Ramona’s Commercial Buildings Stand the Test of Time

The carpentry work of Frank Beck has been a central part of downtown Ramona since the 1940s and ’50s.

Frank Beck left his mark on Ramona in the many buildings he built in the downtown area. He carried on the carpentry trade that had gone on in his family for generations.

“This was a trade back in the Old Country you carried down through the generations,” his son, Darrell Beck, said. “We traced it back to Luxemburg. I would be the last generation of the family that’s done this work.”

Darrell Beck learned the trade from his father and worked alongside him on many of the buildings that are still standing in Ramona. Most of the buildings that Frank Beck built in the downtown area were constructed in the 1940s and early 1950s.

Ramona Theater is a hallmark of his career. It was during this project that he devised a way to raise the two large bow trusses in the theater without the use of a crane. He used a “gin pole,” cables, pulleys and a small gear box to raise the trusses into place, using the power from a small electric drill motor.

This method was also used on a later job when he was building the multi-purpose on the campus of .

Other examples of Frank Beck’s work include the El Patio restaurant adjacent to the theater and now home to , and the building on the east side of the theater, which today houses a beauty salon. Two other buildings in that area on Main Street were Frank’s handiwork. Across the street, the Ramona Sentinel building was built by him. Further down Main Street, he built Hughes Market, later used for a real estate office and a barber shop. It is now Ramona Music Store. An earlier market across the street, Butters Cash & Carry, also was built by Beck.

“A number of these buildings weren’t very big but at the time, that’s all they needed in Ramona,” Darrell Beck said.

Frank Beck also built several houses along the side streets east of .

Prior to moving to Ramona in 1943, Frank Beck worked at construction sites in Orange County and in Northern California. He was employed by F.C. Stolte Corp. in the early 1940s, helping to build Camp Roberts and other military projects in Northern California and was the superintendent in charge of a bridge project near Susanville for the Western Pacific Railroad.

After he moved his family to Ramona, Beck worked on homes in Rancho Santa Fe for several movie stars, including Tyrone Power, Constance Bennett, Charlie Ruggles, Grace Moore and Sally Eilers. He also was involved in the construction of the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood.

The words Frank Beck lived by were, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

“He would never let us cover up a mistake or leave a job half finished,” author Darrell Beck remembered his father in On Memory’s Back Trail, a short history of Ramona published in 2004.

“If it was wrong, it had to be made right by replacing defective material, straightening a bent nail or fixing an inaccurate joint,” he wrote. “No shoddy work was accepted, even if the finished product was concealed, out of sight. Those high standards and honesty were his trademark.”

Frank William Beck was born Jan. 22, 1905, in Tipton, Kan., one of seven children born to Frank and Sophia Beck. The family moved to Orange County when Frank was 6.

He married Elizabeth (Bessie) Amanda Harper in 1932. They had two sons: Charles Darrell in 1933 and Frank Warren in 1941. Frank Beck died May 31, 1975, at the age of 70. He is buried at where his headstone bears the words: “A worthy carpenter as his father before him.”

The entrance to the cemetery is guarded by the War Memorial Gates, a project that Frank Beck supervised in 1963.

The History of Frank Beck was researched in the book On Memory’s Back Trail, with special thanks to the author, Darrell Beck.


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