Doing good in Claremont

Here’s a note from reader Sharon Williams in response to Sunday’s column on the Claremont Village Expansion, and with a holiday theme yet:

“Dear Mr. Allen,

“I really enjoyed your article about Claremont in Sunday’s paper. I grew up in Ontario and moved to Claremont nine years ago. I agree that the current Claremont is not the Claremont I remember.

“However, I would like share a special project that my son’s local school is doing this holiday season. My son attends Chaparral Elementary School in Claremont. As a school, we have adopted four local families to provide needed items.

“Over 170 paper ornaments were placed on a holiday tree inside the school office. Each ornament listed an item needed for a particular member of each family. Chaparral parents and staff members selected an ornament, bought the item, and returned it wrapped. As of last week, all of the ornaments were taken. The Chaparral PFA will deliver the presents this Friday [i.e., today -- DA] to our adopted families.

“The generosity and benevolence of the Chaparral Family exemplifies the real Claremont this holiday season. The Chaparral office is overflowing with presents every day. My son and I have to remove some of the presents every day just so people can enter the office.

“Yes, the new Claremont ads for the Village seem a bit ‘self absorbed.’ However, our principal, Lori Kerns, has taught us that the holiday season is about giving and looking out for those in need. Mrs. Kerns and the Chaparral Family have allowed several families to experience a happier holiday season.

“I wish you a wonderful holiday season!

“Sincerely,

“Sharon Williams, Parent and PFA Member.”

Looks like the real Claremont is alive and well, its heart, shall we say, expansive.

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The goddess within (the council chambers)

One of the local blogs I read is produced by a woman who calls herself the Goddess of Pomona.

She’s not especially political, but her Pomona-centric posts are easy reading and illuminating. Her themes include Lincoln Park loiterers, gardening, children’s programs at the library, her husband’s fight against mice in their house, the La Brea Bakery bread situation at Stater Bros. and her young son, whom she calls Mr. Big. She sometimes notices the same things around town that I notice, and sometimes notices things that pass me by.

We’ve exchanged a few friendly notes but haven’t met, and I don’t know anything about her other than her writing.

Toward the end of Monday’s Pomona council meeting, the man next to me got my attention on behalf of the woman seated at the far end of the row. She met my gaze and swept her arm regally before her. I looked blankly. She swept her arm again. Suddenly things were clear.

It was the Goddess!

She was in jeans, not a toga, and she carried a purse and a bottle of water, not a basket of fruit. We chatted after the meeting. She wouldn’t give her name, even for conversation purposes, but that’s all right. I asked where Mr. Big was. Checking the clock, she said he was probably in bed.

Just think, a Goddess with a blog. If you live in Pomona, check it out sometime.

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Puttin’ on the Ritz Theater

For a recent column on Ontario’s Yangtze Restaurant, I needed to know when the Ritz Theater, Yangtze’s longtime neighbor, burned down. The indefatigable Joanne Boyajian of the Ontario City Library’s Model Colony History Room found the date and more. Why not share the research here? It’ll bring back memories or fill in some gaps in history.

The theater began as the California (in 1933, according to my own files), showed B movies compared to the classier fare at the Granada and became the Ritz on June 22, 1961.

Its last all-ages movie was “Dr. Zhivago,” which ran for weeks. Then, circa 1967-68, the theater went X-rated, much to the consternation of the community. The Ritz burned on Friday, April 27, 1979. The Daily Report quoted the Rev. Clarence G. Eigenhuis, past of the First Foursquare Church in Ontario, as calling the fire an “answer to prayer.” (I’ve been told people gathered to cheer.)

The fire was initially thought to be of suspicious origin, but arson was ruled out as no clues were found, the Progress Bulletin reported. Investigators concluded the fire was accidental and was due to an electrical short circuit in the balcony.

If you have memories of the California or Ritz theaters, post away below.

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Laura Huxley, semi-remembered

You may have read that Laura Huxley, the widow of “Brave New World” author Aldous Huxley, died Thursday at age 96. I haven’t met many people who get big-newspaper obits, but she was one.

Circa 1996, when I was scribbling for the Victor Valley Daily Press, Huxley visited a plot of dirt in Hesperia where an Iranian-born architect was experimenting with building earthen houses, a company, or compound, he called Cal-Earth. I was summoned to the place to meet the visiting celebrity.

Huxley would have been about 85 then, and it was a little astonishing that she had outlived her husband by more than three decades. She was trim, lively, curious, enthusiastic, mildly eccentric in her interests and a visionary spirit. She told me she and her husband had loved the desert, where he, or maybe they, had once tried to establish a Utopian community.

Other than that, the interview is kind of a blur. I can’t blame LSD, as the Huxleys could, just the passage of time.

The details would be in the story, but the story, which I clipped, is in a box at home, stashed under about eight other boxes, all wedged in a corner behind two shelving units. After weighing the time and effort versus the payoff, I decided to let the box stay there.

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The new cars of old

Last summer I got an e-mail from Bill Ruh, the Montclair councilman, who in response to my Seven Wonders of the Inland Valley column expounded nostalgically about “things that aren’t here anymore.” I’ll share that in a column, or maybe a blog entry, sometime soon.

I just found Bill’s followup note involving the old days of new cars. Here it is:

“In Pomona the Chrysler dealer — I believe W.R. Shadoff — used to have a large sign which lit up
with the names of all the brands he sold – Chrysler, Imperial and Plymouth. If memory serves there used to be a large podium and a new car would be placed on top. The podium rotated (slowly to be sure).

“In those days of the late 1960s the car dealers were located along Holt from Pomona through to Ontario and along Foothill.

“It seemed that the introduction of each year’s new car was always shrouded in secrecy. The dealers would place butcher paper or some type of covering on their windows. There would be ads about having a ‘peek at the new (fill in the blank).’

“When the big day would arrive they would tear off the paper on the windows, have marching bands playing patriotic music on the lot; I guess purchasing a new car was a very patriotic thing to do. The Daily Report and the Progress Bulletin would have special sections dedicated to the new cars with black and white photos, etc.

“Leading up to the ‘big day’ the dealers would advertise ‘only five more days to the new (fill in the blank),’ then ‘only four more days,’ etc.

“Whenever a neighbor would purchase a new car, the entire street came over to take a look. It was an event. Today when one purchases a new car it’s a rather pedestrian event.”

Wasn’t that great? Thank you, Bill.

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Some 909 in the 310

Had dinner last Sunday night in Santa Monica at Border Grill, a fine-dining Mexican restaurant on Fourth Street, a block over from the Promenade. The restaurant is owned by the duo who call themselves the Too Hot Tamales, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, who have cookbooks, cooking shows and such.

I bring this up because Feniger (ta-da!) attended Pitzer College in Claremont. Yes, there are local angles everywhere, even in Santa Monica.

Nearby are a West Elm Furniture and a Le Pain Quotidien, but (ahem) you can find those in Rancho Cucamonga and Claremont, so why bother? Border Grill, though, was unique and well worth the money.

The meal capped an evening that began with “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2007. If it makes its way to Claremont’s Laemmle, consider going.

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When Ike spiked Pomona

Today’s entry could be called “The Day Ike Turner Almost Played Pomona.” It happened like this.

In March 2004, Turner was booked to play the Yesteryears nightclub in downtown Pomona. Seeing his name on a poster in the club window was a real sight. I didn’t go, I think because none of my friends could be persuaded to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer given how he’d treated Tina, even if he was also responsible for “Rocket 88,” often called the first rock and roll record.

In a column later in the year, I mentioned Turner as being one of the few Hall of Famers to have played Pomona. A musician in one of that evening’s warmup acts then informed me Turner was a no-show.

“He let ‘em know a few days ahead of time he wouldn’t be there and that he’d cashed the check,” the musician told me.

I thought I’d better confirm the item before running with it, so I called the club owner. He was reluctant to say anything negative about Turner, noting correctly that most of the early blues and rock musicians were treated shabbily by record companies and promoters and cheated out of their earnings.

At this point I realized I wouldn’t get an anecdote, a funny comment or, at this rate, even confirmation. So, thinking fast, I came up with an approach I’m still rather proud of.

“How about this,” I said. “If I write in the newspaper that Ike Turner was paid in advance and didn’t show up, would I be wrong?”

No, you wouldn’t, he admitted.

Whew. That settled, I went with the Ike Turner story. Turner, as you may have heard, died Wednesday at age 76. Wherever his troubled spirit is supposed to go, may it show up.

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Expansively speaking

Barring a natural disaster, or for that matter an unnatural disaster, Sunday’s column will be about Claremont’s downtown Village Expansion, which is mostly open for business.

Unlike Victoria Gardens, say, which opened all at once, Claremont’s expanded downtown has rolled out over a period of weeks, a store here, a restaurant there, with walkways and streets opening as construction ends. Which may be why you don’t know the Expansion is open, because there was no big splash.

Just curious: Have you been, and if so, what are your impressions?

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Restaurant of the Week: Islamorada

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Islamorada Fish Co., 7777 Victoria Garden Lane (at I-15), Rancho Cucamonga

Islamorada is the in-store restaurant at the huntin’, fishin’ and campin’ paradise, Bass Pro Shops in Rancho Cucamonga’s Victoria Gardens, as mentioned in today’s column. While writing that piece, incidentally, my spellcheck suggested that I replace “Islamorada” with “slumlords”; I declined.

You can access the restaurant from the parking lot or from the store. On Monday about 7:30, the dining room was said to be full, so a friend and I ate in the lounge, where they have full service. Even the bar is impressive, with a lot of wood, an aquatic motif and, behind the bar, an aquarium some six feet high that wrapped around the bar. It made for a great view.

A duo performed until about 7:45, a woman singing and a man on keyboards. First full number we heard: “I Will Survive.” I pretended the lyrics were being sung from the point of view of a tenacious fish or defiant deer.

The server brought out a small loaf of tasty, sugar-topped bread. The cajun pineapple tilapia came lightly blackened, with a sort of chutney on top. I liked it. The grilled scallops (below) were even better. The rice was OK, the fries were above average and the vegetables slightly mushy. Service was attentive.

Overall, a better meal than expected, or even necessary. While not as good as Market Broiler in Ontario or Kings Fish House at the other end of Victoria Gardens, I’d go back.

*  InJanuary 2014, I did go back, for probably my fourth meal, and to take the accompanying photos. Got the scallops again ($20). Islamorada remains a really good restaurant, and the bar, and the round dining room with replicas of swordfish and other aquatic life suspended from the very high ceiling, are among the more spectacular interiors in the Inland Valley.

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