My friend has three sons, one in Long Beach, another in Upland, and one in the desert. He also has four grandchildren: two girls and two boys. [Recently another grandchild was born this year, 2010.]
Turning south on Garfield Avenue from Olympic, he said that the street used to end at the railroad, as there was no railroad overpass. One would have had to detour at Vail or Atlantic.
Soon, we were entering into the former streets of Simons, heading south down Vail pass the school. At some point, I asked him about Montebello High School: I think he said that the old high school was at Montebello and Whittier; in the late 1940’s, the high school was converted to a junior high school. (He attended the newer high school campus.)
|Montebello High School|
(Click on image to zoom in)
We drove past a business, Meyers Electric, in “Simons”. My friend said he used to work in that building. We headed for the “church”, which was Our Lady of Mount Carmel, located where the Home Depot stands, along the 5 Freeway. South of the “church” was a farm, run by Japanese. He said they were taken away during World War II. He recollected there was a wide irrigation channel to water the crops.
He pointed out other buildings that used to be there: the Prado house, which was the largest in Simons, near the corner of Vail and Rivera. Mr. Henry “Genaro” Prado was the superintendent who patrolled the company grounds with sheriff-like authority, and he had two daughters, Ernestine and Mercedes. Another large house was the Romo house, to accomodate the company bookkeeper. We both acknowledged meeting a daughter, Dora Romo Gurrola, on several occasions recently. Rivera Road would have ran behind the current Home Depot. At the end of Rivera Road there was a town hall.
West of Vail, not far from Rivera, were workers’ houses, and beyond the houses were the maquinas, and beyond was the East Los Angeles Airport. My friend said there were numerous airports around, and the East LA Airport was not a part of the nearby Vail Airport. He worked one summer (1949) as a lineboy at the East LA Airport. His sister worked at a hamburger eatery at the airport. His job entailed refueling planes for the flight school. He pulled planes out on the line to refuel. When planes returned from flight, he would check the gas gauge, as well as prop the engines poised for self-cranking by the pilots. In the course of his job, he drove a Studebaker, although he did not possess a driver’s license! I asked him if it was difficult to get a job, and he replied “no”. Apparently, the previous worker quit. My friend happened to be at a restaurant when he was approached about filling the job. The job fell in his lap!
Some other airport recollections: he remembers once there was an Army plane flown by a drunken pilot who managed to land the plane in an open field. He also remembers a woman flight instructor who took him flying at least four times. She even offered to teach him to fly, but regrettably, the flight school closed soon after. His summer job did not last long, because the gasoline gave his skin a rash.
He mentioned that at the vicinity of Atlantic and Slauson there was another air field. An eucalyptus tree served as a boundary marker for the town, but it appears the tree has disappeared. Rivera Road led to Telegraph Road. He pointed out the sunken formation of the land west of Vail, and he said it was due to the clay excavation. West of Vail also had a narrow gauge railroad running through it.
He then turned off into Condor Street from Vail. Continuing east a bit, we passed Tanager. This, he said, was the entrance spot to El Hoyo (The Hole). The heart of El Hoyo was by Condor and Supply Avenue. Al pointed out that the area adjacent to El Hoyo as higher ground. The following is a description of El Hoyo written by him in 2007:
'El Hoyo' was where last of the 'maquinas', the 'rakas' and the kilns were located. It was also where most of the houses were. We lived in 'El Hoyo'. The other areas of Simons were 'La Vail' and 'El Barrio Verde'. 'La Vail' was right on Vail Avenue, the only paved street in Simons. I understand that 'El Barrio Verde' was so named because the houses were once painted green. There were also a few houses on Rivera Road but it was considered as part of 'La Vail'. Rivera Road is now an extension of Sycamore Avenue. (2/22/2007)
We passed another commercial building (Blister-pak). My friend commented that he worked in the building when it was an electrical manufacturer.
At some point during the driving tour, I inquired where he thought his former street, El Carmel Street, was situated. He pinpointed it to be near the present-day address of 2854 Supply Avenue.
He named off the old streets that ran in the east/west direction: Guanajuato, Jalisco, California, Montebello, El Carmel.
My friend explained about his dad’s life at the brickyard: he died in April, 1980. Some of his father’s responsibilities at the brickyard entailed setting up cables for the conveyors of freshly molded clay. He also watched the kilns in operation and made adjustments to the valves during the baking process. I asked whether his father suffered any health problems as a result of working in a brickyard. He didn’t have occupation-related illnesses, my friend said. After the brickyard closed, the family moved nearby to present-day Commerce.
We drove into the dead-ended Church Street. He pointed out that in order to get to church, church-goers had to walk across the railroad tracks. Once, he remembered, a slow-walking woman froze as a passing train came through and managed to miss striking her.
|Front entrance of a business on Vail Avenue, in the heart of Simons.|
The old brickwork looks suspiciously like Simons bricks. (Click on images to zoom in)
West of Vail, near the rakas, was where baseball was played.
|Old building converted to a residence in the old Simons neighborhood.|
Along our drive, my friend said that he worked in the brickyard one summer. He used a mule, named "Chiquita", which pulled a wagon to collect empty pallets from the rakas and transport them to where the molded clay was readied.
|Home in Montebello|
I asked him if he ventured out of Simons much, and yes, he said, he met school friends, and often caught the bus to Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles.
My friend delivered me back to our starting point. I took some photos of him, and he said he was heading off to a birthday celebration of a former Simons neighbor and friend, Victor, who was turning 80 years old.