Sandy James sent a note — handwritten, in cursive — about the joys of east Bakersfield. Her theme was that east Bakersfield has gotten short shrift lately as the town spins south and north.

“We have great residents like the lady who provides monthly home-cooked dinners to seniors. We have service groups who aid various charities,” James writes.

“It is true we lack the luster of Rosedale Highway and the new expressways, but we have Basque restaurants, Spencer’s Cafe, Cindy’s and a great mariachi band at College Heights School. Soon we will have a Smart & Final.”

Time to turn our heads east, which we may not do often enough because east Bakersfield is humble and doesn’t call attention to itself. East Bakersfield was a brand before people went cuckoo about brands.

Hard to know where to start. How about hills? Hills give towns texture and their own microclimate, which in parts of east Bakersfield is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Walkers by the hundreds use the path along Panorama daily. See all the cars parked on Panorama? One of those could be yours if you wanted to give east Bakersfield a chance and enjoy the view of the Tehachapis to the east, the Temblor Range to the west and the oil fields to the north, lest you forget where you are.

Neighborhoods? East Bakersfield has them — La Cresta, Alta Vista, Country Club, the area around East High.

Take note of Bakersfield College, the historical home of higher education in Bakersfield, also known as Harvard on the Hill.

Restaurants? Yes, sir. The Noriega Hotel, Luigi’s, Wool Growers, Arizona Cafe, Pyrenees Cafe and Red Pepper for openers.

Some of the best people in town come from east Bakersfield and often they stay there or they move back. East Bakersfield, if we forget about you, we shouldn’t, because you are near the heart of this town.

If you have some favorite things about east Bakersfield, email or write.


Ever-thoughtful Robert Tafoya wrote in regards to the column on Luis Aguilar, the longtime restaurant maestro who recently sold El Pueblo in Lamont after being in the business for more than 45 years.

“What impressed me most about Luis Aguilar was every Christmas Eve he would open his restaurant and feed the homeless,” Judge Tafoya wrote.

“They would be bused in from throughout Bakersfield. Folks would volunteer and he would keep his volunteers' margarita glasses filled throughout the day. He was homeless for awhile and never forgot his humble beginnings.”

Tafoya also mentioned that Jackie, Luis’ wife, is a dog whisperer who works for the SPCA training dogs and has cared for his dog for years.

“When Sandra and I leave 'Sirius' with them, she sleeps by their bed. They are animal lovers, which speaks volumes about their humanity.”


The Pie Run Thursday morning was the biggest I’ve seen. It seemed as if 500 people showed up in the dark at Hart Park to welcome Thanksgiving morning, get some exercise, say hello to old friends and this year to say goodbye to John Rous, one of the Pie Run’s founders. John was killed recently by a car while riding his bike.

David, John’s son, stood in the back of the truck and welcomed people on behalf of his father.

“He’s been practicing,” said his wife, Jenny, in response to the comment that David made it through without tearing up.

We will miss John’s smile. Welcome, humorous and full of life.


Wendall and Betsy Kinney recently celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary. Their daughter, Sara Pope, called with the good news.

Wendall, a crackerjack piano player once said, “I’d like to think my music is for people over 65 or people under 65 who have been brought up right.”

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

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