A tale of two Foxes

Courtesy of my mom, I have here a special 10-page section of the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review of Nov. 11, 2007 about that city’s newly restored Fox Theater.

It’s quite a section, and for John Clifford and others who might be interested in getting one by mail, perhaps a call to the newspaper’s circulation department would bear fruit. Either that, or maybe your mothers have copies saved for you too.

To summarize matters, the Spokane Fox opened in September 1931, just five months after Pomona’s, and closed in 2000, just as Pomona’s did (although movies stopped being shown here some years previously).

Spokane’s Fox had 2,350 seats, compared to Pomona’s 1,711. Spokane’s construction budget was $1 million, Pomona’s $300,000. Spokane’s was called a “deluxe” Fox akin to those in St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit and Beverly Hills. A vintage photo shows the theater’s exterior looked remarkably like Pomona’s, only with a really lame sign on top. At least we got Spokane beat on that.

The theater, now 1,636-1,727 seats, will be home to the Spokane Symphony, which bought the building for $3 million, as well as to opera, pop and dance performances and high school graduations. Pomona’s, which will also lose a few seats from the original size for access reasons, will have pop and rock performances, movies and community events.

A new life for the Spokane Fox began when word came in 2000 that the theater might be razed for a parking lot. After fund-raising, work began in late 2005 and concluded last fall. Cost was $31 million, including a $4.5 million operating endowment. As of publication the total raised was $28.5 million. “More than 1,000 donors pitched in to the ‘Save the Fox’ campaign,” the newspaper reported.

Pomona’s restoration is said to be around $8 million, financed privately and with government tax credits, with additional restoration (chandeliers, a pipe organ and other flourishes) possible later with private fund-raising. The City Council bought the theater in January 2002 for $1.1 million and it was sold to private owners in December.

Our Fox is slated to reopen in December. Can’t wait.

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Passing by the corner of Euclid and Foothill in Upland the other day, I noticed a for-lease sign at Nickel! Nickel!, the video game arcade in the shopping center on the southwest corner, by Coco’s.

In fact, the real-estate sign covered half the sign, rendering it merely: Nickel!

A peek into the empty storefront proved that, yes, the arcade is gone. It was part of a chain of 1980s-style arcades, with 1980s games. As I understand it, you paid an entry fee and from that point, all the games cost a nickel, or maybe three or four nickels, but still cheaper than modern pinball or arcade games. With Upland gone, the nearest location I’m aware of is Covina.

This is tough news. I thought the 1980s were making a comeback.

Anyone have any Upland Nickel! Nickel! memories or lore to share? How long was the place there? What games did you like? I seem to recall hearing that a world record was set there on some game or another.

* UPDATE: An ex-employee posted a detailed history of Nickel’s decline and fall in the comments section. He calls the place “a dynasty that was founded upon a radical idea that a kid could go into an arcade and play outdated games with change his Mom gave him for cleaning his room or found triumphantly under a couch cushion.”

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‘Pomona A to Z’: A is for Adobes

The alliterative openings for these “A to Z” columns are kind of corny, but they were my way of starting each one off with some humor. My thesaurus got a workout, that’s for sure. At any rate, I’m going to resist the impulse to rewrite these pieces, other than to correct an error or two. I’ll also annotate each piece with an introduction like this one. This column originally appeared July 18, 2004.

A is for Adobes: ‘Pomona A to Z’ starts at city’s beginnings

Pomona is a cool, classic, crazy city, and that’s using only the letter C. I’ll be employing 26 letters to describe Pomona as I highlight one neat thing about the city for each letter of the alphabet.

Call it “Pomona A to Z,” a humble attempt to shine a positive light on some of the city’s most fascinating corners. As mentioned previously, this is a frank ripoff of “Pittsburgh A to Z,” a marvelous WQED-TV documentary by Rick Sebak. Except mine won’t have the Steelers.

Let’s start with Letter A candidates, of which Pomona has an awesome array:

Antique Row and the Arts Colony — but who can choose between them?

Agriculture, which gave Pomona its start and its name.

The Arby’s on Garey, built in the original chuckwagon style.

Angelica Textiles, a commercial laundry dating to 1885 that’s still in business.

Richard Armour, a humorist whose memoir “Drug Store Days” is a fond reminiscence of his father’s turn-of-the-century Pomona pharmacy.

An abundant assembly! But in this little survey, A will stand for Adobes.

Luis Guerrero greeted me last Sunday outside La Casa Primera, the first home built in Pomona. It was built from adobe brick in 1837, back when California was still part of Mexico.

Guerrero, a 23-year-old docent, led me inside the one-story home on that sweltering day.

The main room was almost chilly.

“I like to keep the door closed so when you step in, you can really feel the difference in temperature. The adobe walls really keep it cool,” Guerrero said.

Although the first room is set up as a parlor, it was originally a bedroom. It slept seven.

Seven? Not so different from a lot of Pomona homes today, I said, and Guerrero agreed.

“That’s why when Latino families come in, they say, ‘We’ve been there, it happens,'” Guerrero joked.

The home was built by a man named Ygnacio Palomares, a name that rolls like the Ganesha Hills.

He and his business partner, Ricardo Vejar, were given 15,000 acres of former mission land by the governor of Mexico for their cattle operation. That’s essentially modern-day Pomona, Claremont, San Dimas, La Verne and Glendora.

Quite a spread. As Palomares was reputed to have told a friend, quoted in a history by Bess Adams Garner: “All these fertile leagues of land are mine. Every smoke you see rising is from the home of one of my children or one of my friends to whom I have given land.”

Lord of all he surveyed, Palomares lived for 17 years in Pomona’s original starter home. In 1854 he traded up to larger digs with 13 rooms.

He gave the first home to a son, Francisco — avoiding a test of Pomona’s nascent real-estate market.

His second home is known as the Palomares Adobe, and it’s still here too. Volunteer Gena Carpio gave me a tour of the gracious, T-shaped home.

Nice joint, although I can’t say much for the family’s taste in art. Three framed wreaths on the walls are woven from — ugh — human hair. (A waste of good hair, that’s what I say.)

Carpio, 21, was recently involved in a “mudding party” that renovated a wall at the edge of the property. Since the wall is adobe, fixing it simply meant hurling mud at it. “Straw, water, dirt — mix it together and you get bricks that last a lifetime,” Carpio told me.

Or in the case of Palomares’ two adobes, several lifetimes.

TO VISIT: La Casa Primera is at 1569 N. Park Ave. at McKinley; the Palomares Adobe is at 491 E. Arrow Highway at Orange Grove. Both are owned by the city of Pomona and opened to the public by the Pomona Valley Historical Society. Hours are 2 to 5 p.m. each Sunday only. A $2 donation is requested. For a group tour, call (909) 626- 2198.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, columns formed from straw, water and dirt.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: An introduction

Last week, in wishing Pomona a happy 120th anniversary as a city, I promised we would be celebrating in this space. And I meant it.

What I’m going to do is post my 2004-’05 series of columns, “Pomona A to Z,” one letter each Sunday starting tomorrow and continuing into July.

What’s “Pomona A to Z”?

Over the course of a year, I devoted a column to an interesting person, place or thing in Pomona for each letter of the alphabet. Pomona was chosen because it’s our most fascinating city and, in my view, the one most in need of a burst of civic pride.

That’s also why each chosen subject was (at time of publication) still in existence. I took that approach to combat people’s tendency to view Pomona as a lost cause, where all the good things were gone by, say, 1965. My underlying message was: “Stop pining for the glory days! There’s plenty in Pomona RIGHT NOW to be proud of.”

As you’ll see in the weeks ahead, I tried to range across geographic and ethnic lines to present a positive but accurate portrait of modern-day Pomona. These columns were a lot of work, probably twice the work of a typical column, which is one reason I haven’t repeated the experiment in another city. A 26-part series? Whew.

But “Pomona A to Z” remains one my proudest moments as a journalist and, since book publication remains unlikely, I’m happy to share it with you again in a semi-permanent format. The pieces will be archived here and accessible to all.

For those of you who were reading me back then, I hope these pieces will be welcomed like an old friend. For you newcomers, I hope you’ll find “A to Z” astounding and zesty. Or at least alphabetical and zealous.

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Restaurant of the Week: Terry’s Burgers


Terry’s Burgers, 6709 Carnelian Ave. (at 19th), Rancho Cucamonga

Terry’s is the restaurant I was trying to find last week when I headed east on Base Line from Carnelian. Terry’s is actually along 19th Street just around the corner from Carnelian, in the shopping center with the new Korean supermarket, Market World. I had lunch there Thursday.

Inside, Terry’s looks like a sitdown restaurant (perhaps it once was?) with comfortable booths and hanging lamps. You order at the counter, they give you a number and bring the food out.

There’s an extensive menu, much like Legends and Jim’s, two other local burger-and-more joints. Besides the standard fare, they have hot sandwiches, salads and Mexican food. Dinner specials include roast beef, chicken fried steak, pork chops (all $6.96) and N.Y. steak ($7.50). Ambitious.

Going for the namesake item, I got the burger special ($5.55 with tax), a burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and Thousand Island dressing. It arrived in a basket atop a mound of fries. In my considered judgment, it was an above-average burger, at one of the valley’s classier burger restaurants.

I’m glad I kept looking for Terry’s.

* Update, January 2014: I returned to take photos. Terry’s seems much the same, and my burger combo was now $5.97 with tax, only a modest increase. There’s nothing special about the burgers, really, but they’re fine for fast food. I like the chalkboard menu. There’s a separate one for breakfast items. Looks like they’ve dropped NY steak and pork chops.



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Saffron Cafe closes (for now)

Just an alert for anyone who knows the Saffron Cafe at Guasti: Its last day is Friday.

Saffron will be the main topic of my Friday column, but let me get the word out here a day early. If you want one last meal, beat the rush and go today. Saffron is the lunch-only spot in the Guasti Villa (the Guasti Mansion to you oldtimers). The food’s pretty good and you can’t beat the ambience of the 1922 building, the former home of Secondo Guasti, the head of the onetime winemaking village.

I had lunch there Wednesday, from the $20 prix fixe menu. My meal — field greens with pears and prosciutto, bread, soup and an entree of shrimp, mussels and scallops in a coconut curry — was filling, and if it didn’t knock my socks off (the soup was a little weak), I was satisfied.

Saffron plans restaurants throughout the region, with one already open in Riverside and one likely for Upland. But it will be gone from Guasti. In fact, with Guasti under demolition and reconstruction, you won’t have a chance to return to the Villa until 2009 or 2010.

Call (909) 605-7677 for directions, reservations or questions.

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The DB shuffle

Unless you read the Daily Bulletin online, you’ve seen the change in the paper this week: Local news moved up front, national and world news diminished, Go! section gone, features placed in the B section.

Hey, I’m no ombudsman or anything, but if you have any comments on the change and don’t know who to tell, why not leave ’em below?

The change doesn’t affect my column, at least not at this point. But it could have.

Because features deadlines are earlier, there was early talk that my deadline for, for example, Wednesday’s column, rather than the current 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, would have been 10 a.m. Monday.

So much for my Wednesday coverage of Pomona’s Monday night council meetings, a favorite of many of you; that would have had to wait until Friday’s column. I might not have bothered. Getting the Ontario council’s Tuesday night meetings into Friday’s columns would also have been problematical.

Thankfully, the appropriate editors made sure I could keep my current deadlines and continue doing whatever it is I do however it is I do it. I tip my fedora to them.

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31 flavors of memory

The other day, attempting once again to lure print readers to this blog, I had the notion of directing people who wanted to comment on Bill Ruh’s “things that aren’t here anymore” list to do so here instead of bombarding me with e-mails or letters.

Well! They’ve certainly done so. That entry has 31 comments and counting, a record here at the David Allen Blog (where the previous record was something like 7).

People are commenting on the column, people are commenting on other people’s comments — asking questions, clearing things up, plumbing their memories. If you haven’t checked back on that post, you might do so. The whole thing is becoming a short, informal history of the modern Inland Valley.

When the Jan. 2 entry slides off my blog’s home page, you can still access it by clicking on “January 2008” along the righthand side or by clicking here.

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Charlie Wilson’s Pomona

Reader Don J. writes:

“An unsung hero of ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ is the Stingers that Tom Hanks’ character provided the muhajedin [in Afghanistan] and that were designed and built right here on the corner of Mission Blvd and the 71 in Pomona at General Dynamics.”

He’s right. I saw the movie and while Pomona isn’t credited, its Stinger missiles are. Incidentally, it’s a pretty entertaining flick, one based on actual events.

Don closes with a dismissive comment concerning the old GD site: “I don’t think that outlet mall there now contributes anything to the war effort.”

UPDATE: I should have noted that the outlet mall closed a few years back, contributing even less to the war effort.

2nd UPDATE: This is unconfirmed, but reader Will Plunkett says: “I’m pretty sure an early scene at an airport was filmed at our very own ‘vintage’ Ontario Airport curbside.”

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Happy birthday, Pomona!

My favorite city turns 120 today. Funny, it doesn’t look a day over…well, never mind.

Yes, it was on this date, Jan. 6, 1888, that Pomona was incorporated as a city, six days after voters went to the polls — on New Year’s Eve, no less — to approve cityhood.

OK, 120 isn’t typically a big milestone. But Mayor Norma wants to pump things up, and since she probably won’t be here in five years, we’re doing it now.

Just to play my part, I have my own pro-Pomona celebration planned; check this space next week for the kickoff.

By the way, here’s a funny little historical fact. The Jan. 6, 1938 Progress-Bulletin reported that Pomona officials could not determine the date of incorporation. The city seal said only “Jan. 1888.” Officials were planning a 50th anniversary celebration but didn’t know when in January to have it.

Mayor Charles Short had sent a letter by airmail that very day to Sacramento asking for documentation because “all available records in Pomona, city files and old newspapers, failed to reveal a specific date.” I don’t know why they didn’t just Google it.

The Jan. 11 Prog, which also reported the planned restoration of the Palomares Adobe, followed up with the correct date after “photostatic copies of the papers of incorporation” were dispatched to City Hall by the state. “Municipality Half-Century Old Jan. 6th,” the day’s top headline announced.

Since the 50th anniversary had passed — in fact, it had occurred on the date of Short’s letter — the plans to par-tay were dropped.

“We are glad, however, to have this record for our municipal files,” the mayor said.

Sounds like the “community disorganization” cited in Pomona’s Youth and Family Master Plan isn’t a new phenomenon.

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