We leased our restaurant for ten years in Santa Ana, California. It was the largest Mexican bar, dancehall, and restaurant in the county.
It was also probably, the roughest.
Unknown to us was the fact that there was a hidden entrance into the attic from the outside. Some people in the neighborhood knew about it and used it to their advantage.
We would often hear noises from far out in the darkened dancehall which was only open on Saturday and closed off by two very large and heavy sliding wooden doors during the rest of the week.
It had its own bar and restrooms. Many times we would come in to it for some reason and find empty beer bottles that weren’t there before. It was a mystery to us as to where those bottles came from. The room had it’s own eerie feeling and I was young and often afraid.
The huge ceiling was covered in tin foil which had been painted with paint that glowed under long black lights. When the wind blew, the tin foil crackled. So it was a scary place for a nine year old. It was a very old building even then and creaked and groaned due to the changing weather and its age.
On one end of the giant room and up a flight of stairs, was a diorama of a Shepard and his sheep with gloomy mountains in the background. It set the mood for me and I still see it fifty five years later. It was very creepy.
Eventually the culprits who were sneaking in were captured and sent to prison after leaving finger prints on their empty bottles.
When they got out a short time later, they returned and tried to take their revenge on our family and my father. It started with phone calls at all hours and verbal threats and then someone got into our house but left as my grandfather had to get up to use the toilet. They were surprised and left very quickly.
They would pull the ignition wires off of our cars and we were stuck at our restaurant and still didn’t know how they were getting in.
We would have to stay the night there and the noises would start. It was unnerving, to say the least.
Eventually they attacked my father as he came out to feed our guard dogs. They tried to cut his throat, but he got his hand up quickly to protect his throat and his hand was cut instead.
We knew then that we were in a battle for our lives. I was ten or so at the time.
One night while washing dishes, I saw the hood of our truck go up. I yelled, “They’re here dad,” and grabbed a butcher knife and tore off after them with a butcher knife in my hand and my father holding a gun in one of his. He never used it for fear of hurting a neighbor.
We eventually tied our car hoods closed with chains and waited out in front of our own home with guns at the ready hiding in the shadows.
One of our bar patrons volunteered to join us. He had been shot in the throat in the Korean War and spoke with a whisper. Perhaps he was looking for more adventure. I’m not sure why he joined us, but my father was well liked by many customers.
I always slept with a gun or a large knife in my bed or near by. Is it any wonder that I am a little “hyper.” I was on alert at all times as a child.
Eventually we stopped a car coming down our street and took the driver out of it. He had circled by a few times and seemed suspicious, to say the least. We did not harm him, but we may have scared him a bit.
He was just a poor guy coming to get his girlfriend to elope with.
At least we didn’t shoot him. We weren’t savages, after all.
Remember to look at my novels here on this site. Some stories are about real people from my family and bar patrons, and some are just people who came to my imagination during the creative process.
Thanks for taking the time to read my little stories, I know your time is precious.