If we go do something easy, heck, anybody can do it then. We want to do something that’s difficult. And we did. We make a lot of dreams come true everyday. But the best part of everything is all the friends we have made throughout. I wouldn’t have half the friends if I hadn’t done that. (slow music) – I fell in love with lowriders from a very young age. My first lowrider was a 49 Chevy four door. I worked all summer at a packing house to save up 300 dollars to buy it, and that was my first lowrider. I’ve always been a lowrider at heart. (slow music) My car is a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan, that’s a fast back model. It’s painted midnight blue. It’s got 16 inch wheels, stock hubcaps. I added the fender skirts to it and the sun visor. It’s the original 216 engine, six volt battery system. The interior is original. It’s got a wood grain interior on the dash and the window frames. The fabric is a light brown mohair. The headliner is new, it was replaced. I’ve done nothing to the car except paint it and re-chrome everything. Basically, it’s original. I’ve had the car 23 years.
I bought it from the nephew of the original owner. He had bought it off the showroom in 1948. It has not been in the condition you see it now. About two years ago my wife and I decided we’re gonna bring it back and here it is. – We’ve always had the love of these old cars. You just get a special warm feeling when you’re in those cars. You feel like you’re on top of the world when you’re in a lowrider.
My favorite part about the car is the memories that it brings to us. We used to take the car out and take all the kids out, we’d go have dinner and it was a lot of fun ’cause it was a family thing. We’d get together and go. Turn a lot of heads, say hi to a lot of people. It was fun. (slow music) I was born in Fullerton, California. My dad was a veteran. He came home severely wounded. Lucky that he was able to come home.
My mother was a stay at home mom. She stayed home and just took care of us. A good mom and dad that taught us how to behave. A lot of discipline. We never went to bed hungry. I was very fortunate. – I was born in a little Yaqui village named Guadalupe, Arizona. My parents, my grandparents, great grand parents are full blooded Yaquis. They came from a region called El Diaro Yaqui Sonora. I was raised by my grandma and I lived in Guadalupe with my grandma till she passed when I was nine years old.
So when my grandma died I came to California and at that time my mom was running a restaurant in Oakland, California. In those days they had something called a bracero program. And she worked for different growers and she, my dad, my older sister and my older brother would basically cook three meals a day starting with breakfast and we’d feed the average of 300 braceros. So that went on till about 1953 and then I moved to Orange County to a little barrio called, La Jolla.
And been around here since then. (slow music) – School was not my favorite activity. I wanted to go out there and work ’cause there was no money in my family. My dad worked all day long and then came home and fixed watches till he couldn’t see anymore. And my dad was very strict, he didn’t let me go to too many fun things like football games or out with my friends. Stay home and help your mother. – I went as far as junior college. From the time I was a kid I always wanted to be a paratrooper. I went to jump school and went to ranger school and then I applied for special forces for training. It just so happened that I married into an airborne family. Her dad was a paratrooper, her uncle was a paratrooper. – My dad was in the army during the war.
He was drafted I believe in 1941. He went to jump school in Rome. He became a paratrooper, he was in the Battle of the Bulge. He saw a lot of action. He was wounded and that’s when they brought him home. Luckily he came home otherwise I would have never known him. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him. – I served in the US Army, US Army Special Forces. I retired as a chief warrant officer. I served from 1959 through 1966. Right after I got out of the army I started training as a collector. I was what they call a skip tracer. You owed money, I’d track you down. I heard the first Latino bank in southern California was going to open in Orange County. So I went and applied, and I got hired. So that started my banking career in 1971.
I retired in 2005 as a senior vice president. Where did we meet? – We met at a birthday party. My parents were very strict, so I wasn’t able to go to everybody’s party but being that it was my cousin’s I could go. He came with a friend. – We saw this party going on he said, “Hey Ray, go check it out. “I’ll circle around the block, “and I’ll come back and pick you up.” – And I remember dancing with him. And I instantly liked him, instantly liked him. I don’t know what it was, chemistry or what but I mean I liked him the minute I met him. – So I crashed the party and I danced with the birthday girl and here we are. – My parents were strict throughout my lifetime. He would take me to see a movie, we never saw the ending. I had to come home early. So when we got married I was very happy I could see the end of the movie. – Stay out all night.
– All this freedom, I just couldn’t believe it. – Phyllis and I have been married 56 years. We got married on September 14th, 1963. – I was 35 years old when I opened the store. Before that I worked at the phone company. I was there abut a year and then after that I went to work at a Union Hall in Anaheim, the carpenters union hall. And I thought, you know, I want to do something that I love.
All this other stuff is work. Well everything started by going to see the play Zoot Suit. I really wanted to see that play because I wanted to see what this whole story was all about. And I remember walking out of that play and thinking, God I would like to be involved in this somehow. I thought, I know what. I’ll make the Zoot Suit because nobody’s making it. So I had the love for this suit the minute I saw it and I just couldn’t get enough of the Zoot Suit. I had a love for the Zoot Suit. After I saw the play and I talked to my dad about opening a store and doing what we’re doing today that’s what sparked everything. (upbeat music) We are the founders of El Pachuco Zoot Suits.
Zoot means extreme, it’s an extreme suit. It’s not just clothes, it’s not a pair of pants. We sell our memories. You come in there and you put that suit on, you’re somebody else. People would come in and ask me, “Where did this start?” This started in New York ’cause that’s where the fashion started. – Young men wanted a unique style of clothing. If you hear the description by Eddy Olmos in the play and in the movie you want to look like a diamond.
You know, wide shoulders and it tapers at the waist. We found a tailor that could make patterns and we started making, first, the pants. Gradually when we were able to perfect the pattern we started selling the whole Zoot suit. – At the very beginning we didn’t rent suits, we only sold them. But everybody kept asking me to rent them. And that’s how it just grew, it just grew.
I mean the minute somebody put that Zoot suit on oh my gosh they fell in love with it. It was the easiest sale I ever made. The suit sold itself, I didn’t have to sell it. All they did was have to put it on and they really looked sharp. It’s really a transformation to see them walk in in tennis shoes, work boots, put on a Zoot suit and it just transform them into something magical, literally. (upbeat music) – We love what we do. When I get up the morning I can’t wait to get dressed and go to work. ‘Cause I meet people from all over the world and after you put that Zoot suit on they’re so happy and we make people happy.
My life is just a dream, I never dreamed I’d be so happy. Majority of my customers at the time were Chicanos. Nowadays we get everybody. It wasn’t like this when we first began, not at all. It was very negative. One day I was sitting at my store with a salesman. So we were sitting there and then he turns around and looks out the window and he says, “Oh no.” He said, “Here comes trouble.” And there were five Chicanitos walking down the sidewalk coming into my store. I said, “trouble”? “Those are my customers.” But right away he labeled them as “trouble”. So needless to say I didn’t buy any shirts from him. And everybody who walks in that door is gonna get all my respect. ‘Cause that’s how I figure we’re a success because of the respect we give everybody. That’s what my dad said ’cause one day I said, “Dad how are we gonna make this work? “We have such a a large investment here.” I mean put my house up and everything we have is here.
He said, “Daughter.” He said, “Just treat everybody right. “Just treat everybody right. “And you’ll be okay.” – Her father didn’t have a whole lot of money but he gave us tremendous advice. He was our inspiration. If he can do it, we can do it. Not only did we have a challenge of selling the Zoot suit, we also had a challenge of educating people about what the Zoot suit was. One of the things that we as El Pachuco did we used to go to high schools. We even started a dance company. We hired a choreographer. So we brought it from 1940 with the music and the clothing to the 80s. And again, that was an educational process. So we could tell the world about the Zoot suit.
We have tried to change the image. We always present it in a positive manner. Getting into Zoot suit was not easy, and I like that about it. If we go do something easy, heck, anybody can do it then. We wanna do something that’s difficult. And we did. We make a lot of dreams come true every day, but the best part of everything is all the friends we have made throughout the world, really. – We get orders from Germany, England, Finland, Australia. We’ve had famous people come in either directly or through their managers. We even used to make coats for Johnny Cash. He used to call them “Abe Lincoln” coats. – He didn’t want the pants, he just wanted the coat. So he wore our coat. You know, it’s been 40 years that we’ve been doing this it was rough, it was really hard.
But the fact that I have the help of my husband, his support and my dad on the other side their strength, their wisdom, their help, helped me to do this. People always ask me, “When are you gonna retire?” I said, “Retire? I can’t stop doing what I love!” About 20 years ago this young man used to come and see me from Ventura and he wanted a Zoot suit. So he’s grown up, became educated, he’s a doctor now. He’s Dr. Santino. So they were having a, what do you call it? Symposium? At the college that he works at. – “Dealing with Pachuquismo”. – I was asked to go down there and explain what we did, why we did it. I was honored with a plaque for my 40 years of business. – It’s important that you follow your dream. It’s important that you try and do what you need to do. Life is not easy. If you try hard enough, you’d be surprised what you can achieve. – Follow your passion. Follow what you love because if you love what you do it’s not work.