This interview was conducted by Travis Michael Cole on April 6, 2015 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2015 class.
Jacob (Jake) Gieniec was born February 11, 1933 in a San Antonio hospital to his parents, Bernice (nee Risener) and Jacob Gieniec. His mother Bernice was from Brenham Texas and his father Jacob was from Poland, who came over at the age of 15 as a stowaway hiding in a pickle barrel until the ship was too far out to turn back. He had three siblings John, Elisabeth, and Elisabeth (his parents each had a daughter named Elisabeth before they married each other). Jacob has lived in Adkins all his life except as a younger adult lived 8 years in San Antonio before returning to his family farm in Sayers which is now part of Adkins, Texas. As a child Jacob attended the grade school in Sayers. In high school while East Central High was being build, he attended Sam Houston until his senior year when East Central opened and he was a part of the first graduating class in 1951.
Jacobs first job started young working on the family farm, and later he raised sheep to sell in order to buy clothes. At 15 he started working summer jobs for CPS clearing brush around powerlines, his senior year they taught him how to work on the lines themselves. After graduation he worked for CPS as a meter reader on rural routes and work for CPS until he retired in 1984. He married his high school sweetheart Ann (nee Ziaontz) on October 25, 1952 and have been happily married for 62 years. They have five children Arlene, Carlene, Jerry, LaNell, and Lisa.
Did you fish and hunt? Where?
Fish? Not too much. Hunting back in these two creeks, Chupaderas Creek and I forget what they use call that other one, but anyway me and a friend of mine, Fred. We used to… he had a model A we used to go up the road and turn his dogs lose. In the evening about this time (7:30pm). And we’d just kinda listen. When the dogs you know would go to barking we’d head across there to wherever they were and usually they had a coon in the tree. So take your gun and shoot em down outa the tree and if they were still alive then the dogs would tear it up or (chuckling) it would tear the dogs up one of the two. And we’d skin it, skin them and stretch them out on boards. Then we’d go in the evening, some other evening, we’d take spotlights, we had them on the car and… up and down these roads were jack rabbits and I haven’t seen a jack rabbit in years around here now, but whatever we killed we’d take the hide off of it too. Stretch em out… and every once in a while you could run into a red fox or one of em yellow foxes up there we’d get them. Then on every Tuesday, there was a store Kallison’s downtown. There was a guy that came in there on Tuesday mornings at 6:30 to 7:30 and bought hides… And that’s how we made our money.
How much would you get for a hide?
A Jackrabbit was 25 cents and a red fox or a yellow fox, anywhere from, depending on the size would be anywhere from $3.50 to $5.00 (worth $47 to $67 in 2015). And a coon was I think $4.00… This was around 1943-1944 somewhere in there when I was 11 years old.
What would y’all do on Saturdays?
Well my brother and me would mess around. Really wasn’t much, Saturday was kinda dead. Saturday and Sunday was rest time you know… Of course we had chores to do, feed the animals, milk the cows and all that stuff.
What were some of the chores you had?
That was it, milk the cows, I had to milk them every morning and evening, rain or shine, Saturday’s, Sunday’s, it didn’t…every day. And I took them out in them giant cans, milk cans in a wagon and set them out by the gate and a guy would pick them up every morning.
So y’all would sell it?
Yeah… Well some of it we kept. Momma would make butter, buttermilk, use it for drinking, cooking, baking, cottage cheese.
What was it like getting your driver’s license?
I was 15 years old and I had a model A. It was my dad’s, I didn’t have it yet. And I took the test, past that right quick, the written test. And I went up for the driving test and the mechanical breaks in it wasn’t too good so had to get em fixed and go back up there and I got my license.
What was your first vehicle? You said it was a model A?
Mhmm the same one I took the test in and I bought it from my dad.
How long did you have that car?
Oh quite a while, I guess I’d say…. 4 or 5 years. And I traded it off on something else. I wanted to get something modern, but I wish I had it back (chuckling).
Do you remember the price of gas around that time?
Uhh I think it was like 12 cents a gallon. It was the old pumps that were gravity fed.
So how did you get to school before you had your model A?
Oh I walked all the time, except when my buddy up the road had a donkey and a cart, and he’d come by and pick me up. The school was just right here, at the end of the road where that guy’s got that welding shop now. That was the school in there.
What would y’all do with the donkey while you were in school?
Tie it to a tree and it stayed there. He unhooked the cart off of it.
What would you and your family do for fun?
Argue (said while chucking). Really remember much… I played a guitar and momma had an accordion. We’d sit around a tree out there and we’d play you know… Or listen to the radio, there wasn’t no tv’s. We had one of em battery radios, uhh Lone Ranger and them kinda programs they had. Fibber McGee and Molly, comedy stuff.
So that was all on the radio?
Do you remember when your family first got a TV?
When me and Ann got married (1952). The only TV’s that was around here when I was at home was up on the hill, there used to be a tavern and they had a TV in there. That was the only TV around, nobody had TV’s yet.
At first did your house have electricity?
When we got electricity I was pretty young, I was about 4 years old I think. And it stopped right here. It didn’t go up the road or anything. Later on they extended it out. I remember sitting and watching the guy wire it up. Then we got a refrigerator and a cook stove.
Can you remember getting your first pocket knife?
Yeah my dad gave it to me to cut hogs with (chuckling) (cut meaning castration). Well I sharpened it for him for years, I learned that you know it had to be razor sharp. Every Saturday, if we had little pigs we’d cut em. And after we got through he’d give me the knife to sharpen for the next weekend.
How would you sharpen it?
Whetstones and a leather strop. Then he gave me the knife finally. That was the first pocket knife I owned. I had that up until I got married, I don’t know what happened to it, lost it or something I guess.
Do you remember what kind it was? Case knife or something else?
It was a Case knife. I bought one after that, when I was about 18 and it was a Case too. Similar to the one he had. I also had one given to me that was a Purina, but it was made by Case. It had Purina checkered handles on it, that’s all there was difference.
Do you have any interesting stories from when you were growing up? A good story that comes to your mind. A particular funny one or memberable one.
Well I remember my dad used to work at CPS at the power plants and they had shifts you know. He’d go to work at noon and get off around 11 o’clock, then the next time he’d work an all day shift. One time he had got to taking all the wine out of them barrels and putting them in gallon jugs. He used a syphon and there was a hose, and he’d syphon it until it got full, then next, bottle, next bottle. Well when he went to work, me and my little brother decided that you know he left at noon, and we said lets go down there and see what’s left in them jugs and barrels. We popped that cork and put that hose in there and laid on the ground and started sipping and man it tasted good. Until we got up (laughing). When we stood up the whole world had disappeared and was spinning. I got deathly drunk on it. The next day you’d drink water and you’re drunk again. That went on for about 3 days. I wouldn’t touch wine after that for years and years. I learned my lesson (laughing). Didn’t touch no alcohol until after I got married.
Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
No, it’s been fun (chuckling).
I have known Mr. Gieniec for pretty much all my life. I am best friends with his grandkids from his youngest daughter Lisa. I am always around his house to lend a helping hand, or weed eating his front fence. When his grandkids come to visit I am there so much, he and his wife Ann have pretty much adopted me as another grandchild. But getting back to the interview, every time I was over there when I was little, he was always telling stories about this or that. So this is one of the reasons I picked Mr. Gieniec to do my interview on. I had planned to do his interview on life in Texas and this was a good choice and fits Mr. Gieniec well. I learned a lot from doing this interview. I had vaguely remembered him telling me some of these stories when I was younger, but could really appreciate them back then as I do now. I learned about his father coming into America by hiding in a pickle barrel, which I found very interesting, I had never known his father was an emigrant, I had always thought he had grown up in Texas. Mr. Gieniec is a really laid back kind of person and always has a good joke or a funny story to tell.
I learned a little about how life was back then, they didn’t have much of anything and appreciated all the little things they did have. I didn’t attempted to verify any of the stories that happened before he got married, but his wife Ann was there correcting anything that had happened after they had married if he said something wrong. I’ve learned that a woman never forgets. I can see many benefits with learning about the past from an oral history process. The only real drawback is that some of the stories might have changed over the years or the person has forgotten details. Overall I would say that learning history through the oral history of others is very effective. It’s very different learning about what happened through the stories of someone who lived it, then just reading it in a text book. It’s more interesting, and can be way more entertaining.
- Born February 11, 1933 in a San Antonio Texas
- First Job working during the summer for CPS in 1948
- CPS Summer Job 1949
- CPS Summer Job 1950
- Graduated high school in 1951 (1st graduation class from East Central)
- Went to work full time for CPS in 1951
- Marries Ann Ziaontz 1952
- Moves to San Antonio 1954-57
- Moves Back to Family Farm 1962-1965
- Retires from CPS in 1984
- Owned and operated auto repair shop on family property from mid 1950’s through 1990’s
- Still lives on family farm til present day (although smaller)