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But thanks to local historians like Rancho Cucamonga resident Frank Vecchio, the past will never die. Vecchio
, 82, an artist for the theater from 1946 to 1952, has kept hundreds of announcements, fliers, playbills and posters he
designed and created for Padua and the players.His
colorful artistry depicted the flavor of Mexico, its people, traditions and customs. He started to sketch when he was a youngster, growing up in Rockford, Ill. From early on he had visions of art school and becoming an illustrator for Disney.
After high school Vecchio
worked and saved his
money toward his
had earned enough for tuition, he
enrolled in art school.
It looked like Vecchio
was on his
way to fulfilling his
dream when World War II broke out.He dropped out of school and enlisted in the Navy. He served as a gunner's mate, part of the naval amphibian assault operations.
"Our ship took men and dropped them off on the beaches in the midst of battles," Vecchio
said."I felt so bad for the guys in the infantry.I almost cried every time we'd put infantry guys on the beach."
Discharged in 1945, he
traveled to Etiwanda, married and tried to pick up where he
left off before his
'"I went into Los Angeles by bus looking for work, with no luck," Vecchio
said."I got off the bus in Claremont and started walking around.I saw this building, the Vortex Building, the architecture was interesting to me and I went inside."
Fate must have drawn Vecchio
into that building for there he
met Irene Welch, a photographer who was heavily involved with the Padua Hills Theater.
"We always used meat-wrap paper," Vecchio
said."That gave you the best color.Those were good days."
Vecchio's work was in good company.
...In 1952 Vecchio left Padua and he and a partner opened an advertising agency, Hogan and Vecchio, where he did all the art and illustrations. He
worked in that agency 25 years then moved to another agency until his
retirement in 1991.
The Padua Hills Theater continued to successfully depict the splendor of Mexico until lack of funding forced it to close its doors in 1973.
Today the city of Claremont has taken over Padua Hills and rents the facility for weddings, parties and other special occasions. Vecchio
also is keeping busy.
hasn't lost his
touch.The soft blues, greens and lavenders he
used to portray a vineyard at the foot of the mountains creates a picture of peace and bounty.The label appears on the Petite Sirah 2001 bottle of Filippi wine.
"Life's been good, I've been lucky," he
said."But looking back those days at Padua Hills were some of the best."