Party until you drop (something big)

You know how New York City drops a ball to mark New Year’s, right? And you may know that the past couple of years, Orange County has dropped a giant orange ball.

We don’t have a Times Square, true. But we could drop something in Chaffey Town Square at Victoria Gardens, as good a focal point as any.

But what should we drop? Any ideas, readers?

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Higher, farther education

Reader Dave Null of Claremont writes:

“I know that you are always looking for unusual stories. I am a distance student in the MBA (Masters in Business Administration) program at Blekinge Tekniska Hgskola in Sweden.

“This program is carried completely on the web (except for thesis presentation that has to be done in Sweden) so there are students in it from all around the world. I’ve found two other students from the U.S.

“Although the program is from a Swedish University, it is in English and is FREE to anyone who is accepted into it. Rather unusual isn’t it? Even the textbooks are American (like Corporate Finance by Ross, Westerfield and Jaffe (McGraw-Hill)) but this is pretty much the case everywhere in the world.

“BTH is a state university in Sweden. It specializes in high technology. The MBA I am enrolled in is the only Internet-based degree. Undergraduate programs are in Swedish but all graduate programs are in English.

“It was explained to me that no foreign students could be attracted to the graduate school if it were conducted in Swedish. Even Norwegians and Danes speak English when talking to Swedes. Of course Swedes speak better English than the average American so having the graduate schools in English is no burden to them.

“I am a retired professor from Cal Poly Pomona and already have PhD, JD and LLM degrees, but I am now a finance and administrative officer for the Civil Air Patrol, the Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, so I need some more training in accounting and management.”

The problem with taking university classes in Sweden from California is you miss out on those famous Swedish meatballs and stewardesses.

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Big stores (cont’d)

Responding to my piece on Mathis Brothers (400,000 square feet) and Bass Pro Shops (200,000 square feet), Bob Rockenbach of Colton writes:

“Have you seen the current size of Chaparral Motorsports in San Bernardino lately? That place never stops growing … the current retail space is around 150,000 square feet with another 350,000 square feet currently being utilized for service, storage, and future expansion!”

Ah yes, future expansion. For when 150,000 square feet starts feeling claustrophobic.

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Evelyn Hollinger remembered, twice

The late Evelyn Hollinger authored “La Verne, the Story of the People Who Made a Difference,” a 1987 tome that tracked the area’s history back 150 years, to 1837. Born in Chino in 1912, she lived in La Verne from 1954. A photo of Hollinger accompanying the introduction depicts her dressed in white and astride a bicycle. The piece’s title calls her “La Verne’s bike-riding historian.”

I recently received an e-mail from reader Greg Ryman of La Verne about Hollinger, whom he and his wife befriended a few years prior to her death:

“She was a wonderful person and since I’ve always loved history she provided a wealth of information on our city. She lived at Hillcrest and ran the now-defunct Hillcrest Book Store out of a very tiny and rundown building. When she passed it was a sad day.

“The city of La Verne honored her a while after her death by dedicating a stone with a brass plaque naming the small redwood forest on the grounds of Las Flores Park (adjacent to the La Verne/University of La Verne pool) in her honor.

“A couple of times a month my wife and I would always walk by this small forest and say hi to Evelyn. Recently we noticed that one of more of our fine citizens decided to pry a large piece of the plaque off, broke it, and finally succeeded in pulling it completely off, bolts and all.”

Ryman, who attached a photo of the plaque-less rock, ended his Dec. 1 note by wondering if a mention in my column might prompt city leaders to replace the plaque.

Well, nothing so drastic as a mention in my column — talk about bringing out the heavy artillery — was necessary.

Ryman phoned on Christmas Eve to say he had taken another walk through the park and, lo and behold, “our city replaced the plaque.” How about that?

Kudos to whomever is responsible. And if you’re walking through the park, look for the plaque and reflect for a moment about one of La Verne’s leading lights, the bike-ridin’, history-writin’ Evelyn Hollinger.

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Downtown Pomona reconsidered

This nice note arrived late last month from reader Lyn Williams and I’ve been remiss in not sharing it. What I appreciated most about it is that someone who thought I was kidding myself in seeing potential in downtown Pomona changed her tune after visiting. Here’s what she had to say:

“I am writing in regards to your column entitled ‘Brokers Sell Optimism in Pomona’ that appeared in Wednesdays 11-21-07 edition of the Daily Bulletin.

“I often read your column and I smile at your tenacity in what could be called trumpeting the cause for the underdog. I always wondered why downtown Pomona appealed to your sense of nostalgia, and the idea of ‘what could be, if given the chance.’ A few months back I felt I was experiencing firsthand a David Allen column on Pomona.

“I had ventured to downtown Pomona to have dinner with friends at the Japanese restaurant in the Mission Promenade. I almost passed the location up, as I couldnt believe that this little ‘oasis’ was actually Pomona.

“Before dinner, one of my friends and I strolled down a few blocks so she could show me the imminent location of her familys Vietnamese restaurant. As I stood on the corner, I looked around me, and pondered the possibilities, opportunities and ventures that could and should spring forth in this quaint downtown area. Whats more, with all the press given of Pomonas crime, I stood on the corner feeling safe and calm on a beautiful, warm summers evening, there in downtown Pomona.

“If I had the capital, and the mind of an entrepreneur, I would have looked to franchise in this area, after all having Starbucks as a neighbor isnt half bad.

“My other dinner friend that evening was Chris Gutierrez who you mentioned in your column. His passion, as you were given privy to, is to try and get downtown Pomona to a grandeur which could one day rival its neighbor to the west, downtown Pasadena. And in that evening, I saw for the first time in a long time, what Pomona could be if given more than a pioneering spirit.

“To quote from a great movie, ‘Field of Dreams,’ ‘If you build it, he will come.’ And, on your short list of a dream of retailers, I say to them, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Here is a toast to you, Mr. Allen, and a toast to Pomona, and those who more than believe in its possibilities such as Chris Gutierrez. The chance is there for the asking, and it could and will be more than a dream of opportunity.

“As always, thank you for your entertaining column, and thank you for your time and consideration.”

Wasn’t that nice? She even toasted me. Thank you, Lyn. I think downtown Pomona is worth our attention, and I’m pleased you now agree. Onward to greatness in P-town!

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Restaurant of the Week: The Tenderloin

The Tenderloin, 2080 Foothill Blvd. (at B), La Verne

In an L-shaped shopping center, the Tenderloin, at the northern end, is easily visible to motorists. I’ve seen it for years and wondered if it was a bar, a restaurant or what. The unfortunate connotation with San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin District made me wonder about the place.

As it happens, it’s a steakhouse. I dropped in for lunch Saturday.

The interior is decorated in Old West style, with several large paintings of Western scenes, and Tiffany-style light fixtures. The lighting is on the dim side. The menu prices are on the moderate side.

I had a steak sandwich with fries ($10.79) plus a side salad. The sandwich came with grilled onions, lettuce and tomatoes, on sourdough bread. It was messy but pretty good. The fries and salad were OK.

Service was indifferent. My waitress wore a quilted winter coat over her uniform. Management ought to turn up the thermostat. She also left me without utensils or napkins, which I had to fetch from another table.

The Tenderloin attracts an older crowd. A father had three young boys at the booth next to mine, but everyone else was in their 50s or older. On the other side of me, a couple in their 70s may have run out of things to say to each other. They read paperbacks silently during their lunch.

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Marxing the holiday

From the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera” (1935), as Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho) and Fiorello (Chico) go over the terms of a lengthy contract:

CHICO: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here, this thing here?

GROUCHO: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause, that’s in every contract. That just says, uh, it says, uh, if any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.

CHICO: Well, I don’t know…

GROUCHO: It’s all right. That’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a sanity clause.

CHICO: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

You can watch the scene here.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

(P.S. Yours truly has the next few days off, but columns have been prepared in advance to run in my absence; ditto with daily blog entries. Continue posting comments, but because I have to approve them before they’re published, don’t be surprised when they don’t pop up for a few days; I won’t be near a computer most of that time.)

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Holiday stuffing

Referring to my comment in a recent column about “stuffed animals” at Rancho Cucamonga’s Bass Pro Shops, longtime reader Mel Leets writes:

“Animals are now mounted on mannequins using the hot glue system to tailor-fit the skin to the type of animal mannequin. About the only thing they stuff anymore are turkeys.”

Correction noted by this turkey.

(Always nice to hear from Mel, by the way. He’s been commenting on my columns longer than just about anybody.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Sammy’s Burger

This week’s restaurant is Sammy’s Burger (note lack of plural), 765 W. Holt Blvd. (at San Antonio), Ontario.

Sammy’s is a stone’s throw from Grinder Haven, which is an occasional stop for me, but I’d never tried Sammy’s. It’s in a long, narrow building on a long, narrow lot, fronted by an old-school sign reading “Burgers” (the top appears to have been removed) that is almost hidden by neighboring signs. Blink and you miss the place.

According to research by the Ontario Library’s Joanne Boyajian, 765 W. Holt, previously a home, in 1969 was reborn as Burger Lane Drive-In with “drive thru service and inside seating,” to quote the phone book. It was also the Burger Lane main office, with a second location at 1715 W. Holt in Pomona. By 1975, the name was Jerry’s Burgers; in 1980, it was A ‘n N Burgers; in 1990, it became Sammy’s, its name for the past 18 years.

It’s seen better days, but Sammy’s was moderately busy when I went in for lunch Friday. They have the usual array of burgers, a dozen hot sandwiches, plus burritos, teriyaki and basic breakfasts. I got the hamburger, fries and soda special, which was $4.09 with tax. My food was cooked fresh and delivered after five or 10 minutes.

The fries were crisp and better than average; I finished them, which is rare for me. The burger came on a soft bun with Thousand Island, lettuce, tomato, pickles and chopped onions. Tasty and filling.

The takeout menu brags “Best Burger in Town.” It’s a respectable hamburger and certainly a contender for the best in Ontario. A blog reader says Sammy’s has a good pastrami burger. The menu’s most expensive hamburger is the $4.25 Sammy Burger. I don’t know what it is, but it must be big, since it’s pricier than the double cheeseburger.

Sammy’s is Korean-owned and the back of the menu charmingly explains how to introduce yourself in Korean or speak several “useful expressions.” I’ll have to practice before I try “How are you doing?”: “Eo-Tteo-K’e-Ji-Nae-Sae-Yo?”

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The candle trick

Tonight you can see Ontario bluesman John Harrelson at The Press in Claremont, no cover charge. (Actually, you can see John Harrelson at The Press plenty of nights, seated at the bar, for no cover charge, but tonight he’ll be on stage performing. Capeesh?)

Harrelson, the subject of a column of mine a couple of years back, always puts on a fun show. As he promotes it in his e-mail announcement of the show: “Hear true stories about people you know — See the ‘candle trick.’”

Ah, yes, the candle trick. What Harrelson does is finish his first set with some crowd-pleasing antics on guitar. He plays behind his head. He plays behind his back. And he lays his guitar on the nearest table, using a candle holder as a capo to play slide guitar. It must be seen to be believed.

In fact, you can see it on YouTube right here.

That’s John Harrelson and His Fantastic Band at The Press, 129 Harvard Ave., Claremont, starting at 10 p.m.

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