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The House at the End of the Street

Another tale from the 'hood

By Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: July 3, 2012


The House at the End of the Street


The temporary chain link fence around the condemned property was coming down after a couple of years...

The brown and dried grass & weeds were knee high. Trash was strewn about the whole lot, as well as a couple of abandoned cars. The boarded up windows on the old wooden clapboard house had been splattered with different colored graffiti over the years. The once elegant pool was nothing more than a green, half-filled swamp now. Trees and bushes were so overgrown, it was difficult to see the 5 bedroom, 2 story home from the street … but it was once beautiful.

Both police and county Animal Control had to been summoned as homeless vagrants and feral cats had been occupying the property for the past couple of years, and now it was time for them to move on.

Young professional men and women in hard hats, maybe 5 or 6 of them, began surveying the property, walking around taking notes and pictures on their cell phones…and I felt a tinge of nostalgic sadness as I drove by.

The old Longoria house, home to 4 generations of Chicanos since the 1940's, was finally coming down to be razed into a memory, as the last family member to live there had died about 4 years ago and other remaining family members had moved out of the area. Not having much interest in the condemned property.

I had passed by the house when coming back to the old neighborhood to visit for many years… and I have some pleasant memories spanning more than 50 years about the place… but time marches on…

The Longoria's had settled into the house right after WW II from San Antonio, Texas. The family patriarch, Gilberto, was a Navy Veteran who opened up the family bakery a couple blocks away…made the best menudo, sweet bread, carnitas, and bolillos in town.

For years when I was a kid in the late 1950's and early 1960's, my family and others would line up with their pots early on Saturday & Sunday mornings to score on some of Mr. Longoria's home-made menudo, piping hot with plenty of "pata". You could smell the fresh aroma of bread down the street and hear Mexican and Tejano music playing as you passed by.

The Lonogoria's had plenty of pretty female family members to work the store, too. Daughters, nieces, cousins, sexy Tia's and all…I used to go by on Saturday afternoons to pick up a couple of sweet breads just so I could see and flirt with Armida, one of the pretty daughters.

My Tio Chavelo used to date the 2 Tia's, Elena and Priscilla…such pretty women who use to " make the sweet bread smell even sweeter" was the saying in the neighborhood.

The Lonogoria's threw some of the best neighborhood parties and bar-b-ques too. My family always went. My older brothers had their pick of 3 older sisters & maybe 5 or 6 cousins to dance with. The 2 sisters close to my age, Armida and Evelyn, always had older boyfriends, so I lost out… but I hung out with 2 of the brothers, Marcos and Rico, so I had a reason to hang out at their house. They were some of the best baseball players and street scrappers on the schoolyard, so I was in good company.

I walked by their house everyday on the way to school for years, and I always heard music playing. Over the years, the music changed with the generations as the Longoria's always had a lot of people living there.

Mr. Longoria was a proud & expert groundskeeper, and he frequently had his visitors help out with yard work. The house was painted every other year, and its manicured lush vegetation & trees made it the envy of the neighborhood.

In the summer, Mr. Longoria would set up big tents in his backyard where visiting relatives or "new Gente" (that's what our parents called them) from across the border would stay. One of the prettiest and eldest daughters, Imelda, married a local police Sergeant, so there was never any problems with "the migra". One of the sexy Tias, Priscilla, married a lawyer who eventually became a City Councilman, so that pretty much insured that Mr. Longoria could bring "new Gente" from Mexico without a problem as long as he didn't overdo it. He didn't. Many families in the neighborhood today owe their L.A. roots to Mr. Longoria.

The house stood at the end of the street, where the cross street was a small 2 lane street with no sidewalks, bordered by a large field behind it, so there wasn't a lot of thru traffic. Almost like a dead end, so we played baseball & kickball in the street almost everyday.

I remember going to a swim party there one summer night when I was about 14, and I got a chance to make out with one of the daughters of the "new Gente". Her name was Marcella, she was 13 and from Tijuana. Her older brother eventually chased me off when he caught us kissing, and the family moved out a few weeks later…but I still remember Marcella, green eyes and all…good kisser…

Around '68 or '69, both Marcos and Rico got drafted into the Army. Marcos went to Viet Nam, and Rico went to Germany…Marcos didn't come back. That was the first funeral I ever went to…and a few more followed in the neighborhood during them times…but Marcos Longoria was the first.

Around '75, Gilberto's wife Anna, or "Mama Longoria" as she was known, suddenly died. The whole neighborhood fell out for her funeral…maybe 300 people…it was touching. We all liked her, and remember her giving credit to people during hard times.

Mr. Longoria re-married about 5 years later, but his new wife and her family ran the bakery into the ground, and it eventually closed down around 1984…big loss to the 'hood…Mr. Longoria retired on Social Security and divorced his wife…he seemed a little happier afterwards too, we all joked.

Around 1990, Mr. Longoria's oldest grand daughter Anna married a young Air Force pilot, and Mr. Longoria pulled out every last cent he had for one more big bash at the house. It was like a neighborhood reunion, everybody was there.

…I had a good laugh that the 2 Longoria sisters who would never dance or go out with me when we were young had grown into some BIG fat women with fat bratty kids and fat drunken husbands! ¡Orale! I felt proud that my old lady was still looking good after 3 kid !

My childhood buddy Rico Longoria had a successful business and had moved to Las Vegas with his red headed gabacha wife. Not bad looking…just not a friendly type of lady. Had a couple of handsome sons who got the best of both worlds. He was happy, and I was happy for him.

About 1992, the end street was widened into a 4 lane highway, and the field behind us was turned into office complexes and factory buildings, and opened the street up to thru traffic…gone was our little private corner of Chicano heaven…no more baseball or kickball in the street…

Around 1995, Mr. Longoria died. Again it was like a neighborhood reunion…just less people, as many had died or moved away. We all talked about the "good old days", and admired each other's grandchildren.

The neighborhood had changed. Many of the old houses had been knocked down, and their big lots turned into apartment & condo complexes. Many of the old families were long gone, too. The Longoria house was one of the last big houses on the street, it's lush gardens & landscaping now overgrown and neglected with nobody left to tend to them….

After Mr. Longoria died, his sister Priscilla lived in the house until everybody grew up and moved out…she died about 2005 and house has sat empty & neglected ever since then, with the city condemning it and fencing it up about 3 years ago.

…as I drove by this morning, the house was bulldozed down, large machines were leveling the ground, and a new billboard declared a future shopping mall…

…but on the corner of the lot stood one last tree…the last hint of a lifetime that once occurred at the house on the end of the street…and I smiled in memory as I drove by….

About Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the "Al Capone of the microphone" and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul heard daily on internet radio station www.eastLArevue.com
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