Joseph Delasalas recently turned 90 years old. His story is unique in many ways. His family was the only Filipino-Mexican in Coronado for a long time and the house he lives in was built on the lot where the family home stood. But there is more.
His father Pedro De Las Alas -the name was spelled Delasalas later - was born in 1892 in the island of Luzon, Philippines. Joseph recalls the story of his father Pedro who had been brought up by a grandmother, a very strict woman. Pedro’s mother died when he was still young. His older brother Liberato had moved to San Diego and their father was also somewhere on the West Coast. When Pedro became of age, he decided to find his brother in San Diego. He had no money for a ticket on a ship, so he stowed away on a vessel bound for California. When he arrived he found his brother, but was concerned about being an illegal. Pedro decided to join the U.S. Navy so he could stay in the country legally. He served in the Navy for the last part of World War I.
One story he often told his children was that he was one of the only sailors left on board when the ship was ashore on liberty one time. The captain had brought guests to the ship and the cooks were not around. “He was left to watch the kitchen…finding no cooks on board, in desperation, he asked Dad if he could prepare a quick meal for himself and his guest. Dad described how he took this and that, added seasoning and other items, cooked it, and served it to the captain and his guest. Whatever Dad cooked must have been good, because the captain came back to the kitchen, complimented him and gave him liberty to go ashore,” wrote Joseph’s sister Maria in a family history.
After leaving the Navy, Pedro worked at the Hotel del Coronado as a bus boy eventually becoming the head bus boy.
Joseph’s mother Margarita was born in 1902 and lived in a town 25 miles east of Mexico City. Her sister Otilia was working in the United States for a family from Texas who vacationed in Coronado in the summer. The family rented a house on Isabella Avenue and asked Otilia to bring back someone to help care for her new baby when she went back to Mexico City to see her family. Margarita volunteered to go to the United States.
Pedro and Margarita met in the home of the Villega family in Coronado. They married on March 2, 1929. Joseph was born a year later on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, 1930 - so he was named Joseph rather than Peter after his dad. The couple lived in a small studio behind the Villegas’ house on G Avenue.
The Delasalas were able to buy a property on G Avenue between Third and Fourth with two houses on the lot in 1931 for $2,600 from Mrs. Emily S. Fryer, a widow. The couple made a down payment of $550. The monthly payments of the balance of $2,050 was $20 with an interest rate of 7 percent. At first the family lived in the front house then decided to rent it and moved to the back house. In 1932 Joseph’s sister Otilia, named after Margarita’s sister, was born. She died at 4 years old from a ruptured appendix.
Joseph still remembers how his father worked very hard. Pedro worked all three meals at the hotel and went to work at around 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. He went home during the breaks in between the meals. Pedro usually rode his bike to work, but when it was stolen he had to walk to catch the street car and later took the bus - since the family did not own a car.
When Pedro had bronchitis and became asthmatic, he spent time at the Veteran’s Hospital in Santa Monica. When he came back to Coronado he was still weak and found he no longer had a job at the hotel. He started to work for the Works Progress Administration doing manual labor. By 1939 he got a job at the Officer’s Club at North Island as a bus boy. After a few years the couple felt they had enough money to support more children. Emily was born in 1941, and Maria in 1943.
After the war, Pedro was laid off because of a reduction of the work force and he was hired at the Hotel del Coronado as a dishwasher. Joseph recalls working as a dishwasher at the hotel for the summer from 1945 to 1949, a job his father had found for him.
Joseph recalls when his parents went out with friends, he had to stay home and babysit. He was 11 years older than his next sibling.
Other memories include Coronado and its many empty lots where he and his friends played. They even created a clubhouse once by digging a big hole, covered it with wood and used a candle for lighting. Joseph and his friends also made spears and went spear fishing at the Ferry Landing. The beach was not as wide as it is today and he remembers during storms the waves crash on the rocks during high tide.
Joseph was on the track team at Coronado High School (CHS) and won many ribbons. His father often brought the ribbons to work to show his friends. “I remember one summer when I was working at the North Island Officer’s Cub, dad and a Filipino warrant officer whose son, also worked at the club, wanted to know whose son ran the fastest. The warrant officer was always bragging about his son’s athletic abilities and being fast. The son was a year or two older than I. All the workers were betting amongst themselves, The race was run one afternoon during the break between lunch and dinner. The distance was about 50-60 yards. I made dad happy and proud that day, because I won the race,” wrote Joseph.
Pedro died at the age of 56 from cancer due to him being an avid smoker. After her husband’s death Margarita was worried she was going to lose the house and couldn’t make the payments. She cleaned homes to make a living and she went to work crying one day. Margarita worked for Mrs. Darbelly, who had once been a waitress at the Del, and her husband who was a cook at the hotel. The couple had known Pedro well. Mrs. Darbelly saw her crying and found out about the payments. By that time, the balance on the house was $500. Mrs. Darbelly said she would help. She met with the owner of the house and paid the rest of the mortgage. Joseph and his sisters don’t know if their mother paid the amount back or if it was a gift.
Going to San Diego on the ferry was something the family did to buy groceries.
In high school Joseph played football and basketball and was on the track team. He tested positive for tuberculosis and was not able to play sports during this junior and senior years. He graduated from CHS in 1949.
Joseph remembers many of the pranks he and his friends played around town. “One girl had a small car. We would lift it up and put it on the steps of the school,” he said.
Joseph also has memories of placing smoke bombs on the school grounds. He and a few friends from high school still keep in touch and his family says that when they talk on the phone they reminisce for hours. More pranks included opening the side doors of the movie theatre and letting in about 50 kids in.
Joseph has many memories of going to the Brickyard Cove on the Strand, to drink beer and hang out with other boys. One night coming back from the cove, he was the designated driver and the police stopped the car because a tail light was out. Somehow empty bottles of beer crashed on the ground and the officer was alerted to the fact the the boys had been drinking. He told them to follow him to the station. Once there, the officer said he would call the boys’ parents so they could get picked up. Fortunately Joseph had not been drinking that night and was sent home. His mother, who was very strict, would have been mad at him. “I could imagine her getting dressed and walking down to the police station,” he said.
When Joe was in high school, he studied in the garage where he kept his record player and record collection. His sisters liked to peek inside and see what he was doing.
Joseph didn’t date in high school. “I was self conscious and didn’t have a car. When I was a freshman I had a double date with someone who had a car. I didn’t date until I joined the Marian Club,” he said.
Joseph was drafted in the Army during the Korean War but was stationed stateside. When he returned home his mother and his sisters were still living in the back house which was a one bedroom. Joseph helped them financially by paying the mortgage and utility bills. In 1959 the back house was rebuilt and the family moved in while renting the front house.
Joseph met Dorothy Filippone at one of the clubs he belonged to called the Friday Club, a Catholic singles club. Joseph had asked Dorothy out a few times but she had always said no. At that time Joseph was a member of the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce and as part of helping the community he and the others had to take an underprivileged child to the zoo for the day. When he was assigned a girl instead of a boy he was unsure of what to do if she asked to go to the restroom. He thought of a solution. He asked Dorothy to go with him to help out with the girl. After that day they started dating and later got married in 1968. They had two daughters, Lisa born in 1970 and Renee in 1971.
After graduating from high school Joseph attended San Diego State University first studying engineering, then accounting. It was thanks to accounting that he worked in aeronautics his entire career first for Convair, then McDonnell Douglas and Rohr. While working for Rohr he and his family lived in Italy for three years. Joseph has lived most of his life in Coronado with the exception of the time his work took him to Italy, El Centro, and Long Beach. In 1985, Joseph built the new front house where he and his wife still live.
“He became our surrogate father when he was 19 years of age; in essence, he was my father figure for 17 years, I know that Daddy, on his deathbed, said that he was now the head of the family…he (Jospeh) took it to heart. He has been a strong influence in my life and I know that Mommy and Daddy are very proud of their son,” wrote Maria.