Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I knew Jack Benny was in Cucamonga

David Allen blogged about a Jack Benny visit to Etiwanda in 1966 or 1967. But in case you didn't realize why a Jack Benny visit to Etiwanda was significant, Allen explained the importance of this:

Jack Benny's radio show made Cucamonga famous as part of the train station announcer's cry, "Train leaving on Track 5 for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuuuucamonga!" Supposedly -- according to an article on an Anaheim history website -- this line was first heard on his Jan. 7, 1945 broadcast and it became a running gag, continuing when Benny transitioned to TV.

Allen knows of no Benny visit to Cucamonga, but he received information about a visit to nearby Etiwanda:

The accompanying photo [in Allen's blog] was taken in either 1966 or 1967 at the Regina Winery. Gino Filippi, who sent it to me, said it was given to him by Mr. C. Boesen of Alta Loma. "The white-haired man opposite Mr. Benny is Tip Brown, GM of the Regina Grape Products Company. I think the event was a promotional event for the grand opening of the Regina Winery Restaurant, 'California's first winery restaurant.' "

Of course, anyone who has ever seen a professional baseball game in Rancho Cucamonga knows that Jack Benny is ALWAYS there.

The [Jack Benny] skit helped put this sleepy winery town, along Foothill Boulevard (Route 66) just west of San Bernardino, on the map. In tribute, when they built [the Epicenter] ballpark just off Interstate 15, it landed at the corner of Jack Benny Boulevard and Rochester Avenue, and they placed a statue of Benny and his violin in the foyer. (The park’s stated capacity of 6615 might pay tribute to the highway numbers, or it might be coincidental.)

It should be noted that the "Rochester" in Rochester Avenue existed long before Benny did his radio and television shows; the Rochester Water Company was incorporated in 1889 by at least one of the Smith Brothers:

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Rochester, Pennsylvania

The Smith Brothers, from Rochester, Pennsylvania, came to the Cucamonga area and began purchasing land in 1886. The property was in the area of what is now Rochester and Eighth Street. A hotel, land office, general store, and post office were established all in one building. They hoped to build a dream city and many acres were sold to settlers from the East. A school was constructed inn 1891.

Although successful for a couple of years, the town of Rochester became involved in litigation with the Etiwanda Water Company over water sources. In 1894 they lost their suit in court. The colony died after a severe drought in 1898-1899. People began to leave the area, and by 1911 the post office was closed. The Rochester Water Company moved its headquarters to Los Angeles that year.

When the Rochester Water Company moved out of the Etiwanda area, Eddie Anderson was only 6 years old.

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