Richfield sign’s return

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The Richfield sign atop the restored Cucamonga Service Station was put back in place Friday morning. Reader Diego Ramirez contributed the two photos above. The gas station, now a Route 66 museum, was built in 1915 and stands on Foothill Boulevard just west of Archibald Avenue.

You might recall that the rooftop sign was taken down in February until its height could be lowered by a couple of feet. Its placement interfered with the electronic billboard next door, and its owner, Lennar Advertising Co, had after all donated the service station to the nonprofit Route 66 Inland Empire California Association, so its request deserved consideration.

Below is a view of the newly installed sign on Monday, shot by me as a selfie out my window while stopped at a red light in the northbound turn lane! There’s a small shopping center going up to the west, as you can see.

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Remembering Lord Charley’s

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Lord Charley’s (2035 W. Foothill Blvd., Upland, at Central Avenue) operated from 1971 to 1991, followed by another decade as Charley’s Pub and Grill, which closed in 2002. Sunday’s column (Aug. 6, 2016) will be about the restaurant.

Here are some photos courtesy of co-owner Linda Keagle and phone directory ads courtesy of the Ontario Public Library’s Model Colony History Room.

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Above and below, two views of the dining room. Linda Keagle says: “The rock fireplace was originally part of the old Matteo’s Italian restaurant. That building was torn down in the ’60s and the second generation of the Matteo family rebuilt the present structure around the old rock fireplace. We took over the location in 1971. The fireplace was open to both the dining room and the bar and was a major part of the ambiance.”

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Linda says of the above photo: “This particular table was the ‘family table’ for the Keagles. There were six chairs at the table when we dined there, the two of us and our four young kids. By the way, we were all present when we closed the restaurant in January 2002. Lots of wonderful memories of dinners with our family and our friends.”

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The above ad was in the 1972 phone book.

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The above ad was from 1980.

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The ad above appeared in 1982. The English lord is now going hatless. And he’s eating as well as drinking.

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Linda brought a menu to show me, mounted on oak.

Did you ever eat at Lord Charley’s or Charley’s Pub? What do you remember?

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Restaurant of the Week: House of Pong

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House of Pong, 1077 W. Foothill (at Towne), Claremont

This small brown building squeezed between a Shell station and the Stater Bros. center was home to Inka Trails for many years and Jeni Wren’s for under a year. It’s now House of Pong, an Asian fusion restaurant, although you could be forgiven for reading the Gothic script of the sign as something slightly racy.

Someone else had recommended it to me as a great small plates place, but I was skeptical, figuring the restaurant would close before I could get there anyway based on the location. But months later, it was still open when a friend suggested it for dinner based on the 4.5-star Yelp rating. So we took a chance.

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The rustic interior has been redone, and a bar has been added. It was a slow weeknight and we were the only customers for a long stretch. The server was attentive, but then, she didn’t have anything else to do.

The menu has salads, soups, sandwiches and entrees, many seafood-based, including ramen, udon, yakisoba and rice bowls. It was tricky figuring out what combinations of plates from the wide-ranging menu might make a satisfying meal.

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We split an appetizer, Flamin’ Cheesy Cheetos ($7), which were mozzarella sticks covered in crumbled cheetos, and strangely addicting. My friend had the soft-shell crab sandwich ($13), served on Hawaiian bread. He said there was a lot of crab but that he mostly tasted the breading.

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I had the salmon skin salad ($8) and Under the Sea soup ($7). The soup, with scallop, clams, mussel, shrimp, zucchini and onion, was lukewarm and seemed made up of individual ingredients. The salad was better.

Some of the Yelp photos look better than what we had, so we might just have ordered poorly. That said, the rapturous reviews didn’t match our experience, and I can’t recommend the place. Cute chalkboard, though.

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Column: HUD audit raises roof at Pomona meeting

In the final meeting for six weeks of the Pomona City Council, a HUD audit comes to light that doesn’t look good for Pomona or a council member. But the city says the 2-year-old findings should work out okay. Also, another council member is said to be able to balance bulky objects on his face. It’s never dull in Pomona, as those news items and more make up Wednesday’s column.

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Reading Log: July 2016

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Books acquired: none

Books read: “Howards End,” E.M. Forster; “Howards End is on the Landing,” Susan Hill; “Then We Came to the End,” Joshua Ferris

Are the end times here? They were for me in July, when my three books all had the word “end” in them. Two, in fact, had “Howards End” in them. How meta.

I’m an admirer of Forster’s work, having enjoyed “A Passage to India” in college and “A Room With a View” three years back.

“Howards End” is his best known. In short, three families from different social classes intersect in ways both comic and tragic. It’s an examination of the difference money and privilege, both financial and male, can make, and an ode to a pastoral England that seemed to be disappearing. If you don’t mind reading a book from 1910, this is a good one.

I bought it (at DTLA’s Last Bookstore, in 2013) shortly after buying Hill’s book (at Powell’s, in Portland), which I had seen that spring at the St. Louis Public Library and made a note to look for. It’s a book about books, as Hill, a literary celebrity in England (she wrote “The Woman in Black”), goes looking for her copy of “Howards End,” can’t find it, but in her search realizes she has a lot of books she’d forgotten about, or had never read. (She might be a distant cousin of this blog.)

She spends a year taking a fresh look at her collection, rereading old favorites and thinking of the associations they called up, sometimes because she knew the author. So there’s name-dropping, and some readers lose patience with this 2009 memoir for that reason, which is understandable. I liked it anyway.

And now we come to “Then We Came to the End,” a debut novel from 2007 about office life, a ripe but scarcely explored fictional subject, and written in the first person plural (“we”). That proves a witty way of reflecting the collective unconscious of a company’s employees. A Chicago advertising agency circa 2000 begins downsizing, leading to angst and desperation. The ensemble cast slowly reveals themselves to us as distinct individuals, the observations ring true and the hi jinx are balanced by heartache.  And time and again, like when Tom Mota hides a piece of sushi in enemy Joe Pope’s office until it becomes rank as a corpse at a homicide scene, it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

I bought “…the End” at Powell’s in 2013 too. Oddly, my three books this month were bought in either September or October of 2013. I couldn’t resist reading “Howards End” the same month as “Howards End is on the Landing.” Another connection: Hill, as a mental exercise, winnows her collection to 40 keepers, listed at the end, while Ferris, in an appendix, lists around 50 of his favorites. There’s no overlap. I love lists like these, even if they’re slightly depressing — I’ve read six of Hill’s 40, and even fewer of Ferris’ 48.

In another tie, one book cited by Hill, “The Diary of Francis Kilvert,” of whom I’d never heard, is mentioned in a book I started over the weekend. “Ah, Kilvert’s ‘Diary,’ of course,” I could say to myself sagely.

And thus we’ve come to the end, ha ha, of another blog post. How was your July, readers? Did it end well?

Next month: a book that mentions Francis Kilvert, and more.

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Column: Stars (bronze ones) come out so skaters won’t

A story kind of fell in my lap as I walked out of Upland City Hall to see work being done to the Veterans Monument to deter skaters. That seemed newsworthy and became the top part of Friday’s column, followed by a Cinema Corner and other items. (Several other items prepared for the column are bumped to next week, or never. That’s the way the items crumble, folks.)

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Restaurant of the Week: Mi Cafecito

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Mi Cafecito, 101 S. Main St. (at First), Pomona; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Monday

A coffeehouse with a Latin twist, Mi Cafecito is the first independent coffee shop in downtown Pomona in some years. It’s in the former VFW building, renovated and carved into storefronts and offices, by the railroad tracks.

I met a Pomona friend there on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago. It’s a small place on the corner, with floor to ceiling windows on both sides, letting in lots of light, and the interior is cheery.

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The menu has espresso and coffee drinks, most available hot, iced or frozen, all 16 ounces, with such flavors as cajeta, caramelo and hazelnut, plus brewed coffee and pour-overs. They also sell some bakery items, including flan, cookies, dessert empanadas and cakes, made by a bakery owned by the owner’s father.

My friend had a frozen coconut latte with almond milk ($6) and I got an iced horchata latte ($5.45). We took one of the small tables and on this warm afternoon caught up over our cold drinks.

She called hers “yummy,” said she’d be back (she has) and hoped Mi Cafecito would succeed despite its corner location a block above Second Street.

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Since then it’s become a near-weekly stop for me. I’ve ordered something different each time. I’ve had two iced lattes — tres leches (made with three milks: regular, condensed and evaporated) and coconut — and four frozen lattes: mocha Mexicano, churro (!), masapan and vanilla. The latter three are my favorites. Tres leches, pictured above, was a little sweet for my taste, but that’s personal. I tried an apple empanada ($1.50), which I liked, on the same visit. The churro latte is below.

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The staff I’ve dealt with are exceptionally nice and remember my name, and on my fourth visit even recalled the three previous drinks I’d ordered. On one visit they had cafe de olla, which they don’t always make, and gave me a small cup. (They have no idea I have a blog or anything; they just recognized me as a regular and gave some away near closing time.) That was actually among my favorite drinks too, and I’m not a hot coffee person.

Mi Cafecito seems to have caught on. It’s got a five-star rating on Yelp, and on my visits, a heartening range of customers walk in, from chipsters to middle-aged couples to families with small children or grandchildren. Hours have increased, another good sign: They recently added an extra hour in the evenings and two hours more on weekend mornings, although they’re still closed Mondays.

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A bookish friend doesn’t like the stark, modernist seating, all stools with high-top tables, and it’s true too that the tables are so small it’s hard to get more than two drinks (if you’re with someone) or a drink and a laptop on them; on one visit I put my dessert plate on a nearby chair.

But they’re trying to make good use of a small-ish space, and they are. Warm regards to them. Also, you can watch trains go by, which is kind of cool.

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