Lucy H. Villarreal

This interview was conducted by Lucy Ortiz on October 16, 2005 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2005 class.

Introduction

My grandma, Maria de la Luz Hermosa commonly known as Lucy Hermosa Villarreal was born in San Antonio, Texas on May 27, 1924. During her infancy, Lucy lived with her parents, Blanche and Jose Hermosa, her two brothers and six sisters. During the Great Depression, three of her sisters died from influenza. When she turned two years old, her father died, and her mother had to put her children in the St. Peter and St. Joseph Orphanage because she did not have enough money to raise them. During Lucy’s time in
the orphanage, she completed elementary school. Not long after this, her mother was able to remove them from the orphanage since she finally had saved enough money to raise them. After leaving the orphanage, Lucy finished middle school and dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. Soon after this, she started working to help support her family. When Lucy was 16 years old, she started working as a cashier at a department store. On July 23, 1942, she married Miguel Angel de la Garza Villarreal at the Christ of King Catholic Church. After Lucy got married, she stopped working because she had to
raise five children while Miguel worked for the fire department. Once the children grew old enough to support themselves, she started working as a saleswoman for the local department store in 1956. After she retired in 1994, she devoted her life to the Catholic religion, where she continues to help by serving as a communion minister and a community ministry leader.

Transcription

How old were you during the Great Depression?
I was born in 1924 and the depression was in 1929 so I was five years old.

Where did you live during the Great Depression?
I lived in the orphan home called the St. Peter and St. Joseph Orphanage.

Did you know what was going on during the Great Depression?
I did not know what was going on because I was a little girl who kept secluded from everying.

What was it like living in a orphanage during the Great Depression?
It was good because I would learn values, respect for others and of course math, English, and etc.. I would learn the Catholic religion almost
every day. I remember when I was in there would love Sundays because they would serve wonderful pancakes and that was
what everyone would look forward to every week.

What did you do after you left the orphanage?
I went into junior high school called Washington Irving then I finished. After I finished junior high school, I attended Fox Tech High School until the 11th grade but I did not finish because I had to work.

While attending school, did they teach or talk about what was going on at the time?
The teachers would not say much about it, they would do what they had to do and leave.

Was it hard looking for a job during the Great Depression?
During that time my parents use to trade with a store which was ran by Paul Marrou. Mr. Marrou was so nice,
he hired me when I was 13 or 14 years old. I went ahead and learned the retail business.

What did you do while working?
I went to a business school where it would teach me how to type and things that I had left behind from the
11th grade.

Did you work for other companies?
After leaving Paul Marrou, I went to work with Sugarman brothers for about a year. I then went to Wilfa Marks.

Did you live in poverty?
No, we lived in a little house with a small kitchen, living room and one bedroom.

Were there a lot of good resources available such as food, gas, water and clothes?
I remember when I use to go with my mom to go stand in a line where we use to get a month’s supply of food.
When we had food that someone else wanted, we would trade with our neighbors.

Did your family suffer from any financial struggles?
Yes, we were very poor. My mother worked hard to give us what we needed although some of us can be ungrateful.

How long did it take your family to get out of the financial slump?
Until after the Great Depression because the banks had no money, other people would say, since my whole family worked, we basically had to support ourselves.

Were you able to afford food?
Sometimes because we would have something that a neighbor wanted and my parents would trade off with them in
return of food.

Did you ever hear about any banks having no money?
I would hear stories that people would lose hundreds of dollars because they trusted the bank. My mother did not have a bank account because she did not have money to put into it.

Did your family ever receive government aid?                                                                    Yes, the government were the ones that would give the food when we went to go stand in the food lines.

What would you use to cook your food?
We use to have a wooden stove. It was not like the ones we have today, but I think it cooked better than
the stoves of today.

Did you ever live anywhere else during the Great Depression?
No, my mother never could afford to move us anywhere, she was just trying to keep us well kept.

Were there any big changes that you noticed in San Antonio, duing the Great Depression?
When Franklin Roosevelt became president, there were so many changes such as job opportunities.

Did you have television back then?
No we had listened to the radio a lot but even if we did have television, we could not afford it.

Did your family have a car back then?
No, we could not afford it. We mainly walked everywhere.

Analysis

While doing this interview with my grandma, I learned many things about her that no one else had bothered to ask. I learned how much of a struggle it was to survive in the Great Depression from my grandmother’s experiences. It made me understand her better and why she is the way she is today. The most important point that is made in my
presentation are her struggles while growing up. Some of these struggles included living in an orphange from the age of two to 11 to having to drop out of school because her mother could not afford to take care of her, so she had to take care of herself. During the interview of my grandma, she spoke very passionately about her past and made sure that I understood that she was not ashamed of it either. After the interview was over and I reviewed the questions and answers, I have learned some good stories about the Great Depression. For an example, one of the things I feel that some elderly people who were poor can relate to, was standing in a food line to receive food for the month. I know today we do not have anything like that because we now have food stamps. Back then, they did not have the type of government aid as we do today. This showed showed me how much our government has improved over time. This topic taught me that I have it made compared to some of those people back then. In the past, people struggled to get jobs and today, jobs are within arm’s reach. It made me learn to appreciate the many things I have today. When I attemped to verify the stories that my grandma told me, I found many websites that had stories, historical information and documented facts, which were similar to my grandma’s story. The only drawback about learning the oral history project, when doing an interview, the interviewee may give you more information than needed. The benefits of doing a oral history project is that people are hearing someone story rather than someone famous. The most effective way to learn about the past is through interviewing someone. You never really get to hear the story
from a maid or servant that worked in the White House. You always hear things about what had happened to them during a specific time, but you never think to ask. It is always good to hear it from someone who is not famous.

Annotated Bibliography

  • St. Peter and St. Joseph Orphanage
    is a website that gives all the information that you need to know about the orphanage such as history, programs
    and services.
  • Great Depression
    is a website that gives you historical information about the Great Depression.
  • Government Aide
    The website provides a list of all the government aides that Franklin Roosevelt tried to give to the United States, some of these were successful while some were not. It also gives you a description of the program and outcome.

 

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