast as we filed out. Then we ran into my brother who may have gloated a bit.

Cathy seethed. It wasn’t her night. But I left knowing that anybody who’d go through all that for me, has her heart in the right place. Always has.  

San Jose’s famous 5-spot Drive-In at last glance was known as the Chivas Grill.
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Glory days

Rechristened as the “San Bernardino County Sun” 20 years ago, The Sun was proud of being the newspaper of record for America’s largest mainland county.

By John Murphy

Earlier this week I had reason to contact Corona Centennial principal Alexis Barile and the memories flooded back.

Back to the days when Barile was Alexis Onishi and coached the Summit High girls basketball team – and even back to the start of the new millennium when her husband Tony Barile was the football coach at San Gorgonio High.

In the fall of 2000, I was at the Victor Valley Daily Press and Louis Amestoy was the prep editor of the San Bernardino Sun. But Amestoy took a job in Hemet so I replaced him. Before he left, he took me to photograph the athletes of the week, at San Gorgonio and Yucaipa high schools. There I met former San G athletic director John Powell and ex-Yucaipa AD and football coach Jim Taylor.

ALEXIS BARILE

Powell operated not so much out of an office, but a big classroom or storage room that was a beehive of activity. It had a table in the middle. At lunch all the San G. coaches congregated there, eating their sandwiches, shooting the bull and lobbing an occasional barb at me.

It was a salty bunch. Powell, Ed Clark, Bill Eatinger, Chris Ybarra, John Tibbels, Tony Barile, Ty Stockham, etc. I took my athlete of the week photo with a little point-and-shoot camera that actually used film and yukked it up with the guys before heading off to Fontana High or Aquinas or wherever.  

That was 20 years ago. The math is easy because that was the year 1999 melded into 2000 and the world was supposed to implode because everyone’s computers and our nation’s infrastructure wasn’t going to be ready for the change. Somehow, it didn’t.

The first decade of the new millennium is a blur. Alexis Onishi took the Summit girls to a section title game in 2008, dated former Summit football coach Barile, got married, had twins, etc. Now she and the hub are both at Centennial where she sits in the Big Office and Tony teaches and assists Matt Logan in coaching the Huskies’ perennially powerful football team.

Me? I went from San Bernardino, to Riverside, to San Jose, to Half Moon Bay, to the Central Valley and then came back again – and still bug some of these fine Inland Empire folks for interviews all these years later. Go figure.

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A bicycling mecca, a Raleigh 10-speed and Patricia Hearst

The Olive Avenue Market was populated Sunday morning by about 40 members of the 129-year-old Riverside Bicycling club.

By John Murphy

Sunday morning I saw them from a distance at Redlands’ Olive Avenue Market – 40 or so members of the Riverside Bicycle Club, gathering at the historic corner market on the day of a ride.

Olive and Fern avenues are a regular walking area for me. Trekking to Terracina Boulevard I usually see clumps of bicyclists in their black shorts, helmets and fluorescent shirts, commanding their high-end bikes.

“I like to get some exercise and keep the immune system up,” said 42-year-old Dan Gaston of Riverside. “It’s a good way to stay fit and live longer. You meet nice people and it gives me some freedom from the kids for a while and gets me out of the house.”

The Riverside Bicycle Club, according to its web page, was founded in 1891 and is the oldest continuous bike club west of the Mississippi. It has 250 members and does 400 rides per year.

Redlands is a big bicycling town, hosting the Redlands Bicycle Classic, a five-day stage race that covers 350 miles. It was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

I told Riverside’s Gaston and his friend I have a “transportation bike” I bought at the San Jose Salvation Army for $35 and asked where to get it tuned up. They suggested Don’s Bike Shop in Riverside but said there is also a worthy establishment in Redlands not far from the market (presumably Don’s Bicycles at 700 E. Redlands Blvd, Suite 1b).  

Back in, gulp, 1971 as a freshman in high school, I purchased a Raleigh 10-speed at Kezar Cyclery in San Francisco. It was orange. I rode it all over my hometown of San Bruno in those days before I had a driver’s license.

Occasionally I’d even ride that Raleigh to my high school in San Mateo, eight miles away. One day, in 1974, I took a detour through leafy Hillsborough to gaze at the big houses and happened upon a grand estate with a dozen or so huge satellite dishes out front. Didn’t take long to figure it was the family home of Patricia Hearst who had been abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army that year.  

Until I get my thrift-store Schwinn tuned up, the only riding I will do will be on my pseudo-Peloton stationary bike (it’s called a “Sunny”) that I ride most mornings. I don’t take those video classes like the Peloton devotees where instructors in another state exhort you. Mine is the slacker approach – cueing up a taped episode of Seinfeld or some rock ‘n’ roll to forget I’m exercising.

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Sunrise, sunset

The sun sinks Thursday night in Highland, as seen from Boulder Avenue.

By John Murphy

Woke up this morning and looked at my new alarm clock and it said “15:32.”

“What the heck?” Oh, military time. I wasn’t in the military … having registered for the draft at age 18 in San Mateo but escaping deployment because there was no lottery that year. Whew.  

Last night I hiked up Base Line Street past St. Adelaide’s Catholic Church and passed a 30-something man dribbling a soccer ball on the sidewalk. He nodded, then maneuvered past and fired a shot onto the grounds of the United Methodist Nursery School (“We Potty Train”). You see some odd things in my part of Highland.

Up near the 210 overpass Starbucks still does a brisk business and the K-Rail remains out as construction continues.

I ducked between the Arco and Valero gas stations on the other side of the freeway and wound up on a street called Pluto. I noticed a half moon out and a dad running alongside his helmeted young son as he taught the boy to ride his bike. Good job, dad.  

From there I cut across the Fitness 19 parking lot and headed south on Boulder. As I did, I glanced west and saw the big orange sun descending into a horizon dotted with palm trees. Ah, SoCal.

Then I cut across a flood control area and onto a street called Cherokee Rose. An unleashed brown dog came around the corner, followed quickly by his owners — a gray-haired couple in their 70s. They nodded at me too, then vanished with their pooch into the sunset.

Sunrise to sunset -- it's always interesting in Highland.
An elderly couple strolls with their dog up Cherokee Rose in Highland.
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Left on Palm

The Palm Plaza shopping center is the one really interesting place on the west side of Palm Avenue in Highland.

By John Murphy

The CalTrans Girl and I live on Norwood Street in Highland. Normally when I walk in the area, I head north toward Base Line. But Wednesday night traffic impeded me, so I took a left on Palm.  

Palm Avenue is a long, busy thoroughfare that extends from the Historic District to Redlands. I set my sights on 5th Street where Farmer Boys restaurant resides, thinking that would provide enough steps.  

There was a long, beige wall to my left on Palm. Along the way I saw the largest red ant mound of all time extending from the ground almost all the way to the top of the wall. Units are now being leased to out-of-town red ants.

Cars whizzed by on Palm as I paused for a drink of water. In the distance on Church Street, I could see the giant cement structure now sitting across the street from the ancient Portofab building. Don’t know what the new business is, but it’s providing some jobs, no doubt.  

I crossed 5th down near Farmer Boys (home of the New Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger) and headed back. There was a large McDonald’s billboard urging me to “Fly the Coop for Breakfast” and dig into either its Chicken McGriddles or McChicken Biscuits, both two for $3. Didn’t seem in line with my recent health kick.

One intriguing spot on the west side of Palm is the bustling Palm Plaza shopping center in the 7700 block. It’s a testament to diversity, housing “I Love Sushi,” and the “Green Frog Sports Bar and Grill” and “Pho’s Vietnamese Restaurant” and “Thai Spoon” and “Juanitos Tacos” and “Jenny’s Diner,” among others. There’s also “La Michoacana Ice Cream” and the “Plaza Ono Produce and Carniceria” where the ribeye is muy bueno.

Leaving the plaza, I took a left on Cypress to add some length to my stroll. This took me into a blue-collar, car-heavy area with nice people who nodded as I passed.

Ambling along 9th Street on the way home, I passed a house with Chevy vehicles in the driveway and ghostly dolls hanging from a tree in the front yard. Halloween is coming.

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No one here gets out alive

The late Justin Townes Earle was the 6-foot-6 roots rocker son of a musician I’ve always admired, Steve Earle. Steve on his podcast this week reminded us to “hug your loved ones.”

By John Murphy

Walking in the heat of the Inland Empire every day the mind flits from subject to subject.

One topic I’ve mulled in recent months is death. Yep, the Big D. Perhaps that’s not surprising since I’m 64 now and nearly 200,000 people in the US have died of the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

But the departures I’ll discuss are from more conventional means. They have all happened to former newspaper colleagues or relatives or maybe even celebrities. One, the late Justin Townes Earle, was the son of country rocker Steve Earle who I’ve listened to for about 15 years. This week, on his podcast, Steve urged listeners to “hug their loved ones.”

Irish author Brendan Behan mused that “there is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.” My list of significant departed from the past 15 years includes: Richard Egan, Bob Todd, Melanie Munk, Mark Ruso, Harvey Cohen, Brent Cullen, Linda Ryan Murphy, Larry Ryan, Justin Townes Earle, Joe Salvatori, Terence Faulkner and Brian Goff.

Some snippets of a few:

Richard Egan, Bob Todd and Melanie Munk: We all worked together at the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian newspaper in the 1980s. Egan and Todd were both Deadheads (followers of the Grateful Dead) and Munk was a whip-smart Santa Clara University grad. Richard once took our San Francisco 49ers’ press pass to Candlestick where he accidentally dropped it off the upper deck of the stadium. An inebriated 49er fan retrieved the pass and entered the Niner dressing room after the game with a beer in hand and chatted up players. Not good. I received an angry phone call from the Niners’ media coordinator the next day. Anyway, the four of us pals worked hard and played hard and it’s a surprise to me that I outlived them all.

Mark Ruso. Mark was my best friend in Watsonville. We were members of the Royal Order of Muskrat and we enjoyed ourselves. One night at my house after a few libations, we decided to go next door to the Buddhist Temple to sound the ceremonial gong. The Watsonville PD were summoned, and I tried my best to explain, saying, “Gee officer, we weren’t doing anything malicious — we were just trying to bang the gong.” Mark loved that story and retold it often before his premature death.

Larry Ryan. Larry was the brother-in-law of my brother, Jim. He passed this month. We all attended Serra High in San Mateo where Larry rooted for my brother and the late quarterback Jesse Freitas. Larry followed Freitas to San Diego State where he wreaked such much havoc that he almost had to leave the school. But Larry settled down and became a successful businessman and a dad twice over and always told a colorful tale. I enjoyed his yarn about how his pal Dennis Trixler blew the All-Sports Trophy for Serra by quitting his final round at the league finals in a huff. Classic.

Brian Goff. Brian was the sports assignment editor for the Southern California News Group who I worked with since the early 2000s. He died of a massive heart attack two years ago. I’ll never forget our long drive to Candlestick Park where his Pittsburgh Steelers took on my San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. The Niners prevailed and Brian had to endure the spectacle of Steeler fans hurling their black and gold gear out of the upper deck at The Stick.   

Joe Salvatori. Joe was the husband of my girlfriend’s sister. He was a fan of the Dodgers, Rams, Chargers, Lakers and USC, but always congratulated me if a Bay Area team won a title. I won’t forget a trip we took to Las Vegas in which Joe and I got all hopped up on mocha coffees in Barstow, talked so much en route to Vegas that our Filipino better halves called us “daldal” (loquacious, in Tagalog) and I accidentally ran over my girlfriend’s foot in the parking lot of our hotel. Ah, good times.

My final thought is we all have a finite time on this Earth to accomplish something professionally, make the world better and to improve our relationships. So we’d better start now … while not “sweating the small stuff” as my late pal Bob Todd used to say.

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Miracle on Church Street

Divine intervention aided my knee Friday … or was it the aspirin kicking in?

By John Murphy

I usually walk in Redlands but my engine light came on Friday and I didn’t want to tempt fate. So I fired up Ozzy’s Boneyard on my Smart phone and traversed Highland.

I hurt my knee recently, but it seemed OK. But after ambling past St. Adelaide’s on Base Line, the hinge got cranky. I hung a right on Church Street and was soon grimacing. I called the CalTrans Girl to get a ride home, but she didn’t answer.

I needed to buck up. I grabbed the ornamental wrought-iron fence that encircles St. Ad’s and pulled myself along. Then a miracle happened, the knee loosened. OK not a real miracle — not like Lourdes or Fatima — but I was walking again and with only a slight limp. I was happy.

I took photos of a Spanish colonial on the corner of Church and Norwood. I’ve always admired it. Then I continued across Palm where it’s said an old-time professional baseball player lived.  

I took a right on Central and saw a pristine, blue-and-white 1956 Chevy in a yard. Gorgeous.    

Up past Alta Dena (“your local dairy since 1956”) I strolled. At the corner of Central and Base Line I greeted a teen who was holding a skateboard, a water jug and trying to keep his too-large jeans up.

“How ya doin’?’” I said.

“I’m doin’ good — and you, sir?” he said.   

I took a right on Pacific and entered the Historic District, established 1891. I’ve written about it. By now I’d trekked four miles and was tired. So I stopped at my favorite watering hole, the Bella-Highland Café and Bar. Locals call it “The Bell.”  

The place was dark. A Red Sox game was on. And three guys sat around the U-shaped bar, sipping Modelos and social distancing.

I ordered a Mexican Coke. This confused the bartender Michelle who apparently thought I desired cocaine. Much laughter ensued.  

My new friends intervened and Michelle brought me a regular can of Coke and a chilled glass. I drank it lustily and said good-bye. Then I limped home.

There was confusion about my drink order Friday at The Bell, but otherwise a good time was had.
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Blue-collar hero

Redlands High grad Rick Gonzales is the self-described “clean-up guy” at Saverino’s Deli and helps hobbled senior citizens when he can.

By John Murphy

Tuesday I left my Fontana school job and headed for Redlands. Needed to get some miles in.

I parked near the Foamy Car Wash on West Redlands Blvd. and then set out. It was hot but I had my Hydra Flask.

I strolled past the sprawling grounds of ESRI and saw Latino gardeners toiling there. Brutal work. I don’t know where we’d be without them.    

I took a left on Tennessee Street and ambled past Redlands Adventist Academy and Arrowhead Christian across the street. ACA had a banner out front, celebrating its section basketball champs.

I trudged up Tennessee past Carolyn’s Café and headed back on Brookside toward the car wash. Along the way I noticed more blue-collar workers – delivery guys for Fed Ex and UPS, getting their jobs done without fanfare.

I was near the end of my trek and my left knee ached. I took a seat in front of Saverino’s Deli on West State Street and rested. But self-described Saverino’s “clean-up guy” Rick Gonzales was collecting the outdoor furniture. It was closing time.

“Would you like me to leave a chair and a table out here for a while, sir?” said Rick, dressed all in black.    

“Nah, that’s OK,” I said. “I’m all right.” Then I got up and limped way.  

Twenty yards later I heard someone chasing me down. It was Rick with a large Styrofoam cup of ice water for me. What a guy!

“Why are you doing this?” I said.

“You look like you need it, sir,” he said.

Yeah, I did. So thanks to Rick Gonzales, the Redlands High grad and ex-Loma Linda University helipad team member. I don’t know much about him but he was my hero this day.

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Happy birthday, dad

The Murphy clan — my dad, James, is back row, far left; and my uncle Bernard “JB” Murphy is second from right. My grandparents, who I never met, are in front row.

By John Murphy

Recently I was in that netherworld between sleep and wakefulness.

“John, John,” I heard.   

It was my dad. I was late for school! My eyes opened and I rubbed the sleep out of them and then thought … “Wait a second, I’m 64 years old and my dad died 17 years ago. What’s going on here?”

This happened a few weeks ago. Odd. And today is his birthday. James (Jim) Vincent Murphy would have been 106 today. He was born in 1914.    

My dad was as Irish as a glass of Jameson and he was a second-generation San Franciscan. He had five siblings. His brother Bernard “JB” Murphy taught at St. Ignatius College Prep for 50 years and the football field there is named in his honor. An educator, too, my dad taught at South San Francisco High and then was the principal at Southwood Junior High for decades. Southwood’s mascot was the “Savages” – politically incorrect of course, but it was a different era.

A seminarian as a teen, he was fluent in Latin. He played handball, touch football and swam at the seminary as opposed to competing in more traditional sports. In later years he wasn’t THAT dad who admonished my brother and me from the stands and second-guessed the coach. He was just like, “Well, that was a good game,” if we won and “Gee, that was too bad,” if we lost. I liked that.    

A gregarious man and natural storyteller, Jim Murphy also had a keen sense of right and wrong. When a grade-school teacher marked all my spelling answers wrong because of bad penmanship (alleged), he took her to task. And when San Francisco State wouldn’t let me graduate on time due to a flap over transferable credits, he backed the school down.

But here’s all you really need to know about the big guy. When I was 8 or 9, my pal Phil Monaghan from a family of 10 was at our house for dinner. When the topic turned to the hometown San Francisco Giants, Phil said he had never been to a game. That Friday, Phil’s little butt was with us in a reserved seat at Candlestick Park. That’s the way MY dad rolled.

 

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New baby, new job

My son Kyle Murphy makes a chess move against my friend Felix Lopez.

By John Murphy

This week 20 years ago was memorable, to say the least.

Thursday, Sept. 14 of 2000 my son Kyle Sean Murphy was born at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Fontana. He is now in college — I couldn’t be prouder. The next day was my first at the San Bernardino Sun. Twenty years ago today.

I lived in North San Bernardino and was not that familiar with downtown Berdoo where The Sun formerly was. Also, the Route 66 Rendezvous was that week and the area was choked with vintage cars.  

There was nobody in the sports department when I arrived that afternoon. But eventually Chuck Hickey, the layout guru, appeared. He didn’t say anything for the longest time … Chuck’s serious, but a tremendous journalist. Finally Chuck introduced himself. Then he told me to go home and prepare for that night’s football game, Apple Valley at Cajon.

Game was a snap. I knew Apple Valley coach Frank Pulice from working in the High Desert. And Cajon rolled behind Exnor Cox’s 250 yards rushing, so Cowboy coach Rich Imbriani was happy.

Then the real fun started. Cajon is far from downtown and I didn’t use a laptop computer then. I gunned my blue Oldsmobile toward The Sun. But when I got there a kaleidoscope of vintage cars wound through the streets, blocking my access. I parked at least a mile away, somewhere beyond Secombe Lake.

The clock was ticking. I was on deadline. My pulse raced. I ran toward the Sun building as fast as I could.

Eventually I arrived at The Sun — a huge edifice that encompassed an entire city block. It sat in the spot of a former hotel and the old Fox Theatre. In later years I wandered through the Fox portion and found an old Jimi Hendrix poster tacked to an office door. I still have it.  

Oh, deadline – I made it. Barely. Then I enjoyed a Twinkie compliments of sports editor Paul Oberjuerge who sat next to me. He handed them out on football Fridays.

There was small talk. My new Sun co-workers and the cast of characters who wrote part-time were there. They were: Doug Padilla, Chris Bayee, Cindy Robinson, Chris Wiley, Brian Goff, Suzy Ahn, Mirjam Swanson, Danny Summers, Dan Evans, Louis Amestoy, James Curran, Michelle Pereda, Dennis Pope, Derek Rich, Harvey Cohen, Gregg Patton, Hickey and Oberjuerge. Mark Reinhiller and Michelle Gardner joined the paper later.      

Then it was time to go. I began the march to my car … wherever it was. It was dark. The streets were foreign. I tried to retrace my steps but I COULDN’T FIND MY CAR!

Jeez, what a cluster. Exasperated and tired, I gave up and sought a pay phone. I wound up at a Circle K on Waterman where I called a cab and a woman propositioned me. I took the former, declined the latter.

Finally I arrived home. It was a heck of a two days. I slept well.  The next morning, I called my late father-in-law, Wayne Overstreet, and we scoured the downtown for my car and found it. Whew!

After that, I was hungry. I went to DJ’s Coffee Shop and ordered breakfast. I opened my newspaper. I beamed as as I saw my byline in The Sun for the first time. I perused the section as I sipped coffee and ate.   

Then I left. A newborn baby and the next 20 years awaited.

My Route 66 Rendezvous poster from Sept. 14-17 2000.
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Saved by a man named Hsu

Redlands’ Orange Blossom Trail — both a joy and the bane of my existence of late.

By John Murphy

Tuesday night I hopped. I hopped on my right leg to the bathroom. I hopped to get one of my beloved Mexican ice cream bars.

The sharp pain in my left knee caused this. Like someone was jabbing a knife into it. Wednesday morning it was worse. So I called in sick to work and made a doctor’s appointment.

Empathy did not flow from the CalTrans Girl, my better half who now works at home. She was the oldest of four children growing up in Manila. I was the youngest of four in San Bruno. We play our roles brilliantly.

“You’ve been walking too much,” the CT Girl said. “Why do you not believe me?”

She was right. Again.

A long line had formed outside Kaiser Permanente in San Bernardino. I was running late. But soon I made it through the COVID-18 checkpoint and was sent to waiting area 7 of the small hospital.

I had not been here in years and found it decorative. Prints of old Highland orange labels and vintage San Bernardino postcards lined the walls. Waiting room 7 boasted a Lake Arrowhead motif and even had an oar on the wall.

Ten minutes late, I knocked on the doctor’s door. A serious woman in glasses answered and said, “You’re not supposed to knock.” I was relieved she didn’t take the oar off the wall and paddle me.

Things improved. I stopped violating rules and the receptionist’s mood brightened. Soon I met the doctor, a trim man named Chung-Pang Hsu, M.D. of Upland. He had that lean runner look.  

“What seems to be the problem?” Dr. Hsu said.

I told him I’d been trekking 4-5 miles a day, highlighted by Saturday when I got lost in Redlands and traversed seven miles. My knee was hurting.

“Seven miles?” the doc said. “I am proud of you.”

Suddenly I wasn’t such a dunce. Dr. Hsu, in his 60s like me, revealed he’s a marathoner, but “only” runs 15-minute miles. He is my new hero. He recommended buying good running shoes, running in a straight line and to stop leaping off logs – a stunt I’d pulled recently with bad results.

A day off my feet and a few anti-inflammatory pills later, I can walk again. It’s back to work today and perhaps a long hike – if I can get by the CalTrans Girl.

The walls of waiting room 7 at Kaiser Permanente rock a Lake Arrowhead motif.
Taiwanense-born Chung-Pang Hsu, MD has been a doctor and been married for more than 30 years and has a son who’s a doctor, too.
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Coaching kids

My Redlands FYTT Hawks team including Madison Ybarra (far left, second row), Perry Amador II (eyeglasses) and Eric Baker (first row, left) played hard, had fun.

By John Murphy

The other day I sifted through a file and found a photo of a basketball team I coached in Redlands eight years ago.

My Hawks of the FYTT League (ages 11-14) went 0-11 in 2012 but were a success. They showed up for every practice, were unselfish, played hard and had fun. Couldn’t ask for more.  

Youth sports, like life, is not fair. You can’t control the allocation of talent. What you can control is your focus on fundamentals, sharing the ball and effort.

Another memento I uncovered was a player guide I made for my Pavilion Dental “Irish” team of Yucaipa. My former dentist, Helen Banez, sponsored us and our jerseys had big molars on the back. Hilarious. “Every loose basketball belongs to us” I wrote on the cover of the guide. Former Yucaipa High baseball star Jake Davila played on that team … and so did my son Kyle.

Coach long enough and you’ll have success stories. John Xerogeanes who I coached in San Bruno is now the Georgia Tech football team doctor and performed surgery on a US president. Trent Dilfer who played for me in Aptos was the winning quarterback in a Super Bowl. But I’m just as proud of the kids who tried their best and are now teachers and firefighters and financial advisors (hello Brian Cooke — how’s my portfolio looking?).

Sorry soccer, but basketball is the most beautiful sport. It is played by the world’s greatest athletes and, when played correctly, involves the most teamwork. As a coach you live for that moment your team makes that extra pass resulting in a basket. Gives me chills.  

My team pictured above did that on occasion. I don’t remember all their names but I do recall Madison Ybarra, a girl who starred for us in an almost all-male league; Perry Amador II who did all the dirty work and never complained; and Eric Baker who had led a previous team I coached to victory a few days after his mom died. Gamers all.

Maybe if I keep looking, I’ll find my old whistle. I’m getting the itch again.

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Crazy day

Colton’s Tom Archibald peddles veggies Saturday at The Grove School’s farmers’ market.

By John Murphy

Saturday I left my car at the Foamy Car Wash on West Redlands Blvd. and trekked west.  

I usually walk four miles and mix in running.  But on this Saturday my faulty sense of direction wreaked havoc. I wound up on a three-hour tour with no sign of the Skipper, Gilligan nor Mary Ann.

Searing heat didn’t help. It was 117 degrees in nearby Riverside and it’s supposed to be 118 in Redlands today. It’s 87 as I write this at 1:15 Sunday morning.  

Along West State Street I ambled. Past Savarino’s Deli and out to Barton Road. It was toasty but I had my Hydra Flask. I picked up the Orange Blossom Trail at Alabama Street. There were high school boys and girls running and carrying 25-pound weights. And I thought I was crazy.

The outlaw country tunes helped, pouring through my earbuds. I took photos, then doubled back on Barton Road.

I spotted a sign for The Grove School’s Farmer’s Market and hit that. There I found gray-haired Tom Archibald of Colton behind a table of tomatoes and yams. Tom is rail thin and was masked up. He wore jeans and a gray tee stained by perspiration. I bought $5 worth of stuff and left.

Details of the rest are fuzzy. I was two-plus hours in, low on water and it was as hot as Hades. I recall being on Tennessee Street and resting on the cool grass of Arrowhead Christian Academy.  

By now a plume of smoke from the El Dorado fire in nearby Yucaipa was visible. Two fire trucks roared toward it. I still had a few miles to hike but there were folks with bigger problems. The fire burned more than 1,500 acres and evacuated four communities.

Searing heat made the OBT a difficult proposition Saturday.

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Perfect start

West Olive Avenue is easy on the eyes as night turns into day.

By John Murphy

Walked into 3D Donuts in Highland at 4:30 a.m. Friday and the Cambodian lady said, “Large coffee?”

“Yeah,” I said, and started dropping dimes and nickels on the counter. Didn’t have any bills.

“Need 15 more cents,” she said, and I handed over two more coins and tossed the rest in the tip jar.

The K Rail was out on the 210 overpass … construction going on. Over on Boulder a car was getting towed. I crossed the wash to Redlands and parked in front of my favorite vacant house on West Fern Avenue. Another day.

I tuned my Smart phone to classic rock but was bored by Steely Dan. Switched to Outlaw Country and got Chris Stapleton. More like it. Time to get my miles in.

A full moon. Purple sky. Palm trees. Nice way to start the day.   

The beauty of exercise – besides the obvious – is the loose sense of camaraderie. Where else do strangers wave or nod as they pass?  I see some of the same people each day and exchange pleasantries.

Nearing the finish, on West Olive, I paused to snap a photo and nearly collided with a runner. He was unfazed.

“That’ll make a great photo,” he said, pointing at the moonlit road ahead.  

Guess I’ve taken worse.

A shirt-less runner traverses Olive Street on Friday morning under a still-visible moon.

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Walking, talking (to myself)

The sun sets over the Zanja, as viewed from the Orange Blossom Trail.

By John Murphy

I took my recent Orange Blossom Trail odyssey on Monday to its logical conclusion (deafening applause) as I trekked to what I think is the western edge.

I began near the former Redlands Daily Facts building and really didn’t intend to blog this. Sunday’s entry garnered a whopping 30 views and it occurred to me that writing for so few readers is akin to talking to myself. But then my late mom talked to herself a bit and she was a teacher, raised four kids and lived to 100, so maybe there are worse things.

On I went. Eventually I reached the historic site of Taylor’s Bar and Grill at the corner of San Timoteo Canyon Road and Barton. I’ve listened to rock ‘n’ roll there but didn’t know the history of the joint. So I googled it and found a 2014 story in the Daily Facts.

Tookey Taylor opened the establishment in 1934, one year after prohibition was repealed. But as of 2014 it was owned by Jim Murphy (no relation to me). His father, Patrick “Paddy” Joseph Murphy owned speakeasies during prohibition and later a legit bar in New York City. Jim wound up here after joining the Air Force in the mid-1960s and being stationed at the now-defunct Norton Air Force Base.

You can’t throw a rock in Redlands and not hit something historic. So it’s fitting Monday’s sojourn also took me by the San Bernardino Asistencia of Mission San Gabriel.   

There’s an El Camino Real mission bell out front and the grounds feature a rustic Spanish chapel and original adobe buildings. It’s on the site of the old Politana rancheria and was built to graze cattle. Members of the Serrano and Cahuilla people also resided there. They were converted to Catholicism by the Franciscan priests and toiled for them, digging the nearby Mill Creek Zanja (irrigation ditch) which is still visible around town.

Back to the OBT. I veered off course and took a right on California Street. From there I marched all the way to the vicinity of Mission Elementary and, amazingly, what I think is the start of the OBT. Go figure.

The trail winds along the ancient Zanja and passes a farm or two. There were runners, walkers and bicyclists; old farm equipment and cacti; a sunset and full moon; and several miles to cover before I reached my car.

Final stats: Six miles walked, two hours and one minute elapsed and 12,870 steps. Try it.

The Orange Blossom Trail runs along the old Zanja and welcomes bicyclists as well as runners/walkers.

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Heading west

The scenery on Brookside Drive was pleasant as I headed west on the OBT.

By John Murphy

Content with my recent exploration of the eastern portion of the Orange Blossom Trail, I headed west on Sunday.

The Pure Gold building on Brookside was the first landmark I photographed. Arthur Gregory created Mutual Orange Distributors in 1927 and took up residence in the Pure Gold Building, according to the Highland Community News. It became the second-largest citrus shipping company in Southern California. Redlands teems with history.

Past the former Redlands Daily Facts building I ambled. It’s the future home of the Museum of Redlands, says a sign. Back in the mid-1990s I knew it as the place where Daily Facts sports editor Obrey Brown hung out. I sent a few stories from there while working in Victorville, then stayed late into the night with Obrey, yukking it up about journalism and solving the world’s problems.

Onward I went. By Tennessee Street the miles were adding up. So I doubled back and headed down Tennessee. That took me by Arrowhead Christian School and Redlands Adventist Academy, which is on the opposite side of the street. Redlands Adventist, I was surprised to learn, was founded in 1903. Obrey and I were just cub reporters then.

Passing a shopping center I noticed Carolyn’s Café and immediately thought coffee cake. But it was too late for that it would have ruined the intent of the walk anyway.

The back side of ESRI’s sprawling campus was next and it took a while to leave that in my wake. ESRI stands for Environmental Systems Research Institute. My crack research (Wikipedia) says it has 3,800 employees globally and in 1981 held its first User’s Conference, in Redlands, with 18 attending. A more recent conference, in San Diego, hosted 18,000. Whew.

On State Street I was treated to the site of a guy in a pick-up truck mysteriously driving 60 yards in reverse. Not sure what that was all about.

My trek was nearing the end now. I strode past the Studio Movie Grill and recalled taking my son Kyle there to see “How To Train Your Dragon.” That was six years ago … time flies.

By now I was losing track of the streets as I approached Orange Street from the back. That led me to the beautiful Southern Pacific Train Depot which is under renovation.

William McKinley in 1901 became the first of three US presidents to visit Redlands. He arrived with a host of dignitaries and visited Prospect Park, according to the Redlands Area Historical Society. A plaque there commemorates the visit.

Prior to McKinley’s visit, the old Citrograph newspaper trumpeted McKinley’s arrival, writing that McKinley exhibits the “highest qualities of a gentleman and is removed as far as possible from self-glorification and toadyism.

I’m not sure what “toadyism” means, but I’m going to find out and work it into a future blog.

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Orange Blossom tale

The OBT featuring remains of the old Kite-Shaped Track railroad is a pretty sight at sunset.

By John Murphy

Call me anything but late for a party. But one fiesta I’ve been tardy for is the Orange Blossom Trail.

The 7.5-mile trail was built in 2014 and runs across Redlands. I was living up north then, so I’m just getting caught up. Highlights of the trail include the University of Redlands established in 1907, remnants of the Kite-Shaped Track railroad from the late 1800s and the Mill Creek Zanja, a historic irrigation canal dug in 1819 Native Americans. Fascinating.   

My focus last week was the eastern portion of the trail. It begins on Grove Street, but I added a twist to it – starting in Sylvan Park at the State Historic Landmark plaque commemorating the ancient Zanja. The addition stretched my trek to 3.65 miles in the mid-afternoon heat.

“Spanish missionaries introduced the principal of irrigation in the San Bernardino Valley, thus opening the way to settlement,” the historical marker reads. “Franciscan fathers engineered, and Native Americans dug this first ditch or Zanja in 1819.”  

The work was hard. The Serrano people used shovels and other tools made in the blacksmith shop at the San Gabriel Mission to carve out the ditch.

Leaving Sylvan Park, I took a right on Colton Avenue and passed through the McGregor Gate onto the campus of the U. of Redlands. The landmarks are many here but the one that caught my eye was the majestic front door of the Currier Gymnasium, circa 1926.

The Currier Gymnasium is not officially part of the OBT, but I made it part of my trek.

Ahead I marched, past the tennis courts on the right and out the far end of campus to Grove. From there it was only 100 yards to where I’d be joining the official trail.

The OBT is a dual-purpose path with asphalt for bicyclists and decomposed granite for runners and walkers.  

Separating the trail is train track with scrub brush and flowers peeking through the ties. The track, forged in Germany, is from the old Kite-Shaped Track railroad that helped popularize Redlands and environs in the early 20th century.

As on most trails around Redlands, there are messages. “SERVICE ABOVE SELF” the Redlands Rotary Club has printed on a wall to the left that separates from the trail from a mobile home park.

Ahead there were more reminders of the railroad. Wood pilings that once supported an old railroad bridge rise out of the Zanja which gurgled with water on this day. Also visible was a row of concrete trusses dated 1916. Wow.  

Concrete trusses from the old Kite-Shaped Track wear their age well.

I’m 64 years old now and 3.6 miles in the heat is tough. As the miles passed, I dreamed about the ice cream bars in my freezer at home. I thought briefly about resting in the cool grass of a nearby park.

Then a lunatic in a Los Angeles Dodgers cap came roaring down the bike path on a 10-speed, pedaling as if his shorts were on fire. Despite his dubious choice of baseball teams, I said hello.

“His John,” he responded … and to my surprise it was area teacher, former baseball coach and cancer survivor Daren Espinoza! At least I think it was him. Maybe I was hallucinating.

Clearly it was time to head home. But I’ll be back soon.

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Both sides now

Sunset in Highland is beautiful, no matter the side of town.

By John Murphy

Thursday night I hit the Highland pavement with nothing special in mind.

I tuned my Smart phone to the E-Street Channel discussing the 45th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” album.

Springsteen honks Dave Marsh and Jim Rotolo hosted. Marsh is at once intriguing and vexing; he knows so much about Springsteen he interrupts himself in mid-sentence to impart more knowledge. But I enjoyed it.

Plodding up Base Line Street toward the 210 overpass I spied the ongoing construction. “All Live’s Matter” someone scrawled in orange on a brown metal beam. I shook my head at the misguided sentiment and punctuation mistake.

The sentiment and punctuation here missed the mark.

Crossing the 210, I made my first foray on foot into East Highland in months. The city is divided physically and socioeconomically by the freeway – with my side near St. Adelaide’s Catholic Church being the grittier. The east side has large homes and modern shopping centers.

I passed the Valero gas station where I often fuel up and ambled past the watershed. Then I took a right at the sprawling grounds of Immanuel Baptist Church. Boys juked and launched shots on the basketball court and a young girl dribbled a soccer ball on the green grass. It was 89 degrees – a perfect summer’s night.

Moving on, I took a right on Cherokee Rose. It led me back to the watershed and a favorite shortcut. I found myself trespassing during a walk for the second consecutive day.  

Up Boulder I trekked, checking out the bucolic splendor to my right and the sunset to the left. Then I cut through the parking lot of Fitness 19, my shuttered gymnasium. Thank you, Covid-19.   

Crossing the 210 again and nearing home, I took photos of the purple mountains to the west highlighted by an almost-pink sky. And St. Adelaide’s steeple, flanked by two palm trees. Breathtaking.

Ahead of me, a weathered man with a gray beard and tan fedora trudged. He pushed a cart full of junk and watched me take photos.

“At 3 a.m., the spirits come out,” he said, gesturing to the church. Then he pointed to an empty lot across the street and said, “And all kinds of stuff happens over there.”   

“I’ll keep my eye out for it,” I said, nodding. Then I headed home.

“At 3 a.m. the spirits come out,” the man said.

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840 East Citrus

The Redlands High girls gymnasium, a relic, is still in use.

By John Murphy

Thursday night I left Highland and crossed the wash into Redlands.

I parked in a lot on Orange Street behind Chipotle and the closed Starbucks, fired up some Outlaw Country on my Smart phone and headed out.

Past the train depot built in 1909 and the Flamingo bar and Joe Greensleeves restaurant I went. Then up State Street where restaurant and bar owners set up for that night’s influx of outdoor diners in these COVID-19 times.

Eventually I found myself at 840 East Citrus Avenue, better known as Redlands High School. Founded in 1891, it is the oldest public high school in the state still functioning on its original site. Amazingly, I was able to stride right onto the South Campus due to some ongoing front-gate construction.

Redlands High has a rich history. Athletically, it won a state rugby title in 1909 and a section football championship in 1961. Renowned coaches Brian Billick, Jerry Tarkanian and Dave Aranda all spent time there. Former or current pro athletes Dick Stockton, Julio Cruz, Jacob Nottingham, Greg Horton, Patrick Johnson and Jim Weatherwax were all Terriers. So was Joan Baez, better known for her soprano voice and protest songs of the 1960s and computer whiz Felicia Lopez, my girlfriend’s daughter who is now, gulp, 30. Where does the time go?

I like old architecture, so Redlands High is in my power alley. There’s the Clock Auditorium built in 1928 and the ancient girls gymnasium erected in 1936 for $115,493 with Works Project Administration money. I once wrote a story for the Press-Enterprise about this old beauty with its cream paint, beautiful arches and relic of a clock with a hand that travels in a circular motion. Too funny.

Two days after that hike I returned, this time to the North Campus. It was a short trek. I saw the weight room fashioned from what I think was an old wood shop and the path leading to the 5,500-seat Dodge Field. I was also drawn to the blue door of the field house where the players dress in lockers once owned by USC and the coaches’ office where Jim Walker and Derrick Dial and now Mike McFarland have plotted.

“TERRIER FOOTBALL” it says on the top step of the small staircase, followed by “BROTHERS” one step down and the year “07-08” on the bottom step. Those were good times at Redlands High School, a part of the tapestry. Next, I look forward to COVID-19 passing into history and for the students to return to 840 East Citrus Avenue and campuses elsewhere around the land.

The door leading into the Redlands High football headquarters.

 

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When Joe D came to town

John Murphy

My recent Internet wanderings prompted me to look up the late New York Yankee shortstop Frankie Crosetti who I vaguely remembered was from San Francisco.

Checking that, I learned Crosetti was born in The City in 1910 and lived in the same North Beach neighborhood as Tony Lazzeri, Charlie Silvera and the three DiMaggio brothers, Joe, Dom and Vince.

I didn’t know Crosetti spent some of his formative years living in Los Gatos where he played one-a-cat, a baseball-like game, with his brother. Nor that he dropped out of Lowell High in San Francisco, my mother’s alma mater.

The more famous high school dropout of the bunch of course was Joe DiMaggio, who attended Galileo before quitting to hawk newspapers and work in an orange juice plant. He achieved greater fame for his long hitting streaks with the San Francisco Seals and New York Yankees, marrying Marilyn Monroe and as the spokesman for Mr. Coffee.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? That’s what Simon and Garfunkel sang. Well, in 1967 — before he became Mr. Coffee — Joe D came to San Bruno Park for the debut of the Joe DiMaggio League for ages 16 to 18. He threw the ceremonial first pitch of a doubleheader.

San Bruno had two Joe D teams. My brother Jim, only 15, played third base for Flying Goose Sporting Goods that day.  

I was just 11 and a goofy kid, I guess. Because when the great Yankee Clipper paused by a water fountain to sign autographs, I handed him a paper napkin.  

“Uh, can you find me something better for me to write on? Joe D said. I searched and found the cardboard liner from a pack of Hostess Cupcakes. It still had icing on it when I gave it to the great DiMaggio who shook his head in amazement and signed.  

Watching the action that day, Joltin’ Joe spied a young boy on the distant Pee Wee League field make a spectacular catch. He summoned the kid who was Dan Voreyer of St. Robert’s School. Joe D shook his hand and chatted with him. Duly inspired, Dan went on to play on a state title team at Skyline College and become San Bruno’s fire chief.

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Light show

The sunset over San Bernardino and Rialto was beautiful on Thursday night.

By John Murphy

Thursday night I was feeling lazy and watching a crime show about the Nightstalker (Richard Ramirez) who terrorized Southern California in the 1980s.

But when the show morphed into Part 2 I couldn’t stand it any longer and went for a walk. I’m glad I did.

I jaywalked across Base Line Street in Highland and stepped over the cobblestones of the island in the middle of the street. A man in a compact car whizzed by and gave me a dirty look. Might have been my SF Giants’ cap.

Ambling past Baker’s and CVC I headed for a familiar destination, the Historic District of Highland. I’ve written about it often. Only on this evening there was a light show worthy of the Jefferson Airplane happening.

It was a bit after 8 p.m. and as I ascended Palm it was hard not to notice the sunset over Rialto. I stopped several times to snap photos.

Onward I went and soon I found myself in front of the ancient, shuttered bank on the corner of Palm and Main. I’m a sucker for this joint and took a few photos, but not many. The place always intrigues.

The big surprise in the Historic District is The Belle is open! The news had escaped me and I’m probably not the only one. The venerable Bella-Highland Café & Bar is an institution and it was great to see its neon OPEN sign shining brightly … even though I don’t drink, had no money and, well, was exercising.

I decided to halt my march and enter the iconic water hole. It was dark but I could make out some familiar sights – the U-shaped wood bar, the old HIGHLAND railroad sign and a children’s “Fire Chief” car whimsically attached to a wall.

I noticed customers out back in a patio I didn’t know existed. That’s when the bartender, Brittany, appeared. I said hello and explained I was a local media guy and a blogger and had written about the place before. She was cool and chatted amiably and even tried to show me an ancient bell that used to hang over the bar.

The light show was the star of the evening though and after bidding Brittany good-bye I took a left on Pacific and headed toward it. The sky was now a brilliant palette of blue, yellow and white and all I could think of was the Milwaukee Brewers. Obviously I’ve missed sports all these months.

My cell phone was running out of juice now and I really felt bad about that as I trudged down Central. I passed a huge, dilapidated white house on the right where some black crows were perching. Then I glanced back at the sky which was now an explosion of blue and magenta.

Reaching for my cell phone I tried to take a photo, but the device was as dead as Trump’s re-election hopes. Drat! Time to head home.

It was nice to see The Belle Open, even though I didn’t have a dime to spend.

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Grillin’ time

Does it get much better than chicken, mussels and milk fish barbecuing?

By John Murphy

Somehow we went the first five months of the coronavirus pandemic without barbecuing. That was rectified Sunday when the CalTrans Girl and I got down with the Royal Oak wood chips in a serious way.

We didn’t have a barbecue for the longest time, but I took care of that by picking up a used one for a song (and $29) at a San Bernardino thrift store. It’s a beauty – a Weber, black as coal, lightly used and a practical size at 18 inches in diameter.

Sunday morning, I hit Walmart to purchase charcoal and lighter fluid and some chicken to throw on the grill. It went nicely with some sausages from Costco and mussels and milk fish from Seafood City.

Ripping open that bag of charcoal, dousing the wood chips with lighter fluid and lighting that thing up – it transported me back to barbecues past. I recalled pleasant Sundays up in Watsonville with the late Mark Ruso, a mountain of a guy with a fondness for holding court over a hot grill with a cold drink in his hand.

Mark, a Slavonian-American, would tell me how flank steak used to be so lowly regarded by butchers up north that it was practically given away; and how tri-tip was the focus at so many benefit events that locals took to calling them “baseball steaks.”

Sunday though it was CalTrans Girl riding shotgun. As opposed to Mark, she did not pound vodka tonics during food preparation and instead scrutinized my every move.

‘You’re very excited, aren’t you?” she said early in the process. Then, “you’re not turning the chicken enough” and “don’t touch the fish until I get back – it’s going to break if you do.”

I paid little mind. It was a perfect summer day as La Canada’s Collin Morikawa wrapped up the PGA golf title on TV and our barbecue sizzled. The only protest came from the poor milk fish with its one eye exposed, staring up at me and seeming to say, “What did I do to deserve this?”

Finally, I couldn’t resist the delicious aroma anymore and stuck a fork in a sausage and rescued it from the fire. Taking a nibble I relished the taste and said, “Ahhhh, we’re geniuses, aren’t we?”

“Yes, I am,” CalTrans Girl said. “And you should have bought corn.”

I get no respect, I tell ya. No respect.

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No mas

Lou Diamond Phillips played the late Mexican-American rocker Ritchie Valens admirably.

By John Murphy

Being the type of insomniac who awakens in the middle of the night and then often doesn’t go back to sleep has its disadvantages.  

This is especially true when a neighbor is hosting a free concert for the neighborhood from inside his giant pick-up truck or from the back of a Winnebago parked in a backyard.

The former happens occasionally at the house across the street. The place is owned by an old man who has maybe a grandson who owns this humongous pick-up truck. Occasionally the grandson will drive home from godknowswhere at 3 a.m. and listen to deafening music inside the cab of his truck. The tunes reverberate around the corner where we live. He actually has decent musical taste — Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top. Good stuff, it’s just the timing is off.   

Last night the offender was the hombre in the Winnebago. He is a relative of a neighbor who lives behind us. There is an empty lot between the properties and this is where he hangs out in his huge vehicle, drinking cervezas and playing loud Mexican music.

Did you see the 1987 movie “La Bamba” about the late Mexican-American rock ‘n’ roll star Ritchie Valens? It’s a gem and received dandy reviews from Siskel and Ebert, I understand. At one point in the movie Ritchie’s reprobate brother Bob takes him to Tijuana to a whore house where loud Mexican music plays all night. This is what our backyard sounds like right now.

Well, I’m not totally unsympathetic. Back in the 1980s when I lived in Watsonville such music was common. I had a Slavonian friend, Mark Ruso, who stood 6-foot-3 and weighed about 250 pounds. We’d ride beach cruisers from my house on Bridge Street down to the little Mexican bars on the south end of Main Street. Lively Mexican music poured out of the speakers of those cantinas and the field workers celebrating payday had a grand time. They’d drink Budweisers and tequila and occasionally buy a shot for the big gringo visitors (us). It was all good.

But these impromptu concertos in the middle of the night here in Highland? No es Bueno. It’s 1 a.m. now and I have to be at work in seven hours helping ready a public school for distance learning. So I need less musica and mas silencio. Por favor! Gracias, mi amigos.   

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Grooming counts

Needing a haircut this week I called upon the left-hander, the CalTrans Girl.

By John Murphy

School for me starts today. Fontana students don’t begin distance learning until Aug. 24, but I’m on campus at 8 a.m. sharp. I need to look good … or at least my best.   

So I asked the CalTrans Girl to give me a haircut. Make me beautiful. Or better, anyway.  

To do so would take the finest equipment. So CT Girl pulled out a 10-year-old Remington electric razor, last used on her deceased dog, Bert.  

“Is your hair wet,” CT Girl said as I plopped down on a kitchen chair.

“Is it supposed to be wet?” I asked.

“No, I don’t want it sticky,” she said.  

I took notes and was snapping photos with my Smart phone while she toiled, much to her dismay.  

Brrrrr, brrrrr, brrrrr the razor hummed. Six weeks of growth cascaded to the floor.   

“What are your qualifications?” I asked.

“Nothing,” CT Girl said. “This is an experiment.”

Momentarily taken aback, I rebounded quickly.

“What gives you such confidence?” I said.   

 “Because you will not break up with me even if I do a bad job,” she said.  

Brrrrr, brrrrr, brrrrr. My better half went about her business. Between our crack air conditioner and my falling locks, my dome was feeling very cool indeed.

“How will I look when this is done?” I offered.

“You look old without a haircut,” she said.

“Like I’m 41?” I said.

“M-hmm,” she responded, trying her best to ignore me.

I don’t have that much hair to begin with and the pile on the ground was deepening.

“How am I looking?,” I said, bracing for another barb.   

“Bald, what else,” she said.

I asked a succession of even stupider questions and received equally succinct and humbling answers. I won’t include all the exchanges because I know my readers don’t have unlimited time.

Finally, I said, “What kind of blog do you think this will make? Will it be interesting?”  

The CalTrans Girl paused. Then she laughed.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Nobody will read it.”

Ouch. She’s blunt, but accurate. Pretty handy with a razor, too.  

Thanks to the CalTrans Girl I headed to school this morning looking my best.
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Return to the Historic District

This pink Queen Anne-style cottage is the highlight of East Main Street.

By John Murphy

Monday was unusual in Highland as a cloud of brownish-orange smoke from the Apple Fire in Cherry Valley appeared. It drifted over the mountains in East Highland.

I crossed Base Line Street and photographed the plume from the middle of the Smart & Final parking lot. Then I headed for my favorite part of Highland, the Historic District.

I entered from Church Street and hiked along pock-marked Pacific Street toward the old Sunkist building. It’s the last of the many packing-shed buildings that dotted the area. I took a few photos of it and one of a guy running with his dog, just for the heck of it.

The historic district has a mix of impressive homes and modest cottages. Back in the old days the wealthy citrus growers lived in the mansions and the citrus workers in the cottages. Funny how that works.

I then took a left on Palm and found the Bella-Highland Cafe & Bar, better known to locals as “The Belle.” The place has always fascinated.

The sign says Bella-Highland Cafe and Bar, but locals call it The Belle.

The Belle is closed now due to COVID-19, but it’s normally open and the last I knew was run by a vivacious woman named Martha. Peer inside and you’ll see a U-shaped bar where locals normally gather.

The Belle has a Facebook page and I perused it. It includes an entry from one Mick Beeson of Yountville. Mick grew up nearby at 27164 Pacific Avenue. He recalled his youth, scurrying around The Belle’s rooftop with his little playmates — much to the chagrin of its grumpy owner, Fuzzy Lawson.

Beeson later became a janitor at The Belle which was then owned by a chap named Steve. Well, ol’ Mick buys and customizes a 1955 Pontiac Chieftain, drives it for three months and then rolls it on the way back from a party in Redlands. He was driving 100 mph, took out 600 feet of fence and emerged with only a scratch!

So Mick hitch-hikes to The Belle where Steve is working. The proprietor wisely urges Mick to call the cops, then pours coffee down him for two hours until the gendarmes finally arrive.  

Said Mick, “I make the mistake of admitting I had ‘one’ beer before I assaulted the highway fence. Triple-A cancels my insurance, but at least I am not charged with a DUI. Will always appreciate Steve’s fatherly support that night. I was 24 but still had a lot of growing up to do.”

Leaving the Belle, I took a left on Main Street and saw the Gleason, an old boarding house established in 1890. It’s an apartment building now. Then I spied a long row of small cottages where, as I said, citrus workers of yore lived.

The old Sunkist/Highland Orange Growers Association building doesn’t process citrus anymore, but still stands.

After that I looped around to East Main Street which also features an array of homes. My favorite is a pink Queen Anne-style cottage toward the end of the street.

Eventually I wound up behind the shuttered Messiah Lutheran Church, one of four churches in the district. I found an opening in the fence behind the church and strode right across its campus. Then, glancing to my left, I saw a battered metal basketball backboard with its hoop missing. Decorating it was the Bible verse John 3:16, along with WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) and a caricature of a hand shooting a ball.

I loved this scene and snapped more photos while I heard a Chris Stapleton song pouring through by earbuds:

“Angels come down from the heavens

Just to help us on our way

Come to teach us, then they leave us

And then find some other soul to save.”

Whoa, what did all this mean — this shuttered church, its basket with Bible verse and a soulful song of redemption? Nothing, I decided. Just a coincidence. Plus, my pen was running out of ink, so I left the Historic District and headed home.

This backboard at the shuttered Messiah Lutheran Church is well-adorned.

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‘License and registration, please’

The last thing you want to see are those bright lights in your rear-view mirror.

By John Murphy

The year 1995 was eventful. Forrest Gump won the Academy Award for best picture, the San Francisco 49ers became the first team to win five Super Bowls and OJ Simpson was found not guilty of double murder for the deaths of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.  

Not faring so well in the court room that year was me. I was working for the Victor Valley Daily Press and, while embarking on a brief vacation to the Bay Area, was pulled over for traveling 30 mph over the speed limit (allegedly) in Lancaster.

“License and registration, please,” the California Highway Patrolman said from behind his aviator sunglasses. After examining the documents, he said, “I clocked you at 85 mph as you passed that Suburban. We don’t let people to drive that fast down here.”

“Down here?” Obviously, I was the victim of an anti-Northern California bias. Anyway, I soon found myself in a courtroom in the sweltering desert city of Lancaster. Although not exonerated, I had my fine halved by a merciful judge, then described my experience in a light-hearted Daily Press column.

My effort found its way to my former co-worker at the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, Bill Akers. Akers, during the 1980s, was a cigarette-smoking editor (he lit up in the newsroom) who wrote a popular Saturday column. He also tackled crossword puzzles at his desk during lunch and amused us with his knowledge of obscure words — some of which we appropriated.

Akers, after reading my column, mailed me this letter and it’s a gem. Enjoy:

Dear John,  

It was heartwarming to learn that some of the culture you were exposed to in the Pajaronian newsroom has stayed with you. Although you are long removed from the Pajaro Valley in time and distance, you are still able to write a column using such words as bemusement, incarcerated, incongruous, reprobate and ne’er-do-well.

Lane Wallace sent me a copy of your column as proof that our efforts to civilize the sports department back then were not totally in vain.

Further proof that you have the makings of a gentleman was that you appeared in court “nattily attired,” although you failed to mention a necktie. You did wear a necktie, didn’t you?

I would suggest you look to OJ Simpson as an example of what a tailored suit, clean shirt and tasteful necktie can do for one’s image. However, when I suggest him as a role model I am speaking only sartorially; I do not necessarily endorse his method of solving domestic disputes.

It was a little disturbing to note that you still have some of the scofflaw in you. This was evident in your pique at having been ticketed for doing 85 in a 55 mph zone. Seventy-five, perhaps, but 85 was excessive. The constable did the only thing he could do.

And before you denigrate the costume of the lad in front of you in the courtroom, just think what you might have become had you not been surrounded by such splendid co-workers and friends in Watsonville.

A final admonition: Next time you get busted and are hauled into court, show some respect for the judge – a little groveling wouldn’t hurt; wear a necktie and use some big words. I have included a few such words in this letter in case you ever need them.

Your erstwhile co-journalist,

Bill Akers

Post-script: Bill Akers died in 2009 at 88. He retired from the newspaper business in 1983. After that he volunteered and, according to his obituary, drew with pastels and wrote poetry which, he said, “escaped being doggerel by the thinnest of margins.”

I looked up “doggerel” and it means “crude or irregularly worded verse.” It’s now a part of my vocabulary.

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La Jolla dreamin’

Ed McIntyre served up scrumptious meals and interesting tidbits about his historic B&B.

By John Murphy

Much as I just finished off the last crumbs of a slice of boysenberry pie from the Julian Pie Company, I will also describe the last vestiges of my recent La Jolla vacation.

The three-day stay with the CalTrans Girl at The Bed and Breakfast Inn at La Jolla was as pleasant as the weather was mild.  

Our B&B is at the old George Kautz House which was built in 1913. It sits next to the La Jolla Women’s Club (1914) and across the street from the La Jolla Recreation Center (1915). The women’s club and rec center were commissioned by the late Ellen Browning Scripps, a journalist and philanthropist who moved to La Jolla in 1896 and spent the final 35 years of her life there.  

Scripps, according to our host and B&B owner “Captain Ed” McIntyre, used to hang out at the Kautz House. So did famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Wright contemporary Irving Gill and Kate Sessions, a botanist, horticulturist and landscape architect who is known as the “Mother of Balboa Park.”

Captain Ed’s B&B is listed as a historic destination. Among those who have also slept there was the iconic John Philip Souza. Souza was an American composer and conductor known for his military marches who wrote “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “Semper Fidelis” and “The Washington Post,” among others.

Well, I banged out a few blogs while at the B&B but did not design any buildings nor compose any military marches. But we did enjoy the property’s peaceful gardens and Captain Ed’s tasty morning breakfasts.

Captain Ed is intriguing. Originally from San Jose, he was an elementary school teacher in Apple Valley before becoming a marriage and family counselor, a bed and breakfast owner, a sailor and a fine chef. Ed’s wife of 36 years, Laurel, is also a marriage and family counselor.

Every day we spent in La Jolla, our host prepared a breakfast of yogurt and fruit, quiche, asparagus, deviled eggs, cheesecake and coffee.

“Green eggs and ham?” Ed likes to say as he offers up a platter of deviled eggs. “Sam I am.”

It has been difficult weaning myself away from such a lifestyle and returning to the blast-furnace temperatures of the Inland Empire. But I do have most of a Julian pie purchased on the way out of town and wistful memories of the vacation that was to tide me over.

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Religious experience

Unlike the rest of La Jolla Village, a tour of Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church is free.

By John Murphy

Tuesday on our mini-vacation I ventured into La Jolla Village to check out the scene.

In my previous blog I described La Jolla as an “upscale Santa Cruz” and that’s not really true. Upon further review it’s fare more expensive and considerably less funky than the Surf City to the north.  

During my stroll around the village I managed to avoid the $9 waffle cone at a joint called “Oh Goodies” and a $41 leather lid at “Hats Unlimited” and found something decidedly less expensive … a church!  

Right there on the corner of Herschel and Kline is Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. The landmark was built in 1906 in a Spanish revivalist style and it was wide open, which stunned me. So I ventured in.  

Mary Star from the outside resembles a small mission with two stars adorning the front, a mission bell that really rings and a mural of the Virgin Mary, flanked by two angels. ‘

I walked in like I owned the place. The interior is egg-shell white with light brown pews and ancient wood beams across the ceiling. My first impression was favorable.     

I’m Catholic so all of this was familiar, but infinitely cooler.  There were ornate confessional boxes on either side of the entrance, beautiful stained-glass windows and fancy light fixtures. It was all incredibly tasteful.

Progressing to the front of the church I also saw votive candles to light for the prayerful, a white marble altar and a display in the corner honoring the Immaculate Conception.

I wandered around, respectfully taking a photo here and there. I reached another section of the church with a small tabernacle. By this point an elderly Latino man had wandered in and was deep in prayer. I tried not to disturb him. But it was also hard not to notice a stained-glass window of St. Patrick holding a clover in his hand with snakes cowering at his feet. As an Irish-American, I appreciated that.  

There is also a grade school in the vicinity. The Stella Maris Academy for grades K through 8 is adjacent to the church. I attended a Catholic grade school similar to this, so again I was in familiar territory.

Every Catholic grade school worth its salt, in my opinion, must have a blacktop with at least one basketball hoop. I found just that catty-corner from the church. But I didn’t have a basketball and folding chairs covered the court, so there was no shoot-around on this day.  

Finally, it was time to depart. But before I did, I saw a hand-written sign near the school auditorium that said, “We Are So Excited to Be Welcoming You Back to School. Open Safe, Open Strong, Aug. 19, 2020.

I’m sure that’s a sentiment, in these pandemic-marred days, we can all agree with.