WHEN THE SWALLOWS COME BACK MONDAY, JUNE 20, 2015
In San Juan Capistrano, we have the SJC Historical Society, and also the SJC Fiesta Association — both vibrant organizations in the City of San Juan Capistrano. The Historical Society is a museum taking care of artifacts, old photos, restoring old adobe homes, etc. On the other hand, the Fiesta Association takes care of throwing the biggest party of every year — the Swallows Day Parade celebrating the return of the Swallows on March 19th.
The Historical Society hosts their Annual Mixer in June, held at the Society grounds, then there is also the Annual Heritage Barbecue in September which is held on the Rancho Mission Viejo about 15 miles east of town in a hidden little valley off the Ortega (Hwy 74,) called Campo Amantes.
The Warden and I would slip over to the coast, stay at a little motel across the street from Doheny Park Beach for 4 or 5 days to have a little respite from the desert heat. Alba loved to go over to the beach to read and relax while I would go visit family in San Juan and old friends in Laguna Beach. So these events, like the Mixer, the Barbecue, or the Parade came in handy for us, and we always had a great time. When these events ended, there was always a gang to get to the Swallows Inn, across the street where my saloon THE SWALLOW used to be. I had sold the buildings there, and the old adobe stuff was demolished, and a beautiful 2 story building replaced it with restaurant and shops. The Swallows Inn is a very noisy place with live music (?)
THE STORY PART
In June 2008, the Warden and I motored over to San Juan on a Thursday to attend the Mixer on Saturday. At the Mixer, the day was picture perfect, outside of the Museum, under the shade trees, some of the guests would stake their seats amongst the folding tables and chairs. But some just wander around greeting old friends, and meeting new ones. It is a colorful sight with some in costumes, many in Western attire. We meet up with Family and stake a claim for our seats. I like to wander around to see who’s there, and I had a lovely cocktail glass (plastic) with some tasty Don Julio over ice — this to keep me going. I don’t know which Nephew – Michael or RJ – had brought this to me. They know what their Great, Great Aunt enjoys.
I was just standing there watching the dancing going on with a lively band providing the beat, when Rita Propersi came over to shoot the breeze. At the time, Rita was the President of the Fiesta Association. She grabbed me for a big hug, and then blurted out: “Melitas, would you be our Grand Marshal of the Swallows Day Parade next March 2009?” I was overwhelmed, speechless, stunned — never in my wildest dreams would I think of being asked to have a place of such honor come my way. I answered that I would certainly have to talk it over with her to find out what the “job” entailed, what was expected of me, and so forth. She would drive out to La Quinta and go over everything with me. This was June so we had several months.
I started reminiscing about the past years and how the parade grew from when some of the cowboys would dash back and forth in the middle of town — about 2 blocks — on their horses to celebrate the return of the Swallows. The native Indians whose ancestors lived and worked for the Mission would get all dolled up in their costumes, and walk back and forth. The towns people would doll up their autos and drive back and forth. All this activity was not organized, and the Sheriff would send Deputies to keep order — but not much. As the years went by, some of the smart people decided it was time to get the Parade more orderly. Finally, in 1951 the Parade was planned and organized, with a Grand Marshal, and how really, really great to have BARBARA STANWYCK as the first.
From 1947 when I opened The Swallow Bar in the middle of town on the west side of the Camino Real, my customers and I had front row seats, and even rode in the disorganized ones. In 1951, no more motorized entries.
I was hoping Stanwyck would ride back to the Swallow after the parade ended, I would invite her in on her horse and offer her a cocktail of her choice. (She didn’t show up.)
This is not the end of the story. Part II coming up next week.
MELITAS FORSTER MONDAYS WITH MELITAS