Maria Fe Picar has been teaching, choreographing, and performing in the Bay Area for over 20 years, and has been an OMI resident her whole life. Owner of her studio, Ingleside Creative Arts, she acts as Executive Director for the Arts Connection After School Program and the Cultural Participation Project of OMI. Her focus is to improve the community she grew up in and make it a better place for the kids and teens in her neighborhood. Maria will act as the producer of the "I am OMI" theatrical production, and she kindly sat down with her daughter Areza to share some of her memories of the neighborhood over the past 40-odd years.
Local businesses: "There was a drugstore on Miramar, and we knew the druggist there, and he would always give us rock candy and all this stuff for really cheap, and comic books. That was another thing we'd buy. All of the Superman and Lois Lane and Marvel Comics. [...] There was a corner store down the hill, "Charlie's", it was always there on, Holloway and Brighton. He was there since we were little kids. He just recently retired, like two years ago. The store across the way from Charlie's was Mr. George. He was a Chinese guy. He sold a lot of candy down there, and we'd go down there, too, and buy those saltwater taffy things and those Dot candies, you know, a piece of paper, you could peel them off and eat them. [...] There was a pet store where "Java" is on Ocean now, and this old lady owned it and that place stunk every time you walked in there. She had all these different animals and it just seemed like she never cleaned some of the cages. So I remember that place, because we'd always call it the 'stinky pet store.'"
School memories: "What I liked about school was I had a lot of friends. But what I didn't like about school was I noticed that there weren't too many people like me in school, because everybody else was white, primarily, and maybe some black kids. But there weren't a lot of Filipinos or Asians back then, so it was kind of weird. They didn't really tease me or anything, but it just felt kind of strange being like somebody of a different color. I usually hung out with a lot of the black kids in school because I thought they looked more like me, so I'd hang out with them."
Changes in the neighborhood: Well, there was a time, like way back in the early eighties and late eighties, that it was such a drug-infested corner down here on Holloway, that there were always so many druggies hanging out, trying to sell drugs, and just weird guys hanging out on the street. Now there's been so many different people buying that property, that the neighborhood has become so diverse. I mean, there was never a time when I'd see all these Asian or Chinese neighbors, and I see tons of them."
On making connections: "I think Ocean View has been a good example of that, trying to have a lot of different events surrounding the neighborhood so people can meet each other, all these cultural events. Like we try to have Chinese New Year and Black History and things like that. But we still need to do a better job of people meeting people. It seems like people still congregate with their own kind. Like if there's a Samoan church, all the Samoans will go there, or a Chinese church, they'll all go there. But I don't think that they really interact with different peoples of different races unless they know them personally."
Images: 1) Maria Fe Picar, August 2003. (WNP photo)
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This project is made possible by a grant from the CALIFORNIA COUNCIL FOR THE HUMANITIES with generous support from the San Francisco Foundation, as part of the Council's statewide California Stories Initiative. The COUNCIL is an independent non-profit organization and a state affiliate of the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES. For more information on the Council and the California Stories Initiative, visit www.californiastories.org.
Page launched 20 August 2003.