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The Fresno Bee, Calif., Paula Lloyd column
[October 18, 2010]

The Fresno Bee, Calif., Paula Lloyd column

Oct 18, 2010 (The Fresno Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Question: I have fond memories from the 1950s of the Desert Inn on Whites Bridge Avenue. The outdoor eating area was so romantic, the food was great and there was live music on the weekends. When did it close? -- Audrey Royer, Fresno Answer: William Parker Hamrick and William Paul Steitz took over the Desert Inn restaurant and cocktail lounge at 2445 W. Whites Bridge Ave., between Hughes and Marks avenues, in 1946.

At the time, the restaurant had three employees and seating for 38 diners. By the early 1960s, there were 125 employees and seating for 2,500. The restaurant's signature dessert was raisin pie.

A 35-room motel was built next to the restaurant in 1962.

In 1967, three local suppliers sued the Desert Inn for unpaid bills of more than $12,000 and the restaurant closed.

The Desert Inn was sold to new owners a few months later, but closed again in 1968 due to high overhead and declining business. The owners filed for bankruptcy three months later.

In 1972, the hotel became an emergency family shelter run by a consortium of public and private social-welfare agencies.

The Desert Inn restaurant building was condemned by the city of Fresno and demolished in June 1975, but the hotel continued to be used as an alcohol recovery center.

Hamrick left the Desert Inn in 1965 and later ran the restaurant in the Motel Fresno, the Kings East restaurant and the Sunnyside Bowl coffee shop. He died in May 1975 at 62.

Steitz -- who had owned an auto dealership in Fresno in late 1940s -- sold the Desert Inn in 1967, moved to Pebble Beach and opened auto dealerships in Salinas and Stockton. He died in 1981 at 76.

Q: I have an ice pick stamped with "Central California Ice Co. phone 188 Fresno" and I'm curious about the company's history. -- Bob Clark Jr., Clovis A: Central California Ice Co. and two other local ice plants -- Fresno Consumers Ice and Valley Ice -- were owned by the same company.

Ice plants supplied ice for homes, railroad cars, restaurants, markets and other customers before the advent of electric refrigeration. Blocks of ice weighing 25, 50, 75 or 100 pounds were delivered by horse-drawn wagon, but by truck after about 1930.

Many ice companies gave ice picks to their customers as a convenience and promotional gift.

The first listing for Central California Ice Co. is in Fresno's 1917 City Directory, at 702 P St. The Fresno Consumers and Valley ice companies were founded in 1908.

In 1925, an "ice war" broke out between Central California Ice, Peoples Ice and Independent Ice over the cost of home-delivered ice blocks. By 1926, the cost of a 100-pound block of ice had dropped from 70 cents to 30 cents.

By 1952, the Central California, Fresno Consumers and Valley ice companies had moved to 2003 Cherry Ave., and had branches throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

In 1954, Central California and its two sister companies were each fined $1,500 by the federal court in Los Angeles for anti-trust violations.

Central California Ice was listed in the City Directory as late as 1980.

More on Music Circus: After the answer about Music Circus ran Sept. 27, former Fresnan Larry Badger of Yuba City e-mailed his memories of the theater in the round near Blackstone and Bullard avenues.

"I had the pleasure of working for Music Circus when it played in the Bullard [Avenue] theater," Badger wrote. "The theater was built on a former golf course and the site of, I believe, a former boat racing lake.

"It was an adventure working out in the Fresno heat, but the audiences got to enjoy the pleasant summer evenings under the stars. The producers were the same [people] who produced the Sacramento Music Circus and the last season in Fresno was used by the company to kick off a South American cultural tour for the U.S. State Department." Send questions to Paula Lloyd, The Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA 93786; fax to (559) 441-6436. The columnist can be reached at or (559) 441-6756. Please include a phone number.

To see more of The Fresno Bee, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, The Fresno Bee, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit, e-mail, or call 866-280-5210 (outside the United States, call +1 312-222-4544).

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