Raul Martinez is 84 years old and has lived in Elysian Valley since 1941, making him a 73 year resident. He attended Dorris Place Elementary School, Nightingale Middle School, Marshall High and graduated from Lincoln High School. He lives on Glover St. in the house once owned by his father, who purchased the property for approximately $3500.
Raul married at the ripe age of 18 and has six children. Young and married with children, he supported his family working multiple jobs. He retired in 1987 as a superintendent from Sobel, Bernstein & Greene, one of L.A.’s largest shoe manufacturing companies. He recalls early earnings of $3.80 to $4 per hour in 1948, which was considered great pay at the time. In comparison, the U.S. Post Office paid $2.08 per hr.
Like other long-time residents, Raul recalls the thousands of frogs that were present on the LA River and that made their way up to the residential areas. “There were so many that one had to try hard not to step on them.” He remembers swimming on the River in a water fall hole down from Glover St. “We had a lot of fun on the River.” Raul remembers horse properties alongside the River and people riding.
EV was different then says Raul. The neighborhood prior to the 5FWY being built extended out to Elysian Park. It was a safe place to raise a family. No one locked their doors and neighbors knew each other. St. Ann’s Catholic Church was a wooden structure set at the North-East corner of Dorris Pl and Blake Ave. Here, Raul served as an altar boy and for a number of years contemplated joining the priesthood. Elysian Valley was an area alive with businesses and services. There were three (3) bakeries in Elysian Valley (Foix, Four-S & Dolly Madison). Raul recalls an airplane business on Cabot St. and Riverside Dr. There too were entertainment dance halls, bars, a hardware store, multiple gas stations and a Safeway type general grocery store on Newell St. and Riverside Dr.
Elysian Valley then was largely populated by Italian-American families. His best friend was Harry Seely, an 11 yr old Swedish-American. At most, there were approximately 10 Mexican-American households. The neighborhood changed when the 5 FWY was built and residents from “Palo Verde, Bishop and Loma” were displaced to accommodate Dodger Stadium.
Raul considers himself fortunate to live in EV, still a safe place and “one that calls you back.” He has lived a good life here and would not change a thing. He regards himself as a man that minds his own business but who is not shy to speak his mind when necessary. No one is perfect, says Raul and I respect people’s right to be different.