thousands of miles from Indiana, a good number of Pala residents
were big fans of Notre Dame.
a Pala Notre Dame fan
(photo courtesy of Gordon Johnson)
Im 63, a number without fanfare. Too young for the shroud,
too old for hip-hop; but Ive seen some stuff.
Ive lived on the Pala Reservation many years; witnessed
many changes. If I close my eyes to see the Pala of my earliest
recollections, its unrecognizable from the Pala of today.
Sure, the Mission survives, as does the Pala Store. The stores
been here more than a century, the Mission more than two. But nearly
all of the old houses have been knocked down; replaced with two-story
When I was a kid, many of the old two-room shacks, the ones
shipped around the Horn in 1903 to house Indian families removed
from Warner Springs, still stood.
The wooden walls were paper-thin, windows rattled in the wind,
and using the facilities meant a hike to the outhouse. Electricity
didnt come to the reservation until the late 1940s and early
1950s. The road from Temecula to Pala didnt get paved until
after World War II.
Unlike most reservations that sprawled, the Pala Reservation
was laid out like a village, the houses aligned in orderly lots
along dirt roads. One street, lined on both sides by outhouses,
was called Toilet Street.
Most little kids wandered the reservation roads shoeless. The
dirt was powdery, and dust flew when you ran and collected between
your toes. If left unwashed, toe jam would form.
Fences were few. If there was a fence, it was usually chicken
wire held upright with dead tree branches gathered from across the
San Luis Rey River. With the houses so close to one another, and
without fences, a sense of community flourished.
To make more room, and to escape the heat in summer, many houses
had a lean-to against the side with a wood stove where cooking would
You could walk down the road, and smell chicken frying in lard.
In another yard, someone might be counting his chickens.
People had little money, so they were always home. A birthday,
wedding or baptismal meant people would come when invited because
there was nothing else to do. Nowadays, many parties are not as
well attended because people spend a good amount of time away from
home, traveling to Ireland and such. Two of my cousins left for
For entertainment, people listened to radios. Sports have always
been big on the reservation, so on weekends, radio dials were tuned
to sports. And for some reason, Notre Dame was the team of choice,
every one rooting for the Irish. I could never understand how a
reservation so far from Indiana could generate so many Fighting
It wasnt until much later that I realized radio had done
it. Nearly every Pala male of radio-days age had a green pennant,
or a ball cap, or a T-shirt with a Notre Dame logo stuffed in a
drawer or hanging on a bedroom wall.
My uncle, Dennis Copy Magee, a huge Notre Dame fan,
even visited the campus so he could walk the halls where so many
of his sports heroes had walked.
The Notre Dame connection made St. Patricks Day special.
Back in the day, nobody drank green beer. And we didnt eat
much corned beef and cabbage. But the Pala Fighting-Irish fans would
don their Notre Dame caps, drink tall cans of Lucky Lager, and eat
bean tortilla rolls while biting into a green jalapeño.
I appreciate St. Patricks Day as well. I plan on celebrating
with a black and tan, maybe watching The Quiet Man,
and for at least for a little while, recalling the St. Patricks
Days of yesteryear.
Happy St. Patricks Day all.