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.
6 thoughts on “Stories from 3706 N Figueroa”
Last night’s holiday party included a friend who grew up in the old Palo Verde neighborhood of Chavez Ravine. After the evictions, she refused to go to any Dodger games until her godson, Bobby Castillo, pitched for the Dodgers. She said she went to one game, but made sure to take her own peanuts and beer. Not a single dollar from her for the guys who literally destroyed her neighborhood. But they were definitely a tight group of folks. The former residents and their families still get together for reunions.
I once went to my local library and spent hours flipping through Chavez Ravine: 1949: A Los Angeles Story (if its the book I’m thinking of). There are really some amazing photos in there and great stories as well. That’s awesome that you got to meet a man and hear his stories. Preserving community history is so important.
I don’t want to sound like an insensitive asshole, but what’s the big deal? People are forced to relocate all the time, at least they didn’t have to go to another state. They just had to come down from the hill. Places have to change and people too…
Look at the quality of those photos, i can’t believe they are from 1949. Pretty cool pics.
I read this plastic binded comb book by Manazar Gamboa called ‘Memories of a Bulldozed Barrio” it was his life growing up in Chavez Ravine it was really great. I find areas like that so intriguing.
Thanks for the tip! I love book recommendations.
“Memories around a Bulldozed Barrio” is the proper title sorry =)