Thirty-eight firefighters from Portola Fire, Eastern Plumas, Beckwourth, Graeagle, Plumas Eureka and Sierra Valley Fire responded to what is now called the “Ponderosa Fire.” Forest Service personnel patrolled surrounding streets for flying, burning embers.
According to Portola Fire Chief Henry Johnson, the concrete walls of the structure helped contain the fire but didn’t help on the inside.
The space that once occupied the bowling alley had recently been worked on to house a proposed hostel. Residents living in the building lost everything and collections were taken up at the football game that night.
There was some water damage to the building next door but by late last Friday, the laundromat, Diversities, Toland, a photo studio, Stay ‘n Fit were all back open again, according to the building’s owner, Jan Breitwieser, although Portola Plaza which housed some of the businesses was posted as having “Restricted Use” earlier in the day. EPCAN may be operating out of a different location. Jan was singing praises to the local fire departments, to Swann Engineering, Liberty Power, Grizzly Electric, her insurance company and others for the speed in environmental testing which she said tested good with no environmental problems.
On Tuesday, according to Portola City Public Works Manager Todd Roberts, the city hadn’t heard from the owner of the bowling alley property and the City was having to start the abatement procedure against the property owner. Todd explained the procedure takes time and is very hard. The property owner is reportedly very ill and not able to communicate directly.
COMMERCIAL STREET MEMORIES
By M.J. Keogh - Photo courtesy of Carrie L. Neely
MANY OF THE VACANT LOTS you see on Commercial Street in downtown Portola once held a thriving business.
The Ayoob’s parking lot once held a rooming house, a bar, grocery store, shoe repair shop a Portola Reporter newspaper - and perhaps a few more that I can’t recall.
Also comes to mind, a bar. The large space between the “now gone” bowling alley and Alderman’s Hardware once was occupied by the Grand Cafe, the Elkhorn club, a small “Rooms for Rent” parcel, before the Alderman’s building and Snap’s “33” Club which was on the very corner of Commercial Street and California Street.
Now for the many businesses that occupied the old bowling alley space: a beautiful drugstore maybe “Lloyd’s Portola Drug,” a large fountain area with swivel stools with backs you had to step up to, large fans at the ceiling which also housed the old fashioned lighting system. The back of the drug store was the drug and medicinal prescriptions area. The front rack contained the latest New York magazines, funny books and Hollywood’s latest stars. My favorite magazine was the Song Book with pictures of The Four Aces singing Tell Me Why. The drug store was a favorite of mine, especially I have to mention an article from the November 16, 1937 The Pine Needle which was a weekly printed newsletter at the Portola High School. It read “Stock Jobbers Worry,” Cries of “Oh, I’m Worried.”
Members of the “American Problems Class” at the high school were scanning the morning papers and buying and selling of stocks which began on November 5.
A conservative fellow named Ted King was leading the market financially and his stock was going up a bit - even as the stock was plummeting in the death spiral.
The HM&J was well known by my family as my mother was the head waitress and Johnnie the Greek was head chef. It was a great place to eat - open 24 hours a day.
The Gilda theatre was about where the bowling alley sat.
Here come the businesses that once graced the burnt block: there was a bank on the corner of Nevada and Commercial; HM&J Bar and restaurant which also featured gaming tables, and a dance hall; a post office; long hallway to the alley had a barber shop and a shoe repair business. A bigger barber shop was up front of the building.
The S.L.Lung Building on the central building featured the Gilda Theatre (1938), the R&T Market (Ross and Townsend), the Portola Drug Store, a jewelry store, Polar Bear Ice Cream & Company owned by Howard Joy (very popular eatery) - phone 80 - Grand Cafe, Elkhorn Club, Ed Alderman’s hardware, Snap AppleGate’s 33 Club.
The taxi worked out of HM&J. Orville and Mary Musser were owners of Greyhound bus service at HM&J.
The bowling alley building had apartments up stairs which were always full of working families, a dance hall at HM&J also had a stage for performers, singers, large bands, etc. with gaming tables and slot machines until the county sheriff buttoned them up around 1945 or 1946.
There were once lots of happenings on that section of town, even a murder or two at the back door of HM&J!
That’s a story for another time!