I do hope they reopen the restaurant (and orange juice stand) one day in the near future as I know EVERYONE will want to stop and get a chance to experience this place….
On a day when Fontana was celebrating its 100th birthday, Joe Bono on Friday did just what his family has done for the last 77 years: He offered his hospitality to tourists traveling on Route 66.
Sitting along the parking lot of Bono’s Old Route 66 restaurant on Foothill Boulevard was something Glen Heitritter and Linda Swenson of Omaha, Neb., had not yet seen on their ride down the Mother Road.
They stopped to take a look at the Big Orange, a 7-foot-high stucco ball from which thirsty travelers could buy glasses of fresh orange juice before the age of the freeway.
After the couple posed for the requisite photo, Bono gave them a tour of his place.
An attorney and former deputy district attorney, Bono grew up at the rear of the property at the corner of Sultana Avenue. A neighbor suggested to his mother in 1936 that she ought to sell juice to travelers along Foothill, which at the time had plenty of vineyards but was short on any places to stop for refreshment.
“It was all you could drink for 10 cents,” he told me in an interview some time ago.
That evolved into an Italian market and ultimately a restaurant. Especially during the Great Depression, Mama Bono would hear lots of hard-luck stories from many weary, and penniless, travelers seeking a new life in California and often fed them for free.
For Heitritter and Swanson, the Big Orange proved the perfect Route 66 distraction.
In their striking red Pontiac GTO — naturally, a 1966 model — they have traveled what remains of Route 66 since picking it up first in Carthage, Mo.
Among the notable experiences they’ve had was spending a night in one of the storied Wigwam Motels — with rooms shaped like teepees — in Holbrook, Ariz. They had passed the Inland Empire’s Wigwam Motel on the western edge of San Bernardino a few moments before pulling into Bono’s parking lot.
Before leaving for the end of the road at Santa Monica Pier that afternoon, they viewed Bono’s restaurant and its array of photographs and mementoes.
On a wall is a picture of young Joe and his father working in the vineyards not far away.
“Everything you see out there was vineyards,” he told the visitors, pointing out the windows toward Foothill.
But now Bono has big plans for his landmark business.
Looking over architect’s drawings, Bono said the restaurant, whose front windows are just a few feet shy of the now-four-lane Foothill Boulevard, will be moved south back from the highway. This will accommodate widening of the street as well as the construction of a huge warehouse planned on the other side of Sultana.
He said he was confident that Bono’s restaurant would reopen in the near future, to accommodate Fontana’s next century and for future travelers seeking the romance and adventure of Route 66.
By Joe Blackstock – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin