The old Golden State Theater in downtown Riverside was a topic here a while back. The theater, housed in the Loring Opera House building, closed in 1973 and was gutted by fire in 1990. All that was left was the sagging brick shell, which the city demolished for safety reasons.
Thousands of bricks were salvaged. Some were sold for $25 apiece when Terry Frizzel was mayor as a way to fund improvements at the Municipal Auditorium. Each brick has a plaque attached: “Original Brick, Loring Opera House, 1890-1990.”
“For many years, I had a Loring brick next to my mailbox,” Ron Loveridge, Frizzel’s successor, told me by email.
About 40 unsold bricks were stored in (why not?) the mayor’s office through the Frizzel, Loveridge and Rusty Bailey administrations. In 2020, those bricks were given to the Old Riverside Foundation, a heritage and preservation nonprofit.
About 10 bricks have been sold, leaving 30 bricks stacked on the patio of the foundation’s headquarters, the Weber House.
“We’ve been selling them for $20 each,” treasurer Ruth West told me when I visited. “But they’re not selling.”
West offered me a brick gratis, but I declined. For one thing, I’m not in need of a paperweight right now. Also, it seemed to me that some of you might want one of these dusty keepsakes for yourself and that the foundation ought to benefit as intended.
You can arrange to get one by phoning 951-289-0089, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by buying one in person at the foundation’s next Salvage Day, which is Feb. 11 from 9 a.m. until early afternoon at Weber House, 1510 University Ave.
You could also buy one online by visiting the foundation’s website, oldriverside.org, and going to its shop’s Housewares section. “We will not ship the bricks,” West said, “but if the purchaser is a Riverside resident, we can hand deliver them.”
By “hand deliver,” she doesn’t mean hurling them through your window.
Is that it for tangible reminders of the Golden State? Not quite: A privately funded mural is coming that will in part honor the theater.
The four-story, 150-foot-long image will cover the massive rear wall of the Loring Building off Mission Inn Avenue that was exposed by the theater’s demolition. Painting should get underway in mid-March.
I like how much news this long-gone theater is generating.
More Golden State
“I had a very small part in its long history,” Gene Harvey told me after my first column on the Golden State.
Harvey managed the theater in 1965 when its owner, and his employer, National General Corp., transferred the young troubleshooter to Riverside from Thousand Oaks to whip the foundering Golden State into shape.
“I loved the building with its unusual ‘cozy’ layout, having been an opera and vaudeville house before movies,” said Harvey, now a Pomona resident.
As the junior theater to the much-larger Fox, also a National General theater, the Golden State tended to get less-prestigious movies. But when the film bookers put “The Great Race” at the Fox and “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” at the Golden State, Harvey recalled, the former proved a dud and the latter an unexpected hit.
When the Golden State burned down 25 years later, Harvey drove to Riverside from Pomona the next day “and with several other people stood across the street, looking at the smoldering ruins with a sad heart.”
Cellar Door update
Riverside’s only independent bookstore is on the hunt for a new space after its lease at Canyon Crest Towne Centre was canceled, as reported here previously.
When I dropped by last Friday, owner Linda Sherman-Nurick was about to leave for the afternoon to look at potential spaces downtown.
The uncertainty makes it hard to plan ahead for spring and summer events, she told me. Where will the events take place? She’s requested an extension through July 16 for a more orderly and dignified departure but hasn’t heard anything.
The public’s support, however, has been heartening.
“The community has been wonderful, the community has been hopeful, the community has been beautiful, and we’re grateful,” Sherman-Nurick said.
Some outraged customers have said they plan to boycott the Towne Centre. Sherman-Nurick said that would be counterproductive. A boycott would hurt the mom-and-pop shops that need business, especially after the trials of the past three years.
“Support your small businesses, all these wonderful folks around here,” Sherman-Nurick urged. “They deserve to be supported.”
You ought to support them, since it’s arguable whether their landlords will.
State of Riverside
Also in Riverside, I attended Jan. 26’s State of the City event, where Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson bragged that her city is the 12th largest in California. At a population of 325,000, Riverside, she said, is bigger than 99% of U.S. cities and thus in the top 1% of cities nationally in size.
And yet it’s also “a big city that feels like a small town,” continued PLD, repeating a common local saying. There’s truth in that. I’ve run into people I know on the street, and I don’t even feel like I know that many people yet.
Other evidence: One of the mayor’s awards, for “new construction with landscaping,” went to, not a corporate behemoth, but a service business named Quick Quack Car Wash. Is Riverside a big city or is it a small town? Maybe it’s a wash.
PLD also touted the pending grant funds for one of her pet projects, the Civil Rights Walk downtown, about which I wrote on Christmas Day (you were probably busy then).
Upland reader Richard Armour tells me Riverside’s walk is going to beat one of its inspirations, Boston’s Freedom Trail, in at least one respect.
Visiting Boston near Christmas 2021, Armour and his girlfriend looked briefly for the Freedom Trail. Faced with 28-degree cold, they immediately gave up.
“Instead of trying to do a two-mile walk and freeze to death,” Armour confides, “we ducked into Quincy Market to warm up over a hot bowl of ‘chowdah’ and a lobster roll.”
David Allen, a chowderhead, writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Email email@example.com, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.