California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Claremont, the City of Trees and PhDs

California Fool's Gold

FOREWARD

This blog entry is about the city of Claremont. To vote for coverage of other Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

*****

Claremont City Hall
Claremont City Hall

INTRO

Claremont is the poshest of the three cities in the Los Angeles end of th Pomona Valley. It’s bordered by La Verne to the west, Pomona to the southwest, Montclair to the southeast, Upland to the east and theAngeles National Forest to the north. My opinion of Claremont’s poshness is almost entirely based on knowing someone from nearby Ontario who claimed to be from Claremont.

On Friday, I traveled in the CARDIS to La Verne to pick up Paul Vasquez (aka DJ Stingray – formerly DJ Superstar), who’s also an authority on, among many sci-fi things, the culture of Claremont.

GETTING TO AND AROUND CLAREMONT

If you don’t have access to the CARDIS, the most pleasant way  to get to Claremont is via the Metrolink‘sSan Bernardino Line, which has stops in the middle of everything at the Claremont Metrolink Station. Claremont is also served by the very nice Foothill Transit lines 187, 197, 480, 492, 699, and 855. People over 60 and anyone disabled can take Dial-a-Ride.  Pomona Valley Transportation Authority (PVTA), serves Claremont, La Verne, Pomona and San Dimas. Finally, groups of over six Claremontians can take Group Van Service.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Claremont Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography’s map of Claremont

Claremont is situated near the former Tongva village of  Torojoatngna.

John R. Rodman Arboretum
John R. Rodman Arboretum
John R. Rodman Arboretum
John R. Rodman Arboretum

PARKS

Due to its fairly green nature and the existence of seven colleges and universities, Claremont has the nickname “City of Trees and PhDs.” As a matter of fact, the National Arbor Day Association has honored Claremont as a Tree City USA for the past nineteen years. We tried to visit the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden but a rather snippy harpy squawked at usaggressively. We merely asked if she’d mind us checking out the park (since it was still open according to the posted hours) and she shrieked nastily, “As a matter of fact I do!”

Luckily, there are fifteen other parks in the city where the staff have to be less unpleasant. We decided to check out some of the others. There proved to be no beasts guarding the smaller but welcoming John R. Rodman Arboretum.

Claremont Hills Wilderness Park
Claremont Hills Wilderness Park
Claremont Hills Wilderness Park - The Towers
The Towers (with teens in the grass)
Claremont Hills Wilderness Park
The things they carried
                     

Paul piloted his Saturn to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park. The area known as “The Towers,” Paul informed me, is a popular place for teens to drink beer. Indeed, we did find evidence of both teens and several empty cans of a beverage billed as “high gravity lager.” Memorial Park plays host in the spring to theClaremont Folk Music Festival and, in the summer, the Claremont Monday Night Concert Series. Also worth a mention — but held in a park, is April’s Kohoutek Music and Arts Festival.

Claremont - The Village
The Village

CHARACTER

Claremont’s population today is roughly 64% white, 16% Latino (mostly Mexican) and 12% Asian (mostlyTaiwanese), and 5% black. German-Americans and English-Americans are the largest ethnicities.

During our visit Claremont proved to be very quiet, as green as its reputation promises and full of spring blooms. Claremont is mostly residential and centered around a shopping area known as “the Village.” In the last few years, the formerly industrial area to the west of the village has been rezoned for commercial use and branded “Village West” (aka the “Village Expansion”). There are also many shops in the Claremont Inn Complex, attached to the Old School House.

The Press - Claremont
The Press
The Press - Claremont
The Press

EATS

Some of the noted Claremont eateries include Some Crust Bakery, BC Cafe Kick Back Jack’s, Inka Trails, Pollos Kikiryki, Patty’s Mexican Foods, Viva Madrid, The Back Abbey, La Parolaccia Osteria Italiana, Saca’s Mediterranean Cuisine, Bua Thai Cuisine and Walter’s Restaurant. A chance encounter with KSPC’s fetching DeeJay Dia (host of Songs for the Whippersnapper Show ) resulted in her giving us a heads up about a relatively new joint, Ali Baba… but we returned from whence we started (for symmetry’s sake) to the Press to conclude our exploration as we’d begun, over some drinks at a venue known for its live music, often featuring local acts like AzBuka and the Baldy Mountain Jazz Band.

MUSIC

Claremont Folk Music Center

Ben Harper is a widely recognized native and his grandparents founded the Folk Music Center in 1958.

Rhino RecordsBefore Rhino became a re-issue label, it was a record store and it was at the Claremont location that I bought the best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds on VHS about a decade ago.
KSPC Station
Outside KSPC               
Happy Hollows
Happy Hollows setting up

 
There’s also the radio station KSPC (88.7), which I can sometimes hear thirty or so miles away. Frank Zappa and the Dust Brothers both had a shows there at one time, as did DJ Superstar. When Paul and I popped in, we ran into Steven Hertz, host of the Videogame Music Show. We crashed the studio to findHappy Hollows setting up for a live performance to precede their gig at No-Chella.

Big Bridges

Whilst there, Paul showed me Bridges Auditorium (aka Big Bridges) … and Little Bridges, where he once walked out of a Cat Power show — something that I can relate to.

THEATER, FILM & TV

Nestled in the the foothills is the Padua Hills Theatre, which was built back in the 1920s. Several films have been shot either in part or in whole in Claremont, including Teenwolf Too, Son of Flubber, Real Genius,Over the Top, The Fear, Dave, Beaches, The Absent Minded Professor, Gilmore Girls and the first shot in the opening credits of The Facts of Life.

Claremont is currently home to just one movie theater, Laemmle’s Claremont 5. Though a multiplex, the Laemmle’s chain show a good selection of first-run, independent and foreign films. The Claremont 5 opened on the location of an abandoned citrus packing plant.

Claremont was formerly home the 540-seat, single screen Village Theatre. It was by Sumner Spaulding, who also designed Harold Lloyd‘s Green Acres and the Avalon Theatre in Avalon. It opened in 1939 but I have no information as to when it closed.

CLAREMONT ORGANIZATIONS

For the history and preservation-minded, Claremont Heritage is an excellent organization. There almost have to be more bookstores in Claremont that I’m not aware of. All that I know of are Huntley Bookstore andThe Claremont Forum. The latter is a non-profit organization and not just a bookstore although it seems to be one of the most well-reviewed bookshops in the city.

FURTHER READING AND VIEWING

If you’d like to read more about Claremont, there is Wayne L. McElreavy‘s Claremont (2012) — part of theImages of America series. For viewing, Visiting…With Huell Howser episode #1511, “Citrus Packing House,” delved more deeply into the culture and history of Claremont than the title might suggest.

*****

 Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities; however, job offers must pay more than slave wages as he would rather write for pleasure than for peanuts. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store,Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

5 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — Exploring Claremont, the City of Trees and PhDs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s