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.