Excerpts from My Life In Old San Juan
by Mary Velasco Sellen
Recorded, transcribed, compiled and edited by Frances Tompkins
Mary Sellen between her sisters
“San Juan Chickens”
(Mary moved to San Juan Bautista, California, in 1922 at the age of 2.)
You know I got a group of chickens that come to my yard. It used to be three roosters and three hens. Now it’s two roosters and two hens. I guess some people have been noticing that they’ve been fed real good! So maybe they’re eating them…which is alright, cause they run wild all over. But you know our city council, the first thing that they have on the agenda is the chickens.
I don’t think that a chicken…of course dogs could be dangerous because they could bite people…but chickens. They fly away when you get near them or when they get used to you they come begging for you to feed them. But now they got a situation where if they catch somebody feeding them, they are gonna charge two hundred dollars. I always said that if they catch me feeding the chickens, I’m gonna let them arrest me; I’m not gonna pay no two hundred dollars. And can you imagine me being in jail, an old lady being in jail and somebody comes up to me and says, “And what are you in here for?” I’ll turn around and say, “I was just feeding the chickens.” That’s no crime, you know.
The old city council was more united with the people of San Juan. It was Al Burnett, George Abbe, Frank Abbe, Mister Archibald, Fred Kemp Sr…and all those people were more united then the city council there is now. At least they would mingle with the rest of the people. They were very united with us and they al- ways kept up to see what the town needed and all that. Of course there wasn’t too many people to keep it up. At that time there was very little money so they couldn’t do the things they had to, but still, they were very concerned. I don’t see any of the city council now go around and see if the sidewalks are good or the streets are good or the buildings are in good shape. They only come and meet at the city hall maybe once a month or twice a month. And what do they do? The first thing is the complaints about the chickens. Those poor chickens doesn’t hurt anybody. They ask for something to eat, so we feed them. Why not? It’s part of our town. We have a few chickens that like to run around, and look how many kids live in the city that don’t know what a chicken or a cow is. And when they come into town, as you saw yesterday…how many buses were there in town? There was six big buses. Even though it was raining, the plaza was loaded with kids and they all were chasing the chickens and you know they’re wild, they won’t let you get them. And look at these ladies that are going around town looking at the buildings and see that they need repairs. I don’t see any city councilman going around.
They meet and they fight… and the chickens. It’s really sad.