MOSQUITOES

When was the last time you had to deal with mosquitoes in Bakersfield? It's likely been a while, but the tiny pests are back — along with any number of bugs and critters — thanks to our record winter rains. My friend Harry Starkey, manager of the West Kern Water District, said we all can expect an explosion of bugs, snakes and other assorted insects and small animals thanks to the massive plant growth that provides a fresh source of food for all kinds of bugs and animals.

FREEMAN

The endorsements for Bruce Freeman in the Ward 5 City Council race are piling up. The former Castle and Cooke CEO has won support from homebuilder Matt Towery, Supervisor Zack Scrivner, Mercy Hospital president Bruce Peters, Taft businessman Bruce Hampton, former assemblywoman Shannon Grove and the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee. Meanwhile, his primary opponent, Ryan Nance, counts the Bakersfield Police Officers Association among those who have endorsed him.

NEW BUSINESS

Congratulations to Katie and Nick Panici, who have opened a salon and boutique named Campici at the corner of 19th and F streets in the old Green Thumb space. Some 200 people showed up for an open house last Sunday. Katie is the daughter of Clayton Camp of Kern Machinery.

PARISH BBQ

Make sure you calendar Thursday, May 25, for a new barbecue to raise money for the youth ministry at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. Master griller Gary Icardo and Deborah Leary are joining Monsignor Perry Kavookjian to host the event, featuring the traditional Icardo Harris Ranch New York steak or teriyaki chicken along with Casa Munoz beans, Pyrenees rolls, Dewar's ice cream and salad. Tickets are $30 and available at the church office or at the door. Doors open at 5 p.m.

SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK

"Teach your kids about taxes. Eat 30 percent of their ice cream."

MYSTERY

There was a lot of feedback from folks remembering the mountain lion that once lived in the penthouse of the high rise at Oak and 21st streets. This one, from Allyson Livesay, puts the mystery to rest. "I work for Mr. James R. Smeed, and Mrs. Claire J. Smeed, owners of the Oak Park Tower. Mr. Smeed owned 'Marusa' the mountain lion referred to in the article. So there you go!

"The name 'Marusa' was pronounced 'Marusha.' Mr. Smeed has a photo hanging in his office of himself sitting at the desk, with the mountain lion sitting next to his desk with its paws on the desk. Mr. Smeed is an avid animal lover and supports several wildlife causes. He was tickled to see the article in the paper."

MOUNTAIN LION

And Ty Bryson added this: "My grandather managed the Oak Park Tower early on when it was initially owned by Gene 'Old Man' Reed and later his son Bud Reed. My grandparents lived in a modest caretaker home situated in the northeast corner of the property. At that time, the building was managed and marketed as luxury apartments. The Reeds lived in the penthouse. Pretty swanky digs for Bakersfield at the time.

"I spent many a weekend and summer roaming the property as a child, when I visited my grandparents. It had a great swimming pool and spa that provided great fun during the hot summers ... The Reed family sold the building to J. R. Smeed, who converted the apartments into spaces that were marketed for business uses, but continued to maintain the penthouse as his family's personal residence. J.R. had a pet mountain lion that he kept up there in the penthouse. She was known for walking on the thin railing that enclosed the top of the building. That was often a traffic stopper for Oak Street travelers ...

"I remember going up to the penthouse and playing with Marusa many times, but one time in particular stands out. I was a young boy and was very impressed with the big cat. We were all outside on the penthouse patio area and I was playing with Marusa. However, when the group moved indoors, Marusa wasn't quite done playing with me and she firmly grabbed my skinny little wrist in her jaws and pulled me back, away from the door. It scared me and Mr. Smeed had to intervene. No harm done, but I can still see my wrist in that lion's mouth! Marusa, more than a few times, made the long plunge to earth from that penthouse and went roaming into Westchester and the surrounding area. Those instances made quite a stir."

Email contributing columnist Richard Beene at rsbeene@yahoo.com. His work appears here on Wednesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own. Read more on his blog at BakersfieldObserved.com.

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