Growing up with Mrs. Nelson’s

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Friday’s column pays tribute to a La Verne institution, Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop, which has been at 1030 Bonita Ave. (at Damien Avenue) since 1991, and in existence since 1985 (the first location was in Covina).

Pictured are the now-retired Judy Nelson, left, and manager Andrea Vuleta.

You can visit the store’s website here and read my column here.

I was allowed to see the employee restroom, whose inner door has been decorated with doodles by visiting authors and illustrators. A portion of the door is pictured below. Click on the image for a larger view.

Do you have comments about or memories of the store? If so, post away.

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Panera Bread opens in La Verne today

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A new Panera Bread location opens in La Verne this morning in the old Michael J’s location. (Here’s a photo after the demolition.)

Address: 2315 Foothill Blvd. (at Fruit Street), across from the giant McDonald’s. Regular hours: Monday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Menu: Soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee, artisanal bread and free WiFi.

Other area locations are Rancho Cucamonga, Chino Hills and West Covina.

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Here’s a scoop

As mentioned in print the other day, I’ll be among the scoopers at an ice cream sundae fundraiser in La Verne today to benefit Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society. Come buy a sundae for a good cause. We’ll be at Roberta’s Village Inn,
2326 D St., from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Here are the shifts:

5:30 pm — Dan & Annette Harden, Brian McNerney, Fire Chief John Breaux, me

6:30 pm — Mayor Don Kendrick, Mayor ProTem Donna Redman Nasmyth, Police Chief Scott Pickwith, Captain Darryl Seube

7:30 pm — Former Mayor Jon Blickenstaff, Council Member Robin Carder, Planning Commision Chair Cid Pinedo

Tonight is a Farmers Market night downtown so parking will be more of a chore. Organizers recommend parking behind the Fire Station or at Church of the Brethren.

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La Verne’s online newspaper

La Verne Online is the name, and it’s run by 25-year resident Peter Bennett, a former LA Times staffer and PR guy. I’ve read a few articles there and it’s pretty well done, with coverage of Monday’s council meeting and long features on such folks as private eye Becky Altringer, Gumby licensee Nick Croce and Taste of Asia chef Virada Khowang. (One flaw: No dates on any of the stories.) Best of luck to them.

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The Grinch that stole into La Verne

The Grinch read to children and adults last week at the University of La Verne Literacy Center as part of a three-day book fair. Or, as a university press release describes the day in verse:


On a wintry day in the late afternoon

A host of young tykes gathered up in a room.

Their parents were there, joining in on the fun

All watching and waiting for the one yet to come.

They sat and they hoped barely moving an inch

Looking up and around for to glimpse Mister Grinch.

And when he arrived, they clapped and they smiled

As he read and he spoke to each eager young child.

At the end, all were happy, both the young and the old

Having sipped the hot cocoa, meant to battle the cold

The book fair raised funds to help tutor and mentor

Local kids who rely on the Literacy Center.

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La Verne connection to the Quaid case

The Bulletin’s celebrity news section on Page A2 has twice featured the arrest of Randy Quaid and his wife, Evi, this past week. Well, there’s a local angle: Last summer the Quaids hired Becky Altringer, the La Verne private eye featured in a recent column of mine due to her role in the documentary “This Film is Not Yet Rated.” The Quaids even stayed in a La Verne mobile home (!) for a short period. The mind reels.

Altringer later dropped them as clients and is seeking a restraining order against Evi Quaid. You can read a fairly extensive piece from the Daily Beast here that quotes Altringer, if you’re inclined.

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Hanawalt House back in La Verne


Hanawalt House, pre-renovation

La Verne’s Hanawalt House has been restored and was unveiled to the public on Wednesday. I couldn’t make it out to the wilds of La Verne for the 3 p.m. ceremony, but here’s some history courtesy of the University of La Verne, which owns the building.

The house, at 2058 2nd St., was built in 1908 for W.C. Hanawalt, the fifth president of what was then Lordsburg College. The house features Queen Anne and Eastlake architectural attributes and its foundation was made of concrete blocks — a rarity for private residences in those days, apparently — by Hanawalt’s half-brothers.

(They later assisted in building La Verne’s iconic Church of the Brethren.)

In 1973, Hanawalt’s second wife, Pearl, sold the house, which is on the campus grounds, to the university, which used it as offices. A 2004 fire caused major damage — oh no! — but an extensive renovation put it back into service, retaining its historic character while allowing modern uses.

The downstairs now features two meeting facilities — the Palmera and Lordsburg rooms — and a smaller receiving salon, Pearl’s Parlor. The upstairs is home to the university’s Alumni Relations and Special Events offices. The surrounding grounds have also been replanted and upgraded.

Participants in Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting were to include University of La Verne President Steve Morgan, Mayor Don Kendrick, Historical Society President Galen Beery and Hanawalt family representative J. Clair Hanawalt.

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The view of Pakistan from La Verne

Interested in Pakistan, hotspot in the global war on terrorism? The University of La Verne will host a lecture on that nation on Thursday in the inaugural presentation of the — wait for it — Benazir Bhutto & Ahmed Ispahani International Lectureship.

The huh?

ULV Professor Ahmed Ispahani, a La Verne resident, was a cousin of Bhutto, the prime minister who was assassinated in 2007. He’ll be giving the lecture, entitled “Struggle for Democracy: Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan.”

The lectureship was established by a gift from ULV trustee Paul Moseley, a former student of Ispahani’s, as a way to thank his mentor and pay respects to Bhutto.

Here’s some background on Ispahani’s life from a campus press release:

“Born in Iran, Ispahani spent much of his formative years traveling to and from Pakistan because of his family’s business there. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Karachi, then later studied in England before coming to the United States to earn his master’s and Ph.D. He first joined the La Verne faculty in 1964, and has since taught generations of students and influenced countless careers.

“In 1968 Ispahani took a leave from his teaching duties to become economic adviser to the Iran Government, Central Bank of Iran. He was later asked to serve as economic advisor to the Shah of Iran, a position he held until returning to La Verne in 1976.

“A U.S. citizen, Ispahani enjoyed a close relationship with his cousin, the late Benazir Bhutto. He began advising Bhutto on economic matters in 1990, and was instrumental in arranging her visit and lecture at La Verne in 1997.”

Benazir Bhutto visited La Verne? I had no idea.

The lecture begins at 11 a.m. in La Fetra Auditorium. It’s free but seating is limited. Information: International Studies Institute, (909) 593-3511 ext. 4221.

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