This interview was conducted by Christopher Leija on October 5, 2010 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2010 class.
Gilbert Ortiz was born on February 1, 1952 at Santa Rosa Hospital. The parents that gave birth to him were name Cleto and Stella Ortiz. Gilbert Ortiz wasn’t an only child he had four other siblings. He has two brothers name Rudy and Eddie and also has two sisters name Terry and Ophelia. Gilbert was the first born of the children Cleto and Stella had. Being the first born comes with a lot of reasonability’s since your younger brothers and sisters come to you for advice my uncle Gilbert told me. He was born and raise in San Antonio, Texas and live there all his life. As a young kid Gilbert knew he would grow up to become a teacher cause he was a person that had passion In helping other people and saw as being a teacher would give back to his community. When it came to education he made sure to not stop until he was satisfied. He began his education at St. Mary’s elementary and finish it off at UTSA where he got his Master Degree in Arts in Education. The year was 1989 and it was time to begin his career. Gilbert has had many jobs in his life but his most accomplishing job was Assistant Principal at Fox Tech High School. As of today Gilbert has one daughter name Rachel and is single at the moment. He’s most cherishing thing in the world is his granddaughter name Alyssa that is 10 years old. Gilbert is catholic and one of the reasons he is because he went to Catholic school all the way up to high school. The economic status he is at is middle class. Growing up a lot of his friends joined the service but he decided to stick with school. On his spare time he visit’s his mother at her nursing home at least 3 days out the week. The connection me and the interviewee have is that he is my uncle and we have been living in San Antonio all our life.
What city where you born?
I was born In San Antonio, Texas in 1952 February 1.
What side of town did you grow up on?
Basically central downtown, then we had to move cause of the hemisphere. We move to the near Southside, the neighborhood was like a family. The adults basically knew every kid that lived in the neighborhood and where they live at.
Where did your father work at?
Well my father work at many different places. At first he work at Kelly when I was younger, if I can remember right he work in there warehouse. Then he left to E.L. Smith plumbing and he was a plumber’s helper. After that he work Bexar county election center, he did maintenance there working on the election machines.
Describe a typically day from your early teen years?
A typical day during holidays and summers meant that you could wake up later then usually. Have breakfast at home, could go out and play outside with your friends for a longer time. Most of those activities we play were football, baseball, and basketball. I usually had to be home at 7pm. A typical day for when you had school was going to school, attending classes, and coming home. When I would come home I would go outside to play for awhile then come in to do homework if there were any. And at time my father would check my homework.
What did you and your family do for fun?
We never really went on vacation or nothing like that. They use to take us to the park like play land or Brackenridge Park. Sometimes on Saturdays they would take us to my aunts house for a bar b que or for a family meeting.
What made you sad during your child hood?
Moving which we did a couple of times and the loss of seeing my friends no more. The loss of my grandparents and other family members. The normal things that a child would feel sad for. What also made me sad was knowing that you would have to grow up and couldn’t always be a child with no worry’s.
What is your best memory you can remember from high school?
Probably appreciating the strong academic foundation that I got in private school. An example being in a record keeping class in high school and seeing the other students and their lack of fundamental math skills. The teacher couldn’t proceed doing record keeping task because the vast majority of the students didn’t have basic mathematical mastery. By this I mean they couldn’t perform simple mathematic task. Every Friday the teacher would give us test over our multiples, and remember this was in high school. The nuns gave us strong mathematical skills.
Was education very important back then in your school years?
Naw if you went to high school and finish that was enough. Very few people went to college. It was more important to get a job or learning a trade. People where more focus on supporting themselves as soon as possible.
How was the racial controversy in your growing up years?
Umm, back then all the races pretty much stay to themselves and it was frown upon to see interracial relationships. Sometimes don’t want let you go into the restaurants. They would punish you if you spoke Spanish. We had a feeling of 2nd class citizen ship. Many occupations discourage minorities. Some business such as san Antonio saving which doesn’t exist now had to be boycotted by Hispanic. St. Mary’s university, many years back had a sign that said “No Niggers, No Mexican, No Dogs” this could be verify by looking at recent production of a class by itself which was recently on PBS.
What was your first job ever, and how much did you get paid?
My first job was working with my grandfather at a parking lot. His name is Matt Sepulveda. I was probably eight to nine years old and it was a summer job. And if I can remember I got 12 dollars a week and also got tips. My grandfather use to manage between four and five parking so I also had a summer job growing up.
What was the hang out spot you went too during your high school years?
There was a place right across from Brackenridge high school that was called the Astro. It was like what sonic is today. Although at times we have trouble being sever since we were Mexican. You would go inside and they had booth and they also had car hops. Most of time we couldn’t go inside we had to stay outside since we were Hispanic. The only way we could go inside if all of us had money to eat; we couldn’t sit there without ordering any food.
What was the first car you bought? And how much did it cost?
The first car was a 1964 Chevrolet impala and I bought it in 1974. It was a blue two door and it cost 700 dollars, I bought it at a car lot that was a block and a half from where I live. I save up the money from working at a Pay Less pharmacy from delivery medicine. I choose that car because the price was cheap and all the other cars were too big. I wanted something that didn’t use a lot of gas.
How much did it cost back then to fill up your vehicle?
We never had a car back than but I can remember gas costing about 27 cents so if you had a 20 gallon gas tank it would only cost a person $5.40 compare to the prices now a days.
Do you still keep in touch with friends you grow up with?
Umm, no they all move away to different neighborhoods. Some I see every once in awhile, several are dead. Some went to the same high school and I see them at the reunion. The ones I went to private school I see then more because most of them became professional, like pharmacist, doctors, and police men. Most of the time I just mainly see them at reunions and funerals.
Being Hispanic did you lose out on a lot of opportunities?
Umm, I think so but I lose out a lot on a lot because I didn’t apply myself early on. It took me many jobs to see if I was going to improve I was going to need to get a higher education. Most of the Hispanic culture was built upon the work force. They didn’t worry about the future it was more about today and tomorrow.
What are some of the main difference from how life in San Antonio is now then it was back then?
Umm, everything is more expensive, entertainment is too manufactured now of day. Of course cost of living have change a lot from those times. There is a lack of respect by the younger generation today towards people, property, and adults. And a disregard for law and order. Too many people today do not have a good work ethic and they just want to get by with the minimum.
What is the most significant thing you can remember about San Antonio?
It was slow place, you create a lot of your own toys. Found ways to entertain yourself, back then we didn’t have electronics to keep us busy or occupied.
What is the best thing that happen to you in San Antonio?
Birth of my daughter and my grand kids. Having a peaceful family life as I was growing up.
What advice would you give to young men or women today?
Get some kind of education or learn a trade to be able to help support you. It don’t necessary have to be a college education but it can be a program you join to be able to have a skill that will help support your family.
Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?
No, umm, sometimes you want to go back which things wouldn’t change. And you regret that time has passed so fast, I wish time would have sat still instead of moving as fast as it did. Times back then were much similar then now and people were a lot more happy back then than now. The crime rate wasn’t as high as what it is today and its sad how young people are having baby’s so young now a days.
The oral history project has tough me many things. One of the things it taught me was that you learn a lot of new information about the person you’re interviewing. I and my uncle aren’t so close so I took this opportunity to build a bond between us. He open up to me as the interview went on and some main points he told me about his life was that he was very religious since his younger years. His family believes that everything that happen was for a reason and by going to church will help you go down the right path. Education was always his strong point in life and knew as a young boy he would go to college. I ask my uncle to describe his life in six words and this is what he came up with: Happy for how his life turn out, Complacent for all his goals he reach, Awaken is for knowing where he stands in life, Determine is for never giving up when the outcome was blurry, Successful was for career he had, and Content is how he lives life. I could tell that most of responses he gave me meant a lot to him because he took his time and his facial reaction wasn’t like a normal conversation would look like. The way he made it seem was that growing up in San Antonio wasn’t as easy as it is now. There was a lot of racial controversy back then and it was hard to come by a good opportunity in his days. People from his era work a lot of blue collar jobs and the work was a daily struggle. Some of his response sounds to out of the ordinary to me so I ask his sister which is mother to confirm so of his information. I’m glad Mr. Myer’s created this project because it a very interesting and motivational way to learn about past history. He could easy have students read from different historical books to learn about history but this oral history project lets us connect to history on a personal level.
- Gilbert Ortiz was born on February 1, 1952
- Attended St. Mary’s Elementary from 1958-1966
- Joined the schools JROTC in 1962
- Joined the schools basketball team in 1964
- Attended La Salle H.S. for freshmen year in 1966
- Attended Brackenridge H.S. from 10-12 grade 1968-1970
- From 1970-1973 he started college at San Antonio College
- In 1975 he graduated from Our Lady of the Lake University with B.O.A degree
- His first job with his degree was College Placement Counselor, Project Stay Inc. in 1976
- History Teacher at Longfellow Middle School from 1976 to 1977
- History Teacher at Cooper Middle School from 1977 to 1983
- History Teacher at Fox Tech High School from 1983 to 1990
- Administrative Assistant at Lanier High School from 1990-1991
- Assistant Principle at Fox Tech High School from 1995 to 2004
- Retire from the school district in 2004
- Substitute Assistant Principle, (Part Time), Highlands High School from 2004 to 2005
- Math Gear Up Tutor (Part Time), Harris Middle School from 2006 to 2007
- Substitute Assistant Principle, (Part Time), Highlands High School from 2007 to 2007
- ELA/Reading Gear-Up Tutor (Part Time), Harris Middle School from 2007 to 2008
- Substitute Assistant Principle, (Part Time), Lanier High School from 2008 to 2009
- Substitute Assistant Principle, (Part Time), Jefferson High School from 2010 to present
- The Handbook of Texas Online
is 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.
- Cost-of-Living Calculator. The calculator uses the Consumer Price Index to do the conversions between 1960 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.
- Our Lady of the Lake University. This university meant a lot to my uncle because he got his B.A degree here. By getting that degree open up a lot of opportunity’s for him and change his life for the better.
- Photographs and/or documents on this website were provided by Gilbert Ortiz. All of these photo’s are just pictures of him by himself, he told me growing up he really just keep to himself. The pictures were located in a large enveople place inside a shoe box under his bed.