A survey reveals that nine out of 10 millennial renters want to purchase a home, but few plan to do so in the near term.
Student debt is keeping homeownership out of reach for many millennials.Read More
A survey reveals that nine out of 10 millennial renters want to purchase a home, but few plan to do so in the near term.
Student debt is keeping homeownership out of reach for many millennials.Read More
A second dog park, safer intersections, and more wishes for 2019.Read More
“It’s Christmas in Downey” production brought high-level arts to the Downey Theatre.Read More
The former Long Beach Poly coach helped turn around a football program in disarray.Read More
Downey’s new mayor provides a look into his 2019 goals.Read More
The truck is used mostly at school district events, giving students an opportunity to put their culinary skills into practice.Read More
A WBC championship boxer, Sarnoi credits the Downey-based 10-20 Club with turning his life around.Read More
The annual carnival caters specifically to Rancho patients and their families.Read More
DOWNEY – Another year has gone by. Have you accomplished what you set out to do during 2018? Did things go as you intended? Does life ever go as we intend?
If your year was anything like mine, many things happened that were not exactly on your radar. It can feel as though we are passengers on our journey, and not the captain.
Plenty of adjustments to our path are required as we travel through life. (I recommend reading “We Plan, God Laughs: 10 Steps to Finding Your Divine Path When Life Is Not Turning Out Like You Wanted.”)
Nevertheless, I would argue that we are indeed each ultimately the captains of our own life. How we react to these unplanned life events is what determines our ultimate path. I like to keep in mind the following words. My understanding is that the name of the original writer is lost, but the message is clear:
►Carefully watch your thoughts for they become your words.
►Manage and watch your words for they will become your actions.
►Consider and judge your actions for they will become your habits.
►Acknowledge and watch your habits for they shall become your character.
►Understand and embrace your character for it becomes your destiny and your dreams.
No matter what befalls us – and let’s be clear, some of them are real doozies – let’s remain in in the pilot’s seat.
I urge you to continue to make choices that are good for you, your family, your community, and your health. I wish you all joyous holidays!
Things You Didn’t Know About Downey: Indian JoeRead More
1923 - 2018
Ryo Magara Terasaki passed away in her adult family home in Bellevue, WA, on December 14th. Ryo was born in Los Angeles in 1923, and was a Downey resident from 1952. Ryo was preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, Dr. Shigeo Terasaki, who passed away in 2003, after practicing medicine in Downey for several decades. She was also preceded in death by sisters Yo Kikugawa and Kana Hirose, and brother Hideo Magara. Ryo is survived by her sons Dr. Wesley Terasaki (Barbara), Stanley (Nancy), Dr. Rodney (Beth), and Carey. She is also survived by 6 grandsons, 3 granddaughters, 6 great-grandchildren, numerous nephews, nieces, in-laws, second cousins, and an older sister, Dr. Sue Makita. Ryo raised her sons as a stay-at-home mom; she was a strong proponent of the practice of reading to her young children. Ryo and Shigeo raised their sons in a loving environment that stressed education, and allowed for other achievements. Ryo was also a registered nurse. But, one day, she wandered into an art class, and turned that experience into a career of oil and watercolor painting; she painted, instructed at community colleges and adult education schools, demonstrated, and competed at art shows for decades. For many of her senior years, she hula danced. In 2017, Downey High School honored Ryo’s and Shigeo’s sons with induction into the DHS Hall of Fame. In the induction literature and during the induction ceremony, Ryo and Shigeo were recognized for raising their sons in the nurturing environment that was the foundation for their sons’ HoF achievements. They were especially recognized for overcoming the hardships many Japanese Americans endured during and after WWII, due to Executive Order 9066 and other acts of prejudice. Ryo and Shigeo refused to see themselves as victims of those hardships; instead, they saw their lives in Downey as opportunities for meaningful work, raising their children, and enjoying life. Ryo will be interred alongside Shigeo at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Southeast Japanese School and Community Center, in Norwalk, and Cerritos Baptist Church.
The Downey Patriot’s stories about a homeless Julie brought an outpouring of bittersweet remarks on Facebook from people who felt they knew her already: “So saddd;” “I bought her a slice of pie;” “a bottle of water;” “I gave her some sunscreen because she had a severe sunburn,” “Some change,” “a few dollars,” “all the money I had.”
People offered prayers and sympathy and some gave practical advice: “Go to the Barbara Riley Senior Center. Lunch is served Monday through Friday, no one is turned away because they cannot pay.” But the comments all went onto Facebook, not to Julie.
On the likely chance that no one nor any agency had yet come forward to help her in a more permanent way, I wanted to give Julie something to keep up her spirits during the holidays. So I cut and pasted those Facebook squibs and stapled together a little booklet with about 40 cheery names and faces.
Although she can’t see to read because of macular degeneration, her sometimes landlady could read them to her. I was told there is a friendly Huntington Park motel where she goes by bus, when she has gotten the money.
But when I got to the post office, her place by the gray cinder brick wall was taken. Julie had been displaced by a man from the Salvation Army in a red vest who was ringing a bell and standing by a big black donation kettle.
Ironically, the Salvation Army, a faith-based organization, has a shelter right up the riverbed from Downey. Their Bell, Calif., shelter is the largest homeless shelter west of the Mississippi and offers transitional care for up to 350 homeless men and women.
But the program, like everything worthwhile, has a long waiting list. The Salvation Army does a remarkable job in offering shelter for three months up to a year, and training to get the homeless back into the job force. The program tries to make people independent and self-sufficient again.
But currently the facility in Bell operates as a rehab center for substance abusers, for abused women and for homeless vets. Julie does not qualify.
I went to the other places where Julie has been sighted, in front of Marie Callender’s, and at Stater Brothers. Dollar Tree and CVS Pharmacy. Safe places, family-frequented. But no Julie today.
I had hoped to hear from Julie that something good had come from the exposure in the Patriot, to stop this downward spiral. And during the intense rain we just had, I kept imagining how that must have make it impossible for her to stand outdoors and wait for charity and the kindness of strangers.
As one of her Facebook well-wishers said, “We all have a story, even the rude selfish people who find Julie annoying and of poor taste. The heart is deeper than we know, the fight is longer than we know, the ignorance is bigger than we know. We only know that we know better than to judge.”
Looking for that special holiday gift for the person who has everything? Or a present for the Lunar New Year?
Perhaps you just want a modestly priced hostess gift that says someone is special.
Downey has a little shop of wonders, Cocoon, nestled next to a dry cleaner near Old River School Liquor, in the mini–mall at Stewart and Gray Road. Owner Jesse Quintero has traveled to the emerging countries of the world, places where jewelry is still a hand craft. Gem stones are not always set in silver: sometimes a burnished circlet of black water buffalo horn will set off a watery moonstone.
Jesse has traveled the world and brought back amazing trinkets and treasures. He has a nice selection of incense too. When I asked him if there were places that he could no longer go, he nodded. Afghanistan with its great lapis deposits is off limits to him now. The craft of the silver-smith has become a woman’s trade there, and small business loans had begun to help with village enterprises.
“So, do you have to deal with traders,” I asked. “No,” said Jesse, “I had established my own local contacts, and now I can deal direct without a middleman. So I still have my sources. “
“And with computers you can see what you’re buying right away,” I said. “And I’ve arranged for wiring payments,” Jessie said. “So the world is still out there for me.”
Two black dog-faced statues guard the entrance to the shop, and cheetah and monkey masks glare and smile from the walls. A lovely wooden African totem stained in a giraffe pattern stands by the jewelry cases, and a Japanese black lacquered box tops another, next to wooden masks from Guatemala of jaguars and birds.
A delicate filigree ring with a moonstone caught my eye. It’s from Bali, Jesse said. Then a bold mottled blue and green stone: “Azurite,” I asked, “and from Bali?” “Yes and no,” said Jesse. “It’s azurite, but from New Mexico.”
A lovely brooch set with six highly polished apricot colored carnelians was what I wanted. “Nepal,” said Jesse, polishing each sterling silver setting as he took it out for display.
Looking for something delicate yet dramatic for my granddaughter, I tried on a hammered silver shield-shaped band, set with an amethyst cabochon from New Mexico. Jesse showed me trays of similar styles, one like a cigar-band centered with a green striped malachite and wreathed in a silver bead setting. “Bali again,” said Jessie. Another held carnelians set in brass, and onyx and silver rings, in sizes for men too.
I had bought so much by now that Jesse offered me a tray of little $3 rings, to pick one for free. I chose a bold bejeweled Hand of Fatima, fingers outspread with a red and yellow enamel disc in the palm, the Eye of Horus.
“That’s the Hand of the Prophet’s Daughter, Fatima,” I said, knowing that because I had seen it often enough when I traveled in Egypt. “Yes,” said Jesse, “but in Israel they will tell you it is the Hand of God. Either way, it’s to ward off the evil eye.”
The world we see is believed by billions – literally -- to be populated also by spirits from a vast spirit domain. Their totems and faces are carved and painted by every culture to keep us aware of the animating spirit that flows in everyone.
Jesse showed me photos from his visit in May to Surabaya in Indonesia, where an act of Isis terrorism blasted a marketplace and a Pentecostal Church, charring motorbikes and killing dozens of innocent family members.
“We had just arrived,” said Jesse, “and we were going to dinner at a restaurant in that same square. But as we got up to leave” Jesse said, “I felt an invisible pressure on my shoulders, forcing me to sit down. So we didn’t go, and that saved our lives.”
When you get that kind of warning, you can’t afford to ignore it, no matter where it comes from.
Cocoon is a comfortable way to explore for artifacts, and bizarre and odd treasures from around the world. Jesse even has a nook with clothes: skirts, blouses, and colorful cotton vests which were woven on small portable looms the weavers carry on their backs in the mountains. There’s a mirror if you want to try something on.
When travelling one should be ready to dive into the culture and put on the style and accessories of the country or tribe. Jesse’s ears are not only pierced but have holes big enough to hold the gold and jade plugs of Mezo America. Great or small, he has seen it and collected it. Now his tiny treasures wait, to delight the armchair explorer in Cocoon, which he calls “Gifts for the Mind.”
As one of the Yelp comments said, “a huge assortment of odd to cultural and everything in between. There’s always so many things to see and new gems to find! It’s a small shop but I’ve always said give yourself at least an hour to take it all in. From the floor to literally the ceiling, you’ll be amazed at what you find. There’s really nothing else like it.”
And you don’t even need a passport.
Cocoon is located at 7391 Stewart & Gray Rd. in Downey.
DOWNEY – The Warren High School wrestling team has been busy this preseason participating in several tournaments.
The Bears competed in the Spartan Classic Kick-off at South Torrance on Nov. 24 where they finished fourth overall with a total of 130 points.
Villa Park finished first with a total of 241 points, Paramount finished second with a total of 150 points, South Torrance finished third with a total of 130.5 points and West Torrance finished fifth with a total of 116 points, respectively.
The Bears had six wrestlers place in the top six of their respective weight classes. Warren’s Josh Mariscal finished third at 106 pounds, Carlos Durazo finished second at 113 pounds and Salvador Alvarez finished sixth at 120 pounds. Joel Gutierrez finished sixth at 152 pounds, Naethan Guerrero finished sixth at 182 pounds and Kaleb McIntyre finished fifth at 220 pounds. Warren also competed in the Millikan Duals on December 1.
The Bears competed in the Edison Beach Bash December 7-8 at Edison High School in Huntington Beach. Warren finished in 13th place overall with a total of 81 points.
Rowland finished first with a total of 213 points, Mayfair finished second with a total of 205 points, La Quinta finished third with a total of 182.5 points, Edison finished fourth with a total of 137 points and Beaumont finished fifth with a total of 135 points, respectively.
Warren had five wrestlers place in the top eight of their respective weight classes. Andrew Lopez placed second at 106 pounds and Joshua Mariscal placed third at 106 pounds. Salvador Alvarez placed third at 120 pounds, Andrew Martinez placed eighth at 160 pounds and Naethan Guerrero placed fourth at 182 pounds.
The Warren High School wrestling team competed in the Mann Classic at Marina High School on Dec. 14-15. The Bears finished in 29th place overall with a total of 42.5 points.
Servite finished first with a total of 259.5 points, Bakersfield finished second with a total of 220.5 points, Villa Park finished third with a total of 179.5 points, Fountain Valley finished fourth with a total of 159.5 points and Calvary Chapel finished fifth with a total of 138.5 points, respectively.
The Bears had two wrestlers place in the top eight of their respective weight classes. Carlos Vasquez placed fifth at 106 pounds and Salvador Alvarez placed fifth at 120 pounds.
The Warren wrestling team also participated in the Ed Springs Classic Wrestling Tournament December 21st and 22nd at Brea-Olinda High School. The Bears finished in eighth place overall with a total of 102 points.
Valencia finished first with a total of 176 points, Sonora finished second with a total of 148 points, Dos Pueblos finished third with a total of 131.5 points, Brea-Olinda finished fourth with a total of 128 points and Aliso Niguel finished fifth with a total of 117.5 points, respectively.
The Bears had six wrestlers place in the top eight of their respective weight classes. Joshua Mariscal placed seventh at 106 pounds, Carlos Vasquez placed third at 113 pounds and Salvador Alvarez placed fifth at 120 pounds. Carlos Durazo placed third at 160 pounds, Troy Garza placed sixth at 170 pounds and Kaleb McIntyre placed eighth at 195 pounds.
Warren will begin their league match schedule when they host Gahr at Warren on January 3. The Bears will then travel to cross-town rival Downey on January 8, will host Dominguez at Warren on January 10th and will travel to Paramount to face the Pirates on January 22nd. Downey and Paramount will once again be the teams to beat in league competition.
Warren is scheduled to wrestle in the Tournament of Champions at Cerritos College on January 5 and the La Puente Duals on January 12.
Coach Brogden, his staff and wrestlers are all looking forward to competing for a S.G.V.L. and C.I.F. championship.
DOWNEY WRESTLING: The Downey High School wrestling team has been busy this preseason getting ready for the start of their league dual match schedule, competing in the Edison Beach Bash at Edison High School in Huntington Beach on Dec. 7-8.
Downey finished in eighth place overall with a total of 115 points. The Vikings had five wrestlers finish in the top eight of their respective weight classes. Matthew Mendoza placed eighth at 113 pounds, Isaac Medina placed seventh at 126 pounds, Josh Burtle finished eighth at 138 pounds, Matthew Rauno finished fifth at 160 pounds and Nelson Cruz finished second at 220 pounds.
Rowland was the Edison Beach Bash Tournament champion with 213 points, respectively. Downey finished eighth and cross-town rival Warren finished 13th.
The Vikings also hosted the Downey 32 Way Varsity Tournament December 14th and 15th. Downey finished in ninth place overall with a total of 64 points.
Paramount finished first with a total of 116.5 points, Monache finished second with a total of 97 points, Arroyo finished third with a total of 92.5 points, Beaumont finished fourth with a total of 89 points and Millikan finished fifth with a total of 85.5 points, respectively.
Downey had one wrestler qualify for the semifinals and that was Isaac Medina at 126 pounds. Other Viking wrestlers were in the mix but did not finish in the top two (bout sheet was incomplete at press time).
New Viking head coach Kyle Acevedo, his staff and wrestlers are all looking forward to league competition. Cross-town rival Warren and Paramount will be the teams to beat in San Gabriel Valley League dual meet action.
DOWNEY BOYS SOCCER: The Downey High School boys’ soccer team currently has an overall record of 5-1-2 and will begin league play next week.
In recent competition, the Vikings defeated Los Alamitos 4-1 at Downey on December 13, defeated Alisal of Salinas (California) 1-0 at Downey on December 14, defeated El Toro 2-0 at Downey on December 15 and defeated Schurr of Montebello 2-1 at Downey on December 18.
The Vikings are scheduled to compete in the Arizona Showcase beginning tomorrow and will play Hamilton of Arizona in their tournament opener. Downey will also compete in the Flower Mound Marcus Tournament against Naaman Forest of Garland, Texas, on January 3.
The Vikings will then begin San Gabriel Valley League play when they host Dominguez at Downey on January 4th. Downey will then travel to Lynwood to play the Knights on January 8th and also travel to cross-town rival Warren to play the Bears on January 10th.
The Vikings will then host Gahr at Downey on January 15th and also host Paramount at Downey on January 17th. Paramount and Warren will once again be the teams to beat in league play.
Head coach Marvin Mires, his staff and players are all looking forward to the start of San Gabriel Valley League play and competing for another league championship. The Vikings are the 2018 S.G.V.L. champions.
Downey is also looking forward to qualifying for and making a deeper run in the C.I.F. Division One playoffs.
DOWNEY – With the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade less than a week away, it is officially crunch time for the Downey Rose Float Association.
In coordination with the 2019 parade’s theme “Melody of Life,” Downey’s 2019 entry into the Rose parade is called “Let’s Go to the Hop” and will take viewers on a rip-roaring, swinging and jiving nostalgic cruise back through the 1950’s.
Downey’s entry remains one of only six floats that are designed, built, and decorated solely by volunteers.
Art Director Jeff Shadic says that when designing the 2019 float, he wanted to go with a music theme with a “fun retro aspect to it.”
“We have the giant juke box which is kind of the diner idea, and then the two cars – the roadster and the Cadillac that are driving to the hop…There’s going to be approximately 11,800 roses on this float. They range from orange and yellows and pinks; I wanted to keep it bright and vibrant.”
Shadic says that he wants “the older generation to reminisce,” and “feel excitement about something from their youth.”
According to Construction Chairman Kelley Roberts, it’s the cars that are the most exciting part of the float.
“It’s gotta be the hotrods,” said Roberts. ‘You’ve got a custom-built T-bucket on the front that’s oversized, and then you have a 13-ft. long 1959 pink El Dorado Cadillac satellite float that’s running in front of the float.”
“As the theme says ‘let’s go to the hop,’ so they’re all cruising to go to the hop.”
As Roberts mentioned, the pink Cadillac will cruise down Colorado Boulevard separately from the main float with Shadic and Downey Rose Float President Jennifer DeKay on board. It is the first time “in a long time” that Downey’s entry will feature a satellite float, according to Roberts.
“To have an extra element in front of it to give more character to the float makes it more festive,” said Roberts.
Riding on the main float will be Miss Downey Mariah Lora and members of her court, as well as Downey several Rose Float Association members, former mayor Fernando Vasquez, and Downey resident Alex Dominguez.
Dominguez entered a raffle for a seat on the float and was selected at random as the winner in October.
Downey Rose Float has been fortunate throughout the year to get material donations from local companies, including their steel from Beyond Steel Inc.
“They donated all the steel to make all the different shapes that you see on the float. If it wasn’t for Beyond Steel we would have to pay that bill,” said Roberts.
Both Shadic and Roberts expressed that the float is farther along than in past years at this point in time. However, there are still many long days and nights ahead if the association is to bring the float to completion.
“So far, we’re looking pretty good,” said Roberts. “It’s going to be almost a nonstop workforce to finish this float, paint it, decorate it, seed it.”
And of course, that’s where the community will come in during the rest of the week.
“It wouldn’t be done without all the volunteers that come on down,” said Roberts.
Roberts says he expects to see anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 viewers and volunteers over the next few days.
It was 1943, our family had just finished a Hanukkah dinner with potato pancakes with applesauce. My friend Sylvia knocked on the door; we were both 14 years old and she was looking for something to do.
It was also Christmas Eve. The stores were open late. WE decided to walk to the five-and-ten and buy a jigsaw puzzle to put together later.
It was a cold and windy night but we enjoyed the walk as the bright window decorations and Christmas trees were on display.
A block from Woolworths, we passed the Catholic orphanage. A nun was sweeping snow from the steps. I knew some of the girls from my class -- not everyone was an orphan, some parents had to work, soe they leftt heir children with the nuns.
“Merry Christmas, Sister Ana Marie,” I said.
“Merry Christmas, girls,” she replied.
“Is the tree decorated?” I asked.
“The children will decorate it after dinner,” the nun replied. “There are not many gifts this year.” She then went inside.
“How much money do you have?” Sylvia asked me? I looked in my wallet and found $4.
“I have $3 from babysitting,” Sylvia said. We looked at the sign at the five-and-ten store: “Clearance Sale.”
That gave us an idea. Why don’t we buy things for the children instead of ourselves?
It felt good to get out of the cold and into the warm store. Jigsaw puzzles and books were 25 cents; we bought four of each. Knitted caps were 50 cents each; we bought two blue and two red.
At a table there was wrapping paper for 2 cents each; we bought 12 sheets. We chose 14 candy canes, a penny each. We bought 14, two for us.
“How are we going to wrap the gifts?” Sylvia asked. I remembered -- the library was always open to return books.
We walked the two blocks to the warm library. We wrapped the gifts in the bright wrapping paper. Then we walked back to the orphanage.
The children were in bed, waiting for Santa. Sylvia and I put the gifts under the decorated tree. Now the children would have extra gifts; what a wonderful feeling.
The nuns invited us into the kitchen for some homemade fudge. Sister Ana Marie said, “In the Bible it says ‘do a good deed.’ Girls, you have done a good deed. Thank you for charity in your hearts.”
We thanked them for the delicious fudge and started to walk back to my house. It was 9 o’clock, time for Sylvia to go home. When I went upstairs, my brother Ben brought the jigsaw puzzle. All six of us stood around the dining table to put it together.
Mama lit the candles in the menorah and Papa gave us a gold-wrapped chocolate candy.
Dora Silvers is a former Norwalk resident who currently resides in Cerritos.
DOWNEY — Paloma Usquiano, a Downey resident and senior at Orange Lutheran High School , has committed to play softball at the University of Arkansas.
“We are excited to welcome Jenna, Rylin, and Paloma to the Razorback softball family,” said head coach Courtney Deifel. “Although this class is small in size, there is no doubt they will have a huge impact from the day they step on campus. We cannot wait for them to get to Fayetteville and begin to make their mark on the program.”
Usquiano is a 5-ft., 5-in. Infielder who batted over .350 in each of her sophomore and junior seasons, including a .435 average during her sophomore campaign.
She belongs to the So Cal Athletics Jendro travel ball team, batting .350 and .360 during her sophomore and junior seasons, respectively.
She is the daughter of Downey residents Armando and Dianna Usquiano, and has two sisters, Sofia and Julie.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors had stated publicly that he didn’t believe anyone had walked on the moon. Of course the comment made people think.
Then on Dec. 16, former astronaut Scott Kelly asked Curry to recant his statement. So Steph Curry said he was just joking.
He was not joking, folks.
I shared a table with Imperial School, six boys and girls and their principal Peggy Meehan. Isaac, who is 8, sat right next to me, his eyes big with excitement.
How many brothers and sisters does Isaac have? He counted on his fingers as he named then, then spread his hand and said “five.” Then he began again, with more names, and pretty soon we had two hands full.
“I’ve been good and prayed a lot,” said Isaac. He rolled his eyes at the idea that Santa might be coming, but just the same he was hoping.
Annabelle sat on his other side and she seemed preoccupied, toying with her knife and fork and spoon. She was wearing a white tee shirt with “Life Is Beautiful” spelled out in sequins and flowers. Isaac was dressed in a red Spiderman tee shirt. “Your favorite action hero?” I asked and he nodded vigorously.
It was my good fortune to be seated at the Rotary Christmas Children’s Luncheon next to an articulate little boy, but with the din and my poor hearing I couldn’t understand much that he said. It didn’t matter. Isaac loved to talk and didn’t need any prompting from me.
“Do you like to read?” I asked him, and he nodded enthusiastically yes. “Good readers are good talkers,” I said “because they know lots of words.”
The children were served a lunch of chicken nuggets and mac’n cheese, and Isaac cleaned up every bite and then began on his box of tropical punch. Most of the others really had no appetite, excited and waiting for Santa.
President of Downey Rotary Greg Welch called the room to order and offered a prayer of thanks for the children visiting us, “their bright faces, loving hearts and eager minds.” Then we said the Pledge of Allegiance, at half our normal speed, because the children enunciate every syllable carefully to understood every word. Except for “indivisible,” that is, which lost a little clarity. That concept is not that easy to get, and the schools will be teaching that one through all the grades. Maybe for President’s Day they’ll let Abe Lincoln do the explaining about the Civil War.
Then for the songs – we all sang “Jingle Bells,” with car keys and water glasses for chimes. I had to tap on Shirley Johnson’s glass, because she had emptied hers and it made a much better ring than mine which was nearly full. Some of us grown-ups were excited too.
Will Medina announced he will be helping distribute some of the Spin Master Toys on Thursday in Santa Fe Springs through the department of Children and Family Services, Darren Dunaway’s organization, and invited volunteers to join him. What a labor of love and showing of the Rotary Spirit.
Each child had been given a yellow ticket for the raffle, and the winner of the first number was one of the young women principals, in a black sweater with Frosty the Snowman and a snowflake center front. Each of Downey’s 13 elementary schools was invited to send six third graders, the principal and teachers, and they all enthusiastically complied.
Next call brought a little boy who literally ran through the room to the podium. Big applause for him. Last number belonged to Jaimee Sul Baker, cheery in a red sweater and bright red patent leather shoes to match. We have Jaimee to thank for the superior quality toys, but she didn’t win more than a token either.
Dr. John Garcia, superintendent of the Downey Unified School District, took over the emcee duties and introduced the teachers and principals who had brought our little guests, and many of the staff from the DUSD office.
Then Dr. John called for “Jingle Bells” again. Where were Debbie and Dan Fox, our songmasters, to lead us in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” which we had rehearsed so often? John urged us to sing out, so our “special” guest would know he was invited, but there was a little confusion till John gave the mike to Chad Berlingheiri, whose soaring solo tenor, singing “I’ll be Home For Christmas,” quieted the room.
The song, which I remember when it appeared in 1943, is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas writing his family a letter home. As Chad got to the chorus and hit the high notes, all attention was on him. And then, just as Chad got to the melancholy final phrase, with the soldier saying, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams," the sound of bells and “Ho Ho Ho” told us our surprise guest had appeared, and he was no other than Santa Claus.
The jolly old elf had a wonderful real white beard and moustache so that children could see he must be the real deal. But let’s hope that by next Christmas, 2019, our own Wayne Wilcox will be back from his two-year stint in Argentina, again playing the role he loves to do.
Dr. John called the first school “The Mustangs of Rio San Gabriel,” and Rich Strayer in his red elf hat came to help Santa distribute toys. After the Mustangs came The Bulldogs of Imperial Elementary School, our table. When Isaac went up, I saw he had on long shorts, with red trim, but he on his chair was also a black hoodie to keep him warm.
First each child went to Santa and spoke with him, and Santa took time to listen to each of the 75 or so children. Dan Fox was stationed right in front of Santa and took a souvenir picture of each.
The girls got a wonderful Spin Master Little Charmer doll, either Lavender, Hazel or Posy, each with long acrylic hair and a sturdy little brush to groom her with. When I told Annabelle that my little girl had once had a Mary Poppins doll with a pony tail and a hairbrush, and an umbrella with a parrot’s head, her eyes brightened.
Boys got a Spin Master Hot Wheels Monster Mutt race car, the kind that goes faster than the speed of sound and they were painted with flames.
Then each came to Shirley sitting in a big comfortable chair for a kind word and a KitKat from the voluminous sack she brought. Shirley has frequently sponsored charity events for abused kids. Each child also received a jumbo size sturdy zip-lock bag, filled with another toy, more candy and a stained-glass kit, then went back to their seats.
The stained-glass kits were appreciated by the teachers. “That fits with our STEAM program,” Principal Peggy Meehan said. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math. “The YMCA is wonderful about bringing us craft supplies. This week the children are making ornaments to take home, like fingerprint balls for the tree. We appreciate the outside help.”
The children waited till their teachers told them they could take off the Christmas wrap, which our members applied so carefully last week.
Then the Panthers of Maude Price were called, and so it went for all 13 schools. The teachers expected the main toy’s sturdy plastic packaging would last intact till they got home, but as soon as one child opened theirs, everyone did, and they loved playing with them. Boys were zooming their Hot Wheels at their place at the table, and little girls could be seen talking to their dollies and re-arranging their hair.
At our table Amy came over to show me the package of charms she had gotten, but Annabelle, who hadn’t opened hers, was still pensive, arranging the knives and forks. Some children take the unopened toys home to share with brothers and sisters who will get nothing at Christmas.
“We have 13 wonderful elementary schools in Downey” said Assistant Superintendent Roger Brossmer, who sat with Jim Mogen at a table full of children. “They are so well behaved,” I said and Roger nodded. “They’re carefully chosen, for their needs,” said Jim.
Boys and girls were dressed in colorful action figure tee shirts and girls wore sparkly sequin tees. One had a matching red and black checked top and bottom. No one wore a party dress two sizes too big, or had a suit coat or tie, as this reporter can remember from times past. More informal.
To amuse themselves, Amy and a friend at my table were playing Scissors, Paper, Rock. That takes coordination and quick reaction time, I thought, because at each throw, the winner reached out and tapped the loser before going on. They laughed and played, and then they added a complication, two-handed throws from each. Still they kept moving swiftly, the tapping redoubling and quick new choices constantly being made.
And then just when I thought their coordination was at its limits, little blond-haired Paul joined them and there were three of them, throwing six little fists and tapping away. What a good way to use up all that energy, I thought.
One has a stereotype of disadvantaged children also having dull eyes and wan faces, due to poor nutrition and lack of stimulation. But obviously the schools don’t lose track of these kids when they go home. They are very much healthy and engaged. They are very much healthy and engaged.
Going across the room I sat with the Gallatin School contingent. One of the little girls at the table offered me a bite of her Kit Kat, a generous act. These children are selected, Roger had told me, because of their extreme neediness. Other than this, they won’t have any Christmas at all.
Rich and Don and Shirley stayed at their posts till the last child, and Mike Pohlen helped Dan, both grandfathers, with getting each child to focus and smile when Dan took their pictures. President Greg and Treasurer Barbara Lamberth, who wore in a glittery blue and black sweater with her white pants, sat back and watched with approval. Barbara oversaw the event and the decorations for the table, red bells and a scattering a little peppermint canes.
Santa had appeared at about 12:25, and by 1:40 the children had all left to go back to their classrooms. No Rotary group picture this year. Nary a crumb was left.
But I do believe Santa was heard to observe, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night.”
As part of the City of Downey’s Park Improvement Project, we opened the new Futsal Courts at Independence Park. Previously unused portions of Independence Park will now house three new futsal courts that will allow two teams of five players to play with new state of the art equipment.
A new walkway around the perimeter will allow easy access to courts. New light poles were installed to better illuminate the futsal courts and the rest of Independence Park.
Measure S dollars are hard at work and many upcoming projects are planned for the upcoming year. All of the city’s parks will see upgrades. Some of the improvements include:
• Irrigation system replacement
• Turf renovation
• Synthetic field conversion
• Playground resurfacing
• Parking lot upgrades
• Ball field lighting upgrades
• Restroom renovations
• New walking trails
• New community buildings
• ADA improvements
The Council and I, with the support of a professional and experienced city staff, have worked diligently to represent your interests and express your collective views on some of the key issues impacting our overall quality of life.
In January, the City Council met to discuss the goals and objectives for the year. The City Council’s five overarching principles are: Fiscal Responsibility, Efficiency and Adaptability, Economic Vibrancy, Quality of Life, Safety and Infrastructure, and Public Engagement.
These central priorities are what guides us and what has led to so many accomplishments this year including the most robust infrastructure improvement plan in the city’s history; $50 million worth of upgrades will be completed in the next two years.
One of my top priorities for this year was ensuring that all residents were given the information they need to be aware and engaged in city happenings. That is why along with the State of the City, we have conducted a series of townhall meetings, quarterly Coffee with the Cop events and increased social media presence to better inform our residents of City’s events, programs and future plans.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as your Mayor this year. The City of Downey is an outstanding place to live, work and play. I have considered this position as one of the most important roles in my life. It has been wonderful to meet so many people, travel to Sacramento to advocate for our city, and celebrate our city’s achievements with local and international leaders. There is so much to celebrate in Downey. We truly do live in the best city in the world.
Thank you Downey for your trust in me. It has been an honor to serve as your Mayor.
City Council Office: 562-904-7274