Robert Price

Friday, Feb 10 2006 01:32 PM

Time is right for yearlong fete at Beale

By Robert Price

Happy birthday to Bakersfield's Beale Memorial Clock Tower, which opened 100 years ago this month. It's not exactly the same tower that Truxtun Beale built to honor his mother in 1904 and it's not in the same spot, but let's not sweat details.

The Moorish-style original -- a 64-foot traffic hazard that stood in the middle of the intersection of 17th Street and Chester Avenue -- was irreparably damaged in the 1952 earthquake. A brick-for-brick replica, built a mile-and-a-half north of the first site in front of the Kern County Museum, was completed in 1964 using the tower's original bell and clockworks.

The Beale Clock Tower was sort of a city trademark throughout the first half of the 20th century. The museum folks would like to make it so once again.

Museum Director Carola Enriquez says the museum will be celebrating the tower's centennial all year long with a line of souvenirs and a late-autumn exhibit featuring old timepieces.

"There's actually a demand for Bakersfield souvenirs among people who travel around collecting such things," Enriquez says.

"People don't realize there are tourists flocking past here on Highway 99 all the time and we've just got to get them to stop," she says.

She hopes some of those passers-through will want to snatch up posters, magnets and tote bags portraying the distinctive tower.

Look, too, for a birthday party in the fall, followed by "Nick of Time," a museum exhibit featuring old clocks and watches, set to run from Nov. 20 to Jan. 2.

The museum's front-door makeover may be complete by then. Renovation work is already under way on the well-worn Lori Brock Children's Museum, and the entire property's chain-link fencing is gradually being replaced by a more stately wrought iron.

The chain-link look, Enriquez says, might have had people wondering whether the museum was trying to "keep the visitors out or the artifacts in." She hopes the new wrought iron clears that up.

Fox hunt:Downtown Bakersfield's Fox Theater may eventually have some retail tenants in those long-empty storefronts along H Street.

The Wine Seller restaurant/wine bar was set to move in about two years ago, but the deal fell through. Now the available space has been divvied into three retail units, and the Fox Foundation board is accepting letters-of-intent from prospective renters interested in filling them, according to Lisa Garzelli, executive director of the community-owned landmark.

One unidentified, almost-firm tenant, possibly a coffeehouse, will occupy a 600-square-foot space. The other two spaces, one about 600 square feet, the other approximately 300, are still up for grabs.

For details, call Garzelli at 324-1369.

But they're still soggy in milk:Bessie Owens Primary kindergarten teacher Joyce Victor reports that her school's boxtop "buddy" connection is still paying dividends.

Students from Leo B. Hart School have given their pals at Owens Primary 4,800 General Mills boxtops to send in with their own collected boxtops, bringing the central Bakersfield school's spring earnings to $1,060. All together, Owens School has earned $1,774 from the program (www.boxtops4education.com). Victor says Owens officials will use the money to build an outdoor reading area for students.

More from the Pothole-Filler-in-Chief: Remember President Bush's joking reference last month to Bakersfield's potholes? Dana Milbank, who writes the Washington Post'sWhite House Notebook, reports that W.'s infatuation with city streets continues.

In a column last week, Milbank noted that Bush has now referenced the word "potholes" about 30 times in presidential speeches. Most recently, two weeks ago, Bush advised Appleton, Wis., Mayor Tim Hanna to "fill the potholes and empty the garbage (and) all will be well." He gave Bakersfield's Harvey Hall similar instructions on March 4.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony A. Williams has publicly received presidential advice on potholes no fewer than four times, according to Milbank.

Think he still manages to laugh every time?

Back to birthdays: Bakersfield's Downtown Business Association will celebrate 50 years of existence on April 23 with a fund-raiser at Junior League headquarters.

The DBA will use the event to establish a hall of fame and raise money to put white lights in all of the trees downtown.

For details, call the DBA's Cathy Butler at 325-5892.

Robert Price's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 395-7399 or rprice@bakersfield.com.

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