Column: Austin, Texas? Claremont couple can’t get enough of it

Friday’s column has some reader reaction to my column on visiting Austin, Texas. I sat down with a retired couple in Claremont who have been to Austin three times in the past three years, and whose most recent visit overlapped with mine. In a related item, I talk with an Ontario man who’s a world traveler and whose photo at the Taj Mahal recently appeared in both the Daily Bulletin and Westways.

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Preview of coming attractions

Friday’s column will be big. I know this because it was going to run Wednesday, as usual, but the editors held it to get more photos, which we weren’t able to accomplish on the fly Tuesday. It was too late then to write a substitute column, so you’re column-less today.

In the meantime, as a teaser, here’s a video of Claudia Lennear that will accompany Friday’s column about her. (I like the part where I have to prompt her to brag.) Alas, “20 Feet From Stardom” was only playing last weekend — we shot the video Friday — but it’s available on DVD if you want to see it…

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Column: Like Padua Avenue, Claremont sign is now a memory

Sunday’s column is a followup on the “Formerly Padua Ave” sign in Claremont, which has been taken down since my Feb. 16 column. Sure, this could have been a paragraph-long item, but I got a bunch of new and amusing information, including past and present reactions to the sign, new information on its history (including a prankster’s rendition) and tongue-in-cheek suggestions of other “former” street names that could be revived.

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Padua Hills Theatre sign, 1950s

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This photo from the archives of Claremont Heritage is said to date to the 1950s. (Click on the image for a larger view.) The sign stood on the corner of Foothill Boulevard (a.k.a. Route 66) and Padua Avenue, today’s Monte Vista Avenue, and directed people to the theater in the foothills. The neon portion is hard to read but the arrow portion reads “3 Miles.”

The painted sign changed as productions by the Mexican Players changed. This one was for the “17th annual spring festival play,” titled “En el Mes de Mayo,” or “In the Month of May.” The people who object to local billboards in Spanish should definitely get in a time machine and complain.

The theater opened in 1930 and closed in 1974. I don’t know any history of the sign, such as when it went up and when it came down, or on which corner it stood. Did you ever see it?

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Strawberry patch ripe for development*

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A former strawberry patch in Claremont, eyed for development for years, is now slated for 95 townhomes, my colleague Liset Marquez reports.

The site at Base Line Road and Towne Avenue is easy to be conflicted about. A KCET commentary by Pomona College environmental analysis professor Char Miller last month expressed mixed feelings: Good to have infill housing by a freeway, sad to have an agricultural remnant depart.

“The farm has fallen victim to a post-recession land rush that’s in the process of converting a number of empty lots in Claremont. Six developments, totaling nearly 700 new housing units, are underway,” Miller writes.

I stopped by one morning last week to take a photo and was surprised to find the stand still in operation. While the produce on view — including strawberries — may be “fresh picked,” the picking occurred elsewhere. Nothing is grown on that land anymore.

* Update: The council, on a 3-2 vote Feb. 25, rezoned the property to allow residential uses only, rather than residential and commercial. The townhome developer promised that the strawberry patch would be memorialized in a piece of public art.

“It was the last agricultural parcel in the city,” Councilman Sam Pedroza told me later. “We were an agricultural city and now we kind of officially got away from that…There were a lot of long faces.”

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Column: Large reminder sign won’t let us forget Padua Avenue

Sunday’s column might have just been a blog post. Reader Ken Brock sent me a photo in November of the “Monte Vista Ave, Formerly Padua Ave” sign in Claremont and wondered why it was there. I dithered for a while on whether to use that as a simple blog post or to research his question for a column. I followed the latter course and am glad I did.

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Column: With Trayvon Martin, this Nativity gets edgy update

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For a Christmas Day column, I present a piece on Claremont United Methodist Church’s annual Nativity display, which in recent years updates the traditional scene to comment on homelessness, war, immigration or other themes. This year, a dying Trayvon Martin is the centerpiece.

You can view photos of the past scenes and watch my 1:50 video interview with artist John Zachary.

I’ll be more curious than usual to hear the reaction to this column.

Oh, and merry Christmas!

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Column: Laemmle theater owners love art films, sex kittens

A special screening of the classic French film “Contempt” in Claremont on Sunday drew not only cinema lovers, but the owners of the Laemmle theater chain, who reflected on the theater’s fortunes and the film’s star, Brigitte Bardot. That’s the first item in Friday’s column, which also works in items from Montclair, Chino, Chino Hills, Rancho Cucamonga and Pomona.

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Column: Fresher pastures as Claremont’s Cheese Cave expands to LA

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Reed Herrick and Lydia Clarke, seen at Grand Central Market.

The Cheese Cave, a Claremont gourmet food shop, is opening a second location, this one in downtown LA’s Grand Central Market. It’s a rare example of a business from the 909 expanding to LA rather than vice-versa. Wednesday’s column tells the story.

For careful readers, this is the interview in LA that I combined with a Metrolink trip to LA Opera last Wednesday, as mentioned in last Friday’s column.

Grand Central Market, founded in 1917, is one block north of the Pershing Square subway stop, making it easy to visit for Metrolink riders. The market is well worth a visit.

The Cheese Cave’s website is here, and a 2010 feature from this newspaper by my former colleague Wendy Leung offers a detailed, lyrical take on the shop.

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