Anaheim, Azusa, and Rancho Cucamonga

An article in today’s Inland Valley Daily Bulletin discusses the origins of Rancho Cucamonga, the home of the Angels’ California League affiliate.

When Alta Loma, Cucamonga and Etiwanda pushed in 1976 to incorporate as one city, some backers wanted an all-inclusive name.

For instance? Altacucawanda. Really. Also: Cualtawanda and Etimonga. Or: Ace. This used the first letter of each name.

Those names were noted in a 1976 Ontario Daily Report story reprinted in "Founding the City of Rancho Cucamonga 1972-1978," a new tome by Catherine Bridge.

Bridge spoke at Wednesday’s Altacucawanda City Council meeting – sorry, I mean Rancho Cucamonga City Council meeting – to formally present copies of her tome to council members.

Cityhood was achieved in 1977, but it wasn’t a slam dunk, Bridge noted. Some in Alta Loma wanted to incorporate separately. And there was plenty of competition for names.

Others in contention: Red Hill, Red Hill City, Iamosa, Tricity, Tres Pueblos, Bennysville, Chaffey Hills and Cucamonga Rancho.

Bennysville was an homage to Jack Benny. The radio comic’s shows sometimes featured a train conductor calling out then-obscure stops on a nonexistent train line: "All aboard for Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga!"

The Bennysville name was probably offered in jest.

"I can just imagine these people being proud of being on the city council of Bennysville," Bridge quipped in the lobby afterward.

Because of Benny, who had made Cucamonga "an international joke," some cityhood organizers wanted to avoid the name, Bridge told me. Others embraced it.

"We couldn’t even begin to pay a good public relations man who could get as much free publicity as we already get because of that name," supporter Al Blessent told the Daily Report in 1976.

Later, three short streets to the Metrolink train station were named Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga and a statue of Benny was erected in the Epicenter ballpark.

The statue was moved in 2006 inside the Cultural Center at Victoria Gardens, where the bemused Benny, who has his own alcove, looks slightly more at home.

Rancho Cucamonga, the original Spanish land-grant name for the area, was the consensus choice for the new city.

Where does Bridge stand on Rancho Cucamonga?

"It’s the best name," Bridge assured me. "It’s a little long, but it’s the best."

She has given away the 75 copies of her self-published book, and for anyone who’d like to peruse a copy, there’s one at the library.

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