Moby-Dick update 3

I’m overdue telling you this: I finished “Moby-Dick”!

I wrapped it up on Easter weekend. Sorry for the delay; “Hal Linker” got in the way.

The final three chapters follow the last three days of the hunt for the white whale. Read the first on that Saturday, then the final two on that Sunday at Coffee Bean — fitting, since I’d read so much of the novel there. Except it was so hot I got an iced drink to cool down, not my usual, a hot drink to warm up.

A little sobering to note that between when I started the book (Jan. 1) and when I finished (March 23), the seasons had turned.

For the record, the ending did nothing to dissuade me from my opinion that “Moby-Dick” is awesome. In fact it reinforced that feeling.

My plan is to write a column about “Moby” in the near future. In the meantime, let the heavens ring with the news that I’ve completed my quest, a bit more happily than Ahab did.

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‘Pomona A to Z’: L is for ‘Little House’

[To represent the letter L, I gave serious consideration to writing about lowrider cars, knowing that's part of modern-day Pomona culture. But frankly, I had no idea where to get started on that topic. Lawn bowling was another possibility. Instead I opted for the topic likeliest to get a "wow" from the average reader: the Laura Ingalls Wilder collection at the Pomona Public Library.

I know some library employees (Hi, Ms. Lois!) are excited about seeing this column reprinted here. The only update is that Marguerite Raybould has retired as children's supervisor, replaced by Nissa Perez-Montoya. Oh, and the children's room, like me, now has its own blog.

Call me a softie if you must, but the last quote, from Wilder's letter, makes me mist up each time I read it.

This column was originally published Oct. 3, 2004.]

‘Little House’ fans find a home in Pomona Library

“Pomona A to Z” continues to place the city’s unlimited layers in the limelight and, I hope, add luster to a sometimes hard-luck city. Now in Part 12, clearly this series is no lark.

Just as clearly, we’re up to the letter L. Among the candidates worth a look:

* Lowriders, an important part of car culture in Pomona, where the movement’s bible, Lowrider Magazine, was founded (even though the magazine later cruised down to Fullerton).

* Lawn bowling, a game popular in the United Kingdom and worldwide, still played at the Pomona Lawn Bowling Club.

* Lamp lab at Pomona’s BAE Systems, a manufacturer whose lamps allow military aircraft to jam heat-seeking missiles.

* Lincoln Park, a neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places and one of the city’s prestige addresses.

A laudatory list! Yet our lantern of learning will light upon a different L: the Pomona Library’s “Little House on the Prairie” collection.

Little lasses, and even lads, have long loved the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) about her childhood in the 19th century as a Western pioneer.

I may not be as wise as Pa, but I do know that Wilder had a special connection with the Pomona Library — an institution that isn’t on the Chisholm Trail.

No, she formed that tie late in life when she corresponded with a librarian, wrote a letter to the children of Pomona, donated an autographed set of her books and even gave the library a rare gift: the original, handwritten manuscript for “Little Town On the Prairie.”

And speaking of pioneers, you might say Pomona was a pioneer itself in recognizing the importance of her series.

The Pomona Library was the nation’s second to honor her, naming its children’s department the Laura Ingalls Wilder Room in 1950.

Wilder didn’t attend — she was in her 80s, and her husband had just died — but from her home in Missouri, she wrote a letter to be read aloud. A copy is still on display.

“It makes me very proud that you have named this room in your library for me,” Wilder wrote in a neat cursive. “…You make good use of your library I am sure. How I would have loved it when I was young, but I was far from a library in those days.”

Far from running water and flush toilets too. From 1869 to 1879, young Laura Ingalls and her family — Ma and Pa Ingalls and sisters Mary, Carrie and Grace — lived in frontier settlements in Minnesota,
Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota.

The family endured many hardships: terrible winters, poor crops, Mary’s blindness and Michael Landon’s curly perm.

Laura married Almanzo Wilder in 1885 and only turned author in 1932 with “Little House in the Big Woods.” An immediate hit, the memoir spawned seven sequels.

One fan was Clara Webber, the Pomona children’s librarian from 1948 to 1970. She corresponded with the author and hunted down Ingalls family homesites on her vacations. Even Wilder wasn’t sure where they were.

“Miss Webber was really one of the first people to realize what a national treasure these books were,” said Marguerite Raybould, the library’s supervisor of youth services.

An alcove dedicated to Wilder displays family photos, foreign editions — such as the Swedish “Det Lilla Huset Pa Prarien” — character dolls and the “Little Town” manuscript in pencil.

Raybould admitted the alcove isn’t exactly spellbinding stuff. What gets young readers excited is the library’s annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Gingerbread Sociable, a birthday party that began in 1967, the centennial of her birth.

The party features gingerbread, an Ingalls family favorite, and period music of the type Pa played on his fiddle. About 300 children and adults attended the one in 2004.

The 2005 sociable, the 38th annual, is set for Feb. 5.

Despite changing times and demographics, children still ask for the series by name — “although it’s no Harry Potter,” admitted librarian Lois Robbins.

“The fact that it’s a story of immigration and going to a new place with possibilities,” Raybould said, “has resonance for lots of people.”

So do the emotions. That’s what Wilder, in her letter to Pomona’s children, suggested would keep her books contemporary.

“As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that the things truly worth while and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then,” she wrote.

“Courage and kindness, loyalty, truth and helpfulness are always the same and always needed.”

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, lovingly.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Casa Blancas

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This week’s restaurant: Casa Blancas Mexican Food, 300 S. Indian Hill Blvd., Claremont.

You may know Casablanca, the Mediterranean restaurant in the Claremont Packing House. But do you know Casa Blancas, the Mexican restaurant three blocks south at Arrow Highway?

I stopped in there two weeks ago for dinner before seeing a movie at the Laemmle. That was “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” the Romanian abortion flick that, while worth seeing, was such a downer it may qualify as the feel-bad movie of the year.

Casa Blancas was previously a Green Burrito, with a couple of iterations in between. Thus, my expectations were low. The interior, however, had a lot of colorful tile, and the menu seemed promising.

At the counter, I ordered two grilled shrimp tacos and a Jarritos soda ($7.56 with tax). The salsa bar had been converted into a trough of ice filled with bottled Mexican sodas, not only Jarritos but Mexican Cokes. Nice, although too bad it’s not a salsa bar. The tacos were the smallish, real kind, served on corn tortillas and loaded with cabbage. They were quite tasty. The soda proved a good pairing.

Casa Blancas was a pleasant surprise, likely the most authentic Mexican restaurant in Claremont (not that there’s a lot of competition, granted). It’s a good place for a quick, cheap bite in an often-pricey town.

And if you’re curious, I did try two new-to-me restaurants this week: La Verne Pizza Co., where I had an adequate if unexciting pepperoni slice and salad, and Rok the Wok in Upland, where I had a below-average chicken teriyaki bowl. I’d rather highlight a worthwhile place, even if it’s a couple of weeks old.

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‘Hal Linker’ reminisces, part 10 (and last)

As the crazy man in the sandwich-board sign could tell you, The End is Near. Today ends the serialization of the mammoth e-mail from reader “Hal Linker.” Well, except for a single-topic piece that’s worth its own entry, sometime next week.

Based on the number of comments, a lot of you have enjoyed this string of recollections of the valley in the 1960s and 1970s. This last section might be my favorite, as “Hal” talks about the early years of Montclair Plaza:

I remember when the Montclair Plaza opened in the single-level format. My mom and older sisters would go shopping for dresses and stuff and I went along, being as I was still (barely) not old enough to drive. I would ditch the women and drool over records and stereos.

We used to park on the Broadway side of the mall. I can still remember the smell of leather and patchouli and the stereos with light boxes playing Smith’s “Baby It’s You,” or Crosby Stills & Nash’s “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” blasting out of the record department in JC Penney’s, or Jethro Tull’s “New Day Yesterday” resonating in the May Company record department.

Thunderclap Newman was making a joyful noise at Pedrini The Music Merchant amidst all the pianos and organs. It was Creedence, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Abbey Road, CSN&Y, Ten Years After, Jimi Hendrix, Sly & The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane time, baby. Almost everything being released on record was great (at least from my perspective).

That’s what was happening when the Plaza opened. It was the advent of the black lite poster, the strobe light era. The counterculture becoming the over-the-counter culture and hitting the mainstream. But the tunes held up pretty well. Sadly, everyone forgot about the Pomona Mall and Pomona hit some bad times.

Yes, the Hollander and the Jolly Roger were the places to eat in the mall. Jolly Roger, dimly lit with great burgers, served me booze when I was 15. Yes! (Nobody cared then. It was in many ways a much cooler time, with much less government control and brainwashing.) I don’t remember the Slob’s Big Boy someone mentioned being in the Plaza. Must be a memory block, maybe it came later or maybe that person is wrong.

Orange Julius was near See’s Candies past JC Penney and served dogs. Across Moreno was Van De Kamp’s which much later became Tiny Naylor’s for a bit. Eventually, the Hollander moved outside of the mall into a space previously occupied by Dugan’s Music. That was the death of the Hollander — bad move, but they might not have had any choice.

Speaking of Dugan’s, next to it, with an adjoining door, was Discount Record Center. This was a rather small long narrow store but its selection was amazing. I loved to browse there and was awed with their full catalogs on most of my favorite artists. They even had all of Zappa and the Mothers’ stuff which, even then, was an extensive catalog.

I actually worked there for about two months before realizing it was a dead-end career. I dug the tunes but seemed I was demonstrating bongs to more people than selling records. Those girls from the adjacent Marinello’s Beauty School kept coming in there and buying bongs so I followed one of cutest of them to Venice where she opened up a salon and we lived happily, but not ever after.

Was this succinct enough for you? They don’t call me enormo-mail for nothing. But, dammit, this blog deserves it!

Very kind of you, “Hal.” Everybody give him a hand for a job of memory-plumbing well done.

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‘Hal Linker’ reminisces, part 9

Sonorous announcer: When we last left “Hal Linker,” he was reminiscing about restaurants. As we resume today, he is still reminiscing about restaurants. But first he mentions a clothing store:

Robert Hall’s was the cheap suit place that my parents took me to because I would grow out of them so fast. Located east of Central on Holt.

Re: Betsy Ross: Who didn’t love the place! Wolfing down a Gettysburger with a chocolate malt or coke and then getting a Paul Revere (their version of a banana royale) to top it off. The red, white and blue-themed restaurants only had five locations. Pomona Valley Center opened 1955, Foothill near Mountain in Upland opened 1964, Foothill near Griswolds opened 1959, Grand Avenue Glendora opened 1969; 969 East Holt 1958. There was also an original location on Garey which was ice cream only.

Another couple of historic Chino restaurant locations:

* The Big W on the NW corner of Riverside Drive and Benson. The Big W is long gone, torn down in the 1960s. A 7-Eleven now sits at its approximate location.

* The Pizza King, also on the NW corner of Riverside Drive and Benson. The Pizza King was in the approximate location of Flo’s No. 2.

* Gold Rooster restaurant on Central just south of Mission. Building still stands but is now Players or something like that, a pool playing bar. The Gold Rooster was an affordable restaurant with delicious chicken and halibut and steak at a good value.

Will Hal find love? Will he stop eating out? What does he remember about Montclair Plaza? And what about … Naomi? (Sorry, a little “Electric Company” humor.) Tune in tomorrow for the final (?) installment of “As the Valley Turns.”

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‘Hal Linker’ reminisces, part 8

As “Hal” continues disgorging the entire contents of his brain, minus the parts he’s leaving on these entries as comments, he focuses on more restaurants:

In the 1970s I remember a lunch only place on Foothill in Claremont called Soup’s On. Anybody ever go there? I went once or twice and it was very popular.

The Laugh Stop was also happening around the Griswold’s area in the late 1970s.

Anybody remember Baja Pete’s in Chino? Obviously it was a Mexican place in the 1970s and 1980s. I used to really dig the enchilada suizas there — the rest of the food was OK but nothing super fantastic. Never have found a restaurant that could match those suizas since (though Las Casueles in Palm Springs comes close). The building still stands but got gutted of its atmosphere. It’s now called Plaza Guadalahara and is a non-waitress, counter order joint. I don’t like it.

There was a small taco stand on either Mission or Holt in Ontario called La Fonda. It was fantastic. Then one day they moved to a strip mall portion of a grocery store center on Euclid and Francis and they started sucking.

My faves were Orlando’s, Espiau’s and The Arbor, which had a hotel adjacent to it which made for some super long dinners and happy hours.

Another Tastee Freeze location was on Euclid adjacent to a Circle K on the west side of the road somewhere between Francis and Mission. The building’s still there but it’s a Loco Pizza or something now — the Circle K is no longer a Circle K either. I think someone mentioned the location on South Garey in front of the old Alpha Beta market with the A-frame latter-day design.

Someone mentioned Ozzie’s Oasis in Montclair on Central near Kingsley. There was also a location in Chino on Riverside Drive and Ninth. One of the few burger joints that served sloppy Joes. When they closed, the building was remodeled and became Pearl City, a Chinese restaurant which lasted about a decade. Not sure what’s there now.

There was also a Tastee Freeze on East Mission east of Garey in the A-frame style that’s now a Bamboo Express. Next: yet more restaurants, in the penultimate excerpt. The end is in sight, folks.

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‘Hal Linker’ reminisces, part 7

As we continue serializing what was originally intended as a comment on the “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore” thread, “Hal” (in quotes since we now know this is a pseudonym) is yakking about teen clubs of the late 1960s:

How about the Pacesetter? The building still stands and I think is called Mi Hacienda (last I checked). The Pacesetter was a teen club which opened circa 1967. The Standells, The Seeds and many other bands played the venue which also had the obligatory Battle Of the Bands competition.

(Someone told me Pink Floyd played there when Syd Barrett was still a member. I find that very hard to believe, because I would have gone! At any rate, it couldn’t have been any good given Barrett’s mental state on that disastrous 1st U.S. tour.)

My band was in a battle of the bands at the Pacesetter and did place second, but the two of us who were on the basketball team got kicked off for participating in a worldly activity. Ah, the joys of going to a parochial school. Now they have rock bands in their churches.

Not in the Inland Empire but just over Kellogg Hill was the Carousel Theater in West Covina. Great place for rock ‘n’ roll shows in the mid to late 1960s. These were held on dark days from their typical musical stage shows. Doors, Rascals, Simon & Garfunkel, Animals, Dave Clark Five, Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Seeds, etc. all played there. Wallich’s Music City also had a store location in the same general area. It later became the short-lived Big Ben’s Records. Both buildings torn down.

Cal Poly hangouts were the Pic and Pan and The Library on West Holt.

Next time: more restaurants.

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Hal Linker reminisces, part 6

Thus begins Week 2 of the Hal Linker papers, which could have been donated to Chaffey College but instead were sent via e-mail to me. Resuming where we left off Friday, today he focuses on burgers, fried chicken and tacos:

Let’s not forget The Towne House, a burger hangout on Towne and Holt from eons ago.

Also A&W in Chino, on Riverside Drive and Wright. Too bad about the Ontario A&W carhop location closing in 2006. Bummer! But they weren’t serving the old cuisine of Mama, Papa, Teen and Baby Burgers anymore anyway. Still they had Coney Dog Tuesdays. Damn! The Chino location still stands and is an Andy’s Burgers — no carhop service though.

With regard to other Ontario eateries, on Mountain Avenue there was the extremely short-lived Minnie Pearl’s Chicken which became The House Of Omelettes which also didn’t last long — too limited on the cuisine maybe? I think the building is still there but I don’t know who’s operating out of it currently. I think Mexican food, maybe.

With regard to Mexican food: I dug Mingo’s on Mission and Reservoir where I would always order the Gringo Burrito and Colorado Kool-Aid among the dangling pinatas. Also in Chino on Central near Riverside Drive was Mr. Taco, a takeout joint with no drive-through. They used to have a fire pit out front, back in the fearless days. Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s it was renovated and turned into a KFC. They had the bomb burritos back when we didn’t use that slang.

Whatever happened to the many Winchell’s Donut locations? Chino had one on the SE corner of Central and Riverside Drive (torn down for street widening). There was also one on Euclid in Ontario around Francis which is now a Juan Pollo.

There was a Pup ‘N’ Taco on Mountain and Philadelphia which got absorbed into Taco Bellsville.

Everybody remembers Henry’s — It was THE hang out. I used to cruise it with my older brother and sister. Those were the days! Souped-up cars and leaded high-octane gas at about 25 cents a gallon. Only drawback — smog as thick as molasses. Musta been the factories — couldn’t have been the cars. And that Googie space age architecture! Yeah!

Other chicken joints were Unruh’s on N. Garey and Litte Bill’s on S. Garey just up the street from Pomona Lanes on the opposite side of the street.

Next time: teen clubs.

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‘Pomona A to Z’: K is for Kellogg

[Nothing to explain or update in this one. If you want the proper atmosphere, eat a bowl of cereal while reading -- but don't spill milk on your keyboard. This column was originally published Sept. 26, 2004.]

Pomona’s K is for a man who was truly grrreat!

Welcome back to “Pomona A to Z,” where we host a kaffeeklatsch about the city’s key keepsakes, bringing knowledge, and kindling respect, in those who knock Pomona in kneejerk fashion. (The knaves.)

Did you guess we’re up to the letter K?

Kidding aside, Pomona has a lot of keepers among its K candidates. Among them:

* Kaiser Bill’s Military Emporium, the Antique Row business whose owner, Dave George, identified the obscure military medal worn by Michael Jackson at his arraignment in January — a Serbian “bravery” medal — and was quoted worldwide.

* Kress Building, once a department store and now Robbins Antique Mart, said to be Southern California’s oldest and largest such store.

* Koosh Ball, a squishy, spiky plastic gel ball created by two Pomona High alumni that was the top-selling Christmas toy of 1988.

* Walter and Cordelia (Honaday) Knott, two more Pomona High alumni, who married and founded Knott’s Berry Farm.

Keen, eh? What a kaleidoscope!

Our K, however, is special. You might even say it’s a Special K, because K is for Kellogg.

The man behind Kellogg’s cornflakes was W.K. (Will Keith) Kellogg (1860-1951). The son of a broom maker, Kellogg never got past sixth grade, but he built a cereal empire in Battle Creek, Mich.

The cornflake king spent winters in balmy Pomona, where he established a horse ranch. He later donated the land for what became Cal Poly Pomona — the only hall of higher learning that doesn’t get soggy in milk.

To learn about all things Kellogg, I met with Melissa Paul, curator of Cal Poly’s W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library. For the proper tone, we chatted over a breakfast of Kellogg’s cereal — she had Rice Krispies, I had Frosted Flakes — in Kellogg West, a university dining hall.

After a stint as a traveling broom salesman, Kellogg went to work for his brother, nutritional pioneer Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, at his hospital and health spa.

The brothers experimented with cereal grains to create healthy foods for patients. Through a wacky accident in the kitchen, they came up with flakes that eventually revolutionized the way America eats breakfast.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Although he was competitive, astute and rich, Kellogg was a shy man who treated employees well and gave away most of his wealth to help children and animals.

He especially loved horses. He had a horse as a boy that was part Arabian. His father sold it.

“It broke his heart,” Paul said. “He vowed that if he ever was rich, he would buy a whole herd of Arabian horses.”

Making good on his pledge, Kellogg bought 11 Arabian horses from a man in Indio in 1925, then plunked down $250,000 for 377 acres in Pomona for a horse ranch.

Lore has it a coin flip is what led Kellogg to buy the Pomona site over property in Santa Barbara.

Stables were built first so his Arabian horses would have a place to live, while Kellogg was content to rent a home in Pomona’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Kellogg bought the best horses, many from England, and hired architect Myron Hunt to design some ranch buildings.

The ranch got plenty of visitors. They included movie stars Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Gary Cooper, Olivia de Havilland and Tom Mix. Weekly horse shows catered to the common folk.

“Kellogg Ranch was the leading tourist attraction in Southern California in those days,” Paul said.

Kellogg Arabians were used in movies, too. One was even the model for Prince Charming’s horse in Disney’s “Snow White.”

In 1932, Kellogg donated his 750 acres and 87 Arabian horses to the University of California. But things didn’t go as planned and the property fell into disrepair.

After a public outcry, the holdings were transferred back to Kellogg and then to California State University in 1949.

Stipulations were made to ensure the horses and horse shows remained, and they do.

The first classes were held in Pomona in 1956. A decade later the campus became a full-fledged state college, bursting with snap, crackle and pop.

Kellogg died in 1951 at age 91. Though the millionaire was a modest, self-effacing fellow — “He was certainly no Donald Trump,” Paul said — he’s hardly a forgotten man.

Not only is his signature on every box of Kellogg’s cereal, but he left his mark on Pomona by enabling the city to get the valley’s only state university.

Raise a cereal spoon in his memory.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, more flakes of corn.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Hilltop Jamaican

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Hilltop Jamaican Market and Restaurant, 1061 E. Holt Ave. (at Clark), Pomona

Their business card says Hilltop’s, the signs say Hilltop. I’ll go with Hilltop. Anyway, I’ve passed by this place for years and, while forever meaning to investigate it, always came up with excuses not to stop. Hilltop is in a narrow storefront in an aging building and the curb is painted green. The neighborhood is slightly dubious. But finally I stopped for lunch last Wednesday.

Hilltop turned out to be much more restaurant than market. There are a half-dozen tables and on the walls are amateur drawings and paintings. No customers were present at 1:30. The market consisted of a corner with shelves stocked with shakers of jerk seasoning, packets of curry powder and cans of breadfruit slices.

At the counter, I asked the employee for a recommendation. “First time?” he asked. He suggested oxtail stew. The small plate is $10 and came with rice, plantains, cabbage and fry bread. I got a ginger beer from the refrigerated case. He didn’t charge me for the drink. “I gave you a discount,” he said.

I have no basis for comparison but certainly enjoyed my meal, eating every bite except for some rice. In fact it was so filling I didn’t even need dinner.

Hilltop also sells fried chicken, curry goat, curry chicken and fish patties, which the paper menu reports are sold in restaurants in L.A. and at the Bob Marley Festival in Long Beach. My guess is that takeout, catering and perhaps wholesale are a bigger part of their business than the dining room.

But for the adventurous, I recommend the place, mon.

* Update, April 2014: I went in for lunch and had jerk chicken ($9.50, below), which came with rice, spinach, plantains and fried bread, plus a ginger beer ($1.75). The chicken was spicy! Tasty — I ate it all — but too spicy for me; probably just right or not spicy enough for you. It’s an interesting environment: There’s a refrigerated case with regular drinks as well as pineapple and grape sodas, peanut soda (!) and others; a rack of bagged plantain chip snacks; shelves of rice, curry powder, jerk marinade and more; and a retail corner with some Jamaican goods, posters, diet pills and skateboards.

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