Hot summer days in Boyle Heights were pretty boring for a pre-teen youngster especially as you entered the month of August in 1954. All the fun of July 4th was over and the end-of-school celebrations were a dim memory.
We lived on Folsom Street near Mott and were one of the growing number of Latino families in the block. Yeah, we could go to the Brooklyn Theater to see a movie, but you risked a lot. Gang kids from the projects would come around asking for a "loan" so that they too could go to the movies. You didn't want to give them the dime you had for candy, because there was no such thing as an allowance. You earned the movie money by cutting the neighbor's lawn or mopping up the floor on Friday night at my Jewish neighbor's house (I can still smell the apples baking).
The kid across the street got knifed at the Brooklyn Theater because he wouldn't hand over any money to the cholo types. The wound was minor, but two weeks later the family had moved to suburbia. (We followed shortly after.)
Meanwhile, what to do on a hot weekday afternoon? Let's go to the plunge, my brother said. We agreed and got our stuff together for our once-a-year trip to Evergreen Plunge. A risky affair, we thought, because it was out of our neighborhood. Of course, the family didn't have a car, so there was no choice but to walk across two time zones to the Evergreen Plunge.
Once we got there, we didn't have many choices either because we didn't know how to swim. We had to stay at the shallow end. It was very crowded and lots of fooling around. We took peeks at some of the girls that were there, but kept a wary eye for their boyfriends or brothers.
Before long the pool bell rang to inform us that the plunge was closing. We headed for the locker room to dry up, get dressed and begin the long walk home. But, we looked forward to going home because we had just enough change to buy a coke or a 50-50 ice cream bar at the grocery store that was located about half-way home.
We claimed our clothes using a metal ID tag that we pinned on our trunks. Upon checking our belongings we would first look for our money. Of course it was not there. The locker room attendants had no idea what happened to our money.
The long walk home just got longer.
Illustration from "El Corrido de Boyle Heights", mural on Soto & Cesar Chavez, by East Los Streetscrapers (David Botello, Wayne Alaniz Healey and George Yepes.
David Barron was born in East Los Angeles, graduated from Cathedral High School and Cal State L.A. with a Journalism degree. He currently is editor and publisher of the Monterey Park Journal in Monterey Park, CA.