Sunday, July 13, 2008
Things That Aren't Here Anymore
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen will occasionally include columns in the newspaper or on his blog site about restaurants and businesses that have closed, been replaced or are simply not there anymore.
I started thinking about some of the places I’d go with regularity around Claremont and the Pomona Valley when I was younger. It’s surprising just what isn’t here anymore.
For example, way back when I was really young, there was a restaurant on the corner of Foothill and Garey in Pomona called Henry’s, where you could park and the carhops would take your order and serve you in your car. It had an elaborate dining area inside, which seemed like a contradiction to the pre-fast-food approach outside. That place was long gone well before I could drive, so I never really experienced it much. It gave way to a series of other restaurants, including Tiffany’s, the Northeast Corner and the Odyssey Disco before becoming a strip mall.
My family would often shop in the center on the southeast corner of Garey and Foothill, where we called the Thriftymart grocery store “The Big T” because of the huge “T” sign. There was Owl Drug, Sprouse-Rietz, a pet store, a baseball card shop and a Keds shoe store that was run by midgets. Across Garey was the bowling alley, which was one of the few places kids could go hang out, along with the old miniature golf course on the corner of Foothill and Lynoak (where Dave Bosson was successfully convinced to switch girlfriends—for a couple of days).
The movie theaters were still single-screen theaters, except for the one behind the Montclair Plaza that had three separate theatres. Claremont had the Village Theater, which was the one and only form of nightlife in downtown Claremont at the time. The streets shut down early, including the few downtown restaurants. At night, Claremont was a ghost town, except for the Village Theater.
Pomona had the Fox Theater and the United Artists Theater. The Fox is still there, but it hasn’t been the Fox in probably 40 years – although it is currently being renovated. The Mt. Baldy Drive-In at White and Foothill in La Verne went away 20 years ago, but was always great fun on a summer night.
When the “new” Albertson’s opened on Towne and Foothill, we found ourselves venturing a mile east for some of our shopping. And in the same center sprang up a Value Fair, where you could find pretty much anything. All of those places – gone.
The other grocery store in town was the Stater Bros. on the southeast corner of Foothill and Indian Hill. There were tunnels that went under those streets so pedestrians wouldn’t have to cross in heavy traffic on the way to the old Claremont High School. I can barely remember when that was a campus, but I remember the previous iteration of shops that replaced the classrooms, as well as the Griswolds’ Restaurant. The old gym was known as “the Pavilion” before it became the Candlelight Pavilion, and we had quite a few dances and other events over there.
For a quick dinner, we’d go to Tugboat Annie’s or Magic Towers on Foothill. My friend Mike Radlovic’s dad owned Magic Towers, and I think most kids who grew up in Claremont around then remember the day when Batman and Robin made guest appearances.
We’d often eat at Jongs Chinese restaurant in Cucamonga, which is now a Vince’s Spaghetti restaurant (we always went to the Ontario Vince’s too, but that is still there). Any trip to the east meant a ride over "the dips" on Baseline just east of Padua. Those were flattened as the road was widened from the Piedmont Mesa area just west of Claremont east through Upland and beyond.
Even after the dips were gone, I still remember being in high school and driving home late from Jim Moore’s place in Upland, and not feeling the need to stop at any of the few stop signs scattered between Mountain Avenue in Upland and my house in west Claremont. There was nothing but orange groves on both sides of the street, and no traffic. The stop signs served little purpose late at night. There wasn’t a stop at Baseline and Towne until my senior year, and when they finally put one up, Jim wanted to take an axe to it.
All of those orange and lemon groves brought an incredible and memorable smell to the entire area. That is what I remember about summer nights in Claremont, but that strong but welcome aroma doesn’t exist here anymore, either.
When I got into high school, my friends and I would venture off campus for lunch down at the In-N-Out on Towne Avenue just north of Arrow, or across the street to Jack in the Box. Sometimes we’d get a burger over at the Orange Julius at Foothill and Berkeley, where lots of Claremont High people worked. Those are all gone.
There were all sorts of after-game Claremont hangouts that aren’t around anymore, like Betsy Ross (where I worked in high school), Sambo’s, the Railroader, Straw Hat Pizza (now Eddie’s Pizza). We’d go there when we weren’t headed to the after-game dances, which they don’t hold anymore, either.
Back when Claremont High was an open campus that operated with a college-style “module” class system, we’d frequently pass time by going to the Sportsman sporting goods store owned by Bim Jollymour and Rhino Records in downtown. Rhino is still around, but it has moved twice since then, now occupying the old Bentley’s market. Then we’d go look for more records at the Wherehouse and Music-Plus stores on south Indian Hill, and then go test stereo equipment at Pacific Stereo. I eventually worked there, too. Another place I worked, the Pomona Valley Creamery on Mission in Ontario, is also gone.
Indian Hill was an interesting street, too. I remember when my mom would drive past the bank in the downtown area, where the fountain was always filled with soap suds. It got to be such a problem that they filled the fountain with dirt and it became a planter. Up the street was Memorial Park, which we’d pass going to and from Little League games at College Park. It was during the 1960s, and I remember all of the hippies sitting in a circle smoking weed in Memorial Park, and we couldn’t go there because it was dangerous.
College Park is still the home of Little League in Claremont, but back then there were two leagues. They shared the fields, but Claremont National played its major league division over at St. Ambrose field, which was on Mountain Ave. south of the church on Bonita Ave. It’s been an apartment complex for probably more than 30 years now.
There were also a couple of Pony League fields in Claremont. They were the baseball fields from the old high school, just south of what is now the CHS football field. Those had to be the absolute worst baseball fields ever, but I bet Claremont school officials wish they had the land back to expand their athletic fields. Instead, the fields are now the site of town homes and weed-filled parking lots.
Looking back, the other thing people probably remember are the places they could buy beer before turning 21. There were a bunch of them, but I don’t think any of them exist today -- probably because they sold beer to minors. There was North Hills Liquor on Towne, right next to the Driftwood Dairy. Both were very lax about asking for IDs. Bourbon Street and Lasagne Liquor in Claremont were a little harder, as was the Liquor Locker in La Verne. But the best place was the 7-11 on Garey and Harrison in Pomona. It was a sure thing (except for Doug Jollymour). Everybody called the owner “Ali-Baba,” because he wore a turban (well before the days of being politically correct). Ali had to know he was selling beer to minors, because the pricetags seemed to change every time we’d go in. He knew he could get away with hiking up the price. Simple economics, until he got caught too many times and was shut down.
When I reached college and beyond, we'd go to drink and eat at now-defunct local places like Sneaker's, Lord Charlie's, El Gato Gordo and a few places in La Verne that seemed to change names and ownership every six months. Those have all disappeared, except the Buffalo Inn, which is still a reliable venue for a cold beverage.
I'd meet friends there after our softball games or after covering local sporting events for the Pomona Progress Bulletin. That was great experience and a lot of fun. The newspaper merged with the Ontario Daily Report many years ago. The old “Prog” building is still there in downtown Pomona, but it’s no longer used for the newspaper business. That’s another industry that has seen its better days, and may not be around too much longer, either. That’s because people can find all they want by reading blogs and such. And so it goes.
I’m sure there are a lot of other places and things that I’m forgetting about. If you have memories of these places, or of other things that aren’t here anymore, please leave a comment.