This interview was conducted by Dina Sanchez in March 2013 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2013 class.
I am very fortunate to have been introduced to Hiram Sanchez. As I was looking for a good candidate to help me with my oral history project, I made a list of several possibilities and shared them with my sister Joque. There are many times when I face different choices and that’s when our sister bond comes in handy, I explained my history oral project to her and the importance of it, she said she knew the perfect person for this assignment, Hiram Sanchez. Allow me to introduce you. Hiram Sanchez was born on September 27, 1942 in San Antonio, Tx at Santa Rosa Hospital. San Antonio has been his home ever since. His parents were Fidencia Frausto Sanchez and Lazaro Medrano Sanchez, he was an only child. He attended Ivanhoe Elementary School, which was built in 1932. This school is located a block away, east of Our Lady of the Lake University. They changed the name of this school in 1975 to Cleto L. Rodriguez Elementary School. The community requested for the name of this school to be changed because Master Stg. Cleto L. Rodriguez was a former student at Ivanhoe Elementary in the 1930s. Master Stg. Cleto L. Rodriguez was a veteran of World War II, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor; he was the first Hispanic American to achieve this. Hiram attended the Jeremiah Rhodes Junior High. He played football and were the city football champions in 1957, they beat all the Northside and Alamo Heights high schools. After junior high, he attended Brackenridge High School, then went to SAC and accumulated 51 hours; his field of study was architecture. Under the auspices of the National Relation Board, Hiram completed a 5 year Pluming Apprentice Program / Pipe Fitter Program, he attended three evenings out of the week from 6pm to 10pm. Hiram obtained his certificate and his plumbing license, he has been a plumber since 1965 until now, and he still has his master license. He has worked alongside engineers, knows how to read blue prints, he is a Specialist Plumber, and has been awarded a credit score of AAA from Dun & Bradstreet.
Olga Treviño Musquiz Sanchez is married to Hiram Sanchez, they had 5 children; Hiram Larry Sanchez, Brenda Ruth Sanchez (married, now Carazco), Moses Sanchez (passed away), Sarah Sandra Sanchez (married), Elizabeth Sanchez (passed away). Hiram is a Sabbath keeper, attends Shearit Yisrael Messianic Congregation. He doesn’t really like either party but he said, “I support the lesser of the two evils, so that be Republican.” He served in the reserves for 8 years in the Texas National Guard, 36 Division. Hiram’s hobby is to read, he has a book shelf that’s overflowing with books. My sister Joquebeth Njogu is a member of the congregation at Shearit Yisrael where she met Hiram Sanchez. I don’t think I could have found a better person to help me with this oral history project than him.
As a child what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?
As a child? As a child when I grew up, laughed, I kinda had a dream of being in the military. Being a…being in the military a soldier, a professional soldier. But…then, being an only son I kinda thought about my parents. And my dad didn’t want me to sign in the military, see…he could’ve stop that. Back then, if you had an only son you could petition. So what I did, I did serve my country through the reserves, I joined the National Guard. I went for a six months training, I was an infantry man, then I became a radio operator I was the company commander’s driver. And…while I was in basic training I was offered NCO Academy, Non Commission Officer, they train you to be a Non Commission Officer, you know…to work yourself thru the ranks. But my dad kinda stopped that, because see…I also wanted to go airborne, paratrooper. The only way they would allow that is if you go military for a three year program that they had. And when I tried all of that my dad had written a letter to congressmen Henry B. Gonzalez. So when my application went through, and I had passed, I had that thing, a note by the congressmen that I was not to be allowed. That I was an only son.
What is your most memorable moment as a student?
As a student…in the public systems in school you know, when I was…well…my most memorable were like, when I was in ROTC, Reserved Officer Training Core. Yeah, and I was in Drill Team, I was a member in the Drill Team, being in the parade you know, being in the parade. And doing the different exercises for the public.
And how many years were you in ROTC?
All thru high school, three years. I got to be a cadet major.
So then, high school was only three years at that time?
Yes, because elementary school was from first grade thru sixth grade. And then, junior high school, if you will middle school today, was seventh, eighth, and ninth. And then, high school was tenth, eleventh, and twelfth. Is a little different then today. They gave you a little bit more time to mature in junior high, one more year, so when you went to high school you were more mature then they are now. Now, they bring them out a year earlier into high school, and you know, you may not believe that but in that time of span there’s a lot of maturity going on for one year at that age. And I think if they would hold the students in junior high, one year, and then by that time they’ll be like 15, they would go into high school because that’s about the age that I went into high school. And between 14 and 15 there’s a lot of maturity going on, so and you have a different perspective about high school, then you would if you started a year earlier. It helped us.
Were you given a lot of homework when you were growing up when you were in school? And did someone help you with your homework?
Yeah, they gave us, not a lot. I would say, I would have about 45 minutes to an hour. Did I get help, most of the time no I didn’t, I did it all by myself. I had no brothers, no sisters, my dad and mom they didn’t even go to junior high school…so I had to do it all on my own. Now…we did, I used to get together with two of the other fellas and we worked on the assignments together, math problems, things like that, English. As far as having…in those days, they didn’t have as many counselors or whatever in school, programs to help students you know. I think they only had one counselor for the entire school. Now, I think they have a counselor for every department you know, like if you’re weak in English, if you’re weak in math, if you’re weak…back then they didn’t have nothing like that. You were on your own. You did all your solo flights by yourself (laughs).
As you were growing up how important was education to you?
Well, education was like, your way or your gate into having a better life than your parents. In other words coming from…you would almost say, what is consider today a poverty income…you would see the other people that had education, or had skills, they would make better income or they had a better lifestyle than somebody who was just a common labor with no education at all. So, we saw education as a stepping stone to go from one step to the next, to the next. Even though I didn’t make it in college, but I took the traits and this is why I kept going in the traits taking courses relating to construction pluming you know, and it allowed me to continue my education in my field, or my profession because pluming is considered a profession, you know. Yeah, a lot of people don’t understand this, they see a plumber and they think he’s just a common construction worker. But the main essence of pluming is to guard the health of the nation, that is the essence of pluming, nothing else. Whenever you have an inspector come and inspect your job they look for a job that is sanitary and it’s going to prevent diseases from getting into the environment. For the health of the nation, the health of our fellow citizens, and also providing comforts like heated water, you know. Good clean water is very important. If you ever go to a hospital, I think I’ve told you this, but the plumber is responsible for piping every type of pipe that is required where it be hot water, cold water, where it be chemicals, where it be vacua, where it be oxygen, nitric oxide, we are responsible for piping all that in, and have it in function to the perfect way that is intended for. If not if you mix nitric oxide with another gas…you could kill a patient, the doctor, the anesthesiologist could kill a person, or the patients, so you see how important plumbing is? So then, you know, the more skills that you have in your profession and you become more of a demand you know, the plumbing shops where they have a big construction job, where it be a hospital, where it be a factory, where it be a refinery, they look for people that have training in those areas that they need for constructing a building, a building of constructing a factory, a hospital, they look for those skills, if you have those skills you’ll never be out of work. I was never out of work; I always had work because I had training and skills.
After you graduated from high school what goals did you have, or did you set for yourself?
Well…my goal was to serve my country, and also to go to college afterwards. Those were my goals. So I went in the military first. I was a six months program thru the National Guard and then an eight year reserve commitment, and then after that…that would help supplement some of the income for college. And I accumulated like about 42 hours in college, at San Antonio College.
And your field of study was…?
Did you experience any racial issues as a student?
No, the only racial thing was that back then, they would encourage the Hispanics to leave college and pick up a trait. Like they didn’t want the Hispanics to get academics in their portfolios as far as education. It was like they highly discouraged you from staying in college. They did not have counselors that would set up a plan, that they would come up and help you.
When did you realized that they weren’t encouraging you to finish, or how is it that you got that feeling?
The first semester. By the administration mainly, you know…the counselors, and people that help coordinate classes for the students. So that’s…just…but yet, they would go out of their way to help the Anglo Saxon. You could see the favoritism; they would always be first on everything. They would always be like…you know…sometimes they would, if the white person had an excuse to enroll early, then he had to pick the classes he wanted, and we were not allowed to enroll early. We were allowed to enroll on the day that it was set for us. Yeah…so, you saw things like that. But in architecture, the departmental head, the other people involved in it, they were different. They were real friendly people, real helpful, and you know they would go out of their way to help you out. Yeah…but it is the other, how would you say?…the other part of the staff that was a little more bias.
How did you finance, pay for your college education?
Some of the money from the reserves went for my education, and then I had a part time job. I was working as a porter at a shoe store, and also salesman. I would get the store all cleaned up, squared away for the following day, the end of the day. Or…and then when I would go in, in the afternoon, I would work like for example…from 4 to 9 o’clock, something like that, as a salesman on the floor, and then after that I would clean up and straighten up the store, and get ready for the next day. I kinda developed a system and it would take me every bit of 45 minutes. It wasn’t a very big store, it had probably at the most 2,000 sq. ft. of space at the McCrelees Shopping Center. I would work Thursday night, Friday night, and then I would work all day Saturday. And if they needed me, if one of the regular salesman wasn’t able to be there in the evening when they had the rush, people that would shop in the evening, they’d call me in to fill in. But…it helped, it helped, I was bilingual (laughs), and I could make twice as much money as the person that only spoke English. So being bilingual helps. I worked at that place for about three years. Then after that I decided to pick up a trait, ’cause ummm…it seemed because of my English (English course) difficulty I…I decided to pick up a trait and I went into the plumbing industry. So I picked, I decided to go into the plumbing industry, and it’s been good to me. It’s, you feel like a fulfillment, because I have kinda left my signature in San Antonio. I can go through the city and say I did plumbing in that building, or we did the VA Hospital, we did the airport, or like I did plumbing at St. Philip’s College when they had an expansion. I did the 300 Men Officer Special Quarters at Fort Sam Houston. I worked at the Air Space Medical School at Brooks. I worked at the Field Depot for Kelly on the B52 C58 F16 F104 you know. Then I also worked at the hospital on the south side, Southwest Hospital, worked on that one from the ground up. Until it opened up, on everything. We did all the systems you know, we did the surgical systems, we did the x-ray systems, dental systems. Worked at the, also, here at the UT Health Science Center at the dental school, installing the dentists chairs, they were something like 300 that we did. So you know, there’s some buildings now that we did, worked on at Central Park Mall, now those are torn down now, they’re not there anymore, about 40 years ago. I left my footprint here, I left my footprint in the Houston area in the refineries.
Did you have a favorite teacher? And if you did have a favorite teacher why was he or she your favorite?
Well, I didn’t have a favorite, I had a couple instructors that were real good, that were real good. That I could sit down and talk to them and one was Mr. Golla, his name was really…they called him Gola but his real name was Golla. And then I had another instructor and his name was Fred Ludwig, he was an Aggie. And we used to discuss the Aggie football teams, the football games you know. So, but those were two real nice guys that I could relate to. In college.
What major change did you notice in education from elementary to your early college years?
In…well…it seems like…elementary school thru high school was, to me it was a lot of fun. To me it seemed like they were easy courses. Always doing activities you know, with the ROTC high school. In junior high we had, I took a course in wood work, we used to compete doing things out of wood, so you know, it was a lot of fun. So, elementary was…I barely remember elementary just that I went to school, that’s all I can say about elementary (laughs).
What advice would you give to a college student now?
My advice to a college student is…to be conservative in time management, because time is on the essence. Also to not encourage a big debt while you’re in school. Just because the loans and credits are out there don’t overdo it, because when you graduate you spend more time paying off those bills, and then you just don’t have the income to do what you really want to do because you’re full of debt. And the next thing is relationships, build relationships, do networking because when you get out in the real world that’s, that is what’s gonna keep you going, you know you cannot go, you cannot be independent. You know, you gotta depend on someone always, even if sometimes is just for a little thing you know, and that helps to get yourself ahead in life. It’s like the ol’ saying…sometimes is not what you know but who you know, that’ll get you places. And this is why is good to build relationships.
Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?
Well, I think it’s…this is…I didn’t expect this interview, but I think it’s like an eye opener to me, you know. And I appreciate the college taking time to see what the past was like, because you need a foot into build on, and when you build on experiences that have been proven, that helps the future generation coming behind us, and they need all the help they can get ’cause that’s the only way we are going to build a good country.
Historians hold an enormous responsibility when it comes to recording what happened in the past. Oral history is a significant account of previous events, “A picture can tell a thousand words” but there is a lot that an individual can verbally share about their life that is never portrayed in a photo. When a person is interviewed about things that happened in their past, one can find the background information that leads this person to making the decisions they made in their lives. One of the most important points that were made in this interview was that if an individual works for the things they want to achieve, it is then that they will be able to accomplish whatever goals they have set for themselves. I interviewed a person that I didn’t know before, all the information that Hiram Sanchez shared with me I treasure, because he didn’t have to contribute to this oral history project, nonetheless he gave me time and was patient during the whole process. Education in Texas was the topic that Hiram chose to interview about. In this time in age, it is easy to forget and not appreciate the opportunities that we now have. When Hiram was in school, society had a place, and didn’t expect much from Hispanics. Society did not encourage Hispanics to finish their education, on the contrary they expected them to drop out of school to pick up a trait and move on to the labor force. The most convenient way that I was able to validate what was share with me on this interview, was through the internet, reading some of the chapters in the books we used in this class were also helpful material. Oral history is beneficial in the sense that there is so much a person has experienced, seen, lived through, which can be captured by interviewing them. Our brains can hold a lot of information, and memories, that sometimes we only share when we are asked to talk about them. On the down side, not everyone can retell a story about their lives with 100% accuracy. I cannot remember a lot of dates, and sometimes my memory is blurry, but fortunately not everyone is like me. In conducting this oral history project, I believe it is an effective way of learning about the past. Who better to tell us of what happened in the past, then those individuals among us who have lived through it, they hold valuable information about American history.
- Born on September 27, 1942 in San Antonio, Tx.
- Attended Ivanhoe Elementary School.
- Went to Jeremiah Rhodes Junior High, in 1957 won the city football championship.
- Graduated from Brackenridge High School.
- Attended San Antonio Community College and got credit for 51 hours.
- Completed a 5 year Apprentice Plumber and Pipe Fitter Program, earned his certificate and license.
- Got married to Olga Treviño Musquiz.
- Had 5 children.
- Earned AAA credit score from Dun & Bradstreet.
- Still maintains his master plumber license.
- Cleto L. Rodriguez Elementary School was the elementary school Hiram Sanchez attended.
- Shearit Yisrael is the congregation where he attends.
- Henry B. Gonzalez was the congressman that Hiram’s father wrote a petition letter to stop him from continuing in the military.
- Jeremiah Rhodes Junior High was the middle school Hiram went to.
- St. Philip’s College where Hiram worked during the college’s expansion.
- Southwest Hospital Hiram worked on this hospital from the ground up.
- UT Health Science Center where Hiram worked on installing dental chairs.
- Photographs and/or documents on this website were provided by Hiram Sanchez and Dina Sanchez. The first five pictures are photos from Hiram Sanchez’s collection. The first one is from when he joined the military, he was 18 years old. The beautiful lady in the picture is of his wife, that is a picture from when they got engaged. The pictures from ROTC are from Brackenridge High School, and when he participated in the Fiesta Parade. The documents are from books he used in the Plumbing / Pipe Fitter Program. I took the picture of the award he received from St. Philip’s College, when he worked as a math teacher. The last photo is from my collection, we took that picture at he’s house.