4820 Whittier Boulevard between Fetterly & Fraser Avenues, East Los Angeles
Brooklyn & Matthews Avenue, East Los Angeles
Whittier Blvd. & Lorena, East Los Angeles
Whittier Blvd. & 20th Street, Montebello
Every payday my dad would give my mom her expense allowance for the week.
I recall that it was about $25 for all the groceries and necessities our household might need. My mom would grumble about what a cheapskate my dad was and she’d have to always supplement that allowance with her meager earnings from her seamstress job at Jod’is Sportswear sweatshop factory on Whittier Bl. & Vancouver Ave….
A very grainy image of JonSons Market on 4820 Whittier Blvd. taken from a 1968 newspaper ad.
On the weekends my Mom would usually drag one of my brothers and me to go grocery shopping at “La Yonson.” We lived two short blocks away so we’d all walk down Whittier Blvd. where I’d check out the movie posters at the Center Theater and my mom would window shop at Lerner’s, Woolworth and La Popular. Sometimes my mom would stop and make a lay-a-way payment along the way and I’d stop and toy shop when she’d let me run into Grant’s or Kress department stores.
I actually enjoyed myself on those grocery shopping trips. My duty was to push the shopping cart around while my mom shopped. She’d be casually choosing the chile serranos, & verdolagas while I tortured my little brother as he sat in the shopping cart seat. I’d spray him with the little water hose you’d find next to the fresh produce displays and make him cry until he snitched me out and I was ordered to get the hell away from there.
If I had any coins, I’d go push them into the vending machines in the back of the store and score some cool plastic Batman rings. Then I’d wander the aisles examining the little red boxes of Cudahy Rex Manteca Lard, The googly-eyed pig heads in the frozen case and poke my fingers into the Van De Kamp’s pies. JonSon’s also had a tiny toy rack that I’d peruse until I found an item that I could try to sneak into my mom’s cart along with the Count Chocula or Pink Panther cereal that was constantly denied me.
The place was bright and colorful with an interior balcony along the back wall. There was a staircase to the second level which housed a barber shop and some offices. The store manager would often lean over the railing to check on any suspicious types. That little staircase near the back entrance always drew me to climb it and explore the catwalk that overlooked the store. It was a great view of all the shoppers and lots of fun until I got ordered down one day for throwing shit down at my brothers.
Some images of the interior of the store today. A few things remain unchanged, but it’s been entirely transformed for the most part. You can spot the upper floor walkway towards the rear ceiling line in the third image below to the right.
The rear entrance/exit facing the parking lot. This is where the bulletin board used to be. This used to be a place where the locals would tack up index cards advertising everything from rooms for rent to sobadóres and solicitations for babysitters and housekeepers.
The JonSons Markets chain was first opened in 1947 by the Inadomi family who were in the food retailing business since 1923. In 1968 Manager Yosh Inadomi (who I remember seeing in the store all the time) invited customers to “Look for the galaxy of values in groceries, meats, produce and delicatessen arranged for you by the young men of ideas, who are the managers and department heads of the JonSons Markets chain. Youth must be served.”
Near the Whittier Blvd. entrance there was a popular food stand inside the market. I recall also a bakery and a taco kitchen being there over the years. In the late 80’s I remember that they also brought in a vendor with the latest thing, VHS videos for sale and rent, mostly Spanish language titles and bad dubs of Mexican films.
JonSon’s Market employees would put on the most elaborate, scary and fantastic costumes on Halloween day. Every year, we’d go down just to see what everyone from the bag boys to the managers was wearing. We were told that there was a big cash prize incentive award for the best costumes. They were always the talk of the town on Halloween. My little brothers would express their terror with wet cheeks and calzónes. What fun it was to have a wicked witch ring you up while a mummy bagged your groceries as Satanas would wave and growl “Please come again!” I loved it!
Adjacent to JonSon’s Market was the RECORD INN music store. Opened in the early 60’s by Mike Carcano, this store was in the forefront of promoting local and Chicano music and was the local outlet for records by local groups from The Romancers and Cannibal & the Headhunters to Tierra and Los Lobos. There were times I’d walk by and hear live bands rehearsing upstairs. If you ever wanted to check out what shows and dances were coming up with your favorite local bands, you just had to check out the colorful assortment of posters that filled their windows. It no longer exists. The former space now sells swap-meet style tschatskes.
Accessible from that JonSon’s back alley is also CAVAZO’S UNISEX (as it used to be called) HAIRSTYLIST & BARBER SHOP. The original Mr. Cavazo no longer runs the shop but his name has remained on the sign. My dad has a great story about visiting Cavazo’s Barber Shop. It seems that one morning he and some other customers were sitting in the shop waiting for their turn at the next available barber. Enter, one of the barbers reporting for late for his shift with alarmingly unsteady steps and begins pulling on his smock and preparing his cutting tools. The obviously inebriated barber then turns to the waiting customers and with a dizzying, swaying posture begins to call out “NEXT!” My dad tells how every customer hid behind magazines or pretended not to to hear as the drunk barber continued to call out; ”NEXT!”————“NEXT!”—————-“NEXT!”
Here are a couple of old 1969 images of JonSons from the period of the Chicano Protests…….
This shot is from the front of JonSons side of the street towards the corner of Fraser Ave. Some post-riot destruction. I remember the Market being boarded up before that weekend, as many stores also did, in anticipation of the possible violence and looting.
Here are some current images of the other three old JonSons Markets locations in East Los Angeles;
This is the current location site of the old Brooklyn Ave. & Matthews store. It looks to be a big lot with temp offices used for some off-site field work and vehicle storage, possibly for the Linea De Oro construction.
This is the former location of the JonSons Market in Montebello, as it looks today. It’s been replaced by Senior housing,…..Que lástima!
…Getting back to the BLUE CHIP STAMPS, I happen to own a couple of original booklets of BLUE CHIP and S&H GREEN STAMPS,…
I remember going with my family to the Stamp Claim Center so that my mom could pick up her prize merchandise. I also remember that it was a process that took forever and I’d be bored out of my mind in there. Luckily they did have a few toys and kid friendly items I could pass the time with. I decided to go look up the old Blue Chip Stamp Claim Center in Montebello. This is it today. It appears to be some kind of medical office.
JonSons Market will always be a part of my heart and memories. It’s funny how it’s the little things that become such a big part of our lives. Hasta Luego!