My father brought us to California in a Hudson Hornet and it was cramped in that back seat !!!!! Thank God it was a four door. It had a small trailer hitched to the back with our clothes a few belongings and only one piece of furniture: the floor radio.. We had never seen TV, it was relatively new then and where we lived in Rock Springs, Wyoming, there was no television reception. Everyone had beautiful, wooden, upright cabinet radios. Just like you watch TV now, we would gather around the radio and sit and listen to our shows. My favorite was the Lone Ranger. When I finally saw it on TV, I was so surprised that he and Tonto looked so much like what I had imagined. Unlike today, though, there was usually only one radio and every family member came together to hear the programs and of course it was our source for news.
Dad was a fight fan!! So much so that he even taught my brother and I to fight. He always said, “You may be a girl Linda, but you have an advantage with that left hand of yours, hit hard and keep your right in front of your face.” One of my favorite memories is sitting in front of the radio with dad and listening to the famous Floyd Patterson and Archie Moore fight in 1956. We could not see a thing but the announcers were so good. You could feel every punch and they would tell you exactly where the punch landed and if it was a light jab, a drive, head hit, jaw hit, chin tap, or body punch….. if they bobbed or weaved. In the first few rounds, there was blood on one fighter and they could not tell where it was coming from. They did not stop fights then for a little drop of blood and the announcer could not tell who was bleeding, we hung on every word waiting for more details. Finally it was revealed, a cut on Archie Moore’s eye. My dad was in a whirl of male testorone. He was for Patterson, “Hit him again, take him down, “. “Knock him out”… well Dad got his wish , Patterson knocked him out in the sixth round to become the heavyweight championship of the world. Of course Dad went wild, and told me I had just witnessed history…. he talked about that fight forever!!!!! and would look at me and say “She heard it, she was witness to history.”
When we finally arrived in California, we stopped on Harbor Blvd. Dad rented a portion of a triplex right there on Harbor, it was not the same busy street it is today. Shortly after settling in we met the neighbors. To the left was one of the most wonderful women, I have ever known. Mary Peralta, a widow and mother of seven sons. One had recently died and was near my father’s age. When she found out that we had no family in California, she immediately pronounced that “God has taken one son, but given me another”. From that moment on we blended with the Peralta family. Her sons became our uncles and their wives our “tias”. Their children our cousins and so it was.
Soon we bought a house in Garden Grove. Down through the years Mary would teach my mother, her favorite Mexican recipes. Mom was an excellent Southern cook, and had learned Italian dishes from her best friend and Polish dishes from Wyoming and now enchiladas, tacos, tamales, beans, salsa, chorizo, flautas, quesadillas, rice became main fare. Christmas was the absolute best… We would gather at the Peralta home in Santa Ana, where they raised their own chickens. Christmas Eve. day they would wring the necks of about a dozen and let them run until the blood drained. That expression, “Running around like a chicken with it’s head off.” is grounded in reality. Believe me it is a wild , wild scene. Then the men would pluck them, clean them and give them to the women. We would take them into the kitchen and cook them in huge pots covered with water, to get good stock. While they were cooking we would prepare the tamale masa and laugh and talk and just have a great time. The actually making of the tamale we would do in like an assembly line , one would put on the masa, another the chicken, another wrap and then they would steam in giant pots. Later we would eat and the men would drink beer and play cards. We women would clean up and play other games.
As I grew up, I thought that I was Mexican. one day I realized i was not, but my “adopted ” family was and it would really hurt when people would say mean things about Hispanics. As a teenager, I started thinking more about God and since my parents did not take me to church, I started attending different services on my own. Since my Mexican family was Catholic , thought that would be a good place to start.