JR's Corner Booth

Reflections Through a Glass of Beer

Written by James Puz

Clearman's wagon

I've stopped at this fine restaurant, one of the Valley's long-time favorites, for a tremendous luncheon feast of a generous portion of porterhouse steak (grilled to perfection!), an enormous baked potato with cheese butter (and sour cream and chives), rice pilaf and cheese bread. Believe It or Not (as Robert Ripley used to say), there's also a 25 oz. porterhouse (and a 25 oz.T-bone). I understand each of these steaks comes with a doggy bag! Of course, a draft Pabst goes right along with the meal. A couple of good friends of mine will be joining me shortly. Ah, here comes the beer to wet my whistle while I await my steak. Now, what's in store?

While growing up in the San Gabriel Valley (1955-62), my parents planted a lemon tree in the back yard. The tree eventually produced lemons that weighed-in at a nearly a pound...each. Family in the East wanted us to send them some but the cost was just too much. But it sure made great lemonade. Gave some to the neighbors, though.

authors card game

While my mom attended night classes to get her BA (to become a teacher), my dad and I would often play checkers, Catchword (a kind of Scrabble) and a geography game. We used cardboard "globes." Pieces with colorfully printed portions of the world were stapled together and lay flat but opened up to have four sides (They could stand up; looked like this +). They cost 5 cents at a local freight outlet store. Dad would give me the latitude and longitude and I would have to tell him what the points related to; country, city, ocean, etc.). I learned a lot!

authors card game

Around 1960, I was a Boy Scout. That lasted about one month. The troop went on Memorial Day weekend outing. It was damp and a bit rainy. We camped at Mt. San Antonia Junior College. Steve, from across the street, was also a member. While I had only the official canteen and mess kit, Steve also had the shirt and tie. Anyway, While playing near a construction site, I ended up with sawdust in my eyes and nearly lost the sight in one of them. As to my food, which my mom had carefully packed for me for barbecuing and such, most of it was stolen (by the biggest bunch of pirates since Long John Silver!), while I lay miserable in our pup tent (my eyes closed because of the sawdust). All of the scouts' food, which was clearly labelled with each boy's name, had been kept in a "community" area. Trust was supposed to go a long way since this was a church-sponsored troop! Like I said, the biggest bunch of pirates. I quit the scout right after this, Steve a short time later.

authors card game

Here come my friends, Chuck Martin and P.T. Moore. These two fun-loving pilots own and operate "Whirlybirds, Incorporated," a helicopter service. They called in their order, so it will be at the table shortly. Now, to continue

Summer vacation when I was in grade school and junior high was spent outside. The kids in my neighborhood (like most neighborhoods then) made their own entertainment. Two of our favorite pastimes was playing Monopoly and Authors under the big elm tree in our back yard. There we would be, Mike, Steve, Bobby, Gary, Kenny and yours truly... or any combination of names, on any given afternoon. We would literally play these games for hours at a time!

authors card game

During the summer of 1965 or 1966, we experienced an earthquake that softly rolled through portions of the San Gabriel Valley one weekend afternoon. My folks were visiting friends. I was sitting on the livingroom sofa at the time, watching TV. The sofa seemed to ride ever-so-gently on one continuous wave. I seemed to undulate up and down on that wave. There was nothing threatening or fearsome; just that shallow up and down movement. The whole thing couldn't have lasted a more than minute or two. When my dad stopped at the small local bodega near us, he said the staff was fearful that the liquor and wine shelves would fall. They'd stood in front of the bottles, pushing back on the shelves, to steady them. There was no damage, however. The quake was felt where my folks were visiting in another part of the valley. Well, that it's it for now. The three of us will finish out lunches, chew the fat for a while over another beer before heading out. Until next time, vaya con Dios

Reflections Through a Glass of Beer

Written by James Puz

El Patio

It's a beautiful, warm evening and I've stopped here at the El Patio, a fine Mexican restaurant, nestled in a quiet residential section of town. John and Mary have owned the restaurant for many years. Even the employees have been around for as long as I can remember, so that says something of their "bosses." Today, for dinner, I'm having one of my favorites: two mouth watering,shredded beef tacos, one chicken and one shredded beef enchilada, along with generous sides of rice (arroz) and beans (frijoles), plus a large bowl of guacamole.The meals always arrive at your table piping hot, the beans with grated cheese literally bubbling! A Pabst (or maybe two) will round out the meal. While I wait for my dinner, I'll sip on the ice cold Pabst the cheerful waitress just brought me and relate to you my newest Reflection.

bicycle with riser handlebars and streamers

I'm pretty sure many of you, (unless you just moved here from another planet) have seen boys and girls (and sometimes older versions of them) riding small and brightly painted bicycles with riser (butterfly) handlebars, polo (banana) seats and colorful grip streamers fluttering in the wind. You've also reasoned this type of kiddie transportation has been around for some time. Well it has been...but even longer than you think. Schwinn introduced the Sting-Ray (pictured here) in 1963, complete with the banana seat, high-rise handlebars and streamers. However, it really appeared in concept and actuality a few years before that. Back around 1960 or '61, when we were 13 or 14, Kenny J. (an Arkansas boy who lived the next street up) and I customized our old bikes into "Souped-up Street Rods." 'Customize' was a big deal back then because of all the model cars kits available, especially the AMT 3-1 kits. We thoroughly washed the bikes down and polished the 12 or 14 inch rims and spokes the best we could to bring out the shiny chrome. Kenny's came out better then mine which still showed more rust spots than I cared for but that's life. Fenders were discarded. My Roadmaster (which I got in '52 or '53), had a 'tank' (which hid the horizontal portions of the frame located between your legs), so it had to go, as did the rear seat. Model car kit Next, we painted them, mine getting a light blue enamel job while Kenny did his up in glossy black enamel. Later, with all of the shiny chrome, his looked like a bicycle version of the above "Black Widow" model car kit! With money from our allowances and a little from generous parents, both projects got the full treatment, with a white polo seat and riser handlebars attached to a 12- inch goose neck to really set off the whole creation. Picture the above Sting-Ray in the colors we used and the 12-inch goose neck and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Kenny and I created. We had a blast with our "new" bikes! So, you see, a current 'old' idea is a bit older than one would think. Even King Solomon had words for it: "There's nothing new under the sun." In reality then, Kenny and I pioneered the whole idea...at least in our neighborhood! On a closing note, here's a haunting melody right out of 1961. It's Neil Levang's "Ghost Riders" on the Lawrence Welk Show. Click on the link for some really outstanding music. It still sends chills though me!

scene from the movie Magnificent Seven

Is America as Civilized as we think?

Written by James Puz

There's a classic scene in The Magnificent Seven (1960) where two salesmen are trying to persuade an undertaker to carry out a funeral one of them's paid for. The deceased had dropped dead in the street and for two hours nobody had paid any attention. The undertaker is refusing to complete the transaction and offers to return the $20, saying "...there's an element in town that objects.

The second salesman asks, "Objects...to what?"

The undertaker replies, "They say he isn't fit to be buried there."

The first salesman exclaims, "What, in Boot Hill?!", whereby the second salesman (who's footing the bill) interjects, "There's nothing up there but murderers, cutthroats and derelict old barflies. And if they ever felt exclusive, brother, they're past it now."

The undertaker replies, somewhat sadly, "They happen to be white, friend, and Old Sam...Old Sam was an Indian."

The second salesman huffs in disbelief, then says, "...I never knew you had to be anything but a corpse to get into Boot Hill. How long's this been goin' on?"

Smiling sheepishly, the undertaker replies, "Since the town got civilized."

"We the people" of the United States have our own "...element in town that objects" and its membership is growing at an alarming rate. Perhaps the "good people" within our national community should reassess their views regarding what's considered "civilized" because of late, given the current political climate within this nation, we Americans don't have much to brag about on that score. Maybe that's one big reason why the world doesn't look up to us like it used to; we don't deserve it.

Reflections Through a Glass of Beer

Written by James Puz

steak and egg breakfast

Today I'm at Norm's Restaurant with a breakfast wonderfully tailored with a juicy grilled steak, smothered in onions, 2 eggs over easy, hash browns, rye toast and excellent coffee (no beer). Now, let's see what's up.

I'm sure you've seen those ads and various TV shows that promote clothing lines with the names of celebrities stitched on. They're nothing new. I remember long ago pro golfers and late-night talk show hosts hawking their "exclusive" duds. But aside from the name that increases the price outlandishly, isn't a pair of pants or a blouse or shoes or a blazer just that? Even underwear gets pitched! You wear them like any other clothing item. Who cares what name's on it (or in it)? Besides, that famous person didn't actually sat down to design the item, let alone sew it together. They just gave the okay to use their name. And THAT is what makes the line famous and best-selling. And, oh, many clothes like that are made in low-paying sweatshops! Big name, high price but hardly high-end quality. Whoopee! If you have more $$$$ than brains, be my guest. The rich get richer and the dopes of the world get dumber...everyday.

Back in the old days, there was the DWI (driving while intoxicated)...period. Then some states came up with the new and improved DUI (driving under the influence) label. Now, I've seen the OWI (operating while intoxicated...could there be more in the works?). For crying out loud states, settle on a term all ready! You don't need a fancy (or fancier or more politically correct) term for it. Drunk driving is drunk driving, whether you're intoxicated or under the influence! Drunk is drunk! There's no need to embroider it. How about DWB: driving while bombed?!

Years ago, various liquids for supplements were created specifically for the elderly or those who were terribly ill, like with cancer. These individuals weren't getting the nutrition they required because they often lacked any real appetite. Hence, high caloric, vitamin/mineral and protein drinks. Now, they are being hawked for those who haven't the time to wolf down even a tuna fish sandwich, potato chips and a container of milk! Gimme a break! Nobody should be in that big a hurry! Take your time! Have a meal (relaxing or not) but have some sort of a meal. Liquid nutrition...if you're healthy?! No way. One of our dogs years back was terribly sick and we tried one of those liquid supplements that humans always seem to enjoy. Our dog turned her nose up at it! Tell you something?

This is a true story. Some years ago I was working in an Army hospital. Patients were added to computer systems using the sponsor's (active duty or retired) Social Security Number and a family code. One day, a wife came to the window, giving us all of the correct info. HOWEVER, the system indicated there was a wife already using that SSN and spousal code. A check with Records indicated that there was, indeed, a previous wife (divorced). The soldier had to leave work to explain everything! The second wife knew nothing about the first one until that day! You could cut the anger/embarrassment (her) and embarrassment (him) with a knife. We all tried to imagine what the night had to offer that poor, lowly soldier!

Well, that's all for now ladies and gentlemen. My friend Jim Gillis, retired Cunningham Aircraft employee, just arrived. He's in town for a few days, so we thought we'd catch up on family news and such. So, 'til next time, vaya con Dios.

Reflections Through a Glass of Beer

Written by James Puz

Hot dog topped with chili and onions

For lunch today, I've stopped by "The Hat," a cozy, little bar and grill here in the valley, widely known for its all-beef chili dogs. Krekor "Mike" Ohanian, the owner, guarantees the chili is from-scratch, homemade! With two dogs, I have one with onions, the other topped with shredded cheddar cheese.To accompany this excellent lunch there's a generous order of french fries and the first of two, tall, cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beers, right from the tap. While biting into the first juicy dog (with numerous napkins at hand), I wave at Windy Halliday who's just popped in for lunch, motioning for him to join me. So, here's what comes to mind this noon hour.

A box of Sees Candies

Families have generally had their traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mine was no exception. During the 50's and 60's, certain foods and goodies were a given. Our home always had a box of See's Candy (two layers) and a can of Almond Roca. Homemade nut roll pastry (my dad and I helped by cracking the walnuts, then grinding them up), anisette cookies and Marie Callender pies from the local shop (before she went into the grocery stores). Homemade stuffing was THE rule. By hand, my dad cut slices of dried bread into crouton-like cubes while my mom got everything else ready for the stuffing, chopping celery, onions and giblets, along with a myriad of other activities needed for preparing and cooking a sumptuous holiday dinner. This was all topped off with a free...yes, free turkey, from the company my dad worked for. It might be one or two turkeys for the holidays but never less then one. And large! The company appreciated the employees and they, in turn, felt valued. Yes, those were the days!

Magnolia School

I'm sure most everyone can remember many of the teachers they had while growing up. For me, from the 2nd through 8th grade (1955-62), they were all worth remembering for one reason or another. However, my 6th grade teacher at Magnolia Elementary School (1959-60), Mrs. Randall, is especially memorable. She was a divorcee' and drove a white Ford Thunderbird, her "Thumperbird" as she called it. Mrs. Randall was strict but not unfair; if you got into trouble, it was your fault. When angry, she could raise one eyebrow. ..then watch out! Her 18 inch ruler saw ample usage, with many-a-hand (boys usually) stung by its force, yours truly, included. One day, out-of-the-blue,a splintered yard stick on MY desk got the class to stop snickering when it was supposed to be doing school work! At dodge ball, Mrs. R. was unmatched. The kids inside the large circle NEVER knew when she would release the ball; all were fair game. When it came time to choose teams for softball, everyone wanted Mrs. Randall on their team. Being a bit rotund, Mrs. R. was never able to run base paths. However, all of the girls begged her to allow one of them to run for her. Mrs. Randall was an excellent teacher, fair and her students respected her (some might say feared her!). But with that respect, came a bond between teacher and students and every one of Mrs. Randall's students wanted HER on their team. I'll bet that kind of student admiration is pretty hard to find today.

All photos public domain