Tag Archives: East Oakland

born in the usa

Tambo

East Oakland

First six months of my life I lived here. I’m born in Oakland, California. My Portuguese grandfather, a bootlegger, felon, spent four years in Folsom Prison for hawking whiskey in San Leandro on Friday’s at quitting time to Caterpillar Tractor workers. Having served his time when released he built a saloon in the Elmhurst District in East Oakland. Tambo was a landmark at East 14th and 98th Avenue from the time it was built in 1930 until the day it was torn down in 1965.

Mother and Father Oakland Days

My grandfather, Albert Gonsalves was a man of great influence. He was on a first name basis with a young up and coming Alameda County District Attorney by the name of Earl Warren. A saloonkeeper from Elmhurst was a man you want in your corner when the fight starts, and the voting booth is open. My grandfather supported Warren for Governor even if he never fully appreciated his work on the Supreme Court. Once Eisenhower nominated Warren to be Chief Justice it was deemed best to keep his distance from his constituents. No matter my grandfather knew everyone in Alameda County and down at Oakland City Hall.

Albert Gonsalves Proprietor

Tambo’s interior was constructed with philippine mahogany utilizing a method known as glue and dowel. Around the perimeter of the room were smooth curvilinear wooden booths where patrons may have been seated upon deep green leather cushions. Ceiling fans crawled, cigarette smoke and stale beer wreaked. Behind the booze bottles were mirrors giving a patron the sense that the boozing could go on forever. Atop the rear of the bar a twenty foot long aquarium with tropical fish drifted from one end of the bar to the other all the while keeping a sharp eye on the drunks.

Inheritance of the Brawler’s Waltham

In the backroom from the day Tambo opened lived a parrot. Nobody but my grandfather dared handle the surly bird. There was a teller’s booth, where he stood behind bars while workers on Friday’s cashed their paychecks. My grandfather dawning a green eyeshade visor his long sleeved shirt pulled back with garters. His hands were made for counting money, his eyes glinted the glory of how much currency would be left in Tambo by closing time.

My grandfather drove a new car, usually a Packard sometimes a Cadillac. He was a sharp-eyed no-nonsense proprietor happy to do business with his clientele and even happier to toss a rabble rouser out on their ear.

Car Crashes into Entryway

My grandfather was all of 5’4”. Because of slight stature when it came to a brawl, he preferred to use the sneak attack. This short sweet talking harmless barkeep would gently come up beneath a taller man and then without so much as a word of warning thrust his two palms upward slamming them into the lower jaw of his opponent. My grandfather sizing me up determined I was not short enough and that this surefire technique would be of little use to his grandson.

Senator Kamala Harris would have been a challenge for this 19th Century bartender, but her work as San Francisco’s District Attorney, then California’s Attorney General and now Senator would have influenced his judgement. Kamala was born in Oakland one year before Tambo closed. Great leaders have been minted from here. Remember it was Chief Justice Earl Warren that set in motion the end of segregation. So it is that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will once and for all shatter the glass ceiling, removing all barriers. It is a glory to know that Kamala stands two inches shorter than my grandfather. When it comes to a brawl, I’m betting like my grandfather that this woman is better off not being allowed to stand anywhere near the tyrant in the Oval and for good reason. The best of what Oakland has to give to our democracy is soon to be voted into office as Vice President of the United States of America. Drinks are on me