Pal - Ninety year old Salida Original
Written by Megan Juba
“I live 90 years in this house—born and raised here.” Pal sits on the front porch of his small simple white house that is on one side of a large lot. It is one of the few original homes that remains on his street which borders the river near downtown Salida. Every day he watches kids ride by on their bikes, people walking by and tourists try to find a place to park.
Lots of people know him and often stop to talk and hear his stories. He tells about miraculously surviving cancer as a child and rheumatic fever in his 20’s, going out dancing, boxing prisoners, the circus rolling into town on the narrow gage, working at the Smeltertown Country Club and holding his tiny mom in his arms when she died.
He has a huge lawn that he cares for and mows with detailed method to keep it “nice like a carpet.” There are remains of a large garden area out back, weeds that quickly take over patches of dirt and a large handbuilt garage at the rear of the second half of the lot. The doors of the garage slide to the side on tracks overhead and only Pal knows the appropriate wiggle, pull and pressure so they open with ease.
The garage is home to his beloved 1955 Mercury Custom which Pal bought for $500 when working for the Chevy garage as a young man. He had it painted all black because that’s his favorite color. Pal jokes about never having a woman or children and jokes that the Mercury is his baby. “It doesn’t have a name. When people see it, they say ‘There’s Pal.’ Everyone knows my car.”
He shuffles slowly across the lawn with his walker, hovering it above the grass when he steps. When asked about all the changes he’s seen in his 90 years he shakes his head in dismay, stops, puts the walker down on the grass and says loudly, “Changes!!—that’s what’s a drivin’ me crazy!”
He lifts one hand off so he can give a big thumbs down and declares, “My town is going down. Salida is too expensive!” He insists, “You gotta go where you feel better. That’s why I like Buena Vista. I feel so much better over there and people has got common sense and respect and if you need anything or to know about the town they would be glad to help you.”