SDFP exclusive series The History of Neighborhood House: From 1918 to the occupation in 1972
By Maria E. Garcia
In the 1930’s many of the homes around Neighborhood House did not have the facilities for the women to bake. Mr. Tijerina, an unemployed baker who lived at 4650 Cersa Street, volunteered his services. He reconstructed an oven in the yard at Neighborhood House. With the help of other men in the neighborhood, they dismantled an oven, which had been used in an old bake house near Neighborhood House. The bricks from the oven were donated by Mrs. P.J. Benbough. The only cost to Neighborhood House was twenty-five cents for a bar of angle iron that was used over the oven door.
The oven offered the women opportunity to bake and to once again gather and socialize and in today’s parlance, network. According to newspaper articles, the wood for the oven was donated by the Salvation Army. The women prepared the flour in the kitchen at the Neighborhood House. They made bread, rolls, twisters and flat cake. Flat cake is similar to a tortilla. This was done under the direction of Mrs. Adele M. Smale, in what was called the home economics classes. The classes were part of the San Diego City Schools. The American Red Cross donated sixteen tons of flour that would then be proportioned out, 100 pounds of flour for a family of six.
Baking was done on Tuesday and Saturday afternoon. Once the community was done, the women were permitted to put beans or meat into the oven, where they were left to bake overnight. I can only imagine the beautiful smells that would fill the air around Neighborhood House. It might have even covered the smell coming from the Cannery located a couple of miles down the road!
Maria Garcia is a retired school principal and has been an activist in the Chicano movement since 1968.