Claremont 80 years ago: John Neiuber

by John Neiuber

September 1941, three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entering World War II, my father was still working the family farm in mid-state Wisconsin, just outside the little village of Redgranite. He had been working on the farm full-time since his father had him quit school in the 8th grade, the thinking being it was enough schooling needed to operate a farm. My mother was living in nearby Princeton where her father founded and published the local newspaper, The Princeton Times Republic. They would later meet and marry while my father was in the service. After my father was discharged from the army, where he served his entire enlistment in Anchorage, Alaska, and where his best wartime story was how he rescued and raised an orphaned bear cub, they moved to California and settled in Pomona first and later in Chino, where my grandfather owned and published The Chino Champion.

In September 1941, the Claremont COURIER was celebrating its 33rd year in business. The city of Claremont was enjoying its 54th year as a community and its 34th year as an incorporated city.

What was happening in Claremont? The Claremont COURIER, like it does today, was documenting the history, culture and story of the city and its citizens.

The town was gearing up for Claremont Day at the Los Angeles County Fair. It was an event that brought out nearly the entire town to the fair and was a source of community pride. The Claremont Chamber of Commerce’s citrus industry display was a perennial favorite at the fair.

There was a building boom going on in Claremont. It was reported in early August that no less than 19 homes were under construction. By the first of September that number would increase to 21, for a total of 35 for the year through August. The previous record of 37 in one year in 1939 was certain to be eclipsed. Katheryn Switzer was building a $2,900 residence at 141 Oberlin Avenue and the Maxwell Chaplin family started construction on their $7,000 house at 508 West Ninth Street, while Mary Maynard was building a house at 351 West 11th for the sum of $3,900.

There was no “Police Blotter” in the paper in 1941, but like today, drunk driving seemed to be an ongoing issue for the Claremont Police Department. Among other such arrests, Eugene Eckhardt, 26, of Alhambra was arrested on Foothill Boulevard on a drunk driving charge.

On the editorial page it was reported under the title, “College Pays Dividends,” that for the first time since the onset of the depression, it appeared that a college degree was paying immediate dividends following graduation. Based on a survey of 501 institutions of higher learning, Investors Syndicate estimated that colleges were unable to fill a third of the jobs offered to graduates in June.

Philanthropy has a long tradition in Claremont. The Claremont Women’s Committee of the Southern California Symphony Association was raising funds for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. The Claremont group was one of 12 community groups supporting the orchestra. Today that group is still active as the Foothill Philharmonic Committee.
The Rotary Clubs of Claremont, Chino and Pomona were cooperating to bring Edward Spicer, former president of the Rotary Club of London and former director of Rotary International for the British Isles, to speak on the topic, “Rotary in Wartime.”

Known for their many construction projects in Claremont, C.T. and W.P. Stover and the affiliated corporation of Stover & Younger were working on four construction projects in three states, California, Arizona and Texas. The Stover brothers were building a pilot training school in Visalia at a cost of $250,000, while Stover & Younger handled all the out of state projects, including a new school for Southwest Airways in Mesa, Arizona.

Casa Colina Convalescent Home for Crippled Children was holding a barn dance and carnival featuring entertainment, games, refreshments, fortune telling, archery, shooting gallery and a demonstration of their “famed therapeutic pool.” The home was located along Highway 71, six miles south of Pomona and three miles southwest of Chino. Today that would be in the City of Chino Hills.

The Mexican Players were staging “La Familia Rojas Presenta,” a production about the adventures of a carnival troupe in Mexico, at the Padua Hills Theatre. The production starred Casilda Amador and Francisco Fonesca, whose picture appeared in the newspaper.

The city council voted to raise the tax rate five cents to $1.68 per $100 of assessed valuation for the 1941-42 year. Upon recommendation of Police Chief T. J. Lowery, they also voted to appoint Paul Gordon as desk officer to replace Vernon Moffet who had resigned to become police chief of La Verne. Mr. Gordon had been an employee of the Alpha Beta market since 1933 and had been in charge of the fruit and vegetable department.

Local citrus growers were showing interest in a new express rail car that doubled the capacity of citrus boxes that could be shipped and that also could keep the fruit cooler for longer periods of time.

The local Red Cross chapter and Girl Scout Troop 5 brought together the community to produce 848 garments to be shipped abroad for war relief.
Warren Tabor, Gaston Avila, Eldon Gritton and Dean Blair were inducted into the army by the Selective Service Board in Pomona and left for the Los Angeles Induction Center from the Pacific Electric station in Pomona. Three other Claremont men enlisted in the navy and army.

An editorial argued that the words “national defense” needed to be replaced with “national security” since defense implicated the U.S. was “backed up against a wall and blindly flaying about protecting itself against a foe that will strike in its own good time.” There was a war raging in Europe, but that was far away and not a major concern for most of the citizens of Claremont in the late summer of 1941. That would change dramatically in December.


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