This interview was conducted by Angel Rose Arriaga on March 11, 2012 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2012 class.
Fernando Bueno Medellin was born on April 09, 1945 in San Antonio, Texas to Monica Bueno Medellin and Pedro Villarreal Medellin. He was the second to the oldest of 8 siblings. Fernando’s sister moved to Lansing, Michigan, so Fernando then decided to travel from San Antonio, Texas to Lansing, Michigan. Fernando didn’t have much money so he decided to travel to Lansing in the 60’s experiencing the great outdoors for quite a few months. When he arrived in Lansing he sought out his older sister Juanita. In 1965 he met and married Janie Rodriguez. They were married on 08/27/1965. Fernando and Janie traveled back to San Antonio, Texas shortly thereafter. Together they have 6 children, Monica Elizabeth, Fernando Jr., Angela Rose, Antonio Jose, Macario, Juan and many grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter. As a child Fernando wanted to be a pharmacist in the medical field but the trials of life pushed him in a different direction. Fernando found that he had a passion for machine repair and decided to be a mechanic. Fernando worked for Aerospace Turbine Support as an Industrial Mechanic from 1967 to 1987. Around 1987 Fernando decided to change his career to work as an Air Conditioner Refrigeration Engineer for the San Antonio Independent School District. He then attended college at Texas A&M to retain his license in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning. Fernando worked for SAISD for 23 years. Today Fernando is retired as of 2011 and has been enjoying his time off, although he continues to do side jobs as a mechanic. He commented that he likes to make his own schedule which makes his life that much better. Fernando has lived a full and exciting life and I have always felt that my father has been a hero and inspiration in my life since the day I was born.
What happy memory do you have of growing up in San Antonio?
one of my happy… happy years was being around my family. My mom, you know she was a very kind lady. She was like an angel, and… being around my brothers and sisters. Growing up with them.
What was it like growing up with so many brothers and sister? You said that you have eight brothers and sister.
It was… it was a very happy experience being around my brothers. I love my mom and dad very much.
Who were you closer to?
All of them… we’re a close knit family. We all loved each other. Especially my oldest brother Edward we were… we were… he inspired us.
He was the oldest right?
Uh huh… yeah. We use to look up to him. Just like we use to look up to our dad… my dad’s job took him far away from San Antonio to Mexico, Laredo, and Houston. We hardly ever see him on the weekends.
Why was your dad away from home so much?
Because… because he worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and his job took him away. His job was far from San Antonio. Sometime he’d be here then they’d move him. He was a Bridge foreman. He had a very hard job.
What side of town in San Antonio did you grow up in?
Oooh I grew up in the west side of San Antonio… deep west side… well I was proud of growing up in the west side. We were never able to go to too many places only to the places we had to go to. We use to work… when we were teenagers we use to work in the bakery’s cleaning the bakeries. I worked for Karams Restaurant… I was… a busboy and dishwasher and kitchen helper. I helped the cooks.
What was it like growing up in the west side?
It was nice I enjoyed my life growing up playing with friends in the neighborhood and brothers.
Were there any specific places that you use to go to?
We use to go to Lady of the Lake and we use to… me and my brothers especially the one name Paul we use to go fishing in Lady of the Lake and swimming at the swimming pool. I enjoyed like… well we use to go to the creeks and go frog fishing and you know life went on (smiles).
Did you go to any movie theaters or drive-ins that you use to go to?
Yes… we had a… a Guadalupe Theaters… real old… it’s still there on Brazos and Guadalupe. Our dad use to give us dime so we could… on Sundays so we could… or give my mom the money so she could give us a dime so we could go see the movie. We could see the movie with one dime. They charged us one dime (smiles). And sometimes we have fifty cents or a dollar for a hamburger… you know we would pay for our way in and buy a hamburger or a cotton candy or a soda and then we’d come back home. We knew we couldn’t go no place else… we would get quarters just to get to that place and back.
How old were you when you first started driving?
I got my beginners license when I was like fourteen fifteen years old. I got the beginners license at the James Fennimore Cooper. I went to the driving school. They would only give you the beginner’s license because they wouldn’t give you the regular license until you were seventeen or eighteen. I got my license early… I learned to drive early…. And at Cooper I took my test and they gave me the beginner’s license. Then when I turned seventeen I got my regular license.
What kind of car did you use to drive?
My dad… he use to… he use to make us drive the pickup truck… a standard truck… old pickup truck.
What was downtown like when you were a kid?
oooh it was a lot of smaller than right now. It was little… little town. We just knew… the… the Mi Tierra Restaurant and the Farmers market and we would go to the Alamo. Me and my brothers would walk to the Alamo… we would walk all the way from the west side to downtown… we would walk. We would go walking all the way Guadalupe Street or down Zarzamora to Commerce and cross the bridge to downtown… we’d walk back too. We didn’t have money to take the bus. And then we’d go to the Alamo… we’d go to a place called Coney Island, they use to sell famous hotdogs… and we’d eat chili con carne or a hotdog… me and my brothers. It was around St. Marys and about a block… a block away from St. Marys and Houston Street… right across the street from the Aztec Theater. There’s a place called the… It was a training center for a boxing club and then downstairs was the Coney Island and me and my brother’s would get… they would sell you a bowl of chili for I think… fifty cents or a dollar… with crackers (smiles).
Were there any curfews during that time?
yeah you would… little kids weren’t supposed to be out that late at night… you know the cops would stop you. Like after eight or nine at night.
You left San Antonio to go to Michigan, why did you leave and how did you get there?
Yes… I left my house when I was like sixteen… or seventeen… I left home because I couldn’t live at home (sad expression). It was because my dad… you know my dad was too… very strict… you know… too strict. I decided to go stay with my sister in Michigan… her name was Juanita Medellin. I knew she was in Michigan and my brother had already been down there and after that they joined the service but I decide to go too but my brothers were already gone but I knew where my sister lived and I’d never been there but I decided to go find her and I hitched hiked all the way from San Antonio to Lansing Michigan. I been down a scary experience because I was only sixteen years old and I had never been away from San Antonio… only under the orders of my dad… when we’d go to Corpus Christi… my dad would take us to pick cotton in Corpus but I’d never been by myself but I took off… I didn’t care I took off by myself and I had a little bag of clothes like a suitcase and I went to this… I didn’t have enough money… I didn’t have no money for the greyhound so I… some friends of mine told me about this travel bureau for people from Mexico, homeless people or drifters and I went and asked them if I could go… because they would take you to field jobs in Michigan, Ohio places like that. I really wasn’t supposed to go Michigan… I was supposed to go to Ohio or Iowa or someplace up there but I knew Michigan was close by so I looked at a map and I knew more or less where I was going. I had a little map with me. After Ohio I took a bus because I had a little money saved with me. My mom had given me a few bucks and uh… I only had like thirty bucks… at that time everything was cheaper. I had already paid most of the way because I went on that travel bureau but that didn’t cost me nothing. And when we were going out there to… to… Ohio I didn’t know that the guy would tie us up with chains like… you know those… those trucks that got an overhead door with chains… like a produce truck… or a cattle truck (shakes his head)… with chains… you know chains… he chained us down so wouldn’t leave because a lot of those guys were like drifters and winos and they would take off… so he would have to deliver us where he was going that’s how they would pay him. Like your taking cattle… I thought I was just lucky he would have took me to the destination if I would have stayed there and worked… all the pay they would give me I would have to pay him for the… for him taking me over there… like a whole month of work and I was just lucky and we were going into Ohio. He let us stop at a restaurant one time and he let us use the restroom and stuff and I noticed that he was drinking… the driver… the one in charge was drinking… some kind of alcohol, beer… whiskey I don’t know but it smelled like strong alcohol. I got kind of worried… I said “I hope he don’t wreck the truck and kill us” and we got back in the truck and he locked the door again and he… I could tell he was drunk… and these guys… all these guys were older than me… I was the youngest… I was a teenager and they look like criminals and they were all drinking too… everybody was drinking… and all of sudden these two guys… they started fighting… they started hitting each other… and the damn truck started moving back and forth because they were big men and they made the truck move go off the damn road and the guy that was driving he was drunk too so he flipped over a curb and went down the highway… we rolled over all the way down into the… a hole in the ditch… I can’t remember if the tires were up or the tires were down (laughs) but when we landed the frame of the truck it tore up and the chains went one way and we were all on the ground I don’t know if the other guys got hurt I took off… I grabbed my suitcase and the other guys took off in different directions… they didn’t want to stay there no more (laughs) too dangerous… the guy that was driving… probably passed out… and got my suitcase and ran into the woods (laughs). One guy said wait for me I don’t know my way I don’t know my way… and I said neither do I and took off running (laughs)… I said I ain’t gonna wait for him their criminals what if he does something to me because they are older guys… I’d rather be by myself. It was about three o’clock in the morning (laughs) in Ohio in the woods by the highway and I grabbed my suitcase and I put on my shoulder and vamonos… I took off down by the side of the highway but where they couldn’t see me… you know… in case that guy would be running after me… or… I don’t think he was able to start the truck. I went walking down by the side of the highway and I could hear when I was passing the ranches or farms… big dogs were howling… I wound up on the outskirts of Ohio and I saw the sun coming up… it was miracle a big 18 wheeler honked at me and I waved my hand and he stopped and he took me to the greyhound in a little town…and I went to my sister in Lansing Michigan… I was just lucky god was on my side.
What did you do when you go to Lansing Michigan?
I went straight to work I went to work for a hospital and a restaurant and I was making a lot of money I was making two checks and then I went to work for a steel mill… I was making big money.
was the name of the steel mill?
It was uh… it was a wheel making company they use to make wheels for the General Motors Corporation for the cars… I can’t remember the name.
How long did you work for them?
I worked there until I came back to San Antonio… I was making a lot of money I rented my own apartment… That is where I met and married Janie.
How old were you when you met Janie?
I was eighteen turning nineteen almost eighteen years and she was… she was… like sixteen or seventeen… she was seventeen… I married her in Michigan.
Why did you leave Michigan?
Well I didn’t like Michigan that much… it was too… too cold and I didn’t like how you would have dig your way out of the driveway… every morning before you would go to work… it was freezing… I probably would have stayed there but my family they didn’t want me to stay there… my mom she would cry and my brothers and sisters would always be calling me to go back… that is why I came back but if they hadn’t called me I probably would have stayed over there. I would have worked there for 20 or 30 years in the auto industry.
What year did you work in Lansing Michigan?
Like 19…. 1964. I came back to San Antonio in uh… in 66′.
When you came back to San Antonio, what did you do?
I started working in a company named Turbine Support… yeah I stayed there 20 years. I was a production worker… manufacturing jet engines… jet engine parts for the contractors and they were contractors for Kelly Air Force Base for the big war bombers… like… B-52 bombers and jets… war… war planes they were fighting in Vietnam. It was during the Vietnam War.
What was San Antonio like during the Vietnam War?
It was like right now everything was moving so fast… the year was going by so fast. Mostly my experiencing was working… working… trying to have something… pay off my house and take care of my kids… Raise my kids.
During 66’… 67′ was San Antonio different because of the Vietnam War?
Yeah in a way it was because a lot of guys were going to the military. There was a drafting… they were drafting kids to the war… my brothers went… they were fortunate that they didn’t get killed. Only one of my brothers named Benji he got shot in the war, but he survived… my little brother Benjamin… he got the purple heart, he was in a lot of battles in Vietnam and he got shot several times but I guess the prayers of my mom saved him… he came back. He was the only one that got wounded I still don’t think he is the same… he came back real nervous because of the things he saw in that war. They ambushed him in a rice paddy… crossing a creek or a bridge and they killed all his buddies and him and only two walked out alive. My other brother Eddie he was in the Korean Conflict war… they had the bombs in the caves hidden in the jungle in the mountains and my brother guarded those tunnels and he got into the fight with the Koreans. They would shoot at my brother too… he survived. All my brothers survived… I wanted to go but they told me not to go because they were afraid I wouldn’t make it back. I volunteered first but then I waited because they wanted to send me to school to be a mechanic so I turned it down but then they drafted me but they didn’t take me because I had a collapsed lung because I got sick in Michigan and they were afraid I would relapse. They said that they couldn’t take me. The sergeant said no you can’t go because you had a collapse lung. I wanted to follow the footsteps of my brothers… well that was my destiny because my brothers prayed that they wouldn’t take me and so they didn’t take me.
Besides working for Turbine Support what else did you do?
I went to school… I was went to St. Phillips College… the company said whoever wants to go to school to better yourself they would pay our tuition if we maintained a B average. So I signed up for that program and that’s how I got to go to college. I did maintain a B+ all the time… and finished the program and I wanted to be in electronics but they told me that there was a lot of money in computers but then I took the basics in electronics and I wanted to fix computers and televisions and that sort of thing. But the program would take 4 years… I said four years was too long and I saw in the newspaper that it would only take two years for air-conditioning mechanic so I decided to change my major to air-condition, refrigeration and so I finished in two years.
Did you enjoy being a refrigeration/air-conditioning mechanic?
Yes I was able to obtain my journeyman license for the City of San Antonio and recertification from Texas A&M University Exchange. That was requirement in my job before I left the Aerospace Industry. That plant closed down so I had to find another job and I applied for the school district. I had different certifications… licenses and I got all three certifications at Texas A&M to be able to get into the Air-Condition Refrigeration department and I worked there for 20 years. Me: What do you think about how your life is like now and what it took to get to this point? Fernando: well I think that the little bit of education that I got… got me to where I am right now because without that education I wouldn’t be living the life I am living right now… that I don’t have to work I just enjoy my retirement (laughs) I worked all my life since I was a little boy almost 40 years.
So with everything that you have been through since you were kid, do you feel that your life was very fulfilling?
Yes… yeah (smiles)
I enjoyed interviewing my father, Fernando Medellin and hearing how he lived in San Antonio as a child and also an adult. I learned a lot more about him now than I did as a child. His life extended far and wide not just in San Antonio but all the way to Lansing Michigan. His stories and memories were interesting and I learned what he did and how he traveled a long road to get to the happy life that he is living now. I feel that his six word memoir should be “What a interesting Road I traveled”. Fernando worked all his life and the one thing that is for sure; retirement is the key and he believes that all the hard work that he experienced throughout his life, living this part of his life makes it all worthwhile.
- April 09, 1945 – Fernando Bueno Medellin born in San Antonio, Texas
- 1960 – Traveled from San Antonio, Texas to Lansing, Michigan
- 08/27/1965 – Met and married Janie Rodriguez
- 07/1966 – Monica Elizabeth was born
- 04/1968 – Fernando Jr. was born
- 09/1971 – Angela Rose was born
- 06/1976 – Antonio Jose as born
- 04/1978 – Macario was born
- 09/1984 – Juan was born
- 1967-1987 – Worked for Aerospace Turbine Support as an Industrial Mechanic
- 1988-2011 – Worked for San Antonio Independent School District as an Air-condition/Refrigeration Engineer
- 2011 – Retired and enjoying life
- 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.
- Cost-of-Living Calculator. The calculator uses the Consumer Price Index to do the conversions between 1913 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.
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