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.
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!
It’s been First Baptist Church since 1883, but a few weeks ago, the congregation changed its name to Purpose Church. Why? I ask the question and talk about the history in my Wednesday column.
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.
The former Arby’s at 2250 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona, which dated to 1970, closed 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.
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.
Friday’s column starts with an item about a new book collecting writer Ray Bradbury’s late interviews, which includes a talk he gave in Pomona — but mangles the name of the venue, Western University of Health Sciences. Tsk, tsk. I’ve also got some Valley Vignettes and two examples of the 909 in the news.
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.
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.
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.