Column: And the world will be as one — in La Verne

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Wednesday’s column (read it here) concerns an art exhibit in La Verne, of all places, devoted to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s peace activism, of all things. “Imagine Peace” is at the Harris Art Gallery. Hours and such are here.

I arranged to visit Monday, and I’m awfully glad I did. Of course the price is right (admission is free) but it’s also a neat exhibit for John and Yoko fans. I’m enough of a fan that in reading the exhibit booklet it jumped out at me that (on p. 32) Yoko’s daughter Kyoko is referred to as Kyoto. Please. We all know the name of Yoko’s daughter by her first husband, right?

Ahem. Anyway…

Oh, here’s a line considered for the column but wisely dropped:

The city has no obvious connection to the Beatles, although it’s a little-known fact that “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” was originally to be titled “Ob-La Verne-Di, Ob-La Verne-Da.” Just kidding.

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7-Eleven kicks it old school

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This 7-Eleven, on Towne Center Drive in La Verne, often catches my eye when I drive past on Foothill, a half-block away.

Looks very 1970s, doesn’t it? If there’s an older 7-Eleven sign in the valley, I’m not aware of it. The store itself, seen below, seems to have been remodeled.

Every time I passed by I worried the sign would be changed out before I could document it, so I took the time to snap these photos recently. Here they are, for posterity.

But I hope the sign remains for a long time; at least 7 or 11 more years.

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Food at Ford

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Above: Person Ford, 2011; Below: Augustine’s, 1991, courtesy of city of La Verne: “Top Sirloin Complete Dinner for $6.95.”

The former Person Ford car dealership at 2777 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne is set to be redeveloped into apartments and retail. But reader Tom Gay remembers when the building at the west end of the dealership was a restaurant — or a series of restaurants — from the 1970s into 2004.

“The building at the west end was at one time a Cattleman’s Wharf. It was something else before that and I believe it was once called the Torch,” Gay said, “but I also think that the owners of the Torch actually tried to burn it down. Anyway, thought you might want to research it a little more as I’m sure that there are other locals who would be interested and might remember more than I do.”

Good idea. I contacted Eric Scherer of La Verne’s Planning Department and he was kind enough to research the files. Information isn’t complete, but he found that the building in question went up in 1976 and housed Lizzy’s.

The Torch followed and did indeed catch fire, possibly by arson. (Presumably firefighters were able to douse the Torch.)

“In 1981, the Original American Dinner House opened,” Scherer wrote. “This restaurant was unique in that every room was designed and decorated in a different Americana theme (Betsy Ross Room) and the waiters and staff all wore costumes of famous Americans. It must not have been very popular as it became a Cattleman’s Wharf later that year.”

Just think, you could have dined in the Betsy Ross Room, then headed east and gotten dessert at Betsy Ross Ice Cream in Claremont.

In 1985, the restaurant changed to Chateau La Verne, replaced in 1987 by Augustine’s Hi Jinx Restaurant before 1991 brought Diamond International Buffet. (It was briefly painted bright green and red.)

Finally, 1992 brought a stable restaurant: Phoenix Garden. The Chinese sit-down eatery lasted in the building until 2004, when it moved downtown and Person Ford took over. The building was used for fleet and truck sales rather than kung pao chicken, then closed out its life in 2009 as the location of Foothill Hyundai.

“With the new mixed-use development approved for the site, all of the buildings will be torn down,” Scherer reports.

Let’s hope the mixed-use development doesn’t have a revival of the Torch.

Anyone remember more about these past restaurants?

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At Roberta’s, you’re in with the Inn crowd

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Francisco Ramirez and Roberta Virgin at the counter of Roberta’s Village Inn, 2326 D St., La Verne. Ramirez, the chef, bought the downtown coffee shop from Virgin at the beginning of 2010. A year later, business continues to do well and customers say the transition has been seamless. Read about the popular restaurant in my Wednesday column — and feel free to add your comments below.

If you click on the “Continue reading” link below, you can find an informal history of the building, with some color about the Village Inn, sent to me by two members of the La Verne Historical Society.
Continue reading

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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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