Demolition work is underway at the new Black Bear Diner. They should be submitting plans soon for the interior remodel, according to city officials. The popular eatery will be opening up where Coco’s used to be on Kettleman Lane. The shopping center owners say the restaurant should be open before the end of the year. … Lodi Beer Company should also be moving forward soon with their expansion project into an adjoining space. “They had some building parts taking longer to order than they had hoped,” says City Planner Craig Hoffman. The restaurant will expand into the next door spot on the corner of Oak and School.

ON THE MOVE: Following last week’s call for a van with wheelchair access, Ken and Diane Heffel stepped up and donated a vehicle to the Compassion Residio Services organization, which provides shelter to homeless veterans in the Lodi area. The Heffels’ act of kindness brought tears to the shelter’s creator and administrator, Fritzie Pascual. The shelter currently houses six vets — one who is 90 and another is 75 — who would otherwise be living on the streets. The organization provides shelter and services to vets who are 50 years and older for up to six months. The Heffels own and operate Vienna Nursing & Rehab Center, and are well known for their generosity towards worthy causes. A classy couple. Jennifer Lozo and the Lodi Elks Lodge have made it their mission to assist the shelter with their many needs. At least this one can be check off the list.

TRIBUTES: The accolades and memories continue to pour in for the late Elvera Melby following news of her death two weeks ago at age 96. Kristine Leach spotted a slight inaccuracy in our piece last week. “The issue was whether or not a girl’s skirt was too far above the knee,” not below, as we erroneously reported. “The test was that if you knelt on the floor and your skirt didn’t touch the ground it was too short! We all used to roll up the waistbands of our skirts to make them shorter but if we were going into the office or saw Mrs. Melby coming down the hall we quickly unrolled them to make them the appropriate length. Still makes me chuckle after all of these years,” writes Kristine. Denise Conley writes on Facebook, “Great lady … she had a way of lookn’ right thru ya.” Sharon Valinoti worked with Mrs. Melby in 1973 at Lodi High and recalls one day when a student put a snake in Elvera’s top desk drawer. The young man was caught, but she asked “Dean of Boys Don Smith not to punish the boy because she had verbally punished him enough,” she remembers. “She was a great lady. I always feared passing her in the hallway when I had my skirt rolled up. Sometimes she would just roll her eyes,” recalls Susan Oesterman.

TOP SECRET: Susana Alcala Wood, Sacramento’s city attorney and wife of Joseph Wood, Lodi’s former neighborhood services manager, says she has the “ultimate security system … all my passwords are protected by amnesia.”

SIGN OF THE TIMES: A sign posted outside Starbucks warns, “No Poop Zone.” A customer was overheard wondering, “Do they mean humans or animals?” … But wait, there’s more. Back in the old days, there were just some things you wouldn’t do in public. Forget that. Someone posted on one of the Facebook “Lodi” groups about spotting another public pooper. This time is was a “bald white guy” taking care of business on the sidewalk along Turner Road during broad daylight. Oh me, or my. … SAD STAT: Twelve percent of the calls the fire department responded to over the last two years were homeless related, according to Fire Chief Gene Stoddart.

MAKEOVER: There are big plans for Hale Park at Elm and Stockton Streets. The city parks, recreation and cultural services department will be submitting a grant application to secure funding for big-time improvements, according to director Jeff Hood. The project is still in the planning stages, says Hood, but the application will be filed by August 5. “It will be a multi-million-dollar project if we’re successful,” he says. Community input indicates the desire for “safety improvements, better security lighting, and part of the park designed with a plaza-like layout.” The grant funding would come from Prop 68, which was approved by voters last year. The city should hear by the end of this year if it gets the cash, and the project would need to be completed by end of June 2022. Hale Park was named after one of Lodi’s first mayors and it has seen much change over the years. It was once the site of Lodi Municipal Baths, and when that enterprise closed the swimming pool was filled in and the Lodi Scout Center was built in its place. The last major renovation happened about 1990.

OOOOH-AAAAH: Joyce Defenbaugh wonders if the annual July 4th fireworks show at Lodi Lake is happening this year and if the usual cyclone fence will be in place. Yes, says the city. You will recall the cost of the fencing was an issue early this year when the city received new pricing. Sticker shock! But the city council decided to go with it anyway. The whole event will cost city coffers about $50k. … BATTER UP: This year the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lodi will be celebrating their 50th pancake breakfast at Lodi Lake this July 4th. It’s actually their 51st, says club honcho Chet Somera, but they forgot about it last year. The annual event attracts hundreds of patriotic diners and the net proceeds help local causes.

UNPLUGGED: The Lodi Electric Utility is still operating without a permanent director following the retirement of Liz Kirkley last December. City officials say interviews with the final three candidates are scheduled within a couple weeks.

ANSWER MANN: People have often wondered what the story is behind those two pillars at the corner of Elm and California Streets. Was it an archway that was never finished? Nope, they were actually erected in 1910 as a grand entry into a new subdivision being built there by Otto Schroeder. One of the first houses in the subdivision was purchased by the Cordier family. It was for them that the street which runs horizontal to the pillars was named. It thus remained until 1949 when the city council renamed it California Street. The name “Cordier” was chiseled off of the pillars and replaced with Elm and California, as it remains today. Now you know.


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

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