The City That Never Sleeps: 24 Hours in La Verne … Well, Almost

June 21, 2009
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Dianne Hollowell of La Verne Florist

Dianne Hollowell of La Verne Florist

The goal was simple but audacious: Report on the events and people in La Verne from 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday — a 24-hour La Verne slice of life and a tip of the cap to Jack Bauer, the “24” television series protagonist played by Kiefer Sutherland. Unfortunately, I came up short. The beer at Mario’s Pizza Barn around 3:15 p.m. didn’t help, an emergency call from a client of mine at 4:45 p.m. had to be addressed, and then the killer, my wife’s car died on the 210 on her way in to Pasadena. After picking her up in the crown city, I was determined to resume the story, but the gap was too big, the momentum compromised, the effects of the wine from Café Alegro too intoxicating. So you’re getting 24 hours minus eight or nine. Plus, I was really worried about those last hours. The sidewalks downtown were rolling up faster than if a tornado watch had been sounded.

Here’s part of the story:

Greg McClellan up early with the paper and his dog.
Greg McClellan up early with the paper and his dog.

6 a.m.

Morning dew on the lawns, haze already hanging in the air. My neighbor across the street, Greg McClellan, retrieves his morning paper and takes his dog on a brief jaunt down the street. Friday morning will be filled with observances of many people, age 50 and over, walking their dogs. Dogs are lucky to have us older owners.

6:30 a.m.

Off to the Starbucks drive-thru. Glad to see my sign still there slightly askew in a planter. Kim Fuller also in line is on her way to Chili’s Restaurant, where she’s a manager. She’ll need the coffee because she’s scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. A Cal Poly graduate in hotel management, she said she aspires to be a general manager. “It would be cool to be a general manager. Right now I’m just a manager,” she says.

Kim Fuller, with a Starbucks start to her day.
Kim Fuller, with a Starbucks start to her day.

6:45 a.m.

Steve Beck, a geography teacher at San Dimas High School, is nursing a pricey ice mocha and an egg McMuffin-style sandwich, which he appeared to be enjoying until accosted by In the regular school year, he teaches U.S. history and psychology. Beck, who says he’s a friend of Bonita baseball coach John Knott from their San Dimas teaching days, says he wants his students to know where places like Rhode Island are on the world map. “I don’t want my kids ever to be interviewed on “Jaywalking” and not know what country is south of the United States or what continent we’re on or what hemisphere we’re in.” By the way, he thinks Jay Leno, after whom Jaywalking is named, is going to do well in his new 10 p.m. spot this fall. Beck says he doesn’t visit Starbucks all that regularly. “I was driving by and I was a little hungry, and I thought I’d grab something to eat.”

Steve Beck, readers want to know where is San Dimas?
Steve Beck, readers want to know where is San Dimas?

7:05 a.m.

Ramona Middle School looks very serene. The electronic message board flashes out, “Have a great summer. Have a great summer,” to anybody who walks or drives by, which isn’t a lot at this hour. The parking lot is empty. Must not be hosting summer school. A victim of budget cutbacks? Maybe not. It’s still pretty early. I walk up to the front office. Lights are on. Tug at the door, and lo and behold, it’s open. “Anybody home? Anybody here?” Not a soul. I figure somebody has to show up eventually. I start reading various postings on a large bulletin board. June birthdays: Jan Reck, June 1; Stacey Plunkett, June 1; Peri Berkler, June 2; Cindi Schaub, June 7; Cindy Arballo, June 9; Ulrick Jean, June 9; Alicia Rodriguez, June 15; Anne Neal, June 19; Brad Smith, June 23.

Ulrick Jean keeps a watchful eye over the Ramona campus
Ulrick Jean keeps a watchful eye over the Ramona campus

July birthdays: Deb Brownlee, July 2; Dannell Soto, July 6; Brian Williamson, July 7; Alison Reedy, July 11; Rosalyn Hudock, July 11; Elaine Bumiller, July 19; Frank Alvarado, July 19; Judy Petrie, July 22; and Mitch Newell, July 27. Happy birthday to all. Just wish somebody was around this summer to recognize and appreciate them.

Finally, Ulrick Jean, the custodian, shows up. He’s one of the birthday boys. He’s also from Haiti and has been here in the United States 15 years. He’s been at Ramona the last four. He says his job is a little easier now that the kids are gone, but he still has lots of work to keep him busy. Today he’s clearing out all the desks and chairs from the classrooms so the carpet cleaners can come in and clean the carpets.

Pam Cook loves Ramona students.
Pam Cook loves Ramona students.

Pam Cook arrives. She’s a secretary to the “AP.” I think that means Assistant Principal, but could be Assistant Producer. La Verne isn’t Hollywood, though. Already she misses the kids, yet school’s only been out a few days. “We’re here for the kids,” she says. “This is what school is all about. The kids in La Verne are great kids. We have a great support staff. It’s nice getting caught up on work, but it is all about the kids at Ramona Summer School. (Wouldn’t we all love to be drinking whatever coffee Pam is drinking?) Pam says she’s got a couple of summer getaways planned, starting with tonight. “It’s Principal Anne Neal’s birthday. We’re going to enjoy the evening with her, and we’re looking forward to it. She’s going on her third year, and she’s done a great job here, and we’re really happy with her.”

7:10 a.m.

Driving north of the school and past one of those “Entering La Verne” signs: Population, 32,304; Elevation, 1,050 feet. No wonder I’m getting winded chasing all these people. It’s the altitude. Pass the competing Shell and Chevron stations at the corner of Damien and Foothill. For once, the prices at both stations are the same, $3.13 for super, $2.93 for regular.

Vons gas station in The Commons is always full. The Jacaranda trees’ lilac blooms are starting to fade. Students pedaling their bikes zig and zag their way to Bonita summer school. Stater Brothers is sporting a new banner, “Lowering Prices Everyday to Help You Save on What You Pay.” The guy who drafted that slogan is probably making millions. How much lower? I’m thinking. Do you think they’ve lowered the price of bananas to 33 cents a pound from 69 cents a pound? Driver ahead of me doesn’t use his signal ahead of me. Must think he’s the only guy on the road. Be positive, Pete. It’s still early.

Benny Balandran on the move.
Benny Balandran on the move.

7: 20 a.m.

I unfold myself out of my white Camaro and am greeted by a “No Dogs” sign at the entrance to the Bonita High School synthetic track. A jogger, Benny Balandran, is stretching. He’s lived in La Verne 30 years. “I’m getting ready to run a half-marathon in San Diego in August,” Benny says. “I run 20 to 30 miles a week, almost every other day.” Bonita is his favorite training spot. “I like the soft, rubberized track,” he says. The San Diego run will be his 25th time participating in the event. He’s a runner; he’s also unemployed at the moment. He’s a computer programmer by trade and training. “Right now, I’m still in between jobs.”

7:40 a.m.

At the La Verne Community Center, Brandon Granillo is dutifully prepping the place for another day of activities, brushing and hosing down the front entrance. He said the volunteers will start arriving about 8 a.m. and the seniors will follow about 8:30 a.m. Friday is bingo day, plus lunch. Should be a fun day. The money lost from playing bingo is donated back to the center, said Granillo, 23, who is taking music at Citrus College. His favorite group is Metallica. “I’m old school.” For vacation, he’s going to Ontario, Canada. “It’s just something I’ve wanted to do,” he says. To check out the music scene? “No, I like Canada. I’m into hockey.”

Brandon Ganillo dream of Canadian summers.
Brandon Ganillo dreams of Canadian summers.

7:55 a.m.

Chris Laubach, a certified financial planner with Ameriprise, is the only one in his office in the entire Access Business Center office complex. Kudos to Chris. A big framed “Success” poster on his wall shouts optimism across the room. He provides financial advice, not an easy thing in these times of crazy markets and wild volatility. “Stay calm and don’t panic,” he recommends. “If you’re in (the market), meet with your advisor, review everything, but don’t make short-term decisions on long-term money.” Is this market testing his financial chops? “I’d much rather be in it when everything is going up, but that’s not reality.” Does Chris see 10,000 in the DOW’s future? “I think we will, but it will be a while. We have a ways to go, but we’ll get there.”

Chris Laubach offers early-bird financial advice.
Chris Laubach offers early-bird financial advice.

Chris’s daughter Megan is a junior at Bonita. His son Jason graduated from Bonita in 2008, and completed his first year at Arizona State. Summer plans? “We have a boat and we do a lot of boating. For Father’s Day, he and the family are boating the 26 miles to Santa Catalina. “That’s how we relax. We also go to Havasu. We’ll go down to Perris or Pyramid Lake. It’s good family fun.”

 8:15 a.m.

Stater Bros. I shop there quite often, mostly because I know where everything is. I used to shop at Vons until the strike a few years back, but I’m slowly finding my way back to the Vons mother ship. When I ask the Stater Bros. manager about the store’s new lower-prices theme, he said he couldn’t comment. Any comment had to go through corporate, he told me politely, even apologetically. He was a nice guy, but can’t say same about company policy, however. Might have to start calling them, “No Staters Brothers” or “No Comments Brothers.” I wasn’t asking Mr. Stater whether he thought we should blast North Korea to the moon because of its recent missile provocations. I was asking about HIS company’s lower prices. Local companies need local spokespeople. Message to Corporate: “Please review your PR policies.” Just having fun and warming up to the day’s vicissitudes.

Ernie Reyes deals with a departing nest.
Ernie Reyes deals with a departing nest.

8:20 a.m.

Ernie Reyes was about to climb back in his big red truck, when I flagged him down. His son, E.J. played centerfield for the Bearcats in 2008. Dad says E.J. is planning to transfer from Mt. Sac to Humboldt this fall. What’s he going to major in? Forestry? The Spotted Owl? Ernie laughs. “Actually, he’s looking at a business degree. He’s going to go up there and try to play baseball.”

Ernie, a supervisor for Costco in Montclair, has four children, three of whom went through Bonita, E.J., Elizabeth and Ernie the third. Ernie’s wife Adella, a Bonita mainstay for years, is taking the summer off. Ernie says he and Adella are downshifting (upshifting), getting use to life with “the kids pretty much grown and all going their separate ways.”

8:25 a.m.

Quick pop into Chase, formerly Washington Mutual. Quick Cash withdrawal for $40. I figure I’m going to need some extra cash to hang out in this high-flying town.

8:30 a.m.

Dong and Ana Yum, owners of La Verne Cleaners. Why not Yummy Cleaners?
Dong and Ana Yum, owners of La Verne Cleaners. Why not Yummy Cleaners?

La Verne Cleaners is open. Owners Dong and Ana Yum are very friendly, if not a little baffled about why I’m about to take their picture and post it for all the world (La Verne) to see. It doesn’t matter. “Smile.”

8:40 a.m.

Mr. Ketterling, Bonita’s principal, is in. Thought for sure he’d be off for the summer. Always gracious with his time, he proves a good news source. “We’re here getting things set up for the next school year,” he says. “Hiring the last of our staff.” What’s the typical turnover. “Generally, we don’t get a lot of turn-over, teachers generally don’t leave us unless they retire.” What about Coach King? Didn’t he retire? “Yes, and Gary Riley, one of our biology teachers retired. And our speech and language teacher, Sandi Kraushar, retired, so we had a few this year.

“Plus, we’re growing next year. We were supposed to lose about 50 kids next year, to go down to about 1,850, but it looks like we’re up actually. Right now, we have about 1,950 kids registered for next year.” What do you attribute that to? “It’s hard to say. They’re coming from a lot of different places. But one of the things we’re seeing is a lot of kids coming in from the private schools. That may be due to the economy.”

Bonita Principal Bob Ketterling. In the fall, it's back to Robert Ketterling.
Bonita Principal Bob Ketterling. In the fall, it’s back to Robert Ketterling.

Do we have room for them all? “It’s going to be tight next year. Two years ago, we hit 2,001 kids for a couple of days. I’m predicting we’ll be close to that again next year.” Maybe if you get over 2,000 you’ll get a bump in pay, I suggest. “Not quite, that’s not how it works.”

Did the senior class leave a gift for the school? “No, I don’t think there was a real big gift for the school.” What happened to that tradition – leaving something behind to benefit or beautify the school? “That’s a nice idea.”

What else is cooking? “One thing I’m excited about, we’re starting to plan for the new gym expansion. Prop AB passed, so there’s some funding for additional gym space and rooms at the school. One of the possibilities we’re looking at, it’s just an idea at this point, is to do a gym expansion, plus an extra athletic/wrestling/dance room that would extend out to the lawn. Our goal, if we can make it work, would be two regulation basketball courts with a kind of a tournament court in the center. So, two full size courts to practice on, and keep the current gym as it is. Use that for wrestling, volleyball, a basketball practice court. It’s available for dance in the school day; it’s available for cheer during the school day. Then we have two additional regulation basketball courts, so you could run two full practices side by side after school. Right now, with three levels of basketball, boys and girls, six teams practicing, kids aren’t getting out of there until 9 p.m. With three regulation courts, we could run practices right after school. Everybody goes home at 5 o’ clock.”

Teresa Zago is about to open a catering business. Do you know the way to Tiramisu?
Teresa Zago is about to open a catering business. Do you know the way to Tiramisu?

When would all this start? “We’re just starting the planning stages now.” Sounds like it’s another five years out. “It’s closer than that, but I don’t want to put dates on it right now.” Other improvements? “One we’ve been looking at with local funds is putting an additional shade structure by the cafeteria. Get a little place for the kids to get out of the sun or rain, if we ever get rain again. One we’ve ordered is 20 x 40 feet. We really appreciate the Boosters and the PTA for their help with the fundraising. A couple of years ago, we did a home garden tour in the spring, so some money is rolling in from that. We also were able to install our next round of pavers by the entrance. We’ll try to do that annually as well.”

Lastly, what was your message to the 2009 class? “I mostly let the students do the speaking. It was a good class. We really had some outstanding students, one to MIT, we sent Tommy Munson to Cornell and saw Jio go off in the draft.”

8:50 a.m.

Teresa Zago, summer school secretary, says the summer session is faster-paced because the schedule is condensed. She tracks the absences, and if students exceed the allowed limit, they’re dropped. “There’s a lot of phone calls to be made, but I enjoy it. I like it.” Teresa has three children, including Brittany, a Bonita sophomore who one day wants to go into counseling. Her oldest, Giulie, is a junior at ULV, majoring in French. After summer, Teresa hopes to launch a catering business. Her specialty is making desserts and tiramisu, an Italian cheese charlotte that means “pick me up” in Italian. “Food has always been part of my personality,” said Teresa, who blames her Italian heritage for her love affair with food.

9:05 a.m.

Heading downtown … I thought. Walking toward my car in the Bonita staff parking lot, I hear a clear, crisp, commanding “Can I help you?” I thought it was Charlton Heston brought back to life. “No, I’m okay, thanks,” I reply. A young man assertively walks up to me, clearly expecting a more detailed explanation. “I’m here with LaVerneOnline,” I explain, sharing the story I was doing, which the young man now had inserted himself into. Clearly, he was a plain clothes La Verne police officer assigned to the campus. I suggest taking his picture to add another “slice” to my story. “That’s not going to happen,” he says, abruptly walking away toward the center of campus.

9:10 a.m.

Budding entrepreneur Jamey Jimerson
Budding entrepreneur Jamey Jimerson

Heading downtown, a second time.  On the outdoor patio at Coffeeberry is Jamey Jimerson, a student checking email on his laptop. He’s a student at nearby DeVry in Pomona. “I work online,” he explains. “I submit my homework on line. I just come here to get situated, get set for the day, get a cup of joe, enjoy the ambiance and then head on out.” No paper cup for him. “The cup was provided because this is an upscale coffee shop.” He plans to obtain his degree in two years. He also works with a nonprofit. “My degree is something to add to my tool belt. But my major career aim is to be an entrepreneur in the computer and business management fields.” The world’s going to be all right, I think.

9:15 a.m.

Passed a poster in the window of the La Verne Florist, advertising a summer volleyball camp at Bonita High School, Monday, August 3 through Thursday, August 6, from 9 a.m. to noon. Cost is $150. For grades, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. You can sign up and pay registration fees through the City of La Verne. I didn’t see any posters looking for 54-year-old volleyball players. Bonita’s volleyball coaches are running the camp.

9:20 a.m.

In the window at Dippin’ Dots is another flyer promoting Flippaball. No experience needed. For ages 5 and up. It’s coed. Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. For more information, you can contact Another email contact is Flippaball is supposed to be a fun combination of soccer, football and basketball, played in the pool.

9:25 a.m.

Miss Donuts is surprisingly quiet, only a donut straggler or two in line looking for their daily sugar fix. Still the best donuts in town, by the way.

9:30 a.m.

Annette Leonard helps plan the Chamber's busiest week of the year.
Annette Leonard helps plan the Chamber’s busiest week of the year.

The Chamber of Commerce’s Annette Leonard is organizing all the papers, flyers, business cards and other marketing materials that businesses leave off to promote their enterprises. CEO Brian McNerney isn’t in yet. The boss better not find out. Brian and Annette face a huge week. Annette was 10 years with the San Dimas Chamber before joining the La Verne Chamber three years ago. “Brian came in October. I came in November,” Annette says.

Who better to describe the differences between the two chambers then? “La Verne business people are more energetic,” Annette says. “It seems like San Dimas’ members are mostly retired. They are a good volunteer base for their Western Days, things like that. But the businesses here are more energetic and anxious to get things going.”

The Chamber’s big 100-year celebration week kicks off this Tuesday with an invitation-only wine-tasting party at Julie Wheeler’s house. Thursday is the free public open house at the Chamber, which will be serving cookies and refreshments. Dreams of Lakers parade crowd control start dancing in my head. “It’s not going to be that bad,” Annette assures me. “It will be held in conjunction with the farmers’ market, so I think some of that crowd will be spread out between the two events.” She hopes. And Thursday is the big gala at Hillcrest. The public is invited. It’s $50 a ticket. That’s only 50 cents for every year. Lots of fun stuff is planned, plus some nice giveaways and a silent auction, too.

9: 40 a.m.

McKee family enjoys breakfast get-together at Angel's in La Verne.
McKee family enjoys breakfast get-together at Angel’s in La Verne.

I peek at the back patio of Angel’s Restaurant in downtown La Verne. Richard McKee, a chemistry professor at Pasadena City College and noted political watchhound, is enjoying breakfast with his father, Richard, Sr., and daughter Kelly Aviles, a lawyer. Hence a lawyer joke follows, “What do you call 1,000 lawyers chained to the bottom of the sea?” McKee asks. “A really good start,” he says, laughing, his daughter and father joining in on the light-hearted poke at barristers. The time together is good therapy for all. “My mother’s been sick, so dad’s been joining us here,” Richard says. “It’s very quiet, so we have got it all to ourselves most of the time.” Richard’s favorite dish is pork chops and scrambled eggs. “Boy, oh boy, is that good,” McKee says. No cholesterol or calorie counting today. Father’s Day for the McKee family is a big barbecue. “And I have an invitation,” McKee said, laughing again. Summer plans for the McKees. “You’re looking at it,” Kelly says. Richard’s teaching summer school.

9:55 a.m.

Dr. Connie Liu of La Verne Optometry is out to help the world see straight, one patient at a time.
Dr. Connie Liu of La Verne Optometry is out to help the world see straight, one patient at a time.

La Verne Optometry Associate Dr. Connie Lui is looking smart in her medical smock. Dr. Guido is off on Fridays. What eye care tips can she share now that summer is here? “I definitely recommend using UV protection, so sunglasses outdoors are a must. Also, artificial tears, up to four times a day, especially if you’re sitting under a fan or with the air conditioning drying out your eyes.”  Any advances coming down the pike? “There are always advances. We recommend an eye exam every year just to make sure you don’t have any eye diseases, especially because vision loss can tend to be really gradual.”

10:05 a.m.

Next to La Verne Optometry is La Verne Florist. On the phone is Dianne Hollowell. June is the month for grads, dads and weddings, so no doubt Dianne’s been busy. Do dads get flowers? “Yes, we already have orders lined up.” For graduation, leis and wraps were the rage. La Verne Florist also features sugar-free fudge for anyone, just in case dad isn’t crazy about flowers.

Dianne Hollowell asks whether it'll be fudge or flowers.
Dianne Hollowell asks whether it’ll be fudge or flowers.

With Dianne, there are more petals to this young lady than meet the eye. She recently graduated from Biola University in La Mirada with a degree in music. Besides working at the flower shop, she also works with kids at a musical theater program in Glendora. She loves classical music and musical theater. In fact, her group is premiering “Peter Pan” in Baldwin Park on Friday night. A busy lady indeed.

10: 25 a.m.

I dash home quickly. Lots of emails streaming in, but nothing so urgent to derail the 24-hour piece. I’m back out the door, on my way to West Coast Nurseries on Wheeler, just south of Foothill.

Owner Dave Zylstra’s son Ryan helps manage the nurseries’ four yards in La Verne, one in Riverside and another in Santa Barbara. Margins have suffered slightly because competitors have slashed prices to save market share. Ryan noted that the succulents and other drought-tolerant plants have become more popular as cities pass more water-saving restrictions. “We’ve started growing more of that stuff, which is still selling well,” Ryan says.

Ryan Zylstra and Mrs. Horine
Ryan Zylstra and Mrs. Horine

On the home front, Ryan’s brother Brock, the most prolific scorer in Bonita boys’ basketball history, completed his mission in New Zealand and is now back at BYU practicing basketball. When the season starts, he’ll be a 22-year-old redshirt freshman. On a side note, Jio Mier, the Bonita senior drafted No. 1 by the Houston Astros, told me that he recently saw Brock shooting basketballs in the Bonita gym and that Brock was better than ever, hardly missing a basket. Meanwhile, Ryan’s brother Tanner, recently got hurt after making the BYU football squad. He’s waiting to find out where his mission will send him. Ryan spent his mission in Utah. Although he stayed stateside, he became fluent in Spanish, which helps immensely in communicating with the nurseries’  Spanish-speaking employees.

One cousin of Ryan, Brock, Tanner and the rest of Zylstra clan is Carly Horine, Bonita’s all-time leading girls’ basketball scorer, so two cousins, Carly and Brock, are Bonita’s all-time leading scorers. I had to think about it for a moment. Currently, Carly is preparing to enter Chaffey College’s nursing program and is entertaining the idea of a returning to the hardwood for a second Chaffey season, with her last year of athletic eligibility remaining. Carly has three younger brothers. Jacob, a 2009 Bonita graduate, is preparing to enter the fire science program at Mt. Sac and follow in the footsteps of dad, a La Verne firefighter. Casey is a junior on the Bonita boys’ basketball team and Garrett is a sophomore. Meanwhile Madison Zylstra is a junior on the girls’ basketball team, so the Zylstra-Horine combination could work its magic a second time. The Zystras and Horines have been a part of the local sports scene so long you wonder if and when this sports dynasty will ever end. Not any time soon, we’re told, because Logan Zylstra, 10, is lurking in the shadows.

10:45 a.m.

Jim Thomas and friendly pit crew.
Jim Thomas and friendly pit crew.

On Wheeler, north of Baseline, there are at least a half-dozen roadsters parked in the driveway of Jim Thomas’s home. Like migrating geese, their owners have flocked in from Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, northern California and other points on the compass for Saturday’s Los Angeles Roadster Show at the Fairplex fairgrounds. Over the years, Jim has met many of the roadster owners and invited them to his place for sort of a pre-show rendezvous. Dave’s garage is stocked with enough parts to outfit an entire Ford dealership. “I’ve been doing this since I was 13,” Jim said. “Don’t pass the word on, but I grew up in Baldwin Park. I drove that car through In-N-Out when there was only one In-N-Out,” he said, pointing to a hump-shaped Roadster classic.

10:55 a.m.

From left, Ricky Ries and golf pro Ken Murray
From left, Ricky Ries and golf pro Ken Murray

Marshall Canyon Golf’s driving range is where head teaching pro Kenny Murray is instructing student Ricky Ries, a Bonita grad now studying criminal justice at Santa Ana College. It looks like a good pairing. Murray has often found his name atop local leaderboards over the years and Ries played basketball and baseball for Bonita, so he knows the hard work you have to put in to be a top athlete. “He’s learning, he’s coming around,” said Murray, assessing his pupil after just a couple of lessons. Ricky’s goal is to get his game to a level where he can challenge his dad on the golf course. Murray’s keys for playing good golf: 1) Tempo. People start swinging too hard in the swing. 2) Balance. 3) Focus. Keeping your eye on the ball. Swing and hand-eye coordination help, too. “Golf is one of those things you have to stick with your whole life,” says Murray, who started playing when he was five. “You’ll never master it. Even Tiger Woods will never master it, and he is the best ever.”

11:25 a.m.

Glenda and grandson enjoy a moment in the park.
Glenda and grandson Cory enjoy a moment in the park.

One grandparent, Glenda Megna, has the entire Lowell Grant Park to herself while watching her two grandsons Cory, 10, and Tanner, 9, horse around on the jungle gym. For the last 30 years, she’s been enjoying La Verne. It didn’t take much to get her to the park. “It’s a beautiful day,” Glenda said. “This is a great park in our community. The boys love to play here. They like to play baseball on the upper field, basketball here and then play on the equipment. It’s never crowded. I hope it stays this way.”

11:35 a.m.

My car window’s down. Something smells good coming from La Verne Fire Station No. 3 high up on north Esperanza. The garage door is open. No other invitation is needed. Firefighter and paramedic John Grapentin explains how Station No. 3 complements the city’s two other stations. Two firefighter/paramedics are assigned to serve each 48-hour shift, so there are a total of six firefighters/paramedics working out of Station No. 3. “We run 48 hours, so we’re here for two days straight. And then the next shift comes in and relieves us, and they’re here for two days, then we go home for four. Then there’s a third shift.” 

From left, John Grapentin and John Connolly, firefighters at Station No. 3
From left, John Grapentin and John Connolly, firefighters at Station No. 3

Station No. 3 covers the area north of Foothill, from Williams to the east, to where Baseline and Foothill meet in the west. It often coordinates with Station No. 2 on Wheeler and, if things really heat up, with Station No. 1 downtown. Also, sharing Station No. 3 are seven Forest Service workers. Station No. 3 has been open for two years. “When they built all these homes behind us, Grapentin says, “we were all responding from Station No. 2. The problem is because of the natural break in the corridor, we had to go either up and around to come over here or back down to Baseline and come up Esperanza. As fast as we could try to go to get there, it was still over six minutes – and brain dead is six minutes. Now all these residents over here get a three-minute ETA. John’s partner is John Connolly.

11: 43 a.m.

Electronic board at Lutheran High School says it is 83 degrees in La Verne.

11: 45 a.m.

Electronic sign at US Bank reads 75 degrees. Either the high school or the bank is not telling the truth. Perhaps, both should stay out of the weather business. 

12:45 p.m.

The irrepressible Mark Levy
The irrepressible Mark Levy

It’s time for lunch. I pick up my wife, and I suggest Rubio’s. Last of the big spenders. Getting out of the car, I spy Mark Levy, who’s wearing a Palace Pet Salon T-shirt. He’s just leaving Micky’s Jewelry Studio, where he’s been conducting La Verne Chamber of Commerce business. Mark’s son, Michael, who co-owns and manages Palace Pet Salon, a premier pet-grooming service in the old Von’s center, will be celebrating his first Father’s Day as the proud parent of Liam Joseph Levy, a four-month-old boy. “You can’t get a better present than a grandson,” Mark says. “It is fantastic. It’s like having the grooming shop. People bring in the dogs. You get to spoil them and pamper them and bathe them and give them back. Same thing with grandchildren. You hold them, you play with them, you spoil them, and you get to give them back.”

1:05  p.m.

Micky’s Jewelry Studio. Mickey says business is going great, helped largely by word of mouth. We’re doing lots of special orders for people. People are digging out their jewelry and getting it reset and repaired. We do a lot of special orders. People come in with an idea or with a picture from a magazine. If we don’t have it, we make it or order it for them. Mickey is headed to Llano in the high desert for Father’s Day. That’s where her parents live. If time allows, maybe a barbecue in the late afternoon back home by the pool.

1:20 p.m.

Arnold Sandoval, keeping it fresh
Arnold Sandoval, keeping it fresh

Rubio’s attracts a steady of line of people. Arnold Sandoval, the general manager, is handling the register. “We have a great community here in La Verne,” he says. “That’s what keeps the business going.” What might some people not know about your food, I ask. “Fresh ingredients all the time. No lard. No MSG ever.” The busiest day of the week at Rubio’s is Tuesday. Fish tacos that day are $1.25.

1:45 p.m.

A military banner honoring Courtney Hawkins hangs above the La Verne Lutheran Thrift Shop on Bonita. He was a swift running back for the Bearcats who graduated from BoHi in 2002.  Across the street, my wife Colleen and I walk into the La Verne Animal Hospital to buy some prescription dog food for our Pomeranian named French or Princess depending on who’s calling her. While waiting for the prescription to be faxed from another vet, I wander outside to learn more about this town called La Verne. I also wonder whether animals qualify for COBRA insurance if their owners get laid off.

1:50 p.m.

Beverly Shani advertises a great half-off special for dads.
Beverly Shani advertises a great half-off special for dads.

At Casa Garcia, lunch is winding down. The restaurant, which looks tiny from the outside, actually can accommodate quite a few diners. There’s also a small outside dining area. Server Beverly Shani tells us that all fathers on Father’s Day get their meals half off at the restaurant. Already, I’m beginning to think how I can alter my dining plans for the big day. Maybe I can eat out twice?

2:10 p.m.

Colleen’s still waiting for the fax, so it’s off to the thrift shop. The place is buzzing. Now, we know where everyone is shopping! Neiman Marcus would kill for this kind of foot traffic. All the items are donated. There’s a signed Leroy Neiman lithograph for $200, but most of the stuff goes for smaller dollars. The Lutheran general manager is a little skeptical of me and my explanation about writing a 24-hour slice-of-life story about La Verne, before she finally trusts me enough to give me her name, Elvira Stueve. “We have just about everything here … clothes, furniture, knick-knacks. The only kind of furniture we don’t accept is upholstered. Other than that, we have everything you can think of.”

Elvira Stueve, mistress of the bargain sale.
Elvira Stueve, mistress of the bargain sale.

The store’s open every day of the week except Sunday. Even when it’s not open, people try to leave stuff behind. “They’re not supposed to dump it because we have signs out there that say it’s illegal,” Elvira says. How much of what’s sold on the rack is donated? “We buy nothing. We don’t buy anything.”

Last year, the thrift shop made well over $100,000. All the profits and proceeds go to Lutheran High School. “We have a successful business. It’s picked up. Five years ago it was not where we are today,” Elvira says. To what does she attribute the increase? “Organization, organization,” Elvira chips in without hesitation.” What about the economy? I ask. If everyone’s broke wouldn’t they come here to snap up a few bargains? “The economy has probably hurt us a little bit rather than helped us in the last couple months,” Elvira says. “Sales have not been as good as they were last year at this time. People haven’t donated as much, either. If we don’t get the donations, we don’t get the sales, either. I think we’ll be okay.”

How did Elvira get into this business? “I’m a Lutheran. I’ve always been involved.” Elvira gets paid, but it’s “the minimum.” She’s not going to get rich. She started as a volunteer. The thrift shop employs four part-timers and one full-time person. Elvira works three days. No one day is busier than another. “We have no mailing list. People come in off the street.” Including

2:25 p.m.

The medicated dog food is in hand.

2:45 p.m.

US Bank Manager Margie Towns
US Bank Manager Margie Towns

Margie Towns has been managing US Bank since April 17. “It’s going great. We’ve been busier than we’ve ever been. The minute we put the US Bank signs up, the traffic in the lobby and at the ATM increased, along with applications for loans and new applications.” Another sign is on the way. With one employee’s recent promotion, Margie has a job opening for a  Teller Coordinator I. The successful candidate needs experience in tellering, cashiering, line management and customer service.

3:15 p.m.

Mario Mirbaha, owner of the Pizza Barn, has a good Friday crowd. Wally Mitchell is one of the local favorites, his baseball cap pulled down low to his brow. He’s sitting next to a woman who brought over chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Maui. Everybody at the bar gets samples. Mario pops out of the kitchen after putting his touches on his signature Ultimate” sandwich. “Overall, I’m looking at sales that are right up there with last year,” Mario says. “You hope every year they go up, but I’m happy with the way things are going, especially in this economy.” Taco Tuesday is Pizza Barn’s busiest day. Tacos that day are just a buck. “We make more on Tuesday than Friday or Saturday,” Mario says. On Wednesdays, Pizza Barn also offers all-you-can-eat spaghetti for $3.99, plus beers for a buck with the spaghetti special.

Having fun at Mario's Pizza Barn with Miss Hawaii.
Having fun at Mario’s Pizza Barn with Miss Hawaii.

4 p.m.

Outside of Pizza Barn, I run into Ryan Plowman, a Damien graduate who helps his dad Ty run Drake Supply, a supplier of diesel truck parts based in the City of Industry, “18-wheeler kind of stuff,” he explains to the layman. Ryan’s brother Jason, one of the stars from Bonita’s 2009 baseball team, is attending Azusa Pacific University in the fall, where he will continue to pitch and hit. On Sunday, June 21, he and Ty took off for Omaha, Neb., to watch the College World Series.

4:15 p.m.

Ran home to check my email. My wife tells me a panicky client needs something written immediately that has to go out in an hour or so. Then Colleen leaves to meet a friend in Pasadena. I have to put the 24-slice-of-life story on hold. A half-hour later the phone rings just as I’m wrapping up the client’s piece. It’s Colleen on the cell. She says her car died on the 210 around Baldwin in Arcadia. I can hear the cars honking and racing by. The tow truck is on the way and taking her to an auto repair shop. I get in my car and head to Pasadena to pick her up.

6:45 p.m.

Friday eastbound traffic was horrible, but we’re safely back in La Verne. My momentum is shot, however. I feel I have an irretrievable news hole in my story that’s wider than the 18-minute gap created by Rose Mary Woods, President Nixon’s secretary of Watergate fame.

7:15 p.m.

The road ended at Cafe Alegro under the fading sunlight.
The road ended at Cafe Alegro under the fading sunlight.

Perhaps, Café Alegro will revive me. Colleen and I wait for an outside table. No recession in evidence anywhere. We order wine. Colleen has the salad special recommended by our server April, who’s also studying biology and anthropology at Cal State Fullerton, and I have an eggplant dish. We split a crème brulee for dessert. After dinner, we walk the shops downtown, but the sidewalks are rolling up faster than if the famed shootout at the O.K. Corral were about to go down.

8 p.m.

I decide to throw in the towel on the project. Like Forrest Gump, I’m hanging up my running shoes. It’s the right time. Either La Verne’s not a 24-hour town or I’m not a 24-hour guy (from probably having lived in La Verne too long. I’ve lost my urban edge.). The prospect of looking at nine or 10 more hours appears all of a sudden like a lonely, futile trek. I had planned on catching a ride along with the police, dropping in on some Friday parties, popping in Hollywood Video to see what the hot new DVD releases are, intercepting kids teepeeing, sipping a hot chocolate at Denny’s at 3 a.m., catching a parking enforcement guy writing out citations, and a potpourri of other serendipitous discoveries before pulling back into Starbucks at 6 a.m., my 24-hour cycle complete.

8: 35 p.m.

Colleen and I head home. I’m exhausted. “Hey, aren’t the Angels and Dodger playing tonight?” I fall asleep after a few pitches.

What’s the one thing I’ll remember most from this short-lived odyssey? ‘For one, La Verne is an incredibly diverse town, with little pockets of people doing many amazing and wonderful things, all weaving their piece of La Verne’s evolving story. We just need to make sure all the spheres, circles and cliques are talking to one another. Let’s learn from one another. Let’s show more respect and interest in one another.

I was also amused by seeing my name in an entirely new light. While at the La Verne Animal Hospital several hours earlier waiting with my wife to pick up some prescription dog food, I saw my name spelled on a poster as I had never seen it before: A hyphenated Peter (PET-ER), as in Pet Emergency Room. All these years I had thought Peter was Greek or Latin for “rock.” Now I see I’m some kind of acronym, an ER for PETS. Living in La Verne does that. It opens your eyes to big things and little things, too.

2 Responses to “The City That Never Sleeps: 24 Hours in La Verne … Well, Almost”

  1. That was one of the coolest and most informative and entertaining articles I have ever read. I, too, see La Verne in a new light. My husband, 3 kids and I moved here nearly 8 years ago and said just yesterday that there isn’t one reason we would need to move. We love it here. All of it.
    Thank you for the almost 24 hours of La Verne.

  2. Although I don’t live in La Verne, I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Please so some more like it. It’s so interesting to know more about the general, regular people one might see each day. What a refreshing way to inform us about the area. What is the name of the Thrift Store? I think I need to check it out…I’ve been to many of the other places and liked them all.

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