A small café
The Spirit of Tehachapi
Sometimes a person’s memories come in snatches of information and when telling a story it’s hard to know where to begin. Occasionally someone will come into the local museum and say they have heard of a café in town that has lots of local, historical photos of Tehachapi. “Sure, Kelcy’s Café !” I tell them. That’s an easy question.
Stepping back several decades back to the forties, will find this writer, as a teenager from good old Tehachapi High School, entering the portals of the café when it was called Squires Coffee Shop. We just called it Squires. Kelcy Owens, also in his teens, would be among those high schoolers, probably never dreaming that he would one day be a long time owner of the establishment. I don’t recall our being a nuisance as we drank coffee and visited with friends but we were never asked to leave. About all most of us could afford was coffee which was usually ten cents.
That whole block of buildings in the early part of the 20th Century was owned by a man named Jack Iriart and it was known as “The Iriart Block.” We called him Old Jack Iriart for he had a nephew living in town whom we called Young Jack Iriart. Young Jack Iriart was the son of local farmer, Sam Iriart, who was Old Jack Iriart’s brother. Not really confusing for the local folks of that time but now that history has dimmed some local lore, it seems to be something of a tangled web.
In the early thirties a young pharmacist, Jeffery Haubrich, ran his drug store from the future café site. He and his family lived in the rear and the business operated from the front. His daughter, the late Dorothy Haubrich McLaughlin plus her mother, Ina, sister Margaret, brothers Jeffery, Edward (Eddie) and Tom completed the family members. Haubrich later took his business to Arvin with his family remaining in Tehachapi. His grandson, Tim McLaughlin, and I exchanged facts regarding his grandfather.
In 1933 local business man, Vaughn Squires, purchased the block of buildings from Old Jack. He opened his own drug store on the corner of Green and Main Street (Tehachapi Boulevard), The pharmacist that I mostly remember was Charles Metzler. A good man and a good pharmacist who could be counted on to help people with questions about their prescriptions.
There was the usual soda fountain within the store and a section that had comic books , newspapers and magazines and a small merchandise section. A fountain coke was a nickel but the conversation with the person buying you the coke was worth it.
After I graduated from high school, in 1946, but still being a teenager, I held down my first job as a telephone operator at the local telephone office, which was directly East next to Squires Café. One switchboard and one operator took care of the needs of Tehachapi residents. A good eighty percent of the populace did not call by numbers. They would just say, “Operator, give me the bank” or, “ Ring Bandhauer’s Market.“ Not telling the operator the number didn’t really matter, the operators knew all of the numbers, anyway. Sometimes when I worked the early shift which began at 6:30 a.m. I usually stopped at Squires Café at 6:15 for coffee. If I walked on by, it meant I was too late for my morning caffeine and the waitress, Coleen Redelsperger, would bring me a cup. My eternal thanks to her for that small, kind act.
I married my Marine in 1950 and lived in the Southland but always came back to see my family. I had heard of Trusty’s Café but never had much of an occasion to frequent the establishment. I did know that Vaughn Squires owned the building but Trusty’s owned the business.
Time marches on and in 1969 my old friends Margie and Kelcy had purchased Trusty’s business and were in the restaurant business. Margie ran the café during the day and Kelcy, after his shift at Monolith Cement Plant, took the night shift. During the 1970s they purchased the building itself from Squires. Little did they forsee that today, forty seven years later, their business would still be providing a friendly family-like establishment with daughter, Kathy, now at the helm. Margie and I had been a lifelong acquaintance and I met Kelcy when he came to Tehachapi in 1945. I recall he was well liked and always seemed to have a car to drive. I have a couple of years on Margie and Kelcy. I think they were Class of 1948.
Margie and Kelcy, have made their business more than a restaurant for it has always been an early morning coffee meeting for local businessmen. Many important issues were settled at a booth in the café as well as hashing over the last Tehachapi Warrior game.
After the earthquake Kelcy’s enlaraged by encompassing the area that had once been the Hitching Post bar on the west side. It’s a nice dining area. I don’t know who thought up the pictures but it was a great idea . It’s kind of nice to realize that Kelcy and Margie and the family have created their own bit of Tehachapi history and also have became a Tehachapi Legend in their own time.