A Letter From Ron Salisbury
Written By: Ron Salisbury Support Small Businesses
As someone whose first memories of the restaurant business date back to 1933 (yes, among those first snapshot memories, I fondly include El Cholo), who lived through all of the ups and downs that make up the rich tapestry of life, and who—until last Monday at the age of 87—was still thrilled to wake up each morning knowing the wonderful challenges of running restaurants lay before me, I suddenly found myself unemployed for the first time.
This is an extremely difficult time. Actually, the worst in my memory. But I began to reflect on other times that were also quite challenging, and perhaps sharing how I survived them and actually became stronger from those experiences will help us all realize that this too will pass…and in time, we again will grow and benefit from it. Support Small Businesses
I was born in the Great Depression. I believe one-quarter of our population was without work. I learned a very early important lesson by what my parents created at the little Mexican restaurant in a converted California bungalow on the outskirts of Los Angeles: serving the highest-quality product for only 65 cents would create long lines down the sidewalk on Western Ave every night but Monday (when we were closed). In later years, my dad, as he viewed society, would be prone to comment, “We need another depression.” As difficult as that sounded, I knew what he was referring to. One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was how time molded them with its inherent values, which were then passed on to me.
In 1943, my dad was inducted into the Army for World War ll. El Cholo closed even before that; my parents were unable to get the highly rationed products that El Cholo required, and rather than settle, they closed and lived of off very meager savings. Dad would never buy anything unless he could pay cash; their expenses were serviceable. Three years after the war, we reopened to the same long lines.
In 1994, we again closed for 10 days due to the Rodney King riots that devastated the city. They started at Normandie and 111th St with the burning of buildings and looting. It rapidly spread south and stopped at Pico and Western, a block and a half from El Cholo, then skipped to Olympic, only a block and a half to our north, miraculously sparring us. As there was a curfew starting at 6 p.m. each night, I would sit in my car in the parking lot waiting to fight off the looters only to return the next morning hoping to see El Cholo still standing. It was! I can only guess as to why we were spared. Some say that we always treated all of our guests equally, and the community remembered that. I’d like to think that was the reason. One of the best days of my life was the day we reopened to a clientele made up of a cross-section of our city. I had lunch that day with my friend George Raveling, an African-American who was the basketball coach at USC.
Then, of course, the trauma that was caused by 9/11 shook this nation as nothing else ever could. We closed that day, but the spirit of national pride that sprung instantly from that event helped our nation pass that test, and most of us are old enough to remember the great surge of pride and togetherness that resulted from that terrible day.
All of these were terrible times that caused incredible suffering and loss. But after having experienced all these difficult moments that seemingly tested us to our virtual limits, the lesson that I consistently learned after each of them is that those of us who survived are (for the most part) stronger for having endured them. We also crazily have a deeper appreciation that we might never have enjoyed about what we refer to as the important things in life.
-Ron Salisbury Support Small Businesses
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