Chavez Ravine Was More Than a Ballpark to Many

Listen to story

Download this story 2.0MB

It may be hard to imagine when you're eating a Dodger Dog out in the left field bleachers, but half a century ago, there were vibrant neighborhoods in Chavez Ravine. There was a Catholic Church, corner markets and a sense of community that survived long after the houses were torn down. Eminent domain claimed Chavez Ravine for public housing that was never built. Many children who grew up in the Ravine still nurture bittersweet memories of the old neighborhood. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde continues her series about the Dodgers' move from Brooklyn.

[Song plays. "This is my home. This is my neighborhood."]

Charlotte Negrete-White: I was born in Chavez Ravine.

Tony Montez: A lot of people from there raised their own flowers in the garden.

Alfred Zepeda: Roses, and fruit trees. My mother was very happy. She used to come out and water her garden at night.

Delores Klimenko Colon: Oh, we used to play kick the can, hopscotch. And, I don't know, we used to jump rope, but it was like, with two sticks.

Zepeda: Our neighborhood had hills. The guys that could play guitars, they used to congregate up there on Friday nights or Saturday nights, and, at 4 o'clock in the morning or at 3, you would hear 'em.

Montez: We'll go up in the hill, and fly our kites.

Zepeda: There was a guy that was blind, and he used to make a living buying pine nuts. And then he would roast them in salt and put them in little bags.

Colon: I mean like, everybody was related. Your uncle, your aunt, your cousin. I mean, we were like, all related around there.

Negrete-White: If a girl were walking home with a boy, by the time she got home, the mother knew about it. Because word spread so quickly through the neighborhood.

Zepeda: There was something lost there.
Montez: It was.
Zepeda: When they took it away from us.

Colon: It was an old house, but I mean, it wasn't a shack!

Zepeda: One exception that I take to a newspaper story saying a person from city hall that went in there at first to look at the land, and he made a statement that our neighborhood was rat-infested.

And all the time that I was there, I played in the hills, I played all over, I never saw one rat in my whole life that I was there. Not until the two-legged ones came in from city hall. When eminent domain was enforced, you know, they just came and gave them a check, and told them, you have to get out, and that's what we did.

Montez: So the men came over, and we told them oh, you know what, oh, the property, oh, here. It's worth too much, and this and that. We give you so much. And then, and the second time around, second time around, it's gonna be less. People start getting scared, and people start, you know, selling. Where you gonna buy a house for 4,500 bucks?

Colon: I think that, I think my mom told me that they gave my grandmother $10,000 for three pieces of property and three houses. And then they built the Dodgers' Stadium? Come on! (laughs)

Zepeda: And then, of course, you know the story about the Arechiga family, that they were carried out. And I saw it. I was there.

Colon: That lady they were pulling out? That was my mother.

Zepeda: You know, you have them refusing to move, and there was a lot marshals there. At the end, they just went into the house, and the elderly, her mother, I mean, they walked out. They were forced, and she just refused.

Lola refused to, and they could, they physically carried her out. Put her in the squad car, handcuffed, put her in a squad car and took her. And then they just bulldoze the house, with everything that was left in there. They just bulldozed it! And, you know, and, in a matter of minutes, it was nothing.

Colon: The first time I saw the newsreel, I hadn't seen it for years. Everybody had grandchildren. And I started crying. And my grandchildren were looking at me, going, why are you crying? I said, 'cause I, it just hit me! I mean, I couldn't– it was really bad! I couldn't stop! I didn't want to cry, and I just... did.

Negrete-White: Why did they have to demolish every structure, which they did? It just didn't make much sense.

Zepeda: I don't blame the Dodgers for this. Because I mean, O'Malley would have been a fool to decline the offer. I mean, who wouldn't take the offer of all that prime property was being given to bring his team here? I mean, he would have to be a fool to, not to do it.

Colon: My kids used to love the Dodgers when they were little. So I used to take them. We got Ron Cey's autograph.

Negrete-White: My brother, he refused to go to a Dodger game.

Colon: It was a, it was a good place to live. I wish my grandkids could, you know, live in a place like that.