If you’ve been to The Ranch, then you definitely know our Concierge, Manuelita! You can find her helping out guests either in the Dining Hall during breakfast or in the Concierge Office. You might have noticed how sweet she is, but did you know that Manuelita has worked at The Ranch for 53 years? Yes! She started June 24, 1962 when she was just eighteen years old and has been at The Ranch ever since. Below she shares some of her favorite memories of The Ranch. You can also hear her speak more about Ranch history at her weekly talk, Early Days at The Ranch with Manuelita Ching.
Kate Bello: How did you get involved in The Ranch?
Manuelita Ching: I’m not sure if it was due to my brother, who already worked here, or my mom. My parents owned a Chinese Restaurant and it was sort of the “Ranch Restaurant” because all the staff would go there. The menu had Chinese, American, and Mexican food. Since I was about to graduate from high school, my mom may have talked to one of the directors of The Ranch at that time.
One day, I came to pick up my brother at The Ranch and he told me to get out of the car because Deborah wanted to talk to me. I remember asking him, who’s Deborah? Well I went and talked to her. Her house and office was what is now room Flores-21. Since I was working as a part-time telephone operator in Tecate at that time, I remember Deborah saying, “Oh good, I’ve been meaning to purchase a switchboard and now I can, and you can be my operator.”
I remember that while I was waiting to go into Deborah’s office, her father, Mr. Shainman, came out to greet me and he was very friendly. After the interview, she told me to go and speak with Jose Manuel. Jose Manuel was in charge of the office at that time and then later became the first Ranch Manager. The office he was in is what is now the Mercado. So I started the next Monday. It was really supposed to be just a summer job. I did go back to school, but also worked on the Ranch part-time, which was Deborah’s suggestion.
KB: What is your favorite memory of The Ranch?
MC: I remember my first years, probably because I was so young. They were very happy years. It was hard for me to stay away from The Ranch. We only had one day off in those years. Deborah, the Professor and the children lived on The Ranch and I guess it felt more like a family. I thank Deborah for trusting me. She kept switching me to the different departments and would always say to me, “Try it. If you don’t like it, I am here. I am not leaving, come back and tell me.” But I never did.
KB: What is the funniest memory you have of The Ranch?
MC: It’s hard to pick something in 53 years. I remember one time a guest asked me to lend her my earrings. She wanted to wear them at dinner and it took me all week to get them back. It was embarrassing when I would ask her for them. Her answer was, “I still want to wear them.”
KB: What’s been your favorite time at The Ranch over the years?
MC: It’s hard to say what has been my favorite time at The Ranch because I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done. As I mentioned before, I loved the first years, then my years at the Schoolhouse (Reservation’s Office) in Tecate, California. I was there for ten years. Then working with one of the directors, Chuck Berke, he was so knowledgeable and always had something in common with the guests. I was in a way, his hands and feet, and he was the head. And of course, being the Concierge for almost 30 years. Knowing and talking to guests. I call them “my children.” I love when they say, “The Ranch is Heaven or Paradise.” I always reply, “That makes us the Angels.”