Oral Interview with Rosa Chavez conducted by Jessica Martinez, March 25, 2023.
JM: Hello, please state your name, your age, when you were born, and where you were born?
RC: I’m Rosa Chavez. I was born in San Elizario, Texas in October 1934. I am one out of fifteen children. My mother had fifteen kids, and two of them died during the Spanish flu in 1920, 1921. It was the flu like the one going on right now. They were only six months old, one died, and eighteen months later, the other one died. I also lost a brother during WWII. He got the medal of honor because he got killed. That’s when I lost my brother in 1945.
JM: I’m sorry. Which number were you? Out fifteen, which number were you?
RC: I was about number ten, so I was one of the young ones. I didn’t have it as bad as my older sisters did. They worked very hard. I was one of the youngest.
JM: How many sisters and how many brothers?
RC: Okay, I have five sisters and seven brothers. There were twelve of us living until, like I said 1945 when I lost my brother at the war.
JM: Tell me about your childhood. How was it growing up in Sal Elizario with all of them?
RC: San Elizario was a very small town. Nothing to where it is right now. We had very few people, and it was beautiful because we had a lot of trees, open fields. We had cotton fields, alfalfa fields. It was just a lot of land. It was very nice because it was a small town. Everybody knew everybody else. If you needed somebody, they were very helpful people. They were good people. We had neighbors if you needed something, they were always there for you to help you. Like my mother, if she was cooking something and if she didn’t have enough flour or enough sugar, she would send us to the neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar, or a cup of flour. They used to have those big bags of flour and sugar because my mother cooked a lot. It was a very nice town to live in because everybody knew everybody, and everybody was so helpful. I really enjoyed my youth there. I lived there for twenty-two years. I saw the town growing because more and more people moved there and people started building houses. It was a very nice place to live in. I really enjoyed it. We didn’t have to go to neighbors to play because there was a bunch of us, so we just stayed home most of the time.
JM: Where did you go to school? How was it like there?
RC: San Elizario had one school. It was the elementary school. We did have a bus. We walked to school because we only lived like half a mile from there. We used to come home for lunch. The people who lived far, the bus would pick them up and they’d take their lunches to school. That was the only school. There wasn’t any high school. There was just the elementary from first grade to eighth grade. I remember like yesterday, my first grade teacher. She was such a darling. She was Mrs. Graciela. We didn’t know any English when I went to school because we just spoke Spanish at home. My father didn’t like us to speak English because he thought we were going to forget the Spanish language. You don’t forget your first language but we spoke Spanish at home. It was very hard for the teacher. It was important for her to be bilingual, which she was bilingual. Ms. Graciela, the first thing she told us, the first thing I remember like it was yesterday, she said, in Spanish, she spoke to us in Spanish because some of us didn’t know English, she said, “From now on, you’re going to speak English at all times. I’m going to help you out. I’m not going to criticize you. I’m going to help you out and you’re going to speak English all the time so you can learn it.” Our books were in English, you know, so it was very hard for us to read or write or do math, so would you believe that by the end of the year, we all learned the language, in one year. Then she told us, “Be sure to speak English home.” We did speak a little English at home, and then she said, “When you go out to recess or lunch hour, speak the English language, and that’s the only way you’re going to learn it fast and better.” She was a very nice teacher. I remember the other teacher was a music teacher. She taught us, that was Mrs. Laurie, she taught us how to sing. I learned how to sing, because we sang at home, but you know Spanish songs. She taught us how to sing. She taught us how to act. She put on plays like Scrooge, like the First Christmas. The parents were very satisfied with her, and we were too because we were really. We learned how to act. She would send a paper home with a copy of the costume that our parents were supposed to make us because most of the people at that time sewed, so they made the costume and then they had the play the one night. All the parents went and they were very satisfied with what we were learning with Ms. Laurie. I remember those two were my best teachers there at the elementary.
JM: I forgot to ask this, but where is your family from? Where did they come from? Had they always been in San Elizario?
RC: My mom is from Aguascalientes, Mexico and her mom was from Mexico too, and her dad was from Mexico. Her dad’s parents were from Spain—that was my mother. My father’s side, my grandmother, my father’s mother, was from San Elizario and I think her grandmother was from San Elizario too. My father’s father was from, Nomada, Mexico, so they were from Mexico.
JM: So you have some lineage tracing back to San Elizario?
RC: Yes, definitely because my grandmother, she was the only grandmother I knew, she lived there in San Elizario. Her name was Grisalda.
JM: Do you have any memories with her growing up San Elizario?
RC: She was this very sweet old lady at the time. She was a little heavy. She lived by herself and when she needed help, my mother, it was her mother in law, my mother took care of her for months. She brought her to our house. She didn’t speak much. She was a very quiet person, very simple, very reserved person. One of the things I remember most of her, she would get up during the day, see my mother had a big house, so she would get up and she was always praying the rosary, and she would go from room to room, that’s what stayed in mind because that’s really the only thing she did. We would take her to church on Sundays and she would go and sometimes she would fall asleep. It was such a joy to have her around. Before she lived with us, she would go visit us all the time. One of our brothers would go to see if she needed anything, because she lived by herself in a big house.
JM: And you spoke to her in Spanish?
RC: Oh yes. She just knew Spanish. We spoke to her in Spanish. We never forgot the language at home, we spoke in Spanish. School was all English. They wanted us to really learn the language and I’m glad because all the books and papers and everything we had to turn in were in English, so I’m so glad they did that.
JM: Outside of school, what did you like to do for fun? What did you like to do on your freetime with your friends and your siblings?
RC: At home, what we would do on Saturdays, the school would let us go to the school playground, we would play there a lot. They had all sidewalks and everything, so we took our skates, and everybody was skating there on Saturdays and sometimes during holidays, or even after school sometimes we did, but mostly it was Saturdays. Everybody lived closed by and would take their skates and we would just skate and have a good time. Just spend time with each other and play around. At night, at home, after we were through with dinner, just us, just our family, we would go outside to play. We’d play volleyball. We played tag, we played kick the bucket. You know we ran a lot. I think that’s why we were so healthy because we ran a lot. We made a lot of exercises playing out there. The mosquitos would bother us so I don’t know who got this idea, but my brothers got a big bucket, and they would put cow maneuver in there and lit it. The smoke, they would just go around, and the smoke would scare the mosquitos away so they could play more. In the school had a lot fun. We played volleyball. We played basketball, not football. After school we would play games. The rules were against each other. We never went anywhere else to play the games. We just played right there, we stayed at the school. That was part of our P.E. and that was part of something you know that we could do.
JM: Did you ever work as a kid? In the cotton fields or anywhere?
RC: Oh yes. Let me tell you something. Our main thing that we did, we helped at home of course, and my mother would make us do chores. We would clean our rooms, we would dust the floors, we would mop the floors. Everybody had to put their stuff away. There was no, “I’m going to leave my thing here and I’m going to leave my shoes.” No. We were brought up, if you use something, you put it away. Our house was nice and tidy, and that’s what we did in the homes. The bigger ones would take care of the little ones, keep them busy from crying. We would help our mother because she worked very hard. She had a lot of children, and she was always in the kitchen cooking or cleaning or something. Then one day, we saw the workers picking the cotton, so we got the bright idea, “We can pick cotton and make money.” So, dad said, “Okay.” So they give you a huge sack that you tie around your waist and drag it, and then you take the cotton out of the plants and you put it in there. We only lasted two or three hours. Then we went, they weighed the cotton, they paid us. To us, it was a lot of money. Just a few dollars, but to us at the time, it was eighty years ago, so that was a lot of money. So then the next day, dad says, “Well do you want to pick cotton again?” We said, “no, no, no.” One of the reasons is because as you take off the cotton balls out of the plant, they get us scratched, so we didn’t pick cotton anymore, we just helped around the house. We had a lot to do in the hourse. We had to keep the yard clean also. That was our chores, to keep the yard clean. We were just taught to do it and we did it.
JM: What did your dad do? What was his occupation?
RC: My dad was a farmer. My mother inherited the house from her mother because she was the only daughter. They had twelve acres there in the house. That is where my father started farming. Little by little he bought farm in Fabens, another in Tornillo, another in Clint. Since my oldest brother, one of my oldest brothers didn’t finish just the third grade. My father had to get him out of school because he needed him in the farm, but he was really paid for. After, my father bought the farms, he bought a farm for them in Fabens and he gave them that farm and then they took care of it, two of my brothers, but he had a lot of farms, and he worked really hard. He woke up in the middle of the night to irrigate. It was hard for us, and it was hard for him, I know. That’s how I lost my grandpa, his father. He was irrigating and it was very wet. It was raining, and he got all soaked, and then he died days years later on July the fourth. I’ll never forget that, that was from working in the farm. I also felt for my mother, because we had finished dinner, and then workers come in later on about two three hours, she had to cook more dinner for them because they were out irrigating or unveiling the hay. My father grew cotton and alfalfa. He also grew some vegetables like chili. We had our chili grown there. We had our sugar canes which were so good, tomatoes, and little bit of squash, and a lot of corn. We grew a lot of corn. That was all part of our meal.
JM: Did you have any animals?
RC: Oh yes. My father had two or three cows at the time because one was always pregnant, so you can’t milk a cow when they’re pregnant. What they did, my brothers, would milk the cows and then my mom would just make so much with that milk. All we drank all day long, morning, noon, and night was milk milk milk because we had the cows. Then my mother, we would help her make the butter, we would help her make the cheese, the cottage cheese, the asaderos, she made all that, so that was good for us. She would make some kind of candy with milk and sugar. I can’t remember. It was the only candy because we didn’t buy candy. My parents never bought us candy, maybe for holidays but not usually. My aunts used to live in El Paso. That was about twenty miles from San Elizario and they used to bring us candy but we never bought candy. We also had chickens to lay eggs, so we had eggs once a week because there were so many of us and chickens don’t lay eggs that much. When my mother wanted to make chicken soup, she would just go outside and get a chicken, and cut their neck and make chicken and we had fried chicken. Yes, so we had a lot of food there.
JM: That’s what you mean with your mom always so busy? There was always food but there was always people, so she was always cooking?
RC: Yes, she was always showing us how to do thing. We didn’t listen but she was always showing how to do things. She made her homemade bread, she made biscuits, tortillas, she made everything. We didn’t run to the store to get, like right now, a package of tortillas, or to get red chili. She made the best red chili enchiladas. She had a big bucket of chili, and she made her own chili. Then we had the cheese, so really, we just needed the tortillas and the onions. Yes, she made a lot of food. She was always very busy.
JM: What did you guys do on Sundays? You mentioned church?
RC: San Elizario, the church in San Elizario, is one of the oldest in the nation. It’s a very beautiful church. We all grew up there. We all got baptized there, were confirmed, made our first holy communion, and participated in whatever. Also, since we were going to a public school, the church had on Saturdays, had Catechism lessons so that we could learn our faith and it was very good because not only did we learn our faith but then after they gave us a lesson. They had deacons at the time, but it was the assistant or people that worked there that gave us the lessons, and after the lessons, it was very nice because we played volleyball or we played some kind of sport. It was very nice. On Sundays we would go to mass. When my sisters were older, some of us would go to the seven o’clock mass and the other ones would go to a later mass. My mother would prepare something on Saturday, so she didn’t have to be in the kitchen, so when we came from mass we would sit down to eat. Afterwards, I never saw my mother rest. I never saw my mother sit down to rest. She had a chair outside of her room and she would sit there for a few minutes because she loved to be in the sun. I get that from her. I just love to sit out in the sun. I sit out in the sun and just pray. That’s the only time on Sunday that I saw my mother really sit down. Then, we would get the newspaper on Sunday, so she would read the newspapers and the comics, and I would see her sitting down relaxing, which I never did during the week. Then, in the afternoon, no matter if someone was visiting us, at four o’clock, my mother would just kneel down and start the rosary. Boy you better. She didn’t even have to call us. Everybody just went, kneeled down, and we said the rosary. Like I said, after we finished the rosary, we would go outside and play. We were outdoors a lot. We were always playing something. We played tag, running after the ball, or kicking the ball, we had a lot of fun just doing those things. To the movies, I think that I went one time that I can remember. We didn’t go to any places except to visit maybe people, not like today, you go to the movies, you go to games, no. We just stayed home most of the time.
JM: Did you ever go to any baseball games?
RC: Did I ever go where?
JM: Baseball games.
RC: Yes, sometimes they would have baseball games there, the older people like the men. Usually, it was the men that would have the games. Yes, sometimes we would go, but not all the time, but they were not far from the house. For one, my dad didn’t like us to be going here and there to tell you the truth. We just stayed home, that’s the way we were raised, and we were content with it. You were supposed to obey your parents you know. They did have the games sometimes.
JM: Your catechism classes, were they in Spanish? Was church also in Spanish?
RC: Can you repeat that please?
JM: Your catechism classes, were they in Spanish?
RC: Yes, but then after we grew up, and I guess they found out that we were having trouble because we had to learn from the books. I did learn all my classes in Spanish first, all my prayers, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, all the prayers were in Spanish. As the years went by, they changed that to English because they knew that everything in the school was in English, so that we wouldn’t get behind in our English, they just started teaching them in English instead of Spanish. That was good for us too. Somebody said, “Our language is Spanish,” and I said, “Yes, but all the schools we go to grade school, high school, college, everything is in English. We might as well.” That’s why I had trouble with my comprehension, I didn’t start English until I was seven years old, I think I was, when I went into first grade. They did start it in English because they saw the need in the community you know?
JM: How did you and your family get around in San Elizario? Did you guys have any horses?
RC: The first car I remember my father had was a 1937 Ford. The only reason I remember, I don’t remember the car, I have a picture of my sister and I sitting on the fender of the car. It’s a 1937 that we got around. We had two bicycles at home. If my brothers wanted to go bike riding or we wanted, we shared the bicycles. We went bike riding because you see at the time there was no traffic on the road. I mean it was farm land, and so the roads were very safe. We just ride the bicycles, but then as my father progressed in farming, he had tractors and he had a truck, the truck that I remember. He had a lot of tractors and a lot of machinery. When the boys were bigger, like my oldest brother, they had to quit school, that’s what my father said, “If you come and help me, I’ll buy you a car as soon as you can drive.” We started driving at fourteen. We didn’t need a license. We just drove because it was a farm, so that’s how we got around.
JM: How did you learn how to drive?
RC: My father is the one that taught me how to drive. When I went to high school, they didn’t have a high school in San Elizario. The same bus that transported the kids in San Elizario would transport us to Ysleta high school. I graduated from Ysleta high school. It was very nice because then, as soon as I was in my sophomore year, I was in the band. I played the saxophone in grade school. I started in the sixth grade and I played all through high school. My father, by that time, he had a Cadillac. He would loan me the Cadillac and take some of the girls, I think there were three or four of us, that I would take them to practice because we had practice on Thursday night. Then we had the football games on Friday night and my father would loan me the car and then the next week, another member, she would take her car and would take us. That was very nice. He showed me how to drive and I’m so thankful because he really did such a good job. He said, “When a car is coming and you see that it is coming fast, you have the right of way, you just press on that gas. Be sure you stop and be sure you never speed over the speed limit. You always follow the rules. He was a very good instructor, he’s the one that taught me. My mother never drove. She never drove. One time, my dad had to go fix a car in Clint, which was about four miles from here. My mother had to bring the car back because I think my father had a tractor to bring home. She said that she put it in the first gear, and she came all the way to San Elizario because she was so scared. That’s the only time. She never drove cars, she always stayed home. We came home from school, she was always there. We came for lunch, she was always there. She was always at home. You know, that’s always a blessing.
JM: Yeah definitely. Who were some of the memorable people in San Elizario that you remember?
RC: The friends that I had in school. We still kept friends after. Some of us went to Ysleta high school and the other one went to Clint high school because Clint was only three-four miles. Ysleta was about twelve miles but the bus took us. The same school bus, the elementary took us. I never lost contact because I would see them. The church, you knew everybody in the church, and you knew everybody in the school, so that we kept in touch. We had the fiestas at the church, the matachines, the bazar, the food, and the games for the kids. We used to love that. We would see each other and we would always spend time together.
JM: Tell me more about the community.
RC: About what?
JM: The community. What gathering would bring the community together?
RC: Okay like I said, it was mainly the fiestas in the church that brought the community together. As we grew older and we were teenagers, there was a dance hall. It was just about half a mile from the house—Sanchez Dance Hall. They would have dances there. That’s one of the things that my father would let us go, so we just walked to the hall and have our dances and get together and have a good time. To us, it was something different. We didn’t do it all the time. It was really the church, that’s where you met most of the people when we had the fiestas and we had the meetings or something. It was the church that really brought the people together.
JM: Did your mom help with the church, or did you ever help with the church?
RC: No, my mother didn’t help with the church. I did help when they started the catechism. After I got older, I did teach some of the kids their first prayers, like the Hail Mary or Our Father. No, I was a little bit involved with the church, not too much because like I said, dad really just liked us to stay home. That’s one of the things he did let me do. I did teach the catechism there, not only there, but after I moved, after I got married everything, I was teaching at the catechism also. I liked that. I liked that because you get to know more people, and teaching God’s work, to me, is something very important for the future. I learned that and have done it after I got married also.
JM: Did you ever go to any posadas? Do you remember them?
RC: Oh yes, we had the posadas. Oh my gosh, it was so neat because we would have it in the church and some of the people were inside and some other people were outside. We would replay what Mary and Joseph did when they were trying to find room for baby Jesus to be born. We’d go to one door and knock on the door. There were some sayings that we said back and forth. Then after, we started singing, and then we’d go to another door because the church had three-four doors on the side. We’d go to the side and we’d do the same thing. There were so many of us and it was so nice. After that we went to the third, and “no, you can’t come in, we don’t have any room.” We really acted, you know, and it was so neat. Then, afterwards, I think at somebody’s house, we would meet and we would eat. They would have some food for us and we would eat. It was a treat. That was one of things we attended, the posadas. Very memorable because after that, I don’t see too many people have posadas anymore.
JM: Did your mom ever help with making any of the foods?
RC: No, my mother usually just stayed home. I mean they let us go when we were older to the posadas. My mother, she was very good with going to mass on Sundays. She was very devoted to God. She was a very simply person and she was a very humble person. She taught us our religion really good.
JM: Do you remember if it ever snowed in San Elizario?
RC: Do I remember what?
JM: If it snowed?
RC: Oh, you know, from what I remember, I think it snowed maybe once every two years. It wasn’t like once a year. San Elizario’s weather was very mild. I think that’s why we spent so much time outside. The weather was very mild. Yes, we got rainy seasons sometimes, it would rain for days. Then the snow, I remember in the snow, I remember just playing with my little brother one time. We were making a snow man, and it was in the ditch, where there was a lot of snow, and I dropped him. I was holding him in my arms, and I dropped him in the snow. Boy, he cried and cried. I remember playing in the snow, rolling in the snow because it was something that we didn’t see too often. No, it did not snow too much, but I did see snow several times
JM: Did you ever have to walk to school in the snow?
RC: Oh yes, we had to walk. Rain or snow, or whatever, we had to walk to school. There was no “oh it’s raining, you don’t walk to school.” Well, we did, we did walk to school. We couldn’t use that as an excuse. I remember one time during school, I don’t know if it was the aftermath of a tornado or what but we were in the school, and all of a sudden, it was so windy. We closed the windows and there was all this wind, and the school was dark. We were so scared, we thought it was the end of the world, and no. Afterwards, I think they said it was the aftermath of a tornado that we experienced there. They kept us in there and I think we sat on the ground instead of sitting on the desk. We just all sat on the ground close to the wall, and they kept us there. I don’t remember minutes or hours, but it was scary. It was really scary for us.
JM: What are some other good memories that you have of San Elizario that maybe I have missed to ask?
RC: Would you repeat the question?
JM: What are some of the good memories of San Elizario that maybe I have forgotten to ask?
RC: The memories that I had, can I tell you about our family vacations?
RC: The memories I have here are the vacations. The vacations are not what they now. Now you go to Disneyland. You go here, you go there, Hawaii. We used to go to visit our aunts on our vacation. My dad, the car was packed, not everybody went, but the car was packed. Maybe it was when my brothers were older and they were already married. I remember the car being so full. We had to take a bucket in there because we weren’t used to always being in the car, so we were always getting an upset stomach and everything. We would go see our aunts. My father had three sisters in California. We didn’t go too much, but we did go about three or four times. We would get in the car, and we would stop in Arizona because my father had relatives there in Arizona also. We had such a good time, it wasn’t like going here and there. We just went to visit, and we stayed there. We had to sleep on the floor, and we didn’t care. We didn’t do that too often, so to us it was a big deal. We had fun with our cousins because we played outside. We played games and our cousins would tell us spooky stories and we were all scared. It was so nice. They always had a lot of food for us. We enjoyed each other’s company. We didn’t have to go anywhere. We didn’t have television. We didn’t have cellphones; we didn’t have any of these electronic things. We did have a radio, but we couldn’t turn it on because it wasted too much electricity, that’s what my father said. We had a lot of fun with them. Then, after we’d stay there like two or three days, my father would take us to California, to Los Angeles, where we had three aunts. The same thing, we would visit this aunt one day and the other aunt, we’d stay all day there. We’d played a lot with our cousins. We played games, we went outside, we ran, we played ball. That was the way it was, we didn’t have to go to the movies. We didn’t have to go anywhere. We just visit people and just talked to each other and learned from each other, and listened to each other. For us, it was a lot of fun because we basically stayed home. It was so nice. We did have other vacations where we went to White Sands. We enjoyed White Sands but that wasn’t often, every three or five years. When we went to White Sands, we would bury each other in the sand and not the face, but we would bury our bodies in the sand, so we had lots of fun there. Then we went to Carlsbad Caverns. Have you been to Carlsbad Caverns?
JM: I have not. I want to.
RC: Carlsbad Caverns is something you have to see. It’s such a beautiful place and that’s the only place we went to, Carlsbad Caverns. We didn’t have a McDonalds. We didn’t have restaurants. My mother would just bring two big baskets of sandwiches because we never went to restaurants. The caverns it’s something everybody should see. It’s so beautiful. They turn all the lights off and everything is so dark, you can’t see anything. It’s so beautiful. Everybody should go to Carlsbad Caverns, it something to see. We also went to Elephant View Lake. You know Elephant View used to be so full. I mean now the water is so low. When we were there, the water was so high, it had so much water. We used to have fun, just there playing, end of the lake, feet wet. That was our nice vacations we had.
JM: When did you usually take these vacations? When you were out of school?
RC: We always did it in the summer. My parents didn’t believe in taking us out of school during school. They though school was very important, but we always did it in the summer. I’m sure we had, we didn’t have many breaks, but we did have the three months, June, July, August, all the time in the summer. That’s when we visited our aunts and that’s when we went to White Sands and the other places and visit other aunts that were close by in El Paso. I had also aunts in El Paso, we used to go visit them. We used to play a lot with our cousins. I kept in touch with them, but they still live in El Paso.
JM: Did your dad used take you to El Paso when you used to come?
RC: Did our dad what?
JM: Bring you to El Paso when you would come visit your aunts?
RC: Yeah, sometimes. We would go shopping to El Paso like once a year when school was going to start, and I remember the same thing taking us to El Paso. We’d spend all day there. My father knew a barber that used to cut his hair in El Paso. My mother would go buy some packages and take them to the barber shop and would keep them there. Then, they would go to the 3B store to get shoes for everybody and that was once or twice a year we would go shopping there. We had a good time. One of the times we would have a sandwich or something that we would buy, and we would have a really good time because we weren’t used to going but when you have to buy shoes, you have to go. When we needed something, most of the time, my dad would go into town and see his sisters, two of his sisters were there. That’s one of the things that we did do, was visit my aunts. My aunt Maria, was my father’s sister, helped my mother a lot. When my mother was having babies, she would go over and stay with her to help her. One time, my biggest sister, they took her out of school to help my mother and my aunt found out and she said, “no, she going to school, I’m going to move over there and I’m going to help your mother and you can go back to school.” She did finish through the eighth grade. She was so thankful for that. She was the only one that had an outside job. She worked at the, my oldest sister, she was ten years older than I am, and she worked at a grocery store there in San Elizario, not full time just a few hours a week because she had to help my mother, so she worked there, but she got like five dollars a week. Those times, people didn’t pay that much, and that money was a lot, better than now. She was the only one that really worked out of the house.
JM: We’re almost done. Who were some memorable people in San Elizario? Do you remember Mr. Alarcon?
RC: Oh yes, you know Mr. Alarcon was such a fine superintendent. He was the superintendent of the school. I went to school with his daughters. He was very Catholic. Do you know when we had holiday obligation during the week? You know what he did, he got all the school and took us to church. The whole school went to church on a holy day of obligation because he was a very good Catholic. You can’t do that anymore. Well from what I remember, most of the people were Catholics because they all went to Church. You saw them everywhere and they all went to church. There were just a few that didn’t go to church because they weren’t Catholic, but most of the people were Catholics and they were fine people. They helped each other. They were there for us, and they took care of us, and it was so nice, having people that care for each other, that spend time with each other. “Do you need anything? Do you need any help?” It was so nice. I really loved growing up in a small town where everybody knew everybody else. Nobody was thinking “I’m richer than you.” Most of us had more money than us, but that’s okay. I remember we were poor. I remember my mother she just sat, there was this old lady that went to visit her and she was married and she was older than my mother. My mother always gave her a plate of food and always gave a plate for her husband. There were no poor people that didn’t have enough to eat because they helped each other. People knew that she needed some food and they were there to help them when they needed food or when the husband got injured. They always helped each other. They were there for each other. I really enjoyed there growing up.
JM: What year did you move out of San Elizario?
RC: What year did I move out? I was twenty-two years old, 1957. That’s when I got married at twenty-two years and that’s when I moved out and came to live in El Paso. My husband was a policeman for El Paso Police Department. That’s why we moved to El Paso. It was not in town, it was about fifteen miles from town. Then I got a job in El Paso and had to commute back and forth.
JM: How did you meet him if you were living in San Elizario and he was from El Paso?
RC: How did I what?
JM: How did you meet him if you were in San Elizario and he was in El Paso?
RC: I used to have a job. My father bought me a car, I used to have car, so I would commute. It would take me like twenty minutes, thirty minutes, but the traffic isn’t like it is now. I mean there were so few cars, so few roads, it would take me like thirty minutes to get downtown. My first job was at the White House Department Store. I commuted back and forth. One day coming back from work there was a school stop sign, so he stopped me, because there were kids crossing the street. After that, he followed me, and that’s how it started. Yeah, he worked for the police department for twenty years.
JM: And he had just started working there in the department when you met him?
RC: Yeah, he was working for the police department and afterwards, he went and worked, he had a car lot business, a used car lot. Then after that for about fifteen years he worked for the bank, Valley Bank there in El Paso.
JM: And then from El Paso, you moved to Albuquerque? Or where did you move after?
RC: Then we stayed there in El Paso until he retired, he was seventy. He retired from the bank and I came to Albuquerque because I have a daughter here in Albuquerque that had one child. The first child, I promised her that when I retired, I was going to move so I can help her with the kids, so she had three children, and I took care of them twice a week. Her husband is a dentist, and she worked part time because she liked to stay home. Two days a week, I would take care of that child, she had three, so I would take care of the three just two days a week and she paid me very well. She said, “it cost me a lot more money if I paid somebody else and I don’t want anyone to take care of my kids except you.” For eleven- twelve years I took care of her kids. The oldest one now is graduating this May from UofA in Tucson, Arizona.
JM: Wow Congratulations.
RC: I’m so glad. I say, “My little Haley, you were a baby, now you’re graduating from college,” and the second one is going to graduate in two years, and the youngest one is still here, he’s a freshman in high school. Those are the three children that I took care of. I was already retirement age, I was already sixty-five when I came here, but I had so much fun taking care of them, it was such a blessing to take care of them.
JM: Have they every visited San Elizario? Have they ever been there?
RC: Yes they did because we had family reunions there at Lilian’s house and Fina’s house. We had family reunions and then we had another family reunion through the years. We take the kids to show them where we used to live and my mother’s house and my grandma’s house. We have taken them down to San Elizario but they don’t like it down there, they said, “no, no, no, we like it where we live.”
JM: San Elizario, it’s still beautiful, still so much country, so much land. Is there anything else you want to say before we leave?
RC: No, I think you asked about everything that I was going to talk about. The only thing I want to add is that when we were very little, we had it bad, but we didn’t know because that was our life you know. My mother, my sister Fina, Lilian’s mom, tells me, on wash days, she washed the clothes once a week, she had to be absent from school on Tuesdays to help her wash the clothes. They had to go outside, build the fire, they had two big bats they had put on top of the fire, one with the soap and one to rinse out the clothes, and then they would have scrub boards where they would scrub. Can you imagine scrubbing the clothes for twelve people then hanging them all up? Then if the winds came, and got it all dirty, they had to rinse it out again. Then, we had an outdoor toilet. We didn’t have a toilet inside until I was about eight years old. My father remodeled the house and put the water. We didn’t have water, we had to pump the water. We did have electricity, but we had to pump the water if we wanted water. It was bad for us but I didn’t think it was bad for us because that was our life. There was people that had more than we did mostly everybody used to hang out the clothes. I hung up the clothes when I got married. I didn’t have a dryer, so I still hung my clothes outside.
JM: Yeah, I still hang my clothes outside.
RC: That was our life. We were so used to it. We didn’t have all this electronics and all these commodities. Thank God that we have all this, it spoiled us. That was how our life was and we were content. We were happy and our parents were very good to us. They never abandoned us. My mother was very soft spoken, all she had to do was look at you with that look and you know she meant business and my father was more strict, even with the boys. We also had a big pecan tree outside our house. I remember because the boys used to fight, “No, I’m going to pick the pecans.” “No, I’m going to get on top of the tree and shake that tree.” It was part of our life and it was a good life. I do thank God for my good parents and I saw them work so hard. My mother was only sixty-four when she passed, and my father was sixty-six because they worked very hard. They had very hard lives, but they never complained. I never saw my mother complain. My mother never cussed. I never saw her gossip. My mother was a good person. She was a very good person. I thank God for that.
JM: Sounds like a great childhood. There was not much to worry about. You were happy with what you had and that was okay.
RC: Right. We didn’t worry. That was our life and that was mostly everyone’s life there, you know? Most of the people there, that’s what they did, they farmed. There were a few people that had other jobs like we had the mechanic right there. You need a mechanic; he was right there. It was a very small, a very small town. A lot of good people. We didn’t have crime. We left our doors open at night. We didn’t have crime like they do right now. It was just so safe. It was just so awesome. Everybody knows everybody and everybody knows you and they’re there ready to help you.
JM: Okay Ms. Rose, I am going to stop recording. Thank you.