Archive for July, 2013

Mondays with Melitas – July 29, 2013

FREE AS THE FISH…………                                         JULY 29, 2013




Since last week’s edition of “Mondays With Melitas,” I realized there were a few items I had left out.  I had felt badly because I didn’t give more space to Charlie.

After Aunt Mae’s house on the hill was built 1925/1926, we went more often over to the Point to check in with Charlie Free mainly because Aunt Mae was entertaining more and that was cause for more lobster and abalone drop-offs.  Those guests were fed the best.  The lobster, as I mentioned before, was one course of the dinner — prime rib would be another course — plus all the other delightful food, such as a cup of soup, a salad, vegetables with the beef, and maybe flan for dessert.

At this time, Aunt Mae and Titán were about 50 years old so they were able to make the trek around the Point to the Villa on the Rocks quite easily, but with much more care than I.  The “Villa” refers to the rickety old fishing shack where Charlie had taken up residency several years earlier.   It didn’t take me long to skitter over the rocks;  that made me the scout, so to speak, announcing our arrival.  I would always greet him with much enthusiasm, and he, in turn would wave and call to me. It had to be loud to be heard above the surf crashing on the rocks.

While the folks were conducting their business about lobsters, or just visiting, or just announcing that it was time for the eviction notice to be delivered, I would be scrounging around the waters edge looking for seashells or the rocks that I took a shine to.

Sometimes Charlie would be fiddling around mending a fish net, or fixing a lobster trap.  He had lines hung about 10 or 12 feet high to hang his nets.  He had an old dingy there to get to his lobster traps, or go see about grabbing off some abalone.  If he was out pulling up lobster traps, we would watch him, then he would come to shore as quickly as he could. He probably didn’t want to keep Aunt Mae waiting, and he had no way of knowing what “business” it was this visit.

Charlie Free was an unkempt sort of guy.  His work clothes were old raggedy pants, maybe an old underwear top — for all I know he may’ve had on an whole one-piece thing — holes and all, his skin was already wrinkled from the days and years in the sun, and quite swarthy, his hair was a sunburned brown worn longer than the average man.  He was about 5’ 5” in height, no fat on his bones.  Sometimes he would wear a knit cap, and his hair would be straggling out from under.  This was how he looked at his “place of business.”  What else can you expect if you have to bathe in the surf? — and since I never went inside his pad, I don’t have the slightest idea about plumbing, and other niceties of life. You couldn’t very well have a septic tank put in under all those rocks. If I compared him to the folks, he was younger — just more miles on him.

And just like a big-time entrepreneur, he delivered.  He would come chugging, and huffing and puffing up the hill to Aunt Mae’s in an ancient beat up pickup truck. He had on his dress-up clothes — not much better than his fishing ensemble.  They were dry. The trousers were dark brown nubby fabric, and his jacket had probably at some point matched the pants, but maybe he used the jacket more over the years if he didn’t have  something to wear to keep warm. Summing it all up, Charlie was a very nice, polite guy.  And a free spirit to top it off.

I can’t remember how long Charlie Free lived the good life on that stretch of ocean front.  He could’ve been there until they started building the Marina, and he would’ve been one of the first to vacate.  I wonder if the Sheriff had to remove him lock, stock, fishing nets, lobster traps, and barrels if he had any.  It would be like old times when Aunt Mae had to sic the authorities on him so the property would remain hers.  Her Point was first to go — it was a huge amount of earth to flatten so a big jetty could be built out into the sea.

For me, it was a sad day to see it go.  What price Progress.

MELITAS FORSTER                                      “MONDAYS WITH MELITAS”

The picture accompanying this story is of Aunt Mae’s Hill in San Juan Capistrano. It was above the State Hwy. on the east side at the bridge over San Juan Creek. It shows the road up to the site.  On the right of the home there is the free-standing 4-car garage.  In back, all those hills — you can see the path-like roads.  In the old days, that area is where Titán and I would travel on horseback, checking the fences.  Also where I learned to drive the 1923 Hupmobile.  The landscaping is being added at the time this picture was taken.

If you have any questions for me, please ask.


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Mondays with Melitas – July 22, 2013

FREE AS THE FISH IN THE SEA                                    JULY 22, 2013



Last week when I started my story, I thought it may be a good idea to throw in a little history about DanaPoint since that is the locale where the story takes place, and also since it had played a part in the history of the Forster Family including me, Melitas.

So here is the part that had sparked old memories in my old brain, to remember something I loved to do.  Every once in awhile, we would make a little short trip – I was maybe 4/5 years old when I began the trip – over to Dana Point;  it would be sometimes just for pleasure, and other times it would be for business. Sometimes, it would mean just driving over with Titán (my uncle John,) or maybe just my Aunt Mae, and sometimes the three of us. It didn’t matter to me, I would have so much fun.

At the time, they owned all of DanaPoint, and when they sold the property — can you believe?  for $60,000 — they had retained a 10 acre parcel up on the plateau above Del Obispo St. that leads out of San Juan Capistrano Valley along the west side out to the Coast Hwy. which, leads up to the bluffs of the area.  They also kept a 250’ X 250’ parcel on the very point that is (not now) the south east land defining the promontory.  At the west end of the bluffs, maybe a mile and a half as the albatross flies, there is another high promontory.  In between the two was the “crescent of the new moon,” a very slight bay.

Where we were heading for on these little jaunts, was Aunt Mae’s point where you could see almost forever:  Southeast down the coast, you could see San Clemente, Oceanside, and beyond to La Jolla; south, there was the huge Pacific Ocean, and on clear days you would take in Santa Catalina Island (which my Great grandmother Ysidora Pico’s brother Governor of California, Pio Pico had lost possession of that Island on a horse race,) then turning your gaze inland to the northeast, you would enjoy the beauty of the SJC Valley, also Saddleback Mountain, with all its majesty,  would fall into view.

We weren’t taking the trip to admire the great views from atop the Point.  We were going to the sea level area where there was a person to see.  It took some doing to get there. There was no sandy beach at the foot of the bluffs — it was all rocks, all sizes and shapes, worn smooth by the incessant waves of eons past crashing against the bluffs. We would take the car on an old trail as far as we could then it meant walking — and don’t forget your balance — to make it around the corner of the Point. And then there was our journey’s end:  It was an old beat-up shack which was the home of a fisherman who had been staying there for years fishing, trapping lobsters, and gathering abalone.

We had to always check to arrive there during low tide.

The Interloper who trespassed here was Charlie Free.  “Charlie” was his real first name, but the locals tagged him with the “Free” since he just moved in on his own years before, and never did pay any rent.  When we would go and look him up, it was usually because Aunt Mae was going to be having a big party, and she would need lobsters to serve as one course.  It was a delicious, mouth-watering recipe with the lobster served in a wonderful sauce (don’t forget the brandy) served over flaky pastry shells. I can still salivate just remembering that tasty dish, and I can see it too. How good did it get?

During negotiations, I would be pushing my luck at the water’s edge, then poking around to inspect Charlie’s tools of the trade.  He had nets, lobster traps, tire irons to grab off the abalone.  Interesting stuff for a little kid to look at, but don’t touch!

A few days later, Charlie would arrive up on the hill where Aunt Mae and Titán lived laden down with huge gunny sacks, some filled with live lobsters, and another with abalone.  We would have a busy time around there.  Aunt Mae had a big service porch off the large kitchen for the day-to-day cooking.  The service porch was equipped to serve up big-time cooking when she had her grand parties.  There was a six-burner stove, and a 4-burner thrown in for good measure, huge refrigerator, huge sink.

They even put me to work, or I would’ve horned in anyway, helping with getting the lobsters out of the sack, and letting them run all over, then handing those wriggly critters to the cook to toss into the boiling water.  As I grew older, I was allowed to toss some of the lobsters in the huge pot myself.

Aunt Mae’s soirees were always the height of the social season. She may’ve been the front-runner of Auntie Mame.

We have now been through the “peaches and cream” of Charlie Free’s residency at the Point.  All those lobsters, abalone were such good eating.

Now, the nitty gritty.  Every few years Aunt Mae would have to go to the Judge and get an eviction order against poor Charlie. If he stayed over the time limit, he could claim the rights to the property, and then for sure he’d probably stop dropping off all those gunny sacks filled to the brim those tasty morsels from the sea. So, the papers would be drawn up advising Charlie that he had to go, and if, he didn’t the Sheriff would bodily remove him.  He would plain old have to move out of his seaside villa.  Well, he never did move out on his own steam.  The Sheriff always hauled him off  — I don’t know where to – then the Sheriff would keep an eye on the property for so many days to make it all legal.

When the legal number of days passed, Charlie Free would then be back ensconced in the villa, and life went on. Never any ill will from either party.  No harsh words ever spoken.

I love the old days’ way of doing business.  “But Charlie don’t dare stop leaving off the gunny sacks at the house on the hill.”

It could turn painful.



Along came progress years later, and that gorgeous Point was leveled so they could build a jetty and a whole lot of commercial stuff, and a wharf, and a bay.  A Marina


How rude.  At least I have all the memories.


MELITAS FORSTER                                     MONDAYS WITH MELITAS




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Introducing Mr. Coia

Bruce's collar

Bruce’s collarBruce sleeping


Several months ago  I was looking at the Animal Samaritan’s website when I noticed little Bruce.  I would comment on his posts and share his picture on my facebook page hoping someone would adopt him.  I had heard he had been living at the shelter for a little over a year and had been turned back in by a few foster families.  My heart would break every time I saw his little face.  I knew there would be a family out there that would want him, but I didn’t know that that family would be me!


I went back in May to meet Bruce for the first time.  He wagged his tail and I was told not to hold him to close to my face because if he hears another dog he may turn around and bite you.  This tiny little guy I thought…he must only weigh about 2 pounds!


I knew I had several big trips planned so I whispered to Bruce that someone out in the world would see him and come get him, but if when I came back he was still there I would do everything in my power to get him.


Yes, Bruce was still there when I returned but was then told that Bruce does not like other dogs so I won’t be able to adopt him.  Yes, I thought, but Courtney is not just any dog.  She is nearly 13, blind and sleeps a lot.  But she loves all dogs and what a good pair these two would make.  I pleaded my case and was then asked to bring Courtney in for a meet and greet.


I felt so nervous that morning because I really wanted it to work.  Animal Samaritans first had me bring Courtney towards his pen and of course Bruce started barking and carrying on.  Then it was suggested we meet in neutral territory out in the back break area.  I knew Courtney would not be afraid of Bruce’s antics so I just let them sniff each other…then the tails began to wag.


There were a lot of tears that day as they handed Bruce over to me.


I am so glad he is a part of our family and now he has a forever home…Bruce playingBruce on computer


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Touched by her kindness…

As I am writing this blog my dear friend and student, Jane Harris is fighting for her life.  The last I heard is that she is in ICU at Eisenhower Hospital and her body is shutting down.  As I have been hearing bits and pieces I knew she hadn’t been feeling well but to hear this is devastating.  Last night I lay awake all night thinking about her and the wonderful stories I heard her read to me each week while she was in my class.  I learned all about her life growing up in Southern California, how life was perfect and then her older brother got into a car accident and then the next year was spent focused on him getting better.  I learned how she used to make milk shakes as a young girl and she loved the weekends when her parents would barbeque hamburgers.  I learned how she worked for the airlines and due to a missing piece of luggage she met her husband Bob.  I remember her telling me about his three boys coming to live with them just after she had her baby daughter.  I learned of how hard it was to have an instant family and they would go on camping trips.  She gave of her self so selflessly.  I learned all about her daughter Debbie and how her and Bob cried all the way home when they had to drop her off at college.  I learned about how she wanted to give Bob a perfect gift for him one Christmas and she found a dude ranch where he went away for a week and rode horses. She loved God very deeply, but never preached to you…but you knew she prayed for you.  I remember the first time I met her that I said, your eyes are the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen.  I loved having Jane in my class, she shared her heart each week and I am so blessed I was the one who helped guide her in writing down her stories.  I do believe in miracles and I am praying for one right now…Jane is a true angel.  She was kind, gentle, funny, generous.  It felt good just to be in her presence.  So Jane…hold on if you can…we all love you here.  But if you need to go, please know that I am forever changed because you came into my life.  I love you and always will…jane

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Mondays with Melitas – July 15, 2013

FREE AS THE FISH IN THE SEA                                    JULY 15, 2013



        A little History Lesson in a capsule.  It concerns the area known as DanaPoint where it adjoins CapistranoBeach at the Pacific Ocean. In very early days, all that property from that site through San Juan Capistrano to the Mission Viejo, Trabuco, Rancho Boca de la Playa, and the Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores to Oceanside was area owned by my Great Grandfather, Don Juan Forster.  Quite a spread!  But let’s just take the property around DanaPoint for this bit of a story.

As you may know, DanaPoint sits high above the ocean, and there were two high points, one at each end of a sort of a small harbor. It would remind you of the crescent of a new moon, so not really a regular harbor. But this is where Richard Henry Dana, Jr. spent time on the sailing vessel that he signed up on to work his way from Boston down around Cape Horn up the coast of Alta California as far as San Francisco,  loading on cowhides— even at Dana Point — then back around the Horn to Boston.  His story book where he narrated the passage is “Two Years Before the Mast.”  Google him for some interesting stuff, then try Amazon. You will be amazed with Dana’s intelligence and his career.

My Aunt Mae and Titán (Uncle John) Forster were the owners of all this area:  DanaPoint.

Sailing around Cape Horn was no smooth ride in those olden days, and it’s a wonder that the beautiful Italian marble table, along with its almost twin, ever made the trip from Europe to the Forster Family all in one piece.  The stunning one ended up with me.  The carved pedestal is 29 inches in height, and the separate top is 39 inches in diameter, in the middle there is a chess or checkers board.  My table is done in subtle shades of grey, the game board in squares of a pale golden shade.

Well, well, well — this so-called capsule of a little history has gone on and on.  I am not about to “X” any of it out so here is where I am making my own deal:  I will leave the “Meat,” or more accurately the “Seafood,” of the story to be concluded next Monday.  Besides, I have been unsuccessful in trying to find some pictures, which I know are around here someplace.

Adiós till next week.


MELITAS FORSTER                             MONDAYS WITH MELITAS



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"Because of Tammy I have found confidence in my writing and feel blessed to be honored in such a way. I have found my voice. I have found freedom! I recommend anyone for whatever reason to expand their life and sign up for her writing workshops or classes. You'll be amazed at how good you are and how everyone has a story worth telling. Sign up and set your voice free!"
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Tammy L. Coia is an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press.

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