SAGE Rides the Rails to Watts Towers, Mama’s Hot Tamales

Posted on October 30, 2009. Filed under: California senior citizens, California State University at Northridge, CSUN, Learning in Retirement, SAGE Activities | Tags: , , , , , |


Using public transportation, members of SAGE rode the rails Saturday, October 24, on their journey to visit the historic Watts Towers.

Boarding the Red Line at the North Hollywood Station, the group traveled to Seventh Street Metro Center where they transferred to the Blue Line. Instead of taking this train to the end of the line in Long Beach, intrepid travelers disembarked at the 103rd Street Station for a short walk to the towers.

At the towers they were greeted by guide James Janisse, a radio personality on local public stations. Janisse, who grew up in the Watts community, recounted stories of visiting the towers during his youth. As he led the SAGE group through an inside tour of the towers, he informed them about Simon Rodia and the builder’s 33-year-project. Following the tour, the group viewed a 12-minute video about Rodia and the towers.

The group also viewed the art gallery with its 50th Anniversary display of paintings, drawings, and sculptures.

Following the visit the SAGE travelers boarded the train back to MacArthur Park where they had colorful lunch at Mama’s Hot Tamales. Mama herself, Sandy Romero, told of her efforts to improve the neighborhood and train young people in restaurant work. –Reuben Allen



Some Member Comments about the Trip

It was very interesting to learn than an immigrant who could neither read nor write English with little formal education could build this engineering marvel. Also riding the subway with all the station changes was a new and exciting experience for me. Thank you again for all your planning.
Estelle Allen


Lunch was at the Hot Tamale cafe, which is next to MacArthur Park and Lake. Remember? That is the place where there was all the police brutality, not so long ago. Well, now, the arrests this year have gone to zero from a high a year or so ago of 500. The owner of the cafe has been instrumental in getting the cart vendors to learn to open more legitimate businesses. She even trains some of the younger people for jobs at Starbucks. The buffet was magnificent and the hibiscus tea was a real hit. What a treat to hear about the local success story. Darlene Wilson


Memorable trip. It was so much more than we expected. How fortunate to have a great guide to better understand what we saw, its history, how it was created. Our friends will be a little envious of us as we regale them of not only what we saw but also how we felt.

I was born in Los Angeles in the year that Sam Rodia began this remarkable project, and this trip fulfilled my desire to see it and be at one with it.
Fearful that it would be too much of a trip for the very elderly, you not only made us feel comfortable with our slow pace, it but successful enough to want to take another of your tours. Our appreciation of your efforts, your planning and your watchfulness cannot be expressed loudly enough. Thanks so very much.
Eli and Lil Baker


Thank you, Zel and Reuben for getting the Watts Towers trip together. It was fulfilling and a long time wish realized for me. Simon Rodia–a dedicated man with a purpose in mind. My father, Anthony Mion, was a cement finisher and terrazzo worker, an immigrant from Italy, so I was especially interested in Rodia’s masterpiece. The colored glass and decorative pottery were brought to life in the California sun. The overall shape of the towers into a ship was breathtaking. What touched my heart most was the honor Rodia gave to his work tools by imbedding the shapes of the small hammer, pliers, trowel, etc. into the cement. –Rita Thayer


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