Claremont at the inauguration

Today’s inauguration ceremonies for the president and vice president begin at 8:30 a.m. PST (after two hours of music), with a special moment for the Inland Valley at 8:35, as a Claremont resident, Myrlie Evers-Williams, gives the invocation.

She was chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998 and the widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. After his June 12, 1963 slaying, and the second unsuccessful trial of his accused murderer, she and her children moved from Mississippi to Claremont so she could attend Pomona College. She lived here for several years, and I believe some of her children still do. And a couple of years ago, she returned to live part-time at the Mt. San Antonio Gardens retirement home.

Her presence at the ceremony is symbolic due to today also being Martin Luther King Jr. Day and 2013 being considered the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement.

She is the first woman and the first layperson to give the invocation. How about that! Here’s a Q&A with her from Religion News Service about today.

* A video of her invocation is here.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Carnitas Don Juan


Carnitas Don Juan, 1382 W. Holt Ave. (at Weber), Pomona

Opened in 2012 in a former Wienerschnitzel way out on Pomona’s West Holt past the Catholic church, Carnitas Don Juan has received enthusiastic ratings online. I met a friend there for dinner on what was one of the coldest nights of the year, and naturally the place has no indoor seating. Well, in the quest for taco excellence, we made the best of it.

They have tacos, burritos and tortas with various meats, many of them pork-based as you’d expect from the name, all served out of a blue-and-white A-frame building with a pig on the sign. Two friendly guys were in the kitchen, whose warmth felt inviting through the sliding order window. One joked that it’s not so great inside during the heat of summer. Regardless, I was about ready to ask for an application and tell them I could start immediately.

I had carnitas and chicharron tacos ($1.25 each, pictured below with carnitas on the right); the carnitas was crispy pork, the chicharron was pork rinds, i.e., even crispier. (They also have a chile verde carnitas that’s not crispy.) These were some of the best tacos I’ve had in Pomona. My friend had carnitas, al pastor and chorizo tacos, and other than concluding the al pastor was a bit dry, he was also impressed. We sat at a table on the otherwise-empty patio in our coats and stocking caps, warmed by the food. One of the guys came out to make sure we liked our food, which was nice of him.

I’m looking forward to going back, but maybe not on a night when it’s 38 degrees and dropping.

It’s relatively easy to get here from the 10, by the way: Exit at Dudley, drive south on Dudley and turn left on Holt; the restaurant is about two blocks east, on the south side. Just like Wienerschnitzel, they have a drive-thru.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Van Halen at Walter Mitty’s

I’ve heard over the years that the band Van Halen performed at the old Walter Mitty’s club out in Pomona’s Westmont area before they got famous. The topic resurfaced when I interviewed the couple at nearby Westmont Hardware last month.

A Google search brings up the online Van Halen Encyclopedia, which has an entry on the band’s club days.

Van Halen is said to have performed at Walter Mitty’s Rock & Roll Emporium on six occasions in 1976: March 24 and 25 and April 7 to 10.

The site says of those days: “Their sets consisted mostly of cover tunes at first and they would sneak in originals as often as they could.”

The Pomona club rates an entire paragraph: “At Walter Mitty’s in Pomona, CA, which had a capacity of 300 (Van Halen was said have squeezed 1000 people into the place on some nights), the band witnessed a man die from stab wounds during an argument between two bikers about whose bike was faster while the band played You Really Got Me. After this incident, the band decided to move their amplifiers roughly one-and-a-half feet away from the wall so they could hide behind them when fights broke out. The club was reportedly closed a short time later due to an increase in violence.”

Besides its many L.A. dates, the band is also known to have performed at the Bogart in San Bernardino on two occasions, Sept. 18 and 21, 1976.

A 2012 story on about the band’s reunion drew a comment from Leslie Ward-Speers, the daughter of Walter Mitty’s owner:

“…For a couple of years, you played several times at my dad’s small bar in Pomona, CA.  My father’s name is Larry Ward and he owned Walter Mitty’s across from the General Dynamics Company on Mission Blvd. When ever you guys came to play a weekend gig at daddy’s bar, it was standing room only. The local college students from MT SAC and Cal Poly bombarded the bar to hear your outstanding and unique sound. All of the other bands that played in Daddy’s bar were playing what ever the current hits were on the radio. But not you guys. I knew then that you were good and that success was just around the corner for you.”

Did anyone happen to see them in Pomona, or remember Walter Mitty’s?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Ray Collins tributes mount in Village

The bench outside the Village Grille in the Claremont Village was cleared Tuesday of Ray Collins mementos by Collins’ family, but other tributes to the singer and Mothers of Invention co-founder remain in the Village.

Above, Some Crust Bakery (119 Yale Ave.) has a window display to Collins that’s worth a look; the photo shows only a portion of it. The second photo shows one side of a message board outside Espiau’s (109 Yale); click on the thumbnail for a larger view.

Wednesday’s column is about these tributes and, being my third piece on Collins since his Dec. 24 death, is probably my last, other than updates. Of course, to quote Fats Waller, “one never knows, do one?”

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Looking west on 2nd Street, Pomona

Click on the postcard for a larger view. It’s undated, but someone who knows cars could probably narrow it down. (Update: The Pomona Public Library tells me the photo, which is in its collection, was taken or perhaps developed on or about Oct. 29, 1943. That certainly narrows it down.)

The view is looking west from Garey Avenue. The BofA building on the southwestern corner is long gone, but the replacement building is also a bank, currently Chase; the building on the northwestern corner was razed to make way for the Garey underpass. Some of the others remain, notably the First National Bank building in the background, flag on the roof.

Reader John Brown mailed me the card, saying a family friend in Minnesota had found it while antiquing. The city attorney of Ontario, Brown wrote: “With rare exceptions this past year, I realize we may not have provided you with sufficient journalistic fodder. To make up for that, I could not think of anyone better situated to appreciate the enclosed postcard than yourself.”

Anyone recognize any of the businesses above?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Ban Chow


Ban Chow, 9755 Arrow Route (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga

To kick off 2013’s Restaurants of the Week, here’s a hole-in-the-wall takeout place in Rancho Cucamonga that might be the only place in the Inland Valley to get Cambodian food. Ban Chow is a simple storefront in the same center as Jack in the Box, Nancy’s and Guido’s. It’s easy to find: It’s the only business without a sign.

Thanks to reader Andy for directing me here. The specialty is the ban chow, an egg crepe filled with onion, bean sprouts and a choice of meat. I got the sampler plate ($8.10) which has a ban chow, a meat skewer, rice, pickled papaya salad, an egg roll and a soda. I liked my ban chow (pork) and skewer (beef). Tasty, filling and a good deal for the money.

It’s takeout only because they have no customer restroom, although there is a small counter you can sit at. The staff said the only other Cambodian restaurants are in San Gabriel and Long Beach. The menu is short; if you get the combo plate, you’ve had pretty much everything they have. Based on photos on their Facebook page, they sometimes have baked goods, including macarons. (I didn’t see any on my visit.) Does any other place in the valley have fresh-baked macarons? If they do, it’s a safe bet they don’t have ban chow.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email