Ralph M Castillo was my Mother’s Father
Ralph M Castillo
By Carmen Schultz
My father, Ralph Maria Castillo, was born on March 8, 1901 in Caracas, Venezuela, South America. He didn’t learn the date of his birth until he was 66 years old. He had been born at home and the place that kept the birth records had burned down. As is done in many Latin countries, we celebrated his Saints day instead, which was Oct. 24th. It was only after he became eligible for social security and they were insistent on proof that my mother got his baptism certificate from South America that stated his age. It turned out that he was five years older than he thought and it gave him great pleasure to go into the social security office that held back his money and get money for the extra years.
My father’s dad died just before my father was born and I don’t have any information on him other than my grandfather was three fourths Spanish and one fourth French. This dad also learned years and years later and came from Spain. Dad’s mothers name was Ana Toro Castillo and she and all her family came from Caracas, Venezuela. She and his many aunts and uncles raised my dad. They were all of staunch Catholic backgrounds. One of the things I remember lovingly about Dad is going to Mass with him every morning before I went to school and him praying his rosary as I prayed while my little finger would be intertwined with his. His brother Uncle Louis was a priest and his cousins were priests, cardinals or bishops. Dad often said he was the black sheep of the family as he was one of the few men not becoming a priest.
My dad had an older brother who died as a young child and we know little of him other than he had been near death once before because of eating a poisoned leaf. My grandmother Ana made a promise to name any other children for the Virgin Mary if he survived. This was the reason for my father’s middle name being Maria as was my Uncle Louis. One of his cousins, Monsignor Francis was raised as a brother to Dad. He was a double cousin to dad as two cousins (brothers) from one side of the family married two cousins (sisters) from the other side of the family.
Dad was married previously in South America and had a young son Louis. There was a problem in that marriage and they were divorced. Dad as a very young man in his early twenties came to the United States with his Brother, Mother, and 5-year-old son. I remember, Dad who spoke English with a heavy Spanish accent, laughing about his first days in the United States. He said he saw trucks with the letters PIES (which in Spanish means feet) stopping at stores and he wondered why these crazy Americans were selling feet, (and what kind of feet). Another time in the winter he wanted to buy some long underwear to keep warm so asked his brother how to say long underwear in English. His brother told him to go and ask for union suits (which is what they were called back than). When dad asked for union suits he was sent next door to the garden section as they thought he was asking for onion sets. He said for months and months his diet consisted of hamburgers and coffee because those were the only words he knew.
Dad met my mother Francis Mary Lyons at church. My grandmother Josephine was very active in the church were my uncle Louis was pastor, and my folks met that way. Neither family was happy when Ralph and Francis decided to marry. They had both been divorced before and to remarry was a definite No, No as Catholics. It turned out to be a good marriage though. Each of my parents gave the other what they needed most in life, respect and love. My dad was a fairly quiet person and an introvert where as my mother was a very outgoing type of person and an extravert. This caused problems at times but all in all they over came the problems because of the love, affection and honor they had for each other. My dad had a temper and used it at times but my mother, as a rule was very good at calming things down fast.
I was the apple of my father’s eye and could do no wrong. I was to be cared for and made sure that no harm came to me. Dad was very strict and boys were a definite No in his vocabulary. On the other hand he expected so very much of my brother Bud, and no matter how good Bud was at this that or the other, my Dad felt he could do it better and expected better. I imagine this is one of the reasons Bud is much the perfectionist and I am a bit more laid back. I remember being able to sit on my dads lap and curl his hair when I was little.
I wanted a horse that was quite wild and had been a river-riders animal. This was not a child’s horse but my father took me over to see it. They lead me, on the horse into the coral and let me loose to ride Sharazod. As soon as the lead chain was taken off the reins, Sherry made for the rails, trying to knock me off. His final feat was to flip the bit and bite it so I had no control of the horse. He then ran at a fast gallop across the coral. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was aiming to jump the wall. I remember thinking to myself that if he jumped that wall, I’d never get him stopped. It was at this time that my father, who was not a big man, ran inside and jumped right in front of that run away horse. I don’t know many people brave enough to do something like that. I felt I had lost any way of getting Sherry as my horse because of this. Dad knew how much I wanted that horse and he still, even with everything that happened, let me get him. I know this also took a lot of courage on his part, letting his daughter have a dangerous animal but he showed me that he had faith in my judgment and ability to train Sherry into a good though spirited horse. This was a real father.
When Duane came down to Brownsville to ask me to marry him, he first had to ask my fathers permission. I can still remember my mother and I hiding in my room (with a window facing the front porch) listening to Duane ask my dad for my hand in marriage. Would you believe that my dad listened to everything Duane said and then said that he would talk to my mother and they would let him know later that evening? I was shocked and truly upset that my dad wasn’t going to let me get married. My mother calmed me down by telling me that was just dad’s way of letting Duane know that the proposal wasn’t going to be jumped on but consideration was going to be taken about such an important event. This was my dad. He was the dearest, hardest working, most courageous man I know and I am very pleased to call him my father and be a part of his heritage.
Ralph M Castillo
By Ralph G Castillo
Dad was firm but always fair. I can’t remember being spanked by dad; a stern look was enough to do the trick. In the late 1930’s mom and dad decided to move to Mexico to build a tourist courts. Dad spoke fluent Castilian Spanish and thought he would have an easier time in Mexico. When they got to the border they had trouble getting a visa to move to Mexico, dad was not a born U.S. citizen. They met the Tomlinson family who became family to us. With their help mom and dad started a fruit stand (Store) on the corner of Elizabeth Street in downtown Brownsville. It was across the street to the Catholic School that Noel attended. Dad would contract with the orange grove owners to purchase and pick all of his citrus at a fixed amount. He would drive a group of laborers to the groves and Noel would oversee them while they picked and loaded crates of oranges and grapefruit. With Charro Days as popular as it was in those days and tourists flocking to Brownsville to spend money, dad made a good living shipping crates of citrus to their friends and families. He even contracted to supply fresh vegetables and fruits to the local Hotel, Piggly Wiggly Food Store and several other locations. When they started shipping citrus up north one of their competitors threatened to turned them in for not having a shipping stamp, dad being the clever person he was found a large button that was the correct size, a red ink stamp pad and continued to ship citrus until his legal stamp showed up. Things were going great until dad had bought up several citrus groves to pick and a hard freeze hit Brownsville and literally wiped his finances out. We packed up what we owned into a panel truck and moved to Fenton, Mich. near Runyan Lake where Gram & Gramps lived.
Dad & Mom purchased a small house on a corner lot at 335 N. Lemon Street. He added a closed garage and two more bedrooms. He turned a plain corner lot into a showplace with circular drive lined with Christmas Trees. In the middle of the large grassed section was a rock garden with a large mirrored ball on a stand. Lining the drive was a white picket fence that Dad had made on his small table saw. Dad could cut wood with a handsaw as fast as most people could with electric saws. He could nail as fast as most nail guns today. He was small built but strong as an OX.
When we first moved to Fenton dad had a problem finding a good job because he spoke very broken English. His first job was at a concrete factory between Fenton and Holly Michigan. In those days companies didn’t own heavy equipment to load these large concrete storm drain pipes that were large enough for a man to stand upright in. The loading was done by back breaking manual labor. Dad would come home with his back raw from the lime in the concrete, plus rolling them up onto large trucks for shipping.
Dad had learned to make beautiful necklaces and earrings from gold wire and crystals from Europe. He would make dozens of matching earrings and necklaces hang them on a cardboard display card and off he and mom would go to locate a Hispanic community to sell his jewelry. They would come back with orders for more items for the next trip. Dad also made Catholic Rosaries but he would not sell these. His Christian belief would not put a price on religious items no matter how much it cost him to produce them. He gave them to people on special occasions.
His next job was at Genesee Tool & Die Co. in Fenton Michigan. What a relief for dad to use his brains instead of his brawn. Dad learned to use a cutter / grinder machine that made military hardware dies. That’s why he could not quit or move because in those days people were drafted to the jobs they worked. It was Wartime and dad would work at that machine until the war ended.
During wartime everything was rationed. We would purchased food, gasoline and shoes using ration stamps and cash. When you ran out of gasoline stamps you walked. People that raised beef & pork had to get permission to butcher and sell the meat. This was wartime and we lived sparingly. Dad and a friend of his butchered a large hog in our garage and we ate pork for a while.
Dad couldn’t read English, so when he wanted to learn how to work on radios, mom would read to him until he passed his radio test and became a licensed radio repairman. He contracted with a local car dealer to install radios. Dad also loved to grow flowers and plants he a thumb almost as green as Grama Lyon.
One memory of dad that stands out was when Noel traded his old Chevy sedan for an Indian Motorcycle and dad was going to show us how to ride it. Dad got it going just fine but after turning into several front yards he circled back to the house and yelled ” How Do You Stop This Thing “
We lived in Fenton Mich. until Oct. 31 1948 — when we moved back to Brownsville Texas. Dad purchased a stake-bed truck, loaded our refrigerator, stove odds and ends and off we drove to Brownsville. What a trip, Dad drove the truck, Uncle Louis riding shotgun and Me stuck in the middle. Mom drove the 1941 Chevy coupe with big Grama, little Grama and Carmen with their fruit jar. (Dad refused to make potty stops for 4 females) When we got to Brownsville we set up a campsite and ruffed it for a while. Mom & Dad had a mattress in the back of bed of the truck, Carmen slept in the car front seat Grama slept in the back seat, I slept in the truck front seat and Uncle Louis And Little Grama stayed in a rented room at the Tomlinsons house. Dad fixed a campfire and we were home.
In the first month Dad built a small cabin about 12′ x 20′, walls, roof but no floor, (except where Big Grama slept) a door and two windows. This was our new home for about a year and a half until dad got the ” BIG HOUSE ” built. Sleeping arrangements in the cabin were Mom & Dad had a bed, Big Grama had a bed, Carmen and I slept in canvas hammocks that were rolled up each morning. We hauled bath water from a Rasaca about a block away. Dad had stopped in Lufkin, Texas at a sawmill and purchased all the lumber he needed to build our house, it included delivery and offloading. Dad first had to clear off a spot for the house by clearing all the mesquite trees and cactus. That’s when we met Manual Salazar and his family. They helped us every time we turned around with things that came natural to them. They cut the mesquite trees, stacked the firewood, when it started burning good, they covered it with dirt and several days later it had turned the wood into charcoal it was bagged and sold. Dad ran out of money before he completed the house so he had to get another means of income. He had his stake-bed truck so he contracted to haul bricks from the railroad yard to a federal housing project. He hired several laborers, made a tool to handle four bricks in each hand; he moved hundreds of boxcar loads of bricks and made enough money to complete building the house.
He then got a job as a Commercial Electrician which he taught himself to do after several months as an apprentice. They wired several new stores in the downtown area of Brownsville. Dad couldn’t read but if he saw something done one time he would be able to repeat each step exactly as done. Dad worked for McNair clothing company as a sewing machine line repairman for a number of years, worked at Grindell Generator repair shop, then learned how to repair clocks and watches with Mom reading the lessons to him until he Graduated from that home coarse.
Dad was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He went to a Catholic School where for punishment the Nuns would make them kneel in the corner that had sand sprinkled on the floor and them in short pants, no wonder they were good in school. When dad was a kid, for money, they would catch monkeys using a coconut, they would drill a hole in the side, put a nut inside and with the coconut on the ground it would be tied to a tree. The monkey would stick his hand into the coconut, make a fist around the nut, refusing to release his treasure, he’d be stuck until someone broke the coconut and released him into a cage to be sold. They would also make a rubber cement substance and spread it on bushes that flocks of beautiful parrots would always land in. The parrots would get stuck, caged and sold.
Dad was a survivor and could make do with little of nothing. Dad wasn’t a talker, he was a doer. He would let mom do the talking for the family and seldom carried on a conversation because he was constantly afraid of making a mistake speaking a language he was not born to speak and did not start to learn until his mid twenties.
02/10/06 – The below is from an email by Ralph G Castillo to my mother.
I just read Dave’s section you wrote about Gramma Lyon.
Great story, but there were several items about Dad that I got a different story from Mom, Father Louis worked in New York before moving to Detroit, that’s where Dad started working a slaughter house. I think
1) Dad left Venezuela shortly after he witnessed a machine gun killing at a busy streetcar intersection. The streetcar conductor was on top of the streetcar changing the control connections when a car drove up & cut off another car with some political people inside. Men with machine guns got out of the first car and killed everyone in the second car with the political people in. They saw the conductor had witness to the killing and killed him, they than strafed the streetcar with bullets so no-one would look out or remember their faces. Dad asked Father Louis to help get him out of Venezuela in fear of his life, which he did.
2) When mom & dad moved to Brownsville, the intent was to go into Mexico and build a Tourist Camp with cabins. Dad did not have the proper papers to move & live in Mexico so they stayed in Brownsville, that when the met Mr. Tomlinson and family.
Opened the fruit stand on Elizabeth St and sold fruits & veggies.
The story gets kind of cloudy how & when Father Louis made it to Brownsville and was Parish Priest at Sacred Heart Church.
Love You Bunches
Ralph & Frances Castillo
By Carmen Schultz
I was born April 22, 1935 at home in Detroit, Michigan to Frances Mary Lyon Castillo and Rafael (Ralph) Maria Castillo.
My paternal grandmother, Anna Toros Castillo, a tiny lady (about 4 ft. 4 in. very slender) and wore size 3 spike shoes. She was ¾’s Spanish (spoke only Spanish) and ¼ French and very religious, (Catholic). She had made a promise to God that if her first baby son (who had eaten a poisoned leaf and was seriously ill), was allowed to live, she would call all remainder children born to her Mary in honor of Jesus’ mother. The child lived and the two sons grandma Castillo later had carried the middle name Maria (which is Mary in Spanish). My father’s dad died just before my dad was born so; my dad was raised by a widowed mother and several aunts and uncles.
The doctor who came to the house to deliver me was drunk. My father ended up delivering me into this world himself. Dad, who had quite a temper, not only wouldn’t allow the drunken doctor near my mother but he forcefully threw said doctor out of our home. This is how my life began. My older brother Noel said that after I was born, my mother put me in a laundry basket and than went about finishing the ironing. My people all came from strong stock, and did not believe in pampering themselves.
My brother, Ralph Guy (middle name after my maternal grandfather) was also born at home. His birth date was Jan. 1, 1937. He is 22 months younger than myself and has never let me forget it. We have two older brothers (Noel Michael from my mothers first marriage and Louis Castillo from my fathers first marriage). My father came from Caracas, Venezuela in South America. His English was broken and though intelligent and a hard worker it was difficult for him to get a job so my parents struggled through the first years of their marriage.
This was also during the war when any one with an accent was considered suspect. Slogans like “the slip of the lip may sink a ship” were commonplace and spies were considered everywhere. Naturally if you had an accent-you might be a spy. Although dad was a naturalized citizen and very proud of his new country things were hard for him at this time.
While Bud and I were still babies, my family all moved to Brownsville, Texas where Spanish was spoken and dad thought he’d be better able to support his family. These early stories I have been told by either my mother or father as I was too young to remember them myself. Having no money during the depression, we lived in a tent until my dad got a job. My folks told stories of my dad going out early in the morning to milk pasture cows and us living on that, mixed with day old bread (that was our “cereal” and it was good! Dad also made up something he invented and Mom called Keriokas. This consisted of water, flour and a tiny bit of sugar mixed together. Day old bread was soaked in it and it was fried. I have made this for the grandchildren adding vanilla and they seem to enjoy it sprinkled with sugar. Dad worked the citrus groves until he got enough money to buy a grove of their own. From that they bought several. Mom and Dad sold fruit out of an old truck until they had enough money to rent a store with a little house in the back. They sold mostly fruit and staples (milk, bread, sugar, flour). My father also learned to make jewelry (pierced earrings and necklaces also rosaries). Since dad only had a third grade education and that was in South America, life was difficult for them but it also made us a very close-knit family. My dad worked the orange groves during the day and my mom took care of us and worked the fruit store. At night my dad worked late making jewelry. He than went out in the truck to sell it or mom would sell it in the store. The weather was nice although and we all had our good times. My mother played the guitar and the family loved to sit around together and sing songs or we’d (including my father) listen to her read to us. We’d often go out to the beach for picnics and swimming. My dad was afraid of the water if he couldn’t touch ground. When he was a young teen in South America, he drowned and was thought dead. Some of his young friends took hot needles and stuck them in the back of his neck to try to get him to catch his breath again and sure enough it worked. He carried those needle marks on the back of his neck through life—but he had one. There is much in this world you can enjoy that cost you nothing and brings you close to one another. Our family was good at finding those things.
A bad frost came one year and killed all the fruit trees in the valley. My parents had saved some money so they moved our family back to Michigan. By than dads English was better and he felt he could get a job in the factory until they had enough money to come back to Texas.
Mom and Dad took the little money they had and bought a small house in the town of Fenton, Michigan just a few miles away from Runyan Lake and my grandparents. The house was really very little and because it had not been well kept up, it was fairly inexpensive. The house still took all the money the folks had but they didn’t believe in owing money to anyone so paid cash for everything. The house consisted of one bedroom, a living room, kitchen and tiny bathroom (toilet and shower stall), set back on a corner lot that had until we bought it, been used for dumping trash. There was much work involved in making this place a home. My dad by than having learned a bit more English, got a laborer job in a factory. He was very skilled with his hands and learned precision tooling. During the day he worked in the factory, in the evenings he made jewelry and built onto the house. He added a wide hallway, two more large bedrooms, enlarged the bathroom and put in a tub. He build a breakfast nook off the kitchen, added a workshop and large garage. He did all this having never been trained as a carpenter. He wanted a home for his family and he was going to get one even if he had to do it all himself. They improved the large lot by making a circular drive way, with added evergreen trees along it and flower bushes (my favorite peonies) and plants (gladiolas and tulips) everywhere. We also had one of the best “Victory gardens” in town. Each family that could was encouraged to raise their own food to help in the war effort. There were so many shortages at that time because all the fuel used to have trucks bring food to the stores was now being used for the war. You could buy gas if you had the stamps to go along with it. Each family was allotted a certain amount of stamps for fuel, sugar, coffee, butter and things like that. Nylons were almost impossible to get because the material was used for parachutes. When your stamps were gone you could no longer buy these things even if you had the money. You would save your grease from bacon or pork etc in cans and turn it in. We made extra money by collecting coke bottles and turning them in. We all helped in the garden and, since there wasn’t insecticides, we kids were given a penny for every twenty bugs picked off the garden plants. We’d carry along a tin can with oil in it to throw the bugs in and later to be counted. I personally killed thousands of potato bugs by the time I was seven. This was big money to us (candy was three for a penny and candy bars were 5 cents). Comic books were a dime and you were something if you had any of them and I had several. With much work our home became considered one of the nicest homes in the little town of Fenton and our neighbors all respected this man with his broken English and his hard working family. A magazine came out and took pictures of our home showing what could be done with what everyone had considered a shack and dump area. Our house had been converted into a lovely place and we were all very proud of the work our family had done. My dad continued to work in the factory and sell his jewelry.
Mom read him an advertisement in the paper about learning to build and repair radios at home and he decided he wanted to learn this. Radios were mostly large pieces of furniture and all “modern” families had ONE. Since dad couldn’t read, he enrolled in a home study course that taught radio repair and my mother read everything to him. Dad learned this way and received his graduate certificate in record time. By now mother also had learned quite a bit about repairing radios as well. He was known as one of the best radio repairmen in his field, doing all work from his workshop at home or making service calls. People from Flint and Detroit would bring their radios to him or with the larger radios he’d make house calls. He did all this while still working at the factory.
It wasn’t all work though and we enjoyed one another very much. After we had dinner together (this was always a must in our household), the family would gather in the living room for mother to read a book to us, Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, the classics. Reading was very important in our family, which is why I believe I love it so much to this day. We’d play baseball in the street out front with our friends, or hide and seek in the neighborhood. Most families sat out in their front yards in the evening so there were always adults watching over the children. There was no television, or air conditioning. Our windows were left open and there were no locks on our doors. The only thing we ever worried about getting in, were the mosquitoes or flies. On Sundays after church, we kids would lay down in front of our huge wooden radio—with the funny paper spread out on the floor. We’d listen to the commentator read the funnies to us. Just before bed, and only if we had finished our schoolwork, we could listen to the “Green Hornet”. Dad and mom were very serious about our grades and it was very important to them that each of their children graduated. Mom was the only one in her family to have graduated from high school and this was impressed on the children that education was extremely important.
These were wonderful days for us. As children we had the best of everything, summers with grandma at Runyan Lake, and being back in town during school season with all our class-mates. We were given a wonderful childhood.
When we moved up from the Valley, I was 6 and too old for kindergarten. My parents put me right in the first grade. I missed going to kindergarten, and was very upset because the kindergarten in Fenton had a small round colorfully tiled fish pond in the center of the class room with a two foot wall also tiled. The children could sit and watch huge (six to twelve inches long) beautiful sunfish swimming around. There was an area with chairs for the reading or being read to. I was enchanted by it and by the teacher who smiled at me each day as I walked pass it to my first grade class. After school she would let me come in to see the fish or to see the pictures that the class had painted. I liked first grade but when I got to second grade I had a difficult time. I was very, very shy, I stuttered and I was very unsure of myself. My teacher would insist that I get up to read in front of the class. This made my stuttering more pronounced and I became the laughing stock of the class. I stayed back that year watching all my friends move on to the third grade. I didn’t want to come back to school and my mother had a difficult time getting me to go. The first day back I left a recess and came home, which caused an uproar. Than something wonderful happened—we got a new second grade teacher.
She thought I was just the smartest thing in the world (or so I thought). She had me help the other children; allowed me to do special things for her and instead of reading to the whole class she said I could come in after school and read just to her. There would always be one or two children that had detention after class. I didn’t mind that because I was reading to “My” teacher, not the class. I was no longer afraid to get up in front of people to read, I was no longer stuttering and I wasn’t being laughed at. I was the helper and I did my job well. What a wonderful teacher that was, and how she under took to help a little shy girl by making her someone special. School after that was my favorite place—that is next to vacations at Runyan Lake and reading was my very favorite thing to do next to swimming or being with my friends at the lake.
Although we were very happy here in Fenton, the cold weather got to us and it was more expensive to live in the north so the folks saved up enough money to go back to Brownsville, Texas. We traveled there in a brand new stake truck the folks had just bought and our old Chevrolet. My brother Noel and his new bride, Willie and their new baby, Michael waved to us as we set off and it was exciting to be going somewhere new and wild but it was also sad because we were leaving so many wonderful memories and people that we dearly loved. My brother Noel and his family wanted to come down with us and my family wanted them too but they also knew we were going to really rough it which wouldn’t be good for the baby.
On our way down to Brownsville, there was a bad accident in which a man in a car behind our truck, rammed into the back of the truck and I don’t know if he was seriously hurt or killed but we had to stay in this town for a few days until everything got straightened out. Bud was about 12 and hit his head on the windshield pretty bad. Years and years later they found us down in Brownsville and paid Bud a sum of money to sign off, saying he wouldn’t sue because he had been injured in the accident. We continued our trip buying wood on the way (as wood was cheaper in the north) to build a new house. The folks had bought two and a half acres of land way out in the country the year before. There were cows and horses roaming on our property—nobody for miles and miles lived near us. There were many trees and much cactus to clear. We kids and parents alike did all the clearing of the land. My mother, dad, grandmother, brother Ralph and I first lived in the stake truck. My grandmother and folks slept in the bed of the truck and my brother and I slept under it. My grandmother cooked on a campfire and we all bathed in the lake. Dad first built the outhouse, which is an outdoor bathroom. I hated it and I would wait until I was at school before I would use the bathroom. We children started school right away but came home immediately after to help. My dad, with the entire family helping, built a small shed. Although I was 13, I helped my dad holding up the wood and could hammer a pretty straight nail. My brother Bud would be doing the same thing with my mother. I was afraid of heights so I would start up the ladder and my dad would come up right behind me so that his arms were holding me to the ladder. I could go up and come down this way. Once I was on the roof, I had no problem as long as I stayed close to the center of the flat roof. My brother Bud on the other hand was a dare devil and climbed like a monkey. He was not afraid of anything and drove me and my parents crazy watching that he’d not kill himself during some of his adventures. Whatever I did well, he did excellent, whether it was climbing a tree or riding a horse. We moved into the shed before we got the floor all in. It was funny because my grandmother insisted that her bed be put on a floor so there was flooring only in her area of the room until we got things under way. This was a lot better than the truck or the ground under the truck. The shed had two windows, was big enough for one double size bed for my parents, one twin size bed for my grandmother and two hammocks hung across the room for my brother and myself. There was also a stove and a refrigerator. We strung curtains on wires across the room, separating my parent’s bed, our hammocks and my grams bed. During the day we rolled and tied the hammocks up against the wall and pulled back the curtains. This gave us a full room with the beds used as chairs now. I learned the hard way to be sure to shake out the hammocks each night before we got in them. Scorpions liked to crawl in and if we didn’t shake them out boy would we get stung when we laid on top of them. I got a couple pretty painful stings before I learned that lesson. One of the funniest things that happened at that time is when mother forgot to shake out her dress before putting it on. A couple scorpions had gotten in the dress and boy did that dress come off fast once they started stinging her. A lot of excitement that day!! We ate outside when it was nice, sitting on the ground—adults sitting on folding chairs. My gram was so glad to now to have a stove to use. What a great cook she was. What a great person!! Bud and I would haul water every morning and every evening to wash ourselves, and our dishes. Later my dad fixed up a pump that brought the water to us from the lake. My parents would go to the gas station and fill up big bottles for our drinking water but that was precious and used sparingly. We started on the big house right away. My dad taught everyone to be very careful and look before we picked anything up as it was quite wild out on our land and he was afraid we’d got into trouble with either snakes or black widows. We became very good at knowing what a widows web felt like and protecting ourselves against other problems.
In the evening Bud and I had to do our home work and we could listen to the radio at that time but during the day after school, we had to work at helping my parents build the big house. It consisted of three large bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, pantry, living room, workshop and a dinning room. We had a built in bookcase (which I found out years later was because my dad had got mad and put his fist through the wall and my mother told him I was going to know what he had done) so he built a bookshelf to cover up the hole he had made. We also had a linen closet (with a hidden space underneath) a large shelved walk in pantry and windows everywhere. It took us almost a year to build the big house because it had to be done only by the family and only when we had enough money for more supplies. During all that time we lived in the shed and slept quite comfortably in our hammocks. Bud and I had to haul water from the lake for the cement when the pump went out. The floors of the house were hard wood floors and we had to sand them down very fine. This was also our job. It was time consuming and tedious. This job I hated. The house was built on large cement blocks every few feet with metal poles coming out of each so that two by four frames could be screwed on solid. This would keep the house up off the ground when there were floods. The house had a slant roof and by this time dad could afford to pay a helper to help him shingle so I didn’t have to go up on the roof. Last of all we built our front porch. The flooring of the porch was all cement and part of the binding on the porch before the cement was pored was mom and dad’s old bed springs from their old bed. We all laughed about this hidden secret the family knew about. We screened the porch and it was a favorite part of the house in the evening time. We could see the world go by and enjoy being together.
Bud and I would do our home-work in the big house even though it wasn’t completed yet. We would lie on the floor and have our books and paper all around us. I really loved this house because we had built it ourselves and I was proud of my parents, my brother and myself because of this big accomplishment. How many other families can say that they built their own home by themselves.
Grandma Lyon was getting older now and decided to move up to Flint, Michigan to be with my brother Noel and his wife Willie and, help them with their new family. Gram had gone through the hardest part of with us and was off to new adventures. We missed her terribly.
My mother who had been a secretary before she and my father married, decided to go back to work now that we children were in school. My dad was not in favor of this as he was of the old school believing a man bought home the bacon and the woman stayed at home and cared for the family. None the less, she went to work as secretary to twin brothers who owned the Model laundry, and worked there until she was in her late fifties. Later mom worked as secretary for the F. A. A. (Federal Aviation Air Control) in the control tower at the airport.
Dad first worked at the airport (again precision work) making parts to airplane engines. That company went under so he got a job at a blue jean company fixing their sewing machines and also sewing blue jeans. He always made sure that he got off work at five so that we could be a family and do family things. Dinner was very important because it was our time to discuss what happened during the day.
Because the folks were both working now we had a maid that took care of the house and did the washing, ironing and cooking. Our maid was always an illegal because my folks felt they needed to work more than anyone else. Our maid got paid $25 to $30 a week and lived in. This meant that we provided her and her family with home, food and clothes plus the $25 or $30 a week. This was very good money than. They could speak only Spanish, which was all right because we remembered how hard it had been for my dad when he couldn’t speak much English. At the same time Bud and I sure learned Spanish quickly this way. The first maid we had was very little and quite old. We called her “Tia”, which means aunt in Spanish. She and “her” little girl lived with us. Dad had converted the shed into the maid’s room by now so they had separate quarters from the family. We knew the little girl wasn’t really hers as Tia was about 65 and the little girl, Amparo was only 3 or 4. This happens in Mexico. When a woman finds a good job in the United States, a poorer family will give her their child to raise. This way the child gets well cared for. My parents eventually put Amparo through college.
These are some of the things I remember about my life at home with a loving, hard working family. I couldn’t have been cared for more and was until the day they died. The thing I remember most about my mom and dad was that they looked up to each other. My dad thought my mother was the most intelligent, loving person in the world and my mother felt my father could do anything and was eager to show everyone his accomplishments. By each of them feeling that way about the other, they accomplished much more than they otherwise would have. To their children they felt we could do anything we set our minds on and we felt that they respected us as individuals. We were taught that if we wanted to be president and worked toward that goal, we would accomplish it. That’s a good thing to give a child—security and a pride in ones self to accomplish their hearts desire. My parents did well, and I know they would be very proud of their children and their children’s children etc. I want my grandchildren and loved ones to know about Rafael Maria Castillo and Frances Mary Lyon Castillo because they were very special and I am very, very proud of them!