Jon Provost


Photo of former Provost residence, 1195 N. Washington Ave., Pomona, by REN

As you may have seen, today’s column is about Jon Provost, who played Timmy on “Lassie” from 1957 to 1964 and lived in Pomona from 1954 to 1959. You can visit his website and/or buy his autobiography, “Timmy’s in the Well.”

A few local tidbits were squeezed out of the column.

Provost had a role in “Country Girl” with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. Here’s what Provost wrote in his book concerning his activities on April 1, 1955, shortly after he turned 5:

“I made a personal appearance at the United Artists Theater in Pomona where ‘Country Girl’ was playing. According to the Pomona Progress Bulletin, I ate five cans of Camp Fire Girls peanuts that night.”

(Because he was a child, for a lot of stories he has to rely on published accounts or adults’ memories.)

He debuted on “Lassie” on Sept. 8, 1957. At first he and his family had to go next door to their neighbors’ to watch the show because the Provosts didn’t have a TV.

With “Lassie,” his personal appearances picked up. Within weeks of his debut, he was in the Pomona Christmas Parade — although unlike certain people (ahem), he wasn’t grand marshal — and the Rose Parade, and he also made an appearance with Lassie on “The Jack Benny Show.”

In 1959 he was in the May Day Parade in Cucamonga and weeks later, in perhaps a marginally more electrifying event, he was a guest at Disneyland for the dedication of the Matterhorn, Monorail and Submarine Voyage attractions. While there, he had the privilege (?) of sitting on Vice President Richard Nixon’s lap during the parade.

Not bad for a kid from Pomona.

Anyone want to share memories of the “Lassie” show or of Provost himself?

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Turns out it’s easy bein’ green

Cows annually belch about 145 pounds of methane, which contributes to global warming. In fact, an L.A. Times report last week says methane has 23 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.

You know what this means? Chino and Ontario are inadvertently going green.

Think about it. With their cows and ranchers migrating elsewhere as dairyland is replaced by homes, the two cities are drastically reducing their contributions to climate change.

Well, except for all the commuters wholl move into those homes. One problem at a time, please.

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Soul City!

One more anecdote from “The Diamond Mine,” the radio book mentioned in Friday’s blog. In 1968, Gerry Whitehead a.k.a. Jim Diamond was doing promos for KACE-AM (1570) in Riverside. The station launched an R&B show three nights per week called “The Soul Kitchen.”

Among the advertisers: John and David’s Soul City of Records in Pomona.

Whitehead recorded the promo. After a few seconds of Jr. Walker and the All-Stars’ “Shotgun,” his voiceover went like this:

“For the best in rhythm and blues, go to John and David’s Soul City of Records. If they don’t have it, they’ll get it for you. That’s John and David’s Soul City of Records, 1110 South Garey Avenue in Pomona!”

Have mercy!

I like the era and the music, and I know Pomona’s black population was booming in the late 1960s. The idea of a black-operated store named John and David’s Soul City of Records really catches my fancy. It sounds very Tarantino-esque. I’ll have to drive by 11th and Garey and see what’s there now, but I can’t believe it will be as interesting.

* Don J. sent me a Google map view of 1110 S. Garey. Soul City appears to have been located in a house.

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‘Pomona A to Z’: O is for Organ

[My dad is a sometime church organist and we had an organ in our house growing up (not that I do anything with music other than appreciate it). With this background, O was obvious. The organ featured below has since been rebuilt and reportedly sounds better than ever. This column was originally published Nov. 28, 2004.]

‘A to Z’ pilgrimage keys in on old organ

By my oath! Today the alphabet obliges us to orate upon the letter O in “Pomona A to Z,” our omnium-gatherum of Pomona’s ostentatious, and occasionally outre, offerings.

To which outstanding O shall we pay obeisance? Overlooking others, here are two contenders:

* Opera Garage, the opera house at Fourth and Thomas that later housed the valley’s first Cadillac dealership. Now the building has stores below and artists’ studios above. Its car-sized elevator still works, by the way.

* Orange crate labels, 4,000 of which are in the collection of the Pomona Public Library. Access many of them online at

Obdurately, I’ve chosen another O. Observe as we compose an ode to Pomona’s mightiest O: the organ at Pilgrim Congregational Church.

This baby is 102 years old and has so many pipes, ranks and stops that by comparison, the Phantom of the Opera’s organ sounds like a Wurlitzer.

Pilgrim Church is pretty stately itself. It’s the red-brick, Gothic-style church at Garey Avenue and Pearl Street that dates to 1912 and covers a square block.

To demonstrate the organ’s range for me one weekday afternoon, senior organist Mary Ferguson flipped the switches to set it humming to life.

The organ is housed near the altar but sunken behind a wooden screen so that Ferguson isn’t visible from the pews.

Nestled behind the four-level keyboard, knobbed panels on either side, Ferguson resembled a pilot in a cockpit.

As she launched into “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” the organ took off, rumbling and soaring.

“There’s a lot of power there when you’ve got all that sound going,” Ferguson said later.

Next she played part of a delicate Gregorian chant to show that the organ, like Sears, has a softer side.

Senior organist since 1986, Ferguson is called upon to play each Sunday and at weddings, funerals and church events.

Some couples planning weddings insist they don’t want an organ, a sentiment Ferguson doesn’t understand.

“They must think of an electric organ or even relate them to funeral homes,” Ferguson said. “But you don’t want to come into a church and not have an organ.”

No one’s come into Pilgrim Congregational in more than a century and not had an organ.

The church, founded in 1887, formed a “pipe organ club” in the 1890s to raise money. Its organ was ordered from Murray Harris Organ Builders of L.A. in a paired purchase with the local Methodist Church
to bring down the price on two.

Pilgrim’s organ debuted on March 4, 1902, and has been in use ever since. The Methodists’ organ is history.

Marjorie Ough, the first organist, was still at the keyboards in 1942 at the organ’s 40th anniversary, when expansions had more than doubled the original 780 pipes to 1,906.

When Japan surrendered, ending World War II, a special V-J Day service included a fitting organ prelude: Grieg’s “Triumphal March.”

Looming large in Pilgrim’s history is Frank Cummings, its minister of music for a half-century. He presided over upgrades that brought the organ to its present size.

Ferguson learned the ropes under Cummings, who had been her music teacher at Pomona High and who retired from the church in 1985. He set high standards, ones she’s still mindful of.

The 71-year-old makes the drive from Glendora at least three times a week to practice for Sunday’s service, which typically has nine pieces of music.

“This congregation is used to good music, and appreciates it,” Ferguson said.

That appreciation is quiet, this being church. But at a 2002 service to mark her 50 years of music involvement, Ferguson got, quite appropriately for today’s theme, a standing O.

The organ now has 3,245 pipes, from the 16-foot monsters visible behind the altar to ones as small as a cigarette, plus 56 ranks and 72 stops.

Fund-raising is under way for a $238,000 rebuilding of the organ to restore its full sound. About 100 notes are dead and others are out of tune. Ferguson plays around them.

Even limping, the organ is like an orchestra, all in one instrument. It can mimic chimes, trumpets, a harp, strings and flutes. (No, there’s no setting for rumba or cha-cha-cha.)

“It’s a very versatile instrument,” Ferguson said.

I decided not to ask her to play “Louie Louie.”

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

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Restaurant of the Week: Dragon Inn



Dragon Inn, 8031 Archibald Ave. (at Foothill), Rancho Cucamonga

This place was recommended by Robert Karatsu back when I was asking about decent Chinese restaurants in the Inland Valley. Since then I discovered the exemplary Good Time Cafe and Peking Deli, both in Chino Hills. But I met Robert for lunch Thursday at Dragon Inn to give it a shot.

It’s on the northeast corner of Foothill and Archibald. Belying the faded yellow paint on the exterior, the interior is quite nice, with Chinese prints on the walls, wooden chairs and smartly dressed servers. A short bar has a computerized register and that whole area resembles a Starbucks.

Right inside the door is a framed Jonathan Gold review of Chu’s Mandarin in Rowland Heights, which he praised for its hand-pulled noodles. The connection? Mr. Chu owns Dragon Inn, in existence seven years, as well as Chu Chinese at Fourth and Milliken, which I’ve tried and liked. Chu’s Mandarin, however, closed several years ago. But at least Dragon Inn has a good pedigree.

I ordered Szechwan Chicken Noodle ($6.95), figuring with its reputation I should get a noodle dish, and Robert got what he said was his usual, Shrimp with Broccoli ($12.95). His dish was average, mine was very good. Or am I biased? The spaghetti-like noodles were soft and chewy, in a slightly spicy sauce with bell peppers and mushrooms.

The menu is dumbed-down, as expected — cream cheese wontons, anyone? — but some interesting dishes surface, such as chow fun. Try a noodle dish and experiment with an appetizer or second entree.

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Radio, radio

Today’s column is drawn from “The Diamond Mine,” a self-published memoir by Gerry Whitehead, a.k.a. Jim Diamond, a radio jock from Bakersfield who grew up in Ontario. The first 80 pages or so are about Ontario in the 1950s and ’60s and his radio habits as a youngster.

Back then, the valley, while small, had several radio stations. Here’s what Whitehead tells us in his book.

In the late 1950s Ontario had KOCS-AM (1510), which simulcast on KEDO-FM (93.5). Both were owned by the Ontario Daily Report and located at 222 E. B St., next door to the newspaper’s office.

Whitehead writes: “The station call letters KOCS did stand for something. O-C-S stood for Ontario City Service. The AM station, KOCS, signed on in 1946 with a mighty 250 watts and was originally a ‘day-timer,’ which means that it was licensed by the FCC to operate only from local sunrise to local sunset.”

The station, if I understand correctly, was sold in the ’60s and became KASK-AM. It broadcast from 8729 E. 9th St., Cucamonga, from a ranch-style house with three tall towers behind and a huge wooden cask in the parking lot.

Pomona, meanwhile, had KKAR-AM (1220) and KWOW-AM (1600). (KWOW was originally KPMO.) And San Bernardino had KMEN-AM (1290) and KFXM-FM (590).

This is all courtesy of Whitehead, who seems to know what he’s talking about. Anyone want to offer corrections, clarifications, lore or favorite memories of local radio?

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Local treasure

I maintain that the Super Tents at University of La Verne is that city’s most striking building. But one can’t help but be impressed by the Metropolitan Water District building.

The Foothill Cities Blog has details, plus photos. I believe the building showed up in “National Treasure 2.” The MWD site gives more information, and its address.

(Incidentally, I appear to have won a contest on that blog as its 10,000th commenter. Although my suspicion is that they just liked my comment best.)

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Light humor

A beer truck tipped over on South Haven Avenue in Ontario on Wednesday morning, tipster John Corder phoned to tell me. The back was open, revealing that the truck was full of Bud Light.

“It wasn’t light enough,” Corder noted, “or it would have made the turn.”


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Less pie

In a blow to West End pie lovers, the Bakers Square restaurant in Claremont has closed. The location, at 710 S. Indian Hill Blvd., just above the 10 Freeway, was among 56 Bakers Square and Village Inn locations across the U.S. that closed after their parent company filed bankruptcy.

A total of 343 of the two restaurants remain in business, including the Bakers Square at 1401 Foothill Blvd. (at Wheeler) in La Verne. So there’s that comfort.

Still, the Claremont location will be missed by some. “I really liked their strawberry/pineapple/coconut pie. . . .sigh. . .” reader Joanne Boyajian laments.

I’m more a Flo’s and Corky’s man myself, or even Marie Callender’s, but I passed by the Claremont Bakers Square frequently and it will be a little sad not to see it there.

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Record Store Day, the aftermath

I dropped into Rhino Records on Saturday for the festivities, managing to miss the in-store bands who performed earlier and later. Too bad, as during the noon set by the soul-inflected Eli “Paperboy” Reed and the True Loves, an incident occurred.

“Local town color Ray Collins (of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) interrupted their set to tell them that they sounded great, but the horns were too loud,” general manager Dennis Callaci said. “I don’t think that is going to happen in the aisles of a Circuit City anytime soon.”

At least Collins didn’t say they needed more cowbell.

Despite missing that scene, I shopped happily, traded some discs and enjoyed the day’s 10 percent discount. So did everyone else: It was Rhino’s busiest day of 2008.

I picked up Van Morrison’s new CD, “Keep It Simple,” which is the best I’ve heard from him in 20 years. My other purchases, which I haven’t had a chance to play yet, are CDs by new bands Vampire Weekend and Los Campesinos and best-ofs from bluesman Jimmy Reed and R&B singer Ruth Brown.

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