This piece is one of six usher profiles I wrote that were published by Major League Baseball on the San Francisco Giants website in 2004. They originally appeared in my Guest Services paper newsletter, ‘The Home Plate.’ To read the piece online, click here.
The word “fun” comes up a lot when you talk to Dolores Solano; she uses the word often to describe her past and present activities. Before long, one understands that with her warm demeanor and easy laughter, Solano finds fun just about wherever she is.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Solano grew up in the Fillmore District and attended Presentation High School. Her parents, the children of Mexican immigrants, were from Phoenix, but settled in California.
“They came to San Francisco for their honeymoon and never left,” says Solano. They had eight children, five girls and three boys. Family lore has it that they are related to Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer who discovered Florida while searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth in the early 1500s.
When she was about 10 or 12 years old, her father began including her in family outings to Seals Stadium to watch Pacific Coast League games.
“There were a lot of young guys at baseball,” Solano says with a sly smile, explaining at least part of the allure of the scene. She hastens to add that they “got involved with the games” as well.
After the Giants moved West, the family visited Candlestick Park and “froze to death,” as Solano describes it. They went often, seeing Willie McCovey come up and become a star.
“They made me mad because they took my Orlando Cepeda off first base and put McCovey there,” she says. Cepeda and Jose Canseco remain her all-time favorite players.
Her parents began taking the family to Mexican dances regularly when Solano was in her teens. They taught their kids to dance to traditional Latin music and had a lot of, yes, fun as regulars at the dances.
After graduating from high school, Solano got a job as a file clerk and from there moved to being a keypunch operator. Solano worked in the field for 45 years before retiring in 1971, by which time she was inputting data onto computers.
“I loved it — it was a really fun job,” she says of her career. “The best was when you didn’t make mistakes and had perfect cards verified.”
At 25, she was still attending dances, where she often danced with a man who taught at the Arthur Murray dance school. She learned the mambo, the bolero and the cha-cha from him, but not all of her attention was focused on the lessons. Every Saturday night, she saw a young man named Freddie Solano; one night he broke in on her dance with the other guy, and that was it.
Freddie and Dolores dated for two years. “One night he said, ‘Let’s get married!’ so we went to Reno and got married,” she recalls. “We came home and surprised everybody.
Fortunately, her parents liked him, the marriage was happily accepted and a party was given in their honor. Two sons and a daughter soon followed.
Her husband was a pool player, going by the name of Frisco Freddie. “Everybody knew him,” Solano says. He played at local pool halls and bars, where he “did pretty good making money,” as she relates it. Her son has won pool tournaments as well, proving that the acorn indeed doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Freddie also worked as a truck driver and in the insurance business, from which he retired after 25 years. He passed away from a stroke in 1996, after 36 years of marriage to Dolores.
Solano attended the last Giants game at Candlestick with her nephew, Michael, where he had an epiphany. “You go to so many games, why don’t you work at the new park?” he asked his aunt. She inquired about openings, was sent to the job fair held in February 2000 and was hired immediately.
“As soon as they know you’re retired …” she says with a laugh, explaining how she came to work at what was then called Pacific Bell Park.
For the park’s inaugural year, she worked in many locations. “I really enjoyed that,” she says of the variety. “You learn the park. I didn’t mind where they put me that year.”
By the next season, she had landed at what is still her primary position, at AAA Club Sections 227-228. “I love it,” she says of her assignment. “I have lots of regulars — I get a hug every time they come to the game.”
When she has time, Solano enjoys playing bingo at the El Sobrante Boys and Girls Club. “I get pretty lucky,” she says of her game. She lives in Pinole and often lunches with her sister Theresa in Fairfield. (Another sister, Josephine, is also a Guest Services usher.) She visits her three grandchildren in Arizona twice a year, as well.
Solano also works at Sears three days a week, where she works in the lingerie department as a stock clerk. “I do it to get out of the house,” she says, adding, “I have a lot of fun there.”
Her frequent supervisor on the AAA Club, Donna Rowles, says, “What can I say about Dolores? She is fun to work with, she is always there. On the rare occasion when she is not, the regular folks in her section are constantly asking me where she is. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and she always has a smile on her face!”