Petra Martinez

This interview was conducted by Genevieve Lopez (Jeannie) on  September 4, 2010 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2010 class.


Petra Gonzalez Martinez, was born on May 10,1915 to her parents Inez and Guadalupe Gonzalez in San Antonio , Texas. She was their first born daughter and had a sister two years later. When she was five years old her parents divorce. Her and sister and mom went to live with her grandparents, Severo and Petra Gonzalez. There she would gain a new-stepfather and two brothers and two sisters. Her parents added three more sisters. It was hers, mine , and ours just like a show on today. Petra only went to the six grade at Lanier high school. They all grew up on the westside on Hidalgo street and Trinity. She started working at her parents store helping our the stocking and cleaning the store.In 1935 she started working at Joske’s on Commerce and Alamo street. In 1945 she started working at Woolworth Department Store on 321 alamo Plaza. She had three girls Toni, Minerva, and Carmen. She loves to sew and she would all ways make the clothes for the girls and people would like them. So she stated making little girls clothes and selling them. The girls grew up and they gave her 12 grandkids. She is the oldest child and still has her youngest sister alive. She is past 95 years old and her sister is 80 years old They come from a very religious faith and she prays everyday from 7 o’clock in the morning with a rosary and ending with another rosary before she goes to sleep. She lives in an adult home for elderly people, because she needs some help. Her daughters are helping her with the transition from being at home by her self and now with 50 plus roommates. She loves talking and gathering with the other people that live with her.


Where were you born?
I was born here in San Antonio, Texas on May 10th, 1915 (5-10-15).

How many siblings did you have?
At first it was me and my sister Sarita. My mother remarried and we added four siblings and then my mother and step dad added three more siblings. So, I had eight loving siblings.

What part of town did you grow-up on?
We grew up on the heart of the west side of San Antonio, Texas. We lived on Hidalgo and Trinity.

What year did your parents divorce?
My parents divorce sometime in 1920. And we moved back home with my grandparents Severo and Petra Gonzalez.

What year did your mom remarry?
My mother remarried in 1922. She married Damasco Calvillo who was a widow with four small children. Their names were Raul, Rudy, Margarita and Florencia. Their mom passed away two years before and my mother use to help out with the care, cleaning, and cooking. Marianna told my mother that when she passed away, she would like for my mother to marry her husband and care for her children. That way she would go in peace. My mother told her that she was going to get better and that she would take care of her kids, but Marianna just smile.

Where were you going on this picture?
This picture was taken on my mother’s wedding day. She made me and my sister Sarita a new dress for the wedding. She loved to sew and made us matching dresses. I would always see my mom sewing, so I would sit by her side see and learn low she would sew. Sewing is a great thing to learn and you can use it in many ways. That’s why I fell in love with the passion of sewing. I have be sewing for more that 87 years and I still sew, but sometimes I have trouble with putting the thread through the needle.

When did you start school?
I started going to school when I was six or seven years old. I started going to San Fernando Catholic School for my first grade. I have always been a (joker) so one day were we in class with the nuns and she went in the closet and I locked her in there. Everybody in my class started laughing and I was laughing so hard until the head nun came in and took me to the office. The nuns got angry but, they forgave me. So when I finish my first year there, I went to Johnson Elementary for my second year on Laredo street. I only went up to the 6th grade at Lanier High School. Back then it was a Middle school. Now Lanier goes all the way to the 12th grade.

What kind of work did your parents do?
My step dad would work at a Buick Car Shop. He did detail work; washing cars, vacuuming the carpets, and waxing and shining the cars. Also he and my mom open a little store at the corner of Santa Rosa and Salines (Today there is a parking lot there). My mom would attend to the store while my step dad went to work. This items were cheap back then; in (1922) coffee was 5 cents per lb,sugar was 5 lbs for 25 cents, rice was 5 cents per lb, large pet milk cans were 5 cents, a french loaf of bread was also 5 cents, sweet bread were 3 pieces for 5 cents and fresh milk was 10 cents for 1 pint. We sold all this items in our little store.

Did you have to do chores when you were growing up?
Yes, all nine of us had to do chores. Starting with my brother Raul, he had to set-up our washing tubs. We use three big metal buckets; one for washing and two for rinsing. Me and Sarita would take turns in washing the clothes. Rudy had to clean the yard. Margarita and Florencia would help mom with dinner. Elida, Frances and Anna Theresa would help by cleaning the house, dusting and sweeping and mopping. We would all help each other, growing up with my large family was a blessing because there was always somebody that could help you.

Did you have a TV set back then?
No, there was no electricity at that time, so we didn’t have a TV set or radio. We used lamps for our light.

So what did you use to stay warm in the winter time?
My step dad would burn a big charcoal outside and bring it inside to deep the house warm for the night. We didn’t have warmers at that time.

Did you make clothes to sell?
Yes, around 1950 work got slow and I had the girls so, I stayed at home and started making little girls clothes to sell. I made aprons and curtains, table cloths, pillow cases and dish clothes.

When did you get a real job?
I was 20 years old when i went to work at Joske’s in 1935. I worked on commerce street in the down town area of San Antonio, Texas.

How may children did you have?
I had three daughters Toni was born on September 9,1936 and Minerva was born on August 19, 1940 and Carmen was born August 15, 1949.

Did you find the man of your dreams?
Yes, finally I found the man of my dreams. I married Matias Martinez in 1951. We did everything together we cooked, danced, sing, baked and go fishing together. We added two rooms to our small house. We hammered and nailed every board together.

What year did your husband passed away?
My husband passed away in February 2, 2000. He had been in the nursing home for four years. He had real bad arthritis( inflammation of the joints) on his legs. He was using a wheel chair at home until I couldn’t help him anymore. I would go and visit him everyday. I would read to him and his friends from different books. I would tell them jokes and make them cookies and cakes. They were happy to see me everyday.
After my husband I still would go and visit his friend but it was to hard and my daughters didn’t want me driving by my self. I was still driving when I was 89 years old.

Was it hard to leave your house of sixty years?
It was real hard to leave our house. Me and my husband had rebuilt it for years. So it was very hard to move but, my house was very cold in the winter time and very hot in the summer. My daughters wanted me to move in with one of them. It was painful because of all the memories that I had shared with all my family members. It was hard to leave my neighbors and best friends. so in March of 2009 I packed my belongs and move in with my daughter Carmen Martinez.

Is there anything else that you what to add to this interview?
I have lived 95 years and family and friends are the most important things in life. So always make sure you have one or the other to talk to. And always have God in your life.


This oral history project made me think about how hard it was 80 years ago. And how easy we have it now. I learned that growing up with a large family was a blessing and sometimes hard. Her personal stories were about the caring for your love ones and the hard times when losing a love one. I learned the rewards of learning to cook, bake and to sew. Because now I cook for my family and friends and they always like to eat a home-cook meal with tortillas and all the side dishes.Baking cookies at Christmas makes my family happy. And sewing for myself and grand kids is the greatest joy for this grandma. The hard times is losing your loved ones and there is nothing you can do to make the pain go away. Just have faith and time will heal itself. I learn that Tia Pete is a strong woman with a heart of gold. That she has helped her family and friends in good times and bad times. Sometimes being poor is not bad. It makes you stronger and makes you see the difference from where you are and where you want to go. She tells me not to give up in school , that in the long run it is going to be worth it. That an education is the key to freedom. That with your degree you can open any door that you want to open. And never let go of your roots because they are the foundation of your life. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and live in the 1900 hundreds. Where you could slow down the time and make your own butter and get milk from a cow. To grow your own vegetables in your back yard and live life with no worries. Sometimes life goes to fast, and we don’t have the time to visit our elderly or our family members. I learned from Tia Pete that you can always write a few lines to make someone happy or by calling on the phone and just checking on your loved ones. Life is to short , try to be happy and remember that God is with us every second of our lives.


  • -Born May 10,1915 in San Antonio, Texas
  • -Parents got divorce 1920
  • -Mom remarries 1922
  • -Starts school 1922 at San Fernando Catholic school
  • -Employment at Joske’s 1935 in San Antonio , Texas
  • -The first child born Sept. 9,1936 (Toni)
  • -The second child born Aug.19,1940 (Minerva)
  • -The third child born Aug. 15, 1949(Carmen)
  • -Started selling clothes 1950
  • -Married Matias Martinez in 1951 in San Antonio, Texas
  • -The death of my husband Feb. 2000
  • -Leaving my house of 60 years 2010

Annotated Bibliography

  • 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.
  • Hidalgo and Trinity Tia Pete grew up on Hidalgo Street, when she was a little girl.
  • San Fernando Catholic School Tia Pete went to San Fernando Catholic School behind the San Fernando Church.
  • Lanier High School Tia Pete went to Lanier High School when they had the six grade there.
  • 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.
  • Photographs on this website were provided by Petra Martinez and my sister Mary Perez. My sister Mary Perez took our pictures with Tia Pete. The other photographs Tia Pete gave to me so that I could use them. The first picture is her and her sister Sarita on the wedding day of her mom. The second picture is Tia Pete with her baby sister, Maria Theresa .The other pictures I took of Tia Pete with her sewing manching . The the gifts that she has given me to treasure and have memories of her sewing.

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