This interview was conducted by Anthony M. Garcia on October 20, 2004 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2004 class.
Frances Cervantes (nee Alejandro) was born on July 1, 1928 in San Antonio, TX. She is the second of three daughters of Charlotte Andrews Alejandro and Frank Alejandro.
(Her oldest sister is Charlotte Dolores and her youngest sister is Virginia.) She graduated from San Antonio Vocational and technical School (Now Fox Tech High School) She went on to be a sales clerk for a variety of shops. (She worked for Joske’s, The Alamo Giftshop, and the Hilton Giftshop) After high school she married her boyfriend, Henry Cervantes, on March 20, 1948 in San Antonio, TX. My grandfather, Henry, joined the Army and in the late 1950’s my grandmother moved with my grandfather to eastern Washington state. Frances had two sons and two daughters. (Genardo Henry Cervantes, George
Anthony Cervantes, Lucille Marie Cervantes, and my mother Juanita Dolores Cervantes.) The whole family moved back to San Antonio in 1962. My grandmother has been a Catholic all her life and has supported the democratic political party. She enjoys reading, cooking, and enjoys looking into the family history. Unfortunately My grandfather passed away on March 21, 1990 and her son Genardo Henry Cervantes died on May 15, 1994. We will focus the interview on World War II and touch on the polio outbreak.
Where did you live during your childhood?
Lived in San Antonio close to Downtown or towards the center of the city
Did you move around a lot?
Yes, we moved around a lot because we rented houses and we could only afford so much.
When we couldn’t afford the rent we went to live with my grandma.
What were your school days like during the war?
My school days were sad because a lot of seniors were trying to make a decision on whether or not to graduate or go volunteer in the army and fight the war
What was your life like during the war?
Most of the time we were just listening to the radio a lot and it was scary because we didn’t know if we were going to be bombed on the east coast or the west coast.
Were you working during the war?
How did your family go about their lives during this time?
My mother was the type who worried a lot and her oldest brother volunteered for both World War I and World War II
How would you and your family keep track of the war?
We listened to the radio and bought a news paper from the boys who were always yelling extra extra.
Do you remember how the media portrayed World War II?
Well it wasn’t as gory as it is today. The newspapers would have a lot of pictures of the war and maps and the latest in everything. Even in the movie theaters before a show started a newsreel as shown to give everyone the latest.
Do you remember how the president handled the war situation
I don’t know how to answer this but I do know he let all his sons go to war.
What was your reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
We heard it on the radio and we couldn’t believe we were being bombed in Hawaii.
How did your family react to the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
My mother was worried because her oldest brother was in the navy and she didn’t know if he was among the naval ships that were being bombed.
Since the country was coming out of the great depression, was it still hard to buy things during World War II?
Yes we had to ration gas and food because it was needed for the military to survive.
Did you have to ration food?
Yes, because we wanted to make sure the military got fed. We also had victory gardens where we grew some of our own food.
How did you react when President Franklin D. Roosevelt died?
That was so sad and we were in disbelief. We heard it on the radio and he died so close to the end of the war. He didn’t get to see the end of World War II.
How did the media portray that event?
We heard it through the newspapers and the paper had pictures of the president. The papers were also selling very fast.
I remember you talking about a during your high school years, what was that about?
All of a sudden everyone came down with polio and we didn’t know where it was coming from.
What effects did the polio scare have on you and everyone else?
It didn’t scare me. I figured it came from people going out and our family never went out. None of us got the disease. However my senior prom was cancelled which would have been my first ever dance and graduation was 2 weeks late.
What was your reaction to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
I didn’t like the idea of so many innocent people dying, but it was the only way to stop the Japanese from killing our people.
What was your reaction to the signing of the end of World War II?
RELIEF FINALLY!!!! No more killings!!!
What else would you like to add?
War is horrible.
I learned a great deal from conducting this interview. I learned a lot about what it was to live during a world war. I can’t imagine the fear that America had when all of this was going on. We take life for grant it not knowing what will come our way. After doing this interview, I’m actually taking a second glance at my life. I learned that my grandma had a scary time through high school not only with the war but with the polio scare. Before when I studied World War II, I just thought of it as an interesting piece of history. Now that I was able to interview someone who actually experienced the war, I see the war as if I were actually there. I can relate it to the war we are in right now. There are many benefits to doing this interview. The biggest benefit I had was an actual tale of war. I had a huge learning experience. A drawback was that since this happened so long ago, my grandma couldn’t remember everything in detail. Probably because she wanted to get this experience out of her mind. Overall, this is a very effective way of learning about the past. My history teacher is right when he says “when someone dies, so does a piece of history.” If my grandma wasn’t here today, I would have never have heard an actual tale of living in a war.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945).The Rector and visitors of the University of Virginia http://www.americanpresident.org/history.franklindelanoroosevelt/ (2003). An overview of the life of President Roosevelt. This summarizes his life leading up to his presidency, his presidential term, and the cause and time of his death in office before the end of World War II.