From The Desk of Dora DePaoli: A big yes to small-town life

November 16, 2001

Except for the 11 years I spent in West Los Angeles, I have lived in Holtville. Large cities are fun to visit, but small towns are wonderful places to live. It is so nice to run into people I know at the market, post office, hardware store, bank and drugstore.

It is great, too, when children are growing up. They think twice about messing up because half the town knows their parents.

On my daily walks into town I get waves from police officers, firefighters, public works employees and most of the truck and tractor drivers. It is just a friendly town. A special treat is the happy greetings and waves from the pre-schoolers at Wesley Day Care.

Some regulars I see include a wheelchair-bound man. The stroke victim warmly grasps my left hand and gives me a big smile. When my sister, Louise, walks with me we always rest a few minutes at a park bench across from the 7-Eleven. This is a good spot from which to keep an eye out for her husband, Charlie. She likes to catch him in the act of buying sodas there.


The bench also is a good place to visit with folks strolling around town. A retired bank officer is usually good for a couple laughs. For the third year in a row we've visited with a Canadian couple who daily bicycle into town from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management campground east of town. They buy coffee at the 7-Eleven and drink it in the park. They are smart folks and don't stick around during our hot months.

While at Holt Park I often remember a unique event that took place more than 30 years ago. It was the "marriage" of Holtville to its sister city, Chiangchung Hsiang, Taiwan. During this time the California Angels had a winter training camp in town. The young baseball recruits served as attendants along with the members of a women's organization. The late Luke Reichle was mayor and presided over the activities. Luke had a hard time keeping a straight face, as did about half of the audience.

When we pass City Hall we often stumble on one of the city employees sneaking a cigarette. She has been trying to stop for awhile and we give her a little grief.

As we continue down Holt Avenue we are often given okra or black-eyed peas from an avid gardener. The 70-something bachelor has tried to lure us into his house with the old come-on: "Hi little girls, I've got some milk and Fig Newtons inside!"

Another fellow, with a knack for growing tropical plants, kids us about trying to steal his pineapple plants. He did give us a taste of the last one he harvested. Right now, however, we are keeping an eye on his banana-laden tree. There were 40 at last count.

As we pass the Ralph Samaha Recreation Field we frequently see a retired grocer taking his daily laps around the park with his hunting dog. When we get close to the high school I get goosebumps when hearing the Holtville High School Viking Band of Pride. I've known Lendall Macon, the band director, since he was in high school and worked at Cook's Market. I envy the people in the area. They get to hear the spirited group almost daily.

It's fun to order take-out food in a small town and have the person answering the phone recognize your voice and ask if you want "the usual."

When going to rummage sales at the various churches it is not unusual to recognize clothing hanging on the racks and remember who used to wear it.

Going to church-sponsored dinners it is a regular occurrence to know everyone in the serving line and to know which women made the pies. Speaking of church, most people occupy the same pews over the years and wouldn't dream of sitting across the aisle. In our church we have the northsiders and the southsiders. When someone switches sides it is a big deal.

The down side of small town living is that everybody knows just about everything about you. My late husband used to say: "In a small town you know whose check is good and whose husband isn't."

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