I am doing the A-Z challenge; today’s letter is S for Sunrize Market.
I’ll Buy, if You Fly
When my family first moved to La Puente, on Fellowship Street, in 1955, the nearest grocery store was twenty miles away in El Monte. There was Stassi’s across from St. Joseph’s, a mom and pop outfit; there was another mom and pop on Maplegrove Street and there was a third on Francisquito, which we had to pass on the way to the Vine St. library. But if Mama wanted to really shop, she had to travel to El Monte.
So when construction started on Sunrize Market, in the late fifties, it was a great success. I remember the cinder-block building being built, because we had to pass it on our way to St. Martha’s church, which had just been built. Sunrize was only two long blocks up the street from our place, so it meant that it was only a seven-minute walk or a two-minute bike ride. I remember many a trip up to Sunrize, minutes before dinner, to get a last-minute ingredient for dinner.
Don’t ask me why Sunrize Market was misspelled. I never thought about it as a kid, only after I started to write about it. I only knew that I must have made a million trips up to Sunrize, as I was growing up. My older brother Eric used to love 26 ounce Pepsis, and he used to be able to convince me to go up and get him one. “I’ll buy, if you fly,” was his favorite saying. (Mine, too, because I always benefited.)
I have written about Sunrize Market, Augie, the manager, and my experiences working there. * What I never talked about is how much I grew as a person, as a result of my experiences at Sunrize. One reason I was hired in the beginning is because my older brother Brian was already working there. Originally, it was supposed to be Eric who got the job, but when an opening finally materialized, Eric was due to head off to Chicago, to go to school, so Brian got the job.
Brian made his reputation, by hustling and being the best box-boy that Augie had ever managed. Augie used to say, “If it’s a Kennedy, vote for him; if it’s an O’Neill, hire him.” As a twelve-year-old, I used to hang around, and eventually landed a job as a bottle-boy, back in the days when customers still had to pay a deposit on soda and beer bottles. I got paid a dollar an hour, and never charged Augie as much as I should have, simply because I thought of it as an investment.
When I was exactly one week past my fifteenth birthday, I was hired as a box-boy. I had to lie about my age, because you had to be sixteen to join the Retail Clerks Union. I wore tennis shoes, and hustled my backside off, in the best of traditions, established by my brother Brian. Just like clockwork, I went from being box-boy, to journeyman clerk, to clerk. When I was a senior in high school, I was making $5.75 an hour, which was a fortune back in 1969.
When I started working at Sunrize, I was a very sheltered kid, the fourth child in a lineup of nine. I was great in the context of my brothers and sisters, but a wall-flower when on my own. Working at the market and establishing myself as a force in the work-field, gave me confidence beyond my wildest of expectations. Despite the disagreements that I had with both Augie, and my brother Brian, who was by now the assistant manager, over the length of my hair, or the presence of facial hair, I was still given great respect for my ability to work hard and efficiently.
As time went by and I began to stock shelves and run a check-stand, I started to attract a certain amount of attention from the fairer gender, which certainly contributed to my desire to attain success. I relished my role in the store, and may have continued to work there until I was of retirement age, if it weren’t for the fact that I got drafted in January of 1972. When I got out of the army, I wanted to go back to work, part-time, so that I could attend Cal Poly, Pomona, full-time.
Augie wouldn’t have it; he wanted me on forty hours a week. When I threatened to not go back to work at all, if I couldn’t have my way, he called my bluff, figuring I would capitulate. Well, with the G.I. Bill helping to supplement my education, I thumbed my nose at Augie, moved up to San Jose, and began attending San Jose State, as we looked around for property in NorCal.
And that was that; the rest is history. I found our land up here in Mendocino County; I forgot all about Sunrize Market, and Augie; and I made my $67.00 monthly payment for thirteen years, until my twenty acres was paid off. The last time I went down to La Puente, in 1983, Sunrize Market was still there, but it was a shell of the busy market it had been in the late sixties/early seventies.
I have always appreciated the growth I made while hustling around Sunrize Market. Not only did I learn the grocery business, I learned how to talk to girls. And I got paid to do it. Isn’t life grand?
Sunrize Market, posted on my blog, in June of 2011.