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My “Cookie-Cutter” Childhood Home

In my last article, I wrote about the astonishing progress made in housing from one generation to the next in our family. Specifically, I mentioned that my father was born in the mountains of Peñuelas, in the rural mountainside community of Santo Domingo. During the 2009 family reunion hosted by cousin Annie Meléndez, a group of us took a guided trip up to the area where that cabin once stood. It is no longer there, and the pathway to the actual spot was eroded and unsafe to travel on, even on foot, but we got close. The views were incredible and the experience of walking on the land that our ancestors inhabited was almost spiritual.

My father’s family moved to Ponce, as described in the previous article, and after struggling financially for the next twenty years working in cane fields, fishing, and in the Aguirre Sugar Mill, dad joined the Merchant Marines. With solid work and regular paychecks, and following the lead of his sister, María, dad purchased a house in San Francisco’s Sunset District in 1945, at 1718-22nd Avenue. The following year, my mother Ana María López Maldonado travelled to San Francisco to marry dad. This was the home in which they raised their three children – Olga María (1947-2006), Ruben Juan (1949 -) and Norma Iris (1952 -).

Garcia house, San Francisco

The house, like many others in the Sunset District, was designed by Henry Doelger. Once criticized as “cookie cutter”, these now iconic houses actually were built in a variety of styles. Ours, shown on the left, was in the Mediterranean Revival style. It was built in 1931, and I think they bought it from the previous owner for something like $16,000. They sold the house in 1974 for $40,000. Today, that house is valued at over $1,100,000.

Here is a link to an interesting article on the Doelger homes of San Francisco:

Recently, the block that we lived on was in the news when a home four houses away exploded, completely demolishing it and damaging neighboring homes. The picture below is of the house that blew up. My parents’ house was the one at the far left in the photo.

This next link is to a news story about that explosion:

Tragically, a disabled woman that lived in that house perished in the explosion and her caretaker was hospitalized with injuries. The deceased woman’s husband was not at home and the two daughters were at school.

Even though I moved out of my childhood home over fifty years ago, had it been our home that had been destroyed, I would have felt like an enormous chunk of my childhood had gone up in smoke. I have so many wonderful memories of the family coziness and security that we felt there.

In the photo on the left, my brother Ruben plays out in front of the house, and in the second picture we three kids are posing with cousin Joi in the backyard. Don’t let my frown fool you…the childhood memories are good, really! I am so appreciative of the sacrifices that my parents made to provide us with a great house in which to grow up.