The Old Place by J. Edward Najera



That picture was from my father’s high school yearbook. He was a senior in 1927. He had two names Carlos L. Nájera and Charles Olivas. Both names were legal and he was proud of both of them. After his father died, his mother married John Olivas. He adopted my dad legally and gave him his last name.

Olivas family

Here’s my father, standing next to my grandmother Maria Concepción. His sister Natalia is next, then his brother Robert. That’s John on the right, and my two uncles Frank and Henry Olivas. Frank and Henry have their own story, if the Good Lord gives me time enough to tell it.

John Olivas is a descendant of Don Raimundo Olivas whose home became  California Historical Landmark No. 115.dscn1762

Here I am sitting near the front gate. As you can tell, I don’t like to pose for pictures.


This plaque briefly tells the story Don Raimundo’s place. If you are ever traveling through Ventura County on Highway 101 take the Telegraph Road exit and follow the signs. It is between the cities of Ventura and Oxnard.


Here is a view of the old house. At the time it was built there were not too many two story adobe houses in California. This is one of them.


This plaque is near the entry Adobe grounds.

I wrote about this house earlier in a post: A Kevin Bacon Moment by Joseph E Najera


According to my father, somewhere in the kitchen wall is a hidden well for emergency water in case they were ever under attack.


This is not the way I remember the kitchen. It was a lot more primitive. There was a fogata, a fireplace where the cooking was done. I am remembering when I saw this in 1965 when I was a teenager.


The rooms have been restored with period furniture.


This old photo was inside one of the rooms. They must have been John’s people. I don’t know if they have been identified.


At that time that we were there, last June, 2016, there were several groups of students on a field trip. Milady and I followed a group. The docent gave a very good talk as he led us the house.


The back yard gate faces south toward the city of Oxnard where both my mother and father grew up in the early 1900’s.


According to my dad, that building at the corner was the original building. Don Raimundo lived there while building the main house.



The caretaker was living there when my father took me there. His name was Roy and my dad went to Oxnard High with him. He gave us a private tour of the house. It was a mess inside, trash and broken furniture. Roy’s job was to take care of the grounds and protect the house from vandals.

The house has a website:

They have events throughout the year including performances and weddings, and keeping the traditions alive.



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The Liberator by Joseph Najera



The B-24 Liberator was used during World War II.  By 1943 the B-24 replaced the B-17 as the main long range bomber.  It was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1830 turbo-supercharged radial engines, producing 1,200 horsepower each.

They were a little over sixty-eight feet in length.  The wingspan was 110 feet.  They were 18 feet high and they carried a crew of seven to ten members.

The Liberator carried ten 50 caliber machine guns and carried up to 8,000 pounds of bombs.

They were used in Europe and in the Pacific.


The following photographs are of the “All-American”.  It is the last flying B-24.  It came to the San Jose airport a while ago and was open to the public.

The plane is supported by sponsors and by charging admission.  The sponsors’ names are listed on the side of the plane. I was happy to pay for this walk through history.

Also listed on the plane are the names of the past crew members.  The lady in blue is looking at the names.


There is a man in a dark suit and a captain’s hat on the stairs.  He was a B-24 pilot during World War II.  The people are lining up to walk through the plane.  It was a three-hour wait and my wife and I were at the end of the line.


The visitors to the plane entered through the tail section.


Here is a view of the cockpit.  Looking at these primitives devices, I find it amazing that twenty years later our country was sending men into space.


Below the dual guns at the front, is the glass window the bombardiers used for sighting or aiming their bombs.


Here is a closer view of the propeller and engine.


I am in the midsection just outside the bombay.  I have to bend down.  There is not much room in there for a taller person.


Here is a close-up view of the waist gun.  A docent told me that each gun had available only one minute’s worth of ammunition.  This was to keep the weight down on a long flight.

img_20161010_0027img_20161010_0028Here is a side view of the tail gun.


The gun turret moves left to right and the guns move up and down.


Most of the older men there actually flew in in these planes.


The man with the beige cap was a pilot and told us how he had to bail out of his plane when the bombs he was carrying started exploding before they were dropped.  He said he was captured by the Germans and was a (POW), Prisoner of War for the duration.



Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

I am sure that the good men that flew in these planes received that blessing.




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On Board . . . by Joseph Najera


 . . . San Salvador, the flagship of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. In 1542 Cabrillo, along with those who sailed with him were the first Europeans to explore the coast of Northern California.

This ship you see above, is a replica built by The Maritime Museum of San Diego.  In late September of 2016 she visited Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

My wife and I live in San Jose, California.  Depending on traffic it’s an hour and half drive to the Monterey Peninsula.  We made the drive with eagerness and anticipation.  It was a chance to see history come alive.


Cabrillo claimed these California lands for Spain as he sailed up and down the coast.  I wonder if it would have changed the course of history if he had entered and explored the San Francisco Bay.  Perhaps that would be a pointless speculation.


Many people waited in line to board her.  We were among the lucky ones.  Were there early enough to get free admission.  Later visitors that day would have to pay.


The men who built this ship also sailed her and were available to answer visitors’ questions.


There were many of these posters along the queue to board the ship.


These images are perhaps too small to read but it is possible to get online and read this information.



The steering mechanism was interesting to me.


It was more complicated than the mechanism used by Christopher Columbus forty plus years earlier. I wrote about this in my novel Nena the Fairy and the Iron Rose.


The distance between the decks is about three feet.  The tiller is connected to the rudder through the opening.  The rudder descends below the water level and steers the ship.


(I thank Jerry Soto for the use of his photo)

The problem for the pilot is that one human being is not strong enough to turn it right, straight, left.  That is why you see the ropes and pulleys in the foreground.


The man in front of the curtain is the pilot of the ship.  He is the one in charge of steering the San Salvador. He is standing directly above the deck with the tiller and the ropes and pulleys.  The pole he is holding is connected to them.


The pulleys give him leverage, or power, so he is able to move the rudder to the right or left as he is directed from above. The pic below shows what the pilot sees when he is looking forward.


He has to rely on the Captain to tell him which direction to move the rudder.

There was more to my visit. I will share them in another post.


Non omnis moriar



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By Any Other Name by Joseph Najera

Cabrillo College, Cabrillo High School, Long Beach CA, Cabrillo Credit Union, Cabrillo Middle School, Santa Clara, CA, Cabrillo National Monument (U.S. National Park Service), Cabrillo Pacific Insurance Services, LLC.

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo’s name can be found up and down the west coast many times over.  He carried a name that is remembered.  What did this man do to make himself remembered?

The Maritime Museum of San Diego has done a wonderful thing to help us remember.

3gi1_web__jgs4420                                                                photo courtesy of Jerry Soto

Between the years of 2011 and 2015, they built a “full-sized, fully functional, historically accurate replica of the ship San Salvador.” Here I am quoting Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

11111                                                           photo courtesy of Jerry Soto

She is called a galleon measuring 92 feet long with a beam of 24 feet. The capacity is listed as 200 tons. That was twice the capacity of the Santa Maria of Columbus’ First Voyage.

mmmmmmm.jpg                                                              photo courtesy of Jerry Soto

The word “ton” can be a tricky word meaning 2,200 pounds. It can also be mistaken for “Tun” a large wine barrel.

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo used the San Salvador as his flagship. In 1542 Cabrillo along with those who sailed with him were the first Europeans to explore the coast of Northern California.  The other ships that sailed with him were the 100-ton La Victoria, and the smaller San Miguel.

yyyyyyy.jpg                                                            photo courtesy of Jerry Soto

On 28 September, 1542, Cabrillo claimed San Diego Bay for Spain. He moved on and claimed Santa Catalina Island and the nearby San Clemente Island.


Cabrillo next came back to the mainland to claim San Pedro Bay. He moved on to Santa Monica Bay. He explored Anacapa Island, San Miguel Island.


He sailed north as far as the Russian River, north of the Golden Gate. They entered Monterey Bay then decided to spend the winter back at Santa Catalina. Cabrillo died there of a fatal infection on 3 January 1543.


Here’s the San Salvador tied up at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. My wife and I were fortunate enough to board her. I have spent some time on the Santa Maria replica that is now on display in Corpus Christi, Texas. This is a much larger and more seaworthy craft than the ships that Columbus used.


I looked up and saw a crow near the crow’s nest. How often does that happen?

Here she is under construction. It took nearly five years to build and many more years before that in planning and fund raising.

When completed, San Salvador was launched on San Diego Bay and became part of the Museum’s fleet of historic and replica ships.

222222                                                             photo courtesy of Jerry Soto

She made her debut on 4 September 2015, leading a parade of tall ships for the start of San Diego’s annual Festival of Sail. At that time she was powered by an auxiliary engine since she had not yet been fitted with sails.


Thanks again to Jerry Soto (  for the use of his photographs.

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Homage to The River Boat Queen by Carlos and Joseph Najera


In our modern times The Fiesta Queen had sailed out of Laughlin, Nevada. She provided tours along the Colorado River and she offered dinner cruises as well. She was a common sight on the river for several years up and down the river.

Since then she has moved her anchorage to the South Saskatchewan River under a new handle. She is now called the Prairie Lily and tours the river there during the summer months.

This river boat and others like her did it for fun, but there was a time when  the paddle wheelers were here for work. They were the perfect water craft for transporting men and equipment up and down our rivers.

Fort Yuma was first built on the California side of the Colorado River in 1849.  To supply the new fort, wagon and pack trains had to begin their journey at San Diego travel east.  They had to cross travel on the rugged mountain trails.  There were no roads East at that time.  Miles of rock, sand and boulders added to the difficulty of crossing over. Once in the Imperial Valley the supply trains had to cross nearly 80 miles of loose sand, then dunes and soft powdery dirt. There were springs, oasis and rivers along the way but they were still a challenge to get from one to another.  The bottom line was, transporting supplies from the Pacific coast to Fort Yuma at that time was slow and dangerous and at a cost of $500 to $800 per ton.

The idea of using a paddle wheeler to transport supplies was thought of almost immediately. There were many shallow waters and sand bars on the river, and they were constantly changing. The paddle wheelers drew only three feet of water, perfect for navigating the river. Their bottoms were flat. They really only needed just a few inches of water to get over shallows or sand bars.

bIn 1852 a contract awarded to Captain James Turnbull established the beginning of riverboat trade. Turnbull purchased a small steam tug, broke it down and shipped it, along with his first load of supplies, on the schooner Capacity from San Francisco to the mouth of the Colorado.


It took two months to reassemble the tug, but in November, Turnbull’s 65-foot side-wheeler, renamed Uncle Sam, started upriver with 32 tons of freight and generated enough steam to appear devil like and scare off some Yuma Indians.     

      d Supplies were brought in by ship to the port of San Felipe located on the Sea of Cortez, Baja California. From there they were loaded on the paddle wheelers. It was about a hundred miles to Yuma at a fraction of the cost of transporting supplies by land.


Local Native Americans were hired to deliver wood at designated places along the river for fuel.

fThis boat was named “Cocopah”, the name of the local people that lived there.

The construction of Laguna Dam in 1908, the year I was born, blocked the Colorado River 14 miles above Fort Yuma.  This meant the end of riverboat traffic.  They were no longer needed.  Progress brought the railroads and the railroads became king.



                                             Say, “Good night.” To the riverboat queens.


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The Water by Joseph E. Najera

The 1952 polio epidemic was the worst outbreak our country has ever seen.  Nationwide, there were nearly 60,000 cases reported in that year.  Over 3,000 succumbed.  Over 20,000 individuals were disabled and limited in their ability to walk.

Polio is a virus that is spread by fecal matter in the water.  It was and still is, very contagious.


One of the symptoms is muscle weakness, usually in the legs.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt went swimming on a family outing one day. Other people were in the water with him, but he was the one who got infected.  That disease, as terrible as it was, did not slow him down nor keep him from becoming one of our greatest Presidents.

December 1954, I was seven years old. As I mentioned before, my mom was in the hospital enduring a slow recovery from TB. We were living in El Centro near the Mexico/US border.  My father could not work the long hours that he did and be a parent so he took my two sisters and I to stay with our godparents. He left my brother to stay with our grandma in Oxnard.

family 65


Uncle Max and Aunt Nellie lived in Port Hueneme, California.  That’s them shortly after I was born.  Oxnard was just a few miles away.

We lived a short distance away from the beach.  At night when the town was quiet and I was trying to fall asleep, I could hear the waves breaking.

“Polio is in the water.”  That is why we were never allowed to go swimming, in public or private swimming pools.  The memory of FDR and his condition was still a fresh memory.

“The water. The water.”  My seven year old mind was telling me.

Christmas in Oxnard in 1954. Many visitors and relatives often gathered at my grandmother’s house.


The old house is still there. It looks different now. Back then it had wooden siding. Now it has stucco. There used to a hedge that actually hid the house from view. That’s the place. A lot of family memories there.


There’s my brother Carlos in the striped sweater.  He came over from Oxnard because it was a special day. My sister Teresa was having her First Communion. Yes, that’s her on the right. My cousin Mina is next to her.  I still think of her as a big sister.  She’s trying to hold me still.  It was silly of them to dress me in white.  I was a natural born dirt magnet.  On the far left is my cousin Artemis. She lived next door to us.  My sister Chris was next to my brother. I have no idea who the boy in back is.

Behind us, where those trees are is the US naval base at Port Hueneme, Home of the Fighting SeeBees.

“The water. The water.”  My seven year old mind continued telling me. The great Pacific Ocean, a few blocks away, the wharfs, Bubbling Springs was a short distance away, a small smelly creek was a short walk from our house, I was surrounded by water.

“The water. The water.”  I heard the old ones say.

Back to Christmas in Oxnard in 1954.  My grandma’s house had a big kitchen, a big living room, and one and a half bedrooms.  There was not much room for the multitudes of relatives that were constantly there.  Gatherings such as this were a common experience during holiday seasons.  Sometimes there were even double this amount of relatives squeezed into that small house.

That is me, sitting on the floor with my Aunt Nellie.  There’s a story that I wrote about this particular occasion.  It is called, “The Old Ones.”  Look it up on my list of stories.

The Old Ones

Off we go, the youngest of us. That took at least six out of the house. Grown-ups need their space for cooking and catching up on the latest gossip.

The Vogue Theater was a few minutes walk from the house.  It is run down now, but it used to be a real nice movie house back then.  “White Christmas” was playing for the first time that year. Even now, once in Christmas or two, I will watch it on TV. Hollywood entertainment at its best.

My family and I take up most of a row. The lights go down. The curtain moves aside. The screen lights up, wide screen Vista Vision, the first movie to use this process, glorious Technicolor. I was in movie lover’s heaven.


“Uh ho. I gotta go.” Everybody was grumbling as I stepped on their feet as I made my way out. It’s their fault after all, I was eight years old. They should of let me sit in the aisle seat.

Off I go. I took care of business and I was heading back.

“Water fountain.” I heard myself say.  I felt thirsty. I stepped up and took a huge drink. I felt the cold down trickle down to my stomach. Then it hit me.

“The water. The water.”  I heard the old ones say.  “You catch polio by drinking dirty water.”

“Oh no! What did I do? I’m going to catch polio!  I am going to get stuck in a bed with an iron lung! I just saw that on the news reel!”

I felt my stomach twitching and my knees started shaking.  I could not undo what I had done.  I felt my world getting smaller.  My mom was confined to a bed in a special ward for tuberculosis.  That was going to be my future as well.

“Dead boy walking!” Was what I heard as I took my death march back to my seat.  “When is it going to start? When am I going to start feeling bad?”

There was lots of music, singing and dancing.  There were lots of laughs but I remembered very little of it as I sat there waiting to be sick. For weeks after that I waited for the symptoms to start. They never came, but I wasted a lot of time being scared over that.

That next year Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first effective polio vaccine.  Because of that, the average number of cases dropped from around 45,000 a year to around 900 by 1962.

I remember our family participated in a nationwide campaign called “K.O. Polio.”  We drank a liquid dose several times.  After that we were safe, we were immune.

Thank you Lord, for Jonas Salk.


October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995



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Alice by Carlos Najera

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection often affecting the membranes of your nose and throat. Symptoms include a sore throat, fever, nosebleeds, swollen glands on the throat, and weakness. The telling symptom is a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of the throat. This can often block the windpipe causing a gasping for breath. The infection can often be fatal especially in children, as many as 10 percent of people who get diphtheria die of it.

grandmother number two

It happened again, this time here in Oxnard, that worried look on my mama’s face. A new circle of women showed up to help my mom. Most of them were my stepdad’s people, John Olivas had a lot of relatives. His grandfather had twenty-three children and all of them had large families as well. That meant there were many aunts and uncles and cousins. Most of them lived nearby.

I believe my mom  missed the mysterious ways and presence of Doña Tula back in Mexicali. She was from the mountains and spoke her own language, but she always when anyone needed help. I thought is was strange that she was my size and I was just a boy.

The ladies that did show up had their own mysterious ways. They came and took over. It was just like in the movies, water was boiling. One lady brought in leaves from the lemon tree outside and made some tea. They rushed in and out of the girl’s bedroom.

The rest of the menfolk and children  stayed outside.  We were not allowed to be inside.  John got a campfire glowing in the backyard. He had a plow disc and put it over the fire. He used that to cook some meat for us. He and Roberto spread out blankets for everyone to sleep on.

As I struggled to fall asleep I could hear the ladies inside.  Al of them were busy, all night long.

We woke up in the early morning light to the sounds of wailing.

Alice went to sleep.

She was the one that took me by the hand

and showed me around my new school.

She taught me to say yes and no.

She taught me to say thank you.

She helped me understand

what the teachers expected of me

in school and even around town.

She was my friend and my playmate.

She taught me how to read,

my sister.

Alice number two

Alice, Maria Alejandrina Nájera (1902 to 1917)

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