A Letter from Michael J. Alcala

Good Morning Tom,

It's always a pleasure to wait and see what's next on your web site. The stories and pictures bring back many memories, the faces and the places, some long before I was born and many after.

Reading what other family members say, their stories, their family pictures and stories of childhood years, brings back memories of myself as a child growing up in Boyle Heights. I feel it was a little different for myself, being the last of nine children, being raised by my sisters and brothers because my parents were older than most. Boyle Heights, in my eyes, was the place to be: Evergreen Park, the activities after school, Our Lady of Talpa (one of a few Catholic Schools in the area, where most of my brothers and sisters went), Roosevelt High School and Salesian High School. Growing up here was special. I had my fellow classmates from parochial school, plus my friends from Hollenbeck and Stevenson. Some of us were easy going, some of us were cholos.

We all fit into this environment very well. With my parents being older, I depended on my friends' parents, who were the age of my eldest brothers and sisters, to take me to Dodger games and Rams football games. One thing about having older parents was that I got to stay out late and do whatever I wanted because I guess they were a bit too old to watch over me, not to mention me being the youngest like most of my brothers and sisters have pointed out, "The Spoiled One" of the family. It was not my fault I got what I wanted, at least they got to spend more time with our parents. No one expects their parents to die while you are in your 30's, I sure didn't.

I would like to mention my two sisters who have died, Lucille and Martha, both have meant a lot to me in my life. I would like to share a story with you that brings tears to my eyes. Growing up, my parents Laura and Louie never said, "I love you" not because they didn't, because I guess they did not know how. They showed their love by buying things we all needed, they showed affection by giving us things we needed to be happy or make life a little easier for us. Well, when my sister Lucille was in the hospital, at County USC, I went one evening to visit her. I'd never stepped into hospitals that much, especially after Martha died at Kaiser when I was 14. That hadn't been as bad because I really didn't understand the true meaning of life then. I went to visit Lucille and spent some time with her. She was like a mom to me because in actuality she raised me. Coming home from school at Talpa she would prepare my lunches while I sat at the kitchen table and watched Sheriff John on the television. Then I would run across the street in time to play with the kids during lunch. Lucille was a loving person, she had a good heart and was there for you if you needed help. As I sat there talking to her in the hospital, I saw something I never saw before, she was special, something about her made me feel good inside, and before I left that evening, I went up to her, put my arms around her, hugged her very tightly and kissed her cheek and said, "I love you". Never in my life prior to this have I ever said those words, especially to anyone in my family. The sad thing about it, is that sometime in the middle of that night, she died. I think it was God telling me, "This is the last time you will ever see your sister, and it's up to you to say goodbye to her." I will forever cherish this special moment I had with her and the words of love I shared with her.

Tom, I would appreciate if you can get some pictures of Martha and Lucille, and mention their names on your web site. I will try to find some pictures and let Paul scan them for you. Thanks for letting me share this with you. It brings back a lot of memories of myself as a child, when you are the youngest, you seem to see everyone you knew as a kid and later in life, die before you. Grandfather was the only grandfather I ever knew, and I didn't get to spend much time with him, either, since I didn't really speak Spanish, but I was there to explore his yard, the plum tree in the front yard, the trees in the back yard, and the chicken coup he threw me in.

My parents and I found him dead in his kitchen. It's kind of strange to think back on all the deaths I had experienced at such a young age.

Thank you for letting me share some of my thoughts with you, there are many and I can write forever, but I think I should get back to work now.

Take care, and say hello to all,
Michael J. Alcala