This interview was conducted by Rodney La Point on March 29, 2013 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Spring 2013 class.
My Interviewee for the final project will be my Father-in-law, Jesse Aguilar Jr. He was born on November 11th, 1942 in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston Hospital, which no longer exists. He grew up and was raised on the west side of San Antonio. His parents were Jesse Sr. and Senaida Aguilar. His siblings were Louis, Anita, Rachel, Patricia, Terry and Eva, all but Louis are still alive today. The family owned a house on the west side that was a three bedroom/one bath. He graduated from Fox Tech High School in downtown San Antonio. He has worked as a grocery stockman and a Master Plumber. He married Maria Perez on January 22nd, 1966. They had one child, Andriana Aguilar, on July 25th, 1975. He is a member of the Catholic Church and is active in the Catholic organization, Knights of Columbus. He is of no particular political affiliation, and when he was old enough to join the Military to go to Vietnam, he as told he could not join because of bad knees. His favorite hobby is fishing. He and his daughter enjoy their annual deep sea fishing trips into the Gulf of Mexico.
What is your most memorable memory about growing up in San Antonio?
It was the day were got one female Cocker Spaniel reddish, after she had pups, she had some that were kind yellowish (blond), there were 4 and somebody just walked into our yard and took one. We were sad because after a while the Mother kinda found out that she had only 3 and we kept the rest under closer watch.
What was it about San Antonio that really interested you as a child?
We never thought too much about San Antonio, we never knew too much about what was outside our neighborhood. The city’s boundaries were not too far out like they are now, and a place like Natalia which now is a short drive seemed like it was hours away then. My Dad used to tell us Hey we’re gonna go to “Los Helotes,” and that was hours away. Our life was very simple. I remember the first time my Dad took me and my Brother to go fishing at the coast. It seemed to take forever to drive there, but it was the start of my falling in love with fishing.
What did you used to do to entertain yourself or have fun?
We used to get the little bottles of milk from school and save the tops and we would play what we called tops, and we would try to get the most tops from the other kids who would just throw them away, and we would play tops, you would put one on the floor and get one of your own and try to flip over the other, and if you could flip it over then you would get the top and then your buddy would go next and if he couldn’t flip it then it went to the next guy to try to flip it and sometimes you would have up to 6 tops on the floor to flip and if you flip it its yours then you don’t have to give it back to the others to flip. We also used to make wooden guns that shot rubber bands, and throw water balloons.
What was your home life like with your siblings?
For a good long while there were 3 of us growing up with my Grandmother. I had a hard time growing up with her, because she was kinda bright but had only a 4th grade education, and when I came home with a project or something she couldn’t help me very much so the only one who could help me was my Mom who had an 8th grade education. My Dad had a 6th grade education but he was great with math. I actually was held back because I didn’t have the foundation. Now my Grandmother taught me to read and write proper Spanish. I think my siblings did not have as much of a hard time because they had better teachers. In middle school I was blessed to have better teachers who brought me up to a better level.
What was going to school like at each different level?
I didn’t really think about it much. My friends who lived in the neighborhood went to the same school. It is much like being home. You went to school and walked home with your friends and then saw then later that same evening in the street.
What did you want to become when you grew up?
I wanted to become a Policeman, but at that time it was very hard for a Hispanic to become a policeman. My earliest job was working in a grocery store, and then I used to help my Grandfather clean the offices at this insurance company off Broadway, but I never thought I would become a plumber.
Who was an influential role model for you? Why was that person to be admired?
Other friends who I saw could be a part of a certain field, and my Grandmother would tell me that there is nothing you can’t do. So My Grandmother was the person I looked up to because she believed in me. She would say don’t let anyone tell you, “you can’t be that.
How much would you say that ethnic culture played in your childhood and life there after?
We were very ignorant at the time of the divisions, because nobody ever told us about the way different people were treated. We just always lived around other Hispanics and they were everywhere we lived or places we went so we never were subjected to what really stood out to be predjuced against. One day My buddy and I were out with our girlfriends and we wanted to go to Playland Park off Broadway and back then they didn’t allow Blacks in, and the guy at the gate told us your buddy can’t go in. We were in our ROTC uniforms and My Buddy, Russell, was black, and they didn’t let him go in. So he said I’ll wait out here, but I told him if they won’t let you in then they don’t need our money. So we walked back into town because the Blacks also had to sit in the back of the city bus. Back then, the busses and the water fountains were for whites or Blacks.
What were the holidays like in your home during this time?
Wee, it depends which one. Christmas was really the only time each year that I would get to see most of my cousins, Aunts and Uncles. Most holidays either they were out of town or we were out of town. Sometimes I would look forward to certain holidays because I knew we would be going fishing. We did like for the spring to come around because my parents and my grandparents would take us to the Fiesta parades
What are some of the biggest changes that you have witnessed in San Antonio that you wish had not changed?
Growth of the city to the point of the cities and towns all run together. Not too far from where we lived on the west side, there was nothing but country side from there to Helotes. Look to the North, now there is no country side from here to New Braunfels.
What advice would you give children growing up in San Antonio today?
First I would say to pay attention. Things change. You may take for granted that somethings will always be around or stay the same, but they may disappear before you know it. Also, to slow down. We see too many young kids getting into trouble and not thinking about their future. What future do they have if they are already in trouble for something they did as a kid.
Is there anything about your childhood you would do differently?
No. I wouldn’t know what else there was to do. Maybe go fishing more.
Is there anything else you want to add to this interview?
San Antonio has changed so much that it is not the same as back then. A lot of the stuff from back then aren’t even around anymore, and a lot of the places that were safe to go back then you can get shot in those places now. It’s just not the same.
I learned a lot from this project. I think I learned the most about his childhood as I have known him for a little over 5 years, but I had not been given any information from before then. Now I have a much better background on him. Probably the most important point in this interview was that he did not really feel the ethnic tension while growing up. I thought it was very eye opening when he said they lived immersed in their culture and neighborhood surrounded by family and friends. This did not make it conducive with being on the forefront of the ethnic and racial tensions. Learning everything about his childhood was something about him that I did not know before. My view about this topic did not really change by doing this interview. I think about my own childhood, growing up in San Antonio and I am able to make correlations between his childhood and my own. Similarities are striking to my own childhood like going to school with your friends from the neighborhood, and going home after school only to play outside in the street with them that very same evening. I think he really told his story from more of a stand point emotionally of information sharing vs. an emotionally charged one. In other words, I think he was eager to tell his story, but it seemed to be very “as a matter of factly.” I did not feel very “transported” there like some of the other presenters. The story really just confirmed my knowledge of how much San Antonio has changed. It also makes me wonder how much more the city can change knowing how far the city has come already. Other than the links on the project, I really did not do much verification. It is the story according to Jesse Aguilar, and that’s the way I would like for it to be told. The benefits of doing a project like this in order to learn about history are clear in my opinion. I have copied and saved a copy of the project for my 2 year old Son. Though, he obviously knows his Grandfather, I can’t say years from now what he will remember if, God forbid, Jesse leaves us soon. I really want it for my Son as a part of his Grandfather. I do not see any clear drawbacks from doing projects like this, unless the interviewee is not a willing participant or has an unfavorable story to tell like Son of Sam or someone like that. I believe, overall, this is a great way to learn about the past. For example, the immigration stories we heard last week. It gives me a good insight into the plight of someone who is here illegally, and the chosen way of life for that person and people like them to avoid being sent back once here.
- Birth date: Nov. 11, 1942
- Place Born: San Antonio, TX in Fort Sam Houston Hospital
- Placed raised: West side San Antonio
- Parent’s names: Jesse Sr. and Senaida Aguilar
- Sibling’s names: Louis, Anita, Rachel, Patricia, Terry, and Eva
- Places where you lived: San Antonio
- Schools you attended: Fox Tech High School
- Jobs you’ve held: Grocery Stockman, and Master Plumber
- Year you were married: 1966
- Child(ren): Andriana
- Points of interest:
- religion: Catholic
- political affiliation: None
- military experience: None
- hobbies: Fishing, especially deep sea trips
- 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.
- Texas Knights of Columbus. Texas Knights of Columbus website.
- Google Maps of the Gulf of Mexico
- The History of Playland Park. The History of Playland Park in San Antonio, Texas.
- Fiesta San Antonio Commission
- Photographs and/or documents on this website were provided by Jesse Aguilar Jr.