Farewell, Cande Mendoza

I met Candelario Mendoza, the Pomona educator and school board member who died Tuesday at age 89, only once.

That was two years ago at an event at Mountain Meadows Golf Course. The trim Mendoza was resplendent in a white suit, friendly and full of energy as we spoke.

He asked if I’d read Matt Garcia’s “A World of Its Own,” a history of immigrants in the Southern California citrus industry before World War II, in which he was quoted. When I said I hadn’t, he left — he lived practically across the street — and came back a few minutes later with a copy for me.

His vigor lulled me into thinking there was no rush in writing about him. I had hopes of one day sitting down with him for a piece on his very long history in Pomona, specifically about his years as a disc jockey and as emcee for dances at Pomona’s fondly remembered Rainbow Gardens night club, about which he’s quoted in “Land of a Thousand Dances,” a history of Latino music in L.A.

Well, that history has all been documented — besides the two books, Mendoza was hardly a stranger to Bulletin and Progress-Bulletin readers over the years — and yet I’m sorry other news and history pieces kept getting in the way of my writing about him.

I’m sure Mendoza would have had a lot to teach me.

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  • Steven Banales

    I first met Cande in 1969 while attending kidergarten at Hamilton School, now Candelario Mendoza School in Pomona. Cande, the school principal at that time, was exiting his office when my best friend Gilbert Ramos and myself were speeding down the hallway in a wagon on our way to pick up milk for the class.

    The joy ride came to a complete stop at Cande’s feet with both of us looking up at Principal Mendoza. Cande looked down at us and asked us our names, to which we both responded with first and last name. I remember him repeating my last name “Banales,” asking who’s your dad?

    After giving him my dad’s first name Cande advised me that not only did he know my dad but also knew both sets of my grandparents.

    Years later Cande shared with me that during his years on the radio my grandmother on my father’s side was one of his loyal listeners who never missed an opportunity to call into the show and make special requests for the birthdays of her children or other friends and relatives.

    Cande was also well known on my mother’s side of the family. Ive been told that my other grandmother was known to be a baseball fan who loved to heckle Cande during games in her home town of La Verne.

    Cande visited my home one evening and to my surprise brought a couple of photo albums with him. The contents of these albums included photos of himself with such greats as Les Brown, Little Richard, Perez Prado and Celia Cruz, only to name a few.

    We will all miss Cande and I only hope that others will continue to share their memories, the real history of Pomona.

    [What a nice tribute, and from a former councilman to boot. Thanks, Steve. -- DA]

  • Steve Fletcher

    I first knew about Cande Mendoza from attending school with his boys, Cande and Nicky, then later when he was MCing shows at the Rainbow Gardens. I got to know him personally when my wife taught elementary school under him as principal at Hamilton (later to become Mendoza Elementary).

    I read the aforementioned book “A World of Its Own” a few years back, which really brought home what this man was about. He did so much for the city of Pomona and its residents as an educator and as a splendid example of what can be done by citizens when they choose to become involved in the affairs of their community.

    I will remember him mostly for the kind and understanding man he was, always a true gentleman.

    [Thanks for the tribute, Steve. -- DA]

  • Ramona

    Mr. Mendoza was my teacher in sixth grade at Kauffman Elementary. What a treat!

    Although he expected us to be orderly, he was not above having some fun as we learned.

    He introduced us to Spanish with vocabulary and spelling once a week on Fridays. Because of this I took three years of Spanish in junior high and high school and found it easy. Needless to say, this ability to speak the language was of great benefit to me later on. At one time I was an instructional aide at Washington Elementary helping new immigrants learn math in their native language. In other jobs speaking Spanish helped immensely.

    And Mr. Mendoza (I can’t bring myself to call him by his first name even today) managed somehow to get us kids to look forward to junior high school. I was not afraid of the new environment as were many who headed to Fremont that next school year.

    I hope his family can take comfort in his loss by knowing that Mr. Mendoza really made a positive difference in the lives of countless young folks.

    Ramona

    [I'm pleased people are leaving comments on this thread. -- DA]

  • Augie Lopez

    I used to wake up in the morning hearing my Mother making tortillas and listening to the “Cande Mendoza Show” on the radio, 1600 on your radio dial. I attended John Marshall Junior High School along with a classmate by the name of Mercy. Mr. Mendoza was our ninth grade Spanish teacher. We were kicked out of class most everyday for talking too much. I lost touch with him for many years.

    After returning home from Germany, while serving in the US Army, I went to work as the janitor at Hamilton Elementary. The principal at the time was Mr. Mendoza. While I was cleaning a classroom, he called me to his office and presented me to two gentlemen from the California Dept. of Corrections and told me that I was to test for Correctional Officer on Saturday. I tested and was hired as a Correctional Officer, I served as an employee of the Dept. of Corrections for 30 years. I retired in 2000 as the Associate Warden at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA.

    I am thankful that I had the opportunity to have met such a fine man who offered me such a great career.

    Thank you Cande,

    Augie Lopez

  • Rose M. Loya

    I found out about Mr. Cande Mendoza’s death about 2 years ago from his wife. When I called to talk to him like I always did, just to say, Hi. I was shocked because nobody told me that he had died. And reading the newspaper at that time, well, I live in San Bernardino and been busy.

    Mr. Mendoza was my principal in Hamilton Elem…Which the school was named after him before his died. Cande and I went there one day with a friend, to donate a cute picture that I had painted. I also, went to his house for lunch because my friend Bob Chairez owned a framing shop in San Bernardino. We did a few framing jobs for him. Cande shared with us some of his life story and his love for music but his first love was to teach.

    Cande told us the struggles of racism in the 1920′s-60′s. I once told him, “Mr. Mendoza you need to write a book about your life”. He just smiled and always changed the subject. He used to send Christmas cards, that always made my holidays. The last one he sent me, was signed with a caring note, which I can’t write. I wasn’t raised by my father and mother, so, he told me that I was like a adopted daughter that he never had. That was the sweetest thing anybody ever said to me.

    I meet Cande in 1967, he was a very nice middle age man. I think he was a Vice Principal than. But not to long after he became Principal. Cande was one heck of a principal, he hired many eolithic background teachers, broke the boundries of racism. He was one of a kind, he was my HERO, and mi padre. R.I.P. +