Backyard Sojourn Inspires Bookkeeper To Write


I have a low retaining wall in my backyard, lined with rose bushes. On the other side of the wall is my neighbor’s ivy. When the sun’s out, so are the lizards, basking in the warmth and doing their little pushups on the wall.

I also am the husband of a kindergarten teacher, which puts me in her classroom quite often, and “Papa” to 5- and 4-year-old granddaughters. That means I read a lot of children’s books.

So I was intrigued when, while standing in line at my bank on Western Avenue, I noticed on a table nearby a promotion for a book titled The Lizard in the Roses. Beautifully illustrated, with bright, vibrant colors and cute little animal and insect characters that inhabit the book’s backyard, the story written in rhyme, I immediately thought this was something my granddaughters would enjoy.

None of which made it column material until I read that the author, Jeana Radovcich, is a native San Pedran, and the book is dedicated to her parents, Joe and Marilyn Scarcello, whom I happen to know. Joe worked for many years at the family-owned Rapid Shoe Repair on 6th Street.

The book came about almost by accident. Jeana, who attended White Point, Dana and graduated from San Pedro High in 1984, isn’t a teacher and doesn’t have children. What she has is a desire to paint, which was nurtured by her art teacher in high school, Margaret Works, but never went much further as she began a career in bookkeeping.

She did paint an oil portrait of Barbra Streisand, which she took down to Sunyata Gallery in San Pedro, where she met Tom Phillips. That friendship led to her modeling for some of the late artist’s well-known paintings of local landmarks. That’s Jeana in the orange dress in front of Phillips’ painting of Shanghai Red (“It doesn’t look a lot like me, but it’s me”), and she’s the figure with the umbrella in front of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.

She still wanted to paint, however, and finally, her husband, an IT professional, said, “We can handle it (financially). Go ahead and quit and do it.”

“I was sort of blocked, I couldn’t squeeze it out, and got depressed,” Jeana recalls of her search for inspiration. “I read books to unblock myself, and one day was out in the backyard, being in nature, with the now. That’s what I was doing when I saw the lizard.

“I loved to look at them. There was one on a rose bush, who used to run away, and one on the wall I could walk right up to. I saw the lizards there one day and told my husband there was a lizard under the roses. He handed me a pencil and pad of paper and told me to write it down.”

And that’s how the lizard book became “based on true events.”

The hardbound book is so professionally done that it comes as a shock that it was self-published, digitally illustrated. But that’s just one of the benefits of being married to a computer expert with his own company. George, whose father captained a fishing boat in San Pedro, attended Mary Star and was a member of the last class of Fermin Lasuen before graduating from Loyola Marymount. According to Jeana, he said, “Here, let me give you this digital tablet, and you can work with that. I was really intimidated by it… didn’t touch it for a year. He encouraged me to scribble, play with it. I got pretty good and learned all the little tricks.

“I had made some little sketches of the story I had written down and started with those. Next thing I knew, I had a little book,” she said.

They never even looked for a publisher. “My husband thought it was worthy of bringing it into reality as a book,” she recalls. “He was so impressed with the drawings, he wanted to do it himself. He knows all the computer tricks, the layout program. He did it all himself.

“It’s kind of like a little miracle for me. I was blocked, had no aspirations, and it just sort of came out. This may sound grandiose, but I think it’s something God wanted me to do.”

The book is available at Williams’ Book Store, Captain’s Treasure Chest, the Assistance League and The Corner Store in San Pedro, The Book Frog in the Promenade in Rolling Hills Estates, and Apostrophe Books in Long Beach. The cost is $16.99.

Jeana will be having a book signing at 3 p.m. April 27 at Williams’. If you have little kids of your own or, like me, little grandkids, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Lizard. And when you’re done reading it to them, tell them the inspiring story of a little San Pedro girl who grew up and became a children’s book author. spt

A Few Words About The Fish Market

When I was seven-years-old, I spent the summer going to work with my dad, Henry Ungaro, where I shoveled ice, packed fillets and learned how to smoke fish like halibut and salmon. I also learned a great deal about hard work that year and decided it was best to spend the following four summers of my youth riding my bike and playing with friends instead. Good thing I did, because at age 12 I had no choice but to return to work with my father.

It was Good Friday, 1982, when the San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant finally opened its doors after a seemingly endless year of round-the-clock construction. My brother John was 10 and I was 12 when it became our job to set up the dining room for Auntie Carol on Sunday mornings, then help Dad set up the smoked fish display in the showcase before spending the rest of the day scaling and gutting fish, steaming crabs and washing down floors.

It was cold, wet and dirty, but we were able to spend time with our dad, which was rare as he and his partner Tommy Amalfitano had been working seven days a week to not only open the doors of the new business, but keep them open.

Working at the Fish Market has always been a family affair for the Ungaro and Amalfitano families. In 1957, my grandfather, Mackey Ungaro, put his son Henry and best friend Tommy to work at his storefront located at the corner of 9th St. and Meyler. They were only 15-years-old and the business was called Vista Seafood. Eventually, they moved the operation down to the waterfront as Norm’s Landing where Tommy’s mother, Mary, and his sister, Rosemarie, joined in.

Sooner or later, everyone found him or herself behind the counter or in the dining room, including Tommy Jr. and Tiffany, my brother Henry, sister Jennifer, Auntie Betty, Grandpa Mickey and many others.

It’s been over a half century since we started and here’s a short list of the accomplishments we are proud to share with the community of San Pedro:

  • We are the largest Fish Market/Restaurant in Southern California with seating for 2,000 and over 10,000 visitors a weekend.
  • We draw seafood lovers from all over the country, from every walk of life and every demographic. Take a look at our Facebook, Yelp and YouTube pages and see for yourself.
  • We co-host the World’s Largest Lobster Festival drawing tens of thousands of visitors to San Pedro every year since 1999.
  • We’ve been awarded a Guinness World Record for our work on the Lobster Festival.
  • We were privileged to host Grammy Award-winner Mumford & Sons on their Railroad Revival Tour, which also drew thousands into San Pedro.
  • We employ over 100 local residents with starting pay well above minimum wage while also offering healthcare, 401k and paid vacations.
  • For hundreds of local kids, San Pedro Fish Market was their first job. Many have come back to thank us for the invaluable lessons of hard work and responsibility that carried them into successful careers as doctors, teachers, nurses, attorneys, accountants, longshoremen, police officers, POLA workers and even as an L.A. City Councilman.
  • We support many local organizations in San Pedro, including the Boys and Girls Club, Mary Star, Holy Trinity and POLA High School.
  • We are moving to make San Pedro nationally synonymous with fine seafood by launching our World Famous Shrimp Trays into retail stores. As of Feb 1, 2013, San Pedro Fish can be found in over 400 grocery stores across four states.

We have always been very modest about our accomplishments and charitable contributions, preferring to remain anonymous without seeking acknowledgment. However, I now believe it’s important for the community to know what we’ve done. Not because we need a pat on the back or a thank you, but rather because so many of our family members are no longer here to tell these stories…and they need to be told.

There are many desperate to make changes to the waterfront, to improve it, to make it a world destination. We’ve been working on that for 55 years and welcome the help. spt

Michael Ungaro is the COO of San Pedro Fish Market Enterprises, Inc.

The San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant is located at Ports O’ Call Village (1190 Nagoya Way). For more info, visit www.SanPedroFish.com or find them on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.

New Baseball Coach Wants No Player Left Behind

Good morning, students. Welcome to “Introduction to San Pedro High Baseball 101.”

As most of you know by now, we have a new coach, Lefty Olguin, although calling Lefty “new” is silly because he’s been a part of San Pedro sports for much of his life. The entire Olguin clan, in fact, has been an integral part of San Pedro’s history for most of the past century; our other campus is named after Lefty’s uncle and aunt, John and Muriel.

Please note that Lefty – no one calls him Albert – is not a lefthander. He’s had his nickname since he was a baby and it has nothing to do with his limbs. It seems one day both of his parents ran to answer a phone and realized they had “left” the baby alone for just a minute. As will happen, the kids in the neighborhood picked up on the story, and he’s been Lefty ever since.

Which caused no little confusion for major league scout Carl Hubbell, the Hall of Fame pitcher, who came to watch Lefty when he was starring for the Pirates and was surprised to find out he was checking out a right-hander.

You’ll also note that Lefty is slightly older than the typical beginning high school coach. All right, a lot older. Old enough to be retired as the athletic director of Compton College as of Jan. 31. Lefty is used to being the “old man,” however. He graduated from Pedro in Summer `69 but had suffered a serious injury and didn’t return to playing until 1976, when Jim O’Brien made him his first recruit at Harbor College. That’s when he reunited for the first time with Bobby Ramirez, his former San Pedro High teammate and the man he’s placing as coach at SPHS. Ramirez was an assistant coach (along with Pedro legend Andy Lopez) under O’Brien that year when, with Lefty back on the mound, the Seahawks finished runner-up in the state tournament.

Lefty, having graduated from Biola, returned to Harbor in 1978 as an assistant on O’Brien’s first state championship team. One of the players on that team was Matt Stanovich, who was an assistant at Pedro under Ramirez and will remain, joined by his brother, Dave, and holdovers Ray Mendoza and Jamie Davenport. John Car, another former Pirate, takes over the pitching coach duties from Tim Ursich, who is now helping out Ramirez at his new school, Pioneer in Whittier. Car was pitching coach at Mary Star last year. We’ll explore all of these relationships next semester in “San Pedro Baseball: We Are Family.”

Lefty will be doing a lot more than coaching this year, however. He’s also just launched Future College Stars, a pet project of his that he hopes will have a lasting impact on the lives of young athletes beyond the playing field.

“The goal of the program is to academically track and support baseball in high school,” Lefty says. As a former player and coach, Lefty knows how to get the best out of his athletes on the field. As an administrator, he wants to get the best out of them off the field, in the classroom. “The whole premise is to help support the high school athlete not just for eligibility but help to get them into college.”

Lefty is hoping the foundation can raise the funds needed for people such as an academic coordinator, tutors and workshop leaders. He wants to see local college coaches speak to the students, lead clinics and promote their programs. He also wants to make sure the players have places to play year-round, with perhaps a collegiate league or instructional league. For starters, he’ll be working with San Pedro High, Mary Star and Pioneer, but hopes to expand in the summer.

“We want to put college in front of the kids instead of professional baseball,” Lefty says. “We want a consistent effort to help guarantee they get into college or a two-year program. By the time they’re getting ready to leave junior high, they’ll know what they need to do (academically). We want to try to get kids focused on college.”

Lefty is drawing on his experience of growing up in Pedro in the `50s and `60s and `70s, when he played with the likes of Garry Maddox, Alan Ashby, Joe Lovitto and the Lusic brothers. “We have a great tradition at San Pedro High of getting kids drafted,” he notes, “but there’s only a handful of them who went to college.

“Nothing wrong with signing out of high school, don’t get me wrong,” Lefty says, but he also knows a lot of great players whose professional aspirations didn’t pan out, and without a college education, their options were limited.

For more information, check out www.futurecollegestars.org. Leave it to Lefty to get it right.

The Long and Winding Road

Eight years later, and Ponte Vista is finally down to a reasonable 830 homes.

Like many, I remain opposed to changing the zoning from single-family R-1, but iStar apparently has seen the light. Testing the political wind, the new developers aren’t even going to fight for more housing, obviously hoping that the modest 830 figure will quiet most of their critics.

Of course, the devil is in the details, but at least there is now room for calm discussion on hot-button issues such as traffic mediation, which always has been my main concern, and senior units.

It looks like those goats may have to look for new grazing land soon. spt