Mentone’s Gazebo Gazette
Above is the original map for the township of Mentone developed by the California Central Railroad (full size maps are available at Mill Creek Cattle Co. - see Mary Beth). The lots were 25’x50’. The railroad took great pains to advertise the proposed town site in the Eastern newspapers to attract potential buyers. Quite an advertising plan was developed, including aerial photos of the area. Full-grown orange trees were up-planted from surrounding areas and re-planted eventually became a major orange- producing area, but it took a few years. The ads stated, “Mentone’s climate and vegetation are the same as the coast lands, but with no fog, and a warm and sunny atmosphere.”
When the aerial photos were taken, those “Mentone potatoes” (rocks and boulders) were prominent in the photos, so the caption below the photos exclaimed, “You can see the sheep grazing on the open fields!”
The sheep of course, were the boulders and rocks that we are all familiar with, but from the photos they did indeed appear as grazing sheep! Advertising hasn’t changed all that much, has it? It provided a steady income for the two fellas with the mule teams. The lots were very small, but prices around the $75 to $100 range, and the railroad officials knew that most folks would buy more than one. Most were sold in half to full acre portions.
Mr. Bob Sewell (a longtime Mentone resident) said that the first house built in Mentone is located on the South side of Jasper Avenue and is still standing to this day.
Originally California Central Railway laid out the initial plan for the development of Mentone in 1888. Eventually Southern Pacific took them over in in the late 1800’s. Two railroads serviced Mentone, including the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe which connected So. California to San Francisco and to Salt Lake, Utah. The railroads played an important part in the development of Mentone’s citrus industry for as many as 1000 railroad cars of oranges left Mentone annually. The total acreage of Mentone oranges was in the vicinity of 4000 acres, 75% of which were of the Navel variety. There were four packing houses in Mentone to handle the large volume. The only one remaining is the old Elephant Orchard packing house (built in 1939), on the corner of Opal Ave. and Mentone Blvd. which now houses Hovey Tile Art. It was built on the site of the old Santa Fe Railroad station, pictured on the front of the Gazette.
In those early days, Mentone prospered and experienced growth due to Eastern advertising by the railroads. There were four grocery stores with full meat markets; 1 general store; a feed mill (where the Valero gas station is today); a drug store with a lunch counter; 3 barber shops and a beauty parlor; 2 real estate offices; 2 auto repair garages; 5 service stations; medicinal baths; two pool halls; and what started as one community church (where the uncompleted Tom’s Burgers is today), now hosts nine different denominational places of worship. Even back in those days there was a county branch library, a Chamber of Commerce, along with a Jr. Chamber of Commerce; a Woman’s Club; an upholstery shop; a dairy (with fresh eggs and milk). W.E. McMillan’s Mercantile Co. and Department Store later became the Mentone Hardware Store (which we miss terribly!). There was a dentist’s office, a town doctor, and a chiropractor. Wirth’s Mentone Inn specialized in chicken dinners and raised their own poultry. The poultry industry flourished in the area. The Old Homestead Hotel featured a fresh mountain trout dinner for only $1.00.
The city dump site was at the north end of Opal Avenue. Across from where the Mentone Senior Center is today was a mule barn ran by two men whom one could hire to clear your property so that you could build on it.
The Greenspot Market opened around 1910. Originally it is believed to have been a blacksmith shop, as a grocery store did exist directly across the street from the present location. Gary believes it changed to a grocery store around 1910.
Gary and Debby Jacinto acquired the store in 1992 and are the longest owners, from a long line of previous owners.
Originally, according to some of the old timers in the area, it was called “Rocky Comfort Store” (as the 30 or so acres surrounding the store, from Garnet to Zanja to Mt. View, were called “Rocky Comfort”). The Rocky Comfort Water Company still exists to this day and serves families in the area.
Next to the pillar on the left of Gary and Debby were a couple of gas pumps (as it was one of six gas stations in the Mentone area). The pumps were removed in the early 1960’s. The store is absolutely unique in that they not only sell groceries, but just about anything else You might need…..Snow chains, T-shirts, a full liquor, beer, and wine department, but also snow toys, live bait, fishing tackle, gifts to satisfy anyone’s imagination, including cast- iron cooking ware, knifes, kerosene lanterns, and of course their world-famous Beef Jerky. In the early days, the store featured a full meat market as well.
Originally Highway 38 was only paved to Barton Flats, and to travel to Big Bear City would have been an exciting adventure over the 40+ miles or so of remaining dirt road.
The store was a favorite stopping place for refreshments and rest in the 1920’s. Also in the 1920’s, Rocky Comfort Water Company sold water rights to Redlands. As it was then (as now) water controlled everything.
(Next issue of the Mentone Gazebo Gazette we will examine some of the water history of the area).
In the early days Mentone was a part of Crafton’s original plan of development The Crafton train station was located where the Portuguese- American club house on Crafton Avenue is today.
If you want a trip back to the old days, pay a visit to Greenspot Market. You won’t be disappointed, and make sure you buy some of that mouth- watering, soul- uplifting beef jerky!
They are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7am to 9pm (if you plan to visit on a holiday, call first for the hours they’ll be open).