‘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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  • John Lyons

    You should do a special on low riders. I have two clasic cars, a 1966 Mustang & a 1970 Maverick Graber I bought new right after Graduation. I gave it to my mother in 1974 she gave it back to me 26 years later. My neighbor has 3 low riders. 1949 Ford, 1953 Chevy & a 1954 Chevy. They are not perfect. He is only 23 years old. He went to Chaffey College auto body now he works for a shop. I like to help him when he needs help.

    I had a 1949 Ford we put a 426 Hemi in it. I also owened a 1953 & 1954 Chevy. I have a personal attachement to those old cars. I take the disk brakes front from a Mustang I weld them on to the 1953 & 1954 chevy. We also put power steering. They are easier to change.

    I am the only person in my neghiborhood who works on my own car. I change front brakes oil transmission oil air filter. Not much left I can do on the new cars. The neighbor kids work on their cars. They taught me how to use the computer to read the codes. The newer cars are easier to work on as long as not electronic.

  • Teri Siaz

    David, Please do a special on Low Riders Who Read Laura Ingalls Wilder Books.

    [...and The Women Who Love Them. -- DA]

  • http://www.myspace.com/the_ron Ronald Scott

    The Pomona Lawn Bowling facility has the best manicured grass I have ever seen…so of course one day many years ago myself and a few friends just had to try and play football there…until we were chased out by some canes and walkers of course.

  • “Hal Linker”

    Or you could try to please an even broader audience with lipstick-lesbian low riders who work at Lamp Lab and lawn bowl at Lincoln Park when not reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

    [Likely. -- DA]

  • “Hal and Hadla Linker”

    And now for something completely different:

    The L-Word could be:

    Pomona’s own Claudia Lennear, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard’s inspiration for “Brown Sugar,” original working title, “Black P****.” How come you taste so good, indeed!

    Claudia was an in-demand background singer who worked with Joe Cocker, Humble Pie and many others. Her solo album “Phew!” is pretty tough to find these days.

    She also did a spread in Playboy circa 1974 and had a bit part in Clint Eastwood’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.”

    David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul,” from his “Aladdin Sane” album, is also said to inspired by her.

    She still lived in Pomona about a decade ago but we don’t know about now.

    [First I've heard of her! -- DA]