Series | Growing up in Douglas Co.

Patty Ayala at her desk at Blossom Valley Assisted Living in Wenatchee. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

This is the eighth in a series of articles featuring interviews with people who grew up (or are growing up) in Douglas County. Karen Larsen is featuring one person in each decade of life. She began with a resident in their 90s and is moving down one decade with each subsequent interview. The stories told will provide a profile of life growing up in Douglas County over the years. Larsen’s eighth interview is with Patty Ayala, who is 26.


Patty Ayala: Strong family ties and good school system nourish immigrant childhood

Patty Ayala celebrates her 6th birthday at home in Orondo in 1997. (Provided photo)

Patty Ayala was born on March 31, 1991 at Central Washington Hospital. She was the second of three girls born to Roberto and Esperanza Ayala of Orondo.

Ayala remembers that her parents, who had immigrated to the area from the state of Michoacán in Mexico, always worked very hard. Roberto Ayala was an orchard worker and Esperanza Ayala worked in the warehouse for Orondo Fruit Company.

One early memory that Patty Ayala has of the orchard work was that during the cherry harvest, on days she herself did not need to go to work, Esperanza would prepare a picnic lunch of rice, beans and steak and bring it to Roberto Ayala in the orchard. Then the whole family would sit on the fruit bins and enjoy a picnic.

When Ayala was 3 or 4 years old, she attended preschool at Orondo School. That was fun, and she remembers that every day there was a nap time.

Later she attended Orondo Elementary School and middle school through seventh grade. She would describe the environment at Orondo School as very friendly.

“Everybody seemed happy — I know I was,” Ayala said.

She remembers that every year there were special trips organized for students with high grades. Sometimes the students would be taken to Pizza Hut and sometimes they would be taken bowling or swimming. Ayala always made the grade and had the chance to enjoy the trips.

At the end of the school year, there was a field day at Daroga Park with games, activities and a barbecue.

The school also took children on field trips. In fifth grade, Ayala remembers going to the circus in Spokane. In fourth grade, her class went to the Seattle Aquarium.

Ayala had good memories of many teachers at the school, including Sheri Viebrock, Merry Roy, Robin Gahringer, Dan Lopez, Carol Truitt (now Steichen) and Robert Bowman. She remembers Bowman, her seventh grade teacher, as being very funny.

In fifth grade, Ayala’s class organized a haunted house to raise money for the school. They built a maze for children to go through and dressed up in scary costumes. Afterwards they had a Halloween party.

Ayala said she always liked going to school.

In her free time, Ayala and her older sister Gabriela would sometimes walk to the school grounds and play tetherball or soccer. They also would walk along the river.

The family home was small and everyone needed to do his or her own part to keep it neat. Ayala remembers having regular household chores, like making the beds and folding clothes.

In the kitchen, Ayala and her sisters prepared vegetables and other foods for cooking but Esperanza Ayala did the work at the stove herself, probably for safety reasons. Ayala said that she learned to cook by watching her mom, who is a very good cook. Ayala’s favorite dish was pozole, a hominy soup with pork. Today Ayala makes it for her own family.

Ayala described Orondo as peaceful. Living in a place that was far from most stores, the family always consolidated shopping on the weekends. The other days they made do with what they had.

“It made us appreciate the things we had,” she said of the arrangement.

Shopping trips were a highlight of the week and an important time of family togetherness. After buying groceries, Roberto Ayala would treat the family to lunch at a restaurant.

Asked if she thinks she would have been different in any way if she had grown up in a city, Ayala said she didn’t think so because her dad was strict. He wouldn’t let the girls go out without permission and they didn’t learn to drive until they were grown up. If they needed or wanted to go somewhere, he would drive them.

When Ayala was a child, her grandmother was still alive and living in Michoacán, so the family would drive to Mexico to visit every year. They drove straight from Orondo to the Los Angeles area and then spent four days with family members there. Then they would drive straight from Los Angeles to Michoacán, about 1,800 miles away.

Though that meant many hours in the car, Ayala has fond memories of the drives.

“They were truly enjoyable with the family,” Ayala said.

Ayala loved Mexico. She enjoyed the outdoor markets and the chance to visit with cousins.

“It’s just a very different and nice culture,” she said.

In eighth grade, Ayala attended Waterville School, and then the family moved to Wenatchee when she was in ninth grade and she finished her education at Wenatchee High School. At first it was hard to make new friends at the high school, but Ayala adjusted and liked it.

While in high school, Ayala found a job — her first job — at Kentucky Fried Chicken and worked there for two years. It was fun because there were a lot of schoolmates who also worked there. On the other hand, it was also stressful at times and she knew that she would want to move on to something else after graduation.

Patty Ayala, back row second from left, with her health occupations class at the 2009 Wenatchee High School graduation. (Provided photo)

In high school, she took a health occupations class and became interested in the medical field.

In her senior year, Ayala became pregnant with her daughter Jaquelyn. That was a hard experience.

“You would see a lot of people that looked at you weird,” Ayala said.

Ayala said that many girls who she knew that got pregnant in high school didn’t graduate. She is proud that she stayed in school and graduated on time with the class of 2009.

Perhaps her father’s resolve helped her to stick it out. Ayala and her sweetheart, Jesus Vieyra, a former classmate from Orondo Elementary School, decided to marry but Roberto Ayala would not let them move in together until after graduation.

“You’re not moving until you get that diploma,” Roberto Ayala had told his daughter. Ayala also spoke with his son-in-law and made this stipulation clear.

After graduation, she moved back to Orondo to live with Vieyra and his family.

She was given the chance to take part in the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of the Washington Migrant Seasonal Farmworker Program, which provided job training. She was interested in health and in receptionist jobs. She was given a year-long position as a receptionist in the office and given help in obtaining Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) qualifications.

After obtaining her CNA, she found a job as a caregiver at Blossom Valley Assisted Living in Wenatchee — a position she held for six years.

Ayala and Vieyra bought a home in East Wenatchee where they continue to live today. For the past two years, Ayala has worked as the receptionist at Blossom Valley Assisted Living.

Ayala said that she tries to pass on to her daughter some of the values that she learned in childhood, like being appreciative of the things one has.