Former Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist George Ramos, who grew up in East Los Angeles, died last week in his home in Morro Bay. He was 63. Ramos worked at the Times for more than 20 years and was part of a team of Times journalists whose series on Southern Californian Latinos won a Pulitizer Prize in 1984. As part of that series, Ramos wrote a first-person account of returning to his old neighborhood on North Record Avenue, a narrow, steep street dominated by modest houses and barking dogs. His parents had left their wood-sided house behind in the late 1950s for a suburban life in Downey. But Ramos continued to spend time at the family home, which became the residence of his grandmother, Felicitas Ramos. In a July 1983 story headlined “American Dream Lives in the Barrio,” Ramos, recounted the past and present of the neighborhood called Belvedere Gardens:
The inhabitants of Record are poor but proud people, comfortable in the knowledge that they own their homes and owe little to an Anglo-dominated society. To them, life on Record is as American as that in Kansas, and hopes are as resilient as tall wheat in the summer breeze.
No one really knows what to expect when he goes back to the old neighborhood.
I remember rampaging on the surrounding hills, building cabins out of abandoned furniture, auto doors and bamboo, and killing imaginary enemies with a crudely constructed gun made of clothespins. In an ongoing scenario, one close friend, David Angulo, was Tarzan and his brother Stephen was Cheetah the chimp. I was a hunter — I can’t remember if I ever used the term “Great White Hunter” — always seeking Tarzan’s help.
Now the property owners look after their investments with fences, forcing local jungle warriors to play elsewhere.
Ramos, who as an adult lived for many years in Silver Lake, left the Times in 2003 to join the journalism department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.