‘Pomona College Lament’

Pomona College was founded in Pomona in 1887 and decamped to Claremont the following year, while keeping the Pomona name — a decision that’s led to decades of confusion.

Reader and history buff Paul McClure, using his pen name Pablo, penned a poem that he tells me is “ostensibly about the origins of Pomona College but actually recounting the effects of PC moving from Pomona to Claremont in 1888.” He suggests that Pomona may have gotten the better end of the deal.

Here it is: “Pomona College Lament.”

Good news isn’t always what it seems
Especially when it outdoes your wildest dreams
That occurred in ’88 when Claremont won
A Pomona College that had just begun

The Congregational Church had the ambition
To establish a much lauded university tradition
They started Pomona College at White and Mission
While they looked for real estate acquisition

Southern Pacific had connected LA and Berdoo
So passengers then could ride straight through
Hotels had popped up all along the line
But then real estate took a devastating decline

Towns were desperate and willingly considered
Giving property away to any reasonable bidder
Cities from Pasadena to Riverside made their pitch
To induce Pomona College to make a switch

Claremont offered a vacant hotel
Where a growing school could permanently dwell
When in addition they threw in over 80 acres
Pomona College said yep we’re a taker

At first Pomona College looked like an answer
But then the colleges spread like a cancer
Intellectuals invaded the genteel population
Which triggered a community transformation

Now poor Claremont’s got a jammed up downtown
Making it difficult to just get around
But Pomona has accessible parking stalls
Plus business opportunities at empty strip malls

Poor Claremont has homes priced out of reach
Small condos start at half a million each
But Pomona allows regular folks to get started
Five hundred a month for a decent apartment

Poor Claremont bistros serve unpronounceable dishes
That are usually no more than expensive fishes
But Pomona dining is walk-up or drive-thru
No wasted time in a deep leather booth

Poor Claremont galleries have art that’s elite
Created by wimpy aesthetic effetes
But Pomona boasts art right out on the streets
Sprayed on by real men looking out for the heat

In Claremont valedictorians are a dime a dozen
After all every high school always has one
But Pomona adult school offers a full range of classes
Where regardless of grades everyone passes

So next time you’re down at Mission and White
Stop by Pomona College’s original site
Pull into Angelo’s order a burger and fries
And ask yourself who really won the prize

Grilled onions
Two slices of cheese
Nah I don’t mind catsup on my shirt

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  • John from Fontana (back then)

    Roses are red, violets are blue,
    Hoity-toity Claremont has worked its magic on you

  • Karla Holm Baker

    The Claremont Colleges Digital Library has some wonderful snapshots of “Ayer Cottage” that housed Pomona College when it was on the corner of White and 5th (Mission). Photo #15 shows the rock and plaque that graces its original location by the old Taco Lita.

    If the link doesn’t work, go to their site and search “Ayer Cottage.”


  • Judy Wright

    Funny poem, but your history is all wrong! Perhaps Joe Blackstock wrote the poem. The book he helped write for The Daily Bulletin didn’t even mention the Santa Fe Railroad and neither did this poem.

    The Southern Pacific came through here about 10 years before the Santa Fe Railroad. It was the completion of the Santa Fe from San Bernardino to Los Angeles in 1887 that spurred the growth along those tracks in North Pomona (there even used to be a station by that name) and Claremont.

    The original Pomona College Campus did start on Mission and White but had big plans to move to Scanlon Mesa (now Piedmont Mesa). Ground was broken and, if a recession had not occurred, Pomona College would be there. Ironically, while that area was called Pomona at that time, it is now in the City of Claremont.

    [Judy, thanks for chiming in with a clarification. I hope you and Joe (and Paul McClure) won’t get into a historical smackdown! — DA]

    • Paul McClure

      Let’s see: Because the Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1887 and Pomona College was founded in 1887, the Santa Fe contributed more to the origination of the college than the Southern Pacific that was here 10 years earlier. Nah. We’ll stick with the Southern Pacific.