I’m in awe of the fact that my failed campaign to save the Cinedome 70 in Riverdale, Utah is coming up on its 7th anniversary. While the campaign failed to actually save the theater, it succeeded in making sure that it didn’t go out quietly. I thought the idea of a theater that had been in a community for decades disappearing in the blink of an eye was a travesty. I had to unite the troops to make sure that this didn’t happen. In hindsight, my efforts were startlingly inept in every sense of the word.
If I could go back, I would have started my campaign much earlier. This might not have been feasible though. When the theater closed in 2001, I was a little over 14 years old. I enjoyed the aesthetics of the theater every time I went through Riverdale. At that age, I was more self-centered than I would care to admit. By the time I developed a more selfless mindset, it was too late and the theater was on its way out. I should have organized a campaign to raise the funds to buy the theater. I had a decade to do it. I will never know why I failed in this regard.
From the ashes of this cinematic palace, a car dealership rose to the sky. The owner of this dealership is the Larry H. Miller Corporation. They’re not a mom and pop operation. They operate countless dealerships and movie theaters throughout the state of Utah and beyond and own the Utah Jazz. A community fixture was bulldozed for a replaceable business that could easily close if the economy went south. I stood at the feat of a corporate juggernaut and didn’t blink. My unwavering defiance mattered very little as LHM had the money and legal resources to bury me.
I appreciate the fact that there’s a painting and plaque in the dealership building. It doesn’t say that the theater was there or for how long. Really it’s a piece of art that blends into the background. I fear that the Cinedome has been forgotten and I’m responsible. I will not let that happen. I will make it a point to talk about it a lot more in the future. Perhaps I might be able to get a mention or two of it in local media. As I did during the campaign, I’m not ruling anything out.
Momentum is crazy thing. When you build considerable momentum in life and then something happens to derail your progress, it feels like all the air has been taken out of the world. If you were to liken this moment to anything, it would be the aftermath of a car crashing through the front of someone’s house. You have to look over the rubble and find out a way to pick up the pieces. Nobody is going to do it for you. Though it might seem like you will never come back from this moment, you will make it eventually.
Once you let a moment rob you of momentum forever, you will never have the chance to regain it in the future. Life has a way of throwing curves when you least expect it. You have the option to choose to dodge these shots or take them directly. After taking a few shots, you will get tired of the damage you will accumulate. You will need wiser and stronger and before you know it, you will never have to take shots again. The moment that took away your momentum will be something that you will look back and laugh at one day.
Maintaining a sense of realism is also important. You can’t operate under the delusion that you feel like you are heading in the right direction when really you’re doing the opposite or doing nothing at all. I am not saying you should doubt yourself and the things you have accomplished. You have every right to be proud of yourself, especially when you have achieved something that came after a period of hard work. At the same time, you need to take an inventory of your position at any given moment. Do you have a reason to be satisfied or do you need to step it up a notch to move yourself forward?
In these situations, I think a lot about winning sports franchises. A team that has been winning for a few years will run out of steam unless changes are made. They’re not going to sit back and bask in their victories. They will want to retool and come up with a new winning formula. That’s what you have to do when life has gotten you down. You will find that your ability to pivot and go in a different, more productive direction will determine your overall resiliency going forward.
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If I were to pick one symbol that defines the iconic nature of China Nite, it would be the Hoi Toi statue or the big smiling Buddha statue that hung proudly on the front of the building, beckoning customers from far and wide to get a bite to eat.
This statue has gone missing. I am able to rest easy knowing that it’s somewhere safe because it was removed from the building long before came tumbling down. I have received some leads on its location, putting it in someone’s backyard in one of several cities. The vagueness of these leads is the reason why I decided to write this post. I want to know where the big guy is now. I want to know that he’s safe.
The best information I received on the whereabouts of the Buddha statue came from the administrator of the China Nite Facebook page. They said that someone purchased it and it’s in a backyard in North Ogden. I’m hoping that this is the case because I’m currently living in this part of the state. I would like to pay the owner a visit, take pictures with the Buddha, and come back to you with a full report.
If the person who owns the Buddha is reading this now, I promise you that your location and name will not be divulged. You can contact me anonymously at email@example.com or 801-389-2327. I will work within your schedule and meet you wherever you want me to meet you.
I don’t care if it takes multiple posts to shake down the current location of the Buddha. I fear that this majestic monolith is in a storage shed somewhere rather than the place of honor it deserves. I would love for someone to come out of the mist and current me if I wrong. Trust me, this is one of those things about which I would love to be mistaken.
No one can accurately tell the story of China Nite without mentioning the Buddha. I will delve more into its history in subsequent posts. For now, I’m more concerned about its current situation. Out of all the things that made this restaurant great, the Buddha statue seems to be the only thing that still exists. I could easily go on and on about what used to be and why it’s sad that it’s gone. I will do that, but not before talking about what’s still around.
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Based on the research I’ve conducted, ownership of the land on which China Nite once stood traces back to a Washington Terrace address. I will be writing a letter to this address in the hopes of extracting some additional information. I don’t know the relation of the individuals living at this address to the people who owned the China Nite. I assume, since their name is listed in the public record, they are the current holders of the land. I will not be revealing their name in this forum out of respect for their privacy.
Once I have completed the letter I intend to send to them, I will post it here in its entirety. My main goal for this project has always been to outline every possible detail of my investigations so the process can be followed at a later date. I would rather be completely transparent than leave anything out, causing readers to become confused and ultimately disenchanted.
I don’t like the comments I get whenever I tell someone that I’m going to write a letter. They remind me that the internet exists and that I should just send an email. This comment is both unhelpful and fails to take into consideration all the people who have no web presence. Plus, email is a very impersonal means of communication that can easily be ignored. Letters give reaching out a personal touch and require a physical effort to dispose of.
I used to love writing letters before I became consumed with trying to reach out to everyone via email. I have since come to the realization that there’s nothing wrong with writing someone a letter. If you have legitimate reason to get in touch with someone, you should find whatever means you need to make that exchange possible. I feel like the need for the China Nite story to be told is so profound that it constitutes a reason for me to get in touch with them.
In this letter, I will ask their permission to scan and repost their response. I will give them the opportunity to contact me via mail, telephone, or email. I doubt I will get a reply back. I hope I’m mistaken. I have been wanting to know the postscript for China Nite for years. I hope it’s good news and not confirmation that the end of this Ogden icon was as unceremonious as it seemed.
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What was once the China Nite restaurant on 2783 Washington Boulevard in Ogden, Utah is now a vacant plot of dirt with a for sale sign near the curb. I looked at this building that was so full of life and character as I drove by it year after year and time after time. One day, I passed by it again and looked to see that a crew was tearing it down. My heart immediately dropped, especially when I saw one of their signs on its side on the ground. I’m hoping that someone saved it and all the other signage on that building and it’s currently getting the loving preservation it deserves.
China Nite did not get the proper sendoff it deserved. We watched as it served as a beacon in the community for so many years only to see it get old, collapse, and then meet its ultimate fate. I’ve always wondered who demolished the building and what their plans for the land were. Clearly nothing came of these plans because the land still remains vacant. An Ogden icon got demolished so we got the opportunity to look at yet another desolate open lot in downtown. Lucky us!
The biggest travesty associated with the demolition of the China Nite is the fact that so many people walk by that land every day and none of them know what stood there. None of them saw the big Buddha statue on the front with all the arrow holes in its belly. None of them witness the majestic glow of the signage when it was lit up at night. All they see is a patch of dirt. That’s unacceptable.
My efforts to come up with the contact information for the family that owned China Nite have so far proven unsuccessful. I know that Glen Hong, the man who ran the establishment until 1995, died last September. Some of his family members are listed on his obituary. I have yet to find any online profiles for these individuals, so my best bet is to write them letters. I’m hoping that if I’m able to get in touch with one of them, I will have the chance to tell the story of China Nite’s afterlife.
I want to know that the outcome of China Nite’s storied history was more than just a pile of rubble that led to a patch of grass and sand. I want to know that someone was given the chance to preserve everything that made this place so interesting. If anything, I want this family to know that their contribution to the community did not go unnoticed, even though the last years of China Nite were nothing like its glory days. Ever since I saw the demolition of China Nite, I wanted to tell its story. Join me, shall you?
I love diners. I’ve eaten at many in my life and I feel like they provide the best dining experience. My willingness to choose between chain restaurants and their standalone, independent counterparts differs depending on when you ask me. I enjoy going to the older chains because the food they offer is good enough. It’s not great, but it gets the job done. Their history is much richer than upstart chains that dot the landscape. I know that history doesn’t alleviate the issues caused by shortcomings in the present; however, it makes the experience that much more interesting.
I believe that every diner starts out with the same concept. There’s a person who wants to provide people with an experience that’s similar to the one they get at home. This is where independent diners have an advantage over the chains. Due to the way chain restaurants are structured, they can’t care as much about individual customers. The way they conduct themselves makes it apparent that they know that they have several locations, so the needs or objections of individual customers are of little consequence. Exceptions to this generalization do exist; however, these do not prove its inaccuracy in these instances.
The state in which I live does not offer many options that most diner aficionados would deem satisfactory. We have our share of chain eateries. So does everyone though. Things have improved in recent years with quirky little spots popping up in the local area. It remains to be seen whether the progression towards more worthwhile independent dining options is a permanent shift or more or less a blip on the radar. As part of this series, I plan to frequent some of these spots and write reviews about them.
You would be hard pressed to find anything better than a well cooked meal. Add in a dose of atmosphere and you have quite the experience. These are the two things that have made diners the height of Americana for so many years. They take what we love about the meals we’ve enjoyed in the comfort of our own homes and bring it out into the world. I have had many meals at these establishments and I know I will have many more. When I’m not sitting at one of their tables, I’m left craving their food and wondering when I will be able to make it back to their door.
My obsession about all forms of Americana baffles my loved ones. I am infatuated with things that were once here and are now gone. This is especially true for thriving, sprawling empires that crumbled into dust, leaving nothing but crumbs where monoliths once stood. There’s a massive difference between what exists and what is no longer amongst us. We love the things that are here because they are here. We can put our hands on them and visit them whenever we want. It’s when they stop being present that they begin to slip into the cavernous abyss known as our memory.
The purpose of this series is to analyze all things Americana. I will focus a lot on relics of the past, but I will also dig into the history of the things we know and love and take for granted. I don’t know if you will find my musings about the world around us intriguing. I am more or less doing it for my own entertainment. At the same time, I’m often frustrated at the fact that I am unable to satisfy my curiosity when searching for information on topics that interest me. I want to fill in all the gaps because I know I am not the only one who wants to know.
You would be surprised at how many stories are out there waiting to be told. Talking about these things on the internet is intriguing. The internet has not been around forever, though it might seem like it has. That being said, there are things that became a thing of the past long before the internet latched itself on to our daily lives. Some of their stories have been told. These are the stories with sources that already exist online. Other stories remain abandoned because the information needed to tell them is not easily accessible.
I want to see where this category goes. I know there are a few topics that will branch out into categories of their own. I will cover them later on. I like to look at each topic I write about as an individual journey. Some journeys are long and others are short. I will follow every journey through to its destination. If I have to venture into the great unknown all by myself, I am fully willing to carry the torch. I hope you will join me. We can learn a thing or two together.