[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.)