30 April 2015

Club El Circulo

In 1958, after thirty years, Camp Kinder Ring, operated by the Los Angeles chapter of the leftist Jewish organization, The Workmen's Circle and located on both sides of Canyon Hills Road just north of Carbon Canyon Road, closed down.  Among the reasons given was a lack of water and, later that year, a massive fire tore through Carbon Canyon.

Three years later, on 20 August 1961, the site reopened as Club El Circulo.  A major feature article in the Chino Champion noted that the facility featured, "a swimming pool, lounge, dining room, cocktail lounge, picnic area and children's playground," most left over, probably, from Camp Kinder Ring.

In addition, there were plans for many more amenities, including a square dancing pad outdoors, tennis and basketball courts, a softball diamond, volleyball court, a shuffleboard area, an archery course, a badminton court, ping-pong tables, tetherball poles, horseshoe pits and an outdoor theater.

It was also planned to have a 9-hole "pitch and put" golf course.  More grandiose concepts included a dam with a pool of water behind it for stocking fish, a large auditorium, a miniature golf course, and the development of home sites for members.

The site sat on 100 acres purchased from an unnamed Orange County development group and of this, 45 were intended for immediate use and the remainder set aside for some of those future concepts.  The piece did identify the leading figures of the Club El Circulo [which obviously decided to keep a reference to the Workmen's Circle in the new concept] as Brea resident F.J. Nipp, who was president and sales manager; vice-president George Hacker of Fullerton; and William Rentz of Placentia, who was the secretary and treasurer.

A patio at the Club El Circulo, which opened at the old Camp Kinder Ring site at Canyon Hills Drive and Carbon Canyon Road in August 1961 and lasted about two years until its closure.  From the 17 August 1961 issue of the Chino Champion as found on newspapers.com.  Click on this and the other images to see them enlarged in new windows.
Specific attention in the piece was paid to the fact that water was "a scarce commodity in Carbon Canyon," but that the property had five excellent wells, at least according to the club manager, C.D. Varner, though the club did intend to secure more water from the Chino Basin District.

The two-story main building, which still stands, was considered the heart of the facility with a dining room and lounge on the first floor and a cocktail lounge in the basement or lower floor.  Seating capacity in the dining room was 130, making it desirable for renting to outside groups, as well as for members.

The article continued by noting that there were twenty-eight cabins, with double and twin beds with adjoining bedrooms, intended for members who wanted overnight accommodations.  These were also holdovers from the Camp Kinder Ring area and the remnants of the last of these units have just been razed as the Canyon Hills subdivision grading work continues.

The newest aspect of the facility was a 36'x72' swimming pool, including a diving board, tile deck, walkways and sunbathing area.  A wading pool for children was also completed.  Under construction were a bath house and snack bar.

The children's playground was slated to be located adjacent to the pool area and the picnic grounds were proposed under a huge spreading oak tree.  Notably, the piece continued, "up the hill, a future project calls for the development of a youth center, with dormitories and social hall for tenagers [sic]."

Another crucial component identified in the article was the fact that "the grounds are located in a high fire hazard area," so that "extra precautions are being taken."  This included the clearing of land near the surviving buildings, removal of any chimneys from preexisting structures, the installation of fire hydrants and the fencing off of surplus land within the 100-acre parcel.  Reference was specifically made to the conflagration of 1958.

Dues were set at $65 a year with a $10 initiation fee and it was reported that 200 people signed up in the pre-registration period.

About 1 1/2 years later, in a January 1963 spread about recreational opportunities in Carbon Canyon, the Champion gave further information about Club El Circulo.  For example, some $90,000 had been expended on further improvements since the opening.  General manager Jack Winter noted that a driving range was slated for a summer opening, the tennis court was about finished with a remodeling, and the baseball diamond had been completed.  A children's recreation area and amphitheater were said to be in the planning stages.

The entrance to Club El Circulo from the 10 January 1963 edition of the Champion.  The two-story clubhouse at the center still stands.
Of particular note was the fact that grass was being planted in abundance at the driving range and elsewhere on the site, including the entrance, with other landscaping readied for planting.  This was because the new feeder line of the Metropolitan Water District was finished and expected to be connected to the club in a few weeks.  As discussed in this blog before, the line extended from the Inland Empire through Tonner Canyon and over the hills into Carbon Canyon before moving up to the Diemer treatment plant next to the Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center in Yorba Linda.

Naturally, the celebration just over a half-century ago about the bringing in of what seemed, at the time, to be a limitless supply of water can be compared to our current condition!

Returning to the club, the article also pointed out that there was "Las Vegas entertainment" offered, including comedian and trumpeter Bob Hart, who headlined the club's New Year's Eve party.  Other entertainment plans included twice-annual luaus (which was a very popular deal back in the 1950s and 1960s when you think of the connection to Polynesian-themed motels and hotels, restaurants like Don the Beachcombers and Bahooka, and other aspects) and outdoor Western barbeques.

The remaking of an amphitheater with a blue roof and white sides, the color pattern of the facility's buildings, was said to have been underway in a few months, providing a venue for children's programs, like puppet shows.  The location was north of the clubhouse and next to the oak-shaded picnic grounds.

While most of the site was only accessible to members, the dining room (evidently expanded to seat up to 250, double the number stated in 1961) and cocktail lounge in the two-story main structure were temporarily open to the public.

The large stone fireplace was the centerpiece of the Club El Circulo clubhouse, as shown in the Champion, 10 January 1963.
It was also stated that new management were recently brought in by the owners, listed as the Circle C Development Company, indicating that the club was under-subscribed and utilized since its August 1961 opening.

Winter was spotlighted for his fourteen years experience managing clubs, such as the Quail Valley Country Club near Lake Elsinore and Menifee, and Azusa's Rainbow Country Club.  Likewise, the restaurant and bar manager, Dottie Benson, had much experience in that line, including at the Rainbow Club and West Covina's Coffee Dan.

The change in management, expanded facilities, and imported water, however, could not keep Club El Circulo from folding, however, by June 1964.  There was, however, another enterprise on the way, which will be highlighted here soon.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting! Good post!

prs said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Up soon is a post on the club that followed El Circulo.