Roy Soliz

Duration: 1hr: 35mns
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Interview with: Roy Soliz
Interview by:
Date: April 11, 1980
Archive Number: OH 273_01



I:    This is an April 11, 1980 oral history interview with Roy Soliz about his activities in the civic action committee, Viva Kennedy clubs, a PASO.

RS:    Well, I really got involved right after Henry B. Gonzalez ran for government. That was in 1958. Of course, in 1959 is when I met him. I liked to think that he was our catalyst, that because of his race for governor. I don’t think—to my knowledge—we’ve ever had a Mexican-American run for a big office—like the governor. When PASO was formed, we used to invite him. He was a state senator then, and we used to have him over. We’d have these annual barbeques around autumn—around September, October. We’d always invite him, and he was our principle speaker. He certainly inspired, and that’s why I like to think that he was our catalyst.

I:    On the local level?

RS:     Yeah, here in the local level. Then we would have, not only he, but we’d also have other people, especially during the election time. We’d have these other people that were running for public office—well, like Ralph Yarborough —senator now, Yarborough, and local races. At that time, we mostly concentrated on—you might say—state legislature races and the school board—not so much city. We weren’t too involved. We—sort of—worked together with the Harris County Democrats. In fact, there was a coalition when Thomas Biolecourt(??) got elected—I think—around the middle of the sixties. We were the Hispanics—of course, they called us the Mexican-Americans, and we were a coalition with the liberal whites and the blacks, and that’s about it.

I:     Why didn’t you all do anything in regard to the city council or something like that? Do you know off hand?

RS:     I think the reason why—you know—we were—sort of—guided by the—you might say that—the Harris County Democrats—we were very involved with them. We got involved with them when Henry B. Gonzales ran for governor, but there was only a handful of us—six or seven of us. At that time, the Harris County Democrats—they had a policy not to get involved with city politics, and I think that’s the reason why.

I:     I wonder why that was.

RS:     That I don’t know. I never was—I am a member of the Harris County Democrats, but I never did know why. A person that would know why would be Chris Dixie. He goes way back, but we elect the first Chicano to the state legislature, which was Lotto Pruz. He was the first one, to my knowledge, from Harris County. Then after that, I—sort of—dropped out. Oh, incidentally, I think there were about five or six of us that were precinct judges. We did get some precinct judges elected—Chicano. Off hand, well, Lotto Pruz was a precinct prior to him becoming a state legislature, he was a precinct judge, and I was a precinct judge.

I:     How long were you a precinct judge?

RS:    Well, I’m still a precinct judge. I got elected in 1964 in the primary, which was May of ’64, but I didn’t take over until ’65. In ’65—I believe—that’s when Barbara Jordon got elected to the state senate, along with Bob Eckhart to congress and Lotto Pruz to the state legislator. I remember we had some real good friends—black people—like Moses Leroy. He’s always been with us. We had our difficulties with as the coalition, but that coalition really produced quite a few people.

I:    What was your background personally before you got involved with PASO—like where were you born? Where are you from?

cuepoint
[5:45]


RS: I was born here in Houston. I graduated from Jefferson Davis Senior High School, and I went to the University of Houston downtown school for a couple of years, but I dropped out. In those days I was equal liberal. Incidentally, I got in the tail end of the Second World War in Germany. I saw about a month and a half of combat, and then I got thrown in an occupation. I would’ve been in the Battle of the Bulge, but my daddy was very ill, and I got three emergency furloughs, and that saved from being in the Battle of the Bulge.

I:    You were in action over there?

RS:    Yeah, I saw about a month and a half—I was 19 years old.

I:     Where were you?

RS:    I was in the Sauix Rural Valley—the first and third American Army linked. At least, they developed a pocket—a pocket of resistance of the Germans—and they finally surrendered. There were about 300,000 Germans. I’ve never seen so many German soldiers in my life. Most of them were real young—15, 16, 17, and older men in their 50s, 60s—a lot of them. Germany had had it.

    I came back, and I went to the Job Bill of Right, University of Houston. I guess I’ve always been interested in governmental affairs. I remember I wrote an essay in my government class, and I got an A- from Mr. Hennas, who was my instructor, and he said, “That was a very good essay.” Then when I met him and Gonzalez, I was inspired by him, because he was saying the things that I’ve always thought, but I never had the ability to say them, but I talked about what he had said. One day, after I had met him, I said I was very thankful to him, and I explained to him why. He said, “Well, no, Roy.” He said, “You did it yourself. It was in you all the time. You needed somebody to—kind of—help you bring it out.”

    (08:05) Even now—I’m 54 years old now—and, of course, I like to think that I have matured some, but I have also developed some cynicism about political activity and some of the things. I remember a convention that we had in 1964 across the street here at the coliseum. That was my first state convention. They kicked us out, because in Bear County, San Antonio—I’m speaking of the liberal element of the Democratic party—they wouldn’t seat—they wouldn’t recognize the group in San Antonio, so we had made an agreement with them that if they wouldn’t recognize it, we’d pull out. We didn’t stay in the convention. My first thoughts were, “Is this really a democracy?” I didn’t like it. Everything was cut and dry. There I was, fairly young.

I:    Was it a state Democratic?

RS:    It was a state Democratic convention. The conservatives were in control, and we liberals were in the minority. It was very disappointing to me. Then I’ve been to several besides that one. I did go to several state conventions, which we did get recognized. We didn’t leave. The word is wrong. We didn’t run. This is the way politics is. You have to have the stamina. You have to learn to play the game.

cuepoint
[10:14]
 

I:    Let me ask you this, Roy. When you were growing up in Houston, as a native Houstonian, did you ever experience discrimination because you were Mexican?

RS:     I experienced some—you might say—a form of gentile discrimination. The first time I experienced it, when I was in Robert E. Lee Elementary School, I was in the first grade and second grade. There was a large element of Mexican-American kids, but we were in the minority. Every time in the morning we’d have recess at 9:00 in the morning. Every time we’d have a fist fight with the Anglo kids. You might say—you know—it’s the first time I’ve encountered anything like that. Then I transferred from there. We moved from there to Lamar Elementary. That was so different. There were very few Mexican-Americans, but Mrs. Brown, who was the principal, was a lovely lady. Certainly, she didn’t discriminate against us. In comparison to Mrs. Garden in Robert E. Lee, she definitely discriminated against us.

    Also, one thing I noticed was that none of us could take our books home for homework. We were not allowed. Certainly at La Mar Elementary, we were allowed. Then I went on to Marshal. At Marshal, I did experience a discrimination. They wouldn’t let us speak in Spanish. It was the Anglo teachers then. The way they went about it, in a regular sarcastic manner, they didn’t deal with it in a polite manner—like it was a crime to speak Spanish. That must’ve been in the early forties.

    (12:21) Then I went to Davis. I remember another—and this was a personal incident that happened to me. This girl—a blue-eyed blonde named Isabella Robertson—I still remember her name—said, “You know—Roy, I’m very fond of you, but I could never marry you.” I said, “Why?” “Because you’re a Mexican.” I said, “Well, I’m not asking you to marry me,” but those little things do stay with you. Then I also noticed when I got back from the service when I went to apply for a job at Shell Oil. The man—the personnel manager, when he saw my application, he saw my last name Soliz—S-o-l-i-z—he said, “What is that?” I said, “That’s a Spanish name.” He said, “Are you Spanish?” I said, “I’m Mexican.” He said, “Aren’t you—kind of—tall for a Mexican?” “Well, I have cousins that are over 6 feet tall. They live in Mexico City,”—little things like that.

    Then people that you work with—maybe they’ll make little remarks. I used to be very sensitive to them. I’m not now. I’ve learned to develop—sort of—a sense of humor and just make a joke out of it. I realize that I’m not the only one that they picked—they’ll pick on Polish people or Jewish people—black people, but you have to learn to live with it and laugh about it—make a joke out of it. They—sort of—singled us out—like we were different. I realize now, through my reading, that other ethnic groups come across the same thing. When the Irish came over first in this country, they certainly discriminated against them.

I:    It just seems to stick on a little bit more, in regard to the Mexican-American people, if you want to know my own personal opinion. Discrimination will be against the Irish, and then it will stop. It’s always been there against the Mexican-Americans.

RS:    I think the reason why—my personal opinion is that we had a war with Mexico. Mexico is headed by a dictatorship, by * He certainly wasn’t the best president or dictatorship—whatever you want to call him—that Mexico has had. Even in Mexico, he’s certainly not recognized as a good person. There were some incidents that happened that—so like at the Alamo—wiping everybody off. An analogy that I can site is, it’s like the war between the North and the South. Some people still remember that, and they make little cracks, “Oh, he’s a Yankee.” This is just human nature.

cuepoint
[15:39]
  Another thing to, I believe that discrimination against Mexicans is—like you say—it sticks with you a little longer. I have to also say that—you know—the key to enlightenment is education. With education, you can advance as a people. I think that we Mexican-Americans have been remiss in education. Certainly, when I’m speaking of the masses—the kid—he does good through high school, and then he never reaches college. A lot of them, since they don’t take advantage of the education—and perhaps the reason why—it’s not all their fault—perhaps it’s because they’re in the lower income bracket, so they need the money for the family to exist.

    There are many facets to this, but I believe that once people get a hold—and I’m speaking of the masses—realize the importance of education, I think that’s one way to perhaps have less discrimination. We have made a lot of progress. I can see the progress we have made, because certainly nowadays you see a lot of professional Mexican-Americans, and we have people now that have been on the school board, been on the city council, and different levels of government—governmental bodies. There’s been a lot of improvement, but there is still more room for improvement.

I:    What got you initially involved? When you did you join the group called PASO? Were you there for the Levi Kennedy thing—?

RS:    Yeah, I was there.

I:     —or the Civic Action Committee? When did actually did you get—?

RS:    I was there with the Civic Action Committee, but I was not one of the charter members of the Civic, but I was a charter member of Levi Kennedy Johnson club. From there, it became PASO, and so I am a charter member of the Levi Kennedy and PASO.

I:     What got you involved in the Civic Action Committee? Do you remember—was it just hearing B. Gonzales in person?

RS:    Well, Henry Gonzalez and knowing people like Roy Lasanda. Roy has always had a great influence on me, because he would talk about it. He said, “You’ve got to meet Henry Gonzales and so I got to meet him. Roy inspired me.

I:    How did you know him? Where did you know him?

RS:    (18:57) Well, I’ve known Roy for a long time. I’ve know him since back in 1941. I knew him through a friend of mine named Willie Partita, and Roy used to come. He’s always had his business—drove a little truck with cosmetics, lotions, candles. You name it—he had it—he sells everything. He’s a great salesman—a very enthusiastic person. Those qualities that he has, he used them in politics. Roy is the kind of a person that he’s very good in working behind the scenes. He can inspire you, and he is highly intelligent. That’s how I’ve got—you might say—involved.

I:     You got involved in through Roy Lasanda.

RS:    Yes, you might say that.

I:     Did you know the other members of the Civic Action?

RS:    Yeah, well, I knew Al Wascase(??). I’ve worked for Wascase. I knew him socially through social clubs. Through Al Wascase, I met Al Mata. That little group—we got involved—and Alfonso Rodeou(??)s also. He was a Quarterly—came in through the union. He is a plumber by trade. Those people that I have mentioned—

I:     When did your family come to Houston first?

cuepoint
[20:35]

RS:    My father—well, I don’t know exactly when my father came, but I can tell you about my mother. My mother and her father and her mother and her brother and her aunt came to Houston—I would say—about 1919, 1920. My mother is the only one left. They have all passed away.

I:     What did you all do in the Civic Action Committee? What were you all’s activities? What—kinds of—things were you all trying to do, and how did you go about doing it?

RS:    The Civic Action Committee—we were endeavoring to let the people know to get involved civically. We were not political then. That came later, but to get involved. I remember there was a case where these Mexican-Americans were getting traffic tickets, and they were riding on—where it says race, they were writing Mexican. We went—Mayor Lewis Cutrer was—he was the mayor in. We wrote letters back and forth. To my knowledge, I don’t know whether they still do that or not, but my too-long goal—5 or 6 years ago, it was tickets I would get that would put on their end and in the place of race. I don’t know if they are still doing it or not.

I:     Things like that—and what—kind of—action did you all get from Cutrer? Do you remember?

RS:    (22:33) Well, we had a good reaction from him, and he said he was going to do something about it, but the troops—the police officers—

I:     The troops.

RS:    —nothing was done.

I:    Let me ask you this, Roy. Do you remember Cutrer mayor—his administration pretty well?

RS:    No, I don’t. I don’t remember too well.

I:     Can you make any—kind of—a statement about what shape Mexican-Americans in Houston got in the Cutrer administration? Did you know much about it?

RS:    No, I didn’t know much about that. I did know a little more about—later on—the other administration—Welch. I don’t think he cared much for us—Arlona Welch. I’d like to tell you a little story that was told to me by Joe Lopez, and I do believe Joe Lopez, because he’s not the type that will lie on me on a story. When Henry B. Gonzalez was running for government in 1948, at that time, Louie Welch—he started to run for mayor. He wasn’t that early. Henry spoke—I wasn’t there—I was told by Joe Lopez that Henry Gonzalez spoke, and everybody applauded, because he is a very eloquent speaker. By that time, Louie Welch was—sort of—one of the last ones to leave. Well, people were leaving, and Louie Welch made the remark—he said, “What is this world coming to?” He said, “A Mexican speaks, and everybody applauds and gets up. Then a white man speaks, and everybody leaves.” What do you think about that remark?

I:     You all were involved in more or less civic kinds of activities. Anything else come to mind besides—like writing Cutrer? This was in the late fifties now, right?

RS:    Late fifties, yeah. Well, we also were involved in poll tax—getting the Mexican people to buy their poll tax for $1.50. That would qualify you to vote, because at that time, the state of Texas had a toll tax for $1.50 to be able to vote. They finally did away with that, and then we had registration. We were involved in these poll tax drives.

I:     You all went door to door, in other words, huh?

cuepoint
[25:24]

RS:   Well, no we couldn’t do that then. We had to have a permanent place in a thing like a supermarket. We couldn’t go to doors. They wouldn’t allow us in. That was against the law.

I:     Did you become a poll tax—

RS:    Yes, and also we go to churches and try to get people to buy their poll tax.

I:     How were you all received by the community? How would you characterize that?

RS:    We were received well. Of course, some of the people thought that there wasn’t any use to doing this.

I:    Really?

RS:    That it wouldn’t do any good—you know—people that are—I guess you might say people that are disenchanted and things like that. Then from there, we got to the 1960 presidential election. You might say that the Civic Action Committee was politically oriented, but since we just started—we were beginning—a lot of us were learning—we were in the learning process. When the 1960 presidential election came around, we all joined the Levi Kennedy Johnson group clubs.

I:    Were you there when he came to speak at the Rice Hotel—Kennedy Johnson?

RS:    I didn’t go to the Rice Hotel during the blue lights, but I did go to the coliseum when they had that dinner for Kiser Albert Thomas. I was there. They had a dinner, and I was there. Many people spoke—officials, including Vice President Johnson. When President Kennedy spoke, he put all of them to shame, the charismatic person he was. I remember he made a little—I still don’t know whether he made it on purpose or he did it inadvertently when he was speaking about the payload at NASA. Instead of saying payload, in referring to NASA, he said payroll—and he grinned. He corrected himself. He says, “Payload—well, it will be the biggest payroll,” and he got a laugh out of it. I never had thought—maybe it was deliberate—I don’t know.

I:     You were a Kennedy supporter?

RS:    (28:09) Yes, I was. We were all Kennedy supporters—all of us from the old Civic Action Committee.

I:    Was the Mexican-American community here Kennedy supporters?

RS:    Yes, they were Kennedy. Traditionally, the Mexican-Americans in Houston have voted for the nominee of the Democratic party in the presidential election traditionally.

I:     Do you think that his Catholicism played a role in Houston, within the Mexican-American?

RS:    We never thought about his Catholicism. That never entered our minds—it never did.

I:     Are you a Catholic, by the way?

RS:    Well, I was born a Catholic, but I don’t attend church.

I:    You don’t think this—at least with you all’s organization, the Civic Action Committee, that Catholicism wasn’t a big deal?

RS:    No, that wasn’t a big deal.

I:     What do you think about the community people themselves here in Houston? Do you think it made a difference?

RS:    Well, of course, Kennedy didn’t carry Harris County. We lost Harris County, but I think—

I:     I’m talking about—not Hispanic, but the Mexican-American vote.

RS:    (29:21) Well, it made a different statewide, because he took the state, Kennedy did. Johnson took the state of Texas. We like to think that made a difference. In Houston, we couldn’t overcome that big Republican vote, and those Republicans—they really get out and vote.

I:    What was your role in the Viva Kennedy club here? What did you do personally?

cuepoint
[29:47]

RS:    I remember that me and Roy Desomna went out to Magnolia, and we knocked on doors enlisting votes for Kennedy and Johnson—you might say—door-to-door canvassing. The way it worked, Roy Desomna and I went. Old Backus was good. He’s always been good in writing. He would write letters. He is a very skillful writer. Now, my fellows included printing, since he’s a printer. He would print out these little leaflets that we would deliver in the homes that we were canvassing.

I:    You all would deliver those things to them?

RS:    We would make a spiel, and then we’d leave it there. Most of the people—most of Mexican-Americans were for Kennedy. I never encountered any Nixon people.

I:    Was there a poll tax at that time, in the ’60 election?

RS:    Yes, there was a poll tax in ’60. I think they finally got rid of the poll tax about ’62 or ’63.

I:    You all sold the poll tax?

RS:    Yeah, we sold the poll tax.

I:    Did you do that yourself also?

RS:    Yes, and I was deputized a few years. I don’t recall which year it was.

I:    Was it hard to get that for you all?

RS:    No, it wasn’t very difficult. Al Duvias was very good at getting that for us. If it wasn’t for Duvias—but definitely, we couldn’t go house to house then. We’d have to be at the supermarket.

[end OH 273_01] (31:46)

[OH 273_02]
I:    Did you all encounter any opposition within the Mexican-American community when you were in the Civic Action Committee or Viva Kennedy club?

RS:     The only opposition we encountered was a little group out of Magnolia, headed by—I don’t really recall the name of the group, but it was headed by a person—they call him Docket Hondas. He was—sort of—a cabecilla. That is Spanish for chieftain. They never got off the ground, because all they did was they talked more than they worked.

I:    Who were they for? Were they for a particular group or a party?

RS:    Well, they seemed to be more for the conservative politicians.

I:     Conservative Democrats?

RS:    Conservative Democrats—I remember we had—in 1961, we had an election. That’s when Senator Tower got in. I think there were 63 candidates. The incumbent was Senator Blakely, who had been appointed—William Blakely. He had been appointed. He was a millionaire—some rancher or something. I don’t really know that much about him, but he was appointed. When the time came for re-election, he ran, and they had all of these other candidates. There was a run-off, and Tower ran against him, and he beat him. Tower had been there ever since.

I:     Did this other group support them or something?

RS:    Yes, this other group definitely supported that type of politician. I know they supported—well, at first, they supported Blakely. Then there was Henry Gonzales—they certainly didn’t support Henry Gonzales. Henry Gonzales did run for that position.

I:     Was there an old guard within the Mexican-American community that might’ve presented—I mean—you all were young men at the time, essentially. You all were in your thirties, right?

RS:    Right.

I:     What about the older members of the community? Did they have their own political groups or anything like that?

RS:    (02:40) Well.

I:     —that you can remember?

RS:    The only person that I can remember that was older—as an older person—Mr. Deejah(??)—E. P. Deejah—he’s the only one that I know of. The other old people—older men—they were not involved in politics. He’s the only one that I know. He was active in the 1958 governor’s race when Henry Gonzales ran. He had barbeques in his home.

I:     He as a member of you all’s group?

RS:    Yes. Well, he was never—yes, he was a member of the Civic Action, but he wasn’t very active.

I:     The old people were mainly apolitical.

RS:    Apolitical.

I:     Why do you suppose that was the case? Was your father apolitical?

RS:    Well, my father wasn’t even an American citizen. He was becoming—he had taken out his papers—his initial papers for citizenship, but then he died. He had a premature death. A lot of people weren’t even citizens.


cuepoint
[35:32]

I:     I see.

RS:    Also they were struggling to make a living. They didn’t have the time to get involved. That’s one of the things that has hampered us, because we all have to work, and we have full-time jobs. We certainly, in those days—granted now, there is a certain amount of affluence, but in those days, we didn’t have that much affluence in it.

I:    What were you doing professionally at that time? What was your job?

RS:    (04:15) Oh, I was working at the Post Office here. At that time, you couldn’t even participate politically at the Post Office. Of course, I wasn’t doing such a great big deal, so nothing was ever said—I guess. Of course, people like Al Boscage and Roy Desoto—they’re self-employed, so they had more time, but even then, they would take time away from their businesses, which meant loss of money.

I:     Where was the Viva Kennedy headquarters here in town? Do you remember where?

RS:    Yes, it was on Navigation. I don’t remember—it was on Navigation near the Guadalupe church. I don’t remember the exact address. Certainly that group that I told you about—they weren’t for us. I’m not sure—maybe they were for Nixon. I don’t remember, but they didn’t—

I:    Did you know Felix Tehevina(??)? Was he involved in that at all? What was he doing at this time?

RS:    Well, Felix Tehevina ran for the school board one time, and unsuccessfully. I understand that he claimed that he was involved with LULEA, and they set up scholarships, and then also they had a school of over 400 or something, dealing with bilingual education. I don’t know anything about that. I’m not qualified to say—

I:     I mean—did he ever have any dinners with you all?

RS:    Not with us. When Henry ran for governor and also for United States senator, someone went to ask him for money, and as far as I know, we didn’t get any money. With Tehevina, I don’t know too much about him.

I:     Did you all have pretty good support—campaign workers, as far as during the Kennedy?

RS:    Yeah, we had quite a bit of support.

I:     Did it generate a lot of enthusiasm in the community.

RS:    Yeah, especially younger people than us—like people of our age bracket in the early ‘30s and ’35—those people that had kids that would help. I remember Al Machesis’ kids—they were always helping. They’re grown now—their two boys. Also one of the girls used to help. Also another family that helped in that group was Rudy Veda and his son, who is now Judge Veda—Richard Veda. He was little then—and also their daughter.

I:    Did you all carry on some precincts?

RS:    (07:29) Yes, I carried my precinct—44 and also 46, which is an adjoining precinct. We carried it for Kennedy-Johnson. All the Chicano precincts were carried by Kennedy and Johnson.

I:    Okay, then when did you all form PASO then?

cuepoint
[39:38]

RS:    PASO was formed in ’61. It was formed statewide. There were other people that came in from San Antonio from La Lazlo—from Austin. I remember we had a great big meeting in Victoria, Texas. I was very impressed. There must’ve been a thousand people there. I was very impressed, because for the first time I saw many professional people—mostly lawyers—turn out—Mexican-Americans. I’ve never seen that many in one group. I remember there was also state judges—judicial state judges. There was a state judge by the name of—what was his name—Salinous—Judge Salinous. One time his name was bated about to become a federal judge who went to the La Gaza, who is a federal judge in now in that district. Salinous certainly enlightened us. He told us that back in the ‘20s, when they were deporting a lot of Mexicans to Mexico. I never will forget—to me, it was so funny. Everybody laughed. They were even deporting Mexicans—American citizens of Mexican decent. I remember it to the words. Whether they got away with it, I don’t know. Can you imagine that?

I:    Deporting citizens?

RS:    Citizens.

I:     I can believe it—I mean—you know—it’s hard to take, but I mean—

RS:    Those old timers—they really had a story to tell.

I:    When was this convention—in Victoria, you say?

RS:    (09:50) Yes, it was a mass meeting. I know it was in ’61, but I don’t remember the—

I:    Was it to form the state?

RS:    That was to form the state PASO. Of course, San Antonio was involved. You’d have to contact somebody else that knows.

I:    Yeah, but the Victoria meeting was where it was formed as a state?

RS:    I don’t think it was formed there. I think it was just one of the meetings. I’ve tried to recall—I seem to think that we went to Austin, but I’m not too sure. I remember Victoria very well. I think we went to Austin. There were a few delegates, and I happened to be there. I never went to San Antonio, but one thing that people—like Judge Salinous has mentioned there at that meeting, and even after the meeting, how—they brought up the Texas Rangers. The Mexican people used to call them Wrenched, and they were very afraid of that group. They certainly discriminated against the Mexican-Americans and the Mexicans—the Texas Rangers. That has stuck in my mind. They called them Wrenched. Did you know about that?

I:    Sure, yeah. I wonder where the word Wrenched came from—just a ranger—I don’t know.

RS:    I guess they couldn’t speak English very well, so it just would be a derivative of rangers. They were really afraid. I’d like to tell you, Tom, an incident that happened. This must’ve been in 1938. See, my mother and father—I’m the oldest in the family. Then there was a brother named Fred, and so he—and then there was Rupert and my sister, but my sister wasn’t born then. There was Fred, Rupert, and myself. The immigration people got a hold of my father. My father was a timid man. They made him confess that my brother, who was born in 1927, was not born here—that he was born in Mexico. In ’38, I was 13, and my brother was 11, so these two immigration officers—Anglos—that spoke perfect Spanish—they went to my mother. They had my father in the office, and so they came over. That must’ve been the time when they were really deporting a lot of Mexicans, so they came over. They tried to intimidate my mother, and my grandmother was there—her mother. My mother is the—kind of—person that you can’t intimidate her. They said, “You husband said that your son Fred was born in Mexico.” She said, “I know what happened. You people took my husband over there, and you intimidated him, and you made him to say that. You forced him to say that. You used duress,” but my mother didn’t use that money, but that is exactly what she meant. What happened, finally, she brought out the papers. “Here are the birth certificates, and certain doctors saw me.” He said, “Oh, that can be falsified.” “Oh—you mean—in this great country of yours, you can falsify these things? I thought you couldn’t do that in this country.”

cuepoint
[45:15]

 The guy said, “Well, we’re going to kick you to Mexico.” She said, “Well, if you do, that’s my country. I’ll go willingly, but what you’re saying is a lie.” When they finally did some checking and realized that they couldn’t get away with it, it was baseball bat. It said, “Get this bat and hit me over the head with it.” My mother got real angry and said, “You know—this land used to belong to Mexico, and you people stole them.”
        My mother doesn’t have any formal education, but she was fed up with their lies. What do you think about that, Tom?

I:    Oh—I mean—that was in ’38?

RS:    Thirty-eight.

I:    Well, they were deporting people around here, huh?

RS:    (14:15) Yeah, at that time, yeah. They were intimidating.

I:    Why would they want to do that? I don’t understand. What was the outcome of that thing? I mean—did they finally let your father go?

RS:    Oh, they finally let my father go, yeah.

I:    They never got your brother.

RS:    No! How could they? They were American citizens? Everything was forgotten. It was just—they picked on the wrong person—my mother.

I:     Did anybody else in the community have a similar experience to that during the ‘30s?

RS:    That I don’t know. All I can say is I’ve heard about it, but I don’t know. I couldn’t document it.

I:    Let me ask you this. Do you think that the Viva Kennedy effort was countywide in the area?

RS:    Yes, it was. It was countywide.

I:    Do you all handle specifically Harris County?

RS:    (15:14) Harris County, yes.

I:    Did you ever do any organizing in any of the smaller towns around here?

RS:    No, I never have. The man you want to talk to that about is David—

I:    Ortiz?

RS:    Ortiz—he is the one. Have you met him?

I:    I’ve met him, but we haven’t had our interview.

RS:     He is the one that has done some organizing in these small towns. I think he’s been down in the valley too. He was very active in that at one time. I understand another man that talked and he was our union organizer—I believe—was Attorney David Lopez. Have you met him?

I:    I met him, but we haven’t talked yet.

RS:    He is pretty sharp, I understand.

I:    Okay, so how did PASO come about to be organized here after Viva Kennedy? You all just got together?

RS:    The nucleus of Viva Kennedy was PASO—the nucleus—just like a transfer. We didn’t have to change things.

I:    Did you all get—more or less—the name from the state-level organization—PASO—for PASO?

RS:    Well, I remember that we had a meeting. I’m trying to think—now, I think that meeting was in Corpus Christie, now, come to think of it, because Dr. Garcia was involved. There were several meetings before, because they were having trouble adopting a name. Some people wanted to call it MAPOA—Mexican-American Political Organization Action—MAPOA. Someone was saying LAPOA—Latin-American Political Action. I remember that meeting in Corpus involved—it might have been in San Antonio, maybe. I don’t remember too well, but it might’ve been in San Antonio. There is a group out there—California had a similar—I’m not knowledgeable about that. They had—I think—PASO—like two. Do you know anything about that?

I:    Yes, but not very much.

RS:    (17:29) We finally—the name was adopted, but I don’t know the details on it. You’d have to talk to someone—maybe Backus knows about that.

I:    I think he did mention—Backus—Al Backus did talk about it. Let me ask you this. When PASO got going, who did you all support locally? Did you all support local politicians? Did you all deal with local politicians?

RS:    Well, we worked very much with the coalition. We were part of the coalition. The Harris County Democrats, which involved the political Anglos, the blacks, the Harris County Organization, and labor, and PASO.

I:    Where did you have you all’s meetings? How often did you all meet in PASO—in the early PASO? Do you remember where you all met? I’m talking about locally.

cuepoint
[50:24]

RS:    Locally—I’m trying to think now. We used to meet in the union halls. We didn’t meet in one certain place. The union halls, and sometimes we’d meet at these places—like there is a place on Canal. It’s a community center. We used to meet there too. I don’t remember the name of it.

I:     Were there dues? Did you have to pay dues?

RS:    Yeah, we had dues—sure. We had dues. In fact, at one time, I was the treasurer, and I opened up an account at the airlines state bank. It was back in the middle ‘60s—’62, ’63. I remember that.

I:    Were you all well-funded?

RS:    (19:35) No.

I:    Shoestring?

RS:    A shoestring operation—yeah. I sort of got away from PASO around the middle of the ‘60s. I mean—I’ve always been a member, but I wasn’t as active—like being treasurer.

I:    Why did you fall away?

RS:    To be honest with you, there were certain things that happened I didn’t like—like right after they started screening new members. It smacked too much of dictatorship, is what I thought. I didn’t like it.

I:    Who did the screening, if I may ask? We can close the—the organization started screaming your name or something?

RS:    Yeah. I guess all organizations are that way, but then—

I:    For what? What were they trying to get?

RS:    They didn’t want to open it up to people that were—they thought the people that were screening—they thought that they were going to take over. Some of it was clash of personalities.

I:    Any particular personalities that were trying to come in that they—anyway, what happened there? Explain that again.

RS:    Well, this particular person, during the election of officers, this man came in with his people. Even though he was a member of PASO, but he was never active—and he wanted to take over. He almost won, but he didn’t quite make it, so after that happened is when they started screening these people.

I:    Do you think—was it political philosophy or pure personality or what was the basis of it?

RS:    Both—political philosophy and also personalities.

I:    Okay, I can understand—I mean—personalities are personalities, but what about the political philosophy—what was the—?

RS:    (21:50) This man that came that wanted to take over, he leaned towards conservative thinking politics, even though he espoused liberalism. He was the kind of a person that would very easily support—say renting a car.

I:    Do you think anybody put him up to it or was on his own?

RS:    I don’t think so. I think it’s his own. He was for self-embellishment—not so much power—self-embellishment. Then I also realized that within the nucleus of PASO there was one individual and he wanted power, but this is human nature. This happens in many organizations in many countries.

I:    You sensed that he was trying to have it almost—no, this is too strong. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth. The person doing the research 50 years from today thinks I’m putting words in your mouth. Maybe I am, but do you think that there were people who wanted it as a personal tool—a vehicle for their own, or is that too simplistic?

RS:    I think that a lot of it has to do with one’s vanity—that he wanted to be known as a leader—like the king pin. There again, like I mentioned, self-embellishment. One thing—I’m trying to—maybe this is simplistic, but there was a Lord North, an English lord that said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Maybe there are tinges of this in a small organization.

I:    He was getting pretty powerful within the group?



RS:    Yeah.

cuepoint
[55:54]

I:    Did other members sense this? Did other members of the group, or were you thinking this yourself?

RS:    I was thinking this myself. I’m sure other members were thinking this, but the conversation I had with them, they wouldn’t actually come out.

I:    Did this hurt the group? Did it bust it up?

RS:    (24:31) Yes it did hurt the group. It hurt the group.

I:    When did this take place? Do you remember what years this was?

RS:    Oh, this must’ve been ’62, ’63. I couldn’t be after ’65, because that is just about when I dropped out.

I:    When did Leon Casteel come into to PASO?

RS:    He came in about ’65, ’66.

I:    Was a change in personnel?

RS:    Yeah, there was a change. There was a change. He came in, and then along that time, about when John Casteel came in—a very bright young man, who now works for the mayor, I believe. One thing I will have to say about myself is that I consider myself an idealist, and I know that I have to be pragmatic to live in a realistic world, but I was younger then. Now, I wouldn’t feel that way, because I know this is the way the world is.   It’s not the way I would like it to be. We have to face that. Coupled with that also, my other interests started coming into focus—like my literature reading, so maybe that’s perhaps—

I:    What do you mean by reading literature—things you’ve learned through reading?

RS:    Through reading, yeah, and becoming disenchanted with politics. That’s why I’m—sort of—

I:    What disenchanted you? Was there a series of things?

RS:    A series of things that sometimes it’s almost futile to pursue in electing the right kind of candidates—the right kind of people.

I:    Was there a local election you’re thinking about here, in particular, or was this just in general?

RS:    (27:11) This was in general—not any particular election.

I:    I’m interested—what offices did you hold in PASO? You said you were treasurer.

RS:    I was treasurer, and I think that’s the only office I had. One thing—I’m glad you mentioned that, because that brings up another thought. There are so many people that wanted to be chairman. I never cared to be chairman. Some people got to where they would even have a fight. I don’t mean a fist—

I:    Hard feelings?

RS:    Hard feeling and bring in people—their own people. I think things destroy an organization.

I:    Do you think that’s what happened to PASO in those years?

RS:    It could be.

I:    The old PASO?

RS:    Yeah.

I:    People call it old PASO. Why do they call it old PASO?

RS:    Well, it’s different. You might say we were the pioneers—the trailblazers—and now we have other people—younger people. They’re taking over. I understand that PASO now—they’re having their share of problems—the same kind of problems we had.

I:    This is a subjective—when did the new PASO begin?

cuepoint
[1:00:15]

RS:    (28:28) I would say after ’66—when Leo Gonzalez came in. One thing that I’ll say of Roy Desonnafaver(??), is that he always said, “You know—these people want to come take over the organization, and yet they’re not going to do anything, and it’s going to die. We need people that want to work for the organization—not so to give them prestige. I agree with that. I concur with Roy.

I:    Yeah, it’s—

RS:    You have to learn, if a person really wants to get on top—and I’ll give an illustration of John F. Kennedy. I understand that Massachusetts politics is rough, just like Texas politics. Well, he overcame all of this. Of course, he never wanted to get—you see, you don’t want to get involved in these petty squabbles, because that is going to hurt you. Now, Costello—I don’t know him that well. Obviously, he didn’t get involved in these little petty squabbles, because he is very well liked by everybody, but you to be a big person. Neil is a big person. I consider him a true leader and also that wants to help people.

I:    Do you think that you all—the old PASO—do you all think you were very effective?

RS:    I think we were effective in blazing these trails for these younger people, and even those days, we used to talk that eventually the newer generation—the younger generation—will come up and we envision councilmen, judges. It’s happening now. As far as effective, I think we were effective in arousing some people to the importance of political participation. Of course, I think it’s impossible to alert everybody, but I still say that the key is education. I think our level of education with the Mexican-American here in Harris County is probably not as high as the Anglos. I don’t know. I don’t know the figures. It might even be lower than the blacks.

I:    I don’t think so.

RS:    Now, our political participation—voting and going to the polls is very low.

I:    Why was that? Why do you suppose that is? You went from door to door.

[end OH 273_02] (31:46)

[OH 273_03]
I:    You just stopped going to the meetings after a while?

RS:    Yeah, I stopped going to the meetings.

I:    Did you get involved in other political-type of activities?

RS:    No, I didn’t.

I:    Were you involved in any other political activities or civic organizations other than PASO?

RS:    At one time, I was involved with the Harris County Democrats. In fact, I was a recording secretary at one time.

I:    Then you kept being a precinct judge, right?

RS:    Yes, and to that extent, I felt involved, because I go to these statutory meetings, but I have become very disillusioned with politics. I remember the words of my brother, who has passed away. He said, “You know—Roy, you get involved in these political activities. You’re not getting any younger. You’ve got to start thinking about your old age. You’re spinning your wheels. You’ve got to start thinking about yourself.” I keep thinking of these words from my brother. I think we all should participate—not just the Mexican-Americans—all of the citizens—in politics, but you’re never going to get everybody. I think nationwide—I think—the participation is coming down instead of up.

I:    Were you ever in LULAC organization?

cuepoint
[1:05:05]

RS:    (01:34) No, I never was. I was in social clubs when was in my 20s.

I:    Oh, really?

RS:    When I was a teenager, I used to be in Club International.

I:    Oh, you were in the Club International?

RS:    Yeah, I was just a kid—yeah.

I:    Really?

RS:    Are we on now?

I:    Yeah, we’re ready. Anything you want to say, feel free to—

RS:    I like your tie. It’s pretty.

I:    My what?

RS:    Your tie.

I:    Oh, yeah, I’ve had that. It’s kind of bright, but I like bright things.

RS:    This political participation—lack of participation—apathy—we don’t have a corner on that. I mean—other people—they have apathy.

I:    I wanted to ask you something. Let me interrupt you. Were you active in the Lope Cruise race—when he ran for state legislature?

RS:    (01:02) Yeah, we were all active.

I:    What year—when was that—in the early ‘60s?

RS:    That was ’65—I believe.

I:    Did you know him pretty well?

RS:    Yeah. He was very conservative.

I:    Oh, he was?

RS:    He was a good—

I:    He was with Briscoe, right?

RS:    Need I say anything more? (laughs) Let me tell you—I’ll tell you a little incident. I have to be there, and it’s 5:00. Chris Dixie—you know Chris Dixie?

I:    Sure.

RS:    He has never had much faith in Chicanos—I guess faith in women. He didn’t want them back without approvals. There are two men that stood up to him. It was Mosley Roy and Roy something. He went along with the coalition after mostly Roy and Roy’s uncle stood up to him.

I:    Why do you suppose he didn’t want to—?

RS:    Well, he figured—maybe he knew all along the kind of guy he was—you know.

I:    Did he prove himself out to be a conservative himself?

RS:    (04:14) Yeah, that’s right, and so he was right.

I:    You all backed him, because he was a Hispanic.

RS:    Yeah, sure, so Chris—in that respect, he was right.

I:    Did you ever regret backing him?

RS:    No, under the circumstances, I never did. I wouldn’t back him up now. He got involved in this. He was a campaign manager with Richard Holden, and Richard called me up one day and wanted me to support him. I’m going to have to learn, when I pick up phone, I can’t say, “Yeah, I want to support you.” Richard Holden—I mean—he is an acquaintance, and he has contributed. Maybe that’s the wrong word to use. He’s not our kind of people. Do you know what I mean?

I:    Yeah. Did you back Ben when he ran for city council?

RS:    Yeah, I sure did. I even knocked on doors for him.

I:    You knocked, so you know Ben pretty well?

RS:    Yeah. Ben is all right. Ben has learned a lot. Ben used to turn off people—get people mad at him, but that was just his message—his way—but he’s come a long way. He has learned to be not so militant. I guess that comes from experience.

I:    —and age.

RS:    —and age—yeah.

I:    Where did they stand up to Chris Dixie—in a meeting of the coalition?

RS:    (05:48) In a meeting coalition—yeah.

I:    Do you know Mosley Aras?

RS:    Sure, he’s an old man.

I:    Yes, he is—very old.

RS:    Is he still going strong?

I:    Yeah, he is. Well—you know—his wife is here on—

RS:    His wife was real tall.

I:    Yeah, a big woman. She is on the board of directors of the library—Mrs. Moses Aras.

RS:    Do they have a Mexican-American on the board there?

I:    I think John Castio is, the last time I heard.

RS:     I am an Espannosio. I’m a Spanofile, and I’m also an English Anglophile also, because I love literature and English. My only problem is I’m very disorganized in my reading.

I:    Most people are.

RS:    I read maybe little trivial stuff that I should be reading in the good books that I have.

I:    Let me ask you this. Did you ever support Lionel Costio work or help in any of the elections?

cuepoint
[1:10:21]


RS:    I’ve always supported him—always. I remember Lionel Costio called me up before he ran for city council. He was thinking about running. He called me up and said, “I wanted to call you. I wanted to get your advice. You’re a precinct judge. I’m thinking about running for”—I think he said some county office—that or city comptroller. Well, I couldn’t figure why city comptroller. I said, “What is your thinking about that?” I said, “Well, citywide—but I didn’t know much about the city comptroller—you know.” I appreciate him calling me up and asking me, whereas a lot of people—they just go ahead and run. Not that I’m that important, but that impressed me by it. One day, in ’72, when I supported Mrs. Barnstone against Jack Ott, they sent it. I supported when Mickey Leland. I supported Mickey Leland and the liberal candidates. I had a little sample ballot that I sent out, because I would run for real. Somebody would run against me, so I showed it to him. He’d look and say, “Roy, you are really a liberal.” I said, “Yeah, I am.”

I:    Have you always been a liberal?

RS:    (08:25) Yeah, I always have been. It seems to me that the liberal people are more enlightened. Their mind is open, therefore, humanitarians—I’ve never heard of a conservative being for the humanitarians, therefore, another word I want to inject is they’re humanists. You asked me about religion—that’s that I am. I’m a humanist, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m not an atheist. Some people would equate humanism with atheism, which is wrong. That’s ignorant people that don’t know any better. When we were talking about—what you said about your—was it your father—about removing—opening him up or removing all doubt?

M:    No, Pass.

RS:    —who I think is a Mexico ploy, who I think should win, and I hope he does win the Nobel Prize for literature. There has never been a Mexican to win that. He has a quotation that says that “silence is the way of fools.” “Silence is the way of fools,” so it’s better—you might be a fool to remain silent, but that makes you witty. I think the world of Annette Castio. I think he is a great guy. He is very bright, very knowledgeable, and he is for the true liberal cause—I believe. I sincerely believe that.

I:    What do you think, in terms of local politics—getting back on the old PASO—did you all—I’m trying to think what significant—oh, the minimum wage march. Were you in on that?

RS:    Oh, yeah, we were involved in that.

I:    What did you do?

RS:    I didn’t march in the valley, but I did go to Austin. That is when John Conley was governor. He did have the decency to meet with us, so he sent Wayne McCaw to talk to us.

I:    Didn’t John Conley go to meet you on the Braun poles or someplace—like that?

RS:    That was Wayne McCaw. He sent Wayne McCaw, because Wayne McCaw was the attorney general. The man we supported for governor was Don Yarborough. He came very close to winning. He ran twice against John Conley, but the first time he came close to winning.

I:    Ralph Yarborough marched with you all, didn’t he?

RS:    (11:52) Yes, he did. Yeah, he did.

I:    Did you know Ralph Yarborough? What did you think of him?

cuepoint
[1:15:31]

RS:    A tremendous person—a great person.

I:    You all supported him?

RS:    We all supported him. It’s a shame that he lost. Now, we’re stuck with someone else.

I:    Well, I’m trying to think. I’ve gone over just about all the questions that I had to ask you about PASO, but as treasurer, what were the finances? How did PASO get its money? You were treasurer.

RS:    By contributions—I mean—not contributions—through dues. Then whenever we made a barbeque, we’d have some money.

I:    Like how much—I mean—was it very much?

RS:    Oh, not very much—maybe $100 to $150 for a barbeque.

I:    How much did you all have in the coffers at any one time? Do you remember?

RS:    (13:18) I don’t think we ever had over $150 at any one time.

I:     You all were a shoestring.

RS:    We were small then.

I:    A shoestring outfit—as we say.

RS:    Right. We were real small.

I:    How many members at the time, in the early ‘60s?

RS:    Oh, gosh, I don’t remember. We couldn’t have had maybe 100 members, at the most.

M:     Have you asked how much is it?

I:    I couldn’t remember what he said.

RS:    Surely not over 100.

I:    For a second opinion here.

RS:    Have you interviewed Amati?

I:    No, I’ve got to go out to see him. I’ve got some of his material I’ve got to take. Let me ask you this, Roy. What were the dues? How much were the dues? Do you remember?

RS:    Good God, I don’t even remember.

I:    Was it by the month?

RS:    It was by the month. It was $5.00 a month—I believe--$5.00 a month. I understand it is $10 now.

I:    It hasn’t changed that much, huh?

RS:    No. I do remember that—like in many organizations that there is always a few that do all of the work. There were times we would barely meet the deadlines for these letters that went out for the meetings. There were many times that—well, not many times. There were numerous times that I’d get stuck with—people don’t realize that it involves work—creating the letter, typing the letter, printing it, and then addressing a letter, and then putting the stamps—that involves work.

I:    Time-consuming.

RS:    (15:06) Time-consuming, and there used to be a lady named Virginia Sanders, and she certainly did a lot of work—that kind of work.

M:    You all had some green guy in there?

RS:    Yeah, she was a green guy, yeah.

M:    She was okay.

RS:    I met Virginia Sanders when she was working for Henry Gonzales when he ran for United States senate. That was in ’61. She used to get very disgusted—frustrated because—we were good friends—Virginia and I. She could level with me and tell me things off the cuff. She would say, “I don’t know. I can’t understand you Mexicans, because you can’t get together.”

I:    Can’t get together.

RS:    Can’t get together—disorganized.

I:    Is that just a stereotype—I mean—is that not—I mean—what do you think about it? Are Mexicans disorganized? Is that a—that verges on being a stereotype.

RS:    Well, that’s true, but I think—one way I can categorize Mexicans is that we are very individualistic, and everybody wants to do it his way. This is where you run into some problems. It isn’t that bad, really. We just—like—I don’t think that we, as Mexican-Americans have a problem not being organized.

I:    Well, that’s true. Maybe it’s just that people like to use the cliché—you know. I’m looking for something here. I’m sure I have it.

cuepoint
[1:20:39]

RS:    Is that Loto Proofe in there?

I:    I think that’s Loto—no—Don Yarborough.

RS:    It’s a wonder that you like it, though. You must like Latin.

I:    Well, I like Mexican-American people.

RS:    You like people anyway.

I:    Yeah, I do. I like to—did you know—were you around when Manual Kresspool(??) was chairman or PASO?

RS:    (17:31) Yeah, I was there.

I:    Was he active in PASO?

RS:    Yeah, he was active. He also ran for city council unsuccessfully. I can tell you the exact year he ran—1963.

I:    What happened—they wouldn’t elect a Hispanic? I mean—is that—?

RS:    I guess so.

I:    That’s the long and the short of it.

RS:    That’s about it.

I:    What—kind of—support did you get from the priests around town?

RS:    The priests?

I:    The Catholic priests? Were you all viewed with suspicion or was it—?

RS:    Well, to my knowledge, we weren’t, but I don’t—I never did talk to any priests about it, so I really wouldn’t know, but I don’t think they were suspicious though. Is that a possibility?

I:    What’s that—yeah.

RS:    I remember him telling me—he says, “You know, Roy,” he says, “Elections come and go and everybody gets excited, but what we have to do is educate our people in the political process and not just get excited during the election time.” I thought that he made a lot of sense.

I:    Yeah. What happened to Carolino?

RS:    (18:53) He is with the school system. There is Mr. Leal right there, and there is Henry Gonzales.

I:    In that picture—that political fact book, yeah.

RS:    There is Woodrow Fields, and there is my brother that died.

I:    Fact book—Fred—

RS:    —Soliz.

I:    —Soliz. He was also in PASO?

RS:    Yeah, he was in PASO and very active. He was one of the—that was after I became—you know—he was after me. He as an officer too. This man—Joe Watson—Jewish. He was retired watch maker, and he used to contribute to raise money—contribute a watch, so that it could be raffled off. He was a very eccentric old man—Joe Watson. He really cared for us. He was a member of the NAACP.

I:    Oh, really?

RS:    I remember I used to invite him to a cafeteria—LC—to eat lunch. He said, “No, we’re going to go Dutch.” I said, “Well, Joe, I don’t mind.” He said, “No, I don’t want to be obligated to anybody.” Joe—I said—a great guy—you know. This is ex Mrs. Calderon. We still keep in touch. Her name is Barbara. This was Professor Sanchez, isn’t it?

I:    Yes, Georgia Sanchez.

RS:    There is Chris Dixie, and there is Henry Gonzalez. This must be the Leal that we know, and which one is this one?

I:    I think Al is the tall one.

RS:    This one here?

I:    There—yeah.

RS:    (20:45) God, he was a little bitty fellow there. I remember.

I:    Yeah, oh, yeah.

RS:    Oh, this was Dr. Carter. He was a professor of optometry at the University of Houston. He went to California. He was a good supporter of us.

I:    Oh, really?

RS:    Yeah, and there is Albert Lees. This is Teddy Garcia. He used to be the precinct judge of 46, taken over by John Castillo—the other John Castillo—no relation to the John that worked for the city.

I:    When did you all first start getting precinct judges?

cuepoint
[1:24:51]

RS:    Nineteen sixty-four, sixty-five.

I:    When you got it?

RS:    Yeah.

I:    Were you one of the first precinct—?

RS:    I was one of the first, yeah.

I:    Did you all just decide to do it, or how did you all—?

RS:    (21:32) Yeah, we decided to do it.

I:    In PASO? I mean—were you in PASO then?

RS:    Yeah, we decided to do it. I’d like to tell you a little incident about my precinct. See, when I first got elected as precinct judge—that was in 1964. In 1960, during the presidential election, that was precinct 42. Later on, that’s when I ran for precinct 44, but the first one—my first election was precinct 42. This was at the Lamar Elementary School. While we were waiting in the line early in the morning, right after 7:00—waiting in line to vote—the precinct judge was an old Anglo, and he had—his assistant was another Anglo—tall, lanky fellow. There was a lady and her daughter, a Mexican-American—lady and their daughter and they were speaking in Spanish, and this tall, lanky guy came over and shouted at them. He said, “No Spanish is supposed to be spoken in here.” The way he said it, it made me angry. That was a predominant Mexican-American precinct, so I talked to someone in the Harris County Democrats about it and they said, “Why don’t you run?” Of course, that was 1960. He said, “Why don’t you run? You live over there. Maybe you can win.” Of course, I didn’t run until 4 years later, but I remember that incident.

I:    He was just trying to intimidate her.

RS:    Yeah, right.

I:    Goodnight, so you’re the—tell me, and you ran. What precinct is it now?

RS:    That was precinct 42.

I:    Forty-two—yeah, I see. How many voters did that encompass at that time? Do you remember?

RS:    Oh, that must have been about 1,200 voters—1,200.

I:    How much influence did a precinct judge have over the outcome of the election?

RS:    Not very much. I don’t think so. Naturally, it helps a lot, at least, for the candidate. Since I belong in 44, and it is predominantly Spanish-speaking precinct, if I sent out a letter, that would have some impact, or say, knock door to door. That’s the best impact—when you meet people personally.

I:    When somebody runs, do they usually contact you to support them?

RS:    They usually do. They write me a letter.

I:    Do some people know not to contact you?

RS:    (24:40) I guess so, but of course, Jack Ott doesn’t know. He sent me a letter with a picture of his family, asking for my support. I’m not supporting Jack. I’m supporting Ronald Waters. I’d like to tell you another incident. When I was supporting Gertrude Armstrong and Jack Ott was running, I sent out a letter, soliciting the vote for me as precinct judge. I sent a sample ballot supporting Armstrong and also Mickey Leland. I don’t’ know—I don’t think I supported the mayor at the time. It was Welch or somebody. I left that one out, but John Casteel, the precinct judge of 46—I took off 2 days from my job, which was Thursday and Friday.

    John Casteel took it upon himself—the precinct judge of 46—to forge my name on a letter supporting Jack Ott. I got that Friday morning, and the election was Saturday. I got so damn mad, and I called the newspapers. The Houston Pulse took my picture, but it never came out—with this forged letter. The Chronicle—they didn’t do anything about it, but Jack Ott called me personally. He wanted to know what did he say. I said, “Your boys down here—they forged my name now. I’m not supporting you. I’m supporting Mrs. Armstrong—Gertrude Armstrong.”

I:    Was it an honest mix-up or did they know?

RS:    No, they did it purposely. It was deliberate.

I:    Has there been hard feelings over that ever since?

cuepoint
[1:30:16]

RS:    No, I don’t have any hard feelings, but I don’t—John Castile and I never vote for—we never support the same person. We never support them.

I:    That’s A. John Castile?

RS:    Yeah.

I:    Why, is he more conservative?

RS:    Well, he’s conservative. The conservatives—the 15-senatorial district supports him. They tried to elect him as the permanent chairman of the convention. This was in 1974. None of the Chicano precinct judges—and there were, at that time, about 5 or 6 of us—none of us—we supported Wiley Bell and referred this to him. What do you think about that?

I:    That’s something.

RS:    (27:37) We don’t like him. He is not our kind of Democrat, even though he is a Chicano. He is a conservative.

I:    He is a conservative. I’d like to—do you remember this? What happened to this? You know—the Harris County Hispanic caucus—that group that Al Leal is ahead of—how did that get started? Do you know?

RS:    I got started with Al Leal. He broke—he was a PASO member, and he broke with PASO. At one time, he wanted to take over PASO. He ran for chairman, but he didn’t win. That is another group that wants to take over PASO now. I understand that the people in that group are people that are very dissatisfied with the present leadership of PASO. I know several people in that group, and they’re not—in my opinion—they’re really not for the people. One of them—my beloved sister-in-law—August Soliz—the widow—she ran against Johnny Gairn at large.

I:    Ran him into a runoff too, didn’t she?

RS:    Yeah.

I:    Were you supporting her?

RS:    I finally voted for her, because she has my name and also she has a son and daughter, and they would ask me, “I hope you voted for mother.” I couldn’t have said no.

I:    She was Fred’s wife?

RS:    Fred’s wife—see, ever since Fred got sick with cancer, she stopped talking to us—just totally, completely stopped talking to us.

I:    Well, why?

RS:    That’s a good question—a very good question.

I:    When did he pass away?

RS:    He passed away September the 14th, 1973, at the age of 46—cancer of the stomach. You know—George McArmstrong has a quotation that says, “The worse contempt is silence,” and I agree with him, but I like it better in Spanish—“El *

I:    You all aren’t speaking now?

RS:    No. The door has always been open. She is the one that closed the doors. My mother has not seen her grandson and the granddaughter since she lost her son, my brother—since ’73.

I:    Do you know August Feli? This concludes the interview with Roy Soliz. The individual that he mentioned to try to take over PASO with his group of people was Ben Canolosis(??)—a lawyer. Roy Lasorda was the person who he felt was in it for what bordered on personal embellishment, although he has a great deal of respect for Roy. He has those criticisms.

[end OH 273_03] (1:35:13)