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.