They Say You Can’t Go Home, but YOU CAN GO BACK: Huntington Park, California

I decided to make my workday consist of enjoying the sights and sounds of my hometown Huntington Park, California, USA. There are many others who call Huntington Park their hometown, so I am not alone. None of the people in my memories are here, only the physical structures on which I BASE MY MEMORIES still reside here.  I am sure what I remember is accurate.  I once remembered out loud, at a reunion,  something that occurred in a gym class at Huntington Park High School, and a former classmate informed me that I was under an illusion.  I pondered her comments, her recollections and her demands that I remember things as she does.  I came to the conclusions that my memory still stands as one of my strong suits and I do not want my memories to take a back seat to anyone else’s which, while they may be perfectly true for them, are not true for me.

Now, please join me on my journey down memory lane.

First, we drove to Huntington Park from our home in the San Fernando Valley over the hill from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

As you continue on the 101 Freeway, your off ramp is Soto Street. Continue on Soto Street and you will see the old Sears building. You are heading in the right direction (south)

Soon you will be approaching Farmer John’s located in Vernon just north of Huntington Park at Farmer John
3049 E. Vernon Avenue Vernon, CA 90058.  As you will see from the photos, there is a mural painted on the exterior of the Farmer John’s slaughterhouse and meat packing plant. This mural has been here since 1957 when Les Grimes began his work here. Since 2000, extensive restorations have been made. The animals have changed a bit from time to time as each new artist lends his or her hand to the work. This mural will certainly get your attention and I have photographed small portions of it for you to see.

Next as you travel down Soto Street, you will soon see the Huntington Park Water tower. I was fascinated with this tower most of my Huntington Park life. It is a symbol of leaving and of coming home.

So, now that we are in Huntington Park, where to go first is the question. Actually, it is not a question; you go home. The house where I used to call home is as beautiful as it was years ago, only it is not home. Memories of my room with its window off to the right hand side of the house, second level and the sights I used to see from it come flooding back. I saw all the neighbors walking by. I saw the Jacaranda tree in full bloom and watched as it transitioned into a purple carpet of fallen blossoms. I loved that tree and now it is gone. My mother had roses lining the walkway to the front door and now there are roses lining the entire yard. Some of the old bushes are still there, but gone are the Camellia bushes. My mother would send bushels of Camellias to my teachers and I was popular on Camellia day.

The little window top right of the house is my bedroom window, my window on the world..

Gone, in reality, are Mom, Dad, Lula, Michael, Ron,  Clarke, John, Carolyn, Anita, Allegra, Helga, Johnny  Wake, and all the other people I remember in reality, but they are still there in my mind, so fresh, that I can see the spittle as they smile and the snot coming out of their noses, the pretty faces, long hair, their strength, their intelligence, and their bright eyes.  Gone is the Apricot and Fig tree. The building on the corner of California and Florence that was once the poultry farm and market is still there, but the squawking and the slaughtering and the poultry are gone. Again, what remains are memories. Once my brothers got a hold of a chicken foot and put it at the end of my bed.  To this day, I check the end of my bed to make sure there is nothing hidden there.

My Elementary school: State Street School

Next we drove down State Street to my elementary school where more than a million memories bombarded my senses. I remember buying 5 ice creams a day for lunch until they caught me and even after they caught me I tried to do it again.  I figured you got 25 cents a day for lunch a rather nasty lunch that smelled like the garbage can.  But you could wisely spend your 25 cents in an abundant way.  Each ice cream was a nickel and even though I did not excel in math, 25 cents bought 5 ice creams a much better deal than lunch. It was hard to stop me, but involving my parents did the trick. Where are you Abby Gratz, Sydney Michel, Sheryl Wriggle, Winnie Mae Miller, Gordon Outhier, Johnny Wilheilm, Terry Cunningham?

Here is the church where I was saved.  I was in the 3rd grade and talked too much in class. The teacher got very angry, dug her nails into my arms and threw me out into the hallway. I was too independent to take that so I ran away down the street. I was running so fast, I tripped and fell right in front of the church. Knee skinned, bleeding and crying I needed help.  The folks in the church came out and helped me inside, washed up my knee and asked me if I wanted to go to heaven.  Who doesn’t? So I answered, “Yes, I do.” After saying a few prayers and reading from the Bible, they drizzled droplets of water on my forehead. I thought it was raining and the roof leaked, but someone just said, “You are saved and you are going to go to heaven.” They are right, I was and I am.  The little lady with the pretty hair and powder blue suit walked me back to the entrance of the schoolyard and I walked back to the hallway in front of my classroom. The teacher came out and invited me back into the classroom.  So you see, major lifetime of experiences can occur between being thrown out of your classroom and being invited back in.


Gage Jr. High.

The years I spent in Gage Jr. High School are a blur except for deciding to wear lipstick and losing an important election.

Lots of things happened in Huntington Park HIgh School.  I remember way too many things I’d rather forget, plus this place was not good for my self-esteem. I never gave up, but I gave in.

One more church that played an important part in my life was the St.Matthias Church on Florence Avenue. I was looking for a sign. My boyfriend at the time wanted me to attend mass at his church so I did. As I entered and took my seat a coolness came over me and I was enveloped in a strong semi-vortex of spiraling spiritual energy.  I remember asking God for a sign.  I told him I was in a difficult place and I needed a sign if I was EVER, EVER going to be a believer. The mass was over and my boyfriend and I headed out of the large double doors to the parking lot where I left my car. My car had moved. I was a relatively new driver and must not have put my car in gear, so it rolled into a tree at the edge of the parking lot. If not for the tree, my car would have rolled into the middle of the street.  I asked for a sign and got a big one. Thanks be to God.

The temple: Huntington Park Hebrew Congregation which is now the Seventh Day Adventist Church, is flanked by a new motel on one side and a bakery on the other.  When this was the temple, it was my salvation. My life revolved around the activities here and this is the place I received a healthy dose of strong self-worth, until Doomsday. Doomsday for me happened in my 12th year when, the Rabbi called me into his office and told me that I would not be confirmed with the other girls in my Hebrew class. Was he kidding?  No, he was not. I begged, pleaded and then, asked why?  He complimented me on being a very good student, but calmly stated that my birthdate fell 19 days after the cut off for the confirmation exercises and that I would have to come another year for studies.  When I realized that anything I had to say was not being heard, I said, “Shit on you, Rabbi.” I then turned and ran from the temple, never to return. Years and years later, the same Rabbi must have suffered a bit of guilt. My parents told of him of our large family and that I was doing the Seder for the first time. He asked that a package be delivered to me. The gift package contained 20 beautiful brand new sparkling Haggadahs that I have used every year since I received them. Thank You Rabbi Hyman, may you rest in peace.

The best part of my visit home was to witness that Huntington Park is a vital, bustling beautiful vibrant city full of activity and remains an important commercial and industrial area southeast of Los Angeles City Center.

You can never go home, but you can go back, visit, and get your memories in high gear. Isn’t Huntington Park a beautiful city?  May she have continued success and continue to serve her community well.

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Visiting my Mother and her Friends

Left to right: Merriam, Sofie, Rose, and Violet

Give me a moment so we can visit my mother and her friends. This photo was taken a long time ago. How long ago, I do not exactly know, but definitely in another century.  I bring this to your attention because perhaps you have photos of your mother and her friends, or just a lovely little photo of your mother, father, brother, sister, maybe one of you with someone you love. Find them and spend some time reminiscing. It is a positive thing to do. Do be aware that emotions run high when visiting memories.

I began to focus on the photo of my mother and her friends. I do not have permission to write about these women, so I will just call them by their first names. Left to right: Merriam, Sophie, Rose, (my mother) and Violet. They met in their early school years and maintained their friendships into very old age.  At this writing, Merriam is still alive, living in West Los Angeles in a retirement home. I wish I knew much more about each woman, but remember I was very young when I would meet up with them and true to form, young people do not know what to ask or say to grown ups; they just stand in awe, and grown ups forget to tell the little ones things they might treasure.

From my limited knowledge and memory of my mother’s friends:

Merriam was married to the most handsome man I had ever seen. She is a woman of valor. There is boldness in her as well as a strength and courage that has not diminished with age.

Sophie was a woman who possessed spunk and a zest for living. She was married to a lovely, handsome man with a huge handlebar mustache. He was dashing. She was adorable. Sophie was an honest, forthright, up font person.

Violet was spunky and was a family centered person. She remembered everything that was ever in her life. Violet will go down in my mind as the most brilliant woman of her time. She always had a smile and a personal note of recognition for everyone she knew. She had a special vibrancy and LOVED chocolate.

Rose, my mother, was diligent and fierce about the success of her children. She was moral, true and honest. She loved and adored my father, and her children. She was constantly trying to improve herself. She possessed a brave spirit and was dedicated to her family and friends. My mother was a best friend to everyone.

Take some time off of your busy life and grab a stack of old photos. They don’t have to be ancient, just older than today. Be prepared for a journey into yourself and enjoy it!

GRANDMA DORA AND GRANDPA JOE


How can I begin to describe two people who are responsible for a part of my creation and a part of the essence of who they were, which makes me who I am? I will endeavor.

When I look at what I believe is their wedding photo, I am struck by the look of innocence and their sweet youth. I knew them not then, but came into their lives as a descendant, as they came into mine as grandma and grandpa, ultimately my ancestors. All of us entering a timely relationship of granddaughter/grandson and grandparents encounter: Hair not quite gray and bodies beginning their descent. I loved them to pieces and partly because they showed love for me and partly because they are/were part of the architects of my origin. I knew they were to be honored, respected, admired and pursued.

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“A son is a son until he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”(This is not necessarily always true.)

Many of you, after reading my post, “Four Daughters” asked me to write about our son. So, I pondered and I have written this for you.

“A son is a son until he takes a wife,
a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”

Well, what if your son does not take a wife, but takes a husband? Then you have something different.  You have two sons.  Now that’s very special!  One son is a lovely, wonderful blessing. But two sons are double the measure. When my two sons work together on my behalf, I have so much love and admiration for them and will always treasure their interest in being there for me.

My two sons look very much alike; they are the same height, approximately the same weight and the same size in clothes. Even though they are not biologically connected, they look and act almost like twins. I can buy a shirt and they’ll both wear it. I ask one for help and they both come.  I ask for sympathy and they both give it.  I ask for love and I get twice the dose. I ask for an opinion and I get two for the price of one. I ask for a favor and I get it twice as fast. And they always offer to pay for everything. I smile lovingly and proudly, knowing I’ll always receive a positive reception. I ask for one of them to drive and they both say with pleasure.  When they visit, one takes the trash out, the other puts a new bag in the can. They work in tandem; they work as a pair.

The two sons are valuable members in our family. They are loving, supportive and kind. They give each other approval to succeed and sustain the efforts of each other. They are priceless. They are double anything that anyone could wish to have in their lives. – Mother

ANOTHER DEAR GRANDDAUGHTER # 1

Dear Granddaughter #1

At the birthday party you said, “When I was little everyone loved me and then, I grew up.” Well, for your information, everyone still loves you only you won’t let us show you. Really? Really.  Start thinking about the people who love you and count them. Probably, you should just look at your Facebook page. There you will find people who are listening. I hope you are listening and reading. I write to let you know I am thinking of you and I love you. I loved you when you were little and I love you just as much and even more now.

I was and still am a sort of wallflower. Do you know what a wallflower is: well, as I remember it and as it was explained to me when I went to a dance and no one asked me for a dance, I was considered a wallflower. Someone who hugs the wall and hopes someone else will ask them to dance. I was thinking last night that I was a perpetual wallflower and I only remember someone asking me to dance after he had been refused by 6 others. I remember that dance so well. I even got sort of popular over it and people talked about how I was such a good dancer.  I guess that time was part of my 15 minutes of fame. I am still sort of a wallflower.

Here is what the urban dictionary says about wallflowers. And I do like these definitions.

-A type of loner. seemingly shy folks who no one really knows. Actually these are some of the most interesting people if one actually talks to them.

Or

“Someone, usually in high school, who sees everything, knows everything, but does not say a word; they are not loners; they are introverted, meaning they are shy and have a social disease; they cannot handle having someone pay attention to them even though they crave it as much as everyone else; wallflowers are just phased in, and faded into the background.”

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Four Daughters

Here they are, four daughters in a row. Can you pick out the twins? I can.  When the twins were babies I could be blindfolded and tell them apart just by their smell. I was very animalistic then about my babies. I still am. Better be careful. I bite.

No, I have not forgotten our wonderful loving son. He comes into view when we brought the twins into the house and he said, “Mom you had a girl and a boy and then you messed it all up.” Now, he cherishes all of the girls and they, him.  But later we will talk son, talk, but for now it is daughter talk.

What is a daughter? Goodness, a daughter is so many things it would fill pages and pages, but let me see if I can condense it for you.  A daughter is a challenging and trying human being that you love no matter what. Sometimes you think you have created a monster and other times an angel.   Daughters do not take all that you have to give, they tend to leave a little more for next time. They give you only so much of what you need from them and keep you waiting to hear more. You want to know how their day went and how they are feeling.  They say the word “fine” and you leave it at that creating a lull in the conversation. Sometimes on the other hand you get way more than you wanted in all ways. Not all daughters are the same; even if they share exact DNA, trust me.

You have heard many quotations about daughters no doubt. For example to quote a few, “A daughter is a gift of love.” “A son is a son until he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”

Here is one that is priceless: “Watching your daughter being collected by her date feels like handing over a million dollar Stradivarius to a Gorilla.” Jim Bishop.  Then, there are ones like:

“ A mother’s treasure is her daughter.”  “ To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter. “  Oh this is all hogwash; ok not all, but mostly.  Sorry, but I’ll bet each one of you can come up with a saying, a personal quote, closer to home and truer than the words I have quoted above.  So I am waiting. Post your personal quote. Here is mine

“If you have a choice of a son or a daughter, order both.” Or, like my mother told me; “ I wish you a daughter just like yourself.”

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