The History of Our Mexican Restaurant

The History

Construction of "The Bank" building began June 27, 1913 and took about a year to complete. The thick cement walls were poured by laborers pushing wheelbarrows up ramps and along scaffolding under the direction of the Remington Co. of Los Angeles. Long tie rods, threaded on each end with washer steel plates, were run through the building between the 2 stories and the nuts tightened for safety on the second story. The walls of the building and the vault measure 18 inches thick. On March 27, 1914, the project was completed.

The committee who planned the construction and management of The First National Bank of Temecula was Eli Barnett C.P. Shumate, Hugo Guenther, George Burnham, Frank Fernald, Alex and Peter Escallier and Joe Winkles. Referred to it as the "hock shop", loans were limited to $2,500 regardless of the applicant and/or his collateral.

The Holdup

The first bank robbery in the history of Riverside County that anyone can remember occurred on August 14, 1930 at the Temecula First National Bank. On that fateful day Miguel "Jerry" Diaz entered the bank at nine o'clock in the morning and walked to the teller's window. Miss Agnes Freeman, the young teller, appeared to be alone because the bank cashier, John W. Chisholm, was in the back room at the time.

"As Diaz approached, I greeted him. He did not reply and became agitated when he recognized me," said Miss Freeman. "I knew him from the Pauba Ranch where he was one of the hands that worked for my Dad. He put a paper bag on the counter, drew a revolver, and ordered me to put up my hands. When Mr. Chisholm entered the room Diaz had already crawled over the counter and put the gun to my back. He told us that he would shoot us both if we caused trouble. He tossed the paper bag to Mr. Chisholm and ordered him to fill it with money. He then forced us into the vault, where he attempted to lock us in, but Mr. Chisholm pushed a screwdriver into the jamb as the door was closing. Diaz couldn't get the locking mechanism to work, but escaped with about $2,000. As Diaz drove away in a yellow Model A Ford coupe, Mr. Chisholm grabbed a Luger pistol he kept in his desk and ran into the street calling for help. John McSweeney, a local rancher, was in the barber shop across the street getting a shave at the time. He jumped out of the chair; towel, lather, and all; and, he and Mr. Chisholm took off after Diaz in Mr. McSweeney's Buick. They caught him about two miles up Winchester Road. When Mr. Chisholm fired two shots through his windshield Diaz stopped and surrendered. He was later tried and found guilty of first degree robbery, and served three years in prison before being paroled."

The Bank's insurance company rewarded Miss Freeman with a diamond broach, and Chisholm with a nickel-plated .45 caliber automatic pistol for their bravery.

Roger Francis Honberger (Son of Agnes Freeman) October 24, 1992

The Closing of the Bank

The First National Bank of Temecula has endured a long and useful life, as well as its share of crisis; the depression of the thirties, a bank shortage in the forties, and WWII—when the bank finally shut its doors. The building remained empty until 1965 when it was purchased by Bob and Jean Reininger and turned into an antique shop, "Sign of the Pitcher". The Bank was carefully refurbished by David Covarrubias and took a new lease on life as an authentic, home-style Mexican restaurant that has been serving delicious Mexican food since 1978.

New Ownership

In 2007, David and Artemisa Covarrubias sold the restaurant to Craig and Christy Puma, who have chosen to continue the tradition of family dining started by David and his wife. It will always be known as "The Bank"! Upgrading and redecoration will be ongoing. The Pumas took over operation of The Bank on February 20, 2007.