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Still Claremont after all these changes

by John Pixley

It took me a minute. I should have known.

It said “Luna” at the top of the opening. Inside, there was a large stuffed dog and several dog food bowls and bones, along with plenty of the usual skeletons—including dog skeletons—and votive candles. The back wall was a mosaic of photographs of a large black dog. Yes, I realized, this was a memorial to a beloved pet.

I was at the annual Day of the Dead celebration at the Hollywood Forever cemetery—so much for avoiding crowds by skipping out on the Village Venture here that day—and I was admiring the many traditional homemade altars. Unlike last year when I went for the first time, parking was a real challenge, and I don’t know if I’ll go next year, but seeing these colorful, elaborate, lovingly-crafted memorials, mostly in honor of lost family members, is something. Not only is it a fun, ethnic Halloween treat with lots of people dressed and painted up in the classic skeleton motif, it’s pretty moving to boot.

This altar in honor of Luna, a dog so clearly adored and missed, stopped me in my tracks with a lump in my throat. I thought briefly of how, when the time comes, I might honor my 2 cats, Irie and Elijah.

Fall is like that. In this season of harvest, in this season when the time changes, it is all too easy to see the time going.

For many, it isn’t too early to start thinking about Christmas shopping. Already! See how time passes? I’ve been thinking about mailing off some gifts and wondering how to do this easily.

Of course, I could go online and do everything—the shopping and the mailing—in a few clicks but I’ve been thinking about going over to Graber Olives. Wouldn’t they mail off a pack or a nice gift box that I pick out?

Graber Olives. I haven’t thought of Graber Olives in years. Decades. Surely, it’s still there.

For years when I was growing up, my family would go out to the Graber Olive House in Ontario to stock up for the holidays. Not only did my parents include the olives in their gifts, they had them on hand for family gatherings and parties. The mottled green olives looked especially lovely in ceramic bowls.

Going out there was always a big deal, and it seemed like it was much farther away. There was something exotic, even magical, about going there. Sometimes there was a mariachi band playing—were there dancers once?—and I remember taking a tour of the processing plant. I remember women with hair nets, wet floors and lots of big machines with lots of olives going by.

(Not only is Graber Olives still there in Ontario; it now looks like I can buy and perhaps mail them online. And, of course, the olives are probably available in markets.)

Actually, my memories of the Graber Olive processing plant are mixed up with winery tours. I still remember lots of wet floors and big machines or equipment. Plus, there were strong smells.

Going to wineries was another big outing every fall for my family. They were out the same way as Graber Olives, but what I remember more than the tours is that they really were far away, or at least it seemed that they really were far away. The wineries were in Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto and Fontana, or even farther before Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto and Fontana were really there. Whether or not we took the freeway—I don’t remember taking the freeway —it was an adventure.

Of course, if we had taken the freeway, it would have been the 10 Freeway. This was long before the 210 Freeway came out here. This was when there were not many houses and still more orange groves above Base Line and Padua Hills was a pretty isolated community ending at the theater.

This was when there was not only parking in the middle of First Street in the Village but also no tall buildings along First Street. Of course, it was when there was no Village development on the west side of Indian Hill Boulevard (remember the ice company and the vet office?) and Bentley’s Market was where Rhino Records is now is. I also remember a Shell gas station on the northwest corner of Indian Hill and Bonita. Imagine that: a gas station in the Village? And I have even more vague memories of a market—or a feed store?—at the bottom of Yale Avenue where the Danson has been for years.

It was when I was going to Danbury School, when Danbury was still a school. It was also long before Casa Colina, where I go regularly to work out in the gym, moved into its buildings that look like a coastal resort in Orange County. When it was the same place I went to nursery school with Robyn Olson and then would go to see her twice a week a couple years before she died about 20 years ago.

Fall is the season of harvest, the season when the time comes, reminding us that things change. Things always change. Things may well have changed significantly with the elections yesterday. Some people will say the changes are for the better; others will say they are for the worse.

But, as fall also reminds us, even with all these changes, we go on with our lives. Even as things change, Claremont is the community we make, the community we love.

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