Jack Benny

Jack Beny Statue

Statue by L. Noble, photo by Jerrold Foutz

I parked my bike in front of the famous Sunset Strip apartment building, threw the saddle bags with the Hollywood Citizen-News around my neck and headed for the elevator. In 1944 I was a 14 year old paper boy and Jack Benny was the most famous customer on my route. He lived on a higher floor of the apartment building and I would deliver his paper first.

As requested, I fully inserted it under the door so it did not show.
Jack Benny lived in Beverly Hills but maintained an apartment on Sunset Blvd to be nearer the NBC studio where he broadcast his show — and I was his paper boy!

I never expected to see Jack Benny when delivering papers — but collecting payment each month always raised my expectations.

Alas, knocking on the door always brought his maid to the door, not the famous Jack Benny. She would disappear around the corner and come back with the correct amount and a dollar tip. Tipping was not common for paper boys during World War II and was usually no more then a quarter. I remember all my dollar tippers to this day. I never did see Jack Benny, but the generous tip was a great consolation.

So how come now, when we are in our eighties in the second decade of the 21st century and Jack Benny left us in 1974, is he still part of our lives?

That’s because we live in Rancho Cucamonga.

Old timers will remember Mel Blanc’s train-conductor character on the Jack Benny show calling out “Train leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga.” No single train went to all three locations, but it had a lovely ring to it that always brought a laugh to the listener, especially since Cucamonga was stretched out with creative pauses added — as Mel Blanc did so well for comic effect.

Cucamonga is now Rancho Cucamonga with a street named Jack Benny Drive. A statue of Jack Benny, dedicated in April 1993, was first located in the Epicenter Stadium. It is now in the Rancho Cucamonga Victoria Gardens Cultural Center at the entrance to the Lewis Family Playhouse. In a sculpture by L. Noble, Jack Benny stands with his violin and bow hanging from one hand and his other hand, with palm-to-cheek, in the body language that always brought a laugh to his audiences without a word being spoken.

Rancho Cucamonga pays tribute to the man that made the name Cucamonga, whose indian name means light on the mountain, a familiar name to hundreds of thousands of people.

Biscotti and Coffee are the lubricants for our morning talks.

More about Jack Benny in Wikipedia.