By Richard Cortez
It seems that I might have some fans of Memories of El Monte. There is a group of men who gather once a month and talk about my stories. My little stories of El Monte from the past convey good memories to these guys who not only remember them but lived them. I am talking about The Medina Court Men’s Breakfast Club. The club is made up of over 30 men who grew up in the Medina Court area from the 1930’s up till today.
I got a call from Clarke Moseley owner of Mid Valley News telling me about these guys and thought it would be interesting to talk to them. So with a phone number in hand and a name I called Ron Venegas. “Hello” Ron said, “Hi this is Richard Cortez from Mid Valley News” I said feeling like a salesman, “Oh yeah you’re the guy who writes Memories of El Monte” Ron said. Well Ron and I hit it off with a lot of similar life experiences and by the end of our conversation Ron invited me to their next breakfast.
That Friday morning I got up early filled my briefcase with all my research papers and books including many photographs that I have downloaded from the internet and headed to Denny’s. As I drove into the parking lot there had to have been 20 or more guys waiting. I introduced myself and was invited into their special place to have breakfast. I first met Joe Torres who is the president of the club and then I met Ron Venegas, Vice President who led me to a table and introduced me to the guys sitting at my table. I was a little uncomfortable at first you know, not knowing anyone but, the guys would come up to me and introduce themselves some carrying photo albums of their families and friends who lived in Medina Court. They made me feel right at home.
I am sorry I didn’t get everyone’s name but, I did get to talk to one of the older guys, his name is Frank Flores at 80 years old he was a wealth of knowledge about Medina Court and El Monte. Philo Hernandez and with his son talked about the church basketball team who were the 1952 City Champs and went on to play the El Monte High basketball team and won.
Mr. Hernandez also talked about his uncle Tony Ortiz who in the 1940’s was one of the first successful businessmen of Mexican descent. All the men spoke about the parish priest, Father Coffield who would not only looked after their spiritual well being but, was the basketball coach and football coach. He would mentor the boys to stay in school and work hard at whatever they did in life.
Porfy Castruita came over to my table with a photo album. He showed me pictures of his family growing up in Medina Court. He had some great pictures of himself in the Navy. While he was in Hawaii he was on the aircraft carrier that recovered one of the Gemini spacecrafts.
I asked Ron Venegas how long the breakfast club has been in existence and what the club did. “The group has been together for 6 years,” Ron said, “And our goal is to promote goodwill and to continue our lifelong friendships.” The Medina Court Men’s Breakfast Club does more; they assist members and families in their time of need. They also support a funeral fund. They want to preserve their history and further their children’s education and to encourage the children to get involved in their community. The club has a Picnic in August and a Dance in December to raise money.
I walked away from my meeting with these guys and felt a kinship of sorts. I walked away with the facts of the men that served our country that fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Some of the medals that were won were the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Some of the men went on to be a University Professor, a Doctor, and Professional Business owners. To me this is the American dream. This is what we fight for in the United States. I found that these men are friends who make up a family. In a time when you don’t even know your neighbor it is a shame that our community is not like the people from Medina Court
I want to thank Ron Venegas and Joe Torres and all the guys in the Medina Court Men’s Breakfast Club.