When I was a little girl…by Denise Lapp Tallman


When I was a little girl, I kid you not, I used to play office.  For some reason, my mother used to give me her old deposit slips and scratch pads and bits and pieces of papers to play with.  (Now that I think about it, that was a strange thing to do mom!)  At a young age, about 6 years old, I liked to be in charge of an office I dreamed up in my head, with LOTS of paperwork.  I guess I had a hard time coming up with the type of office exactly I worked for, but eventually I settled on either a car dealership or a shoe store like Cassidy’s in downtown Hanford.

I would sit at a little table in my bedroom with pencils, a stapler, stamps and stamp pads (come to think of it, these all probably came from my mom and her bookkeeping jobs, too) and lots of types of papers.  I had no idea what the heck I was doing, but I would come up with a certain ritual for the sale of a car.  Three types of papers, write on them, stamp them HARD to make a lot of noise like I was very busy, staple a bunch together, make little piles. As I recall, I always made a deposit slip for everything, something I must have learned from watching my mom pay bills and get her banking together.

I do remember going to Bank of America in downtown Hanford all the time. In fact, at one point she used to work there.  (It’s so weird how I can’t remember what you just said but I can remember all these details from 49 years ago.) Perhaps this is where I got the idea of stacking and stamping lots of papers.  (For all you young ones – this was before computers and debit cards so it was ALL tons and tons of paperwork that had to be balanced by each teller, with only her little head. Imagine that!)

So, playing office was one of my forms of entertainment.  I suppose I cannot be too upset today when my job as an Exec. Asst. for a non-profit deals with tons and tons of stacks of paper.  My latest mass mailing was over 300 pieces.  I seem to be very organized and adept at this sport of paper pushing.  Do I thank my Mom for inspiring me?  Or was I born with this nifty talent? Pisces are not supposed to be necessarily organized and good at any type of paperwork.  Pisces are best known for their drama, creativity and dreaming.  Somehow, I have found a way to live with both sides of my brain working together.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.

When I was a little girl, Hanford California seemed like a boring, boring, boring place.  I dreamed of living with the movie stars and living out those fabulous exciting lives in a big city.  But Hanford did have some true one-of-a-kind places you can never forget.  All my classmates from Hanford High will quickly agree about these:

The singularly most important place in Hanford, CA still exists today!  Superior Dairy!  All our celebrations in town ended with a Superior Dairy sundae and every hot night in the summer ended with a trip to the take-out counter for one of their cones you still cannot believe you are supposed to eat all of.  Superior Dairy is famous for their HUMONGOUS scoops.  I promise you, you must believe me, do not ever order a 3 scoop on a cone.  Just be reasonable and get it in a cup.  One scoop of ice cream takes the high school kids working at the counter, all their muscle, digging out about a pint of ice cream all piled high and pushed to look like only one massive scoop.  It takes them a long time to build a cone at Superior Dairy.  And it begins melting immediately, before you have paid.

Was there really a question how we all learned in our generation famous tongue action?  We are award-winning lickers and could have won huge trophies if anyone ever thought to give us one for this kind of determined tongue activity.  Every young child, as early as 2, is taught how to lick an ice cream cone in Hanford, CA.  It’s part of our heritage.  So many kids born in colder climates simply have no idea how to eat an ice cream cone.  They think ice cream comes on a spoon.

Now I remember as a high school student making fun of the waitresses at Superior Dairy.  They never seemed to smile, no matter how funny we knew we were.  Looking back, I bet we were not funny at all.  And a bunch of loud rambunctious kids thinking they are a laugh a minute must have been truly very trying for those poor waitresses.

But the best time of all to obtain some Superior Dairy ice cream was whenever I was sick.  My mother always came home from work with a chocolate milkshake for me.  It was a miracle drug!  Here is how I remember it:

THE CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE

Sick.

In bed.

Fever.  No food.

Lots of covers.

Mom calls from her job

What can she bring me to feel better?

“A chocolate milkshake

from Superior Dairy.”

She decides this is ok

I lay there waiting

Salivating.  Dreaming.  Swallowing.

I fall into real sleep finally

while waiting.

Then, Tootsie barks, keys in

the front door.  I lay in

anticipation of my one great love;

icy cold smooth chocolate

homemade rich creamy

ice cream made with

chocolate liquor for flavor.

I await.

In comes the prized pink and white

striped paper cup and lid and straw.

I feign my dire illness.

I take the cup in a

prone position and in order

to show Mom just how

sick I am,

I tip the cup back to

my head while I am

lying on the pillow.

The lid falls off.

I lie there with an

empty straw in my

mouth and milkshake

all over my neck

and chest and bed.

My mother is not amused.

And I cry.  Because I

will not get a second

milkshake tonight.

To this day, when I am back anywhere near Hanford, I drag everyone with me to Superior Dairy.  The rest of the town could disappear, but as long as I can get my cone stacked precisely with chocolate on the bottom and orange sherbert on top, then I will never forget my childhood.  And as far as memories go, my mother’s favorite ice cream was maple walnut, a flavor not found anywhere else but Superior Dairy.  I like to dine on this sweet nutty flavor to feel closer to my mom sometimes. Now those are great memories.

When I was growing up I can only remember one shoe store and it was on our main street which was not called main street, instead it was 7th Avenue. Anyway, the shoe store was Cassidy’s.  Unfortunately, I have very sad stories relating to Cassidy’s.  It was so sad I actually wrote a poem about it long ago as therapy.  Here it is:

THE FIRST TIME I FELT UGLY

My reflection at 13 was a Circus mirror

of huge and exploding breasts,

a wiggly valentine-shaped butt

and a bumpy oozing inquiring face framed by

long auburn Phyllis Diller frizzy hair.

All of which could be fixed so I hugged

myself and began the long process of

learning to love myself.

However, I could not change one thing

in the Looking Glass.  And that was the

submarine sandwich sized feet that carried

the rest of me into a room.  They were just big

enough to leave me no choice in

Cassidy’s Shoe Store on Main Street.

It was awesome that I always entered

the air-conditioned store with the highest belief

that this time my size would be available in

the latest fashions.

The shoeman sat on the little silver stool

and placed my big foot between his legs on the

black rubber escalator pad.  And every damn time

he sadly  announced I was a size 10

and that they had very little in those larger sizes.

But he kindly sat between my legs in his

polyester lime green leisure suited legs

and tried to help me stuff my foot

into the shoes I has seen in

Seventeen Magazine and on Marsha Brady.

I was willing to die for the white knee-high

boots with fringe all around the top.

And we pushed and jammed my ankles and toes

until I gave up in tears.  My mother told

him to bring me a pair of “these”

holding up a horrible pair of

black sandals with chunky heels

and a duplicate of ones my grandmother owned.

Then I would leave

like one of Cinderella’s step sisters,

a shoe box neatly tied with

string under my arm and a very young

heart filled with disappointment.

That was the first time

I ever felt ugly.

When I was a little girl, over half a century ago now, (does that thought disturb you fellow Hanford High Classmates?) every single birthday and anniversary and holiday had to have a cake from Maccagno’s Bakery.  (It may be of psychological interest to note so many of my memories revolve around food – was it the constant dieting my mom had me on?)  For years, I would take new friends from other towns to Maccagnos’, to proudly show them the wedding cake book of photos which displayed my first wedding cake when I married Joe Maciel.  It was used as a display cake in their album because we had over 250 people to feed and this cake was gigantic!  Unwieldy!  And my colors were pink and blue – my mother was right – absolutely ghastly colors.  YUCK!  That was one ugly cake looking back on it.  But heh, I was only 21 years old.

However, my real love at Maccagnos Bakery, besides the soft squishy fresh French Bread, is their chocolate thumbprint cookies.  My closest friends and my son Dustin Paul,  will all stop at Maccagno’s Bakery on the way to visit me, and bring me 2-3 pounds of these awesome cookies.  When I finally get that cupcake tatoo on my rear end, I’m adding a chocolate thumbprint cookie too.  I just decided.

And finally, keeping with the running food theme – where were YOU the night Rubalcaba’s burned to the ground?  This could so be a song – “the night Rubalcaba’s burned to the ground.”  (Was it Rubalcava or Rubalcaba?)

Well, my first husband Joe Maciel and I were sitting right there inside the restaurant.  We were starving.  It was a long wait to be seated.  We were sipping margaritas.  I was salivating for my huge tostada I was expecting to smother with their little squeeze bottle of french dressing – something no other Mexican restaurant I have ever visited has offered.  As I recall we were with friends or family members.  People began to notice a smokey smell, but we chalked it  up to something had been burned in the busy kitchen.  Finally, swinging doors brought us our waitress with her arms lined with our hot plates.  “Be careful, it’s hot” they always said when they placed our food in front of us.  JUST as we picked up our forks to take a bite, people began to scream “Fire!”  “Get out of here”.  Now the fire was in the roof so no one could actually see any danger yet.  It seemed a little hysterical to jump up and run.  I figured it would be a little kitchen fire that needed a fire extinguisher.  We’d be back to our tables to finish eating in no time!  Ah hell, we got up to leave.  Joe suggested we all pick up our hot plates and take the food outside to eat it while we waited.  But I did not want anyone to think we were thieves, and flatly refused.  “Leave it” I proclaimed.  “We’ll be right back!”

Those of you who lived in Hanford at the time know what tragically happened that night.  The fire was throughout the roof and Rubalcaba’s quickly burned to the ground.  Not only did we never get to finish our dinner that night, but it would have been our LAST dinner because they did not rebuild. Oh, if only I had listened to Joe and taken my plate outside to eat.  Dang!   I am salivating still remembering those tostadas.

I have to give tons of credit to my ex-husband who sent me home that evening, but he stayed, working all night long to help the firemen put out the fire. He is always there for others.  Dustin – you should forward this to your Dad to read!  He was a hero that night!  (Dustin and I above)

I have so many more memories of Hanford, CA.  Turns out, it must not have been such a boring, boring, boring place to grow up afterall!!  If someone could just find me some knee-high boots with fringe that fit, and a pound of Maccagno’s thumbprint cookies I’d be in heaven right now.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I loved this! Brought back so many great memories!

  2. Thank you so much Leslie. Everyone is supplying memories now at the facebook page “you know you are from Hanford, CA when….”

  3. Thank you for writing this, I happened across while do a web search for Rubalcava’s. I spend a large part of my childhood living in and around Hanford. I actually worked at Maccagno’s Bakery while in high school and spent many a hot day sitting in Superior Dairy eating a bowl of Maple Walnut. I now live in Washington State, and even after all these years I can still clearly envision sitting in Rubalcava’s with my parents squirting French Dressing on my Tostada. I have been making them myself the same way since and every time I do I wonder whatever happened to that place, thanks to the internet and your Blog I now know. What year did it burn down? I also read some interesting articles on the Imperial Dynasty Restaurant, I remember it was pretty famous also. Thanks again

    • wow – I never knew anyone else was eating their tostada’s with french dressing like me! That’s terrific. So glad to hear from you! (Oh the fire was around 1976-77 remembering from when I was married the first time)


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