PROBE: April 3, 2002

April 03, 2002

QUESTION: Check your records. I believe the California Hotel burned many years after the Barbara Worth fire, not a year or two later. Otherwise, you do a great job and I enjoy reading you up here in Sacramento. — Keeping Track, e-mail

We believe you're right. The Barbara Worth burned Jan. 21, 1962, and the California Hotel flamed out Feb. 16, 1969. Arson was suspected in both fires. There is still an open murder investigation stemming from the Barbara Worth blaze.

Gilbert Dale Holder, 41, owner of the California Hotel, died in the Barbara Worth inferno when the lobby collapsed into the basement. Holder went into the hotel with firefighters to help them quench the blaze.

There was a string of spectacular fires in the 1960s. The El Centro First Methodist Church burned July 21, 1962, just six months after the Barbara Worth conflagration.


Six months later, and a year after the Barbara Worth fire, arson leveled the First Christian Church and the administration building at Finley Elementary School in Holtville. The school district built Holtville Junior High School to replace the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms lost in the fire.

ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL — In Monday's paper somebody wanted to know why there were no films about Jesus on television over the Easter weekend. There was one, "Jesus of Nazareth," shown on the History Channel. The movie depicted Jesus' life from conception to his death on the cross. — Another Catholic, Seeley

Thank you. We heard that was a good movie. We're sorry the Calexico man missed it.

That's the trouble with having so many channels. There's so much we get distracted by something we didn't want to see and miss what we did want to see.

A CELL PHONE NUMBER — Regarding the Nextel problem, I had a similar experience. After paying long-distance telephone rates for local calls made from my cell phone to my home, I solved the problem. I asked Nextel to give me a new cell phone number with the prefix 427. That's a local number. — Problem Solver, e-mail

If you recall, your solution didn't work for our reader, who wanted to use cell phones in his new business. It didn't pan out because Nextel gave him Escondido numbers.

We have still another letter on this subject.

BUY FROM LOCAL DEALER — The reason your reader had such a Nextel problem was the person bought from the Internet instead of from a local firm like Advanced Wireless. We have repair and customer service departments — and we're here to solve problems that come up. Had we had the opportunity to make this sale, we would have gotten a local number for the reader from the get-go! — Local Dealer, El Centro

We believe you. The trouble was our reader called an 800 number that connected him to an out-of-state office where nobody knew that Escondido was 140 miles from El Centro. The customer service representative had no idea where El Centro or Escondido are located.

But dialing an El Centro number doesn't guarantee a connection with an El Centro office or store. When we dialed Bank of America's El Centro prefix, we wanted to talk to the El Centro branch. We found ourselves talking to a woman in Los Angeles. With today's technology, it could have been Hong Kong.

Maybe that's what people mean when they refer to the global village.

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