Remembering Don’s Hobby Hut

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Above, the vacant lot where Mustang Books used to stand.

In January I posted about the demolition of Mustang Books, a long-standing dirty book emporium on Upland’s Central Avenue. But that wasn’t the first business in that building. Michael Guerin, who was the subject of a 2012 post about the Grove Theatre Pal Club of his youth, emailed me about more innocent shop of the 1960s. Take it away, Michael:

“Every time I pass the site of the former adult bookstore on the west side of Central just south of Foothill I am reminded of an earlier hobby shop that occupied the building.

“It was the 1960s and the concrete block building at the front of that lot was owned by a man named Don Domes and operated under the name Don’s Hobby Hut.

“This was at the time the only decent place to buy model cars and airplanes, early remote control aircraft and other hobby stuff.

“Don was a trendsetter in that he even had discontinued Revell or Monagram plastic model kits up on the high shelf available for some exorbitant price for those that were real aficionados.

“That place may have kept me alive in my elementary school years even into early teens.

“I don’t know that anyone’s mentioned it and it certainly doesn’t show any Google searches but I thought I would reminisce about it anyway in case it comes up in other conversations about local history.

“I think it closed down in the late ’70s or early ’80s and later as we all know it became a hobby shop of a different sort before being closed down and later bulldozed.”

Thanks, Michael. Now, if someone ever Googles “Don’s Hobby Hut Upland,” they’ll get one useful result.

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‘The dips’

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I’ve heard of “the dips” and “the bumps,” both of which were wiped out by progress but which were beloved by young people. Some of you commented on them a few years back on this blog on an unrelated post.

But then this photo popped up on Facebook’s “Growing Up in Upland” page, courtesy of Darin Kuna. It dates to 1939 and shows 19th Street between Upland and Alta Loma, looking east. Notice the dip?

Reader Rich P. explained the lay of the land in a comment on this blog back in 2008:

“The 19th Street bumps were on the Cucamonga Creek wash, between the flood control channel just west of Sapphire and Campus. They were wiped out by the Colonies project. They were dangerous, because some people would drive slower in case some nut was making a blind pass in the other direction, and the nuts would pass these slower drivers. My daughter loved the bumps at normal (not airborne) speed.”

Then there were “the bumps,” located on Base Line Road/16th Street between Claremont and Upland. Reader Tad Decker explained what those were:

“At the time, this was a long stretch of two-lane highway through barren, rocky scrubland. The road basically followed the natural topographic contours of the area, and thus was very hilly. If you traveled the road at a high rate of speed, you could be airborne for a second or two. This was great fun for me as a child with my dad driving, but the bumps were smoothed out by the time I was behind the wheel myself.”

Want to share a memory about the dips or the bumps? Leave a comment.

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Remembering El Adobe Village

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Rather than a town of ancient cliff dwellers, El Adobe Village was a shopping center in La Verne. Located at Foothill Boulevard and Wheeler Avenue, it was a unique-looking series of buildings. Let’s let Eric Scherer of the city planning department tell the story. There’s even a personal note to it.

“Originally constructed in several phases between 1977 and 1979, it was designed with Spanish-style architecture, interior courtyards, fountains, smooth plaster, large wooden gates at the entry points, ‘desert’ landscaping (what we would call drought-tolerant today) with the main anchor being a large Carlos O’Brien’s Mexican restaurant that had live entertainment. Some women would complain, however, as the walkways were purposely uneven and it was difficult to walk through the center while wearing heels.

“The building housed many shops, some of which remained within town at different locations after the center closed (Sarcas Ski and Sport, Bob Mastro pharmacy, and JML Haircutting (the only one still open today)).There was a Sgt. Pepper’s restaurant too… although it seems like that was just a sandwich/salad type place with no real theme (imagine the possibilities!). The center also boasted a pet store, a Chinese restaurant and a sweet shop.

“As a kid, being able to run around the interior corridors, play at the fountain and explore the place while my mom was getting her hair done at JML Haircutting was one of my favorite things to do growing up in La Verne.

“Having these interior corridors, however, proved to be the reason why the center was not successful. The development was designed mainly with access to the shops taken from within the courtyard area, with one building being located completely within the center, with absolutely no visibility from Foothill or Wheeler.

“The lack of visibility made it difficult for tenants to keep their doors open. Most people have very fond memories of the center, but apparently didn’t shop there enough. The building was torn down in 1990, the site sat vacant for many years except for the Carl’s Jr. on the corner, until the site was developed with Rite Aid in 1999 and soon after came AutoZone.”

Thank you, Eric. He also notes that the Cattleman’s Wharf/Toppers building, subject of a previous blog post, was next door. The accompanying photos from the planning department’s files give a rough sense of the property and were taken in 1981.

Do you remember El Adobe Village and its shops? Based on the photos, there was an Arthur Treacher’s fish and chips eatery.

* Update: At bottom, a 1980 ULV yearbook ad for El Adobe Village, also contributed by Scherer, had a map. My favorite business name: United Hairlines. (Salons always have the best names.) And note the El Adobe motto, “Like a stroll through Old Mexico…”

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El Adobe Ad 1980 MAP

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Remembering Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze

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Frosty Freeze was a teen hangout on Foothill Boulevard in eastern Upland across from Memorial Park. Some called it Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze, or just Yum Yum’s. From the sign, it looks like the phrase wasn’t necessarily intended as part of the name, but I can see the appeal of calling the place Yum Yum’s.

According to a reminiscence by Shelby Garrett, the stand went up in 1950, founded by Mary Weitzel: “Teenagers went there for great hamburgers, shakes, malts and dancing.”

One habitue was future crime novelist Joseph Wambaugh, who told me a few years ago that Yum Yum’s was a favorite hangout for him and the rest of the Chaffey High crowd in the 1950s.

Mike Guerin, who grew up in Upland, took the above photo in 1981 when Frosty Freeze closed. Note the sign in the window: “We Quit. Out of Business. We Will Miss You.” (Click on the photo for a much larger view.) Guerin says: “Just found this in my files. Fast food from a family restaurant. Millie was always at the register.”

Do you remember Yum Yum’s Frosty Freeze?

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‘Kapu-Kai: The Polynesian Paradise’

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Photo courtesy TikiRoom.com

We’ve posted before about the Kapu-Kai bowling alley, coffee shop and cocktail lounge in Cucamonga, built in 1962, according to Charles Phoenix’s “Cruising the Pomona Valley,” and occupying the northwest corner of Foothill Boulevard and Vineyard Avenue until 1969, when a devastating flood buried the business under water and mud. The building sat vacant for years, later became Holiday roller rink and was demolished in 1994. An Albertsons was erected on the site.

Colin Sato, a son of owner Warren Sato, has produced a 27-minute film on the Kapu-Kai and tiki culture, and it’s quite well done. This blog provided quiet assistance, as I put Sato in touch with Joe Filippi and Linda Frost, who’d both commented here on the Kapu-Kai; Sato flew here from Honolulu to interview them, conduct research at the Ontario library and talk to SoCal tiki fetishists.

Watch “Kapu-Kai: The Polynesian Paradise” here. And way to go, Colin.

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Charles Phoenix in Claremont!

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Pop culture entertainer Charles Phoenix showed slides of midcentury bowling alleys, car washes, tiki apartments, ranch houses, dairies, donut shops, laundries and coffee shops Sunday in an event organized by Claremont Heritage. An L.A. resident who grew up in Ontario, he had slides from all around Southern California, with loads from the Inland Valley.

Local sites mentioned were Griswold’s, Betsy Ross, La Paloma, Tugboat Annie’s (“the best restaurant in Claremont,” he quipped), the Folk Music Center, the Chaffey High tiger, the Fair’s monorail and Fine Arts Building, the downtown Pomona mall, Scripps College’s Garrison Theater, the Bowlium (“science fiction style with a little Fred Flintstone thrown in”), Tate Cadillac, White Front, Valley Drive-In, Magic Lamp Inn (“I don’t know who built it, but they were pretty drunk when they did”), Santa’s Village, Northwoods Inn, and the Colby Kai and The Claremont apartments in Claremont.

Above, Phoenix discusses the unusual design of the old Hot Dog Show stand in Ontario. “I want to ask the owner, did you ever step back and see what your designer gave you? It looks like a rather large person wearing red and white tights is squatting over your stand! That makes those halo’d, floating hot dogs especially unappetizing.”

He did have a serious message, of sorts, about the surviving examples of the above and why we ought to save them: “Don’t you guys think people in the future might want to see it?” Indeed.

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‘Go See Cal’

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Photo from LA Observed

Cal Worthington died Sunday at age 92, reminding us of an era of car dealers with high profiles, broad personalities and wacky TV commercials to match. An obituary is here.

Reader Bob House reflects: “I bet lots of 909ers have memories of late-night car salespeople. In addition to Cal and his ‘dog,’ Spot, there was Ralph Williams and his dog, Storm, a guy who had ‘cars coming out of his ears’ — toy cars on a string pulled so as to appear to be coming out of his ears.”

House continued: “And, regrettably, Bob Yeakel, a dealer who in the early ’50s sponsored ‘Rocket to Stardom,’ an amateur talent competition, which featured live interviews with his car dealership’s customers. After one such interview with a black couple who were satisfied with their purchase, Mr. Yeakel turned to the camera and said, ‘There goes a couple of happy (racial epithet).'”

And of course there was Worthington and his “dog, Spot,” who might be a gorilla in one ad or a frog in the next, but was never a canine. That doesn’t have much to do with cars, but it got attention. This LA Observed post includes two videos: a vintage commercial and a compilation of his wackiest stunts.

Worthington had dealerships all over SoCal, including Claremont..He bought the Auto Center out of bankruptcy in 1995 and sold it 14 months later to Roger Hogan. In the interim, he did tape some commercials from Claremont. (I know when I think of exotic animals and homespun car dealers, I think of the City of Trees and Ph.Ds.)

Care to share any memories of Cal or his fellow hucksters?

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Vintage hotel postcards

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Reader Erik Griswold found these images on flickr from the Boston Public Library’s collection. The Orange Hotel, above, was in downtown Ontario; the Melody Ranch, below, was a bit west on Holt. Beautiful, eh? I like the visible texture of the linen postcards too and how it affects the image. Instagram should offer a “linen” option.

Griswold also found similar images for the Peppertree Hotel on Valley Boulevard in Ontario and the Eldo Hotel at 987 E. Holt Ave. in Pomona.

The library’s complete California postcard collection can be found here. (Among the postcards are images showing orange groves, Pomona Valley Creamery and W.R. Shadoff Chevrolet in Pomona.) Thanks to Erik for finding these so we can admire them.

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