This interview was conducted by Tiffany Wilson on October 24, 2008 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2008 class.
On December 26, 1934, Gordon Walton Wilson and Hellen Edith (Nunn) Wilson gave birth to Cadwell Raines Wilson. He was born at home on Mississippi Street in San Antonio , Texas . Cadwell has three siblings, one brother and two sisters. He finished high school and went to college for two years. He got an Associate of Arts degree from San Antonio College. He also took a few classes at Trinity College (now Trinity University). In 1955 he joined the Army. While he was in the military, he lived in Colorado Springs , Colorado. After that he moved back to San Antonio , Texas . Cadwell had quite a few different occupations. While in high school, he worked at a Handy Andy store and also threw newspapers for a little while. While he was in college, he worked at Po Motor Company. Then he went into the military. After that he worked as a book keeper. Then he worked at the Post Office. At the Post Office he worked his way up, starting out as a mail carrier then to a supervisor. He was the youngest person to reach that position at that time. He then moved up to tour superintendent. He remained there until he retired. Cadwell is married to Charlene Mary Caillouette. They were married at Hot Wells Baptist Church on January 15, 1955. They have three children, two sons and one daughter. Cadwell began working on his own cars which he learned just by checking out books from the library. He also learned how to fix televisions. He built his own T.V. Cadwell also added on to his home. He added a garage and a back living room. The only help he received was just to pour the cement and only with a couple of friends. Cadwell’s topic is going to be growing up in San Antonio and he is my grandfather.
What was your childhood like?
I remember in 1st grade I was learning to handwrite at South San. South San was a separate city in those days. I moved to Hot Wells and had to finish 1st grade there. At this school I had to write in print. It seems backwards. I skipped 5th grade by the way. My birthday is on December 26th which caused the school to hold me back. But they made up for it by letting me skip the 5th grade. Which wasn’t so bad except for algebra, I think it was there were some things that were taught in the 5th grade that I missed. I copied a friend of mine to follow what they were doing it wasn’t until then I understood what the hell we were doing. After that I had no problems.
What did you want to be as a child?
Well I didn’t really have any idea. I thought for a while I wanted to be a school teacher. I played football. When I was a senior there was only a senior class. The school was closing. I was the salutatorian whatever the hell that is. Then I went to SAC I had to work in the summer to pay my way for school. I wanted to go somewhere else but I got drafted, I volunteered for it though. I was sent to Colorado Springs and I stayed there for two years then got out of the army. I came back to San Antonio and worked at Po Motor Company. I Went to Trinity to take some teaching classes. I worked in the morning and went to school in the evening. There were about 45 students in my class and most were old timers. They were already teachers but they were updating their skills and knowledge. I also took a Spanish class and the teacher was this white dude. He spoke very fluently but most of the students were doing the Tex-Mex routine. I had to stop school because I had to make a living. When I was drafted I got married before I went in that way I went in as a married man. Then I worked at the Post Office for 32 years.
How far was school for you? How did you get there?
No more than a mile through the neighborhood. I walked to school I couldn’t afford a motor vehicle and neither could my parents.
What did you do for fun?
Played football in the streets. There was a summer program at the recreation center where they had ping-pong, dominoes, basketball, all sorts of games. Once in awhile I might get a dime and go to the movies (laughs ). I don’t know how much it was. There was a friend of mine that got a movie projector and he set it up behind a grocery store. He would show movies for people and would charge them.
When did you get your first car? How did you get it?
Right after…I’m trying to remember when it was. My old man took me to look. It was a ’37 Ford. I paid for it. I had it for some time then it broke
What was the style of dress like?
Gals mostly wore pedal pushers, sandals, tank tops. That’s about it. Summer time everyone wore shorts, short shorts. They even wore them to the grocery stores. You don’t see that as much these days with the older people in grocery stores.
How has your neighborhood changed?
I don’t live there any more (laughs). There were empty lots and wooden lots. Eventually the lots were cleared and new houses and buildings were built. Oh and when I was in 1st grade at South San the classes were segregated. There were two classes for white kids and two classes for Mexican kids.
Was there racism?
I don’t really remember any racism. Just the usual guys acting like thugs and picking on everyone. It was mostly between the whites and Mexicans instead of blacks. At South San there was this one black kid that started going to school. When you saw him and his brother you would swear they were twins. They looked just a like the only difference was that he was black and had curly hair and his brother was white and had blonde straight hair. I’m guessing it was one of those things where somewhere in the family tree there was a black person and it just came out. He joined the football team and senior year the other guys on the team said they weren’t going to play because he was on the team. Then one guy broke down and played but said that his parents didn’t want him to.
How was the household run when you were young?
My parents were very strict. I could hardly go anywhere. But they didn’t have a problem making me go downtown to pay the monthly bills. I couldn’t argue with my old man. You just had to listen to him and keep your mouth shut.
How much did you get paid at the Post Office?
I don’t really remember. It was above average, but nothing compared to now. Back then it was good pay though.
What was your wedding like?
It was walking down the aisle and saying I do like (laughs). It was a small church wedding. It was a short basic ceremony. After the wedding we went to her parents’ house for the cake and music.
What hobbies did you have?
Building little car models. Ones you buy in packages and glue all the parts together.
How did you get into fixing cars?
I was working and depended on transportation. I saw how much it was to get a car serviced. So I looked into it to do it myself. All I had to buy was tools and the parts. Also the way I added on this room and the garage was while I was delivering mail there were construction workers building houses on my route. I would watch them and see what they were doing. I realized it I could do that so I drew up some plans and added on to the house.
Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
I learned how different things were back then. I found it very interesting that he went to a school that was segregated between whites and Mexicans. I’ve always heard of segregation against blacks not so much Mexicans. I never knew that he built the back room in my grandparents’ house by himself. My grandfather mostly expressed himself by laughing and being sarcastic. My view on this topic didn’t change in just helped me understand more. I verified some of the stories by asking my dad which is his son. The benefits of learning from the oral history process are that you get real stories and events. It’s not just an overall history it’s personal stories of real lives. The drawbacks are that because the interviewees are older they don’t have a very good memory. Some things they’ve forgotten and some they get mixed up and in some cases they make things up. I would say this is a very effective way to learn about the past. All though some people’s stories may not be completely correct you still get a sense of how things were back then. You can understand how schools were, jobs were, money, and life was for the people. That’s what’s important for us to learn from instead of an overall history from a book that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone.
- Cadwell Raines Wilson was on born on December 26, 1934 in San Antonio, Texas to Gordon Walton Wilson and Hellen Edith (Nunn).
- In 1951 he met Charlene Caillouette.
- In 1952 he graduated from high school.
- In 1954 he graduated from San Antonio College.
- On January 15, 1955 he married Charlene Cailliuette.
- February of 1955 he joined the Army.
- In 1955 he moved to Colorado.
- On March 12, 1956 his first child was born,Charles Wilson.
- In 1957 he moved back to San Antonio, Texas.
- On July 18, 1958 his second child was born, Rohana Wilson.
- In 1958 he started working at the Post Office.
- On November 30, 1960 his third child was born, Daryl Wilson.
- January of 1991 his father passed away.
- 1991 he retired from the Post Office.
- December of 1997 his mother passed away.
- 2008 he was interviewed by Tiffany Wilson.
- San Antonio College Website
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