My recent column on the impending demolition along Pomona’s Second Street resulted in a reader e-mail that looks to be as long, if not longer, than the column that inspired it.
It’s full of well-observed details from a childhood spent in Pomona. The author gave his name only as Keith. As it’s too long to use in print, at least in full, here’s the whole thing, lowercase typing and all:
“read your sunday missive on second street in pomona. you brought up the ghosts of my childhood; i am 53 and have lived in the southeastern corner of pomona all my life [cepting college at ou [oklahoma] ; graduated from garey high [that year was the first year minorities in the pomona school system outnumbered anglos; times have changed!]. also attended alcott [when it was one brick building and 2 rows of classrooms] elementary and was in the first 3-year class at simons jr. high. it was great having everything from desks to books brand new.
“i watched the mall being built. my mother worked in the orange belt emporium [2nd and garey, ne corner] . my mother was old school; she never had a driver’s license; pomona in those days had a wonderful bus system, a cloverleaf pattern of 4 routes that canvassed the four corners of town, meeting on garey between second and third; i knew most of the bus drivers by name.
“my father worked in town also, at pomona valley creamery which was bought out by arden farms [se corner reservoir and 5th]; eventually bought out by knudsen which closed the pomona dairy forcing dad to drive to san bernardino til he retired in 1980; mother lasted til orange belt closed and was razed. she didn’t really have to work but her money bought an awful lot of extra and nice things.
“pep boys anchored the mall at park avenue. beamons was where i bought [dad bought] all my sporting goods til i left for college [baseball gloves, shoes, basketball and football shoes, bats, etc.]. i played in the american little league at washington park [there was only one field and home plate was 180 degrees from present site; field had sunken dugouts]; there was a fast pitch men’s industrial league on the softball field back then, pony league and 4+ years of american legion at ralph welch park [also vastly changed ]. do you know that ted williams, duke snider and jackie robinson to name a few played at the original welch field during the easter elks 20/30 high school baseball tournament; at one time the biggest of its kind in socal?
“i lived at the washington plunge in the summer when it wasn’t a game day or i was at the ymca. the y had a youth program after school on tuesday, thursday, and saturday mornings. swimming three days a week; it didn’t get any better for a kid; they had trampolines also. [sidelight -- tramatic experience for a kid; i saw my first naked man in the locker room at the ymca -- what a SHOCK.]
“sorry to digress. our family lawyer had an office in the stately bank building still standing. john p. evans was where i got my simons jr. high letterman’s sweater [back then 9th grade played the 4 sports at the jr. high level; jr. high being 7th, 8th and 9th grades] and where i bought my garey letterman’s jacket. it was a special present indeed to unwrap and see ewarts or john p. evans on the box lid. wright bros. and rice, a furniture store just off the mall next door to the old ua theatre, was where my parents bought all their furniture.
“thriftys and woolworths both had soda fountains; thriftys had a coffee shop in back; my father and i would eat there friday nites waiting for mom and waiting for the orange belt to close – the one nite it stayed open til nine [cepting xmas season] — the other 5 days it closed at 5:30; closed sundays.
“there was a pool hall in the basement around the corner from woolworths. as a young tot my older brother [by 14 years] would babysit me there by sitting me in the corner while he played “snooker” [a forgotten game].
“on the nw corner of garey and second was an orange julius; they had hot dogs also. it was the der weinerschnitzel of its time with mustard dogs and relish dogs and onion dogs.
“eating at badons [on garey between second and third] was a treat. the apex cafe [between third and fourth] on garey was my father’s favorite; it could be called a “greasy spoon”; they had the best chili. the lawson bros barber shop across from the mayfair on third cut my hair for over 20 years; there were 3 brothers, stan, jack and bob. of course you know all about the fox theatre. at fourteen i kissed my first girl in the balcony of the fox during “the love bug.”
“frasiers, next door to the orange belt, was the stationery store in town. another relic of times past, mission pack, set up shop on the mall at xmas time selling fruit baskets for mailing to family and friends. hamilton drugs and kress sat opposite one another; kress had a soda fountain and grill also. payless, see’s candies and larry wellins jewelers were farther east; i have no recollection of the many “women’s” shops on the mall. i did leave out ewarts on the west side; like evans it was out of my family’s price range, besides, mom got a discount at the orange belt.
“i worked saturdays at the belt as a kid in the marking room for $1 a day. the owners, the rothschilds, were very kind people. mrs. rothschild would give me a twenty for my birthday and at christmas [most definitely old school store owners]. they knew all their their employees. the store even had an attendant-operated elevator. larry wellins was a family friend also and a big supporter of youth baseball in pomona; sponsoring the american legion team, post 30, called the larry wellins Gems.
“past that to the east where the college now sits was jc penneys, rod, gun and hobby, the toy store, robby’s restaurant, fedway, two banks, mcmahans furniture and the last addition to the mall, buffums. rod and gun also sold athletic equipment. the toy store was “model” heaven. in the 8th grade i bought my first “going steady” ring in fedway for $1.
“the christmas parade used second street every year [a choice spot to watch the parade was atop one of the many planters] and once a year a carnival set up shop on the mall. i am amazed that the fountains on the mall still work after 40+ years.
“one other store to mention not on the mall: just east of the corner of san antonio and 5th, on the south side, was the model shop — TOY TRAIN HEAVEN! got my first lionel train set there and later my first ho scale train set. the building wasn’t 20 feet wide but it was kid heaven. they also carried all the model cars and planes and ships.
“the treasure chest was just off the mall to the north on palomares; it was the town newsstand, the one place in town with an “adult only” section. try as i might i never could sneak into that section. i had to be satisfied with the vast comic racks he had. it was a smoke shop also.
“pomona was a one-stop family town. the butka family clinic was the family doctor on commercial next to the ymca and the weiss dental clinic was behind the 1st baptist church on holt, next to stanyer and edmonson tires where dad got all his tires.
“trophy king trophies and awards on holt just east of garey was also a big supporter of youth baseball in town, sponsoring the town’s connie mack summer baseball team, a rival league to american legion.
“greens delicatessen [now the pawn shop on holt and park] had a coffee shop and they made the world’s best old-style beef dips wrapped in paper to carry out.
“digangis grinders farther west [across from st. josephs] had the area’s best grinders [everything made fresh]; mr. digangi was a very nice person also. and farther west on holt was the original espiaus mexican restaurant, back then just a counter and a few booths.
“the one ‘fancy’ restaurant we ate at was the betsy ross on holt just east of reservoir. they served excellent fish and chips and a boy’s dream for dessert, the “washington monument” ice cream sundae.
“one more ‘kid heaven’ business: coates bicycle shop on second street just east of towne avenue. i went through 4 bicycles bought from them. [one of my best christmas presents was a schwinn stingray with the banana seat, slick rear wheel and wheelie bar back rest.] my friends and i rode our bikes all over town without fear of any neighborhood [even riding out to puddingstone lake to fish].
“we had a corner market, market spot [corner towne and philadelphia] that had butchers. the biggest so-called ‘super’ market in town was mcdonalds up on north garey. hughes and that plaza didn’t come along til later after they tore down what remained of the old pomona high which burned in 1956.
“i guess the coming of montclair plaza killed off the downtown mall and the indian hill plaza with sears and newberrys. i think the coming of women’s lib changed the family and town dynamics also.
“i can’t leave out mentioning the helms bakery truck that came through the neighborhood daily with fresh bread and those chocolate covered donuts, as well as the good humor man and his white truck and uniform and those jingling bells.
“pomona will always be home to me though now i doubt if i spend $10 a year in its city limits. i go to chino hills or chino now for almost everything. i hate crowds and do most shopping by mail order or internet.
“sorry for being long-winded and straying off the mall a bit. they say you can never go home again, but like the twilight zone episode ‘willoughby,’ one can always go home again in one’s mind; it’s always a sweet, though sad, journey.
“thank you for keeping the fading memories alive and for sparking mine,
Let’s give Keith a round of applause, and maybe chip in to buy him some capital letters. If there’s anything left to say, post away below, readers.