More memories of old-time Ontario

My May 13 column on Jim Bowman’s memories of growing up in Ontario in the 1950s and ’60s prompted a loooong e-mail from reader Linda (Shaffer) Frost amplifying on some of Bowman’s points and dropping new names of old-time Ontario businesses.

And if you’re into that sort of thing — which we here at The David Allen Blog most assuredly are — then the nostalgia makes for good reading.

Here’s an edited version:

“Since I am waxing nostalgic, I have a few things to add to Jim Bowman’s recollections about Ontario back in the day. I grew up there, too. I would have been born here had it not been that my father was stationed in Massachusetts during the war. I was 18 months old when I arrived in January of 1947.

“The first thing my parents did after purchasing a home was to subscribe to the Daily Report and to begin Shady Grove Dairy delivery. The bottles were glass and had tiny cardboard caps with a pull-tab. Cottage cheese came in colorful, anodized aluminum tumblers, and oleo came in a plastic bag with the dot of color. Owl Lucky Star Market was the first supermarket, followed by King Cole Market, and shopping was a family affair.

“Laddie’s hamburgers, the first fast food hamburger stand, charged 15 cents for a hamburger. Yes, the Hot Dog Show held constant performances in a hot dog-shaped shop with a few stools in front. Taco Lita held court at the corner of San Antonio and Holt (previously A Street), and tacos were five for a dollar. Yes, and Mi Taco had its first store on East Fourth Street across from John Galvin Park. Unfortunately, Ford Lunch had a reputation for racial discrimination, so my parents never took us there to eat.

“My mother didn’t believe anyone should be mistreated, especially for race, and when it happened, she never forgot. FYI, another incident occurred back in the early 1950s at a place called Ed’s Caf on “A” street, when Ed refused to serve a black boy whose team had played my brother’s team in Pony League baseball game. His team didn’t eat there, and we never went to Ed’s either. My mother had nothing good to say about Ed or his caf.

“The California Theater gave competition to the Granada. On Saturday mornings, our mothers would pile us into the family sedan and haul us downtown where we would pick up tickets to the free kids movies on Saturday mornings. Popcorn was a dime, and big candy bars were 25 cents. We would go to Newberry’s and spend our pennies on Evening in Paris cologne in tiny blue vials. I can still smell it and am happy to say that my fragrance choices have improved with age.

“A highlight of every summer afternoon was walk to the plunge at Chaffey High School with a quarter tucked inside our bathing caps for the price of admission. That lasted until the polio scare sent us home to inflatable pools in our yards.


“Does Mr. Bowman remember the 10-cent Orange Belt Lines bus that ran down Euclid Avenue? We could walk to Euclid and Fourth, catch the bus, and ride downtown for one thin Liberty dime. We ate candy cigarettes (not sure parents approved of them, but they tasted pepperminty and cool).

“The Masonic Hall was above JC Penney. Walking into the store was a walk back in time. The old oak floor creaked, and the sales clerks put the register money in a pneumatic tube and sent it on its screechy way to the mezzanine for each transaction — adventurous for a kid in those days.

“The Red Car made its daily pilgrimage down Euclid Avenue to drop students at Chaffey High School, and my parents had to repaint the inside of the house every other year to get rid of the soot from the smudge pots. One year they chose a color called Ashes of Roses — very appropriate for the time. They looked for property in the citrus groves which were beginning to develop in the mid-1950s.

“My days growing up in Ontario were happy and carefree. The worst of my worries were finding the ride to the movies and making sure my kite did not land in a tree. We had a workup softball game going in the cul-de-sac, and our mothers did not worry about us unless we did not come in for lunch or dinner when they called us.

“Oh, and tell Mr. Bowman that the Eaders were neighbors, and my older brother (Chaffey High class of 1957) and I both worked there in high school. Howard and Sally were tops. And their daughter and I both were Linda Lees.

“At the Carnegie library, the beautiful lady who did story hour in the basement where the children’s section was told some wonderful stories. The stereopticon pictures were wonderful, too. I was excited when I got to fourth grade and was allowed to use the adult section upstairs. Actually, I was not in fourth grade, but the children’s section ran out of challenging reading material for me, and I needed a more sophisticated fix.

“I am happy to say that today I can polish off a book a day when I have the time but sorry to say that my library card is no longer valid, and I have become a bookstore denizen. I suppose that will change when I retire this month after 33 years of teaching and have time to visit the library again.

“I only wish today’s kids could unplug enough to experience what we did.

“Oh, tell Mr. Bowman that I remember the Christmas trees on Euclid Avenue and the fact that the decorations regularly blew down in the Santa Ana winds the minute they went up. Which was not until after Thanksgiving. I do not remember the March of Dimes tape.

“With regard to Armstrong’s nursery, they had the only roses my parents would purchase. My mother had a lovely rose garden. My children’s great-grandfather Hansen was a good friend of John Armstrong, and when Mr. Armstrong found interesting plants and trees, Grandpa Hansen would plant them in his garden, too.

“The last recollection I have is Howell’s House of a Million Items on Euclid at the corner of either Main Street or Emporia. It was in one of Ontario’s original buildings, red brick and wood trim. It looked like something out of a western. My mother took me to look for an unfinished kitchen table. It was both exciting and creepy foraging our way through the second floor. I just knew the building would crumble beneath my feet, but it held up, at least until the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake when it was declared unsafe. I was saddened when it burned to the ground. It was a unique part of early Ontario. Life was good back then.

“Do not mean to bore you with my ramblings, but I think it is important to pass our historic legacy on to our children. They will never know how we came to be who we are unless they understand our past.

“P.S. The changes I have seen are phenomenal. Did you know that George Raft used to frequent the house where Matreyek Builders is located on Mountain Avenue? It was in the middle of citrus groves.”

I did not know that, or much of the rest of it, but her note no doubt jogged the memories of many longtime residents reading this. Any reactions, comments, corrections or additions?

And thank you, Linda.

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  • Ramona

    Here’s a toast — just ice water — to the good ol’ days.

    Having arrived with my parents in Pomona in 1947, many of Linda’s memories are my own.

    The polio scare meant that kids were to rest during the afternoon. TVs were either non-existent or rare so parents had to be creative and find quiet activities for us.

    In my neighborhood the lady across the street from us, Mrs. Elkins, had a large front porch. Remember them? Her kids, if she indeed ever had any, had left home and she used that great porch to set up three or four jigsaw puzzles (remember them?) on card tables. On any given hot afternoon there would be six or eight neighborhood kids working the puzzles for a couple of hours until we were allowed to run and play again.

    Mrs. Elkins brought out drinks and cookies and when the moms caught on, they began to supply the snacks.

    The puzzles were covered at night with something to keep them clean.

    Saturdays, however, were reserved for a bunch of us to walk (remember that?) to the Fox Theater for two movies, a cartoon and a newsreel.

    Great folks and great times. At the ripe old age of 15 my grandson still asks for stories about the “old black and white days.” He was astounded as a 3-year-old to be told the television and movies only “came” in black and white. That fact helped to date that era for him.

    Ramble over. Forgive me. I’m an old crock and rambling on and on, what we do.

    [Luckily, space on the Internet is unlimited. Thanks, Ramona. -- DA]

  • Patty Flinn

    I have much to do today, but David Allen’s Blog is always my first stop. Often that leads to a longer stop because it gets my nostalgia juices flowing. Such a day is today.

    My mother’s supermarket of choice was Torley’s Market, Holt Blvd. at Sultana. After marriage in 1955 I myself shopped there continuing for a number of years.

    In addition to dairy deliveries, the Helm’s bakery truck made stops in driveways around town. The trucks had wooden drawers that pulled out to display an array of breads and baked goodies, jelly donughnuts, to name a few.

    I, too, purchased Evening in Paris at Newberry’s to send to my Aunt Katherine every year for Christmas. She kept thanking me for this wonderful perfume. I kept sending her this perfect gift. Many years later she revealed that the bottles often arrived at her home in West Virginia broken and she didn’t like the “frangrance” anyway!

    More years passed and I got a job at Newberry’s “new” store at C Street. I worked Friday nights and Saturdays plus weeknights before Christmas for a couple of years. I remember punching the time clock and receiving my pay, in cash, in a little brown envelope. That was the only job I ever had where I punched a time clock and received cash payment and I loved it! Just like in the movies! I saved those little brown envelopes for years and still may have them among my souvenirs.

    I remember swimming lessons and recreational swimming at the plunge and days that it closed because of the polio epidemic. The closings were similar to our air quality warnings to curtail activities on heavy smog days in later years. Polio was deadly and by the mid-1950′s there were vaccines for my children. Later the oral vaccine on a sugar cube administered to my family at Upland Junior High School.

    I believe it was the Elks Lodge above a store on the east side of Euclid close to A Street (later Holt Blvd) where our scout troop would meet at Christmas time to make little favors for . . . I confess, I don’t remember for whom!

    I do have to get going, David. I notice procrastination ranks right up there with nostalgia in my current life.

    [Procrastination, nostalgia -- nice to hear this blog indulges both your interests! Thanks for the comment and the compliment at the start, too. -- DA]

  • Sally Peterson

    I must begin by saying that nostalgia is such fun!

    In reference to the possible George Raft sightings…

    My parents, David and Winifred Seares, bought the current Matreyek Builders home in 1953 from Hollywood producer Joseph Nolan and his flamboyant wife Teddy. It had been the Nolans’ getaway from Hollywood glamour.

    So, perhaps Mr. Raft may have visited.

    Thank you Mr. Allen for your column and the excuse to remember.

  • Linda Frost

    Sallys comment about her parents owning the Matreyek home is interesting. When it was in the middle of the groves, I always wondered who lived there.

    My childrens great aunt and uncle, Stanford and Leila Shaw, lived on Mountain, near the corner of Fourth in an old, large, white house on the west side of the street. Its a shopping center now. I was sad when it was torn down.

    My source for the George Raft story was Mary Matreyek, who was the interior decorator for one of my houses, which was built by Bill Matreyek. I was always glad that they preserved it, especially when the rest of the old homes disappeared. Its a bit of our history.

  • Carolyn Hemming

    As someone born in the late 50′s in Pomona I have a few memories not included.

    Swimming at the Washington Plunge, eating at Vince’s, Espiau’s, and the Hull House, Mel’s too. Going to the Fox Theatre, U.A., and the Valley Drive In. Playing on the back of the Chaffey Tiger statue. Going on field trips to Shelton Turkey farm, Scott Bros. dairy, flying kites on the hills in S. Pomona, seeing Jayne Mansfield open one of the dept. stores in Downtown Pomona, watching the receipts and money sail thru tubes to the upstairs cashiers at the Orangebelt Dept. Store and going to Betsy Ross for ice cream on a hot summers eve.

  • Marian Combs Nichols

    As a native Uplander, I remember the Mayetrek office on Mountain Avenue when it was the original grove home of Teddy and Joe Nolan. The husband and wife team was associated with Hollywood’s RKO. My mother met Robert Preston at one of the Nolans’ cocktail parties.

    In fact I still have a photograph of Edwin Phillips [grandson of the famous Pomona Phillips family], Sally Sears, my sister, Irma, and me happily frolicking and swimming in the Nolan backyard pool. Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer when a pool was our babysitter as our mothers played bridge inside the house. I assume the mothers could watch us through a window.

  • Linda Robson Murrow

    Do you have a photo of the King Cole Market on Holt Blvd.? I walked from B Street to King Cole when I was age 6. My parents, Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Robson, found me walking from the store with a drink. I am now age 65!

    Linda Robson Murrow

    [That's a cute story. No, I don't have a photo of the market, but I'd be happy to post one here if anyone has one. -- DA]

  • David Linck

    An aside to Linda…Dr. Robson was our ‘eye doctor’ and my parents loved him. I did not know he lived on B St.! We lived on G. St. and many a day I rode my bike down San Antonio Ave. to King Cole Market, where my brother Dan and I bought our baseball cards and ‘pirate trading cards,’ which were like baseball cards only you got ‘Morgan the Pirate’ instead of Mickey Mantle. King Cole had a great meat section and a huge magazine rack, where I first saw Police Gazette and National Enquirer. Scary! King Cole burned down about the time Thrifty Drug burned at 4th and Mountain. It was a sad week for us kids!

  • Russell Decker

    Thank you for your memories of Upland. I too have many memories as I was born there in 1952. My Grandparents co-owned the “Upland Feed & Fuel Co.” in the old downtown area. Before that, it was owned by his father. I have many, many great memories of that store. I’d like to hear from Uplanders about that store and their memories.

    Russell Decker