Joe Blackstock

Joe Blackstock

Recent articles

  • Features/People

    How an Ontario man made a tiny gas station a big success

    You wonder how Conrad Stroh ever succeeded selling gasoline in downtown Ontario. You might get a postcard there, but he didn’t sell soft drinks, hot dogs, cigarettes, Slurpees, T-shirts, magazines, keychains, lottery tickets or beer. He also washed car windows and checked the oil while gas was pumped. Honestly, how did he ever stay in business? Stroh — “Connie” to everyone who knew him — operated one of the smaller gasoline stations...

  • International relations

    How a local family had front row seat to changes in China

    Grace Boggs Service should have been used to the chaos when shots rang out at her house in Chongqing, China, one night in 1923. Service, who grew up in Highland and graduated from San Bernardino High School in 1898, spent nearly four decades in the eye of the hurricane that was early-20th century China. This was a time when China was alive with revolution and social change, but she got a little too close that night when her husband Robert Service answered the door. He...

  • News

    How you can help solve an 80-pound mystery from Upland

    Scott and Denise Corbett of Ontario are a couple of “pickers” — those people who search yard sales and junk shops for hidden treasures of value and historical interest. And now they have a 80-pound mystery on their hands. There’s no trouble identifying the object: It’s a large metal bell attached to a yoke. The metal yoke is cracked after previous repairs, and the bell is missing its clapper. What’s puzzling is trying to verify...

  • Aircraft manufacturing

    How Pomona and San Bernardino almost became Kitty Hawk

    Inventor Alva Reynolds wanted to really dazzle the Inland Empire in 1906, but his plans just didn’t get off the ground.Reynolds’ claim to fame was his creation known as the “Man Angel,” an oval-shaped gas balloon that carried a pilot in a wire cage shaped like a canoe. The pilot moved the craft forward with “oars” shaped like giant fans.As goofy as this might have sounded, the Man Angel was a real attraction less than three years after...

  • Libraries

    Two-decade-old San Bernardino library mystery solved

    Sometimes when you’re researching items from the past, there are historical mysteries you just can’t figure out.And sometimes, the answer is right at your fingertips. Such was the case for identifying a “thing” that’s been sitting on a shelf in the Arda Haenszel California Room of the Feldheym Library in San Bernardino for longer than...

  • Police

    Chino’s first citizen turned into one tough dude

    The Inland Valley has been fortunate to have at least three “super cops,” police officers who kept the peace for decades back when we were little more than a bunch of farm towns. Pomona had Frank O. Slanker, who had served nearly 45 years as constable when he died in 1932, while Upland’s Jedd F. Sawyer didn’t let having only one arm stop him from serving as that city’s police chief from 1906 to 1935. A contemporary of those two men was W. J.

  • Movies & TV

    Inland Empire’s first talking movies predated ‘The Jazz Singer’ — here’s how

    One night in September 1913, the first “talking” motion picture came to the Inland Empire. Whoa, stop right there. Everyone knows the first feature film with music and speaking parts was “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson, and that didn’t premiere until October 1927. But in a headline in the San Bernardino Sun of Sept. 2, 1913, was the announcement of “Talking Pictures Are Opera House Feature,” discussing the opening...

  • Racial and ethnic discrimination

    Recalling Ontario’s racist past

    It must have been a puzzling time for a young boy, growing up in an Hispanic family in a white world.Late in the 1920s the family of young Victor Murillo Ruiz missed out on a chance to buy a nice house in southwest Ontario, just a few blocks from their own home. But for Hispanic families, it was completely out of reach, on the other side of an invisible wall built down the middle of Euclid Avenue. “My father said he liked it and he was going to make the deal,”...

  • Circuses

    A history of circuses in the Inland Empire

    It was always a big deal in years past when the circus came to town, especially if you were a kid.A headline announcing the arrival of the Ringling Brothers Circus in San Bernardino one day in 1903 told the whole story.“Hearts Are Palpitating,” said the San Bernardino Sun headline Oct. 3. “Every ‘Kid’ in Town Has Been Saving Up for Weeks to Get Inside and Few of Them Slept Last Night.”Things are different now — kids can...

  • Movies & TV

    Why Chino needs its own Hollywood sign

    Chino has always called itself the place “Where Everything Grows,” but the city’s abundance once posed problems for an Oscar-winning actor.Lionel Barrymore, winner of the 1931 Academy Award for best actor and member of the distinguished family of actors, found himself on the E.J. Phillips ranch just south of Chino in 1933 surrounded by pigs — the wrong-sized pigs.Barrymore, playing an 85-year-old Iowa farmer for the movie “Stranger’s...