Albert Alvarado was born 1932 and raised in National City. He lived on 1515 Cleveland Avenue, one of the last streets on the west side, also known as Old Town National City. He was the middle child and had three siblings: Lorenza, Guadalupe and Mary Helen.
The Railroads Brought His Parents To National City
Albert’s father was Jose Maria Alvarado (b. 1899 in Monterey, Mexico). His parents brought him to Texas during the Mexican Revolution when Jose was only twelve years old. Tragically, they left him with compadres and never came back. Nothing was known about what happened toJose’s parents, but it was assumed that they were killed during the Mexican Revolution.
The compadres lived in a box car in a small town called Cameron, Texas.Jose attended school there and then began to work for the railroads. In 1924,Jose came to National City, getting a job with the Santa Fe Railroad Company.
Albert explains that his father became an American citizen and he could make himself understood in English, but most of the time he spoke Spanish because the majority of those working on the railroads were Spanish-speaking. While at the railroad company, Jose became good friends with another railroad worker, Frank Roman. When Frank was badly injured on the job, he was taken to the hospital and on his death bed asked Jose to marry his sixteen year old daughter, so she would not be alone. Jose agreed.
He married Maria Roman (b. 1919 in Winslow, Arizona) although Jose was twenty years her senior. After Maria married, she started to work at the tuna cannery like so many other women who lived on the west side. Meanwhile, Jose spent the rest of his life working for the railroads in one capacity or another. He lived to be 102 years old.
Albert Was One Of The First At Kimball Elementary
In second and third grade, Albert attended what was known as the “Green House School.” It was an old wooden building located on 16th and Roosevelt. Then another “Green House School” opened at McKinley and 16th.
In fourth grade Albert attended Kimball Elementary when it opened and became part of the first graduating class in 1945. Kimball Elementary was specifically built for the children who lived on the west side. He went on to National Junior High and then Sweetwater High School.
Albert recalls how his father Jose had passes to travel anywhere he wanted precisely because he worked on the railroad. Often the family would go visit Jose’s compadres in Cameron, Texas. Albert remembers that he went to the municipal swimming pool in Cameron and he ended up having to run for his life because he wasn’t supposed to be there. He explained that it was a day “For Whites Only” and as a “Mexican” he wasn’t allowed to swim. He also remembers having to get his food from a little window outside a particular restaurant because “Indians, Mexicans and Blacks” were not allowed to eat inside. This startled him because he didn’t experience this kind of discrimination in National City. On the other hand, as a child growing up in National City on the west side, Albert did remember that trucks would come around and if people were out on the street, the INS would ask for proof of citizenship. If they didn’t have their papers, they would be on the truck and headed towards the border, deported.
California American Water Company & Political Work
In the summer before his senior year — in 1950 — Albert landed a job with California American Water Company. Instead of returning to school immediately, he got married and went to night school, becoming the president of the night school class. He continued to work for Cal American while the company sent him to City College Vocational School.
Albert explains that he started in the trenches, in the ditches, digging the pipelines for homes. In 1950 hundreds of homes were going up in Chula Vista, particularly on L Street and Albert laid the water pipes alongside about 100 employees or more. In the 1970’s Albert began representing the employees and asked management for higher wages. When management said ‘no,’ Albert went to the union who assured him that his job was protected. But in 1974 Albert was fired for his union activities after 24 years working with the company.
Thereafter, Albert worked many jobs, including in construction and for the Sweetwater School District. Within a few years, he found a new passion: public service. He ran the campaign for Kyle Morgan and fought for the merging of the water company into a public entity. (Cal American had been a private company, which became the Sweetwater Authority that today serves much of the South Bay’s water needs.) Throughout the campaign, Albert started to get to know many people in San Diego county. Eventually, Jim Bates, a Supervisor at the County of San Diego, asked Albert to run his campaign. He accepted and when Bates won in 1980, Albert began working for the County.
After working for Jim Bates, Albert went on to work for Bob Filner who was a San Diego City Councilman in 1990 and then Albert continued working for him when he became a Congressman in 1992, gaining the title of Special Assistant to the Congressman in the satellite Chula Vista office. He worked for Bob Filner from 1990 to 2012.
In addition, Albert started the first girls softball league in National City (1970) as well as the first T-ball for his grandsons. In 1978 the City of National City asked Albert to do an event for the 100 year Centennial. He was on the Park and Recreation Committee at the time. He created a goodwill tournament with 15 and under boy baseball players from Mexico and Japan. This launched a traveling international baseball team, San Diego Team USA, which still exists today. The boys on the team have been able to play in Japan, Italy, Australia, Mexico, and Brazil. Over a dozen kids have gone on to the major league. Many others have also received scholarships to nice colleges.
Albert married Rosalie Gonzales Alvarado. (They have been married for 67 years.) They had two children, Larry Albert Alvarado who became a principal for Greg Rogers Elementary in the Chula Vista School District. Their daughter, Mona Rios, was born in 1953 and also went to Kimball Elementary. When her parents bought a new home in 1964, she transferred to Lincoln Acres Elementary. She went on to Granger Junior High School and then Sweetwater Union High School, She is a product of the MAAC project because Roger Cazares was instrumental in beginning her career when he helped to get her an interview with San Diego Unified School District. She started working at Fairmont Elementary School in the library, which started her 25 year career in the library field.
Mona Rios says of her father that there were always people knocking on his door asking for help. Albert would act as a mediator, promising parents he would talk to principals or help advocate for community members in many other ways. He also was an active member of the rotary club and continues to be an active member of the Lion’s Club.
(Interview: December 14, 2016)