Ask Me

Ask Me: Fresno gargoyles are flight instructors, not baby droppers

Question: I recently noticed two statues on top of an apartment complex in downtown Fresno. They gave me the creeps, but I'm curious to know what they are.

-- Sheri Hand, Oakhurst


The gargoyle sculptures atop the Iron Bird Lofts at Fulton and Sacramento streets have drawn praise and criticism since they were installed in September 2009.

"When we put something out on the street, in the public eye, I don't think there's any way to make everybody happy," apartment developer Reza Assemi told The Bee then.

"But that's what art does," Assemi said. "Everybody has different tastes, different backgrounds, everybody sees things different. There's no way people can look at art and see the same thing."

The sculptures by local artist Brandon Greer are of two part-bird, part-human creatures teaching young creatures to fly, with mixed results: one child is taking flight, while the other is being snatched as it falls.

Readers responding to a Bee survey after the statues were installed either loved them or hated them. Some called the statues disturbing and ugly, and one reader said it looked like the little creatures were being dropped from the roof. Others liked the sculptures and agreed with Assemi that art is in the eye of the beholder.

Greer also created the winged lion sculpture that stands outside the M Street Arts Complex, which opened in downtown Fresno last year.

Q: My mother and her sisters often ate at the Casa Canales restaurant on Maroa Avenue. The house salad dressing has never been duplicated. Is the recipe available, and when did the restaurant close?

-- Bonnie Byrd, Fresno


Emilio Canales sold Casa Canales in 1978 and the family restaurant's recipes, including the salad dressing, are not available, a family member said. But a 1970 Fresno Bee story gave some clues to the dressing's ingredients.

Emilio's brother, Peter, the Casa Canales chef, said then that he spent three years perfecting the recipe.

"It's ready now," Peter Canales said. "It has condiments that go into both Caesar and Roquefort dressings. The secret was in making a tart mayonnaise and balancing the dressing with the correct amounts of anchovies and garlic. The effect was to bring out the features of both Caesar and Roquefort in one blend."

When Joe Canales started the family business on F Street in 1928, it was the first tortilla factory and one of the few Mexican restaurants in Fresno. His son, Emilio, opened Casa Canales on Olive Avenue in 1953 and moved the restaurant to 3110 N. Maroa Ave. in 1962.

Q: Back in the day when telephones had alphabetical prefixes, some of the prefixes in Fresno were Amherst, Adams, Baldwin and Clinton. How were those names chosen? Were they people's names?

-- Paul Gonzales, Fresno


Fresno telephone numbers were organized under six exchanges until the late 1960s: ADams, AMherst, AXminster, BAldwin, CLinton and CYpress.

Although Clinton is a familiar street name in Fresno, the exchange names didn't represent local people but came from recommendations in the "Notes on Nationwide Dialing" published by the AT&T and Bell telephone companies.

The first two letters of an exchange were capitalized in a telephone number, followed by one number, a hyphen and the last four digits.

Letters were the same as numbers on the telephone dial, of course -- the CLinton exchange today is the 255 prefix -- but in 1957 Pacific Telephone gave instructions on how to use the exchange names: "Dial the two large letters, the numeral, then the remaining numerals. When giving the number to an operator, or to others, please use the full name, as in ADams."

By 1961 a few telephone numbers began to appear as seven digits, like the time of day number, 767-8900, a number that is no longer in service. The Fresno Police Department number was listed with the exchange prefix, AM6-8331, also a number that is no longer in service.

Also by 1961 callers could make long distance calls directly instead of going through an operator. The phone book gave directions: "Dial 112 -- to connect with the Direct Distance Dialing equipment -- and then area code and phone number."

The CYpress exchange had been abandoned by 1967. That year the Pacific Telephone book listed residential phone numbers either with exchange letters or with seven digits. New prefixes such as 439, which doesn't represent an old exchange, also began to appear as Fresno's growing population led to the need for more prefixes.