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Clarence Thomas Booth (1935-2024), vintage car, model car and train enthusiast

By Brian Hews

April 13, 2024

Longtime Santa Ana resident Clarence Thomas Booth passed away peacefully on solar eclipse day April 8, 2024, with several family members and friends at his side. Clarence was 88 years old.

Clarence was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Clarence “Boots” and Sally Booth on June 13, 1935.

After a childhood in Connecticut, Clarence’s family moved out to California, where Clarence was part of the first graduating class at Mater Die Catholic High School in Santa Ana in 1954.

Clarence was an avid “car guy” and worked with various auto shops until he joined the Army and was honorably discharged in April 1958.

Just months later, on October 25, 1958, he married the love of his life, Tina (Skewes) Booth, and moved to Santa Ana. Clarence got a job at the Santa Ana-based Cherry Rivet, working on and painting cars.

Clarence loved working on cars and loved vintage cars, owning several over the years, and could name any pre-1940 car on the street by make and model.

His wife Tina was born in England, so naturally, one of Clarence’s favorite cars was the MG. In the 1980s, Clarence bought a 1945 MG, which he and Tina would drive around in, attending several auto shows a year.

You could always see Clarence with his English Cabbie Hat and Tina with sunglasses and a wide scarf “tooling” around Santa Ana in that MG!

Their daughter Cora was born four years after their marriage; three years later, their son John was born.

Seeing that they needed more room, the couple worked hard to buy their second home in 1974 on Santa Clara in Santa Ana, an area that would later be known as Floral Park.

A couple of years later, Clarence went to work with his dad “Boots” and his brother Jim at All Rentals, a Garden Grove-based company that operated exactly like its name, renting almost anything from small tools to trucks to industry and the general public.

It was a tough job requiring Clarence to work six days a week, but he enjoyed interacting with the customers and employees and really enjoyed his only days off, which was every Thursday and every other Sunday, spending it with Tina, often going to their favorite restaurant, the Tartan Room, for lunch….in the MG!

Tina and Clarence at the Tartan Room.

Longtime Santa Ana residents will remember the Tartan Room, an old style dimly lit restaurant with throw-back “tuck and roll” booths which first opened inside a strip mall at the intersection of La Veta and Main Street, moving years later to its current location in Orange.

That move did not matter to Clarence and Tina. They could always be seen enjoying meals at the Tartan Room. Clarence’s favorite lunch was the fried shrimp!

Clarence loved to cook and often cooked several dinners during the week, bar-b-queuing on the weekends with family and friends and then cooking an all-out four-course meal for Sunday dinner.

He loved cooking holiday meals, his favorite was Thanksgiving, where he would cook a large turkey even if he was going to someone else’s house. His stuffing (not dressing!) was legendary, with his kids, son-in-law, and grandchildren begging him for the recipe, which he only recently revealed!

His cooking influence shows; his son John, daughter Cora, son-in-law Brian, and his two grandchildren are all avid cooks themselves!

In his spare time, Clarence loved building model trains and airplanes while also collecting rare trains. Clarence was often seen building the smaller model airplane that can be bought at most stores, but he also enjoyed putting together the much larger “HO” model airplanes, several of which he has on display at his house.

His longtime friend/cat Zippy was always at his side watching Dad build the models.

Clarence is preceded by his wife Tina and is survived by his brother James, son John Booth, daughter Cora Hews, son-in-law Brian Hews, two grandchildren…..and Zippy.

A service will be held at Saint Norbert Church in Orange on April 22 at 10 AM, followed by interment at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange.