All this came to light in the past week after the photo of the Orange Basket was featured as last week’s Remember When “mystery photo.”
Although many responders correctly identified the building at the edge of the Tracy High School campus on East 11th Street as the Orange Basket, several confused it with the Giant Orange, a Tracy-based chain of roadside stops that featured freshly squeezed orange juice (and other goodies, too.)
That confusion is something that Frank E. “Pop” Pohl, who owned the Giant Orange stands in the 1920s and 1930s, wanted to end.
His Giant Oranges were the first and only stands with the distinctive orange-shaped customer counter. But then, in 1934, the Orange Basket, with a similar orange-shaped counter, was constructed east on 11th Street right next to Tracy High School by owners Harry and Thelma Anderson and LeRoy and Florence Slayter.
So Pohl filed a lawsuit in 1935, claiming the Orange Basket was stealing his Giant Orange trade name and confusing potential customers. He asked the court to order the newcomer to pay damages for using the trade name belonging to him.
Within in a year, though, a Superior Court judge, M.G. Woodward, ruled that Pohl couldn’t claim sole use of the word “orange” and tossed out the suit.
In April 1936, the District Court of Appeal in Sacramento upheld Woodward’s decision.
Despite the competition and the similar names and structures, the Giant Orange stands — originally located in the Tracy area in three locations, on the north side of 11th Street near E Street, at Banta Junction (11th Street and Grant Line Road) and on Highway 33 — continued to gain most of the traffic from motorists passing through the Tracy area.
Those were the days before automotive air-conditioning, and many motorists traveling on Highway 50 (11th Street), especially those from the Bay Area, were hit by the Central Valley heat and headed straight for the Giant Orange stands for relief.
Pop Pohl, described as something of a tyrant by several Tracy women who had worked for him while in high school, sold the local Giant Orange stands in 1944 to Ollie and Flo Hartman, and they moved the locations and improved the facilities.
The Orange Basket got its share of travelers, though — and also had a ready clientele of Tracy High students.
Several years after the suit was decided in 1936, Christ Pilorias bought the Orange Basket and ran it until 1949, when he sold it to Elias “Louie” Gaglias.
Gaglias, like Pilorias a native of Greece, operated the Orange Basket until 1961, when he died of a heart attack at the age of 46 while serving dinner at the Greek Orthodox Church in Stockton.
It was Gaglias’ daughter, Athena Gaglias Peterson, who got me interested in all this. She brought in a photo of the Orange Basket — the first one I had seen — and asked if there was any information on who had operated it before and after her dad. Her grandchildren, who were writing a paper in school on their family heritage, wanted to know all about the Orange Basket.
Press archives helped identify early owners and facts about the lawsuit. People who responded after the photo ran last week filled in the gaps. Several responders remember seeing Athena and her brother Stamati as young children at the Orange Basket while their father ran the place in the 1950s.
Jeanne Garcia was among a host of former Tracy High students who recalled having a Coke or a shake at the Orange Basket, either at the lunch hour or after school, while she was a student in the early 1950s.
But Jeanne remembers one particular day she was there.
“I came into the Orange Basket after school and sat down at the counter next to a really big guy with long blond hair,” she recalled. “I looked at him a couple of times and then asked, ‘Aren’t you Gorgeous George?’ He said yes, he was.”
She added: “Well, Gorgeous George was a big name in professional wrestling in those days, and I was thrilled. He was very nice to me and even gave me a small gold pin. I don’t know where the pin is now, but I’ll always remember that day at the Orange Basket.”
Also responding was Kay Proctor, who emailed me that her mother, Genevieve Patterson, owned the Orange Basket in its final four years, from 1962 to 1966.
“I used to work my lunch hours and after school, so my mother could be with my father, who was bedridden,” Kay wrote.
The Orange Basket’s most loyal customers were the Tracy High students. Hamburgers went for 25 cents, she remembered.
Kay reported that one day she served orange juice to Denver Pyle, who played Uncle Jesse on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
She also recalled the demise of the Orange Basket.
“It burned down in 1966 from a lit cigarette. … In its final years, it was called Jack’s.”
Linda Corso Wilson also responded, noting the name was actually spelled Jax.
After the fire, the property was acquired by Tracy Joint Union High School District, and a decade later the Emma Baumgardner Theater was built on the site.
Kay Proctor noted that working at the Orange Basket convinced her she didn’t want to work in a hamburger emporium the rest of her life, and she decided to go to college.
“I ended up working for Tracy High for 33 years,” she said. “I was in the old West Building and could look out and see where the Orange Basket once stood.”
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.