Millard Sheets’ PFF mural

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Photo by Barbara Smith

Friday’s column talks about the mural in the PFF branch at 399 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona that will close June 19. It’s a hard mural to photograph because it’s so long, but the above photo, sent in by reader Barbara Smith, gives you an idea. You can see an equally panoramic view (in B&W) of the mural at the Pomona Public Library’s website, or a series of color images on Photobucket’s website that lets you look at the whole thing in pieces. The building opened in 1956 and presumably the mural dates to that year too.

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  • REN

    Hey Dave I talked to Mickey Gallivan from the Pomona Historical Society and Frank Garcia from Pomona Chamber Of Commerce and they are keeping a close eye on it. Hate to see something happen to it. Be nice if we had a museum to hang it in. But anyway I tried to get some pictures I left my card but they never got back with me.

    [Good of you to try, REN. -- DA]

  • Olivia

    I was standing in line at PFF, I starting talking to a woman ahead of me, and she said that the mural is actually the wall itself and they are trying to figure a way to remove it without damaging it but didn’t know if the bank wants to put money into preserving it.

    I can remember when I would go with my parents to pay their mortage how beautiful the picture on the wall was, I was only 6 at the time and now I am let’s just say I was born in the late ’50s. I hope the powers that be keep an eye on it and somehow see that it gets a proper new home. Really miss my PFF.

  • Robin

    I remember several field trips to visit the mural as a child. My third grade class went to see it when we studied the history of Pomona. The Camp Fire Girls went to visit it on another outing.

    I remember a woman telling us about how Mr. Sheets drew the big curving lines and loosely sketched horses and figures. The assistants did most of the painting work. There was a detail in the center that was deemed too ‘figurative’ and it was altered to look less anatomical. Was it the apple bag? This is a ‘little story’ I’ve never quite understood… what was the exact nature of the (minor) controversy? The grownups were happy to tell us about it, but I didn’t know what they were fussing about.

    I read that Millard Sheets’ grandparents owned a horse ranch in Pomona. Does anyone know where that was located? There is an early Sheets painting called The Black Horse, and the hill in the background looks very much (to me) like Westmont hill in west Pomona. The horse ranch, apparently, was the inspiration for Sheets’ love of drawing equines. The painting can be seen here (scroll down to Sheets entry):

    http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/artist28.html

    Mr. Sheets’ horse drawings and paintings inspired me and my sister to draw horses endlessly, to collect horse figurines, and to take riding lessons as children. I think we must have met him when we were very young. He did some business with my grandfather.

    I always thought the Pomona First Federal mural was painted directly on the wall. An online information source says it is on canvas, but I would be surprised if that is true. Whatever it takes, I hope it is preserved and placed on public display.

  • Linda Frost

    If they try to destroy it, I’ll stand in front of the bulldozer. A treasure needs to be on public display.

  • Tad Decker

    A sad end to a Pomona landmark.

    I am speaking of the closing today of the Pomona Main branch of the old Pomona First Federal. This edifice represented a proud accomplishment for a mainstay Pomona institution when it was built in the mid-1950s.

    Having been founded in 1892, Pomona First Federal Savings had been located for some years on S. Thomas Street (on the westerly portion of today’s Chase Bank parking lot), in a classically styled masonry structure (columns and all). It was at this location that my parents (as children), grandparents and great-grandparents first did business with “the Federal” (as my grandmother still refers to the place). Two of my great-grandfathers served as janitors at that building.

    With the city and surrounding communities rapidly growing, it must have been obvious to the managers of PFF that a larger facility was needed. So, a modern, state-of-the-art bank facility was erected on N. Garey at Center Street; it is still an impressive structure today, but even more so when one considers that when it was built, PFF was a one-location operation. Branches were soon opened on Indian Hill Blvd at Holt, in Upland, Chino and so on, but the fact remains that the Pomona Main well served the institution as its headquarters for several decades of substantive growth.

    Like other civic/commercial structures which followed (the Civic Center, Buffums’ dept. store, Home Savings), the new PFF Main Branch was built with an attention to detail and a high quality of materials. This was not just an outlying branch office of a farflung banking empire; rather, it was a symbol of a local financial institution’s success, and pride in its community.

    The greatest example of this is found in the Millard Sheets mural, which is the subject of David’s entry. Here, PFF commissioned a noteworthy local artist to create a beautiful focal point for its office (and later in several additional offices — Upland and Claremont). This exemplified a commitment to the community, and to its own corporate longevity. Frankly, in today’s world, we are unlikely to ever again see ANY bank exhibit these traits.

    Well, one of my great-grandfathers was ultimately promoted to the mail room, at the new building. He loved working for Pomona First Federal. His wife (my great-grandmother) was often called on to assist in hostessing the special events held at the office. One of these events was the annual open house at dividend time — apparently, dividends were paid to depositors once a year, and PFF made a party out of it.

    My mother worked as a teller for about three years (until my birth caused her to devote herself to other duties!). She also said that there was a wonderful family aspect to the company. Meals (cooked on premises) were served to all employees in the basement cafeteria each day. Frequently, the Chairman of the Board would arrive at the Garey entrance, bearing armloads of doughnuts and cheery greetings for everyone. (Not exactly the “Potter” of Bedford Falls fame!)

    Yes, these stories and many thousands more found their expression in this building. Over the years, most of the institutional memory was lost (more recent hires know PFF history only from their customers), but the loss of a significant piece of local history is recognized as a “loss” by anyone who gives if a moment’s thought.

    Sure, PFF Bank and Trust was lost to us when it was taken over by the FDIC, and then sold to US Bank; yet, its legacy remains in the many branches of the old institution which reflect something of the personality and priorities of said institution. And it is the crown of the old bank, its “head office,” which embodied the optimism and pride of the whole institution, which has now been ignobly cast off.

    [Tad, that was a heartfelt and moving tribute to Friday's closing of a chapter in Pomona history. Wish I'd written something along those lines myself but I didn't know enough of the history. Thanks for doing so yourself. -- DA]

  • Robin

    Yes, Tad, thank you for an insider’s perspective. I have faint memories of the Thomas St. building, and have had an account at PFF since I was born. When I was young it always felt like more than just a bank. There were children’s tours, a play area, and outreach programs in schools for kids to open their own accounts and make deposits in their classrooms. It feels like a lifelong friend has been lost. I believed in that place, even buying PFF stock, planning on keeping it for many years. Bleh. Thanks for being there to mourn with me.

  • Danny Mac

    Hello David, having been a account holder since the mid-’70s I spent many a Friday afternoon and evening depositing and withdrawing money. This was before the days of ATM and automatic deposits and so the line was long. Forty dollars went a long ways back in the ’80s.

    Many a day I would stare at the mural and make up stories of each character portrayed. Near the west side of the mural as the story evolved from east to west if you look closely you could see the noose around an “alleged” horse thief. I pointed it out to the lovely tellers of the day and somehow the rope line was removed subliminally over time. Now I’m not certain about the noose but it was confirmed by some other locals waiting for the weekend party money but it sure did look like one on those long afternoon lines on Friday.

    PFF was customer friendly and an institution of Da Valley and I miss it.

    [That was a nice tribute. And take it from a newman, Danny, no noose is good noose. -- DA]

  • paul

    Hi. Good stuff, thanks for your contributions. I saw that mural as a kid but Upland was our branch so I saw the one on Foothill a million times.

    Recently found at my mom’s place a promo brochure announcing the commission of Millard Sheets to do that mural (“Yesterday’s Upland”). Any ideas as to where I could donate it?

    Thanks. – Paul

    [The Cooper Museum in Upland, the Upland Library and the Ontario Library's Model Colony History Room are three good bets, Paul. -- DA]