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Interview with: Rudy Jasso
Interviewed by: Thomas Kreneck
Date: June 14, 1983
Archive Number: OH 306
TK: 00:04 This is a June 14, 1983, oral history interview with Mr. Rudy Jasso. Mr. Jasso, where were you born?
RJ: I was born here in Magnolia, 75th and Avenue I, and I’ve been living here all my life. I went to school here. I went to De Zavala School, and then from there I went over to the Immaculate Heart of Mary School. I finished the eighth grade there, and then from there I went out to work.
TK: What year were you born?
RJ: March 7, 1934.
RJ: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
TK: Where were your parents from?
RJ: My father was from Brownsville, and my mother was from Mexico, Morelia. They immigrated here with a bunch of other people from Mexico during the revolution, and they’ve been living here ever since.
TK: Do you know when your mother first came here, around what year it was?
RJ: I honestly don’t know. I believe that it must have been in 1918 or somewhere in the 1900s.
TK: Did they meet here in Houston?
TK: They met and married here.
RJ: Yes. When she came here, she wasn’t married. Then she married her first husband, because my father was her second husband.
TK: I see.
RJ: 02:06 She had two daughters and a son, and then her husband passed away in an accident at work. And several years after that, that’s when she met my dad and they got married. So I have two brothers and two other sisters besides myself from my father. My mother’s son from her first marriage was killed in Belgium in the Second World War. We’d just been moving around a little bit. I remember we moved about three or four times.
TK: Within Magnolia Park?
RJ: Within Magnolia, yes. But it was all within a radius of maybe 10 blocks at the most, so we kind of stayed there all the time. My mother used to work for a laundry, that laundry that used to be there on 75th between Avenue F and Avenue E. There used to be the La Rose Cleaners directly in front of it. It was owned by Joe Thompson. In fact, I went to work for that laundry after I left school, for about a year, I think.
TK: And she worked in that laundry?
RJ: In that laundry, yes. From what I understand, I must have been about five years old when my father and my mother separated. So then she had to go to work to support us. She never remarried. She used to look after us and send us to school, and then she’d go to the laundry. At lunchtime she’d run over to the house and get us something to eat, send us back to school, and then back to the laundry again. She raised us herself, and I think she did a pretty good job of it.
TK: Let me ask you this. So you remember the late 1930s as a child? Do you remember the late ‘30s or ‘40s? When do you first start remembering as a kid?
RJ: I imagine it must have been in the ‘40s, because I was born in ’34. As far as I can remember, I must have been about seven years old when I can recall that I went to school for the first time. If I’m not mistaken, you used to be at least seven years old before you could go to school and start kindergarten. I remember that on the first day in school there used to be this big window, and they didn’t have any screens on them. I remember that I jumped out of that window and I went home. (chuckles) I was small. Like I say, I must have been about seven or eight years old. I remember getting out of there. I didn’t want to stay in school. I walked back home. We only lived about a block and a half from the schoolhouse. I seem to recall that I crossed at 75th Street. There used to be a red brick street. I’ll never forget that I heard somebody call my name when I was going across the street, and I stopped in the middle of the street. And I got real sick after that. It used to be they used to have those curanderas, people that would pray over you. They’d say if you were being spooked by someone or something, they would pray over you. They used to get a blessed palm, and they would pray over you with it while they were rubbing you with it and making the sign of the cross. I remember my mother got one of those ladies to pray over me because it used to be I would just be so afraid and have nightmares. And after that, it just leveled off and I didn’t have any more.
TK: 06:40 What did she do to you? Do you remember what that lady did?
RJ: Yes. I distinctly remember that they put a cross of lines on the mattress and then they told me to lay down on it. And then this lady had a blessed palm in her hand, and she started praying over me. I don’t remember exactly the prayers that she prayed, but I remember she prayed over me. And after that, I was okay. I didn’t have any more nightmares or anything whatsoever. I went back to school and enjoyed going to school after that. I didn’t have any more problems.
TK: It worked, in other words, huh?
RJ: It sure did. (chuckles)
TK: And which school was this now?
RJ: De Zavala School.
TK: Who taught you? Who was your teacher? Do you remember?
RJ: I remember Ms. Dosher. Ms. O’Neill was the principal then. The janitor was Mr. Hider—I believe that was his name. Ms. Moore, Ms. Fox.
TK: What was the neighborhood like? Was it rough? Was it not rough?
RJ: In those days it was pretty rough. It used to be that you could hear an ambulance going down toward the backside about every 5 or 10 minutes. It was all day and all night long you would hear that siren. You’d always hear somebody got cut, there was a fight, somebody got killed, shot. It used to be that there was bad feelings between the wards. Sometimes we would have some of the younger men coming from maybe the Second Ward or from the Alacran, which is scorpion. There was always bad feelings between some of the guys here and some over there. There was always fighting going on back and forth. I remember there used to be times when it wasn’t safe for the people to try to cross over here on 71st Street because there always used to be a bunch of what they called pachucos, and they would throw rocks at the people or stop you and take your money or whatever they could get from you.
TK: 09:45 What years were these guys active? Do you remember about what year that was?
RJ: It was in the ‘40s.
TK: It was in the 1940s.
RJ: About ’45, ’46.
TK: Were there various gangs of them, groups of them?
RJ: You would always find different groups of guys that got together from within the neighborhood itself. Maybe you’d get 5, 6, or 10 from over here on Avenue L, you would have some of them over here on 71st Street, you would have some from over on Harrisburg down towards 80th. There used to be a bunch just about everywhere you’d go, so there was always something going on somewhere. I remember one day that I went to a bar there on the corner of Avenue I and 76th. I looked in through the screen door, and I saw a man laying in a puddle of blood. He had been shot in the head by the owner. And the owner was sitting in a chair, and he had been shot in the stomach. He just sat there holding his stomach where he had been shot. But he had been the one that killed the man that was laying there on the floor. It used to be quite a few of the people there, the Melones, Ramirez, and various people that always used to be in fights and always knifing somebody and would even among themselves sometimes fight. They were big families. You would always hear about how they got this guy and they beat him up or they cut this guy up or they stabbed this man or killed this man. There was always something going on like that. The ward was rough. There always used to be another guy that I believe used to be in a wheelchair. They used to call him El Mucho. He always had somebody pushing him around. It was a little gang of his own. They’d pull him from his chair and he would club somebody or beat somebody up.
TK: Sitting in a chair?
RJ: 13:09 Somebody would hold him.
F: (Mr. Jasso’s wife speaking) He went to prison and died over there.
RJ: Yes, he did go to prison. Most of the guys from the ward winded up in prison. Some of them are still there. I remember it used to be when it would rain it would flood. 76th Street used to be nothing but red sand. Later on in the years then they changed it to gravel and eventually they blacktopped it, but it took them several years before that happened. Most of your cantinas, the people used to hang out and drink beer and hear music.
TK: What did you do as a kid in the ‘40s? What did y’all do for entertainment?
RJ: As far as I can remember, about the only thing most of the people used to do is go to the ice cream parlor and get ice creams and listen to the juke box. There was a lot of boogie-woogie going on at that time and jazz, and they used to have some dances at Salon Juarez. They used to have dances there quite often. It used to be that on Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, and the 16th of September they used to rope off a street there between Harrisburg and all the way down to about Avenue K, and they used to have fiestas. People would dance out there on the street, and they would sell food and drink, and everybody just had a good time out there on the street. Everybody would mix in with one another. And they also used to have what they call a jamaica, sort of like a bazaar for the church, and it was on the church grounds. Nearly every week they would have a jamaica.
TK: Which church was that? Immaculate Heart?
RJ: Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yeah. That’s mostly what used to attract all the people in most of the wards, the church where they would have these jamaicas. It was just like the bazaars that you have now. People get together and they go and eat and drink and just mingle with the people and have a good time. People from different wards would come to our jamaica, and some of ours would go to theirs. That’s about the type of entertainment that we used to have then. On any given weekend you would find a lot of people at those jamaicas.
TK: What about movies? Did you ever go to movies?
RJ: 16:30 Yes. We used to go to the movies downtown, and most of the people from the ward did the same.
TK: There wasn’t a movie theater in Magnolia?
RJ: The closest movie theater that we had here Magnolia was the Boulevard Theater there on Harrisburg and Navaway Theater on Navigation on the other side of Wayside.
TK: Were they playing Spanish-speaking movies at that time?
RJ: No. It was nothing but— No, no Spanish movies. The only Spanish theater we used to have—in fact, I think it was the only Spanish theater in Houston that I can recall was the Azteca Theatre on Congress. And later we had the Ritz downtown also, but that came much later. But the three main theaters that we used to have were the Boulevard Theater on Harrisburg, the Navaway Theater on Navigation, and the Bluebonnet Theater over on Broadway, which is now where the Harrisburg Bank is located at. Another thing we used to have too for entertainment was the swimming pool at Mason Park. That park has always been one of the main drags for all the people because everybody used to go there on weekends and go swimming.
TK: Even when you were a kid?
RJ: Yes, right. All through the times that’s what it used to be, because they used to have those horseshoes there, and they used to have baseball teams, and those were the two main attractions. They also used to have a lot of square dancing in that gym that they had there at Mason.
TK: Mexican American people square dancing?
RJ: No. It was American people. But the Mexican people used to go there, especially if they were going for picnics or family get-togethers. They would have piñatas. Those were the types of outings that people used to go to.
TK: Did you ever go to Hidalgo Park?
RJ: Yes, Hidalgo Park. In fact, nearly everybody knows it by the name of Mexican Park. You can find most people that if you ask them, “Do you know where Hidalgo Park is?” they’ll say, “No.” But if you ask them about Mexican Park, they’ll know where it’s at then. They have a gazebo out there, and they used to have a lot of fiestas. That is one park where the Spanish-speaking community used to go for a lot of fiestas also. That even went on into about 19— About how long do you remember that they had those fiestas there? It was still late into the ‘60s, wasn’t it? It went up to the ‘60s.
F: 20:05 They used to do it on the 16th of September and Cinco de Mayo.
RJ: Right. But that was one particular park that you would find a lot of fiestas going on. It was really involved in the Spanish life of fiestas. It got to where they started getting movies for the people to go to at nighttime. I remember that they used to have them on Tuesdays. On Tuesday night they would have those movies. They were free to the public. And then they also started to have them here at Mason Park and then over there on Second Ward—I think it’s called Settegast Park. They used to have those movies up there.
F: They used to have boxing. They had that grocery store, and they had boxing back there and then they had movies too. That was in the ‘40s.
RJ: It might have been. I don’t recall.
TK: Why did you quit school?
RJ: Foolish. (laughs) It was just plain foolishness, really. I was going to be disciplined by this man that used to run the wood shop for something that I felt was not right. I had forgotten. After I graduated from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I went to junior high school there at Edison Junior High. That’s right. That was in 1951, I believe. This man used to have a big paddle about that big. It must have been about four inches wide and about an inch thick. He used to get a kick out of having a young guy bend over, and then he would get that paddle with both hands and he’d just whack you across the back with all his might. I wasn’t afraid to get popped; it’s just that I felt that I was not deserving it, and I told him he wasn’t going to pop me for something I hadn’t done. He had told us to mingle among one another and help each other with our projects, and then I was trying to get some help, but different guys were helping each other out, so I was trying to get somebody. I was new there at the school. Some of the guys were there already and knew one another. So I was trying to get somebody to give me a hand, and he claimed that I was just messing around and not doing what I was supposed to do. So he told me, “You let me pop you or I’m going to take you to the office.” I said, “You can take me to the office.” So then he took me to the office, and they told me to bring in my mother to speak to them. I told them, “My mother works. She can’t be coming down here.” So they said, “Well, if you can’t bring your mother with you, you’re going to be expelled from school.” I said, “My mother works and she can’t come, so I guess I’ll just quit school.” So I went to the wood shop and I told him, “I’m quitting school.” He said, “You aren’t man enough to take it.” I said, “No, it’s not that I wasn’t man enough to take it. I just felt that I shouldn’t get disciplined for something that I didn’t do. But the reason I’m here right now is to let you know that I do not fear you. I don’t want you to think that I’m quitting school because I’m afraid of you. I want to publicly declare here in front of the people because I just want you to know that I’m not afraid of you, but I believe that I was right in not letting you pop me for something that I felt was wrong, and that’s the reason I said and did what I did—not because I fear you.” So I bent over, and he popped me. He popped me two or three times, and I mean good. I didn’t cry and I didn’t make a face, and I stood up and I told him goodbye, and I walked out. That was my reason for leaving school.
TK: 25:23 What did you do then?
RJ: After that I went to work. There was a mattress company just up from Harrisburg and Sampson. I ran a machine there that made quilts. I think I only worked for about a month there.
TK: Do you remember what year this was?
RJ: It had to be ’51 because I got out of school in 1950 from the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yeah, it had to be, because I had to wait until the following year to start school there. So then I got an offer to go and work at La Rose Cleaners for a little bit more money. I went to work for La Rose for $23.50 a week. So I started working with them, and I guess I must have worked there for maybe something like six months. And then this man my mother bought her house from, he got me to work for this Harrisburg Machine Company, and I went to work for them as a machinist’s helper. Then after that, work got slow and they told me they were going to have to let me go, the same as the others, but if I wanted to I could stay on and work as a laborer for less money. So I said, “Okay. That’s fine with me.” We used to do a lot of overtime work. I think I was making about $35 a week there, and that was very good money for that time. I worked there until 1973 when I got injured on the job and I had to retire on disability. I saw many things in Magnolia, for the better and for the worse. My father used to be a politician. He used to work for the city of Houston. In fact, he campaigned for Mayor Hofheinz when he ran for office and for—they call him the Old Gray Fox, Oscar Holcombe. He always managed to get a job with the city.
TK: 28:11 What was your father’s name?
RJ: His name was Emilio Jasso. His father was a bookkeeper for the Browns in Brownsville. Robert Brown sort of raised my father up. After I was born, he came here and tried to get him to go back with him to Brownsville, but my father wouldn’t go. He was very attached to my father because he had raised him. Robert Brown was one of the founders of that town of Brownsville. All this time I can recall that they used to have a rally for the politicians there on the corner of Canal and 75th, and they used to bring barrels of beer, and they would bring candidates that were running for office that would give their speech and mingle with the people like they do now. That’s how they got the people to go out to the polls and vote.
TK: Was that in the ‘50s? When was that?
RJ: No. That was in the ‘40s.
TK: In the ‘40s?
RJ: Yes, because I was still very young. I must have been about 10 or 12 years old—somewhere in there. He was always campaigning for various candidates. I remember he campaigned for RJ Thompson for constable. I believe he used to live over on Pineview Addition there on 75th. There used to be a courthouse over on Medina, a two-story courthouse. What was the name of the judge that married us? He used to be the judge there, and he was the one that married my wife and I when we got married in ’53.
TK: Y’all got married in ’53, huh?
RJ: Yeah. We’ve been married 30 years.
TK: Did y’all live in Magnolia when you got married?
RJ: Yes. In fact, the Honorable Robert Lowery, who is in the Family Law Center now, he was the one that got the justice of the peace to go to the house and marry us. He was studying to become a lawyer himself, and he used to be in charge of the YWCA there at Magnolia. He was very instrumental in my going the right direction. He guided me a lot, Robert B. Lowery.
TK: How so? What do you mean by that?
RJ: 31:31 He was very involved with the young boys at the YWCA, and he would always give us good advice, talk to us, and he would always teach us right from wrong and encourage us to do right, encourage us to go to school. I believe he was going to the University of Houston, if I’m not mistaken. He was in charge there, but at the same time he used to be reading his books and studying and studying. Finally he became a lawyer.
TK: Where was the YWCA at that time?
[end of OH 306_01] 32:15
TK: [beginning of OH 306_02] 00:03 Y’all got married in ’53.
RJ: Yes, 1953. April 25th of 1953 we got married. This lawyer who is now a judge is a very fine person. Him and his wife were very active in the YWCA. He would always look after the kids and try to get them involved in something within the YWCA, because they had various types of programs. They had boxing, they had baseball, basketball, and he would get people to come around and talk to us about various sports and try to get some different games going. He was always very involved with the young people. He was never too busy to talk to us. If he saw you doing something wrong, he didn’t just scold you. He would point out to you the wrong you were doing and how it affected everybody within the Y. He would tell you, “You destroy this, you’re destroying something that is there for all of you to enjoy. If you destroy it, you take it away from the rest of the kids, not only yourself. Then you won’t have it to enjoy. That’s why you should take care of it.” It was things of this sort to help us. I always admired him. I always feel that he contributed a lot to my going in a straight line and not turning into a dope addict or always smoking things, because it used to be that a lot of kids were involved in marijuana smoking and all.
TK: In the ‘40s was there a lot of marijuana?
RJ: Yes. You could see the guys pushing it around and smoking it. It wasn’t like nowadays that you see it just about anywhere and they don’t even hide. In those days they would hide. They didn’t just go out and start trying to smoke it and just pass it around right in plain view. It was all kept under. But most of the guys that went to the YWCA turned out to be good guys.
TK: You think the YWCA had an effect then.
RJ: 02:47 Oh, definitely, yes. A lot of those guys even got scholarships to schools. They did real good in athletics, in baseball or in basketball. They got involved in the schools and even outside of that. They used to form their own teams and compete. They went into competitions like they do now. They formed a group. But now I think you have to register with the city to be able to participate and all that. It used to be that they had some programs at the Red Shield, because I remember that we used to walk to the Red Shield. I wasn’t much of a basketball player myself, but I used to go with the team that went there and played, and they did real good. I know that a lot of these kids, if it hadn’t been for that, they probably would have gone on the wrong side of the street. We did lose a few, I would say, that went to the bad side of the street, but there were very few. I think the YWCA and Mr. Lowery were very instrumental in helping the kids out to try and pursue good careers and try to go to school and finish high school. I think just about everybody knew Mr. Lowery. I ran into him here one day, and I just automatically called him “Mr. Lowery.” I forgot, “His Honor.” I had my son with me. Before I knew it, I said, “Mr. Lowery, this is my son Andrew.” And then I was telling my wife, “I forgot.”
TK: Did he remember you?
RJ: Oh yes. He always called me by my last name, Jasso. I hadn’t even seen him, but my wife saw him. She caught my attention and as I turned, he was looking at me and smiling also. He came forward.
TK: When you were growing up in Magnolia, what were the lead organizations active out there? Do you remember?
RJ: The LULAC.
TK: The LULAC was?
RJ: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And the Mothers Club, the Mutualista, Woodmen of the World.
TK: But the Mothers Club was active, huh?
RJ: Yes, very active. Even to this day I believe they’re still very active. But the Woodmen of the World, just about anywhere you go you would always hear their name mentioned. This is one organization that was very strong—and the LULACs. I think they were the people that were always moving things around, getting people—
TK: 06:01 Any names out in Magnolia Park of individuals who were fairly much leaders in the community that you remember hearing a lot about?
RJ: The first name that comes to mind is Mr. Zavala, God rest his soul. Do you remember his first name?
F: No. We just called him Mr. Zavala.
RJ: Mr. Zavala.
TK: He lived out there?
RJ: I don’t even know exactly where he lived, but he was very involved with the community.
F: Elias Ramirez, he was with the Mutualistas.
TK: Was Mr. Zavala also with the Mutalista? Was he in a particular organization?
RJ: I think Mr. Zavala was more like a reporter for some newspaper or magazine. He used to make reports. It used to come out in what they called La Prensa, the Spanish newspaper.
TK: It was the what?
RJ: Prensa. That was a Spanish newspaper, the only newspaper we used to have here in the city of Houston. I think it’s still active, if I’m not mistaken. We used to have a man that used to live there on 76th and Avenue I, and he was the one that used to go around delivering La Prensa all the time to the people.
TK: That’s the newspaper you remember, La Prensa.
RJ: The Spanish newspaper. The other newspaper that was always very popular was the Houston Press. I think you could say that was the favorite.
TK: Even more than the Post and Chronicle, huh?
RJ: Yes. I think the Post and the Chronicle were more or less I guess what you would call for the higher class, and the Press was more— If you’d want to find out something that happened in the ward, you’d look at the Press.
TK: 08:19 Really? They had more information on—
RJ: On the wards, right. On the small people.
F: Mr. Ramirez was very involved with the Mutualista for many, many years.
RJ: Mr. Elias Ramirez.
F: Mr. Sanchez was there too.
RJ: That’s right. Mr. Sanchez also. He was involved with the Woodmen of the World. I believe he still is, if I’m not mistaken. There used to be also on 75th and Avenue L, didn’t they also call it a mutualista there at one time?
TK: Was there a Salon Hidalgo or was it just Salon Juarez?
F: Park Hidalgo is the park. Salon Juarez is the building where—it was the salon before it was the Y.
TK: I see.
F: It used to be the Salon Juarez. They used to have dances there.
RJ: They used it for many different types of fiestas. In other words, they’d rent it out for various activities like you do now where you can go to the American Legion for a quinceanera or wedding. It was the same way with that salon. That was the biggest place to throw a party or dance.
F: No windows or nothing. You could hear the music all over the neighborhood.
TK: No air conditioning.
RJ: No, nothing but fans. But I was thinking that that salon there on 75th and Avenue L, that that was a mutualista.
F: The Salon Mutualista.
F: 10:54 It’s not on L, it’s on J and 74th.
RJ: Yeah, but before they had it there on J, they had it there on 75th and Avenue L. And then later on they came there to 74th and Avenue J.
F: They moved it.
RJ: The one there on 74th and Avenue J was not even there when we used to live there on 74th and Avenue J, and there was nothing but a piece of vacant lot there where it is now.
F: You used to live where they made that swimming pool.
RJ: Mr. Laurenzana was a very active person in the Mutualista. In fact, I think he came from Italy. They had a big write-up about him in the newspaper some 10 years ago. I think he finally went back to Italy for the first time. He had never been there. He was a very wealthy man and a very intelligent person. He had two sons, Albert and Herman. They still live there on the corner of 75th and Avenue J, right across from where that De Zavala Park is at now. But where the De Zavala Park is there, that swimming pool, there used to be homes there. In fact, one of those houses that used to be there is where I used to live. I remember my mother used to cook. She had one of those gas stoves that had that white porcelain on it, and she used to make us sweet bread. I remember that there used to be a beer joint right across. Where Mr. Laurenzana’s house is built that I was just talking about, that used to be the Black Cat Cantina is what they called it. It was a very active bar, let me tell you. (chuckles) You’d always find somebody fighting in there. There was always something going on, music going on all the time. There used to be a grocery store directly across from it, the Casa Verde. It used to belong to the Gavilanes. It was also a very popular grocery store there in Magnolia. There was the Casa Verde and La Morena that belonged to a family over on 76th and Avenue I.
F: We used to get groceries on credit all the time.
RJ: Yeah. Most of your grocery stores always gave you credit. People always had credit with the grocery stores. Every week you’d see some people paying their bill up. They’d pull out the book and say, “Okay, you owe so much,” and they’d pay with their checks and sometimes get their checks cashed there with them. I remember there always used to be a grocery store on the corner of Avenue I and 75th. But right in front of the De Zavala School a street used to run directly in front of it. It was Avenue I. Now since they made that park, they blocked it off. So now Avenue I stops there on 75th and then continues over on 76th. But there used to be a street there that went through, and there used to be a grocery store, Lopez Grocery Store, directly across. There used to be a tailor shop. I think it was the only tailor shop there in Magnolia. It stayed there for many years. That was the only tailor shop in Magnolia, and that was on the corner of 76th and Avenue H. And then directly across from there was the church, Temple of Bethel, which is still there. A lot of people go to that church also. We have the American Legion there on 76th and Avenue B or C. There was another street called B and then C where the American Legion was and still is. That’s been there as far back as I can remember.
TK: 16:23 Was there much held at that American Legion hall? Did y’all ever do anything there? It was an American Legion hall, right?
RJ: Right. That’s where they used to have a lot of fiestas. And even to this day they still hire that hall for quinceaneras or weddings.
TK: Where is that located?
RJ: It’s right there on the corner of Avenue C and 76th. I don’t remember what the number of the post is.
TK: In the 1940s when you were growing up, what were the leading bands? Were there any musical bands in Magnolia, orchestras or—?
RJ: There used to be the—they called them the Serenaders. They used to belong to Roy Velasquez. He used to live on Avenue E and 76th. We used to get bands from out of the city like Beto Villa and—
F: Isidro Lopez.
RJ: Isidro Lopez didn’t come until much later than that. I was thinking of that one who was blind. He came from Corpus Christi. Valdez Gonzalez. He was very popular.
TK: After y’all got married in the ‘50s, what were the leading bands around here? Did y’all go to dances?
RJ: 18:31 Yes. Oh yes, we sure did.
TK: What were the leading bands in the ‘50s?
RJ: It still was Beto Villa and Valdez Gonzales. And Isidro Lopez, I think, came up at that time.
F: And Mrs. Alonzo.
RJ: Ventura Alonzo. Those were very, very popular.
TK: Were they popular?
RJ: Oh yes. In fact, they had a nightclub where they used to play that was over on McCarty, La Terraza was the name of it, and also they used to have a lot of dances there at the Paladium over here on South Main.
TK: Did the people from Magnolia Park go to the Paladium?
RJ: Oh yes, you bet. (chuckles) The Paladium and the Blossom Heath. I think the Paladium was the largest place for a dance. I think that’s where they made the racetracks. We used to have the racetrack that is now the Astrodome. It used to be located there.
TK: That was the Paladium, right?
RJ: The Paladium. The Blossom Heath was just a little bit further down. But the Spanish people here used to go a lot to the La Terraza Nightclub.
F: And to the one downtown.
RJ: Oh, and also they used to have the other nightclub downtown there, the Acapulco Nightclub, on the corner of Smith Street and was it Congress or Prairie? It was right close to where that downtown post office is, the main post office on Franklin.
TK: That was where the Acapulco was.
RJ: 20:43 Right. Those were the very popular places you would go dancing to.
TK: During the ‘50s?
RJ: Yeah. And also the Ferdinand Nightclub was on Houston Avenue just off of Franklin Street. The Ferdinand was on the right-hand side, the Acapulco was on the left-hand side heading west down Franklin Street, and those were the real popular places that we used to go dancing to. A lot of the people, not only from Magnolia but from various wards, went there.
F: We used to go and dance a lot at the one downtown. What was the name of it?
RJ: Club Sevilla.
F: Club Sevilla.
RJ: Right. That’s another club. That was on Prairie. It’s on Prairie, but it’s on this side of Milam Street. That was a real nice nightclub.
F: We went all over to the dances.
RJ: There was another place real popular with the Spanish-speaking people—
F: We still do.
FJ: —over on 4th where Mr. Gaston Ponce Castellanos also had a band, and they played at a nightclub.
TK: On the north side, right?
RJ: Right. But the people from the ward used to go over there also.
TK: Was this in the ‘50s?
RJ: Yes, and later.
F: The late ‘50s.
RJ: 22:54 At most of these dance places you would find people from different wards mixed together. Sometimes you might find somebody fighting here and there, but it wasn’t too bad. In those dance places, nearly everybody had a real good time. You wouldn’t find too much fighting. Most of your people from Magnolia, that’s where they would go—La Terraza, Acapulco, Ferdinand, El Tropical, over to the Paladium, the Blossom Heath. Those were the real popular places for dancing.
TK: When you were a kid in the ‘40s, do you remember the police patrolling in Magnolia? Were there very many police?
TK: Where were they? What was the situation like between the youths and the police?
RJ: There used to be a particular policeman who everybody seemed to fear. I was trying to think of his name. I can’t recall his name now. I seem to think it was Joe something, but I don’t recall now. He was a big, huge policeman, heavyset, and everybody was afraid of him.
TK: Wasn’t that Tiny Rowan?
RJ: Tiny! (laughs)
TK: Everybody tells me about him.
TK: What did he do?
RJ: I never had any experiences with him myself, but from what some of the guys that had some experiences with him, they told me that he would take them out to the woods and beat them up.
TK: Do you think he did?
RJ: You could see where these guys had been beaten up. Sometimes you’d find some with a black eye or a swollen jaw, and they claimed they had been beaten up by him. It was common knowledge. Just about every guy in Magnolia knew about Tiny. They say he would take you out in the woods, because it used to be you didn’t have too many houses around. From what I understand, he would take you out to the woods and beat the heck out of you, and sometimes he would carry you way the heck out and turn you loose to find your way home. He wouldn’t take you to the police station.
TK: 25:50 He’d just beat you?
RJ: Right. A lot of the guys, they had respect for that man because of that. (laughs) If anybody would say, “Here comes Tiny,” everybody took off. (laughs) Yeah. I don’t know. I kind of believe that that policeman was a fair person. I think he did what he did to some of the guys that really got out of hand.
TK: Rather than throw them in the pokey.
RJ: Right. And I think in a way it probably did help some of them guys, because I know some of those guys probably would have gone the wrong way, and they didn’t. And I think he probably had something to do with this. I saw the man several times. You couldn’t help but see him. (chuckles) He was always patrolling the area.
TK: Did he wear a blue uniform?
RJ: Right. As I can remember, he was a heavyset guy, and he seemed to carry a pretty good-sized belly on him. He always had a billy club.
F: There used to be motorcycles. There wouldn’t be cars that much in that time.
RJ: He wasn’t on a motorcycle.
F: He was in a car?
RJ: He was in a car.
TK: Did he seem mean to you?
RJ: No, he didn’t seem like a mean person. In fact, he seemed like a nice person. You looked at him and you wouldn’t think that he was the type of person to take you out and beat you.
TK: 27:27 Did he ever kill anybody that y’all knew of?
RJ: No, no. I think he just kind of roughed the guys up. I don’t think that he was really brutal. I think some of these guys that did get the black eyes and swollen jaws, it was because they were the type of people who would mouth off regardless of whether they would be beaten or not. Probably they even enjoyed being beaten. There were some hard-core guys around. They would get into a fight just because they liked to fight. They would know that wherever they go, a gang might beat them, and they would still do it. It used to be that a guy would look for just any little excuse to get into a fight—some of these guys, not all of them. Some would without any reason whatsoever.
TK: I want to ask you a personal question. Mr. Jasso, I noticed you have a tattoo, your initials, on your arm. I’ve noticed a lot of guys from Magnolia have that there. Why do they put the tattoos there? How old were you when you got that particular tattoo?
RJ: I guess I must have been about 13 or 14 years old.
TK: So you were a youngster, a young fellow, when you did that.
RJ: Yes. And the way it was put on there—not only that but that also and this—we used to get a match and might put about 7, 8, or 10 needles, and then we used to get that Indian ink. With Indian ink you poke it and form your letters that way. It was bloody. Your wrist or your arm would be bloody. Then it would heal, and that’s what you would get.
TK: So in other words, y’all put the tattoos on yourself.
TK: Y’all didn’t go to a shop or anything like that.
RJ: No. Later on, there was some shop that came, but it was much later on. Most of the time I guess mostly all the guys that you find it on probably did it themselves or had somebody do it for them.
TK: Was there any particular reason why you put them where you put them on your forearms and your—
RJ: 29:47 No. It used to be that there used to be some gangs that had a particular type of tattoo marking on them to identify themselves with. Some of them would have a fly, some of them would have a snake, some of the guys from the Alacran have an alacran painted on them.
TK: A scorpion.
RJ: A scorpion, right.
TK: Where would they put it? On their arm?
RJ: They would put it in some of the craziest places. (laughs) Even the women did that.
TK: Even girls put—
RJ: Right. They put tattoos all over their body, any particular place.
TK: Was there a gang in Magnolia Park that stood out from the other ones?
RJ: I guess the gang of El Mucho, the one that was in the wheelchair, that was one that was known by mostly everybody.
TK: Were they pretty mean?
RJ: From what I understand, according to what I used to hear, they were nothing to play with. They tell me that although he wasn’t able to walk, I heard say that his face was— In fact, some of the people that I heard talk about him claim that he used to have—what do you call these steel—
TK: Brass knuckles.
RJ: Right. He used to use some of those. From what I heard these particular people say about him, they would say that he wouldn’t hesitate to use it on your face. He would use it on your body. It seemed that he got pleasure from hitting people in the stomach and in the ribs with that.
F: Then the Black Shirts came.
RJ: Right. It was also the Black Shirts. But—
[end of OH 306_02] 32:13