A story which creeps into my memory every now and again and brings a smile into my heart happened in San Juan Capistrano, and I was about 7 years old. Aunt Mae and Titán (Uncle John) Forster were still living in their old house on Camino Real, which was the State Highway going through town south to the coast at DohenyPark, then south to San Diego. Their new, impressively gorgeous Spanish Mediterranean home on the hill, and which commanded a view of the entire valley and north to SaddlebackMountain and south- west to the ocean would not be completed until late in 1925, or early 1926.
The distance from the old house to the main part of town where all the action was is about 2 long blocks. If you were to see the area now, the old house would be near the intersection of Del Obispo — not there in those old days — and Camino Capistrano. The house was south on Camino Capistrano on the east side and there was room for 19 acres of walnut trees to fill up the space from the house to San Juan Creek.
As you went north into town from the old house, you would pass the red brick Judge Egan house on the right. Here I just happen to have an “aside” to be told — I will let you know when the “aside” has ended. In back of the Judge’s red brick house was my grandparents, Don Marcos and Guadalupe Forster’s, red brick house with 11 bedrooms, quite massive, in fact. Well, with 4 boys and 2 girls you do need space, and need to get massive. Now, the Judge was helping Don Marcos with the construction of his dream home, and he was in charge of ordering the bricks — after all, he was a surveyor — and when the home was completed there were all these extra bricks just laying around. Well, my dear old pussycat Granddaddy told the Judge he could have them to build a red brick house of his own right next door.
END OF “ASIDE.” H-m-m-m-m, I wonder.
Across the street from the Judge, there is that very, very long old adobe home where the VanderLecks lived. In the present time, it is the El Adobe Restaurant.
So that’s enough about the rest of the buildings from the El Adobe up to the Mission — except for the building several hundred yards beyond the Judge’s red brick home. This particular building was a stand alone building looking more like a house. Well, in earlier days — the 1870’s — it had been the San Juan CapistranoGrammar School, and converted to the restaurant circa 1912.
I must not forget to mention the Mission at the end of the main drag, Except they just made the road go around the Mission so you could eventually get to Santa Ana or Los Angeles. In the era of this exciting episode of my life, the Mission was in great disrepair, and it took years to bring it to the beauty that is there today. Father John O’Sullivan came along in 1910 and started the ball rolling. In fact, he started my ball rolling in 1918 when he baptized me in the Serra Chapel.
You know what —- ? I go so far afield in my narrations — I have forgotten what this particular one was all about — but it finally crept back into the confines of my brain. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PALM CAFÉ.
My younger sis, Viv, and I were with Aunt Mae and Titán at their old home, and it was later in the afternoon after Sunday dinner at lunch time. We were probably getting restless, and between the two of us decided what we needed was one of those great big hamburgers from the Palm Café.” We started in on Titán, pleading and pushing for him to take us for one of those hamburgers up the road. It wasn’t too long when Aunt Mae probably couldn’t stand the whining anymore, and finally told him: “Oh, John take the girls for a hamburger — to shut them up!”
Off we went in Titán’s Hupmobile, which happened to be the automobile he would use to teach me to drive a few years later at the new home on the hill. When you go to park at the restaurant as you leave the paved highway, the parking lot was all in gravel. We went into the place, ordered our scrumptious hamburgers, went out and Titán put us in the car — Viv in the middle, me definitely on the outside so I could rest my arm on the door, and act grown-up. He revved up the “23 Hup and as he made a turn to the left in the parking lot, the passenger door FLEW open and I went sailing out into all that GRAVEL.
I can see it all to this day. There I was flat out, legs and arms flailing away on that GRAVEL — and through it all the hamburger was still safe and tightly held in my grubby little hand. No Sir, I was not about to let that go! I was yelling and crying, for sure, and blood was streaming away. We got me home, and there was hell to pay there. Aunt Mae was not in the mood to see her “Queenie” with bloody knees, bloody elbows, bloody hands, and she had to play “Nurse Cratchet” but she somehow wiped away the blood, and helped me get to bed.
All the while, I took bites out of that hamburger to soothe the pain away.
Another thing, I should never have lorded it over Viv ALL the time. I could’ve let her just once — just once sit on the outside.
MELITAS FORSTER MONDAYS OR TUESDAYS WITH MELITAS