The Historic Round Rock Collection is a project documenting Round Rock’s history, funded in part with a grant from the Texas Historical Commission. These pages are adapted from the original 1991 print version, which is available at the Public Library and Round Rock schools.
Interview conducted by P. Scott Brown and Kelly Kaak, July 31, 1991
PSB: Your name is T.J. Amaro? What is your first name?
TJA: Trinidad Joe Amaro
PSB: And when were you born?
TJA: August 2, 1921.
PSB: It’s almost your birthday. Happy birthday!
TJA: Yes, almost here.
PSB: Almost. We were wondering, do you know what year your father came here from Mexico?
TJA: Well, my father went back and forth. See, my grandfather was actually born in San Antonio. And…but my father was born in Mexico. And he went back and forth. He got married in Mexico the first time. His first wife died and then, during the Revolution, he married my mother and brought her back. And that was about 1914, 13, 14.
PSB: From what part of Mexico?
TJA: It’s hard…I think it was Temescal or something like that. It was a ranching community.
PSB: So, your grandfather had emigrated to the United States pretty early.
TJA: Well, no. See, his family was here back in the Alamo days. My grandfather was born, well I don’t know if he was born in San Antonio, I really don’t know, but his family lived in San Antonio before the United States took the Alamo.
PSB: And so… Do you know why your father went back to Mexico?
TJA: Well, he got married in Mexico. I guess, you know, years ago they arranged marriages. I think still some of them do that. I’m just saying that I really don’t know. But my grandfather probably arranged the marriage between my father and these people here, and he went and got his bride.
PSB: And so did he and his bride come back to the United States or did they…?
TJA: Oh yes, he came back with her.
PSB: His first wife?
TJA: His second wife. His first wife died in Mexico.
PSB: And what was your father’s name?
TJA: Cirilo [there was confusion over the spelling].
PSB: And your mother’s name?
PSB: Do you know her maiden name?
PSB: So, they came back to Texas about 1913 or 1914 after the Revolution had started. Do you know why they came to Round Rock rather than San Antonio?
TJA: Well, they came to work for the lime company. And they worked at the lime company –he did– here in Austin. When they moved to Round Rock, they went with it. But the lime company originally was down here off Enfield. Some of the old…down by Kennilwood boat docks, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. That’s where the old lime kiln used to be before, that’s way before my time.
PSB: That’s the Round Rock White Lime Company?
TJA: Yes. Then they moved to Round Rock. And that’s where he worked all his life. That’s my father, my brother and my nephew (Indicating to photo). They had that picture in a paper there and…three generations.
PSB: What did your father do at the lime company?
TJA: He was a laborer. Most of the time he fired the kilns, took the lime out and put it in barrels, whatever needed to be done.
PSB: The majority of the people working there were Mexican?
TJA: Yes, at one time I think there were over four hundred people working there. They used to break the stone with a sledgehammer, by hand. And they’d give them so much…they had a little dump car like they used in the mines, and I’m not sure but I think they got 35 cents a car…filled up with rock about six inches in diameter, somewhere along there. They didn’t measure it, they just “That’s about right”, and they threw it on there. That’s how long they took from the time they put it over there on top to cook. That lime would have to cook for twenty-four hours.
PSB: What do they do? They melt the lime?
TJA: No, they cook the rock.
PSB: They cook it? What does that do?
TJA: They use coal and wood and whatever. You burn that limestone for twenty-four hours. That rock turns white. And after it reaches the bottom. The thing’s always full because it’s always cooking. But every twenty-four hours they take it out, I’d say, several tons of rock off the bottom. It’s cooked. Now they let that cool and if they’re going to slack that lime, you see it in bags, then they put water and that thing gets hotter than a firecracker, when you slack it. And then they had these tanks and plows standing still and they plowed that thing and then they blew it through this screen mesh.
PSB: And that’s how it became powder?
TJA: After it became powder. When they put water in there, it’d disintegrate. They’d boil all the water out. Then they had these air blowers and they blew this through a fifty mesh screen and the sand and the big rock would drop down. Only the powder would go through and that’s what they use. That’s what you see in a sack of lime. Lime is just like flour. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it. [I haven’t ever seen it–PSB} If you look at lime you couldn’t tell the difference if you had a can of lime here and a can of flour. The only way you could tell, I guess, is if you tasted it.
PSB: Pardon my ignorance, but what do you use lime for? What did they use lime for?
TJA: Well, you know all these road bases, well its used for everything. For mortar in the buildings where they lay brick, they can’t lay brick without lime. They use lime in cement, on all these road bases, where there is a lot of clay and black dirt, they put lime. If you look through there they use lime… they mix it with the dirt. The highway department uses millions of pounds of lime. That keeps the water from seeping through to the road bed. They use tons and tons of it–the Highway Department– wherever there is black dirt. Around the Hill Country they don’t use it. Back in here, like Hutto, Taylor, wherever there is clay they have to use it.
PSB: Do you know how your father got the job at the White Lime Company?
TJA: Well I’m pretty sure that it was just standard procedure to get there and they need people. Very few people are going to get out there with a sledgehammer and do that.
PSB: What did you do at the White Lime Company?
TJA: When I worked there, I unloaded coal. A gondola car…I forget how many thousand pounds…you’ve seen these railroad cars loaded. Well we used to get $2.50 to unload them.
PSB: Each car? $2.50 for each car?
TJA: The whole thing. You couldn’t unload it in one day. Because they couldn’t use it up. What you are doing…as each one of those kilns needed coal…you went and loaded the truck and once you filled it up you had to wait until the next day. Take you about two, two and a half days, to unload it because you couldn’t unload it all at once.
PSB: The railroad line went right by?
TJA: A line went right into the company. They backed the cars in. They had a switch. You know where that brick yard is now? Featherlight? Right in there, that’s where the lime kiln was.
PSB: What year was that? That you were making $2.50 a car?
TJA: I can remember back to 1925, but they were there way before that. Of course, I went to school there. They had their own store. All companies back years ago, you bought groceries from them. Of course you didn’t have any money, you just went there and got your groceries and they put it on your bill and at the end of two weeks or whenever they paid, they took whatever you owed out. Which was most of it.
PSB: Were the prices competitive?
TJA: Oh yes. It was a non-profit. They didn’t make a profit off the store. I mean, if they did make a profit, they would give it back in the way of fruit baskets during Christmas. People were good. They were good people.
PSB: Did your family live in a company house?
TJA: Yes. They (the lime company) had their own houses, but you paid for it. A dollar or two a month. They would keep other people from coming in. In other words, if you didn’t work there, you didn’t live there.
PSB: Raymond (Amaro) said that your family eventually bought the house they lived in [Yes–TJA]. Was that fairly common?
TJA: We bought the house from another lady that used to work–she was a cook for the Walsh’s. We bought her house. I said we–my father.
PSB: What year was that? Do you know?
TJA: I know I went into the Army, December 8, 1941. They had bought it already. I really wouldn’t know what year they bought it.
PSB: Was the house near the white lime company?
TJA: No, the house wasn’t. Where we lived before was the white lime company.
PSB: How did your father and your brother get to work, once they moved into the house?
TJA: Well, this was after…they didn’t care where you lived. But if you worked for them and you wanted one of their houses, you got it because it would stay vacant if you didn’t.
PSB: Did many people go on to buy their own houses while working at the white lime company?
TJA: Back in the forties and after the war, there were lots of people that bought their own houses.
PSB: Why do you think primarily people from Mexico began working at the white lime company and then continued to work there?
TJA: That was about the only job a Mexican could get. If you were Mexican, you couldn’t go to school there in Round Rock.
PSB: Did the white lime company have a school?
TJA: No. My father and a bunch of them got together and…in fact I’ve got a picture of them…and where the store used to be they let us use—I said they, I was a young man–they let them use the store there and my father paid a dollar a month. They hired a teacher.
PSB: Do you remember what the teacher’s name was?
TJA: I can’t remember. Let me see that picture. I can’t remember the teacher, but I’ve got a school, a 1930 or 1931 [referring to another photo]…. Like I said, they wouldn’t let us go to school there. And the thing I couldn’t understand was, don’t make any difference, over going towards that Old Round Rock I understand there’s a colonel [that] lives there. They bought that house. [Which house?–PSB] That used to be a Mexican school…. Remember where the old settlers used to come? You know where McDonalds is? Right across the street from McDonalds, look north, there is…. If you look due north from McDonalds, there is a road there. It’s a private home now. They went together and they bought the property. I remember because that is when we closed the school. We gathered rock of the fields, stone, stuff like that. Then the government helped out at that time. CC Camp. This was a work force. You ever heard of it? [The Civilian Conservation Corps?–KTK] Well, I don’t remember what it was, I was too young. I couldn’t join. [During the 1930’s–KTK]. Yeah, back in the thirties. If you were a young man between the ages of 16 and 20, they would give you so many weeks that you could work. I wasn’t old enough. But anyway, we gathered the rock–the people–cause I was in…I was riding a wagon, getting the rock. And old people back then didn’t tell you. You didn’t know what was going on. But I know they went together and bought that property. And the CC Camp built the school. That’s where I went to the third grade, in that school. And then when I went past the third grade, I either had to come to Austin or go to Taylor because I couldn’t go there.
PSB: After what grade?
TJA: After the third grade.
PSB: So this is in 1928 or 29, 30 or somewhere around there.
TJA: Somewhere along in there because once you passed the third grade, you could either come into Austin or you could go to Taylor. They wouldn’t let you go to school there [meaning Round Rock]. My brother and my youngest sister, of course we were working then, and they came to Austin.
PSB: Do you know where the school was in Austin?
TJA: Austin High. The only high school here in town back then.
PSB: Around that time, who were the leaders in the Mexican-American community?
TJA: Well really, I don’t think there were ever any leaders. The only one that was there was Pancho Carlin. He kind of oversaw… he was the boss at the lime company. They held church at their house.
PSB: What kind of church?
TJA: Catholic church. They had a priest come from Austin. Once, two, three times a year. And they had church at their house. And they were more or less, of course everybody gathered there, I guess you would call them the leaders.
PSB: Who organized building the school? You said people got together and decided to gather rock and build the school. Who was in charge of that?
TJA: Its just like this, I couldn’t say.
PSB: What was the name of the school?
TJA: It was known as, we didn’t have a name. It was just an old company area where the store was. They had done away with the store.
PSB: This picture was taken in front of the store?
TJA: Yes. This…the wooden windows there. The door was over here. This was on the south, no the west side of the store. The lime kilns were up there. Then we went from there to the colored church over there. They let us use that church.
PSB: As a school or as a church?
TJA: For a school.
TJA: They were right there where the railroad crossing is. I couldn’t tell you who.
PSB: I think its Hopewell.
TJA: Well anyway, it’s done away with. Not the one that’s on Interstate 35 right here. It’s one back close to McDonalds. Go to McDonalds and start towards Austin. Where the stores run out, that’s where the church was…. Anytime it rained, we had to go home. It wouldn’t hold.
PSB: Did you grow up speaking Spanish at home or did you speak English?
TJA: Well, that’s something I couldn’t tell you because that and learning to swim – I couldn’t tell you when I couldn’t swim and I couldn’t tell you when I couldn’t talk English.
PSB: Do you know if your father spoke English?
PSB: And your mother?
TJA: No. But I couldn’t tell you when I couldn’t speak English. And I couldn’t tell you when I could swim either. Because I could always do both of them as far as I can remember.
PSB: Did the majority of the people at the white lime company speak Spanish or English?
TJA: Oh yes, (referring to Spanish). There were a lot of them that grew up and never learned to talk English.
PSB: You don’t remember the name of the teacher at the school?
TJA: No. I don’t remember. I remember a bunch of these guys here. The biggest portion of them are dead. I know my sisters are dead. I had two sisters that are there (in the photo).
PSB: How many grades are there (in the photo)?
TJA: First, second, and third.
PSB: Do you know about what time the Round Rock schools started letting Mexican kids go to school?
TJA: Well, my brother, Ray’s brother, now my brother made an arrangement [Which brother?–PSB] Raymond’s brother Joe. He went to school there. But my brother made some kind of arrangement because he told me that eventually they let him in. He didn’t want him over there. He was either going to send him to Austin or…. And he knew some of the people and they thought well, we’re going to let him in but don’t muddy up the waters. Cause we don’t want nobody else.
PSB: About what year was that?
TJA: That was about 1943 or 42. I was gone. I was in the service.
PSB: I was talking to Lorenzo Rubio the other day, and he said that until about 1948 or 1949, that Mexicans had to go in the back doors. It [Round Rock] was segregated.
TJA: Oh yeah. That was even after the war. I got out of the service in 1945, and I remember my sister going in there. She had been living out of state and she went into the Sam Bass Cafe, and they told her she had to go into the kitchen; so, she threw her stuff on the floor and walked out.
PSB: What was the name of your sister?
TJA: Susie Mercado.
PSB: Do you know why that changed or when?
TJA: Well, no. Because I remember when I was a kid, if you wanted an ice cream cone, you’d go to the drug store and buy it, but you wouldn’t eat it there.
PSB: Once the lime company got rid of the store…
TJA: Oh, back in, probably around 1928 or 29.
PSB: …Where did your family go for groceries?
TJA: Went to town. They had a store in town. They opened a store in town. They delivered. And, I’ll tell you something else, back in those days, the law would not come into the lime company. And I guess that’s one of the reasons that, I look back, we weren’t accepted in school. Because anything that you’d done, if you’d get back to the lime kiln, they’re not going to come in and get you.
PSB: Can you give me an example?
TJA: Well, we had for instance, well, Roy’s Taxi. He went to town and got in a problem with the law. They wanted him to move so he hauled(?) off and the law took a shot at him. And of course, he took a gun away from them so they tried to get him. And there were a few people who disappeared from the Round Rock.
PSB: What do you mean?
TJA: I mean they just never were found. And it was that if you’d done something, get back to the lime kiln. They come in there and get get you.
PSB: Why was that? Why?
TJA: Well, because they treated us so bad that if they got in there some of them didn’t go back. That was way before my time.
PSB: So that was early, right after people started coming, say 1915 or 1920. About that time or later?
TJA: Well, all the way up to…. I remember back in ’30, ’32, ’33. They still wouldn’t come in there to get you.
PSB: I read an article from the Leader about 1933, before prohibition was repealed, about a shooting at a Mexican bar. Do you know anything about, not about the shooting, but about where did people go at night, were there taverns?
TJA: No, we had bootleggers, but the law is just like it is today. Not all laws are that way. But they had, I could name names, but I’m not going to, and he had three daughters and one of the Texas Rangers was going with one of these daughters. So it was open, you could drive your car up there and they came out and waited on you. Put that beer right there on your window. And the law was right there. But it’s like I say, it’s just like – even today, you know, you’ve got crooked laws and you’ve got good laws. I can’t complain, I was never bothered. But back during prohibition, I mean there were three places there where you could just – all the people from town come there to get their beer.
PSB: And that was owned by Mexicans?
PSB: What about restaurants? Were there restaurants?
TJA: We didn’t have any restaurants.
PSB: You mentioned that the market, was that owned by Hispanics? The market that delivered?
TJA: No, that was owned by Will Walsh one of the owners of the Round Rock White Lime Company.
PSB: Where was that store?
TJA: It was right about the middle of the block. On the main drag. Where Kelley Cleaners is now, then it was another store, and I think it must be about the third building.
PSB: And he would deliver out to the white lime company?
TJA: Oh, yes. Delivered anywhere back then. You didn’t go to the store. Well any store you went to, you didn’t go there with a basket. You had a list, and you would give it to the guy and he had most of his sons and daughters – they’d fill out the list and have it in a box for you. If you wanted a pound of beans, two pounds of sugar and stuff like that, you didn’t go get it yourself, you’d go do whatever you wanted to, and they were ready for you. They’d deliver out wherever you lived.
PSB: I had another question. What sorts of things did you do for entertainment?
TJA: We had dances outside, out in the dirt.
PSB: At the lime company?
TJA: Well, yes. At the lime company or at somebody’s house. You know the Mexican people are real happy people. We believe in drinking and loving. But anyway, if somebody got married, there’s always a big dance, plenty of food, and of course I never learned to drink or smoke, but there was lots of drink.
PSB: How did people get married? Were they arranged marriages?
TJA: Well, most of them were arranged. I know my brother and one of the Carlins, he drowned, my oldest half-brother.
PSB: What was his name?
TJA: Isabel. He drowned. They had, I can remember that, old man Carlin and my father had already arranged, they were going to get married. I doubt if they ever spoke to one another.
PSB: Was your marriage arranged?
TJA: Oh, no.
PSB: Did you get married before or after joining the army?
TJA: After. I married after I got back.
PSB: What year did you get back?
TJA: In ’45.
PSB: So you were in all four years? [Yes–TJA] Where were you stationed?
TJA: I was in the Aleutian Islands. I went on through Guam. We were ready to hit the Japanese, but we never got off. I wanted to go to Europe, but I didn’t get shipped that way.
PSB: Right after you came back, you went to work in Austin?
TJA: Well, I always worked in Austin. [You worked in Austin before?–PSB] I worked for Brown and Root before I went into the service.
PSB: Doing what?
TJA: Fixing welding machines.
PSB: How old were you then?
TJA: Oh, I was about, let’s see, about 17.
PSB: You actually lived in Round Rock, I mean Austin?
TJA: No, I learned my trade here [meaning Round Rock]. You know where Kelley’s Cleaners is? Right on the corner used to be Johnson’s grocer, I don’t know what’s in there. Right behind it is a little rock building.
PSB: Right behind where Johnson’s was?
TJA: Where the Farmer’s State Bank used to be. Kind of kitty corner across the street. There’s a little rock building. It’s there. I don’t know what’s in there, but I saw it not too long ago. Well, a guy came in here by the name of Louis, and he had a patent on a welding machine. And him and I wound the welding machines. Done everything by hand. That guy never ate, all he ever done is drink grapefruit juice. And that’s where I learned my trade, from that old man.
PSB: How did you get that job with him?
TJA: He just wanted somebody to help him. And I used to go there at night. I was working in Austin, I’d go there at night to help him. And that’s where I learned to weld, to work on them. Then he sold a bunch of them to General Electric, not General Electric, but to Brown and Root, to shipyards and Mansfield Dam. I used to fix them between there and Houston.
PSB: How was it that you came to move from Round Rock to Austin?
TJA: I didn’t move ”til after the war, ’til I got married. I lived here during the week and sometimes in the evening, I went back home. Because we done farming there, my father had a few cows, stuff like that. So every evening, I’d go back and we’d work ’til dark.
PSB: Did your family sell milk to the cheese factory?
TJA: Oh, yes.
PSB: What other crops did you raise?
TJA: We raised corn, cane, hogs.
PSB: Any cotton?
TJA: No, we never planted cotton. Planted a lot of cane, a lot of corn, a lot of beans. Vegetables. But we never planted cotton.
PSB: How did you make the trip from Round Rock to Austin?
TJA: I used to ride the bus. After that, I bought a car.
PSB: Do you know what year your parents bought their first car?
TJA: They never owned a car…. I owned my first, the first car I owned, it was 1934 – bought a ’29, Model A.
PSB: 1934? So you were 13?
TJA: You didn’t need a driver’s license.
PSB: You must have been very industrious to have saved enough money to buy a car that young.
TJA: The way it came about, I used to trim trees for the Sheltons, they were all lawyers. The old man and… I used to go out there to trim trees in the summertime. I lived with them when I was working for them. They took a car from Pope Shelton. He’d done something, he was going to UT, they had it blocked off. And the old man sold me that car for $50. I guess I might have paid him three or four dollars because come Christmas, he gave me the title.
PSB: Did many people… It seems like a lot of people whose parents worked at the white lime company also went on to work at the white lime company?
TJA: Well, it was pretty hard. [Hard work?–PSB] And I wanted something better. But, I’ll tell you, I worked for these rich people, the Bartholomews, Stones, the Walsh’s here in town, and they all treated me like their son. They didn’t discriminate, none of them. But those people down here, they’re the ones…the rich people never did.
PSB: Was it hard growing up with the discrimination?
TJA: Not for me, it wasn’t. All they’d have to do is tell me one time. And that was it.
PSB: What do you mean they had to tell you one time?
TJA: For instance, one time there where Raymond’s got his filling station (the Southwest corner of Main and Main). There was a man by the name of Fouse. We used to go fishing and hunting. I had a bunch of hound dogs one time and I loved to fox hunt. And I walked into town one day and stopped there. They had one of these Coke boxes that had cold water. And I went to drink water, and he told me “No, you don’t want to do that because if my customers see a Mexican drinking water there, they don’t want to trade with me.” So, that was the end of it. I never did use his water. I never did go hunting with him again. So I figured that if they didn’t want me, that’s fine. I’ll go someplace else. But I didn’t think it was a problem. Because, even today, if I don’t want to do anything for you, I don’t have to. And you don’t have to do it for me. And I don’t think that’s discrimination. I may just not like you. And back in those days, that’s the way I figured. If they didn’t want me, that was fine. And I think I’ve done alright for myself.
PSB: Do you know of a person named Epifano Salazar?
TJA: I think they came in there afterwards. The Zamarripas, the Rubios, they lived in McNiel. The Carlins, the Penas, old man Perez, all of us old people that are there have been there many, many years. But a lot of them came in afterwards so I couldn’t tell you.
PSB: Did the Depression affect Round Rock very much – do you remember?
TJA: Well, I don’t really think so, because the way they worked there (at the Round Rock White Lime Company), they let you work. In other words, if you had a family, and you’d been working there, they give you so many days a week to work. They didn’t pay you much, but you could go get your groceries. In other words, if all three of us (TJA, PSB, KTK) worked there, if we worked steady, you might work for two days, if you didn’t have a family you’d work one day, you and I’ve got a family, we’d get two days. Which it wasn’t much, but they’d let you have groceries, whichever groceries you wanted. So, really, the Depression didn’t bother us much because we lived out there where we could plant. We used to plant all, do you know where the forks of the creek are, Brushy Creek? [And Lake Creek? Which branch of Brushy Creek?–PSB] Well, if you go out Sam Bass Road, and you turn left after you get way out there and cross that low water bridge on Sam Bass and Brushy Creek. If you go past the cemetery, and you go out there about a mile, part of the road goes to the right and part of it goes to the left. If you go to the left, you go across a little low water bridge. If you follow that road like you’re going to Leander and after you get over there about two or three miles, Brushy Creek makes a fork. Over on the right hand side, I think that’s private property, they’ve got a dam over there. Up on top of that hill was a house and we lived there when we farmed. We’d go up there and farm. We farmed the fields on both sides, which was about 40 acres. It also belonged to the lime kiln.
PSB: But your family farmed it?
TJA: My family, my mother and father, my brothers, my sisters. We farmed it. Whenever we were raising crops, we lived in that house over there. Maybe for a week, two weeks. I don’t know what’s there now. But it was right there where the creek forks. Right on top of the hill. And we used to plant that field on both sides. It’s about 40 acres.
PSB: Do you remember the name of the person you bought the house from when your family bought the house?
TJA: Yes, her name was Lou Waters. She was a colored lady. If you look at her, you’d think she was white and somewhere down the line I suppose she was. She was a cook for Ed Walsh.
PSB: Do you know of any Mexican families that have been in Round Rock since before the Revolution? That came to Round Rock like your family went to San Antonio?
TJA: Well, the only people that I can, and I can just barely remember…do you know the Burns? They live out, what do they call that road now that’s right behind that Apple Tree? Do you know where the round rock is? That the town was named after? What is that road? [Chisholm Trail?–PSB] OK. If you follow the Chisholm Trail about a mile past Brushy Creek, on the left-hand side, all that used to be owned by Burns. On the back of his property was an old man they called Elijio. I don’t even remember what he looks like now. But I understand that he was there a hundred years before that. So he could, one of the Burns could probably tell you. He still owns that property. [The same guy.–PSB] But right on the back of it, in fact they sold it to Burns.
PSB: Elijio sold it to Burns?
TJA: He went all the way to Brushy Creek, that old man Elijio. But he was, that’s the only people I would know that was there. Of course, there were probably a lot more at that time.
PSB: I haven’t talked to anyone who’s known that any one was for sure there before. Because most of the old families in Round Rock came about 1914, 1915 during the civil war in Mexico. While you lived in Round Rock, what would you say was the biggest event that happened there? Does anything come to mind?
PSB: Do you remember when the cheese factory was sold?
TJA: Yes. I don’t remember what year. I remember they said it was sold or closed. It was called Longhorn Cheese.
PSB: I think it had several different names. It was sold often.
TJA: I know that my mother and father sold milk for years. I’ll tell you who used to deliver milk for those people, and I think he is still living. He lived right there by that dam on Brushy Creek, right there by the old cheese factory. If you look was of that there’s a dam, a beautiful dam, or was. Do you know where the Rubios live? [No–PSB] There’s a beautiful dam… this guy’s name was… he picked up milk for the cheese company and he lived right across from the dam. I can picture him, who he married. His wife died. And he’s retired but he worked for the cheese factory for years picking up milk.
PSB: Did you give them milk cans?
TJA: I think my mother had 8 milk cans and they sat them out on the street. He came before daybreak and he picked up your full ones and left you empties. The next day he bring you empties and pick up the full.
PSB: Do you know how much money you got for the milk can?
TJA: I couldn’t tell you. It wasn’t much. They’d pay you by the butter fat. Whatever the butterfat was. My mother sold milk to them for years, you know the cheese factory. Back then, old people never told you what was going on and you didn’t ask. You just knew there was food on the table.
PSB: I think that’s all. I appreciate your time and your help.
TJA: One of the Walshes is till living. Garland Walsh is still living. He still lives out there on Sam Bass Road. Of course he’s old. I see his son pretty regular and he tells me he’s (Garland Walsh) got a pacemaker, but he must be 90, over 90. He worked at the lime kiln with all the Mexicans.
PSB: As a laborer or in the office?
TJA: Office, labor, whatever it came to. Drove a team of mules.
PSB: Other than Mr. Carlin, who were the foremen at the lime company?
TJA: Well, my brother was a foremen there for the mechanics. He ran all the mechanic work there. Ray’s father. In fact, he bought all the equipment. If they needed a piece of equipment, he bought it. He didn’t pay for it, he bought it.
PSB: Did any of the women work at the white lime company?
TJA: The Mexican women worked in the cotton fields.
PSB: Did many women work in the cotton fields?
TJA: Yes, I never did go.
PSB: Did your mother?
PSB: Any of your sisters?
TJA: No, we never did go. We had plenty to do at home. But there were a lot of people who went. I had one of my sisters, she’s dead now, she’d go to Michigan to pick beets every year. They’d make enough money so that they wouldn’t have to work the rest of the time.
PSB: Did a lot of people go, migrate in and out?
TJA: Yes, a lot of them stayed up there. A lot of them stayed in Michigan, Chicago. The families, over 80% of the families, that worked at the lime kiln, when work slacked down, they’d move to Michigan. Illinois.
PSB: So did people stay at the white lime company a long time or did most people work for a while, then go to Michigan and come back?
TJA: The ones I know, they stayed there forever. After a while, they had machinery so they did away with a lot of those jobs. So those people went to Illinois, Michigan. But most of them stayed. Because they found good jobs. But I’d say 80% of them, the families, married up there and are still back in there somewhere. Iowa, Illinois, Michigan. In fact, one of my sister-in-laws, one of the Rubio sisters, she lives in Illinois.
PSB: Did a lot of people come up from San Antonio to pick cotton?
TJA: Yes, from the valley. You see everything was done by hand. So around September the 16th were big celebrations. That’s where we went to see all the girls and dance with them.
PSB: That’s Independence Day?
TJA: Yes. They’d come in here and pick cotton. Oh, I mean thousands of people. All the cotton was gathered by hand.
PSB: Mostly Mexicans or blacks?
TJA: Mexican, I’d say 99% were Mexican. From here they went to Lubbock, West Texas, all up through there. They picked cotton over there. Most of them came from the valley, San Antonio and around the valley, Laredo. They just followed the crops. I know I used to hear them talking about going to… I don’t remember what state it was, but everyone was going down there to pick cucumbers. But anyway, they went all the way from here and followed the crops all the way to Michigan. But those people over there, I understand, were good to them. We never did go. They had the houses for them.
PSB: Better than they were in Round Rock?
TJA: Yes, because they furnished everything. They furnished transportation. In other words, a guy had a field of beets or whatever it was, he wanted so many people. They had housing for them there to pick up his crop. The next year they’d return back.
PSB: How was it in Round Rock? Did they have housing for the people?
PSB: And transportation?
TJA: Well, you didn’t need transportation. You lived within a hundred yards of the lime kiln.
PSB: No, no. I mean the people who came to pick cotton around Round Rock.
TJA: No. You lived wherever you could. Around Round Rock, Hutto, Taylor. All of that’s cotton country. Some people had little barns and stuff like that but most of them had tents they’d stretch out over there and live underneath the truck. Most of them were families, you know, kinfolk.
PSB: But it’s still a hard life.
TJA: Oh, it was. It’s still a hard life today. You still have them today. Not as many but you still have them, migrant workers.
PSB: Did a lot of people in your generation, whose parents worked at the lime plant, go to Austin or go to Taylor to go to school after third grade?
TJA: No. Not many. Because, as I say, the nickel was hard to get. You didn’t, there was no way you could make money like today. If you had a job, you wouldn’t keep it. You may believe that this is not true, but when I worked at Mansfield Dam there were people who rode with me with their lunches hoping that somebody would get fired or they’d need somebody. They spent all day. There were no jobs. You get over there and every morning they would give you a number. If they needed somebody, they’d call that number. If you were lucky enough that they needed somebody and you happened to be there, you went to work. But there were thousands of people there waiting for jobs. From all walks of life. This was back in the thirties. If you had a job you were blessed. Any job. It didn’t make any difference what kind of job it was. If you had a job, you were alright. My first job was working for Modern Supply, helping the blacksmith, sweeping the floor.
PSB: Modern Supply?
TJA: Yes. Here in Austin. It was owned by Mr. Rudolf Schwartz.
PSB: Did you live with them?
TJA: No. They sold horseshoes, bolts, windmill parts. I delivered on a bicycle just around town. Fifty cents a day, ten hours a day.
PSB: How old were you?
TJA: I must have been about eleven. The blacksmiths and the welders got 85 cents a day, for 10 hours. The machinists got 75 cents a day, for 10 hours. [It wasn’t much money.–PSB] No, but where can you go buy a nickel’s worth of bologna today? I made many a meal. I went and bought a nickel’s worth of bologna and the guy’d give me the bread. Bread wasn’t wrapped then, they kept it underneath a glass cover. If the breadman didn’t pick that bread up they’d put it on top and anybody could walk out with it. That was the kind I got. Where can you go today and say “Give me a nickel’s worth of bologna?” I can remember on Sixth Street this guy had a pile of meat, not like McDonalds. If you wanted a hamburger, he’d grab a handful of meat and make a patty. That was a nickel. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, you could get three hamburgers for a dime. But who had the dime? I didn’t have the dime. Like I said, back then, everything was cheaper. Of course, I made $2.50. I kept fifty cents and gave my mother $2.00. If I went to the movies, it’d cost me a nickel, nickel for popcorn.
PSB: Could you go to the movies here in Austin?
TJA: Yes, at Ritz theater. Shoot, I got to where I’d watch that movie so many times that I could draw them cowboys. But you know, if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change anything….
PSB: You were saying that you went to the movie theater here, was Austin segregated also?
TJA: No. Austin wasn’t.
PSB: Why was Round Rock segregated and Austin wasn’t?
TJA: Like I said. There are different kinds of people. They think that…It’s kind of like the colored people. What difference does it make if he’s sitting there and you’re sitting here? To me that never made any difference…. The colored people were segregated here in Austin. Georgetown would let you go in the restaurants.
PSB: Raymond said when he was growing up they had midnight movies from Mexico [in Round Rock].
[Brief, unimportant exchange deleted.]
TJA: Yes, they had them here in Austin [too]. I used to know the guy who owned it [the Round Rock theater near the bank]. A guy by the name of Ronker, something like that. Kelley owned it towards the end. [Do you know Kelley’s first name?–PSB] I couldn’t tell you. He and my brother used to be on a boxing team together, Raymond’s father. He and Kelley would go around the country on the boxing team.
[A discussion about why few people know Kelley’s first name is omitted. TJA retired the first of this year (1991).]
TJA: Old man Stockbridge used to own that building. He could talk Spanish just like anybody. The old man. [How did he learn Spanish?–PSB] I don’t know, he must have come from the valley. Put him on the other side of that wall and I couldn’t tell.
PSB: Were there any other white people in Round Rock that spoke Spanish?
TJA: Very few. A little bit. [Some people at the white lime company?–PSB] Yes. [The Walshes?–PSB] Yes. They understood it more than they spoke it. This guy Garland I was telling you about, he can talk Spanish real good. Because he worked there since he was a kid, hauling water or whatever. Now his brother couldn’t talk much, he could understand it. The majority of those people at the white lime company could talk in Spanish, they could understand what you’re saying.
PSB: Did the majority of people there understand English? If they spoke Spanish, did they understand English?
TJA: A lot of them didn’t. They made out like they didn’t. But I think a lot of them understood what was going on.
[A discussion of people, including TJA, who have pretended not to understand English to get out of doing things they didn’t want to do, is omitted. Also, TJA’s experience on a five week jury trial after he was married and why the elderly are better suited for jury duty.]
PSB: You joined the Army pretty quick after Pearl Harbor.
TJA: Well, a friend of mine, James Benett, he and I were good buddies. We were on the swimming team years ago. [Which swimming team?–PSB] Here in Austin. We went as far as Florida and different places. Anyway, we had dates that night, we’d been to the movies. They were from Southwest, there in Georgetown. When we got to Round Rock, they had put out a little extra “US at War”. We’d known this was going on. They gave us that little paper. The American-Statesman had put out… it was just one page. We had to have them in the dormitory by 10 o’clock. So we went in there, they had the radio on and we stayed in there ’til about 12. Coming back, we decided, “Shoot, they can’t do that.” Let’s go join up. So we did. We came right here to the post office and then we went to San Antonio. He went into the Navy and I went into the Army.
PSB: What did your parents think about it?
TJA: Well, they didn’t think too much, really. They hated to see us gone. But then I went and then my younger brother went. He made a career out of it. [What was his name?–PSB] Tom. He just died four years ago. He was retired from the Navy. That’s what made me go in. We had to go fight. You know, a young fellow, he doesn’t think anything about it. James dies two years ago. I raised five children and he raised nine. I think that’s what killed him.
PSB: Thank you very much for the interview.
TJA: You bet.
THE END. Transcribed November 1991 by P. Scott Brown.