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Interview with: Herminia Quinones
Interviewed by: Tom Kreneck
Date: December 16, 1983
Archive Number: OH 316
TK: This is the December 16, 1983, oral history interview with Mrs. Herminia Quinones by Tom Kreneck and Cynthia (s/l Rosco). Mrs. Quinones, basically what we’d like to know is about your life and services here in the community. When did you all come to Houston originally?
HQ: 00:22.6 I came in 1930. I used to live with my grandmother, and then when she died in San Antonio, I came to stay with an aunt over here in 1930. (Laughs)
TK: No, I’m sorry. No—no, I won’t.
HQ: Then we’ll leave out everything we think we should leave out.
HQ: And then I met my husband and we got married in 1932. We lived on Avenue F—7439 Avenue F. And from there, after we had our children, we sent them to De Zavala School. I just have one son and one daughter. They are grown up.
TK: Where were you from originally?
HQ: San Antonio.
TK: You were from San Antonio? Had your family been in San Antonio long?
HQ: Yeah, my grandmother was born in Aledo, Texas, and my mother was born in Gonzalez, Texas. I was born in San Antonio.
TK: What was your name before you married?
TK: What brought you to Houston?
HQ: When my grandmother died. I was 16, and I came to live with my mother’s sister—my aunt. I was brought up by my grandmother because my mother died when I was seven. So my grandmother raised me, and then when she passed away, I came to live with my aunt over here. That’s the reason I came.
CR: What did your grandfather do for a living?
HQ: My grandfather? I didn’t get to know my grandfather. I was little when he died.
CR: Oh, I see.
HQ: I just knew my grandmother.
TK: How old were you when you came here?
HQ: I was 16.
TK: You were 16.
HQ: 02:19.6 Uh-hunh (affirmative). I was 16. That was in 1930, because I came at the beginning of the year. I was 17 that year. I was born in 1913.
TK: You were born in 1913?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
TK: Had you attended school in San Antonio?
HQ: Yes, I went to—I started when it used to be William McKinley—what is now Lanier. I went to San Antonio to William McKinley School, and then from there we transferred to Burnett. We moved around. I went to Burnett School, and then to De Zavala School in San Antonio. From there, after I finished elementary, I went to junior high, and that was to Lanier.
TK: To Lanier? And then when you came here, did you go to school?
HQ: No, I wasn’t going to school here. I couldn’t afford it. I was working.
CR: So what was the last grade that you attended at school?
HQ: It was just to seventh grade.
TK: Where did you work when you came here?
HQ: When I came here? I worked at Southern Bagging Company. There was a— But in San Antonio, I worked. I worked in San Antonio. First I started working in a store in the fruit department, and then I worked— Some friend got me a job as a doctor’s receptionist—Dr. Paloma that used to be on Pecos Street in San Antonio. Then the same friend got me a job with her. She was working at his house, and she got me a job with her boss at the office. He was a lawyer. I forgot his name. Conner(?), I think it was. Then after that, I came here.
CR: So what did you do at the Southern Banking Company?
HQ: No, Bagging.
TK: Bagging Company.
HQ: It used to be over here where the Compress is. I used to work on the cards.
CR: What kind of cards?
HQ: Well, they made these—out of the material for making bagging—they had these cards that came up and came into little strings. It comes down into the cards. It separated into strings and 04:54 then they put passages(?) and then they’d twist it (unintelligible). (Phone rings)
CR: How long did you work there?
HQ: Oh, until I got married.
CR: What year was that?
HQ: That was about 2 years. That was from 19—
(Break in tape)
TK: Did you work there for about 2 years?
HQ: For about 2 years.
TK: Then what did you do?
HQ: Then I would make the daily reports. They got me to work in the office making the report of everything that was done every day, just a report.
TK: The daily report?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And all the workers’ hours.
CR: So it was kind of like a secretarial job?
HQ: Well, I was working on the cards, and then I was taken to do that.
TK: 05:45.9 So you went from the cards to the office then?
HQ: Well, at the same time. I never did stay in the office, just if they needed somebody. They tried different girls, and then they chose me to do it every day, and I enjoyed it.
CR: And then you married in what year?
HQ: And then I started going to the Presbyterian Church. This church here used to be on Avenue F. I met my husband there. He wasn’t a member there. He just went there for 2 years—as long as we were going steady. We got married there, and the very next day—because we married on a Saturday—the very next day he said, “I’m going to my church,” and he went to the Baptist Church, and I went with him. Then after, we started going there. I had already studied about the Baptist—you know—according to the bible. So really he didn’t have to do much convincing. In 2 years I was baptized into the Baptist Church. But even before being a member there, they asked me to teach a class because that’s what I used to do at the Presbyterian Church. I started working with children since I was very young—since I was 16.
CR: Okay. And you were how old when you got married?
HQ: Well, almost 19—one month to being 19.
CR: 07:13.9 And that was—?
HQ: My husband was one month to be 20.
TK: This was in ’32?
HQ: In ’32.
CR: So you arrived in Houston what year?
HQ: In 1930.
TK: In 1930.
CR: Oh, okay.
TK: Was the Depression on then?
HQ: Well, after—just about the time that we got married. Yes, it was going on just about that time.
TK: Was he employed?
HQ: Yes, he was employed at the same place—at Southern Bagging Company. He ran the slubber. That’s where they twist the twine.
TK: Did he ever have any problems keeping his job during the Depression?
HQ: Well, for a while, when the place went down.
CR: How long was it closed?
HQ: It just closed down.
CR: Oh, completely?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Then he started working for his nephew. He worked for him at Houston Tile Sales. Then he started driving a trailer truck. That’s what he was doing for him, driving a trailer truck.
TK: Bringing the—
HQ: Bringing the terrazzo from Mexico for the company.
CR: Did you work?
CR: Once you married?
HQ: As a kindergarten teacher.
CR: Were you paid for this?
HQ: Yes, I was. I was employed by the (s/l Home Mission) Board, and then they passed all the workers to the association here—the Union Baptist Association. They transferred all the workers. I was then changed to work for the Union Baptist Association. Then I taught kindergarten for 16 years. I really enjoyed that.
CR: That wasn’t a Monday through Friday? That was primarily on Sundays?
HQ: No, that was kindergarten.
CR: Oh, it was every day?
HQ: There was no kindergarten— Those are those pictures that I showed you.
CR: Oh, okay.
HQ: You see, there was no kindergarten in public school. They just had the first grade. So we taught kindergarten, and from there they were promoted to the first grade. No, it was a regular kindergarten.
TK: In the Baptist Church?
HQ: In the Baptist Church, yeah.
TK: 09:26.1 What was the name of the Baptist Church at that time?
HQ: (Spanish name) That was the name of the church. And it was at 7032 Avenue L. That’s when we first went there.
TK: Who was the pastor at that time, do you remember?
HQ: Yes, we had different ones—Brother (s/l Armandades) A-r-a-m-d.
TK: Was he a local person, or had he moved from somewhere?
HQ: He moved from somewhere. He wasn’t from here. He was from Mexico.
TK: He was from Mexico?
HQ: But he’s passed away already. His wife passed away too. Do you know Brother James Navarro?
TK: I do. Yes, I do.
HQ: You do? Well, he was ordained in our church. He came as a very young man to preach at our church. He was ordained there. He knows us also. I just happened to remember.
TK: Oh, that’s very interesting. I didn’t know that’s where he was ordained. He was ordained in this area?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative), in our church.
TK: I wanted to ask you, Mrs. Quinones, had your family been in San Antonio for many years?
HQ: Yes, many years.
TK: So you taught kindergarten for 16 years there?
HQ: Here—and the reason I stopped was because I had trouble with my knee, and I used to walk all the way to 69th and Avenue N and come back until I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to stop working. And my daughter took the kindergarten just for one year to hold the job for Mrs. Gutierrez that took it after that. Mrs. Gutierrez wasn’t blood, but she wanted to be a teacher. So my daughter held the job for her until Mrs. Gutierrez could take it.
CR: 11:25.9 Did you belong to a ladies’ society in your church?
HQ: Oh, yes. Sometimes I was president, and sometimes I was secretary.
CR: What was the name of it?
HQ: We called it WMU—(Spanish). In English you call it WMU—Women’s Missionary Union. Then I was church secretary for a long time too. I was different things. I was the director of vacation bible school. I enjoyed working with the young people. I was the young people’s counselor for a while. It’s been so many years that we had to work there. I was a school teacher. I worked with the children, with the Royal Ambassadors—that’s our organization for the boys—and with the ladies. I’d teach anything except the old men. (Laughs) When my husband is there, I said, “If that has to be done, you do it.” He’s a deacon at the church. He’s been a deacon for a long time, my husband. His name is Felix.
TK: Where were you and your husband living during the ‘30s?
HQ: Here, we’ve always—
TK: In this house?
HQ: No, we bought this house in 1944. Not the house, we bought the lot in 1944. My husband and my daddy built this house. My daddy came from San Antonio to help us build the house. And then I lived on Avenue F from 1932 to about 1934, and then I moved to 7640 Avenue E. That’s where we lived, because that was his father’s property. And then we bought a place out in 13:38 (s/l Cloverleaf Farms), about 11 miles from here, going out (unintelligible) . We lived there for a while, and then we bought this lot in 1944. And we moved here— We built the house in September, and we moved here in November.
TK: This is 7415 Avenue J?
HQ: That’s right.
CR: And when did you have your first child?
HQ: In 1936—November 30, 1936—4 years after we were married. And then the next one was in November of 1938. And now my daughter had two daughters.
CR: Two kids?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative), just two. My daughter has two daughters. One of them is married, and the other one is staying with my just now because my daughter is out of town and she’s going to school, so she’s staying with me. My son has five boys.
CR: 14:42.9 Okay. What other organizations did you belong to besides your work in the church?
HQ: Well, I went to the LULAC and the PTA. I was president of the PTA right here in De Zavala. That was about—I don’t remember the exact year, but it was about—when my daughter was about in the first grade. That would have been about 1942—1941-1942.
TK: How did you get involved in the ladies’ LULAC? What were the circumstances? Who got you involved, or what got you involved?
HQ: Well, there was a man by the name of Mariano Hernandez, and he came to talk to my husband about it. We just started going. I don’t remember much of the work, except I remember that there was a lot of discrimination at that time, and they were always working towards solving those problems.
TK: Did you remember Mariano Hernandez very well?
HQ: I remember who he looked like, but I don’t remember anything else. That was the man that invited my husband.
TK: Mr. Quinones would remember him, wouldn’t he, do you think?
HQ: He probably would. I think my husband would remember that. It was a long time ago. He wanted to get a job as a policeman, and he went and applied for the job. They didn’t have any Spanish-speaking policemen at the time. And they said that he didn’t pass the physical because he had high blood pressure. And then he went to the doctor and he found out he didn’t have any. So he doesn’t know if that was what happened. So he said, “I don’t know. It might be that they don’t want me there.” It’s not like it is now, though.
TK: Did you attend meetings with the ladies’ LULAC when they started?
HQ: A long time ago. I don’t even remember anything about them. I did attend.
CR: Was your husband a member of LULAC?
HQ: Yes, he was too.
CR: Did he join, and then you joined? How did that come about?
HQ: I think he did first.
CR: 17:13.4 He joined first?
HQ: But then we had so much to do at the church all the time. We just really didn’t have time to cooperate with others because there was so much to do there—the Lord’s work. I did a lot of visiting for the church. And now I don’t—I teach a class just as a substitute. I taught a class last week. That’s ended. I tell them I’ll be a substitute. Because a teacher is supposed to visit, and I can’t go around visiting. I can’t do that anymore. And so I’m just a substitute. I teach almost every Sunday. There’s always somebody missing. I enjoy the church work.
TK: What was the biggest problem in the church with the youth in the 1930s? Was there a problem with the youth?
HQ: I don’t remember having any problems. Not like now that there’s so much temptation. But, no, I used to walk to church at night when my husband was in the service—he was in the Army. I had my children. My girl was eight and my little boy was six. We used to walk at night back and forth to go to church. I wouldn’t walk now. It’s just not safe like it used to be.
CR: So how long do you remember being involved with the ladies’ LULAC?
HQ: LULAC? I don’t remember how long it was; it’s been so long.
CR: Was it 2 years or 1 year?
HQ: Maybe it was about 2 or 3.
CR: Two or three?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
TK: Who were the leading—? Do you remember any of the leading people in the ladies’ LULAC at that time? Was Mrs. (s/l Rayna)? I think she was involved, wasn’t she?
HQ: Yes, Mrs. (s/l Rayna), and I remember the Ramirez. They passed away already. They were very active in all the work.
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative). It was Elias and Isabelle Ramirez. I think her name was Isabelle Ramirez. You’ve heard about them before?
HQ: Oh, they were very, very active in all the community work.
TK: You liked the church better than you did LULAC?
HQ: I’ve always enjoyed it, ever since I used to go to Sunday school when I was a little girl growing up. The first thing I looked for when I came here was a church. There was no Baptist Church in the community, just a Presbyterian Church. And they didn’t have a Baptist Church, so my husband went to the Presbyterian Church. That’s the reason I met him. They didn’t have a church in the community, and his mother and folks started visiting. And then he went there until the day we got married. Well, he went there the day we got married because he went to the wedding.
TK: The usual generality is that Hispanic people are in the Catholic Church. Did you ever—? How did you all become converted to Protestantism?
HQ: Well, my grandmother was a Catholic when she was young, she used to tell us. But ever since I remember, she was a Christian. She used to send us to the Methodist Church. That was the church that was close to us.
CR: Were there some other women that you knew in the Baptist Church who were also active with LULAC, or were you the only person from your church in LULAC?
HQ: In my church? I don’t remember. I’m sorry I don’t have much to tell you.
TK: 21:37.3 No—no. It’s all right.
HQ: Most of my life has been with the church.
TK: You said discrimination—there was a lot of discrimination at that time.
HQ: Oh, yes.
TK: Do you remember any particular instance?
HQ: Oh, yes, I do. One time I took my son to get a haircut. There was barber shop on the other side of the railroad tracks on Canal. There was this barber there, and there were some men there. I took my little boy. He must have been about 6 or 7, because my husband was in the service. I felt so hurt because I was sitting there and he told me that he couldn’t cut his hair. And then there was another guy getting a haircut and he said, “Oh, I wouldn’t do it either,” like that. I felt so hurt. I said, “Well, his father is good enough to be in the service.” I didn’t see why they couldn’t cut his hair. But I just walked out because I wasn’t going to beg him to cut my son’s hair. That’s an instance I’ll never forget. We made a complaint to the LULACs, and Mr. Hernandez was the one that helped. I don’t know what came from it or anything like that, but they went somewhere. I don’t know what they did.
TK: About what year was this? In the early ‘40s?
HQ: It was about— Let’s see, my son was about 6 or 7. He was born in 1938, so that was in 1945—about 1945. Yeah, because that was when my husband was in the service. I remember that very well. What hurt me was that my husband was serving his country, and my boy couldn’t get a haircut. But, of course, that was up to each person. All people have not been like that. I’ve never had any trouble with anybody or been discriminated against in any other place except for that one barber. And if he didn’t feel like cutting it, I didn’t think I should beg him, so I didn’t. And after that, they closed the barber shop, but I don’t know the reason why. If LULAC had anything to do with it—
CR: It might have had to do with it.
HQ: They probably had something to do with it, because soon after that they closed the barber shop.
TK: 24:21.8 How has the church changed over the years here in Magnolia—the Second Baptist Church? Have you seen a change in it at all?
HQ: Well, yes, the main thing is that women used to do most of the work. I was involved a lot. My husband wasn’t as involved as I was. But now we have a lot of men working in the church, and I’m proud of that. If there is any business to be discussed, the men do it. Of course, we have a business session for everybody, but they have meetings and they discuss this and they make all the arrangements and all the plans. I love that, because the men are supposed to do it. The women used to do all the work.
TK: In the 1930s when you first joined this church, who were some of the ladies who were involved in it that stand out in your mind?
HQ: Well, Mrs. (s/l Pas Barajas). She’s still alive, but she’s living in Pasadena. She was a pianist. And her mother, Mrs. (s/l Medellin), she passed away already. It was at her house where the church started. They used to live here on Avenue I, the second house on the corner. It used to be a 2-story house. The lady lived upstairs, and they had the church downstairs. That’s where it started.
TK: That’s where that church started?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative), and then they moved—you know where the Y is? There used to be a duplex there. One side we had for the church, and the other side is where the pastor lived. And then from there, we went to the corner of Avenue L and 71st, and then we bought the place about 2 or 3 lots down from there. That’s 73rd. And from there, we bought the place on 69th and Avenue N. And from there, we came to where the Chicano Center is on Avenue H. Then we merged with this other church on Avenue M because we were so close together and the Anglos had the church there. Most of them had moved away, and they had a Spanish Department, so there were too few to carry on the work. We were not as many as we are now, so we merged, and it’s working fine. We have a fine, young pastor.
TK: Did you all do anything—? How did you all raise money? Did you all do anything to raise money for the church in the early years—in the ‘30s?
HQ: We used to, but we don’t any more.
TK: Why is that?
HQ: 27:02.7 Because, well, we believe that—you see—as you study the bible, you learn more. And we’re supposed to give our tithes and our offerings, and that’s the way the church is supported. We used to get— Well, the pastors didn’t earn a whole lot at the time. From the 27:26 (s/l Home Mission Board)—they’d pay part of it and the church would pay part of it. Then every year they would deduct 10 dollars and we would have to add the 10 dollars. So when Brother Jimenez came, he said, “They are giving me 30 dollars. If the church can’t pay that amount, I’ll be glad to do without, because it has to be self supporting.” And he encouraged the church to be self supporting, and the church didn’t have the responsibility of supporting him.
TK: About what year was that?
HQ: That was—well, he came in 1945—in ’45-’49 he became our pastor, and that’s when the church became self supporting.
TK: How did you all raise money before that? Did you all have fundraisers?
HQ: Oh, yes, we used to have suppers and make quilts and all of that. We used to do a lot of that—bake cakes.
TK: Mainly the ladies?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative). I told you the ladies were running the place. But when we got the men interested, they started to tithe, and now we don’t do that anymore. We don’t sell anything at church anymore, but we used to. But then we started—well, the church should be supported by that. If I want to make supper—I never do it—but if I wanted to make supper, I could make a supper in my house, in my name, and if I wanted to give the profit, it would be like an offering, but not make it in the name of the church. But I don’t do that. We just give our tithes and our offerings. We have quite a few tithers.
TK: The full 10 percent, huh? People do tithe 10 percent?
HQ: Yes, 10 percent plus your offering—10 percent. Like now we get our checks every month. It would be 10 percent of that and then offering whatever we want to give.
TK: Were you in the PTA—De Zavala PTA?
HQ: Yes, I was.
TK: When did you join that?
HQ: It was when my daughter went to school. She was born in 1936, so it was in 1942. That’s when I joined. I was active in the PTA.
TK: What did you all do? Do you remember any of the activities that you all did?
HQ: Yes, I especially remember we used to look for the community—try to do something. And the PTA, we went as a committee. I went—I’m sorry; I said “I” first. Mrs. Maria Rivera—remember you mentioned her? She went and Mr. (s/l Olyphant)—he’s passed away already—and Mr. Newton. He was a young man who worked with the Y. Yeah, YMCA. He went with them too. 30:21 And Mrs. (s/l Dolly), she was from the PTA. (unintelligible) And who else went? Myself—there were five of us. We went to see the mayor. City Hall was Lou at that time. We went to talk to him about making a park or renting a place for a park here in Magnolia. That was the first time that we asked for a park. They told us that we had Mason Park, but we told them that was too far for the children to walk to. That’s when we started making a petition for this park that we have now. We didn’t get it at the time, but a little later on, people kept working on it and we got the park.
TK: 31:08.6 That was Hidalgo Park?
HQ: No—no, the park here—De Zavala Park.
TK: Oh, De Zavala. Pardon me.
HQ: It’s just one block from our house. And then we had all those streets right here with ditches on the side. We went to the courthouse—to the City Hall—and we asked to have our streets paved and fixed. We got the good results.
TK: Did you all meet with the mayor?
HQ: Yes, we had a meeting, and we went. The Council was there. And we had one speaker, Mr. 31:48 (s/l Raul Navarro). He’s younger than us, but this was not very long ago. This was about 1972 or ’73, something like that. They didn’t fix it right away, but they did. They took the ditches away and put new sewage lines and new gas pipes and new water lines and everything. We were surprised. And then it was so dark—
(End of tape _001)
(Start tape _002)
HQ: 00:04 And I wrote a letter and an inspector came to talk to me. I said we needed a light. They took a little while. We went in August. They said it would be ready by December, but it wasn’t, so I called again. And in March, we got our lights. I told them it was very dark out here.
CR: Was that this year?
HQ No, that was in 1974, and then they put them up about 1975.
TK: When you all petitioned for the—when you all went to City Hall for De Zavala Park—what year was that, Mrs. Quinones?
HQ: It was about— My daughter was there from ’42 to—it was 5 years in because they used to not have sixth grade at the school—from ’42-’47, so it must have been about ’46 or something like that.
TK: In the mid-‘40s?
HQ: Mid-‘40s, uh-hunh (affirmative).
CR: How long were you in the PTA?
HQ: As long as my daughter was there. When she passed on to Edison, I was in PTA over there too. And then she went to Austin, and I just went about a couple of times because it was too far for me to go.
CR: So up to when? When she was about in eighth grade?
HQ: No, excuse me, she didn’t graduate from Austin. I used to go to Austin with my grandson. She went to Milby. She graduated from Milby.
CR: So up to when she was about in seventh grade you were in PTA?
HQ: Oh, no, I went to Milby too, to the PTA over there.
TK: All the way through her high school?
HQ: All the way through. Uh-hunh (affirmative), all the way through. Yes, I like to cooperate with them.
CR: 01:56.8 Were there—? Was it just Mexicans in the PTA, or was it Mexicans and Mexican Americans or with Anglos too?
HQ: Well, the teachers—all the teachers were Anglos then. Now we have all Spanish-speaking teachers, but we have the teachers too, and then all the others here were Mexicans. And then at the others, we had Mexicans.
TK: Were the ladies here in this area active in the PTA in Zavala, would you say?
HQ: Yes, I’d say they were. We used to get together to make plans to get things for the school, like play equipment.
CR: Was your husband also involved in PTA?
CR: So it was mainly the ladies who were in PTA?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
TK: What was your husband’s main activity, working?
HQ: Working and he’s always been a church member. He’s a church deacon. He’s been a church deacon since, well, it must have been about the ‘40s, I guess. I don’t know. I think it was 30-something or by 1940. I’m not sure. And he used to always be active in the church.
TK: Did he have any other activities besides working in the church? Does anything else stand out in your mind—any organizations or anything?
HQ: No, he never was too interested in other organizations. Except during the time when you have to vote, he’d always go vote too. We’d always do that.
CR: So you voted since what year?
HQ: It’s been a long time—ever since I could. I’ve always voted.
TK: Did you ever vote for Roosevelt? Were you all Roosevelt supporters? Do you remember that far back?
HQ: 04:10.7 I remember, yes. I remember. When I was going to school, I think it was Calvin Coolidge. I remember studying about him in school. That was a long time ago.
TK: What party would you say—? What are your politics, if I may ask?
HQ: And then we see if a person is qualified, and if he’s not a Democrat, we’ll vote for him. We go by what we think is best.
CR: Were there—?
TK: In the 1930s, would you say you all were Democrats?
CR: Were you ever aware of any campaign or any special attempts to get the Mexican people to vote at that time?
HQ: Not as much as now—not as much as now.
CR: But if you did see that, who was responsible for doing that?
HQ: The LULACs.
CR: The LULACs?
HQ: The LULACs do a lot of that.
CR: In that time were they also doing that?
HQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
TK: 05:27.2 So if you remember, the LULACs were active then too?
HQ: Oh, yes, they were very active.
CR: Do you remember anything that they were doing at that time—any special activities that they were sponsors for?
TK: Did they ever come to the church? Did they ever make any presentations at the church?
HQ: I don’t remember. I don’t remember. I wouldn’t lie to you.
HQ: It’s been so far back.
TK: What about any other special activities?
HQ: I think that I remember a long time ago they came to the Presbyterian Church when I was over here—before I got married—and they came over there. We had some kind of a meeting, but I forgot what it was.
TK: Do you remember the pastor at the Presbyterian Church at that time?
HQ: At the time, well, Brother 06:19 (s/l Cavasos). He’s passed away already—Brother Juan (s/l Cavasos). He was a pastor at the Baptist Church in town.
(Break in tape 06:33.6)
(End tape _002)
(Start tape _003)
TK: When you joined LULAC, Mr. Quinones, what were you doing occupationally at that time?
MQ: 00:07.0 I was working for a textile mill over here on—(speaking at same time)
HQ: Southern Bagging.
MQ: Southern Bagging Company.
TK: Was it hard to get a job in those days?
MQ: Well, I was lucky that I—when I came from San Marcos—I came over here—I wasn’t even looking for a job, and a cousin of mine told me, “They’re hiring over there. Why don’t you go over?” And I went, and they gave me a job. I was getting 20 cents an hour. I got 20 cents an hour, and then they gave me a raise to 35, which was a lot of money.
TK: What brought you to Houston to begin with?
MQ: Well, I was supposed to have been born here in Houston in 1912, but when my mother was expecting, my daddy sent her close to Austin. It’s Caldwell County; that’s where I was born in a little old town they call (inaudible; coughing). My daddy bought here—since then—bought the first house on Avenue—in 1913, I believe is when he bought the first property here.
TK: What had brought him to live here?
MQ: Well, they were just tired of being out there on the farm—you know—couldn’t do anything, just—
TK: The boondocks?
MQ: Uh-hunh (affirmative). So we just decided we’d move to Houston, because, as I say, 1912 I was born over there, and then we came back to a little old town called 01:49 (s/l Howsis), not too far from Almeda. You know where Almeda Road—? It’s down—used to call it Almeda.
MQ: And he was farming there in 1913. Then we came here to Houston, and I think we left in ’16 back there to the country. We were farming again. And we came back in 19—I’d say it was right after the first World War, which was in 1919, wasn’t it?
TK: Yes, 1918—1917-1918.
MQ: We must have been here ’23, and we went back again. Then we stayed until 1929. By then he had several houses—not several—two houses here. The rent would help a lot out there were we were. Then we decided that—they started— The renters wouldn’t pay the rent sometimes, so he decided, “Well, let’s go move to Houston. I know where I can get a job at Sinclair Refining Company.” He worked there for several years. So in those days, that was good money—whoever was working there. So he could support us. Then my brother Bruno went and worked there, and I think Ascencion(?), my other brother, worked there too. So we’ve been here since—that was 19—we’ve been here ever since.
TK: 03:29.7 Did you go to school here in Houston?
MQ: I went to De Zavala School those 3 years—in 1922, I believe. There was just one room there, right on the corner. De Zavala School—that’s where I went.
TK: How many years of school were you able to get?
MQ: Well, when I left here it was in fourth grade. We went back to San Marcos. It’s a little town they call Maxwell. And there the Latins couldn’t go to school with the whites, so we had a separate school. And as far as you could go was fifth grade, and I went to that fifth grade for several years—04:18 (s/l Salac) School. I went there even if they wouldn’t change me to a grade because that was as high as you could go, but I kept on going until I was—you know—until I had to go to work. Then, when the Second World War started, that’s when they admitted the Latins in the school there.
TK: When you first—? So you came back to live in Houston and work in about what year?
MQ: The last time?
TK: Yes, the last time you came back.
MQ: It was 1929.
TK: It was 1929?
MQ: It was the last time we stayed on the farm. In the early ’30s we were here.
TK: I see. And you worked at the bag company?
MQ: Right, for how many years? Was it—? It was 15 or 30, I guess. I forgot.
HQ: Then you went to work in the ship yard.
MQ: A lot of years. Then from there I went to the ship yard. I had a foreman there that was—he went to welding school over there on Navigation.
HQ: 05:31.3 (s/l August Child).
MQ: And he asked me if I wanted to learn welding. I said, yeah. He said, “I’m at a school over there. It’s $2 dollars an hour to learn.” I said, “I’ll go.” And I learned there, and I went to work for Houston Iron Works. It’s still over here off the ship channel. And from there—that was when the First World War started.
MQ: Second—second. I worked for Brown and Root, and I worked for the Houston Ship Yard a rather long time. When I went in the Army, I went in the horse cavalry. And from there, they changed— When I went overseas, they find out what you used to do in civilian life. They sent me with the engineers. That was in the Philippines.
TK: What’d you do there?
TK: That’s one time the Army got it right. In the ‘30s, when you were involved with LULAC, were there any other organizations active in this community?
MQ: Nothing but clubs that I can remember—the 06:53 (s/l Mexico Vego) and this and that. That’s why I remember that the Ramirez family was involved in all of those clubs. I never did like dancing so I didn’t care too much about it.
TK: Was there a clear difference in your mind between that early LULAC club and the other clubs that were around—the early LULAC group and other clubs?
MQ: Well, we was in harmony that you could say. I think that they would invite them, or sometimes they would go, but I don’t remember after that whether any of that club joined or what. But I do know that Elias Ramirez was—what do you call it? Ex officio?
TK: Right Ex officio member of just about everything, huh?
MQ: Yes. Elias Ramirez, he looked very much by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Have you ever seen a picture of that priest from Mexico?
MQ: That’s Mr. Ramirez. He looked just like him—tall.
HQ: His daughters are very active, especially in the elections.
TK: That’s what I’ve heard.
HQ: (unintelligible) They’re very active.
TK: That’s what I’ve heard. Were there any activities with the LULACs in those years that stand out in your mind, other than—I mean—in terms of fighting discrimination or anything?
MQ: We did have—what was it? There must have been a winter convention somewhere that I can remember. That wasn’t late at all. But I didn’t go. But I think they had a convention or something in San Antonio. They were very glad—the ones that came back. They talked about a lot of things that they were going to do and this and that. That’s the last that I can remember. From there on, it’s just like I said, I just forgot about it. I went in the church activities and never did go back.
TK: The leadership of the group, though, boiled down to Mr. Hernandez.
TK: I wonder why he was so involved in it? Did he ever talk to you about that?
MQ: I don’t know. Really, I don’t. He never did say much about himself.
TK: Do you remember where he worked?
MQ: What was he doing? As far as I know, he had a good job, but I don’t know. It must have been with Missouri Pacific. I think that that was probably where he worked. Because he was—
TK: Was he a particularly educated man?
MQ: He was. At least from what I have heard of him and the way he talked and everything; he was educated. And everything that he said—(unintelligible).
TK: Did the men and ladies’ councils ever meet together?
MQ: No, it was only men when it started. After that is when they started the women. It was just men when we started right here.
TK: When did the women’s council—?
MQ: I think they came after—maybe a year or so after that.
CR: Was it because the men asked them to or the women said they wanted to?
MQ: Well, I guess the women told their husbands they wanted to go. (Laughter)
TK: You think so?
HQ: Did I tell you?
CR: Did your wife tell you?
MQ: They wanted to see what it was all about. (Laughter)
CR: Were the women helping you before they began their ladies’ council?
MQ: When—you know—women are very active. I can say that much. As soon as they started, I think that everything improved a little bit more, because we had women that were pretty smart. I think that’s when they started, about a year or so later. Then I think there was a woman’s council, wasn’t there?
TK: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
CR: 11:55.0 So the two councils met separately?
TK: After they started?
MQ: After they started, yes.
CR: Did the men depend on the women for—I don’t know—baking cakes or things like that?
MQ: They had something like that—you know—to make funds for whatever.
TK: Did you all ever raise funds as LULAC for something in particular? Do you remember any kind of fundraising activity or any kind of—how about—political activity? Did you all get involved in that?
MQ: Well, in fact, all the LULACs supported Oscar Holcombe. I remember that.
TK: Did he ever meet with you all at all?
MQ: He would come. (unintelligible) Oscar Holcombe we knew like a friend.
TK: Where he could get a vote, he would be there.
MQ: He was there, so I guess— That was in— Because that’s how come I— He told Mr. Hernandez to get somebody and send them over there so they could pass the test because they needed some officers, and he wanted some Mexican officers to be involved.
TK: So he solicited you all to send somebody?
MQ: I think he solicited—yeah—the LULACs to send somebody. We had a right to be there if we could pass the test. So they couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go so they sent us three.
TK: And this was in the ‘30s, huh?
MQ: No, that wasn’t the ‘30s. We were already married, weren’t we? It was 1932.
TK: 13:52.1 Where do you think—? Do you think it was at the civil service or the police department where you got excluded? Where do you think it was?
MQ: It wasn’t the civil service. It wasn’t the civil service, because the civil service told me to go and pass this examination there, which we passed. But after that, you had to go to a certain doctor; there was only one that would pass you for the police force. That’s when I remember that when I went in there, I heard that. They gave me a lot of tests there. Even from upstairs, I had to see the license of a car down and see what number it was and this and that. After the written test that we passed—and I made all that—but when I was sent from the doctor, he said, 14:44 “Well, I read from the letters that, I’m sorry, they let you down. The doctor let you down.” He said, “You have high blood pressure, according to the letter.”
TK: Where did you hear that over the speaker that we can’t—we never had a Mexican in here before—on the police department?
MQ: It was in the doctor’s office. It was in the doctor’s office, because he wouldn’t—you know—you go into the office and there was the little office of the secretary. From there they said who was there. And I heard the doctor say that. It was his voice came over to her. He said, “Mexicans on the police force?” But he examined me and everything. I can’t think of that doctor’s name.
TK: He was the police doctor, though, right?
MQ: Probably, because he was the only one that you had to go through that—through that same doctor. Then I was afraid that maybe I did have high blood pressure.
TK: Sure—of course.
MQ: So I went to see another doctor. He said, “There’s nothing wrong. If you want to, I can prove to that doctor.” But I said, “Well, forget it. All I want to know is whether I’m all right.”
TK: You just did not want to push it after that.
TK: What did the LULACs say? You went back to the meeting and told them?
MQ: Oh, yes. They wanted me to— They wanted to do something about it. I told them that I just— In fact, that must have been the reason that I forgot all about it. I lost interest. Because I said, “Well, it’s no use going where you’re not wanted. If I’m not wanted in the police force, why should I insist on being there?” They told me—the doctor told me—he said, “How come you want to be a policeman? Don’t you know that they killed the first Mexican that was”—he wasn’t really working for the city, but he was deputized. He even gave me the name. He said, “They killed him.” And then he mentioned another name that was here in Houston. They killed both of those.
CR: The police killed them?
MQ: They killed the—
CR: Or someone in the community killed them?
MQ: He said, “Your own race will kill you.” I never did pay any attention to this.
HQ: He was telling me he didn’t care at the time.
MQ: I was young and didn’t care.
HQ: But he passed the physical for the Army.
TK: They took you there.
(Several speaking at same time)
TK: Well, I— Well, Mr. Quinones, I don’t— Do you have any further questions for him? I really appreciate it.
MQ: I wish I could help you more, but my memory is not as good as it should be.
TK: The membership in those early years—the years that you were—? There were 22 that first meeting. Did it stay about the same?
MQ: No, it went up—it went up. It was growing. It was growing all the time.
TK: What would you say about the largest was that you remember? Can you remember any round figures?
MQ: Not round figures, but I know that we more than doubled the amount by then—by in maybe 2 or 3 years later there was a lot of LULACs.
CR: Oh, I had one more question. Do you remember any of the national officers or people from San Antonio coming down to help your council?
MQ: There was somebody that came, really, but I can’t think of the name. But they did send somebody. They must have started before us or something. Maybe that’s where Hernandez heard—how he started this council. But they did send somebody—I remember that—you know—to help us, somebody to talk to us and tell us what it was all about.
CR: Did you help any other council in the area start—maybe like in Newgulf?
TK: Yeah, did you all help start new councils at all?
MQ: Not that I remember, but I think they did—they probably did, because, after that, I would hear that there were LULACs here and LULACs somewhere else. It came— It wasn’t like when we started. We thought it was something— It was something new for us, but I think there must have been somebody else behind us that Hernandez knew about or something.
TK: When the LULACs began again—you know—they kind of died out, so to speak, and then started up again. You never got involved with the later bunch?
MQ: No, sir.
TK: That was with people like John J. Herrera and Felix Tijerina. Did you know those men at all?
MQ: I knew Tijerina, yes—Felix Tijerina. That’s a man that had a lot of restaurants here.
TK: You didn’t get involved with them?
MQ: But I didn’t get involved with them anymore. In fact, they would ask me again, and I said, no. I just don’t care about it anymore.
(End of interview 20:49)