Lani Says: On the Street Where I Live

2018 Columnists December Editions Lani Tunzi

A new family has moved onto the street in Eagle Rock where I have always lived, into the Simmons’ house. It’s the same house, but with a new family who will create their own experiences and memories just like Melvin and Joyce Simmons did for 50 years before moving recently to Glendora to be closer to their children.

Before I can look forward on this change, I have to look back.

Mel and Joyce were in their house long before my family moved into our house; in fact, they were there before practically anybody else moved in.

Joyce told me that her grandparents, Elmer and Alice Galley, moved to the Eagle Rock area from Long Beach in 1910. They built several houses in Eagle Rock and had a manufacturing business on Fair Park Ave., which her father, William (Bill) Galley, took over and ran back in the days when electric streetcars still ran down Eagle Rock Blvd. and candy bars were a nickel at most. She recalled being in the band at Eagle Rock High (Class of 1959) and the first home she and Mel lived in when they were married – located where the Sprouts meat market is today. She could walk to the Foster’s Freeze (built in 1962) and remembered walking with her first born to the local pharmacy.
“Eagle Rock is a small country town in a big city,” said Joyce. “It was a great place to get married, start a family, have a life. My family all lived in a radius of eight blocks.”

I grew up seeing the Simmons, seemingly every day. Many times, if my mom didn’t have sugar or eggs for a recipe, my siblings and I would run down barefoot to knock on their door. They always had sugar and eggs for us.
Though Mel and Joyce are no longer living here, I will always think of Eagle Rock as their home, because their history, experiences, stories and contributions – like those of all our neighbors, friends and families – are what make our community what it is today: We live in one of the biggest cities in the nation, yet we are in a community that has been so long-sustained on connection and family.

Eagle Rock is always changing, but one thing hasn’t changed. Everyone who has been fortunate enough to call Eagle Rock home is part of a family. It’s a place where I know I can always find someone to ask for sugar and eggs.

And to Mel and Joyce, thank you for your presence in the community and in the life of my family. The street won’t be the same without you.

Lani Tunzi is in the 11th grade at Eagle Rock High School.

4 thoughts on “Lani Says: On the Street Where I Live

  1. I was their first born. I came home from the hospital to the little house that was torn down decades ago before Mayfair Market was built, now Sprouts. We moved to Ellenwood, then Vincent Avenue when I was 4 yrs old. That house brought love and care to hundreds of foster and/or adopted children for decades after that. We all loved that house and all the neighbors over the years. It was very hard to say goodbye to Eagle Rock.

  2. I was one of hundreds of Foster children that lived in their Egal Rock house! I was with them on the last day they were at the house. I watched the tears of sorrow flood down Mommy Joyce’s cheek’s as the memories of that house flooded her thoughts. My heart broke for her as I too thought back on my time there as a toddler. The love that those walls held are almost unimaginable. If those walls could talk…! Mel and Joyce gave me the start in life no one else was willing to do. Every child was given the gifts of love, a home, a sense of belonging and most importantly the promise that God loved us all and had a purpose for every one of us. As I stood on the lawn one last time with Joyce (with the careful watch of Mel) as she watered the lawn, her tears slowly dried up, and she began to smile. I watched her water the tree in the front as the leaves fell around us. Leaves of all colors representing the change of seasons. A reminder that days ahead would be different. As she finished up I went to sit with Mel on the last remaining porch rockers. He began to tell me of all the neighbors. Who lived in each house and what all their professions were. Mel, knew when they all moved in, had kids or gotten married. Joyce joined us and the three of us all just listened to the wind. There were no more tears, no talking, just deep thoughts. She held my hand and gave it a few squeezes every few seconds. I looked at them both and said “your time here is over but your mission of service is not over. In God’s words…Well done good and faithful servants, well done.” With one more big squeeze of my hand she turned to me and said, “I’m ready! We can go now.” We left the house and drove down that palm tree lined street in peace as the sun was soon setting.

    1. Oh that brought the tears running down my cheeks. Such splendid family memories were made there!

  3. This story is so inspiring! This house on Vincent is the only one that I remember, but I have very fond memories of times that we would go for visits. It’s just like you said, Rebekah, this house was filled with so much love. It is evident by the way that Uncle Mel and Aunt Joyce fostered and adopted so many children over the years, giving them love as if they were their own children, raising them up in the church, teaching them that, not only did they love them, but God loved them, unconditionally! God bless you, Ubcle Mel & Aunt Joyce as you begin a new chapter in your life, once again. I love you!

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