Column: With library rescue, no one’s on the same page

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Bruce Emerton supports the Pomona Public Library before Monday’s council meeting by driving around the block in a truck displaying movie posters from the movie version of “Fahrenheit 451,” the Ray Bradbury novel about a future in which books are outlawed. He’s wearing a T-shirt from the library’s 2010 Big Read of the novel.

Whew — Monday’s Pomona City Council meeting lasted 7 1/2 hours, into the early hours of Tuesday. I stuck it out to the bitter end. The council vowed to keep the library operating if possible for the next year, although how that’s going to be accomplished is unclear. Read my Wednesday column here. And if you missed it, my Monday blog post on how the Pomona library survived the Great Depression can be found here.

Meanwhile, the M-M-M-My Pomona blog is doing yeoman’s work on the library and other budget-related issues, thanks to contributor Hank Fung.

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Can you direct me to Admissions?

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Driving on 9th Street in Rancho Cucamonga in an industrial park, I was surprised to see the sign on the above low-slung building. Community college cutbacks must more severe than I had thought. I could have sworn Chaffey had a larger campus and more parking. Not to mention a more impressive sigh.

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‘Pomona Library in the Great Depression’

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Below is a new, and fascinating, report by the Pomona Public Library on how the institution fared during the Great Depression: The staff took pay cuts, curtailed book and magazine purchases and examined patrons’ bags to avert theft. The library was able to stay open 12 hours per day, six days per week. Similar solutions today are unlikely, but the document is timely given that closing the library entirely is a possibility.

(Tonight’s Pomona council agenda includes a proposal to keep the library going at one-fourth the current cost by outsourcing operations and tapping money set aside for sidewalk and street repair, an illustration of the dire straits in which the city finds itself.)

What follows is the library’s report, in full.

***

Characterized by many difficult problems caused by the worldwide depression, the
year nevertheless has brought unusual opportunities for service. In the economic
stress there has been a tendency to fall back upon the library as a source of inspiration
and helpfulness as well as entertainment and instruction, and more than ever we are
impressed with the fact that the public library is the heart of the community.
-Pomona Library Annual Report, 1933.

Every day observations in the library impress us anew with the thought that the library is the heart of the community, and that it is the single spot in the whole town which makes everyone equally welcome, and, as someone has said, “enables the least privileged to really feel at home in the democracy of the mind.”
-Pomona Library Annual Report, 1934

It has been noted that not a single public library in America closed its doors during the
Great Depression of the 1930′s. In fact, new public libraries were started in 48 of the 50
states and territories between 1930-1940. A reading of Depression era Pomona Public
Library Annual Reports, which were prepared by the Board of Library Trustees and
longtime City Librarian, Sarah Jacobus, confirms that the community and the Library
survived the depths of the Depression without having to close the library or substantially
reduce library service.

During the worst Depression years of 1931-1934, the reports show that Library service
continued without interruption, although not without stress. In 1931, the Library was
open 353 days of the year, 7 days a week, 12 hours per day, including 3 hours on Sunday. The Library’s operating budget was just over $41,000, and the Library employed 18.5 Staff. Of the City’s 20,000 residents, 14,000 were library card holders.

Continue reading

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Column: Without Ray Bradbury, summer won’t be the same

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Photo by Jeff Malet, Western University of Health Sciences

Sunday’s column is a tribute to Ray Bradbury, who died June 5. I’m late with this, I know, but vacation, council meetings, possible library closures and other matters delayed me. The photo was taken in Pomona before Bradbury’s talk in October 2010; it may have been his last public appearance. Read the column here and feel free to comment if you ever met Bradbury or read him.

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Restaurant of the Week: Best Taco

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Best Taco, 5110 Holt Blvd. (at Central), Montclair

On Sunday evening, feeling like getting Mexican food, I realized I hadn’t written about a restaurant in Montclair for a while, so I went for a drive on Holt to look for a taqueria. That’s when I saw a sign for a business named Best Taco. What the heck, I pulled in.

The interior was not what I expected at all: deep and wide as a tennis court, with floor-to-ceiling murals of storefronts or market stalls. Hotel Hidalgo, one reads, complete with phony door and mirrored windows. La Tiendita, reads another, with a Coke bottle painted on the “exterior.” (Tiendita, I believe, would be a convenience store.) There are painted stalls representing a tortilleria and a pinata business, as well as a theater exterior mural for Cine El Rey, complete with marquee and two movie posters.

This might be the most art in one place in all of Montclair. Unique.

There was only one other customer in the cavernous interior. The natural light was fading and the further recesses were a bit dim, so after ordering at the counter I sat closer to the door to give me enough light to read my Heinlein paperback.

The menu has tacos, burritos, huaraches, tortas, sopes, gorditas and the like. I got a carne asada burrito ($4.90). It wasn’t as meat-intensive as many places but rather balanced out with rice, refried beans and chopped onions, plus plenty of cilantro. I liked it.

According to Yelp there’s another Best Taco at 10410 Ramona just above Holt, also in Montclair. This Best Taco appears to have opened late in 2011, replacing another taqueria, Mi Mexico. The murals look new.

They have a Taco Tuesday special, 70 cents each. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the tacos aren’t the absolute best, but the interior is certainly interesting.

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Tom Mix, Buster Keaton in Pomona?

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At least two old-time movies are rumored to have been filmed behind the Phillips Mansion (pictured), an 1875 home built by Louis Phillips (1830-1900), a rancher and businessman at one time said to be the wealthiest man in Los Angeles County.

One movie is said to have featured Buster Keaton. And now Cal Poly Pomona student DeeAnn Perez comes asking about a Tom Mix movie said to have been filmed there.

The original source for both pieces of information is Mickey Gallivan of the Historical Society of the Pomona Valley, who doesn’t know the titles either but has heard both stories from a past resident of the mansion. Perez asked me because she thought I’d know, but I don’t.

Perez writes that although she inquired because she was doing research for a class assignment, a friend is married to Tom Mix’s grandson, and “they are always looking for historical evidence on his grandfather.”

I’m hoping that by putting this online, hardcore fans of Mix and Keaton might be able to identify any movie that included the property. But this could be difficult because the mansion itself probably isn’t in either movie. Instead, the movies involved a barn behind the property, and the barn, Gallivan says, “fell down” some time ago. She couldn’t locate a photo.

The Keaton movie, or possibly short, was filmed sometime between 1931 and 1942, when the Boyle family, which had Hollywood connections, owned the property. A Boyle relation remembers the movie shoot. There can’t be too many Keaton movies that include a barn.

A Tom Mix western that involves a barn doesn’t sound like a novelty, although the dramatic hill behind the property might be a tipoff. It was filmed sometime before the Boyles’ arrival in 1931.

Here’s some history about the Phillips Mansion. It’s one of the oldest structures in Pomona and among the first in the county to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is owned by the Historical Society but due to earthquake damage isn’t open to the public other than for special events (see below).

The original construction cost was $20,000. The house is at 2640 Pomona Blvd. Read more about both homes on the website of the Historical Society. Wikipedia has a good entry.

The mansion will be open Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. for the Historical Society’s annual ice cream social. Entrance is free, although food and activities aren’t.

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