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Interview with: Angelina Morales
Interviewed by: Tom Crinnick and Emma Perez
Date: February 19, 1979
Archive Number: OH 246.2
I: February 19, 1979 continuation of Oral History and Interview with Mrs. Felix H. Morales. Mrs. Morales, before we get into the origins of KLVL, I wanted to ask you, when you first came to Houston in 1930's, where was the Mexican American business district?
AM: 00:23 It was on Congress Avenue and Preston Avenue, Franklin Avenue, but mostly about the 1800 and 1900 block of Congress Avenue. I remember they used to have one of the nicest drugstores, Mr. Canales, I forgot what he called his drugstore, but—Canales was the owner, and he was in a very good position financially. Then there was garage there, a Mr. Robert Castillo, I remember very well because he used to bring all of his papers for me to notarize, and he was almost across the street. It was a big garage and nice. There was another place called Click Cleaners, and that was owned by Joe DeLeon. He was a very active person too, and they had a very nice business. Most of the businesses were concentrated right around there. They had this herb shop by one of the Sorabia boys, I think there was about 3 or 4 Sorabias, and he had a nice big shop there of Mexican curios and herbs and things like that. Then there was a big furniture company there, I can't—I believe I can't remember his name very well. He's still in business.
I: 01:46 Was that Lee Al?
AM: No, it wasn't Lee Al. It was—oh gosh—I'll think of his name after awhile. It was—I can't think of his name this moment. But it was not Lee Al and it was not—now Mr. Melchior also had a big furniture company, but he was more downtown by where the old Markethouse used to be on Congress—Preston Avenue, I believe it was. There was also a big saloon there called Kelley's. Mr. Kelley was a very well-known man with his bar and all of that. Then there was a big restaurant there called the San Antonio Café, and there was also another one—I can't think of that man's name—he had a very nice restaurant right there on Preston and Franklin—this would be about where Frank's Jewelry used to be—would you know that as Frank's Jewelry? Well they were all counted, Frank's Jewelry and this Kelley Café and this other restaurant, San Antonio Restaurant.
I: Is that the one that Mr. Reynosa owned?
AM: Yes, that's right. It used to be owned by someone else, and then he bought it. Then he moved and he is now on Shepard Drive, Reynosa (inaudible) 03:14 But it was a nice little business district, I remember because I used to do quite a lot of notary work for a lot of these boys. They'd come over and that's how I got to meet them.
I: How long was that district kind of active?
AM: It was from, I know it was already there in '31 when we came to Houston. As a matter of fact, my husband came in '30 and I got here in '31. It was already there, so actually, I wouldn't know exactly how long, but I imagine it was around about '28 or '27 because I had a friend whose name was Lee Burnell. He had this Lee's Auto Paint Shop on Caroline, close to the other districts too, where most of the Mexican businesses were. He told me he came to Houston in 1925. At that time these businesses were more or less beginning to be prominent. Those are about the ones that I remember. Then in Magnolia Park, which is the other extreme east end, there were other businesses there, but they were not so well established I would say. At that time they had a place, which is now called Arturo's Restaurant, but this was a jolly old fella. I remember him real well and he had 2 sons and a daughter. He had a big grocery store. He was a very good customer of mine. I have so many things I can remember about Don Arturo, but then when he died, his daughter, I believe his son took over the business. They moved across the street more or less from where he used to be and they have a nice bakery shop and a nice restaurant.
I: 05:10 What was their names?
AM: Arturo Perez. He died; oh he died about 15-20 years ago. Not a long time. He was very good. All of those people were very active. That's when I knew Mr. and Mrs. Chides; too, of course he was not married then. He had graduated from the Rice University, he and Mr. Nino. However, I think because he's a brilliant man, but because of the situation there at that time, the Mexican people didn't really have too many opportunities to get into something good. Then he started selling insurance for the American National Insurance Company and then he went on to the then Rio Grande Insurance Company. He became superintendent. He was very, very well. It took the war to get Chides out of that. He went to war and then—he was—let's see, he was a chemist—he studied to be a chemical engineer and he got involved with the government then in his field. Then when he was discharged from the Army, he began working for the Eastern States Oil Company here in Houston. He had a very, very good position there with them until he retired. That's when I began to know some of the people that were then living in Houston who later on, we became very good friends, like Mr. Garcia and them.
I: 06:50 What about the people who own the businesses in the district. Were they active in the community?
AM: Well, I would think—not very, no. It didn't seem like at that time there was very much involvement. Everybody was just—it was during the depression days and they were trying to make a living. I can't think of any greater group that became involved in community affairs outside of the Mejico Reya who was really involved in the cultural, recreational club. That was already established in Houston when I came to Houston. Then, of course, I organized the Ladies Council of LULACs, but that was about '35 I think or somewhere around there. Then there was another society, when I came to Houston it was always, they were called Sociedad Mutualista Obrera Mexicana, and they had a group of laboring class of people. They got together and in order to fight some of the things that the depression was causing. They couldn't—I remember when I came to Houston, when any Mexican person died, as a rule, people would go around with a little slip of paper asking for donations to bury that person. There wasn't enough money and so this organization, Sociedad Mutualista became active and they sort of established a fund to help the members in case of death. They would give them so much money to pay for their funeral. Then I became—they had the mens society, so they asked me to organize the ladies. I organized the ladies group of the Sociedad Mutualista way back around 19—oh it was about 34, maybe 32, yes, 32 I believe or 33. Those were about the only societies outside of the Woodmen of the World, that too was—had its grove that I belonged to at the time. I was a joiner then.
AM: I belonged in everything where I was invited. I was new and I knew no one and I was just kind of happy to make friends.
I: So it was as much out of a desire to meet people that you joined these—
AM: Joined these organizations.
I: How active was the Woodmen of the World?
AM: 09:23 Well, let's see, they had the first women's circle that I remember was the Bosque, we called it. The Bosque Women's Circle for the ladies, and the lady who used to collect the dues and all of that, treasurer, was Amparo Torres. I believe she's still living. She could probably give you a lot of information. Amparo Torres. She was very active and then Mrs. Consuelo Harrell, however, Ms. Harrell is dead now, but Amparo, I believe, is still living. She lived at that time 310 Gorgan.
I: That's stuck in your mind.
AM: That's stuck in my mind. She was a—she is a very sweet person. Very active. She was very active, Ms. Torres at that time, I remember, because quite often she would ask me if I would go with her to visit the sick members, of one thing or another. Sell policies. Of course, I wanted to know the people better and I would go around with her. She used to drive her little car. That was another part of the—involvement that I can think of. Involvement like today, no, it wasn't anything like that. It was really a sort of a—more of a get together social and to try to better themselves economically and financially and socially. We would get together for those things. I remember we used to have beautiful—shindigs during anniversaries, and we would rent different halls. At that time one of them was Eagle's Hall and it was on, I believe, either Milam or Travis Street. We would have our balls there and everybody would get out there and say their little spot, speeches and all of that. We thought it was great. I remember I used to prepare with mine with a lot of anticipation.
I: Now this was for the Woodmen of the World, right?
AM: Woodmen, also for the Sociallama Polista de la Americana and also for the LULAC, League of United Latin American Citizens, they call it LULAC.
I: 11:54 When did you join LULAC?
AM: In 19—let me see, about 1930, it was '34 or '35. I'll tell you why. Because the President of this LULAC organization was then a Mr. Hernandez. I have a letter from him but you probably have it in my files. Then Mr. Felix de la Cerda, he was from San Antonio, so they came to Houston saying that they were going to have a big—rally in Houston and they were going to have the governor who was then Allan Shivers, coming with his wife and they wanted us to organize a tea and a little party for her while the men were together with the Governor. So, they asked me if I would organize a Ladies Council. So I did. I went together with, Mrs. de la Cerda, Hermina de la Cerda, and Ms. Soto, who her father owned the drugstore in Magnolia Park, Cecil de la Soto and his daughter, I can't think of her first name right now. It was she, and Garcia, her name was at that time, she married a boy by the name of Tony Morales, but—her name slips me right now. She and Ms. Soto and myself, Hermina de la Cerda, and oh—there was about 8 of us. Right now I can't think of the names of the other girls, ladies. We were all a young group and we organized, right there in this big—restaurant—that I'm trying to think of this man's name that was next to the San Antonio Restaurant on Preston Avenue. We had a candlelight service. He was very inspiring. After that, we entertained Allan Shivers' wife.
I: 14:13 How did she strike you?
AM: Very—I can still remember, I think she is a beautiful person and so was Mr. Shivers. He seemed to me like a very good governor and she did too. She was very—a very gracious, and outstanding and soft-spoken. I really admired her. Of course, I was quite young. You know, when you are just about 20 and you see anyone who is the governor, you really—all a flutter.
I: She certainly was not rude in any way?
AM: Oh, no, no, no. No, she was a very gracious person. Very, very gracious and very kindly and soft-spoken, like I tell you. So was Mr. Shivers. He struck me as being a very good Governor.
I: About what year was this?
AM: This was in the early '30s. I suppose when I organized this society right after this. So that had to be around—maybe '35 or '36, '37.
I: This was right—was this after LULAC had been established in Houston?
AM: Yes. LULAC had established Council No. 60 if I'm not mistaken. Then, we established this first ladies, I have all of that in those papers I gave you, letters and all that. I remember that was the first big deal for us ladies—to have this tea for Allan Shivers wife and some other dignitaries came along with her. We were really thrilled about it. It came out very successful. Then the LULAC's, of course I don't remember too much about the activities, my husband would probably remember more. I remember that they had a very nice meeting right—a very nice meeting with Allan Shivers and the other dignitaries that they had invited. I can't remember, because we were more involved with the ladies.
I: 16:05 But Shivers had come especially for this?
AM: I believe he come special for it because certainly, they had asked us to provide entertainment for his wife while he was here. I'm sure they wouldn't have done it if he had come for any other purpose. I believe that was the purpose of his visit. As a matter of fact, they had a nice—
I: And you all had it in that restaurant?
AM: In that restaurant—well no—the organization of the LULAC was in this restaurant. No, she was received at the Rice Hotel; I believe it was the crystal ballroom or one of those. Oh yes, it was something really.
I: It was a big one.
AM: It was a big thing, I'll tell you for the depression days. We really thought it was—
I: Was the membership of things like Mexico Bayo and the LULAC and things like that, was it overlapping membership? Did the same people who belonged to one organization, belong to another, or is that--?
AM: No, because the—membership of the club, the Mexico Bayo was a little bit more selective. It was a little bit more of the higher middle class and the organization which I belonged to Socialamo Lista was absolutely laboring class. It was not the same. Although the membership was not—well at that time we had, after I organized the Ladies Council for the Sociollama Mutualista, I remember at one time our membership was 90 ladies. We thought that was—very good. We used to have little dinners to raise funds and we would always have a real good—coming out. They would invite all of their families. Well, most of the Mexican people have larger families. At that time, the Sociamo Tolista would meet on St. Charles and Commerce Street, there was a big, and I believe the building is still there, a big two-story building that belonged to Daniel Ramirez. He was a shoemaker. I believe he organized the men's Sociollama Mutualista. Him, Daniel Ramirez, David Silva, Maximo Melchior, P.L. Nino was also a member, I don't know if he was an organizer or not. Those are the ones that stand out most because I remember Daniel Ramirez was President for many years that Sociollama Mutualista. Then David Silva was the Treasurer. He was a great big tall dark man. He was real big to me, well, I'm so short, I suppose. Daniel was kind of heavyset. He was a shoemaker. I don't know what David did for a living. Mr. Melchior, however, owned Melchior's Furniture House, he was out on Preston and he came in.
I: 19:18 The rank and file seemed to be laboring.
AM: Laboring—I remember most of those—something that is really, I'll never forget, one of the members, as a matter of fact, he was supposed to be the—one of the Assistant Secretary, or something, anyway, he would read the minutes, this man, he would read the minutes and everything that happened, he never forgot anything. I thought it was so beautiful. So one day I was watching him. I was thrilled to see how that man could—I noticed that he had the minute's book upside down, and he was reading it. I said, "How can he read it?" So I watched him close and do you know that he couldn't read. He was illerate. He was just memorizing everything. I never knew that until then. Everybody said that he has wonderful memory.
I: Indeed. (laughter)
AM: He was—Assistant Recording Secretary and he was memorizing everything. So that shows—more—the laboring class. They wanted to better themselves, but had very little background. Ramirez was very smart and so was Silva and Mr. Melchior. Melchior was killed recently by some person who went into the store and killed him. There were very, very nice people and then when we formed the ladies auxiliary, then Mrs. Ramirez, Daniel's wife, was Recording Secretary and I was the President and Silia Valone, God rest her soul is now gone, she was—also—I think either Assistant to the Treasurer, Vice President, I can't remember what she was. She was very active. Now those members, in the Mutualista were very active as far as involvement with the laboring class community.
I: 21:30 In the '30s, how many members did you have?
AM: At the—
I: Ladies Auxiliary.
AM: We had at least 90. I remember the reason I remember that so well is because the men were—didn't trust the ladies too well. I think they always had to have a man in all of our meetings, and it used to irk me because sometimes you wanted to discuss things that we didn't want men—they were always there. Sort of watchdogs to see that we performed right, I guess. I remember this one time that—one of the men that was there said that. Anyway, our group was so small that we had to be sort of under them. That day that he was talking about a small group, we had 90 members present. Their group hadn't had but about 30 or 40 present. I remember that so well. I told him that I thought we should have a lady in their—
I: 22:35 Why do you suppose that the ladies seemed to be more active?
AM: I believe—perhaps it was because we had no place else to go. It was depression. We didn't have very much money to spend. Getting together was always an opportunity to sort of socialize. Everyone was very active. Everybody always—our club was so poor that everybody wanted to raise funds. We had ladies like, Marianna Garcia, and Soletitas Gonzalez, and Sally Ramirez, that were fine cooks, and so they would go—we had a little kitchen in our meeting hall, and they would prepare all of this food, and then all of us would go there and eat and then sometimes we would advertise by mouth, because there wasn't any other means—and we'd have a nice group coming out and we'd sell our food to the person's who visited us. So we were able to raffle things off to raise funds. We did raise quite a bit of money for the society. Enough to be able to give each member so much money in case of death. At that time, I think that in case a member died, each one of us would pay and extra dollar dues to go to that fund. So that the members would have anywhere from $200 to $300 for their burial. At that time, you could make a good funeral for $200 or $300. Then we always had a second fund there for the next emergency.
I: Did you all—you all were mainly providing burial funds.
AM: Yes. Burial and sick funds. If anyone was sick, we would also go and—we had a committee that would go and visit the sick. They would take them, maybe 2 or 3 dollars, just a little something so we wouldn't be empty handed to visit the sick.
I: So you had some groceries in the house?
AM: Yes. At that time you could buy something for 2 or 3 dollars.
I: Now you can't walk around—
AM: It was a very fulfilling thing for us at the time. I remember that we used to have our meetings on Wednesday, and I used to look forward to going to those meetings. It was always something, to me, like going to a party. Everybody was more or less easy to get along with and everybody always had projects going on. So, that was about the extent of our involvement. I don't know Mr. Crinnick, but at that time it doesn't seem to me that people were wanting to get something for nothing. Everybody worked for what they had. No one expected the government to give us Social Security, or give us anything else. Matter of fact, Social Security, I think began about 1936, but I never knew even, all of these people that I was involved with; I didn't know any of them going to the Charity Hospitals asking for things. If they were going to have a baby, they were prepared for it. They had midwives. There were a lot of midwives here at that time. They always were prepared for that. If anybody got sick, they called a little family doctor. At that time it was Dr. Leyyva, Angel Leyyva. He's dead now. He died not too long ago. He was a wonderful doctor and he also had his office right here on this Congress Avenue, where most of the Mexican community was, the businessman was. He had his office there and then Dr. Estraya, Salvatore Estraya, the dentist. He had his office right there. I think Salvatore Estraya is now dead but his wife is still living, Evangelina. They were our very good friends and whenever anybody ever got sick, they either went to Dr. Leyyva, or Dr. Gonzalez, and there was another one by the name of Dr. Venzor. I forgot his first name. But those were about the leading doctors in the community.
I: Were they trained in Mexico?
AM: No—in the United States. Now I wouldn't know actually, but I would assume, because—to practice here you'd have to—
I: Pass something.
AM: Pass something. However, I believe that some of these doctors were from Mexico. I don't think that Venzor was and I know Estraya was because Estraya was a Latin. He wasn't all Mexican. I think he had a strain of something else in him. I can't remember now. He talked a little differently.
I: Now this is a very subjective question that requires a subjective answer. But we're talking about the 1930s then. Can you characterize the differences or difference if there is one between people—say of the working class in the Mexican American community in those times and say—the people of the middle and upper middle class Mexican American community. Was there a real difference? Could you tell a difference between them?
AM: 28:06 I believe I could. I believe mostly in education. The class that I referred to like Mr. Chavez and Garcia seemed to have a little bit more education than the laboring class that we dealt with in our society, the Sociedad Mutualista Obrera Mexicana, like I mentioned it to you a while ago—this man couldn't read, but he had a good memory. Well, I was astounded to know—
I: To say the least.
AM: To say the least, but he really, and let me tell you something, you could never correct him on anything because he knew it and he was always right.
I: That takes a genius. I mean, that is genius.
AM: Yes, he had some, he really applied himself. I know of another lady here that I would like for you to interview, because I'm surely, I'm certain she has an awful lot of good history. That's Valentina Hernandez—she lives on Garrow Street. They have a little grocery store. Her daughter was married to one of the Sorabia boys. She still has a little store and I know she had a birthday the other day. She was, I think, 92. She has a good memory. She travels all over and everything and she was here when I came—in 1931. I became friends with her—she's the class—she's still active. Those people, they were a little bit more humble—we would say—they wouldn't just dare to board to the places where you and I were not afraid to go. They were more retiring, sort of, they kept to themselves. That was the difference between her and Mrs. Chavez. They had other clubs—that I think I told you the other day—now there was a Mr. Cantou who had a photography shop right in front of the Courthouse, I believe on Preston Avenue and his daughter belonged to this Depsecrete (??) 30:38 Club. She and the Gomez girls, the young ladies that were a little bit more prominent in our society. Very pretty girls. Very, very beautiful girls. They belonged, at that time we had Depsecrete 30:55 (??) and we had the Club Internacional which came in much later, about the '40s, let's see—the Club Internacional, Depsecrete 31:07 (??) Club, the Mexico Bello and the Mexico Bella had an auxiliary for the ladies and LULAC of course. If I remember right, there was about 12 or 13 clubs at that time.
I: 31:21 By the 1930s, '40s there were about 13 clubs.
AM: Yes, that I can remember.
I: Very interesting. Now, getting back on—
[END OF 246.2_01] [BEGINNING OF 246.2_02]
I: I believe that theatre was called the Azteca.
AM: Azteca Theater. It was operated by Mr. Torres and Mrs. Torres—Francisco—they—were very poor people. Mr. Torres didn't know how to read or write either, but she did. She was a very pretty lady in her late 40s. I used to keep books for them. For Mr. Torres and for this Castillo who had the garage. Nice to make a little money keeping books for them and preparing their income tax and little things that they needed.
I: I've heard that the business district went down about World War II, is that?
AM: 00:57 That's in the '40s—it was much later.
I: Later than that?
AM: Oh yes. It was the late '50s or the early '60s when is just completely disappeared. I remember the last one to go, I think, was this druggist Mr. Canales. I can't think of that name of that drugstore. I used to go there so much—he was a very nice person. The first one to go, I think was Roberts Garage. Then Click Cleaners moved—the drugstore and Sorabia's were about the last to go. Mr. —the one that had that Mexican curio shop, the herbs and pots and pottery.
I: I wonder why did—did other businesses spring up on the outside of town? Like in Magnolia and in the north side? I've often wondered why that business district went away.
AM: I have wondered too—because it was a very prospering sort of a little—operation that they had there. I really couldn't tell—I do know that Robert died. Then Mr. DeLeon from the Click Cleaners, I don't know why he moved away from there or if he got sick—I know that Mr. Canales' from the drugstore ran into some kind of problems—troubles. It was something that came out in the paper—I never pay attention to that too much—I liked him real well. I believe he had some kind of problem there, then all of a sudden one by one, they just left. Others tried to come in—but they didn't seem to do any good.
I: They just didn't make it.
AM: No, they weren't making it. I really can't say, but I do believe that a lot of it had to do with the economy. Things started getting better—and perhaps they weren't doing as much business as—would warrant them staying there. I know Dr. Estraya was still there and he got a heart attack. I know we picked him up in our ambulance and he refused to go to the hospital. He wanted to go home. They used to live here on Desjardin—so by going over there, I think that cost his life. He died while he still had his business there. I believe that it was more of a thing that people were just being ill—then the others that came in just didn't do as well, because by that time, the community, the Mexican community was getting larger. More people were coming into Houston and evidently they were shopping somewhere else. They weren't as close as we were when we came in '31.
I: 04:01 There were a lot of Mexican American people who lived in that east area?
AM: Oh yes, definitely. A lot of it—they started—I can't really say there was any great movement—I don't know why they started moving away. Maybe because they had a little more money and had better places to go—or wanted to—own property. I imagine most of these people that lived in this area, this business area, rented. I don't think any of them were property owners—or not many anyway. I rather imagine—I know Mr. Torres had his Azteca Theater and someone threw a bomb in and exploded at one time.
I: Why do you suppose they threw a bomb?
AM: I believe that they were trying to start a union or something. I remember that when this happened it was about 1:00 in the morning and it's a good thing there were no people in there. When they told me—I got in my car and went out there. They were very good friends of mine. The poor man was sitting there—he felt so bad—he said, "Ms. Morales, you look like you're the only friend I have." I said, "Well I'm the closest maybe." When I went in with him, there was a little kitten—I'll never forget—this cute little kitten. We picked it up from the debris and all of that was there. I don't know whether the cat had been inside the theater or where—but it was all frightened.
I: It wasn't dead?
AM: No—we—I brought him home and I adopted him.
AM: Naturally—that was in '31—I think he's gone to cat heaven now. He was a cute little thing. My husband is just about as crazy as I am about animals, so he let me bring him home. Then Mr. Torres—of course he had insurance—but just to tell you how people were mistreated—I'll never forget—when I said, "Mr. Torres don't worry so much. You have your insurance. We're going to go down and talk to the insurance—we're going to go down and talk to this man." Mr. Torres went on by himself and he said that this adjuster had run him out of his office. I said, "Well Mr. Torres, why?" He said, "I don't have anything coming." That made me real angry and I went over there and he—this man was so hardy and so hateful. He said, "You just get out of my office. I'm not going to pay a thing on this." I said, "You know what, I'm going to turn you into the insurance." He said, "You just do that." I can't ever remember what became of that claim. I was real angry and I know I wrote to the insurance people in Boston about it. I can't ever remember what happened about the claim. To think that this man was paying insurance for these kinds of things and then this agent would treat him so ugly. It was something, but I suppose that at that time a lot of people were taking advantage of these poor—Mexican people that couldn't speak English. I know Mr. Torres couldn't speak English.
I: 07:08 And he was basically illiterate.
AM: Yes, he was illiterate, completely. He used to depend on me to do most of his little business deals for him. Except that he managed to bring all of his talent and all his shows because he was dealing with Mexico.
I: What kind of shows did he have? Was he the first owner of the theater, or was there some—
AM: I'm sure he was the first one because I don't remember anybody else. A little bit later on, they had this Irish theater, who also catered to a lot of Mexican people, but I don't think they had Mexican shows like he did. He would bring all the Mexican artists, actresses. I remember some of the most famous Mexican artists and actresses came at that time, and I interviewed them for him. We didn't have the radio station then. I would go down there and then I'd go to the newspapers and I would present them. They'd get very nice publicity. We had Esperanza S/L Ydes who's one of the biggest singers in Mexico was brought there. And then Juan Huerta Martinez Quesada who's an actor something in the league of Clark Gable in Mexico. Then they had this—Jose Mohica who now is a priest I believe or later went on to the priest—but he was a very good singer. Then they had—this very famous actor that died here—he composed a song that said something like this; that he was a real Mexican—that should he every die in a foreign land, to just say he was asleep and take him back to Mexico. The song—it's a beautiful song. There were a lot of actors and actresses that Mr. Torres was bringing in that no one would have ever known if it hadn't been for him. He struggle quite a bit—and he had a very nice little business for a long time.
I: 09:14 Was this in the '30s?
AM: In the '30s. Up until about the—I would say about the middle '40s—when he left his business. His wife became sick and he got involved with some other business in Mexico—some foreigners that were going to form an ice plant of some sort—and they just took him for a ride. They just took all of his money. The poor man just almost lost his mind.
I: Was he also showing movie pictures at—
AM: Yes, he had movie pictures—and he had personal appearances of these actors. In other words, we'd say that he had a moving picture that had Esperanza S/L Ydes in it—well she would come in to—
I: Plug the movie.
AM: Yes, plug the movie. Then later on, this Irish theater started with their movies and they've moved. They were on Preston Avenue—I believe they've moved further into town somewhere. They're still there. He was the first Mexican movie mongrel that I know.
I: I see. It's no longer in operation at all?
AM: No. I think he closed up about the middle '40s—or perhaps the early '50s—but no, I think it was the middle '40s because we did not have our radio station yet and when we got our radio station, he was no longer in business.
I: Which probably brings up a good time to go into it. We left off with the funeral home in about the mid 1940s—and I don't know if we covered this or not—how long did you and Mr. Morales stay active in the funeral home itself?
AM: Oh, I would—I left the funeral home all together in the '70s. My husband started very seriously with his radio business in the '50s because we needed—as a matter of fact, we would float from one to the other. We kept the operation because in the '50s my son was called into service—and so then it was just my husband and myself. I would more or less stay at the funeral home and he would stay at the radio station. However, we always helped each other. If I had a funeral and I didn't have any help, he would help me. If he needed help with typing, bookkeeping, or something at the radio station, I would do that work after I got through with mine. It was—a very difficult time for us—between the '30s and '40s. About the middle '40s, about '44 or '45, we seemed to have risen above the struggle for money. As a matter of fact, I've always been real tight with my money when I have a purpose for it. So we started saving a little money and we had a little money saved when he got in this bright idea that he was going to have the radio station. Prior to this, my husband is always wanting something else. He starts so many things. So about the early '40s he began with the idea—we formed a society called The Union Fraternal Society, to which I still belong. I'm secretary/treasurer. This was also a sort of a society that would help its members because the Mexican people at that time were not property owners, or didn't have good jobs. Most of them. They didn't own property. They had jobs—there's a saying that the Mexican people have among themselves that the Mexican person was always the last hired and the first fired. So that was true at that time because most of the people that lived around the funeral home—now this is a section here of what we called the second ward—where the businesses were congregated, where we were. We were at that time at 2701 Navigation Boulevard. When we got together, we decided that we needed a cemetery for the Mexican people because the other cemeteries were so expensive that people couldn't afford it. Now if anybody died that didn't have any money, they'd have to go to Potter's Field. At that time Potter's Field was on Beaumont Highway in back of the old folks home. There was an old folk's home there, Mr. Greene; Mr. C. B. Greene was the superintendent. So if people didn't have any money, you could send a member of the family to dig the grave back in Potter's Field and the county would give you the space, it wouldn't cost you anything. Mexican people have always been leery of Potter's Field. I don't know why, they didn't want that. They wanted something of their own. So—Mr. Morales decided then that he had to have a cemetery. In the—about 1941, he organized the Morales Cemetery which is on Buschong and Lithe Roads out towards Arline, out that way. He bought this property from Mr. and Mrs. Harrell, the lady that I tell you used to belong to this Woodmen of the World Circle, Her husband died, so she sold Mr. Morales—I believe it was—a 20 acre plot of land. I said, "What do you want that?" He said, "No, no, I'm going to have a cemetery out there. I said, "Cemetery, that's all we need." Anyways, he never pays attention to me when it comes to his projects, so he organized and he got an attorney by the name of—I'll think of his name after awhile—anyway, he got the charter for him, then he began this operation of the cemetery. Then, every member of our club could buy a grave space for $5.00. Because he said he wanted to make it easy to where anybody—a lot of members began buying their little grave space—for $5.00.
I: The name of the organization—
AM: Union Fraternal Society. Everybody, including myself, I bought 4 spots. Four graves. We organized that. He organized that and—that was in '40. So then in—we had a hard struggle with it, but we didn't have any problem or the Mexican people that needed that kind of help—had no problem. A lot of women started going there for what they could afford to buy a grave space for—for the whole family. With the little help that the Union Fraternal would give them to buy their—to pay for their funeral, and then a place to bury them—that was not Potter's Field. People became a little bit more or less resentful of whatever it was that was keeping them down. There was a lot of segregation and stuff like that at the time, although, I never noted it because, like I tell you—I just go in for age of fear will tread--
I: 17:30 It is what it is.
AM: I never had any problem. I never had any problem with segregation. I'm not a pushy person either. I know what I want and I go after it—and I had opportunities with some of the finest people in immigration service. In the courts I would interpret and free lance as an interpreter, make a little extra money—so I would—I was treated very nice by all of these people. I didn't seem to have any problem as far—however I felt like when you are in Rome, you do as the Romans—the first thing that a person has to do is learn to be neat, and learn the ways of the country and try to go along with the thinking of the people. I wouldn't get in a bus and start talking Spanish, where there were a lot of people that didn't understand me because I have been around people that are talking German, or Czechoslovakian or what have you, I am confused I don't know whether they're talking about me or not. So by the same token, I always felt like if you spoke Spanish and people didn't understand they would probably think—especially if you start—it's a laughing matter kind of joke, they might think you're laughing at them. So I always approach those things in a manner of which I would like to be approached. I don't remember having any difficulties with being here or there, or being told I didn't belong there. But, of course, I wouldn't have either attempted to go and barge in on Jessie Jones' societies.
I: No, neither would most people. (laughing)
AM: Well, there's a lot I remember some things that have happened that really seem crude to me. A friend of mine was telling me that someone—they had a big meeting and then we had some people that were—a little angry about different things—and they went in there dressed with big hats and tortillas, needing this and that—into this place where—that's uncalled for.
I: 19:42 Certainly not the way to approach it is it?
AM: I didn't think so. I think that in order to be treated equal, you have to be equal. You have to be equal to whatever challenge there is for you. Not just going in and demanding things. You have to give a little too.
I: And then if the equality doesn't come—then it's time to fight—but first you—
AM: I have never found it in my case—that anyone has tried to belittle me because I would not be belittled. If I'm going to you to talk to you about an issue, I'm going to study that issue very well, and then you're going to enlighten me where I'm wrong. Then I'm going to listen and if I think I'm wrong, I can change my mind. But if I think you're wrong, I'll insist by one way or another—a manner that will make you respect me instead of downgrading me. So I think that most of the problems that are created nowadays because of lack of communication, lack of understanding that you have to sometimes put yourself in the shoes of the other fellow. You can see things one way and I can see them a different way. If we had a meeting of the minds, we would probably cope with that and be able to come to—a way in which we could both work with each other instead of one against the other. I have always felt that—the biggest problem is lack of communication and understanding of whatever problem it is that you have to resolve. Don't be hardheaded and say, well my way is right and yours is wrong. You have to open your mind. We had those little problems back then, we have them now, but at that time we did not have as many problems, but then again we did not have as many people. We had back then; I would think about 5000 Mexican people in this area. Not counting the country, the farms, I—
I: Just the urban Houston area. So you all, Mr. Morales founded this cemetery in the '40s right?
AM: In the '40s, right.
I: And you were telling me something—before we get to KLVL—you were telling me the other day—you all buried Mr. George Hill—tell us, tell me about that.
AM: Well now—my son did. Joe will tell you all about him, but George Hill used to play the guitar. We had a boy that worked for us—a man that worked for us by the name of Lorenzo Casteanos. He was a very—he played the guitar and sang beautifully. He's dead now. George Hill, he was sort of like a—project—well George Hill took him under his wing, helped him out quite a bit because I know every time he had a problem, he'd run to George Hill and he was always very good to him. He used to lend—give him money. In that manner, my husband became acquainted with George Hill. George Hill I believe—had a bad leg or something—he was crippled in some way—I can't remember because I can just barely remember having seen him 3 or 4 times in my life, and then just while he was talking to the men. However, when he died, he did say he wanted Joe to bury him, that's my son and he could give you all of the details on that.
I: That was what, in the '60s that he died?
AM: No, he died in the '70s. Not too long—I don't think George Hill has been dead more than maybe 5 years, or 6 years.
I: I talked to the other day a Mr. John Gutierrez, I don't know if you are familiar—he works for Houston Natural Gas and he said that there we so many people there at the funeral that it is within—you couldn't get to within a block of the place.
AM: That's right—he was. At that time, like I tell you, I went to work—I had so many things. I stopped working for the funeral home in '70, and I know George Hill died after that. My father died in '58 and it just kind of crushed me a lot. I couldn't hardly work at the funeral home for a year. Then I went back again and I helped my son out—but I was still working at the radio station. I helped him out until the '70s—that's when my other brother died and I just couldn't go there anymore. My brother Fred was also an embalmer, funeral director, and he worked at the funeral home. He and I were about the same age. So when we were young, we used to have a ball together. Everywhere he went, I'd tag along and sometimes he'd tag along with me. Our relationship was so good and so close that when he—and his death came kind of sudden—he had septicemia—anyway, I couldn't just stay at the funeral home anymore. I just stopped going all together. I would go only if Joe needed me for something or other to help him out. I just left—then my son Joe was married, so he had all the help he needed and didn't need me anymore.
I: 25:10 Okay now, you all began thinking about KLVL or at the radio station when?
AM: In 1946. My husband, I believe the KCOR is the name of the radio station in San Antonio, which is also a TV station now, was owned and operated by Raoul Cortez. He was a very good friend of my husbands. So when he organized—inaugurated his radio station—he invited my husband and I to be his padrones—his sponsors. Among other persons that he knew. So we went—and we went to San Antonio for this inauguration—Raoul told Felix, when are you going to start your radio station? Felix said, "Well I want to start it now." Because Raoul and my husband had always talked of owning a radio station. But it was talk mostly because there wasn't very much money to back it up. The idea was there. Then when he went there he said, "Well look Felix, if you need any help, I'll be glad to lend you my engineer who is Kenneth Hineman." So Felix said, "Well I do need help because I just don't know how to—" He said, "The first thing you have to do is get a good lawyer and I'm going to introduce you to a good lawyer." I was there when all of this was going on. He picked up the telephone and called Washington and talked to D. F. Prince who was Mr. Cortez's lawyer. He picked up the phone and said, "Prince, I want you to meet a prince of a fellow." Felix got on the phone. Felix told him what was on his mind, he said, "Well Felix, just get you a good engineer and find you the proper location there in Houston and I'll do all of the work for you." Felix said, "About how much will all of this cost me?" He said, "Well Felix, since you are a friend of Raoul's and all, we'll work it out, you pay me as you can." At that time he said, "I want a retainer fee for $50.00 a month." Imagine. That's how Felix got started right after that which was about in '46 right after—and made the application—at that time—he made an application for a clear channel station, which now—it's 850 on your dial. We went around trying to get that station for about a year. Different problems and different engineering projects were presented to where Felix was able to think that he would get the station. So the application was placed in for the FCC. It stayed there just being kicked around for about a year.
I: What was the problem?
AM: The clear channel situation had become a hot potato in the Senate. In other words, nobody wanted to act on it anymore because a lot of persons, I rather imagine they were lobbying to keep the smaller fellow out. The clear channels, of course, are more powerful. They didn't want the government to give out anymore clear channels to keep out the smaller fellow, I would think. I don't know what their reasoning was, but that's my opinion. After the application lay there for a whole year, Mr. Prince told Felix, "Felix you know what—this thing is a hot potato in the Senate and it maybe dormant there for years so I would advise you to apply for another channel. Because I don't think they're going to do anything about this." Felix said, "Well, you're the lawyer—let's just drop that and proceed to try to get another station, maybe one that's already there." So at this time there was 1510 I believe, was open. So we then applied for this 1510. About this time, I believe the station in Mahea, Texas protested because I think you have to clear some things so that you don't interfere with other stations. After the engineer, Mr. Barum at that time, lifted this problem, he says, "Felix I don't think we're going to be able to do too much with 1510—but there's a station in Galveston that you might be able to get."
I: My goodness.
AM: So that was another, I can't remember the number of that one—so they started working on that and still they were having all kinds of engineering problems. Finally, Mr. Barum said, "Felix there's an opening now for 1480 but it's an original channel. It's not a clear channel and if you want to apply for that, I think you've got a good chance to get it." Felix talked to the lawyer and the lawyer talked to the engineer and they all agreed that we ought to let go and amend our application again, that was the third time it had to be amended.
I: How long did this—
AM: From '47 until '50.
I: All these snags.
AM: All these snags. Then when we finally got the 1480 and applied for and everything, just as we thought they were going to present the application, a man by the name of John Cooke came in and he applied for the same channel. 1480 and he wanted to place this in University Place, his station. So my husband, he called Felix and told him he was applying so then we said, well, here's more money going down the drain. We talked to Paul, I mean—Prince at that time, and—
[END OF 246.2_02] [BEGINNING OF 246.2_03]
AM: It seemed to me like a threat. He said ,"Well I'll tell you what you do, give me $5000 and I'll get off of there." I said, "If we gave you the $5000 what guarantee would I have that you would not proceed with this thing before the FCC?" And he said, "You have to trust me." So I said, "Well we have to think about that." Anyway, Felix and he talked a bit more and then Felix, at that time we're still running the funeral home and Felix had to go to the City Hall to get a burial permit. So he told Mr. Cooke, let's drive over there and you can drive around the block while I go to get this burial permit. When Felix went in there, he called Mr. Prince and said, "Now look, this man called me and he's over here and he's asking me for this and that." So Mr. Prince says, "Felix, you know, that's entirely against FCC rules. You cannot bargain with anybody like that. That man has to be out of his mind, but anyway, ride him along and see what you can get out of him. Let me have time to study and you call me in the morning." So then when Felix came back, I didn't know that he had talked to Mr. Paul—Prince. I keep saying Paul because Mr. Paul is the lawyer that took over when Prince died. Felix told Mr. Cooke, "Look Cooke, I have to go think it over and I have to see where I'm going to get the $5000. I don't know what I'm going to do yet, but, let me go home and sleep on it and I'll call you tomorrow." He said, "All right." Then after we left Mr. Cooke off, Felix told me that he had called the lawyer and the lawyer said that that was entirely against all ethical rules and the FCC would certainly condone a thing like that to buy off somebody and the man should have not made the offer to us. So I said, "Well, Felix, let's not get in on the wrong footing before we even start. So let's see what Mr. Prince wants us to do." The next day, Prince told us not to—not to pay him anything. That it was just absolutely insane for the man to even ask for that. He said, "I don't think Cooke has got the background to or the ability he's just putting his foot in there to see what he can get out of you." That went on for a few days and Felix finally told Mr. Cooke no, that he'd go to court, that he wasn't going to payoff that. Then we went on—preparing the documents and things that our Attorney told us—and about this time, we had a lawyer by the name of John Herrera, a Mexican lawyer. Felix said, "You know John is just starting in business, so we're going to have to have a lawyer here." I said, "Well Felix, all the affidavits and everything that Mr. Paul—Mr. Prince wants us to acquire in Pasadena, I can do that because I'm a Notary and I can get affidavits." He said, "Yes, but it probably wouldn't be proper for you to do it. Let's hire him." I said, "Well, all right. You want to spend some more money, hire him." So then we hired John Herrera, who was a very nice friend of ours, very good, but of course at that time we were just kind of curling over for money. He then went to Pasadena to—establishes the fact that Pasadena needed a radio station. You have to go into that community first, to see if towers are not going to be in a residential district. We had to go to the—Houston Light and Power Company and Telephone Company and everything to see how many residents would be in that particular area where we wanted to place the towers. So, we had about three or four places, but this one that we have now was sold to us by Jeff Fleming, he was a Realtor there at Pasadena. This site was finally approved by the FCC, because, I believe there were just about 3 houses around there at that time.
I: 04:14 But your towers were always in Pasadena.
AM: In Pasadena. Well, that's where we began our operation because, you see, the towers are not placed there until you have the construction permit from the FCC. So we had to apply for this construction permit, but, we did have to have a site prepared, in other words, we could say, well we have this application for this radio station and we have these three sites that we can get five towers. The engineers have approved this particular site, and then the engineering department, I guess with the Federal Communications Committee, examines that particular site to see if it is—able to be used, because if you have too many residents or anything like that, they won't allow it. At that time, where we are now, 1850 Pasadena Boulevard, there were 3 or 4 houses. There were no roads, nothing paved. There were no businesses or nothing. Just like a big strawberry field, which is really what it used to be at that time.
I: Why did you all choose Pasadena instead, I still am unclear on that.
AM: Because—the clear channels—the clear channels which we could have gotten in Houston, were being held out.
I: I see, this one—this came up for Pasadena, right?
AM: In other words—a person in applying for a radio station, I assume, has to find first the frequency that is open, and the frequency that was open was 850 clear channel, but that was in a hot potato thing with the Senate and they could not be, as a matter of fact—they never resolved that clear channel business until about 5 years ago. So had we waited, we would have waited 20 years and not had our station—with a clear channel. There were the frequencies that were open among the others, was a 1480, which was an original and not a clear channel—and see that was available.
I: It was for Pasadena, right?
AM: 06:20 Yes, well, yes because that was the best site for it. Not really in Pasadena, but that was the best site for it. We could have, like this other man was applying in West University, I don't know whether he ever would have gotten it, but he was applying, so evidently we could have gone to West University. My husband thought that Pasadena was a choice spot. I think he didn't make a mistake, because Pasadena has grown by leaps and bounds. One of these days, Pasadena will eat up Houston, or Houston will eat up Pasadena. Pasadena is a city within the city limits of Houston. The way it's—expanding and everything else.
I: But you all, essentially, were you all the ones that determined that it would go to Pasadena?
AM: Yes, my husband. After—Pasadena determined it for us, because in order to go into a place, you have to have the community backing you. We went to the Mayor and the Councilmen, and a lot of the people asking them if they thought—that's what these affidavits were all about. They thought that the community needed a radio station.
I: How receptive were they?
AM: Very receptive.
I: 07:28 Who was the mayor at that time?
AM: Sam Huber. Jeff Fleming, I think had something to do with the council, I don't remember. He was—he is very well-known in Pasadena. He sold us that property in Pasadena for a sum, if I'd tell you, you'd faint, and one time I was talking to him, I said, "My God Pasadena has such high taxes; I don't know how I'm going to pay them. I'm sorry I bought this property." And Jeff Fleming said, "I'll give you five times what you paid for it." So you know how property has increased. As a matter of fact, this eleven acres that we have had been assessed at $150,000. So you know how property has gone up.
I: Let me ask you this. How many radio stations were in Pasadena at that time?
I: You all were the first?
AM: We were the first ones. KIKK came in later, but we were the first one.
I: So they were very enthusiastic.
AM: Yes, definitely. It would do a lot for the community. We could publicize quite a bit of it. Just by saying, KLVL Pasadena, Texas was giving it publicity. Those, in other words, we had every hour on the hour you have to give station identification. You can either just a certain rules, you can say Pasadena, KLVL Pasadena, Texas and give the address, that's all or else you could say the name of the owner, the licensee. So it's limited as to what you could say, but still they would be getting that much on the air. Well look, where's Pasadena? Who's Pasadena? Why is KLVL in Pasadena? Things like that.
I: 09:12 When you all approached them did you all approach them with the idea that this was going to be a Spanish language or bi-lingual?
AM: No—it was not going to be. It was going to be bi-lingual, but not, we intended it to be more English than Spanish at that time because the community there in Pasadena was not as pro-Latin as it is today. There were more Anglos, so we started out with being an American, an Anglo station, but the community couldn't support it. The Spanish-speaking people had no voice. There were 3 or 4 newspapers, but they were--these weekly magazine thing like. At that time there was just one newspaper called the thick olote. That's the owl. It was more of—a little—oh, it wasn't any newspaper that you could be real proud of. Then that was about all that was there. Later on, we've had quite a lot of weekly's come on. We still don't have a daily Spanish newspaper here. As the community--Spanish-speaking community got larger, there was a more need for more Spanish, because there was no newspaper and no means of communication in case of fires or disasters of any kind to let the Latin people know to get out of this particular district or go into this other, and other things like that. Then to, the community in Pasadena was not supporting the station into where it could really become financially independent.
I: You're talking about with advertisement.
AM: 10:56 Yes, with advertisers. We had some, but the community at that time in Pasadena was very small. There was like 37,000 people. Today it's over 100,000, so you see it's really grown. At that time, they were not supported—the station.
I: Okay. Let me ask you this. How, in round figures, how much money did it take you all between '46 and '50 just getting the station, is that too personal?
AM: No it isn't personal at all, because we had saved about $50 to $60,000. Then, we had to go to the banks, I remember some of the letters in the file, where we had to go to the Second National Bank, that's where we used to do business, and get a letter of credit that in the event we needed more money, they would lend us up to so many thousands of dollars. We have a brother in Monterey, Mexico, he's dead now, Benny, who also gave us a letter of credit that he would extend to us $10,000 if we need it. Then another friend, a Doctor in Monterey, gave us another letter that he would extend us another $10,000 if we needed it, which we never needed. We almost did. We had to—once we started trying to get the station, the expenses were really something. You take at a time when, more or less, there was a Depression area. We were just coming out of the Depression. There wasn't that much money floating around. Any amount of money that was over $5,000 was like it was $50,000 today. With all of these little matters, holding the application, paying the lawyer, getting the engineer, like we had Mr. Barron who was our engineer at the time, and we had given him quite a bit of money. It was in the thousands of dollars and then the things—well—we had to release 850—so he had to find another—what did I say a while ago—its—kilocycles or whatever—frequencies—frequency—so finding another frequency was more money for the engineer, naturally. Maps and things, and they have to have aerial views and—so he went to the 1510 and then to the one in Galveston, and then finally to 1480. That was just money like you're throwing it in the well.
I: 13:40 Did he go through $50,000?
AM: Oh yes, more. All this time we were paying the lawyers. And then the different people that were doing the footwork here. Besides what we were doing. Finally, when they got this 1480, then here comes this guy with another $5,000 to buy us off. But we didn't pay him, but we finally paid him off as expenses, which was right around $2 or $3,000.00. He retired from that and let us have the 1480. I told Felix I ought to write a book and call it; If you want to own a radio station, I'll tell you what's it's all about. Anyway, we finally got all this clearance, and I'll say this, Pasadena was beautiful. They came along and helped us with all the letters that you'll see on the file. Everyone said that they thought there was a need for it and we did go. At that time we had Charlie S/L Belfire,(??)14:39 who was our manager, and we had a Mr. Carroll, who was our program director. They had had a lot of experience and everything, so we finally got the station on the air but they weren't selling any time. We finally found out that they were trying to sell us under the table. They figured that now that the station was going and everything, and if we went just flat broke, which we were already broke anyway. That they could buy the station for 5 cents on the dollar. That was what they were trying to do. In around about way, I had a little recorder like that in my dining room table that I had been recording the day before, it had been a Sunday, and I'd been recording some neighbors and things. Just a fun thing. I had left it on—oh, I had put it on that morning, and left it on, but it was under the table. I had a little thing-like drawer and I stuck it under there and of course it's not one with one of these, it's one without a microphone, and Carroll and S/L Belfire (??) 15:49 came up and they were talking and they said in there that they weren't going to help Felix and let him go to hell. If we squeeze him enough, he'll sell us the radio station for 5 cents on the dollar and then we can really manipulate it.
I: They were the ones who were selling the advertising, or supposedly?
AM: Supposed to, but hadn't done anything. So about that time, it was—Felix was calling them to come downstairs, of course, they were upstairs in our dining room, so they come to the radio station and they didn't come down right away and some people were there trying to buy some political time. Of course, we didn't know anything about how to sell these things. They didn't come down. Then, my niece said, "I heard these men talking and they were saying this and that." So I came upstairs. I said, "Mr. S/L Belfire,(??) 16:45 they need you downstairs, and you'd better get." He said, "Yes, madam." So he went on. Then she says, "If you take that recorder, you'll hear what they said." So I picked up the recorder. I went on with it, because I was so angry I could have killed them. So I said, "Well Felix, whatever came of that customer?" He said, "No, he was just shopping, he didn't buy anything." I said and Mr. S/L Belfire (??) 17:10 was sitting right next to him, I said, "He didn't buy anything or Mr. S/L Belfire wouldn't sell him anything." He said, "Oh no, Ms. Morales, I've talked to him." I said, "I want you to hear something." So I turned the recorder back and I played it. Felix had him under a contract for 10 years that we were going to pay him so much, but that made that man so angry—that we had caught him doing this—that Felix said, "If you feel that way about S/L Belfire, (??)17:39 you're not going to do me any good, you had better get out." He said, "Well, if you pay me what you owe me; I'll get out right now." I don't remember how much it was we owed him, but Felix—I said, "Felix, I'm going to go pawn my rings right now and I'll bring you the money." I went to a friend of mine—Mr. Fernando Salata and he loaned us the money and I paid him off. He left that same day. Mind you, Felix and I didn't know a thing about running a radio station.
I: 18:13 I imagine.
AM: So Felix says—I said—
I: About what year was this?
AM: This was about 1950, must have been about June or July of 1950.
I: You hadn't been in business—
AM: No—not a month.
I: And you all had been losing money up until—
AM: No, we hadn't been making any. They hadn't been selling any.
I: I see. Now, and you all were dedicated at that time to having a bi-lingual station.
AM: Yes. Well no, at that time, yes, it was bi-lingual. Well, more Anglo than Spanish. More English than Spanish.
I: 18:41 But—you all had named it—what's the origins of the name? KLVL?
AM: K, of course is a prefix that's used for all stations. Latin Voice, the Latin Voice. La Voz Latina—KLVL.
I: But while it had that name, you still wanted it to be bi-lingual at first.
AM: Oh yes. Yes, because at that time when we—you can elect or select—the letters that the FCC has on file that are not being used anymore. So the letters that we wanted, people would—other stations would object to for certain reasons or other. So then my son, Joseph suggested that we get La Voz Latina because that was going to be the first Latin voice even though it wasn't going to be bi-lingual that any Latins had here. It would be—in other words—we would commence our day with an English program called The Gravy Train, which was really—more dedicated to the Blacks.
I: I see.
AM: C.V. Rice used to run that show. He had a good show. Then that was from, I think, 6:00 to 7:00 in the morning and then from 7 to 9 in the morning it was coming all English. We had some good announcers, Anglo announcers at that time. We had lots of compliments on the station. That was all—no sponsors.
I: No sponsors.
AM: Then from, I think from 9:00 until 1:00 or 2:00, we went Spanish. From that time on, we would go English from Pasadena.
I: I see. Now, why is this—the station itself is not in Pasadena—
AM: Oh yes, the station has its main studios at 1811 Pasadena Boulevard. We are a Pasadena station. However, we had a permit from the FCC after we found that it was so difficult to sustain ourselves on what little advertisement we had from Pasadena, that we had to then—try to get some of the Spanish language sponsors. There were a lot of big firms too that wanted the Spanish trade. Like, Colgate Toothpaste, and all the beer, Schlitz Beer, Falstaff Beer and all of the—anyway—they catered to the Spanish. So we would—were able then to sell the American, the Anglo sponsor for a Spanish time. Before we knew it, we had so much demand for it that we had to gradually increase our Spanish time to where now our format is almost about 80% Spanish.
I: 21:32 When did it start really going Spanish language?
AM: It started right after Mr. S/L Belfire left, I imagine it was—let me see—we applied for night time in '53, so I think it was about '52 when we started going more Spanish. Under the format that we have, since we are a Pasadena station, most of our programs have to—begin from Pasadena studios. We can direct 51 or 52% from the Pasadena studios and maybe 48 or 49% from the Latin American studios. After we found that we had so much demand for the Latin American music and programs, it was more convenient to have an office here in Houston. The Houston merchants were coming, it was too inconvenient for them to ride out all the way to Pasadena. Then, we applied for and got permission from the FCC to—make our Latin American studios in Houston. Since we already had the property there, and a building, we converted that building into a studio which consisted of—a large studio and then the control rooms for the announcers and then offices for our script writers, and for a business office. Then, in Pasadena, of course, we just have the two big studios, and the announcers would go there from 12:00 on and our programs then emanate from the Pasadena studios to have it comply with this ruling. Actually, the only thing that we really get a lot of from Pasadena is the ballgames. They're all—from 7:00 on, you know, till 9 or 10:00. Now we have another—newscast that from the KPRC, that's station channel 2—they have their news at 10:30—and we have our news at 10:30 and they have an announcer by the name of Alexander Sanchez, whose very good. He's watching the TV and he's translating everything the English speaking—announcers are saying from the TV and then you lower the TV and put up your—radio—the—louder—you can hear everything in Spanish, because this boy is saying everything in Spanish and it's coming in through our radio station.
I: When did you all start with that?
AM: We started that about 2 years ago.
I: I see.
AM: It was really—it's really very amazing because I used to think, well nobody listens to all of that, but I have been in too many Spanish homes where they don't understand and they really get to see all the news that's going on TV and hear it in their own language. It's really; I think it's a very good thing for the community as a whole.
I: So, KLVL started to put it in the vernacular. Started to make money and be on the map when you all changed from—going more towards Latin, Spanish language.
AM: Yes, definitely. We started; however, we didn't really start making any money until about 1960. Our sales at the beginning were very low. Of course, like I tell you, we had no leadership because our managers knew everything so with just Felix and I bucking our heads against the wall to learn this, and I remember the first time that after those people left, and he says, "Well somebody is going to have to make the logs." I said, "Logs, what is that?" I thought it was a wood log or something. He said, "No, those are the logs that you prepare for what goes on air." I didn't know anything. I looked at those things. It looked more complicated than the microwave oven. So I had to learn the hard way. I got my rule books. I have them all here to find out just how you prepared logs in order to conform with FCC. Everything that you say on the radio must be logged in your daily log. If you have an interview, it has to be on there. If it's a sale, a promotion or public service, it all has to be prepared before you go on air. We prepare our logs about 2 or 3 days ahead of time. Then, if there's something to be changed, then the announcer has—must change it and initial it and date it to show that the change occurred because maybe somebody cancelled a spot, or another spot was put in and it wasn't on the original log.
I: 26:40 You all—how long did you and Mr. Morales do this on your own?
AM: Oh—well I guess until we got money enough to pay somebody else. Must have been about six months.
I: And then who did you all pick up?
AM: Well, gradually we would pick up a different person trained them. The first person that I trained was Juan Martinez, he came to work for—he was—I met him in a hospital. He was real sick and he asked me for a job. I said "Well, can you type?" He said "No." I said, "Can you read English and Spanish?" Well, he'd come in there and when he came in there I said, "All of the work I've got to do, and I've got to show that man, I'm going to see how I'm going to show him." We had 2 announcers. We still had Mr. Alexandro Santis and the other was Mr. Lata, and the other one was Ms. Garcia, 3 of them. So they said, "Don't worry, we'll teach him." So between us 4, we taught Juan how to make logs. He turned out to be a good log man. He was with us about 10 years. Then, of course, like I tell you, it was more or less hit or miss. I don't know why the FCC didn't just knock us out of there. We must have made a lot of mistakes, but they were honest mistakes. Of course, the lawyer, when we had any kind of problem, we'd call him and he'd kind of iron out things for us. There are an awful lot of rules that you really have to watch. Like, if you put a spot on the radio that it's supposed to be a minute, and the announcer talks more than a minute, well, it's not classified by the minute, it's classified as long as the going went on. Then he has to change it. You can only run 4-1/2 minutes of commercial matter in a 15 minute segment. Or 18 minutes in an hour. So therefore, in order to sell time, we'd try not to have more than 5 spots in any 15 minute segment so you don't hear so much talking and you get a little more music. If you have 4-1/2 minutes of commercial matter on a 15 minute segment, that still gives you enough music to let the listener enjoy his programs. In selling those spots, you have to figure that you can make enough money out of each spot to pay your overhead, like your employees, and you light and phone bills, which are very big. Your taxes and everything that goes into the expense of having a radio station.
I: 29:08 Who were your early announcers?
AM: The early announcer was this girl Maria Del Carmen Al la Monde and Garcia. Alejandro Sante Esteban and Victor Lata Artigon.
I: Where were they from?
AM: Let's see—I believe Victor and Maria were from Laredo, Mexico and Alejandro was from Eagle Pass, Texas and of course, we had others. We had a Mr. Albert Rodriguez who was one of our first salesman. We had this Tony—he's now with the government, I can't think of his name. We had some of the Compean boys who were orchestra leaders. They were very good men. They all came in to sell. We had them until about 1954, and about 1954, a boy by the name of Johnny Hernandez came and asked me for job. He was an auditor and a bookkeeper. I needed one awfully bad, I've always needed him. So he worked 2 weeks for me, and he says, "I'm not an inside man, I'm an outside salesman. Please let me work on the outside." I said, "Johnny, I need you so much." He said, "You need me better outside." He started working for us in '54 and he still works for us. He averages anything from $800.00 or $900.00 a week. $1200 or $1300 is nothing. He makes it too.
AM: Selling. He's a salesman.
I: So, did you all ever have—did you all ever hire—most of you alls, even the early announcers were Mexican.
I: Or Mexican American.
AM: They have to know good Spanish and you take the average Latin whose born in the United States, like me, my Spanish is atrocious. The idea was to have good announcers so they could speak the English and Spanish language—
[END OF 246.2_03] [BEGINNING OF 246.2_04]
AM: KLVL and I remember one or two letters, one of these men who wrote to her said, oh, he was in love with her because she had such a lovely voice and all of this. He wanted to marry her. That when he got out of prison, she didn't have to worry, because his father had a grocery store and he would be able to support her. Carmen said, "Oh my, I'll have to fall in love with the old man." Anyway, she would get all kinds. We had a ball. When we first went on the air, we had a request program. People would call in and we'd dedicate numbers to them. That's more or less to see what kind of audience you have. I'm telling you that we had so many calls that we had to stop it very soon because everybody was listening to KLVL. Everyone and then I have—you'll see in that file that I gave you—a lot of letters from Anglo people that said, would I please send them some of the publicity that wasn't being used anymore because they would like to practice it or to hear what the announcer because they were learning English. Boys that were going to Houston University or some even from Galveston or different parts, you'd be surprised how many Anglo people would listen to the radio station.
I: 01:14 Listen to KLVL.
AM: We had, of course, beautiful programs. We had so much time that we had all kinds of time for public service. At that time, since I'm a Catholic, and before we got the radio station, I suppose I should tell you that it was so—to me it was so frustrating that here it was 3 years and we couldn't get our license. So finally on the last lap when we were finally able to strike on this 1480, I just went to church and I said, "Lord, I want you to help me because it's frustrating that we work so hard for the little money that we have and here's this dumb husband of mine throwing it away like it was so much peanuts." I said, "Please, if it's not for us, take it away from his mind, and if it is for us, intercede, help us get this now because I don't know just how much longer I'm going to be able to be biting the dust." I'm a very religious person and also I have my favorite saints, like St. Jude is my business manager. St. Theresa, the little flower of Jesus, she's my doctor, because I've always had bad health. St. Anthony is my lost cause; I'm always losing or misplacing something, so he's my finder. The different saints to me, some people say you should pray straight to God, don't—saints they can't help you—a lot of people think it real bosh to pray to saints. I say, well look, the way I look at it—the Lord is a very busy man. He has so many quests. If you have a problem, you don't go to President, the President of the United States to help you, even though you know eventually he'll have to okay it. You go to your congressman or your legislator. I said, "All right, my saints are my congressmen and my legislators." They help me get my cause all dry and they present it for me to the president. Well that's the way my saints do, they present my cause, after—if they think it's something worthwhile and to help after I've prayed to them a lot—then they'll go knock on Jesus' door and say, now look, this lady is about to lose her marbles, will you kindly intercede a little bit? So that's the way I look at it. I then, went to St. Jude. I'll never forget that day that everything was going so wrong and I asked St. Jude; If you will please, open the way for us and let me see, and let my husband see what is the best thing for us, if we're to get this radio station and it's not going to be for the good of everyone and ourselves, then don't let us have it. If we can do some good with it. If you feel that we will be able to do some good with it and also help ourselves, then please open the way now for us, and if you will help me with this, I promise that I will come 33 days take confession and communion and offer it to you in thanksgiving for whatever you are able to intercede to our good Lord for me. And furthermore, I will promise, since I always have bad health, that one side of the radio station, I will plant nothing but red roses all the way from the radio station to the sidewalk for you St. Jude and the other side will be for St. Theresa so that she'll give us enough help that we can see this thing through. I guess that sounds silly to you, but I was a silly person anyway. I don't think I'm silly and born to God—no, no not that. We had a man working for us who was our janitor and I went and spent about $20.00 buying nothing but red rose bushes and I had him plant 10 on one side and 10 on the other side of the walk as you go into the radio station. Of course, it wasn't a radio station at the time. Then I started going to mass. Every morning I would get up to 6:00 mass and I would walk or ride to mass and take my communion and my confession. I have had done that about—20 days—when I was downstairs—a telegram came in and I sent it up to my husband. We lived at the funeral home at the time. My husband had stayed up all night, must have been about 9:00 in the morning, and he was asleep. I told my son, go take the telegram to your Daddy, see what it is. So he took it upstairs. I thought maybe it was a bill collector wanting some money. All of a sudden I heard a thumping noise that was like somebody was jumping up and down upstairs, and I said what happened. I ran upstairs and my husband and boy were crying. He says "Look at the telegram; we got our radio station construction permit. We are going to start now." I just got on my knees and I said "Oh God, whoever said you weren't there." I finished my 33 communions that I had promised the Lord and St. Jude. Let me tell you, after that, always those bright red flowers were blooming. This man, Mr. Garcia would take such good care of those roses; they were always on either side. Once in a while the roses would be better on one side than the other, and I'd say, "All right St. Theresa, who's going to be sick next?" Or else, hey, what's the matter St. Jude; you're not helping me with my business. So we started then and there. Started gradually coming up with our business and writing letters to every agency that I knew how. Johnny then began to work for us and he started to get a lot of business for us, so before we knew it, we were writing $8,000.00 or $9,000.00 a month, which wasn't any money because we were spending about that much. We had such huge expenses, like we had to pay the United Press Machines, which was quite expensive. Then you'd have to have the licenses to play your music from the ASCAP, The Association Society for the Authors. The other one was CCAP which was another association, then the BMI which was the Broadcast Music Incorporated. You'd have to pay them a certain percentage of all of your income in order to be able to play their music.
I: 08:03 I see.
AM: So, we had to be paying. All of those expenses besides salaries and attorneys, engineers, which we hadn't paid off, plus the fact that we had borrowed so much money.
I: How about live performances. Did you all have live performers?
AM: Oh, we had so many beautiful live performances. Like I'll tell you, the time we didn't have very many sponsors, so we had a lot of free time. We would have such programs I organized a program called May God Bless You. At that time, there were a lot of poor people that their house would burn down or they'd be out of a job, or their child would die, they didn't have any money. One of the first programs that I had on that, we would get on the air and we would air out this problem to the audience and immediately people would start rolling into that radio station paying nickels, dimes, dollars to help that particular fund. One of the first ones that I remember was a lady who had a daughter and she had been kidnapped and taken away from Houston and she had looked and looked for this daughter, but could never find her. Then one day, someone wrote to her from, I believe it was Nebraska that they had found this little girl drowned in a trunk. Someone had killed her and threw her in a trunk and in water and when they picked this trunk up, there was this little girl and they were able to identify it was this mother's little girl. They were very poor. So she came to me and asked me. She knew that I was starting a program, could we do anything at all to help her get money to bring her child? I interviewed her on the radio station and immediately so many people came in that we raised about 3 or 4, now this is a poor audience, mind you. Mexican people here didn't have the good jobs they have today in the '50s. People would come in paying nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars. It took an awful lot of people to raise $300.00 or $400.00 in those days. In no time at all, we had raised the necessary money to send for the body and pay the undertaker over there and bring her and bury her in Houston.
I: 10:26 Were you all broadcasting from the Pasadena one at that time?
AM: No, we already had a Latin American studio here in Houston.
I: Here in Houston.
AM: I broadcast and immediately we had that response. That was one of the first ones. Then a second one was another boy who came here to Houston and he was working at some place and he was killed. His mother lived in Mexico City and they didn't have any money either. Some of the people where the boy was staying came to us and we made another appeal. That time we had more than enough money. Then I said, "Well look, we have this program and everybody comes for a need, and sometimes they don't need all of the money that comes in." For this particular little girl, the whole expense was about $350.00 and we collected like $400.00, so we just gave the lady the other $50.00. Well, on the second time that this boy that was killed and his mother called me long distance from Mexico that she wanted to see her son and couldn't we send him back and they didn't have any money, so we made that appeal and we made about $600.00. However, it only took about $400.00 to send the boy. I gave them all the money. Then, after people know that you're doing something like this, you have a lot of demand. Some are good and some are not. But I had no money, and so then I talked to Mr. Karmac with one of the newspapers here at that time, The Houston Press. He said "Ms. Morales what you're doing is beautiful, but you have to keep a sinking fund." I said, "What is that?" He said "Well, whenever you have a need and you get more than enough, you put the other in the bank so that the next time you have a call, you already have some money and maybe you don't have to make another appeal." So then, I thought that's a very good idea. So I would tell the people, well now look, you need $3 or $400.00, and I'm not going to charge you anything for the radio time. I'm doing this as a public service because it's a public service program. However, there are other people that get stranded in Houston. For instance, a lot of people would come in and they were stranded, they didn't have a job, and they wanted to get back home and didn't have a place to stay. Well they needed—at that time we had a travel service agency, but not everybody was eligible, so these people would come to me. Well they needed like $20.00 or $30.00, and I hated to make an appeal for something like that. But after I kept a sinking fund, I would take, if the people would come in for such a demand, I would go on there and say "Well, Mr. John Doe or Ms. John Doe is here and they don't have a place to stay, they don't have anything to eat, and I have from the money that you have given us before, this amount, so it's going to be disbursed to help this couple out. They don't need anything from you at all except your blessings." Well people would come in anyway—and give you a little money. So my sinking fund, gradually rose and rose and rose to back in 1956, they had these terrible floods in Mexico, the Rio Grande—flash floods, and so many people were lost and all of their homes and everything, so we thought it would be nice to make an appeal to help our neighbors across, you know? I spoke to the Counsel, and he thought it was a very good gesture, so we got on the air, and at that time there was a man by the name of Reverend Navarro, who had a program on our station. I said, "If I make this appeal, there'll be so many people coming, I can't be on the radio and still write down the names and amounts that people are giving." So he said he would bring in some ladies that belonged to his church. So we had about 20 ladies there—and I was on the air from about—oh I'd say seven in the morning till closing time. At that time we were still on just daytime, I believe. We raised over $10,000.00. And then—Reverend Navarro made appeals too to the Express Brown, Brown Express Company and they loaned us four big trucks, you know the size of trailers. The size of a train almost. And then we had people bringing in so much food and so much clothing. So then he appealed to the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America came and put all of the stuff in the garage and they would sort it out. Put it in packages and fill these four freight—full of food stuff and clothing and furniture and we took all of it—to the Rio Grande area. The different one to Laredo and one to Eagle Pass, I believe those were the worst hit and left the money there to be distributed. I believe the Baptist church that Mr. Navarro was affiliated with in Mexico made these distributions.
I: I see.
AM: So it was—that was all through the one particular program. But imagine being on there from the time the station opened till it closed with nothing but this public service—and interspersed would be one or two sponsors, whatever little we had. The station became so well known through its public service and then there were a lot of people coming in without jobs. So Mr. Morales hit on the idea to open up a program called, I Need a Job. Then people would come in—and we'd interview them on the air—and they'd say, "Well, we have a man here who is a good carpenter and he has experience in this and needs a job." We'd put it on the air and then we had a little piece of paper and someone that would be listening would say, "Well I need a carpenter, send him over here." Well, all right, we want your name and your address and your phone number. Once this man gets over there, if you don't hire him, please call us. If you do hire him, holler so we don't have to run the ad again. We got a lot of people jobs through that program. Then the sponsors started coming in wanting that program. So I believe it was Jax Beer, had it for—about 12 years until—this man died, I forgot his name. Very nice person. He was the owner of the Jax. And then other people took the program over.
I: Who were you alls big early sponsors when you all got off the ground?
AM: The bigger, I think, were all of the beer companies.
AM: Yes, we had Falstaff Beer had about 12 spots a day at the beginning. And there was—Jax Beer, The Lone Star Beer, The Busch Bavarian, and well every beer company that, Pearl Beer, everybody was on there. And they were all getting a good response.
I: You also said though, that Colgate—
AM: 17:59 Then we had Coke Cola Bottling Company. We had Colgate and—Proctor and Gamble, and then they had, we had a big store here in Houston at the time, I don't think it exists anymore called Ronson's Department Store, they called me, I wrote to them and then this man called me and said he wanted me to originate a very original program for him. He was going to give me a lot of spots. He was going to start off with 6 spots a day, then right around Christmas time—when people are buying, then 12 spots a day, and then 24 spots a day. Imagine, that's a lot. At that time we weren't charging much for our spots.
I: In the '50s?
AM: Yes, in the '50s. So I thought about it. I came back and asked the announcers what good program can we—he wants to buy a 15 minute program on Sunday. Well we can get the people to come into the studio—so we studied a bit and then we came up with a program called—Let's Have Fun and Win a Prize. In Spanish, (SPEAKS SPANISH). So we would—I would get an audience and the announcers and we'd have all the people there—we'd pick up 2 or 3 people, like one time we'd say, all right you boys are going to stand—4 people—volunteers would stand up in the—studios and you have to do everything I do, but don't you dare look, if you look, you have to just look at me, if you look away, you're out of the game automatically, you won't win a prize. So you have to keep your eyes before me. Then I'd get 4 plates—and I gave them—they were these black plates, glass black plates but on one side was nothing but soot. So—of course mine didn't have it. I'd go hit your hand against the plate, now hit your cheek. Well it'd get all soot. Then hit the other one and get this one and then finally somebody would say, well what is this thing all over with? And they'd just kind of drop out and just one standing, so they would put a mirror in front of him—(laughter).
I: Was there an audience there?
AM: Oh, yes, a live audience. We'd have anything from 2 to 300 people; there was just no place to get in there—anymore. I mean—
I: Which studios?
AM: The old one. The first ones that stand now next to the funeral home. But they would be all over and outside and everything. Then that program hit so big and people would be laughing, and you'd hear it all over the radio—naturally people would come here and outside would come in here to the studios to see what was going on.
I: Were they basically mostly Mexican American?
I: Let me ask you this too. I didn't quite get this—where were the Latin stations? There were first you had one by the funeral home?
AM: Yes, the original one was at 2903 Canal. When we finally went on the air and we got the construction permit, my husband had talked to Mr. Guzman who owned the Auditorium Hotel and he had volunteered to rent us a space for studios and also a place for the transmitter on top of the Auditorium Hotel in the event we got the permit for the clear channel. Since the clear channel was lost in the hot potato—we finally had to go to Pasadena—to get our 1480 channel. So when we went there, we then rented studios from the Pasadena First State Bank upstairs from where they were. It was real cute that Mr. S/L Belfire says, well KLVL has got a lot of money because Pasadena is downstairs and they've got like two million dollars—so assets—so KLVL assets over six million dollars because we were sitting right over them. We had all kinds of fun. Then after we got the permit and we went there to have our studios, but when we found that we weren't just hitting the market to make any money out of it, then my husband decided that maybe just approaching all of the sponsors for Spanish time would have a better opportunity of making some kind of income so we could pay all of these expenses. The station didn't pay for itself the first 4 or 5 years. So then he had this permit to open a Latin-American studio and a business office in Houston. So when we had that, we didn't have a place to go. I had bought this old building for the radio station was originally located at 2903 Canal from Mr. Catchman across the street from the funeral home. He was going to demolish this building and I asked him to sell it to me. So he sold it to me and we moved that building to the present site and then we had it all remodeled on the inside and painted real pretty. It was a very pretty building at the time, at least we thought so. And that's where we commenced our operation, so that we didn't have to be paying any other rent. Of course, I went into—we went into some expense, like eight or nine thousand dollars to remodel the place, but still we did that like—on terms. So we had a nice studio here and then we had the main studios in Pasadena. Later on as the business became better and we applied for nighttime, then my husband started to build, he said, we have this 11 acres of land here where the transmitter, so why not build a transmitter studio in the transmitter site and we won't have to be out so much money. So we went into debt again for about $20,000 and built the studio that is now in Pasadena. Then we would have our programs coming from Pasadena and our Spanish programs coming from our studios at 2903 Canal. We had that operation on until the later part of '69. In '69—then after we applied for the nighttime, then my husband applied for an FM station. That was too in the early '60s when we applied for the FM and we received that grant. However, that operation still didn't pay off because, even now, I don't think FM is still making all the money that AM is. Eventually they say that it will, but it sure wasn't helping us. It's popular because it's good music, but that's it. So we held onto that until about 1968, and we were—making dual programs. In other words, FM would also have the AM without the sponsors—and we operated first 4 hours and then full time, but no way that we could really get it off to making money. It was just an expense to keep 2 more announcers on at FM, besides what we had, and we couldn't make any money, so my husband then said he was going to sell it. He started working on it, I'll never forget because that operation cost us—about $75,000. He said I'm going to sell it. I'm going to ask $200,000 for it. Everybody said, you're crazy, who the heck is going to give you $200,000, you don't even have—even our engineer said you don't have that kind of thing in there. He says, yes, but I've got something that somebody wants, and that's that grant. He worked on it even I used to have to write all of these letters offering it to the different people. Nobody wanted to buy it. So finally, a man that does nothing but buy such kind of stations, came to us and said he would buy it contingent on the promise that we would, if ever so inclined to sell KLVL—to sell it to him. Sudbrink was his name. So if he had said no I can't sell you that under such contingency because KLVL is a Latin voice. There's no other voice. I would just as soon think of selling my mother as to sell KLVL. I couldn't do that. I don't have any intentions of ever selling, as a matter of fact, if I'm dead and gone it'd be left to the Latins to operate. So, he hemmed and hawed around and finally he came down and told him he would buy that, but he wanted Felix to give him a promise that if he ever sold it, he'd give him first choice. Felix said I'll promise you that, but I don't have any intentions of selling it. So Mr. Sudbrink made about 3 or 4 trips down here and then he—Felix and him finally got together and we got a nice price for it. We sold it for 3 or 4 times what we paid—had invested in it. Everybody thought he was crazy because everybody was trying to buy it from him for $70,000/$60,000 something like that. Felix had—he's very foresighted—and he has a lot of gray matter working up there, he's not a very talkative person, but he can see so far ahead for things and sometimes I think he is planning something, and I think, oh boy, that's farfetched.
I: What do you think, why do you think he wanted a radio station?
AM: He always wanted a radio station because he felt that the Mexican people needed a voice. You see, we had, even in San Antonio; there was always Anglo stations, but no minority voice for Latins. If you wanted to go—like he would go the station in San Antonio when he was a young man, and he wanted to have Spanish programs, but they wouldn't listen to him at all. So finally, what he had to do was go and talk to the different sponsors that would be able—of course Mexican businesses were not as good as they are today—there wasn't much money in it—so they would buy spots. He would then, he'd tell them, well I'm going to have—in an hour's time, and I'm going to have ten sponsors. The program—then I'll get $50.00, maybe $10.00 each one and the program then—they would sell him a block—at that time I think you could sell a block like brokerage, and he would buy a block of time. The only time they would give him was 11-12 at night.
I: This was in San Antonio?
AM: San Antonio. Even then when we came to Houston, it was the same thing. The only time he got in with one of the local stations here, but the only time they would give him is that real dead time. He'd buy it for $50.00 an hour and sell it—then make, he'd be his own program director, his own journalist, his own announcer, and he did everything.
I: 29:18 Now, what station was that?
AM: He could tell me, I can't tell you right off hand—if you want to hold it a minute, I'll ask him. In San Antonio when he first started selling time, it was on KONO and then he would only get that time. Then when he came to Houston, he wanted to advertise our funeral home, and then he got a bunch of sponsors and he got the time with KXYZ.
I: Were there any other Spanish language programs at all?
AM: No, nothing at all. No Spanish whatsoever. Until he started with his program, and this was between 11 and 12 at night. Then—when he finally couldn't get any other time, he decided, as a matter of fact, he had decided in San Antonio, remember, we weren't married yet. When we were watching waterfalls in Breckenridge Park and he said, "Angie, you were playing the radio. I said, "Oh, that's such good music." And he said, "One of these days, I'm going to own a radio station." I said, "You are?" He said, "Sure." I said, "Well does it take a lot of money?" He said, "Yes, it takes a lot of money, but you don't worry about that." I said, "Well then how are you going to get it?" He said, "It'll come. If you work at it, it will come." And I'll never forget that because he mentioned that to me 2 or 3 times and I thought, boy I'm going around with a real nut. Here he is, he doesn't make but $15 to $20 a week, I make about $30 and he's going to own a radio station. That's something I can't even buy a car and he can own a radio station. I thought about it many times, but then when we came—I thought he had left his mind. So when we came to San Antonio—to Houston and we had the funeral home and he bought this other time, he was still at it. I said ,"You sure like radio don't you?" He said, "Oh yes, we're going to own a radio station." I said, "Well Felix, about how much money?" He said, "Oh, don't even ask me, I don't have the least idea, but we can get it. If you make up your mind and just set your scope right, we'll get it."
[END OF 246.2_04] [BEGINNING OF 246.2_05]
I: Which brings up a good topic. Mr. Morales is known around the community as—a vocalist. What is his interest in the old songs? He tends to sing in the old, why?
AM: I rather imagine because and I like too that type of music. Of course, we're older people—if you will really bear with me, most of the beautiful songs that are still alive today were alive back when we were young. Like, you take—Stardust, and—of course there was this Carmaculate and then this Old Buttermilk Sky and then The Lady in Blue, and then in Spanish, SPEAKS SPANISH, all those songs were songs when I was a girl of 12 or 13. And today I'm an old lady of 70 and they're still being played—it's very beautiful music, it's more like dinner music—that if you listen to Fascination and songs like that, they never grow old. But you take songs like Elvis Presley made and I Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog, well that's here today and gone tomorrow. Although they're good singers and I have nothing against that, but it's not music that really appeals for a long time to you. It's like roomba's and Cumbia's and all—they're very beautiful songs, but they soon wear you out. You take this other soft-type music and that's the kind he likes.
I: When do you begin singing?
AM: Well, we were still, like I tell you, sweethearts. Back in 1924, 25, he went around with a group of men, Ralph Rodriguez, Manuel Salazaar, and Costianos and Rosita Fernandez, who still sings a lot—she's a beautiful singer—and they were all—we sort of all grew up together.
I: 02:26 In San Antonio?
AM: In San Antonio—and so Felix would be—he always liked that. He got his guitar and Manuel Salazaar was a guitarist and taught him how to play the guitar. More or less accompanying music, not just—so he would sing and Felix has a very delicate, soft voice. By himself he sings, to my way of thinking, very well. When he gets with a group, they kind of drown him out. Now he's getting a little deaf, so he tends to sing louder than he should. When we were young, he would tend to be called with this little group to play at the different places. As a matter of fact, when we came to Houston, they had formed a club called, S/L FIOT (??) 03:11 I don't know what the name stands for, but it was at that time Mr. Albino Torres, who was a great pianist here in Houston, also belonged to the club. And Albert Patrone who is also dead now, he played the violin real nice. So Felix would play the violin. Mr. Chavez' wife, you know Sencia would play the piano beautifully, she still does. Or Albino Torres and then—Mr. Manuel Salazar and Felix would play the guitar. They would get together at this clubhouse and they would be the orchestra. We would dance and everything and they would be playing.
I: Where was the clubhouse?
AM: It was on Shearon, I don't know if it still exists, but it was on the north side sort of Houston. They have this club, I remember this lady Mrs. Poince, and I can't think of her first name, she was a real fat, jolly sort of a person and her husband. They had this nice home somewhere on the north side and everybody would go to her house and they'd have reporters there, and it was the cutest thing—they had a Big Ben clock and they would raffle off this clock at every meeting, and the money that came in from the raffle, would be used for the next meeting to buy the cakes and beer—whatever it is they had at those parties—and from there they would have their fun. Their very own members would buy, well pitch in and buy the clock.
I: And they'd give away a clock every time?
AM: No—it would be the same clock.
I: 04:56 They'd just give it back?
AM: They'd give the clock back and then raffle it again for the next—like at the end of the meeting they would raffle it off and whatever they'd make from that—they would assign somebody else to have the party at their home and give them that money.
I: Who were the active musicians in Houston in the '30s? Do you remember?
AM: Well, I remember Alvino Torres, of course was a good pianist. Then there was a man by the name of Antonio Banuelos who was—we called him the professor, Antonio Banuelos, he used to play with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and then he organized a—band for the young students of the Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, I believe. And he had all these young boys dressed in nice uniforms. They would come out and parade---he directed all of that. Then he also would organize festivities here in Houston like for the 16th of September, the 5th of May, which is a big Mexican celebrations day—and he would bring his little group. They were all youngsters, kids from—let's say 7 to 12, 15 years old and then he became so famous that they hired him in Baytown to organize this group of children from Robert E. Lee High School, and he went off and all over, then about—the middle '40s, Bing Crosby got interested in him. I don't know he heard—because he would take this group all over the state, or wherever he was called to take this group. They were very proficient in their music. He asked Mr. Banuelos to go to California and organize this—band—these typica bands they would call them at that time. The Mexican Tipica Bands—they played mostly band music. So he went to California—you know Bing Crosby was a very religious man, he was Catholic too. So he went and worked for Bing Crosby until his death about the middle '50s, I think. He had a heart attack and died.
I: But when—
AM: Bing Crosby.
I: Where was Banuelos from originally?
AM: 07:17 He was—well, I really don't know if he was—where he was from. I knew Banuelos about 1938 and Felix and he became very good friends.
I: But he was a Houstonian at that time?
AM: At that time, yes, As a matter of fact, he had been married and had grown children and then he was divorced for some reason or other and after he had been divorced some years—he met this girl by the name of De La Usla, that was her last name, can't think of her first name—anyway, he married her. They had 3 daughters. One was called Dometila, and she was my God—he asked Felix and I to sponsor her in baptism and she was our Goddaughter—then when they moved to California, of course, we had a nice cry and everything—but he was going to better himself. He stayed there for many years until he died. I remember Dometila calling me one day. I was at the radio station and she said, "My father just died." He was here 2 or 3 weeks ago. He had a heart attack. He had, come to visit us from California; he had come with some preacher. And he was doing very well. So he was another one of the first, Albino Torres was a first, then, of course, they had some professors—I can't think of their name. This little old professor, he lived in Magnolia and he used to teach music to the—piano lessons. I can't think of his name at all. He's been dead a long time. I think that that was about the ones that I would know at that time.
I: What about a man named, last name Zapata?
AM: 09:09 Oh yes—well he's more—I suppose he was at that time too, but I don't remember too much about him, but I know now he belongs to our club now. I forgot his first name—and he has a—now, of course, they have since the first ones you asked me—but next to them, came the Compeans—now they have a beautiful orchestra and everyone in the family is talented. One plays the piano. One plays the drums. One plays a—the old gentleman still lives here on Lubbock Street. As a matter of fact, I've been wanting to go see him—I don't know when I'll every get around to it—he is a wonderful—
I: There were several members of the band—
AM: All the members of the band. They still play at the best clubs and the best dances and all that. They have a very good orchestra. It's very well known, as a matter of fact, whenever you have the Compeans playing, you know you've got a good thing going—a good dance or whatever. He was the next one that came along and ever since then—there's little groups like—Mr. Charro Carmona, he plays the—organ. Then there's Manuel Arrelano everybody calls him Torreon, because he's from Torreon, Mexico. 10:41 Manuel Arrelano and he also plays—he's been very, very ill—I understand he has cancer. So he's going down—however, he still plays.
I: These people were in the '40s of '50s?
AM: Well, there were more in the '50s.
I: What about people, there was—does the name Gutierrez.
AM: Oh, Papa Gutierrez—I have forgotten him. Joe Gutierrez. We all call him Papa Gutierrez.
I: When was he--?
AM: He was back in the '30s. He used to live on 1618 State Street—I remember him because we all called him Papa. He was a printer by trade. He had some kind of orchestra and I believe one of his sons was there with him too.
I: When did Eloy Perez come in?
AM: 11:30 Eloy Perez—well I imagine he was in the late '40s because when we opened up our radio station, we had a lot of groups that would come in and play for us and he was one of the—Eloy Perez and Eloy Ranhill is another one that plays with this group. Eloy, Ranhell, and Torreon, who is the ones I mentioned and the first one is—Carona—Chara Carona, Torreon, and Eloy Ranhill all have a little—not a quartet, but—a cohunto. And now we have a lot of them.
I: What kind of music would these people play? How would you characterize—
AM: I would characterize it more as sort of a country music. Sort of this—country music.
I: And these are the cohuntos, right?
AM: Yes, the cohuntos.
I: Now, do people dance to it?
AM: Oh sure, they play that real snappy. They play all kinds of old time music like—not square dancing—they would call—polkas and redovas—it's like they used to dance a long time ago. It's real quick, fast music. People are really fascinated—the people here locally. When we came to Houston, that's the kind of music that was most in demand—that type.
I: Where did they play the music? Where were the functions held?
AM: One of the latest was held at the Terminal Hall, which is now the S/L Prodecherall 13:44 up here off of Wayside. That's where these—where I met these cohuntos. Then they had—at the Eagle's Hall, at the Woodmen of the World Hall, at the Knights of Columbus Halls, at—and then they started coming out with a lot of night clubs. The Rasa Club. Now that was a big night club that was first built by the Alonso Group. Mrs. Alonso would play the piano and Mr. Alonso would play some other instrument and then they had about 4 or 5 people and they had a big orchestra there at the Rasa Night Club there on Market Street Road. That was way back in the '50s. I think that place still stands, but it has gotten real bad. Now they have a lot of—most of these orchestras—boys play at the different night clubs. Like the Pan American Night Club and—Social Night Club on San Antonio—and then they had the Tropical Night Club way back there. The Tropical Night Club was already a club in 1950. This one was on Preston Avenue and this Club Madrid, which is on 1815 Washington—that's been there a long time. It's had 2 or 3 different names. It was first owned by John Serrano and his wife, Saoledad, but he died. When he died, she sold the place to—the Nietos, I believe they own the place now—the Nietos—they have a nice little club there. The different orchestras are hired to play there.
I: When did the Pan American begin?
AM: Oh, it's been there quite a long time—I think—about the middle '50s. She had a place on Hoben Street that is now used by another club—I can't remember—
I: Who began the Pan American Club? Who owns that?
AM: Ann Kerper and her husband Louis. I think they're—they're Arabians, Armenians or something like that.
I: I see—and they've always owned it?
AM: Always owned it. As a matter of fact, they had a real small place on Hoben and then they bought this place on Main and they made a big—it was the biggest night club here for a long time. Later on, others had come in like—Las Casuelas—it's a restaurant and upstairs he has a nice night club. Coco Loco they call it. Then, oh there's so many of them—I know they advertise some on our station—but there's so many of them—I just can't keep up.
I: But in the '30s and '40s there weren't that many?
AM: No, the '30s and '40s were nothing but clubs like the Mexico Reya Club and The Pepsicuri Club, The Internacional Club, and the LULACs. And of course they would rent halls whenever they had dances or festivities.
I: When they hired the Cohuntas?
AM: They would hire the Cohuntas—they mostly hired good orchestras—at that time Lord Perez was one of the biggest orchestras here.
I: In the '40s?
AM: Yes, and the '50s. Lord Perez and then of course we've always had the Cohuntas—can you think of any other night club—I mean orchestras? I believe that he was about the biggest—he and the Alonsos. The Alonsos also played quite a bit for the dances and all of that. Frank Alonso is the man's name—and her name is Ventura Alonso. They still live here in Magnolia—they live out that way. I know they used to advertise with us quite a bit until they went out of business. I believe she got sick or something—I don't remember. They were—they're very, very, very well known—but there weren't that many clubs at the time. When we went on the radio station, we had the Tropical Night Club and this Club Madrid—which at that time had another name—I can't remember what the name of it was—and that was about it. Oh, there was Buster's Night Club—little places and lounges and things like that—and they would have remote controls—we'd send our remote over there with an announcer and they would announce, make the thing sound real good. That was the beginning of when the Mexican people really started going into business. That's when the big businesses began—among the Mexican people—mid '50s.
I: Middle '50s? Who was the first one?
AM: In the mid—there was a restaurant—they have a bakery shop called Donuturo, a grocery shop and bakery shop. And then—they had the Tortilla Factory, I believe—it was on Washington Avenue—there was the Tropical Night Club which is owned also by another Alonso family—Joe Alonso—and I believe he still has it. Well—those were about the biggest ones we had then that I can remember. Buster Herrera had a club called The Blue Moon—and we had remote controls from there. From the Club Madrid which had another name at the time—and El Tropicale—and we would have remote controls from their place of business. Then after that—the Nietos had a beautiful big place downtown—I don't remember what they called it. Then they had Blue Star up here on Fulton Avenue—something like that. And then Ann Kirper came in about that time with the Pan American Night Club. When she moved away, she rented her old place to another night club and it was a big night club too.
I: Were they ever—did they ever consider themselves of Mexican American community—the Kirper's?
AM: Oh yes—they definitely do—because most of the business they do is with the Latin Americans anyway. They're riding—that's where a lot of Latin Americans are congregated—at this—
I: Did they socialize with the Mexican Americans—
AM: I don't think they socialized very much—Ann is about the hardest working woman you ever saw. She's behind the bar and she would just as soon take the broom—they're very wealthy too—
I: They pack them in there—
AM: Yes, but she's a very nice person. A personal friend of mine—she's a very beautiful and very religious. Her husband is very nice.
AM: Catholic yes. They are and I know that's she made a good business—but she works and has worked at it all of the time. She doesn't have to work that much, but she says she doesn't know what else to do with herself. She's like me—once you turn them loose—you don't know what else to do.
I: So, the Mexican American businesses started advertising with you all came in the '50s?
AM: '50s, yes—I would say about '51, '52, we started gradually picking—bringing them in and they started announcing with us and then the smaller businessman would come in too—the furniture houses, the grocery stores—I remember one time they had a big chain of Mexican grocery stores called The Eagle—and it was the man who organized that is now dead—I can't think of his name right now—but he was a very good businessman. They advertised quite a bit with us. So did the furniture companies—and then we started getting like the Hobus Furniture Company, and the Finger Furniture Company, the Wine Garden Stores, and The Globe—who's out of business now—quite a lot of them. We started getting quite a lot of the Ritchey's One Stop Center—they've been advertising with us a long time—they've been there like forever on 67th and Canal. Then, of course, we had a lot of the—beauty parlors. Always a hard struggle, there wasn't anybody that could pay a lot of money until we started to get our national advertisers. We now have a national representative in New York, and one in California. They send us such big products like Zest—
I: You mean you all have an agent?
AM: Yes. We have a representative. Now there are agencies that represent us over there among other stations.
I: 23:36 When did you all go that route?
AM: Oh—this was—about 1955 or 56.
I: When you all started doing business like that? I see.
AM: Yes—we started—I called a lawyer and he advised us to try to get a national representative. So at that time, he had suggested 2—one was Best and the other was National Times. I don't know why I liked National Times. We went on with the National Times and we've been with them ever since. Bernard is one of the original ones—we made—we've made friends and had a lot of good business from them ever since. We've been with them a long time. We never changed.
I: 24:28 What about your announcers? Who else down through the years have you all had as announcers?
AM: Oh, we've had so many—I've had—we've had a lady by Amelia Garcia, who had a beautiful voice. She was with us about 5 years and she was a dramatic actress too. Then right after the World War, she became a Nun. She was one of the first lady announcers that we had. Then Maria Carmen came and she married and left in '54, and then Amelia Garcia came in and then she became a nun—and then Maria Carmen moved back to Houston. She was with us again. Then we had—some of the boys we had—one of the men I called Ronchio, he had a beautiful voice. He was a tall—he had a very voice that he—if he would just say something and you had a glass in your hand—it would break. I know he broke 2 or 3 glasses while I was at the funeral home—he was—I had the radio on—he had such a—
I: Oh, you literally could break glasses with his voice.
AM: His voice. He had one of the best voices that you ever—his name was Ronchio, I can't think of his name—he came to us from San Antonio. Then we had a man by the name of Rubio. He was a little blonde man. He had a beautiful voice and he had a lot of talent and a lot of personality. Then we had another one by the name of—of course—Mr. Conde has been with us all along. Carlos con de Fuentes—he has a beautiful voice—he doesn't announce anymore. He's now—a writer, a script writer. We had Pedro Gonzales as an announcer for a while, but he is now a traffic man—in the traffic department. Then we have had—well we have Juan Lopez—Juan Manuel Lopez, he's also a part time announcer, but he's in the script department and they just float him back and forth. Avil Perez, Oscar Duarte Enoles.
I: Where we these from?
AM: Avil Perez was from Laredo Texas and Duarte is also from Laredo Texas. Then we have had—Serna, he still from Laredo—I can't think of his first name. I'd have to just get that file and go through, but we have had many, many good announcers—Houston at this time, now it's becoming more Mexican that it was then. The announcers that we had to bring in from Mexico, San Antonio, didn't like the Houston area. They were more San Antonio people where there's a lot more Mexican people, more Mexican food, Mexican products and things like that. Here in Houston it was too much of a horse town for them. They didn't like it. So it's always been a problem to keep a good announcer, although once we get them, we are able to keep them. Right now we have—Tina Ramos who's been with us about 10 years. George Rodriguez was—has been with us about 17 years. We have a new one at this time that came in from San Antonio—I can't think of his first name—Mota, I believe is his last name. Then we have a lady form Monterey—I still can't tell you her name—she's a beautiful person, but I still don't know her name. Like I told you, I don't keep up with much anymore.
I: I see. Let me ask you. You made that comment again, and I mean there is slight of a bit difference when you first started and now we're talking about the '50s. There was still a difference between Houston and San Antonio?
AM: Oh, it was terrific difference.
I: How so?
AM: Well, like—I was brought up in the little—upper middle class in San Antonio. When we came to Houston, we lived right here on Navigation Boulevard. And that was settled mostly by the laboring class. The type of people that—to me were—they were not the type of people that I was used to associating with. To me it seemed like they were these people that were just struggling to get along and really not trying very hard to better themselves. Whereas where I grew up, everybody alive was trying to better himself—you know, better education, better financial standing, better socially. Here it seemed like to me this group—was just a group that was stagnated. They didn't want to get away from that particular environment. They didn't want to better themselves. It seemed to me like they were always drinking, or well—
I: In the '50s it was still—it wasn't as nice as it was in San Antonio.
AM: I think that most of the people that were coming here and were working at Houston Compress Company which is called the Old Cotton, it was owned by Mr. Jefferson at the time—and almost everybody that was anybody, either worked for Mr. Jefferson or at the railroad company in the ___?? Very few of the people that I was next to, of course they were there, but I just didn't know them. They were widely scattered. Most of the nicer people, Mexican people were living in the north side. I could mention a lot of names but it might not be just proper. Even Mr. Garcia still lives out that way, although now the north side has gone down just as bad as the east side of town. But at that time, all the nicer people that I wanted to be around were living way across town from where I was. We were over here primarily because our businesses were right here with these kind of people. Although there were a lot of fine people that I met that I still know—
[END OF 246.2_05] [BEGINNING OF 246.2_06]
I: 00:02 So you all really, when did the radio station really get off the ground?
AM: May 5, 1950. We went on for test programs and on May the 27th, which is my husband's birthday, we inaugurated officially.
I: How long before it was a money making operation?
AM: Till the '60s. It must have been about—we were in the bracket of making eight thousand dollars a month—nine thousand—ten thousand in the middle '60s we were averaging like fifteen thousand a month. Well of course, that just barely got us off the ground because we had so many debts to pay back—things and loans. So then about '64 we then started hitting the twenty thousand dollars a month and then about '68 we went up to about thirty thousand dollars a month and since then, we've just gone, gone, gone.
I: Is there any one thing in the business that put you over the top?
AM: No—I believe that it was just the stick to itness quality—it's just like everything else, you use Crest toothpaste, but they start telling you Palmolive, Palmolive, Palmolive, and the first thing you know, well I want to try Palmolive. Well that's the way I think it was with our station. We were doing so much community affairs and so much involvement with the community to every problem that belonged to the Latin was ours. To where if anybody wanted—a resolution—or a solution to their problem, KLVL was the answer. So you see it became so community involved that the Anglo people started saying, well you need something, go to the KLVL, they'll do it. Even the newspapers, you need something—go to KLVL.
I: And the advertising came along.
AM: Came along and then of course we had our national representatives and I had these scrapbooks that I gave you—well I would make scrapbooks because we had so much—nice write ups in the newspapers about what our activities were—and I was putting them in a scrapbook. Then when I would write to our representative, I'd send him one of the scrapbooks—and say, look—this is what Morales is doing. So then the agencies hadn't heard about KLVL because there had never been a need to know about KLVL. As a matter of fact, the Latin Americans were not known in the agencies that were trying to sell. They thought all they had to do was sell to the blacks and the Anglos. The Latin Americans were not worthy of—even catering to because there weren't that many. Well when they started getting all these surveys that we had and where we reached—like to 19 counties—that we have a non directional signal—like an apple—it goes and reaches all of these counties. Then all these people would come in here and advertise. Then we saw these write ups, well then they thought KLVL can do something for us. So then we got such accounts as Coke Cola, and Maryland Club Coffee and Zest and Proctor and Gamble, Mas Arena, Pioneer Flours—because Mexican people use a lot of flour for tortillas. They use a lot of mix—the corn tortilla. Then the lard and the oil—we use plenty of oil to make tortillas. We use a lot of hot sauce. A lot of tomatoes like most any people. So then, I suppose the agencies began to realize that there was a potential for their products here among the Latins. I have some beautiful letters from the different advertisers. As a matter of fact, we were advertising Carnation Milk at one time—and I was announcing too—but I would write and tell them all—man, this little lady really honked her horn. Told them what all we could do for them. So the Carnation, I have a cup like this—a great big cup, it says, staring Angie Morales for Carnation. I would get little gifts like that from the different agencies. They would ask us then if we would—on top of—if they would give us so much advertising—would we do so much other advertising with handbills and things like that. Well, we had the time, so I did it. I would go to the different grocers, to the different drugstores and I'd put out the little handbills they had. Listen to KLVL. Listen to Carnation on KLVL. Well it was good for me too. We did that for about 5 or 6 years until it was too much of a job and I told the agency (inaudible) 05:00. So now they come on their own.
I: I see. When did you get out of KLVL, I mean actively?
AM: Actively? In the '70s. About—see in '60—see like I tell you, I've always had poor health. In '67 my doctor thought I had cancer and they rushed me to the hospital and they did everything they could find on me—and found out I didn't have anything. Two or three weeks later I came down with this problem again and they took me again and they found I had a bleeding ulcer—so I was in the hospital then—but I'm a highly nervous person. And I'm very active. And I have to be always doing something—so I believe that with the pressure that I was under—I was embalming bodies, doing the funeral home business and then coming over here and helping out with the bookwork. I was a bookkeeper. I was a janitor. I was an announcer. I was anything when we didn't have the money to pay for the extra. Then I had begun by being a notary public, and somehow so many Mexican people here at the time didn't speak English, so they thought a notary public was gosh, like Jesus, I could do anything. It really wasn't that I could do so much with my notary as with my mouth. I would get next to all the people that I knew could help me, like Albert Thomas. He was a grand person as far as I was concerned. Anytime I had a problem was Albert Thomas going to St. Jude.
I: 06:42 Now he helped you all get KLVL.
AM: He certainly did. He was one of the biggest instruments that we had in going before the FCC and making demands for us and helping us. Then, by the same token we helped him with his campaigns. He would come—I became so involved with the community—between 1936 and 1965 until anytime anybody needed something, they would come to Mrs. Morales. And I would help them. I'd fix alien papers for them. I'd fix citizenship papers for them. I'd go with them to the different departments and speak for them. Some people were living here wanted to bring people from Mexico that were related to them—I'd fix all those papers. I understand now people will go down and charge them three or four hundred dollars for doing that. I would fix all their papers for $7 and a half. All they would pay me would be my notary fee and my expense to go to the county clerk and get a notary certification and then take them to the Mexican Council and get his Counsel certification. Then I'd fix all their papers, their affidavits to bring in. I knew it by heart, I could do it real fast—and then I'd send these papers and I had a lot of good friends in border towns—and I would send these people to the border towns and say, you ask for so and so and so and so—they'd say, oh if Mrs. Morales fixed these papers, they're all right. So naturally, a lot of people began to think that I could do almost anything. I had the connections. I didn't mind it. I loved it. I loved to be—I always wanted to be around and I still do, but my health doesn't permit it any longer. However, that made me very well known and I would tell the people, now look, I'm going to all this and I'm not going to charge you—but when you die, don't you forget, you come over to me—because I'm in the undertaking—it was sort of a standing joke, now—I'm going to do this for you and when you can rub my back—you'd better rub mine. We started getting so much business that way—through our community involvement. Then too, it was a joy for me to be able to help different people. Little mothers would come to me and say, well their son was in service and they hadn't heard from in World War II and they thought they were lost, so I'd write to Albert Thomas and he'd find them wherever they were and then we'd get back mail to the people and tell them where their son was or the son would write.
I: 09:30 It did seem like a miracle—I'm sure.
AM: Yes, it was—because half of these people didn't speak English or write it much less—I didn't know where to go. I was that source where I knew just where to go and what to do. I kept up with it. Probation department with the criminal intelligence, with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, all the different agencies that at that time that were able to help me help those people. I had by the same token, anytime these agencies needed something, I would go and interpret—so that they knew me very well, even at the immigration department—I knew Mr. Elsenbraugh, Mr. Crossman who was the head of the department at that time, L.D. Crossman, Elsenbraugh was in the naturalization service and Mr. Young. So anytime they needed an interpreter or anything, they would say, go to Mrs. Morales, I know she'll help you. And I would. Same thing in the domestic courts. I knew Judge Williford and Judge Allen Haney, and all the judges at that time and they would recommend me to whenever they needed an interpreter. I would go and freelance there so I got to know the judge and I got to know the people. And that made us really an asset to the Latin American community. We became so well known that by the time that we went on the radio station, everybody knew that if Mrs. Morales is there, she's going to help me. Mr. Morales was taking a back seat all along, because like I tell you, he doesn't talk too much and he stays quiet, but a lot of people used to say if it wasn't for Mrs. Morales, he wouldn't be there. I just had them fooled. That's not true at all. My husband has always been the brains of this family and he will always be. But he's a quiet sort of person so that he's not going to say anything unless he has something to say that's going to boss you around. He's a good boss.
I: Well, you said that he's the one that sees the big picture and you deal with the details.
AM: Yes, that's right. I'm just a good soldier. He's the general, yes—
I: Anyway, how did you help Albert Thomas now?
AM: Well then, about that time, since I was so well known with all the community and everything, that we had the different clubs, like the LULACS and the Borders Club, it was called the One thousand one hundred—I think we had a hundred—not a thousand. Then the different—I belonged to 6 or 7 different clubs. So when I went in there, let me see—I belonged to the LULAC, I belonged to the Mejico Reya, Sociallama Polista, and the Union Fraternal—the Woodman of the World Circles.
I: What's this Wood One Thousand Club?
AM: Well, they organized it back when Albert Thomas first began running for Congressman. He—there were a lot of people—I think Holcomb was running against him. Holcomb, we didn't think was doing as good a thing by the Mexican Americans—he would hire them, yes, but the Mexican Americans would be trash pickers, garbage pickers—laboring—he never a chance to really show that you had any talents at all. Whereas, when Albert Thomas came and talked to Felix from Macadoches—we knew him when he was a young man. We were just beginning with our radio station—no, hadn't even had the radio station in the '40s. He asked us for help. My husband says, go to Mrs. Morales, she knows every Mexican in town. And I did invariably—because I had done so many favors for them that when I thought—look, here's a man that we want and he can do a lot of good for me and for you. So let's put him on there. Well, they had no choice. So I have letters from Albert Thomas that says I understand you have 2 or 3 baskets loads of votes—I want you to get them for me. So right away, I would start—promoting—and then people that had problems always knew that they were resolved by the help of Albert Thomas. So then I said, well he's running now for Congress—now is the time for us to really show a strong vote. Now I got such people as Chavez, the Garcia's—Senior Garcia, the Gonzales' and they were good friends of mine. Sure Ms. Morales—he's a good man, we'll vote for him—well they had a pocketful of votes too—and their families—and before you know it he sewed up the county here with all of the votes.
I: 14:17 You remember when he first ran, I'm not familiar—
AM: Well, I believe it was in the early '40s—or maybe earlier. He would still run with Roosevelt I know.
I: What was the name of his Political 1000?
AM: Yes, the Political 1000 Club.
I: Who was involved?
AM: Felix Morales was involved—and Quinones. The Quinones was a clan. They were all in Magnolia. There were about 10 brothers. Big family. And the Aravellas was another one. The Aravellas had a big drugstore in Magnolia Park. There's quite a number of Aravellas—the Aravellas and Quinones were for Oscar Holcomb. So the LULACs and Felix, Mariana Hernandez and Senior Garcia and so many of the others were not for Oscar Holcomb. In order to fight that Aravellas Quinones clan—they formed this 1000 Voter Club. Felix knows the exact name of it—The United 1000.
I: The United 1000. This was in the '40s?
AM: In the '40s, yes. They all backed Albert Thomas—against this other little click that was nothing but garbage, delivery man and things like that. That's all that they were at that time. We gave him a sound thrashing.
I: You all, the Mexican American community went for Albert Thomas?
AM: They went for Albert Thomas. Along with a lot of the Anglos that were here—of course they were Albert Thomas minded too because he was a little old man from Nacogdoches—just a young man at that time—very young man. So after he came to us and we told him what we were doing and everything—we began to correspond with him—and I would write to him. As a matter of fact, I wrote him a letter the very day that President Roosevelt died. I'll never forget because I cried so much—Miss Cencia called me, Mr. Chavez's wife and she was crying. I said, "What are you crying about?" She said, "Haven't you heard the radio?" I said, "No I'm busy working." And she said, "President Roosevelt just died." I said, "Oh, you've got to be kidding, I'm writing a letter to Albert Thomas to go to him for me for something." And I went and turned my radio on and I just started crying myself.
I: 16:51 You've always been a Democrat.
AM: I'll die as a Democrat. I have always felt that that was a party that I could really be loyal to. Of course, I have some friends that are Republican, but not great friends. Most of my problems are when I get into political issues—because they think we Democrats are a sorry bunch. So then I have to read up a lot on what the Republicans are doing to kind of whip them back and tell them—well looky here. Of course Richard Nixon is one of the good ones I can always whip—
I: He did more for my politics than anything I know of.
AM: You know Felix still says Nixon is a good man because he brought all the boys from overseas. Well, I say he's not a good man; he's just a man that can be bought.
I: Everybody's done a little good—
AM: Everybody sure—well everybody's got a little bad and good in them, I guess. I never did—as a matter of fact, when Kennedy was running against—or Nixon against Kennedy for President—way back in the '60s; I had a girl living here with me by the name of Annette Piazza, an Italian girl. She's a very good friend of mine and when they had the news on and 1 more vote for Kennedy and 1 more for Nixon, she had her rosary—and I had my rosary—and when they said something for Kennedy—I'd pray real fast—and when they said something about Nixon—we'd start crying—we sat up all that night and all the next day just to hear the returns. We went to church the next day when he won.
I: Thank you Lord.
AM: Because we wanted Kennedy so much.
I: Anyway, Ms. Morales, it's getting to be 4:00 and I've taken up more of your time than I need to. I've kind of worn my welcome, I think.
AM: Not at all.
I: I want to thank you for a very good oral history interview and I want to ask you if we can call on you in the future for any specific subjects that we're going to run across.
AM: You certainly may—I'm only too glad. I know that the work you're doing is very commendable and I really think that more people should help get this together because it's something that's going to be for the future generations and I like that.
I: Well bless you.
AM: And anything at all, or any of my friends—I have a lot of friends here that are still living that probably could give you a lot more than I have given you. If you ever need them, let me know and I'll be very glad to go with you and introduce you to these homes. I believe that their story might have a lot more enlightenment that what I have been able to furnish. I'm a Johnny come lately compared to some of the ones that were here in '25.
I: '31 is pretty good.
[END OF 246.2_06] [BEGINNING OF 246.3_01]
I: This is March 24, 1989 Oral History interview with Mrs. Felix H. Morales, with Tom Crinnick and Emma Perez. What Emma and I are both concerned about, interested in your activities in organizations before 1940, and in particular, we were listening to your other tapes, the tapes you and I made and we hadn't covered your years in early LULAC as well as we should. I was noticing this letter from 1937 from Mr. Hernandez; could we just begin by, if you would explain that letter, why you received that?
AM: Well, at the time, I think, it was—Governor Allan Shivers had—his candidacy for re-election. Perhaps it was his first year; I can't remember that distinctly, except that I was President of the Council of the LULAC Slaves Council at the time. We had organized it a few years, maybe just a year earlier, and—Felix de la Cerda was the President of the LULAC Council, 60, I believe it was—and his wife was also a member of the LULACs which we had organized, and he asked us if we would chair the reception for the wife of Allan Shivers when he came in. He was going to come in and—have a speech—at the political rally of some kind at the Rice Hotel. So he asked us if we would chair that reception for a luncheon. I said I would, and at that time Hernandez was also a member of LULAC and evidently he had heard of me. So after we made all the preparations and everything, I was surprised to get this letter from him because I had never met him and I met him later. I thought it was such a lovely letter, that I saved it. But that was the occasion—the letter.
I: 02:26 Had you been in LULAC before? Did you help found the Council?
AM: Oh, I found it—the first one—it was auxiliary to the 60, I can't remember the number of it at this time.
I: Is that Council 14?
AM: Fourteen, that's what it was.
I: Tell us about that.
AM: Well—we figured that the men were all organizing—they were organizing the LULAC and then they had another organization called the One Thousand United Mexican Americans which was the president of that one was Hernandez also, Mariano Hernandez, and another one was Elias Ramirez, he was very active politically at that time, even though most of those were Mexican citizens, but they were trying to start something to get united—united effort to push for the voting, I think, at that time the voting was free. They were very active in that, and of course, when there's one organization, looks like there's always a competing one. So they were sort of competing with the LULACs. Since we were young and new, Felix and I were joiners at that time, we joined anything and everything that we thought was a gain for people together, for one thing and for the other is, we were young and we were starting our funeral business and we needed to make a lot of friends. We wanted to be where the action was. That was one of the ways that we felt—involved. We did at that time, have programs that were dedicated to citizenship and we would provide people there that knew something about citizenship and also about the Constitution and the things that would better the people that were trying to organize, so they would know what benefits they would derive by becoming citizens. The times they were young and Social Security had just been—started by President Roosevelt, so all of these things that would at sometime or other involve and benefit the community to which we belonged, we wanted to get involved in that to help create the atmosphere that was proper for voting and political course later on. That was one of the reasons that we became involved. I thought to myself, well—with all of us going to the men's organization, why don't we have our own? Women, we're funny, we want to do a little sidetracking here. I talked to Nina de la Cerda who was the wife of Felix de la Cerda and she agreed. Then I talked to Mrs. Soto, she was the daughter of Basio Soto who had a drugstore and was very prominent at the time, Navigation Boulevard in Houston, and she became interested. Then I had a little friend, Gertie Garcia, Gertrude Garcia, she later married Tony Garcia and her name became Gertrude Morales, although they were not related, but it was the same name. So she joined. We had as organizers, this Ms. Soto and Ms. Garcia, Gertie, and Ms. de la Cerda, myself and Emma Cheveria, though she was not an American citizen, she had lived here for many years, so she became involved to become a member of the LULAC. I remember very distinctly, that we organized this at Eleana Cafeteria, Café, it was on Preston Avenue, I think it was 133 Preston Avenue and the man that owned this Café, I can't think of his name—he had a daughter and she also joined. So we had a candlelight ceremony and we organized the LULACs on that particular event, and that's how it became the First Ladies Council.
I: About what year was that?
AM: This had to be about 19 either 35 or 36. I have the date somewhere, I may have the papers, because I took pictures of that event—all of that, I have it. If I didn't give them to you, I have them in my papers somewhere—I have the pictures of all of these ladies somewhere that were there at that time. Those were some of the ladies that I can remember—there were 2 or 3 others, whose names I can't recall at this time. I think there were about 9 of us.
I: 07:18 Nine? Around nine?
AM: Right around 9 of us.
I: And it was at 123 Preston?
AM: Preston at that time where Washington and Preston gets together like this—there was a little restaurant that belonged—I can't think of this man's name—I should—he let us use the restaurant. Next door was a place called Kelley's Café, Kelley's Bar—and then there were little barbershops and little Mexican entities--businesses--small businesses.
I: That was in the 6th Ward, wasn't it? Was that the 6th Ward where Washington and Preston come together?
AM: I think that is the 6th ward.
I: Now, as I understand it, the men's council was first in Magnolia Park, if I'm not mistaken, Ms. Morales.
AM: Well, I'll tell you, it was a 60 and I know it was called 60 and I believe they did have their meetings there. I couldn't be sure because Felix de la Cerda was one of the first LULAC members—but he had, I believe it had already been organized. He was not the organizer of the Sixty Council. But he was one of the members and so was Felix but I don't think Felix in the—
I: In the founding—
AM: In the founding—no—he just joined later. Came along later—it was very active at that time, and it was very competitive. There were 2 or 3 other little society-like activities—United 1000—it was with Mr. Hernandez then Mr. Ilias Ramirez and—
I: Who'd you all elect as the first president of you all ladies council? Do you remember?
AM: They elected me.
I: They elected you? You were the first president?
AM: First president, yes—and I believe Ms. Soto was the secretary and Gertie was either the treasurer, the Sargent at Arms—I forget—we had—well since there were so few of them—most of us belonged to the Board of Directors, but later on it grew. We had quite a large membership.
I: How did you all recruit membership? What was?
AM: Just through friends. We'd talk to a friend and say, why don't you become a member—we could be strong—we could help the men when they have their get togethers, or fundraising, or something like that. So we all were—most of us were wives of the members so that we all became involved in that manner—to try to help them promote the—the council itself. As we went along we had our own ideas about doing our own things. I think that was the main motive—to help the men's council. I remember that Felix got very involved when Allan Shivers came into town and we had this beautiful reception. _____?? 10:52 was there. Mrs. Perez, Lenore Perez, Mrs. Epina, very striking, beautiful Mexican women that belonged. I was the ugliest duckling. But they were all—
I: I doubt that.
AM: They were very, very attractive Mexican women. We were proud because we wanted to have the best, at that time we were very united—there weren't that many Mexican—I believe if there was 5000 Mexican—Latin people here at that time. The reason I say 5000 is because—we were the only Mexican funeral home—although there was another funeral home called Crespo it was owned by Mr. Lomdick, who was not Mexican. So we had to make friends, but we also had—by surveys and all of that—that there was one person out of every 5000 that would die a month—so the competition was very key to the Mexican people here—limited here to that 5000, so we'd make 1 or 2 funerals a month. Very difficult and too, it was Depression. You don't know what Depression is. If you think this is Depression until you were faced with the 1931, '32 Depression—that was real Depression where people worked for $5.00 a week and were glad to get it. People stood in bread lines to come by and try to get something to eat. There was at that time, no Social Security and no Aid to the Dependent, that came after President Roosevelt was elected in '37, '36—I'll never forget he came by, he and his wife rode in this beautiful car right by our funeral home. She had on black gloves and his hat and cigar—I thought they were the most beautiful people in the world. Because he had already programmed so many things like, NRA, WPA, all of those projects—
I: 13:11 CCC—
AM: CCC, they gave people a job, which is what they wanted, a job. That came along and so it was like giving a dying man a glass of water. Everybody had hopes and we really were not cheated. We were not—because President Roosevelt did a lot of things to upgrade the economy and the feeling of trust to know that we once again were a proud nation. I think all of us wanted to be something. To contribute. I think that LULAC was then pushing for that vote to be counted. Every one of us that were here—that were willing to make a few sacrifices went along with trying to capture that spirit.
I: Which brings us back to the ladies' LULAC. What did you all first do, I mean, in terms, did you all have community outreach programs at all? The ladies LULAC.
AM: Well, I don't believe that we did. We were a founding thing—organization made by young kids—younger people, maybe—I was in my 20's at that time—and Gertie was younger—Ms. Soto was about my age. So that our idea mostly was to help the men's Council in whatever projects they had. Later on we developed some small programs—not very large because we were not a very large membership at the time. I suppose if we had 21 members, but then in the 2nd year we were doing very well. Remember this; it was a very—difficult time economically. We were distressed. There wasn't money for doing the kind of things—but what we directed our efforts towards educating the young ones as we could group talk to them. Go to their parties. Go to their—places of movement, like the Rough Settlement was a very well known—organization at the time—and it was right in the Mexican community, where they needed a lot of help. So we would volunteer our services to go and read about the Constitution of the United States and explain to the younger ones. I was called a lot of times to go—and I'm a big talker—to talk on different subjects along those lines mostly. It wasn't helping them any other way except motivating them and educating them to let them know that their vote counted—and that we had to be united. That was one of the things united we stand and united we fall—so that was one of the things that we were trying to instill upon the group that was willing to listen. I think that was our main project—to instill in them the love of citizenship, the love of country, and the love of united force and then to activate and get them to bring in their ideas about how we could do all of this best. We really had not one set project at the time that I can remember. Of course, you know, it's a long time to remember that far back.
I: 16:38 When you and Mr. Morales were both American citizens. Did you all have mostly American citizens in the group? Or did you also have some who were of Mexican heritage?
AM: We had quite a number that were of Mexican heritage. While we were an American group—in San Antonio—most everybody we knew was born in the United States, so they were American citizens. But Houston was a different place. Houston was more the working class that had come in from Mexico—to better themselves in whatever they felt was their field. That is when I met Isidro Garcia and his wife. Now his wife was American—her name was Andrews before she married Isidro Garcia, now I think Isidro's were all from Mexico—so I don't remember—he was one of the first LULAC members. Ramon Fernandez was the 1st president of the Mejico Reya and he was from Mexico. He died recently, by the way. Francisco Chavez was originally from Mexico, but raised in the United States. However, at that time, I don't know that any of them were American citizens, or they later became American citizens. Most of those people that we met here were Mexican citizens. We didn't have very many people that had—a real high cultural background. Most of them were laboring class.
I: 18:20 So you all would incorporate then, the Mexican citizens into the—
AM: Sure because we felt a need for them to become American citizens. I can remember I worked with the immigration department for a long time. Not in their department, actually as helping, assisting—and I would bring aliens in there to become American citizens. I had a lot of them that I took and I taught. If I can tell you a little joke, I'll tell it to you.
I: Go ahead.
AM: One time I took a man there and he had to pass his American citizenship—and I knew I had him just right—he had to pass the American citizenship—but I had a real coy guy there, Mr. Elsenbrock, so he was examining him and the man had already passed his examination, but he thought, now I know anything and everything, who is Uncle Sam? I had never referred to our country as Uncle Sam. Who is Uncle Sam and he looks at me very anxious—I kind of smiled a little bit—and he didn't answer right away. He said, "Well, is he a very old man, or is he a young man?" Oh, yes, he's very, very old. I think he's dead. (laughter) Well, that was not in the examination, but that goes to show you that people were trying. He wanted so much to pass that—and he had to answer that question.
I: Now did you—I showed you that picture of the 1937 National Convention here—do you think that was you in the picture Ms. Morales?
AM: I'm almost certain it was because I remember I used to wear my hair up like that and it was black—we were always—at that time 1937, we pushed our hair to the side. Mumps or bumps, or something we used to call it. So I looked pretty good and she agreed that it was me.
I: 20:21 You remember that convention very well?
AM: I remember it—because—like I tell you—we hosted the—Allan's wife—we had this—she came in with her husband and quite a convention. Evidently he was—wanting that political pull, whatever it was—that the LULACs have—we were not supposed to politically involved, we were. So he asked our Council to chair that reception.
I: How did the tea go off? What it—
AM: Beautiful. Oh we were all so—I had never been to the Rice. That was my first—entrance into—you might say—high society. We were there with the Governor's wife and all other dignitaries, and then of course, we felt very important and we asked most of the ladies that were members—like the one's I mentioned a while ago, so we felt very important and we felt very impressed and we were very happy.
I: Did you all do anything else for that convention?
AM: I believe that was our main function, although we did entertain. We took at that time—funeral homes always have their classy Cadillac's—we probably loaned ours to take them—I think they had picnic too. I didn't go to the picnic.
I: Were you—any of the lady delegates to the convention? Did you all go as delegates at all?
AM: Yes, we did—because as the picture shows—that we were there—but mostly I don't remember anything that we did—in the form of formalities or doing anything real—you might say—administrative, anything like that. We were just standbys. We didn't know that much about the political part of it.
I: How long did you remain in the ladies LULAC in that council?
AM: In that council—I suppose until maybe at least 10 years. At least 10 years. Then I got involved in other—
I: Why did you move away from it?
AM: Well—mostly because my husband and I had this funeral home and we were a one man operation. We couldn't afford—very many employees. I think we had 2 employees. So we had a lot of activities—as you know, or if you don't know—my husband applied for and obtained the contract for the burial of paupers—right about in 1936—and we held that contract for 14 or 16 years. Sixteen years. If he went to do any of his work, I had to stay and answer the telephones. So I couldn't very well get away for the activities unless it was sometime at night when everything was more or less at a standstill. That county contract took a lot of time away from my usual work—and my usual social activities. I believe that's at the time when I more or less—let go because I became sort of a media—for the—to make money—I was court interpreter for a long time with some of the bigger judges, the Federal judges, the immigration, and I would get paid—maybe if I went $15.00 for interpreting and all of that—so that was a lot of money and we needed it. I was called a lot of times with Ms. Sandberg, at that time the juvenile director for Harris County, and the children, the abused children and all of that—so she would call me and I would go with her to interpret to whatever need there was—and then that took a lot of my time. So I was active in other things—as I explained.
I: I just have one more question about the Council #14. About how often did you meet?
AM: Every week.
I: You met weekly?
AM: Yes, on Tuesday's—I remember. It was—I believe that, I don't remember who came after me. By that time, a lot of other young people were becoming involved. For a while it—was—you might say—dormant. Then it was activated again in the '40s or '50s.
I: How many times did you serve as president?
AM: Just that one time.
I: For how many years?
AM: Oh, I think about 3. We didn't—if we had elections—it was the same ones and they always wanted the same one. It was like if you're secretary, they only want you—nobody else wants that job.
I: Treasurer is the same way. Whoever's treasurer—
AM: I've been treasurer of the Social SPEAKS SPANISH for 48 years.
I: I always thought the treasurer was because of handling the money, they want—everybody wants the same person.
AM: Maybe so, I don't know. I keep fairly good books. Maybe that's—
I: I think that—
AM: The problem is that now I can't write as good as I did, but I type it in.
I: Where did you all meet? Did you all meet in the same place every time, or did you--?
AM: No—the first time was there at this—I thought sure his name would come to me—he was a very prominent Mexican American, he belonged to the LULACs. After that we met at the funeral home. All of our sessions were at 2701 Navigation Boulevard. That's where we were at that time. All of our meetings were there. You see what it involved too, we had a funeral, we kind of had to low key it and all of that—it was not that often, maybe once or twice—we didn't have that many funerals. It was very—to us it was a challenge, it was beautiful and it was meeting with other young people that—time in your life, you want to really do something—you think you're going to change the world. We thought we were. I don't think we're going to leave it a worse world, of course a lot of things change. I think we did a lot for the community. I think the community responded well, because the LULAC is still active. The ladies are more active than ever. The last time that I—participated in anything major, they asked me to be one of the speakers. I was there at Red Carpet Inn, I believe something like that, and everybody complimented my little speech.
I: We have the speech in the collection. I noticed one of the letters, which we reproduced for your files here Ms. Morales. You were asked to be one of the seven directors or overseers of a club that was being found—a cultural club that was being founded at the Rough Settlement House.
AM: 28:26 My Ms. Nolie Bailey.
I: Exactly. What club was that?
AM: It was one for the betterment of the community. It was something like Felix Brava has today. Involvement in the formation of this club that would also be a part of the communities—sort of a bunch of groups together—you oversee the different groups. Ms. Bailey was then doing the job; more or less that Felix Brava does today. She asked me to be a member of this because I was so active in all of these things at this time. I did help her. We did become a group at that time. That was when we were also involved, like I tell you, when it all came under sort of an umbrella thing. We would be called upon the different agencies like; The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, The Juvenile Department of Home, Ms. Hamburg, I worked more with her in going to the different houses to meet with people and try to iron out their difficulties. That was her job; I just went along as an interpreter.
I: During the 1930s there seemed to have been a lot of clubs that were for young, unmarried women. LULAC, however, seems to have been for ladies who were married. Am I making an artificial distinction there?
AM: No, I don't think so—but I do believe that it was never that way really Tom—I don't think it was for married or single. It was for the willing worker. There were probably more married women that wanted some sort of activity. There wasn't very much money to spend, so we had to draw on somebody to be able to go—so I believe that there were as many young girls, although, younger girls at that time were more involved with other things than—I remember at that time there was a club called S/L Particulare 30:49 it was formed by 13 beautiful girls—they all had their thing—then there was the Mexico SPEAKS SPANISH also, all beautiful girls. They had beautiful poise and all, but I don't know what their aims were really, I never—
I: You—in the tapes that I listened to that Tom did back in '79, you mentioned a group that you helped organize called Bosque Women's Circle
AM: Yes, that was a Woodman of the World. Woodman of the World 2019, I believe was their number. At that time Father Torres was the—well you might say—the president.
[END OF 246.3_01] [BEGINNING OF 246.3_02]
I: He's been pretty quiet—he just sort of adds things to it as we go along.
AM: Yes he wants to put in his—
I: That was back in the 1939's.
AM: That was in the '30s and 40s. They also had another one called St. Josephs Charities. That was by Sister Leonardine I believe and they were the real rich ladies were like—she was in oil—she said she went and prayed a lot and then her husband found the first oil—what was her name? Anyway, we had—these ladies were all from the River Oaks. They met here at the center called St. Josephs Clinic. I was also—it was in '47 because we had that Texas City explosion when we were in the middle of a meeting. So this was about that time, '47. That was also an involvement with the community but the clinic would supply, we'd get together and make dresses for the babies, food—prepare food for the mothers. Teach the young mothers how to take care of their babies. We had some doctors involved in there. We were just members of the board. My activity there was limited to that. And of course, all of the running around and picking up that we could get donations, whatever, you know.
AM: So, you see all of the involvement, so that took away so much of my other time. I had the time at the time because we didn't have that much business.
I: When did you all get that contract for the county? Tell us about, when Foster wrote that article about that? That's an interesting aspect of—
AM: Yes, back in 1936, the economy was faced with the problem of reburial of the paupers. They were then out on the Beaumont Highway in back of this home for the aged. Mr. Green was the superintendent of the Home for the Aged and also of the county cemetery. It came about that a lot of undertakers were just dumping the paupers and weren't burying them properly. Some were not buried any further than 2 feet. So during water some of the caskets were suddenly coming out. They were very outraged about that. So the City Council decided they were going to do something and taking bids for the different undertakers to see how cheaply they could do this. They were always trying to save money. So my husband came up with the idea that he could—we could rebury them. He could hire—he had some friends that didn't have jobs—and maybe for 2 or 3 dollars we could get them to dig the grave. At that time, imagine so then the ones that needed reburying, he could provide boxes—we would make our own little caskets. He said, "Angie I wanted to get that bid." I said, "Felix it's going to involve money." He says, "you don't need money when you want to do something, there's always a way. I'm going to bid for it." I said, "well, you know what you're doing." So he bid for it and of course, all of the other undertakers were bidding like 2 or 3 hundred dollars—the lowest one was 75—and he bid $10.00 to rebury all of those people. That was a scandal—especially the newspaper that was at that time, The Houston Press—the editor was Emial (??) Foster, they called him meatball—he just—he was a racist—he couldn't stand that Mexican people would get involved in anything other than digging a grave or something. So he made some newspaper—front page items about a Mexican burying a white—that was outrageous and for $10.00 at that. How could he do it and he was going to do a mess—he wasn't going to do anything good—and they shouldn't even consider it. Back and forth it went—but my husband was still the low bidder and he said that he could do it. They made him bring up and prove a lot of things—bring a lot of things that they wouldn't have done to anybody else. And he did. He reburied all those—I think there's about 200 bodies—reburied them all for that and we didn't really make any money out of it—but he got recognition. Then this Mr. Green gave him a glowing letter to the Council of what he had done and how short a time and how well organized. They took pictures of the graves and everything. He was complimented. I can't find—I have all of those clippings somewhere I think up in the funeral home—I'm going to go in that attic again. I think all of those papers speak well for the times that we faced as being discriminated against—my husband never, never even entered his mind that there was such a thing as discrimination because he would ignore that. He knew what he was going to do and he did it. As a result of that, he bid for the county contract to bury the paupers for $10.00. And he got the contract—again over everybody else's objection. We buried those—by golly—we made decent funerals of them—we'd make the caskets—I'd buy the material—we'd glue it on there—I made the dresses for the ladies, the babies and I put them away pretty. I loved to fix bodies. Then, the people didn't have a religion, we'd call the Salvation Army or we'd call a Chaplain from different places and then we also had—a relationship with a ministerial alliance—there's different ministers belong—we'd call one of them. They'd come and they would come mostly to watch what we were doing. They wanted to be sure—and they had a watchdog on us for a year or so—after that they wouldn't even come anymore. We had those bodies buried properly and nicely. I have some letters—maybe they're in there—from some ladies that we buried their daughters—they were glowing letters.
I: 06:34 Let me ask you this, Ms. Morales. This deals with the '30s when you and Mr. Morales were starting out with you all business. With the funeral home. The women who died here in Houston, especially the Hispanic women who died here, what were they dieing of?
AM: Mostly tuberculosis. Mostly, it was something. It was tragic. It seemed like everybody that died, died with TB, like now everybody dies of cancer. I don't know what it was—but I think the people were so poor, we were so poor—that we did not eat adequately, or we did not—I don't know what it was—I think there was a bigger mortality among the Latins and Negroes than there were among the Anglos. We were not eating properly, we're not—we're exposed to all of the elements—men had to go out and dig ditches, raining, coming in perspiring and go in and take a shower—I don't know what it was, but there was mortality. It was huge. You could bet that 7 persons out 10 died with tuberculosis.
I: 07:49 Seven out of 10—
AM: The one's that we buried—yes.
I: This included women as well as men.
AM: Yes, mostly women, but men also—and young ones, young children. Tragic. It was a very hard time. We survived. You know, Tom, I don't know—I think back at those days when we had our little houses then with front porches and people would sit up there and holler at the one across and say hello and all of that. All of that is gone now. Everybody, we'd walk to school—a distance of 6 or 8 miles—come back, have a little lunch—those things are gone. People, if they don't have a car or something to ride—they don't go to school. The sacrifices that we made so lovingly and tender and helping each other, they're not being done anymore. People are—you're afraid to get out in the street, somebody is going to mug you. Things have changed so much, but I think we lived in a very beautiful part of the life of pioneers here—it was the making of a great country—and it took great people to do that. It takes great people to keep it up and don't let me give you the impression that there are not a lot of great people around today—there are. We just don't read about them. You read about all of the crimes, because that's what people want to read about. You don't read about this kid that's struggling and finally was a doctor or a great statesman or something. You don't read about that—that's not important. People don't want to hear that. I suppose that's why it's not publicized more—don't you agree?
I: In the 1930s, and I don't know, Emma, you might want to help me formulate this question—I'm trying to think of the role of the Mexican American women, the role of Hispanic women at that time—were things more separated between what the women did and what the men did, or did you all do things together in clubs, and other types of activities—other activities.
I: Could you reflect on that a little bit?
AM: As it occurs to me, no. Perhaps a yes—because my environment was always a little group on the east side of town, the poverty stricken, the poor. While there weren't that many clubs and social life or anything, I think that we can say that we were a group, men and women doing something among our group. And I point out the fact that we formed in 1940, the Union Fraternal, which was a society for men and women and children. There was then an organization called SPEAKS SPANISH 10:38, which is also a fraternal organization and it's formed for men and women. Although the beginning of that club was only for men. I was a part of the formation of the ladies club—we organized on St. Charles Street. I think the house is still there. Mr. Ramirez and his wife Angela, they had 1 son. He was a shoemaker. They asked me to participate in the organization of the ladies—auxiliary to the Mutualista. There had been an organization for about 5 years when we organized. Then we were a group, and I—so at that time, as I left and then I reflect, the only ones were the mens—were the LULAC and this—1000 American Citizens, I suppose, that I can recalled as being—and the Mejico Reya—that was also a social—it was all men. Then they found the International Club, by Alfred Dunes, and that was also men. They came around, 2 or 3 months later with the Ladies Auxiliary. Though they were two different entities, they were still the same name—they worked closely together. I can't say really that—as opposed to men and women—they were together. The woman would always help. We had to make the tortillas before they—I think that more the men at first perhaps, maybe at first perhaps, that was before '31. You see? Because we came to Houston in '31. But as I recall, the Mejico Reya was organized in the late '20s. So they were just a men's organization. That as a social place. Then the international—and that was a social place. Then the Mutualista was beneficial—but they were also about 6 years before the ladies come. So maybe so, men did come in.
I: 13:22 When did you become a Notary Public?
AM: —19—I'll tell you—Mayor Holcomb appointed me to register the voters back in 1935 or 36. Then, I became a Notary in '36.
I: Now, we have your Notary books and we're going to get together and talk in detail about them, but I would like to, for just to sort of introduce it—when you dealt with helping people with their notary work, thinking just about the women, did you help all women and men, first of all?
AM: Oh, yes I did. Whoever came first was always—you see we were beginning with our funeral home and we needed to make a lot of friends. Because I could, basically, speak both languages, I could make myself understood with the judicial system and with my family—my tribe. As I would write letters, at that time they came up with the—everybody could get their drivers license free. So they had their little forms. Most of the people couldn't fill them out—it was—they'd come and I'd fill out their little forms for them. Then they came out with the Social Security forms—and the different forms to—registration for the draft and people were just scared—and they saw a document that was governmental, and my, that was terrible. So I had a typewriter, I could type and I could fill in the little spaces. Gradually, as I did that, I could also write letters for them that they couldn't compose, maybe they wanted to write to the tax collector or what have you. I saw that need—and then I said—well I also have to have a notary seal sometime, so I applied for it and got my notary seal along those times. It was used a lot for those little things—people would come in—what do you owe me? Well you're here and you don't owe me anything—I'm glad to do it. I want you to know that if you ever have a need for my ambulance service or my funeral home, you call me. Think of me first. That was the glove—what we call in Spanish—the PR. People always felt obligated to give me a quarter, fifty cents, or a dollar, whatever they had. Because I was always hungry, I took it. I never made a charge.
I: You were providing them a service.
AM: Yes, I was, but I never felt that anybody owed me anything. It was something I could do and I wanted to share. Then they had—
I: There's no standard price in there.
AM: What anybody wanted to give. There was one thing though that when people were trying to arrange their immigration papers, and I made more people legal—you'd be surprised—I have them all down there. But then I would charge them $15.00. That was it. In other words, I had to get papers, documents from the different governmental agencies like, if they hadn't applied for public service or any service of any kind—I'd have to go get those letters and generally they make the copies, and they would cost me a quarter. Then I had to have all of the documents that I got together to present them to the American Consul, and I had to have a notary certification. That would cost me, I think, a dollar and a half. Then I would have to take all of these documents to the Mexican Consul—and he would give me a Consulate certification, and that cost me seven and half. So actually I bought it down so I had to make $15.00 just to come out. Taking my car, and taking the people back and forth getting all of these documents—then presenting them over there in Mexico they wanted something else—I had to get the package from them. So that's what I charged—and I think now, they charge me $2000 and $3000 to fix this thing—I think my God, I could have been a millionaire. It was never my intention—I had something that I could share with my people. They needed it and I was glad to share it. It has given me a real good feeling about myself. What I have that didn't cost me a thing except my momma sacrificing to send me to school—I was able to share with others—and that's a good feeling. Very good feeling. That was my attempt at being a notary. I thought I became pretty good—I was invited to big persons like Percy Forman, interpret in his court—and other big time lawyers. In the brigs with the unions and things like that, and I felt real comfortable there fighting all those great big intelligent people and still me being able to tell them how to get it across to the—I was glad my momma taught me both—she made me learn—go to school—but she was the one that she was judge, jury, and executioner. That's how I became involved in that.
I: 18:56 Can you think of any other organization you were in, or any other type of question that—what about during the 1930s, you all's participation in helping with the Diez o Ses or Cinco de Mayo celebrations? Did you all participate in that at all?
AM: I believe we did to some extent. But like I tell you, I was never too much socially inclined. Now Felix did. He was the one that liked to—I know in San Antonio he—participated in a parade and his picture, I think, is there. But that was because his brother Andrew had a daughter and she made him go to be her escort and I was green with envy because I couldn't go. We weren't married then. I remember that. Later on, we have from time to time, now that we have a little money, given for those things. But at that time we didn't have the money.
I: That was not one of you all things.
AM: No, that was not one of our—the participation mostly what Felix had was in his club Mejico Reya and then there was another called The S/L FIOT (??), I used to call it the sum fiat, because it was zooming around, dancing, and singing, and it was a cultural club. Everybody that had any talent—which the only time I can tell you on the linoleum—so Felix can play the guitar, and he can sing and he belonged to that—The Club S/L FIOT. That was back in the late '30s and the early '40s. Mrs. Ponce was the ring leader, you would call her—I don't know—this Albino Torres, he was the orchestra—he had an orchestra—and he was one—I think he was the president of that club. He and his wife, Betty and then Mrs. Ponce's husband also had a part in the Chairman or something other. They had those activities solely for the cultural. Anybody that could do something—could be a member. So all I could do is talk, so I couldn't be a member.
I: Played on the linoleum.
AM: Yes, played on the linoleum.
I: I just thought of a question I wanted to see if you could give me a follow-up on. You talked about the Sociollama Mutualista in the other tapes, '79 and you mentioned that you had 90 members at one point. The women's latest council of it had 90 members.
AM: And so did the Union Fraternal—back in the '30s, 36 from then on—everybody was hard pressed for money and all of it—so we would have our little lunches, dinners, and make dinners to fund organization. So everybody belonged and we had lovely people that worked hard and at one time the Union Fraternal had 400 members. Most of them have died. We buried 2 of them this last week. The Sociollama Mutualista was the first organization that I belonged to and they had a lot of activities. A lot of activity. We would go to the different halls and we'd all make speeches—oh and my God, we'd love to make speeches. Stand up on the podium and the orchestra and they would have dances, and senas, so raffles, so that we had at least 90 members and maybe more. A lot of women participated. Like I tell you, there was not very—people can't afford to go to shows and dances or anything else, so we had to belong to a club and from there we had our entertainment at the same time—we did what little community work was needed. We helped from our funds—we'd see that a member was very sick—and had no funds—well we would make a—dinner—and those funds would go to help that particular family. I remember one person in particular that we helped this Sevala, her name was Sevala, and she had cancer—they had no funds—her husband was a man that loved to go over this little microphone taking tapes of the events and then letting the club hear them afterwards—I believe he represented La Prince at one time. He would send some of these social activities to be printed. So it was his wife and he was—walked with a cane. He had a limp. We were all—very touched by the fact that this was happening to them. They had about 4 children. So we made this big supper and we made $750 at that time—that was a lot money and we gave it all to her—to help her out with those bills. So you see the club did a lot of things like that. At one time I became terribly ill and I was in the hospital and I needed a lot of blood. They mentioned it at the club and I had 4 people, Ms. Hosa donated blood to me at St. Joseph's Hospital. So we did other things than just provide funds—we would sacrifice of our own selves to help some people. The activities there were very, very good. Very worthwhile.
I: Did you all go to Our Lady of Guadalupe church?
AM: 25:08 Oh yes. I belonged there as soon as we came to Houston. I belonged there—I later changed my Parish to Immaculate Heart of Mary, and now to Queen of Peace. While we lived at the funeral home, I always belonged to Our Lady of Guadalupe. We had a lot of activities—I was the main fortune teller there.
I: Now what is this? This is the first I've heard of this.
AM: Oh, they had bazaars. Everybody had to take, what we call a SPEAKS SPANISH 25:42, a table to raise funds. Well I didn't have any money to give or anything, so I would get the cards and I'd shuffle them and I'd tell all kinds of stories about what was going to happen. You know what? People fell for that. They thought I really knew—you'd know many of those young girls would come in and—you told me that you'd tell me—now you tell me. Wait a minute—I gave a registration, I'm not registered. I can't do it only in bazaars. But they'd really thought that I could. Sometimes maybe I had heard some gossip about what was going on and I'd bring it up. (laughter) You're going to get a letter. Well, you could always be sure somebody's gonna get a letter. Oh, you're going to get some news—oh it's going to excite you—well you know that somebody's always going to get a letter.
I: Once a week at least.
AM: So they all—I listened—I used to make $100, $200 out of my little thing—and no money invested except for sheets to cover myself and a bandana to put on.
I: And this was for the church?
AM: Yes, everyone contributed their time for the bazaars, so I was on that committee and boy once they get you on it, they won't let you loose. I was there and I think that's why I changed my Parish to go with the other one because Father Daniel wouldn't let me go—he wanted me to be there telling all the fabrications—you run out after a while.
I: There are only so many stories you can tell.
AM: Yes, when I went to Immaculate Conception and Father Espatio got a hold of me—now you have to do something—so by then I had been well known and I would get different friends to bring orchestras in. Then play music for the dances. Once you get on that list—it's just like—it was fun—it was good, clean fun—and I enjoyed every bit of it. After a while you get out of that league—you want to go into something better. That's when I started going to the clinics and all of that—giving more help. Immigration—SPEAKS SPANISH.
I: Which reminds me—I'm out of questions for today, what about you Emma?
EP: I have one more. Because I know you said that you pretty much stopped the Sociollama Mutualista and then you began—because you organized the—what were the fundamental differences between those 2 organizations?
AM: I believe that there were not too many fundamental differences. What happened was there—I think I had a little—moment of—thinking things out—it was becoming political—politics among the members. This member had decided that I'd been president—and she didn't like that. She wanted—so I became very ill, like I tell you, one time I had to go to the hospital. There was an agreement in the society that if you didn't pay your dues and you were a member of the board that they would let it be known among the membership that you were behind with your dues and therefore, some member would always pay your dues for you. It was only 10 or 15 cents a week. So, when I became very ill, I was in more or less, inactive for about 2 months, at that time I was secretary or something—anyway she never let anybody—not even my husband or me know that my membership dues had not been paid. She had already before this, made some comments that I wasn't the object of her affections. So I was ousted. When I came back—to take my—she said I was no longer a member. Everybody was surprised because I had more people that liked me than dislike me—so when they found out—everybody was angry. The fact that she stood her ground, her and __?? 30:28 and said that no that I had to be reinitiated to belong to the club. I said, no I don't want anything—later on—the men—everybody else came and begged me to come back, but I said "When I say no, its no." "I don't ever want to come back." I don't feel that I want to be in any place where there's anybody that doesn't want me. Even the majority—I still don't want to be—there will always be that feeling of being—not producing—you're not as effective because there'll be a group and you know that—if I have to be involved in a group that had these little things—I didn't want to be there.
I: No friction there.
AM: No friction, no. I had to be there because I was of some need or I didn't have to be there. That was it. If anyone's going to be that little rivalry, we were going to have no—
End of tape.