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June 7, 2014

Ask Me: Old gymnasium now houses Fresno funeral chapel

Question: I've been curious for some time about the building at West Belmont and North Pacific avenues. I've never been inside, but from the outside it looks like a gymnasium or a theater.

-- William Smith, Fresno

Answer:

The building across the street from the Belmont Avenue entrance to Roeding Park was built in 1953 as an auditorium and gymnasium for the Fresno Union Academy.

According to a 1953 Fresno Bee story, the auditorium also served as temporary headquarters for the Central Seventh-day Adventist Church after its first office at Mariposa and O streets was sold.

The building cost $10,000 and was constructed of "light concrete blocks and features interior flooring of hardwood and asphalt tile," the story said. "The main floor also has space for two classrooms" for fifth- and sixth-grade classes.

Offices, storage rooms and a kitchen were located under the stage area, and the building had heating and air conditioning.

According to a history by the local Seventh-day Adventist Church, the school opened at Mariposa and O in 1897 and moved to Fruit and Napa avenues in 1906. In 1921, the school moved to 841 Belmont Ave. at Teilman Avenue, not far from the future site of the gymnasium.

In 1969, the name of the school was changed to Fresno Adventist Academy and the school moved to its current location on East Olive Avenue near Minnewawa Avenue.

Fresno city directories show the gymnasium was used until at least 1973. The following year, it is listed as the Wonderland Skating Rink.

Today a chain link fence surrounds the property, and the building houses the Hmong Memorial Chapel.

Q: I remember my mom taking me to Darrell's Arts and Hobbies back in the 1960s at Cedar Avenue and Fountain Way. The "mom and pop" owners were very friendly, and Darrell used to help me pick out models to build. What is the history of the store?

-- Mark Caglia, Fresno

A:

Darrell Wolf of Denair said he and his wife, Eula, opened their hobby and art supply store at 3341 N. Cedar Ave. in 1965.

Helping young customers pick out model kits was a favorite part of Wolf's job. "I did that with a lot of kids. I loved working with kids and people and any money I made was a bonus," he said. The store stocked models of all sorts, from airplanes and cars to ships.

Owning a hobby and art store was a natural extension of his love of art, said Wolf, who enjoyed oil painting since childhood. "At first I tried to paint between customers," he said, but he soon had too many customers for that to work.

As customers' interests shifted, the store began stocking fewer art supplies and more craft items. Eula Wolf taught craft classes and Darrell Wolf maintained the indoor race track for slot cars.

The couple closed the store in 1973 and traveled before moving to Indiana. They had a farm where they grew corn and strawberries that became a popular you-pick location, Wolf said. The couple moved back to California and settled in Denair in 1986.

Q: What happened to the Der Family Beerock Haus, and did they ever give out their recipe?

-- Ruben Contreras, Yreka

A:

Yvonne Haar of Fresno said she and her late husband, Bill, opened Der Family Beerock Haus at First Street and Ashlan Avenue in central Fresno in 1984.

Bill Haar was an appliance salesman until 1983, when the store he worked for closed. "He came home and said we're going to make beerocks and sell them," Haar recalled.

They began making the meat and cabbage-filled rolls -- beerock literally means "wrap-around," Haar said -- from their home and opened the restaurant the following year.

Their menu also included cold and hot German potato salads, cold sweet-and-sour red cabbage, coleslaw, sandwiches and pies.

After six years, the couple moved the restaurant to Herndon and Blackstone avenues. "It was a good business for the first three years, but the fast food places hurt our business," Haar said.

Haar is reluctant to give out her recipe but said beerock (sometimes spelled bierock) recipes are easy to locate: "Find an old German church cookbook and you'll find a recipe for beerocks," she said.

Haar did provide general directions for making beerocks: Saute chopped roast beef, cabbage, onions and garlic, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Roll out yeast dough, such as frozen bread dough that has been thawed. Cut dough into squares and fill squares with the meat mixture. Pinch together the edges of each dough square, brush the tops with oil and let the rolls rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes.

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About Paula Lloyd

Paula Lloyd

Got historical questions? Paula Lloyd has the answers. Lloyd was a Bee reporter and Ask Me columnist -- her "favorite job ever" -- until she retired in 2012. But Ask Me's siren call could not be denied, and she resumed the column in 2013. Contact her at askpaulalloyd@yahoo.com.

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