Bow-wow! Fine art in Upland manager’s office

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I had joked in my column that, after stripping his office walls, Upland City Manager Stephen Dunn might only be planning to redecorate, and that next time I saw him, he might have prints up of Dogs Playing Poker. (Dogs Playing Poker is, of course, famously low-brow art, akin to Elvis on black velvet.)

Next time I saw Dunn, he said he’d considered getting a Dogs Playing Poker painting just for the joke but hadn’t found one. The Fontana Flea Mart would surely have had one, Dunn remarked. I put that in my column last Wednesday.

That’s when Upland reader Harry Scahill stepped up. Scahill, who lives near City Hall, has an aged print of a Dogs Playing Poker poster that he dropped off with Dunn after reading my column that morning.

“I told Stephen, ‘You don’t have to go so far away. Because I live just three blocks up the street,’” Scahill told me later.

The poster is unusual: Scahill’s grandfather, Henry K. Kaiser, made a woodcut engraving of the poster, probably in the 1940s, and then printed copies. “He plagiarized it,” Scahill admitted cheerfully. The time commitment involved in carving Dogs Playing Poker into wood is frightening to contemplate. Scahill inherited the posters and was happy to give one to the city manager, who got a kick out of the whole thing.

“I’m going to have it framed,” Dunn told me.

They’re pictured below, with Scahill at left and Dunn holding the poster and the original engraving. It’s great to see the City of Gracious Living finally involved in the fine art world.

Others commented on the reference in my column too. At noon on the day the column appeared, a fellow Rotarian of Dunn’s wore a Dogs Playing Poker T-shirt to the group’s lunch. A resident came into Dunn’s office to mock-complain about the ridicule of Dogs Playing Poker, saying he happens to have that poster hanging in his bathroom. And Acquanetta Warren, an Upland employee who is also mayor of Fontana, chided Dunn for referring to the Bel-Air Swap Meet as the Fontana Flea Mart.

“I’ve got a lot of buzz about Dogs Playing Poker,” Dunn said.

Dogs Playing Poker originated as a series of cigar ads early in the 20th century. You can read about the paintings at dogsplayingpoker.org and on Wikipedia. The most famous image, “A Friend in Need,” is reproduced at bottom.

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Upland ‘tourism’ grows

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The monthly downtown Upland walking tour that I wrote about last week definitely did better Saturday than the usual six to eight that had been attending since its debut last September.

“By my count, 37 people, but someone said over 40. Let’s go with the higher number!” enthused organizer Ann Lara via email. With a suggested $5 donation, the tour generated $150 for the Cooper Regional History Museum.

“I am calling it the David Allen effect. Almost everyone came because of your article,” Lara said. (Aw, shucks.) “I told the group if they were real good and took a nice photo it might end up on your blog or Facebook page. They all said ‘David Allen’ instead of ‘cheese’ for the photo.”

Maybe that will catch on. OK, probably not. But the tour seems to be catching on. The next one is May 10.

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Column: Upland leaders may further roil City Hall

Items in Sunday’s column begin with a preview of Monday’s Upland council meeting in which the city manager’s fate appears to be the subject of two closed-door meetings. After that: Culture Corner and Valley Vignette items, an update on my Hitchcock film series, a plug for this blog and my reactions to a listing of the 10 Most Boring Places in California that includes Ontario.

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Last gasp for Upland packing house

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An old citrus packing house on East 19th Street in Upland just west of Campus Avenue is coming down, as detailed in my Wednesday column. Demolition is of added interest due to a faded Sunkist logo being exposed when one wall came down.

I took photos from the sidewalk and from the construction driveway, from which the above was shot, facing west. Venturing into the construction zone seemed like a poor idea and there was no one nearby to ask permission from.

For a different angle and a wider view, I drove east to the Highland Garden Center, where an employee kindly let me shoot from the fence at the west end of their property. The angle didn’t reveal anything very interesting, alas.

Next I stopped at nearby Fire Station 164 on Campus, hoping its height would provide a better overall view of the site.

The fire crew generously said I could shoot from their roof. Getting to the roof involved climbing a ladder, which I’m afraid was out of the question. After about four rungs on a ladder, my legs stop working. I handed my camera to firefighter Dennis Weaver to take photos himself on my behalf. The one below is by Weaver. It wasn’t quite the elevated view of the property for which I’d hoped — the roof isn’t that high — but it wasn’t bad.

“We could put you on the 110-foot aerial for an even higher view,” Weaver offered. “You’d be strapped in so there’s no danger. The ladder does sway a little in the wind.”

He added: “We’d have to take pictures of you, of course.”

Readers would insist on it, as would I. But I declined politely. I don’t even go on rides at the Fair, much less at fire stations.

* Update: This website, found by reader Don J., chronicles some of Upland’s packing houses. The text is disorganized and there’s no info about the 19th Street one that I could see (except for a 1980 photo that I believe is of the same building, the Upland Citrus Assn.), but the photos are neat.

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