The Castro and Vigallon families and all the cousins posed for a photo in 1994.
By Margaret Castro Dambley
Special to the Times
While San Leandro was growing with a population of 2,250 in the early 1900s, my grandparents were struggling for a living in Spain.
My paternal grandparents, Castro, lived in Seville where my father and older brother were born. My maternal grandparents, Vigallon, were from Malaga where my Uncle Joe was born.
My grandparents wanted a better life for their children and the sugar plantation owners had advertised for help, offering families free passage to the Hawaiian Islands. They set sail, hoping to earn enough money from the plantations to move from the islands to California.
The ship left the Port of Malaga and traveled through the Straits of Magellen, taking three months to reach Hawaii.
The Castro and Vigallon families were neighbors at the Eva Mill Camp Plantation in Oahu. They worked in the cane fields where the minimum wage was $24 a month and the maximum was $125 a month. The families worked hard and saved their money but with children being born every couple of years there was never enough money. The children grew and joined their parents in the cane fields to help earn money for their passage.
In 1919, the Castro family had saved enough money to move to California at a cost of $108 per person. The family of eight had the distinction of being the the largest family on board ship. It was a 4-day voyage to San Francisco and then the family settled in Santa Clara near their cousins.
My grandfather didn’t want to live in Santa Clara, so he surveyed the surrounding towns and settled in San Leandro. The population of San Leandro that year was 5,703.
The Vigallon family moved to California in 1922 and settled in San Francisco where their oldest son Joe found work as a plasterer. One of his jobs was on the construction of Coit Tower.
The Castro family kept in touch with the Vigallons and eventually convinced them to move to San Leandro. The Vigallon family moved to a house on First Avenue (now Marina Boulevard) and the Castro family lived on Cherry Street.
Around 1925, my grandfather, Raphael Vigallon, and son, Joe, both worked on the remodeling of the Peralta home on Estudillo Avenue (now called Casa Peralta). It took three years to complete the remodeling, which used imported mosaic tiles, and various trees from Spain. During the construction of the front steps of the home, my grandfather buried a gallon of his homemade wine under the steps.
The Castro family had a total of 14 children. Ten of them lived. Three died in infancy and one at the age of 16. The Vigallon family had 18 children. Twelve lived and six died of childhood diseases.
Before all my grandparents passed away, there were four generations of Castros and Vigallons living in San Leandro, Castro Valley, Hayward and Fremont. As close family friends, in time three of the Castro boys married three of the Vigallon daughters. All the Castros remained in San Leandro and were active in local politics for about 50 years.
CAPTION 2: Here’s the family in front of their 1938 Chevrolet on Cherry Street – dad (Antone Castro), brother Tony, Margaret, and mother (Roseline Vigallon Castro).
CAPTION 3: Margaret posed for a picture in front of the house on 1st Avenue (now Marina Boulevard) on the day she graduated from San Leandro High in 1947.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARGARET CASTRO DAMBLEY