Historic Alvarado Building restored in Weed, memories shared
“We didn’t find this building; it found us!” So says Donna Winger about the Historic Alvarado Building she and her husband Clint bought and remodeled after the Boles Fire.
The building was used after the fire for helping people who lost their homes and needed supplies. Donna volunteered after the fire and got to know the building.
The Historic Alvarado Building is named for the Alvarado family, Phil and Juanita (Juanie), who lived there with their five girls after buying it from Joe Mussolino in 1949. Their daughters, Sarah, Linda, Lia, Amelia and Gloria grew up in the building.
Donna Winger, a Weed City Planning Commissioner and Weed Chamber Board member. said she and Clint hired all local businesses to renovate the building. It has new paint, flooring, roofing and siding, among other things.
Three of Phil and Juanita Alvarado’s five daughters, Amelia (Mel) Borcalli of Weed, and twins Lia Camann and Linda Black, both of Redding, attended a dedication for the building June 3.
They were happy and overcome with gratitude, Mel wrote, “for the beautiful tribute they paid to our parents.”
The building has framed photos and a history of the building and Alvarado family in the hallway.
Phil’s youngest brother, Pete Alvarado of Weed, also attended the dedication, as did many other family members and friends.
This building housed Phil’s Market for a long time, as many Weed residents remember.
Phil and Juanita Alvarado met and married in Mount Shasta in the 1940s. He enlisted in the Army, “but was discharged early to care for his growing family,” according to the story posted on the wall in the hallway.
Phil was a “very talented and innovative young man,” Mel wrote in an email. He was always thinking about ways to help people.
“He began to sell groceries out of a big box truck that he purchased for a few hundred dollars,” wrote Mel. It was 1948, and he called it Phil’s Mobile Market.
“He ran a grocery route by going to all the home bound ladies and young moms,” Mel wrote. “Women didn’t drive in those days, so Phil’s Mobile Market was a real blessing to all of them. They didn’t have to wait for their husbands to come home to go shopping.”
Watching Phil’s truck drive up her street as a little girl and getting to climb up to see what he brought was the highlight of her week, said one lady at the dedication.
Phil drove his truck to much of Siskiyou County: Weed, McCloud and Dunsmuir, and to “people living in the railroad section camps in McCloud, Mt. Hebron, Bartle, Tennant and any railroad section camps he could find” to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, canned foods and milk.
Pete Alvarado, Phil’s youngest brother, sold striped watermelons in Tennant once a week, following his brother over there with a pickup truck filled with them. He sold them for 50 cents a piece and sold out each week. Some people bought two or three each week, he said.
In 1949, Phil bought the grocery store with a house in back, and moved his family in. They all worked in the store, even the youngest, Gloria, who was sent out front to tap dance and sing for the customers.
As the store became busier, their father kept “taking pieces of the house” for the store, until all five girls were in one bedroom, Mel said.
“We had a wonderful family, and worked together,” said the eldest daughter, Sarah Galewick in the posted story.
“We learned people skills, discipline, and how it felt to just work hard, in the best way possible, with family,” Mel wrote. “We didn’t know how much we had and how much we learned until we were gone.”
Since Phil and Gloria were each the eldest of eight children, they had plenty of family in the area to help when Phil decided he wanted a full basement underneath the now-expanded store.
When Mel spoke of this at the dedication, someone called from the audience that it was because he wanted a bathroom!
Even the dog was a female, Phil was known to say.
He gathered brothers and cousins and they dug it by hand, hauling bucket after bucket of dirt until a basement the size of the building was created, Mel said.
Pete Alvarado started digging the basement with his brother and family.
“When we first started, we just made a hole and started with a wheelbarrow,” he said. “We called him Mr. John. We used to say, ‘I want to go to Mr. John.’”
Phil had an idea to start a tortilla-making factory in the basement. Juanita made tortillas and the family sold tortillas to stores and customers throughout the county and as far south as Redding, Mel said.
Juanita and one of her daughters started making and selling Mexican dinners through a window in the side of the store.
“Customers loved it and talk about it to this day,” Mel wrote.
Neighborhood and family kids also came to help out at the store for some of Juanita’s good cooking, Mel wrote.
“Dad would also pay them with a free candy bar or bottle of soda pop,” when they went home, Mel said.
Phil’s nephew and namesake, Phil Alvarado, also helped at the store and was always in trouble for not rotating the stock, he said at the dedication. His Uncle Phil would stand over him and point at him to pull the older stuff to the front.
“I always got caught,” he said.
Anna Gubetta Volf remembers being sent to the store on her bicycle for bread and milk starting in the third grade. She cycled to the store for her mother until she graduated from College of the Siskiyous.
The entire family is grateful for the loving care the Wingers have put into restoring the building, Mel said. “We never thought in a million years that we would ever go into that building and be so proud of it. We know God will bless Clint and Donna in all their future endeavors. They will always be in our thoughts and prayers.”