Bobby Ruiz of "My Whittier" Discusses All Things Whittier

Bobby Ruiz of "My Whittier" Discusses All Things Whittier
Courtesy of My Whittier

Bobby Ruiz is a soft-spoken, 47-year-old Whittier native who discusses "all things Whittier" on his My Whittier social media empire, which has a loyal following of 30.3k people across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  He's almost always wearing a "Whittier" baseball cap from his merch store and during our lunch at Jack's—Whittier's oldest operating restaurant at 83 years young—Ruiz wore a T-shirt with a sketching of the "Five-Points" bridge off of Whittier Boulevard, a local landmark that he describes as "a symbol of home."

While he may arguably be Whittier's most famous local chronicler, Ruiz doesn't consider himself to be any sort of celebrity and his calm and humble demeanor is proof of that. His blog's focus has always been on his neighbors rather than himself. "I think the people of Whittier are really interesting when you get down to it," Ruiz says, "I've been doing my—I don't know what you call it—blog, Facebook stuff since 2012. And you talk to a lot of people and there's a lot of really cool people in the city—of all different types...and nationalities and it's really exciting to see, it's fun."

Ruiz's love for the city started early in his childhood when his family moved from Pico Rivera to Whittier in 1976. As a child growing up behind the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility in the late '70s and early '80s, Ruiz has interesting memories, to say the least. "When the criminals would escape, we'd be on lockdown," Ruiz recalls with a slight smile, "it was scary but fun, and life was simple."

For Ruiz, growing up in Whittier during the '80s also included visits to Captain Video (an arcade on Comstock Avenue in Uptown) and seeing Michael J. Fox film scenes for Back to the Future at his alma mater, Whittier High. He spent seven years in Huntington Beach while he worked for the Angels and the Ducks, from 1999 to 2006 (he also did a stint for the Dodgers.  "My goal was to live in Orange County and LA," he says, "I did both, then came back to Whittier."

He returned in 2008. Around this time, a trip to the Whittier Museum with his wife inspired him to blog about Whittier's contemporary history beyond the tried-and-true narrative of early Quaker settlers. "Even though it [the museum visit] was a good experience, nothing really resonated with me, as far as my personal experience with Whittier."

Ruiz posted a humorous blog entry on the artifacts he would display in his fictional Museum of Whittier. The post included photographs of Ambrose Pizzeria and a giant raspadotub from the now non-existent, Green Burrito stand. "People connected to it and I was like, 'Wow, that's interesting,' he says. "So I just started sharing more experiences, more nostalgia. I call my stuff 'Whittier-abilia'—just things that [made] you feel good when you were growing up...and it just kind of took off from there"

A browse through My Whittier's social media accounts is akin to taking a glance at a digital collage of Whittier's history while still keeping things fresh with posts of current events. Recently, My Whittier started selling merchandise too. "I'm a clothing line first and everything else is kind of pro bono just for the city, helping people out, helping entrepreneurs get exposure—like I've said, they're more interesting than I am." Ruiz chuckles.

My Whittier's Facebook page became so popular, locals started asking Ruiz if he'd post photos of their missing pets with hope that the page's wide reach would help them find their furry friends. Ruiz obliged by starting the My Whittier Doggy Recovery Facebook page which has nearly 7,500 subscribers. "I love dogs, that's my [weakness]," he admits, "That's one of the things I'm really most proud of, amazingly enough."

A conversation with Ruiz about Whittier had him reminiscing about long-gone establishments such as the Friendly Hills bowling alley, Skateland, Penny Lane Records, The Green Turtle and Fenix 5-4. Speaking of Fenix 5-4, Ruiz had high praises for its late great founder and Uptown Whittier influencer, Kyle Koestner. "Kyle was a huge influence on what I do too...he was a really awesome dude and had a vision."

While Whittier's food scene attracts most of the town's spotlight, Ruiz says there's more to Whittier than just great food and drinks. "The creative bubble in Whittier is awesome and I just think it's ready to burst," he says, "I want to see the art scene take the forefront soon." Ruiz also suggests turning the non-operational Fred C. Nelles Correctional Facility into a community park, assisting the homeless around town and proposing efforts to have a litter-free Uptown Whittier.

Whittier's recent renaissance is just another cycle of growth for a city that has always been rad in his eyes. Ruiz just hopes the community continues to grow in a conscious way. "I see positive change, I'm hoping we still have places like this [Jack's] where we can hang our hat on," Ruiz adds. "They did a good job with the Friendly Hills bowling alley (now a BevMo!), keeping the architecture [with integrity]." he says, "I'm all for progression but you can still make progress look a certain way, the Whittier way...the Googie stuff."

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Given that today is Halloween and several parts of Whittier are known to be creepy AF, Ruiz shares his favorite haunts across town. "The number one place that gives people the creeps is Deadman's Park." (Also known as Founders Memorial Park, the former site of two cemeteries.) "If you go there [Deadman's Park] at dusk and just walk around you'll feel the vibe." According to Ruiz, other spooky spots include King Richard's Antiques, the Rose Hills cemetery,  the random lot/cemetery by Carmenita Road on the border of Whittier and Santa Fe Springs and, of course, the alleged cult hang-out spots throughout Turnbull Canyon—stay weird, Whittier!

You can follow My Whittier on Instagram, Twitter , Facebook and Blogspot.  Shop the My Whittier store at mywhittier.com or visit Bobby in person at the My Whittier shop at Scott Storage on 10046 Scott Ave. Whittier . Mon.-Fri., 10a.m.-1p.m. & 2p.m-5:30pm.


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