Bob Munson got in blow to acquaint me that he and Ritchie Valens had been pals aback in inferior high. Not alone did Munson accept stories, he had photos.
Days later, I was in Munson’s kitchen in the Murrieta Hot Springs adjacency of Murrieta, attractive at snapshots.
There was Valens in a aphotic clothing for eighth brand brawl at Pacoima Inferior High, continuing abaft a babe in a dress, accoutrements about her waist from behind. In fact, there were three agnate photos, with three altered girls.
“Ritchie had no botheration award a date,” Munson says with a chuckle. “He was actual accepted with the girls. They all admired him…I don’t apperceive which one he took to prom.”
Another photo has Ritchie congenital abaft a allurement drum, attractive at the camera, drumsticks in his hands. That was taken in the Munson active allowance in Panorama City, adjoining to Pacoima.
Munson’s dad, an electrician who had been in a band, had a abounding boom set in the garage. The allurement kit was in the house, because Bob played. Ritchie noticed it and sat bottomward for a assignment — added about that in a minute.
Another photo has Ritchie continuing abutting to a car at the Munson curb. The final photo has Bob in the beginning walking into his inferior aerial graduation ceremony, Ritchie appropriate abaft him.
The photos were developed in June 1957, according to the brand on the border.
Munson had a Brownie camera, a boxlike archetypal with a congenital beam that was the amateur camera of the era. He thinks he took all the photos except for the one at graduation, which his mother shot.
At the adherence of Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima in the 1990s, Munson brought his photos to appearance Valens’ sisters, whom he hadn’t apparent in about 40 years. He gave them copies and the negatives but kept his originals. Smart man.
Valens, of course, was the beat Chicano rocker who managed to address and almanac “La Bamba,” “Come On, Let’s Go” and “Donna” as a aerial academy green during a career that lasted alone eight months. The 17-year-old died in a baby even blast in Iowa on Feb. 3, 1959, forth with Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and the pilot.
As a fan of 1950s bedrock who happens to awning the Inland Empire, I’ve been captivated to ascertain that Valens performed alert in Pomona, accountable of one contempo column, and that two Pomona Aerial acceptance got to accommodated and account him, accountable of another. To apprehend from addition in Riverside County who had accepted Valens was a kick.
Munson is 79, the aforementioned age Valens would be today. A retired firefighter and baptize bulb operator, Munson has lived out actuality back the mid-1970s.
He and Ritchie met in seventh grade. “We were both 15 years old,” Munson says. Ritchie was active with his mom’s sister in Panorama City because of academy commune boundaries, Munson recalls. They became allotment of a mixed-race accumulation that spent time together.
“We were the asperous kids,” Munson says. “We had our little pack. He aloof affectionate of fit in. We got to talking and he aloof slipped in.”
Sometimes the adolescence would accommodated on a bend “to booty affliction of business, if somebody had to action somebody. It was all affable stuff,” Munson says.
Friendly? He explains dryly: “It was inferior high, we were all active up.”
Ritchie and Bob would appointment anniversary other’s homes and sometimes beddy-bye over. Back Bob went to his part-time job at a sweets shop, he ability accord Ritchie a ride on his scooter. From there Ritchie could airing home.
Bob had a learner’s admittance to drive. He and Ritchie ditched chic on breach with a few added kids to arch out to the beach.
At Ritchie’s aunt’s abode one night, the brace went into the barn at Bob’s instigation, climbed into the uncle’s Packard, which had the keys inside, and took a joyride bottomward the alleyway afore abiding the car. Allegedly no one anytime begin out.
“This is grassroots, area he started: the Packard, ditching school, the girls,” Munson says with a laugh.
He remembers the day at inferior aerial — Jan. 31, 1957 — back two planes comatose in mid-air and some of the accident hit the school’s playground, killing three students. Ritchie was abroad that day at his grandfather’s funeral. Still, Valens abhorred planes afterwards that — although not the one he should accept avoided.
After the graduation ceremony, Bob’s mother took the two boys to lunch. That abatement they entered San Fernando Aerial in Pacoima as freshmen. The apprentice citizenry was a mix of White, Black and Brown, lunchtime fights were accepted and badge were sometimes alleged to breach them up.
“You had to be tough,” Munson says of that aerial school. “Ritchie was tough. He could authority his own in a fight. He was strong.”
Ritchie had alternate to active with his ancestors in Pacoima and the two accompany didn’t see anniversary added as much.
Munson remembers a day in summer 1958 back Ritchie phoned to allure Munson to appear apprehend his aboriginal almanac forth with added friends. Ritchie’s producer, Bob Keane, came to the Valens home with a analysis acute of what was allegedly “Come On, Let’s Go,” which they played as they sat on Ritchie’s bed.
Afterward, Keane asked what they anticipation and if they’d noticed a aberration against the end. He played the almanac again. Nobody in this boyhood focus accumulation could apprehend what Keane heard, so the almanac was appear as it was, Munson recalls. He put a archetype on the jukebox at the sweets boutique area he worked.
The almanac took off, and “after that, Ritchie was gone all the time,” Munson says.
On Feb. 3, 1959, a Tuesday, Bob and some accompany had aloof pulled into a hamburger angle on their cafeteria breach back the radio bankrupt the account about the even crash. In the backseat, a babe called Nancy who had anachronous Ritchie began crying. “That was a asperous day,” Munson says.
He approved to go to the burial that Saturday at St. Ferdinand’s but couldn’t acquisition parking due to the overflow army of added than 1,000. So he followed the hearse to San Fernando Mission cemetery.
“Afterward a agglomeration of us afraid out at his grave and aloof talked about him,” Munson says. “He was a candied guy. My mom admired him. Aloof anticipate if he had lived area he’d be now.”
We alternate to the accountable of the drums.
“My dad accomplished him how to authority the sticks. He best it appropriate up,” Munson says, demonstrating the crossover address at his kitchen table, one wrist over the other. “He had a accent for music.”
Valens allegedly became accomplished on drums, I told Munson. During the blighted Midwest tour, the bagman developed frostbite, so Valens, Holly and a third artist disconnected the boot duties. A photo exists of Valens arena drums abaft Dion and the Belmonts.
“I admiration if that’s what got him to play?” Munson says excitedly, breaking into a abashed smile. “Wouldn’t that be something, if he abstruse to comedy drums from my dad’s kit? I didn’t apperceive that.”
David Allen writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday, which you did know. Email [email protected], buzz 909-483-9339, appointment insidesocal.com/davidallen, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and chase @davidallen909 on Twitter.
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