City employees are not currently required to be vaccinated against COVID, or to provide their vaccination status. As of two weeks ago the verified COVID vaccination rate among city employees was only 37.4%. But that may change. Fast. The city is proposing to offer employees a $500 “vaccine incentive” to motivate workers to get vaccinated or verify their status. If all 394 full time employees and approximately 195 part time staff verify their status, the total cost to the city could be about $294,500. The city reports that 223 different employees have had to quarantine on 266 separate occasions, reportedly costing the city about $591,000 in lost wages. The city council will vote on the plan tomorrow night.

ON YOUR MARK: Three Lodi runners competed in this year’s Chicago Marathon, which was held a week ago. Corinne Howe, Tim Kanold and Anna Bedo all completed the grueling 26.2 miles along with 33,000 other runners from around the world. Howe placed 21,463rd in the field; Kanold finished in 22,755th place; and Bedo came in at 9925th place among the entire field. The race wends its way through some 29 Chicago neighborhoods. It is also a charity fundraiser. The Lodi team raised $12,000 for Alzheimer’s research, according to Dave Phillips, who was there but did not compete. “We cheered (the Lodi runners) on all around the city. We still logged 14 miles doing that.” Streets were lined with 100s of thousands of cheering people, says Dave. Way to go, Team Lodi!

OUT WITH THE OLD: The old Rex Pool Hall is now but a pile of bricks and rubble. The 100-plus year-old building was razed following a fire two years ago that basically gutted the place. Sacramento Street has been closed ever since, long enough for weeds to grow from the cracks in the pavement. The Rex has a long and storied history. Herb Reimche and Harold Kirkbride opened the pool hall and cafe in about 1940. Herb’s brother Melvin bought the café and tavern in 1960, according to local historian Christi Weybret. About that time a feller named John Yeralis was the cook behind the bar. It was his first restaurant in America. He served up huge portions of food for about $1 a plate. He cooked many a free meal for those who were down on their luck. It was also a favorite for many local cops in that era. Sacramento Street was a rough and tumble neighborhood back then. It was Lodi’s “skid row.” The two blocks were mainly frequented by transients, gamblers, drunks, men seeking to sin and women aiming to accommodate. Self-respecting ladies would avoid the area, if they could. But all that began to change in the late 1990s as downtown Lodi was “revitalized,” with new businesses starting to encroach upon the seedy part of town, only a block away. One by one, the bars and card rooms closed, including the Rex. By 1985 John Yeralis had moved on from the Rex and would open The Greek Hero restaurant on Lodi Avenue. On opening day Yeralis insisted that all meals be free. It would become a very popular restaurant. He died in 2015. Most of the remaining buildings next to the Rex (to the north) will be coming down over the next few weeks. The World of Wonders has plans to expand the museum in that space.

SAD FAREWELL: People are shocked to learn of the passing of Dale Gillespie, another true gentleman. Dale died on Oct. 9, a few days before his 68th birthday. He was instrumental in developing a number of projects in Lodi, including Reynolds Ranch, where Costco is. He also had a hand in building the Blue Shield office complex, among other projects in town. Dale was respected by virtually everyone. Former Deputy City Manager Janet Keeter said Dale was “a man of integrity.” Longtime business associate Mike Carouba said of Dale, “He helped bring to town some of our favorite retailers and restaurants. When I see Lodi High kids gather at In-N-Out on Friday nights after a football game, I will think of Dale. When I shop at Lowe’s or Costco, I’ll remember how hard he worked convincing these companies how great Lodi was and why they should come here.” City Manager Steve Schwabauer said, “The most incredible thing about Dale is that he operated with integrity and a kind heart.” Before hanging out his own shingle, Dale managed properties for Geweke Enterprises. Dale was dedicated to serving the Lodi community. He was a former board member with Loel Center and the Chamber of Commerce. “Lodi truly lost a champion,” said Schwabauer. Carouba said, “He was a man that made a difference.”

UPDATE: Hutchins Street Square opened its doors last week to victims of the fire that devastated parts of Brannan Island in the Delta. But no one came, say city officials. Over 20 mobile homes were destroyed in the fire, apparently leaving dozens of people homeless. … A big, beautiful oak tree at the entrance to Glaves Park on Oxford at Allen Drive shed a couple limbs a few weeks ago. Arborists examined the tree and said it couldn’t be saved, so it had to come down, in case you were wondering. Henry Glaves, the park’s namesake, was Lodi’s longest-serving city manager — 28 years, from 1957 to 1985. He was largely credited with developing and setting into motion plans that took the city into the new millennium. He saw the city’s population double, from 16,000 to 38,000, during his tenure. Glaves died in 2001 at age 79.

REMEMBER WHEN: Only a few people remember when Highway 99 coursed through town along Cherokee Lane. That was before the state built a new highway that slightly bypassed the city back in the early ‘60s. The traffic flows were the lifeblood of many businesses along Cherokee. When the highway moved, things changed. However, two restaurants are still standing, basically unchanged. Literally. One of them is the Hollywood Café. Its 1950’s motif provides customers a glimpse of what things were like in those days. But instead of being packed with travelers, the restaurant is now a neighborhood hangout where everyone knows your name. Breakfast and coffee klatches meet there every day, plotting solutions to the world’s problems and discussing the latest gossip about Washington. Visitors will find the food delicious and the menu extensive, including such specialties as the San Joaquin Chicken Salad to Audrey Hepburn's Cafe Fitness Omelet. It’s the perfect place for a Saturday breakfast out or a daily gab session. … If you like biscotti, a type of Italian almond biscuit, check out Biscotti Di Mamma. Elida and Earl Harris make the popular treats in their kitchen, but you won’t find them in any store. You can order them by sending an email to harris489@comcast. The biscuits are made from Elida’s grandmother’s 1898 recipe.

REMEMBRANCE: We note the recent passing of Don Linn. A kinder, gentler man you will not meet. Don was a well-known and respected CPA, with offices in the 400 block of West Pine Street. He was soft-spoken and always professional. Don loved children and in retirement enjoyed helping kids learn how to read. He was also a Lodi Lions Club member for many years. He will be missed.

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Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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