When I came to Gonzales, it was a wonderful little town built around the splitting of Highway 101 and closing off development to the south. Almost every citizen knew each other, and businesses that had been thriving for years on Highway 101 began to fall by the wayside. If you drive down Alta Major and squint your eyes and let your imagination go, you can almost see the businesses that have remained despite the loss of the 101 traffic.
One of the good things about that was that developers came in and told you they could build affordable homes on the allowed growth that was allowed on the east side. I was working in King City at the time and commuting from Salinas. I would drive by every morning and evening and watch the homes being built. For a while I was allowed to drive down Fanoe Road and see how fast they were going up.
Lorraine and I had been living in some pretty cool condominiums and were happy and in love. But the drive got to be too much for me. So, as I am driving down the road one day when I got off early, I thought I would drop in to the model homes to see what I could see. The model homes looked really nice, although I knew they were built with all the goodies that I would have to pay extra for. I drove on home and asked my blushing bride if she would like to take a drive with me. Now I want to tell you that when Lorraine and I were married, I had just got out of a marriage with the proverbial “one gets the gold mine and the other gets the shaft.” (I didn’t get any of the gold.)
We didn’t have the wildest notion that we would ever be able to buy a home. So we got out of the car and walked in to act like we might be a customer. The sales lady was very kind to us and showed models of where the houses were going to be built and she showed us through the models so we could get an idea of what was going on. We thanked her for her time and headed back to Salinas with a couple of dreams.
A few weeks later I was talking to a buddy of mine who was a former soldier and he asked if I still had the G.I. loan that was promised to the builder that the government would back up any loan I took out to buy a home. I had already used that on the house I bought in Indian Springs. We kept talking and asked if my ex-wife took the house. It turns out this G.I. loan I had used was reinstated to me when the first loan was paid off.
Since she took the house, I had my G.I. loan back again. Also I had been given a raise. When I asked if the developer would honor my G.I. loan, she pointed out that any developer that uses government money was obligated to honor the G.I. loan. Wow! That was the best news I had received in a long time. The payments would be high, but we decided that doing without a few unnecessary items, we thought we might be able to make it.
So the next weekend we drove back to Gonzales and asked which houses had not sold yet. The friendly lady was so kind in showing us the houses not spoken for and advised that I buy the house we live in now. After all the hassle with the government and the seller, we were able to move to Gonzales into a house that would be ours in 30 years. That has got to be the best part of the G.I. benefits for Vietnam-era soldiers. We moved into our home after bringing almost everything we owned in two pick-up loads.
I can tell you right now that living in Gonzales has been a dream come true. The entire town is like a family. People smile at you and wave, dogs are on leashes. The garbage, water and power and all the special occasions at the city park were exactly what we were looking for. I know, in the past 20 years or so, I have changed and now it looks like Gonzales is about to change. As I said, this was a small town with a big heart. We helped each other no matter the need.
Things have changed a little bit. There are not as many folks that wave and smile as you go by. I suppose it has something to do with this election. The only good thing about this election is a lot of folk are interested, so perhaps they will vote. I ask that no matter how you vote, it would be cool if everyone votes. I can remember how the elections in the past were friendly and old fashioned. You could use a piece of cardboard or a sheet of plywood or anything that didn’t harm the environment. You could put your name out there and folks would vote for you because they know you.
Now we have commercial signs in almost every yard. I think it looks cool, but in the last few years there have been complaints of lost signs, either by the wind blowing them over or some person taking them. I sure hope all this comes to an end. The prisons are full of folks that thought, “Hey, it’s just a sign.” You can never know what happens to people that do that. It starts small.
The election in Gonzales is as important as the national elections. But this particular election has opened a crack in the friendly town that I moved to. I know part of that is the virus and making us stay at home. Too much time and not enough to do I guess.