Tiger Cafe

Reader Develyn Sperling left this comment on the “things that aren’t here anymore” thread, but let’s put it here for you nattering nabobs of nostalgia:

“Does anyone remember a little place called the Tiger Cafe on Holt Blvd in Ontario? My Uncle Tommy owned it. It stayed open after all the Blvd. bars closed. People lined up to get his Sober You Up Chili before driving home.

“What was the name of the tiny diner across the street from it? How’s this: On the corner of Holt and Campus. The Bamboo Hut.

“Next door was a liquor store with great penny candy. Next to that was Goldie’s variety store. It had great, cheap toys. But she was a mean old bird and kids were actually afraid to go in there.

“Or, the Dairy Queen on Holt, just east of Campus.”

Ah, memories. I like the idea of hangover-prevention chili. Anyone want to add details about any of these places?

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Fontana (?) Drags

Clearing out the in-box of my old d_allen e-mail before the account expires, here’s a query from Richard Nunez of Pomona:

“A friend and I were talking about the upcoming Pomona Drags at the Fairplex. [No longer upcoming. — DA]

“Then he said, Do you remember the Lions dragstrip? Yeah, sure do. Then he said, Do you remember the Fontana Drags? My mind went blank for just a moment. Yeah, I do. My folks would take us kids by there to hear them and see them race.

“OK, I was wondering if you can tell me when they started and when they stopped racing. It was on Foothill, I believe it was just past Vineyard going east on Foothill on the north side.”

So the Fontana Drags were in Cucamonga? Hmm. Anybody able to shed some light on this?

* UPDATE: The dragstrip was in the present-day Village of Heritage neighborhood (see comments section for more) far, far east of Richard’s memory. Sports Editor Lou Brewster gives extra details: “The strip ran north by east, east of East Avenue, by the San Sevaine flood control channel. The worst thing that happened there was a guy literally losing his head…Races usually ran on Sunday. It was part of a circuit that included Lions (Long Beach), Irwindale and Orange County.”

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‘Pomona A to Z’: U is for Underpass

[My U choice was unknown until the day I finally took at look at that stone marker outside Joey’s BBQ. When I read the inscription commemorating the nearby underpass, I laughed out loud there on the street corner. Granted, underpasses aren’t unique to Pomona — but stone markers for underpasses may be! This column was published Feb. 20, 2005.]

Pomona underpass was urgent undertaking for 76 years

It’s unnerving, but “Pomona A to Z,” my unabashedly upbeat ode to the city’s unplumbed depths, is up to the letter U.

Examples aren’t ubiquitous, but Pomona does have some unforgettable U runnerups with which you may be unacquainted:

* Underground art galleries in the basement of the Prog and Founders buildings downtown: Gallery 57 Underground, SCA Gallery and SoHo Gallery.

* U Pick U Save Auto Dismantling on East Mission, worth a U-turn by those looking for a replacement hubcap or side mirror.

* Unistar Foods, which provides meat and poultry to Filipino American restaurants and markets throughout Southern California.

Uplifting, eh? However, the U that deserves a chorus of ululation is unique — and admittedly unpromising.

It’s the Garey Avenue underpass.

(That’s underpass, not underpants.)

Each day, thousands of motorists pass below the railroad tracks downtown without a second thought.

But it wasn’t always this way. Waiting from a few minutes to a half-hour for a train to pass was once a daily occurrence.

Showing that government moves even slower than trains, the problem existed for eight decades before anything was done.

In 1887, the Progress-Bulletin editorialized:

“The railroad crossing at Garey Avenue was blocked last Monday forenoon for a considerable length of time by a freight train, causing no little annoyance and delay to passing to and fro of teams. That is an annoyance that should be abated at once.”

“Teams,” by the way, referred to horse-drawn wagons. Told you this was an age-old problem.

As Pomona grew, there was talk of building underpasses at the Garey, White and Towne rail crossings. Efforts intensified after July 15, 1948, when traffic was blockaded at noon for a half-hour, then at 1:30 p.m. for another half-hour.

Road rage, anyone?

As if reaching across the years to help me write today’s U-themed column, Southern Pacific passenger agent William Campbell told the Progress-Bulletin the incidents were “unfortunate and unavoidable.”

Enter Fred Sharp. Hired in 1949 as Pomona’s first city administrator, Sharp set about preparing the city for the future. Storm drains, a county courthouse and a new Civic Center were among his achievements before retiring in 1974.

So were rail crossings.

“People were getting killed on the railroad tracks … There was no program in California for (underpass construction). We had to go to court to force the railroads to cooperate. They claimed they were here first,” Sharp recalled in a 1985 interview.

By the late 1950s, railroads were required by state law to cough up money for grade separations. A state fund was set up to provide matching funds for qualifying projects.

Thanks to Pomona’s lobbying, Garey, White and Towne made the cut. Pomona voters overwhelmingly passed a $1.5 million bond issue to raise the city’s share — 30 percent — of the $5.3 million needed.

“It was a great effort. And the business community was strongly behind it,” Ora Lampman, hired in 1962 as a city engineer, told me recently.

Towne and White were done first. Construction on Garey began in August 1961. It turned into a nightmare, dragging on for two years because of its complexity.

Vehicle traffic was rerouted and temporary trestles were built to carry the trains.

Some 6,000 truckloads of dirt were hauled off. Then work began on the 110-foot-wide bridge, which supported three sets of tracks and two lanes of First Street.

Like an omelet, you can’t create a grade separation without breaking a few eggs. Did I really just type that? Pomona had to demolish a block of First Street on the west side of Garey as well as the 1914 Union Pacific depot.

Further setting this undercrossing apart is what may be the most unusual public works plaque in the Inland Valley.

I’m referring to a 6-foot stone marker rising nobly at the corner of Second and Garey, right outside a barbecue joint.

When I saw this grand monument to a humble underpass, I knew it was worthy of “Pomona A to Z.”

Anyway, on Aug. 15, 1963 — some 76 years after the 1887 editorial — Pomona held a lavish dedication for the underpass.

Some 1,000 people heard County Supervisor Frank Bonelli praise Pomona for perseverance “that is second to none.”

Perseverance that was tested again — just to sit through all the speeches.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, which is unfortunate and unavoidable.)

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Ontario hates pedestrians

Driving west on Holt Boulevard in Ontario on Friday, I noted once more the welcome new construction between Vineyard and the Post Office. The buildings look pretty nice, the sidewalks are in place and so are the streetlights.

Unfortunately, this time I noticed something else: The streetlights are smack-dab in the middle of the sidewalks.

What’s up with that? I can forgive that sort of thing in all the ’70s and ’80s sidewalks around the valley because it was so commonplace. We’ve learned a lot about planning since then. Really, though, who in 2008 is allowing light poles to be placed in the middle of fairly narrow sidewalks?

I counted six of them. They’ll be a dandy obstacle course for moms with strollers and people in wheelchairs.

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Restaurant of the Week: Los Michoacanos Baja Grill


This week’s restaurant: Los Michoacanos Baja Grill, 639 E. Holt Blvd. (at Miramonte), Ontario.

I’ve stopped at Los Michoacanos a couple of times before Ontario council meetings for a quick bite. It’s a broad storefront on East Holt. Walk inside the large space and there’s an open kitchen on the left, a money-transfer counter on the right and, through a wide walkway behind them, a carniceria in the back half.

The first time I had very acceptable carne asada tacos. This week I ordered two chicken tacos and a horchata ($4.84). The counterman, who had raced up from the carniceria, seemed delighted by my order: “Have you tried our chicken before? It’s marinated in orange juice, cilantro and black pepper. You’ll love it.”

And I did. Chicken is often bland, but this chicken was full of flavor and did indeed taste of orange juice. They could be the best chicken tacos I’ve ever eaten.

Perhaps because I was the only customer, the counterman picked up the remote and changed the channel of the TV on the wall from a telenovela to “Family Feud.” First time I’d seen John O’Hurley, best known as J. Peterman on “Seinfeld,” as host, and he was no Richard Dawson in the charisma department, although he, or at least his suit, had startlingly wide shoulders.

Still, for the question “things fans wear to a football game,” when a player guessed “face paint,” Hurley brightened. “Face painter — just like the ‘Seinfeld’ episode,” he declared. And it was a correct answer.

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Mexican Coke


Before Monday’s Pomona council meeting, I had a bite at Tijuana’s Tacos on West Holt at Wisconsin. Good tacos. The beverage part of my repast was a first: a Mexican Coca-Cola.

I’d always heard a Mexican Coke is more potent. It comes in glass bottles and is often found at your more authentic taquerias. Seeing the Coke in the lineup of bottled sodas on the counter, I took the plunge. Even though a 16.9-oz. bottle cost $1.99.

Well, it wasn’t a life-changing experience or anything, but the Mexican Coke did go down smooth. A little Internet research shows it’s a popular drink up here among soda fanciers of all ethnicities, who are excited it’s now sold at Costco. They say the taste is similar to the Cokes some of us grew up drinking because it’s sweetened with cane sugar, not the current sweetener, the nutritionally and environmentally dreaded high fructose corn syrup.

Anyone else want to weigh in on Mexican Coke vs. American Coke?

* Update: Photo added in August 2014 from Tijuana’s Tacos in Pomona.

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Foamy, fermented fashion

Waiting to order lunch Tuesday in an Upland pizzeria, I ran into none other but the Dale brothers, proprietors of the Dale Brothers Brewery. I know Curt but hadn’t met Andy.

Their Pomona Queen lager and other beers are brewed in Upland, sold at various local restaurants — and at hip L.A. eateries Pizzeria Mozza and the Hungry Cat — and served during Second Saturday Art Walks in Pomona.

At lunch, each brew-bro wore a career-appropriate T-shirt. Here’s each brother and his shirt’s slogan:

Andy: “As a matter of fact, I do smell like a brewery.”

Curt: “Buy a man a beer and he’ll waste an hour, teach him to brew and he’ll waste a lifetime.”

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Art by Zornes

Rare art by Milford Zornes is on exhibit in Rancho Cucamonga, and it looks like time is running out to take a look. Reader Bob Constant saw the exhibit last Friday and says it’s made up of paintings done by Zornes in World War II while stationed in China, Burma and India in 1943-44.

Says Constant: “The 86 paintings exhibited show scenes and life of the region. The battle scenes painted by Zornes were retained by the government and are not part of the exhibit, but civilian artworks were returned to the artist and are displayed. They comprise a significant historical record of life and times of that period. If you haven’t seen the exhibit yet I think you would find it very interesting and informative.”

And y’know, I probably would, and maybe you would too. But time’s a-wastin’: The museum is open Friday through Sunday and the exhibit, which began May 2, ends Sunday. Yikes! Hours are noon to 5 p.m. and admission is free (my kind of price).

The place: The Chaffey Community Art Association Museum of Art — whew! — in the north wing of the J. Filippi Winery, 12467 Base Line Road, Rancho Cucamonga. Phone: (909) 463-3733.

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Horsey Ontario and Pomona

52282-pomona ring.jpg
52283-Parnell house.jpg
52284-Trisha Lane Bowler and Miss Yoder.jpg

Following up on her hard-hitting Stinky’s query, Mary Simon socked me with another set of recollections and questions for the readership:

“I have another question or two, one of which I KNOW that no one but me will remember.” [Don’t be too sure, Mary. — DA]

“When I was 4 or 5 years old (late 1950s), there was a pony-ride place called Woolery’s. I’m pretty sure it was on Euclid, in south Ontario. There were two paths you could ride in — the walking lane or the trotting lane. As young as I was, I always chose the ‘walking’ lane.

“In later years, I showed hunters and jumpers through southern/central California. I trained at a place in Pomona — the Parnell girls academy. It was a residential school for girls, but also a riding school where peasants like myself could take lessons. Does anyone remember Parnell?”

I’m not sure which one Mary assumes no one will remember. Just to be safe, let’s try to dredge up anecdotes about each, OK?

* Update, May 2011: Parnell now has a Facebook page. And I’ve added photos here courtesy of Bev Chauvet: from top, the lower ring in Pomona circa 1969; the school’s main house; and the school’s owner and principal, Miss Yoder, with student Trisha Lane Bowler.

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