Arturo Rodriguez

This interview was conducted by Sylvia Rodriguez Webster on March 19, 2010 in Cibolo, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2010 class.

Introduction

Arturo Rodriguez was born May 1, 1943 in San Antonio, Texas. His father, Felix Rodriguez was born in Luling, Texas. His Mother, Angelica Ledesma Rodriguez, was born in Saltillo, Mexico. He is the fifth child born to Felix and Angelica, but he was the third of living children. Arturo Rodriguez went to Ivanhoe Elementary School in San Antonio. He also attended Rhodes Middle School and was kicked out of school for having long front hair. He didn’t return to school. He worked in the fields when he was six years old and temporarily stopped to attend school. When he was kicked out, he decided to go back and work the fields. He also got a job at the Gunter Hotel as a door man and bag boy. He then quit working the fields again and got a job with Blumm Landscaping Company. While working at a job for the landscaping company, he met Maria Louisa Alvarez. He joined the Army in 1960 and left to Ft Ord California for his training. His training continued in Ft Sill Oklahoma as a Nuclear Biological Chemical apprentice. In 1961, he married Maria. He was shipped to Germany for six months and while he was gone, his wife gave birth to Donna Marie in Sept 1962. Upon his return, he joined the Texas Army National Guard and worked part time at El Tipico Mexican Restaurant #1. In 1963, his wife gave birth to Sylvia and he was there to witness the birth. He was called to active duty with the Guard in defense of the Berlin Crisis. They didn’t mobilize his entire unit to deploy; only half went and the other half stayed at Ft Sam Houston. He stayed at Ft Sam Houston. After his active service, he was transferred to El Tipico Mexican Restaurant #2, to start up the new restaurant. In 1965, his wife gave him his first son, Arturo Martin. He was again activated by the Guard and was shipped to Ft Polk Louisiana. It was a short tour and when he returned, he then transferred to El Tipico Mexican Restaurant #3. He was earning a good income, had a new car and a new home. He fell out of sorts with the owner and left his position at the restaurant to work at Reliable Batteries. In 1967, his wife game him his fourth child, another girl, Patricia Ann. He opened his own Mexican restaurant called “Titus Mexican Restaurant”. In 1968, he went to work for the Mexican American Neighborhood Civic Organization. He was also in the Mexican American Unity Council. He was involved with the Better Barrio Betterment and met with city leaders to aid in the discrimination of Mexican Americans. He was also involved in the Good Government League, He aided in the election of politicians willing to help Mexican Americans. He was a member of the Raza Unida Movement and was a member of a force called the Brown Berets. He also worked with the Coca Cola Company to help make ends meet. While in these organizations, he helped the Hispanic families get assistance, and was instrumental in the start of giving away Christmas toys to under privileged children. He also took Christmas toys to Mexico to give away to children also. In 1969, he got his second son, fifth child. He went to work for the YMCA as Youth Director. He developed a program called the National Youth Project Using MiniBikes. He convinced Honda to donate 29 Honda motorcycles. In 1971, his third son, Mark David, was born. That same year his father died. It was a great loss for him. In 1972, he decided to get his GED and after he graduated he went to work for the San Antonio Police Department as a Community relations Officer. He was instrumental in developing programs to help gang members get out of the gangs and get jobs. He coached four years of little league football and also coached his sons and daughters. He coached several teams and ended his career with only one loss in the entire four years. His last year, he took a team no one wanted because they had had losing seasons and he took them to the championship game. They had a boy hurt and he had to take him to the emergency room. The game continued without him and they lost. In 1974, he went to work for Schneider Printing Company. They hired him because he was willing to cross the picket line. He went to work fulltime for HB Zachary in 1975 and he also worked fulltime at another job as a security guard for Retama Polo Center. He was a member of the CB Clubs of America. His call sign was the Night Watchmen. While working with Zachary in 1979, he was given a year tour to work in Saudi Arabia with the sister company of Zachary called ZAZCO. When he returned he went to work for Phillips Paper Company. In 1980, he lost his mother to heart disease. He divorced Maria in 1981 and later married Basilia Molina in 1982. He gained four step daughters to go along with his six children. In 1984, he became a grandpa, Donna his oldest gave him a grandson, Michael, and Connie, the oldest from his second marriage gave him Priscilla. In 1989, he went to College at St Phillips for radiology. He was activated for Desert Storm and he was shipped to Ft Hood as a backup. In 1992, he earned a two year degree in Applied Science and got a job at the VA doing x- rays. He received two years of experience with the VA and he was hired by MTI, Mobile Technology Imagining. He was doing MRI’s. In 1995, he moved to Del Rio Texas with MTI and worked for Val Verde Memorial Hospital, that same year he divorced Basilia. He changed jobs while in Del Rio and went to work for Texas Department of Human Services as a fraud investigator. He returned back to San Antonio and transferred his position with Tx Dept Human Services in 1998. He also remarried Basilia. He had a part time job with Hott Shott delivery services. He applied at Brooks Air Force Base General Service’s position and was hired in 2000. He worked as a Front Desk Clerk at the Brooks Inn. That same year, he had a heart attack and had a triple bypass surgery. A few months later, they also did a coroutted artery surgery on his neck. In 2005, he became a great grandfather. Connie’s daughter Priscilla gave him a granddaughter named VIDA. He retired that same year. In 2007, he decided to look up AARP and they hired him as a file clerk. In 2009, he was hired by Trinity Specialties as a Security Officer. He is currently working there. He loves to fish, camp and play cards. He taught all his children and grandchildren how to play poker. He started off early in his years as a democrat. He now calls himself a conservative. He is a believer of Jesus Christ and attends Journey Fellowship. My father’s dedication to the military was very instrumental for me and the pride that he has, so I joined up. I interviewed my dad at his home, in the back yard on the deck. The video taped the interview and it lasted around an hour. The day was beautiful, thats why we decided to be outside.

Transcription

What was your fondest memory as a child?
Sitting in my dad’s truck, teaching myself how to drive, I pretended to shift gears and I made the noises.

What did your family do for fun when you were still living at home?
I don’t remember doing anything for fun with my family. El nino perdido (the lost child).

Did your parents go to school?
No.

Did your grandparents go to school?
No.

What was your neighborhood like? How has it changed?
It was a friendly neighborhood, we lived between to neighborhood gangs, the Ghost town gang and the Alto Gang. We would all hang out at the the only house on the street that had a tv.

Were you in a gang?
Not at first. The alto gang thought I was a Ghosttowner and the Ghosttown gang thought I was an Alto. But when they found out I was neither, I got beat up everyday. I finally gave in and joined the Ghosttown gang, and I was never beat up again.

Where did you hang out and what did you do for fun?
Paul Maries, Ray’s Drive inn, and Drive in Movies, we just hung out there, they sold beer to minors, we were only 15 years old.

How old were you when you got your driver license?
17 years old.

When you drove around in your truck, did you remember what went through your mind?
I thought I was a hot rodder.

Did you hang out at school?
No, we weren’t allowed to hang out at school. Although I had to stay after school for a while, cause the principle didn’t want me getting a girl in trouble, so he kept me at school until she got home.

How do you see that the school systems have changed?
The schools are more technical, they make you learn, back in our day , they socially promoted you. There were hardly any hispanic teachers.

How has downtown changed?
The urban renewel, chicano removal. They got rid of a lot of mexican sellers and restaurants.

Were you able to get any money when your worked as a teenage?
I gave all my money to my mother voluntarily and she would give us a dollar. We could go to the movies, get drinks and food with a dollar.

How were your trained in your jobs?
It was on the job training. Nothing about safety.

Were you discriminated against at any of your jobs?
At the gunter hotel, only the white boys could work in the restaurant area because it was a fancy one. Later on, they let me in to work, because I was a good worker.

Did you join any unions while you were employed?
When I worked at the Coca Cola Company, I tried to join a union, there wasn’t enough interest. At Schnieders print shop, I crossed a picket line to work because I needed to feed my family.

What did you believe in, when you worked at the Mexican American Councils, What were your views?
I was in the good government league. We got programs for the west and south sides of town. The Raza Unida was used for political purposes. We made street signs and tshirts for elections for any politician that was willing to aid our purposes. The restaurants were for hard core addicts, we petitioned the Methodist and Presbytarian churchs for funding for the Restaurants chain, they gave us $75,000. We had a grand opening for the new restaurant “El Chaleco”, councilmen Pete Torres and Joe Bernal worked as waiters for the day.

When did you change your political views?
I was a Member of the Raza Unida, Our group put people in places where they could help our cause. Rosie Castro was also in the Barios Unidos, we hung out with Col Cisneros, Quiqe Cisneros and Joe Bernal also. I found out not all politicians are good.

Do you think you could have gone into politics?
Yes, I would have. When I worked at the Police Department community relations, I wasn’t making enough money so I left to find other work.

What was it like to own a restaurant in San Antonio?
It was a thriller. It was nice experience. It felt good to drive a new car, have furniture. But because of politics, I was offered a job to open up other restaurants with a program for ex cons, I sold the restaurant. Didn’t work out, the program got cancelled because they used the money for reelections of politicians.

When you became a father, what did you see yourself doing for your children?
Growing up with them, I had to care for my little sisters, my responsibilities changed.

Do you recall what it was like to live next door to your parents?
Warm meals everyday. Knowing we could leave the kids anytime was pretty cool, knowing they would be taken care of.

Did you plan on living next door to them always?
Yes, I wanted to live there always.

What did you do at the Y?
I started a program, NYPUM, sent a letter to honda, and they gave us minibikes, and funding for mechanic training. We used to take the youth on field trips to keep them from gang fights. We were youth out reach workers, with ten housing projects, we spoke to kids about gangs, drugs.

Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
I went to work for HB Zachry in Saudi Arabia for the money and the opportunities to travel. It was a good learning experience. They though I was a saudi, because of my skin color. I had to explain to them of my mexican heritiage. They never heard of mexico. I love living in San Antonio and wouldn’t never live anywhere else. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, they don’t happen like everywhere else. It’s a great place to live. I know people who have never been to the Alamo and have lived in San Antonio all their lives. I have been to the tower for times and six times to the Alamo.

Analysis

I learned more about my father and what he did for this community and how much more he could have done if he would have continued in the path he was going. The most important point of this interview was that he kept changing jobs because he needed to support his family and he did what he did to get a better life. I learned that he was instrumental in the YMCA programs Motor cycles for the youth. I chose this era of his life because I was very much interested in the improvements of the hispanic heritage and what he did for the youth and gang problems. I could have gone with the other topics, but I was an EEO representative in my unit so I sort of wanted to know more of what he did. His six word memoir, he came up with himself, i would have chosen, life is what you make of it, because of what he did with his. He chose his because, he loves to help people and help make changes to improve things. I remember being included in a lot of his activites as a gang counselor, YMCA counselor, and Community relations officer, HB Zachry, owning his restuarant and the guard. He took his children to many of the activities he worked, his outings, his presentations against drugs, we sat outside the restuarant when he worked, we were very good children, and the Big parties Zachry threw for his employees, and I even went on his weekend drills and helped him make dog tags. I can attest to most of what he said and did because i saw it and he has lots of letters and documents. The benefits are all mine because i can pass it on to my brothers and sisters and the rest of my family of what my father did and he doesnt have to be dead so that we may hear of his biography. This a an excellent way to learn about the past. I am going to do another two individuals that i want to know about and i would love to document what they know and did.

Timeline

  • Born on 1 May 1943 in San Antonio, Texas
  • Attended Ivanhoe Elemantary School beginning in 1949
  • Attended Rhodes Middle School in 1954
  • Dropped out of School in 1956
  • Got his first car in 1956, Model A Ford
  • Began part time in the fields in 1956,
  • In 1957, part time work as Doorman at the Gunter Hotel, Fulltime at Blumm Landscaping.
  • Joined the Army in 1960
  • Married Maria Louisa Alvarez in 1961 in San Antonio, Texas
  • First child born in 1962 at Robert B Green Hospital, in San Antonio, TX
  • Second child born in 1963, Robert B Green Hospital
  • Third child born, 1965, Robert B Green Hospital
  • Fourth child born, 1967, Robert B Green Hospital
  • Worked at Reliable Batteries in 1967
  • Worked for Mexican American Neighborhood Civic Organization 1968
  • Fifth child born, 1969, Santa Rosa Hospital San Antonio, Texas
  • Worked at YMCA, 1970
  • Death of father in 1971 of lung cancer.
  • GED 1972
  • Worked for Schneider Printing Co 1974
  • Worked for HB Zachary in 1975
  • One year tour in Saudi Arabia 1979
  • Death of Mother in 1980 of heart disease.
  • Divorced Maria
  • Married Basilia Molina in 1982
  • Became Grandpa 1984
  • Went to College 1989
  • Activated to Desert Storm 1990
  • Graduated 1992 with Associates in Applied Science
  • Worked for MTI 1994
  • Moved to Del Rio in 1995, Divorced Basilia
  • Worked for Texas Dept of Human Services in 1996
  • Moved back to San Antonio in 1997
  • Remarried Basilia in 1998
  • 2000 Worked at Brooks AFB
  • 2005 became Great Grandpa, Retired from Brooks
  • 2007 Worked for AARP
  • 2009 Worked for Trinity Specialties
  • Interviewed by Sylvia Rodriguez Webster on 19 March 2010

Annotated bibliography

  • The Handbook of Texas Online
    a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, geography, and culture sponsored by the Texas State Historical Association and the General Libraries at UT-Austin. It was produced in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. Copyright © The Texas State Historical Association.
  • Texas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History has an extensive collection of annotated photographs of twentieth century Texas. Included in the collection are historical images of courthouses, churches, schoolhouses, banks, jails, cemeteries, gas stations, and water towers. Website Content Copyright ©1998-2008. Texas Escapes – Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
  • Cost-of-Living Calculator. The calculator uses the Consumer Price Index to do the conversions between 1913 and the present. The source for the data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Consumer Price Index reflects the cost of items relative to a specific year. The American Institute for Economic Research. P.O. Box 1000. Great Barrington, Massachusetts. 01230.

 

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