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Rita Rivera Doyle

Western Neighborhoods Project
"I am OMI"

Interview with Rita Rivera Doyle

June 6, 2003

Woody LaBounty,
Interviewer

LaBounty: June 6, 2003. This is Woody LaBounty and I'm talking with Rita Rivera, right?

Doyle: Right.

LaBounty: You weren't born Rivera.

Doyle: No.

LaBounty: What were you originally?

Doyle: I was born Pozzi, P-O-Z-Z-I.

LaBounty: We're here at Lili Knits?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: Tell me about Lili Knits. How did Lili Knits come to be?

Doyle: My mother was in this business since she was a little girl in Italy. When she came here, she opened her own business on Townsend. But before that, she worked for this Lacoto [phonetic], Pete Lacoto, which made all kinds of clothes for Coretta [phonetic], California. In fact, my mother made the first topless swimsuit for Carol Doda. Oh, yes, Carol Doda. They used to sell the clothes that she made at I. Magnin's, Saks Fifth Avenue, City of Paris, which are no longer around, Livingston's. She did this for many, many years and then because she bought a house down here in Ingleside, she thought, "Let's move it down on Ocean Avenue," and that's how it started. So it's been it's going on thirty-five years that we've been here. I think we're probably one of the ones that have been here the longest.

LaBounty: What year did you get here?

Doyle: I think '68, but I'm not sure. I'm going to tell you something, it's been wonderful to us. I can count to you on my two hands the bad experiences on Ocean Avenue; otherwise, it's been a very, very nice place to work at. Too bad they can't get it together, though. It's sad.

LaBounty: You mean about the--

Doyle: No, Ocean Avenue in itself. Ocean Avenue in itself. The whole time that we've been here, we've only had one merchants' association that really gave a darn about this neighborhood. The gentleman that ran it, his name was Roger Miles. He owned--it was remodeling. In fact, where Golden Years were at, that used to be his building. He took care of this neighborhood the way it's supposed to be. He cared about what came in here. He had city officials. When they had a meeting, everybody came. Everybody came. He had all these great ideas to make this neighborhood prosperous, because there were a lot of stores when we came here that were empty.

LaBounty: In '68? Yes.

Doyle: Oh, yes, yes. In fact, a few years back, a few years ago, there was a lot of stores that were empty.

LaBounty: When did he work with the merchants' association?

Doyle: Let me think. Maybe fifteen. No, no, it's longer than fifteen years. Maybe twenty years ago.

LaBounty: Twenty years ago?

Doyle: Yes, yes.

LaBounty: In the early eighties, things were kind of [unclear].

Doyle: Yes. Oh, can I tell you something?

LaBounty: Yes, sure.

Doyle: He really knew what he was doing. He had all these great ideas, like everything was going to be in the terracotta colors, everything was going to match, we were going to make sure we didn't have too many of one businesses, and this is what's happened now. You just go down the street, and I'm not beholding anybody to make a living, but you can't make a living if you've got 20,000 nail shops, 20,000 Chinese restaurants.

I blame the landlords. I blame the landlords, because if they cared about what went in here or they got together, if we had a good merchants' association, you know, some associations say, "Well, we have enough of this. We don't need--." But nobody cares. Nobody cares, and it's been this way for years, for years. It's really, really sad. And they used to say, "Well, because on the other side of Ocean, that's not a good neighborhood," and the elements that were coming out. There wasn't bad elements. Wherever you go, you've got problems.

Like I said, this could be a wonderful, wonderful place. It will never be West Portal. I don't care how many trees they put here, just look around. You've got stores right on Ocean Avenue that are not even businesses that deal with customers, so how are you going to improve this neighborhood?

LaBounty: Your mom moved out to Ingleside Terraces?

Doyle: My mom, where she lives is called Ingleside Terraces. She lives right across the street from the 7-Eleven, yes, right across the street. She's been there going on, let's see, thirty-three, thirty-four years, the same as the business. Like I said, we've had so many wonderful businesses here, but they didn't stay long.

LaBounty: What are some of your better business memories of the places that were here?

Doyle: We had a wonderful little jewelry store which was across the street, and it was next to the liquor store. At the time it was called Swanson's Liquor. His son played professional basketball, and he had all his posters. He ran that little liquor store just wonderful. Everybody knew him. Then we had the jewelry store. He was a little Jewish man, and he really did quality work.

We had wonderful bakeries here. We had a fantastic shoe repair. The gentleman was just super. We had great neighborhood pharmacies that, I mean, they even delivered your pharmacy to you. Then what happened is when all the big companies came in, these poor people couldn't survive. This is what's happened to the city in a lot of places. I'm going to tell you, when you go around, you can't find any specialty shops here. What do you find?

LaBounty: There's a Walgreen's and a Rite-Aid on this little strip.

Doyle: Yes, isn't that terrible? Isn't that terrible? They're not even pharmacies anymore. Go on in there. They sell clothing, they sell shoes, they even take food stamps. It's not the way it's supposed to be.

In fact, we had three pharmacies. We had one on the corner over there where the coffee shop is at. We had one down the street, which now is a cleaners. It's right across from the Pentecostal church. They were family-run, really wonderful places, really. Westwood Pharmacy. I can't remember the other two. But all three of them were real good places to go to.

LaBounty: Westwood was the one on the corner or--

Doyle: Westwood was right in the middle. Actually, we had two on this block. We had one on the corner where the laundromat is at. That was an African American gentleman, very, very nice. He was there. Then Jerry and his brother were at the Westwood. Then I'm trying to think of who--they used to live in Ingleside, very, very nice family. In fact, when they were working, their children would go work with them, and it was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful pharmacy in there. It was what you'd call a real pharmacy. You'd go in there, you could buy cosmetics, but you didn't find any food, you didn't find--it was the way a pharmacy used to be. We had wonderful bakeries here.

LaBounty: Which ones?

Doyle: Right next door, two doors up from us, and it was Amish, is it, it's a religion where the women wear the little white scarves. The place was so clean, you could eat off the floors.

LaBounty: There was an Amish bakery here then. Wow.

Doyle: Yes. Then across the street, first it was a Bayview Federal Savings. Then after Bayview Federal Savings, they opened up, it's called the Cookie Tree. Inside the Cookie Tree they made sandwiches, roast--it was like a hofbrau. Then after that, it became a little clothing store. Actually, it was the best when it was the Cookie Tree, and the man wasn't really interested in the business, and I think he had a little money to throw away, so he opened this up. You know how men are. You guys get disillusioned quick, and that was the end of that.

Then next door here, we had Monterey Florist. They were wonderful. Everybody liked them. We had a pet store on the corner where the coffee shop is at. We had two wonderful antique shops.

LaBounty: Really? I didn't know there were antique shops there.

Doyle: Yes, we had Wilson's, which was--all right, if you go down--do you know where Miracle Cleaners is at?

LaBounty: Yes.

Doyle: Right next door to Miracle Cleaners was Wilson's Antiques. Bruce was the name that owned it, real, real nice.

Then we had two gentlemen that had another antique shop, which was right next to where the bank is at. Now they're selling rugs. That was wonderful, too. They were characters. They were like you know how sometimes you just like to go in a place because the people that are there are so warm? Real, real nice men, they were in there.

After they were in there, a young man opened up a clothing store, which was a real good clothing store in the sense like he had all the close-outs, because his father had a shop on Taraval, so he would give clothes for his son to sell. The place was real, real busy, but he was young, and he hired all these young people. They were stealing from him, so he stopped that.

Then let me think what else we had. We had a great bar. The bar across the street was wonderful.

LaBounty: The Avenue?

Doyle: Yes. It was owned by George, who was a German fellow, him and his wife, and they would have all these little feasts. You know what? It was a neighborhood bar.

LaBounty: They got people from the neighborhood together.

Doyle: Yes. Do you know what's nice, is you never saw anybody really drunk.

LaBounty: Yes, because it's a place to be social.

Doyle: Yes, because like we were right across the street. He'd have St. Patrick's Day, he'd have the food out there. Columbus Day, any day that they have a--you know, they would cook up a storm there. It was real, real nice.

LaBounty: Do you know who owns it now?

Doyle: Now I don't know who owns it. I knew for a while Lynn McNeekan [phonetic] owned it. Now, he was nice. He was a character also. He had a baseball team there. Then he sold it to an Asian lady, and she ran it for a while. Now there's new people. But the neighborhood has changed. Everything has changed here.

LaBounty: When you guys moved here, were you working for your mom when you moved here?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: Did you feel pretty welcome when you moved here?

Doyle: Oh, yes. And do you know what? It was really funny, because everybody said, "Don't move there. The crime rate." Can I tell you something? We had a couple of break-ins, okay, not a couple; we had a lot to begin with. But I'm going to tell you something. The people that we dealt with, like I said, I could count on my two hands the bad experiences in all those years. There was a lot of businesses when we came. I mean, like you had all these nice little businesses, but there was a lot of stores. At one time there was like twenty-two empty stores from the Pentecostal church, because that was empty, too, because first it was a theater, the El Rey Show. Then next door was a great market that Sylvia and her husband owned, wonderful market.

LaBounty: Sylvia is?

Doyle: She's still alive. She owned the market that was there. Then they had a little dance studio, and they had a photographer, all there, and then the show, of course. Then when the United, or I don't know who it was that owned the show, but they sold it, and then they made the church there. Then we had a nice produce market, too, that was where the OMI Senior Citizens--

LaBounty: Yes, the senior center.

Doyle: Yes, that was produce.

LaBounty: Did people warn your mother not to move out here, too?

Doyle: Oh, yes, yes.

LaBounty: Where was she moving from?

Doyle: She had a place on Townsend.

LaBounty: She lived there, too?

Doyle: No, no, no, no. My mom lived on Peru and Vienna, which was right up [unclear]. Oh, no, they warned her not to come here. They told her this is not a good neighborhood, the crime rate.

I'm going to tell you, when we came here, I remember opening day. They welcomed us, the neighbors, the people that live in the community. Like I said, I can't say nothing but nice things about the people that we've dealt with.

LaBounty: It was primarily, I think you told me it was like the African American neighborhood.

Doyle: It was more than African. See, sometimes people are so stupid. The houses, as soon as African American families moved in, people moved out. What is that about? Do you know what I'm saying?

LaBounty: Yes, yes.

Doyle: This is a lovely neighborhood, and these people work hard for these homes that they have here. I see now a lot of different nationalities here, but mainly it was primarily black and white. Everybody seemed to get along. There was no problem. It's just that sometimes people, their stupid little fears. It was crazy.

LaBounty: The person who rented this to you, didn't you tell me that they were checking you out to see--

Doyle: Oh, no, no, no. The guy across the street.

LaBounty: Oh, the guy across the street.

Doyle: Yes. When my mother's friend called up and he asked my mother's friend what nationality he was, and Chuck said, "I don't think it's really--." You know. And he said, "I just wanted to make sure you weren't black." My mother thought that was terrible, because we came from Italy. We didn't know what prejudice was.

LaBounty: The landlord across the street was [unclear]?

Doyle: Yes, at the time, yes. And this gentleman here, now this used to be a hardware store, and it was a nice little hardware store, Jewels. Then something really terrible happened. A man came in and almost killed him, trying to rob him.

LaBounty: His name was Jewels?

Doyle: Yes, Ken is his first name.

LaBounty: Ken Jewels.

Doyle: Yes. He owns, in fact, the three stores that are here.

LaBounty: This one and then the--

Doyle: And then the hat shop and then the Chinese restaurant.

LaBounty: Oh, he still does?

Doyle: Yes, very, very nice man. Then when we were across the street, these buildings next door to us were for sale, and he and my mom bought them, the five stores that are here.

LaBounty: Yes, the Restoration and--

Doyle: Yes, the Restoration, the beauty shop, the Chinese restaurant, the appliance shop, and the Fruit Barn.

LaBounty: You thought enough of the neighborhood that you were investing in storefronts.

Doyle: My mother lived right down the street. My mother lived down the street. My mother liked this place. She liked this place a lot. My mother loved this place. She's eighty-six years old.

LaBounty: She bought a house and everything [unclear].

Doyle: That's right. Well, she figured this is where she was going to stay. You don't just rent a place and then decide, "Well, I'm going to buy my house here, because this is where I'm going to be." She liked it. She liked it. Like I said, there was a lot a lot of nice, nice shops. But like I said, now nobody cares. Look at across the street. Focus 2000 is there, and then the same landlord rents to another beauty shop. Now, why would you do that? You know what I'm saying? Instead of saying we need this and this in this neighborhood, we need a nice bakery, we need--and in fact, I'm so happy that the shop up the street next to Mayflower, some Latinos bought it, and they've got meat in there now. So they're selling meat and fish and poultry, and we needed that.

LaBounty: Because you didn't really have that kind of store.

Doyle: No, because Safeway was here twice.

LaBounty: They were here twice? I didn't know that.

Doyle: Safeway was down here, and then we had Brentwood Market, which was down on San Jose and Ocean. There's a church now. That was a nice market.

LaBounty: Safeway was over here towards the east?

Doyle: Yes, and then when they came back to the area, they had signed a contract with the city saying they were going to stay here, but that didn't last. The pilfering in there was terrible.

LaBounty: Yes, that's what I heard, over where the Rite-Aid is.

Doyle: Do you know, one June, because we already knew they were going to close down, $22,000 worth of meat went out the front door. People used to walk, and my sister will tell you, trying to sell meat.

LaBounty: Walking down the street with meat?

Doyle: Yes, in the little things from Safeway. Yes, but you know, those things happen in all neighborhoods.

LaBounty: Was the Jewish orphanage or the site of the Jewish orphanage here when you lived here?

Doyle: It was here, yes, big empty lot then, big, big empty lot. Then when they put those condominiums in, it was actually a long time to sell those. First of all, they were overpriced, but that was a big--you look at it, and it kind of just makes you feel--because you knew what was there. It was a big, big lot, big, huge lot.

LaBounty: With trees and--

Doyle: It had trees and it had a big cement fence that kind of went up high. And then the Red Roof was wonderful.

LaBounty: The Red Roof, where exactly was it?

Doyle: Right across the street. Do you know where the gym is at?

LaBounty: The gym, yes, yes.

Doyle: Okay, well, actually, no, it's right across from Rite-Aid's. It's a church now. It was wonderful. We used to go there. The merchants would go there for their meetings.

LaBounty: It's that Chinese church there.

Doyle: Yes, yes. It was great. They had the restaurant and the bar. It was real nice, real, real nice.

LaBounty: Another place where you kind of could socialize in the neighborhood sort of thing?

Doyle: Yes, yes.

LaBounty: Do you remember, was Sampan's here when you were here?

Doyle: Oh, wait a minute. Sampan's, yes.

LaBounty: Big Chinese restaurant.

Doyle: Yes, and now they're not there anymore.

LaBounty: People talk about that a lot, too.

Doyle: I'll tell you one of the best was right where this little Asian restaurant is at right now, it was called Betty's Hamburger. That was the best. Truck drivers, everybody would stop there. She looked like--do you remember the TV show, what was it, where the waitresses had the little hanky with the flower. This is how she looked. Her husband worked in the kitchen, and her sister. You got the best hamburgers. It's what you'd call an old-fashioned American restaurant. Okay, on Tuesday, there'd be meatloaf. On Friday, she'd have fish, right. Every day there was a regular menu, but there was a special for that day. It was real, real nice.

Let me see what else we had. Then we had a great restaurant, too, that a Greek gentleman owned, which was about three blocks down. In fact, I think that's where that Amy's is at now. Then we had a wonderful, wonderful barbecue, Leon's Barbecue.

LaBounty: Where was that?

Doyle: Right where the Copy Edge is at.

LaBounty: That was Leon's Barbeque?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: It sounds like you had so many eating options back then.

Doyle: You did, but you don't now. It was wonderful.

LaBounty: When you'd go out and have lunch and dinner and stuff like that, you could just--

Doyle: You could eat anyplace, yes. But that barbeque was the best, a great, great family, nice, nice people. In fact, Frances, her mother and father own that, she lives in Ingleside. Her husband works at the gas station up here.

LaBounty: Oh, really?

Doyle: Yes, yes, yes.

LaBounty: I know the first Gap was on this block.

Doyle: The first Gap was here, and the first Wherehouse. But the pilfering was so bad, same thing, didn't last.

LaBounty: Do you remember when McDonald's moved in here?

Doyle: McDonald's was the first McDonald's to move in San Francisco. That's right.

LaBounty: Did that change things? Did you feel you had a lot more traffic when people started coming?

Doyle: You know what, I don't think McDonald's brought any business to Ocean Avenue. I don't think City College brings any business to Ocean Avenue, because it stops over there. Do you know?

LaBounty: Doesn't get this far, yes.

Doyle: No, no, no, it doesn't. Let me see what else I don't think brings. Oh, we had Caribbean Rose, which was a nightclub. There was music and dancing, and very, very nice, and the man and woman were real nice. In fact, this I don't know how many years back it happened, but he was stabbed to death in there. She was Jamaican, very, very nice. In fact, we still do her alterations, and they still own that building there.

Let's see what else. Of course, the Beep's have been here a long time.

LaBounty: Yes, Beep's Burgers.

Doyle: They've been a long, long time.

LaBounty: Were they here when you got here?

Doyle: I believe they were. I believe they were. They've been here a long time. And then Randy's Bar was here. Then there was another bar right here. I'm trying to think what it was called, but it was where the marijuana--it was right there. That was a bar.

LaBounty: When your mom moved out here and you came out and you were working in the business with her, I guess, at the time?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: Did you move out here, too, or were you living--

Doyle: No, first I lived in Belmont, and then I moved to South City.

LaBounty: So you had to drive in a lot in those days.

Doyle: Yes, but do you know what, it was a wonderful ride then. There wasn't all that commute that there is now.

LaBounty: No traffic, huh?

Doyle: No, it was real, real nice. But like I said, this neighborhood has gone through a lot of changes. And like I said, they spent all this money to beautify. What they should have done first is gone to the landlords and say, "Look. This is what we need to do, and then you need to paint your stores." Look at what this looks like.

LaBounty: Yes. I had another good example of that. Yesterday somebody called me and said they wanted to have a street fair here on June 21st, they were going to close off the block, and I said, "When did this come from?" I'd never heard of this.

Doyle: And who was it that was going to do this?

LaBounty: Something was from the mayor's office. It was from the Small Business Commission.

Doyle: Oh, that probably has to do with that lady from that Education Center.

LaBounty: Well, anyway, it turned out that it was the mayor's schedule that he could come and get the K lines open again and have a little street fair and close off a block of Ocean Avenue, and they just started calling people about it yesterday. And it's June 21st, it's two weeks.

Doyle: Nobody really cares about those things. There's bigger issues here.

LaBounty: Yes, but not only that, they just kind of tossed it together, and the mayor is going to come and say a few words and say how great it is here, and then they're going to leave. It was really disconcerting.

Doyle: Yes, but I'm going to tell you something. Anytime supervisors come here, too, oh, they're going to do this.

LaBounty: Shake hands.

Doyle: And you never see them again. But I think it's all over the city like that, people don't really care. People don't really care.

LaBounty: Yes. Sandoval, when he was running, he wanted to put dot.com offices all up and down Ocean Avenue, he said.

Doyle: Do you know something? I remember when Roger Miles was in as president of the merchants' association. They had a meeting and Milton Marks was supposed to be there, and he came late. I remember him getting up, Roger, and saying, "You know, it's getting too hot in this kitchen, then you need to leave," because it was an issue about they didn't spend any money out here, nothing was ever given here. This was a lost cause. It was kind of sad, because, like I said, there was a lot of people that came in here with good intentions and didn't last.

LaBounty: Who are your customers here? Are they people from the neighborhood, or are they mostly outside?

Doyle: We got them all over. We've got them in Sacramento. We've got them in Antioch. We've got Pleasanton, Oakland. But most of our customers, I mean like schools, prom time, we have them from all the schools. Weddings from all over.

LaBounty: It's more like you make formal kind of dresses?

Doyle: We made anything. Bowling outfits. We make Balboa's drill team. We make--is it Lowell? I can't think of the school. We made Galileo High School. I mean Balboa High School, every year, every year we continue making them.

LaBounty: You get people just come in, and they just order--

Doyle: Oh yes, and we do alterations, we do everything. So when all this tearing up, when people would come and say, "How's your business?" it didn't really hurt us, if that makes any sense.

LaBounty: Yes. People were always coming here. They knew where you were.

Doyle: Yes, they parked around the street. But a lot of the businesses, they were hurt by this.

LaBounty: By all the street parking and the parking spaces.

Doyle: Oh, yes, they were hurt by this. That's right. But like I said, maybe they got--and most of these landlords have owned these places for years and years, so these are paid for three, four times over. So instead of saying, "Let me beautify my store--." You go to West Portal, that's a delight to go there.

LaBounty: You say this is never going to be West Portal.

Doyle: Never.

LaBounty: But how can it be better? You're saying paint the buildings, right?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: Have some sort of uniform look.

Doyle: Yes, and then to have an organization or a group of people that say, before a landlord rents, he has to look on a paper and say, "This is what we need."

LaBounty: What about this library they're going to build? What do you think about that? Did you see that they had the--

Doyle: Down the street?

LaBounty: Over here, I'm turned around, where the old gas station is, I guess.

Doyle: I wouldn't have it on Ocean Avenue.

LaBounty: Yes, too busy?

Doyle: Yes, bring businesses. This is not bringing businesses to the community. Why don't they put it on side streets like they have it in other places? When I lived in South City, this is Grand Avenue, they had the library a block off. We don't have any parking as it is, do you know what I'm saying?

LaBounty: That's what I was going to ask about, because if they put the library's there at the corner, and if they--

Doyle: Whose idea was this with these bubbles? [bulb-outs]

LaBounty: I don't know. It's supposed to be some safety thing.

Doyle: Safety nothing. Let me tell you, safety nothing. Here, it's a street now, and people park every day. Nobody gets a ticket. Every day, right here, this is the street, they park, so if you're in that lane, you have to make sure that you can go into the next lane so you can go through. Nothing, nothing, nothing has changed here. Just go down, look, just look at it, and if you just came to this neighborhood, what would you think? Be absolutely honest.

LaBounty: What would I think?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: I would think it is--

Doyle: It's a shabby neighborhood.

LaBounty: Yes. I had somebody come out from out of town, and I was walking with them down here. Actually, they weren't from out of town; they were old San Franciscans. They live in [unclear]. They came and they said, "I've never been here," which I thought was funny, because it's like, "You've never been to Ocean Avenue?" People in the city don't even know about it, probably because they drive by and they go, "No, it's just a--."

Doyle: This is what they do. Do you know we had a couple girls from Cupertino High School, and their mother said, "Oh, this neighborhood is terrible." I thought, "Well, get to know the people." But the impression, because when you drive down and if you look, we don't have a lot to offer.

LaBounty: You mean business-wise.

Doyle: Yes. We don't have a lot to offer business-wise.

LaBounty: It looks like down there on the west side towards the theater, there's like a bike shop now and--

Doyle: Oh, that bike shop's been there forever.

LaBounty: There's a woman's clothing store, and it's starting to look a little more--

Doyle: But there's no traffic through there.

LaBounty: Yes, that's what I was going to say. It looks more like it's starting to appeal to like a college crowd or something.

Doyle: But can you see? Now, did you see there's already three empty stores on that block, actually four, where the marines were at, the alternative medicine place is closed now, and that one landlady there doesn't seem to care what her stores look like at all. There's one, two, three, the one across the street is four. I think there's four or five across the street that are empty.

LaBounty: Do you remember when there was an ice-skating rink down there?

Doyle: Oh, yes, yes.

LaBounty: When did that close?

Doyle: Oh, many years ago.

LaBounty: People talk about it. I guess it's where that Ramalla Hall is. Is that where it was?

Doyle: Yes. That's another, that's a sore spot. Look at it. The windows broken, it's boarded up, and what does that bring to the community?

LaBounty: I was thinking an ice-skating rink might bring people.

Doyle: That would be lovely, but you know what, they need more than that. A nice little hardware store would be nice. A card shop would be nice. But see what happens when you've got these big drug stores, they hurt any little business that wants to come in.

LaBounty: What about the Westwood Park, for example, Ingleside Terraces? These houses now really--

Doyle: They don't even come--

LaBounty: They don't get out here. They're really expensive, right, so you'd think that people buying these expensive homes in Westwood Park--

Doyle: They go to West Portal. They go to different neighborhoods.

LaBounty: They don't walk the two blocks down to Ocean Avenue.

Doyle: We see some. We see some. A lot of people that are out there would like to, but just think about it. What is there down here?

LaBounty: So your mom worked here for--when did she stop working here?

Doyle: My mother stopped when she was sixty-two. But I'll tell you, like the Fruit Barn is lovely. He's got wonderful produce. This little lady's trying to make a little flower shop and deli. A deli would be great. A quality Italian deli would be wonderful.

LaBounty: The people that are moving here into Ingleside now, that's different, right?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: It's not the African American community anymore.

Doyle: Can I tell you something? They were wonderful, and we've got a mixed community. But you know what, I think a lot of Caucasians and African Americans are moving to Antioch. They're moving away from here. They've been here long enough. But I'm going to tell you something, when they were here, there was nothing wrong with this neighborhood, nothing wrong, just a bunch of stupid, ignorant people that thought, "Oh, this neighborhood's no good because this element lives here." That's a bunch of malarkey.

LaBounty: Now you have new people moving in, right, a lot of Asians?

Doyle: You've got Asians and Latinos, yes.

LaBounty: Do you think the businesses here, if they tried to cater more to Latinos, do you think it's going to change?

Doyle: I don't think it's going to change. I think it's going to change. They had a great community to start with. They should have kept the businesses here, because people on this other side of Ocean are productive. They work for their houses. These houses aren't cheap up here.

LaBounty: No, they're expensive.

Doyle: Everybody talks about Westwood, and who cares? This is a wonderful neighborhood, but this is wonderful, too. You've got a variety of people all over.

LaBounty: You call this Ingleside here, right?

Doyle: Yes, yes. They call it Ocean View, actually.

LaBounty: Yes, I hear people calling it Ocean View and Ingleside and Lakeview.

Doyle: Yes, Lakeview is where the park's at.

LaBounty: Yes, over the hill.

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: That's interesting. People keep finding different names for the area. So Lakeview would be over at Ocean View Rec Center.

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: This is probably called Ocean View, what you call Ingleside.

Doyle: Yes. We have one young lady that comes in here, and she used to come in here when she's a young lady and now she owns the Sun Reporter. She's an African American young lady, very prosperous, and her and her family have worked really, really hard. Like I said, what element were they talking about? Do you see what I'm saying? But people are silly. People do stupid things.

LaBounty: When you moved here in '68, who were the older businesses in the area? Who were the people who had been here a while?

Doyle: The liquor store, which was Swanson. Angie and her husband that own the flower shop. We had Del Rosa Cleaners that was right next door to us, which was a very nice little cleaners. They used to do everything on the premises.

LaBounty: It sounds like you used a lot of these businesses, too, even though you lived in South San Francisco.

Doyle: Absolutely, I still do. No, I still do. You know what, and I could swear on my mother, do you know how long it's been since I've been to a shopping mall? I haven't been to Serramonte in maybe seven or eight years. I haven't been to Stonestown. I try, and I don't even know how to go to Safeway. Now that this man has moved up here, I go and buy meat over there. No, I believe, bring it to the community. Bring it to these little stores. I'll tell you something, it's a lot nicer, because when you come in, people know your name, and you're on a one-to-one basis, that's the difference.

LaBounty: So even though you were living in a--

Doyle: I live at my mom's, right here on Ocean Avenue.

LaBounty: Oh, that's right. During the week. So you do all your shopping and stuff basically here on Ocean Avenue.

Doyle: Yes, yes, yes, yes. My mother comes. She goes to the Fruit Barn down here. She does buy her medicines at Walgreen's. She goes to the cleaners down here. She gets her hair across the street at Cindy's. So you try to keep it here.

LaBounty: Is your mother a religious person at all, or do you go to churches down here?

Doyle: No, no, no.

LaBounty: Your family didn't go to church as a kid or anything?

Doyle: No, no, and we came from Italy, too, no, no, no.

LaBounty: Yes, that's what I was wondering. No story behind that? That's kind of interesting.

Doyle: No, nothing. I can't even tell you anything about the church. I've been up there a couple of times.

LaBounty: To St. Emydius?

Doyle: Yes, but I can't tell you anything about the church at all.

LaBounty: What was your dad like?

Doyle: My dad? Let me see. My dad is kind of a--they should have wrote a book about him.

LaBounty: Oh, yes?

Doyle: Oh, yes, he was quite a figure, a dapper Dan, used to dress to kill, used to have his suits made in North Beach at this custom-made clothing store. In fact, my father helped when the unions were being formed. My father knew Harry Bridges very well. My father was kind of a troubleshooter for the longshoremen's when he was younger.

LaBounty: What did he do?

Doyle: He worked as a merchant seaman. He worked down at the docks. He worked for the union. That's mainly what he did. He spoke four languages, very well bred. He'd been all over the world.

LaBounty: Was he around for the move out here?

Doyle: My dad, the move out here was maybe four years, and then he had a stroke.

LaBounty: What did he think about coming out here?

Doyle: Oh, he loved it here. He thought it was real nice. Yes, he liked it here. He liked the neighborhood. He liked the people. He thought there was a lot of characters out here.

LaBounty: You run the business with your sister?

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: What's your sister's name?

Doyle: Bruna.

LaBounty: Does she live--

Doyle: She lives in Pacifica. She's lived there all her life. I mean her married life.

LaBounty: She has a short commute up here, too.

Doyle: Yes, yes, yes, yes. We've been together--they used to own the 7-Eleven, and then her husband went into Associated Limousines, and he owned a limousine company. But then after her children got bigger, she came to work with us, and that was it, and then she's been here ever since.

LaBounty: You must be pretty good friends to have your sister with you all day long.

Doyle: We fight all the time. She's real passive and easygoing, and I'm not, but I love her and she loves me. It lasts about two minutes, and then it's over with. Crazy bunch of women. You know how that goes.

LaBounty: Yes. You guys learned all this from--

Doyle: Do you know, I didn't even like doing this, but my mother, when she opened up across the street and she closed her other shop, she had Tamazi [phonetic], Tina, Luigina [phonetic], me, and herself. There was five of us.

LaBounty: All Italians? Sounds like it, yes.

Doyle: Yes, yes, yes. Oh, no, Angie was Latin. She was Latina. We moved across the street, and I was working downtown. I was married. I just had a little part-time job. I never had any children, so to keep kind of occupied. So then my mom asked if I'd like to come work for her, and I did.

LaBounty: Did you already have any training in any of this, or did you learn it here?

Doyle: I didn't even like this. I just like to run my mouth in the front.

LaBounty: What made you stay, then? Why didn't you say, "Forget this."

Doyle: Because I really liked it then, and I got acquainted with people. I became friends with people around here.

LaBounty: Yes, and it's the kind of job you can chat.

Doyle: Do you know, and if you should talk to any of my customers that I've known for thirty-something years, if I don't see you for ten years, I remember your name. See, my sister remembers states, but I remember names.

LaBounty: No, I can tell. You know all these old businesses here thirty years ago.

Doyle: Yes, yes. No, because when I came here, I used to have a bad quality about myself, I thought. I never remembered people's names. I thought I have to stop that. I remember about four years ago, this gentleman came in. He goes to me, "You know, I used to come to you when I was a teenager."

I said, "Keep talking to me." He keeps talking, and I go, "Your mother's name is a state, isn't it?" He started laughing. I go, "Wait a minute. Your mother's name is Georgia, huh?"

He goes, "Oh, my god."

I said, "You used to be just a little bit thinner." Then I said to him, "Your name's Mario, huh?" And he started laughing. Yes, I remembered.

LaBounty: You just work through it...

Doyle: Oh, yes. His mother, yes.

LaBounty: What's the best thing about this neighborhood? We talked about some of the business problems here.

Doyle: Well, the different people that you deal with here. Everybody has a past, and when you're in a business for a long time, you get to know people personally. There's a lot of real, real nice people, real nice people.

LaBounty: Is there any favorite person or couple favorite people that just, you know, stick out here in this neighborhood?

Doyle: I'm going to tell you something now. I like Ollie across the street from me. I like Ollie from across the street. I think he's a character.

LaBounty: Who's Ollie?

Doyle: He owns the liquor store. I think the man and the crew that works at Focus 2000 are just great, just wonderful, wonderful people. I like the lady from Miracle Cleaners, Stacy. I think she's real nice. She's a hard, hard worker.

LaBounty: Any customers that stick out?

Doyle: Oh, my customers. I love all my customers, you know. I've got a lot of ministers' wives that come in here that we do alterations for. I remember a Reverend McBride that I liked a lot, him and his wife. In fact, a lady that came in yesterday, Dorothy White, that lives in the neighborhood I hadn't seen, we make clothes for her, I hadn't seen in a long time, and she came in yesterday. She was very, very nice. I have a lot of people that I like. There's a lot of people that--and then you have some certain people stick in your mind.

LaBounty: Yes, stick in your head.

Doyle: Yes, yes, yes. I find I can't communicate much with the lady that works at the Chinese restaurant here, but I find her to be very nice. She doesn't speak much English, but she's very, very sweet.

LaBounty: Tell me the story again about the woman who came here that lives with you now.

Doyle: Yes, Donna. Donna Robbs [phonetic].

LaBounty: Donna Robbs. She used to come in and kind of chat with you guys.

Doyle: We used to make her Star Trek uniforms, because she was a truckie, is that it?

LaBounty: A trekkie.

Doyle: That's what it is. Yes. And, you know, it's really something. She's amazing. I'm this age, and a lot of people this age are not into computers. She wanted a computer, so my husband and I got her one last year for Christmas. You should see her on that computer. She's amazing. She talks to all these people that--she e-mails all these people that are Star Trek fans. She used to come all the time, all the time.

LaBounty: You said she was mentally challenged a little or something?

Doyle: Yes, yes, yes. She has a lot of learning disabilities, and she's quite funny. She's quite funny.

LaBounty: But you promised that she could stay here or--

Doyle: Do you know what I told her. I told her, and then when she called me, I go, "Oh, my god." She's been with us, in fact, it was two years the first of June. Do you know what, it was a blessing in disguise, though, because, here my husband moves up there, and I've got six dogs that are rescued. I've got four cats. I took them from South City. They were feral cats, two of them. My husband made a big enclosure for them. She takes care of the animals. She's very good at it.

LaBounty: What was the town you lived in again?

Doyle: You know Clear Lake? Yes. As you enter into Clear Lake, there's Highland Harbor. I live down a ways, and you kind of have to drive down, and it sits on two acres. It's really nice.

LaBounty: You're basically spending weekends there.

Doyle: Yes. I go up there, and they laugh because I have a list of things that my husband has to do and things for Donna. My sister says, "What, what are you like?"

I say, "You know the head of the elephants? I am the monarch of the elephants." If things don't go smooth in my house, then I'm not happy. But, yes, I mean, my Donna's very sweet.

LaBounty: Did you have any kids?

Doyle: No, but I raised three girls.

LaBounty: Where did they come from?

Doyle: Let me tell you. Let me show you my girls. Like I said, I didn't have children, and my girls don't even like me... my one girl does not even tell anybody that she's not my child. But everybody that knows me knows that I couldn't have children, so they're all kind of--

LaBounty: You didn't have children, and then in a way you did have children.

Doyle: Can I tell you something? This is two of my girls. This is my Aisha [phonetic] and this is my Kim. This is Kim now. Isn't she beautiful?

LaBounty: Wow, yes.

Doyle: And this is my grandbaby, Rochelle.

LaBounty: Is that Aisha's?

Doyle: No.

LaBounty: Oh, Kim's. I'm sorry. Kim's daughter.

Doyle: This is Kim's baby. Look at how she looked when she was a young girl.

LaBounty: So you had three girls.

Doyle: Yes, and then Tanisha [phonetic], which was the oldest, and I really don't want to go into details about it, because especially like her, she's real, real sensitive, and if anything got out--but she's my success story, because she lives in Sacramento. She's twenty-four years old. She bought herself a little condominium. She works for a dentist, and she's going to go to school to become a dentist. She's like a young woman with an old soul. She's really got it together.

And my grandbaby, you should see her. She's eight years old. She's just wonderful. Then Aisha has two little boys, and then Tanisha has a little girl. One lives in Sacramento. One lives in Vallejo. One lives in Redwood City.

LaBounty: How did you get these girls? You don't have to get into all the details, but I'm just curious. How did they come into your life?

Doyle: They just came.

LaBounty: You were here. They came here to the store?

Doyle: No. Like I said, it's a long story. I'm not going to get into it.

LaBounty: That's fine.

Doyle: Now I'll tell you about Kim. When my girls were already grown, they bring this girl over to our house. This girl stays over every day. I mean, she's eating. I didn't like her at first, because I thought she was a rude little girl. Then I just realized she was very shy. I don't understand why she never goes home. All of a sudden, every time I asked my girls questions, they wouldn't answer. One day, she asked if she could stay for the weekend. I said, "Well, I need to talk to your mother," because I'd never met the mother.

When the mother called, I thought, "Oh, my god." She goes, "Yes, it's okay." And she didn't come back like for about two weeks. Then this girl is staying over at our house all the time. The mother was into drugs. Then this is how smart this girl is. She went to her social worker and became emancipated from her mother, and then I went to court and I became her legal guardian. I'm like the Pied Piper.

LaBounty: Is this in Pacifica?

Doyle: No, no, no. This was I lived in South City. Like I said, I can't get rid of animals. I can't get rid of--if you come to stay at my house, it's forever. I can't get rid of it.

LaBounty: Just stay forever.

Doyle: Oh, yes. Just like I look at Donna and she has such childish ways about her, and they're actually pure and very nice. I mean she cries for everything. She's very, very sensitive. I look at her and I think, "Well, where would she be? Where would she be?"

Just look out in the street, that's where they're at. Nobody cares about them. They become victims. They're over here, too.

But I'm going to tell you something. This neighborhood, I wish nothing but the best for it. But I don't see it happening.

LaBounty: How long are you going to be here?

Doyle: I'd like to leave today.

LaBounty: What's stopping you?

Doyle: Because my sister is still here. She's got a couple more years before she gets to be sixty-five.

LaBounty: Yes, so you'd rather just go and retire and--

Doyle: I'd rather go right now. I'd rather go right now. I have a lot of things to do up there.

LaBounty: Yes, yes, it sounds like it.

Doyle: Oh, I love it up there. Then like my grandbaby, she comes and stays in the summer with me, and this month, I'm just going to take her for a couple weeks, because eight years old, you've got to keep them busy.

Do you have children?

LaBounty: Yes, yes. I have a six-year-old.

Doyle: Oh, you do? A boy or girl?

LaBounty: A girl.

Doyle: A chatterbox, huh?

LaBounty: Yes, and she needs a lot of attention. She always wants me to sit and watch whatever she's doing, and play with her, [unclear].

Doyle: They're very needy, very needy, aren't they?

LaBounty: Yes, it's like can't do anything by herself. She's like, "I want to color in this book, and you've got to watch me do it."

Doyle: Did you ever think you'd love anything as much as you do that little girl?

LaBounty: No. I didn't really think about having kids, and then when I did it was like, "Oh, this is nice."

Doyle: It is nice. It is nice. I see the little things that come out of my grandbaby's mouth, and it's just--I had to take my dog to an ophthalmologist for dogs, and about two weeks later, she's in the storefront, and the man says hello. It's the doctor. She looks like Vanessa Williams, she's got--you know, she's just beautiful. You should see her. He goes, "What are you going to be when you grow up?"
She goes, "I'm going to be an ophthalmologist." I turned around, right.
He goes, "You are?"
She goes, "Yes, for dogs."
He goes, "You're going to school?"
She goes, "I don't have to go to school. I know what they do." She's doing all this with her hands.
He goes, "What do you do?"
"Well, you've got a machine, and you look in the eye, and you put little drops. This is what I want to do."
Then after we got in the car, I said, "This is what you want to do?"
She says, "I think for today." She has this vivid imagination. She's just--

LaBounty: She's just buttering up the ophthalmologist, right?

Doyle: She knows what she's doing. She knows what she's doing.

LaBounty: This has been great. I'll let you, I feel like you didn't--

Doyle: The El Rey Show was wonderful when it was open.

LaBounty: Did you go to movies there a lot?

Doyle: Yes, yes, it was wonderful.

LaBounty: What was it like inside?

Doyle: It was beautiful inside. It was beautiful inside. The kind of art deco-type fixtures on the wall. I'll tell you, that whole where the church was at was great, all these little shops, and the market was real nice. And it was a neighborhood. Then, of course, there was the Rossi Market here. That was real nice. It was the Westwood Market they called it, I think. Yes, I think that's what it was called.

LaBounty: What does your husband do, or what did he do?

Doyle: He worked for VISA.

LaBounty: VISA, that's right. You were telling me, he set up offices and that sort of thing. What's his name?

Doyle: His name is Donald. Donald Doyle. It should be O'Doyle, but they dropped the Os when they came here, I think.

[Begin Tape 1, Side B]

LaBounty: How did you be Rivera then?

Doyle: Because that's my maiden name, because on there you'll see, what did I write on there, Rita Rivera Doyle?

LaBounty: I thought it was Pozzi.

Doyle: Yes, that's my maiden name.

LaBounty: Rita Rivera Doyle [unclear].

Doyle: Yes.

LaBounty: Well, this has been wonderful.

[End of interview]

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California Stories: Communities Speak

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Page launched 24 September 2003.