Ozzie's Oasis

We all have a place that we hung out as teens that brings back warm nostalgic feelings when we think about it.  For me, when I was a teen living in Chino in the 1980s, my regular hangout was at the Pizza Peddler, which was located on Central Avenue and Philadelphia Street.  My friends and I would regularly stop there to eat a large pepperoni pizza (or two) and a pitcher of soda.  We would stay and play arcade games until we ran out of quarters.

In the 1950s and 1960s, a favorite place for teens to hangout in Chino was Ozzie’s.  Oscar Gagner, known as “Ozzie,” opened and ran his hamburger restaurant on the corner of Riverside Drive and 9th Street in 1951. Ozzie’s Frostee Freeze was walking distance from Chino High School, and was a popular spot for students, who would stop for malts, sundaes, root beer floats, cherry Cokes, burgers and fries, while enjoying music on the juke box.  In 1954, Ozzie added a patio for dining and renamed his drive-in as Ozzie’s Oasis. He expanded the menu to include steak and shrimp. In 1957 Ozzie began serving breakfast and changed his daily business hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ozzie Gagner sold his business in 1960 to 27 year old Chino High School graduate (Class of 1951), Ray Strothkamp. Ray continued to run the business, serving the same foods as Ozzie, and kept the name Ozzie’s Oasis. He remodeled the restaurant and had three types of food service in one location: walk up window, drive through and patio dining.

In 1973, Chino resident Dick Eastman purchased Ozzie’s Oasis from Ray Strothkamp, and along with his wife Pat and kids Mike, Mark, Todd and Gary, served the city Ozzie’s famous milkshakes, along with grinders, taco strips and French dips.

Fast food franchise McDonald’s came to Chino in the early 1970s, and by 1975, Dick Eastman had lost so much business to McDonald’s, he had to close Ozzie’s Oasis.  Later, La Scala Italian Restaurant operated at the Ozzie’s location. The building at 5368 Riverside Drive has also been a Chinese food restaurant and is presently a Mexican food restaurant, but is probably best remembered as Ozzie’s, the place every teen wanted to be, and sometimes were, when they should have been in school!

Another popular hangout in Chino was Mr. Taco, which was opened on Central Avenue in 1963 by Carl Loos, a 1953 Chino High School graduate. The building was located about where KFC is located now, just north of the Chevron Station.  Outdoor tables and a fire pit made the restaurant a great place to hang out at. Mr. Taco was open until midnight each night, and until 1 a.m. on the weekends. Mexican food was served, as well as their unique Taco Burger.  The restaurant closed in 1983 and eventually reopened as Zorba’s Burgers, which never gained the success that Mr. Taco achieved.

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