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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Always Shining Bright:

The life of the publisher of Gringo Gazette in San Felipe and South Campos
By Bruce F. Barber

Brought into this world and kidnapped, then placed in an orphanage and returned to her mother; grew up in show business, got married and had children; lost two sisters, a brother, two children and two husbands; and lives each day for its individual beauty. This is the life of June Snow.

She was born June Marion Snow in Cleveland, Ohio, where her father was a cattleman and her mother, who was from Sweden, was a good enough chef to own her own restaurant, ultimately in Los Angeles. So it was in Los Angeles, rather than Cleveland, where her life really began. At age three she was kidnapped from a neighborhood playground, and her abductors later clandestinely delivered her to an orphanage, where she lived for some time before the authorities could find and return her happily to her mother.

June's childhood was all show business. Her mother wanted her daughters to be models, so she enrolled them in Ethyl Meglin's famous dance studio, where she got her start in the same room, on the same floor and stage and at the same time as Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and many other “Meglin Kiddies" who became the stars we know today.

She learned walking with poise, tap dancing, ballet and operatic singing and, by high school, she was also a coloratura soprano; so at a young age she began her career in vaudeville, which continued until one Halloween Eve when a car struck her so forcefully that a finger-sized piece of wood lodged in her foot and prevented her from continuing as a dancer. As strange as it may seem, the piece of wood went undetected until many years later, when her husband inadvertently stepped on that same foot in a manner that forced the wood to poke its ugly head into the air.

June changed her former operatic voice to her naturally low and sultry one, and became a featured singer in a number of Southern California nightclubs. She was singing in San Pedro the night Tokyo was bombed. In fact, she met her husband-to-be that night and bore him three children. Because her husband had been a sailor, she donated some 3000 hours singing in California's U.S.O. (United States Service Organization), which traveled extensively entertaining the troops. As a member of the Manhattan Strolling Trio, she reminisced, there was one song (Quizas, Quizas, Quizas) she may have sung 10,000 times. Her husband died of a heart attack.

Singing in five languages, English, Swedish, French, Spanish and Hawaiian, June eventually teamed with trios, quintets and orchestras in Palm Springs, Reno, Las Vegas, Guadalajara and Mexico City. Although other languages came more naturally, she learned Spanish words from her promoter while driving to each night's performance. She just memorized them and before the gig was over she had learned 67 songs, many she still remembers to this day.

After singing at night, June spent her days as a sales woman at Robinson's Departments Store, where her keen eye soon caught management's attention and she was offered a position in security. Although she continued singing, she eventually was promoted to Director of Security of all of Robinson's branches; and eventually spent 23 years as a professional detective with as many as 18 policemen in her stall.

While singing at Manhattan Beach, she met her second husband. They set sail on his sailboat for 12 years, when they made it to the Gulf of California. As many others do, they fell in love with Baja and decided to make it their home. After returning to California, June retired and they sold their boat, collected their belongings and headed south to build the place of their dreams. It was from that wonderful place that her husband drove into the desert one sunny day and never returned. He was found on a roadway, the victim of a hit and run. He was taken to the hospital, but never regained consciousness.*

Sadly living alone in their beautiful home, June got on with her life. She mingled among her many friends, gardened and began writing and publishing the Gringo Gazette. One evening, while she was in San Felipe for dinner at her favorite restaurant, the owner, Juan, told her that she should return home immediately, but did not say why. When she arrived on the scene, it was crowded. The fire department had moved all the propane tanks out of harm's way and pulled the roof down that connected the garage to the house. “Mickey,” the South Campo Fire Chief at the time, called the Mexicali Fire Department Investigators who, after two days, concluded that the fire was arson!

June spent a month in front of her destroyed home on a cot while people brought her food, water and supplies. Then her long time friend, José Castro, asked her to come to his camp and stay on his roof until they could make other arrangements. Later June moved back home and stayed in her garage, which, thanks to “Mickey,'' suffered no damage. She remained there for the next five years until New Year's Day, 2000.

Now married to the ever-popular José Castro, building a new home and still publishing the Gringo Gazette, the monthly newsletter she inaugurated in 1995, June also played a leading role in the establishment of their Community Center. She is respected throughout San Felipe as a pioneer whose heart hangs high like a sky full of bright stars over the Sea of Cortez.


* The Black Dahlia was the name given to an incomparably gruesome, late 1940s Hollywood murder case. It remains unsolved.