Reader: I know you are getting a lot of well-deserved compliments on your excellent Baker Street neighborhood article, as well as suggestions for places left out ("Where We Live: In Old Town Kern, renowned restaurants and pervasive homelessness are side by side," March 24). I have a couple of suggestions for places not mentioned.
LouElla's Children's Store on Baker across from Stinson's was a long-standing, much beloved shop for children's clothing. The quality of its merchandise was unmatched in Bakersfield, and the customer service the mother/ daughter owners provided was very special.
You mentioned St. Joseph's and Trinity Methodist as longtime churches on Baker; what is now Emmanuel Lutheran at 1900 Baker St. (just the next block down from what was the French Shop) was founded in 1948 as Messiah Lutheran Church. Since 2006, with Andrae Gonzales' founding of the East Bakersfield Faith Community Alliance — now Faith in Kern, our church has been very much involved in the life of our immediate surrounding neighborhood.
On another note, in the 1990s, an excellent planning charrette was held for the Baker Street corridor; it particularly stressed the intimate nature of the street — buildings with no setbacks; and the great opportunities afforded for first-floor commercial space and upper-floor residential space. The beauty and historic nature of several of the buildings was also noted as a great asset, as well as the area's walkability.
I sit on GEIHI, a nonprofit arm of the Housing Authority of Kern, and I am very proud of the part GEIHI played in making the handsome public housing complexes on Baker Street possible.
"Where We Live" is a great series; thank you so much for this series and for the terrific work you do every week for Sound Off.
— Kristie Coons
Price: Thanks, Kristie. I've never received so many "you left this out but good job anyway" comments about a project from readers as I've received on this Old Town Kern package. That's what happens when you try to tackle a neighborhood as rich with history, conflict and challenge as the Baker Street corridor.
Reader: I was reading the Old Town article and saw that Mr. Price pointed out that there were two theaters in the neighborhood, but in fact there were three theaters: There was the Tejon on Baker, the Granada on Kentucky and a Mexican theater called the Rialto. I thought I would correct that so Mr. Price can it out when he writes the article again.
— Joe Vargas
Price: Thanks, Joe. But do I really have to write the article again?
Reader: I liked your piece on Old Town Bakersfield. You have been taken to task for not including some locations. You mentioned two movie theaters but there were three, the Tejon, Granada and Rialto. For most of World War II, I lived across from the Granada. Their snack bar had a window to the street and you could walk up and get a Coke and popcorn.
Forgive me for this being so long, but as I write memories kick in. One more. I wish I had a history on the old Universal Hotel & Bar. I stayed there for a week in the summer when I was 10, 11 and 12 years old. I met a lot of interesting old Frenchmen there through my grandfather. Don't know how true this is but I was told it was the only place you could get wine with your dinner during Prohibition, served in a coffee cup. They said the chief of police and the county sheriff ate there quite often and always had "coffee" with their meals.
I guess you could say Old Town also had a darker side. Two bookie joints and two hotels which rented "occupied" rooms were also on Baker.
Again, I've enjoyed the article.
— Ronal Reynier
Price: Knowing what I know now about Bakersfield prior to 1960 — heck, prior to 1990 — I have no doubt there is something to those rumors about the Universal Hotel & Bar's "coffee" and the shadier enterprises you mention.
Reader: I very much enjoyed your story of Abigail, the young piano teacher from Taft ("Ivory and empathy: A girl's gift to Taft's Oaxacan immigrants ," March 31). It speaks to the power of music as a positive force in life. I would have liked a quote from one of her Oaxacan students about how they feel about learning piano, but I really liked the story nonetheless.
— Chris Caratan
Price: Abigail Rodela's story illustrates a spirit of kinship all the poignantly because of her own family's past hardships. (I sense that the Rodela family has and will continue to make financial strides.) You're right that the column should have included a comment from one of Abigail's Oaxacan students; I added the observations of one of them, Obed González, to the story's online version. I had interviewed him on video.
Reader: I have to agree with Bob Goon's comment ("Sound Off: Story about car dealers was more than just an ad," March 30) that described the lead story on your March 26 front page ("Car dealers see purchase incentive in impending city sales tax increase") as nothing more than a free advertisement pass for Bakersfield's car dealerships — and blatantly so.
Car dealerships spend quite a bit of advertisement money with The Bakersfield Californian. So, it's my opinion that the car dealers received a "thank you" payback from the newspaper. Toilet paper, on the other hand (no pun intended), wasn't mentioned because toilet paper dealers don't pay The Californian much for advertisement.
It is also my opinion that Mr. Price wasn't 100 percent on board when he claimed that car advertisement was not the purpose of the article. I sensed that because he seemed to deflect the responsibility to Business Editor John Cox.
I really respect and like Robert Price. He has the very difficult, visible job to sort through the daily complaints and comments for and against the paper and bring some sort of consensus and closure that both readers and editors will accept.
I have been down to the Bakersfield newspaper office twice recently and ran into Mr. Price each time. I usually greet him with this compliment: "Mr. Price," I say, "you're much better looking in person than your photo in the newspaper." I know then what he is thinking, which is, "Boy, that guy should be in car sales."
— John A. Caminiti
Price: On that last point, John, you're absolutely correct — the camera that can adequately capture my awesome countenance has not yet been invented. Either that, or I just plain take lousy pictures.
You're also correct that car dealers are important advertisers for us.
On everything else, though, you're wrong.
A few people in the newsroom suggested that some car dealers might actually be displeased that John Cox's story would be pointing out that the out-the-door price of a new car would be going up because of the 1 percent sales tax increase that became effective April 1.
In the end, editors decided the story just had too much legitimate interest to fret about that possibility. And I believe they were right.
Will the tax increase dissuade people from buying new cars? Not a chance, in my opinion. And, besides, those new cars will theoretically benefit from the improved roads and enhanced traffic enforcement that that $58 million in additional tax revenue will eventually provide.
As for deflecting responsibility to John Cox — nope. My intent was to give him credit for a job well done.
Reader: I fully understand the confusion about all the different types of South Asians, because even we are confused about each other sometimes (Sound Off, March 30). My objection was about blurring the line between hate and confusion by referring to perpetrators of some Islamophobic hate crimes against Sikhs as “confused Americans.”
If you attacked Amish men because you saw beards and hats and mistook them for Orthodox Jews, you are not a “confused American,” you are anti-Semitic. Your actions stemmed directly from your hatred, not from taking “confusion to violent extremes.” On the other hand, if you wished the Amish men a happy new year during Rosh Hashanah, you were equally confused, but at least you were trying to be friendly.
Often, folks will sympathize with us after a so-called “mistaken identity” hate crime by suggesting that we could reduce such incidents by educating people about the fact that Sikhs are not Muslims. This comes from focusing on ending the confusion, instead of ending the hate. I refuse to accept the idea that our only choices are to either be attacked ourselves, or to divert the attacks to our Muslim brothers and sisters. We can choose to stand with each other against the Islamophobes. It may feel less judgmental to say that someone is confused rather than bigoted, but as hate crimes increase, we can no longer afford the luxury of euphemisms.
— Mona Sidhu
Price: Well put. I agree completely.
Reader: Just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to have my story in The Californian ("Taft doctor honored as ‘hero’ for work in family medicine," March 30). It was an amazing article, very well written. Reporter Jon Mettus was great to work with.
I received a lot of feedback from patients and people from all over that were inspired by the article. I had no idea how much my story could impact and inspire people and bring awareness to the importance of preserving quality in rural healthcare.
— Jasmeet Bains, M.D.