This interview was conducted by Stephanie Deanne Alvarado on March 20, 2010 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2010 class.
My grandpa, Victor Sierra was born May 24, 1945 to his parents Maria Salazar and Juan Sierra. He was born and raised in San Antonio, Tx and has one sister and three brothers. He attended David Barkley Elementary, Cooper Middle School, and Lanier High School; unfortunately his education ended shortly after beginning his freshman year there at the high school. When asked why he stopped attending school, he replied with the answer most of our grandparents use, “Because I needed to get a job to help my family with the bills and my siblings.” That is where he got his first job working at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in 1961. At age 19, he married Juanita Rodriguez in 1964, and a few months later, they moved to Chicago, Illinois. There they lived for 10 years raising a family and where he worked in many different factories, making all types of electronics. Victor and Juanita had three children: Victor, Diana, and Ruby. Victor was not with them for very long, he died after only one day. Diana and Ruby however, are thankfully still with us today with families and having successful lives. In 1974 they decided to move back to San Antonio, to raise Diana and Ruby where they grew up. Although they were able to purchase their own home in 1977, Victor’s career was cut short due to being medically retired in 1989. Victor and his wife Juanita are still living in that very home they purchased 33 years ago, and still enjoy it very much. His mother passed away in 1994 and his father in 1990, both due to cancer. Although his parents are no longer with him, all brothers and his one sister are still able to share their life with him today. His hobbies now are fishing, cleaning up around the house, and spending time with his three granddaughters, including myself. Victor is enjoying his life, and told me directly that he would not change anything about the past.
So you have three brothers and a sister, what order are you?
I’m the middle child, smack down in the middle, and it doesn’t bother me like it usually bother middle children.
So you weren’t able to attend high school all the way through, but did you like going to school when you did go?
Yes, I loved going to school. It gave me something to do, and I loved learning.
Did you have a lot of friends?
Yes, I did, from school and from my neighborhood. But in the end, I still stuck around my brothers most.
What did you, your brothers, and friends do for fun?
We would play football and basketball a lot. Another thing we would do for fun, we would ride our bikes around the neighborhood. It was a lot of fun. But with my brothers it was different; we would go fishing a lot. Even when my parents wouldn’t let us, (laughs).
Where would you go fishing?
Well the lake at Our Lady of the Lake University used to be an open lake, before the university even existed. It wasn’t far from my house, so we would ride our bikes to the lake, or sometimes even walk.
Why wouldn’t your parents let you sometimes?
Because my mom said we went fishing too much, and after her and my father got divorced, she needed us to work rather than fish, (laughs). I was about thirteen when my parents divorced, and helping my mom financially was put on not just myself, but also my brothers. We didn’t mind helping, we gave my mother alot of credit for raising us on her own, and i still do today.
So skipping a few years ahead, when you stopped attending high school your freshman year, what did you do?
I worked. My first job was at St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, I loaded and unloaded trucks of donations. I find it weird because my oldest grandaughteryour older sister, she worked there her second job around. And you work at a thrift store for your first job, so I guess our family has a thing for working at thrift stores laughs)!
So you met grandma when you were nineteen, and soon after were married, how did you meet her?
She lived down the street from my house. I would see her walk to work everyday, and we got to know eachother and we fell in love.
What did you first notice about grandma?
She was alot of woman! (laughs) No, I thought she was very beautiful.
So after a few months into your marriage, you moved to chicago. Tell me about that.
Yes, we moved to Chicago, Il, and we lived there for almost ten years. When I first moved there to chicago, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it because I had no friends, and I thought it was a very strange place. But after getting to know people, I grew to love it there, and I also learned to love the weather.
So where did you work?
I worked mostly in factories, I bounced back and forth really.
So you have two daughters, and earlier mentioned about your son. How did they get their names, and what are their nicknames?
Yes our frist son was Victor, named after me, but he only lived to be one day. If you don’t mind, we don’t like to talk about it, it’s too heartbreaking, (paused to catch breath). Then came Diana and then Ruby, and I chose all their names, inluding their nicknames: Diana was Bucko, and Ruby was Boo.
So why did you move back down to San Antonio?
We moved back because we missed our family, and we decided to raise the girls where we grew up. We didn’t want them to grow up without knowing their family, because we never came down to visit much, it wasn’t really in our budget most of the time. When we moved back, we knew we wanted tp stay, so we bought this house.
So where did you work when you came back down to San Antonio?
In factories like I did in Chicago, that’s really what I stuck to my whole life, (laughs). Your grandma worked in a lot of factories as well.
So you mentioned you are medically retired, tell me about the accident that put you out of work.
I was involved in a car accident, while I was on the job. I was driving a truck of deliveries, and as I had the right away, a senior citizen came and hit me. I basically destroyed my back, I’ve been through so many surgeries, so that’s when I retired in 1989.
So after the accident, you spent a lot of time at home since you weren’t able to work, would that frustrate you?
At first, it would, only because I was always in so much pain. But over the years I began to enjoy it. I started going fishing more often, with your dad and with some friends, and I really enjoyed building things for you girls. I would make myself do little projects, so that way I wasn’t always lying around. Still to this day, I still keep active, I love fixing up the yard.
So then, that brings us to today. What do you do for fun?
I mainly just fix up around the house and around the yard. I take my grandaughters where they want to go and where they need to go, and once in a while, every chance I get, I still go fishing. I enjoy my life very much.
Thinking back, what are the main things you remember from your many years?
I remember the important things, rather than the good times. I remember the birth of my children and grandchildren, the day I was married, the days my parents passed, and the day my son passed. As far as history points, the two main things I remember are; September 11, when John F. Kennedy was shot, and all the presidential elections, because since I was able to, I have voted in every single one.
Do you have any regrets?
There are some things that I would different, instead of making a right turn I should’ve made a left turn, (laughs). But other than that I’m okay.
Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
No ma’m, you have covered it all. Im just a simple guy in Texas, who loves fishing, the SPURS, and shopping at Thrift Stores!
I learned alot from this project, in the sense of learning more about my grandpa. Hearing how he spent his life, and at times how hard it was, makes me appreciate the life I live now, and I’m very glad he’s still able to be with me. I believe that most important point that was made during this interview, is that he has no regrets about anything. He was and still is a simple man, and even though he wasn’t able to go out and do exciting things, he doesn’t regret it. I learned that my grandma’s sister, and my grandpa’s brother moved with them to Chicago. I didn’t know that, I always thought it was just my grandparents. One topic that was expresse differently, was the topic on his son Victor. His son died only after one day, and he mentioned that he doesn’t talk about him much, due to the pain it brings. I had never seen my grandpa react that way before. When I realized it was a touchy subject, I quickly turned to something else. I believe that this is a really good way of learning about the past. Instead of learning about history through a book, which is the way we’ve learned all our lives, we are able to learn it through another person’s perspective, someone we know and we’re close too. I enjoyed this project very much, and I can’t wait for someone to interview me when I grow older.
- 1945: Victor is born on May 24 in San Antonio, Tx.
- 1951: Began attending David Barkley Elementary.
- 1957: Began attending Cooper Middle School.
- 1961: Began attending Lanier High school, and was his last year in school.
- 1961: First job at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.
- 1964: Marries Juanita Rodriguez and moves to Chicago, Illinois.
- 1964: First child, son Victor Sierra Jr. is born.
- 1966: Second child, daughter Diana Sierra is born.
- 1970: Third child, daughter Ruby Ann Sierra is born.
- 1974: Moves back to San Antonio to raise children.
- 1977: Buys their first home.
- 1989: Is medically retired due to back injury.
- 1990: Father dies of cancer.
- 1994: Mother dies of cancer.
- The Handbook of Texas Online
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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.
- Our Lady of the Lake University. A Catholic, Private University founded in 1895. The lake located at the university, was Victor’s hangout spot for him and his brothers. Our Lady of the Lake University, 411 S.W. 24th St., San Antonio, TX 78207
- Photographs and/or documents on this website were provided by Stephanie Deanne Alvarado and Victor Sierra.
-The first photo was taken in Chicago, Illinois, the day Victor and his wife Juanita moved there. He said these photos were taken, because they wanted memories of the very beginning of their wonderful journey in another state. The photo was taken by Vctor’s sister-in-law, who moved with them to Chicago.
-The second photo was taken in a studio, where Victor was three months old. This is the last remaining photo of himself as a baby.
-The third photo was taken here in San Antonio, Tx, just days before Victor left for Chicago. He claims it was taken after a day he spent with his brothers, a day he’ll always remember.
-The fourth photo was taken in Chicago, and in the photo with Victor is his wife Juanita and brother Goyo. This was also taken at the time, when they finished unloading their things off the train they took to move. The picture was taken by Victor’s sister-in-law.
-The fifth photo is of the house Victor and his family lived in while staying in Chicago. “Everytime I see this photo, I laugh. We wanted to buy that house, but for some odd reason I was afraid. Till’ this day, Juanita still calls me a chicken.”, Victor explains about the photo. This photo was taken by him.
-The sixth photo is taken of the house that Victor and his family purchased 33 years ago. It was taken during the snowfall of 1985, which is the last time it snowed here in San Antonio. Victor and his family still live in this very house, and when looking at this picture, Victor says he is happy he caught this on camera, and it’s not just a memory.
-I fell in love with the seventh photo. It is of Victor and his second daughter, “Boo”, who is also my mother. It was taken by Juanita, Victor’s wife and Ruby’s mom, my grandmother.
-The eigth photo is of the home that Victor purchased 33 years ago, here in San Antonio, Tx. This photo was put right next to the photo of the house in 1985, and we sat and laughed, as we compared the photos. This photo was taken by myself.
-The ninth photo is of my grandfather and myself, taken after the interview. This photo was taken by my grandmother and his wife, Juanita, who was also present for the interview.
-All photos, except for the two that were taken present day, were found underneath Juanita’s bed, being stored in a fire proof box. “She’s in charge of keeping all those things, because I’ll lose them.”(laughs).