Lord Charley’s, out of business since 1991, is still making news.
First there was the wooden entry sign for the British-themed restaurant, which turned up at an Upland antiques store in 2016. “A rib-roaring good time,” its slogan, appeared under the restaurant name and a caricatured British lord holding a mug of beer and a leg of lamb.
Lord Charley’s owners Chuck and Linda Keagle visited the Vintage Vault with me and reminisced about the restaurant, which they opened in 1971 and which had locations in Arcadia, La Habra, West Covina, Rancho Mirage, Riverside and Upland. I wrote a column about the sign and shared photos of the interior and menu on my blog.
When my column appeared, an unnamed buyer snatched up the sign for $550. I was told he put it on display in his front yard. As I wrote at the time: “Does he want strangers to knock on his door requesting a table for six?”
Things went quiet on the Lord Charley’s front for a while, as well they should. Then, a month ago, Juline McGarry contacted me.
She and her husband, Tom, had their first date at Lord Charley’s on April 2, 1977, and it went so well they married four months later. She let me know they would be celebrating the anniversary of that date at home by pretending they were at Lord Charley’s. She printed out the photos and menu from my blog to help set the mood.
Charmed, I wrote a few paragraphs about that earlier this month. The morning my column saw print, I went into the office for a couple of hours to check on things. While I was there, my phone rang with a fateful call.
It was Jason Flint, the man who had bought the Lord Charley’s sign four years ago after reading my column.
He’d read my latest and wanted to give the sign to the McGarrys. I passed his name and number to the McGarrys, who were thrilled.
We met at the Flint home in north Upland Monday morning, the McGarrys arriving in their Ford Silverado pickup to better haul away the sign. Jason and his wife, Robin, who have a tax preparation business, were out front chatting with the McGarrys when I pulled up.
Robin admitted that having a restaurant sign mounted on a wall outside their home on an all-residential street did draw attention. People would drive by slowly, staring at the sign. And as I had predicted, “we had a lot of people stop by and ask if they could make reservations,” Robin said.
Were any of them serious?
“There’s a few people who were serious,” Robin replied. “I said, ‘If you like Top Ramen, you’re welcome. We don’t have steaks.’”
Why did the Flints buy the sign? Jason had gone to Lord Charley’s as a child with his parents and has fond memories. “I thought it would be a fun vibe,” said Jason, who was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and has a fun vibe himself.
The Flints enjoyed their time with the Lord Charley’s sign but were ready for a change, and maybe fewer drop-ins. The McGarrys were a natural choice. Jason and Tom hoisted down the headboard-sized sign and toted it to the pickup in preparation for its Brexit from Upland.
“We don’t have as much of an emotional connection,” Jason explained. “We rented it for a little bit. Now it has a home.”
I asked the McGarrys about that first date 43 years ago.
They’d met at Market Basket, a supermarket in Ontario where Juline was a checker and Tom, a Kaiser Steel ironworker, was a customer. He agreed to pick her up at her girlfriend’s apartment.
Juline, who had been stood up before, despaired as a half hour passed and her date hadn’t arrived. She was about to write off men completely. Then Tom arrived, apologizing for having got lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and held open her car door.
They went to Lord Charley’s on Foothill Boulevard and Central Avenue, ordered prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, the house specialties, and enjoyed themselves, if a bit nervously.
Tom didn’t say much. “I was eating,” he explained. Juline had never tasted horseradish. Tom warned her to just use a dab of the sinus-clearing condiment. Juline, scoffing, took a bite and regretted it.
After dinner, they went to Papa Bill’s, a bar in Pomona, to dance. The night was still young, so Tom invited her back to his apartment. When she saw that Tom’s son lived with him, she thought he must be OK and relaxed. Tom brought out his guitar and he and Juline sang songs for two hours before he drove her home and gave her a hug.
The next day, she left a note under his windshield wiper. When he didn’t phone, she assumed he wasn’t interested. Actually, as he explained the following day, because his son was sick, he had stayed home to take care of him and hadn’t gone out to his car.
He proposed a month later and they married in August. It was the second marriage for each. Juline had two sons and Tom had one. They blended their families and lives successfully.
Every April 2 they would celebrate the anniversary of their first date at Lord Charley’s, which was revamped under the name Charley’s Pub in 1991 and lasted until 2002. The McGarrys have improvised since then. This year they got takeout from Espiau’s in Claremont, another old favorite.
If they want prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, reader John Clifford suggested, they could go to Magic Lamp Inn in Rancho Cucamonga, where both are on the menu. An unnamed reader offered up Fullerton’s The Olde Ship pub.
Tom, 71, is project manager for a super-heavy transport company. “We’ve moved all the space shuttles, generators, turbines,” Tom said. The Lord Charley’s sign was less of a logistical challenge.
He and Juline, 69, won’t be displaying the Lord Charley’s sign in their Claremont front yard. Tom will put a fresh coat of lacquer on the sign to preserve it, build a bracket around it and hang it up on their patio as part of an outdoor kitchen.
Sounds like a nice ambience for their next anniversary dinner, al fresco. I didn’t ask if Tom still plays the guitar.
David Allen ruins the ambience of Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Email email@example.com, phone 909-483-9339, visit insidesocal.com/davidallen, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.