Today's paper had two stories that signify the end of quirky local or regional traditions around here. First, Bay Meadows, one of the oldest race tracks in California (and the only race track in the State to remain open during WWII) is shutting down to be replaced by a real estate development. Next (and probably less prosaic) Long's Drugs, the last regional drug store chain, is being bought by CVS.
Bay Meadows ("Where the Athletes Pay the Fans" as their tagline proclaims) was one of the first racetracks to open in California after the prohibition on horse racing was over turned in 1934. During racing's heyday, Bay Meadows was one of the main stops on the California racing circuit. I went once, in the 80s and had a good time (although, I have never been much of a gambler.)
The history of Bay Meadows is storied. Secretariat raced there 4 times (winning each time), and it was the first track to install a photo finish camera. In perhaps my favorite story about the track, it was the site of the first transportation of a horse by airplane. The plane landed in the parking lot, and delivered the horse El Lobo to the grandstand entrance.
Longs Drugs is less storied, but still an interesting story. It was the last regional drug store chain in the US, with 500+ stores in California, Hawaii, Nevada and Colorado. Longs had a history of it's stores carrying regional specialties (for instance, more Hawaiian local products in the island stores, or Portuguese products in Turlock & Russian products in Sacramento) to better cater to their local customers. Despite being a chain, Longs managed to retain individuality and customer service, something sorely missing in the Walgreens era of cookie cutter stores. Interestingly, the Longs name has such cache in Hawaii, that CVS will not change the name of the stores there. But everywhere else, they will become just another cookie cutter store. Another step towards every town looking more and more the same.
To me, these two stories are somewhat related. They represent a loss of quirky individuality to faceless, generic modern life. I didn't really frequent either Bay Meadows or Longs (although, I did buy bread at one just the other day..) but I appreciate what they represented, and the sense of community they engendered. Something that McStores and McMansions just won't ever do.
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