|The Living Room|
The building is gone now, it has been for a year or so. The 76 gas station that stood next to it for years has been gone even longer. The Living Room, a quintessential neighborhood bar closed it's doors over a decade ago. It was a dive, really, nothing special at all about the place, spartan at best, tacky and somewhat seedy at worst. What made this place special was the people. This was a local, blue collar bar if ever there was one. Lot's of hard working men came here after work to let off a little steam before heading home, including my own father. In it's own way, it was as fine a drinking establishment as any I have ever walked into.
The Living Room, located on the southwest corner of Passons Blvd and Washington Blvd in Pico Rivera, was owned and operated by a woman named Helen. She was an iron fisted woman who somehow, managed to keep the place friendly and fight free despite the rough crowd, most of them coming from the nearby (and long gone) Ford Motor Company a few blocks away. There was a single pool table, a jukebox, some chairs and tables and the bar. The decor, if you can call it a decor, was simple. This was a man's bar, plain and unpretentious.
This was my father's Friday after work hangout, for a couple of hours, before heading home. Here at the Living Room, he was known as "Chico". He was well liked here. I spent some good times with him, back in the day, sitting at the bar downing a few cold ones, or shooting some pool. I began drinking in my teens but I had my first "Legal" beer in this joint when I turned 21. In it's heyday, on a Friday night, it was smoke filled and two or three deep at the bar. I can't remember the names anymore but in my mind's eye, I can still see all the faces and hear their voices.
This place was loaded with boxing fans too. The fighters that were talked about here were guys like Mando Ramos, Jerry Quarry, Ruben Olivares, Chucho Castillo, Bobby Chacon and Danny "Little Red" Lopez. Baseball was big too, especially the Dodgers. When Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard fought in July of 1980, Helen, the owner of the Living Room, invited my father and I and few other customers to her home to watch the fight on ON TV which was still new at the time and cable TV was still on the horizon, for the average household.
There were two other stores on the site. One of them was a barber shop. I can't quite remember the name but I'm thinking it might have been the Passons' Barber Shop. As a young boy, I would walk here every few weeks for a haircut. Sometimes I would sweep the place and clean up for a quarter.
Today a small corner strip mall is being built on the lot. It looks like any other strip mall in any other city across the country. Slowly but surely, as the old places go, the cities are losing what made them special, even a lowly dive bar, they are losing their character and soul.
It was a small nondescript building with nothing to show that it was special in any way. It's gone now but I keep those memories in me, They were good memories.
Addendum: I should add that in 1973 I was working for a while at the furniture manufacturing company that my father worked for. After about 8 month I just up and quit and my father was irked about that for years, He had set me up for a promotion that same day but I wasn't aware of it. It didn't matter though it just was not my cup of tea.
Later, in 1979 when I got hired at McDonnell Douglas my father let it go, he forgave me. After I got hired we went to have a couple of beers at the Living Room. If there was someone at the bar that I didn't know he would introduce me and say “This is my son Randy, he works for McDonnell Douglas!” I would say “Dad, don't make a beg deal about it, it's just a job!” He would look at me like”Don't ruin my moment”, and off he was again, “This is my son Randy, he works for McDonnell Douglas!” It was a big deal to him. That memory pleases me!