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Interview with: Estella Reyes
Date: June 8th, 1979
Archive Number: OH 261.1
I: 00:06 This is a June 8th, 1979 oral history interview with Mrs. Estella Reyes of—what’s the address Ms. Reyes?
ER: We live on 10 Wooding.
I: 1110 Wooding. Okay. The problem with this is not the fact that it’s receiving, but the problem is that it won’t play back. We can record on this tape, and it will come out all right. How do you think we ought to do this first? (00:37 tape stops and restarts) If you write all—that will be great if you write all that down, but let’s talk right now about that letter.
ER: What letter?
I: That letter came—when did it come up?
ER: Yes, it came a little after we introduced ourselves to the groups there at the Y, and after the community knew we were there, and we were trying to do something for ourselves and trying to do something for the families too—you know—what was out there mainly, what can we do better to help get together? So that’s when we started discussing our problems in our neighborhoods and in our families. We all made—contributed our own experiences with them. Maybe one would say “Well, we wanted to rent the larger house and the (unintelligible-noise on tape) house, but we were not even allowed to talk about it or ask many more questions because they’d say it’s not for you. We do not rent to Mexican people, and probably others say we went to apply for a job at this company and we ask for a job application. We don’t have any more job applications. We don’t have any for you. That’s the kind of problems we met. Then maybe in a group outside probably we wanted to rent a place to hold a big wedding or a big dance for the friends and all the families. We could not find a place to do that. We were not allowed or accepted, so those little problems were put together. We—
I: The group talked about it.
ER: 03:03 We talked—we discussed about it first and then we—I think I did. I would write it down. I was the secretary at that time, write it down, everything we had and we’d discuss, then decided why not put it down? Oh, these things there. We were supposed to have written that letter to somebody. Now I cannot recall to who we had written the letter. Anyway, it happened that we did write the letter.
I: It said to the B&P something. I can’t remember exactly what it said on the letter, but you all had addressed it to somebody.
ER: Yes, we’d written to somebody.
I: I should have brought a copy of the letter with me.
ER: Well, we addressed that letter to somebody. I do not know who, but it wasn’t to any complaint, just making a big complaint to a certain group or demonstrate our disgust with it. No, we just—we wrote the letter down so we ourselves knew what we had to face in our community, and what we had to do maybe to improve the situation or that we were planning any demonstrations then like there are now. No, we just wanted to work in a group way, probably—like I say—by letting the people know where and how, what we knew, our manners, our families and all that. That’s the only way to plan to work so we could probably be allowed to rent that big hall downtown and have a big dance, which we did. That’s the only way. But it happened that somebody heard about us discussing these problems, and there was a branch at the YWCA for colored people. They did their own things separate from us, but they heard about our problems and they said “Well, we have some problems too. So we would like to—oh, you did a great thing by writing all those things down. Will you lend us your letter?” And so we asked permission, could we lend it, and they used that information. It was another girl and myself, Carmen, I believe, was the president, and I was secretary, and they asked us too if we’d allow them to copy the letter, publish the letter in a magazine they had. It was a colored magazine that belonged to the YWCA branch of the colored people. We said, why not? If they, the sponsor, not the association, say it’s okay, it’s all right with us. So they did. They published it, and it came out in a magazine. Later on some persons did not like that, that we wrote down all those things we were facing at that time, and they complained to the association.
I: Do you know who it was that complained or—?
ER: No, no. They complained to the association that we shouldn’t be complaining about anything of that sort because—I guess that we thought we didn’t have any business, that our business was just recreation and activities for education and—but that was part of education and recreation. So we had—it was published, so there was nothing to do. It’s just—it’s already done, but some people complained about it, that they didn’t like it.
I: 07:43 People here in Houston?
I: People here in Houston.
ER: In Houston complained about it, and so we really were not ready to do—I mean, we never even heard the demonstrations, things like that. We never thought about those things, no, or anything like groups now demanding things just because I’m here, and I want this, and I want that. We didn’t have any—
I: What did you parents think of the letter? Did they read the letter?
ER: Oh, yes. They thought it was the right thing.
I: I mean, pretty much—people in the community pretty much agreed with that letter, I mean in the Mexican-American community.
ER: Yes, yes. They knew we had those problems. They hoped for the best and within (s/l improved some) because we belonged to that association there and every activity we had, recreation or education or even now the events, they were in the building. And all the regulations, we had strict regulations. When we had our dances, we had to be careful. Not too many of our gentleman friends drank. Some do and like to carry their bottle. At that time, I don’t think so. Anyway, it was later, probably after ’33 or so, so we said “No bottles around here” and the boys knew. Don’t you bring a bottle around this building because we’re not allowed it. It’s a regulation. People come in here for recreation and dance. We’re going to dance with no drinking. Actually, no smoking either. No smoking, I remember, because one time some of the boys started smoking and right away went to put them out. See, we had to be careful around fires, things like that. And so we kept on working like that with the outside group, our own groups, and also with inside, with the other girls, and we did succeed in making friends with the Anglo-Americans in the building and outside because whenever we had a banquet, Mexican food was served. The first night we had it that was news around the building, and all the girls in the other department, “I want tickets. I want and I want.” We didn’t have enough.
I: Within the YWCA, right?
ER: Yes, yes. But those girls had families, so they wanted their families to come in too, so we didn’t have enough tickets. We had a crowd, and that was a big success, and they liked it so they began to know us, what we—what families are like, how we dress, how we act and how we dance. How we play, how we go—discussing to each other whenever we really like anything. We have to say “Well, I don’t like what this girl says.” “What are you going to do?” “We don’t like it.” I mean, the girls like that. Oh, no. No, we don’t. We don’t have to accept one thing. We all have to, the majority has to agree. We didn’t like it, we discussed about it.
I: 11:28 You told me that you all went to Corpus Christi to read that letter one time. What happened there? What was that all about?
ER: No, it was not that letter.
I: That wasn’t the letter?
ER: No, although we had that in the agenda.
I: Oh, I see.
ER: Yes, we had to discuss our minority problems in the agenda. We had a convention. We had conventions for the whole group of the YWCA with other groups from other states. We went to Corpus, we went to San Antonio, different places, each group bringing a problem to discuss, so we took our problem to discuss at that time. We did talk about it, not too much.
I: What year was that Ms. Reyes?
ER: I think that was in—I think—maybe 1939.
I: Oh, I see. The letter’s addressed—dated 1937, so it was later than that.
ER: Oh, yes. It was later. This letter was the first thing we did. Later on we put certain problems to be discussed whenever we had conventions. We discussed some of those problems at that time in 1939.
I: Did they allow you all to discuss them completely?
ER: Yes. Then of course we would—in a good way, and we were allowed to discuss. We never spoke out of line or blamed any certain person for anything, it was just a problem there, and we were looking at it.
I: Uh-hunh (affirmative). You remember any—where did you all—what areas of town did you try to rent in and couldn’t rent? You said that there were houses that you tried—
ER: 13:48 Almost any area. Almost any area. The only place that was most of the time available was (s/l city arturio). Now, if you wanted to rent, say—if we had wanted to rent the country club—we didn’t try because we couldn’t. We couldn’t have gotten—you know—that’s what I mean, and they were more expensive or more—more expensive places. Yes, we could rent a little cheaper place or older, ugly looking place but not the best. Even that we had a time getting. Finally, we did. We had to keep working at the time and one time, we went out of the regulations of our club and association. We didn’t tell—we didn’t think it was necessary to say. We knew they were—we were planning a big dance, we were planning a big—we said guests do not have any room at the (s/l roof) for all our friends, so let’s try and find a big ballroom in the city and let’s have big bands. So our committee started looking around and found a big ballroom downtown that—it was pretty, but it was just mostly for Anglo-American dances, sure, but not what we’d call “invitation dances.” You just invite certain people to come in, but that’s the only kinds we had. We just invite our friends, certain people, not everybody because if everybody—that’s the only way we had our dance. So we decide to dance. We look to see who can rent this Aragon Ballroom. It was Aragon Ballroom downtown. So we commissioned the girls that were in the committee and went and they asked them “Are you going to be responsible for any damage or cleanliness or anything?” and they accepted us. So we had a big dance downtown, the Chapultepec girls from YWCA.
I: What year was this? Do you remember what year this was?
ER: That happened in ’38. Yes, it happened in ’38 or ’39.
I: Ms. Reyes can remember the years right down to the—
ER: 16:52 So we did have our dance there, and we had a good time and no disorder, no fights. They were afraid of fights. They thought that every group of Mexicans who get together, there was a fight. There was a knifing, or there was a beating, or there was disorder. No. So they were pleased. In fact, they offered whenever, girls, you want to rent it again—well, they saw all our people. The owner was there watching and they said, “Whenever you want the building again, we’ll rent it to you.” So when the ladies at the department found out we had this dance out of the building and all, they said, “Well, girls. You have everything you want here. You belong here. Why did you have to go out and make a big dance?” We said, “We wanted a larger place because we had so many more friends to invite, and this room is so small now” and I know that they let us dance until 1 o’clock outside and 18:09 (unintelligible), 12 o’clock and everything stopped. That’s what we wanted. We wanted more time and more room. So, well, they didn’t really say too much about it, but they did tell us that if we did, whenever we wanted sometime an activity as our own group, just use our own Chapultepec name but do not use YWCA because they, the YWCA groups, had their own building for their own activities, their own dances, even swimming if you wanted to in the swimming pool there, you know. So you know what we did? Wanted a larger room and all that? We just go by our own name. And we did, later on. Not all the time. Whenever we planned for a big dance, something special, we just used our own name, and later on we did take part in the activities in the community. They were not organized but there was, every year when the time came, usually it was the council’s office that had a meeting suggested by one of the members, either Chapultepec or—no, not Chapultepec, Mexico Viejo or the Woodmen of the World. There was one man, belonged to the Woodmen of the World. He—that’s all he did, just organizing—seeing that nobody could 19:59 (unintelligible). That was Mr. Mondrigues (?). So he (unintelligible) and Mexicans for him and we were invited. “Come in and join us and help us organize this fiesta, or else just come as a group, as our guests” and that’s the way it went for the club. We never had too many girls, because like I said, there were not too many in that line of work, not too many families organized, and then by 1940 or so girls began to marry, and there was less group and no replacement, very little replacement for that group when—(talking at the same time)
I: You did—you all didn’t have married girls in the club, did you?
ER: Almost everybody married.
I: Oh, you all got—oh, I see.
ER: 20:56 Almost everybody married during the time it was organized to about 1944 or ’45. Everybody was gone. There were no more girls that would give their time to get to the club because everybody was busy working overtime during the war or we, ourselves, as a group, we didn’t have too many dances because where are the boys to dance with? We did have little receptions for the soldiers from Ellington Field in our group over there, and our boys were gone. Most of them were gone for the war, so we had time for Red Cross. We said, well, we’re going to learn first aid, so Red Cross came to the building and gave us instructions in first aid. We all learned everything there was to learn. We studied—I don’t know—maybe 2-3 months, and then what else to do to help? Sell war bonds, so all our girls, the little we had, we used to go out on Main Street in 22:15 (unintelligible) of the stores and sell war bonds. In fact, one of our girls from our club sold more war bonds than anybody of the other girls in the department. We had—
I: When you say department, what are you talking about here?
ER: Department—business girl’s department.
I: That’s what the Chapultepec club was?
I: It belonged to the business—
ER: Girl’s department, and the other group was only Anglo-American, and we did not join them because we wanted our own.
I: They didn’t keep you all out?
ER: No, no.
I: You all joined the club—
ER: In fact, they wanted us. I said no. We wanted our own because we don’t even know each other. Did it work—that family, or that family or—we never had a chance to be together or know each other, so that’s what we wanted first. So—but in these times, like selling war bonds, we all got together, the other group and our group. Our Anglo-American sisters and our group and we got together. We had booths down Main Street, two or three, and our girls would be there selling bonds all—a lot of times. So later we joined. We really achieved what we wanted. We became friends, very good friends. We went camping to the camping grounds at Casa del Mar. Casa del Mar was near La Porte. It belonged to the association, so whenever the time came for camping or picnic, big picnic, all of us stuck together, their friends and our friends, but otherwise we wanted our own activities of our own kind, separate, and it was like fading away little by little. Each girl got married and maybe got too busy either working or with a family or maybe enlisting her husband way over there or wherever he was, and there was no time for club anymore and that’s the only way.
I: 24:58 When did it finally dissolve though? In the 40’s or—
ER: In the 40’s, ’44 or ’45.
I: It just was no—when did you stop going?
ER: I stopped going I think in ’44.
I: In 1944.
ER: There were some other girls still going, a few girls, and they finally finished. There were no more. We couldn’t get anymore groups together.
I: So kind of the war and you all getting married and everything.
ER: Yes, it was those two reasons, the war. Our friends had to go away, husbands had to go away to the war. There were girls that were left single. They were working too hard and busy on their own, probably working overtime and not too many—or else busy writing letters to all their friends. Anyway, there was not a way to get those girls together, and that’s the way it ended.
I: Was there another group of Mexican-American girls in the industrial department or not?
I: Just in the—
ER: 26:22 The only group.
I: Just in the business.
ER: Yes. The industrial girls—well, they didn’t have a leader to go to. We need—like our leader was Miss Eva Perez. She was the leader. She saw that we needed a group and—
I: Was she older than you all were or the same age?
ER: No, about the same age, between 19, 20, 21, young. She was already working. She had visions for things to do, and she saw we needed and she wanted to organize, and she was already working as secretary in the Foreign Department at the Chamber of Commerce. She organized it. She went looking for a place and how to organize the girls that she knew and that she heard about because I didn’t know her until she invited me to go, and we had a meeting at the YWCA. She made plans, went to talk different places, but she found the YWCA was the only place that we could—the best place for us, for everything. So she talked to the sponsors there and made arrangements and they had a—she made invitations, either by telephone—I remember she called me, and she called the other girls that she knew. Finally, she made it her business to find out who she would be, and she called a meeting first and we went and we discussed and she told us and we all agreed. Yes, we will come together and see what we can do and that’s when it started.
I: Didn’t Eva Perez—wasn’t she a singer, too? Or she was in a little drama group here in Magnolia, wasn’t she?
ER: No, no. Not that I know of. No. I think probably you are thinking probably about Sinaida Perez (?). Sinaida, she was instructor at the city park here for dances.
I: I see.
ER: Typical dances.
I: What about Mr. Monriguez? Did you all—what did he do? What did he do for a living, do you remember that?
ER: Which one?
I: 29:02 Mr. Monriguez?
ER: Oh, Monriguez? He was a very active man in these Mexican fiestas. Whenever there was going to be a 5th of May he would be the first one going around calling the people that had taken part in the other, the last one, and say “It’s time for us to get together now. Let’s get together.” He belonged to the Woodmen of the World.
I: The WOW.
ER: The WOW, yes, very active then.
I: Do you remember what he did for a living? What his job was?
ER: No. He had a store.
I: Oh, he had a store.
ER: Over here on Navigation and they had a garage. He didn’t work steady on that garage, his children did, but I don’t know exactly where he started working. He didn’t work for the Southern Pacific, no. No, he had his store and that was—
I: He had a store.
ER: —all I know about it. Saloon store over here in Magnolia Park, and then he had a garage on Sellner Street.
I: When did the Chapultepec get involved in the celebrations?
ER: Just about a year or maybe—see, we organized the latter part of ’31. That was about October, I believe. October, I think ’31. Well, not right away because that year we just—they didn’t even know us too well or know we were there, but the following year, ’32.
I: You all began to get—which celebrations?
ER: Oh, 5th of May and 16th of September.
I: Did you all have celebrations like that every year?
ER: 31:02 Yes, yes. That’s when they started here in Houston because at the beginning when my sister was elected queen, there was no group really organized to celebrate or the people organize—where are all those people? They were just all over, not too many.
I: I always have to check my tape to see if it’s still rolling. What did you—let’s talk a little bit about La Tribuna. What do you remember about La Tribuna? We don’t have anything on it, Ms. Reyes.
ER: Well, it was—La Tribuna was a small—I believe about six pages, a small paper. (tape ends 31:58)
I: (new tape begins 00:04) You said it was about like Teceloque (?)
I: Oh, it was smaller?
ER: Yes, small page. Teceloque’s page was about that long. About that long. Tribuna was about this long and no more than six pages and they were (s/l written). I saw it. The first time I saw that Tribuna was when they started publishing coupons for the contest for the 16th of September queen in 1924, but it had been published already for the small amount of people that read La Tribuna. I guess they knew where to buy it. At the (s/l union) Mr. Selavia was selling it. He specialized in selling newspapers. I’m pretty sure he had it because Mr. Selavia was the sponsor, the one that put up my sister in the contest.
I: Oh, boy. Is that so? In 1924?
ER: In 1924 Mr. Selavia had already established himself. Mostly he had newspapers of all kinds, La Prensa and I’m pretty sure he had La Tribuna too. That was the only thing here, and La Prensa from San Antonia, maybe Mexican newspaper from Mexico, Monterrey and all those. He usually had at least ten newspapers there, and he was the one that put up my sister, and I’m pretty sure that he knew and talked to the editor about these coupons or something. Maybe that was an idea he had to have to sell more papers. I don’t know, because there were not many people selling papers, but they published the coupon worth five cents. (noise on tape)
I: They published a coupon worth five cents.
ER: 02:26 On this little paper, yes. My sister was on the list of the contestants for that queen, 16th of September fiesta, 1924, and there were two other girls that I don’t remember their last names. One was called Mary and the other one Olivia. Those two girls were on the list too. You see, they put every day—they were not publishing every day. I’m not sure, it’s just once a week. Anyway, they published pictures of the contestants. There were three girls. My sister was one of them. Every time a paper came out a coupon came out and the list of the contestants and how many votes they had. Each coupon was worth that much, five cents, and they added—but the amount of money, that’s the way it came. Bought coupons—they bought four coupons, that was twenty cents. That’s the way it worked. So the people who were sponsoring the other two girls and the people who were helping my sister and the sponsor, of course they worked for their contestant to win. They wanted her to win, so they bought all the papers they wanted to, all they could buy. There were a bunch of papers. I can see those people coming into the house and give you—“Look. This is all the coupons, save them there. We’re going to take them on a certain day to the office.” So they would come in—and the other people were doing the same thing. Oh, yeah. I could see them because there were different people, and that was a very small group. Like I said, there were not too many doing things, so these two girls belonged to the—they worked at the National Biscuit Company, and those two girls were known mostly among their families and that of all the people that worked there, National Biscuit Company employed more Mexican-Americans than any other company here in Houston at that time. There were a lot of boys there and a lot of girls. I should say, I don’t know how many. I say a lot. To me, it seemed like a lot because there were—ten of each to me was a lot. If there were ten girls or ten men there was a lot for me, but they were a larger group than any other. So they all got together working for these two girls and were sponsored against one, my sister, and each—they kept on I don’t know how many months, but the 14th of September of that year, at midnight, the contest was closed and my sister was last. Then one of the girls was first, the other was second, my sister was last because some of these friends—mostly friends of my father and the family and from Southern Pacific, they had been working and cutting coupons more than the others. So they had stacks of coupons. It took them all night to count them in the office. When it closed, it closed. So it came out that my sister won. She won the contest.
I: So mainly the people for the Southern Pacific were backing your sister?
ER: Yes, all those people were backing my sister.
I: 06:37 And the people that worked at the National Biscuit Company—
ER: They were working, backing the other two girls. (talking at the same time)
I: —for the other two girls.
ER: The other two girls.
I: Who sponsored those other two girls? Do you remember who sponsored?
ER: I think people there from the National Biscuit—the girls, their own friends. They didn’t have any certain—their own friends. Like I said, there was a little larger group than usual in the National Biscuit.
I: But Mr. Selavia—
ER: Sponsored my sister.
I: Why, did—?
ER: Mr. Felipe. Well, he was a very—he was a businessman, naturally, one of the businessmen at that time. He was already established and—
I: Do you remember where his store was at that time?
ER: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). At that time, he started on Milam, and then he moved to Preston. On one side of Preston, the other side was on—the next time he moved he moved to the other side on Preston. There he stayed maybe 30 years, 40 years. Now first, I’m not so sure. Probably he was still on Milam, on Milam. He had a small space there where he was already established. He knew my sister, knew my family, knew my father, and he sponsored her. And of course, I’m pretty sure he knew the man that was publishing this magazine, this paper, because he must have been selling it because he was selling newspapers. That was part of his business, newspapers.
I: I don’t—I still don’t quite understand the coupon business though. What, you had to buy so many coupons?
ER: 08:37 No, you had to buy the whole paper.
I: Oh, you had to buy the whole paper to get the coupons?
ER: The whole paper, cut out the coupon, you didn’t read the paper. You wanted the coupon, so that was a promotion for the paper, I guess. I’m just thinking how—I didn’t read at that time, the paper. I couldn’t say what he printed on it. He must have printed something concerning the small community.
I: Who was the man? Who was the man that printed La Tribuna?
ER: He was Jorge Prieto Laurents.
I: Laurents. Where was he from?
ER: San Luis. San Luis Potosi. He was a well known man here in Houston at that time and publishing that paper, and I’m not so sure that he had anything to do with representing the government, Mexican government office here. I’m not so sure, but somebody told me that he did. I’m not so sure. I’m not sure. Anyway, he was a political man. He had positions in Mexico. He was a senator, and he became governor of San Luis Potosi.
I: Oh, I see. Before or after he was here?
I: After he was here?
ER: He went back after, yes, and he printed a certificate special for my sister. He printed with the name of La Tribuna, and there were little green and white kind of strips of color around it and (Spanish; s/l vedun primera) right on the first line, queen of the fiesta (s/l spontrias) of Houston, 1924, number one, and that was the first time. Of course, we didn’t have a celebration here because there was not any group organized to do that, so he had to be taken to Magnolia Park, to the salon parties over there where the people in Magnolia were already organized celebrating the 16th of September. They had already elected their own queen. They had two queens that time, Magnolia Park Queen and then my sister. My sister came and both of them were honored as the queens, one from Houston and one from Magnolia.
I: 11:32 Do you remember the other girl’s name?
ER: Yes, Manuelita Deroyas (?).
I: She was from Magnolia?
ER: Magnolia, yes.
I: What organizations were sponsoring this in Magnolia? Do you remember?
ER: In Magnolia? Well, there were some men that were active in those fiestas. One of them was Mr. Ramirez.
I: Do you remember his first name?
ER: No, I don’t remember his first name. Mr. Ramirez, he was very active in organizing those fiestas together with Mr. Mariquez (?) and another. There were several men, middle aged, that thought about those things first, organized, but the main ones were Mr. Ramirez, the owner of the building and—
I: Of Salon Juarez?
ER: Salon Juarez, yes, and Mr. Mariquez because he wanted to do things. He wanted to get in, help this and help that, even if he was just getting people together and telling them we’re going to have a meeting there. Well, he’d go and tell them, he’d do that.
I: Was WOW—was it involved in it that you remember or not? It was just these men or—?
ER: I think yes, because at that time they had another WOW group in Magnolia. They had one in Houston, and they had one in Magnolia, so I’m pretty sure they got together. There is a picture of the groups at that time in 1924, and they got together here for that celebration, the WOW from Houston, the WOW from here and the Salon Juarez, they call it, were there. They usually got together.
I: There’s a picture of it though?
ER: Yes, there is one, glued pieces now.
I: 13:38 Who has it?
ER: The lady that I introduced you to, Mary, and I don’t—she lent it to me, and we were trying to make a copy of it, and it all came to pieces. It’s coming to pieces, but in that picture you could see the WOW from Houston, the one from Magnolia and other Sociale la Turista (?) they call it, Sociale la Turista. There’s the group of men doing, I guess, a good part of themselves, or group—
I: It was in 1924 though, the picture? (14:33 tape stops and restarts) How long did the—when did he start editing, putting out the Tribuna? Do you know when it began?
ER: No, I do not know. When my sister was elected in 1924 it was already published that year, 1924. Maybe that was the time—
I: How long did he publish it? Do you know how long?
ER: No, I didn’t hear too much about it anymore.
I: What did he do? He went back to Mexico?
ER: He went back to Mexico.
I: I wonder why.
ER: I don’t know. Maybe he had something to do over there, big positions. Here he was just probably passing time the 15:36 (unintelligible) or (unintelligible)
I: Why do you think he was here?
ER: Because at that time—
I: Why do you think he was here? I wonder why he came to Houston.
ER: Here? At that time, there were several people that came to San Antonio, came to Houston, and even the owner of La Prensa came for that reason, to get away from the revolution and they were on the wrong side, I imagine. And they were here to get away from the others.
I: 16:14 And you think the editor of Tribuna was like that too? I mean—
ER: I think so. See, I don’t see any other reason because he was a wealthy man. He didn’t come to work over here with—selling coupons. I think he was just living here, passing time, waiting probably for peaceful locations so he could go back.
I: How old was your sister when the coronation happened?
I: She was 16. And you said that her future husband saw her there at the—what was that story again? That’s great, you’ll love this story. This is a very romantic story.
ER: Very. He had come in for his vacation from St. Paul, Minnesota. His parents had gone up there probably to work in the fields. I believe that’s why—his father. And he was the only boy of the family and naturally, like a lot of people, they want their son or daughter’s to do the best. So, he—they live over there, had two sisters. He was the only male in the family, and his father wanted him to learn how to be a Spanish and English translator, stenographer. He was going to the business college over there at that time. I don’t recall the business college over there, so it happened he had relatives here in Houston, and he came for vacation at that time, 16th of September, and he was 19 years old. So, he went to the fiesta where my sister was. He saw my sister, he fall in love with her. He didn’t go back any more to study. He stayed here. He had an uncle and aunt here, so he stayed here and waited and waited until, I guess, my sister was sure of whether she loved him or not. She never had seen him before. So, until April 1925, that’s when they married. Not too long after, maybe—what was it, April?—it’s already four months of the year, ’25, and after one December—that’s for seven months.
I: Was she—is she older than you are? Your sister—
I: —was older. How old were you at this time?
ER: I was 14.
I: Fourteen years old.
ER: 19:32 Yes. I was 14, and the first time I wore high heels.
I: (laughs) At that coronation or—?
ER: Coronation. I was one of the maids.
ER: We have pictures.
I: Describe the coronation. What was—
ER: Coronation—after she was elected queen, we did not have any preparation at all, dress or what, we were not sure. We were glad that she was—we were all happy and celebrating and oh, so happy. So, she had a friend, a very good friend, a young girl, older than she was, probably she was in her 20’s, but very dear friend, (s/l Amir), loved that girl. She gave her—she told her how to comb her hair. We learned that time she can comb (unintelligible) and she would fix the little flowers around here for her newspaper picture, and she did well and she would help her. So, when we found out she had a ball, which was the 14th of September right after 12 o’clock because the contest closed at 12 o’clock midnight, so it was that. So everybody came home saying “How about the dress? She’s supposed to have a dress.” Everybody got busy. This girl, her best friend, was named Canovella (?). “Well, I’ll help design her dress.” So she got busy designing her dress, and all the ladies got busy. I don’t remember doing anything but just looking, so she designed her dress. She designed my dress, and I believe she had one for herself. I think she was in the coronation group. I remember my sister’s dress. She went to select the material with my mother and my sister. They selected brocaded white satin, and she designed the dress on paper, which was straight in the front. Straight, just straight, a little bit straight. Straight in the back with short sleeves about to here or here somewhere. Somewhere—not long from where you 22:11 (unintelligible) and a high collar like this, square, something like this or this. Anyway, the dress was straight, long, with a long train of the same material from the shoulders down about two yards long and then decorated with rhinestones. Rhinestones. I don’t remember how many, but they looked pretty. They looked pretty. The train looked beautiful. Her crown—they bought that made already, rhinestones. Beautiful. It was like the little squares like this and like this and the trimming—the only trimming—other trimming besides the rhinestones was ostrich feathers, white, had a little string on those feathers here which fell down on the sides right here. Ostrich feathers, white, and then she had a little centerpiece decorated with little rhinestones too and a little feather, and our dresses were made of yellow—more like a yellow satin, long too, but a little wider at the bottom and a little neckline—little lower neckline, and small short sleeves too with feathers too. And flowers, we wore flowers. I think she only had two girls, this girlfriend of Canovella and myself, and she had a little boy and a little girl throwing flowers for the queen, and the little boy carrying the crown, and some of the men helped getting her elected by contributing coupons, and they all made the committee and came to the house for her and took her—brought her over here. I remember we had a hard time getting over here.
I: 24:43 By car?
ER: No, we didn’t have a car. I was—asked my sister the other day, how did we get there and she said, well, we had—some of the men went on horseback, and we had kind of a little wagon like with the horses. It was a coach they call it. Yes, with horses.
I: They came to get you all in a coach and they brought you all all the way over here from—
ER: Yes, from downtown. We lived at 33 Chartreuse Street at that time, which was almost downtown, and that section had been—had large homes, very good homes at that time and it was going down. It was between Canal—between Canal and Navigation and on Franklin.
I: On Franklin?
ER: Yes. We lived there because it was a better home. We had lived in a small home and my father in 1922, ’23, was looking for a better home and found that one, which was near Rusk School, walking distance to Rusk School, and not too far from his work. And—
I: And they came in there and got you all?
ER: Yes, and took our group—brought her over from Navigation and we saw her with flowers and confetti and music and all that.
I: How many people were there?
ER: 26:47 At that place? Not too many. The earlier place was full of people.
I: The Salon Juarez?
ER: Yes, full, but outside, on the grounds, there were a lot of people. Not too many more, but there were more. And it was full of trees, I remember. We tried to walk around outside. There was a tree there, a tree here, and a tree there and a tree there and then—
I: Now, that building is still standing over on Navigation, isn’t it?
I: It’s still there.
ER: Yes, still there.
I: We passed it a while ago. Oh, yeah. And you all—they went inside and had the coronation inside the building.
ER: Oh, yes. Yes. I don’t remember who crowned her, but it could have been Mr. Laurents. It could—
I: Did they crown both of the girls there in the ceremony?
ER: Yes. Yes, but the—yes, other girl who crowned her? I don’t know if the same person crowned—that crowned my sister crowned the other girl. I’m not sure, but usually they hire official—or the committee that crowns the queen.
I: Was the Mexican Consul there? Do you remember whether he was—
ER: I don’t remember any Mexican Consul at that time, but I heard that he was also representing the government at that time. There was not any official that I knew of, consul, here that time, or maybe so. I’m not sure, but I remember somebody told me that he was.
I: Now, that was the headquarters of the Mutual Aid Society, right? The Benito Juarez Mutual Aid Society?
ER: 28:29 Yes, yes, yes. Yes, that was—
I: Did they have something to do with it? I guess they were sponsoring it too—
ER: Yes, they were one of the sponsors. Uh-hunh (affirmative). (unintelligible-Spanish) Mr. Ramirez was very active there, so I’m pretty sure all of those men took part in organizing the fiesta.
I: What else happened at the coronation? What other—were there bands or anything like that?
ER: Yes, music, a dance.
I: A dance?
ER: Yes, and then outside they had little food stands outside where people could go, cold drinks, but they were not cold. They were selling them just like that.
I: They were cold—
ER: Cold drinks were not cold, no, and—
I: Was it during the day or at night?
ER: It was at night, in the evening hours, yes.
I: How long did the celebration last? Do you remember?
ER: Probably until midnight. Yes, because I remember it was getting dark when we got there, see, and it was dark all the way. There were no lights, very few lights all the way from over there. It was like 29:46 (unintelligible). I wish I had that written down on paper.
I: That’s all right. That’s okay, that’s what we’re—you know—that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing out here right now. That’s marvelous that you remember that much, you know.
ER: That much, I wish remembered more.
I: 30:02 That was what—50 years ago, wasn’t it? Fifty five.
ER: Fifty five, yes. Fifty-five years, I guess. I didn’t know I’d live that long.
I: Oh, sure. (tape pauses 30:22)
ER: It’s more than I can remember.
I: Let me ask you this. Do you—were there any other—had they ever crowned queens of celebrations before that in Magnolia or Houston?
I: Before 19—they were the first ones—
ER: The first ones. She was the first, Manuelita was the first one in Magnolia and my sister, Alvita, was the first one from Houston.
I: Had they ever had celebrations before that?
I: That was just—that was the first celebration and crowning?
ER: Yes, but that celebration was not in Houston because there was not any organization of the families at all. People did not know where the other family—only whatever we had, like us, where we lived at that time, there were only two families that we knew there, right on that—around 31:21 (unintelligible). The others lived in different sections, different places, Magnolia, mostly, by the Catholic church, and some—I call that downtown because it was almost downtown. Chartreuse, it’s almost downtown, which was a good section at that time.
I: It’s all industrial now.
ER: It’s industrial now.
I: 31:58 Well, why don’t we break off here for today, and then we’ll come back again next week if it’s okay? (tape ends 32:04)