By Bill Pumford, Image from the Russ Keller Collection
TITLE: THE WAGON WHEEL CAFÉ: This week’s image is a photo from the 1940’s of the well-known Wagon Wheel cafe in Running Springs. The café was originally built in 1934 and consisted of a large two-story building with one floor for dining while the other floor held the bar and lounge. The café was so named because of the large lumbering wheels that stood near the entrance, which had come from the Brown Brothers in Holcomb Valley. During the early 1930’s the café was operated by Chuck and Doris Osborn and was advertised as a stopping point halfway on your trip to Big Bear offering food, draught beer, and a soda fountain. In March of 1938 George Case acquired the café (you can see his name on the café sign in the photo). One note of interest was that in 1948 the Mile-Hi Softball League, which featured teams from the area such as Blue Jay, Year-Around Store, Green Valley, Cedarpines, and Wagon Wheel, had a game between the Wagon Wheel and Blue Jay where Walter Huston, the famous actor/director, actually pitched the entire game. Mr. and Mrs. Case sold the Wagon Wheel Café in late 1948 and retired to a ranch in Corona. George Case did not retire for long and came back up the mountain and operated the tavern in Arrowbear during the early 1950’s. The new co-owners of the Wagon Wheel, Bud Kissee and Bill Baker, increased the size of the bar in 1951 to 42 feet and expanded the lounge. Bud and Bill offered everything you could want including dining, dancing, and a full cocktail bar. On Friday and Saturday nights guests were entertained by an orchestra. During the 1960’s the café exchanged owners several more times but never lost its reputation as a fine dining and entertainment experience.