Jean Meadowcroft, a friend of ours from the 1960s now living in San Diego County, wrote to me about the Rincon Indians and their 10-story hotel. I remember Rincon and Valley Center quite well. Those are my earliest memories. This was in the mid-1930s.
My father was one of those fortunate Americans who had a job. He drove a school bus on the Pala Rancheria. For a while we lived in Valley Center. I was about three.
Back then Valley Center was Old Man Mazzetti's gas station. No Indian Casinos or 10-story hotels then. His gas pumps had handles on them. Mr. Mazzetti hand pumped the exact amount of gas his customer wanted into the glass well on top of the pump, and then the gas drained by gravity into the customers car. Mr. Mazzetti also had a cold drink box. Nehi, R.C. Cola and Welch bottles hung suspended by their necks between bars. When you put in your nickel, an end bar would lift and you could slide your drink out. This was the Depression. When would I have a nickel for soda?
Old Man Mazzetti was responsible for one of my more memorable taste sensation. He offered me a chunk of his homemade salami and I bit into a whole black peppercorn. I thought I burned a hole in my tongue.
We had a cow. We had a cat who ate beans. One at a time. But only after chewing them well. It took her a long time to eat dinner. We had dogs and used to buy fried pig rinds, chicherones, for their dog food. Nowadays they sell them in teeny little celophane bags for guys to drink with their beer. I don't think they are a ladies' snack, but what would I know?
I recall playing in the front yard. I had a lathe in my hand, stabbing at the air, pretending it was a sword with which I was demolishing my enemies. My parents were sitting on the porch watching when suddenly my father leapt into the yard, grabbed my lathe and started whacking at the ground with it. He broke the stick, of course, but he also broke the back of the nearby coiled sidewinder.
I loudly lamented my broken lathe until my mother explained to me that my father had just saved my baby buns from being well and truly fanged. And the moral to this story is there are three kinds of people. Some people make things happen, like my father. Others watch them happen, like my mother. And then there are those who wonder what happened. Like me.