Carmen Cortez

Duration: 2hrs: 8Mins
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Interview with: Carmen Cortez
Interviewed by: Tom & Emma
Date: May 2, 1989
Archive Number: OH 313.2

I: 00:06 This is May 2nd, 1989 oral history interview with Mrs. Carmen Cortez of 10630 Sandpiper, conducted by Tom Crinnick (??) and Emma Bettis (??). Mrs. Cortez, in our previous interviews, I believe we’ve been kind of—we kind of jumped to some particular topics dealing with your involvement in Loolac and other organizations. 

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: I’d like to start at the beginning of your life on this one and talk about where you were born and how you came to Houston. Where were your parents from?

CC: Well, my—my father was born, I believe, in Monclova. I think that’s in _______ (??), Mexico. Its right between Monterey and Laredo I think. I’m not sure. However, there was a question about that because some of his other brothers said that he had been born in Saltia. So I really don’t—I’m not sure about that. 

I: So it was either Saltia or Monclova, one of them.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And then my mother was born—she always told me that she had been born in here—in the United States. However, I recently found a birth certificate that said she had been born in ____neuva (??) ______(??), which is just across the border from Eagle Pass, I believe—isn’t it?

I: What do you think the confusion—do you think she just didn’t know where she—you know—she had never heard?

CC: Well, everything was wrong because she always told me, this certificate that we got, it might have been—it might have been the birth certificate of another of their children because even the date was wrong. But the name was Victoriana and my mother’s name was Victoria. So I don’t know. And the date was wrong. My mother always told me that she had been born in February and this certificate says she was born in March. So I don’t know where the confusion—

I: 02:45 Right. What was your father’s name?

CC: My father’s name was Bartolo—like ________(??).

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: Garca (??).

I: Garca (??).

CC: They were originally ______ Garca (??). Like so many others that had to shorten their name, they shortened my name. 

I: And your mother’s name was—?

CC: Victoria.

I: Victoria.

CC: _______ (??). Her maiden name was Gutierrez, but her mother’s name was—what was her name? I don’t remember right now. 

I: When were they married and where were they married?

CC: They were married in 19—let me see. My sister was born in 1910 and my ______ (??) in 1909. You might as well turn that off because—

I: No, that’s all right. You can speculate on that.

CC: It must have been 1907. 

I: Somewhere along 1907.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Were they married in Mexico?

CC: 04:13 No, no. They—both his family and my family came over I think in 1899 or something like that. 

I: Did they ever mention why they came over that early to the United States?

CC: Well, they had originally—see, my grandmother was from Nachadoges, Texas.

I: I see.

CC: On my mother’s side. My mother’s family had lived in _______ (??). In fact, their ranch was divided in half when it was—Texas was—the border was defined.

I: They had land on both sides of the river?

CC: Yes, yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). And, in fact, the American Council—rather the Mexican Council—the one in Texas, which is it, the American Council? 

I: Well, in Texas it would be the American Council. 

CC: Well, the Mexican Council is on part of the property that belonged to my family.

I: Is that so?

CC: They bought it. They condemned it and bought it—put the Mexican Council there.

I: Where did your mother’s and father’s families come to live when they came to the United States?

CC: Well, they seemed to go about—they settled mostly in San Antonio there, around the missions. My grandparents—my father’s mother and father had a farm right there—right across the road from San Juan Mission, there in San Antonio, right by the river. And that’s where they had been since 18 something. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative). What about your mother’s family?

CC: 06:24 Well, they were the same. They were part of a group that had known each other for generations back.

I: I see.

CC: In fact, I think my father had some relatives names, Vertucci (??). Then my mother, it was found later that she also had some Vertucci’s (??) from the same branch of the family. (laughs)

I: There was some distant relation there back there.

CC: Yes. Yeah, way back there. 

I: When did they get together? When did they marry? I mean did they meet in San Antonio?

CC: Yeah, well, both families had families in ________ (??). I think it was changed to Sacramento or vice versa, I don’t know. I don’t remember what the details were. But I think during—I don’t remember what president—they changed the name of the little town. And they were all from around there because I have gotten some things from the Boston, showing where they—they had some Spanish land grants.

I: I see. There along the river—

CC: __________ (??) And even the Cortez’s—it turned out that my husband’s was also of the same part of families. You know, they used to—I think what they did was they followed the Priest because my ancestors way back there—I think my ancestors landed here in 1599 or something or other. Since Texas was Mexico, they went and came. 

I2: Sure.

I: Did they get married in San Antonio or where did they get married?

CC: My mother and father? 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: 08:41 Yes, I think they were living in San Antonio.

I2: I have a quick question, Senora Cortez to get back to your mother’s grandmother. 

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I2: You said she was originally from Nachadoges.

CC: Yes.

I2: What was her name? (unintelligible).

CC: Her name was ________ Montes (??).

I2: It was Montes (??). 

CC: Now, she was—I don’t know how far removed, but on the Montes (??) side, she was—The Montes (??) family were related to the Alabama Indians. So I do have a little bit of Indian. 

I: That’s very interesting.

I2: (unintelligible)

CC: I guess you call them American Indians, huh? The Alabama—

I: Native Americans.

I2: Yeah, Native American.

CC: And they lived around Nachadoges and Goliad and all around there.

I: Did—when were you born?

CC: I was born in 1913 in that ranch that I told you about in my grandparent’s farm, right across the road from the San Juan Mission. 

 

I: 10:03 Well, were you the first child?

CC: No, no, no. I was the last.

I: You were the last child?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Who were the other ones?

CC: Well, the first one was a girl. I think her name was Maria Dolores. She died in infancy. Then the second one was a boy and his name was—I don’t remember now. I would have to look it up. But, anyway, he died when he was about two—almost two.

I: And who else?—what other children?

CC: Well, then there was my sister, Pauline. She was born in 1910.

I: Okay.

CC: And she lived. And then there was—I had a little brother. His name was _______ (??). And then I was born in 1913.

I: And you were born there at the ranch then, huh?—I mean the farm?

CC: Yes, yes. 

I: Were the other children born there at the farm?

CC: Yeah, all of us were because, see, my father’s family had been there for many, many years. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Was your father farming there? Did he work there?

CC: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). 

I: 11:29 And your mother, did she work outside the house?

CC: No, no, no. She never worked until—she never worked until after my father died and then she, of course, had to—she married my stepfather. But she never worked out.

I: When did your father die?

CC: I think he died in—let’s see—he died in 1914.

I: So you were barely—?

CC: Ten months—I was ten months old when he died. I think he was already sick.

I: What did he have, do you know?

CC: He had a fistula—that occurred after an injury that caused a hernia in his stomach. They were pitching hay, trying to get the hay in before a storm was brewing. And he would put that hold on and pitch the hay to the wagon. And I guess he never did do anything about it. It might have been that he had stomach problems already. I don’t know. But anyway, it developed into a fistula that just wouldn’t close. And they wanted to operate, but my grandmother refused. You know, during those times—it was the grandparents that said yes or no. And my mother was so young. My mother was only fourteen when they got married. 

I: And he died there then near the farm or on the farm?

CC: Yeah, on the farm, uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Well, what did you all do after that—after your father died?

CC: Well, my father’s oldest brother, who was considered in charge—because my grandfather was—evidentially, he was already old—I think there were eight children—eight or nine children. And my father was—I think he was the seventh. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: 13:43 So you can imagine how much older his eldest brother was. You know, he was ten years older I guess. And he was the one that took charge of my mother. And then, of course, my uncle, Don—you heard me mention Gutierrez?

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: ________ (??) was his real name. And we called him uncle Don. And he also took mother to live with him and worked. And that’s when she started—well, she already knew how to help my grandmother. My grandmother was a midwife. And she would help her. She would go with her.

I: To be a midwife.

CC: To do a midwife.

I: Did your mother ever become a midwife herself?

CC: Well, not registered or anything like that, but she did. She delivered many a baby. 

I: She did. She delivered many babies, huh?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). 

I: And she learned that from—?

CC: From her mother.

I: —her mother.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Very interesting. So where did you live when—did you go to live with them?

CC: With who?

I: I mean when your mother went to live with—

CC: 15:09 Well, we stayed with—we stayed with my grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side—

I: Okay.

CC: —for a few months I imagine. And uncle Max—the eldest uncle was named Maxie Miano (??) Garza. And he was—he used to bring groceries and things like that. I don’t know whose orders they were, but anyway, he was the one that used to take care of mama until she could find somewhere to work or somewhere to go. But he was willing to go ahead and take charge of the whole family but, of course, mama didn’t want to. She wanted to start making a living for us. So she started working it by going to homes of people that had had babies—like a practical nurse. She would tend to the mother and the baby until—at that time they used to have to stay in for forty days. I don’t know whether you knew that.

I: No, I didn’t know that.

I2: For forty days?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Did you know that?

I2: I didn’t know that, no.

CC: Yeah, they—I don’t remember what they called that. But anyway, the new mother just wasn’t allowed to even go up or down any steps.

I: For forty days?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And she would go and take care of the mothers. And that’s how she met my stepfather.

I: How so? How did she meet him then?

CC: She went to—she was hired to go in and tend to my stepfather’s mother-in-law, who had had a child—you know—one of those change of life—you know—late life children. And she went to take care of the mother. And my stepfather had recently been widowed himself and was working at that brickyard there in McQueeney. 

I: 17:32 In McQueeney?

CC: And he saw her there and almost immediately asked her to marry him.

I: Now, how far is McQueeney from San Antonio? She was living near San Antonio and yet they went all the way to McQueeney. 

CC: Well, it’s not very far because San Antonio—my family lived on this side. Do you know where Houston street is?

I: Absolutely.

CC: Well, they lived right off Houston there, on the entrance—Houston and the highway. You know after you pass those cemeteries? 

I: I seem to recall that I think.

CC: It seems like three or maybe it’s just one. But anyway—

I: Several.

CC: You see cemetery on one side and on the other too, as you enter San Antonio on highway 90. And they lived there on Houston St., which is on the outskirts really of inner San Antonio. So they weren’t very far from there to McQueeney. You know where the lake is now?

I: Sure, Lake McQueeney?

CC: Well, that’s McQueeney right there.

I: I see. And she had gone there to—

CC: To attend—

I: —be with someone—tend to someone.

CC: 19:01 Yeah, to tend to her—I guess her future husband’s—

I: Sure.

CC: —mother-in-law I would say.

I: Of his deceased wife.

CC: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). His wife had died three months after she gave birth to the only boy that they had. And she had three girls and then one little boy. 

I: Did he have any children himself?

CC: He had three girls.

I: Oh, that was three—I see.

I2: Girls and the boy.

CC: And a boy.

I: Oh, I see.

CC: But both the mother and the baby died about three months after she gave birth. So the three little girls were staying there with their grandmother. So it ended up that after the forty days, mama continued to stay there and kind of help out with it—because she had had the little baby and another older brother of Barbara (??). Barbara (??) was my stepfather’s first wife’s name. So I don’t know how much later—I think they got married in 1914—no, 16—I’m sorry.

I: 1916?

CC: Yeah, they got married in—

I: Did they get married in McQueeney?

CC: 20:44 I don’t know where they—I don’t know where the ceremony was held but I know that—well, she was living in San Antonio with—officially, her home was in San Antonio.

I: I see. Did you all move up to McQueeney after they got married?

CC: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). I think you had a picture of that little—

I: His name, again, for the record was—?

CC: You mean my—?

I: Your stepfather.

CC: Julio _______ (??).

I: Julio _______ (??). Were he and your mother about the same age or was he—?

CC: No, no. He was ten or eleven years older—

I: I see. 

CC: —than she was.

I: So did both families move in together? Did his daughter’s move in with you all?

CC: Oh, yes. 

I: Okay. 

CC: Yeah, it was understood that he needed someone to take care of—to take care of his son and three little daughters. So we were all like steps. His youngest child was a year older than I. And then the next one was a year older than her. And then it was my sister. And then it was his eldest sister. So we were all one year apart. So we were five. Now, his mother lived with us.

I: There in McQueeney?

CC: 22:22 Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Did they have a farm in McQueeney or did they live in town or—?

CC: No, they had a farm.

I: A farm?

CC: It was about maybe three quarters of a mile from the town of McQueeney.

I: That farm that is in that picture postcard—that was the farm, right?

CC: The one that has his initials carved into the negative?

I: Right. That was you alls farm there in McQueeney?

CC: Yes. He took that. I think it has a picture of a horse.

I: Yes. Do you remember how big it was, how many acres it was?

CC: No, I don’t remember how many acres he had there. But I do know that he often said later that there just wasn’t enough for him to make—raise enough food and enough cotton or whatever they raised. I don’t think it was cotton. I think it was cane, wasn’t it?

I: Something.

CC: I don’t know what they raised out there.

I: He also worked at the brickyard though.

CC: Yes, that was—you know—there’s only a certain—there’s a season for farming. So during the winter season—I think it starts in October. There’s nothing to do at the farm. So that’s when he was working. He was working at the brickyard also when mama met him too. 

I: Well, how long did you all live in McQueeney?

CC: 24:03 Well, until 1919, when we moved—1918 or 1919 when we moved away.

I: And you all moved—why did you all move from McQueeney? Was it—?

CC: Well, like I say, he said he’s—the farm wasn’t big enough and he just couldn’t make ends meet. And, besides, they had a segregated school system. They had a school for blacks, a school for Negros—the called them Negros then—and a school for Mexicans. And my mother has always been very I guess advanced you would say. She didn’t want her children to grow up to know how to speak only Spanish or read and write only Spanish. And at the time it happened that my uncle, uncle Don, had come over here to Galveston to work in Galveston building the sea wall. And he remembered and he told him about it. And so he used to come out here quite often because he had—my mother had a cousin—my grandmother’s sister—that’s Tony Martinez’s mother—was my mother’s cousin. 

I: Okay.

CC: And he was a carpenter. And he used to work with Mr. Enrique Davis. Have you heard—?

I: Yes.

CC: Well, he was a contractor and somehow or another my uncle, Don, used to come quite often and do some jobs for him. I guess they wrote each other about it. But anyway, he came to work over there at building the sea wall.

I: Okay. This is your uncle, Don, right?

CC: Yes. And he was the one that told mother—wrote her and told her that they didn’t have anything like that here in Houston and Galveston that—in fact, you recommended that we come to go to Galveston, but there wasn’t much farming. Galveston was a small city. I think he was the one that come and investigated around here about farming. So through the mails, they contracted to come over. They would be furnished a house to live in and we would go to the school here in Alief. But then when we got here, the house wasn’t ready. They had already given it to my stepfather’s brother and his family. There was some mix up evidentially. So they put us up in a barn.

I: 27:30 In Alief?

CC: Correct—right here in Alief. It was closer to Piney Point.

I: Okay.

CC: Do you know where Piney Point—?

I: Near Piney Point? 

CC: Yes.

I: Yeah, I’ve heard of it.

CC: But he just stayed there temporarily until he found—he was kind of upset. Mama was upset too because they had promised him to have a house for us. And we were eight of us.

I2: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: So—he got busy and started looking around and found this man that had some big acreage there in Alief. And he said he needed someone. And papa said, “Well, I want a farm, but I want at least a hundred or maybe two hundred acres because I have a big family to support.” I’ll furnish the horses, the ______ (??) and the equipment and everything. So I don’t want to be a sharecropper because a sharecropper only works with the other fellow’s equipment and they don’t own anything. All they get really is the room and board.

I: Right.

CC: And a share of the crop. I don’t know what the amount is. But anyway, they built a house. While they were building the house, we stayed there at the barn. 

I: And did he sell the place in McQueeney? Had he sold his place In McQueeney?

CC: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). That’s why he had a little money in there. He had a little money saved. 

I: 29:13 I see.

CC: And he used to take photographs. Do you remember?

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Where did he learn the trade?

CC: McQueeney.

I: In McQueeney?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Did he ever say who he learned it from or—?

CC: From one of the boys—one of the German boys that lived there in McQueeney where he—I don’t know whether he was—maybe the owner of the farm where he was living—I don’t know what the connection was. He always said that he had learned it from this German. He used to say what the name was. In fact, my stepfather could speak German.

I: German. Is that so?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And he would teach papa how to speak German and papa would teach him how to speak Spanish.

I: Speak Spanish.

CC: And he was the one that got him interested in photography.

I: Did your father—this is a little off from what we were talking about—did he have his own camera and everything?

CC: My stepfather?

I: Your stepfather.

CC: Oh, yes. He bought all the equipment.

I: 30:23 Do you remember what the camera looked like?

CC: It was a box and he had a tripod.

I: It had a tripod?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). The films were about this size. 

I: They were big.

CC: They looked like slates—the old fashioned slates. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: And we stick them in the back. And then he’d cover his head in order to look. And everybody that you saw through the lens were upside down. And I used to help him with it. And it had a long thing with a little bulb. And if you press the little thing—and everybody had to be real still because it wasn’t an instant camera. And there had to be natural light too. That’s why most of the pictures that he made were outside—because there had to be a natural light. There were time exposures, I think you call them.

I: Yes—this is just a minor point, Ms. Cortez. But when he had the negative, was it glass

[END OF 313.2_01]

[BEGINNING OF 313.2_02]

I: —accomplished photographer.

I2: Evidentially, if he had his own darkroom.

CC: Oh, yeah. 

I: Where did he make the darkroom then—in one of the rooms upstairs or—?

CC: You know—I don’t remember. But where it was—

I: 00:19 But he developed his own film and printed—

CC: Oh, yeah, uh-hunh (affirmative)—printed his own film.

I: I see. As long as you remember him then, he was doing that, huh? I mean you don’t remember when he started. He had already started long before you—

CC: Oh, yeah, he’s already started.

I: That’s right. I see. 

CC: I don’t know whether he developed his own pictures prior to the time he built that darkroom over there in McQueeney where we were, but I think he did because he had bought all the equipment.

I: But he definitely had a darkroom when you knew him though? I mean—you know—

CC: Oh, yeah, and he already had it when—the first time I ever saw him take a picture, I knew that he was going to develop it too.

I: Oh, great.

CC: Then the film did come out like a celluloid.

I: Right, because it was always said, it wasn’t a piece of glass.

CC: Oh, well.

I: There were several types of negatives and I was wondering if used negatives—glass negatives.

CC: Well, I think he showed me some that were glass, but then the last few that I remember were—the glass ones were a film between two pieces of glass if I recall. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: 01:45 But I think the ones that he used to write on were—I think they were film. 

I: Were celluloid type.

CC: Celluloid type.

I: I see.

CC: And they were just postcard size because that’s the only size he had. 

I: He had the—his negatives were that big then.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: About postcard—

CC: Three by five—you know. 

I: I see.

CC: And he used to buy the paper—he used to buy postcards for the paper but they had to have a certain—he used to do sepia colors. He used to—

I: Where did he get his supplies? Do you remember where he got his photographic supplies?

CC: Well, I think he used to go to San Antonio—and he got some, through Segene (??). You know—Segene (??) wasn’t very far from there. In fact, my mother used to go to Segene (??) to shop lots of times when papa couldn’t go.

I: I was going to ask you, did he ever sell his photographs? Did he ever make a—you know—get money for them?

CC: Well, yes, he used to get money—lots of times a lot of people like that I imagined—remember you saw a bride and groom.

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: 03:01 He made several—took several pictures of brides during the wedding.

I: I noticed there he had a backdrop. Did he make that backdrop too?

CC: No, I think he bought it. I don’t know whether he got it at Segene (??) or in San Antonio. But, see, he used to order a lot of things. And then when they came, he used to go after them. He used to go pick them up. We used to have a little surrey, little two-seat surrey.

I: Horse drawn?

CC: Yeah, horse drawn.

I: And then he would go in to pick them up there.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: To San Antonio?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). That’s why he did it here in Houston. In fact, ________ (??) was the first family he ever met because they had the Mexican currier shop there, right there on Main. The older _______ (??) was named Jose. And he had a bookstore, (unintelligible; speaks Spanish). And they used to sell all kinds of Mexican curriers. It was right there on Main Street, right where the ________ (??) Administration building is.

I: Is now?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Why did he meet them there? You say they were the first—

CC: Because he was—he was interested in reading. He used to all go over there to the ________ (??) and used to buy/purchase books. He used to take Alexander Dumas, Victor _________ (??) in Spanish and a lot of other Novella’s (??) books. He used to buy the books. And that’s how they entertained us. They would read to us from those novels. 

I: Victor Hugo—

CC: 05:14 Well, all of those—those two I remember. He had other—they used to have ________ (??). I think he used to have something by Cervantes—poems and—and they used to read a loud to each other. Either mama would read to him or he would read to mama.

I: Was this in Alief?

CC: In Alief, uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: How long did he farm there in Alief?

CC: Oh, we were there, well, since 1920—1919 I think it was.

I: 19—

CC: 1919 to 1947 I think it was—

I: Moved in?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Well, he stayed over there, but then—he stayed there until 1947. Mama was the one that came over here in ’37. 

I: In when?

CC: In ’37.

I: In ’37—your mother moved in here.

CC: Yeah.

I: Was your mother educated?

CC: Well, not any more—yeah, she was more educated than he was. I don’t know—I don’t know how much, but I know that she used to say that she used to teach.

I: Is that so?

CC: 06:42 Uh-hunh (affirmative). So I don’t know how far you had to go and—

I: I don’t either. (Carmen laughs)

CC: But she used to say she used to teach.

I: But she had a level of education and she could read and—

CC: Oh, yeah. She read much better than he did. And she had a more expressive way of reading. You could almost see what was happening.

I: Did—?

CC: She used to sing beautifully—my mother.

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Was she a midwife in Alief? Did she ever do—?

CC: Yeah, uh-hunh (affirmative). Yeah, she—she didn’t exactly midwife but—you know—they used to have the babies—even if they had a doctor, they would only go to the doctor for the visits and find out if they were pregnant and this and that. The nearest doctor was in Katy. So—

I: Were there a lot of Mexican-American farmers living out in the Alief area that you—?

CC: No, we were the first ones. 

I: Really?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). But then some of the other farmers around—some of the other owners—land owners around there—started asking him, “Do you know—I need someone ______ (??). He brought mother—my father’s brother, Pablo, Ted and—you know—the one that’s in the picture here at the gravesite in Alief?

I: Yeah.

CC: 08:26 Well, their family moved here at the request of one of the—I think the man that worked for—I think they worked for—his name was Glover. And then they moved over and went to one of Mr. Fraser’s other farms. 

I: Was Fraser the one that your stepdad worked for?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Uh-hunh (affirmative). He rented the farm from.

I: He rented the farm from the—he—

CC: He was a tenant farmer.

I: Tenant farmer, rather than a sharecropper?

CC: Yes.

I: He rented it by the year or whatever.

CC: Yeah. And then, of course, they all looked at us kind of as ______ (??)—you know—at first. When I started to school—I started school in 1920 and I didn’t know how to speak English. I had to have a nametag with my name and my age. (laughs)

I: You spoke only Spanish at that time?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). 

I: And were they mainly Anglo-American children that you went to school with?

CC: Yeah, well, there was quite a few Italians, a lot of Czechoslovakians or Bohemians or something— (Tom laughs)—whatever they—

I: My people (Tom laughs). They were called Bohemians.

CC: In fact, the gin—the owner of the gin there at Alief—he had a brother who had gin over here in Missouri city and ______ (??) Stafford. They were named Crinnicks (??). 

I: Crinnick (??), yes. They were famous ginners out here. 

CC: 10:04 Were they in the—members of your family?

I: There’s a Crinnick (??) under every rock. That’s like Garcia.

CC: Oh, uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Everybody is named Crinnick (??). It is a very common name.

CC: Oh.

I: And they’re all related too.

CC: Somewhere.

I: In somewhere down the line—in-laws and outlaws. 

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative), yeah. 

I2: —Bettis (??)—

I: They’re related somewhere, it’s just that they’re—

CC: That’s right.

I2: We just can’t _________ (??). It’s been so long. 

I: Yeah.

I2: I want to ask you a real quick question—

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I2: —about your mother. I know you said she continued to midwife. She did the same kind of thing she was doing in McQueeney, she was taking care of women for those forty days?

CC: 10:38 Oh, yeah. When we got here—

I2: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: —she strictly would work along side with papa.

I2: Okay.

I: On the farm?

CC: Oh, yeah.

I2: Okay. 

CC: She used to ride a horse or ride the tractors, plow the—

I2: And plow.

CC: Yeah, walk behind the plow.

I2: Very physically active then.

CC: Oh, yeah.

I2: Okay.

CC: You see, my grandmother, my stepfather’s mother lived with us. And she did the cooking. And, the girls, we all did our chores. We had a pig and a calf and a cow that was our chore to see to them. And we gave them names. And if the mother couldn’t feed them or anything, we gave them a bottle.

I: Bottle fed the animals.

CC: The little calf, uh-hunh (affirmative). And we had pigs. We had a little pig. They had five pigs. Well, we each had one. It was our job to feed and see that they got fed and all that. We used to take turns in pumping water for the horses—a big horse trough—and we used to take turns to pump the water. 

I: 12:18 In rearing the children, did your mother play a bigger role or did your stepfather play a bigger role in you alls rearing?

CC: Rearing?

I: To raising you all—raising you all as kids.

CC: Well, papa was the boss, but mama was the mediator because papa was very, very strict. He didn’t—he just didn’t have the character. That’s what mama used to call it, “You just don’t have a character to talk to anybody.” He’d bark at us. Scared the hell out of me. Anyway, and mama was always the mediator. “There’s no use saying this, you don’t have to do that.” But what he said was—what he said went in the final analysis.

I: That was the law.

CC: He had the family on a budget and you could only spend so much money a year. Like I told you, they tried to be real even with us. They bought me a dress, they had to buy one for everybody— One time—I think it was—my sister Pauline wanted a little fur piece that she saw in the catalogue, and he says, “Well, buy it if you think you can wrangle five of them.” (laughs)

I2: If you can wrangle five of them, huh? (Carmen & Emma laugh)

I: Were all the girls pretty close? Were you all pretty close? 

CC: Yeah, we were fairly close. Of course, we’d fight like everybody—all the children did. But I paired off with the one next to me, Patsy. Her name was Petra—P-E-T-R-A. 

I2: That’s my grandmother’s name.

CC: But after she got married and all that, she started calling her—well, when she started working—one time mama got mad at papa for something or other. I don’t remember the reason, but anyway, she carted off to Houston with the three that were left. My sister Pauline had already married and Teresa had already married and was living here in Houston. And she came over here and went over to _______ (??), my aunt Mary’s—________ (??) mother. And she would determine that she wasn’t going to go back until he apologized or I don’t know what the deal was. Patsy and Lewis worked at the _______ (??) bag. You have a picture of that.

I: 15:24 Yes. About what year was this, Ms. Cortez?

CC: Well, I was fifteen years old. 

I: About ’28—1928?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Did you all stay here long in Houston?

CC: Oh, I think we stayed—we stayed—I think it was during the summer. I don’t remember what the time of the season it was. Anyway, he had to hire somebody. In fact, he had to build a little house in the back for this family—one of his distant relatives from _________ (??). And his wife came over. He hired somebody. He stood it as long as he could. And finally he came and took us back.

I: Did he apologize?

CC: Oh, yeah. 

I2: He finally did.

CC: He used to come—well, one time he came—he walked all the way. One time I know—I remember the _______ (??) that he walked all the time. Then the next time that he came—because mama used to do that quite often. The next time he rode a bicycle. He had bought a bicycle. I don’t know whether he bought it especially for that or not. He rode a bicycle—

I: Into Houston.

CC: —all the way to ______ (??) Park. 

I: You all had gone in—

CC: 17:03 From Alief—I’m in part of Alief now. This used to be Alief.

I: Which was way in the country at that time.

CC: Oh, yeah. It was twenty three miles—

I: Yeah, it was farm—

CC: Twenty three miles from the LaMar (??) High School. 

I: Yes. Twenty three miles from LaMar (??) High School. And this was all farming country at that time.

CC: Yeah, it was all farming country, uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: And he rode his bicycle in there to get you all to come back out, right?

CC: Yeah, uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: And you all had gone into Magnolia Park then to stay with Pete’s parents.

CC: Yeah. Gabriel and Mary had—I don’t know whether they were renting or whether they owned the house—but in a way, that’s where we stayed. It must have been during June. I think it was during school vacation. 

I: So how long did—you mentioned something that I want to pick up on. You said your mother used to entertain you all around the house with reading and singing. Any other types of activities that you remember?

CC: Oh, they used to give little parties. And papa used to play the accordion.

I: Is that so?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And his brother, Pablo, used to play the double accordion—you know—the one that has a big keyboard. And one of the compadres used to play guitar. My cousin from San Antonio also used to play the guitar. Of course, they weren’t always here. They’d invite the families—the surrounding families. Most of them were relatives, either on his side of the family or—and they’d have get togethers.

I: 19:04 Was this in McQueeney or was this in Alief?

CC: In Alief.

I: Alief—by the time they’d started—

CC: I don’t remember much about McQueeney.

I: McQueeney.

CC: Because I was—you know—too young. About the only thing I remember about McQueeney is when somebody died. And I remember the black hearse. 

I: Did you—then you went through how much schooling here in Alief?

CC: I went through the tenth grade. I think I went the first semester of the tenth grade. Then I wanted to take shorthand and typing or business course. And Alief didn’t offer it. 

I: Was that high school of something?

CC: Yes. It went from first grade to twelfth.

I: How many—by the time you got into the tenth grade, how many other Latin Americans or Mexican-Americans were going to school there?

CC: Well, there were some in the lower grades, but I was the only one up in the tenth grade.

I: That was it, yeah.

CC: My sister Patsy had quit in ninth grade I think—eighth or ninth grade. 

I: Why did she quit and why did you go on?

CC: 20:16 Well, she never did—she never did like to go to school. I think it’s because she was having hard times—you know—picking up on the language. She’s real dark and she developed real fast. She was already quite developed and all that. So she felt like she was older than—I guess that’s what it was. But anyway—and she would try to get me to play hooky and all that. In fact, one time I did play hooky. But we stayed out there in one of these ditches like that, all day long. I told her—I went home and I told my mama. I said, “I’ll never do it again”—because I never was so tired in all my life. But she didn’t want to go to school. And papa said, “I don’t care, it’s more help for me.” And mama said, “Well, you can let these bigger girls quit school if you want to, but this one here is not going to quit school because she’s going to go”—

I: Pointing to you.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative), to me. She knew that I was already frail. I had had the scarlet fever. And I would pass out in the avenue, in the fields and all that. So they knew that something was wrong somewhere. And it wasn’t until I was about fifteen or sixteen years old that I started working. I started going to Sam Houston High School and we’d take gym across at the YWCA. That’s how I got interested in the YWCA, because they would let me practice typing—my typing lessons there after school. 

I: The YWCA seemed to have been very important in the life of many young girls, young ladies at that time.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Well, it was the only place where they seemed to take an interest in—you know—young people. We kind of had a hard time getting in because a lot of these people—I guess they figured that Catholics weren’t Christians or something. 

I: Do you think it had to do also with being Mexican-American or was it?—

CC: I don’t know. Most of the leaders were—that is the administrators—were from up north somewhere and they were the ones that were interested in organizing a young group. And they could see the potential I guess. But they had to take it to the board and the board had to agree. And I heard later on that that was one of the things that had been brought out that—because we were Catholics.

I: I see.

CC: 23:36 But somehow or another I think—Miss Macy, herself—you know—she was a—did you know that she was a national president of—

I: No, I did not.

CC: Well, yeah, she was a big board member of the YWCA. And I think she came one time and I think she gave them a lecture—told them about the Catholics were the original Christians. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: So that’s when they consented to organizing the Chapultepec Club.

I: I see. Let’s go back, though before we get into the Chapultepec, you went to about the tenth grade here in Alief?

CC: Yes.

I: Okay, what made you decide to go—I mean why did you decide on Houston?

CC: Well, I talked to the principal of the high school and I told him what I wanted to learn. And also my English teacher—I had an English teacher over there at Alief. And she lived here in Houston.

I: I see.

CC: And she used to commute everyday on the train. They had two trains; one going to San Antonio and one coming from San Antonio a day. And she used to go in one and come back in one.

I: I see.

CC: She used to live somewhere around here. And she was from Michigan I believe. And she was the one that said that one of the occupations that I might be interested in. And if I could, she would help me try to be a teacher. So I said—I came over here with that intent and I was going to take education. But I also wanted to take bookkeeping and secretarial work so that I could work myself through college. But she was the one that advised me on it.

I: 25:56 What was her name?

CC: Hathcock.

I: Hathcock. Mrs. Hathcock.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Miss or Mrs.

CC: Mrs.

I: Mrs. Hathcock. 

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: And she lived in Houston and came out and taught here and then would go back.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: I see. How did you decide on the high school that you went to? You went to San Jacinto, right?

CC: Yeah, I went to San—no I went to Sam Houston first.

I: Sam Houston, pardon me.

CC: And the reason I decided for that is because the nearest one from where mama arranged for me to be boarded at Pablo’s—my stepfather’s brother’s house.

I: I see.

CC: They lived over here off of Washington, on Center St.

I: 26:45 Okay, on Center St., in the Sixth Ward area there.

CC: I don’t know what they—

I: I believe it is Sixth Ward—but on Center St.

CC: But anyway, it was on the 2700 block.

I: His name was Pablo what?

CC: Pablo _________ (??) (laughs)

I: Okay.

CC: Anyway, mama arranged with his wife—because Pablo couldn’t care less. He was (Tom and Carmen laugh)—but it was—it was _______ (??) that was interested. And she said, “Yeah.” She used to make me a lunch. You know what I used to take for lunch?

I: What’s that?

CC: One tomato and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I: Of course, now we’d call that health food. So in those days it was just a slim lunch. Now, that would be really in I guess. But it was one tomato and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And I’d walk to school.

I: What was the wife’s name that helped you? What was that ladies name—your aunt’s name?

CC: Blassa (??)

I: Blassa (??) Blassa (??) Reyes? 

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: 28:00 So she was one that kind of watched over you there—

CC: Yeah.

I: —when you lived on Center Street.

CC: Yeah.

I: What year did you come in to go to school here?

CC: Well, let’s see. I was in the tenth grade. I must have been sixteen I imagine.

I: And you lived there with them under their roof?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative)—for that year—for that school year.

I: So that was around 1929 would you say?

CC: Yeah, something like that—’29. And then the following year I went to San Jacinto High School.

I: Okay.

CC: Because I got a job I think through Miss Hathcock. 

I: Okay.

CC: I was working for a couple. He was some—I don’t know what he was. He was a representative or agent or something for the World Trade Center.

I: I see.

CC: And they used to entertain a lot. And they had a little baby girl and a little boy. They wanted to make ______ (??) babysit. I don’t know what they call me. They probably called me a maid, I don’t know.

I: Babysitter or something.

CC: 29:22 Well, they didn’t call them babysitters at that time. You just took care of them. You were—I guess they called me a maid. I didn’t care. But I was allowed to go to school. I would get off at 2 o’clock. And then from 2 o’clock I’d come and take care of the baby—you know—change her, make sure that—because sometimes she used to give bridge parties or go to bridge parties. And it was understood that I had to be there. 

I: You were still living on Center Street though?

CC: No, no.

I: You were living with them?

CC: Yes.

I: I see.

CC: They gave me a room and board and $5 a week. Now, I didn’t have to do any housework but, of course, I did because—I fixed my own bed. I would take my bath and I’d clean up the bathroom.

I: Sure.

CC: I never cooked because I didn’t have time in the first place. But anyway, I used to take care of the little baby. When I came from school, usually the little baby was taking her nap. It was my job to get her up and change her and clean her up. Sometimes I had to bathe her and take her out to the park—the little boy too.

I: Did you keep up with the child? Did you know her in later years?

CC: Oh, yes, I love her. Huh?—yes.

I: Is she still alive?

CC: Oh, yeah. She’s married now. But I kept up with them for a long time. I kept up with them until about 1982, 83. I heard from Mrs. Crawford. She said she had divorced Mr. Crawford.

I: 31:25 I see.

CC: Then the next time she called me she said she had married somebody whose name was Smith.

[END OF 313.2_02]

[BEGINNING OF 313.2_03]

I: Did you—when did you graduate from high school, Ms. Cortez?

CC: Oh, I think in 1932.

I: 1932? So you went for several years—

CC: 1931.

I: 1931. So you went for several years here to school. 

CC: Yeah.

I: To Sam Houston and San Jacinto?

CC: At San Jacinto.

I: Which one did you graduate from?

CC: San Jacinto.

I: San Jacinto?

CC: Un-hunh (affirmative).

I: At that time, while you were going to Sam Houston or San Jacinto, did you start to go to the YWCA?

CC: 00:34 When I was going to Sam Houston—

I: Sam Houston?

CC: —because it was right across the street.

I: Okay.

CC: The YWCA was right across the street, in the back of the—the main entrance to Sam Houston was one block away from I think—what was the name of—Crawford wasn’t—_______ (??) on Crawford?

I: I want to say that that’s where it was.

CC: We were on Crawford and another street. But it was on the corner. But anyway, across the street was the Sam Houston High School, but the main entrance was in the next street. It was on Rusk.

I: On Rusk?

CC: The YWCA was on Rusk. So that means that the entrance to the high school was on Capital.

I: Okay.

CC: And we used to walk around the front and go to take gym. 

I: And that’s where you could also practice your typing then?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). I didn’t have a typewriter at home. 

I: Did they have them at the school?

CC: Yeah, but I couldn’t stay—I couldn’t stay to practice there because they used to have night classes.

I: I see.

CC: 01:49 And the night classes would start at—in some of those—some of those—what do you call it? Some of those study—what do you call it? My courses—some of my courses, they couldn’t fit me in the daytime. And three times a week I used to go to night school.

I: When you were going to both Sam Houston and San Jacinto, were there any other Mexican-American women enrolled there—young ladies enrolled there.

CC: I don’t remember any, but I’m sure that there were. I used to see some that looked like they might be. But I didn’t make any friends.

I: You didn’t?

CC: Because I didn’t go in for the extra curricular activities at all. I was kind of behind in my credits.

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: All the time that I was going to Alief, we never started school until October.

I: Well, because of the farming.

CC: Yes, we always missed the beginning. And we always—he always took us out before the school ______ (??). So I was kind of behind at—I used to schedule my courses so that the main ones would be—you know—before certain hours so that I—and they were real good to me at Alief because they—I had good grades for nearly every year—nearly every year I was passed onto probation.

I: Really—because of the—?

CC: My good grades were—my grades were good, but I didn’t have the number of days.

I: I see. 

CC: I think you have to go a number of days—or nearly every one of them. But at the beginning, I think I was double promoted a couple of times.

I: 04:06 What about discrimination and prejudice in Alief? Could you notice it?

CC: Yeah, we used to notice it, but—you know—we were told at home not to pay—“don’t pay any attention.” Just forget it. (laughs)

I: Was there in Alief than in Houston or less in Houston than in Alief? Can you compare it when you moved in?

CC: Well, there wasn’t hardly any—well, I didn’t have time to—I didn’t have time to go out and—I didn’t make friends with anybody because I was always rushed to get home because I had to get to work. So I didn’t make any—hardly any friends in either schools, except the ones that I met that were from Sam Houston at the “Y”, which is where I met all these other—Chapultepec.

I: All the Chapultepec people. Now, when you were living with your aunt and uncle there on Center St., did they—did you work at all anywhere?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). 

I: You didn’t have a job. Taking care of that child with that family was the first job you had in Houston.

CC: Yeah, yeah. No, because I was boarding there.

I: Okay.

CC: I didn’t—I didn’t—

I: Was that mainly your mother’s idea to board you there?

CC: Oh, yeah. Well, my aunt Mary lived in Magnolia Park. She had to put me somewhere where I would be accessible to be able to walk to high school. And I don’t know where the _______ (??), but it would have been impossible for me to get to ________ (??) High School. And, besides, I don’t think that I could have gotten a job. Like when I was going to ________ (??), I don’t think I could have gotten a job in Magnolia Park. And I couldn’t have made it. Isn’t _______ (??) High School on Broadway?

I: 06:25 I think so. I think—

CC: Well, see when I was working in that restaurant—I told you about—

I: No.

CC: —the Chinese restaurant—

I: Oh, that’s right.

CC: —there on—well, my aunt had to drive me and mama thought that was too much of an imposition and so did I—because they used to take me and then stay up and read or listen to the radio or go to a movie. And to go after me. And that was a little bit too much.

I: Were you already graduated from high school when you worked in that Chinese restaurant?

CC: Oh, yes, yes.

I: That came later.

CC: I was already going to the University of Houston, which at that time was junior college was right behind _________ High School. Were you aware of that?

I: No, I was not. I’m not very aware of that particular—

CC: It was called the Houston Junior College. In 1927 I think is when they were founded.

I: So you began to go to the YWCA when you were there at Sam Houston’s.

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). I was sixteen years old. 

I: Sixteen years old. When did you get connected up with the Chapultepec girls?

CC: Well, that picture was—in that picture that we had there, wasn’t that taken in 1934 or something like that?

I: 07:57 Something along those lines. 

CC: Well, see I had already been connected with—that was what the—? See we were organized and we met for a couple of years, but weren’t approved. We didn’t actually have our—what do they call it?—inauguration or whatever—organizational thing until 1931. 

I: Okay.

CC: So they must have been in 1928, ’29—’28—

I: But you all actually began to meet—

CC: We began to meet but we were part of the young adult department. So then it got to be a problem because they also had a teenage group.

I2: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: But so many others before—so many of the Chapultepec women—girls were already graduated.

I: I see.

CC: So we didn’t fit either in the teenage department or the young adult. The young adult were mostly business girls that had already graduated and were already working. So that’s why we had—but we used to meet with them.

I: Now, there was a club that Emma and I keep running into called the Pan American Club, that was affiliated with the YWCA. And it was also made up of young ladies, many of them Mexican-American. Do you remember that club at all?

CC: No. Must have been connected with another branch of the “Y”. 

I: Okay.

CC: Because they had I think—they had one—they had one over here on the west side. 

I: 09:56 Maybe so.

CC: So I don’t know—unless it was afterwards. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: I don’t know.

I: So when you—I don’t know if we went over this in the other tape, but who got you in? Do you remember how you—were you in on the founding of the club or did they get you—?

CC: No, they were already meeting and all that. Although, I used to be kind of an onlooker and Mrs. Goodman, who was a—she was a receptionist there at the YWCA. She would invite me to go in and she was the one that introduced me to the other girls.

I: Ms. Goodman did?

CC: Yes. And she introduced me to Ms. Lewis. Ms. Lewis was the director of that department at that time. There was Eva Pettis (??) and Stella _______ (??) Stella—well, she went as Stella _______ (??). She was Stella Gomez—and Mary Gomez and Mrs. Olivia Rosales (??) ________ (??)—and several others she introduced me to them. I just told them, “I’m from the country.” I told them where I’m from and all that. Then when they organized a club, then she suggested to them that they invite me to join and they did. I think Mrs. Rosales (??) was president—at that time. 

I: How long did you stay affiliated with the Chapultepec? Do you remember?

CC: Until about 1942—during the war. That’s when we disbanded practically because all our husbands and boyfriends had gone to war. 

I: So you—

CC: And they transferred Ms. Lewis out of there too. So we kind of were left without a—a ship without a sail or helm there for a while.

I: 12:05 Ms. Lewis was transferred out?

CC: Yeah, uh-hunh (affirmative). Then they brought Ms. Crosby in. And we still hung around with her for a while. And then she was the one that was instrumental in organizing the one at Magnolia Park. 

I: Okay. What was the difference between Ms. Crosby and Ms. Lewis? Could you tell a difference in them or—?

CC: No. Ms. Crosby was very good too. She was—but some of the women, the girls didn’t particularly like her. I think it was just a matter—I don’t think there was anything against her, it was just that they missed Ms. Lewis. 

I: Was Ms. Lewis a pretty big influence on them?

CC: Yes, I think she was. See, the board—we had to have everything approved by the board. And Ms. Lewis was a real good buffer for us—you know. They didn’t want us to dance. I guess this is the influence really surprised us. A lot of them don’t like to dance. They didn’t want us to dance. They didn’t want us to hold any activities on Sunday. And so she was kind of a buffer between us. She would tell them, “Well, these girls all had to come from far and they all—it’s inconvenient for them to be coming during the week to the activities.” 

I2: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: And she did more as far as they thought. Like I said, Ms. Crosby was real good too, but by that time we were spoiled to Ms. Lewis.

I: So she was very close and active with you all?

CC: Un-hunh (affirmative). Yeah, she used to take us out to Casa Del Mar, which is a YWCA thing. We used to spend weeks vacation over there. Go swimming and this and that and the other. Take us on boat rides. We used to organize boat rides down the _______ Channel. And she was the one that—we had to go to the board. She used to take several of us and then when Pan American Day came around, she used to organize us all and tell us to—we’d all get dressed, representing all the Pan American countries. One of us would be Miss Argentina and all that—Miss Mexico and Miss this and that and the other. She would invite all the big shots from the board to come see. She would organize programs where Olga Padia (??)—you know Joe Padia?

I: 15:36 Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: Her sister used to sing.

I: Is that so?

CC: Yeah, she was one of the ones. Al Hernandez used to sing too. We’d get people to put in entertainment.

I: Al’s got a great voice.

CC: Yeah.

I: Al’s got a tremendous voice.

CC: And they’d put on—we’d someone to dance _________ (??) and maybe somebody would dance the tango to represent—you know—our Spanish influence. And maybe somebody else would dance La Hota (??) I remember the Pasco girls did the—from the different states of ________ (??). Isn’t that from—who are the Tijuana’s from?

I2: (unintelligible)

I: That’s way down in that isthmus (??) of ________ (??) isn’t it?

CC: Must be. Yeah, because—

I: Way in southern—they have a particular style of dress that’s—

CC: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). 

I: Their hairdo’s.

CC: It was like an Indian, except a pleated thing. And they used to dance—

I: 16:53 What is Pan American Day? I’m not familiar with Pan American Day, but there is a Pan American Day.

I2: Yeah.

CC: Well, this was a special Pan American Day that—I don’t know whether it was everywhere but—

I: Oh, you all had it, huh? Oh, I see.

CC: We had it. We used to call it Pan American—

I: Where did you all hold your festivity?

CC: Well, that one—several of them, we hold them right there in the auditorium at the “Y”.

I: At the “Y”. Did you all ever hold activities outside the YWCA?

CC: Oh, yes. That’s why I’ve said that—see the YWCA got too small for our group. And we had a time getting the board to agree to let us have it somewhere else. We used to hire the—is it Glen—Glenwood Golf Crest Country Club?

I: Golf Crest Country Club?

CC: And the Houston Country Club. It used to be right there on Rondale.

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: And we used to hold our dances there. We used to hold a dance maybe at the Aragon Club because it was bigger.

I: The Aragon Ballroom?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative), the Aragon Ballroom. And there used to be another one there on Main St.—I forget now what—Rosedale.

I: Rosedale?

CC: 18:23 Rosedale—it was dance hall. During the week they had dime a dance I believe. 

I: Sure.

CC: But they were closed on Sundays or something. Like I say, she used to be a buffer for us. She would talk them into—because that was the only time we could get the hall. 

I2: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: Because that was the only time that it was open for private parties. 

I: Now, all this time, did you go on for further schooling after you graduated from high school?

CC: Oh, yes.

I: What did you do. What did you do then?

CC: Well, I went—I went—I’m sorry to say, but I went to college for about ten years. (laugh) I didn’t graduate from the University of Houston until 1955.

I: Until 1955. When did you enter it though? When did you enter college?

CC: Well, I think it was 1931.

I: Oh, you went right into college taking courses?

CC: Yeah, uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: What course of studies did you take?

CC: Well, I took English—all the regular—you know—history.

I: Yes, ma’am.

CC: American History, English.

I: 19:47 What was your major?

CC: I was going to be a teacher—education.

I: In Education? Teacher in what, all subjects or what?

CC: No, Business.

I: Business?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). I wanted to—somebody advised me to do that. (Tom and Carmen laugh). I don’t know. In fact, while I was still a student, I taught a little at the Southwestern Business School.

I: You did?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: When was this?

CC: I think I was in my second—it was before I married—the year before I married, 1932 I believe.

I: 1932. You married in ’33?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: You married in 1933—

CC: Then, after I married, I quit going to school altogether. I didn’t flunk or anything. 

I: You just dropped out. 

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Left.

CC: 20:51 Because I intended to go back, which I did. 

I: Did you—when you graduated from—when did you start actively looking for a job, Ms. Cortez?

CC: Well, I was always looking for a job. (laughs)

I: Even before you graduated from high school or after you were—?

CC: Oh, yeah, before. I worked at Foley Brothers down in the basement selling lingerie. I worked as a cashier at Guadalupe Drug Store.

I: On Congress there?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And I worked at that Chinese restaurant and I worked at a little café, right here on Yale and Washington.

I: Tell us about this Guadalupe Drug Store. When did you work there?

CC: I don’t know what year it was. But—

I: 30’s or 40’s?

CC: It was in the 30’s.

I: Who owned it then?

CC: Well, Dr. Lava (??) was there and I can’t remember the pharmacist. I think his name was Gerra (??). And Roy Molina ran the fountain. That’s how I met Roy.

I: Mr. Molina—the one that has Molina’s restaurant?

CC: Raul Molina. And his wife was cashier for her daddy, right next door at the Azteca Theatre.

I: I see. That’s Mary ______ (??).

CC: 22:26 Maria __________ (??), uh-hunh (affirmative). And that’s when I met both of them. 

I: I see. But you worked there at that little—what’s it called Boutiqua Guadalupana (??).

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). I don’t think it’s there any more.

I: No, it’s not. It’s all become industrial.

CC: I think Gerra (??) moved over to Canal—catty corner from Russ Settlement. He had his little drug store there for a long time after.

I: Were most of you alls client there—this is just sort of a little aside—but were most of you alls clients there—patrons of the Guadalupe Drug Store—were they mainly Hispanic? Were they mainly Latin American?

CC: Nearly everybody around there was.

I: How about—

CC: We had __________ (??). Do you know the ________ (??).

I: No.

CC: Henry _______ (??). They had the El Rancho Restaurant there on Canal years later. And his brother moved to Waco. And his other brother was musician with Alvino Torres (??) I believe. 

I: Really—with Alvino (??)—?

CC: Either with Alvino (??) or with Eddie _______ (??). He played the drums. I don’t know whether Alvino (??) had a drum. Alvino’s (??) orchestra had a drum, but I know that _______ (??) used to play.

I: How hard was it to find a job as a young woman?

CC: 24:10 Oh, very hard, very hard. I tried to find a job wherever anybody sent me. The YWCA used to send me to a lot of jobs. But a lot of them just flat told you that they didn’t hire Mexicans. So I would just turn around and say, “Thank you.”

I: Even though you were a high school graduate?

CC: They didn’t care. They didn’t care to know one more thing. I even tried a couple of times to tell them that I wasn’t really a Mexican. I said, “I was born here.” I don’t give a damn. (unintelligible) and all that. So like I said, my parents had always told us to just don’t pay any attention. You’ll be somewhere some—a job somewhere. And if you can’t find a job, well fine. That’s all right too. So that’s the story.

I: Do you remember the type of stores that you—the type of employment that told you that? Do you remember what type of stores they were?

CC: Well, mostly they were finance companies and sales persons. Most all the Latin American girls used to work at little stores like Solo Serve.

I: Did you ever work at Solo Serve?

CC: No, no. 

I: But you knew a lot of girls who did work at Solo—

CC: Oh, yeah, yeah. 

I: Why would they hire you all at Solo Serve? I mean it was a pretty good little store though wasn’t it?

CC: Yeah, it was good. _________ (??) you see, you serve yourself and I guess much of the clientele must have been—I don’t know. I don’t know why. And Lerner’s had a lot of—Lerner’s and Three Sisters. But I think where they told me that they wouldn’t hire us was at Harris Halo. 

I: At where?

CC: Harris Halo. 

I: 26:28 Harris Halo. 

CC: It used to be a big store right there on Main and Prairie I think—or Main and Texas. 

I: And they made no bones about it. They just told you?

CC: They could have told me the job has been filled.

I: Right.

CC: You know—but, see, they couldn’t tell that I was a Mexican until I said my name. One there at Harris Halo told me that. It kind of hurt me but—

I2: Didn’t stop you.

CC: Didn’t stop me.

I: (unintelligible) (laughs) Hey, were you married—?

CC: One day—one of these days. I would tell myself “one of these days.” And that’s one of the main reasons that I started working, on behalf of trying to—

I: Of the community?

CC: Trying to prove to these people that we weren’t all little peons—ignorant greasers. Oh, I went to ______ school when I was little. And mama must have gotten mad at papa. I don’t know.

I: Yeah.

CC: But anyway, she sent us over to stay with Mary Navarro. She lived over there on McKee. And I went to school _________ (??) one—I think one or two—one semester I believe it was, which is three months isn’t it?

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: 28:22 And, see, my hair used to be a real light brown. And anytime I’d be in the same room with somebody that had lice, I got it. I don’t know, I think they used to jump on me.

I: Well, it’s a very communicative type of thing anyway.

CC: Anyway, this teacher could see this—I could feel it too. She found a great, big black one on me. And she sent me home. And the next day she had her equipment and all that. She put some kind of grease or something in my hair—in everybody’s hair. And that was the most humiliating thing. And my aunt said—and mama too—“couldn’t she tell that that bug didn’t belong to you because they change color according to your hair.” If you have black hair, they turn black. If you have brown hair, they’re brown. That lice wasn’t mine. But anyway I said, “Well, who cares” because mama used to wash our hair. And she used to put a solution of _______ (??) or something or other. She used to wash our hair all the time so we would always have _______ (??). But that woman found that one on there. It was the most humiliating thing.

I: You were a little kid though, weren’t you—at that time?

CC: Yes, I was little, but still. I knew I wasn’t supposed to have any because my aunt and my mother would watch us real carefully. They used to clean us, starch our dresses and we were real neat. But that’s something you can’t have. I told mama, I said, “I don’t want to go to school there anymore.” 

I: Well, when you were told—let me not lead you on here—let me just pick up on the line of questioning here, Ms. Cortez. Was the Chapultepec Club pretty outspoken in this matter?

CC: No, we only got spoken at one time. 

I: You won’t tell us about that one time. 

CC: Well, I don’t remember the detail. You probably know more about it. (Tom laughs) I think they were having a thing about this—wasn’t it? Which one was that? Was that—it was somewhere else, in some other little town—something was going—

[END OF 313.2_03]

[BEGINNING OF 313.2_04]

CC: 00:01 —for her, as president.

I: So you all worked on it together than ______ (??).

CC: Oh, yeah, yeah. We correct spelling and all that. And then we got to have it—we had to have Ms. Lewis read it too. 

I: What was her opinion? What was Mrs. Lewis’ opinion?

CC: Oh, she was very—she was very proud. I tell you, she was quite a person.

I: Did you ever, personally, have any difficulty because of that letter. Did anybody ever say anything to you at all?

CC: Uh-hunh (negative). No. They might have to Stella, I don’t know. If they did, she never said anything. 

I: But, you yourself, you never received any feedback from any negative feedback.

CC: No.

I: Did the other young ladies in the club, did they support you all in that?

CC: Oh, yeah. We had to—we read it at the meeting before we sent it in. I think it got to Macon, Georgia. That’s where the national office is, you know.

I: The letter did—you think it got to Macon, Georgia?

CC: Oh, yeah. I know it did. Yeah, I’m sure it did. I don’t know how the people in Atlanta felt about it, but I know that the people up north thought that was very good. I seem to recall that a Miss—what was her name, up in Macon, Georgia—sent a clip in to us from up there. 

I: Had they reprinted the letter or something?

CC: 02:00 No, they hadn’t reprinted, but they had just quoted portions of it and said it was very good, very truthful of how things were. See, a lot of people just didn’t realize—you know—what’s going on. They still don’t a lot of. Like mama used to say, “It’s just ignorance.” Ignorance on the part of—some people just don’t know. They only see one thing, it’s black or it’s white and there’s no in between. Mama used to say, “you know, there’s three classes social status.” “There’s three social stratus everywhere.” And that’s the way it is here too. And the ones that happen to be in power, if they’re real prejudice they’re going to have everything they write is going to be reflected that way. Just like when the democrats are in, things sound different every time somebody says something. And Republican’s are in, well, then their views are different. Although, we are one people, right? 

I: Did you—was your mother and dad—were they political at all? Did they have any politics at all?

CC: No. They read up on it and they stayed up on it, but they never—they weren’t active.

I: When did you first vote?

CC: Oh, I voted when I was—as soon as they gave me my vote—twenty one

I: Twenty one. Were you cognizant of Franklin Roosevelt. I mean did you remember Roosevelt pretty well?

CC: Papa—and they would read everything—papa and mama. And then when he came to Houston, he went paraded down the street there. My husband used to have a place right there on Main St. And he had arranged a display of his fruit. He had put an eagle and the emblem of the NRA or whatever it was.

I: There’s a photograph of that in your collection.

CC: Just made out of nothing but fruit. My husband did that.

I: Where did you and Mr. Cortez meet?

CC: 05:05 Well, I think we met at a dance, either Sylvan Beach or—because they were used to—Luna Park. I don’t remember which one. 

I: Were you with the Chapultepec Club or were you on your own?

CC: Oh, no, I wasn’t with either one yet. Papa used to bring us over to Mary Navarro’s house and then he’d go to a show. And she would take us to the dance. And there was no dating, stuff like that—you know. The group of boys came from one group and a group of girls went another way. Everybody paid their own way. Or if it was free, everyone was individual—you know. We had our invitations or whatever. And then the boys would just go ask the girls if sitting around. And I wasn’t a wallflower. (laughs)

I2: You weren’t, huh?

CC: No. I’m afraid not. 

I: Did you attend church at this time in Houston?

CC: Yeah, we used to—we used to come either to St. Anne’s all the way from Alief. Either to St. Anne’s or to the one over here on Yale, St. Theresa’s. Anyway, I thought it was on Yale. It’s near Yale St. Anyway, I think its St. Theresa’s. It was closer to—off of Harrisburg. I mean off of _________ (??) And then, of course, we only went to Guadalupe Church when there was somebody in the family having—getting married or being baptized or something.

I: Where did you and Mr. Cortez get married?

CC: We got married there in the Guadalupe Church.

I: In Guadalupe Church.

CC: Because his uncle, Pablo Cortez, was a bit member of the Guadalupe Church. 

I: I see. 

CC: And then our maid of honor was also a big member. 

I: 07:37 I see.

CC: We were going to get married at St. Anne’s Church but our attendants—our maid of honor and all that, talked us out of it because they said they were too far from them because St. Anne’s, where I used to go. 

I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: In fact, we had already made the arrangements. We had to cancel. Most of the attendants—St. Anne didn’t marry on Sunday. And we were to have been married on Saturday. But so many of the attendants couldn’t go because they all worked on Saturday. So we had to change it to a church that married people on Sunday. 

I: Did you and your husband get active in any clubs after you all got married?

CC: Well, he was already—we were both already active. See, I wasn’t married when I first joined Chapultepec. 

I: I see.

CC: In fact, the two clubs got together and sponsored the dance.

I: And that was the Chapultepec and which one?

CC: And Mexico _______ (??).

I: He was a member of Mexico ________ (??) at that time?

CC: Yes. And I was a member of the Chapultepec and they both got together. Of course, we gave the reception. My parents gave the reception—you know—food.

I: Where was the reception?

CC: Well, the reception was supposed to have been out at Alief where I lived, but it rained cats and dogs and we couldn’t get in. So we had to have all the food and everything brought to Pablo’s—Pablo Cortez’s house. 

I: 09:51 Where was he living again?

CC: Right there by the Russ Settlement.

I: Okay, it’s in the second Ward area?

CC: Yeah. And it was all cramped and all that, but they took out the furniture, the beds or something. I don’t remember now what. And people around the neighborhood said they had food to eat for a week. (Tom and Carmen laugh) They served dinner all day long, all day long. 

I: Now, after—you might have mentioned this, but after you all got married, did you stay working? Did you work or did you quit work?

CC: No, I didn’t work for two years because—I started back to work when my husband dropped a crate of apples over something on his foot.

I: Yes.

CC: And he got his leg real big spot almost to the bone. At those times, they didn’t have—there was not compensation, insurance and—no nothing. If you got sick and couldn’t work, that’s just tough. (laughs) So that’s when I started work. I had to go to work.

I: Where did you go to work?

CC: Let’s see, where did I go to work first? Well, I started working for a lawyer. I worked for—there were three lawyers—Sherluff (??), Luboski (??) and Haase—H-A-A-S-E. She was a civil attorney. The woman was a civil attorney. 

I: There was a woman lawyer, huh?

CC: Uh-hunh (affirmative). She just did wills and deed and stuff—deed restrictions. She was just a civil lawyer. And Luboski (??)—he was more for union representative or something because he had almost nothing but injuries and _______ (??)—stuff like that.

I: How’d you get that job. That’s very interesting.

CC: 12:23 I don’t remember how I got that. I probably got it through the YWCA because they taught me how to operate a switchboard. And, like I said, they used to let me practice on their typewriters and I used to study my shorthand there and all that. I think I got it through Ms. Goodman, who was the receptionist. 

I: Were you their secretary basically?

CC: Who.

I: The law firm.

CC: Oh, yeah. 

I: How long did you work there with them?

CC: Oh, I stayed there for about two years—two or three years. 

I: And then what job did you have?

CC: And then—let’s see—then I went to work for a finance company. They’re in the First National Bank building. It was a climb—building in the loan association—mostly just a loan company. I never did see any building contracts or anything. 

I: It was a loan finance company.

CC: Finance company. And I worked there for two years. In fact, I was working there when I had Vicky, my—

I: First child?

CC: —first child. And she was born in October and I went back to work in November. 

I: What year was that?

CC: 1940.

I: ’40?

CC: 14:14 Uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Did you work there until you went to work for the county?

CC: Yeah.

I: You—now, I have it in the book—

CC: I was working at the loan company when the representatives of this union over there—Maritime unions—that I had met when I was working the Chinese restaurant. 

I: I see.

CC: Yeah. Mr. ________ (??) was one and Mr. ________ (??) was another _______ (??) I think his name was Rodriguez or Martinez or something like that. 

I: They were long shore man at the time?

CC: They were union representatives. I think they—they’re workers aren’t they?

I: Yeah, they’re workers and union men.

CC: Yeah, they were workers and union representatives. And I don’t know how they heard about me I guess. But anyway, they were the ones that—said that they had been told by the county judge I think, which at that time was Roy ______ (??), that the Mexican people around Houston didn’t have any qualified people to work in the offices. And he had told them, “If you get someone that is qualified, we will hire her in a minute.” So they talked me into going. So I got the job. Yeah, I had to go be interviewed by Judge _______(??). I had to go be interviewed by Judge Campbell. I think he was a senior attorney. He was a senior of the legal—I don’t know what they call it. They send me out to the University of Houston to take a test—typing test, shorthand test. So I was hired. They couldn’t find any excuses not to. (laughs)

I: They had run all out of excuses, huh?

CC: Yeah.

I: 16:45 Let me ask you this, Ms Cortez. You weren’t involved in Loolac (??)—according to what we’ve talked about before—until after WW2.

CC: That’s right.

I: Were you aware of the activity of Loolac (??) though before the war?—like in the 30’s?

CC: No. 

I: You didn’t—?

CC: I think I would read about it, but I didn’t— And I would remember that it was something—something about like what we had had when I was at the YWCA. But I didn’t know anybody directly.

I: Directly. What about other women’s or ladies groups in the 30’s? Did you remember or have association with any other ladies groups? You know—ladies clubs?

CC: Uh-hunh (negative), when?

I: Like in the 30’s here in Houston?

CC: No, I knew that there was Mexico ______ (??) auxiliary ________ (??). And we used to go to dances to some club in Galveston—you know—as members of the Chapultepec Club. But, they were mostly social—you know—just social clubs. At least that’s the way I understood it. And the ______ (??)—I didn’t want to join any club that was just there to serve coffee and—you know—and all that. So when they first approached me about—they first approached me about Loolac (??) when I first started working at the county. 

I: In the early 40’s.

CC: Yes. But I never did want to join because they were—they were auxiliary. They had a women’s—

I2: (unintelligible) You didn’t want to be a member of any auxiliary?

CC: 18:49 No. 

I2: Why was that?

CC: Well, I just—I felt that they were subservient to the men. I was just kind of radical I guess. (laughs)

I: She doesn’t look like a radical to me. Does she to you? (Carmen laughs) Would that have been the appeal of the Chapultepec Club? You all weren’t subservient to any men’s group or—?

CC: Yeah, that was one of the reasons that I felt, well, either they should be all women or all men—or mixed. And although the ladies—they were having to have all the ladies ______ (??) would have their dances. But they couldn’t have it where they wanted. They couldn’t have it when they wanted. I knew most of the girls that were in the _________ (??) Club had been members of the Chapultepec Club, you see—like Rivas—you know—Gonzales. 

I: Sure.

CC: Married to ______ (??) and all that. Well, I had seen too much about this machismo business with my stepfather because he was—and mama was just so independent herself that I guess I inherited part of it. I didn’t think that I could do any good by doing that. I did want to join, but as soon as I started working for the county and as soon as I read in the paper that they were—had organized the Loolac (??) club for women, and it was going to be a different number, and it was going to be a charter ladies council—well, I agreed to join.

I2: That’s when you decided—?

I: That was Twenty Two—Council Twenty Two.

CC: Yeah, Council Twenty Two.

I: That was like in the what—late 40’s wasn’t it?

CC: 21:07 Yeah, because there had been another one before us. But they weren’t—it was before the constitution—when the constitution was changed. The president was a man from Laredo and he—I had read somewhere where he had said that this ladies club would be independent than men. Of course, they should cooperate with one another, but it would not be an auxiliary. So that’s when I joined it—ladies Loolac (??).

I: When did your mother and stepfather move into Houston? 

CC: Well, mama came in 1937, like I said. And she opened that little store over there because the farm was getting Tony, my nephew. And we had all moved—all their help had moved. And Tony wanted to move to Houston.

I2: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

CC: So she wanted to come and make a home for Tony and for my nieces—you know—my two nieces. My sister died and left three children; two girls and one boy. But the father, my nephew’s father, took the little boy to his mother’s house. And he gave the two little girls to mama. So mama didn’t want to split because ______ (??) wanted to—he couldn’t find anything to do over there—during the off season. And he wanted to come to Houston to find a job and start working. So they already owned the lots there. They had owned the lots there in Magnolia Park since 1920. And so they—Tony’s father built the first little house there. 

I: Where did they have their store? Tell us about the little store.

CC: Well, 7443, that was the first little house that my uncle built. And my mother, when she moved, she brought a cow and she brought some chickens. And there was hardly no houses around there. And since my husband was in the fruit and vegetable produce business, she started selling watermelons and this and that and the other until she found out that there was an ordinance about animals. So she sold the cow and got rid of the chickens. So she started putting other things, like bread and milk and candies and gum—bubble gum.

I: What address was that again?

CC: 7443 Avenue K. 

I: 24:44 Avenue K—okay. 

CC: Then she built—she used to put all her wares on the porch. And then she built ____ (??) in front of it. And then later on she extended it to the building line. And that’s where she started—

I: That picture of your mother and your stepfather in there—

CC: Yeah.

I: Is that that little store?

CC: That’s it, that’s it. 

I: Was that after he came in to live here or—?

CC: She already had the store. 

I: I see.

CC: He didn’t move in until the war started. There was a job for him at the Brown Ship building. So that’s when he moved here to Houston. 

I: I see.

CC: And move in with mama. Both he and my uncle, Tony’s father, worked at the Brown Shipyard.

I: I see. 

CC: That’s how they earned their social security.

I: Good.

CC: Because at that time they didn’t have it for farmers.

I: No, not at all. 

CC: 26:00 And that’s it.

I2: Question—I know you’ve seen—I mean you were clearly ahead of your time in your thinking about the women’s auxiliaries because so many women were in the auxiliaries. Were there any other women who thought like you, who had that same idea that they didn’t want to subservient in an auxiliary as such?

CC: There must have been because— because I wasn’t the first one to join. See, they had seen—when they first started, they started organizing the men’s council number 60 starting helping them organize this and that and the other. And they started treating them like they were an auxiliary, you see. And they’d make tamales and sell, have meetings and this and that and the other. And they organized what they called ______ (??). It was a girl’s idea. But the men took over. Well, they went ahead—

I: Gotta get your ideas from somewhere, I mean you know—

I2: Gotta steal them from somewhere. (Tom laughs)

CC: So then ______ (??)—I don’t know whether this is true or not because this was before I joined—but anyway, the council had not been charted yet. It was in the organization. You had to have two councils in the district to sponsor you in order for you to be organized—for you to be chartered. So I’m sure that the men thought that they were—all they were doing is sponsoring. And they had the experience and they probably knew what they were doing and trying to sell. But the women kind of thought that they were going a little bit too far. But anyway, they had this ______ (??). And I think Al and John ______ (??) and several others, they got dressed the worst you could—you know. They let their beard grow so they could be—and they sold the votes or something or other like that. And then the following year, well, the men’s council made the ______ (??). So that’s when the ladies council was going to be chartered the following year. So that’s when they asked me to join and that’s when I joined.

I: About what year was that?

CC: It must have been—’49.

I: ’49 when you actually got into it?

CC: 29:26 Uh-hunh (affirmative). Although they had been operating for about a year, they hadn’t been chartered because they didn’t have enough members.

I: How many members did it take?

CC: They needed ten. 

I2: Ten.

CC: They needed ten paid members before they could be chartered. The names had to go to the regional convention, which is held around April. And then the state convention is held in May. And that had to be approved the sponsor and have it ready for the national convention in June. It was in ’49 because I started working at the city in 1948.

I: ’48.

CC: And that is when they were having this big to-do about the police department that they said that they couldn’t find any Mexican-Americans that were tall enough. That’s why they couldn’t have a Latin-American squad or something or other like that. And I went to several of those public meetings. That’s how I got interested in and then joined. 

I: Coming out of those—under that police department?

CC: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative).

I: Very interesting. 

CC: And since I knew so many people having been in the clubs—in the Chapultepec Club—I knew husbands of nearly all the members that I had known in Chapultepec Club and—

I: In other words, in the Chapultepec Club you met a lot of people didn’t you?

CC: Oh, yes. I knew everybody. And then people got married and—I had a pretty good—

[END OF 313.2_04]

 

 

1:17 PM 10/15/2013