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1920 - 1949 Historic Dates in San Bernardino and The Railroad:


September 10, 1923 - Municipal Auditorium


In 1921, a $200,000 bond was passed to finance a Municipal Memorial Hall to honor the vetrans killed in World War I.  The hall was built within two years, on the site of the old Pavilion and soon became known as the Municipal Auditorium.  Six Grecian columns of Ionic design adorned the front of the building.

The building had a 100 by 114 foot auditorium that seats 3,000 and a stage that can hold 300.  It was the first building west of New York that had sound-deading acoustic tile.

On Monday, September 10, 1923, a three day grand opening celebration began:

-  Opening ceremonies on the first evening drew over 2,000 people, including hundreds of children.

-  Over 3,000 folks heard the San Bernardino Community Orchestra on the second day.

-  The Grand Ball and Pioneer Dance drew another 2,000 to the closing night festivities.

For decades, the building was in constant use for all kinds of cultural events, dances, circuses, conventions, big bands, etc.  But by the sixties, there were fewer and fewer gatherings at the Auditorium.

Over the years there was talk of turning it into a museum or art gallery, or maybe even a boxing arena.  On January 5, 1979, the city locked its doors due to safety concerns.  It was estimated that $750,000 was needed to bring the 56 year old building up to modern building and fire standards.  

About the same time the city was told that the City Public Library would have to vacate its quarters in two years to make room for the County Superblock.  To build a new lbrary on the site of the Auditorium was $2.0 million less than rennovating the old building for use as a library.

In June of 1982, the Municipal Auditorium was torn down to make way for the Norman F. Feldhyem Library.


May 28, 1928 - Tunnel Under the Tracks


Pictured above is the 1951 Track Chart for Santa Fe's "A" Yard  in San Bernardino showing the location of the concrete tunnel that ran under the tracks from Third Street to the shops.  It was located approximately 325 east of the current Depot.  

The tunnel was approximately 700 feet long with one entrance on the south side and two on the north side.  It was desgned to provide easy access to the shops for the Santa Fe employees that lived south of Third Street.

The $100,000 pedestrian tunnel formally opened on May 28, 1928, to the thousands of visitors on "Santa Fe Day".  The tunnel was opened to the employees early the previous week. As soon as the tunnel was placed in commission, work was started tearing down the old foot viaduct, as the Overhead Walkway was called.

The Overhead Walkway was located in approximately the same location as the new tunnel and served the Santa Fe employees for nearly 25 years.

1921 Photo of ATSF 3721 Under the Santa Fe Employee Overhead Walkway in San Bernardino (R. P. Middlebrook/S. Kistler)


August 15, 1928 - California Theater

The California Theater on 562 West 4th Street in downtown San Bernardino is among five remaining Art Deco theaters in California.  This beautiful 1,760-seat building began as a vaudeville and movie theater on August 15, 1928.  It opened to a sold out crowd with the movie "Street Angel" staring Academy Award winner Janet Gaynor.

The Wurlitzer model 216 organ was built in 1927 for the opening of the California Theater. There were a dozen 216s built for Fox West Coast’s movie houses in the state, and the California Theater’s organ is the only 216 still in its original location.  The Redlands’ organ is in storage in Palm Springs and Riverside’s is in the lobby of the Fox Theatre in San Jose.

Legendary humorist Will Rogers made his last public appearance in the California Theater before his fatal crash in 1935.

Currently the California Theatre serves as the home for Theatrical Arts International (host to several touring companies, plays and musicals), the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra, the Sinfonia Mexicana, Worldwide Theatricals and Inland Dance Theatre, Inc.

Click here for a short history of the "Movie Palaces" of San Bernardino.


August 18, 1929 - Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart signed the above receipt for fuel when she landed in San Bernardino in 1932. She was also here for the 1929 Powder Puff Derby.

Do you remember these two great aviation firsts?

*  Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927

*  Wiley Post and Harold Gatty's 15,474 mile flight around the world in 1931

Between these two historic flights another aviation first took place, the First Women's Air Derby, part of the 1929 National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition.

Will Rogers called it the "Powder Puff Derby", the name by which the race is most commonly known.

Nineteen pilots took off from Clover Field in Santa Monica on August 18, 1929 (another left the next day).  About a half hour later they landed in San Bernardino at Federal Field (east of Waterman Avenue between 3rd and 6th Streets), the end of the first lap of the race.

Before the race began, the Exchange Club met on the roof of the Fox Theater building on Court Street and painted “SAN BERNARDINO” in 12 foot high letters, hoping the fliers would see the sign

Among the fliers were Amelia Earhart, Ruth Elder and Florence Lowe Barnes.  Amelia Earhart and her fellow aviators made it to San Bernardino, had dinner and spent the night at the California Hotel before resuming the race the next day.

Fifteen made it to Cleveland, Ohio on August 26 and were greeted by 18,000 spectators.  Louise Thaden finished the race first and Amelia Earhart was third.


January 20, 1935 - Lee Miles

 Leland S. Miles, 1903-1937 (M. Marcelli photo)     Miles-Atwood Special (John Underwood photo)

On January 20, 1935, thousands of fans attended an air show at Shandin Hills Airport (located north of the the intersection of Cajon Blvd. and W. Highland Ave.).  Lee Miles, by now a nationally known racing and stunt pilot, thrilled the crowd with his aerobatics and upside down flying.

Lee was born in the same year that the Wright Brothers made their first powered flight and in 1909 Lee's family moved to San Bernardino, where Lee attended local schools.

After enlisting in the Army Air Service he received flight training at March Field, and left the service in 1921.

Lee did a lot of his early flying out of a field near the corner of Highland and Mt. Vernon.  It was here that Lee taught Leon Atwood how to fly.  Later Mr. Atwood became Lee's financial backer and partner in his racing exploits.

Lee loved flying and participated in every aspect of aviation.  He was a flight instructor, charter operator, did movie work, was an airport manager and airline pilot to mention a few.  His passion, however, was building and racing airplanes.

Click here to view Dick Molony's story of Lee Miles' flying exploits.


June 28, 1935 - Will Rogers

The sketch, by Kent Twitchell, was to be painted on the north wall of the California Theater in honor of Will Rogers, who staged his last public performance at San Bernardino's historic theater on June 28, 1935. Before painting could begin it was discovered that a new movie theater was to be built nearby that would hide some of the mural.  Twitchell decided to paint two portraits of the famed cowboy philosopher, one on each side of the building, to commemorate the final performance of one of America's finest humorist. 

West Wall - Will Rogers in his mid fifties (Photo by Steve Shaw).............. East Wall - Will Rogers in his younger days (Photo by Steve Shaw)

The two murals on the exterior walls of the California Theater are approximately 68 feet tall and were painted between 1997 and 2000 by the world famous artist Kent Twitchell.  Both murals are lit at night.

Will Rogers was born on November 4, 1879, in Oologah, Indian Territory (which became Oklahoma in 1907). Rogers first job was in the livestock business in Argentina.  Later he wrote weekly articles for the "New York Times", and became a world famous American humorist of the stage, the Ziegfeld Follies and motion pictures.  

As his official biography says, "Over the years he gradually blended into his act his unique style of topical, iconoclastic humor, in which he speared the efforts of the powerful to trample the rights of the common man, while twirling his lariat and perhaps chewing on a blade of straw".

A few of Rogers' personal quotes:

"I never met a man I didn't like."

"I love a dog, he does nothing for political reasons."

"The trouble with practical jokes is that they often get elected."

"Outside of traffic, there is nothing that has held this country back as much as committees."

"Everything is funny, as long as it's happening to someone else."

On August 15, 1935, six weeks after his last stage performance, Will Rogers was killed in an airplane crash with his friend and pioneer aviator, Wiley Post, near Point Barrow, Alaska.


December 31, 1935 - Monopoly Trains


The boardgame, Monopoly, was patented on December 31, 1935 and contains four railroads:



                      Reading Railroad

Chartered in 1833, the Reading began operations from Philadelphia to Reading and Pottsville in 1842.  The main purpose of the railroad was to carry anthracite coal from the mines in northeastern Pennsylvania to Philadelphia.

Until the decline after World War II, it was one of the most prosperous corporations in America.  It went into bankruptcy in the 1970's, merged with Conrail in 1976 & its holding were disposed of in 2000. 


                     Pennsylvania Railroad

The "Pennsy" as it is commonly referred to, was founded in 1846, the original line connecting Harrisburgh and Pittsburgh.

It was the largest railroad by traffic and revenue in the U. S. for the first half of the 20th century.  By 1925, it had over 10,000 miles of rail lines.

In 1968, it merged with the New York Central to form the Penn Central, which filed for bankruptcy within two years. Parts were transferred to Conrail, then to Norfolk Southern.


                               B & O Railroad

Incorporated in 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was the first commercial railroad in America.

On Januray 7, 1830, the first "official" passengers rode in horse-drawn carts from Baltimore to the Carroloton Viaduct.  On May 24, 1830 the line was extended to Ellicott's Mills, MD, the oldest surviving railroad station in the country.

The B & O operated for over a century, but in 1963 it became part of the Chessie System which later became part of CSX.


                                 Short Line 

When we think of short line railroads, we typically refer to a local railroad that either serves a small number of towns and industries or hauls cars for one or more larger railroads. 

The Short Line on the Monopoly board, is a shortened name for the Shore Fast Line, a streetcar system that served Atlantic City and Ocean City, New Jersey from 1907 to 1948. 

The company that operated the streetcars of the Shore Fast Line was called the Atlantic City and Shore Railroad.


December 12, 1948 - The First McDonald's


Richard J. McDonald (1909-1998)Murice J. McDonald (1902-1971)

"In the 1940s, the McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, opened a barbeque restaurant called McDonald's on the southwest corner of 14th and E Streets.

"The Location was just four blocks south of San Bernardino High School and the astute McDonald brothers observed that much of their clientele was comprised of students on school breaks, who needed to eat in a hurry...


"In 1948, as they watched the post-war car craze take hold, the brothers converted McDonald's to a drive-in burger bar.  The grand opening took place on December 12, 1948. It's the moment the fast food industry was born...

"The McDonald brothers...were generous in sharing their methods with others, and acting as mentors to such other fast food pioneers as Neal Baker, founder of the Baker's chain, and Baker's friend and fellow San Bernardino HIgh School classmate Glen Bell, who founded Taco Tia, Taco Bell and De Wienerschnitzel.

"The McDonald brothers sold their business to investing partner Ray Kroc in 1961 for $2.7 million."

(Postcard is from Steve Shaw and text from John Weeks', San Bernardino Bicentennial 1810-2010)