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Hankses tell story of Harris Co.
By Michelle E. Ramos   - 09/27/2008

Redlands Daily Facts

Like many residents of the Inland Empire, Richard and Robin Hanks, co-authors of the new book "The Harris Company", remember shopping trips to the great department store in the late 1960s.

"I begged my dad to buy me this prom dress. I even promised I would wear it to both proms," Robin Hanks said. "Every year the Riverside store put on a student fashion show and I got to be in it wearing my dress. And because of that received a discount on it."

A photograph of Robin in her white A-line gown is featured in the book. Robin's prom date, and now husband, also recalls participating in the fashion shows.

"I was class president and they asked me to be in the show," Richard Hanks said as he demonstrated his best catwalk strut.

"The Harris Company", an Images of America book by Arcadia Publishing, takes a look at the history of the historic sites where the Harris family conducted business for almost 100 years.

The Hanks' memories of the Riverside and Redlands stores combine with third author Aimmee Rodriguez's passion for the San Bernardino Harris location.

When Rodriguez was completing graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, she began considering topics for her thesis.

"I wanted to combine my research with trips back home to my family in the Inland Empire," Rodriguez said. "I wanted my research to be local, so I considered the citrus industry, but eventually chose the Harris Company."

After completing her thesis, Rodriquez was approached by an editor from a publishing company. A professor had mentioned her research to Arcadia Publishing and they were immediately interested.

Rodriguez had an immense amount of research, but needed additional photographs for her book. That is when she teamed up with Richard and Robin Hanks.

Richard Hanks, a history professor, was working as an archivist at the A.K. Smiley Public Library and Robin, a graphic designer, was working at the Lincoln Memorial Shrine when the two decided to lend their talents and memories to Rodriguez.

The combination of Rodriguez's research, Robin Hanks' ability to lay out and design pages and Richard Hanks' knowledge of history allowed the team to collaborate and create a more complete book.

"I was passionate about the San Bernardino store, Robin was passionate about the Riverside store and Richard about the Redlands store," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said as the team's research continued, people came out of the woodwork with memories of the Harris Company.

"People would come and give me things, like a Santa button, and I was given a menu from Harris Cafe Madrid," Rodriguez said.

A variety of pieces of memorabilia are shown in photographs throughout the book, which contains a total of 192 images on 127 pages.

In 1999, the San Bernardino flagship store closed its doors. Rodriguez would like to see those doors re-open as a museum for local history and as a cultural arts center for youth.

"The museum could showcase the local citrus industry, the Santa Fe Railroad, Route 66, Harris Company history and local Native American history," Rodriguez said.

There are many obstacles standing in the way of this dream coming to fruition. In 1980, the Harris Company building in San Bernardino was purchased by Spanish company El Corte Ingles, the Macy's of Spain, Rodriguez said.

"I've been in contact with Mayor (Pat) Morris, and I know this would be a great revitalization," Rodriguez said. "I really hope this book will generate talk."

"It seems that the East Coast practices the philosophy, "Let's work with what we have," and the West Coast's is "Let's get rid of it and start over," Rodriguez said. "The West is really missing out on preserving historic sites."

The authors will sign books at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1 at Barnes & Noble, 27460 Lugonia Ave. in Redlands. For information, call (909) 793-4322.

The Harris Company, $19.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com





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