Friday, March 27, 2009

Brew 102

It was the cheapest beer you could get. Most of us from the Los Angeles area knew this was the big brewery across the freeway from Los Angeles Union Station.

I was too young to drink the stuff, so I can't tell you what it was like. I do remember all those cans. My grandfather loved it. He was an alcoholic who drank beer for breakfast, wine for lunch, and the hard stuff for supper... He did get on the wagon and lived the last 15 years of his life soberly, though he died of cirrhosis.

Now that I drink beer myself, I've always been curious how this Brew 102 tasted.

Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway

My dad went to work for the Santa Fe Railway in 1961. Historically, that's interesting because the railroad was started 98 years before by Cyrus K. Holliday. But we're not really into that kind of history on this site because that has very little to do with anything that happened later.

The railroad was a good job for a family man. One of the fringe benefits was a passenger train pass. When we lived in San Diego (and Oceanside, about 40 miles north) we often took a trip to Los Angeles Union Station. We'd walk to Chinatown to Philippe's Original to have a French dip sandwich. Then we'd ride home. Olvera Street is across from there. We lived in San Diego until 1962 and then in Oceanside until 1966, when we moved to Colton. Colton, which is near San Bernardino, is close enough to drive in less than an hour.

In 1971, passenger service was stopped on all major U.S. mainland railroads, with the exception of the Denver, and Rio Grande Western, and the Southern Railway. Eventually, those two railroads gave in (and actually faded away, as they were absorbed by the Union Pacific and Norfolk and Western lines). Watching the new trains of Amtrak was fun at that time, since they hadn't bought or repainted any of the rolling stock. It was sad in that there used to be seven trains (or more) between Los Angeles and Chicago. Today there are only two. A few years ago, there were three, with the Desert Wind going through Las Vegas, Nevada, and Salt Lake City, where it hooked up with the California Zephyr.

My dad had his problems with the railroad, as well as his health. He retired at the age of 63 in 1990 and died in 2007.

The Santa Fe Railroad died in 1995 when it merged with Burlington Northern.

So much for old Johnny Mercer songs!

Enco Gasoline

The East Coast had Esso gas stations. For those who don't know, Esso stood for the letters "SO," as this was formerly the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. In California, Texas, Michigan, and even Florida (isn't that on the East Coast?), as well as some other places, we had Enco. It was the same Humble Refining Company that owned it. Actually, I found out that the company was not allowed to use the Esso name in certain jurisdictions, so they used Enco.

What did the name stand for? Who knows?

Enco, like Esso, had the free road maps that folded differently than any other gas station. I used to collect maps like that. It was neat. I had hundreds. Today kids have to buy those things!

I do remember that in 1969 the Enco acquired the Signal gasoline company. There was a service station in my neighborhood owned by a man named Elso. He owned a Signal gas station located in front of Jay's Country Boy Market. As a Signal retailer, it was simply, "Elso's Service." When the company became Enco, the station was now Elso's Enco. Cute. A few years later, when Enco became Exxon, the station became Elso's Exxon.

But, even that gas station is gone. It was bulldozed to make a bigger parking lot for Jay's Country Boy. And now, even Jay's Country Boy is gone.


Those of us who grew up in Southern California in the 1960s remember the big Ts sticking up at most shopping centers. We had one in Colton, at the Mount Vernon Shopping Center. The T itself was an amazing thing. We never thought the day would happen that all those Ts would be taken down and the chain would go out of business.

The chain was actually one of the newer ones, having been started in 1952--actually it was part of a chain known as Fitzsimmons, which started in 1930. It didn't last, though.

The chain went out of business in 1984, though most of the stores were long gone before that time.

Ecuadorian Sucres

You really have to feel sorry for the Republic of Ecuador. The country has gone through its share of coups de etat and other problems. It was the first really poor country I ever visited/lived in. I saw things that I never thought existed anywhere.

Most Americans who know about radio communications know about HCJB, the Voice of the Andes. I spent some time there, mostly getting in missionaries' ways. But, being fluent in Spanish, I could get everyone a bottle of Coke at 3:00 in the afternoon.

When I was there the exchange rate for the sucre (the Ecuadorian former monetary unit) was 100:1. That was 1983. I kept watching that number get higher and higher over the years. This 10,000 sucre note you see on this page, issued in 1988, would probably just buy a bottle of Coke.

In 2001, Ecuador gave up with the sucre and the U.S. dollar (or dolar estadosunidense) became the legal tender. At least you don't have to go to a money changer there now.