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Barbara Worth Cafe in Jacumba

For photos and information about other Barbara Worth facilities click:

   Through the years there have been several facilities that took the name Barbara Worth (for example, the Barbara Worth Apartments in Los Angeles).  For the most part, I have chosen not to include them in this web site because Harold Bell Wright was in no way involved with them.  But I have included this Barbara Worth Cafe for several reasons.  This cafe existed as the "Barbara Worth Cafe" during several of the years that Harold Bell Wright lived in the area.  It is quite likely he saw this cafe--he may even have eaten here--during his trips between San Diego and the Imperial Valley.  This cafe, like Jacumba itself, is remembered by long-time residents of San Diego and Imperial Counties as an interesting part of the pioneer days.

     In Wright's novel, The Winning of Barbara Worth, several men ride horses to San Diego to pick up money, then raced back to a town in Imperial Valley to pay the workers and save the town. If that race was a historical event, those horses would have raced through Jacumba in 1907.

     Jacumba (pronounced "Hah-COME-bah") can be found on historic Highway 80, seventy miles east of San Diego, Calif., and forty-five miles west of  El Centro. The town nearly disappeared a quarter century ago when Interstate-8 bypassed the town.  Today some 400 people live in Jacumba.  But the town, now a quiet high-desert retreat, was once a thriving spa. In the 1920s and 30s the community thrived, its therapeutic hot springs a Mecca for Hollywood celebrities and wealthy Imperial Valley growers. Clark Gable is said to have made Jacumba famous by frequenting its spa.

History of Cafe

Originally known as Tucker's Cafe, this small diner was renamed the Barbara Worth Cafe after it was purchased by Jack Patty in 1934 or 1935. I have not learned when it was originally built. In 1937 Patty took his son-in-law, Ernie Gillenberg, into the business (hence both names on the matchbook cover shown below). In 1941 the cafe was remodeled and enlarged, doubling the seating capacity to 48 counter seats and 4 large booths. The tower was added during that 1941 remodeling. The cocktail lounge was added to the east side of the building later, in 1951 or 1952. The Cafe was still in business in 1955 or '56. I have not learned when it closed. In 2003 the building was still there (see photos at bottom of page). The cafe part was now a general market selling a variety of items, including food, liquor, and clothes. In 2003 the lounge part was a real estate office. The son of the former owner of the Barbara Worth Cafe, who spent many hours washing dishes in the Cafe, remembers washing a great deal of Barbara Worth china that had a picture of Barbara Worth in the center and a gold ring around the outer edge. He believes that china was ordered only once because by 1943 there were only a very few of the larger plates left with the picture of Barbara Worth--and the picture was barely visible. Gradually all the china was replaced with plain white china. It is possible that none of the cafe china with the Barbara Worth logo survived.

Click on Small Picture to see Large Picture


1. Greyhound Bus Stop, Jacumba, Calif.  c.mid-1940s. After the tower was added but before the lounge.  EKC
jacumba2.jpg (36664 bytes) 2. Left to right: post office(?), Barbara Worth Cafe, Market, Jacumba Liquor, Hotel Jacumba).  Probably from the late 1940's.  The name, "Barbara Worth Cafe" is barely visible on the front of the cafe, along with a Greyhound Bus sign. "This is a Red Cross Pharmacy Postcard." Cocktail lounge not yet added. gc
3. Greyhound Bus Stop, Jacumba, California. Long cigar-shaped form on front of cafe is the shadow of the Greyhound sign. Cocktail lounge not yet added. Postmarked 1945. eb
bwjacumba.jpg (41323 bytes) 4. The Barbara Worth Cafe and Burlington American Bus Depot, Jacumba, CA.  (c.1953). The car on the left is a 1951 Nash.  The car fender on the extreme right is a 1951 Kaiser. People gathered around scales. Cocktail lounge on left. Photo from the San Diego Historical Society's extensive collection of postcards.  
5. The Burlington American Bus Depot at The Barbara Worth Cafe. Jacumba, Calif. Scales visible. 1951 Nash and 1951 Kaiser still there, plus 1950-53 Cadillac. Note driver in seat of Kaiser, with door open. gc
6. The South Side of Main Street, Jacumba, Calif. 1953 Ford in foreground. Nash and Kaiser still there, though Nash is mostly hidden. Man standing outside Kaiser now. gc
bwcaferp03.jpg (15810 bytes) 7. Main Street in Jacumba, Calif.  1951 Nash and Kaiser still there. Man still standing beside Kaiser. Cocktail lounge on left. Photo courtesy Dave Hadsell.
8. Jacumba, Calif.  Barbara Worth Cafe on left. Photo courtesy Dave Hadsell.
jacuzo01.jpg (59492 bytes) 9. Barbara Worth Cafe.  Enlargement of card above, showing "Barbara Worth Cafe" name and Greyhound Bus sign.  This card says EKC where the stamp goes. Cocktail lounge on left. gc.
jacumba5.jpg (51812 bytes) 10. Barbara Worth Cafe.  In this photo, from the late 1930's, there is a large, vertical "Cafe" sign.  "Barbara Worth" is written in script at the bottom of the sign.  The three-part tower seen in other photos was not built until 1941.  gc
jacumba6.jpg (25134 bytes) 11. Barbara Worth Cafe. Enlargement of part of above photo.  You can ALMOST read the "Barbara Worth" at the bottom of the "Cafe" sign. Cocktail lounge not yet added. gc
12. Jacumba, California--on Highway 80. Jacumba Pharmacy.
13. Main Street--U. S. Highway 80--Jacumba, California. The Hotel Jacumba, and all the rest of the town,  was built by a Burt Vaughn in 1919. He also built and owned the Desert View Tower, eight miles to the east of town. The hotel was destroyed by fire, and its remains torn down in 1991.
bwcafecolor1957.jpg (14652 bytes) 14. Barbara Worth Cafe.  Jacumba CA 1957-58 cars
Chrome card. Left side of cafe is the Rodeo Room--the Cocktail lounge. gc
jacumba3.jpg (59484 bytes) 15. Downtown Jacumba in 1950's.  Barbara Worth Cafe visible on right. gc
16. Former Barbara Worth Cafe in 2003 (looking south). Former cafe is now Mountain Sage Market, former lounge is Mitchel Real Estate.
17. Jacumba in 2003. In this wider picture of the former Barbara Worth Cafe you can see that buildings on the left are gone, and all that remains of the old Vaughn Hotel, or Jacumba Hotel, is the chimney visible above the porch on the right.


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Barbara Worth Cafe
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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 05/26/11