Richard Beene

Sunday, Feb 23 2014 08:00 PM

BAKERSFIELD OBSERVED: A blog about life, media, politics and people

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    Bakersfield Californian CEO Richard Beene.

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By Richard Beene

Ouch: A reader took me to the woodshed recently for promoting a fundraiser where tickets cost $75 each. Said Alvin Gregorio: "Do you have any idea how much money that is for the average person, the non-notables, non-VIPS, non-Bakersfield family-heritage elite?" He went on to describe this blog as elitist and said he might join me at the Padre bar, but only if we order "non-notable" wine. Thanks for the note, Alvin, and I can now scratch being an "elitist" off my bucket list. And by the way, if you'd like to join me at the Padre, please bring your list of non-elitist topics that you find suitable for this forum.

Eateries: Downtown Bakersfield's arts district will soon get two new restaurants. One will go into the space formerly occupied by The Foundry on 19th Street (right next to The Metro Galleries). It will be named "InBread." The other, called "Crash," will go into the building previously occupied by the failed cooking studio Sustenance 101. That is on Eye Street next to the Caribbean-themed eatery Mama Roomba.

Tunnels: I am enjoying the feedback from readers about the old Chinese-made tunnels that exist under parts of downtown. Jim Murray, 92, remembers visiting the tunnels as a teenager when a Chinese friend took him down. "Right near Mexicali is where there were four Chinese restaurants" with tunnels underneath, he said. "They smoked opium down there and if you wanted to gamble, that's where you went." Murray remembers the Chinese community well, noting that "they were wonderful people and we never had one bit of trouble in the area." Murray will join me on "First Look with Scott Cox" on Tuesday at 9 a.m. on NewsTalk KERN 1180 and broadcast live on bakersfield.com.

More tunnels: Added Bryan Kelley: "The building at 21st and L streets (used to be a Leslie's pool supply -- might still be) has an entrance to the tunnels in the basement. In the 1970s it was loosely boarded closed, but you could see through the cracks. A friend who worked there showed me this one night after closing and some of the boards just accidentally came off. We just happened to have strong flashlights (imagine that). I went some 20 feet into the tunnel before claustrophobia reared its ugly head. One path kept going straight and one veered to the right (south) and i could see where there were two others, one going west and another headed back east. There were also a couple of 'cubby holes' in the walls, supposedly where one could sleep. I also have a friend who, as a little girl (late 1930s-early 1940s), was sent into the tunnels to find her father and bring him home. Men would meet down there to drink and gamble. She and her family are still alive today and somewhat prominent, so I don't think she would appreciate the family's name in your column."

Memories: Edith Lyons called to remind me that when Valley Plaza first opened there was a Swenson's ice cream shop near the Brock's department store. She said there were two others, one in Taft and the other in the Hillcrest area.

Richard Beene is president and CEO of The Bakersfield Californian. He blogs at www.bakersfieldobserved.com. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at rsbeene@yahoo.com.

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