Friday, July 7, 2017

An Interview With My Grandmother, pt 1



     Recently, my lovely grandmother agreed to do an interview with me. She told me all about her life growing up and offered some wise advice for growing up today. This is the first post of a three-part interview with my grandma.

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Gloria: So first off, where were you born?
Grandma: Steel Store, Texas, but on my birth certificate it’s Robertson County, Texas.
Gl: Ok, cool. What was it like growing up?
Gr: In my real, real young years we lived out on a farm, and it was just farm life. You know in those days, most everybody was raised on farms. It was fine, I grew up, I learned a lot as a little girl. At that time I only had two brothers and two sisters, and the sisters were a lot older than me. 

Gl: So when you were on the farm, what were some of your chores?
Gr: Carrying water, because we didn’t have running water in the house. We had to catch rainwater, or we had to go this well and it was made into a pump. And we usually filled up the barrels or whatever container for water for bathing primarily, for washing clothes, for drinking, and cooking. That was my job. I had two pails and I had to go to the pump and bring water to the house for the drinking water.
Gl: How old were you?
Gr: I must’ve been about... between three and four years old.
Gl: Oh man, you had to carry those heavy buckets?
Gr: Tell me about it! Had a goose chasing me… oh that was fun! Laughing
Gl: A goose chased you?!
Gr: Oh yeah! I don’t know where that little varmint came from, but I was going back to the house just as happy as a lark, and all of sudden this mad goose comes out and just starts pecking me, and they peck hard! So I was fighting him off with the bucket of water, just trying to get away from him, and I did. So when I got home, needless to say, I didn’t have much water. 
And I told my mother, "Well the goose was pecking me." 
And she says, "Go get some water!" 
"But he’s out there!" 
"Oh, he’s probably gone by now, go on, get some water." 
Laughing Oh my gosh, that was the scariest thing I had to do. Go back out there and get water and walk back again. I think I looked everywhere, in every bush expecting to see that mad goose come at me again, but it didn’t. So I got home with two buckets full of water.
Gl: Wow, that’s quite the experience!
Gr: Yep! Laughs That’s something I’ve never forgotten.
Gl: So was carrying water your only chore?
Gr: I was too young to really do any work. My work was kinda just tending to my brothers, you know, they were little. And they would put them out there on the front porch just to get them outside. And it had a verandah where they couldn’t get out. So I just watched over them. Unfortunately Mother had pots, she loved flowers, so she always had something growing. And on the little top part of the verandah she had pots. So one of my brothers, I don’t remember which brother it was, he crawled over there, and a pot fell down. All I can figure is, it wasn’t too steady and he probably tried to climb up on it, and the thing shook and it just fell. And it just grazed his head. Didn’t fall on his head, thank God! It just grazed on his head. Of course he lets out a yell like he’s dying, and mother comes running out there. 
"What happened?"
I said, "Well that pot fell down and hit him on the head." 
She thought it fell on his head, I didn’t tell her that it just hit him on the side of his head. Well needless to say, I got a spanking for that because I wasn’t watching him. Laughing Wasn’t my fault, you know, but anyway that’s the way it went. There was no excuses, you were told to do something and if somebody got injured on the job, it was your fault. Very strict, very strict.

Gl: Yeah, sounds like it. So when you moved to Dallas what did you do there?
Gr: My dad went to work in an airplane factory, they made planes for the military. My mother went to work for a plant that made uniforms for the military. And so my oldest sister was working, my middle sister was going to high school, but she worked after school, and it was me. I was maybe, what… in the second or third grade. The school I went to was like a big house separated into different rooms, they would maybe have three grades in one room. I knew Spanish, because that was spoken at home. So, when I went to school, I didn’t know English! And so I had to learn it the hard way. And sometimes… I’ll never forget this in that the teachers were very, very prejudiced. They just thought of the Mexicans, you know, what are they here for, they don’t need an education, they’re just gonna go get married and have a bunch of kids. And I heard them talk, I heard them talk. And so, I did my best, I learned, because they taught you the alphabet and all that. So I learned it, you know, at that age you pick up the language real fast. So I was in the classroom and the teacher had assigned something and I didn’t understand. And this girl was next to me and I just looked over to her paper to see what she was doing, what were the instructions. I wasn’t copying her I just wanted to see what was being done, because I didn’t understand the instructions. And I’ll be darned, that teacher comes up and says, "You’re cheating!" And she hit my hands with a ruler.
Gl: Oh my!
Gr: I didn’t bawl, I just put my head down on the desk, and just tears were coming, but I just held it… didn’t cry out loud. That was awful, that was awful because I did not cheat. I was just looking to see what the assignment was, I didn’t know what we were doing. So it just went that way, but I learned, you just, you learn real fast. So that was one of the experiences. 
Gl: Wow.
Gr: Oh yeah, they were very prejudiced against the Mexicans. Fortunately, they did not mistreat me as bad as they would the other children that really looked, you know, were darker than I was and had a Spanish name. I had a Spanish name, but they didn’t even know how to pronounce my name! I mean, four letters? Mora? M-O-R-A? But anyway, they didn’t know what it was, whether it was Spanish, French, Italian, or what. And once you told them it was a Mexican name, they looked at you like, "Oh." Laughs With such disdain. So anyway, my school life, elementary and grade school, those grades were not good. Until my sister decided that the school we were going to was not really helping the Spanish kids, because that’s the way the teachers were, very prejudiced. So she found another school, and oh, it was quite a distance from where we lived. And we went there, and I finished… fourth?... no, no it wasn’t fourth… fifth and sixth grade, I finished that. And that was not too bad, that was pretty good. Had two little incidents but nothing disturbing. Then went to junior high, as it was called, middle school was called junior high then, and it was the seventh and eighth grade. And that was the best time, in junior high, it was the best school years I had.
Gl: Really?
Gr: I had good friends and it was totally different. I just remember that I enjoyed junior high a lot. And then I finished my junior high years and went to high school. And of course in the meantime,  every time that I was not in school my mother always had me working. When I got home from school, I had chores to do. And your studying, you did that after the chores were done. And you think washing dishes is bad? You should’ve seen the dishes I had to wash by hand, dry, and put away! So I laugh at y’all! You have no idea what a wonderful thing you have in a dishwasher. Laughs I appreciate them, I appreciate the dishwasher, washer, and dryer. Believe me, that’s the best thing that I have ever had in my life!

Gl: So you had to do all the dishes and all the laundry?
Gr: By hand! By hand. My mother finally found a washing machine somewhere, and it had two tubs, one where you wash the clothes, and then it had this ringer in the middle, and you punched a button and the roller would start, and you’d push your clothes through there because that would squeeze the water out of them, and then it’d go into the rinse water. Well when the rinse water got a little bit too much, then you had to dump it out, with a hose… you had to do your wash right by the sink because you’d put this hose in the sink so the water would drain into the sink. And then when it drained out you had to fill the tub up again. And then after that, I had to go outside and hang them up to dry. Although it did the washing, that was one step better, at least I didn’t have to do it by hand on a scrub board, and it was a lot better. And I mean, I had tons… oh, I just get so tickled with y’all… "Oh all these clothes"! Oh my goodness, you have a dryer, you have a washing machine; I would gladly change places with you in that time and age! Because it was hard, believe me it was hard.
Gl: Yeah, it sounds like it.
Gr: But I was young enough and I did it, and unfortunate for me I did it well. And that’s what my mother liked: that I did it well. So I got loaded up with all this stuff because I did it well. So anyway, that’s the way the high school years went. During the summers, when mother was working, I would be helping grandmother. Grandmother usually did most of the cooking and I would help her when I didn’t have other things to do. And I’d have to clean the whole house and that was really something. I didn’t have a vacuum cleaner either! I had a mop and a bucket. Anyway, I didn’t get to play very much outside. There weren’t any girls in the neighborhood. There might’ve been one or two girls that were in the neighborhood but they were living in rent houses, because there was a few rent houses in the community there. So they’d come and go. One little girl I do remember… Shirley Irlene, I think was her name. 
We were playing and she says, "I am so anxious for Christmas," and all this. 
I thought to myself, why are you anxious for Christmas? 
She says, "Oh and Santa Claus is gonna come." 
And I said, "Santa Claus?" 
Laughs I wasn’t brought up that way, our Christmas was the Nativity scene. And we were told what that scene meant and that’s what we had. We didn’t have a Christmas tree, much less Santa Claus.
Gl: Your family was Catholic right?
Gr: Yes, mm-hmm. We had a different way of celebrating Christmas. But it was all really more on the religious side than on the worldly side. So when she says Santa Claus, I said, "What Santa Claus?" 
She looked at me, she says, "Yeah, there’s a Santa Claus." 
I said, "There’s no Santa Claus." 
She looked at me, she begins to cry, "Yes there is a Santa Claus!"
"No, there’s no Santa Claus." 
I was being honest, there is no Santa Claus! She just burst into tears, ran home, and told her mother.
Gl: Laughing So you ruined her Christmas!
Gr: Laughs Well that made me feel bad afterwards. But I was telling the truth! That’s the only girl I remember in the neighborhood. So let’s see, then I approached my senior years and right when I was a senior I asked my dad, I said, Dad when do I get to stop doing all this stuff, you know, all the housework I did and everything. And he said, when you get a job. And oh, that was the magic word, when I get a job. Laughs So my graduation went real well thanks to my sister, Jessie. She was always helping me, she was always there. Because I was so small, you couldn’t just go out to the store and buy clothes for me. So she made clothes for me. And I learned how to sew in junior high. That’s where they taught me how to sew and home economics. Oh that was my favorite subject! Oh I just loved it. And cooking, oh the cooking really stole my heart! I loved it, just loved the cooking. My dream was to be a food editor. That’s what I wanted to do, because I was so interested in all that. But you know, it wasn’t gonna happen. It was just a dream. Laughs So I graduated and I had a beautiful dress. There was just two of us at the prom that had these beautiful dresses. And the teachers were shocked. And the teacher says, "Where did you get that dress?" And I said, "Oh my sister bought it for me at Neiman Marcus." Their teeth nearly dropped out of their head! Laughs They were like, "What, you poor Mexicans?" After that, they thought, hmm, maybe she’s not so poor after all. Laughs But they didn’t know that Jessie worked at Neimans so she could get a discount, and she did, she paid a lot of money, at that time it was a lot of money for that dress. But it was beautiful.
Gl: That was really nice of her!
Gr: She was always doing things like that! She looked after me like a mother should have. Mother was more like a sister to me than a mother, to be truthful. But I never dishonored my mother in anything, I knew better than that. But I loved Jessie, I… I can’t say that I loved my mother the way I loved Jessie. But I loved Jessie because she taught me a lot of things, she showed me a lot of things. Because she was working in the world and she knew the dangers, and she told me about it, she warned me about things. And I really appreciated it, because, unfortunately you do need these things because there are cruel people, there are nasty people, there are all kinds of people that you’re gonna come in contact with. And she taught me how to shy away from them to, you know, just not have anything to do with them. And it was for my benefit and it helped me a lot. 


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     Be sure to check back next week as Grandma tells us about her first job, meeting Grandpa, and married life. 






10 comments:

  1. I loved this! Definitely checking back for more. :)

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  2. It's so neat to hear stories about what life was like so many years ago! Thanks for sharing this :)

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    1. It certainly is! My grandmother is so full of stories. It's so interesting to hear about her experiences.

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  3. Wow, thanks for capturing all this, Gloria! I learned some new things from her life. Looking forward to the next posts...

    -Victoria

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    1. Thanks Vic! You learn something new every time you talk to Grandma. :)

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  4. Great job Gloria!

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  5. I just read both these posts, and this is so interesting! I'm looking forward to reading more.

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