"He who loves an old house never loves in vain."

-- Conant, Isabel La Howe

When was the last time you were in downtown Pittsburg? I used to go to lunch with staff at the New Mecca in Pittsburg when I worked in Concord. That was during the '70s. The restaurant was always crowded unless you dropped in between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.

Now that I'm retired I seldom travel to Pittsburg. On those rare occasions, I especially enjoy looking at the work being done to restore the downtown area to the thriving port city along the Carquinez Strait it once was. I prefer to think a lot of folks believe, as I do, that downtown Pittsburg is endowed with a rich heritage dating back to 1839, and that more of its old buildings should be salvaged rather than razed to make room for high-rise buildings and super shopping centers.

However you might feel about Pittsburg's past, I suggest you first look at the work being done and then judge for yourselves. And if you have an extra hour, drop in on the Pacific Community Services center for a further glimpse of the city's opulent past and talk to those folks who volunteer their time for the cause. The PCS office located across from the New Mecca at 329 Railroad Ave., and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tom LaFleur is a leader of the Pittsburg restoration movement in addition to being executive director of PCS, which deals with housing foreclosures and senior housing issues. A gregarious and outspoken civic mover and shaker, LaFleur enjoys his roles and is wedded to the city that is his birthplace.


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Tom is available to talk to anyone wishing to share their thoughts on restoration or other civic concerns, but I suggest calling first for an appointment at 925-439-1056.

The Pacific Community Services building which is city owned and includes Tom's office retains a lot of its original decor from the '20s. Those who take time to tour the building will delight in stepping into the past and likely be overwhelmed to see the enormity of the back room that can easily seat well over a couple hundred people. I understand that a lot of local groups regularly use the room for various nonprofit events throughout the year.

Also stored in one of the side rooms is a massive Robert Morgan organ that began churning out music in 1920 to the delight of thousands of moviegoers at the California Theatre, two doors down from Tom's office.

The organ was eventually sold to a local church group shortly before the theater closed in 1952. It subsequently changed hands several times and wended its way as far south as Salinas before being tracked down and purchased by the city in 2011, in poor condition. Refurbishing the organ has already started. It's for sure, however, that the job will not be completed in time for the reopening of the California Theatre.

Pacific Community Services has been assigned the responsibility for storing and refurbishing the organ which will take a year to complete. Dave Moreno, who has spent his life working on pipe organs has been hired as adviser with volunteers doing the majority of the work. Even without labor cost, restoring the organ will cost $120,000. Anyone interested in contributing to the organ fun can mail their contributions c/o Pacific Community Services, Inc., 329 Railroad Ave., Pittsburg, CA.

I will add that I thoroughly enjoyed our meeting. It's rare to find a citizen as committed to his city as is Tom.

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.