Jokes about Pomona were such a staple of 1930s entertainment that top-rated radio comic Fred Allen mocked them. Dialogue from one of his shows offers a fascinating glimpse of the times. That leads off Wednesday’s column, followed by Culture Corner items and more.
This ad from the Sept. 3, 1954 Pomona Progress-Bulletin would seem to settle a trivia question. Because McDonald’s, which was established Dec. 12, 1948 by the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, opened restaurants in Pomona and Azusa that month, it’s been unclear which was the seventh and which was the eighth.
Give Pomona the bragging rights. The ad proclaims: “Our New Pomona Unit is the 7th in the McDonald system that will soon be coast to coast.”
The ad also pins down the date the Pomona location was to open: that very day, Sept. 3. Ideally, someday someone will look through microfilm of whatever newspaper served Azusa to find an ad for the opening of its McDonald’s. * Update: Someday is now: Hank Fung pinned down Azusa’s opening to Sept. 17, 1954, based on a newspaper story in the Azusa Herald. The story says Azusa’s would be the eighth. See below.
Thanks to the Pomona Public Library’s Allan Lagumbay for finding the Prog ad. Click on it for a larger version. Some of the text is amusing by modern standards. Its french fries would be “heat protected by infra-red lights” — gosh!
A SoCal Honda Dealers commercial shows a donation of shop equipment to an artist who makes simple wooden cars out of scrap for children. He’s unnamed, but he’s Richard E. Nunez of Pomona, who goes by the nickname Ren.
After scrap became scarce, Nunez tells me, he wrote Honda asking for wood when the dealers group solicited pitches on Twitter. The Helpful Honda Guys responded within two weeks and came out to his house.
The filming lasted all day but was enjoyable. (The cameraman, he said, worked on “The Da Vinci Code.”) The equipment he got was “like a mini-Home Depot … table saw, two hand sanders, skill saw, different kinds of paint, all sorts of different sizes of wood, paint brushes. The list goes on and on.” He was also paid for the commercials, done in English and Spanish.
Many of us have wondered what the interior of the old United Artists/California theater in downtown Pomona looks like these days, but as it’s a Spanish church, we’re unlikely to feel comfortable wandering in. But photographer Richard Nunez did go in and snapped a few photos, which he shared with me.
The auditorium has been significantly altered, and the seats appear to be chairs, not theater seats. And that’s all understandable. Ontario’s Granada is the same shape. But if you were ever in the theater (I wasn’t), you may decide its feel isn’t entirely different. The grillwork by the speaker looks nice.
In the lobby, below, there’s an area that may have been a candy counter.
Pomona has had multiple movie theaters in its history, dating to the silent era. I round up some pertinent facts about each for Wednesday’s column. Above, a view of the State Theater in 1945.
By way of background, I researched and largely wrote this material last spring and summer, unsure if it should be a blog post or column; when the Sunkist Theater background turned up, I focused on that for my column (read it here) and decided to come back to the other theaters on another day, maybe during a vacation or for the holidays. Now, needing a column after a three-day weekend, its time has come.
The host of the former Comedy Central talk show “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” was grand marshal of Saturday’s Christmas parade in his hometown of Pomona.
Beforehand he was kept busy as people introduced themselves and asked him to pose for photos. I have to say, people’s photo-taking skills are rather poor, or maybe their celebrity-inconveniencing skills are high; Wilmore would freeze with a smile, arms around a fan or two, and whoever was taking a photo would act like they had all night, opening up their app, touching the screen, etc. One woman who looked as if she were going to take a picture stopped to take a call instead. “Phones are supposed to be faster than cameras,” Wilmore joked at one point. But he was a good sport about it all.
Because I’m not a pushy person, I never actually got to meet him, waiting a couple of times and giving up. (The fans were largely African-American and I felt like it probably meant more to them to meet him, even though I had interviewed him by phone in October.)
After the parade, he was walking away not far from me and I called out “Mr. Wilmore!,” but not with enough force for him to hear me. I decided, oh well. A few minutes later, talking to a friend at the Kiwanis food booth, the man suddenly said, “Bye, Larry,” as Wilmore had walked by behind me to get to his car. It obviously was not meant to be.
I did have the satisfaction later of Wilmore “liking” one of my tweets — so there’s that.
I was in the parade myself, riding in a 1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup driven by its proud owner, Terry Hoefler, as we made the circuit of Second Street, Park Avenue, Mission Boulevard and, briefly Garey Avenue. It’s fun being in a parade: Everyone’s in a good mood, smiling and happy. They wave at you, or will wave back if you wave and make eye contact.
Hoefler was impressed that so many people shouted my name, especially children, and asked if I were a teacher. Heh. I chalk most of it up to my name (“David Allen”) being on signs on both sides of the car. Reading comprehension among Pomona’s youth is outstanding, and my compliments to the Pomona Unified School District. To those who actually did know who I am, my thanks.
And merry Christmas.
I tried something new by going out walking with the two candidates for mayor of Pomona as they went door to door asking for votes. It turned out to be fun and surprising. (And I have to say, campaigning seems like a lot of work.) Check the results in Wednesday’s column. There’s a theme, and it’s man’s best friend — which isn’t necessarily a candidate’s best friend.
Driving on an unfamiliar stretch of Pomona’s Orange Grove Avenue recently, I spotted this unusual feature on the south side of the street. On the way back, I pulled over for photos. The greenery is at the T-intersection with Casa Vista Drive. There are six arches, as seen above; from across the street, below, only five could be squeezed into one photo. I wonder what the story is on them and how they were formed.
The campaign for mayor of Pomona is unexpectedly interesting this year, as it’s the first two-person race in years, and the challenger to the incumbent is putting in a strong effort. Sunday’s column delves into the race. And as noted at the end, there’ll be a fun follow-up column, probably Wednesday.
Above, Tim Sandoval, left, and Elliott Rothman speak to people after the Oct. 14 debate. This was the best I could do to get them both in one frame. I’m still kicking myself that I was seated too far back to catch what would have been a cute photo, as the debate ended with the flu-ridden Rothman not shaking hands with Sandoval, but bumping elbows. Heh.
I collected a bunch of history on the beloved Pomona restaurant, Firehouse Inn, last year with hopes of getting a tour of the place, which has been closed for decades and is at least theoretically on the market. But despite a promise, the tour never happened and neither did the column, although I did write a blog post.
Just when I was thinking, for the umpteenth time, that maybe I should try to get back to that idea, neighbors scheduled a protest last Saturday outside the property about its condition. (See above.) And then, driving past on Wednesday, I saw a cleanup. Finally, a reason to write this up! It’s Friday’s column. Here’s the link.