My Father’s Story

This is my father when he was a boy.

He was born in an area near El Paso, Texas, called Smeltertown.  It was called Smeltertown because of the smelt from the nearby mines.  I don’t think the name of the town is very appealing,  but, when I was little I would hear stories of his childhood, and I would think that Smeltertown sounded like a fascinating place.

Sometimes my dad’s childhood stories were tales of his struggles growing up, being raised by his adoptive mother, and his adoptive grandmother. My dad’s mother died when he was just months old.  His mother’s cousin, and her mother, raised him in Smeltertown. They made their living, in part, selling masa to make tortillas.  My dad worked alongside his adoptive mother and grandmother.

My dad's mother, cousin, and aunts.

My father was raised by these two strong, independent women.  They loved him and cared for him, but  were strict disciplinarians with him.  The only male presence, my father’s step-father, was largely absent.  When my dad was a teen they came to California and settled in a pretty rough neighborhood in East Los Angeles.

Dad, circa 1950, Belmont High School, Los Angeles.

He stayed out of trouble and eventually joined the army, which gave him more discipline, and offered him greater opportunity.

Dad in the Panama Canal Zone, 1953

My dad got out of the army and lived the single life, until he met and married my mom. They started their family right away, with three kids born in just over 4 years.  When my dad became a father, he had very little personal exposure to what being a father in a nuclear family looked like. Nowadays, they call that “modeling.”

Family Dinner, circa 1978.

But the lack of “modeling” has not deterred my dad. He learned a lot along the way. We have learned a lot along the way together too. Sometimes the lessons were rough. But, always, we knew he loved us and took care of us. And always, along the way, we have built new memories and created our own stories.

He took us on family vacations.

Family vacation to Vancouver, Canada, circa 1977. (Dad's not pictured because he was the photographer!)

Many times these vacations involved one of his favorite activities, fishing.

Vacation at Mammoth Lakes, California. Circa 1970.

Another Mammoth Lakes vacation.

He sang us songs.

Canciones de mi padre.

He coached my brothers in sports.

He has become a devoted grandfather.

Dad and Nico and Diego all dressed up.

When I was little people would comment how much I looked like my dad. I would cry because I thought they meant I was chubby and had a mustache.

Dad and I at my college graduation, 1986

But, now I understand that they meant we had similar features. Today, I know that my dad and I are similar in ways beyond our physical appearance, and even beyond some of our similar behaviors.  My dad and I share a similar understanding, and appreciation for each other. We have struggled. We are flawed, but we love each other. He is my father. I am his daughter. We are familia.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad.

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10 responses to “My Father’s Story

  1. Such a sweet story. So you have ‘texan’ in your blood. Born and raised in San Antonio. Your dad sounds like such a great man. :0)

    • Thanks, Jsh608. Yes, my dad is Texan so I guess that makes me part Texan too. Although I have only been to Texas three times, once to Austin and once to El Paso, and San Antonio. I really liked Austin and San Antonio! Both beautiful cities.

      • Yes I love Austin also. I’ve been trying to get my husband to move up there…but nothing yet. His aunt and uncle live there with our godson. So we visit often. :0)

  2. Diana, you have a great dad (and mom, too).

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  4. Thank you Diana.. I have truley been blessed to have and continue to experience this wonderful life with your Mom, your siblings and your individual respective families.. God has given you gifts along with a beautiful heart that for sure touch many of us.. YOU HAVE TOUCH MY HEART ON THIS DAY.. and yes we do have similar behaviors and personality traits… BUT.. know this that I love you and all our family beyond words..
    dad..
    P.S. What a great kick off for the start of my blog…” ONCE UPON A TIME IN SMELTERTOWN, TEXAS”

  5. What a wonderful story Diana like your your Dad, Mr “C”, I am also from La Esmelda. Maria C

  6. I’m your dad’s cousin and never knew where he was born until now. Yes, Chuy is a grand person. I truly enjoyed my visits with him when we were teenagers. I can tell you stories he’d rather not let me tell, so I won’t. I, too, love you because you have part of my blood running in your veins, as a gift from my mother and grandmother. Live well and enjoy. Alice (Alejandra Ramirez) Bollard

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  8. Great post! I love reading the stories about your family’s history.

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