Mondays with Melitas – July 7, 2014

THE REUNION, PART 1                                             JULY 7, 2014


Right off the bat, I ran into an old friend whose travels since 1947 I will relate, but first I had better say what we were doing. This past weekend, starting on Friday, June 27th, and continuing through Sunday, the 29th, there was a big gathering held in San Juan Capistrano. It was a Reunion of the Forster Family to celebrate the 200th birthday of Don Juan Forster, who was my Great Grandfather.

I’m a Third Generation Californian using him, but I am most proud of being a Fifth Generation using his wife, Ysidora Melitas Pico (my Great grandmother) because she was born in California.

So, I imagine I will conjure up some more stories from the Reunion, and the reader(s?) will have to put up with me going on and on about it. (I came home with a very hoarse voice — imagine what many of the family people there had to put up with.) That’s one reason this to be PART 1.

Now about that “old Friend.” Friday at 5 PM, everyone was gathered at the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society museum for a reception to find each other. There were name tags so that when you ran into each other 10 minutes later you could always “remember” who they were. I made it over to a home on the grounds of the property, which had been moved there from 5 or 6 miles east of town on the Ortega Hwy. where it had been built years ago. It belonged to a first cousin, Alice Forster and her husband, Arley Leck. I wanted to check out what family antiques were in there because they are always wanting all my family stuff.

As I walked through the front door, there were no furnishings there until I turned to look at the rest of the living room, and there! lo and behold! was the beautiful Rosewood Square Grand Piano which originally belonged to my Aunt Mae in her gorgeous Spanish Mediterranean home on the hill, built in 1926, and I would sell it after her demise in 1948.

The travels began. I sold the piano to my first cousin Tom Forster (brother of Alice, whose old home we were presently in) for $100. When he came to move the Square Grand, I was very apprehensive about whether it would make the trip. He had brought a couple of his cowboys, who were more adept at roping and throwing calves to the ground than moving this heavy, heavy piece of immobile furniture. Grunting and cursing (in Español) as they were pushing and pulling trying to get out over the threshold of the front door — when, oops, they dropped it — and busted the pedals. After awhile they finally loaded it onto Tom’s pickup, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. (I was secretly thinking he might cancel the deal, and I would be stuck with the piano.) The big home I was moving to in Laguna Beach could handle all of Aunt Mae’s furniture in the living room, except for the piano.

Then the piano was in Tom’s home for a number of years; after his death it moved to his son Tony and wife, Mary Ann’s home where their daughter Christa spent time on it with lessons. I should’ve asked her if she still plays. I tried to learn on an old upright from the late 1800’s, and which I still owned in 1975 and sold it for $950 needing all new insides. I never went on with piano lessons. What I liked was a trumpet, and then I could be in a marching band.

The next time I ran into the Square Grand was a very sad day for me. I was at the Mission since I hadn’t been there for so long, and I always want to have a few moments in Serra’s chapel where I was baptized, and where I listened to Fr. O’Sullivan say many masses. There was one room that was about the Forster Family, and there over in a small alcove sat the Square Grand all dusty, and definitely needing a refinish job. I wanted to cry right there among the tourists who were roaming around. I was in shock to think the Mission was letting it go to rack and ruin.

Back to the Reunion. Before I went to Alice’s home, I was talking to Don Tryon and wife, and he was telling me that “our” Museum was getting Forster stuff from the Mission. So when I turned around and saw the Square Grand, I was never so amazed. You can bet on it — I was moved to tears.

You can tell by the accompanying photo that somehow the pedals got fixed so Christa could play, and then after its banishment to the ignominious placement at the Mission, someone at the Historical Society saw to it that it was nicely refinished.




MELITAS FORSTER                                       MONDAYS WITH MELITAS


14 Comments to “Mondays with Melitas – July 7, 2014”

  1. This is just the “tip of the ice berg” so to speak. Can’t wait to hear your version of the rest of this fabulous reunion which was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended!!
    Love you.

  2. Thanks Mel for another very interesting story. The Piano is beautiful.

  3. as usual…a great memory written by my wonderful writing buddy
    Ms. Melitas Luv your stories.

  4. What wonderful memories. Saw the Forster mansion and toured the Mission in May – first time – drove the Ortega Highway – first time. Had two Vancouverites with me who were very impressed that I knew an almost ancient Forster who used to own the town!!

  5. Hi Mel, beautiful piano and as always a wonderful story. I’m happy you had a good time at your reunion. Can hardly wait for the next chapter. Take care and we love you.

  6. Love your writings.
    Have fun

  7. Love your writings

  8. Wish I were there to share in all of the reunion activities. However, I enjoyed being able to help by holding down the fort at “your” Forster mansion. Thanks for the “cheekin”! Love, Marcie

  9. What a beauty, she is . ,thanks for the recollection, my family from Orange Co. not as historic as yours, but from 1913, the RAGAN’S just delivered on my doorstep an 1873 pedal organ. Guess that makes me keeper of the heirlooms…… don’t know if that is a gift or not………. keep up your vigil…AND THE BLOG.

  10. You are the Grandest of all. Can’t wait to hear the rest.
    Love you!


  12. Dearest Mena,

    I am just so happy that you went to the reunion. Alba said that you had a great time. I can only imagine how many Forsters were happy to see and talk with you. I wish I had been there.

    I love you,




  14. A beautiful piano, Melitas! I play the piano, but I read music. Paul plays piano by ear! So glad you were at your family reunion and the matriarch too!


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