By Maria E. Garcia
Lowriders. Metal taps on shoes. Club jackets. These expressions of 1950s popular youth culture were evident in Logan Heights. Youth social clubs such as Los Gallos in last week’s article developed along with that culture. Los Lobos was another social club in Logan Heights that expressed and interpreted youth culture in unique ways.
In my interview with Gilbert Reyes his concern and pride for Logan Heights and for Neighborhood House is evident. His Neighborhood House experiences were similar to the other kids in the neighborhood. Like the others he fondly remembers Coach Pinkerton as a “terrific guy.” Coach Pinkerton took him on his first outing, a Christmas party on a Navy Ship. Gilbert did not escape Neighborhood House Office Clerk Lupita Ever’s warning to “behave, remember I know your mother.”
As a kid along with other boys in the neighborhood, Gilbert would make sling shots from the tongues of their shoes. They would cut the tongue out of the shoe and use it to make a “very strong” sling shot. You can imagine their parents’ reaction to have a piece of the shoes they had worked hard to purchase used as a sling shot.
As a teenager, and a member of Los Lobos, Gilbert would have taps—a small metal plate—put on his shoes. According to Gilbert there was a shoe store located where the Logan Inn is now located. This was the store where “all the guys” would go to have taps put on their shoes. Great pride was taken in looking “sharp.” How you dressed was a part of the Los Lobos dress code.
The San Diego Police did not appreciate this dress code and would often stop the boys and use the pliers they carried in their car to remove the taps. Another thing the SDPD did not appreciate were cars that had been lowered. The police would place a 2X4 under your car to measure how far from the ground it was.
A lot of the boys used a pack of cigarettes to measure the height from the ground. The guys would use the old Black Flag pesticide bottle to spray paint their cars, a rather innovative, if not dangerous, use of a pesticide spray bottle.
A huge source of pride for Gilbert was the jacket worn by Los Lobos members. At one of their meetings Gilbert suggested that they should have their own jacket. Gilbert himself provided the design. Some of the other clubs had jackets that were similar to the lettermen jackets worn by school teams. Los Lobos jacket was unique in that it had regular sleeves, a flap on the pocket, one button and a regular collar. Each jacket cost $75, a significant amount of money in the 1950s.
In those days there were people that were earning around $75 a week and here is this group of kids spending this amount of money on a club jacket. With great pride, Gilbert showed me his original jacket. To his knowledge there are only three remaining jackets. People have offered to purchase his jacket but he refuses to sell it. The jackets were custom- made for each member, a rather sophisticated concept for teenage boys from Logan Heights.
Los Lobos also had a club shirt, to be worn only at dances. Some of the guys played the guitar and would meet at a garage in Encanto for parties. In addition to the dances held at Neighborhood House, they attended dances at the War Memorial Building and Carpenters Hall.
Gilbert is adamant that the original 1950s Los Lobos are the real Los Lobos and those that followed are Little Lobos. This is a discussion I will leave for others.
A couple of years ago, Gilbert received a call from Roger Talamantes informing him that they were tearing down the original Neighborhood House building. He was shocked. Henry Razo took him to see what had been done to the building. He could not believe his beloved Neighborhood House had been destroyed. Gilbert’s memories remain very much alive.
The complete History of Neighborhood House in Logan Heights here.