Before I started to write about my father, I asked some of his grandchildren to describe their grandfather. I received the following: He was unique, compassionate, generous, and humble, He valued education, was a Los Angeles Dodger fan, he loved sharing a meal, and he was funny in his own way.
My father, Eugene Cardiel, better known as “Indio,” was born in 1910. His education stopped in the sixth grade, when he started working to help support his family. He served in the United States Army during World War II, where he was assigned to Europe, and he was discharged in 1946. I have a few pictures, and a post card, that he mailed me when I was born. I was surprised to see one of these pictures in my son Angelo’s locker, when he completed basic training in the Army. Yes, our father was a proud veteran and humble about his service.
Compassionate and generous, truly, were my dad and mom. We had shelves with canned goods in our home, along with bags of flour and beans. We moved to Norwalk, California, in 1949, to an area known as the barrio, my father's grandfather, father, and uncle lived in the same area. Most of the men worked in construction, as did my father. During the winter, they would go for weeks without working. My parents had no problem sharing canned goods, eggs, flour, and beans with our neighbors when unemployed due to the weather; my parents would buy a crate of eggs, 100-pound bags of flour and beans. When my siblings and I visited my parents, we went home with a box of groceries, baby food, fruit, and vegetables. My dad continued doing this after my mother passed away, and it is remembered as “Grandpa Gene’s Way,” (of loving our family).
Education was important to my dad. He attended as many of his grandchildren’s high school graduations as possible. My niece remembers his huge, happy smile when she graduated. He helped me to pay for classes and books; to earn my Associate in Arts Degree. No grants were available at that time.
He loved the Dodgers, and would call to tell us, “The Dodgers are on!” And then he would hang up the phone. (This was the only reason for the phone call.)
He came to visit one day in the summer, and noticed that our television was gone from the living room. Afterall, it was baseball season. He said, “What happened to the TV?” I said, “It’s broken.” He said, “Get in the car.” So, off we went to May Company, to buy a new TV. He then said, “How were the boys going to watch the Dodgers with no TV?”
Sharing a meal – He made the best fresh chile, using California green chiles, yellow chiles, fresh garlic, tomatoes, and salt. He used the “molcajete” to make his chile. Sometimes it was mild, and other times hot. We would bring some home to make with pork meat. His molcajete is still used in my kitchen.
He made the best chicken soup! Not a lot of ingredients, but the chicken was slowly cooked, not boiled. Sometimes, he would make noodles to go with it.
My father helped in the community when we were young. He belonged to an association that cleaned up the neighborhood (barrio), petitioned the county to install street lights, had Christmas parties for the kids, and took the kids to the mountains. He was a member of the Laborers and Plasters Union for over fifty years, and attended the monthly meetings.
He was a “Chicano!” He passed away in 1998. To this day, he is still living in the hearts of his family.
My dad was a very generous person, we called him the "Bank of Gene." When we went to clean his house, after he passed away, I found pieces of paper with names, dates, and funds loaned to friends. This really touched my heart to know that my dad was such a good man.