Casey Hellin's San Felipe Memories

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico discovered the following memoir on the internet some time ago. It paints a nostalgic portrait of San Felipe as it was in simpler times.


Greetings from Fullerton, CA.

I'm a former resident of San Felipe and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a web page that I can look up information and the latest news! It's like being in touch with that wonderful community that I still feel part of. I want to thank and congratulate you for offering this opportunity to the rest of us to discover or re-discover as in my case, the wonders and achievements of this thriving little town. Allow me to present myself: My name is Alan Rene Camacho- Hellin. I'm presently a full time student at Fullerton College with an intended major in Environmental Analysis and Design.

This is my story:
My family settled in San Felipe in 1947 --my grandmother Casey Hellin and my uncle Arnold Hellin (my mother's brother). They both raised my three sisters: Cynthia, Adrianne and Lidiette and myself after the passing of my mother Olga Hellin in 1964, when we went to live with them in San Felipe. Casey and Arnold were very hardworking and enterprising people; They lived in North Hollywood were my grandfather worked for Universal Studios as a graphic artist before settling in San Felipe. After the onset of the Korean War, my grandmother decided to leave the US to keep my uncle from being drafted (a decision he always regretted, probably because he felt like a deserter) and after very humble beginnings with the opening of the first "Tortilleria" which sold corn tortillas to a population of immigrants of the state of Sonora and the south of Baja that were accustomed to the flour variety of tortillas.

Old San FelipeSince they were trend setters, they continued with the business until it picked up with new arrivals from the state of Sinaloa, where they consumed corn tortillas. In the meantime, Arnold was given a female piglet which he named "Ursula" and that pig grew so big with all the unsold tortillas that one morning, when the low season called "Piojillo" was approaching, my grandmother announced triumphantly,"I got the solution for our economic problems. We're opening a restaurant!". When Arnold asked how she proposed to finance that venture since they didn't have the money, she told Arnold that she had seen in a dream the face of "Ursula" the pig, framed by a spoon and a fork

Ursula had to be sold, to the dismay of Arnold because she followed him like a dog and recognized his whistle. But a good son as he was, raised within the strict catholic doctrine, and he abided his mother's wishes. I was told that he cried all the way to Mexicali (he was 19 years old)] where Ursula had to be sold. When they got to the place of sale, the pig refused to got off the truck and a worker hit her on the snout with a shovel, breaking her front teeth and sending a gush of blood. Arnold, seeing this, had to be contained by two friends that accompanied him from smothering the man! This was the beginning of a successful business enterprise: Arnold's Del Mar motel & cafe that for over 24 years operated in which nowadays is the site of another successful business: The Rockodile!

Part 2
At the begriming grandma Casey Hellin didn't know anything about the restaurant business, but being the entrepreneur she was she went around this small pitfall as follows: every time an American customer asked for a dish she didn't know how to prepare she would tell them, "I'm sorry Sir/Madam, our cook is ill today and I don't know how to prepare your order, but if you would be so kind as to step into the kitchen and show me how I'll be glad to do so!" The customer would look around at the three or four rickety tables in the place, knew that she couldn't afford to pay a cook and with a knowing smile would follow grandma to the kitchen and so she would stand right next to the customer and learn the dishes the customer liked! Pretty savvy, don't you think? You can corroborate this story and many more if you visit George Limon at "GEORGE'S". He used to work for grandma; also ask him for the whereabouts of Mike, another long time collaborator who owns a "campo" just north of town

As a matter of fact, George used "ARNOLD'S CAFE" logo on his menu which is a Marlin being pulled out of the water and also printed on it a saying my mother Olga Hellin used : "A MEAL WITHOUT WINE IS LIKE A DAY WITHOUT SUNSHINE".

Casey Hellin was a great asset for San Felipe, she was in very good standing in the political and business scene both in Mexicali (where she also had another restaurant called "Los Pericos" on Zaragoza Ave. and "I" street during the 50's to offset the low season in San Felipe, but this story will come later!) She advocated and lobbied for the introduction of potable water in town, also for recognition and better services for the tourist industry by the municipal government. Another person you may want to contact for more details about Casey's persona is Tavo Garcia's mother,"Dona Maria" at "Botica Sagrado Corazon" who knew her very well (you can ask Tavo to translate).

It is a shame that very few people recall her name nowadays, mostly because none of her family members have gone to the task to preserve her memory, until now. I would really like to see those memories brought to the fore, since they represent a valuable part of San Felipe's history.

Alan Rene Camacho-Hellin