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Interview with: Frank De La Cruz
Date: September 23, 1987
Archive Number: OH 372
I: 00:05 This is a September 23rd, 1987 oral history interview with Mr. Frank De La Cruz of Houston, Texas. Mr. De La Cruz, where were you born?
FD: I was born in what you call a neighborhood that they call the Alacran, the scorpion, in Second Ward.
I: When was this?
FD: June the 4th, 1920.
I: How did you—who were your parents? What were their names?
FD: My parents, Juan De La Cruz and Atanancia De La Cruz, Viegas De La Cruz (?).
I: How did they come to be in Alacran? How did they come here?
FD: Well, my dad—we were—mostly all my sisters and brothers, they were all born in Gallup, New Mexico and he was mining over there in those mines. So, this was around the World War I, 1919. I think around 19—around that time. So, they were—they needed help in the SP railroad. The shop—the big shop there on Arliss (?) Street. So, my dad came over and he got the job.
I: Where were they from originally?
FD: They were from Mexico.
I: What state?
FD: Up around Piedras Negras. Well, we left Piedras Negras—where we left—around by the border, Alliende (?), around there.
I: Had they been married? Did they get married in Mexico or did they—?
FD: 02:02 They got married in Mexico.
I: I see. How many children did they have in—how many children had they have or did they have in Gallup, New Mexico? You said that your brothers and sisters had been born there?
FD: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative). Well, there were my two—no, just two sisters, my two sisters and a brother were born in Mexico.
I: Were born in Mexico?
FD: No, in New Mexico.
I: In New Mexico.
FD: Gallup, New Mexico. And I was born here and a smaller sister of mine was born here.
I: Did your parents ever talk about why they left Mexico and went to Gallup, New Mexico?
FD: Well, my father talked to me. He told me that he followed the mines, the coal mines. He had been working since he was a very young man, young, about 10 years old up in—up—it’s in between—it’s not too far from the border, about 150 miles from the border in Coahuila.
I: I see. It didn’t have anything to do with the revolution, the Mexican Revolution that they came or was it more having to do with the mining?
FD: Well, he was mining. Now, my grandfather was in the revolution.
I: Oh, he was?
FD: Yes. I’ve had—I had pictures but I can’t find them. My brother kept them, and he must have destroyed them. But my grandfather was—he was awarded some land in Mexico for his—for—you know—for the time he spent in the war in Piedras Negras. We had—I say we had because we were about the only ones that used to go with my father, and we had about a whole block that belonged to us, belonged to my daddy.
I: In Piedras Negras?
FD: Uh-hunh, (affirmative) because of my grandfather.
I: 04:13 So, your parents moved from Gallup, New Mexico. How did—did he ever mention how he found out about the Southern Pacific Railroad job in Houston?
FD: Yes. There were some other—well, in that time there were—just like the Mexicans right now going to Chicago, you know how things spread? Out there is better. There’s a lot of jobs, and they need people in the SP, in the railroads. They need them bad and my daddy, he was kind of a mechanic. So, that was his job, a mechanic for the railroad.
I: Did he say how they came to Houston? What means of transportation they came on? That’s a long way from Gallup, New Mexico.
FD: Oh, yes. Oh, I don’t know. I guess in a train. The train.
I: He never mentioned working through a labor agent or anything like that?
FD: No, no. Nothing like that.
I: It was word of mouth?
I: Did they mention why they came to settle in that particular area in Alacran?
FD: That was one of the—where the Hispanics were more of getting together, there in Alacran and Magnolia Park, see, so he found there friends and he stayed there.
I: Did they know anybody in—did he ever mention knowing anybody in Houston when they first came or—?
FD: Yes, mostly it was by relatives, some of his brothers. They worked for the railroad too, brother-in-laws and one comes and all of them come. His brother-in-law, my aunt—his sister’s husband. He came. My daddy’s brothers, they came. They worked for the SP.
I: What did your dad do for the SP? What was his—?
FD: He was a mechanic.
I: Did he—how long did he work—?
FD: He worked with the engines.
I: 06:21 Oh, he was a mechanic on the—
FD: Steam engines, yeah.
I: How many—did he work for them for a long time? Did he stay with them?
FD: He worked for them for about 45 years.
I: He retired then with them?
FD: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative).
I: He is—does he and—your mother are both deceased now?
FD: Oh, yes. Uh-hunh (affirmative), yes.
I: Did they die here in Houston?
FD: Yes, they died in Houston.
I: Where they buried here?
FD: They’re buried in Pearland. Resthaven there in Pearland.
I: What was Alacran like when you were a kid? How long did you live there?
FD: I went—I went to Rusk School there. Yeah. You heard of Rusk School?
I: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
FD: Okay. We were just across from Rusk School. There’s a street, I don’t think it’s there anymore ‘cause there’s some warehouses. Lyle Street, Lyle, and 3306 Lyle. That’s where I was born, and I went to school there when I was five years old, five, six. Then we went to—we moved to—out on Liberty Road. There were—they were sending—lots of Mexicans was going over there so we was one of the pioneers there.
I: That was—what was the name of that area called?
I: 07:39 That was the Crisol.
FD: Crisol, yes.
I: Okay. Now, this Alacran, what do you remember about Alacran? Do you remember much about it at all? I mean, you were pretty young when you moved.
FD: Yes, just when I was going to school, but I don’t know, but I kept going back because there were friends of ours and we all knew each other, you know.
I: Was it a fairly poor area at that time?
FD: Very poor and very rough.
I: Very rough. What made it rough?
FD: You see—well, there was—because of—it was so poor, I guess. Well, anywhere else there were no lights or electricity or nothing like that, not even there. Johns were outside and all of that for a long, long time.
I: What year—what year did you all move to Crisol?
FD: Let’s see. Well, I was born in 1920. About 1925-26, around that time.
I: Were there very many people of Mexican descent there at that time in the late 20’s?
I: There were already people there then at the Crisol?
I: What street was that?
FD: On Liberty Road.
I: On Liberty Road, you all were on Liberty Road.
FD: 09:01 Off of Liberty Road. I was on Clementine. We lived on Clementine.
I: Clementine, I see. Well, did you go to school there?
I: Where did you go to school?
FD: I went to Eliot. From Rusk I came, then I started in Eliot School.
I: What type of school was Rusk? Let’s talk a little bit about Rusk School. Was it a pretty good school?
FD: Yes, it was a very, very good school.
I: Do you remember your teachers?
I: Don’t remember them.
I: What about Eliot? Was it a good school?
FD: Yes, that school was mostly Anglos, just a very few Hispanics, and all the Hispanics was mostly in one room. Second, third, everything was just in rows.
I: But they put the Hispanics in—
FD: In one room. I didn’t—they didn’t put me in there. I don’t know why.
I: Why do you suppose that—?
FD: I don’t know.
I: Did you ever speculate at all?
FD: I don’t know why. I never did—I never was with them, I mean, with all the Hispanics back then. I don’t know. But it didn’t seem—I just seen all the—you know—when school was out or went to eat or something, all the Mexicans come out of that room. But I wasn’t in those—I was no smarter. I don’t know why.
I: 10:46 Did your father—what yards, railroad yards are those out there? Is that—?
FD: Englewood Yards.
I: Those are the Englewood Yards. What—did your dad, had he always worked at the Englewood Yards?
FD: No, he worked on Harley (?) Street. On Harley Street the shop, the big shop where all the engines come together there and they worked on them. You ever seen a roundhouse? How they move?
I: Fulton Street comes in or is that a different place? (talking at the same time) Right on the north side.
FD: Yeah, that’s where it comes in.
I: Okay. Yes, that’s where the roundhouse is.
FD: 11:29 The roundhouse, where they moved their engines around.
I: But he got moved over to Liberty—to Englewood Yards?
FD: Yes. He got moved over there when they—I don’t know, something happened, but they transferred him from day to night and then he started working in—they make that big hump where they turn those cars loose, and they used to break a lot. So, then they moved a lot of people over there because they were breaking, those cars were breaking when they hit. So, he was putting in that part that goes into the (s/l car there).
I: That’s where—
FD: He was a mechanic.
I: A mechanic. That’s what he did. What type of house did you all have there at—was it bigger than the one you all had had at Alacran? Was it better?
FD: Yeah, ‘cause in Alacran everybody lives just in duplex or just three rooms or two to a house. We lived together with another family.
I: But out there at—(talking at the same time) Was it your father had purchased a house out there?
FD: 12:40 Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative).
I: Did he own the one in Alacran or was he—
FD: No, no. We just rented.
I: Do you remember who he rented it from? Who the people who owned that property?
FD: No, I don’t.
I: But you all moved out there. What grades did you pursue there in Elliot School? What—
FD: I went up to the sixth grade.
I: Sixth grade. Did you go on past sixth grade?
FD: No, I just went up to about the seventh.
I: And you left school at that time?
FD: Yes, and I went to work for this company I’m working now.
I: Why did you quit school? What were the circumstances surrounding that?
FD: Well, mostly money. My daddy had a very good job, but anybody that worked for the SP or worked for the railroad was making money, but we had so many kids in the family.
I: How many were you?
FD: We were five, but my mother had adopted about seven. You see, in those days, you didn’t have to get no papers to adopt nobody or they’d just come in and—
I: Live with you.
FD: Yeah, just take them on.
I: Were they relatives, distant relatives—
FD: Some of them were relatives and some of them were just friends.
I: 14:07 And your mother was rather good-hearted about this, I take it.
I: Did your mother have another job? Did she work or was she—?
FD: No, she just took care of the kids and washed clothes and that’s all. We made our own soap and made a lot of stuff like that.
I: Were your parent’s educated people?
I: So, he worked for the—what year did you quit school and go to work for the—
FD: He learned it himself because he worked so young in the mines. He didn’t learn a lot, fixing cars and fixing those pulleys and things like that. That’s why. He called himself a mechanic, see. (s/l Because for him) as a mechanic in the mines, coal mines.
I: When you were living in El Crisol, were there many Hispanic-owned shops or businesses around there? Not many?
FD: Everything was owned by Italians.
I: By Italians. In the Crisol?
FD: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
I: So, you all saw a lot of Italian people—
FD: Oh, yes. They were some of my best friends.
I: So, was the relationship pretty good between the Hispanics and the Italians?
FD: Oh, yes, yes. Very good, very good. And then we belonged to the same religion and all of that, see.
I: That was my next question. What church did you all go to?
FD: Catholic church.
I: 15:37 Which one did you attend?
FD: We went to—at first we went all the way to Guadalupe there on Navigation and—where is Navigation and Jensen. That was about the only church we went.
I: Were you baptized at Guadalupe?
FD: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative).
I: Your—when you—after Guadalupe, what church did you all go to?
FD: We built Our Lady of Sorrows. I was one of the builders.
I: Is that so?
I: What year was that? Around what time?
FD: It was around 1938, around that time, 1938-37. We were having Mass, church in a house, and from there we got enough money. We built the church. We bought land. Then my daddy donate some land, so many—you know—lots and things like that. Lots of people donated and then we built a church, a wooden church to seat maybe about a hundred people, a hundred families. And they built this one here later on. I forgot when they built it. This other one, the big one.
I: What year did you quit school and start to work? Do you remember around what year? Thirties?
FD: Oh, yes, yes. Yes, about 1934-35.
I: How old were you? You would have been 14 or 15 years old. How did you get your job? What—did you just apply for a job or—?
FD: No, there was a fellow that was working there, and he used to be a musician and I used to see him when he played and I thought he (s/l he played there). He said “You working?” I said “No.” He said “Well, they’re going to need somebody there at where I work.” It’s a little place about 20 wide, about 40 feet long or 30 feet long, something like that. “Go over there and I’ll tell the man about you.” So, I went over there and I got hired.
I: 18:11 And what was it exactly?
FD: Coat hangers, making wood hangers.
I: At this time, was your family involved in any kind of organizations? Did you all belong to any clubs or groups or anything like that? Mutualistas or—
FD: Yeah, my daddy and my mother belonged to the mutualista.
I: Which one? Do you remember the name of it?
FD: No, I sure don’t know the name of it.
I: Did you ever get involved in these organizations?
FD: No, I belong to the Woodmen’s of the World then 18:50 (inaudible) and then my church. I was pretty close to my church.
I: What camp? What camp of the Woodmen of the World were you in?
FD: The name was (inaudible-Spanish) but I don’t know the number.
I: Was it out there at—
FD: The Crisol.
I: In the Crisol. Did you live at home while you first started to work?
FD: Oh, yes. We believe in that. We never leave our home. We help our parents.
I: So, did you actually—if it’s not too personal—did you contribute money to the upkeep of your family when you were working at home? I mean—
I: Was that a standard procedure?
FD: Yes, we’d hand our check over to our mother, and our mother would give us money. That would go into the—for the other kids to go to school and everything.
I: So, the family kitty.
FD: 19:55 Yeah, yeah. A kitty, yeah. We done that.
I: Well, what was your job like making hangers? What did you do?
FD: Well, I done mostly everything. I loaded lumber. I run a band saw, make the hangers. I done just about everything. I make the hook. Those are some of my hangers. I made the hook on it, punch it, make that hook, run them through a (s/l tray), made all the hooks on them, pack them.
I: How many person shop was it? How many people in the shop was it?
FD: Well, when we first started it was just about four of us. There was about—yeah, about four or five. There was about two or three Mexicans and the rest were Anglos and then we kind of—I kind of took over. I did, I started hiring people and our boss let me—you know—hire the people. He would go to New York, and I’d stay and he’d tell me what to do. He would call me and—just to keep the place going. I was just a small boy.
I: What, did you have a knack for the business? Did you just have a knack for the business?
FD: I don’t know. I guess. I don’t know. He just trust me I guess.
I: Who was your boss?
FD: Mr. Nagel. Leroy Nagel.
I: That was the name of the company? What was—
FD: Made the coat hanger, yeah. His name was Nagel, Leroy Nagel.
I: How long did you work for him?
FD: Let’s see. I don’t know. About 20-25 years. Then he sold this.
I: Oh, until he sold out to the folks that have it now, right?
FD: No, it’s been sold two or three times.
I: So, you more or less stayed with the same company for 20 years?
FD: Yes, uh-hunh (affirmative), yes.
I: 22:00 Same business since the 30’s when you—
FD: Yes, well, we manufactured wire hangers, wood hangers, soda water boxes and things like that. Anything that had to do with the wood, and I used to run a plane. I took care of it. I done the hiring. I done the firing, and I try to keep the plant going.
I: You said you were close to the church, though. I mean, you stayed active in the church.
FD: In the church, yes. I always worked very, very close to the church.
I: With Our Lady of Sorrows?
I: Are you still with the same—?
FD: No, I’m with St. Philip of Jesus.
I: How long did you stay with Our Lady of Sorrows? How many years?
FD: Oh, let’s see, until we move out of there and we started a new church. It’s since 1938 until ’55, ’56, ’57.
I: How would you characterize how the church dealt with the Hispanic people? If you have any different opinions than them.
FD: 23:15 When we were at Lady of Sorrows, it was different because this priest was—he was Anglos, but Father Calwell, and he was—he speak Spanish a lot and then when we went over to St. Philip of Jesus and we started that church, a mission, then some—I don’t know, something—like right now something came in the law that the English language is going to be in Texas. Okay, so then they start—even the priest says so. No Spanish, nothing but English. We will not say Mass in Spanish or sing songs or nothing, everything’s going to be in English.
I: When was this? When did this come about?
FD: In 1957, ‘58, ‘59.
I: It was about those years—
FD: Yeah, sure, yeah.
I: How did you all think about that?
FD: Well, it didn’t bother us because we all speak English. That’s why some of our kids can’t speak Spanish.
I: When you first started, did you speak Spanish at home with your family?
FD: Yes, yes. I can speak Spanish well.
I: Where did you pick up English? School?
FD: School and the kids, other kids and Italians.
I: You all dealt with a lot of black kids?
I: 25:10 Were there many blacks out near El Crisol or not?
FD: No. There were just a few.
I: Just a few.
FD: Yeah. Very few, but we were very, very friendly with them, with the parents and everything, all of them.
I: When World War I started, what happened—I mean, World War II? Were you involved in World War II?
FD: No. I was operating a 25:38 (inaudible) company.
I: I see, and that was considered—that was deferment, right?
FD: Yes. I was making lots of—I was even making—instead of making coat hangers, I was making gun barrels and I was making—I don’t know what else I was making, some kind of—looked like shells. I don’t know what they were.
I: 26: 01 But they were out of metal? These were metal things.
FD: Oh, yes. I had a machine just pumping them.
I: So, it was a war related industry?
FD: Yes. We worked day and night, Saturdays and Sundays.
I: Did that affect your wage scale at all when the war started?
FD: Same. Same wages.
I: Just more work?
FD: More work, and no, it did affect our—because then they paid double time. Double time for Saturdays, double time for Sundays.
I: So, you made a little money—
FD: Oh, yes. Oh, everybody was making a lot of money.
I: Did you maintain—how long did you live at home with your parents?
FD: Until I got married.
I: And that year was when?
FD: Nineteen forty-three.
I: Forty-three. Did you all live—where did you meet your wife?
FD: Well, since we were kids.
I: So, you met her here in Houston.
FD: Oh, yeah. In Houston, yes. (talking at the same time)
I: Oh, Crisol? Okay. What type of—what did you do for fun as a young kid like that? What did you all do for entertainment? What happened—what did people do at El Crisol for fun? Did you come into Houston or—?
FD: 27:24 Yeah, on like—as a teenager, we used to come dancing every Sunday night. There were no dances on Saturday nights. The Anglos had all the halls. We couldn’t come to dance. We only got the dance halls when they didn’t have them. So, we danced on Sunday nights, and sick as heck, we’d go to work the next day. And on Sunday—and Sunday during the day, we would go in the woods, go swimming at the creeks, bayous, Greens Bayou.
I: Where did you all go have your dances? Where were the dances?
FD: At the Aragon Ballroom, at the Eagles Hall, at a lot of places like that. But not—we couldn’t go on Saturday night.
I: Do you remember any of the bands? Who was active at—who did you all dance to?
FD: Well, we had pretty good—like at the Aragon Ballroom, we had Vick Ancerello (?). He was a big time band, and Eloy Perez (?) used to play too. He was very young.
I: And that was like in the late 40’s, wasn’t it?
FD: Oh, yeah. Yeah, 40’s.
I: During the war?
FD: Yeah, during the war, around that time, right after—before the war, right through the war.
I: So you were—Eloy Perez (?) had a band at that time too. Was he very popular?
FD: Yes. He had just come in from—what do you call it? Like (s/l ward)—no, somewhere outside of (s/l ward).
FD: Yeah, further on down.
I: 29:43 Someplace down there.
FD: Belasios (?) or somewhere out there.
FD: Yeah, Belasios, yeah.
I: But he’d come in from out of town and he had his band here. So, your wife’s name? What is it?
FD: Elvera, E-L-V-E-R-A.
I: Elvera, and you all met—she and her family lived out in El Crisol?
I: And so, you all got married. What church did you all get married in?
FD: Lady of Sorrows.
I: You all got married in Lady of Sorrows. How many children did you all have?
I: Five children. Now, after the war, did El Crisol change much?
I: How so?
FD: Everybody started moving out. They started making money and everything. People started going out, buying other homes, and all they wanted was money and they moved to other—spread out everywhere. Before the war, we knew everybody in town. We knew each other in Fifth Ward, Magnolia, Second Ward, everywhere. We knew each other good. We used to get together at the dances, or if somebody had a party, we all knew where to go from different neighborhoods.
I: Were there any clubs? Oh, hold on. (tape ends 31:07) (new tape starts 00:09) Were there any clubs, social clubs that you and your wife hung out with or dealt with in any—to any extent? What about clubs like LULAC? Did you ever join LULAC?
FD: Oh, yeah. I belonged to the LULAC.
I: Which LULAC?
FD: Sixty, I think.
I: Council 60.
FD: Council 60.
I: How long were you in that LULAC?
FD: Oh, I don’t remember, five or six years. I don’t know.
I: Would you consider yourself very active at all?
FD: No, not too active.
I: But you did—
FD: They had too many—there were so many smart people in there that I didn’t think I had a chance. There were Rudy Varra (?), Dr. Ruiz, Alfred Hernandez, the judge, and all those big people, John J. Avilla (?), all of them. So, I didn’t have a chance there.
I: Did you know John Ruiz very well?
FD: You mean Dr. Ruiz?
I: The doctor, Dr. Ruiz.
I: What type of—
FD: No, I mean, I didn’t know him very well, but I used to go see him sometimes when I got sick or something.
I: Oh, I see. He was your doctor.
FD: 01:29 Not really my doctor, but at that time we didn’t have no doctors. We just—wherever we could go, you know. Yes, he’s—
I: Any other clubs besides LULAC that you joined?
FD: Well, we had—at the (s/l Eagle) club but they were nothing. We had a club where—in the neighborhood. We had dances and all that.
I: In El Crisol?
FD: El Crisol, yes, Lazaro Cardenas was the name of it. We picked it because of the president of Mexico.
I: In the 30’s?
I: Was this in the 30’s?
I: How long—what was that club like? Tell me about that. What did you all do?
FD: Well, we had meetings and picnics and (s/l I was at) on Saturday nights.
I: Who belonged to it? Do you remember some of the people?
FD: Oh, yeah. Mostly everybody from the Crisol.
I: Was it mainly for social or what did you all—
FD: For social, for social.
I: You all did—you remember when you all started it? What years?
FD: No. It was around 1938, around that time.
I: So, it was before the war then.
FD: Oh, yes.
I: 03:03 And it was the club Lazaro Cardenas?
FD: Lazaro Cardenas.
I: How long did you all have the club?
FD: Until after the war, I guess, because a lot of things broke up after the war. Everybody left, you know.
I: Was the Crisol—was there much crime in the Crisol at all?
I: It was—
FD: I had a little beer joint in Crisol, the only one. Everybody would go there.
I: What was the name of your club? What was it?
FD: 03:42 No, they just called me a compadre.
I: Did you—was it—
FD: It was a little bit bigger than this. I just had a few tables and a bar and all that.
I: Did you rent the place or own it?
FD: No, I rent, rent it. I rented from the Cantilares. (?)
I: What street was it on?
FD: On Liberty Road. (s/l In the middle) of town, right on the corner. And I used to sell beer at three for a quarter.
I: A person could get high quick, couldn’t they, for just a dollar, I’ll tell you.
FD: And I couldn’t— on the—sometimes on a Friday night or a Saturday night or somebody come in from the service or a soldier come in or two or three soldiers come in. Boy, we drink beer all night long. There was no limit. The place stays open all night long. There was no closing.
I: 04:45 Did you make money?
I: Made a few dollars.
FD: Sure. I was just a young kid too.
I: This was before you got married?
FD: Oh, yeah. Before I got married, yes. I just done it just for fun.
I: So, you were working and you had the—
I: Had the little—
FD: But anybody—they were so honest that when I came back from work, somebody already had opened it up and had beer on the ice and everything and it was full of people. And some of my friends would be in the back.
I: Just taking care of it.
FD: Wouldn’t take a penny.
I: So, the community was a pretty good—
FD: Very (s/l intimate).
I: Right there along Liberty Road.
FD: Oh, yes. On Liberty Road, the church and oh, yeah. Next door, about next door to my place there was a—that’s where we used to—there was a house, and the house had big rooms. So there, sometimes on Saturday nights, we would have dances there. The club would have dances, and it tickled me because I made a lot of money. Well, everybody—but no, it was very, very good people.
I: No violence.
JD: 06:07 No violence, nothing like that, and we respect—we respect the law, everybody.
I: So, Our Lady of Sorrows was the church for El Crisol then, right?
I: That’s the one that everybody went to—
I: —at El Crisol. Well, I’m trying to think. Did the company that you worked for, did it tend—did it grow? Did the—
JD: Oh, did it grow. Very, very big. They went up to—one branch went up to Caldwell, Texas. The other went to Maxwell, Texas, (s/l this side) of San Marcos, Texas, and the main office is in Austin.
I: Was this under Nagel?
FD: Nagel, it’s still Nagel. Nagel Coat Hanger, or Nagel Company now.
I: What did you start out as in the company? What was your title in the company when you started out?
FD: Just an employee.
I: Just employee.
FD: At ten cents an hour.
I: That’s what you were making, ten cents an hour. How did you progress in the company?
FD: Well, I got to be a pusher or a foreman for so many years. Then I just—until somebody would come and push me off and then they’d fire him and they’d put me back on because there were people that—somewhere down the line, Mr. Nagel would go to a convention or something, come back and somebody would talk to him a lot that this guy could do this, could do that. And first thing you know, he’d bring—he’d come, and then he’d say “Frank, I want you to show him this, show him that, show him that.” You know, show him how to run the plant, what to do. He said “You’re not going to lose nothing. I’m not going to cut your pay or nothing, and you’re still going to be in charge here, but I want him to learn.” And first thing you know, he start telling me what to do. So, it was all right. I never did tell them nothing. I let them go for so long, and then I moved aside, let them go. And then, first thing you know, they run that guy off. They said “Frank, you’re in charge. Take over. Let this guy go.”
I: 09:00 Was there—Mr. De La Cruz, was there a difference between the way they treated the Hispanic and the non-Hispanic workers in terms of discrimination?
FD: Well, when—
I: In the beginning. Was there any change or how was that?
FD: It was—they was different in wages, isn’t it?
I: What were the Anglos making? You start out ten cents an hour. What were they making?
FD: They were probably making 15 or 20.
I: But you knew—
FD: But I didn’t question them. I never did. I was glad to get what I was getting. So, I never did fought them or asked for a raise in my life.
I: Did things like that change? And if so, when did they begin to change?
FD: As we went along, as we went along. They start giving me more and giving me vacations, which I didn’t get for maybe ten years. I didn’t get a vacation.
I: You never had a—you didn’t get a vacation for ten years.
FD: No. Back then—well, they were—maybe they didn’t even realize it or something like that, but they didn’t give to nobody. I don’t know if they gave to Anglos or whatever. But they trust me so much and all of that that I had access to—they bought a big ranch up in hill country, up in Dripping Springs. And I would always take my family to the ranch, and my boss would say “Anything you want from me.” All the time, yes. And any time any of my family got sick or I needed help, I’d just go tell Mr. Nagel “I don’t have no money for the—I don’t have no insurance. I have no money.” And my wife’s in the hospital or something. He said “Frank, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”
I: 11:17 Now, how long—when did he sell his—when did his company sell?
FD: He sold this. They still own that. They still own Nagel. The boys own it, the twins, the sons of the Nagel’s owns it. The big Nagel died. The boys owned it. They’re about 45 years old, I guess, 40 years old. So, they sold this in—this company they sold in 1969 to like a (s/l Merchant Strickline) or—they don’t own this company.
I: This division what—it—
FD: It’s the fence company.
I: It was the fence company.
FD: This is the fence company.
I: That Nagel started.
FD: Yes, that Nagel started, that I started.
I: How did that come about?
FD: I started with one machine in one room no bigger than this, one machine. A man run it, I make the wire, galvanize it, bring it back, solder it. I cut my pipe, I load, I done everything by myself. Then as we grew bigger, we got more machine and he said “I got a place, and I want to send you to be in charge.” So, they sent me to 11th Street, (s/l out on 3003 was 11). Then there we got another few machines. I think about six machines in all. Then galvanize it, and I was still in charge, in charge of the whole thing. Then we come back. They sold that, we come back, we got more money, we got bigger and bigger. So, we came to Oliver Street. That’s where I first started with the coat hanger. We come back because Nagel was moving out of there, going to Austin, splitting the other companies, but he still owned this. So, we stay there about a couple of years, then he bought from (s/l the iron) works there on Taylor Street and Interstate 10 on the corner. He bought, I think was six acres and we set up the company there again. And there—from there the company, we bought 40 acres, Nagel bought.
I: And then he sold it.
FD: And then he sold this.
I: 14:05 This particular location out to Merchant’s. When did he sell to Merchant’s?
FD: I tell you, it was about ’69.
I: Sixty-nine? And you parted company with Nagel then and worked here.
FD: Yes. Uh-hunh (affirmative).
I: Did he give you a choice to stay with him or come here or did you just decide—
FD: No. No, he didn’t, because I was already too involved in this. We already had branched out, and my manager was Mr. Fox, T.W. Fox or crew chief, Fox. And we’d been together a long time, and he knew what I could do and we just go with the (s/l facts) I guess, and we got bigger and bigger.
I: Let’s go back a little bit. When you and your wife got married, where did you all take up residence? Where did you all live?
FD: On—then in Crisol.
I: Still in Crisol?
FD: Yeah, on Fontanet. (?)
I: I knew a gentleman by the name of Willie Aguilar who lived there. Did you know Mr. Aguilar?
FD: Sure, yeah. I lived in one of his houses.
I: I see. You lived in one of Mr. Aguilar’s houses?
FD: Do you know—really, do you know him?
I: Oh, yeah. Very well. And that was in—what year again did you all get married?
FD: Oh, ’43.
I: Forty-three? How long did you all live there?
FD: I lived there until I bought my home in Eldorado.
I: 15:59 Oh, you moved out to Eldorado?
I: What year did you move to Eldorado?
FD: Nineteen fifty-five.
I: Fifty-five. How long had Eldorado been developed?
FD: It was just developing.
I: Just developing.
I: Who developed Eldorado subdivision?
FD: What’s the name of those big brothers? Ron Muniz (?) or—they’re well known in Houston. They’re very, very smart, about two or three brothers. And the fellow that—
I: That’s not Rodriguez, is it? Is it—
FD: The father used to sell (s/l car) or something. They’re always in real estate.
I: Not Rodriguez.
FD: Not Rodriguez. I can’t think of the name. They used to live here off of—in Fifth Ward off of Hogan.
I: Was that developed as a Hispanic neighborhood?
I: And that was in 1955 then?
FD: Yes, about 1954-55, something like that. They were about—when I went there about—there were about—just about two or three houses sold.
I: Were a lot of people—or were you one of the only ones from Crisol who moved over there, or were there other people—?
FD: 17:33 No, there were other people.
I: I see. How has that community been? Has it been a pretty good community?
FD: Very, very good. It’s been a very good community. I still live there.
I: You still live there. Well, I’ll be. Did you all have clubs and get-togethers from the people with Eldorado?
FD: Oh, yes.
I: Now, there for a while you all had a Diez y Seis celebration, didn’t you?
FD: Yes. I was in charge of the whole thing.
I: Is that so? Tell me about how that started.
FD: Well—you know—when we first met, Father Bruno was in charge of the mission, and we start—we suffer a lot making fiestas and building the dance floors and trying to get the big boys in Houston invited over there, like the mayor, the chief of police and the bishop and all that.
I: What year did you all start this? Do you remember around what year you all started to have this celebration?
FD: About 1950—about 1956, around there, ’57.
I: About ’56-57.
I: So, you all put in a dance floor. Where—
FD: Yeah, every time we—and then the rain would come.
I: It happens. Now, was this connected with the church?
FD: With the church. That was money for the church to build our church. We used to work so hard, so hard, and then at the end of the year, Father would say “We don’t have no money.”
I: 19:29 What church was this now?
FD: Resurrection—we were a mission of Resurrection.
I: What was the name of the mission? Was it—
FD: St. Philip of Jesus.
I: St. Philip of Jesus. Okay.
FD: Like Morales, all those big—you know—like Morales Funeral Home? They would donate a Cadillac or donate money or just helping us, helping us buy saints and things like that.
I: Now, to put the Diez y Seis celebration on, was that Diez y Seis celebration for the church?
I: That’s what you all had it for, to make money for the church.
FD: Yes, instead of a bazaar.
I: Instead of a bazaar.
FD: Yes. We made the Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis. We were the only ones beside Stafford, Stafford Oaks in Stafford, Texas.
I: Putting on the Diez y Seis and the Cinco de Mayo?
FD: Yes. We used to have a competition with George Morales. George Morales would put that big fiesta over there. He’s a very good friend of mine. And we had—people would go over there and would come over here, see. But we had the best. We had bands, we had all kinds of food, all stands all around and all of that. Even—you’d be surprised who used to go with us up there and celebrate, George Bush, and I can’t find no pictures of him. George Bush.
I: George Bush attended you all’s Diez y Seis?
FD: 21:09 Yes. You know, the vice president. He’d have (inaudible) and go with us. I have pictures. I had some pictures. I don’t know where they’re at.
I: That’s very, very—
FD: Yeah, very good, and that’s where Eldorado’s—you know what Eldorado means? Pancho Villa, you know?
I: Yeah, the Dorados.
FD: Yeah, yeah. Okay.
I: So, do you all still have the celebrations? How long did you all have those celebrations?
FD: Oh, up until about last year, three years ago. I stopped about three or four years ago. I was in charge of—well, more than that. I used to do all the buying, all the buying for all the stands, and I used to get the music, and I used to sweat every time it get cloudy just before the dance.
I: What bands did you all have? Do you remember any of the bands?
FD: Oh, yes. I even used to get Eloy Perez. (?)
I: You got Eloy to play?
FD: My friend, and a lot of (inaudible-Spanish) and I just can’t think of those names.
I: But you all had all sorts of music there?
FD: Yes, and sometimes I would just sandwich in some colored boys for the teenagers. They used to work here with me. They could really play, and I used to take them up there. And then, I used to even take all the wrestlers to put on a show. We had wrestling matches. You know, they’d put on a show and turn flips and all that like Black Guzman, (?) Vito Romero. One year, Vito Romero was my master of ceremonies. Free. Big Humphrey, remember Big Humphrey, a wrestler? Danny McShay (?). You know how the Mexicans used to hate him? Do you remember, ‘cause he used to hit, hit, hit those Mexicans intentional, but he was a very, very good man. When he would go over there, he’d tell me “Don’t let nobody close to me.” I’d say “No, I won’t.” So, no, they all—people hate him. He’d be passing out his pictures, him and his daughter, and no, they all thought a lot about him, even though when he was in the ring they hated him.
I: 23:57 So, you all had those Dies y Seis and Cinco de Mayo to raise money for the church.
FD: Right, yes. Until we—
I: Who were some of the other people that were involved with it besides yourself?
FD: Oh, Mr. Eddie Martinez, Tony Buciana (?), Tony Trevino, Jesse Ramirez, Luis Harverson (?), Mr. Mesa, Mr. Richard Santos, the Richata (?) brothers. So many of us there. Ralph Morales, I can’t think of—can’t get them all.
I: That’s enough. No, that’s plenty. Why did you get out of it? Why did you decide—?
FD: Well, about seven years ago, me and my wife bought a home, another home up in the country, up to where—you ever heard of Shelby?
FD: Or Round Top?
FD: With historical buildings there? Well, we bought a home up there. We had (s/l one move then fix)—so, we’d go over there for the weekends, a weekend, and go to church over there. We’d go to church to Fayetteville.
I: So, you all spend some of your time there and some of your time here.
FD: Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do when I retire, go half and half, over there and over here. But I’m still registered here, St. Philip of Jesus.
I: Your son says you’re just about to retire.
I: When are you going to retire?
FD: The end of this month.
I: Do you—this has been a very fruitful interview Mr. De La Cruz, very fruitful. Do you have any regrets over your life?
FD: 26:09 No. I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful life. Beautiful. And even so they say there’s been discrimination, I have never fought nothing. Everything’s been good to me.
I: Houston’s been pretty good—
FD: Very, very good to me. I may think I was success. I done pretty good for myself, and I’m ready to retire, and I won’t bother nobody. I take good care of myself now.
I: Are you going to maintain your home in Eldorado?
FD: And here too, in the country.
I: Well, I have no further questions for now Mr. De La Cruz. I really want to thank you for this interview, and it’s been, like I said, very, very, fruitful interview. (tape pauses and restarts 27:08) Let’s discuss a little bit. You all wanted to what now? Explain.
FD: See, we wanted to build that church, right? So, if anything was to go wrong, the Father would ring the bells. When he rang the bells, we would all go, like in Mexico. We’d go up there, and Father would tell us this and this happened.
I: In Eldorado?
FD: In Eldorado. Somebody die or they came last night and they tore up some things or done something bad around here. We want to let you all know.
I: How did you all get the church there? How did you all get the church to come to Eldorado? Was it already there or—
FD: No, no. We built everything there. We built everything there.
I: How many families were there when you all finally got the church in?
FD: Let’s see. One, two. Oh, about 20-25.
I: And you all—did you all consult with some—
I: Where did you all go?
FD: The bishop wouldn’t let us—bishop said we couldn’t do it. We were too small. We couldn’t have a parish. We couldn’t have a church. We might could get a mission. We said “We want a mission.” So, we went and talked to the bishop.
I: Who was the—which one?
FD: Father—Bishop Macoskey. (?)
I: Okay, Macoskey.
FD: And he says “We’re going to talk to Father Bruno.” But we wanted Lady of Sorrows to be our mother church since we were all Mexicans, and Resurrection was Anglos. We wanted that, but he said “No, this belongs to that.” We got a parish—you know—boundaries. Fine, that’s all right. And then we bring Father Bruno to this. We want 29:17 (inaudible). We got all these big companies, Mexican companies. They said “We’ll get you on something.” Father said “No, let’s go little. We want to go small.” We were. We’ll get up there, which we did.
I: Did the developer of Eldorado help you all with the church?
FD: Yes, he donated all the land, six acres.
I: You don’t remember the name of that developer?
FD: No. Mr. Ralph. His name was Ralph.
I: Was he Mexican? Was he—
FD: No, no. Anglo, and he used to have—every weekend he had a party, had beer and everything for everybody would come so he could sell them homes and sell them lots and stuff like that.
I: Why do you—I’d like to—is he still alive?
FD: I don’t know. I know that these brothers would know him, and we’re having a—can I say?
FD: We’re having a—this coming week is going to be from the 40’s or the 30’s, a get-together, old timers.
I: The (s/l Sal Garcia)?
I: Yeah, okay. I’m going to be there. I’ll see you there. You bet. You bet, I’ll be there. Where is it? It’s going to be at the Nocha Dia (?), right? I’ll see you there. That’s going to be Saturday night. Good. Now, will some of the people from Eldorado be there do you think?
FD: We’re hoping. We’re hoping. I haven’t passed away, but they already told me, so I’m not going to go to my place in the country. I’m going to go there.
I: Well, Mr. De La Cruz—(tape ends (31:10)