Ignacio "Nacho" Perez sits on a bench dedicated to his parents, Ramon and Lola, at St. John Bosco Church.

Ignacio “Nacho” Perez sits on a bench in the patio of St. John Bosco Church, in East Highland. The bench is dedicated to his parents Ramon and Lola.

Ignacio “Nacho” Perez’ family are some of the founding members of the East Highland community.

Perez and other residents liken their Ranchito as a place of solace and family.

That sentiment still resonates today.

Perez was an altar server from 1945 to 1952.

Although Perez lives in Redlands now, he still attends church at St. John Bosco.

He attended the local schools when growing up.

As a child and teen, Perez used to pick oranges alongside the adult pickers.

“I love to pick oranges,” Perez said. “A lot of people hated it. There’s nothing else here but picking oranges.”

Perez’ father, Ramon, landed a job irrigating the groves and worked year-round, according to Perez.

“I was a good picker,” Perez.

Perez made $10 a day when he picked.

“I could do this all my life,” Perez said with a laugh. “They used to call us rats, when we were five and six-years old.”

The “rats” would pick the oranges from the bottom parts of the trees.

“When you got older, they gave you a sack, a ladder and then they gave you a social security number,” Perez said. “At 15, I could get my own four tree set. I was a pretty good picker. I was making a lot of money.”

Perez picked oranges with his Uncle Francisco Perez, his father’s brother, in all the groves close to East Highland.

“I’d pick all around here, from the Village all the way up. There was nothing but orange groves.”

Perez worked for the East Highland Orange Company.

To pass the time, Perez would sing with his fellow workers in the groves.

The idea of family was the common thread that connected the families of East Highland.

“At that time, we thought we were all one family. We had different last names, but we’re all one family. You’re my cousin. No, I’m not,” laughed Perez.

For fun, the children mostly played baseball in East Highland.

“The older kids played football,” Perez said. “They would get hurt, because there was no equipment to put on. They would just go out there and rough it.

“How ‘bout you Nacho, not me,” Perez said.

Perez preferred basketball. He used to play basketball at Cram School with the custodian.

“He liked basketball, so I’d go and play basketball with him,” Perez said. “Just give me the ball, I’ll make it. I was a good shot, outside the rim, middle, back shots. I could do it.

Perez called himself a set shooter. His feet had to be planted for him to shoot a basket. He also liked doing lay-ups when playing basketball.

Perez recalls the houses being made of simple wood on a small slab of cement.

“I think there are still two houses like that,” Perez said. “That’s the way all of our houses were. Our house, and my house was like that too.

“The more kids we had in the family, he had to build another room.

There were seven children in the family.

“The two girls had their own room, and the boys had to sleep wherever they could find a place to lay down.”

Perez has enjoyed his life in El Ranchito of East Highland.

The moniker seemed to have originated in the 1960s, according to Perez.

He has plenty of fond memories of the family and friends that have shared his life in El Ranchito.

He will always call it his home.

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