We settled in at Rancho Jurupa RV Park on October 31, 2021, snagging the same site we used during our visit last year. After an early dinner, we walked to the camp store. Since we hadn’t eaten lunch, we splurged for desert with Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream bars covered with dark chocolate and almonds. Yum. Yum. One of my favorites.
The next day, we met Jon’s brother, Lee, at Vince’s Spaghetti for another early dinner. Every trip to the area, we always go to Vince’s for dinner. It was our go-to place for a Friday night out with the kids when we lived in Rialto. As I type this, my mouth waters for the iceberg lettuce salad with Italian dressing, the minestrone soup, garlic and cheese bread, and the mound of pasta smothered in meat sauce. Oh, and don’t forget the box of Junior Mints on the way out the door.
Opened in 1945, the original location on Holt in Ontario is still going strong and still family owned. They also have locations in Rancho Cucamonga and Temecula.
The next day we headed out on a reminiscent tour, starting with breakfast at Cracker Barrel, where the Rialto Municipal Airport used to be. It was strange seeing how much the area had changed in the past 20 years, from open fields and old groves to housing developments and commercial buildings.
We drove by homes where I lived as a child and the two homes Jon and I owned before moving to Northern California. The Rialto Ave house I lived in until I was 7 looked the best. The garage conversion and driveway looked natural. Fresh paint and a well-designed landscaping completed the look.
Coming in second was our first home on Elm Court, which looked well cared for. Where I lived on Cascade from age 7 until I left at 18 needed paint and landscaping. The Orange house, the last one we owned in town, was the worst. We stopped to say hello to one of our neighbors, and she said the people who bought the house from us have done nothing since they moved in. Our house and backyard had been so inviting. Now peeling paint, wood rot, an unkempt lawn, and the twenty-some-odd rose bushes someone had ripped out showed the lack of care. So sad.
The town itself, we thought, was in better condition than when we had moved away. The occupied business buildings and street improvements downtown made a big difference from what we remembered.
Then we drove out to San Bernardino. The Central City Mall opened in October 1972 and did away with most of the historic downtown. Other amenities, including a monorail, never materialized, and it wasn’t long after the mall’s opening that local gangs claimed it as their hangout. Conditions continued to plague the mall and the surrounding area even after ownership changes and a 1991 renovation. Anchor stores closed in the early 2000s and the mall finally closed in 2017.
The McDonald’s Museum turned out to be the bright spot to an otherwise depressing trip to San Bernardino. It’s not an official corporate McDonald’s Museum. But the site is where brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald started business in 1940 as McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant at 14th and E Streets. My mother, who had lived a few blocks away in her teens, told me she and her friends had hung out there. Inside is a treasure trove of all things McDonalds through the ages, many of which have been donated.
The McDonalds—with an eye on speedy service, a simple menu, and low prices—changed course in 1948 by converting their restaurant into a fast-food enterprise selling hamburgers, fries, milkshakes, and sodas.
The original building had long since been demolished, and the property was in foreclosure when Albert Okura, owner and CEO of the Juan Pollo restaurants, purchased it in 1998. He later opened the unofficial McDonald’s Museum where he preserves artifacts and memorabilia related to the landmark and honors the McDonalds for their contribution to the food industry.
The brother’s innovative approach caught Ray Kroc’s attention. He offered to work as a franchising agent for them and in 1955, he founded McDonald’s System, Inc. The company’s first franchise restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois. Four years later, restaurant No. 100 had opened and in 1961, Kroc purchased the company from the McDonald brothers.
On the side of the building, a colorful mural depicts historical sites and businesses around the Inland Empire. Jon and I had fun picking out all the places we remembered from our childhoods and teen years.
After seeing much of what we remembered of San Bernardino destroyed, decayed, or remaining the same, we were glad to see a small part of it preserved. Our thanks go out to Albert Okura for having the foresight to create a museum and save a little piece of what once made San Bernardino great along Route 66. The museum is free but asks for a donation to enter.
After visiting the museum, we searched for a place to eat. Not finding anything along the way, I had Jon stop so I could take photos of the Wigwam Motel. They looked the best I ever remembered and are a good example of the many places spruced up along Route 66 for tourists to experience.
We ended our day at Cuca’s in Rialto for margaritas and Mexican food. The friendly staff made us feel welcome, and we enjoyed sitting in another piece of history: the old Rialto train station, where the sliding doors still hang in place and still work. Over margaritas, chips and salsa, and our meals, we discussed all we had seen that day and were pleased we had encountered a few bright spots along the way.
Next up: Another trip to Lake Havasu City to see my sister, her daughter, and granddaughter.