If you’d been around 100 years ago, you might have noticed a small root beer joint open up in downtown Lodi. Yep, this June 20 will be A&W’s Root Beer’s 100th anniversary. The first location was on the 00 block of West Pine Street. A plaque in the sidewalk commemorates the occasion and location. “An entrepreneur named Roy Allen mixed up a batch of creamy root beer and sold the first frosty mug of (the beverage) for one nickel,” says the company’s website. Allen bought the root beer formula from a pharmacist in Arizona. He later took on Frank Wright as a partner in 1922. Wright was an employee at the original Lodi location. “The two partners combined their initials “A” for Allen and “W” for Wright and formally named the beverage, A&W Root Beer,” according to the company.

The root beer establishment eventually became a successful restaurant chain with locations across America. The burger and root beer stand also became famous for their roller-skating car hops. In 2011, A&W was purchased by its franchisees, who run its more than 600 locations in the U.S. and nearly 1,000 locations worldwide.

STUCK IN LODI: What would you do if you looked into one of those sidewalk storm drain vents and saw a pair of eyes staring back at you? That’s apparently what happened last week when authorities received a call of a raccoon that had gotten itself stuck in one of the drains. A citizen, who must have freaked out at the sight of those two eyeballs, called in the report and stood by until animal services officers Kelli Styles and Jordan Kranich came to the rescue, along with the fire department. After some careful maneuvering, the rescue team was able to free “Randy the Raccoon” and transport him to Arbor Vet Clinic for treatment. It is common for the furry critters to take refuge in the storm drain vents. Thankfully, “Randy” is expected to make a full recovery.

ROAD WARRIORS: You think you’re tough? Try this — the Tour of the California Alps — Death Ride. It’s considered one of the premier cycling events in the West. The grueling ride covers five mountain passes around the Tahoe area, including Monitor Pass (Highway 89) at 8,314 feet, Ebbetts Pass (Highway 4) at 8,730 feet, and Carson Pass (Highway 88) at 8,580 feet. We’re getting muscle cramps just writing this. Several Lodi riders have signed up for the ride, including Jeff Hood, Jeff Payne, Frank Olagaray, Greg Wright, Robert Fuller, and Chris Brown. Why do they call it the “Death Ride?” Must be how you feel at the end of it — if you make it.

UNPLUGGED: The city’s electric utility is currently operating without a permanent director, following the retirement of Liz Kirkley. The search is on for her replacement, which may be a challenge given the pay being offered. The city manager doubts that he will be able to hire a current utility director for the $179,634 annual salary, but will probably attract an underling from somewhere. Virtually all of the other electric utility directors in California (there aren’t many) command significantly more cash than Lodi is offering. If the city decides to bump up the pay in order to hire someone with the desired resume and experience, it could be complicated. The city manager’s employment contract stipulates that he or she shall be the highest paid employee in the city. Should the utility director’s salary be increased to land a desired candidate, it could trigger a raise for City Manager Steve Schwabauer, who says he will not accept it. He says he already makes enough. Now that’s a touch of class.

WEATHER REPORT: Humble Hank observes, “It’s been so cold in Washington that politicians have been spotted with hands in their own pockets.” Sorry, but the forecast is for a warming trend. … Around here, it’s been wetter than first reported in this column. Last week, we said the YTD rainfall for Lodi was about 12 inches. Our report was waaaay off. The seasonal total so far is actually about 21.19 inches, with over eight of those inches falling in February alone, according to Lodi Lake Weather. And there’s much more to come this week.

STRIKE UP THE BAND: The Lodi Community Band will hold one of their concerts on Sunday, March 8 at Hutchins Street Square. It’s a free gig. The band is all-volunteer has been together for eons. One of its earliest directors was Donald Sutherland, who has a Lodi elementary school named after him. Members come from Lodi and the surrounding area, and represent all age groups, backgrounds and professions including, “current and retired music educators and professional musicians.” Its present director is none other than Bob Gross, former Commander of the United States Army 91st Division Band, retired educator and gym enthusiast. The Lodi Band Review was also Bob’s brainchild. The group stages other musical events throughout the year to raise necessary funds to keep the band together.

LOOKING BACK: Every time Lyle Cook drives by the old metal building in the 100 block of East Pine — currently home to S. Khan Auto Sales — he remembers visiting his grandfather’s blacksmith shop there, called Reed and Clawson. He was just a 10-year old lad back then, but he recalls watching his grandfather Buck Reed as he “shod horses, (while) cussing at them.” The building still stands, little changed, with the same corrugated metal roof and sides. A bit of old Lodi that’s largely survived the passage of time.

REMEMBRANCE: We note the passing of local businessman and political activist Adam Dados. A lifelong smoker, Dados is perhaps best known for his strident opposition to the city’s anti-smoking ordinance passed in 1990, which prohibited smoking in most public places. Adam was vocal, to say the least, attending city council meetings to express his displeasure with everyone sitting at the council dais. His obituary said he was known for “stirring the pot” through his letters to the editor and other political activities. So true. Adam was a character.

LET’S EAT: The Oxford Kitchen and Gastropub is slated to open at 110 W. Oak, in the now-abandoned Vine and Branches Bible store location, according to an ABC posting in the window. Appears construction may be underway inside. No ETA for opening yet.


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

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