Pilgrim castle, er, church

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On a recent visit to Pilgrim Congregational Church in Pomona, where I was researching a column on its former Boys’ Brigade unit, a second-story breezeway offered this arresting view. The red brick, Gothic-style church on Garey Avenue at Pearl Street takes up a block of street frontage and was built in 1912 — although this view makes it seem positively medieval.

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Column: Boys’ Brigade once turned boys to men in Pomona

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Friday’s column looks back at Boys’ Brigade, an international youth group that had a chapter for decades in Pomona at Pilgrim Church. One of its most popular leaders recently died, with services coming on Saturday, making this a good time to delve into the story of why church boys were camping out and marching around with unloaded rifles.

Above and below, three undated photos from the church’s collection.

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Firehouse Inn forlorn, but cleaner

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The Firehouse Inn was a popular Pomona restaurant of the 1970s in a unique location: a former Fire Department station built in 1924. Shades of Engine Co. 28 in downtown LA!

The Italianate-style station was Pomona’s second. According to Gloria Ricci Lathrop’s 1976 “Pomona: A Centennial History,” from which the above photo and caption were taken: “Located at Garey Avenue and Alvarado, its purpose was to handle fires in the north part of Pomona, especially if freight trains blocking the crossings prevented the main station’s crews from traveling to answer the calls.”

After some alterations, the restaurant opened in 1970, according to a Progress-Bulletin story from that April. The restaurant lasted until about 1988, based on phonebook listings; it’s unclear if anything took its place. It’s been vacant for years.

Incidentally, can that be the same street light today from whenever the historic photo was taken?

With a new Starbucks having opened across Alvarado, on a previously dead corner that had a long-vacant gas station, there’s more traffic and renewed attention. On an April 8 Starbucks visit, I walked across the street to look at the Firehouse Inn building. On the door was a Notice of Abatement, dated two days earlier and signed by a judge. (I can’t even try to relax without bumping into news, evidently.)

According to Community Development Director Mark Lazzaretto: “The weeds at the Firehouse Inn were unbearably high and there was trash and debris throughout the site. We sent notices to the owner, but the owner failed to comply. In these situations, we go to court for an abatement order, which allows the City to clean up the site so that the neighborhood isn’t burdened with the blight. We then lien the property and recoup our costs when the property is sold.”

For now, the Firehouse Inn sits, boarded up, waiting for progress. Would anyone like to comment about the current condition, the recent past or memories of having dined there?

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New Starbucks opens in Pomona

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A skinny little Starbucks opened last week on Garey Avenue and Alvarado Street in Pomona, only blocks from the 10 Freeway and on the western edge of the historic Lincoln Park neighborhood.

It’s not exactly what residents there would have liked, as the coffee house is oriented toward motorists, not pedestrians looking for a place to hang out. There’s no inside seating. There is a walk-up window, like you’re at a Dairy Queen, but the only outdoor seating is a couple of tables with umbrellas by the drive-thru lane, so, not really cozy. (Starbucks got in its application to build before a ban on drive-thrus on this portion of Garey went into effect.)

On the bright side, Starbucks replaces a gas station that had been closed and derelict for years. Its presence may add momentum to efforts to oust the methadone clinic that operates quietly in the building to the north, or to generate interest in redeveloping the long-vacant Firehouse Inn building on the south side of Alvarado. And if the traffic introduces more people to Donahoo’s, that won’t be bad either. (If Donahoo’s were encouraged to fix both its signs — one of which is missing two letters, the other of which has two letters in a different color than the rest — that would also be progress.)

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Column: Jenny Lewis invites fan onstage to sing ‘Glendora’ in Pomona

I was in Pomona at a Glass House concert Tuesday, minding my own business, when suddenly news broke out: The singer invited a fan from the audience to come onstage and sing a portion of a song about Glendora.

You can read about that in my Sunday column, as well as about my Ontario film series. I shot a one-minute video of the impromptu performance, which you can watch here (warning: adult language!); a full version from closer to the stage can be viewed here.

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Beck in Pomona: the ’90s venues

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Beck performed three times in Pomona in the mid-1990s, as recounted in detail in my Wednesday column.

Above, the former Munchies sandwich shop and bar at 291 E. Second St., where Beck sang one night in 1993; it’s now vacant. Below, the former Haven coffeehouse at 296 W. Second St., where Beck performed on Jan. 22, 1994; it’s now Pizza Beer Wings, a sportsbar. At bottom, the Glass House at 200 W. Second St., where Beck headlined in June 1996 (date unclear). It’s still around — whew.

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Remembering the Poly Trolley

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Cal Poly Pomona’s Facebook page posted this circa 1990 image of the campus tram, which operated from 1975 to 2003 and was known as the Polywagen and the Poly Trolley, along with this witty caption:

“Twenty-five years ago, students could be seen walking around campus in strangely patterned grandpa cardigans and high-waisted jeans. Seems like not much has changed. Except the tram. RIP, tram.”

The post has more than 1,000 likes and many comments from alumni. Among them:

Melissa Oldenburg: “I miss the tram. I remember how the exhaust fumes kept me warm on chilly mornings when I sat directly behind its exhaust vent.”

Michael Nguyen: “I miss running and jumping on the tram. That was a fun memory.”

Laura Gomez Alvarado: “I miss getting soaked on rainy days.”

Micheal Fro Fro Huluf: “If CPP brings the trams back, that will be awesome.”

To which the university replied: “You say that, but you might not like it if it were raining when you tried to ride it. But who are we kidding? It doesn’t rain here anymore.”

(Whoever is in charge of this FB page deserves a pat on the back.)

Cal Poly now uses the name Poly Trolley for a lunch wagon and, rather than an open-air tram, uses buses, called the Bronco Shuttle, to ferry students, faculty and staff from parking lots to campus buildings on the commuter campus.

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Column: Housewife was a leader in Pomona civic life

Sunday’s column is mostly about Beth Page, a volunteer active in Pomona from the 1940s until her recent death at 103. Also: cultural notes, a plug for this blog and an Inland Valley motorcycle chase that made news in LA, NYC and the UK.

About Beth, I knew her a little and interviewed her once, making a tribute item a natural. A photographer searched our archives for photos of her and came up with one, which looked familiar to me. Evidently I took it myself to accompany my December 2006 column on her, but it didn’t run with the column, probably for space reasons. It was satisfying to get it into print and online this time. It only took eight years.

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