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Voice: Brawley in the year 1932

February 10, 2001

According to the archives, Brawley was founded in October 1902 and incorporated in April 1908. On Dec. 12, 1932, snow fell all over the city.

I had the flu so my aunt and uncle whom I was visiting did not allow me to play with their children in the yard.

The Planters Hotel was a magnificent place where the cattlemen, farmers and merchants had their meetings, for they were the backbone of the city. On the rest of West Main was the shopping center with general stores, offices, banks and professional buildings.

Between Ninth and 10th streets there were two theaters, the Azteca and the Eureka, that featured Spanish-speaking films and the famous cowboys such as Tom Mix, Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson. There were stores, cafes, beer bars. Also there was the Ulloa Gardens Family Restaurant; Connie Escalera told me she worked there and served fruit juices, raspado/snow cones and soft drinks, and there was where she met her future husband, Faustino Escalera.


John Wallace owned and operated the International Pharmacy. I have direct knowledge that when the poorest of the poor could not pay for their children's medicine, he would donate some to them, bearing in mind there was no welfare, Social Security or unemployment insurance and farm workers were earning 25 cents per hour during the Great Depression. There were no harvesters for produce picking. Families who worked in the fields were united in family support.

To support their five children, my aunt and uncle made tamales. My two cousins and I were the outside vendors. My favorite customers were the itinerant fruit and vegetable packers. In the summer these men wore white T-shirts while packing melons. They perspired so much their fair skin looked so pale it seemed they had no blood in their veins. They were a noble, suffering class of people who were kind and gentle to a little daily vendor.

Roy Farr and his wife introduced me, a country boy, to German chocolate cake. They had a little Chihuahua in the house and after they daily bought six juicy cheese enchiladas the puppy grew in six months to greyhound size.

Roy Farr told me he had a pony at his ranch. Right away I told him I was an orphan. I don't think he could hear well for I never got adopted and I never got the pony. Fourteen years later I went to the Planters Hotel where he had his office and I thanked this fine person.

On my way home I would stop at the southeast corner of Ninth and Main and I would trade some of my remaining tamales for yams and pumpkin homemade candy by Timoteo Santillan the candyman, who when he went to his eternal reward took his formula with him, a great, sweet loss. His son Tony Santillan would stand respectfully at attention behind his father like a guardian. In time he married Velia Escalera. The Escaleras were pioneer, good families.

I attended Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School in the fourth grade. The teachers were young ladies, all caucasian, dedicated and fine people. The principal was a real gentleman. There was reverence for parents, teachers, and respect for law and order. There was no gangs or drug culture.

In 1932 the beauty of the city was in the heart, soul and character of the people. I remain grateful for the memories. Amen.


El Centro

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