The story of “Cebolla”: some call it an East L.A legend, but it’s one of those that keeps on going and changing as it passes from one person to another, from one generation to the next.

The story goes like this: A long time ago in East Los lived this woman in this huge Victorian home, windows covered with newspapers and fence covered in oil—that’s right, car oil. She didn’t get out much. Sometimes she would go outside, sit on her patch of grass by the side walk and cut the grass with scissors. The only other time she was ever seen was when neighborhood kids (me included) would go to her house and play Ding Dong Ditch.

It all started with us just hanging around doing what boys do, talking about girls, sports and games. In the middle of one of these conversations one of us would come up with some story like “did you guys hear that a kid selling chocolates went to Cebolla’s house and never made it back home…?” yeah, that got us all freaked out, pumped up, scared but with a huge jolt energy to go to knock on her door, then run. We would all challenge one another: “You’re not down!” But down we were. We prepped, tied our shoes, cleaned the sweat from our hands, jumped over her oiled fence, ran up her steps and knocked.

Now you might ask yourself “Why the name Cebolla?” Well, let me get to that part! As we knocked and knocked the domino effect went like this. We knocked, a light came on, we heard a loud “who’s there,” we giggled (our hearts beating), there was the door screeching open and RUUUUUN! “Get out of my house you damn kids!” she’d yell, and bam, bam, bam, cebollas would be pelting us. Onions! Onions and onions thrown at us. I don’t know where the onions came from but as the story goes, every time someone knocked on her door, onions were thrown.

Some called her a witch, others said she was an LAUSD teacher, we just called her Cebolla. She’s no longer with us—well, actually we don’t know what happened to her. We just know the story must go on….

Photo by Diego Torres Silvestre, used under a Creative Commons license.

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