I did it 50 times in La Salina--'T' Shirts

Baja Bernie - 7-27-2007 at 09:42 AM

From Mi Baja No Hurry No Worry

Stewards of the Cantina

This is just be a thumb nail sketch of the many people who have owned or managed The Cantina from its beginning in the 1960’s up to the turn of the century.

Señor Benson and his son “Petie” you have already met. They are the “in the beginning guys.”

Ramon Ballistros had been a rather famous Mexican boxer before he took over the Cantina for a short period of time.

Eddie Lopez was the young bartender that you also have met earlier on. He managed the place until he fell from favor and returned to Ensenada.

Thelma Flores came to La Salina in 1971 with Stan. They built the small house at the north end of Avenida Lorenzo. Stan was quite a musician and he was a wizard on the piano. He played in the Cantina for some time. Thelma is one of those people who always end up standing upright no matter what life throws at them. She spent many, many, years in Mexico-both on the Mainland and here in Baja. At one point, before she took over the Cantina, she had her pelvis crushed when some drunk driver pinned her against the wall in front of the Cantina. As the manager she came up with several changes that increased business—such as chili and hot dogs and Monday Nite Football. Even though she ‘was’ a Mexican citizen, she gave up her American citizenship when she married a Mexican man, the Macho guys in the Cantina did not like working for a woman. This was not true of “Ramon” the guy she hired and who is currently Jefe Ramon a wonderful man you should all know. She managed the place until she had a terrible argument with Jack Speer. Thelma moved back to the States when she turned 83.

Charlie and Mary Carbajal. This couple really enjoyed people and it showed. Charlie was a wonderful dancer and the women (all of them) loved to dance with him. Charlie had been a Tijuana police officer during the prohibition. Yes, he was that old! He used to smuggle booze from TJ to Hollywood in an old 1920’s model Packard. It had a fifty-gallon tank hidden under the floor. The stories he told would fill two books. Charlie was the guy who was responsible for introducing “The Bloody Mary Punch Card” to the Cantina. Each time you bought a Bloody Mary the bartender punched your card until the 50 numbers were obliterated. Then you turned the card in and received a ‘free’ T-shirt with wonderful artwork about La Salina. One of the shirts read; I DID IT 50 TIMES IN LA SALINA. This went on for several versions of T-shirts and many, many drinks. They finally stopped the program when they found that one of the guys in camp had purchased his own punch tool!

Mary, in her earlier years, was a model—did you ever see the slinky blonde in a black c-cktail dress on the Billboards, all over the United States, advertising “Black Velvet Bourbon”—that was Mary. By the time they began running the place she had more than doubled her weight. Still, she was quite a woman and everyone enjoyed her company. She had a gravelly voice and when she laughed, which was often, it rumbled through the Cantina.

Next came another couple Dan and Sara Dean. Dan was a great big guy who was heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the bar. Unfortunately, one day he literally threw a cholo (Mexican gang member from the States) through the front door of the Cantina because of his nasty attitude.

This bad little guy came back with a bunch of other little gang members and attacked Dan with knives. He was stabbed in the back and cut very badly. Phil Soto tried to come to Dan’s assistance and Phil ended up in the Hospital in Chula Vista with multiple stab wounds and a punctured lung.

After the Dean’s left Jack Speer took over the Cantina and named David Medina as the manager. David was also the President of the Corporation, Constructores Pioneros de Mexico, S.A., in those days. After Jack died David was removed from the Cantina and the Presidency of the Corporation. David was and is my friend and most of the people in camp liked and respected him.

Jack Rotar became the manager under the new owner Larry Speer. Mr. Rotar tried to increase business by making it a “counter culture” type bar. Gone were the soft comfortable touches—replaced by filthy writing all over the walls. Most people in camp quit frequenting the place under Mr. Rotar.

Last but not least is Dick Harrison. Dick’s motto seems to be—“I don’t get involved, I just run a bar.” Dick has cleaned up the place so that it is again a comfortable place to visit. He is the guy responsible for the kid’s playground in front of the Cantina. Before he took over running the Cantina he owned the King Neptune Bar in Seal Beach. Dick is an old Mexican hand and he has owned a house in San Quintin for many years. He will probable not like my saying this, but he is really a great big pussycat who in his own ways has helped the community on numerous occasions.

AND then there were Smiley and Bang Away, a couple of real characters! I’m sure that I heard their real names’ years ago but these were the two guys who furnished us with the music that we, in fact, danced the Night Away to for several years.

Smiley played the piano and Bang Away beat on the drums. They were there every Friday and Saturday night almost from the beginning.

The music they made together was really fun and most people could not resist jumping up to dance. They could play anything from Zorba the Greek to Rock and Roll, with a waltz, a polka, or Good Mexican Music thrown in. After they had a few it became very interesting –they would either start skipping a beat or change the beat or both all in the same number. They provided a lot of enjoyment for a whole bunch of people for a very long time. Those of us who knew them and their music miss them both.

P.S. David Medina went on to become a City Councilman for Rosarito and lastly the owner of a very large business in Cantimar.

Dick is gone......but Thelma last visited the cantina after her 90th B-Day

I just visited the Cantina a couple of weeks ago and found that 'Ramon' has developed throat cancer and things do not look very good for this great guy...........Say a prayer for him........please! (Edit...Ramon became the manager of the cantina when Dick passed away)

[Edited on 7-27-2007 by Baja Bernie]

Hook - 7-27-2007 at 01:20 PM

Very enjoyable, Bernie. I have always liked the place. More than once when towing my boat to BCS for a week, I would stop in on a Friday nite for the mex combo and take advantage of the drink specials (they are numerous) and then just sleep in the lot with my boat attached. They always gave permission.

I would be sad to see this place disappear.

So, does anyone know if the big beach volleyball bash that is usually sponsored by Corona is going to happen this year?

FARASHA - 7-27-2007 at 01:30 PM

Wow, THAT Place has a History - worth a Movie! Thanks as always Bernie! >f<


Baja Bernie - 7-29-2007 at 09:12 AM

Volleyball games will be held August 24th this year.