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            Between “PACKING…..AND UNPACKING” which was last week’s story,  the Warden and I drove — she actually drove — over to San Juan Capistrano on the Thursday before the Historical Society’s Annual Heritage Barbecue, co-hosted with the Rancho Mission Viejo — well, after all, they furnish the setting for this gathering in a beautiful little valley called Amantes Camp.

             The reader should go back to my August 20, 2012 story called “Annual Heritage Barbecue, and it would give you lots of color for previous years of this great get-together.

            I love going over toSan Juan Capistranoseveral times a year since all those old glorious memories come flooding back the minute we drive off theToll RoadontoOrtega Highway(Hwy.74.)  It also makes me sad to realize how the area has changed in 50 or 60 years.  The traffic is intolerable.  One no longer sees  the orange groves or the truck farms, or wide open spaces.  How sad.

            Friday evening 9  family members who are my brother Bud’s progeny: his daughter Sisty, and 8 from his deceased son, Mickey, gathered with us at the El Adobe Restaurant.  Mickey’s widow Anita carries on with 2 beautiful daughters and 2 handsome sons, and 4 grandchildren.   It was Alba and Mena’s treat for dinner.  We told them it was the money from the “Swear Jar” that sits on the counter in our home.  Some of them had to contribute when they had come over to see me for my birthday and later to help me with some old Kodak 35 slides from the 1960’s.  Josh is the youngest of Anita’s grand kids, and he’s quite a kid.  He is always reminding everyone about the bad words, and here’s the kicker!   Out of the blue we received a letter from Josh in July saying “My Grandma taught me some bad words, and I said 2 of them.  Here is $2 for your cuss jar.”

            We all had a great evening, except for the guitar player playing with volume turned ‘way up.  But we managed to scream at each other through it all.

            When Sunday arrived, Alba and I got ready early so we could get up to the Amantes Camp,  to  stake out a claim on a big long table in the shade and close to the food.  The rest of the group would come straggling along, they knew we would reserve the seats.  We also had the ice cooler with the Tequila, Limes, and Salt to rim the glass.  The fellas brought beer.  Anita always brings a huge bowl of her famous potato salad — only for the Forster contingent.

            The Society’s President, Joe, had a few words to say — introducing people, and laying out the events for the afternoon.  He opened by introducing Yours Truly  announcing my 94 years, and last of the 5th generation Californian of Forster Family.

I think he was “making nice” since there are a lot more treasures in my possession  which they hope and pray will end up in the museum.  He went on to introduce Bob  Somebody-or-Other who was having his 89th birthday, so he had a little attention paid to him.

            Did I say Joe had a “few words” to say?  Well, he went on and on after introducing the many volunteers, and then all the raffle prizes,  describing each and every item in each raffle basket, and the his and her bicycles.  Plus there would be some horseshoe games, etcetera, etcetera.  Then for a moment, I thought his wife was going to bring out the hook.  She had strolled by the stage several times where he  was on the microphone, hinting for him to put a sock in it, because she knew  the natives were getting restless, and they wanted what they came for — the Barbecue.  It was so tantalizing having to smell the tri tip and the chicken being cooked over the open fire while Joe was droning on and on.

            In the meantime, I had been roaming around, hugging old friends and hugging the sons whose dads used to frequent my “Swallow Bar,”  They looked so old to be kids of my clientele, but after all, that time was 60 years ago, so they were probably 75 years old now. Talked to folks I knew, and several I didn’t know, taking pictures, mingling.  Even was interviewed by a reporter from the Orange County Register,  for his Monday column.

            So then it was time for the lines to form to go through 5 or 6 serving tables, and everyone is smiling and laughing because their plates are being filled to overflowing with the tri tip, chicken,  frijoles, Spanish rice, green salad, and warm flour tortillas — in record time.  Those volunteer cooks and servers have all this down to a science after all these years.  They all deserve gold medals.

            There was a little peace and quiet while everyone ate, or inhaled — as the case may be — the scrumptious food. And remember, our table had Anita’s lip smacking potato salad to add to our plates.  And you also would know what else I would have — my absolutely favorite cocktail — the good Tequila on the rocks, salted glass, squeeze of lime.  By this time all was copasetic. 

 The band started playing for those who would want to dance some of the food off.

Then the raffle was held, and this took some time because the baskets are filled with so many goodies.  One had an HP printer, a ream of copy paper,  wine, and other stuff — at least $250 worth.  Another had tickets forHearstCastleand other things inSanta Barbaraarea, wine.  There are at least 10 of these huge baskets, PLUS those 2  bikes.  You get 6 tickets for 5 bucks, and you put your tickets in the  little baskets in front of what you want.  This year I only bought $20 worth because my coin purse has gotten smaller as the years have piled up.  I used to buy 40 or 60 bucks worth, but have been getting a little disillusioned because in all those years, I never came away with one basket, or the bikes which I wanted the most — just like the year at Christmas when I wanted a football,  instead got a doll.  I was devastated when there was no football and took dire measures to secure one.  [Just go find “All I Wanted for Christmas” 7/04/2011 to see what “dire” is.]

Everything wound down after the raffle.  Everyone tired with the oppression of a very hot day, and it was time to leave.  Alba and I went back to the motel and conked out.   Usually, we immediately head for the “Swallows Inn” across the street from where my “Swallow” place was.  But not this time.

I didn’t win the bikes again.  A little girl about 5 years old won them.  By the time she is big enough to ride them, they will be all rusted out, with flat tires.  Serves her right.

We drove back to La Quinta early on Monday to start the unpacking.  Two weeks later and not all the travel stuff is back in its place.  It can just wait for next September, and be ready to go.      

MONDAYS WITH MELITAS                   SEPTEMBER 24, 2012                                                                            

MELITAS FORSTER                                                                                                                      



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