This interview was conducted by Joe Rodriguez on October 14, 2009 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2009 class.
Ofelia Martinez Patino, she was born January 22, 1927 to Maria R. and Ramon Martinez in Eagle Pass, Texas. At the age of 2 months, her family moved to San Antonio, Texas. She had 14 siblings. She attended school from the age 5 at David Barkley Elementary to the 5th grade. Her mom didn’t send her to school after the 5th because they needed her to go work in the fields in Michigan picking sugars beets. At the age of 13 she started to work at factories making wood wagons and doing laundry work in San Anotnio TX. She also worked at Ft. Sam Houston packing boxes with food to send to the soldiers overseas during World War II..When she turned 16, she met Jesus Rodriguez and married him in San Antonio, Texas at the age of 18. They had six children Joe, Delia, Hector, Dalia, Delma, and Jesse Hector. She is Catholic. Her hobbies were working in the yard, which she can’t do anymore. She still collects copper items for the kitchen.
What do you remember about school? Did you go to school with black kids?
All the kids were poor some would go to school without shoes, I would always go to school with clothes my sister made our dresses. My hair was always cut. My sister Chavela would cut my hair. I was always with her. Chavela would always make sure I had shoes. I didn’t go to school with black kids there was none in the neighborhood. I used to love recess we played a lot on the swings and we played jacks I remember.
What kind of clothes did you have growing up? Where did you get them?
Well, like I said my sister made our dresses and she would get our shoes I think at La Feria clothing store I thinks it’s was on Commerce and Laredo St. I think it’s still there.
What did you do for fun when you were a kid, what was there to do in San Antonio?
We play “it” and ran around outside the house. I remember there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood. We played every night. I remember one night we were playing and a bunch of kids fell on top of me and they fractured my leg. Well that’s what my dad told me. I remember my dad checking my leg because I couldn’t move it the next morning I remember him moving it back in forth and I was screaming.
Why didn’t you go to the doctor?
We never went to the doctor. My dad is the one who took care of us and help us. I don’t remember ever seeing a doctor when I was growing up. I also remember my dad would take me and my brothers and sisters to the park and we would play on the swings and this turning thing that we would sit on and they would turn it and we would get dizzy. I fell off and scratched all my face onetime.
What parks would you go to?
We would to a park by Our Lady of The Lake on Buena Vista St. or another park by Casiano Holmes on Zarzamora and Laredo Street.
How would you all go to the park?
We would walk there it was near my house. We would walk everywhere never took the bus that’s why we were so skinny. (Laughing)!!! I remember also going to the carnival downtown with my brothers and sisters my dad would take us.
What is your best childhood memories?
My sister Chavela had bought me a doll and she had pretty eyes they would open and close I loved that doll. My brother broke it I think, I wonder what happened to that doll?
Do you remember the holidays and how were they spent?
I don’t remember celebrating thanksgiving. I do remember celebrating Christmas, we would make tamales and bunuelos. Q. Do you remember getting gifts for Christmas? A. No Christmas gifts the tamales and bunuelos were our gifts (laughing). We would spent it there at the house and on New Year’s eve like now there are fireworks we didn’t have that when I was little.
How was it growing up with a big family? Where did you all sleep in your home?
We didn’t have light, our toilet was outside, everyone’s was outside. My brothers and sisters were always outside playing and fighting. It was 11 of us 6 full beds and 1 twin. I had a sister “Elena” who was spoiled and had to sleep by herself. On the other 6 full beds we all slept together. I can’t remember much though on that. I do remember sometimes we would sleep outside like if we were camping out it was safe back then to sleep outside.
What did your family do for work?
My dad work for a vegetable farmer there was a lot of that on Zarzamora, Frio, Laredo 19th and 24th St. There was nothing but farms on those streets now it’s full of houses and businesses. My mom work for a small pecan factory neat the house there was a lot of them. She only worked a few days from what I remember.
Where did you all do your grocery shopping?
We would go on Saturday mornings to Davila on Laredo and El Paso street.
How would you get there?
We would call it “The Express” like on The Little House on The Prairie, we had a wagon with one horse and the wife sat on the left and the husband on the right and we would sit in the back. We would go to another place and I can’t remember the name, I remember it was on Laredo St. and it had a big lot where the horses would wait.
What has changed in your neighborhood where you grew up?
A lot. We never locked the house. Now I have to have window guards and still they break in. I would not live in that house or neighborhood for anything in the world. All the people that lived there are gone. We were all so close we watched out for each other. Now they are all moved or have passed on. They have knocked down a lot of the houses in the neighborhood. There is also a lot of crime going on in the neighborhood.
How was downtown San Antonio growing up?
Everything was cheaper than now, everything now is so expensive. We would walk there was no buses. There used to be a lot of stores like Solo Serve, Joskies, Frost Brothers, Sears, La Feria and Kress. Now we have to go to the malls to go to stores like that. I remember JC Penny’s when we would pay they didn’t have cash registers like now we would have to put the money in a can like at the bank and it would be sent upstairs and they would send our change back, I never forget that. I also remember a park in front of the red court house there were water fountains for us to drink out of and one would say colored only and whites only. I also remember the building we called “Treinta Uno (31)” it’s on St Mary’s its one of the oldest buildings I can remember. It was the tallest here in San Antonio too, I’ve never been in it.
What type of events took place while you were growing up and how did it affect you in San Antonio?
WW II. No one could buy stuff like we used to, the government would send us stamps and would need them to buy stuff at the grocery store or buy gas. We would still need money to buy the stuff, the stamps were to limit us on what we bought because of the war. I also remember that they said they needed the gas for the airplanes so that’s why we were limited on gas. That was the only war I remember that we had to have stamps to buy stuff. I don’t know where my mom go the stamps I was very young. We didn’t pay income tax until the war started. I remember working at a wood wagon place don’t know the name but I remember that we couldn’t make the wagons out of steal because of the war they needed the steal for the war. I remember too that they told me that they were going to take money out for income tax because of the war.
Do you remember facing any discrimination growing up?
No because after WWII it changed a lot of stuff like signs coming off say colored and white people only.
Where did you meet your first husband?
In a dance that they had when I was 16 it was called “Polka Dance”. I would drive a ‘37 Chevy with a bunch of neighbors with my mom. It was where La Palmas shopping center is now; La Palmas wasn’t there at the time.
Why did you get married at a young age?
Because my mother was real strict. At the dances we would go she would go too and if we would dace with a boy twice I would get in trouble. Only with me she was like that my other sisters would go to night clubs and she wasn’t like that with them. If I would go to a friend’s house I would be there very little time and she would go and pick me up she would say it’s time to go. I was 17 already and worked but she was really strict with me especially after my dad died.
How was your wedding? Where did you get married at?
We didn’t have a wedding we got married at my father in laws house it was only the people who married us and my mother and father in law. My mom didn’t know if she would have know she would have been mad, just like she was when she found out. But I got married when I was 18.
What did you and your husband do for fun in San Antonio?
We would go to the movies a lot we didn’t have a television. We would go to Alameda, National, Santa Rosa and Guadalupe Theater. We would pay .10cents or .25cents for a movie, we would see Pedro Infante or Mario Cantinflas movies we would see a lot of movies. Now when I see the movies on the television it brings back memories when I would go see them with your grandfather.
What kind of work was available in San Antonio?
My husband join the service “Air force” when he joined, the WWII had ended so they discharged him because we had just had our first son. All the ones who had a family were discharged. So after that he worked for Handy Andy as a produced manger. There was no work here for me after the war so I went 3 times to Michigan to pick sugar beets we would go in April and come back in November. I think that’s what happens when you don’t have schooling, you have to work in the fields. that’s why I sent all my kids to school so they wouldn’t have a problem finding a job.
Where would you take your kids for fun?
We would go to San Pedro Park, Kiddie Park and Brackenridge Park. They would have horses and different stuff for the kids to play with.
How has San Antonio changed over the years?
Now there is break-in in cars, houses life is not comfortable like it used to be when I was growing up. We have to lock our houses and cars and they still break in, lots of stealing going on gangs. The city has gotten bigger. I remember 19th street was the end of the city limits now the end is I don’t know where I don’t go that far out.
I have learned a lot from this oral history project, I learned about my grandmother’s history, also the way things were in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio has changed so much from the late 1920’s till now from what my grandmother has told me and the research I have done. I believe the whole Interview was important only because it was her life and she is very important to me. She told me things that I would have not know if I didn’t ask or if I hadn’t done this history project. I learned how hard it was for them during WWII and how they struggled and had to go work on farms. My views did change and I believe that San Antonio has changed a lot. It’s obvious that San Antonio has grown, and how violence and crime has gotten worse in San Antonio. My grandmother really enjoyed doing the interview she was looking forward to doing the interview after I had told her about it. She liked telling me about herself and her brothers and sisters growing up. She was happy throughout the interview. The oral history project taught me a lot of different things , like what kids did for fun when there wasn’t amusement parks around or computer games like today. I also learned where they would go shopping at and what stores were around. And most of all I learn a lot about my grandmother. I looked up a lot of the stuff online to verify things about San Antonio, I also have pictures of Ofelia and her family. The benefit of learning about history is now we know why we have what we have today. And how our lives are different from how my grandmother had it growing up. History in my opinion doesn’t have any drawbacks because we learn from history. I believe it is an effective way of learning only because I was able to interview someone I know . Not only did I learn about the history of San Antonio but I learn a lot of my grandmother as well. So it really taught me stuff I didn’t know about the city I live in but it taught me the history of my grandmother that I didn’t know.
- 1927- She was Born in Eagle Pass, Texas
- 1933- Started School at David Barkley
- 1939- Dad Passed away
- 1939- Left school to go work in Michigan
- 1945- June 5 she got married to Jesus Rodriguez in San Antonio, Texas
- 1946- Had 1st son Joe Rodriguez
- 1963- Divorced Jesus Rodriguez
- 1965- Remarried to Abel Patino
- 1968- Mom passed away
- 1970- Divorced Abel Patino
- 1972- She bought her House in San Antonio, Texas
- 1992- Retired from work
- 1992- She paid off her house
- 2002- Had back surgery
- 2008- Lost her closest sister
This website is to the Alameda Theater and gives a brief history on the theater.
- Eagle Pass, Texas. Gives a brief history on Eagle Pass, Texas where Ofelia Patino was born in 1927.
- San Pedro Park. Where Ofelia Patino would take her kids to play and have fun. This website give a brief detail on San Pedro Park.
- Photographs and/or documents on this website were provided by Ofelia Patino. Ofelia Patino’s pictures were taken from 1927-2009. The pictures are of her as a baby til now. One picture is of her husband when he was in the military and he sent her a photo with a note on the back. The other pictures are of her and her kids Joey, Delia, Dalia, and Delma. The last picture is of Ofelia (my grandmother) and me. All pictures are kept in the family room of her home.