This interview was conducted by Vanessa Abrego on April 8, 2004 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2004 class.
Lina F. Renteria was born on September 23, 1916 in Pearsall, Texas to Agustina Fernandez and a father whom she did not meet. About four years after her birth, Lina’s family moved to Houston, Texas where she lived for a year. Later that year, her family moved to the west side on Vera Cruz St. in San Antonio. She now lives towards the south side of San Antonio on West Franciscan. Lina was raised by two other men in her mother’s life, Mr. Abraham Ramirez and Mr. Felipe Criado. Lina is one of three sisters and three brothers. She attended school, but the highest education level she attained was the sixth grade. A couple of occupations that Lina performed were at a laundromat where she earned $.50 per day, as well as maintenance or where she would be hired. Lina married Mr. Manuel Cano at age 21, from whom three months later, she separated and never heard of him again. Mrs. Lina Renteria has been my life long neighbor.
Where did you live during The Great Depression?
I lived in San Antonio.
When did you come to San Antonio? Why?
I moved to San Antonio when I was six years old in 1921. The reason why my family and I moved to San Antonio was because we did not have a house, we would always be renting. I had an aunt who lived in San Antonio, she offered her house telling us we could move in with her. That was how we made it to San
Was the Depression the cause of you moving to San Antonio?
Yes, like I had said, we didn’t have a stable home. There were times we did not have money to pay our rent so we would have to be moving houses. Since my aunt said we could stay with her we needed a roof over our heads.
How did it affect you and your family?
TERRIBLE, A TIEMPOS NO TENEMOS QUE COMER” (It was terrible we did not have food to eat at times) I remember President Roosevelt. I also remember how my houses use to be, they were three bedrooms, kitchen, our restrooms were outside, we had to use buckets of water to take showers. Back in my days we didn’t have the nice and fancy shower you kids have today.
What did your parents do while the Depression?
Well my mother worked cleaning houses as well as ironing for only $.50 per day. As for my father I never met him and my stepdads they had little side jobs here and there. I never really put much attention to what they did because I never had a good relationship with them.
You were 12 years old when you had to drop out of school, why did you leave, you left to do what?
Yes I was only 12 years old about to start the sixth grade. I didn’t leave school for the reason why many kids drop school now, I wanted to go to school, I wanted to learn and have an education, but I did not have the opportunity many kids do now. I had to leave school to help my mother support my brothers and sisters. We needed to eat, if we wanted food on our table I had to work.
Can you explain to me the kind of jobs you had or performed?
I remember my first job it was at a laundry mat where I cleaned for $.50 per day. I also remember when I was 12 years old working for my German neighbors who lived across the street from us, I use to work for $.50 per week washing dishes. I don’t remember the name of the company exactly, but it was a job offered by the government were we had to sew clothes (shirts, pants etc…) to give away to the people in need. (It’s very clear to me when President Roosevelt declared we needed to offer this help.)
What were some changes you remember the most when the Depression started?
Not having shoes (laughs). I use to walk barefooted; can you just imagine that? Can you imagine not having food on the table? Wondering if we would have food to eat the next day? Not knowing what else might come to us.
What kind of feelings did you experience? Where you scared what went through your mind?
(Laughs) I don’t remember! I do remember hearing that people were dying of starvation. I was scared I didn’t want may family and I to end up the same way.
What did you do for fun?
(making fun of me, kind of laugh) “There was NO fun.” We had no fun. But I do remember I had a friend who had a pianola from watching her play it I learned a little so that would be my fun.
How old were you when you and your husband got married?
I was only 21 years old when I got married. Even though my marriage was only three months long. I never divorced, till this moment I am still married, but as soon as we separated he was sent to war, I never heard from him again. The sad part is that I’m married to a man that I really dislike. (laughs)
What else would you like to tell me about your life during the
Well let me tell you something that when I think about it now it makes me laugh. You know how I told you that we always moved from house to house because of lack of money? Well one day the owner of the house my family and I were renting calls me into his office and tells me, “Look Lina, I’ve been wanting to talk to you but I just have not had the chance. I wanted to tell you that I like you and I want you to marry me!” I was shocked, I didn’t like the man, so I told him, “I can’t marry you, I don’t like you.” The landowner responded, “Well okay, now you have to leave my house I can’t rent it out anymore.”
Something very interesting that I noticed when I was interviewing my neighbor, was how she compares her life to the life we have now. Every time I asked something she would answer me, “well it is not the way you kids have it now.” It made me take a look at life that we take everything for granted. I’m the baby in my family which they spoil me sometimes, but I take advantage of the situation. Back in those days even the baby had to go work, to help support the family. I don’t have to work, it is not an obligation. Something that I learned about my interviewee was, I always thought Mrs. Renteria was still a Miss, but I was so wrong. She had her married life a secret. Before my interview, I understood that the Great Depression had been very difficult, but I never pictured many people dying because of lack of food or shelter. Some of the benefits of leaning about the past through an interview are you get to know a person’s point of view of the situation. But then we have the drawbacks of the interview process, what if your interviewee is lying? How do you know if he/she is telling you the truth? Overall I think this is an effective way of learning about the past because you can gather enough information to know exactly what life was like in the Great Depression.