Pies past

I wrote recently in my column about Inland Valley mom-and-pop restaurants where you can reliably get a slice of pie: Roady’s in San Dimas, the Village Grille in Claremont and, most notably, Flo’s Cafe in Chino, where two employees work full-time baking pies, cobblers and other goods for the two Flo’s locations.

Co-owner Donna Hughes, who with her husband Paul bought Flo’s from founder Flora Slack in 1976, told me post-publication that the bake shop was his idea: “My husband is a big sweet eater. He wanted to have desserts put in, so we did.”

What of pie places past? Charles Bentley recalls a few: Chavens in Montclair, which was near the old Holiday Roller Rink east of Montclair Plaza, and the Pie Place in Ontario, on Mountain Avenue in the building now occupied by Home Kitchen.

Then there was Wag’s on Ontario’s Euclid Avenue and the Hollander Cafeteria at Montclair Plaza, Bentley says. I can add Katie McGuire Pies at Base Line and Archibald in Rancho Cucamonga, now occupied by Dairy Queen.

Any memories of pies past, readers?

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Front porch days

In conjunction with my print column today, which has more details about Walter and Cordelia Knott’s pre-Berry Farm days in Pomona, here’s a note from Patricia Smithen Adams. It concerns the Knotts’ residence from 1911 to 1913 at 1040 W. Fourth St. of that city:

“My grandparents were friends of Walter and Cordelia and lived on West Second Street. They would visit on the front porch at that home. My uncle still lives there. I was just a small child but I remember stories about the Knott family. I was in the class of 1956, Pomona High.”

Thanks, Patricia.

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Second Street remembered

Got an interesting recollection from reader Bob House on the glory days of Pomona’s West Second Street, a topic of Wednesday’s print column. If you didn’t see that one, the buildings on the north side of Second between Thomas Street and Park Avenue will be razed for new development.

As the wrecking ball nears I’ll try to write more about the history of this once-vital street, where the whole valley came to shop. In the meantime? Take it away, Bob:

“Another blow to nostalgia. I just did a little research and discovered that included in the demolition is the former John P. Evans store at 2nd and Main. In the ’50s (and before, I assume) it was Pomona’s leading men’s store and where I bought all my Cub//Boy Scout accoutrements. They had a glass case of prizes you could ‘buy’ by trading in store coupons that were earned with clothing purchases. I can’t remember today what prizes were in that case, but I remember standing in front of it dreaming of someday owning them all.

“Also in the neighborhood were Beamon’s Sporting Goods (where I won a Davy Crockett coonskin hat as a booby prize in the Prog’s weekly football-winner picking contest) and a shoe store with a very cool wooden climbing/sliding apparatus built into one wall to keep kids entertained while Mom bought shoes. The shoe store also had one of those big ‘fluoroscopes’ that you stuck your feet under to be ‘X-ray’d’ for a perfect shoe fit.

“If you haven’t seen this Ganesha High alumni site, they have some old postcards showing the redevelopment area: http://www.ganeshahighschool.com/vbportals/ganesha/showthread.php?t=236

“I was there for the opening of the pedestrian mall in the ’60s. High hopes were never realized on that project.”

Great note, huh? Buy Bob House a round on the house. His letter is one reason I asked for a blog — I could never have fit all that into my print column, not without letting Bob write it for the day, so I’m glad I have this new forum for sharing extended reminiscences.

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Honk, honk!

Commuters in L.A. and Orange counties waste 72 hours a year stuck in rush-hour traffic, but “the Inland Empire and the Ventura area are gaining ground,” says the LA Times, in a rare 909 compliment of sorts.

Gaining ground how? San Bernardino and Riverside motorists spend 49 extra hours crawling through traffic, up from nine hours 20 years ago. That’s according to the Texas Transportation Institute, source of all these numbers, in its annual report on traffic delays. LA/OC is No. 1 in the nation, the IE is No. 13. (But we try harder.)

How bad is it? Overall, traffic congestion drained $78 billion from the national economy, the institute claims. I don’t know how they come up with that number and don’t care to wade through their study to find out.

My own research reveals that $23 billion in productivity is lost each year deciphering, pondering and writing about the Texas Transportation Institute study.

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Gore splatters Claremont!

Gore Vidal, that is. The novelist, playwright and essayist spoke Tuesday evening at the Claremont McKenna College Athenaeum to impressionable college students, town graybeards and journalists (me).

At this point the literary lion doesn’t roar, he merely speaks in a sepulchral purr. To summarize his key points, America has been in deep decline for five decades, the world hates us, things are unlikely to improve and most of us are too dumb to know it, to know our own history, or to care.

Moderator: “So I’m not hearing a lot of hope.”

Vidal, poker-faced: “I bubble with it.”

On what passed for the bright side, Vidal said in response to a question about 9/11: “Bush didn’t do it. He’s too incompetent.”

If you hear reports of a mass suicide in Claremont, you’ll know what triggered it.

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Restaurant of the week: Bravo Burgers

Bravo Burgers, 1215 N. White Ave. (at Orange Grove), Pomona; also 4968 Pipeline Ave. (at Chino Hills Parkway), Chino Hills.

Before Monday’s Pomona council meeting, I dropped into Bravo Burgers for a bite. It’s apparently a small chain operation, with an outlet in La Verne, among other cities. The one I visited is in Pomona, at Orange Grove and White avenues, next to DiCarlo Liquor and its neon champagne bubbles sign.

Nicer inside than you’d expect — Bravo, not DiCarlo — and my $2.85 burger was hot and satisfying, with a thick tomato slice, lettuce, pickles and onion. I like how it came not only wrapped in paper, but served on a paper plate. Made me think of a more genteel era when this newfangled item might have been called a hamburger sandwich.

Overall, I’d rank the Bravo experience up there with Golden Ox, Classic 66, K ‘n F and Samo’s, Pomona’s other contributions to burger excellence. I say bravo.

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They’re ba-a-a-ck

Well, the hiatus is over, and now we can finally learn if they get off the island. No, wait, that’s “Lost.” Tonight’s big return is the Pomona City Council, back in session after six long weeks off.

Feeling lost yourself after six weeks? You could probably go to the City Clerk’s office and get copies of the previous year’s meetings on DVD, if you feel the need to catch up.

Personally, I think it’s better to start fresh. Besides, if there was a cliffhanger at the end of the last meeting, the council’s probably forgotten it too.

I bet the DVD bonus features and commentaries would be fascinating, though.

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I love a parade

A voice mail was left last week by Karen Davis, who introduced herself by explaining that she is chairwoman of the Pomona Jaycees’ 56th annual Christmas Parade, which will take place Dec. 1.

Davis had a request.

“We would like to invite you to be this year’s grand marshal,” she said.

I almost dropped the phone.

Me, grand marshal of a parade? And in my favorite city? I was so flattered I couldn’t think of anything to say but yes, so I phoned her back and said yes.

Davis was relieved, telling me that while everyone in the Jaycees thought her idea of inviting me was swell, they all said: “You’ll never get him.”

Really? Maybe I should have played hard to get.

Incidentally, I’m announcing my parade duties here as a bonus for those of you checking out my blog. (And thank you for doing so.) A longer account will appear in my column later this week.

Oh, and if turns out the Jaycees were just kidding: Never mind.

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The Huell thing

Some people think Huell Howser is too corny to be taken seriously, but I like him. His show Friday featured the Claremont Packing House, the subject of a column of mine a few weeks back when the place was rehabbed and reopened, so I tuned in with interest.

One historical tidbit: In the 1970s there was a commercial worm farm in the basement, only the worms reproduced faster than they could be sold. The rest of the story I knew, but it was fun to see Howser touring the place and interacting with Jerry and Nancy Tessier and Ginger Elliott, all of whom I had interviewed as well.

Howser is an enthusiast, you have to give him that. In fact he’s sometimes more enthusiastic than the people actually invested in the subject. Marveling at the new College Heights sign out front, a nod to the original citrus association that packed lemons in the building, he exclaimed: “You’re really reigniting an interest and a curiosity about the history of Claremont!”

Two favorite bits:

* The only “wow,” a Huell Howser trademark, came at an unlikely moment.
Howser: “Did this place always have a second story?”
Jerry Tessier: “They actually added a second story about 1945.”
Howser: “Wow.”

* He listened to someone at the Claremont Forum’s used bookstore talk about how book sales provide money to send paperbacks to prisoners. To clarify things for viewers, Howser (in jest) (I think) asked: “So you don’t have to be a prisoner to shop here?”

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Why books cost so much

A package delivered to my desk this morning turns out to contain a $23.95 book titled “Who Named the Knife,” a true crime story, sent to me here at (according to the address label) the “Ontario Daily Bulletin” by Random House. Why would Random House think your mild-mannered columnist would be interested in a book subtitled “A Book of Murder and Memory”? The best clue is in the jacket flap, which says the author is a resident of Toronto. Which is in Ontario, Canada. Can Random House think my address of “Ontario, CA” means the author and I are practically neighbors?

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