Stories from 3706 N Figueroa

photos from Chavez Ravine: 1949: A Los Angeles Story

[This is a blog entry from earlier this year transferred over from myspace]

Stories from 3706 N Figueroa

A few months ago when I was working at Sandpaper, a simple but well dressed old man came in on his way home from the corner store. He immediately made an impression on me because his pants were so neatly cuffed and his hair was slicked back, Tres Flores style. He picked up a photography book off the shelf called Vatos and asked me if I had any books on Chavez Ravine. He then went on to tell me all about his idyllic childhood in Chavez Ravine and the deep connections he and his family had with their neighbors. They were more than neighbors, they were family. They shared food, watched each other’s children and lived a life apart from the rest of Los Angeles. His family was one of the last to leave and when they were finally forced out, they moved to nearby Lincoln Heights. He said he cried for two years, he missed his old neighborhood so much.
When he was older, he got into the Pachuco lifestyle. With much relish, he described Zoot Suiter fashion. The size of their pants was quite important, enough so they would measure for accuracy. His style of dress attracted the attention of cops and he was often harassed. I think he eventually ended up in jail but he didn’t elaborate on that part of his life too much. His story was undoubtedly embellished by years of nostalgia but no matter, this brief interaction transported me to another time and place. When he was done reminiscing, he left for home with his quart of milk. While I was familiar with the history of Chavez Ravine, his personal story helped me understand the lasting emotional trauma of a community eliminated by force.

Happy Birthday!

Jessie Tellez circa 1940 (Tijuana)

Today my grandmother Jessie, born Maria de Jesus Tellez Vizcarra in Cananea, Sonora is 85 years old! A graduate of Belmont High School, first Mexican-American president of her PTA and American Legion and resident of her Rampart-Echo Park neighborhood for more than 70 years. She is the jewel of our family, beautiful, kind, thoughtful and mischievously flirty.
She managed to buy a house, take care her of her young baby and work at Bullock’s downtown while my grandfather was away during World War Two, amazing! Throughout the years, her home has been a refuge for our immediate family and those from faraway. Not judgmental about our lives and choices but supportive always. Her sense of humor has kept us all going through difficult times and she’s notorious for playing practical jokes. She’s even survived the venom of a scorpion and a black widow! How’s that for tough?
Happy Birthday Grandma!

Just Married

Jessie and Atanasio Garcia, somewhere in Los Angeles, circa 1942

I’ve encountered a few mysteries among the many family photos my maternal grandmother has given me to keep. For instance, I’m curious about these souvenir Los Angeles snapshots. What area is this? My grandmother refuses to answer because she hates this photo and the last time I showed it to her, she insisted I tear it up. That’s her in the photo with our family patriarch, my grandfather Atanasio. They had recently married.
If anyone can identify the area, I would be most appreciative.