Memories of Pomona

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1437 Gibbs St., where the Nelsons lived. Photo by Ren.

New reader Greg Nelson sent me a long, fond epistle a few weeks back about his childhood in Pomona. Warm, detailed, it’s worth reprinting in full. I did cut one section for use at a later time. And now, take it away, Greg:

“I just stumbled on your blog and loved every picture and phrase. My family moved to Pomona in 1956 when I was 4, from New Orleans, and I didn’t leave until I went to college. Our first house was at 1714 Calatina Drive. It was down in the south and right on the edge of the wilderness at the time. It got its name from the developer, who crossed the L instead of the T in Catalina. They decided they liked it like that. We moved uptown later.

“I graduated from St. Joseph’s in 1966 and from Damien in 1970. During my first year at Damien it was still called Pomona Catholic, or ‘PC.’

“We dated the girls from Sacred Heart and St. Lucy’s, and occasionally from Pomona, Ganesha, and Fremont Highs.

“At St. Joseph’s I served many a mass (more than a hundred) for Monsignor English, the 6-foot five pastor, who was a millionaire before he entered the priesthood, and built St. Joseph’s with his own money. It was hard to serve mass there because the altar was a lot higher than at most churches because of his height. Sometimes we went to mass at Sacred Heart because they had a 7 PM Sunday mass.

“My best friend was Lloyd Purpero, whose dad, Carl, owned a pancake house called Breakfast At Carl’s, and also a place called Perp’s.

“Summer nights we went to hear the town band play Sousa marches in the bandstand at Ganesha Park.

“We loved to roam in the hills of old Ganesha park, and we went swimming in that pool every summer, even though my dad was a lifeguard at the St. Joseph’s pool until it closed. There was an abandoned outdoor Greek Theater around there somewhere that we used to frequent.

“I also remember the old newsstand downtown with the Playboy magazines. I never could get past the guy who ran it either.

“My first job was summers renting five horsepower outboards to people at Puddingstone. I usually got there before sun-up and went fishing when nobody else was there.

“In those days the smell of the orange blossoms from the many Sunkist contract farmers filled the city each spring, and we would walk through the orange orchards with our hands over our heads touching the bottoms of oranges. When the slightest touch made one drop into your hands, you knew it was really a ripe one. They were better than candy.

“That was with one of my other best friends, Joe Bouchard. Joe was the oldest of 13 kids! His dad sold life insurance and had an office in the Home Savings building downtown, and I had a terrible crush on his younger sister, Doreen. What a beauty she was!

“We lived on Gibbs, around the corner from the little gem known as Lincoln Park. The Bouchards lived a few blocks down.

“I sprained my wrist there once when I was about 6, jumping off the bathroom building trying to see if I could fly.

“We never missed the Christmas Parade on Second, but we also loved the Fourth of July parade in Ontario, which was called the ‘Parade of the States’ and had a float from every state in the Union. On every street corner Sunkist had free orange juice stands!

“I was the oldest of six kids, and many Saturday nights my dad and mom would pack us all into the old Chrysler Imperial (purchased at Shadoff’s Chrysler) and head to the Mission or Towne Drive-In movies. We loved to go play in the playground up in front of the big screen.

“We loved Espiau’s, but our favorite Mexican restaurant was down in Chino. This was when Chino was nothing but farms. It was called Cinqo de Mayo. But the greatest place to eat in the region to me was a wonderful authentic Basque restaurant down there where sheepherders would wander in and the menu was always Table d’hote. I can’t remember the name of the place, but it started with an M, I think.

“I got my Eagle Scout Award in Pomona’s famous old Troop 4 of the Old Baldy Council, sponsored by the Pomona Knights of Columbus, and I was in the Navajo Lodge of the Order of the Arrow in Pomona. Red Mahan was my first scoutmaster. He was a local bandleader in the town who had a small dance band. His son Tommy was in the troop. My first Senior Patrol Leader was a kid named Fuzzy Barrett and he was followed by Tony Recupero. Those guys and those entities are all gone now.

“I got awarded my Eagle with a guy named Craig Cox, whose dad was Pomona’s mayor for a while.

“My family rode several times in the Christmas parade once my father became a big deal in town. He was a grand marshal once or twice. He was an actor and had a show called ‘Peyton Place,’ which was very popular in the ’60s. His name is Ed Nelson and he played Dr. Rossi on that show.

“I nearly grew up in the Fox theater, which was my unofficial babysitter on the weekends, and I sat in on many of the ‘Sneak Preview’ showings that the big studios would show at the Pomona Fox to see if people were going to like them. The manager there for many, many years had been a silent film star before talkies, and was friends with my dad.

“But I also spent many hours in the United Artists theater just down the block. Once a week for years we ate at Chungking around the corner. My favorite was the Cashew Chicken. That was about the only place you tasted Cashew nuts in those days. We also frequented Betsy Ross and the Washington Monument. I got my first taste of Pistachio ice cream there.

“Pomona was an idyllic place to grow up in. I bought my first watch at Hamilton Drugs, got my hair cut at Don the Barber’s and ate ice cream at the 31 Flavors. I remember the Helms truck and all the rest.

“Each summer the county sent around a roll of tickets to all of the elementary school students with a free ticket to the fair. We all looked forward to seeing that roll of tickets on the teacher’s desk, and I lived for the thrill of crossing under the arch into the FunZone. After the obligatory trip in the giant cages of the Ferris Wheel we would head for the rides that made us sick.

“My parents would go see the horses run and I would walk through the car show and all the other stuff. My scout troop would camp in the fair one night and put our scout skills on display.

“Now I live in an old town called St. Charles, Missouri, and I moved there because the first time I went there it reminded me of Pomona.

“My name is Greg Nelson and I love your Pomona blog and I love old Pomona.”

Clearly you do! Thanks, Greg.

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  • Ren

    Wow last time I saw the Nelson Family I was going to Lincoln School back in the 60`s. I met Greg and his family back then. Glad to hear things are going well Greg. I went to Jr. High with John Bouchard. Good flashback Dave. I miss the smell of the orange blossoms. Those were the days.

  • Alex Quintero

    David:

    Just read your blog and it’s interesting. I moved to Pomona in 1956, lived on Elm and 4th streets and just north of our house was Norman Ford car dealer. The building was red brick and as kids we used it to play hand ball. The city of Pomona was a little Hollywood.

    The train station had porters and many actors stopped in this city during the Fifties, I saw the Nelsons (Ozzie, Harriet, Ricky and David). And many Rock & Roll singers at the Fox Theater, Rainbow Gardens, the Armory.

    The city had cafes that stayed open 24 hours a day, plenty of entertainment 7 days a week and 4 theaters.

    Got to go.

    Regards.

    Alex

  • Bob House

    Wonderful reminiscence of the “golden days” of the Inland Empire, Greg. Thanks.

    Great to learn that the talented actor, Ed Nelson, was your father. You could not watch TV in the 50s-70s without seeing him. Pomona College grad I believe as well.

  • http://www.jans-gems.blogspot.com Janet

    Ed Nelson signed my cast when I had a broken leg. I was about 11. We were at the drags at the fairgrounds. What a nice post, I remember a lot of those things too.

  • shirley wofford

    I took up residence in Pomona the same year the Nelson family did. Greg’s nostalgic piece brings on a lot of sadness, as do all reminisences concerning Pomona.

    I was a follower of Peyton Place and excited, at that time, to learn that Ed Nelson and his family lived in Pomona. One time when I was in attendance at Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church in Montclair, Mr. Nelson walked in with members of his family. My heart skipped a beat or two — there was no commotion — Mass went on like normal.

  • Bob Terry

    My father, Jim Terry, used to play golf occasionally with Ed and I believe one year he was our special celebrity “guest” at opening day for Southwest Little League played at Ralph Welch Park. It’s possible that Greg might have known my older brother but I was too young. Other opening day guests I remember as golfing buddies of my dad were Claude Akins, Richard Crenna and Jim Davis.

  • FRED PIERCE

    POMONA HIGH SCHOOL, 1951-1952 FOOTBALL SEASON WON C.I.F. CHAMPIONSHIP BEATING MONROVIA H.S. AT MT. SAC STADIUM. I WAS A JUNIOR AND A DEFENSIVE TACKLE ON THAT TEAM. WE WON 12 STRAGIHT GAMES, NO LOSSES.

    I WONDER IF POMONA H.S. HAS HAD ANY MORE FOOTBALL SEASONS EQUAL TO THIS? IF ANYONE KNOWS PLEASE E-MAIL ME: cp2008(at)cox.net.

  • http://goddessofpomona.com goddess of pomona

    Thanks for the info on the house on Gibbs. It’s located a few doors down from poet Ted Pugh’s castle. Both places are right around the corner from mine. My good friend lives in Joe Bouchard’s old house. (If Greg is reading: his mom Jean Bouchard lived in the area until a couple years ago, and she passed away a few months ago.)

  • Don J

    Dave, “Breakfast At Carl’s” was the original name of “BC Cafe”, soon to be “Kickback Jack’s.”

    [I don't know about "soon to be" -- the Claremont sign changed in December to the new name and within a month it was changed back to BC. Customers seem less enthralled by the Kick Back name than are the owners. -- DA]

  • Craig Ranney

    Greg, Thanks for the memory recall of the old Pomona. I went to Our Lady of Lourdes school, St. Madeline’s school, Damien High School (1975), MtSAC and married one of the 8 Bouchard girls (Bridget 1977). Her brother Joe now lives in Tustin Ranch. Yes the Bouchard house on E. Columbia and Palomares (next to Lincoln Park) has some great memories of a great neighborhood.

    I saw your brother Chris this last summer at my brother’s (Wayne Ranney) wedding at the Grand Canyon. Pomona was a great place to grow up. The smell of orange blossoms or smudge pots. The Fair, The Winternationals, the downtown mall with Buffums and Ranney’s Paint House, Ganesha Park with Snake Drive, Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga Canyon, the Fox Theatre, Espiau’s, Vince’s Spaghetti, little league baseball, etc…

    Bridget and her sisters were all good friends with your sisters Cindy, Beth, Mary and Annie. I think it is cool to hear about the good times we all had in Pomona. Thanks again, Craig Ranney

  • Dave Taylor

    I believe the basque restaurant in Chino is called Centro Basco. They’re still open and have their own website. Doesn’t look anything like I remember it. Used to love the thinly sliced beef served during one of the early courses. Used to joke that it looked like tongue. Well, guess what…It was. The restaurant was right up the road from the pony rides. Man, what memories. We’re working on some as well. Thanks for the trip.

    [I'll be writing a newspaper column on Centro Basco before month's end. -- DA]

  • Suzanne C Mundy

    I always wondered what those circular steps were up in the Genesha Hills. My husband and I ran across them back in the 80′s when we were walking our kids and dog in the area. So now I know, it was a greek theatre. Any more info on that?

    Also have been wanting to ask if anyone remembers the old Green Door tavern that was located where Firestone, El Pollo Loco, etc are now located in Montclair? It had a dirt parking lot when we moved here in ’77 and was quite a notorious place that police were called to frequently. Not that I know that from experience but from reading it in the Daily Bulletin.

    Also have been curious for years about a whitewashed building located in Upland on Arrow close to Campus on the south side of the street. It looks like it might have been an old dairy but my husband says it looks like an old garage. Any chance of finding out?

    Thanks for all the interesting columns and blogs.

    Suzanne

    [I don't know anything about the whitewashed building (was Tom Sawyer involved?) but perhaps someone else does. I may post my Greek Theater column here for posterity because it gave all the whys and wherefores of the place. I've written column items on the Green Door, although it's been a few years. Perhaps I should do a blog post about it sometime. -- DA]

  • robert bunch

    i wonder if he used to see us carry out big catfish in the morning, they had a fence on the via verda exit but holes were in it so you could sneak in as the park was closed.

  • Robert

    I moved to Pomona in 1958. Graduated in 1968 from Pomona High School. Espiau’s had the best salad. Breakfast at Carl’s I think was by Sears on Mission. Bought my first car at Norman Ford, 1968, a Gran Torino 390 HP 4-speed. Climbed the hills at Ganesha Park. Valley Drive In was also a common place on summer evenings. Fished at Puddingstone, had first pizza at Shakey’s when they opened. Dad used to buy all our meat at Cal-Vine Market. 3 Bubble Up caps got us into the Fox for matinees. Oh the memories of a wonderful time growing up so many years ago. Thanks for your blog.

    [You're welcome, Robert. -- DA]

  • Rick Richards

    I was best friends with John Bouchard, and also Joe Bouchard. I remember Doreen, and I had a crush on Bridget. I wonder how the Bouchard family is today, and what they are doing. Hung out at Lincoln Park, and used to eat dinner at the Bouchard house, while Mr. Bouchard would sing. Great memories. Rick Richards

  • Roger Recupero

    I really enjoyed Greg’s contribution. Mrs. St. Amant was kind enough to share this article with my mother, Lois.

    Thought I would give some updates on some of the things he mentioned. The last time I remember seeing the Nelson family was at their beautiful home in the hills above Puddingstone. Great “L” shaped pool that was fun to swin in on those hot summer days.

    I was in school at St. Joseph’s with Greg’s younger brother Chris. He went on to Damien and I went to Bosco Tech in Rosemead. Enjoyed the times in Troop 4, which met at the Fairgrounds, until they redid the parking lot and built the Sheraton.

    Earned my Eagle from Troop 104 in 1969. Great memories.

    It has been a while but I used to run into some of the old scouters from the Troop. Several years ago, I was visiting with Stoney (Mr. Stone, father to Loren Stone) who informed me that he had traveled up to Alaska to visit Red Mahan, but found out that he had passed away a few months prior to his arrival.

    My brother, Tony Recupero, is enjoying his retirement in northern California. Craig Cox is now Monsignor Craig Cox and doing well.

    We have survived but, unfortunately, Old Baldy Council is no more.

    Don the barber is still cutting hair down in the same shop, where Hughes Market used to be. I’ll bring him a copy of the article when I go to get a haircut in a couple of weeks.

    You can still get the fabulous Espiau’s salad now located in Claremont.

    Pomona was a great place to grow up, and it continues to be a good place to live. My wife and I have raised our 3 wonderful kids and still live in the same neighborhood that I was a paperboy in, many many years ago.

    You should come out in September to visit the Fair and see the changes they have made there. Change is inevitable, some good, but some that really hurts us oldtimers. No more Clock Tower. The main point of gathering for all of us kids, if we ever got lost at the fair.

    Now that I have the link to this blog, I will be a regular reader.

    Thanks for the memories!

    [Glad you've found us, Roger. -- DA]

  • Pam

    We had such great Friday Nights after Football games at HENRY’S DRIVE IN on Foothill and Garey Ave.

    Also remember, The Bowling Alley across the street for coffee and chesecake after dances.

    The popcorn at Sears on Holt was the best and Mel’s with the big pink elephant holding a malt, I think burgers were 29 cents!

  • Dave Arkle

    I too well remember old pomona — My dad used to play golf with Ed Nelson often, I also remember the Nelson boys about my age — I would sometimes run into Mr. Nelson at my dad’s DC office — Dad (Ralph Arkle) was a very well known DC in Pomona and past president of the Pomona JC’s.

    Pomona was the best of the best when it came to great towns. So many great memories! Thanks for the site.

    -Dave Arkle (Emerson Eagles raw!)

  • http://www.ah-fudge.com Steve Young

    Wow!

    Steve Young here. I went to Lincoln, Emerson and PHS — the Trifecta!

    My parents used to talk about the “movie star” that lived in that house.

    We lived in the house kitty corner from you on Garfield — the Northwest corner of Garfield and Gibbs. I believe the Newtons lived next door to you on the North and the Mooneys on the south?

    My parents still live there and my oldest is living with them while attending USC.

    My father was a dentist with his practice located for many years at the intersection of Monroe and Orange Grove (and sort of Garey) — Near Franz Cleaners and across from what was, for years, the Heathkit store.

    So many, many fond memories growing up there. I was in the same grade as GiGi Bouchard. They lived on Palomares and Jefferson I believe.

    We lived across the street from Lincoln Park until I was in 8th grade. Then we moved to the house on Garfield which I believe was owned by a Dr. Brown many years before. Yeah — we wheeled the piano down the street!

    There are six kids in the family — Debbie, Jeff, Teresa, Steve (me), Lora and David.

    Growing up in the Lincoln Park area was fantastic.

    The park maintenance guy was named Jim. Back then it was a full time job and he was there every day. There was an ice cream man named “Al”, who in my younger days I called Owl — because I didn’t know the difference.

    “Parks and Recreation” was every day after school and on Saturdays and all summer long. We’d make those plastic woven keychains and lanyards and play Karoms, Checkers, Chess and any other game we could.

    I also recall a mentally challenged woman who was always barefoot and rode her bike all around town. I think her name was Linda.

    We played hard at Ganesha Park until the fires — then the hills were mostly off limits. We played often in the Greek Theater area. Swimming in the “plunge” was a blast. My kids swam there when they were little (at the new pool with the water slide.

    We used to climb up the old “lighthouse” slide and get on the roof of it, being ever so careful not to touch the wires that I’m guessing at one point were a light and I’m sure had been dead for some time.

    We also played in the flood control channel that went right through Ganesha Park. That was a blast. There was a big mystery when you went into one of those tunnels and didn’t know where you were going to come out.

    Just a couple of weeks ago I was telling my daughter that she needed to have her Grandpa take her to see where the old Greek Theater was.

    Some of the other places I remember:

    Shady Grove Dairy on Garey next to the hospital (Drive through) and the “Witches Brew” drink they sold near Halloween. There was also one on Towne north of PHS and next to (if I’m not mistaken) an In & Out.

    Alpha Beta on Garey.

    Sir George’s Smorgasbord.

    My first job was at Stater Bros. on Garey across from Baskin Robbins.

    Firehouse Inn.

    Donahoo’s Chicken.

    Mel’s.

    General Dynamics – It seemed like I was the only one in grade school whose parents didn’t work at GD.

    VCT (Valley Community Theater) on Garey across from the Fox — and then moved to the Indian Hill Mall.

    Xochimilco — Mexican Restaurant on Indian Hill.

    Kizziar Cleaners on 2nd (worked there too).

    Pup & Taco on Town and Holt.

    Pep Boys.

    Wow…time for me to make a trip (I’m in Montana now).

    Steve Young

  • Michelle Pamplin

    My bro-in-law remembers a restaurant in Pomona in the 1940′s called “The Odd Penny.” Owned by Bob Bottoms, River & Joaquin Phoenix’ grandfather.

    Anyone have info on or pictures of Espiau’s Restaurant or the fruit stand they had prior to the restaurant?

    Thank you,
    Michelle

  • barbara f

    Michelle: I’m astounded you dredged up the Odd Penny! Your greater memory stirred mine — I ate there exactly once with my folks once when we first moved to the area, the eatery still was in existence in summer of 1957! Pretty much a sit-down meat and potatoes menu like most in the Valley seemed to be back then. Being new to the area gave my folks an excuse to dine out to try the various places and see “the sights.”

  • barbara f

    Was the Pomona Valley beginning to absorb the cultural zeitgeist of greater Los Angeles, the city always on the move? I thought of that when reading about the 24-hour restaurants above. In those days, small markets could stay open 24 hours, too, in Pomona at least.

    That nightowl dining and shopping was a new phenomenon in the ’60s in the area. Yet even the Park Market (a small superette on Park Avenue in Pomona near Holt) had Open 24 hours painted in blue block letters on their facade (as if to announce this were to be a permanent shift).

    (Claremont was different, the business section of town was essentially shuttered by sundown, when they rolled up the streets.)

  • John Crowe

    Greg and I were Classmates at Saint Josephs and I knew Craig Cox too. Greg has a much better memory than I do. I left St. Josephs in 5th grade as I was always in trouble with the Nuns.

    I remember the 25 cent matinee at the Fox Theater but don’t ever remember watching a movie. I guess my parents thought it was worth 50 cents to get rid of me for a few hours on a Saturday. I had a crush on Greg’s sister in fifth grade. It was tough for many of the Catholic kids because they lived far away from the school and had to spend a couple of hours a day on a bus and your friends at school were not the same as your friends at home. I was an Altar Boy at St. Josephs and when St Madeline’s opened I moved over there.

    I was in the Civil Air Patrol at Brackett Field for a few years. My Brother Bob was in the first graduating class of Pomona Boys Catholic (Damien) and was on the football team.

  • Ron Hauck

    Hi. Traded a 8 foot sailboat to Greg Nelson’s dad for a 1930 model A about 1962 or 1963. As I remember he was in the tv show that had Ryan O’Neal.

  • Nancy Zuniga

    I was born and raised in Pomona. Attended Alcott, Fremont and Garey high. Remember all the above places. My aunt Del, cousin Dorthy and my mom Estelle all worked for Hamilton Drugs. The Hamiltons were like family. My dad worked for the post office for over 50 years. We always ate at Chung King ….it was a great place to live….

  • blane hansen

    4th generation in Pomona. I’m 56 years old and my mother and grandmother graduated at the old Pomona High School. My great grandmother was the treasurer for the Pomona Valley Water Company when there was one.