In the following excerpt from his autobiography, Beneath The Underdog,
Charles Mingus relates his experience and connection to the Towers as a boy growing
up in Watts:
"At that time in Watts there was an Italian man, named Simon Rodia - though
some people said his name was Sabatino Rodella, and his neighbors called him
Sam. He had a regular job as a tile setter, but on weekends and at nighttime,
under lights he strung up, he was building something strange and mysterious
and he'd been working on it since before my boy was born. Nobody knew what it
was or what it was for. Around his small frame house he had made a low wall
shaped like a ship and inside it he was constructing what looked like three
masts, all different heights, shaped like upside-down ice cream cones. First
he would set up skeletons of metal and chicken wire, and plaster them over with
concrete, then he'd cover that with fancy designs made of pieces of seashells
and mirrors and things. He was always changing his ideas while he worked and
tearing down what he wasn't satisfied with and starting over again, so pinnacles
tall as a two-story building would rise up and disappear and rise again. What
was there yesterday mightn't be there next time you looked, but then another
lacy-looking tower would spring up in its place.
Tig Johnson and Cecil J. McNeeley used to gather sacks full of pretty rocks
and broken bottles to take to Mr. Rodia, and my boy hung around with them watching
him work while he waited for Gloria Scopes, one of his classmates who happened
to live just across the street.
Mr. Rodia was usually cheerful and friendly while he worked, and sometimes,
drinking that good red wine from a bottle, he rattled off about Amerigo Vespucci,
Julius Caesar, Buffalo Bill and all kinds of things he read about in the old
encyclopedia he had in his house, but most of the time it sounded to Charles
like he was speaking a foreign language. My boy marveled at what he was doing
and felt sorry for him when the local rowdies came around and taunted him and
threw rocks and called him crazy, though Mr. Rodia didn't seem to pay them much
mind. Years later when Charles was grown and went back to Watts he saw three
fantastic spires standing there - the tallest was over a hundred feet high.
By then Rodia had finally finished his work and given it all to a neighbor as
a present and gone away, no one knew where."