Column: Rail Giants train museum still on track despite loss of Big Boy

Sam Calderwood, in the cab of the Union Pacific 9000, chats with a patron of the Rail Giants train museum. (Photo by David Allen)

Sam Calderwood, in the cab of the Union Pacific 9000, chats with a patron of the Rail Giants train museum. (Photo by David Allen)

Wednesday’s column presents an update on the train museum at Pomona’s Fairplex. Two years after giving up its centerpiece, the 1941 Big Boy locomotive, how is the museum doing? Fine, as it turns out. It’s got other rare trains, and a modern diesel locomotive that actually runs.

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Sprinting toward Arby’s

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The former Arby’s at 2250 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona, which dated to 1970closed in 2012 and almost became a Boost Mobile store in 2013, reopened recently as a Sprint store. The building has been cleaned up and painted gray with yellow trim, matching the adjacent McDonald’s. The result looks appealing, actually. But the Conestoga wagon roof and original poles, now holding a modest sign, betray its Arby’s origins. Check it out and see if the staff is sick of Horsey Sauce jokes yet.

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Column: Not a doctor, but he delivered a medical school

Did you know there’s a nearly 3,900-student collection of medical schools in downtown Pomona? Well, maybe you did, but if you didn’t, you’ve probably heard the name or seen the signs for Western University of Health Sciences and wondered what it was. It began 38 years ago under the direction of founding president Philip Pumerantz, and despite long odds, it succeeded. With Pumerantz’s retirement, I ask him how he did it. One answer: a motivational showtune. Find out more in my Sunday column.

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Lily’s Tacos to move; former Orange Julius stand to be pulped

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You may know it as one of Pomona’s better taco shops, but 2128 N. Garey Ave. (at La Verne Street) began its life as an Orange Julius stand. And it’s not long for this world, as the wrecking crew is coming. The stand will be demolished as part of the renovations of the undistinguished strip mall behind it. A new, undetermined restaurant will replace Lily’s.

In the meantime, Lily’s is still serving customers despite being isolated by construction. You have to admire their gumption. And Lily’s is going to relocate — more on that in a moment.

What’s the history? The stand operated as an Orange Julius drive-in from its opening in 1963 until 1980. From that point, the stand was home to a series of taquerias; Lucky 7, El Merendero, Tehuacan, Los Dos Compadres and Taqueria Alvarez are the names brought to my attention. Lily’s has been the longest tenant, since 1992 according to its sign, which means Lily’s occupied the stand longer than Orange Julius. How about that!

Lily’s was a neat spot, especially on a warm night, when you could eat in comfort on the picnic tables out in front of the walk-up stand. The food was reliably good and they would even serve it on a plastic plate and put your drink in a plastic cup.

I had dinner there Monday, for the first time in a couple of years. It required parking in the adjacent lot for Las Margaritas and walking around from the sidewalk. I got three al pastor tacos and a medium horchata for $6.06 and ate at one of the three picnic tables. It was a nice outing and a chance to remember meals past under that shaded awning, light bulbs hanging, the sizzle of the grill audible.

Thankfully, Lily’s will survive elsewhere — and indoors this time.

“Much to my delight, Lily’s is currently working on their new location at 901 N. Garey, a bit north of Holt on the west side of the street,” says fellow Lily’s fan Mark Lazzaretto, Pomona’s development director. “I don’t know when they’ll be open, but it can’t be soon enough for my liking.”

An employee said they hope to open within six weeks. They’ll remain at the little stand as long as they can.

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Column: Ed Nelson was actor and dad, but never mayor

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Sunday’s column marks the first-year anniversary of the death of actor Ed Nelson, who lived in Pomona and San Dimas for more than two decades. I wrote about him when he died, in part based on a lovely long email of a few years earlier from one of his sons, which I’d featured on this blog.

Some weeks later, it occurred to me that I’d forgotten to check our Progress-Bulletin files, which are housed in a back room in our office. (Our Daily Report files were, inconceivably, thrown out.) The little file envelopes, labeled by topic, appear to cover the ’40s into the ’80s. Their thoroughness probably depended on who had the thankless job of clipping and sorting articles; it’s hard for me to believe that the Prog never wrote about Donahoo’s Chicken, for instance, except a short item on the owners’ square-dancing activities.

Luckily, there was a fat file on Nelson, seen below. I sifted through it eventually and wrote a long item last December, figuring I’d use it during a slow period around Christmas. But I didn’t need it. Then maybe vacation? No. Actually, I kind of forgot about it. Recently finding it again, I struggled for a reason to run an Ed Nelson item some 10 months after his death — before realizing that if it appeared one year later, it might seem to have purpose. I expanded it into a full column.

So there you have it, the story behind the story. Hope you like the column.

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Column: Pomona’s rumored rejection of Disneyland still animates people

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In Friday’s column, I take another swing at exploring and debunking the folklore that Pomona turned down Walt Disney when he approached the city about building Disneyland. There’s no evidence to support it. The park’s 60th anniversary is Friday, by the way. Above, Sleeping Beauty’s castle is seen under construction (in Anaheim). Below is the 1997 Daily Bulletin article that addressed the matter, taken from the Pomona Public Library’s history collection folder labeled “Disneyland Myth.” Thanks to today’s column, they’ve got a fresh piece to fill out the folder.

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Chronicles of None-ia: Library needs children’s DVDs

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A new piece of furniture in the Pomona Public Library children’s room looked unnecessary when I visited Thursday; from the entrance, the way the unit was turned, it was completely bare. On the side pictured, there’s one DVD, and three more on another side. And that was it.

Of the 70 child-friendly DVDs in the system, all but four were checked out. Neat, eh? Clearly there’s demand. Another 90 are waiting for a staffer to enter them into the catalog and otherwise prep them for checkout.

The library didn’t have any child-friendly DVDs until last year. That’s when the library partnered with the Inland Valley Humane Society to get some, and it’s looking for more. Donations of “gently used” DVDs and Blu-rays suitable for children and teens are accepted gratefully at the library, 625 S. Garey Ave. Tell ’em the David Allen Blog sent you.

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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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