This interview was conducted by Clarissa Linda Perez on April 24, 2007 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2007 class.
Jesse Gutierrez Perez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, June 19,1936, to Frank Moreno Perez and Aurea Gutierrez Perez. Jesse graduated from Luther Burbank High School in 1956. He worked unloading box cars (railroad) and being an order selector for H-E-B Grocery at the age of ninteen. Jesse married Olidia Torres Perez July 29, 1967 in San Antonio, Texas. Jesse and Olidia had four children by the names of Lianna, Jesse, Loretta and Clarissa. His favorite hobbies are watching all kinds of sports but favors baseball, basketball and football. Jesse was in Army for six years and was a Communicator, drill Instructor and Military Police Officer. Jesse is now retired from H-E-B Grocery of 50 years and loves being at home enjoying life.
Where did your parents come from?
My Father and Mother came from Mexico. My Father was born in Real De Catorce San Luis Potosi, Mexico and my Mother was born in Serdral San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
How many children did they have?
They have four sons and four daughters.
Did all your brother and sisters have an education?
They all went to junior high except for one sister adn myself that were able to graduate from high school. Because we come from a poor family and they had to work.
Tell me about your education? What schools you went to and level you graduated?
My education started Hillcrest Elementary from there I went to Luther Burbank High school and I graduated from Burbank.
Were you involved in any school activities?
When I was at Burbank I join ROTC because they gave us new uniforms because we were poor. So I was able to save money for my parents cause ROTC furnish the uniforms. So I would wear a uniform everyday for school and that was back in 1952 and that was when I was in high school and I graduated in 1956. Which was four years later and also as for activities. Aside from joining ROTC I was also the Best dress cadet(honored as best dress cadet) and I was honored as the best riflemen as for the Drill team. Then I also join the FFA(Future Farmers of America) and I was one of the ones that used to plow the fields there at Burbank, then we used to grow carrots, turnip greens, and peppers and after all that we used to clean them and take them to the farmers market were our teacher would sell them. Then I took a semester of livestock and a semester of poultry. Livestock consist of hogs, you know pigs and cattle and so I took a semester of that. Then I took a semester of hardy culture and that consist of vegetables and all that, and that’s when I used to plow of the fields at Burbank. In which is the Sports Complex right now and all of that was the field. Then with poultry I dealt with chickens and I also took radio and Tv in highschool and I used to fix them for teachers. I took carpentry I used to make um chairs, benches all kind of carpentry because we had all the tools there so I was able to do all that.
What was the best part of your education?
My best part of educations was of course that I was able to graduate. But I wish that I was able to pay attention to all my studies. The reason I join FFA because they didn’t have homework. Haha I didn’t like homework. So that was the reason why I join Future Farmers of America. And ROTC was a very discipline organization and I am so happy I join ROTC because that made me the man I am right now. A person of character and I expect nothing but I am a perfectionist. And that’s what I like that they teach you in ROTC and I was lieutenant colonel in ROTC.
Did you work while you were in school?
I started working part-time in the ice cream department at Foremost Dairy land. It was called Foremost but another company bought them so they named it Foremost Dairy land. My father was a Milk man at that time and at that time they used to deliver them to the houses and I was his helper. Delivering and every Saturday I would go and help him and during school vacation I used to go help him and then going back I also starting working part time making ice cream aside from that also in the milk department. Because I was still a teenager my first actual job was being a caddy at a golf course at Riverside and I also had another job as a pin boy at Tips Bowling alley. There were no automatic machines where the bowling would throw the ball and it would come back and once the pins fall you would put them back and throw the ball back. Then I was a carpenter here in the neighbor hood that were building the barracks for lackland they used to have nothing but tints for the soldiers and these two carpenter along with many other were working at Lackland building barracks and a friend of mine we used to go and help them. All we did was follow orders and they would assign me to go get nails go get there saws sharpened. They would tell me to get two by fours, one by four you know the numbers they needed to build the barracks.
How much did they pay you?
You know I never even thought about it. I would just get paid and at that time they paid 50 cents and hour at that time while that helped. The golf I just worked on tips. And the carpenter helper it was 50 cents an hour. I used to also help a gentleman who used to sell fruit here in the neighbor hood I use to be the one who yelled Tomatoes, Potatoes, Bananas and I used to knock on the doors. Asked them if they wanted to buy tomatoes, bananas, oranges, and they would give me an order and I would go back to the owner and he would put whatever they wanted in a bag. There used to be an Ice-cream man that would pass by in a horse carriage and he would give me an ice cream if I helped him so I would help him ring the bell.
When did you start working for H-E-B?
I started working for H-E-B in 1956 and they used to pay us 96 cents an hour. Which to me was a lot of money I never paid attention to the amount of money cause I enjoyed working. I started loading and unloading boxcars and that was my first job. It was kinda funny because I was working at Foremost Dairy Land they kinda laid us off for a couple of months because business was not that good and so in the mean time I was walking on the railroad tracks on Frio City road and I notice some guy unloading boxcars and I went up to them and ask them “Hey do you guys need any help unloading boxcars?” This was on a Saturday and they said you looking for work? And I said yea and they said “well you need to go ask in that office over there”. So I walked over there and the receptionist says to me ” May I help you?” I said “yea I just wanna know if ya’ll need any help over there unloading those boxcars”? And she said “Are you looking for work?” I said “Yes maam” and she said “just a minute”. So at that time she called Mr. ML Shoemate who was the manager of the warehouse. So she said “Mr. Shoemate this young man right here wants to see if you would hire him”. And he turns around and said “Do you want to work?” I said “Yes Sir” then he said to her give him an application. Then he turn around and said “when you finish bring it down to my office”. Which was down the hall so I had finish and I said to her “I’m finished and she said go take it down to him”. So I walked down the hall. So he looks at it and says “uhhuh so you want to work”? Yes sir. When do you want to start? And I said right now if you want to? So he said come on right there at that moment. After completing the application thirty minutes later, I was unloading a boxcar (laughs). My mother was very strict with me. She also wanted me to be home at ten o’clock, no later. That day I started working at H-E-B and I didn’t get home till around 11:30. I was all dirty and she looked at me and yelled where have you been? (in Spanish). Look at the way you are and I said “mama don’t get mad at me I found a job”. And it’s, easy it’s just unloading boxcars. (Kids nowadays would find that job hard). Because of that job unloading flour anything you could but in a boxcar would be heavy merchandise. I did it all and every time we got a raise it was five cents no more than that. Kids nowadays want twenty dollars an hour when I did it for 96 cents an hour. Kids nowadays are spoiled!
Did you get paid every week like they do now?
We got paid every week on a Friday.
Where was your first job with H-E-B located?
At the H-E-B warehouse on Frio city Road. More less it’s on the corner of Zarzamora and Frio City road. It was a big warehouse. And to compare to the present H-E-B warehouse it’s the size of a dollar and we used to think the old one was a dollar and now it’s a penny (laughs).
How did you get there?
I walked over there. Actually I was on my way to see a friend of mine and that’s how I found it. My high school friend he lived in that area.
When did you get your first vehicle?
It was in 1956. Let me go back it was a 1949 Mercury. I use to ride the bus to work. School was out and kids would go play and I went to work. Since I came from a poor family I had to work. I guess that what made me who I am today I’m never afraid of work.
Was that the one you always wanted?
Well actually not too many people had cars. I was very fortunate to have a parent mother and father that had a steady job. He work at Foremost Dairy Land and worked for them for 20 years. One day I got off the bus and there was a car lot a used car lot right on the corner of Grayson. I think not there is a Sams Burger place there now something like that and across the street there was the car lot and when I got off the bus I saw this car. I don’t know why I just like it and it was all faded and was a faded green. I guess they washed it too much. You could tell it was faded. I can’t remember what they wanted for that car. So when I got home I asked my mother and told her about it. And she said “Son I’m sorry we don’t have any money”. (that was on a Saturday and now tears or gonna come out of my eyes) (laughs) uh knowing that my parents didn’t have that much money I don’t know (whoa)(crying) it was on a Saturday I remember I was making Ice-Cream popsicles. I would pour syrup in the mold along with a stick and put it in a tank. That contained real cold water. And when we push that tray with the wholes that filled the syrup. When it came out of the other end it was frozen but anyway I was there and you can see all the station and my friend says ” hey Jesse your father is here and wants to see you” and I said My Father? He wanted to see me for what?” So I go out and I said “yes father you want to see me” (crying again) he reached with his hands and says here holding a pair of keys. And I said what’s that? He said well you wanted a car didn’t you? I said WHAT? You told your mom you wanted a car so I went and got it for you. (Cries) That was around 11:00am once 12pm came that clock would not move. I didn’t even know how to drive that much. Just a little it. Father would let me when we would deliver but only about 50 yards. So finally 12pm came and I got my car.
Who taught you how to drive?
It was my dad. When I had my car I painted it jet black and I painted the tires with white walls because the tires were too expensive so I painted them myself.
When did you join the military?
When I was working with H-E-B they wanted volunteers. But it was a six years contract. I was a Drill sergeant and taught them the drills. I was also a Police officer. I did real well, ROTC taught me well. It was a beautiful career.
Did you go anywhere?
No I was station in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Fort Chaffee, Arkansas but, No I didn’t go overseas. I wish I could have gone to war but I wasn’t lucky enough and that time it was the Korean War and Vietnam. I would have gone and I’m sorry I didn’t go.
Where you still working for H-E-B?
Yeah still working. Then when I came back they had my seniority. That’s why I was able to continue working for H-E-B the 50 years I did. That included the service.
How did you meet mom?
Your mom ..I met your mom through I girlfriend my brother used to date.
Did you ever take her dancing?
Aw man she was the most beautiful women. I’m so happy I married her because she gave me four beautiful children. Three girls and one son. She used to dance.. well she’s still good. Back in 60’s we used to be the Fred Astaire. She used to like to dance mambo and salsa wasn’t to known back then but she loved Mexican music.
Did you know how to dance?
Yeah I was pretty good as a matter of fact I still think I am. (laughs) even though I haven’t danced for a while. I think I can still twist here and there but I think I might have to use BENGAY later on (laughs).
How long did you know mom before you married her?
I’m already so old shoot haha I don’t know. Not that long right away she wanted to marry me (laughs) I used to have a body like Hercules. She just wanted to impress her friends. She was dating a Hercules body. She married me for my body not my love (laughs) just joking.
How long did you want to stay with H-E-B? What made you stay 50 Years?
You know I never had a thought as to how long I was going to stay with H-E-B. That never occurredto me I just knew there was work and uh while I was working you always had up and downs with management. Just so happens one day I got upset and that time there used to be Kelly Field it was a big employment it was with the government company they used to hire a lot of people. It’s no longer Kelly Field. At that time everyone wanted to work there. One day I got mad with management and I took a test and passed to work at Kelly and they found out. They gave me a promotion and so cause of that I didn’t go then it happen again and I got another promotion. Then people were being hired to work at the post office and I passed to work there and then they found out and I got another position so I didn’t go. Then my friends and I wanted to be a police men and I went I missed that test by one point or else I would have been a police officer. I was gonna go back but I didn’t. They were real strick and I qualified but it was that one point but when I thought about going back it just seem like I got promoted. I started unloading, loading boxcars, then unloading, loading trailers, Then I was promoted to be an Order selector, then a lift operator, a shipping clerk, receiving clerk, a supervisor and then by that time it was 1970 we moved to our present HEB warehouse from Frio city road to where it is now. That time Human resources it used to be called Personal department through out the state. They needed someone so they asked me and I took some test and went to school. Then I was with United Way, and the Credit Union. But I just worked and worked. And I’m blessed.
Now that your retired do you miss work?
I miss work because I miss the people. I used to work with people. I traveled through the whole state of Texas where HEB had stores. I used to go and make sure the partners weren’t being mistreated. I was very knowledgeable of the benefits HEB had and I used to make sure Partners new we had Insurance etc… Also made sure everything was ok. Some managers used to forget who they were and where they came from and mistreat the employees. So I made sure everything was running as smoothly.
Do you still consider H-E-B the Best grocery store?
Oh yes! I come from a company that believes in people. And I knew the Butt family. I personally went to both funerals when they passed on. Mr. Charles Jr is a wonderful man he supports a lot of organization in the surrounding areas and more.
Do your ex-coeworkers still call you?
Oh yes time and time they call me with concerns and I help. I am now what you call a consultant for HEB.
Would you work for H-E-B again if they asked you?
Oh yeah in a heart beat and if I started back again I would do everything I did all over again. I’m proud.
Is there anything else you would like to add for this interview?
No No not really. I wish we had more time to talk about my career with HEB but that would take forever haha.
I learned a great deal about my father. I could only imagine all the hard work he used to do. I could honestly say there is no way I could have done what he did. That takes a lot of courage and faith to keep a job from beginning to end the way he did with HEB (50 years). Not only because I also been with HEB four years it is a great place to work and of course shop. There would be time where I’d go out of town and think to myself I may work for a grocery store but I work for the best one in the United States. HEB has been a part of my whole life and my dads and I am proud of it. Because of this OHP I now see why my father is so strict with me because he was in ROTC and in the Military but that made him who he is today and because of him he made me who I am today. I am Thankful for everything. I love you dad!
- Jesse G. Perez born on June 13, 1936 to Frank Moreno Perez and Aurea Gutierrez Perez in San Antonio, Texas.
- Attended Hillcrest Elementary then to Luther Burbank High School beginning in 1952.
- Graduated from Burbank High School in 1956.
- Began part-time work makeing Ice cream in Foremost Dairy Land, then was a pin boy and began full-time work at HEB in 1956.
- Married Olidia Torres on July 29, 1967 in San Antonio, Texas.
- First child born was Lianna born in August, Second born was Jesse in September, Third born was Loretta in January and Last born Clarissa in Feburary.
- Retired from H-E-B in January 25, 2006 after fifty great years.
- Interviewed by Clarissa L. Perez on April 24, 2007.
- Real De Catorce San Luis Potosi, Mexico The city where…Surf Mexico portal for surfing and adventure travel in Mexico. Surfing resources, surf spots and resorts, vacation rentals, Mexico hotel reservations, tours and recreation, Mexico travel links and tools, maps, travelogues, and state-by-state regional and cultural information.
- Fred Astaire Fred Astaire – Dance on Air Created for fans, by a fan; no connection with nor infringement upon the estate of Mr. Astaire is intended. graphics/website design © 1997-2007 Julie Stowe.
- FFA is Future Farmers of America. This is a site that talks about FFA and what they do.
- Fort Sill is The Fort Sill Web Site is provided as a public service by the Office of Public Affairs and the Directorate of Information Management. This is an idea of where my father was station.