Paulie Torres

Paul (Paulie) Torres was born 1934 in San Diego. He was born at home on Pacific and Cedar Street.

His mother was Frances Romero Torres (b. 1898 in San Diego). Francis was raised in San Diego and went to San Diego schools. Both her parents were from Mexico. Although Paulie didn’t know his grandfather, he did know his grandmother, Ramona Romero who was from La Paz, Mexico. Both of her parents were Spaniards. Paulie doesn’t know under what circumstances Ramona’s parents immigrated to Mexico, but a wave of Spanish immigrants did come during the Porfirio Diaz regime.

Paul’s father was Diego Torres (b. 1898 in Altata, Mexico) Paulie didn’t know who Diego’s parents were or how Diego came to the United States. Diego married Frances even though she already had six children from another marriage. Diego took on and raised all 12 children as his own. He also insisted on only speaking Spanish with his children and would scold them if they spoke English to him.

Paul went to Washington Elementary and Fremont Elementary, then Dana Junior High School and Memorial Jr. High School, and finally San Diego High School. After high school Paulie started out as a tuna fisherman at the age of eighteen. His older brother was a fisherman and Paulie would go with him. He did that for about 2 1/2 years and then went with his father to work as a longshoreman.

He recalls that around eighty to ninety percent of the men were of Mexican descent. He would speak English and Spanish on the job depending on who he was talking to. He got the job because his father, his cousins and uncles all were longshoremen. For 42 years Paulie loaded and unloaded ships. The cargo could be anything, which is what made the work so exciting. Each day a different ship would come in and need to be unloaded of its boxes, steel, cars, suits, nuts. All kinds of items. Eventually, some of Paulie’s children also worked down at the docks as longshoremen.

For several years Paulie was also President of the Longshoreman Union. Active as an organizer, he met Cesar Chavez when he came to speak to the longshoreman and Louis Weinstock, the head of the Longshoreman union in California and also known to be a Communist.

From The New York Times:

Louis Weinstock, a New York labor union official in the 1930’s and 40’s who was also a leader of the Communist Party in the United States for more than half a century, died on Saturday at the Brookside Healthcare Center in Redlands, Calif. He was 91 and lived in Hemet, Calif.

Mr. Weinstock had been a member of the central board of the Communist Party of the United States, business manager of The Daily Worker and head of the painters’ union in New York City.

With 12 other Communists, Mr. Weinstock was imprisoned in 1955 for 27 months for his 1953 conviction of conspiring under the Smith Act to teach and advocate the overthrow of the United States Government. The Smith Act was later repealed. In 1957, after completing his prison sentence, Mr. Weinstock received a hero’s welcome at a Communist Party rally at Carnegie Hall.

As a young man, Paulie would go down to the Mazatlan carnival every year and this is where he met his current wife, Maria AuroraTorres. He brought her over to the United States and they married in 1956.

Upon retirement, Paulie also became a sculptor. He bought alabaster and steatite rocks from a woman in Escondido and began carving with a file and chisel. He explains, “It’s not something you learn, it’s something you just have. I didn’t have to learn anything. I just started carving with a file.”

(Interview: June 22, 2016)

Poli Torres

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