The Year was 1932….
But by far, the biggest thing to happen to me in my world was having the 1932 Olympics coming to my back yard in Los Angeles. The plans and the building of the venues were monumental tasks. New buildings such as the Coliseum, which would be the site for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the Track and Field Events; and the Aquatic Stadium nearby were phenomenal structures.
The theme was Early California, and members of the old Spanish families who still had their horses with the silver trappings worth thousands of dollars (and who would still be able to stay on the horse) were invited to be a part of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies Parades. Western Costume Co. in Hollywood designed and tailored the costumes. They were gorgeous charro suits: black velvet riding pants, a white shirt with narrow black tie, a short red velvet jacket and a handsome black felt hat. I was thrilled that my favorite uncle Titán (John O. Forster, whose wife was Mae Marshall Forster) was included in this group. He would ride his beloved, huge white stallion, who was known to buck me off every time I tried to mount him. That horse and I never did get along, and I finally gave up trying to ride him when I was 8 or 10 years old.
There were several trips into Los Angeles from San Juan Capistrano for fittings at Western Costume, and when it was time for tickets to be purchased, you can imagine how excited I was when my Aunt Mae asked me what events I wanted to see. It was a foregone conclusion that we would be seeing all we could of the Equestrian Events at Riviera Country Club. That alone would have sufficed since I was always interested in those events: the jumping, and especially the Dressage Event. It is the most spectacular to me – the rider and the animal acting as one performing the beautiful maneuvers.
I was always around horses from my earliest days. Titán was a great horseman, and actually trained horses for his friends. We would drive on Sundays to see polo games in Los Angeles at the Willowick Country Club and to the Polo Field in Montecito. On other Sundays we would drive south to Tijuana where the Agua Caliente race track was going full bore, and there was also the Casino and Spa nearby where we would visit after the races.
Now let’s get back to the Olympics. My choices for events that I wanted to see were Swimming and Diving, as many as we could work in, and one day of Track and Field.
Opening Day finally arrived, and there we were at the Coliseum seated on the south side 50 yard line. The Best! The Ceremonies commenced, the parade of athletes came through the big tunnel at the west end of the stadium, and when all the Spanish caballeros entered in their striking costumes and on their beautiful horses, with the silver bridles and saddles, I couldn’t have been more thrilled and so very proud of my Spanish heritage. I cannot tell you how many riders there were. In my memory – which could have gone south by now – it was a huge amount, and it may have been 200 or 400. Who knows? Maybe only 50.
After the Ceremonies, back to San Juan. In those days, the drive was not all that stressful, and it did not take as long as it does these days with all the freeways. My memory does serve me right on this particular important piece of information.
Then we took in all the events that we had planned on. Several days were spent at Riviera Country Club watching the beautiful horses and the brilliant riders. That left the events which were my choices. Swimming and Diving have always been my favorites in the Olympics, so we spent several days in the new Olympic Aquatic Stadium, and I was happy as a little clam; then we took in the Field and Track activities in the Coliseum for one day (still seats on the 50-yard line,) where I could get my fill of watching Babe Didrickson, a sports phenom if there ever was one. She won the gold in Javelin and Hurdles that day, but was DQ’d in the High Jump.
The Closing Ceremonies, beautiful as they were, came and went (the Spanish Horsemen rode again – no one fell off) and there it was: a life-long memory laid out for me. All this took place during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Fullerton Union High School. It was one of my most favorite summers — among so very, very many.