North State Memories: Where Have You Gone, Mr. Swiss?

  

It started so innocently, with a friend's seemingly simple question: What's the history of the little A-frame building on Athens Avenue in the location of the now-closed Coffee Creek Cafe?

I reached deep into my memory bank, way back into the '60s and '70s, and thought it was Mr. Swiss. But I wasn't sure, so I posed the question to my Facebook friends.

They had answers ... 129 of them, to be exact. Did they stay on topic? No. Did I get my answer? Yes, in a very round-about way. But while digging for the truth, my friends excavated tons of their own memories, too.

Avalanche!

Debbie R. said that building in question was a Taco Bell, and she knows this because she remembered her older cousins took her there for her first Taco Bell experience.

Tracy S. said she'd never been there, but the Avanti Travel is shaped just like an old Taco Bell, same bricks and design, so yes, Taco Bell. Not so fast, said Cindy N., who thought it was a Mr. Swiss ... or something like that.

"It was good for yummy ice cream, is what I remember," Cindy N. said.

Meanwhile, Larry S. was sure what's now Avanti Travel used to be Taco Bell, but he couldn't remember about the A-frame building. Share H. remembered it as others had, that the A-frame was first a Taco Bell, then a travel agency and then other short lived things until it was a coffee shop.

That - for some reason - led to discussions of Wonder World and a skating rink that caved in and closed down during the 1968 snow storm, and maybe there was even a teen center called "Sloopy's" that put on dances.

Victoria H. mentioned that she hung out at an old tree fort by the Hatfield's place. In fact, it was from that tree fort that her brother and a "gang of his hoodlum friends" pelted Victoria with dirt clods.

Focus, people....

Goody Goodyband mentioned some pretty cool batting cages and in-ground trampolines.

A side conversation erupted between Mary Alice and Victoria L., starting with Mary Alice recollecting a friend's house that had a bomb shelter. Was it Victoria's?

Victoria L. said yes, it was her dad's bomb shelter, but the Woodwards had that cool A-frame playhouse.

"I would have rather had the playhouse," Victoria L. said. "The bomb shelter (which is still there) was one freaky piece of work."

A bomb shelter? In the Garden Tract? Now that's something I would like to see!

Eventually those two took their conversation elsewhere, which left an opening for Marlene G.

"Ok, since we've got historical wise ones responding, help me remember the name of the Italian restaurant on Hilltop prior to Casa Ramos," she said. "Please! They had the best cannelloni!"

Stacy W. had the rapid answer: "Pietro's."

With that mystery quickly solved, Tamara G. opened a whole new debate: "OK, here's one," she said. "Where did Hinkle's Market use to be?"

If you even thought about guessing that Hinkle's started out where it is now, next to Yanello's Car Lot, then you'd be wrong. But the correct answer took a while to find its way.

Meanwhile, Mary Alice returned to the Hinkle's conversation.

"That place had such mystery around it when I was a kid," she said. "My folks might stop there to pick up beer or cigarettes on the way home from an event."

Larry S. was pretty certain that the first Hinkle's was located where Taco Bell is on Market now. He said that the building to the south (now Redding Tents & Events) was Neilson's Motors, which he knew because he worked across the street from Neilson's at the Shell station (next door to what is now The Board Mart.)

Oy. My head.

Mary Alice wondered about a whole new place, the old European bakery, which she thought was Swiss, located on Pine St., south of South St.  She said the bakery owner had a Vespa.

"Not something you saw much in Redding in the mid- to late 1960s," she recalled. "We didn't go there much, but our neighbors across the street had lived in Germany and they went there more often."

Interestingly, she said those people are her in-laws now. Of course.

Maybe it was the mention of Swiss - as in my original question about Mr. Swiss - that caused Mary Alice to return the discussion to the Garden Tract area, and the Garden Market for all the Garden Tract kids, and oh, the Sweet Tarts and those great Jolly Rancher sticks!

Shawna Bell (no relation to Taco Bell) cleared things up by saying that Taco Bell was where Avanti  Travel now is. She believed the A-frame was Swiss Miss, that what's now the Dollar Store on Athens Avenue was once the old Thrifty's, and the EMS furniture store, previously McMahan's, was Wonder World. She remembered how on a Sunday after church she would get a taco for 15 cents and then to Thrifty's for 5 cents per-scoop ice cream.

"Those were the days," she said.

Daniel M. was sure that Stan Fletcher was the owner of the Taco Bell when it opened on Athens because Daniel's dad worked there.

"My dad was going to Shasta College and Chico State," he said. "Between the G.I. Bill and his wages at Taco Bell and my mother working at the Law Firm of Lopez & Kennedy, we did okay. You can imagine we ate a lot of Taco Bell products."

Tracy S. did some homework and checked with a knowledgeable friend, who used to live in the Garden Tract area. She confirmed what Shawna and a few others had said, that the corner building -- now Avanti -- was the Taco Bell, but then she took a wrong turn (sorry) when she said that the A- frame, which was last incarnated as Coffee Creek, started out as Pier 1.

I hated to argue with her about the Pier 1 declaration, because I knew it was far bigger, and behind Avanti, but I didn't want to confuse things. Besides, that this point I was just reading, and hadn't added one comment since my original question.

John L. said yes, Taco Bell was there. But he wanted to answer the Hinkle's questions. He said it was located where the newer Market Street Taco Bell now stands. He, like Daniel, had a reason for remembering.

"My father had a small transmission repair shop next door," John L. said. "A little behind that was Hinkle's. My most memorable memory was the day Steve McQueen stopped there to purchase cigarettes. He drove away in a red convertible. I believe he was filming part of  'The Great Escape' in the Cottonwood area."

John L. was on a roll, and asked if anyone remembered the "Shasta Slide" in the vicinity of where Tortilla Flats is now.

(I did remember the Shasta Slide, but for some reason I think our family called it the Super Slide. Either way, it got hotter than Hades in the ...)

But that conversation moved onto Jeff F.'s comment: "Doni, I doubt you're even old enough to remember what an excellent 'cruise' Redding had!"

He was right. The glory years for Redding's cruise was slightly before my time, and by the time I was in high school, it was "cruise lite", which the RPD eventually closed down.  But it was fun while it lasted. Kids drove around and around downtown, revving engines, waving, honking, and annoying the adults.

"I remember coming all the way from Paradise to cruise Redding once," Jeff F. said. "We were riding around in the back of an open pickup! Fun times!"

John L. was done talking about the cruise, and was back to my original question.

Fin-ALLY!

"The old A-frame ... wasn't it a place where you could get ice cream type things?"

YES! YES! YES!

"Was that place called Swiss Chalet? Swiss Miss is (or was) a brand for chocolate mix?"

Oh, so close.

Dana C. said she had learned a lot about Redding's history from the conversation. "I've only been here a few years and It was fun reading how it used to be," she said.

So true. Well, that looked like it was the end of the discussion. Or not.

Adrienne Jacoby,  who writes anewscafe.com's "Just Sayin' '" column, waded late into the conversation and guessed that Taco Bell was on the corner, the Swiss Chalet was the A-frame next to it ... she thought ... not sure.

Gene B. agreed with John L. and Adrienne, that the A-frame was the Swiss Chalet (not), but he was more interested in another question.

"OK, here is another one for you guys," (NOOOO!) "Who remembers "Ramona's" where Ghironda's now is?

Barbara R. answered Gene B. "Yes, I remember Ramona's! I was only there once, I think. After it closed (maybe around 1970-74?) I think it became a steak place."

Deborah B. replied that Hinkle's has always been in its current location, which prompted Gene B. to agree, saying Hinkle's had never been anywhere else."

I hated to break it to Gene and others about their error in Hinkle's thinking, but sure enough, John L. cleared things up...

"Sorry, but Hinkle's present location was not the first," said John L., who, bless his heart, returned to my question.

"I do wonder if that A-frame could have been our original Baskin & Robbins and constructed by them," wondered John L. "It may have then moved to a bigger location behind the Subway on Athens. I keep thinking of a Baskin & Robbins on Main Street in Ventura that was very similar in size and construction and is still in existence to this day."

Thanks, John L. Oh, sure, let's talk about Yreka while we're at it.

Gene B. spoke the truest statement ever: "Well, I guess we all remember things differently."

He got that 100 percent right.

And then, at last, Julie F. got it right: "It was Mr. Swiss," she said. "And it was built while I was at Sequoia. I'd say in 1969 ... Taco Bell was built at the same time and it was the Spanish style building next door ... Oh the memories...."

Let's just leave it there ...

But Julie F. wasn't finished: "Does anyone remember Grants, which was next door to Thrifty's? Hinkles was the only place in town back then that was open 24 hours. Don't forget Head Ecstasy and their black light posters. Does anyone remember Leslie's Market next to a gas station on Placer St near Manzanita... Or kegs at beer can tree?"

Next time. Another trip down the north state's Memory Lane. With or without Mr. Swiss.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

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45 Responses »

  1. We moved back to California from Alaska in 1991; so we're newcomers to the State of Jefferson but were both born and raised in the Central Valley. On our first trip to Redding from Yreka in the early '90's, we went to Kona's at someone's suggestion. It was a wonderful Mongolian grill. I don't even remember where it was located, but it soon moved somewhere else, and that not-to-be-mentioned newspaper had a photo of the sign being moved. It closed shortly after the move, unfortunately. Another place we enjoyed but that closed all too soon was was Kennit Diamond brewery and pizza. I'd give a whole lot to have their pizza dough recipe: thin yet chewy. If I were an enterprising entrepreneur and knew the first thing about operating a restaurant, I'd open another Mongolian grill in Redding.

    • I never made it to the Kona restaurant, but I did take the kids to Kennett Diamond for its Sunday waffle bar and brunch.

      We could do a week's worth of columns about dearly departed north state restaurants.

      One of my favorites was Joy Kimple's "Humble Pie" - and oh, how I miss the Pac Out on East Cypress and Churn Creek Road. And Ginger's. And even recently the Thai Bistro.

      Sigh.

    • Oh I loved Kona's. It was across the street from Raley's. Not across Hartnell, but where near where the Bakery is now.

    • Kona's Mongolion Grill was located in the strip mall just north of the Blood source building, across from the Park Marina Inn.

  2. Just a small clarification on the Steve McQueen movie. It was "Hell is For Hero's". It was filmed at the Price ranch in Cottonwood. Along with McQueen it also starred Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn, and Nick Adams. It was also the acting debute of Bob Newhart.

    I saw Sandra Dee around town on several occasions. She was married to Bobby Darin at the time and was very pregnant.

  3. Avanti Travel was indeed Taco Bell. If anyone would like to stop by we can show them the original drive up window!

    Janette

    owner Avanti Travel

  4. Ramona's was a wonderful Mexican restaurant!! Wish it were still here!

    • I have a comment about Ramona's. I'd eaten there for probably 30 years. It's sad that it closed but I can't blame Gail Bui for getting burned out.

      Thing is, most Mexican places today offer a standard tortilla, some standard filling, standard cheese, standard ground beef, and standard canned red sauce.

      Ramona's had a most distinctive sauce that was the reason people went there. Besides the fact that an enchilada was made with a huge flour tortilla and smothered in that great sauce (you could smell it pulling into a parking space). And they hand-shredded the chicken for filling.

      No one today (to my knowledge) uses a sauce they can call their own. Rice is out of a can; re-fried beans....out of a can. They're all interchangeable, one Mexican place to another. No effort is put into a dish.

      I've been sad since Ramona's closed. Nothing has come close since.

      Oh, and for the record, Grady Benham opened Grady's Steak House at the Ramona's locale later on. Now Girondas.

      One more thing, Sloopys (youth nightclub) was on Park Marina on the river about 10 o'clock from Tortilla Flats, if you're standing at the Flats looking at the river. Used to do light shows there when in high school at EHS.

      There, I'm done. And hungry.

      Coach Bob (Goody Goody Band)

  5. In the mid 1960s while visiting my aunt, who had lost her husband a year or so before wanted to see one of the construction workmen in her apartment complex. Somehow she knew he was going to the Hilltop Inn on Hilltop Dr. It had a restaurant and piano bar. My aunt was happy about the man to talk with, while my husband and I talked with the piano player.

    I never forgot the view from there. Looked toward the Trinities. Lovely. Know it was still there in the 1980s, but when we moved here, it was gone. I had heard it burned down. Not sure if that is true, though. Sure some may remember, though.

    Memories can be wonderful.

  6. Wonder World was where the hardware store on Athens is now and I recall that it caved in during a snow storm one year. I used to buy baby things there for my sons, now in their 40s....

    • I remember it well. Funny disk things on the front of the building.

      Pretty sure I begged my mom to buy some shoes for me there.

  7. What about the Pyschedelic Squash on Eureka Way? Yes that Swiss Bakery was excellent.

    • I don't remember the P.Squash, but yes, I loved the Swiss Bakery.

      How about the old Redding Bakery in downtown Redding? I remember the aromas from that place. Once in a great while I pick up the scent somewhere else ... it's rare and such a great experience.

      And how about the Cake Company? I have tried for years to find its brownie recipe. All their cakes had a distinct flavor that was unlike any other place. I would love to know what it was. And how about Woolworth's fountain, one of the last places that made real ice cream sodas. (You can tell what kinds of places I was attracted to. :)

      • Nobody does because it got closed down early on. They were throngs of kids going there and who knows they might have even doing drugS. I knew some of the bakers at the downtown location, because they would stop in for a few beers later in the evening at Waggs Sportsmens Hangout which had by the way excellent schooners of beer that was served in frosted schooners. No doubt the bakers should have been working, but everyone deserves a little break now and then. No I have to stop. reminiscing is the crack cocaine of the elderly./

      • Your comment about the Redding Bakery struck home with me. Not only do I remember the smell, but I can still hear the squeak of the front door when you opened it to go in! I have great memories of downtown Redding before and during the construction of "The Mall". My family had a building on the corner of Butte and Market which was torn down to make way for the new Dickers building.

      • Just so you know....on a recent trip to SF to visit the museum I'm driving down Castro (yes, Castro), and there was a cafe to my right called the "Squat 'n Gobble".

        Now, don't ask me what that means 'cause I don't know. And, I don't want to know. But I thought you should know. And now I don't know why.

      • Ice cream sodas were an art, and as such, are pretty much a lost art. My dad was verrrry particular about his ice cream sodas and when he found a good fountain jockey who knew how to mix the base, then knew just when to put in the high power stream then the ice cream, then the soft stream . . . well, frequent visits were in order.

        Ain't no sech thing anymore.

  8. Wonder World (WOW) was probably the first “super store” in Redding, proceeding Walmart by many years. Wonder World occupied the entire building from where EMS is now to OSH on the north. Wentz Market was in the south end of the building. How do I remember? Met by wife there and had a friend that worked at Wentz.

  9. I am cracking up! Love the rambling conversation, starting with a Taco Bell! I remember the Taco Bell, btw, and I have only been here since 1980.

  10. Oh Larry, you shouldn't have said Wentz Market. There was a Wentz on Court at Market (where Rite Aid is) but my mother ALWAYS shopped at Miller's Market, right across the street. (With the Donut Wheel handily attached to one side...) If you lived further up North Market you may have shopped at the [Mancasola's] Farmer's Market. I even [barely] remember Mom shopping at the old Purity Market on, I think, South or Sacramento near Pine downtown. My family lived on South Street, near Verda, before I was born. (Of course if you needed something at night, then Hinkle's was your saviour.) My dad owned and operated Al Hart's Chevron Station which was originally at Court and Placer, right next to Jernigan's Market. See, you shouldn't have said Wentz Market!

    • I think you meant Wentz was a Court St. and Eureka Way. I shopped there often in the late 70s but by then it was a Framers Market.

      Remembering the snow storm of '68, the skating rink was south on 273. I remember that after the roof caved in, the theater-type marquee out front was still standing. The owner put up the sign on the marquee that said, "Temporarily closed for repairs." I thought that having a sense of humor in the face of disaster was pretty courageous.

      • I was in the 82nd Airborne Division Band @ Ft. Bragg, NC during the storm of '68. Used to get the paper delivered by mail so I could keep up on the haps in Redding. Couldn't believe I'd missed the biggest snow since I hit Redding in '53. Timber Lanes caved in, WOW caved in....major mess.

        (Who started this "reminisce" thing, anyway?)

  11. I'm quite sure, the A Frame was called Mr. Freeze before it became Taco Bell. Before the Super Slide it was a giant batting cage. Many times I ate at Grants on the long bar in the back. The roof caved in with snow in (I believe) '68. Wishbone Chicken was across the street and it was the best chicken ever.

  12. Memories!!! It was Christmas time when my husband and toddler son took off to do last minute shopping, when over the TV, it was announced that the Wonder World roof had caved in!! I panicked - but all was well. And yes, Ramonas was part of our life frequently. My son,and his wife still talk of the Pac Out and their "special sauce". There aren't too many of us that remember some of this stuff! And during those years, the city of Redding did not exsist on the east side of the Sacramento. It was just Shasta County. My how things have changed!!

  13. Doni, maybe you should start a column called "Heartstrings and Memories" . . . .

    • Well, you read my mind, Adrienne.... it's fun to see what people remember about a place, and it's good for newcomers to learn about our north state, too. Maybe a weekly column ... Let me think on this. Thank you!

      • Great idea! I am sure there are many more stories to be told. Remember the creaky wooden staircase in the Mongomey Wards downtown store?

  14. Just in case there is any doubt the former Coffee Creek started life as Mr. Swiss just Google image search"Mr. Swiss" and see the nearly identical buildings and their newer reincarnations. Thanks for the local lore. Maybe that should be a regular feature, local tales and lore.

  15. I remember Mr. Swiss! Following a little pestering, my mom took us there after a visit to the Shasta Slide. I had some kind of orange-coated confection on a stick which I thought was pretty exotic for Redding back in those days. Incidentally, regarding the previous comment about Sandra Dee sightings locally: my mom was the office nurse for the OB/GYN who saw her while she was visiting here during her pregnancy. My mom recalled that she was "snotty," and wouldn't come in during regular office hours because she didn't want to sit in the waiting room with other patients. I guess Sandy wasn't as nice as she seemed in the movies!

  16. Doni, The Grand Cafe and Lounge originally occupied the building where Hinkle's Market is today. Hinkle's started in a building on Market Street with a large market. Well, it was large then and a Norwalk gas station in front. Open 24 hours a day, the store offered credit accounts payable on the first.

    My wife's uncle, Earl Hinkle, had a clause in the sale contract that it would forever be called Hinkle's Market no matter how many times it was sold and that applies today.

    However the original Hinkles was a larger and much cleaner store than today's version.

    The corner of North Market and Riverside Drive was the location of the Loop-Inn Cafe.

    Speeding cars occasionally missed that corner and did loop in, crashing into the cafe. It later became Roaring 20's Pizza with saw dust on the floor and some good pizza topped with lots of beer. It seems to me that it too became victom of car crashes. An office building stands there now.

    Another building that caved in with the heavy wet snow storm of 68 was Timber Lanes at the top of Sulfur Creek Hill, North Market St. It was the one that had the large timber ball in front, a relic from the early logging industry days.

  17. The rum coffee cake from the Swiss Bakery was a Christmas morning tradition at our house. I would love to have that recipe. Even more, I would love to buy it again for Christmas morning.

  18. Does anyone share fond memories of the Giant Orange drive-in north of Redding? The big orange ball is still there on the west side of the freeway. They had the best orange slushes I've ever had! And I still miss Kennet Diamond Brewery...they had great beer and food! Still a mystery why they folded.

  19. We LivEd In Toyon Gov Camp A Beautiful Community..Walked The Trails To Toyon school

  20. Every Sat Pancakes Movie Theater Two movies And Cartoons For

  21. Genes Drive In For Hamburgers South Redding

    • As a kid I lived on Cypress across from Tiger Field. We'd walk to Gene's all the time. Get a burger (19 cents!) And a bag of fries. The little paper sack the fries would come in would be soaked through completely with grease! We loved 'em. Probably why my hair is grey now! It was a good memory, though.

  22. I lived in the house mentioned with the "bomb shelter". The man who built the house was named Stan Rowe, he worked with my dad at CalTrans. We bought the house from Stan when he and his wife (Victoria's mom?)were divorcing. The house is located @ 620 Locust St. and has been sold a couple of times since I lived there from 1971- 1976.

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