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ED GALLO SPEAKS: Remembering Rube Nelson


Once again, after I have an idea for a column something happens that diverts my intentions. Last week when entering a convenience store I was stopped by what was posted in the windows. Immediately, my memory bank was alerted to events 45 years ago. I’ll speak about last week later on and in the meantime talk a bit about part of Escondido’s interesting history.

Before moving here in 1973, I read in Supermarket News about a market in California where the owner was named the Independent Grocer of the Year. A few months after getting settled in my new home town and driving along Broadway I spotted the market described in the magazine My first thought was, holy smoke that’s the guy in the magazine. Rube’s Fabulous Country Corner was the so honored market owned by Rube Nelson. As I found out Poor Ole Rube was an integral part of what makes Escondido unique. One local reference to Rube was “character” but for me he was the local color.

Seeing the store I had to stop in to check out this stand-alone business. Rube was very independent, which might answer why he did not want to be part of a corporate business. His store had almost everything from a coffee shop to over-the-counter drugs to clothes and appliances along with the requisite grocery items. He had been in town since the ‘40’s and this was his second and larger location. But Rube’s impact was not just his store but what he did in and for the community.

Quickly, I will explain a few personal observations. The first was at Glen View Elementary at their Halloween event in 1974. Unannounced, Rube showed up with a flatbed truck loaded with hay bales and gave hay rides to the kids, and parents, around the school grounds for about two hours. The kids were ecstatic. The second was a meeting I attended at the old Chamber of Commerce building board room. “No Smoking” signs were posted around the room and in walks Rube with his usual Churchill cigar. I leaned over to a guy next to me and asked, “I thought there was no smoking allowed.” He answered, “Yeah, everyone but Rube.”

For about a dozen years I did lineups for the Jaycees’ Christmas Parade, chaired four, and spent much time trying to figure out where to put Rube’s steam engine. That steel wheeled steamer was big, noisy and smoky, so I couldn’t put it by a band or horses. The marks left on the street would be visible for weeks after. One year, even though the application stated the Jaycees have the only Santa Claus, Rube shows up wearing a Santa suit and smoking his big Churchill cigar. Some of the committee asked what to do about it but I decided to just let it slide. We all knew he would show up with or without an invitation. Kids love noisy things. When he stopped coming I actually missed that noisy machine as it was part of our agricultural history. I guess he was quite a character but very much loved by the community.

Now, back to his store. In the entry way on the right side was a bulletin board behind glass. Anyone who wrote a bad check had their returned check pinned on the wall and upon entering most locals would look to see who was the latest scofflaw. Along with the broom story it was a topic of discussion. If you came to Escondido after 1982, after the store closed and the property sold for the new Albertson’s Center—now Stater Brothers—you missed out on quite a character. Oh, ask a long time resident about the broom.

As promised, the reason for today’s topic. The 7-11 store that I approached had three photos of people posted on the doors with “shoplifter” written with a sharpie on top. On the bottom of one photo was “not allowed in this store.” This is what triggered my memory bank to Rube’s Fabulous Country Corner.    

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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