Covina and West Covina, California: Where I first dropped the dishes.

Covina Orange

I know that one person’s nostlagia  can be another person’s mind-numbing boredom. Sometimes the  things from the past that most touch us, that most bring us to life, are things which no audience — not even an audience of one — is eager to hear about.

So some of us keep a lot of our memories to ourself.  Or we try.

Last week, I had the still shocking experience of learning that one of my graduate students here in NYC grew up in the same southern California suburb I did, and that her family owned the Five Lanterns Chinese Retaurant, in Covina, California, the place I had my first job in 1965.

It's a UPS store now.

It’s a UPS store now.

I was a bus boy in that wonderful Chinese Restaurant, one of only two Chinese Restaurants for miles around in a suburb that — to this day — I recall as one of the least diverse places I have ever seen or visited.

The result is that, in the last week,  I have been overwhelmed with memories  of two  towns, West Covina and Covina, California, from which I had supposedly escaped close to 40 years ago.

Today at the former site of The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant: My First Job, 1965, Covina, California

Today at the former site of The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant: My First Job, 1965, Covina, California

I may have more to say later: For now, all I am feeling is the flimsiness of concepts  like escaping,  “getting away from it all,” or starting over. They may be occasionally useful in the course of a lifetime, but it seems that I have rarely  been able to truly escape or get away from anything.

Memories, joys, and hurts travel. And travel well.

I dropped an enormous tray of dishes at that restaurant. On a busy weekend night.  And until last week, that tray was gone forever.

It’s back.

A Tike style mug from The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant. I broke quite a few of these one night in December, 1965.

A Tike style mug from The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant. I broke quite a few of these one night in December, 1965.

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7 thoughts on “Covina and West Covina, California: Where I first dropped the dishes.

  1. Steve,

    I think I was your next door neighbor in WC. Hartley Street? We moved in ’59 but still get up for visits. Big changes and nothing changes. Glad to be in San Diego.

    Take care,

    Bill

  2. Funny, I too “escaped” to San Diego, Bill. But I have to admit, I still enjoy heading back from time to time for some good Mexican food or Pastrami. 🙂

    • It has been interesting growing up and getting older. Because, for a place that I couldn’t wait to escape, I think about it a lot and remember how much I learned and experienced there; and how many people I remember with great warmth and affection.

      Yes, there were snooty and bigoted people who I don’t miss, but at this stage I find myself unwilling to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I became very much of who I am in West Covina and Covina, and –year by year — I find it harder to see the pettiness, the trivialities, the boredom and easier to remember the teachers and the librarians and storekeepers who made such a positive difference.

      Truth be told, I miss it a lot of the time.

  3. The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant in the Eastland Shopping Center was my Uncle, C C Chend’s restaurant. I worked there as a waiter while I went to Mt SAC. between 1960 and 1962.
    I do later went to San Diego and still live there.

  4. I was just thinking of my first job in high school which just happened to be at the 5 Laterns about 1963 or 64. I did a web search & found this article. I two was a bus boy & Tuesday or Wednesday I filled in for the dishwasher on his day off. When I came in after school, dirty dishes had been sitting since lunch with caked on rice. I worked there for about a year before getting a job at Perinos Liquor in my senior year at WCHS in 1965.

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