By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Random ruminations of various topics of the day

Have you googled Ceres California lately? If so you may get a chuckle when you see the photos that pop up next to the map.

Recently the photo of a stone gothic church chapel straight out of Europe pops up for Ceres. It’s certainly nothing in Ceres.

Last week it changed to some large mountain in front of a lake. Definitely not Ceres.

Even funnier is if you google Turlock and see its photo. I immediately recognized it as storefronts along Hwy. 395 in Bishop, Calif. The photo shown weeks prior showed a nondescript residential dwelling.

The folks at Google need to take a break from the 420.

* * * * *

I got my hands on an age-toned copy of the May 15, 1959 edition of The Ceres Courier. Let’s just say much has changed about Ceres and the Courier.

First is the size of the newspaper. It was extremely wide at 17 ½ inches. Today copies are 11 ½ inches.

The Courier used few photos and the ones that were printed were muddy looking. Color was not used.

The front page had 14 stories! We generally run four to five now.

What strikes me is how the businesses supported the Courier with advertising – a far cry from what we see today. There were ads from Joe Berg’s Workman’s Store (3024 Fourth Street), Valley Cash Market, Snack Shack and Ceres Drive-In, Sequoia Market, Ben Wilson Nursery, Whitmore Nursery (it was at 2353 Whitmore Ave.), E.C. Litchfield Agency of Farmers Insurance, Florence’s Dress Shop, Valley Furniture and Appliance (2952 Fourth Street), Ceres Drug Store, Helen’s Tiny-To-Teen Shop (2940 Fourth Street, which is where the Courier was located until 2012), Carlin’s Plumbing, Ceres Variety Store (3005 Fourth Street), Garrison’s Market, Miner’s Department Store, Betty Gail Bilson’s Dance Studio and insurance agent Jim Phipps (who founded River Oaks Golf Course and the father of the late Rob Phipps).

There is a distinctive Mayberry feel to Ceres through the pages of 1959. A sample of the stories: Gene Welsh having a birthday and a list of everyone who attended his party. Ben Brown became a salesman for World Book Encyclopedia. Garrie Wade won the poppy poster contest. Mother-daughter tea at church attracted 75 women. Mayor and Mrs. White visit a new grandson in Arlington, Texas. The Mel Cronans entertain families at Sunday dinner. Judy Peterson and Steven Long set altar date for June 21. An invitation to go frog hunting turned out to be a surprise housewarming party for Mr. and Mrs. O.G. Sanders.  A burglary at Barbour’s was “nipped in the bud” when officers spotted thieves trying to pry open the cigarette machine and took them out at gunpoint.

Definitely Mayberry.

The community may have been sleepier in 1959 but there were some close-knit solid relationships filled with a lot of mutual respect and fun. Social media has robbed us of much.

* * * * *

Our Facebook post about Ceres Police citing 15 residents for blowing off illegal fireworks resulted in both sides weighing in. Lots of folks wanted to know why only 15 citations were issued when the problem was worse than last year and 39 were issued in 2020 and 34 issued in 2021.

Food for thought: Turlock received 211 reports of illegal fireworks and issued 35 citations. Ceres received 195 reports of illegal fireworks and issued 15 citations.

On the other side of the issue were those who see nothing wrong with sending fiery rockets spewing sparks over your shake roof and dry grass (remember, the drought?) or the incessant sound of explosions that scare the crap out of cats and dogs. They called people who reported such illegal activities as “Karens,” a rather dismissive term.

One person defied all sensibilities: Jorge Monarrez, an Argus High grad who posted: “Great waste of resources. Baby boomers need to die already.”

Die already? Apparently George wasn’t raised with any human empathy. As a “boomer” – a young person’s term to disregard and disrespect the older generation that is wiser from decades of living longer than they have – I take umbrage at his crass comment. That boomers exist shows an intelligence in surviving the stupidity of youth.

No, no houses caught fire in Ceres but the same cannot be said of the cities of Pasadena and Ontario. About 80 homes in Ontario were damaged in a massive fireworks explosion that killed two people and wreaked $3.2 million in damage. 

So, yeah, George, there are reasons why some fireworks are illegal – despite the large number of self-centered narcissists who disregard laws for their own adrenaline rush.

* * * * *

Maybe it’s because I’m older and have no kids but I’m done buying even the safe and sane variety. I know they help nonprofits raise money but they are costly and disappointing in their short-lived performance, not to mention the vast clouds of sulfur they emit into the air.

Even safe and sane fireworks can be dangerous. Just ask the Turlock family who lost their Joynichole Drive home by fire last week. The occupants committed a major no-no: dumping hot fireworks into their trash can stored next to the house. A trash fire developed and burned up the wall and into the attic. And I thought everyone knew to put the discarded fireworks into a bucket filled with water.

* * * * *

I cannot for the life of me understand why some entertainers go political and alienate lots of paying customers. It can affect a career and ability to get work.

But I applaud the courage of singers Macy Gray and Bette Midler who have spoken out on this ridiculous trend to defy biology by suggesting a person can change gender by surgical alteration and amputation.

Midler was slammed by the Left for tweeting, “WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name!”

“They don’t call us ‘women’ anymore; they call us ‘birthing people’ or ‘menstruators’ and even ‘people with vaginas’! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!”

Gray appeared on Fox and commented, “…everyone’s gonna hate me but as a woman, just because you go change your (body) parts, doesn’t make you a woman, sorry.”

Of course the Left freaked and accused both of being hateful. There’s nothing hateful about speaking truth and Gray shouldn’t apologize for it and say everyone has a “right to feel comfortable in their bodies and live their own truth.”

The truth is not a negotiable commodity.

* * * * *

Councilman James Casey speaks often about a communication breakdown between City Hall and its residents. I agree that it’s a real problem.

I’ve heard on more than one occasion people at City Council meetings explaining how phone calls and emails are ignored and not returned.

Folks always had good things to say about City Manager Tom Westbrook’s style. He was personable and approachable. I had a great working relationship with him. When I called Tom he would either pick up right away or call me back and freely answer all my questions. Nor was he ever afraid to be quoted. I was sure sorry to see him go last year.

My personal experience as a newspaper editor is that contact is hit and miss. 

Emulating Tom Westbrook’s approach would be a good start.

* * * * *

As you know I like to share a good meme.

This one applies to our governor: “The people who shut down your businesses and killed your careers are now asking that you re-elect them so they can keep their jobs. Never forget what they’ve done to you.”

California, you have a chance to ouster THE ONE who did this to you. Vote against Gavin Newsom this November.

* * * * *

Speaking of der Slickmeister, Gov. Newsom has committed yet another act of hypocrisy. While he fully endorsed banning state-funded travel to Montana because of their conservative views on LGBTQ policies, he ended up vacationing there himself. What a hypocrite.

California, have you not yet learned what this self-serving man is all about?

* * * * *

Joe Biden was preposterous when he suggested that the key to lowering gas prices is having gas station owners to drop the price at the pump.

Biden has never run a business and asking the gas station to give up his small profit margin. Opening up new gas and oil leases is an answer but he won’t do that.

On average, gas station owners realize a profit of two cents a gallon, or a profit margin of 1.4 percent! That is far lower than the 7.7 percent across all industries, and lower than the 2.5 percent in grocery stores.

Now let’s talk about the government’s windfall from gas taxes. In California, taxes are responsible for about $1.18 per gallon! We pay 18 cents / gallon for federal excise tax. (Hey, Joe, suspend it!) We pay 51 cents per gallon for state excise tax. We pay 10 cents per gallon for sales tax. We pay 22 cents per gallon for low carbon gas programs. We pay 15 cents a gallon for greenhouse gas programs. We also pay two cents for an underground tank storage fee.

Democrats in Sacramento have refused Republican attempts to suspend the gas tax for a short term to give us relief. So it’s Biden’s party which has refused to make things better despite them sitting on a $100 billion budget surplus.

* * * * *

It’s funny hearing Democrat politicians putting their spin on very bad situations. When the mayor of Chicago was grilled by a Newsmax reporter about her losing control of her city and the high crime affecting tourism, Lori Lightfoot suggested she was indignant and that “crime is on the decline” and “our homicides and our shootings year over year are down.” She then accused the reporter of spewing his “rhetoric which is offensive” to her and others.

Chicago homicides this year are down 10% compared to the same time last year. Shootings are down 17% this year, and the number of shooting victims in 2022 is down by more than 300 (1,525 this year compared to 1,860 last year).

Chicago saw 67 homicides in June, which are down 21% compared to June 2021. But Chicago is still on pace for more than 600 homicides by the end of this year, hardly a record for an easily offended mayor to brag about!

This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation. How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at