Ramon De Alba was the first of 13 children in his family. When he was 9, circumstances required that he become man of the house. His sister Maria commented that her brother was always a hard worker and very responsible. “He was always helping our mother, and we relied on him for any family problems.”
In 1984, Ramon and his uncle
Lupe came to California. When riding his bicycle in their Cambria neighborhood, a lady who lived down the street would speak to him. But not knowing English, he didn’t understand what she wanted. It turned out that she owned Creekside Gardens and wanted to hire him as a dishwasher. He was 14.
Twenty-six years later, he owns this very popular restaurant. He and Elena married in 1990. Denep was born the following year; Laisha came along in 2003. Denep graduated from Coast Union High School in 2009 and is preparing for a career as a lawyer.
Today, Aug. 7, 2010, is indeed a very special day. Another chapter was added to the De Alba family history book when 7-year-old Laisha worked her first day as a hostess at her father’s restaurant. When I arrived around 11 in the morning, the restaurant was nearly filled with customers on this sun-washed Saturday. Laisha was walking hurriedly back and forth from the dining room and patio with a number of menus in her hand. I have kidded her for years that it’s about time she worked for a living. The time had come.
As each customer entered, Laisha quickly greeted them with a smile and a menu. A few minutes later, her mother brought her a small burrito and placed it on the table next to the front door. With her back to the door, and as she struggled to slice her breakfast into smaller bites, she was alert to the sound of the screen door opening. She would rise from her seat and hand a menu to those entering the establishment. If dishes needed to be cleared, she did that and then wiped down the table.
As soon as customers took a seat, Laisha quickly asked what they wanted to drink and then passed the order on to Mom. It didn’t take long for delighted customers to call the beautiful child with the dark, curly hair to their table. With broad smiles, several people slipped a dollar into her small hand and thanked her for the good service. When she then walked away, father Ramon quickly reminded her to say “thank you.”
Ramon allowed his daughter to refill my coffee cup; it was the first time ever that she had done such a thing. I will remember it for the rest of my life.
I can’t express how much I admire the De Alba family. To start as a dishwasher at 14 and then eventually own the place years later is what America was founded on –working hard and accepting responsibility.
E-mail John Brannon at firstname.lastname@example.org