This interview was conducted by Brandi L. Ruiz on March 20, 2008 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2008 class.
My Grandmother, Ramona Salinas Sanchez was born on August 31, 1928 to her mother, Juanita Cortez Salinas and father, Moises Barrera Salinas. She also had an older sister at the time of her birth, Josefina Macias. Following my Grandmother was the birth of her brother, Raul Salinas and her sister, and Janie Salinas Reyes. My Grandmother attended J.T. Brackenridge Elementary School and then went on to continue her education at Lanier High School, which is located at the heart of the Westside of San Antonio. My Grandmother accomplished her education until the 10th grade, where she began working to help support her family. Her first job at this time was at Joske’s Department store, where she took up a position in the cafeteria of the department store. This department store was located on Commerce Street, at the exact location where the Rivercenter Mall stands today. Later, she took a job at Judson’s Candy Factory, then moved on to work at Kelly Air Force Base afterwards. At the age of 18, her father Mioses Salinas passed away. My Grandmother then met my Grandfather, Porfirio Sanchez at a dance while my Grandfather was here on furlough in the U.S. Army. On September 25, 1954, my Grandparents were married. On December 5, 1955, my Grandparents were blessed with the birth of their first child, Mary Ann Sanchez Fernandez. Over the next few years my Grandparents had two more daughters, Norma Jean Sanchez, born on November 18, 1957 and their last child, Gloria Sanchez (my mother),born November 22, 1960. While married and raising three daughters, my Grandmother had to help support her family as well. She began working at a manufacturing company called Fine Silver and she remained there for about 30 years. On August 31, 1983, on my Grandmother’s 55th birthday, her mother Juanita Salinas passed away. My Grandmother began to work at another sewing factory called Castro Company. This was her final place of employment and afterwards, my Grandmother continued her devotion to her family. Over the next years, my Grandmother was blessed with 5 grandchildren, whom she has all practically raised, and now has 8 great-grandchildren. One of her greatest talents that’s she continued over the years was sewing. My Grandmother is a brilliant, strong-willed woman, whom I have an enormous amount of love and respect for and she illustrates the demanding and hard-working life that many women lead.
What is your full name?
Well, before I got married it was Ramona Cortez Salinas, But now it’s Ramona Salinas Sanchez.
When were you born and where were you raised?
Where was I born? Here in San Antonio on August 31, 1928. I was raised over on San Carlos street.
Did you have any siblings and how many did you have?
Oh, I’m not sure but my mom had about three or four kids besides my brother Raul, but they passed away. So the only ones that were left were me, my sister Fina and Janie, and Raul.
Why aren’t you smiling in this photo?
Because I was upset that they had cut my hair right before this picture. I was mad becasue Janie had her curls, but I didn’t have mine.
What types of chores were you given when you growing up?
Nothing really. Mom used to do all the work. Yeah, she washed the clothes, she ironed, she would make the food. We just played around, I can remember playing around with buckets of water so we could keep cool. But chores, no.
What types of types of games or activities did you and your brothers and sisters do to pass the time for fun?
Well, we would play that Red Rover, Red Rover and uh… all those games from back then. We were always in the streets with the neighbors from the front. We didn’t have a street light, but we used to play in the moonlight. We used to play there and just old games like, sing little songs like La Munequita Azul and all that. Yeah, we used to play in the street, but not too late because they did n’t let us play too late in the street. My Dad would call us inside. But that’s what we did.
What type of relationship did you have with your parents? Were they strict?
My Dad was very strict. My Mom and I, we used to get along beautifully, but my Dad was very strict with me mostly and Raul. Janie, no, she used to get away with a lot of things. The rest of us he used to spank though.
At what age would your parents let you go out with your friends?
Oh, I would say until I was about 15 or 16. My Dad would never let us go out.
What about dating?
Oh, forget it! I didn’t start dating until I was about, I’d say about 18. But then it was all hidden because my Dad wouldn’t let us go out at night. Right down the street there used to be a little carnival and there we would meet our boyfriends, but when it got really late my Dad would go looking for us.
Do you remember what you could buy back then, compared to the prices now, like say for a nickel or a dime?
Oh yeah. You could buy milk for five cents a bottle, sugar maybe ten or twenty cents, beans, rice, everything was cheap. They used to sell sugar for twenty, twenty-five cents. Food was cheap. Yeah, my Dad would go to the store, because my Mom would never go, but my Dad would go and buy whatever my Mom needed.
Where could you or what types of events could you go to for like, a dime or a nickel?
Well, to the corner stores, there was one there by our house. That’s where we used to go and get sodas and there was a meat market there. My Dad used to work there and he used to get meat there. And we used go to the the Guadalupe Theatre, one that’s right here down the street, it used to be a theatre for movies. And we used to go with my Mom, she used to take us to the movies. We used to pay, I think ten or twenty-five cents to get in. She used to take us in the evening around 6 or 7’o clock and by 8 or 9 she would bring us back home.
What about appliances, did you have any when you were growing up?
Well, my Mom used to have one of those older gas stoves and then later my Dad got her one of those wood burning stoves. We had no electricity, we had no television, no radio so all we did was just play out there in the yard or in street because back then there weren’t a lot of cars. So we used to play for a while and then go in and go to sleep. My Mom used to iron, but she would put the iron on the stove or on a thing that had the hot charcoal in it. But the iron was made out of cast iron.
At what age did you start working?
Well, I started working at about 15 years old. But they didn’t want to hire me because they thought I was too young, because I’ve always been very petite so they didn’t believe me when I told then how old I was. But they hired me anyway.
So at 15 you started working? What was your first job?
Oh my first job was…. hmm. I know I used to work at a sewing factory that close by the Hemisphair Park. But I didn’t work too long, because there were always those people protesting trying to get more money. The union was trying to get in there, but I never joined the union.
You didn’t want to?
No, I didn’t want to join the union. I didn’t like the union. I didn’t want to be out there in the streets with signs. And then I worked for Judson Candy and I worked at a lot of places when I was young before I really going into the sewing business. I used to work at restaurants and laundries. Whatever I could find, if I found a job I would work there. Then later I found a job with Fine Silver making work clothes and then I got married and starting having babies and hen I had to quit. Because your Grandpa never let me work when I was pregnant. I quit and after I had my babies I would go back to work again.
I know you really good at sewing, did you pick that up when you were young or did you learn to sew when you started working? Was it something that you enjoyed?
It was something that I enjoyed and I would see my mother, because my mother used to do a lot of sewing when she was young. They used would bring her material and patterns for dresses and she would sew them. And I would watch what she was doing and that’s where I first picked up sewing. And I liked it and at first people would bring me material, not a lot, but a few things and I went to work instead because I would get more money. Not that I got that much money because at that time the wages were very. Very low. But then I left Fine Silver and came over her to Castro. Then they sold the place here and then they moved over there by Laurel (street) and we went over there. That was my last job, at Castro. Yeah, that was my last job.
And Castro was a sewing place?
Yeah. But Fine Silver would make work clothes and Castro made fine clothes, baby clothes. We would make some dresses that were really pretty. One time Henry Cisneros came and he congratulated us because all the clothes that we would make here would go like to Macy’s and lots of big stores over in California. Here in the stores at the time you wouldn’t find the clothes that we sewed, they would all go to California. That’s why when they started to steal the clothes from Castro, they couldn’t sell them because right away people would recognize them. Because the stores from here wouldn’t sell them. We made lots of baby clothes, real beautiful clothes and dresses.
Do you remember how much you got paid? Say compared to your first job and then your most recent?
At first, the restaurants would pay me about $1.25 an hour and then the sewing places would pay us depending on our production. We were paid for what we did.The more we made, the more they paid us. But I liked it a lot, working there at Castro.
Where did you meet Grandpa?
I met him at a dance. They used to have a lot of those dance halls here on Flores
street. And we used to go there and he was there, he came on furlough. As soon as he got there, he went straight to our table and asked me to dance. And we danced all night.
When you were pregnant with all three of your girls, did you have any type of medical care?
Not when I was pregnant with your aunt, Mary Ann. No prenatal care. I had a midwife deliver the baby at home. But when I had your Aunt Norma and your mom, I had to go every other month or every month to the doctor. But with Mary Ann, no. I had her at home. I was in labor for about two or three days.
If you had the opportunity to go to college, what would you have wanted to study?
Nursing. I always wanted to be a nurse. I even started to go to one of those nursing schools, but my Dad wouldn’t let me go because it was after I got out of work. My Dad was real strict with me. But if, I had a chance to go to college, I would have wanted to become a nurse.
Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
That marriage is hard, very hard, and not many take it. But if you really love the guy and you think that you’ll make it with him, then I would advise you to stay together.
This project allowed me to understand my Grandmother even more, not only about her childhood, but also about some of the good and bad times she went through in her marriage. I got the chance to hear many stories about the things she did and the places she went to as a child. I even got to research these places, along with some of the companies she used to work for when she was younger. But I think the most important parts of the interview were the more personal stories that my Grandmother told me. Many of these personal stories were about the struggles that come along with being a married woman, raising children and continuing to work. I felt my Grandmother’s historical past about growing up in San Antonio was great for this project. Although, the personal stories about her coping with a marriage, while maintaining to support her family was a huge benefit for myself. I never realized how strong my Grandmohter was for continuing to work while she had a family at home to take care of. There was a huge benefit from being able to research many of the places she remembered as a young girl growing up in San Antonio. It gave me a picture of what the old San Antonio used be like before all of this new reconstruction that goes on today. I could verify many of her stories by also talking to her sister and listening to the interesting stories my mother and aunts had as well. Oral history reports are a great way to learn about the past. They give readers first-hand experiences from the people who were actually able to live theses diverse lives. We get to hear stories about what may have went on back then and even get to see actual pictures from these individual’s lives. This Oral History Project helped me to see the type of life my Grandmother led and I now realize how hard it was for women back then to raise a family, compared to now, where there are many programs to assist families who need a helping hand. I am grateful I had the opportunity to do this project about the past of my Grandmother. It has given me a newfound respect for her, even more then before and has made our relationship even better.
- Born: August 31, 1928
- Education: J. T. Brackenridge Elementary School,
Sidney Lanier High School
- Occupations: Joske’s Department Store; Judson’s Candy
Co.; Kelly Air Force Base
- Death of Father: Moises Barrera Salinas -1946
- Married: To Porfirio Sanchez on September 25, 1954
- Birth of 1st Child: Mary Ann Fernandez on December 5,
- Birth of 2nd Child: Norma Jean Sanchez on November 18,
- Birth of 3rd Child: Gloria Sanchez on November 22,
- Additional Occupations: Fine Silver Manufacturing Co.;
Castro Sewing Co.
- Birth of First Grandchild: Richard Sanchez Jr. – 1976,
- Death of Mother: Juanita Cortez Salinas on August 31,
- Death of Sister: Josefina Masias – 1985
- Birth of Last Grandchild: Juan Ruiz Jr. -1987
- Birth of First Great-Grandchild: Angelica Mercedes
Sanchez – 1998
- Birth of Latest Great-Grandchild: Noah Xavier Sanchez –
- Accomplishments: Continued to work throughout her entire
life, while raising a loving family: three daughters, 5
grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.
- Gudalupe Cltural Arts Theatre
Includes information about upcoming events taking place at the theatre and an interactive tour of their gift shop. They also include a list of the programs that they offer, such as educational, dance, youth and adult programs.
- Hemisfair Park
This website includes information on the history of Hemisfair Park and specific directions on how to get there. Also included are information on events that may take place there. There are also links included for more information on tourist attractions in San Antonio.
- Photographs on this website were provided by my aunt, Mary Ann Fernandez, and my great-aunt, Janie Reyes.