Column: With tribute, coffee house regular gets one last perk

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A tribute at Claremont’s Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to a regular who died leads off my Friday column. There’s a photo with the column of Anthony Raya at the coffee house. If you’re a regular in that area, you’ll say, “Oh, that guy!” And here are two photos from Wednesday morning of the scene so you get a sense of the memorial and Raya’s regular spot.

I happened on this by accident. On a whim, I got breakfast at Jamba Juice that morning before going into work and sat down at one of the outdoor tables. I spotted the memorial across the walkway, walked over and realized who it was for. As a frequent customer at Coffee Bean, I could fill in some of the rest. An employee and the manager came out to check on the table and I got Raya’s name and details from them.

Wish I’d known about the memorial tribute that took place the night before, but I felt like I’d lucked out by seeing the memorial table and by knowing some of the story already. This is one of those small moments in the life of a community. They happen all the time; the general public (and us as journalists) rarely know about them and the people involved don’t think “this is news,” but once in a while, we find one and can make something from it.

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* Update: I saw this addition on Friday. Click on the photo for a more readable view.

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Column: Mandolins, muffins: Just another day in Claremont

Friday’s column is partly about a “Good Day L.A.” segment Tuesday on the Claremont Village that was charming, if a little overdone. You might get more sugar shock from the coverage than from Some Crust. After that: news items from Upland and the cultural scene, and a promo for this blog. If you’ve read my blog this week, my summary of the biggest news is kind of an inside joke for your benefit.

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Bye-bye to the Square

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Renovations to this building on Indian Hill Boulevard at Vista Drive, just above the 10 Freeway, look drastic, but welcome. It was a Bakers Square for years, followed by a brief period as Garden Square. If you look closely at the photo, you can make out a tilted red-and-white checkerboard square from the Bakers Square logo on the vertical white section in the middle. It’s probably been covered by now, but I wanted to document it before that happened.

I’ve been told the restaurant was originally a Sambo’s. Remember them?

The building is going to be Sanamluang Cafe, the popular Thai restaurant now a mile south in Pomona at San Bernardino Road. A banner to that effect went up last week. I like the curves on the exterior, which match the look of the developments on the south side of the freeway.

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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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