Media Life: Things We’d Like To See Come Back … But Probably Won’t

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Journal Archives photo

Clarence Reeves, owner of Auburn Drug from 1941 to 1974, jerks a soda at the Downtown Auburn business’ iconic soda fountain.

Forgive me if I miss one of your favorite haunts.

After nearly 30 years in Auburn you start missing the things that were once part of your life — things that you took for granted would always be there for you.

Apparently there’s an out-of-state eatery serving a version of the Grumpy’s burger in honor of the old Highway 49 pit stop that closed in 2001 after a 31-year run of greasy greatness. Also missed is the statuesque row of lombardy poplars that stood until not long after the Grumpy’s departure. But the big burgers are still on this burger aficionados’ comeback list.

How about the Shanghai Bar and Restaurant? Granted, the Auburn Ale House has established itself in its stead as a bustling fixture in Old Town Auburn. And we’re not suggesting a change. But it would have been a pleasant enough scenario if Richard and Herbie Yue had been able to foresee the future and partake in the brewing business. Auburnities would be proudly boasting about a Shanghai suds they could call their own.

And where is that roller rink in the corridors of collective memory banks? For many, it’s tripping the light fantastic under a mirror ball at a rink that was often filled with skaters in the 1980s but was shut down in the 1990s. It’s now part of the Placer County Office of Education compound on Nevada Street — never to experience another “Bunny Hop” across its well-worn floorboards.

The Dutch crunch bread and rolls from Hilda’s Bakery were a staple on Auburn tables from 1977 until a couple of changes in ownership after the Kleinbach family departed in 2007. A beehive like Hilda’s is no longer on Auburn shopping lists. Neither, unfortunately, is the legendary sourdough.

These are all things that were part of our community in the recent past. It’s a fact of life that no matter how much time passes the memories remain.

Alta Vista School was part of Auburn as an elementary school for more than 100 years. And then suddenly a decision was made, and it was shuttered. It’s now a charter school — something much different than it was. Something was lost, traditions dispersed.

At one time, not too long ago, the Old and New Auburn cemeteries were open day and night. For a late-night runner, there was something calming about a moonlight run along a road through the tombstones. A easily negotiable through-route is no longer in the offing as changing times and security concerns have shut it down and erected gates and fences.

The longer one stays in a community the more you you observe the changes, some good and some not so good.

Is a Starbucks a good replacement for the fireplace and warmth of Izzy’s Burger Spa?

Can the safety of higher railings on the Foresthill Bridge ever replace the majesty of a clear view overlooking the American River canyon and beyond?

Can an empty space replace the presence of Auburn Drug — and the city’s beloved soda fountain?

More changes are afoot in Auburn. There always will be. But for people taking the long view of things, the memories will remain.

Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at