Steve Julian, 1958-2016

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I’m sorry to report that KPCC-FM “Morning Edition” host Steve Julian died Sunday at age 57 of brain cancer. Julian was a native of Pomona and returned often. We were friends, bonding through our mutual interest in Pomona, the media and good food, and I think by our quiet personalities and impish senses of humor.

He commented now and then on this blog. I profiled him in 2011, we shared a ride in the Pomona Christmas Parade that year, he wrote the introduction for my book “Pomona A to Z” and we met for lunch a half-dozen times, meals that resulted in blog posts here. (Cachanilla was the last; that’s Steve in the photo.) I expect I’ll have more to say about him in print this week, but in the meantime, here’s KPCC’s story on him. An excerpt:

For 15 years, Julian’s smooth, soothing voice woke up tens of thousands of listeners in Southern California, providing the day’s news, weather and traffic.

“He was a singular talent,” said Larry Mantle, host of KPCC’s AirTalk and Julian’s best friend. “He is completely irreplaceable.

“The tone and richness of his voice,” he added, “perfectly conveyed the man behind it.”

Update: My April 27 column is a tribute to him.

Also: The photo above, which I took in 2011, shows Steve at one of the East Second Street fountains in Pomona. The original photo has been lost digitally (sigh) and the only version that appears to exist is a small version that Steve downloaded at the time and posted on his own blog. It’s reproduced above at full size.

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Millard Sheets’ (and a copyist’s) ‘Angels Flight’

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Leaving the Pomona City Clerk’s office a few weeks back, I was surprised to see a copy of local boy Millard Sheets’ famous 1931 painting “Angels Flight” on a wall. It’s a crude version of the original, below, which is in the collection of LACMA. Here’s an appreciation from the LAObserved blog. There were student paintings hanging elsewhere on City Hall’s second floor and this might be part of that effort; an even cruder “Angels Flight” was among them.

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Movie Island washes away

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The video store Movie Island (746 E. Holt Ave. at San Antonio) had a fabulous sign: a palm tree and the store’s name spelled out in letters in not one, not two, but three different colors. It was hokey and arresting all at once.

The store may date to the 1990s; it seems as though I’ve been admiring the sign the whole time I’ve lived here. The video holdout finally closed its doors recently.

Sensing the last time I drove past that Movie Island was deserted, I made a point of stopping by on Sunday to confirm that and to memorialize the sign. (I should have peered inside: What if there was an old hermit with a coconut?)

Movie Island had a grand total of one Yelp review, from 2012, but it was for five stars, better than most movies get. I suspect it would have been a great place to rent “Cast Away.”

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50th Gingerbread Sociable for Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Saturday’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Gingerbread Sociable at the Pomona Public Library was the 50th annual party to celebrate the “Little House on the Prairie” author. The big hit was the building of gingerbread houses from kits, thus combining 1) gingerbread, 2) crafts and 3) dessert, all in one activity.

The two-hour event drew about 35 children, said to be an increase from last year, with some parents saying they’d learned about the event from my column. (The library, not in the crowd-counting business, had told me there were 60 at last year’s, likely an over-estimate.) Children also heard fiddle music from the “Little House” period and a reading. Square dancing was offered on the patio, but no child went near it, just adults.

Below, children assemble their gingerbread houses, and at bottom, after yours truly chose the winners, the first-place winner, Gwenie Decker, 3, poses with her house and a standup. I suspect she had help with the house. But she also wore a period dress, and that was cute.

Some houses, which were held together with frosting, fell apart during construction. When I was making my rounds, the roof slid off one as I was examining it, and then a wall fell over. The girl whose house it was laughed. At the end of the contest, some children were already disassembling their houses and eating them.

Will there be a Sociable next year? Well, maybe.

Online, reader Connie Ryle Neumann writes: “Oh, I hope that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Gingerbread Social for her birthday will not come to an end! Particularly because next year, 2017, will be her 150th birthday anniversary — and LOTS of events will be planned. I hope that Pomona can continue this sweet tradition for many more generations of readers who love the Little House books.”

That’s a nice thought, although to be realistic, it’s doubtful that any child at the Sociable loved or even knew about the Little House books. But they did seem to have a good time, and maybe a future fan or two was created. Kudos to the Pomona Public Library and the Friends of the Library for continuing the tradition for a half-century.

Did you know the library’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Children’s Room is the letter L in my book “Pomona A to Z”?

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Column: 50 years of gingerbread, ‘Little House’

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The 50th Laura Ingalls Wilder Gingerbread Sociable, celebrating the “Little House on the Prairie” books and the unlikely tie between Wilder and the Pomona Public Library, takes place Saturday. That tops Friday’s column. Also: cultural notes from around the valley.

Above, the manuscript of 1932’s “Little House in the Big Woods,” handwritten on a tablet, was donated to the library by Wilder and is on display along with correspondence, foreign editions of the books and more. Click on the photo for a readable view. Same with the letter below, sent by Wilder to be read at the dedication of the library’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Children’s Room.

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Column: Old Pomona: MGM lion, Cheetah and Bing, oh my!

Friday’s column collects some items that have moldering in my computer for a while, as I start off with some documented star sightings of the 1930s. Concerning my headline, I have to say, those three names certainly provided a close proximity to the “Oz” line. The KPCC and Chino Hills items at column’s end are obviously recent.

Also: Happy New Year!

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Column: Cosby role at Cal Poly had a degree of tedium

Friday’s column begins with a tidbit about the Cos, a week after the CSU system rescinded his Cal Poly Pomona honorary doctorate: He also filmed parts of an “I Spy” reunion movie on the campus. After that, six items round out the column.

By the way, the Cosby factoid is one I’d come across maybe a year ago while doing some research on Cal Poly’s 75th anniversary. The hyperlink in the column will take you to the website I got the trivia from. I hadn’t figured out what to do with it in all this time, the fact being rather random. Suddenly, the perfect excuse arose to use it.

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Column: Despite 50 years on the job, this cop isn’t beat

Ron McDonald, 74, has worked for the Pomona Police Department since 1965.  "It wasn't a target," he says of his 50 years. "It just happened." (Photo by David Allen)

Ron McDonald, 74, has worked for the Pomona Police Department since 1965. “It wasn’t a target,” he says of his 50 years. “It just happened.” (Photo by David Allen)

Ron McDonald’s first day with the Pomona Police Department was Sept. 1, 1965; his assignment was foot patrol of the downtown pedestrian mall. Fifty years later, McDonald, now 74 and a lieutenant, is still on the job. “Time flies,” he says. His remarkable longevity is the subject of my Wednesday column.

Ron McDonald is seen here in an undated Police Department photo from the 1960s. (Courtesy photo)

Ron McDonald is seen here in an undated Police Department photo from the 1960s. (Courtesy photo)

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Column: Speeding driver pursued best agency for his surrender

Sunday’s column starts with news about a CHP pursuit that ended in Pomona in unusual fashion when the motorist turned himself in to a competing agency, the Police Department.

(This took place Oct. 20 but when it became clear it wasn’t going to make the paper unless I wrote it, I did. And now it can become a candidate for the year’s Top 10 weirdest local news stories.)

After that: items about local culture, about the advisability of leaving your engine on while pumping gas, about a famed architect’s Upland work and about Vince’s Spaghetti’s grand prize drawing on Sunday. You’ll never guess who’s drawing the names!

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