SPHS Totally 80’s Class Reunion

I still remember graduating from San Pedro High School back in 1983. It was a clear and warm day as we walked onto the original high school field. Back then the football field ran east to west as opposed to the current north to south setup. We were the Utopian’s as our painted sign proudly hung on the outfield fence. Our cap and gowns were a flashy gray with a burgundy tassel and the excitement of this milestone was in the air, not only on the field with the candidates, but in the bleachers filled with family and friends. As Student Body President, I had the honor of welcoming everyone to the ceremony, made a brief speech on the importance of this day, and enjoyed the rest of the ceremony. Thirty years ago seems like yesterday as time has truly flown by.

Having been involved in planning the SPHS Class of ‘83 20th and 25th year class reunions the time seemed right to combine class reunions for our 30th. I thought whom better to approach with this idea than my friend and SPHS teacher Kathy Carcamo (class of ’85)? Always the optimist, Kathy and I have stayed friends since high school and when approached with the idea she not only liked it, but thought the whole decade should be invited, and coined the phrase “Totally 80’s Reunion.” Although the phrase sounded like a valley girl expression from the 80s, it worked. I then proposed we engage the San Pedro Pirate Boosters to help with membership and scholarship fundraising efforts, so we did.

The San Pedro Pirate Boosters were incorporated as a nonprofit in 1958, but actually started supporting student athletes under the leadership of Matty Domancich and Bill Seixas in 1954 and is one of the oldest booster clubs in all of L.A. Unified School District. Next year, the boosters are preparing to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Currently lead by Pirate Boosters President, Leonard Miller, the club has seen memberships go from a 71-member organization two years ago to 376 today. This success is attributed to the commitment and hard work of the Pirate booster new leadership team like Guy Spinosa, Noe Lopez and Joe Domicoli, longtime members Jerry Lovarov, Larry Robertson, Leon Carr and Rick Trujillo. Other key contributors to this success are John Fiorenza, Kathy Carcamo, and Stacey Soto. This is the core of the “Pirate-for-Life” theme that continues to transform the traditional Pirate Booster club into a forward-looking group with a vision to bring home Pirate Alumni and build a Pirate network that is unparalleled by any other in the Harbor Area.

An example of this transformation is the boosters’ goal to break 500 members this year and surpass 1,000 by 2015. Most importantly is the focus and emphasis on building the Pirate Booster Scholarships annual fund. In the past, 2012 seniors received scholarships from a $1,000 budget, whereas 2013 seniors received scholarships from a $4,000 budget. The 2013 scholarships were presented at a dinner for the first time in front of family and friends at the San Pedro Fish Market. The goal now is to double the fund each year through membership and fundraising so more and more scholarships can be presented to students at the annual San Pedro Pirate Booster Scholarship dinner event. The proceeds from the Totally 80’s Reunion will not only support the scholarship fund but also provide reunion attendees an introductory membership to the San Pedro Pirate Boosters.

The Totally 80’s Reunion is scheduled for October 12 and will start at 6:30 p.m. at the San Pedro Elks Lodge. Music will be provided by DJ Scott Martin, an 80s favorite and Pirate alumni. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased online at www.sanpedropirateboosters.com. Please purchase tickets ahead of time and spread the word. Our goal is to sellout the event before the Oct. 12. If the event has not sold out, tickets will be available at the door. I look forward to seeing all of you at this great event for a great cause to provide scholarship funding for our future Pirate Alumni. spt

Where Did the Summer Go?

In many ways I’m a bit old fashion and somewhat of a traditionalist. For example, I don’t believe in wearing a hat at the dinner table, I think holding a door open for a lady is still pure class, and teaching your kids to mow the lawn, pull the weeds, put out the trash and put away the dishes is important. I also believe that having them get a job to pay for gas and car insurance builds responsibility and character. Lastly, I believe school in the second week of August is too early, especially when most other schools start two weeks later.

There is still something pure about summer unofficially beginning on Memorial Day weekend and ending after Labor Day weekend, thus starting the school year. For all of the reasons for starting at the beginning of August, it still seems odd and doesn’t feel right and most families haven’t adjusted and in some cases continue to rebel by taking their family vacation during the first week of the new school calendar. After all, isn’t that what August is for, vacations? The only saving grace this year is that June gloom seems to have turned into July gloom, but I am sure by the time this column comes out we will be in the last days of beautiful, sunny, 90-degree August days enjoying the beach with the kids.

Oh yeah, they’ll be in school.

Although cut short, this summer has been a blast. My family spent a couple days with friends up in Paso Robles having a great time on Lake Nacimiento, then a week in Palm Desert with 100 or so fellow San Pedro locals for Pedro Springs week, most of whom live in our neighborhood, and a week in Florida visiting Universal Studios Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center, and Cape Canaveral then experiencing the launch of a communication satellite all while enjoying Cocoa Beach. It was a summer to remember.

What is most memorable about most summers though is watching the kids in our neighborhood growing up together. When we moved into our house back in December of 1996, the only kids in the neighborhood were Nick and Courtney Synstelien and our three-month-old, Antonio. Today, Nick just graduated from UCLA, Courtney attends San Jose State, and Antonio is a junior at SPHS and just received his driver’s license. Wow, how time flies.

Since then, we have seen the neighborhood grow in the number of kids, 20 to be exact. The nine girls and 11 boys; my other two sons Vincent and Luca, as well as Shereese, Sydney, Noah, Logan, Heather, David C., Tiana, Falo, Vincent A., Hailey, Madison, Avery, Joey, Kaitlyn, Nathan, Liz, Eric, and David O. are all growing up together in various stages. I think of them as the neighborhoods Little Rascals as each of them have some characteristics similar to Alfalfa, Darla, Spanky, Buckwheat, Porky, and Froggy. Watching them grow over the past 17 years has been great and it’s not over yet. Recently, the neighborhood graduated from elementary school and having two of my own in high school and one in middle school promises to bring even more experiences to the neighborhood, let alone our house.

The summers are filled with late nights with the kids either playing sports, capture the flag, skating boarding, video games, wiffle ball, swimming or just hanging out in front of the house. As I sit hear writing this column the street is full of the kids skating up and down the street, yelling “car!” anytime they see a car heading up or down the street so nobody gets hit. Even on family nights out for dinner, Noah Botica and Dave Carlton are on their skateboards in our driveway when we pull up as the boys constantly text each other on when they are almost home so they can hang out together. Soon, the question will come up from one of my boys, “Can so and so sleep over?”

As I finish up this column the next morning, sure enough, David Olivieri is crashed out on one of our couches and my son Antonio on the other. After all, isn’t this what summer is all about? spt

Seeing San Pedro’s Future Through Its Past

Celebrating a 125 years of San Pedro, for me, begins with thoughts of my grandfather, Domenico Costa, emigrating from Ischia, Italy, back in 1920, and my father Tony in 1956.

Both of them came to San Pedro at drastically different times but at the same age of 18. My grandfather arrived when San Pedro was in its Golden Age, the years following World War I where the port was growing dramatically and surpassed all other west coast ports in handling of tonnage in 1923. Like many emigrants from Europe, he became a fisherman at a time when the Los Angeles Harbor was becoming a leader in the industry.

My father came to the United States at a time when life in Italy was still recovering from the effects of World War II and at a time when our fishing and canneries were beginning to thrive. His fascination with radio growing up in Ischia led him to attend a technical trade school in downtown Los Angeles in the evenings where he would learn to repair radio and televisions and operate his local business, Tony’s TV, for 40 years.

Today, many of our local jobs are based around the import and export of cargo and raw material, as well as local companies and small businesses that support the industry. The local, regional and national impact of the goods movement industry is tremendous. For example, it is forecasted that for every single waterfront-related job 10 more are created in the region and over 40% of the nation’s cargo passes through our port. The methods in which cargo is transported today has also changed dramatically over the years. The crate-by-crate approach of the 1950s to the containerization and technology tracking cargo of today are indications of where this may evolve to within the next 10 years.

San Pedro is in the middle of a new development era. A couple of years ago, there was no thought that we would have the USS Iowa as a floating museum on our waterfront or that we would see Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles established. Five years ago, no one predicted that Marymount College, now a four-year university under the new name Marymount California University, would have a San Pedro-based campus on 6th Street offering Bachelor and Masters Degrees. Finally, 10 years ago predicting that the Southern California Marine Institute would consider moving from Terminal Island to the San Pedro side of the channel was unheard of, but here we are in the middle of the Port of Los Angeles’ $500 million, 28-acre development effort of the AltaSea Marine Research Innovative Center, ironically situated just a stone’s throw away from where a vibrant fishing fleet once operated some 40 years ago.

All of the indicators point to San Pedro heading towards a technology-rich and higher-educated local workforce to support jobs and industries that are on our horizon. It’s this challenge of preparing the next generation’s workforce for these future jobs that we must collectively work together to achieve. As San Pedro transforms to a destination for high-tech jobs, we must continue to innovate and find ways in which to expose our youth to science, technology, engineering and math. Also, we must focus today’s work force to ensure that they are well prepared for the technology that will come to our port while we find ways to attract new jobs to our waterfront.

These new industries will need a safe environment to build upon, so we must address the crime that we read and hear about each day. It’s no secret that we are being pulled on by both ends of the spectrum as we battle for this transformation to take hold. We must be persistent because the future is upon us and we must secure it. While other cities are maintaining the towns of today, we must continue to build San Pedro as a technology hub for tomorrow while making it a global destination and crown jewel at the tip of Los Angeles. spt

Anthony Pirozzi can be contacted at apirozzi@yahoo.com.

Leading San Pedro

“This town eats its own.” I recall a friend on the San Pedro Chamber board saying this while lamenting that San Pedrans aren’t great at supporting their local leaders.

Whether he’s right or wrong, I believe that for many years San Pedro hasn’t done a good job of grooming future leaders. For example, before I launched San Pedro Magazine, I was not active in the community, but got involved because it now became my business to do so. The first major event I attended was a chamber luncheon attended by approximately 250 people. Although I was born and raised in San Pedro, with tons of family and friends here, I didn’t recognize more than two or three people.

Over the next several years, I became friends with many of the luncheon attendees. A large majority of them are wonderful people who do a nice job serving a community they love, but most came here from somewhere else. On one hand, it’s good to have leaders in your community that can provide a fresh pair of eyes on its issues, but on the flipside, I’ve found it challenging for many of them to accurately reflect the will of the majority of the people because they lacked the relationships to be able to do that. Furthermore, it’s not a very sustainable model to have to constantly find leadership arriving from someplace else instead of developing leaders that grew up in the community.

In recent years, things have begun to dramatically change. Our councilman, Joe Buscaino, was born and raised in San Pedro, as was the newly elected president of ILWU Local 13, Chris Viramontes. These are young dynamic leaders with the ability to attract their peers into getting involved to create a powerful leadership force for our community. In addition to Joe and Chris, I’d like to add the name of Anthony Pirozzi to the list of young San Pedro leaders that can brighten the future of our town. And I’m not the only one to think so; the San Pedro Chamber is giving Anthony its annual Leadership Award.

Anthony is one of my best friends. We met in high school when everyone called him Yog (which I still call him). In fact, I had to get past knowing him as Yog, who we loved teasing as kids, to recognize Anthony, a man that has grown into a great leader. The first glimpse occurred when Anthony joined our other friends, Dave Stanovich, Ron Galosic, Scott Lane, and Tony Cordero in leading the fight to secure baseball fields for Eastview Little League on Knoll Hill. Anyone that’s either played at Eastview or had a kid play at Eastview (I’m in both categories) will probably agree that their effort to have the fields built is one of our town’s finest accomplishments in the past few years.

The fact that Anthony threw so much of himself at the campaign is not a surprise. Anthony and I spend countless hours on the phone (his wife, Carolyn calls me his second wife) and the thing that comes up a lot is his passion for helping kids get better. He’s very proud that although he was a mediocre student at San Pedro High, he was able to get good grades at Harbor, go on to earn a degree at Cal Poly Pomona, and become an aerospace engineer. He uses his role as a Boeing executive to speak to kids about their futures and has facilitated more than $100,00 in donations from Boeing to San Pedro charities that serve children, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Top Sail, Toberman House, and Cabrillo Aquarium.

After the Save Eastview campaign had concluded, I convinced Anthony to join me on the board of directors at the San Pedro Chamber. Upon his election as chairman of the board, I began to realize that our generation has begun to assume the mantle of leadership. I can say with firsthand knowledge that we are fortunate to have leaders like Anthony, Joe, and Chris because they care so much for this town that we all love and they all share the same passion for grooming the next generation of San Pedrans into great citizens and great leaders. spt

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Dillon Field: A Tribute Representative Of San Pedro

The sign-ups are over, the draft is done and the first practice is behind us. Baseball season is here. It is the time of the year when hundreds of kids prepare to play the national pastime. Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, the game itself is a reminder of simpler times and brings back many childhood memories. My favorite team is the Los Angeles Dodgers and as a kid I would spend just about every night listening to Vin Scully on the radio or while watching the games on channel 11. My most vivid memories were agonizing over the Dodgers losing to the New York Yankees in the 1977 and ’78 World Series. My cousin was a Yankee fan and having to face him each day during the series in back-to-back seasons was tough. After all, bragging rights when you’re twelve was a big deal. It wasn’t until 1981 when the Dodgers would face the Yankees again and finally win the World Series in six games. It’s been a long stretch since 1988, since the last time the Dodgers won the World Series, but then again there is always this year.

This month brought back many childhood memories when I attended the dedication and tribute of Bobby Dillon. I had just finished our first practice with my Eastview Little League AAA Dodgers and headed over for the tribute with my 10-year-old son Luca proudly wearing his Dodger uniform. I had never met the Dillon family, but was aware that Dillon Field existed in San Pedro. About 100 family and friends attended the tribute, which took place at the corner of 22nd Street Park facing Miner Street, the site of the old field, which today is the parking lot of the old warehouses being used by Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles.

This beautiful Saturday afternoon was about the memory and tribute to the man that founded the Cabrillo Bay League. In 1962, Bobby passed away suddenly from a heart attack when he was 42. His son Bobby Jr. was 10. I couldn’t help but think about the similarities in age that Luca and I had with Bobby and Bobby Jr., which put the this special day into perspective.

As any great baseball day, the weather was perfect and the stories of hard fought games between the Sharks and the Squids, as well as coaches getting a bit animated after a tough game, were told leaving the crowd both laughing and in tears. Pete Moore, who is 93 years young and helped coach the Squids with Bobby, was present as well.

The most touching was hearing from Bobby Dillon Jr. and his sister Sylvia Valdez who gave a touching speech about her father and the way it use to be. One thing she said that hit home was that a play date back in the ’60s was kids going out to play all day with fellow neighborhood kids and how Sundays were meant for visiting family and friends. As the ceremony wound down I was able to meet and talk with Bobby Jr. He left an impression on me that I believe was a reflection of his father, kind and true. The port did a great thing honoring a guy whose goal was to teach kids how to field a ground ball, catch a fly ball, and get a hit all for the love of the game and his community.

Many realities of San Pedro were reflected in the hour tribute, which I have always known, but was solidified once again on this day. Our town is tied together by sports. We have always been a town of pride with a competitive edge. This is most prevalent when our local teams travel because San Pedro always has the most fans on its side of the field. Our sense of pride is unparalleled when it comes to local sports. The very nature of the word itself embodies all that we are: SP for San Pedro and PORTS, which is our community’s lifeblood. Put the two together and the word sports embodies the live, work and play hard attitude that is San Pedro. spt

Redeveloping Ports O’ Call

I know it sounds cliché, but where did the year go? As I reset my clock it seems like just yesterday I was turning it forward and getting ready for summer. Now the holidays are in full swing and before you know it will be summer again.

We have much to be thankful for during this holiday season in San Pedro and I would need more than just this column to describe all that is good with our town. It’s rare to find such a place like San Pedro with love and pride that goes well beyond words; it’s an emotion that flows through our veins.

On many occasions, I get asked about three particular subjects that spur emotion: Ports O’ Call, Ponte Vista and the Rancho San Pedro public housing projects. The future of the first two appears to have a tangible outcome whereas the third is uncertain. Ponte Vista with its new plans for a smaller foot print and adjusted turn lanes to mitigate traffic on Western may yield support from the original massive planned development once proposed, and the process held by the Port of Los Angeles to solicit a developer for much needed change at Port’s O’ Call is well underway.

Ports O’ Call development is the moment San Pedro has been waiting for and by the end of this year eight prospective developers will be whittled down to one to determine its future. Today, although the parking lots are packed every weekend at Ports O’ Call, it is rare that you will find many locals there unless a wedding or baby shower is being held. Since the taking down of the space needle to the closure of many of the small businesses that truly made Port’s O’ Call the place to be back in the 60s and 70s, the very mention of it is always followed with fond memories and a cautious optimism about its future. As I see it, it’s time to create a new Port’s O’ Call that will not only provide new memories for our generation, but for our children and grandchildren’s generation, as well. So the real question is what will make locals and tourists alike want to go to Ports O’ Call on any given day of the week?

A new Port’s O’ Call must reflect who we are locally and where we have come from internationally. It must incorporate ideas from successful developments that attract us throughout the year such as L.A. Live, The Grove, Third Street Promenade and The Block, to name a few. I believe anchor establishments such as a Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, BJ’s and Starbucks tied in with our historic Fish Market, Ports O’ Call Restaurant, Acapulco Restaurant and other successful establishments that have kept Ports O’ Call alive is the recipe for success. An added attraction like a concert hall should be considered as well as a convention center. Today, many of our local non-profits have to hold their annual fundraisers in Manhattan Beach, Torrance and Long Beach because San Pedro does not have a facility that can accommodate over 500 guests. A convention center that can accommodate such events must be part of the plan. In a nutshell, Port’s O’ Call must have the very amenities we seek in other cities in order to draw locals and tourists everyday of the week.

We must continue the momentum of moving our waterfront and town forward. We have seen the recent arrival of the USS Iowa and Crafted, Marymount College establishing roots on 6th street, downtown San Pedro being infused with new events and street lighting by the PBID, a marine research center in the works for City Dock #1, new schools have been built and much more is on the horizon. San Pedro is truly on the rise.

Our time has come to transition Port’s O’ Call into something that we can once again be proud of and transform it into an international attraction once again. The development of Ports O’ Call is the true catalyst that will breathe real life into our waterfront development efforts for generations to come. spt