‘Pomona A to Z’: Y is for YMCA

[Here we are at the penultimate letter! Yellow Cab made a pitch to be the letter Y, telling me they've got several vintage taxis in their Pomona yard, but since that's not open to the general public, I opted to go with the YMCA. Besides, the Y is one of the most prominent buildings in Pomona -- even if, as noted below, a lot of people don't realize it houses a Y.

The only update of which I'm aware is that Yesteryears, one of the runnerups, is no longer in business. This column was published June 12, 2005.]

This ‘A to Z’ should have no one asking Y

Yay! Today — not yesterday — “Pomona A to Z” yields the floor to the letter Y.

By any yardstick, Pomona has great examples of Y’s. Oh, you think I’m a yo-yo? Then pay attention to this yarn.

Yes, stop yammering on your cell phone, eating yogurt and adjusting your yarmulke! Whether your chromosomes are X or Y, just eye this list of Y’s, yonder:

* Yesteryears nightclub on West Second Street, one of the Arts Colony’s live music venues.

* Yamamoto of Orient, maker of fine Japanese teas, located in a west Pomona industrial park.

* Yellow Cab, which began as City Transit in 1926 at Main and Second and now serves the entire Pomona valley with taxis and paratransit buses.

Yowza!

Anyway, yada yada yada, let’s just go to our Y.

The literal Y. The YMCA.

One of the most recognizable buildings in Pomona, the red-bricked YMCA stands at 350 N. Garey Ave., where it takes up most of a block.

“There’s a lot of brick recognition,” quips J.J. Diaz-Ceja, the membership fitness director. “Everybody walks by and recognizes the brick.”

Yet not everybody knows it’s a Y, despite the modest neon sign on the building’s corner.

“One question I often get from people is, ‘How long has this been a YMCA?’ ” Diaz-Ceja says.

Try “forever.”

Pomona began a fund-raising campaign for the stately, Mission-style building soon after the end of World War I.

Architect Robert Orr’s design, notable for its arched windows, was described in a 1919 fund-raising appeal as having been “pronounced of singular beauty and usefulness by the ablest YMCA experts of the Pacific Coast.”

A suitably impressed public contributed $300,000, all the more startling in a city of just 18,000.

Built on the site of the Palomares Hotel, which was lost to fire in 1912, the YMCA was dedicated in April 1922 with a speech by Gov. William Stephens. More than 1,000 citizens turned out.

As an orator from Iowa College put it: “Let this building be dedicated to brotherliness. Let us all join hands that we might feel the thrill of the Almighty, that men may grow up among brotherhood and achieve brotherhood. Keep yourselves related to a center of
brotherhood.”

Oh, brother.

The YMCA — the initials stand for Young Men’s Christian Association — started in England in 1844 as an attempt to apply Christian principles to everyday problems. It then spread to the United States.

Pomona’s chapter began in 1884 as a reading room and job-placement service. It soon faded until its revival in 1919, according to a history by Steven Escher.

As you’d expect, a lot of changes have occurred over the past 83 years.

First limited to men and boys, the Y allowed women and girls to become members in 1949. With no YWCA in town, they had been auxiliary members previously.

The auditorium, initially devoted to Bible study, was turned into a gym in 1940 due to growing demand for space. A $300,000 wing was added in 1958, expanding the building further.

When I visited last week, a pickup basketball game was going on in the gym. High above were the original stained glass windows — handy for anyone praying to make that jump shot.

Today’s Y has aerobics classes, weight machines and child care. While teens were the early focus, the Y now caters more to families.

Although Christian principles remain the organization’s bedrock, “anyone can join the YMCA,” Diaz-Ceja emphasizes.

Anyone from yokel to yacht dweller, I’m sure. Call (909) 623-6433 for membership details, or drop by for a tour.

The Y, by the by, is booming. Since the hiring of Phyllis Murphy as general director and CEO in 2001, the Y has grown from an anemic 400 members to nearly 1,200.

I enjoyed the chance to see the place. Although, admittedly, I was disappointed not to find any Village People.

One highlight was the indoor pool. Twenty yards long, the pool has the Y’s original logo laid into the aqua tile.

This is where generations of Pomona children learned to swim or took their Boy Scout swimming test. Today, it’s also used for lap swimming and aquatic aerobics.

“Unbelievable as it may seem, this is the original tile,” Diaz-Ceja brags.

The building was made a state landmark in 1985 and a national landmark in 1986.

After my visit, I could see Y.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, year in, year out.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: X is for Xochimilco

[As you can imagine, finding an X was exceedingly difficult when I was writing the "A to Z" series. (Although writing the intro was fun.) Xochimilco was one of Pomona's longest-lived Mexican restaurants -- perhaps only Tropical Mexico was older -- but a few months after publication, Xochimilco expired. Its replacement, Mariscos Ensenada No. 5, is, candidly, far superior.

But a couple of generations of diners enjoyed Xochimilco and its colorful exterior mural, so this piece has value, perhaps, as history. It was published April 24, 2005.]

X marks the dining spot in ‘Pomona A to Z’

Step away from your Xbox and turn down your X record! Your full attention is needed for “Pomona A to Z,” my love letter of X’s and O’s for Pomona, as I embrace the letter X.

From Xenia, Ohio, to Xian, China, readers are wondering how yours truly, the Inland Valley’s answer to Xenophon, will find an X in Pomona.

The answer: With X-tra difficulty. To paraphrase the country song, all my X’s are in Texas, not Pomona.

Still, even if X candidates aren’t exactly springing up through xenogenesis, we can luxuriate in these runner-ups:

* X-rays at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, where the radiology department handled more than 155,000 x-citing procedures in 2004.

* “X-Files,” which filmed its Jan. 13, 2002 episode, in which Agent Doggett is in a Mexican jail with amnesia, in the 500 block of West Second Street. A Virgin Mary painting done for the shoot is still visible on a brick wall.

* The businesses Xcessories N Things, Xemco Inc., Xepa Car Wash, Xiomara Beauty Salon, XLent Technology and — hold onto your hat — Xochiquetzal Dance Studio.

X-cellent! With this bounty, it must be Xmas.

Yet the X in my little xylograph is a different choice. Before you start nagging me like Socrates’ wife Xanthippe, here it is: Xochimilco Mexican Restaurant.

Opened in November 1969 and still in the same minimall at Indian Hill and Holt, Xochimilco (pronounced “ZO-chee-meel-co”) is one of Pomona’s oldest Mexican eateries.

“People used to line up 20 minutes or a half hour outside because there weren’t that many Mexican restaurants,” said waitress Elsie Alvarez, who grew up nearby.

It’s been an oasis of stability in a changing world. The name, address, recipes, much of the decor and even the phone number have stayed constant.

“Oasis” is appropriate because the real Xochimilco is a garden and series of canals outside Mexico City known as “Mexico’s own Venice.”

Restaurant founder Carroll Gauslin loved vacationing in Xochimilco, Alvarez said. But he wasn’t from Mexico.

According to the story on a past menu, Gauslin was raised in New Mexico and Texas, where he picked up a love for chiles. He created the recipes for Xochimilco himself. A friendly, well-liked man, he married one of his waitresses, Dolores.

After his death, she kept the restaurant for a spell, then sold it in October 2001 to Carlos Argueta. Since May 2004 it’s been in the hands of David Gutierrez, only the third owner in the restaurant’s 35-year history.

Xochimilco has regulars who’ve been coming for years, first with their parents and now as adults.

Cathy Goring is one of them. She e-mailed to suggest I write about the place, which she’s been frequenting pretty much since it opened. So I invited her to lunch.

“I grew up a few blocks from here. We used to come here once a month when I was growing up,” Goring told me. Those were the days when the nearby mall, now the Indoor Swap Meet, had a Sears and a Zody’s Discount Department Store.

She recalled Xochimilco’s decor as being largely the same — quirky but memorable.

Bird cages with carved birds still hang from the ceiling. (“I Know Why the Caged Fake Bird Doesn’t Sing:?) Some diners sit under a shingled covering or a trellis. Odd, but nice.

The upholstered chairs and the beautifully tiled tables are said to have been brought from Mexico by Gauslin.

But the food is key. An online dining review says that “generations have enjoyed the chile rellenos,” and Goring said they’re among her favorites too. I tried one and liked it.

“It’s always good to come back and see the food is just as good as it used to be,” Goring said of her enchilada plate. “That was my fear when it changed hands, that the recipes would change.”

One reason they didn’t is that Serafin Juarez was the cook from the beginning until just two months ago, when he retired.

The original written recipes are still used, said manager Blanca Linebaugh, who is Gutierrez’s sister.

“I have them,” Linebaugh said. “And I make sure we’re following them.”

She might go one step further and make a Xerox.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, anxiously.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: W is for Westmont

[For W, I focused on a whole neighborhood, one that has a certain fascination for midcentury architecture buffs because of its tracts designed by Cliff May, creator of the ranch home. Oh, and the two people who run Westmont Hardware turned out to be a couple of authentic characters and well worth meeting. This column was published April 10, 2005.]

‘Pomona A to Z’ watches over Westmont

Welcome! “Pomona A to Z” today wades into the letter W, as we seek to become well-informed about Pomona, and not in a willy-nilly way.

To which W shall we bear witness? Try not to become weepy as I wistfully whisper of these wonders:

* Willie White, a former councilman, youth advocate and current neighborhood activist whose name is on a park.

* Winternationals, the largest drag-racing event in the world.

* Wilton Heights, a neighborhood of Craftsman bungalows and stately homes designated as a city historic district.

* Western University of Health Sciences, a school of osteopathic medicine that now occupies much of East Second Street, including the old Buffum’s department store.

Wild!

As is my wont, though, our W is different: Westmont.

That’s the western Pomona neighborhood that exemplified post-World War II optimism. Some 1,200 homes sprung up from 1946 to 1954, along with a shopping center, park, community center, elementary school and church.

With a little imagination, you could picture the superfamily from “The Incredibles” here. Homes along Wright and Denison streets have a similar, if smaller-scale, look to the movie: open floor plans, floor-to-ceiling windows, clean lines and side patios.

And take a gander at Westmont Community Center, Westmont Elementary or Westmont United Methodist Church, all on West Ninth Street. Is that Elastigirl and the kids driving (or flying) by?

Westmont got its start when home builder Edwin A. Tomlin began work on newly annexed land south of today’s Mission Boulevard and bisected by today’s Corona Expressway.

Most of his homes were standard stuff for returning GIs, but then Tomlin got experimental, hiring architect Arthur Lawrence Millier to design 50 affordable modern homes. Another 100 were prefab modern homes by Cliff May and Chris Choate.

May and Choate’s work was described by House and Home magazine as “almost the first low-cost house to offer the kind of California living everybody back East imagines all Californians enjoy.”

Maybe W should be for “whoa.”

Bruce Emerton has become a neighborhood archivist and booster since buying his home in 1995 for $130,000. He painstakingly restored his 1954 May home to its original look.

An art and architecture librarian at Cal Poly Pomona, Emerton drove me around on Wednesday, pointing out nice homes and shaking his head over ill-advised remodeling.

“A lot of them have been stuccoed and bastardized,” Emerton admitted. “A few are in good shape. Even a lot of ones that are messed up could be brought back.”

Speaking of messed up homes, people still talk about the 1982 city-sanctioned dynamite blast to close a dangerous cave in the Westmont Hills behind the neighborhood.

Fifteen homes were blown off their foundation and more than 500 were damaged. Oopsie!

A commemorative T-shirt quoting “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” put it this way: “Think Ya Used Enough Dynamite There, Butch?”

Westmont, though, is best remembered as home to General Dynamics, a missile factory that employed 13,000 at its peak. The plant opened in 1953 as Convair and closed in the early 1990s, the victim of Southern California aerospace cutbacks.

In its heyday, the plant produced missiles with such fun-lovin’ names as Red Eye, Mauler, Terrier and Advanced Terrier. Does Jack Russell know about this?

Unlike General Dynamics, one neighborhood icon remains. Westmont Hardware is a cozy store dating to 1949 that’s hanging on in this era of Home Depot and Lowe’s.

It has just two employees: owners Russell Riedel and Patsy Koenig.

Riedel was hired at the store out of high school in 1967 and has been there ever since, buying it in 1989 from its second owner. He remembers General Dynamics employees crossing Mission Boulevard “like herds of cattle” on lunch breaks, then the bad times later.

Things are more stable now. When the expressway becomes a freeway with a Mission interchange, big changes will come.

“I’ve been hearing about it 30 years,” said Riedel, who’s not exactly holding his breath.

Well, that’s the story of Westmont.

Was I too wordy?

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, three washouts.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: V is for Vietnamese

[After a monthlong break for reasons I can't recall -- vacation? deadline problems? other news crowding to get into my column? -- "A to Z" returned to print with the letter V.

I was happy to write about the Vietnamese community, fulfilling my goal of writing about the main ethnic groups in the city. There is still a vital Vietnamese presence in Pomona, and Pho Vi, a new restaurant, opened last month at Third and Thomas streets downtown. The only update to this piece is that the Vault nightclub, one of the runnerups, is gone.

This column was published March 27, 2005.]

‘A to Z’ veers toward topic you won’t pho-get

Filling a vacuum, my virtuous venture “Pomona A to Z” returns today to venerate that village’s virtues (while avoiding its vices).

Yes, we’re visiting the letter V, or vice versa. Which V best reflects the voodoo that Pomona does so well?

After vigorously vetting or vetoing a vast variety of V’s, I’ve voted for these vignettes, all vis-a-vis V:

* Veterinary school at the Western University of Health Sciences. Amazingly, it’s the only one in Southern California, as well as the only one in the nation headed by a woman.

* Vintage clothing from La Bomba, which dresses visiting rock stars and various locals.

* The Vault nightclub, housed in the 1925 First National Bank building, hence the name.

* Pioneering landowner Ricardo Vejar, who in 1837 co-owned the entire Pomona Valley. A footnote: The city bought 22 acres from his estate in 1922 to launch the L.A. County Fair.

Va-va-voom! Why, these V’s practically give me vertigo.

Yet I hope it won’t vex you to learn that our V is a different indicator of Pomona’s vitality. Our V gives voice to a community that’s very valuable: the Vietnamese.

After the April 30, 1975 fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese — 30 years ago next month — many Vietnamese fled communism and misery by cramming themselves valiantly into rickety wooden boats for the vagaries of a sea voyage to neighboring countries for repatriation.

Some 125,000 were accepted as refugees by the United States that year, the vanguard of more than 270,000 that followed by 1982, gaining the world’s sympathy.

Many settled in Orange County, but impressive numbers ended up in the Inland Valley. They’re concentrated in Pomona, where an estimated 10,000 live.

You may not even know they’re there, as the community is less visible than Pomona’s majority Latino population.

But a stretch of East Holt Avenue shows their presence. Hoa Binh is a market with Asian food and produce, as well as an eye-opening array of fresh fish. Asian characters can be seen on numerous storefronts.

Rather than experience this vicariously, I invited Diep Fintland to lunch. A real estate broker, she is a leader among local Vietnamese. We met at a popular restaurant, Pho Express, for my inaugural Vietnamese meal.

A type of soup, pho is pronounced “fuh.” (Now that you’re familiar with pho, no one can call you a fuddy-duddy.)

“Pho, it’s like pancakes for Americans. Usually it’s for breakfast, but you can eat it 24 hours,” Fintland said.

My bowl of Pho Tai — broth, rice noodles and rare steak — was delicious, albeit virtually impossible to eat.

The long, pasta-like noodles are meant to be eaten with chopsticks. I’m sure I could have done this if I’d had two hours — or the 24 hours Fintland mentioned — but after I fumbled around a while, owner Hoa Phan brought me a fork.

She and Fintland exchanged amused comments in Vietnamese about my struggle, some of which Fintland translated.

“You’re eating it like spaghetti!” Fintland joked as I twirled the noodles against my soup spoon with my fork.

Fintland, meanwhile, plucked the thin slices of beef from her pho and expertly rolled them into tubes, all with her chopsticks, for dipping into a saucer of spicy liquid. I shakily carried mine over flat with chopsticks or my fork.

I ate one-third of my pho before deciding to phogeddaboudit.

Much easier to eat, and just as tasty, were Cha Gio, a meaty eggroll wrapped in lettuce, and Phan Tau Hu Ky, crispy cubes of deep-fried tofu around shrimp paste. Now that’s eatin’!

The restaurant had a bustling lunch crowd of Vietnamese, Latinos and Caucasians. It re-opened in fall 2004 after several years as Pho 54 under different hands.

Phan’s son, Timmy Nguyen, who runs the restaurant, says his family had a hard life in Vietnam before coming here as refugees in 1983.

“That’s what has made me successful in the U.S. I don’t take anything for granted,” said Nguyen, 35, who sold cars for 11 years before helping his mother open the restaurant. He added later: “I adore America.”

Fintland came here in 1967 — by commercial plane — after high school to join a sister who’d married a serviceman. Their father was killed by the Communists when Fintland was 2.

She and her husband, whom she met in Bakersfield, have lived in Pomona since 1977.

Madelenna Lai and Fintland founded the Pomona organization Vietnamese Cultural House in 1997 to help preserve their roots. In 2002 they sponsored a Rose Parade float, in the shape of a boat, as a way to thank Americans for taking their people in.

“Freedom. A lot of people take it for granted,” Fintland observed.

There’s a lot of veracity in that.

(David Allen, who’s no virtuoso, writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: U is for Underpass

[My U choice was unknown until the day I finally took at look at that stone marker outside Joey's BBQ. When I read the inscription commemorating the nearby underpass, I laughed out loud there on the street corner. Granted, underpasses aren't unique to Pomona -- but stone markers for underpasses may be! This column was published Feb. 20, 2005.]

Pomona underpass was urgent undertaking for 76 years

It’s unnerving, but “Pomona A to Z,” my unabashedly upbeat ode to the city’s unplumbed depths, is up to the letter U.

Examples aren’t ubiquitous, but Pomona does have some unforgettable U runnerups with which you may be unacquainted:

* Underground art galleries in the basement of the Prog and Founders buildings downtown: Gallery 57 Underground, SCA Gallery and SoHo Gallery.

* U Pick U Save Auto Dismantling on East Mission, worth a U-turn by those looking for a replacement hubcap or side mirror.

* Unistar Foods, which provides meat and poultry to Filipino American restaurants and markets throughout Southern California.

Uplifting, eh? However, the U that deserves a chorus of ululation is unique — and admittedly unpromising.

It’s the Garey Avenue underpass.

(That’s underpass, not underpants.)

Each day, thousands of motorists pass below the railroad tracks downtown without a second thought.

But it wasn’t always this way. Waiting from a few minutes to a half-hour for a train to pass was once a daily occurrence.

Showing that government moves even slower than trains, the problem existed for eight decades before anything was done.

In 1887, the Progress-Bulletin editorialized:

“The railroad crossing at Garey Avenue was blocked last Monday forenoon for a considerable length of time by a freight train, causing no little annoyance and delay to passing to and fro of teams. That is an annoyance that should be abated at once.”

“Teams,” by the way, referred to horse-drawn wagons. Told you this was an age-old problem.

As Pomona grew, there was talk of building underpasses at the Garey, White and Towne rail crossings. Efforts intensified after July 15, 1948, when traffic was blockaded at noon for a half-hour, then at 1:30 p.m. for another half-hour.

Road rage, anyone?

As if reaching across the years to help me write today’s U-themed column, Southern Pacific passenger agent William Campbell told the Progress-Bulletin the incidents were “unfortunate and unavoidable.”

Enter Fred Sharp. Hired in 1949 as Pomona’s first city administrator, Sharp set about preparing the city for the future. Storm drains, a county courthouse and a new Civic Center were among his achievements before retiring in 1974.

So were rail crossings.

“People were getting killed on the railroad tracks … There was no program in California for (underpass construction). We had to go to court to force the railroads to cooperate. They claimed they were here first,” Sharp recalled in a 1985 interview.

By the late 1950s, railroads were required by state law to cough up money for grade separations. A state fund was set up to provide matching funds for qualifying projects.

Thanks to Pomona’s lobbying, Garey, White and Towne made the cut. Pomona voters overwhelmingly passed a $1.5 million bond issue to raise the city’s share — 30 percent — of the $5.3 million needed.

“It was a great effort. And the business community was strongly behind it,” Ora Lampman, hired in 1962 as a city engineer, told me recently.

Towne and White were done first. Construction on Garey began in August 1961. It turned into a nightmare, dragging on for two years because of its complexity.

Vehicle traffic was rerouted and temporary trestles were built to carry the trains.

Some 6,000 truckloads of dirt were hauled off. Then work began on the 110-foot-wide bridge, which supported three sets of tracks and two lanes of First Street.

Like an omelet, you can’t create a grade separation without breaking a few eggs. Did I really just type that? Pomona had to demolish a block of First Street on the west side of Garey as well as the 1914 Union Pacific depot.

Further setting this undercrossing apart is what may be the most unusual public works plaque in the Inland Valley.

I’m referring to a 6-foot stone marker rising nobly at the corner of Second and Garey, right outside a barbecue joint.

When I saw this grand monument to a humble underpass, I knew it was worthy of “Pomona A to Z.”

Anyway, on Aug. 15, 1963 — some 76 years after the 1887 editorial — Pomona held a lavish dedication for the underpass.

Some 1,000 people heard County Supervisor Frank Bonelli praise Pomona for perseverance “that is second to none.”

Perseverance that was tested again — just to sit through all the speeches.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, which is unfortunate and unavoidable.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: T is for Turkeys

[Somewhere along the line I'd heard Shelton's was a cult favorite and thus its product was tailor-made for the letter T.

Of the runnerups, the trompe l'oeil paintings were nixed because it was hard enough getting one photo into print, much less two. There was also a lobbying effort (an e-mail or two) by the Tony's French Dips people, who contacted me several letters in advance to make a pitch. Tony's would have been worthy too and will probably make my column at some point this year.

This column was published Feb. 6, 2005.]

Calling today’s ‘A to Z’ column a turkey is fair game

For Super Bowl Sunday, “Pomona A to Z” touches down on T.

Yes, this series’ trajectory means it’s time to pay tribute to the alphabet’s 20th letter.

Let me tell you, Pomona is a tableau that’s teeming with T’s, each contributing to the texture of that tremendous town, each a triumph that ought to be trumpeted.

Tingle at these tidbits:

* Twinkies at the L.A. County Fair — deep-fried, of course.

* Trompe l’oeil (“trick of the eye”) murals: one on the wall of a city parking lot at Second and Garey and another on the Sign-Wize office at Park and Monterey.

* Totem pole towering in the front yard of the home at Arrow Highway and Wilkie Drive.

* Two Thai restaurants in the same block of South Indian Hill: Sanamluang and Mix Bowl. They’re tip-top.

* Todd Memorial Chapel, a funeral home owned and operated by the same family since 1907.

* Tony’s French Dips, a Police Department favorite that’s served sandwiches since 1958. Cook Angie Campos has been dipping for three decades.

* Tacos, tortas and tortillas at Tropical Mexico (often known as Trop Mex) and other traditional taquerias.

Treasures all! And now that you’ve got the thrust of my theme, let me thrill you by revealing the T we’re tackling:

Turkeys from Shelton’s Poultry.

Getting a turkey from Shelton’s is an Inland Valley tradition. As Thanksgiving approaches, there’s often a line out the front door and around the corner for Ben Franklin’s favorite bird.

“It’s a social event,” said chief financial officer Ruth Flanagan, whose family owns Shelton’s.

Some customers have been coming for decades, and they love to share their memories of past purchases — talking turkey, as it were — with the staff.

Rich Havlena of Montclair has been buying Shelton’s turkeys for 30 years.

“You can taste the difference,” the retired phone company man, 62, told me. “And you can’t hardly screw ‘em up.”

Good news for once-a-year turkey chefs everywhere.

Fresh turkey wasn’t such a rare commodity in the olden days. The Pomona valley once had five turkey ranches, until they were gobbled up (har!) for development.

Shelton’s began in 1924, when newlyweds Margaret and O.J. Shelton got a unique wedding present: two turkeys. Hey, it beats another blender.

The couple bred their hen and tom and later began selling turkeys for meat. They had a ranch of about 15 acres at Franklin and San Antonio avenues, near today’s Simons Middle School.

O.J. Shelton died and in 1969 so did Fred, their son — the product of their personal breeding program.

Egg distributor Ken Flanagan and his family bought the business from Margaret that year. The Pomona natives have owned it ever since. Ken is retired, but four Flanagan sons and a sister-in-law share the business equally.

Shelton’s got out of the ranching business in 1970, when a farm in the middle of a suburb had become impractical.

“You need to be in a rural area. This isn’t rural anymore,” CEO Gary Flanagan said.

Turkeys are now raised in Fresno and slaughtered in Turlock, then shipped south. The Pomona facility on Loranne Avenue does cutting, boning and packaging, as well as retail sales.

Shelton’s sells 150,000 turkeys a year and 650,000 chickens, for $15 million in gross revenue — a decent output, but a far cry from Foster Farms.

“We’ve survived because we’re a niche market,” Gary Flanagan told me.

All Shelton’s turkeys and chickens are free range, meaning they’re raised outdoors and get more exercise, Flanagan said. Their food is natural and they aren’t given any chemicals.

As a company motto goes: “Our chickens don’t do drugs.”

(I believe their turkeys are warned: “Just gobble no.”)

Natural food stores and specialty markets such as Whole Foods and Wolfe’s in Claremont stock Shelton’s products, which include broth, canned chili and frozen entrees.

“We’re kind of the Tyson’s of the natural food business,” Flanagan said. “We sell natural food products in all 50 states.”

Some high-end restaurants, notably L.A.’s venerable Pacific Dining Car, serve Shelton’s chicken.

To my knowledge, Shelton’s did not supply any turkeys to “WKRP in Cincinnati” sitcom character Arthur Carlson for his radio station’s ill-fated Thanksgiving promotion.

You may recall how a shopping center was bombed with live turkeys from a helicopter, leading to Hindenburg-like chaos.

“As God is my witness,” a shaken Carlson said later, in a classic moment of television, “I thought turkeys could fly.”

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, three more turkeys.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: S is for Spadra

[Spadra was a natural choice for the letter S when I was writing this series. Not only is Spadra a crucial part of Pomona's origins, but people remain fascinated by the place, mostly because of its cemetery and the legends about frontier life and mysterious deaths. I've been in the library's special collections room more than once when some young person has come in to inquire politely about Spadra.

Mickey Gallivan of the Historical Society will be the first to tell you she plays up the drama because that's what people want to hear about Spadra. Too bad people persist in trespassing in the cemetery, which is private, and trashing the place. Not very respectful.

This column was first published Jan. 23, 2005.]

Suddenly, ‘Pomona A to Z’ spotlights Spadra

Salaam, sahibs! “Pomona A to Z” today surveys the letter S for a symbol to sum up the city. There’s such a surfeit, we won’t have to scrounge.

So silence, please, as we sequester ourselves in our shacks and shanties, there to solemnly scan the scads of specimens:

* Sugar Shane Mosley, the boxer, and Suga Free, the rapper, who hail from Pomona. Sweet!

* The stylish stables built in 1909 for City Hall’s horses in those pre-car days. They still stand at White and Monterey.

* Sacred Heart, St. Madeleine’s and St. Joseph’s, three churches serving the Catholic population.

* Special Collections, the room at the Public Library where you can research Pomona’s past.

* Soap Opera Laundry, whose sign bears the image of a washing machine with TV-style rabbit ears.

Scintillating!

As you’d suspect, those only scratch the surface. We should also stop to salute Stan Selby, who led the Pomona Concert Band for an astounding 47 years until his death last November.

But our S is something different: Spadra.

Now absorbed into west Pomona, Spadra lay roughly between today’s Valley and Mission boulevards on either side of the 57 Freeway.

The village sprung up in 1866 along a stagecoach line, then began crumbling a decade later as the railroad passed it by. All that’s left is the stately Phillips Mansion, which was built in 1875 and looks a lot like the house in “Psycho,” and a rather sad cemetery.

Residents never saw the end coming. When the upstart settlement of Pomona began in 1875, Spadra’s oldtimers derided it as “Monkey Town,” for reasons that remain obscure.

“They just thought Pomona would never be anything,” said Mickey Gallivan, president of the Historical Society of the Pomona Valley.

But it wasn’t just Spadra that had a short life. So did an alarming number of people who lived there.

As “The Village That Died,” a Historical Society booklet, puts it darkly: “The village of Spadra was characterized by murder, suicide and mysterious deaths.”

Maybe S should be for s-s-s-spooky.

Many Spadra stories start at Billy Rubottom’s inn, which is also where Spadra began. He’d bought 100 acres from Louis Phillips and set up shop along the Butterfield stage line.

To call Rubottom a colorful figure is like saying Shakespeare was a fair writer.

A rough frontiersman, he was wanted in his native Arkansas for killing two men with a knife. (I’m referring to Rubottom, not Shakespeare.)

And in El Monte, Rubottom shot his own son-in-law to death. Even more destructively, he’s been blamed for importing California’s first opossums.

Rubottom may have been the meanest man in Spadra, but he had competition — even from a man of the cloth.

In 1872, the Rev. William Standifer, a farmer, angrily confronted the town constable, knocking him down twice. A bullet in the shoulder from the constable’s gun only made Standifer madder. So the next bullet found the minister’s heart.

Spadra also saw a murder-suicide between two lovers and an ex-con stabbed to death by his brother-in-law, among other untimely demises. As recently as this month, January 2005, a ghostly figure has been reported in the Phillips Mansion.

The cemetery in Spadra has 212 graves, officially.

If you were killed in a barfight at Rubottom’s for, say, cheating at cards, “the rumor is they just dragged you off to the cemetery and buried you,” Gallivan said. “So there are probably more than 212 people buried there.”

The name Spadra, by the way, was stolen by Rubottom from his hometown in Arkansas. According to Gloria Ricci Lathrop’s “Pomona: A Centennial,” though, it was his second choice.

The valley was already known as San Jose from its days under Spanish rule. But Rubottom’s application for a post office by that name was rejected, because California already had a San Jose.

He succeeded with the name Spadra. We know it as Spah-dra, although the Arkansas pronunciation is said to be Spay-dra.

Opened in 1868, the Spadra post office was among the first half-dozen in California. The village was off to a good start.

Settled mostly by poor families fleeing the South, bustling Spadra soon had a school, a major road, warehouses for trade goods, three stores and two blacksmiths. All it lacked was a Starbucks.

Unfortunately, it soon lacked more than that. While Southern Pacific extended its line eastward to Spadra in 1874, by the next year the line went as far as Colton.

The train didn’t stop in Spadra anymore, and almost no one else did, either.

So long, Spadra.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, sentimentally.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: R is for Roman Goddess

[The letter R proved a good excuse to recount how Pomona got its name. As for the runnerups, Robbie's, Red Hill Pizza and Randy's Records have all closed. Sob! Oh, and the "Jane Eyre" quote referred to below is actually "Readers, I married him." I had recently read the book and couldn't resist mentioning it.

This column was originally published Jan. 9, 2005, as "A to Z," which began back in July 2004, entered its second calendar year with a roar.]

R is for Roman goddess, who brings classic touch to Pomona

To paraphrase “Jane Eyre”: Readers, I’m at the letter R. OK, it’s a loose paraphrase.

“Pomona A to Z,” my recondite review of that city’s raptures, today rests between Q and S. Which R should we recommend?

Let’s reconnoiter in your ready room for a referendum:

* Rainbird Rainforest, a learning center at Cal Poly Pomona mimicking a rain forest and funded by the sprinkler company.

* Randy’s Records, a vinyl album store on East Second Street, visited by many an out-of-town band at the Glass House.

* Red Hill Pizza, the eatery that spent 30 years in an old red barn on Holt before moving downtown. Try the lasagna.

* Robbie’s, the downtown nightspot that in 1968 hosted a luncheon for Robert F. Kennedy, just days before his assassination.

* Reference department at the Library, always ready to respond to your research requests.

Well, I could go on and on — what about Repo Man Recovery? Rockwell Collins? the Donahoo’s rooster? — but that might get repetitive.

Instead, let’s stop roamin’ and start Roman. Because our R is for Roman goddess, the deity for whom Pomona is named.

Until Los Angeles County redesigned its official seal in fall 2004, few realized its dominant image was the goddess Pomona in her flowing robes — a design created in 1957 by a Pomona native, artist Millard Sheets.

Tragically, Pomona got the heave-ho along with the seal’s cross. County supervisors decided scrapping the cross but leaving the pagan goddess might send a weird message.

But who was Pomona, and how did a Los Angeles suburb come to be named for a figure from Roman mythology?

“Not much is known about her,” says Richard McKirahan, a professor of classics at — where else? — Pomona College.

She was a goddess, “but a minor one, not in the league of Jupiter or Venus,” says McKirahan, noting that mentions of Pomona in myths are scant and sometimes contradictory.

Her sphere of influence was fruits, especially those that grow on trees. I forgot to ask whether that includes tomatoes.

“Her priest was the lowest ranking priest in the Roman hierarchy, which may mean that she was considered the humblest of the gods and goddesses,” McKirahan says.

So Pomona’s namesake is a goddess, but one with a public relations problem. Somehow that seems fitting.

The name came about like this. In 1875, real-estate investors from L.A. bought 2,500 acres out here for $10,000, then subdivided the land into lots for public auction.

They sponsored a contest to name the town.

Citrus nurseryman Solomon Gates, a Pennsylvania native who loved Greek and Roman mythology, decided his entry would play off hopes that the town would become a horticultural paradise.

He feared the name would be too fancy, his son, Superior Court Judge Walter S. Gates, told the Historical Society in 1963.

But at a community meeting, contest judges declared: “Henceforth, our new settlement will be known as Pomona.”

That’s certainly better than the derisive nickname by which the settlement had been known: Monkey Town.

When the city incorporated on Jan. 6, 1888, Pomona was official. And catchy: At least eight other U.S. cities adopted the name.

Local images of the goddess abound. She was depicted on fruit crate labels. She’s on the city seal, affixed to city vehicles, buildings and letterhead.

There are even modern twists. A wall-sized mural downtown features a Latino-tinged goddess.

More traditional is the version on display in the Pomona Library: a 5-foot-3 statue of Pomona carved from marble and shipped here from Italy more than a century ago.

As the Pomona Progress described the figure upon its arrival:

“It represents the goddess in the act of returning from the fruit harvest, the folds of her gown being filled with fruits, while in the hair about the brow are tastefully arranged small clusters of grapes.”

An exact replica of a statue from antiquity, it was commissioned by the Rev. Charles F. Loop, a wealthy Episcopalian from Pomona. He saw the original while in Florence and thought a copy would make a dandy icon for his hometown.

It was presented on July 4, 1889, and has always been housed in the Library. Today, from inside her glass case, she keeps a watchful eye on the main floor.

“Most people just come by and look,” library staffer Camilla Berger says. “But (a former staffer) told me that years ago, some people came in who worship Pomona.”

Well, California is the land of fruits — and nuts.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, religiously.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: Q is for Quartermaster

[Q turned out to be the hardest letter and the only one for which I felt compelled to pick something that no longer physically existed: the WW II-era Quartermaster Depot. (Although some of the buildings still stand.)

The quilt mentioned below wouldn't have worked without a gigantic photo to show each panel. Quinceaneras aren't unique to Pomona. Someone suggested Quality Thrift Store but that turned out to be in Montclair. And I wasn't going to pick Quizno's. Two years after "A to Z," I learned Pomona still had a quarter-midget racetrack. Shoot! Oh well, it's gone now anyway.

This column was originally published Dec. 26, 2004.]

Finding a Q for Pomona means turning to an old warhorse

“Pomona A to Z,” my quixotic quest to document the city’s quality, today reaches the letter Q, and you can imagine my qualms.

With readers’ few Q suggestions mostly quartered in other cities, I was in a quandary, my qwerty keyboard quiet, until research — whew! — turned up examples of my quarry.

Let me queue up a quartet of possibilities:

* Quilt made for Pomona’s 1988 centennial depicting structures from city history. Check it out on the second floor of City Hall. Can you identify each panel?

* Quest Academy, a private school on Phillips Boulevard serving students from grades three to 12.

* Quarter horse races at Fairplex Park during the L.A. County Fair.

* Quinceanera, the 15th-birthday celebration for Latinas, made possible by Pomona party, clothing and disc jockey businesses.

Which Q will quantify Pomona’s quintessence, you query? I hope you won’t become quarrelsome when I say it’s none of the above.

Instead, our Q is the Quartermaster Depot, the World War II-era name for what is now Cal Poly Pomona. Thanks to Betty Peters for the suggestion.

The depot was one of seven facilities in the nation where the U.S. military, to fight the Nazis, trained its secret weapon: horses.

Yes, horses.

Somehow we won the war anyway.

“It sounds like something out of the Civil War, doesn’t it?” said Melissa Paul, curator of Cal Poly’s Arabian Horse Library.

The Quartermaster’s Remount Service was founded in 1775 to breed, train and supply horses to Army troops in the field and was still galloping along in the thick of the 20th century.

Mechanization was in its nascent stages in World War I, when 571,000 horses and mules carried supplies to U.S. troops.

The expectation was that World War II would be no different, Mary Jane Parkinson wrote in “The Kellogg Arabian Ranch: The First 60 Years,” her history of the Cal Poly property.

American strategists learned the Germans had 791,000 horses, compared to our 750.

You’ve heard of the missile gap? This was a horse gap.

Spurred (har!) into action, the Remount Service looked for fresh horses and a site for a new depot in the West, which it found in good ol’ Pomona on what had been cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg’s 800-acre Arabian horse ranch.

The War Department took control in August 1943 and proved a better steward than the state university system, which had let the property decline after Kellogg donated it in 1932.

Under the Remount Service, horses again became the central mission and Sunday horse shows for the public continued.

Improvements were made, too. Block walls, landscaping and irrigation were installed by German and Italian prisoners of war, who were held at the Pomona fairgrounds.

No, they didn’t eat rations of cotton candy and corn dogs.

Col. F.W. Koester, who had led the Army’s War Dog center in San Carlos, was made Pomona’s commanding officer, perhaps indicating that horses were a promotion from dogs.

But as it turned out, jeeps and trucks transported personnel and supplies in this war, not horses.

After the war, the Army got out of the horse business. It closed the Pomona Quartermaster Depot in June 1948.

“After more than four and a half years,” Parkinson wrote of Kellogg’s ranch, “the military air was gone; no more inspections from Quartermaster generals and colonels, no more military decorations ceremonies at the flagpole, no more Quartermaster insignia over the main entry to the stables, and no more salutes in the archways.”

The ranch was nearly sold as surplus and its prized horses auctioned off until halted by a public outcry. The property, with the blessing of Kellogg, then 88, was deeded in 1949 to the state, which established what became Cal Poly.

Much of the wartime activity in Pomona remains a mystery.

“We have very little detail on what happened. We just don’t have the records,” said Paul, the library curator.

A sheaf of declassified documents a mere inch thick accounts for those five years. Author Parkinson managed to pry them from the National Archives under the Freedom of Information Act in 1990.

Among the tidbits deemed hush-hush for nearly a half-century: a 1942 inventory of Kellogg’s 81 horses, with their names, and the one-page 1943 depot budget listing $36,340 in expenses, including the chief clerk’s salary of $2,300.

Keep that on the QT.

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday in nearly quotidian fashion.)

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‘Pomona A to Z’: P is for Primm

[As I've said, in this series I tried to touch on a wide swath of Pomona, including ethnicities. Thus, I was pleased to devote the letter P to an obscure but long-lived church serving the black community. This column was originally published Dec. 12, 2004. Bear that in mind for a couple of references below to "today," which is long past.]

P is for Primm, Pomona’s small but proud church

Things have come to a pretty pass with “Pomona A to Z,” which picks up with the letter P.

Among Pomona’s plethora of P possibilities:

* Pan dulce at panaderias, the Mexican bakeries that are plentiful in Pomona.

* Phillips Mansion, the 1875 home of pioneer Louis Phillips, whose name graces Phillips Ranch and Phillips Boulevard.

* Presidential streets Lincoln, Roosevelt, McKinley, Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Garfield, Monroe and Buchanan.

* Porpoise statue depicted in mid-dive in an East Second Street fountain, installed as part of 1962′s Pedestrian Mall.

* Picture postcards by Pomona photographer Burton Frasher Sr. (1888-1955). The Pomona Library has 5,000 of them, many viewable online at http://content.ci.pomona.ca.us./index.html

* Pomona College, which held its first classes at White and Mission in 1888 before moving to Claremont — without changing its name — the next year. For entertainment value, it’s hard to beat the plaque affixed to a rock that marks the historic college’s birthplace, which is now Angelo’s Burgers.

Which P to pick? What a pickle! But our P is yet another peak: Primm Tabernacle AME Church.

Primm is no Pilgrim Congregational or First Baptist, the stately churches that consume entire city blocks in the heart of town, grand reminders of the days when Pomona was dubbed “City of Churches.”

Primm is a modest complex along South Garey Avenue. Yet it has a history as noteworthy as its wealthier brethren.

The valley’s first black church, it was pastored in the 1960s by the Rev. Cecil M. “Chip” Murray, who went on to become the best-known minister in Los Angeles.

The history is long, too. In fact, Primm is getting older all the time.

Its 40th anniversary fell in 1948, its 100th in 1998 and its 108th just six years later — today, as a matter of fact.

No, time isn’t speeding up. Historians keep changing their mind on when the church started. More on this in a minute.

Today’s service is planned for 10 a.m., followed by a ceremony and a soul food lunch.

Here’s a capsule of milestones. Pomona’s First AME — affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal denomination — built a small church in 1908 at 10th and Thomas. The church adopted the Primm name in 1961, naming itself after an AME bishop, and moved to its current, larger quarters, a former Mormon church, in 1977.

The 1908 church still stands today as the home of a Baptist congregation. About the size of an apartment, the simple wooden building has been covered in gray stucco.

Next door is a small parsonage, and behind it is — historians take note — the original outhouse, used by Primm members until the 1977 move.

On a recent visit, two longtime church members reflected on the old days there.

Johnnie Williams, a member since 1963, remembers trying to sneak out of church early one day without the minister catching her. She was busted, she recalled with a laugh, when she left her Bible in the privy and had to go back for it.

Dorothy Heard joined the church in 1975. Despite a lifetime of churchgoing, Primm is where she finally felt saved.

“The place was small. Everybody had to sit close. We had to be close whether we wanted to or not,” Heard said. “I miss this little church in a way.”

Exactly when the little church began is hard to pin down. Records are sketchy, and newspapers virtually ignored the black church, as one might expect of that era.

City directories have surfaced with listings for “Methodist Church, African, corner Third and Olive” as far back as 1896, thus accounting for the 108th anniversary celebration today, event co-chairwoman Eleanor Duncan told me.

Who knows — with more research, the 110th anniversary could be next month.

There’s no other information before 1909, but it’s safe to conclude the church had just a handful of members, most of whom were probably citrus workers, domestics or janitors like other blacks of the day.

The church seems to have suffered shifting fortunes. Listings fell in and out of city directories over the first half of the 20th century, and a brief notice from 1947 in the Progress-Bulletin said the church was set to reopen.

Pomona’s black population exploded in the 1960s, going from 800 in 1960 to 10,000 in 1970, setting the stage for the church’s resurgence.

The Rev. Murray served in that era. He retired in fall 2004 as pastor of L.A.’s First AME, which he built from a small congregation to a must-stop for Democratic politicians.

Duncan and Williams are among those who remember Murray’s 1964 to 1966 Pomona tenure, immediately after finishing his studies at the Claremont School of Theology.

“We were the first church he ever pastored,” Duncan said. “In fact, he baptized my daughter (Eva), who’s now an AME pastor. She was his first baptism.”

(David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, his particular pattern.)

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