And the beat goes on: a giant orange in Fontana, California

History has turned a page, uh huh

The Beat Goes On

(Thanks to Route 66 News for sharing the links to the California Historical Route 66 Association/Beth Murray Facebook post and the Bono’s Restaurant and Deli Wikipedia link that I cite below.)

Those of us who live here know three things about California’s Inland Empire:

  • The Inland Empire has been heavily influenced by the citrus industry.
  • The Inland Empire has been heavily influenced by Route 66.
  • On occasion, those influences merged together.

One of these “get your citrus kicks” Inland Empire mergers of the citrus industry and Route 66 occurred in 1936. In that year, Bob DeVries built a huge fruit stand that looked like an orange and placed it near Fontana, California. Because that’s what people did on Route 66.

Note: the “Bono’s” was added later. By Binksternet – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4861898

According to John Anicic in a 2013 Fontana Herald News article, the eye-catching fruit stand was a huge money-maker.

“We squeezed oranges for 14 to 18 hours daily.  We worked until 9 to 10 p.m. each day to make enough juice to see the next day.  We would put it in gallon bottles and put them into Coca-Cola cases with ice.  We picked the fruit and also got some at the citrus plant on Mango Avenue (still there).  They paid $2 a trailer load.

“This was not the only thing sold at the stand.  The large black olives and the pimento stuffed green olives were the first seen by the easterners.  We made $20 a week, which was considered good in those days.  The olives sold for 98 cents a gallon.  Honey was from Colton, dates from Indio, and the Cherry Anne drink was sold by the gallon (or glass for a dime).”

Bob DeVries, son of the original Bob DeVries, from https://www.fontanaheraldnews.com/opinion/here-is-the-story-behind-the-orange-stand-on-foothill-boulevard/article_99cd5416-2a89-5a8b-bbc5-87156e3f7837.html

Hey, twenty dollars a week wasn’t bad in the late 1930s.

But time passed, and the orange stand in Fontana, as well as similar orange stands throughout California, began to decline in the same way that Route 66 itself declined.

After the 1950’s the stands began to decline as roads were converted to higher speed freeways which made it more difficult to easily pull over and stop for a glass of orange juice. This combined with the emergence of air conditioning in cars, began the decline of the giant orange juice stands.

From http://www.weirdca.com/location.php?location=134

By 1985, according to Beth Murray, Walmart wanted the Giant Orange removed from its premises.

The grocery store’s the super-mart, uh huh

The Beat Goes On

The Giant Orange ended up with the Fontana Historical Society, who gifted the orange to Joe Bono.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Joe Bono’s (claimed) cousin (I couldn’t substantiate the Wikipedia claim; Sonny was born in Detroit and moved to Los Angeles as a child, but to my knowledge never lived in Fontana—although of course he lived in Palm Springs later).

Coincidentally, the Bono family was a long-time competitor of the DeVries family, and had its own orange back in the day.

Anyway, Joe Bono placed the DeVries-built Giant Orange in front of his restaurant and promptly put his name on the orange. Eventually the restaurant closed, was reopened, and closed again.

And the Giant Orange…um, rotted.

Update on Bono’s Historic Orange Stand,” Beth Murray, California Historic Route 66 Association, March 28, 2022. Image from https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=5234617199891029&set=pcb.5272252099472463

According to Murray, the Fontana Historical Society reclaimed the Giant Orange, which is now in the parking lot of Fontana Public Works.

There are plans to restore the orange to its original 1936 glory. But the restored orange will not have Bono’s name on it. Apparently the “Bono’s” on the orange has been a point of contention for years.

THERE IS something of importance that needs to be corrected in the information in newspapers.  The Orange (was in 2013) at Bono’s Restaurant and has the name “Bono’s” on it.  This is incorrect.  The Fontana Historical Society loaned it to him when it had to be moved from the Wal-Mart store.  The Society cannot give it to an individual, only to another historical non-profit.  The name on it should be “Fontana Historical Society Orange Stand.”  The lady who donated the Orange has been very angry about the name situation.

From https://www.fontanaheraldnews.com/opinion/here-is-the-story-behind-the-orange-stand-on-foothill-boulevard/article_99cd5416-2a89-5a8b-bbc5-87156e3f7837.html

Joe Bono himself died in 2020.

A little postscript: if you own a giant orange, restaurant, or other Fontana business and need some help promoting it, you might want to contact the Fontana, California content marketing expert, Bredemarket.

And for those like me who now have an ear worm in their head, here’s a song from Joe’s purported cousin and his then-wife.

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS3O5zg290k

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