This interview was conducted by Lesli Winkler on May 18, 2003 in Falls City, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Paymaster 2003 class.
Rebecca Ann Winkler (McQuatters)was born in San Antonio, Texas, at the Nix Hospital, on January 6, 1953, to Adolphe Louis McQuatters and Dorothy Barosh. She was the youngest of her brother and sisters. Mrs. Winkler’s father was a car repair man and her mother was a stay home wife. As a child and young lady, she lived on 132 Stolnet Rd., which is on the east side of San Antonio. Her jobs as a teenager included shoe shining and working at fast food. Mrs. Winkler attended elementary at WW White School, junior high at Rylee, and she attended Sam Houston High School. She has always been part of the middle class society. Mrs. Winkler loves going horseback riding and swimming and would love to retire doing just that. Mrs. Winkler married my father, William (Billy) Joseph Winkler on September 9, 1978, at St. Benedicts Catholic Church in San Antonio. I am one of three of her children. I am the oldest and the only girl. Her other two sons are Roger, 16, and Dustin, 13. Mrs. Winkler had many occupations, including a receptionist at the nursing home, a secretary, a claims adjuster, and now a specialist at City Public Service, where she has been for the last 25 years. Mrs. and Mr. Winkler continued moving through out their lives. Starting at 218 Orchard Rd. in San Antonio, then moving to 1823 Sky View Drive in Floresville, and finally moving out in the country where she currently lives in Falls City, Texas. I chose to interview Mrs. Winkler on a job she had as a child. She worked at a barber shop doing shoeing shining, which is now an obsolete occupation. After the men would get their hair cut they would go and get their shoes shined by my mother. I chose Mrs. Winkler not only because she is my mother, but also because she the person that I look up to in this world. My mother is a wonderful narrator and enjoys sharing her life with others. I think her experience as a shoe shiner was an interesting story.
Where did you work at doing shoe shining?
I worked at Collins Barber Shop on the east side of San Antonio off of WW White and Readwell.
Who was your employer?
Mike Collins was my employer. His uncle use to own the barber shop and once he passed away Mike inherited it. The barber shop has been there for many of years and it is still in business today.
How were you trained for this position?
There was no training for my job. Mike’s son, who was my age, would work on the weekends doing shoe shining and I would watch him until I finally took over his job. Anytime his son would come back in, we would fight over the customers. So there was also competing going on between us two. But since I was a girl, sometimes, the customers would want only me to shine their shoes.
What tools did you use and can you describe how you worked?
I used shoe shine polish, with a cloth, and a dye for the heels. The people where usually there waiting in line to get their hair cuts so to pass the time they would come up to the shoe shine chair and climb up and put their feet on these two metal post so I could shine their shoes while they read the paper. I am not sure how good of a job I did but the customers never complained.
At what age did you start working there?
I started working At Collins Barber Shop at the age of seven. It was walking distance from my house because we lived right behind the building. All I had to do was walk down the alley and within two minutes, I was at work.
Why did you start working there?
I wanted to work there. Basically, I had a sweet tooth and I needed a way to buy candy. It was the way I could get money. My parents would not have given me it, especially for candy.
What did your parents think about your job?
It did not matter to them because I stayed out of their hair. I was gone and they liked it that way.They did not know the amount of sweets that I bought because later on it probably cost them a lot of money due to demist bills.
What did you like and dislike about your job?
I liked working there because everyone was so nice and if I wasn’t shining shoes then I played outside. It wasn’t work for me at all. The only thing that I did not like was when Mike would bring his son and try to take my customers.
When you were growing up, was it typical for teenagers to work while attending school?
I don’t believe that it was typical for the age that I was. It was not hard labor; it was something by choice that I wanted to do so school did not ever interfere. School was walking distance so right after it I could run back to the barber shop and work.
How long did you work at the barber shop?
I guess you can say that I worked there to the age 12 of 13. However, I always returned to the barber shop over the years. I always remained friends with the owner Mike, which I still up right now.
How many hours per day and days per week would you say you worked there?
During the summer, I would get to work around 10:00 in the morning and I would stay until they closed around 5:00 that afternoon. They were kind of my babysitters except they paid me. During school I would always go after it but only for a couple of hours.
What was your reason for leaving?
There was not a reason for leaving, I just started getting older and moving on.
Were you paid per shoe shine or per hour?
I was paid only per shoe shine. But it was pure profit.
What was the pay you received while working at the barber shop and was that considered good or bad back then?
I was paid 25 cents per shoe shine. I think that it was probably good at least for a kid who wanted candy. Candy back then was only 5 cents, so you better believe that I thought it was great.
Why did shoe shining become obsolete?
To shoe shine it was a lot of trouble for some people. They had to put the polish on and then shine it back and forth. Once they began making shoe shine that you could just rub on yourself there was no need for it in barber shops.
Do you think people can still make a living shoe shining?
I don’t think that you could have ever made a living at it. It was just something that was provided for customers as they waited for hair cuts as a convenience.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Well, Mike promised me that when he closed down his shop that he was going to give me that shoe shining chair. It would be nice to one day get it. It would be a good memory and it was a fun time in my life. All I have are good memories from that place.
After the interview I realized how my mother was as a child. I never realized that she too had fun and was a typical kid. I always thought of my mother as a parent who was always too busy to have fun. Something that also shocked me about my mother was how strong she was even as a young girl. I never pictured my mother as someone who would stand up for herself and do whatever it took to get want she wanted. Before I thought that my mother worked at shoe shining because her parents made her, I never knew that she did it on her own. Not only did she want this job she enjoyed doing it and it was the best time of her life. I never knew that a simple job could mean that much to someone. Truthfully, I don’t believe that there are any drawbacks about learning about the past through the interview. I believe that there are only benefits from it. If I would not have explored my mother’s past, I would have never known what kind of person she was. I never thought of her as being someone who was strong and fun. Now I know differently and I am glad that I was given that opportunity. This project was a very effective way about learning the past. If I would not have talked to my mother about her life and later on talked to someone else who knew her, I know that I would not have learned everything that I did. Who knows what someone else thought about my mother. All I know is that my mother knows herself the best.