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Ford County Historical Society
Dodge City, Kansas

Ford County Dust Bowl Oral History Project

A Kansas Humanities Council grant project

Interview: Louis Sanchez

Interviewer: Brandon Case

August 18, 1998

Draft Version

Brandon Case: Could you tell me your name and when and where you were born?

Louis Sanchez: My name is Louis Sanchez and I was born here in Dodge, August the 19th, 1923. I was born here in Dodge and I've lived here all my life. I will be seventy-five years old on Wednesday [1998], so like I said, I've been around the block a few times.

Of course, I recall the dust storms very vividly because I lived through them. At that time, we lived in the village, which is located - if I say east of the roundhouse - well, the roundhouse is gone now. But that used to be one of the biggest employers here in town, the Santa Fe Railroad. My dad was recruited about 1901 or 1902, as far as we can trace back and he came over here to work for the railroad. And then he was all over this part of the country.

BC: Where did he come from?

LS: He came from Ciudad de Guanajuato, the railroad recruited a lot of people from over there because they were building new lines, and repairing what they had. And by the way, the Santa Fe in Spanish means "holy faith" and they figured that if the name of the railroad is holy faith, it can't be all bad, because they were very religious people. And so he came over and worked several years, and made a few dollars, so he went back home. Of course, he got married and brought my mother over here and there were thirteen of us. That was an average family about that time. I like to make the joke that at that time we didn't have television, so we had to have something to do!

But anyway, we lived there in the village and the village was, you might say, was a community on its own. Some people say it's a city within a city, and they are probably correct. We had our own grocery store there. We had a dance hall. We had our own school. We had our own church. So we had a little of everything there. In the first place, most of the people did not speak English, so they had a tendency to congregate with people that spoke their language.

Matter of fact, when I went to school, I didn't know one word of English. When I went to school, it was Coronado School [located in the Mexican Village] and the teachers didn't speak a word of Spanish, so we more or less taught each other as we went along. Of course, we're talking about crowding now, well at that time we had four classes in one small room. Somebody asked me about plumbing and I said, "What's that"?"

At that time, we never even had water inside. We had a big container there and we would bring water, put it in there and drink from there. Consequently, since most of the people that worked for the railroad, most of the Mexican-Americans worked for the railroad, they all drank out of the same cup and they contaminated each other and they spread the tuberculosis germ amongst each other.

And, last time I sat down and thought about it, I wanted to say that there's about thirty-five of my classmates that died of tuberculosis because I lived there and like, I said, in the school, too, we only had one cup - everybody used the same cup. At the time we didn't know what was causing the tuberculosis and well, this doctor, I can never get his name right, but anyway he was going through Dodge, going on the railroad anyway, and at that time since the, passenger cars were not air conditioned they would open the windows to cool off and there was a fellow there, standing close to him. I want to say Crumbine [Dr. Samuel Crumbine, later Secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health].

Anyway, he was sitting there close to him, he would get up, he was coughing consistently, he would get up and go to end of the coach and get a drink of water. Again, they had one cup there for everybody, one metal, tin cup and everybody would drink out of it, all the passengers. So this doctor finally got thirsty and decided that he needed a drink and so he went over there and he lifted the cup and then it dawned on him, "Hey, maybe what this fellow has is contagious. I'd better not drink out of it." So he stole the cup, and sent it in and he had the cup analyzed as to what was in it and they found it had this germ and found it was the tuberculosis germ. So then, consequently, they made the railroad, that's where your Dixie cups came in, they made the railroads put in these Dixie cups so everybody would have their own drinking cup and they also made they made them put in the paper towels because they had them railroad towels (laughs) but if you were the fourth or fifth person to go in there and you washed your hands, that towel would be all wet and whatever they had, you would catch. So that's where your paper towels come in.

BC: A lot of your classmates died of tuberculosis?

LS: Yes,

BC: How old were they when they died?

LS: They were twelve and thirteen years old, and most of them, you know, I would dare say there was thirty, thirty-five maybe forty that passed away either from the tuberculosis germ or from, their lungs were weak, and then when they would swallow this dust, it would kill them. So, I would say there's at least thirty five of them buried there in Maple Grove Cemetery, the cause of death, most of them were from tuberculosis

It's been about seventy years ago that I was in school there. But anyway, I kinda lucked out in a way, 'cause I was what they call an altar boy, I helped there at church so the priest insisted that I go to a Catholic school so that if they had any funerals or anything unusual come up he could call them and tell them he's not coming to school today and so I went to Catholic School. I got ahead of my class because like I said, when I first went to school I didn't know one word of English so when I went to Cathedral, these kids, I think I was about fourth grade, they already had had a few years of religious instructions which I hadn't had, and they knew the language which I was trying to catch up so I had to really apply myself but in the long run it was a good deal because I had to work twice as hard as they did to even keep up with them so when I came back to Coronado School, I was way ahead of my classmates. So that was a good deal, it was an advantage to me you know.

BC: How long were you at Cathedral?

LS: I was, I think I went to Cathedral about three years. And, when I come back, you know, finished my way at Coronado, I was way ahead of them. But anyway, so there was an advantage, there was a good thing came out of that. Like I said, we didn't have any plumbing - we had an outhouse, of course, when the weather was bad, we had to get out and go quite aways, you know, when nature calls and we had to go.

BC: Even after you went back - it was still --

LS: It was still --they never did have indoor plumbing at all - no.

BC: Did they have it at Cathedral?

LS: Yes.

BC: Now was Cathedral both Anglos and Mexicans?

LS: Yes, Uh huh, right.

BC: So it was integrated?

LS: Mostly Anglos you know there was a few of us, Mexican-Americans, that went over there. The priest had said "You go over there" you know, and so we went over there and that's the reason we got ahead of the classmates over here at Coronado because the teachers pushed you more, quite a bit more, you know.

Of course, when we lived in the village our houses were built out of grain doors that the railroad had thrown away, they would break and they would throw them away so our parents would get them grain doors and that's what we built our houses out of. Consequently they weren't very well insulated 'cause there was no insulation there and whenever we had a dust storm you could see the dust flying in the houses at that time because we didn't have storm windows, storm doors, and a lot of them houses you could see light through the cracks in the walls. We had a great big pot bellied stove to, that was our heating system.

Well, the first village was over here - if you drew a line straight across from Avenue D, if across on the south side of the tracks, that was the first one over there. Some people even lived in tents during the middle of the winter because they didn't have the housing and then the railroad decided, they moved their, oh, what did they call it, freight house, the freight house was over there, pretty near across the street directly south of the tracks across from the depot, a little bit to the west, and the business got so good, that they needed a bigger freight house. That's when they put it over here on the north side, starting from Avenue B. It was a long building. So they took the lumber that they had used for the freight house and they built some buildings up here in the village and that's where a lot of the people lived. Of course, they didn't have enough houses for everybody so people that were lucky enough to get a railroad, timber house, that's what they were, dirt floors, why they had to build their own so my dad had to build one.

And then water - for a long time we didn't have any water, we had to go get the water. The railroad provided two hydrants for the village, and you would go up there with buckets and bring your water and bring it to the house.

BC: What did your mother do?

LS: My poor mother, she really worked. I had what they called a metate [corn grinding stone] which is a retangular deal where you grind, you know at that time we didn't have meal, corn that was ground, she had to start from scratch. Dad had to go buy the corn, dried corn from the farmers, she would soak it in a tub so it would get soft and in the morning she would grind it up and make tortillas for everybody. Well, if you have thirteen kids and each one of them kids eats three tortillas, that's thirty-nine right there. That was a lot of work, 'cause, it's like a rolling pin only it's square, she had to grind all that corn and that was every day. I tried it once and lost all my knuckles cause that thing was made out of lava or volcano rock, it's hard stuff, anyway she had to do it.

The clothes, course we didn't have the material we have now, it was all cotton and she had to iron everything and had a big flat stove there - had what she called these sad irons. and she had to heat that stove up even in the summer time if she was going to iron and no air conditioning and then all that stove going full blast so she could iron her clothes and so she had a rough time.

BC: A lot of work.

LS: Yeh, and then to cook for everyone - most of the time there was about a dozen of us there at home. So she had to cook for twelve people. And he got smart, my older brother did, and they dug out a basement. Well, it was a hole in the ground was what it was, really, and they put a roof over it, small walls around it, and so that was pretty cool. In the summer it was cool and in the winter it was warm. We had a big stove in there and we could get all the broken railroad ties that we wanted. We'd chop 'em up and we used them to heat that stove up and so that was pretty nice.

Finally, one of my brothers, 'cause we had to, this basement was away from the house, and he said, "Hey, let's dig a tunnel from the basement into the house" and we did - built a passageway and cut out a door in the house itself so we could open it and so we had to go out during the winter time and we thought "Man, we're really downtown now."

BC: When was it that you did that?

LS: That was in the thirties because I was probably about eight years old, oh, 1932.

BC: Your father worked for the railroad? How long did he?

LS: Yes he did, he worked for them from, gosh, forty-some years, cause he retired when he was sixty five but he started working for them about 1902 but there was a time that he went back to Mexico, you know, so that meant that he was thankful that he even had a job during the thirties, a lot of people didn't have any jobs.

BC: He kept his job the whole time?

LS: He kept his job. Like I said, he would alternate - one week he would work four days the other fellow, his substitute, would work three days, then the following week the other fellow would work four days and he would work three days - they would alternate every other week, 'cause the railroad wanted to keep their people - you know, didn't want to lose their people and wanted to keep their people working and the railroad run twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

I worked for the railroad, too, after I got out of the service. I was working, I keep telling people I worked ten days a week. Well, I did if you counted in the forty hours a week, I was working seven days a week, there was no such thing as Saturdays, Sundays or holiday, you worked every day. And every other day, somebody would lay off and, you have to have a crew there to service the - at that time there were steam engines, and you have to have a crew there and if somebody called in sick or didn't show up to work, they would automatically tell me to stay over so we could work the passengers trains, we had a lot of passengers trains at that time, and freight trains, too, we had to service both of them. Passengers trains we had to service them up at the depot.

BC: This was after - this was in the forties?

LS: This was in the forties. I started working for the railroad after I got out of the service, it must have been 1947. I started working for the railroad in 1947, I guess, a couple of years after I got out of the service. I had two other brothers who worked for the railroad, too.

BC: How did your father provide for the family. Did your brothers and sisters work also, to help?LS We couldn't get a job, I started working when I was thirteen years old. Uh, (inaudible) I wouldn't have a job.

Okay, I take that back. At that time they grew a lot of sugar beets here in Dodge - they had a big sugar beet factory in Garden City and all these farmers would get a contract with them and they would raise these beets. Well, they had to be thinned in the summer time, had to space them and cut the weeds between them and in the winter time we would what you call "top them" we would go up there and cut the tops off them so they could haul them up and send them to the beet factory in Garden City so they could make sugar out of them.

That's - a lot of people, that's all they did, there were no other jobs, that was the only thing that was available so they worked in the beet fields in the summer and I remember, I'm not exaggerating one bit, I've worked fourteen hours a day out in the hot sun - temperatures over 100 degrees - you're on your hands and knees thinning them things and you'd be gone for four hours. You'd start, take two rows, work them to the end, it would be half a mile long, you'd take two rows, work them, come back working the other two, and by the time you got back you'd be gone four hours, not a drink of water, 'cause, you know, you didn't have anybody coming up there giving you one and you'd come back and then you'd go and find something to drink by the time and it would be hot cause at that time we didn't have any thermos bottles, we would use quart jars or sometimes cider jugs, you know, you fill them with water and put them under a tree or in the shade after you're gone for hours that water's going to be hot, that's all we had to drink, then we'd take off again and work another four hours.

BC: How old were you at the time?

LS: I was thirteen. I was doing a man's job. I had to - you hold it [sugar beet top knife] between your legs. Your hands would be so tired you'd have to use your right hand and you had to use your left hand to open your fingers 'cause they would be so tired you couldn't do it. It would be so numb, if your fingers slipped up onto the blade and you hit a big beet - if you tried to chop - top a big beet you'd cut off some of your fingers. Half of the people had fingers cut off - you wouldn't know it! No! - 'cause they would be so numb, they'd feel something. "What was that?" You'd look-- they had blood. You'd go "Let's see your hands" "Oh, oh, you got two of your fingers.

And I can show you. Yeh, if you didn't get your contract done in time, sometimes you'd have an early freeze and those beets would freeze - you'd hit 'em with that hook and it would glance and it would hit you right there. You can see all them spots I have right there, those are from that hook on that beet knife. Oh, that hurt! But you had to keep on going, you know, that's the only thing that was available at that time.

BC: That's what some of your brothers did?

LS: Yep, We'd get a contract. We had a contract here in town on the by-pass and the east side of the Fort Dodge Road, there, you know. They used to grow a lot of beets. Cooks family - right across from Excel - they grew a lot of beets there. Garden City had a lot of beet farmers. BC : What happened to the beet farmers?

LS: They did pretty good for a long time. But then we started getting all the sugar from Cuba and they undercut the farmers, and they weren't making any money and so they had to grow something else. That's when they started going to wheat. So, but it was quite a deal - harvesting beets, and then topping them.

BC: Did they irrigate?

LS: Some farmers did. They sure did, some of them. I remember this fellow up there at Rozel, he had two guys and they would pick up - they had this, I don't know what you call them, but they look like shovels, but they were like pitchforks, they had tongs - they picked up the beets and loaded them into the wagon, they had two big horses that pulled the wagon, that's what they hauled the beets in. Not everybody had trucks at that time. That was back breaking work, I'll tell you, they earned their money, too.

LS: And again, when we went to the beet fields, and I lost two or three of my friends, that worked with me. This guy that owned the car, he got the contract, but he never told us to take enough food for two weeks, we took enough food for one week, well, it had to do for two weeks, and working fourteen hours day and getting half enough to eat, it just doesn't work. He had a nephew with him, and he died shortly after he got through in that beet field, cause too much work, you know, not enough - and him going through puberty, it killed him. How we survived, I don't know. We wouldn't see a soul during the thinning season. We wouldn't see the farmer that owned the field. We had a room, well, it was a chicken nest that's what it was. It was about eight by ten.

BC: But this was not necessary just around Dodge City

LS: Yeh, they had beets all around here. I imagine clear up to Larned, at least that I'm aware of. I remember one night, like I said, there were six of us in that crew, in the room eight by ten. We had a stove, there too, all our gear, groceries, everything, so it was pretty crowded. It was hot, so I think I'm going to go sleep outside where it was cooler. I'm laying asleep there, pretty soon I felt something coiled across my neck, I woke up, a big old snake was crawling - that was a thrill, that'll give you a thrill, I'll tell you.

We didn't have any milk. We finally saw the farmer one day, we said "Hey, we need some milk, we haven't had any milk for two weeks," so he said, "Oh, I'll bring you some." No refrigeration. so we had to drink the milk that he brought us and that was it. We didn't see him for another week. No ice, we couldn't take any food that would spoil, so we took a lot of canned goods.

BC: Where were you in the birth order?

LS: In the family, let me start from the bottom. I was seventh from the top, sixth from the bottom. We lost one, our oldest sister passed away when she was just a little baby, so we had thirteen kids, you know.

BC: So was it through the family's help, your brother's working, that the family was able to support itself?

LS: My two older brothers were musicians. I don't know where they learned to be musicians, they had an orchestra, they were good. they - in order to relieve the congestion there at home - they went to Colorado. I have a photograph some place, of them playing there in a big ballroom, there in Denver. They started their own band and pretty soon they split and they each had their own bands. They had some good musicians with them. I used to go over there, you know, whenever. And since my dad worked on the railroad, I could get a pass and I could get on the train and go anyplace that the Santa Fe had a line, which is one good thing about it. I would go up there and listen to their orchestras and to their dances and to watch them.

Rudy passed away and he was a school teacher but he got drafted even before the war started, and he was in Pearl Harbor about a year before they even bombed Pearl Harbor, of course, and the government wasn't putting out any information. They told him, "You don't write, you don't say anything," because they didn't want the Japanese to know how many casualties they had caused or what was happening so we didn't know for a long time whether he was dead or alive 'cause we knew he was in the Medical Corps, we didn't know whether he had been killed during the attack and, heck, it was probably six months before we heard them but they moved him to the Mariannas and some other islands when they attacked Pearl Harbor and for six months we didn't know - we didn't know anything about it.

The oldest one, he went through hell. He was in the African campaign and Italy, the other brother was stationed in England he was in the Air Force, and the youngest brother was in the Korean Conflict. We, my wife lost two brothers in the Second World War and I lost a nephew in the Vietnamese War. He was going to come home in two days and got killed, so I think we've done our share, you know. All of us have served in some capacity, in the military.

BC: Where were you stationed?

LS: I didn't get to go overseas. At that time - you know, this movie that they put out what's the name of it, Tom Hanks was in it, "Saving Private Ryan," I think they copied that. That happened in the Navy. There were five brothers - they joined the service, from Iowa, either Nebraska or Iowa. Sullivan was their name. They all volunteered, they said we wanted to serve together, we don't want to be drafted, or separated, they were all on the same ship and a torpedo comes and kills all of them. So then they said, "No, you can't have that - if they kill all the boys, there isn't anyone to carry on the family name." They came out with what they called the Sullivan Act, and said that one son gets to stay in the states, in case the others get killed at least he'd be able to carry the family name on. Well, they said you've got four brothers already serving overseas and you get to stay here. I had been in a wreck, my chest still hurts, a drunk had run a stop sign, and hit me, he broadsided me and he knocked me over a curb and hit a pole, hit my chest and broke ribs and shortly after that I went to the service, and I was spitting blood and there was something in the chest, you know, you stay here, you don't have to go.

They said "How many in your family in the service?" I said, there's five of us, they said "No, you stay here, you got four brothers over there already." So I lucked out, I guess, I didn't get to go overseas. My younger brother was too young to serve.

BC: Were there a lot of people from the Mexican village who served in WWII.

LS: Oh, yes, just about everybody who was of age, just about everybody served, they sure did.

BC: During your growing up years, you mentioned some of the things, that you described your life in the Mexican village, you mentioned you had a grocery store and the second question, what was the interaction between the Dodge City community and the village.

LS: There wasn't any. There was - we have a school teacher who criticized me, the Globe interviewed me, one day, you know, and I was just honest, I answered the questions they asked me. I was honest. She said, "Well, you run us down," I said, "No, I just tell the truth" I don't believe in lying, And this is the truth. If she were to look up in the history of our church, and the history of the cathedral, it tells you in there, well, you know Tim Wenzl?

BC: The name is familiar.

LS: OK, yeh, Well, he wrote about the the village - and he runs the Catholic paper, newspaper here, you know, the Southwest Register, he wrote about about the Mexican village.

For a long time there, it was ninety percent single men, well, they didn't have their wives here or they weren't married but they were here, and (laughs) they didn't have TV then, the only recreation they had, well, they had card games, and they would make their own home brew and distill their whiskey, and everything and course, there would be, they had big fights there, you know, we had some killings, well, we did - it's in the paper. And this gal goes "Oh, You shouldn't be saying that."

Well, it's true. I'm not going to embellish it, I'm just going to tell you the way it was, she doesn't know, she wasn't born here, she's in her thirties, forties, and so she really doesn't know. See, she's trying to tell me about the history of the village. Can't tell me anything about the history of the village, you don't know anything about it.

But anyway, Tim writes about it in "The History of the Sacred Heart Cathedral" he writes about it, and he wrote about the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe church in the village, and it tells about it, that the parents would tell their kids, "You don't want to go to Guadalupe, it's a bad business, you know - so it's nothing that I made up, it's in there, I can show her, it's in the book. But some of these people who don't read, don't know that, but that's true, I can show you, there's nothing that hasn't been written about. Let's say it's part of the history you know.

BC: How big was Coronado School? How many grades did they have?

LS: They had, uh, it's been such a long time, but anyway, they had what they called 1B, 1A, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. So I think they had four or five grades in one classroom. And it was full. And they had to recite and do all their work, you know, somebody was always reciting. They had, there was three classrooms but they were only using two of them 'cause they had two teachers. And the other room had, let's see - maybe the 4th grade was in the second classgo that I was in school there.

BC: When did you first go to the Catholic Parish School - did you attend the Coronado School through high school graduation?

LS: I never got to finish high school 'cause that's when they started doing away with the village. They put in fuel tanks,and they did away with about half of the village. Anyway, 'cause they started bringing in diesel locomotives and they needed a great big area to put in a great big tank so they did away with all of the houses that were in the middle of the village to put this big tank up and so they told people you've got so many months to move out of here 'cause we're going to need this area and we thought that they were going to remove our house too. They didn't tell us how much ground they wanted, so we thought, "We'd better go look for houses, we've got to move".

We'd go look for a house, so my brother went and he found a house on Avenue K and he signed the contract. He was always sick, by that time, the rest of my brothers were all gone so it fell on my shoulders to go to work.

I started working at St. Anthony Hospital. St. Anthony Hospital was where Homeland Store is now. And I was sixteen at the time, around sixteen, so I didn't finish high school. I had to go to work every day. I had to scrub all of the, they had one, two, three, four operating rooms. They was always operating somebody so they had to be scrubbed between every operation, I kept going from one to the other, when I had any time I would do the halls, but anyway, so I had to work and pay for that house.

So I never finished school, and then the war came along and I had to go to the service. So I got most of the house paid for before I even went to the service, so I didn't finish my high school. But anything that I can get my hands on, I read it. So, I've picked up a little of everything. Some of these people start telling me - I say "Well, I know about that." "How do you know about that?" "I say, I read," (laughs) and you know. I surprised the heck out of a lot of them.

But anyway, I didn't finish my schooling and my two older brothers didn't either, but when they got out of the service - well, when I got out of the service, I got married and started working for the railroad, and shortly after that - it's a seven days a week job, and I was working ten days a week, that's what it was, 'cause I was working eight hours one day, next day I worked sixteen, and so if you figured it up, I had enough hours to work ten days a week and I was doing it.

BC: Did most of the the men work for the railroad in the village?

LS: Just about every one of them did. They would work in the roundhouse, on the box cars, coach cleaners, or on the section taking care of the track.

BC: You mentioned that the teachers that you had didn't know Spanish and that a lot of the students didn't know English. At a later point were there any teachers that spoke Spanish?

LS: A lot of them understood but they didn't speak it. Then with the older students, they were learning to speak English so they helped us quite a bit, so we got along fine. at first, it was kind of a drawback, we can't complain. The [Mexican village] teachers were dedicated - I'll give them credit for that. They had a hard row to hoE but they were dedicated. I tell a story - a lot of the guys didn't like Mr. Scroggins. He was more or less the head man there, he was the only man there, he was more or less the principal. It wasn't his title but he ran the school and when I went back after going to Cathedral, the school was a breeze for me 'cause I'd been up to Cathedral, so one day I was sitting there day dreaming, he saw me so he motioned for me to come up to his desk so I went up - He said, "You're wasting your time." I said, "Well, I'm through with my lessons." He said "--but you're just sitting there day-dreaming. You know, you can save money but you cannot save time. I'm going to take you to the other room and I'm going to teach you sign language.

I'm talking about 1935. I said, "I don't want to learn sign language." At that time, you used two hands. He said "You're going to learn it." I said, "Why do I need to learn sign language for?"

He said, "Well, look, if you study history, this country is in a war about every twenty-five years - some kind of a skirmish. You might have to go up there and serve this country in the military. Now, if you're out there in the trenches and you get hurt, or you're out of ammunition, or you're out of water, you're out of food, or your buddy is wounded and you need a medic, you're not going to stand up and holler "Hey, bring me some water or bring me some food, or bring me some bullets, or my buddy's hurt." He said, "No, you communicate using, at that time 'cause you used two hands, you know, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, the whole thing, the whole alphabet. I don't think I can count on doing that."

He said, "You have your lessons done?" I said, "Yes, I'll get straight A's because I was so far ahead of the other class-- not bragging, but because I'd had this opportunity to go to Cathedral. And so he said, "Well, you either learn or you get an F."

And so, well, I guess I'm going to learn it. And so I learned it and that's one of the best things that ever happened to me there at that school. The reason I say that is because when I got into the service, when you go into basic training, they don't let you go any place. I mean you can't go out that door. Somebody stands out there - you don't go anyplace because they quarantine you in case you have any kind of communicable disease, they don't want you giving it to the rest of the camp. So you stay there until they are sure that, you know, you're not going to infect somebody else. So, I got to be good friends with a guy from New "Joisey" and another one from Virginia and so they were talking, well, and we were in the engineers, and we didn't know, every three or four days the train load would pull out of there with soldiers going to war. I asked, " How come - are we going to invade somebody or something. How come you're sending so many guys out?"

He said, "Well, I'm not supposed to tell you this, but you're an engineer." He said, "Your life expectancy once you hit the beach over there - you heard the Marines land first - No, you guys land first. You clear the mine fields, and you clear the machine gun nests and all this stuff for your Marines, and you guys land first. He said, "Your life expectancy is about 90 seconds once you hit the shore."(laughs)

I said, "Thanks, guys." Yeh, they were sending train loads, I told these guys "Hey, I learned sign language, not too many people knew it at that time, I've learned sign language. I'm going to teach you so in case we go overseas together and we need to communicate, you know. And I showed them. Of course, they separated us then. I didn't get to go overseas because of the Sullivan Act, but they went over. And after the war I got a nice letter from one of them, and they kept them together

He told me, "Boy we're sure glad that we were with you 'cause you showed us how to use sign language and my buddy got hit, he was bleeding to death - he said "I put a tourniquet on him but he was still bleeding so I had to get a hold of a medic, and he came up there and he saved his life. So he said, "we're sure glad that, you know, you taught us."

One summer, I was at the swimming pool there were three boys there and they were running, chasing each other, playing tag you know, and one guy would just go quietly and so finally I asked one of them, "Can he speak? Is he a deaf mute?"

"No, no," he said, "e was in a car wreck and he went through the windshield and cut his vocal chords. So, he said, he can't speak but he can hear you but he has to communicate in sign but we don't know sign." So I said, "Well, I know a little bit about it. It's been a long time." He said, "Do you want to talk to him?" I said "Well, yes," so he went and brought the kid over and so I started signing with him. He was going to school - it was in the summer and he was going to school during the school term someplace, Olathe or someplace, and so I started communicating. Heck, I was there for three hours, I got sunburned, but I couldn't get rid of the kid. At that time, nobody knew sign. Now they use one hand, but at that time there was two hands, but he told me was in a wreck it cut his vocal chords and he was going to school, and it came in handy.

Mr. Scroggin said "You're going to learn it whether you want to or not, or you get an F." and so I said, "Okay, I'll learn it, (laughs) But they had three teeter-totters. Do you know what a teeter-totter is?

BC: Yes.

LS: That was our play equipment there at school. They had one ball, that was it - for all the kids we had there. In the summer time 'course we didn't have school, do you know what we did for recreation? There was a road right there next to the railroad - we would go and play tag, and we would run and jump from one row of cars to the next trying to avoid from getting tagged, that was our recreation.

BC: Jump from train to train?

LS: Yeh, from one row of cars to the other and sometimes we'd jump and about that time the switch engine or the locomotive would start pulling cars and man, it's a wonder we didn't get killed.

BC: You must have been pretty agile.

LS: Oh, yeh. We had the stockyards there, too. We'd go up there every Sunday and we'd all try to outdo each other. At that time, you know, Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, all these cowboys, they were "it" so we'd go up there we'd open the alleys, and be a block and a half long, and we'd race bareback on them horses, the manure would be four or six inches deep and we'd go up there just hanging on to the mane. It's a wonder we didn't get killed. That was our entertainment.

BC: You were creative that way, You made your own entertainment.

LS: The railroad at that time didn't have any of these refrigerated cars. They had, at each end of these cars, where they carried the vegetables, watermelons and all this good stuff they sent around, they would fill each end of the car with ice. They had compartments there, they would send that perishable stuff to Wichita, to Hutchinson, to Kansas City, to Chicago, and then they would bring the cars back so they could refill them with ice, and ship some more stuff over. Well, when they'd come back, that's where we got our ice. We all had ice boxes. We didn't have refrigerators - matter of fact, we didn't have electricity in the village for Lord knows how long. So we kids would get gunny sacks, three of us would climb in refrigerated cars and get ice. That's were we got our drinking ice and people said, "Well, that's stealing." Some of them cars would be there for a week before they'd use them and all that ice would melt. This was in the 30's - we didn't have any rain but them weeds were six foot there in the railroad because wherever they'd park those cars, the ice would melt and all that water would go into the ground and here'd come the weeds.

So the way I looked at it, and the switchmen and the guys that used to work on the railroad and fixing those freight cars, freight trains, they'd tell you, "You did the right thing," because there would be big boulders there in them weeds. They'd have to jump off in the dark and if they hit one of them boulders, hell, they would fall underneath the car and it would cut 'em in two or if they jumped and hit a brake shoes, that's the metal deal that presses against the brakes, and sometimes they'd get in a hurry and take one off and throw it out there and go and work on another one, and forget about it, and it would be laying there in them weeds. Well, if these guys jumped off in the dark and hit one of them, like I said, they could get killed very easily, so I talked to one guy and said, "Hey, we're going to go up there and get that ice." (He) said, "Do it."

Our milk, we knew the supervisor, the superintendent, we'd know him, and they'd have, at that time, very few trucks that would carry the cattle out of town. The farmers would bring them and they'd put them in the cattle cars on the railrod and they'd ship them to Chicago or wherever and so we'd go up there and ask the guy, "Can we milk the cow?" He said, "Yeh, by all means, you'd do me a favor because if you don't milk them cows, they get meaner than hell." So we'd go up there and milk them and that's where we got milk. Then we'd get in milk fights.

We couldn't afford to buy vegetables, so we'd go out in the field and get the cactus. You have to slice off all the stickers off of them, dice them and then our mothers would boil them, and then we'd go through them again and be sure they didn't have any more stickers, and then she'd cook them. That's what we ate - that was our vegetables. And Lambs' Quarters, you guys call them, that' what we ate - we call them "kinipe" that's our vegetables, that's what we had.

There was a packing plant, ah, where the old - oh, you know where the truck stop is on east Wyatt Earp Blvd., right in there was a packing plant and after our folks would get off work, they would go there and volunteer to repair the fences or sweep or clean out the yards or whatever and then they would give the the livers. At that time, people wouldn't eat livers.

And then the blacks - I don't know if that's a bad word, but that what that's what everybody called them and I don't mean to be offensive - but they would eat the livers and you know they all got big and powerful and that's when the nutritionists would say "Well, this guy is eating nothing but livers" and look at him. They found out that they were very nutritious. So our folks would get the livers, the blacks would eat the chitlings and we would eat the tripas, which is tripe. That's what we ate. Tripe, beans, and cactus, and lambs' quarters, and milk from the stockyards. That's what we existed on.

BC: Did you family have a garden? Was there property available from the railroad?

LS: We didn't have one. No, there was one man, he had a big garden. I didn't know it at the time, but he was raising marijuana. He had a great big bunch of it. Most people didn't know what it was. The local police didn't know what it was.

BC: It was during the 30's

LS: Yeh, yeh. At that time, right across -- well, like I say you probably don't know where the village is,

BC: What was the location of Mexican village.

LS: Well, you know where the county jail is? Right across the tracks south from there. Well, that was the first village. And then they moved the village over here to Avenue J. You know where the church is - probably not, Avenue J. You cut across tracks from there, that's were the roundhouse was - that's a drainage ditch there - on the west of the ditch, that was the roundhouse. I don't know - it had about twenty stalls - about twenty locomotives in there. On the east side, between the railroad tracks and Fort Dodge Road was the village, and it was clear up, well, you can see a building there now [torn down in late 1990s], and that used to be our school. Mayrath took it over for their offices. But anyway, all of that was the village in there. And this fellow in the 30's - did you go see the demonstration that they put on with the steam engine, did you get to see that?

BC: No, I didn't get to see that.

LS: Well, they took a bunch of people because they didn't have these combines that do all the work. The guys just have to drive the trucks now, but it took a big crew to harvest. So every year, every June, middle of June, July and parts of August, I guess, cause like I said, there weren't that many combines around, Guys would come in from all over the country cause they knew, and they would tell them, go to Kansas, go to Dodge City, and you'll get you a job working the wheat harvest. And so they would come in on the freight trains. A lot of them got killed, riding the freight. Whenever these guys jumped off and walk south across the highway. At that time, the government had a big building there, they had bought from somebody. They called it a transit camp. In other words, all these hoboes would go there. They would provide a room for them, you know, and a big dining hall there for them. So this guy jumps off, and don't mind about the marijuana. (laughs) He jumps off and he looked at these three or four acres of marijuana, and thought "Oh, My God, I've landed in Heaven. It's growing wild here!"

He jumped across the fence and he had a big bundle of it when the old man saw him and "oh, oh." The guy told him, "Hey, I know what this is, I'm from California, I smoke it all the time, and I'm going to work for harvest and when I come back, I'll pay you."

"No, no, no sir." It made the fellow mad so he went across over there and he told them guys, "I'm going to turn him in." Santa Fe, at that time, had a, we called him the Bull, Special Agent was what his title was. Anyway, he went to the local city police and told them, they didn't know what it was. But this guy went and showed them, they went out there and pulled them out by the roots.

LS: Oh, Lordy.

BC: He was doing that as his own bargain.

LS: I could tell you a story but too many relations are still alive and but anyway. I'll tell you what, on Sundays, we didn't have no radio, and this Mr. Olivarez was our neighbor, he was a rich man in town cause he worked for the railroad, also he was the casket maker. When somebody died he had the tools, and he would make, they were just wooden boxes and he'd made them for 'em, you know, and he had a little extra cash. So he came over to my house and asked my Dad if he could put up a big pole in our yard and he said, "I have a radio."

And he said, "I have to put a wire, about a hundred foot wire, so that I can get the music." So my dad said, "OK." He put up a pole in our yard and one in his yard, and he run a line across there - at that time, they called them an aerial, now it's an antenna, and there was an aerial then he put a copper wire down and into his set. He had, a couple of, I don't know how many batteries. He had more batteries than the radio and because my dad let him put that pole in our yard, he would, about once a month, he'd let us come over there and he'd turn the radio on 'cause we didn't have electricity and so he would turn the radio on these batteries, and boy, you'd better not make any sounds when you were there, or your parents would say, "Let's go, Let's go, Let's go." So we were real quiet and we thought that was wonderful. That's the first time that I had heard radio and he had no electricity so he had one of these Coleman lanterns, that you put gas in there and pump it up, and it has these mantles, you know, better than what we have now. I said, "Man, that's what I want - one of them contraptions that brings in the music, and I want one of them things, you know." (laughs) "Oh, boy!"

BC: Were there many other social activities?

LS: Oh, every time they had a wedding, you would go to the groom's house, everybody walked, very few people had cars, so we walked to get the groom, and go to the bride's house, and we would walk them all to church. That's when we heard music - the guys that could play instruments, they'd get together, and they would play music during the ceremonies. and then they'd come back to the groom's house or the bride's house and they'd have a big feed for everybody, you know, and then they had a dance. Heck, they would set up dancing about three or four o'clock in the afternoon and it would be going on a six o'clock the next morning. Still going full blast.So we looked forward to that because that was the only music we'd get to hear, you know. Oh boy! I'll tell you---!

And then on Sundays. You said - if people had a garden, well, yeh, but most of them grew peppers. They were all proud of their peppers. So on Sundays, now I'm talking, you were making a dollar a day, working ten hours a day, about a dime an hour, is what is amounted to, so after church on Sundays, they would all get together, they would have a big table there, they would build out of wood or whatever and everybody would bring a bunch of their peppers. One would say "Mine are the hottest" "No, mine are the hottest" "Well, let's see."

They'd put them in a big bowl, and everybody would throw down a dollar. Well, that was a day's wages. The first guy would take a pepper and he would eat it. the next guy would take one and go around until the last guy who was still on his feet, without taking a pill, he would collect all the loot. That was the entertainment we had. I think this is where they've been having pepper eating contests. Ah heck, I was five years old. This was 1928-29-30, that they were having these contests here in Dodge. So It's nothing new.

BC: Church, how important was it?

LS: It was important. Like I said, we had church every Sunday for sure, and if they had the funerals, you'd have a funeral during the week, and the Catholic church has a Holy Day of Obligation, and you're supposed to go to church no matter what day it is, if they tell you, this is a Holy Day of Obligation and it's a requirement that you go, unless you're deathly sick but you're supposed to go. Not everybody adheres to that but they're supposed to. So that's the reason I had to go to Catholic school because they had some funerals or had a Holy Day of Obligation, I was expected to be there and help the priest, you know.

So, they had dances every month they'd have a dance or something like that because people didn't have the money. The grocery store owner also owned the dance hall. I didn't envy him one bit because he was also the only one that had a telephone at that time. Somebody would get sick - deathly sick, two, three, four o'clock in the morning, they'd go up there and knock and wake up and call the doctor. Of course, at that time, the doctors would come and make house calls. They had the cars and the people over here didn't have any cars, so I didn't envy his position because he had the only telephone.

It was a long time before we got our radio, and man, that was really living then! We waited for Sunday to hear Fibber McGee and Molly, I don't know whether you ever listened to them - Jack Benny and Gangbusters and all them programs, and man, did we looked forward to Saturday - to hear all them programs. Like I said, you couldn't cough or talk - "Heck, get out of here" - we couldn't hear what's going on.

BC: It was a quiet time?

LS: Oh, Yes, oh, yes.

BC: Now how long did you live in the house in the village?

LS: I lived there thirty some years. Sure did.

BC: Before you moved to Avenue K?

LS: Avenue K. And of course, now those streets are paved. Every time we got a rain, Oh, it was a mess. It was a mess. When I got on the - by the way, I was on the City Commission four years, I got to be Mayor one year, and I worked on getting streets over here in the east end of town, these people don't know that. One of my nieces, her folks lived on K, Oh no, on L, and she had been trying to get the city to pave L, you know, and she said, I'm not getting anywhere with it. I said, "Well, I'll tell you what, I'm going to get that street paved." She didn't think I'd get it done. Well, I got it done.

I don't know whether you know where Thurow Park is, it is catty cornered to the County Jail. Mr. Thurow had let us use that - that's where we used to play ball. It's at Military Ave. and Ave. L. Anyway, Mr. Thurow, told us as long as I'm alive you can use that for playing ball. We'd go in there and cut the weeds and stickers, Oh, my God, and so it got to the point that we needed more diamonds. The softball was going big. We had the state champ - two state champions here in Dodge - and more people were taking part and we needed more diamonds, and Mr. Thurow died, and I read where the executors of the estate were going to sell the ground, you know.

So I told a bunch of the guys here in town, I said, "Hey, you'd better get the city to get a grant and buy that ground because once that ground is gone, it's gone. They will be building houses there and we don't have a park in the east end of town." So they said, "Hey, you're right!" So they approached the city, they got a grant, at that time they could get a grant and they had the money to buy the ground. Two or three guys were - they got together and said "No, we don't want these whites over here in this part of town" and so I heard about it in a round about way. They were having this meeting, so I went over there, you know, to see what's going on. I didn't know what was happening. I knew they were having a meeting with the commissioners in a private home.

So I went over there and this guy is telling the commissioners, "Keep your money, we don't want your money, we don't want your park" and that's all. The Commissioners said "Well, okay. If you don't want a park, that's alright. We have the money, you don't want it, that's fine. So I said, "Oh, Wait a minute, wait a minute." I asked this guy, "Who appointed you guys to speak for the east end of town. I wasn't aware of it. I just come to hear about it today. That's the reason I'm here. You have taken it upon yourself to speak for 99 percent of the people who lived over here in the east end of town, I said "No" and I told the commissioners, I said, "you all hang on." "Oh," one of the guys said, "you take the money and build more tennis courts up north, we don't care. Whatever you want to do with the money." I said, "No, you don't spend that money. You hang on to the money. I'm going to have to take all you people to court - I don't have the money but I'm going to take them to court because we need it - once the ground is gone you can't produce more ground, you know.

BC: When was it, what year?

LS: Gee, I don't know. I'd have to look at the deal. But anyway, you know - so, I scared them. I didn't have to take them to court. I scared them. The city went ahead and bought the ground and put the ball park in. Well, once they got the park in and I was the head umpire there for twenty five years, and hired this one guy that was opposed to the park, as an umpire, gave him the job, trained him, so one day, I was out here, 'cause I was working six days a week at that time, and I was out here mowing my lawn, on a Sunday, he came by and stopped. He said, "I shave a couple of questions to ask you. This came up in the ball game. I don't know whether I made the right call. He explained it to me. "What'd you call? He told me. I said, "That's fine." "Then this other thing happened and he explained to me, and I said, "That's all right, you're all right, you go by the book. There's nothing they can do about it." He said "That's not the reason I stopped." "What's the matter now? "Well, do you remember when they had the meeting at my house, and I was fighting and didn't want the park over here. Well, you know that's the best thing that ever happened to this end of town." So he was man enough to admit it.

BC: Back in the 30's, we haven't talked about the dust storms. How old were you when you remember your first dust storm?

LS: Gosh, about eight years old. And to this day, I still have problems with my breathing. I think that's what caused me to have some allergies because of all that dust that I inhaled. Our houses were - you could see through the walls, you know, there was no insulation, and no storm windows. I remember Mother putting up bedsheets. She'd wet them and put them over the windows and doors in the morning. They would be dry and she would shake them and have this big chunk of mud fall off, that helped a lot but still we inhaled a lot of that dust. And like I said, there's a bunch of the kids that died from tuberculosis or during the dust storms they died cause their lungs were weak from the tuberculosis and they inhaled this dust and they were gone, you know.

BC: Do you remember one dust storm that stands out in your memory?

LS: My granddaughter - I have a tape of some of the dust storms - some of the stuff, Jackalope drives, dust storms, and some of the but this is from the movie "The Good Earth." I don't know whether you've ever seen that movie. It's about the grasshoppers, that devoured everything in their path in China and how the people had to fight them off. At that time we didn't have insecticides, pesticides, to get rid of them, you know, and the people out there had anything they could get, shovels, or whatever trying to kill them 'cause they came in big clouds, of grasshoppers, we had that here. And one of the things that people are not aware of - I wasn't aware of it, I knew that some of the people, like I said, it didn't rain, so people had to grow their own gardens and they tried. but those dog-goned grasshoppers would come in and they would devour everything. People would leave their hoes and their rakes leaning against the fence, they looked, and it's gone. I know this, that part of the handles were eaten. Those grasshoppers would eat the soft part of the wooden handles. And I wondered why 'cause they could eat something else.

Well, a man told me, he says, "I can tell you why they ate the soft part of the handles on your tools." I said, "Why?" He said, "Well, when you're out there working and you're perspiring, and you lose your body salt. The body salt goes into the soft wood, and that's what they were after. The salt in the handles." That makes sense.

I worked for the railroad. Them locomotives would come in and they had deep wells in them. Them wells would be full of grasshoppers. They would come along and just kill them by the thousands. Then - we had to go in there and dig them out of the locomotives. But anyway. Well, my granddaughters, she'd heard me talk about the dust storms. So here's what she said, "Well, Granddad, write - tell me about - you know you talked about one particular dust storm." So this is what I wrote.

I was eleven years old when the April 14, 1935, Black Sunday storm struck. I went to the city public library to read the newspaper because we didn't have the two cents to buy them. When I came out of the library I was headed south across the street towards radio station KGNO. Before I could walk about sixty foot to the entrance, the dust storm hit. It was so dark and dusty, I couldn't find the entrance. We didn't own a radio so if I wanted to hear music I had to go to the home next to the broadcasting studio to listen. The wind was blowing so hard it felt like somebody was sandblasting your face. The studio was on the second floor and the stairwell was so dark I had to crawl up the stairs. The lights were not on at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Some people came into the studio about thirty minutes later and you couldn't tell who they were because they were covered with dust. They were coming to town to see a movie, and got caught in the storm. So they abandoned their car, held hands, and feeling the curb, found their way to KGNO.

I had to stay in that radio station for over three hours before I could attempt to go home. I knew my mother would be worried so I had to get home somehow. The dust storms lasted several years and a lot of people died of dust storm pneumonia. Our homes were made of old lumber that the railroad had thrown away. No one had storm windows or doors so the dust just sifted in. My mother had to put wet rags over the windows and doors to keep some of the dust out of the air so that we could breathe. I had trouble with my inner ear getting infected and I couldn't get out of bed because my equilibrium was all messed up. I have sinus trouble to this day because of all that dust that we inhaled during the dirty thirties.

We went for no rain for several years meant no crops to harvest. Many people moved to California because no jobs were available. The movie "The Grapes of Wrath" is based on conditions during the thirties.

My father worked for the Santa Fe and had to alternate working three days one week and four days every other week. That way they kept two men working to support their families. Over half of my school mates died because their lungs were damaged by the dust. Quite a few got infected from the tuberculosis germs and in their weakened condition, succumbed.

The people organized jack rabbit drives because there were so many that they ate everything including the gardens that were planted to supplement their wages, if you were lucky and had a job. I'm sending you four pictures and one shows me in front of Coronado School. The clothes I am wearing had been worn by three of my older brothers. They were handed down whenever they outgrew them. Note the fact that I'm not wearing any socks. I just did good to have shoes. One shows the dust storm approaching Dodge. Another shows a tractor buried because it hadn't been used for several years. And then tell her when you get through the pictures, bring them with you.

P. S. I'm sending you another picture with a face in the dust. People thought it was the end of the world because it looked like the face of Jesus. People were crying and praying and many knelt because they were sure this was the end of the world.

BC: You mentioned dust pneumonia. Would people go to the hospital?

LS: We would die overnight. We didn't have any money. We couldn't go to the hospital. We didn't have money. So, - and like I said, a lot of them - the ones that didn't die from tuberculosis, died from the dust, you know. Their lungs had been hurt by the dust and when they got the tuberculosis, they just couldn't take it, you know. I was there, not too long ago, at the cemetery, and started looking at some of the headstones, and there's a bunch of them there they were all from twelve to fourteen years of age. I had my pictures with me there and heck, half the people there, they died. There were some families that lost three and four kids from tuberculosis.

BC: And then the dust on top of that.

LS : And, you know, we're getting tuberculosis again. We're getting all these immigrants coming in from all these other countries, we had eliminated it and, or so we thought, and now we're getting a lot of cases. You know, we had an epidemic here not too long ago of rubella, now Wichita has an epidemic of whooping cough and, of course, with the people traveling all over the world in their airplanes, you know, they can be here today and tomorrow you're in Europe or you're in China, or wherever. They can bring all these diseases overnight like that and you know.

BC: You also mentioned the rabbit drives and the grasshoppers. Do you remember some of those?

LS: Oh yes, very vividly. There used to be a lot of jack rabbit drives around here and I saw some of them pictures in there showing them and you couldn't use any guns, well, most of the people couldn't afford a gun and if they had a gun they couldn't afford the shells, and besides it was too dangerous to be shooting at them. They would put up a what they call a snow fence and they'd have a great big circle of people and they would be hollering and they would have sticks, if you had a ball bat, you would take a ball bat, club, whatever you could find. You'd holler, and you had a big circle and you start getting closer and closer together and making the circle smaller and them rabbits would congregate in one spot and people would start killing them.

I don't know how true this is, I was told they killed so many of them and somebody got the idea that we could ship them to New York and they were selling them over there and they were selling them as Belgium Hare, they were really sticking the price to them. I was just reading in today's paper that people were complaining - they take our steaks from here and they take them to New York ritzy restaurants, and they call them New York Strip or Kansas City Strip. That doesn't tell where they come from.

Of course, a lot of that rabbit hair was used to make hats, too, you know. And of course, hats went out of style for a while. People still bought 'em, still do, at that time everybody wore hats if they could afford one, you know.

BC: Did many people eat the rabbits?

LS: Yes, quite a few people ate 'em. They sure did. Yep.

BC: (inaudible question)

LS: When I'd go to town, about the only time I went to town was to buy a tablet or a pencil or something for school. There was this lady who lived there, she was on what they called the League which is welfare now, you know. She would stop me, she would say "Come here, little boy" So I'd go over there. "You tell your mother to make me a couple dozen tortilla, and bring them to me, and I'll give her something. "

So I'd come home and tell mother and she'd make them. By that time, she'd gone to making them out of flour. See, when we first came over here, the men would not eat flour tortillas. They were used to corn, and that's what they were going to have so we had to have corn tortillas. So Mother would make a couple dozen tortillas and then I'd take them to her and at that time, they would have cans of food, meat something like Dinty Moore's Stew, something like that they they give to the people that didn't have a job. And so I would take her the tortillas, and she would give me a can of that stuff and "Man, we were living. "Looky here, what we're going to have." She was tickled to death to get the tortillas, we were tickled to death to get the ration - can't remember what they called them - commodities.

BC: Did many residents of the village receive commodities?

LS: Quite a few, quite a few did. There were - lost their jobs. But the majority of them worked. if they could get any kind of work, they would work. There are always a few that wouldn't take a job even if you promised them the world, but you know, we always have that kind of thing. But anyway, the majority did work. And most of the work--- that's another story. I could tell you some of the work we had to do - I'm lucky to be alive today.

We did the dangerous work, crawling under the passenger trains to put water in the dining car and sometimes the train would start moving and you're underneath ther,e you didn't have very much room and you had to crawl, to get the heck out of there. Or they had their refrigeration equipment and when I would go up and relieve the coach cleaners - the dining car had ice up on top and we would get five cakes, five three hundred pound cakes on these carts that they use for the mail now, you know, and from where they put the ice, it was all down hill, we'd use a board and hang onto it and try to keep -- slow it down, if it got away, forget it because that thing would kill you. That was fifteen hundred pounds of ice, plus a wagon that weighed another five hundred pounds or more and the wagon had steel wheels. You know what would happen to you if you'd fall in front of it or something. A lot of times we'd be coming down that hill and there were shacks. You couldn't see when a train was coming, you know, and when we got there, there was a train coming. Well, that train can't stop. You have to yank that handle and here goes all that ice and if you're in the way, forget it.

But you had three minutes to spot your ice and climb up on top of the dining car, and open that door up there, and you would chop that ice in fifty pound chunks. One of us would stay down here, and throw that fifty pound chunk of ice up to that guy up there and he'd catch it and put it in and once in a while he'd miss and here the ice would come down. Well, if fifty pounds of ice would come down, well, if it hits you, you're dead. And that's what we had to do. Our hands would get so cold after a while, that, you know, well, if you put fifteen hundred pounds of ice up there, it takes a little while, and you had to hurry.

Another thing, we had to, we had three minutes to get up on that locomotive and fill that tank, put in 15,000 gallons of water in that tank, the spout was, yeah, big, you had to pull that thing full open, full blast to get it in there, and you had to ride that thing, you know, have to release it 'cause it'd start pulling you up, you know, once in a while, your foot would slip and that water would shoot clear across a half a block and drown the people that were there - that was dangerous, too, that thing could throw you off of the top of that locomotive.

BC: It was dangerous work?

LS: Yeh, you bet. There are so many things. And some locomotives, the guys didn't pay attention to see if they had water, enough water in the tender, where the locomotive gets the water, and they'd fire up getting ready to go out on the road, and there wouldn't be enough water in the boiler and it would blow up. Several guys got killed that way, too.

BC: Earlier, you were talking about some of the relief. What about in Dodge, do you recall much -- among the other citizens living outside of the village and you also mentioned a woman and you also mentioned the transient camps, earlier. What were those places like?

LS: Well, the transient camps like I said, it was for the guys that came in looking for a job. And the government had this set up, you know. They would go in there, they would feed them, then they would get a job for them, and they would take them - a farmer would come and get them and take them to the farm to do their wheat harvest, you know. And then they'd be gone after the harvest was over. A lot of guys, I knew quite a few of them.

They had big bin that you'd put the wheat on there, and then they'd throw it in there, I don't know, like I say, I can't tell you really, but it was awful dangerous work. A lot of the guys lost their hands, or their arms, you know, they would get a little careless, and the machinery would catch them and they'd lose their arm - their hands, you know. But every summer, there would be a bunch of guys that would come in from all over, from New York, from California, anyplace in the country looking for a job, because at that time, they didn't have any jobs. No openings.

BC: What else did the government do?

LS: Well, then they started what they called the CCC camps, soil conservation and so a lot of the guys would go out and plant trees for the government.

BC: WPA camps?

LS: A lot of people criticized the WPA but you know that to this day we still have some bridges that they built - That's how well they were built. Now, you can't afford to build them. And they worked on a lot of these lakes. They built buildings there. Now you couldn't afford to build some of the things that they did at that time. I think that Roosevelt started a lot of them projects to give the guys something to do and not just give them a handout, they can go out and work for it.

Thank God, my dad always had a job, he had to alternate he had to work three days one week, four days the next three days, four days, to alternate, and this way they kept everybody working. And you had to have a crew, you had to have two grease cup men, water, oil, well, you had to have about seven guys working on that locomotive - you had to have them there for twenty-four hours, I mean, of course, three days a shift you had to work them trains going through so they couldn't let them people go because they didn't want to delay the trains, they had to be there. At that time, that was a good job to have. I thought I was going to have that when I started working for them - but once the diesels came in they started chopping people off. They closed the roundhouse. They had a lot of people working at the roundhouse, they closed the repair track, they had a lot of people working there. I worked there at the repair track, too. That was another dangerous spot - not dangerous, it was dangerous to your health. Because you had to go in there and they carried anything and everything in them boxcars. They carried what they called carbon black. They came out of the trains here and that's what your batteries are made out of. The casing. It was a powder. Well, you can imagine going in there, in them boxcars, no windows, and temperature 105 and you're having to sweep this dust 'cause they are going to use it for wheat and you would inhale all that carbon black, that powder and you'd spit and it looked like ink coming out of your mouth.

Asbestos was insulation for the steam pipes for heating. When I worked for the Santa Fe, when I worked at the roundhouse we got the asbestos in powder form and the roundhouse faced the east and we'd go to work at 8 o'clock in the morning and we'd get this powder, we'd would put it in 55 gallon oil drums, shoveled it in there and they would put water in there and mix it up they could dole out of it but you could see that stuff floating in the air just like a bunch of soot. It was that asbestos. Well, at that time they didn't know that it could hurt you, kill you. One guy died from inhaling that asbestos. We used to get it in a powder form and make a dough out of it and throw it up to the guys so they would put it over the boilers on the locomotives and it took a lot - then they'd put what they called a jacket on there, that's what you see on there - they put on about a 4 inch coating of that asbestos on it. We used to handle it with our bare hands, no masks, no protection. We didn't know. Now, when they want to take it and it's in cakes, what they cut it, that's what they call it, it's on these pipes, you have to have special equipment, you have to be certified, and I don't know what else. We used to do that.

Another thing that I used was what they called oconite I used it for about six months. And that stuff was so strong - my job after a while, was to take this stuff, mix it up with water and spray it all over the what they called the deck of the outside of the locomotive, and sometimes over the tender, too, because that stuff, that tar builds up on it, you know. Well, after they had worked on the boiler, my job was to go up there and spray this oconite on there. This stuff would eat, it was an acid, it would eat the paint off of - the tar off of it, the oil off of it, paint, whatever was on there. I'd wash it off with water, with steam with hot water, steam water, and then I would paint it and the guys that were in there would come up and cuss me out cause they'd inhale that, and they'd come out of that locomotive madder than heck at me and say "I don't want to do this but this is my job - go talk to the boss" (laughs) And I guess they raised enough stink because after about six months they banned the use of that stuff. But that was my job, to put that on there. So I'm lucky to be alive today, let me tell you.

BC: Dust storms and all --

LS: Dust storms, asbestos, and oconite. You couldn't hear yourself - I'm surprised I can hear at all. You bring a locomotive in a building, in a room twice this big and fire that thing up as loud as it will go and you would be shouting in somebody's ear and they couldn't hear you. That's how loud it was in there. And you would have ten or fifteen locomotives going at the same time inside that building.

BC: That was a little bit later in the forties that you worked there.

LS: Yes.

BC: Back in the thirties, some other programs that came along, the WPA, the CCC, did many of your classmates or many people from the village work for those programs?

LS: Some of them worked for the CCC camp, we had another program the NYA - National Youth Administration, right. We started making - this is before Pearl Harbor, I was working at that program and we were making furniture. Quite a few of the guys get a little careless using the saw. Well, you cut five hundred boards at the same time you get them, and sometimes you do it automatically, and about then you get a little careless, and you know, repeating it, and once in a while (inaudible) and "cheew" (sound of cutting) .

I remember one day I was, you'd take turns, sometimes running the saw, sometimes running the drill, sometimes running boards stuck together, nailing or whatever and that day I happened to be in the tool room. You had to check out the tools and I looked over there and the saw was in front of me, I saw this blood so I hollered at him, the saw was making a lot of noise and so he stopped and said "What?" I said "What's all the blood?" "Where?" "On your face" He looked down there and there his two fingers were - on the saw. It happened so fast, you know.

I told one of the guys, "take him up to the doctor right now." And so I took the two pieces of fingers, (I shouldn't have done it) and nailed them up on the bulletin board. I said "This is what will happen if you get careless." I did. That guy quit after that. I can't remember whether it was his left or his right hand. Must have been his right hand. I saw him about ten years later. I happened to be downtown and they told me to go get my brother - he was running a beer hall - so I went over there and this fellow came up and patted me on the back. I looked at him and I said "Dave?" He said, "Yeh." I said, "I haven't seen you in ten years." Said, "No, I've been in Chicago" I said, "Did your fingers ever grow back?" He said, "Yeh, I didn't think they would but they grew back." (Laughs)

BC: When they had the accident, what was the railroad policy on that?

LS: You were supposed to report it, but a lot of times they didn't. A lot of times they didn't. I remember a guy having - at that time they had what they called a double decker - they had a false floor - you could raise it up with chains, so that you could put cows or horses in there or you could lower it, and put pigs on the bottom floor and pigs on the second floor or sheep. And this guy, they had raised it up and were going to work on the floor and they'd had a couple drinks or two and somehow or other the jack slipped and that thing come down and hit him on top of the head and cracked his skull open. It was never reported. He could have died. I'm surprised it didn't kill him. A lot of that stuff happened and it wasn't never reported because at that time we didn't have OSHA. Well, one of the headquarters was in La Junta. He was a division superintendent. He'd come over and he'd examine, "What happened?"

Another thing that happened. These guys were working in this boxcar and they had to take out a couple of bolts so they could put some new boards in there. So the guy cut the bolts off with a torch, and he got a chisel and put it on the bolts and he told the assistant "Hit it" the guy hauls back, misses him, and hits the guy in the chest with a sledge hammer. They reported it because he was sicker than heck. So the division superintendent come over to see how in the world could anybody hit somebody in the chest with a sledge hammer. So they called the guys in and said "Show me what you were, how you were standing" So the guy goes and gets a nail - the other guy gets a hammer - he says "Now what - he goes back, whew ."(sound of a blow) He says "Don't ever come within ten foot of a sledge hammer as long as you work for this company....don't ever!! "

They wanted to get every division they wanted to get in the war - whoever had the lowest amount, the "less" time of accidents they tried but all that stuff happened.

BC: The danger of tuberculosis.

LS: Asbestosos, oconite, the ice, loading the ice on the dining car and coming down the hill with them {blocks of ice}. They were 300 pound cakes and five of them, you'd bring five of them down and load them and sometimes you'd be on top of that dining car and the train would whistle (whistle sound) and you'd better come down - that's the signal - if you didn't come down, well, you'd ride the train as far as you can and you'd have to jump down off of there.

BC: (inaudible question/comment)

LS: ( Whistle signal) That's it, they're ready to go. Get out from ---I had to crawl underneath - I was the young guy, and the other fellows, the coach cleaners, when they'd go on vacation - they'd say "---you go under and help the coach cleaners." I'd have to crawl under the dining car and they would throw a water hose to me, 'cause sometimes the water opening was on the other side and I'd have to crawl underneath and put the water hose in it, you know, and turn it on full blast, and when I'd hear "hoot" and I'd have to shut it off and "pull it, pull it" and they'd pull it. But sometimes --they have to spot that locomotive just right or else the oil crane and the water crane wouldn't reach where it should be. So sometimes they didn't spot them right and they'd have to pull it back and that's when sometimes you'd be underneath that coach with about that much clearance trying to get out [from underneath] that coach and have to get to the other side and have that coach start moving back on you. That gives you a thrill!

BC: What about deaths?

LS: I remember this one friend of mine was working on the section and he was driving a spike and he didn't hear that train coming and it hit him and mashed his head open and killed him.

BC: Was there any kind of payment for the family?

LS: I don't know - they must have given them some money but it wouldn't be very much, I know that. I know him, when he got killed. And there were still a lot of the guys, and there's still one guy alive, he'd retired now, but, of course, they used to drive all them spikes by hand and they'd hit and a piece of the head of that spike broke off and come and hit him in the eye and he's been blind ever since. He was just a young kid. I think it was his left eye. So---

I remember the dumb things we used to do - they had what they called, what did they call it - can't think of the name of it. But anyway, they were power - they were square deals and they had lead deals on there--see at that time you didn't have phones like you do now, to communicate with the train or from the station. So, say this train is going down the main track and you have what they called "hot box." At that time they didn't have what they call Timpken bearings. They would put white material, rags, with oil and lubricated the wheels. Well, once in a while, some dirt would get in there and one of them boxes would start on fire cause they would get too hot. So they had to stop the train. Well, they had no way of telling the next train in back of them or in front of them they had to stop.

Torpedoes, that's what you call them, torpedoes. so then the brakeman had to go two or three miles in front of the train and one of them would go to the back and they put these torpedoes, see, they had to be on that so that when that locomotive went over them (blast sound), they would hear it, see. They'd be like dynamite. So we'd get - we'd steal some of them - when we was little kids, -and they always kept a bunch of rails over there - extra ones, when they were repairing them, and we'd get one of them torpredoes and put it over there on top of them rails and then we'd get the plate that holds the rails from slipping you know where they put the spikes and we'd sit over here about fifty foot away and throw it hit it and we'd cover our ears, (blast sound) and you could hear it for three miles. We'd do that and then we'd run and hide and people would come up there to see what happened. Yeh, we heard it. and they'd all run up there to see what it was. Oh Lordy, Like I say, I'm surprised that I'm alive today.

And see, they had what they called the Y there - next to the village. I think they call them "moolah" - it was a double locomotive. It was twice as big as the ones - you know, the regular ones. They used them in Colorado to pull them trains over the mountains. They were double. They initially made them double, they had more horse power. And they were too big. We had what you call the turntable. You know what a turntable is. They put the locomotive there and you could turn it, You put the locomotives and lined it up and put the locomotive in the roundhouse. The moolah, it was so long, they had to take them around the Y - it was around the village, and clear west of the sand pit and then back em up and then they wouldn't be going west So the crossings had a lot of people killed there 'cause the locomotives don't have lights on the side, and they would be going over there to turn that locomotive and at night, you were going down the highway and you couldn't see that. That locomotive was black and that car was coming (snap sound) and it would just kill them all.

BC: What about law enforcement in the village. Did the Dodge City police go there?

LS: They were supposed to take care of it. But they didn't come down there very often. No, they'd stay away from there. Seemed like - some of them well, the mystique there, some of the things that happened there, like some of the police don't go there - stay away from there. Stay away from there.

BC: There was some interaction between the larger Dodge City community and the Mexican village?

LS: Not too much.

BC: That has changed over the years.

LS: We couldn't go to a barber shop, we couldn't go to a restaurant. We went into the kitchen, ordered what we wanted, and they'd go get it and give it to you in a brown bag. We'd go eat wherever you could find it. The theater - you couldn't sit, you had to sit up in the mezzanine, the last two rows, clear in the back. You couldn't sit where you wanted. That was the rule. There was a lot of discrimination. That's a fact. People don't want to admit it. Like I tell some of my friends, "Hell, I could be the most bitter person in the world -- some of the things that I was forced to do, but I said, "Hell, I can't blame you for what happened. You're not to blame."

I had a notebook on it. What do you call him, a priest? I guess you call him a priest, Reverend Treder, he was the head of the Episcopal Church. Okay - like I said, I lost two brothers-in-law, when they came back they were all shot up, all messed up from the war. My older brother was in the artillery. He can't hear worth a damm to this day (shell exploding sound). But so - Rudy Treder, Reverend Rudy Treder found out that they wouldn't let us in the swimming pool and so he went up there and argued with the city commissioners. He argued I don't know how many times.

I don't know how many times he argued with them, They wasn't going to give in. He was persistent. He was going to change. He said, "Some of these boys went up there, they got killed, most of these boys shared the same foxhole with our boys, they ate together, they swam together, they slept together, and we can't allow them to go into the swimming pool?" After they found out that Rudy's not going to give up so they come up with this plan. They said, "All right, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we'll let the Anglos go in swim. Wednesday, the Mexicans could come in and swim, Thursday, the Blacks could come in and swim and Friday they'd drain the pool and they'd fill it up and they'd start in again. So Rudy said, "No, that's a slap in the face. We can't have that." He was persistent and he finally got them to allow us to go in to swim.

There's a lady, she's in her eighties, she lives over here in the next block, and for a long time August the 4th was the only time they would let the blacks in to swim. That was it. Emancipation Day, that's what they called it. August the 4th. There was a lot of discrimination. Let's face it.

BC: What about the theater?

LS: I became really good friends to the owners of the theater, and of course, that changed, too. Of course, the other one already did it - really broke the discrimination.

Well, we started the G. I. Forum right after the war. Dr. Hector Garcia from Texas, he served in the war. I can't remember where he was from - he's from around Del Rio,Texas. But anyway, a lot of the boys, there were thousands of them from the area, the majority of them were Americans. They served in the war, they came back and they were needing medical attention and they were the last ones - you know, some of them died before they got the medical attention they needed to be taken care of. So they said, "This isn't right." These guys went up there for this country and they can't even get into the VA Hospital. So he started what they called the American GI Forum. And so we heard about it, and we said, we need something like that here in Dodge. So we started, my brother Isaac and I started the Forum here. Everybody in the state now takes credit but we've got the Number One Forum here in the state of Kansas. We went and chartered Wichita, Hutchinson, Newton, Ark City, Garden City.

My niece, she was very liked. She was working for a family here named Kline. They started a business there, you know where the parking lot is there on Third, pretty near, catty cornered to the power company, you know the power company, Mead Lumber is on Third, about the third lot. The Kline family had a building there, made out of, I want to say made out of corrugated metal, but they were so old, it had holes through it. They sell chickens, butter, cream, milk, eggs, and so they did real good. Then they built the, it's now the glass shop there on west Wyatt Earp. They built a brand new building - brick building. They had my niece, they had an ice cream parlor there in front. And they had all this produce there in the back, dairy products, sold ice cream, cottage cheese. Anyway, so my niece was working on a Sunday afternoon, and she was pretty busy. Two friends of hers went over there, they were a little darker than I am, so these two girls went up there wanted to talk to Elena and to make plans to go to the movies that night. So they walked in and stood there by the door. They had what they called a Nickoleodeon, a Juke Box so they put a nickel in here to hear a song, so they put it in - started.

There was two waitresses, they had about thirty people in there, so they were pretty busy. They ran out of napkins, or something. So this other waitress went to the back to get the supplies you know, napkins, and cups or whatever. And the old man was in there, it had swinging doors to it. And this waitress comes in - he looked over there, "What are they doing in here?" She said, "I don't know." "Tell them, they're not allowed in here. Tell them to get out of here." So the waitress - she's kind of surprised went over and, said, "Well, Mr. Kline's up there and said to tell you to get out of here. You're not allowed in here." "That's alright, we don't want you to wait on us. We wanted to talk to Elena to make plans to go to the movies tonight. Would you tell her that - and she can get in touch with us." "Yeh" So they left.

Well, some friends of mine happened to be in there, they didn't discriminate, so they came up and told us, he said, "Now's your time, a chance to see how much power you have, they told us what happened." So I said, "Well, you've got to start sometime." So we went over there. It was August. Hotter than heck. About like today. And so we went in, sat down, and this little gal came up, "I'm sorry, I can't wait on you. Mr. Kline's back there." We said, "We know that. Tell him we'd like to speak with him." So she went over there and told him. He says, "No, I can't spend time with them." So, we told him, "That's alright. Can you deliver this message to him? Starting tomorrow, if he delivers any products, milk, cream, butter, chickens, cottage cheese, whatever, to a Hispanic name, he's donating it. We're not buying from here anymore." And we walked out.

So she went up there and told him and here he comes. "Oh, gentlemen, gentlemen, come back here, come on back in." So now we were standing in the parking lot. "No, look, come on back in here, come on back in here." We said, "No, this is fine, we're used to this, we work in hot weather." "No, no, no. Come on in. It's air conditioned." So we said, "Well, it'd look like of bad, people drive by, they having a riot here or something. So we went in." "Sit down, sit down." And he told the waitress "Give these gentlemen whatever they want, it's on the house." "No, no, we pay for what we get. Thank you very much." We appreciate the offer but no thanks." "Oh no, I want you --- " "No, thank you. Don't bring it. It would be ruined. We not eating whatever you bring."

So we told him, you know, "Now, you know, this incident happened, and you told them you didn't want these girls in here. Now, look, we do business with you, we bought this building for you, now if we're good enough to do business with you out there, we're good enough to do business with you in here. If we're not good enough to do business in here, we're not good enough to do business with you out there. Make up your mind." We left then.

So, we waited two days and I was working split shift at the power company. I happened to be home. And here they come. I lived over here in the corner, then. They came up and knocked. I was trying to get some rest. I'd gone to work at six o'clock in the morning. I'd get up at five and work until ten, then go back at three and - I was the janitor, I took care of the buildings, there. And delivered the mail and all this stuff, I was working about ten hours a day, they came and knocked, so, I went to the door, and he says, "Mr. Sanchez." I sez, "yeh." "Could I speak to you." I said, "Sure, come on in."

So they came on in. "They said, you know, there's something going on at St. Mary's [College]. I've been doing business with them, several hundred dollars a week and they called me and said "Cancel our order, we'll let you know, we'll reorder. This has been a couple of weeks. Do you know what's happening?" I said, "No, I sure don't. I have a niece and nephew that goes to school there, but I don't have time to, they're at school when I'm at work, and when I get home, it's ten o'clock, ten-thirty at night, and I'm not going to wake them up, in the morning, when I go to work at six o'clock in the morning, they're still asleep. So give me some time. and I'll try and find out what's going on. So I finally asked them kids, I said, "What's going on at St. Mary's?" And this is when they were having all them problems at Selma, you know, when the police siccing their police dogs on the Black people over there. " So they said, "We were having Civics class the other day, and the class talked about discrimination." So I said, "well, we have it here in town, too." "Huh?" Well, they don't get around very much. And so I said, "Well yeh, we had this incident here at Klines the other day. They wouldn't even let us, they refused to let us into the building. They told us to get out.

"What?" "Yeh, as a matter of fact, one of your students, Elena is her name, she was going to school there. So she talked to her. "Yeh," she said, "I got excited I just left, after they told me that they run my two friends out, I got excited, so nervous, I didn't quit or anything, I haven't been back." So, then word got around at St. Mary's. And that's when they called them and said "forget the order." They had been buying hundreds and hundreds of dollars of dairy products from them for years. And that broke them. They went bankrupt.

Shortly after that we had an early freeze. And they were Jehovah Witnesses. The Kline family started that church here in town. So they decided that they would go up to the lake and have an ice skating party. Well, two of the Klines went over there to test the ice and one of them got out quite a ways from the shore and broke through the ice and drowned. He's the one that came over to the house and asked me about - try and find out - before I got back to him to tell him what had happened, the man had drowned. They went bankrupt.

Things started to change after that, word got around: "Hey these guys are sticking together." They're going to hurt us. Whatever business you're in, they're going to hurt you. That started changing the attitude, you know. But, like I said, I'm not bitter about it. Hell, I'd be hurting myself. It was a stage we went through. There's still some discrimination. These young people don't know what discrimination is. They don't. When you can't go to the barber, you can't go to the cosmetologist, you can't go to a restaurant, to a theater, except like I said, in the last two rows, couldn't go swimming. So, and another thing, I remember one time, I had to go to town to buy some school supplies. These kids saw me, "Hey, where are you going?" "Oh, I'm going to get some pencils and paper for school. "Can I go with you." "Oh, yeh, it's alright." So we started over there. And there was a policeman over there and he saw and comes up and says, "Hey, back to Mexico." We went back to the village. We hadn't done anything. But to me, what kind of a policeman are you when you take that attitude? I don't treat everybody the same, just 'cause that person done something to me. I don't treat you that way. I'm not going to blame everybody. This was the kind of stuff we had to --- that was happening here in Dodge.

BC: Where there other incidents?

LS: Then, Thank God, I was pretty athletic, and so when I started going to Junior High and started making the squad, about the only squad they had really to travel was the basketball so I made the first team. That's another thing, I didn't know what basketball was when I went to Junior High, we didn't have a basketball. But I made up my mind I was going to show them that I can do it. And I did, I made the first string. And of course, then we when we'd travel out of town and come back late, they'd take us to a restaurant to eat, well, I'd go in with the rest of the guys and nothing was ever said.

But, I remember my youngest, my younger brother. My dad went up there to buy some medicine at the drug store, and he was just a little kid, about three years old and he looked up there and saw them big signs with the big cones. He remembers today, and he's about sixty-nine, seventy years old, he said I was sitting there and looking at them and wondering what them would taste like. And so he said, the druggist went and got the medicine. "Anything else? Did your mother say anything else you needed?" My brother said, "No, but I'd like to have one of them things" and he said the guy wouldn't sell it to him. This was - well, I'n about five-six years older than he is, and so 1932-33, I imagine. But that crap sticks to you. But like I say, I'm not going to let it beat me up.

BC: If there were some - some people at St. Mary of the Plains and the Catholic Church, there were some people that saw beyond that. You mentioned people ---

LS: Yeh, that's right. That the reason I don't blame everybody. Some people really are, when we talk about discrimination, when we tell them, they can't believe it, you know. Well, they weren't around at the right place at the right time. Some of them are lying, know some are lying, but some really were not aware what was happening.

BC: Did the church bridge across like the earlier, or---?

LS: They had, that's before my time, but from what I hear, that's the reason they started the church over here, in the village. They wanted to separate us. Now, it's the other way around, they want to do away with the both the churches and make one great big cathedral and combine everybody. Times change, you know.

There's been are a lot of good people. I've got to say that. There's been a lot of people that bent over backwards to help us. I'll tell you what, when I got married, I bought a house over there on Ave. L. Well, then the Santa Fe decided that they were going to use more property, more ground, needed more property. Well, my brother-in-law had a small house. Well it was just me and my wife and two kids and we had a smaller house, and the one over on L was a pretty good-sized house. And so I told them, my in-laws had to find a house, and I said, "Well, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll just let you - I'll sell you this house for what I paid for, and I'll buy yours. He was building one over there across from the church. He was about through with it. And I said when you get ready to move, I'll buy yours and I'll move back into the village, if I have to I can move that house up north, so I went back and lived in the village again for a while.

BC: When was that.

LS: Oh, gosh, let's see, I got married, well it was in the middle fifties, before they did away with the village completely. Well, I'm going to say 1950s. Another thing, another incident that happened. We were at the GI Forum one day. We had a fellow, Jim Mangan here, he was a lawyer, and my job was to get people to come up and talk to us. I'd get policemen to come up and tell us about some of the laws we were breaking that we weren't aware of, and that's another story. We brought city commissioners to come up there. I would ask them to come up and talk to us and tell about different things that were happening in town.

Jim Mangan, he was a lawyer, and he come up there and he gave us a real good talk. A lot of people got insulted. That's how stupid they were. He said, "Well, you know, I am Irish. My folks came here from Ireland. I know what you are going through because we went through that. My dad especially went through that. They had no love for the Irish, when we landed, I think, in New York. He said, "We went through that. But I know I see, I look around, I see most of you, I've had dealings with you. You're are all good people, you're all good workers, you're are all good citizens. The reason I say that, of all the turncoats we had in WWII, you can't find one Hispanic name that turned their back on their country. Some of your friends died as prisoners but you would not double-cross this country. You don't have a turncoat in all your Hispanic race. I'm proud of you.

"Now, what you're going to have to do is to get out of the village, buy a house. I know it's going to be a sacrifice, but move all over town whatever you can find, move. Get the people, your neighbors, to know who you are, what you stand for, that you're good Christians, good hard workers, you want the same things they do, that you're willing to work for them. A lot of people really don't know you. They see you, you know, once in a while. Go out there and show them what you stand for. That's the best advice I can give you."

So I came home and I told my wife, that's right. I'm going to buy a house. That's when I bought this house over here. She wanted to move back to the village. She cried and she went on.

A lot of people got mad. "He doesn't know what he's talking about. He's trying to segregate us." I said, "Hell no, we are segregated. We all live in here together. Let's show these people that we are capable of being good citizens. We'll work for what we get. This one niece that was with this guy who was opposed to building the park over there. They were about to graduate and they were having a party for them. So, they were sitting there and they come up and one of them asked me. What do you think, what occupation I should be going into. I haven't made up my mind if I should go to college or what I should do".

I said, "You are asking my advice, I guess. I would advise you to go into nursing because if you're a good nurse, I don't care, no matter who it is, no matter what, they are going to hire you no matter where you go. There's always a need for nurses and they don't discriminate there. They have a little bit in the past but any more, that's the profession to go into and you always have a a need for nurses. And besides, you always have a job and you can help your family when they're sick or your kids are sick. So think about it." The other one was sat there said "No, I'm going to be a secretary." "Well," I said, "it's up to you."

Well, the one that's a nurse has got it made and everytime she sees me she says, "Oh, I'm sure glad I talked to you. I can work the hours that I want, the doctor likes my work, and if I want to take off, I take off, and when I come back I have a job. I've made more friends, I have a beautiful home, I sent all my kids to college and everything. I'm sure thankful that you talked to me." The other one has had a lot of problems with her kids and half the time she's out of a job. But a lot of people when you give them advice, they take it wrong. "Oh, he don't know what he's talking about."

See there, that's my kids. They all graduated from St. Mary's. They all have good jobs. And I told them, it's up to you - you're going to go to school. I don't know whether you're going to learn anything or not, it's up to you. But if you apply yourself, if you want, I'm going to help you and sometimes I had to work three jobs. I'll see to it that you get your education. That's one thing that I promise you. Mainly that it's up to you if you want to use it. If you want to use it, fine, if not, well, you had your education. So they all have good jobs.

My folks couldn't provide that for me. My Dad was in no position where, like I said, I had to go to work when I was sixteen years old, full-time. 'Cause well, we're going to have to move and I was the only one that was capable and old enough to go out and work so I said, "Well, it had to be done, I'll do it."

BC: So you moved out of the Mexican village?

LS: I moved from the village to Avenue L and then I went back to the village because it was a better home, a smaller home, and when you lived there, that was your home, you didn't pay taxes or anything. The railroad - all you paid was 50 cents a month for the use of the water. That's all you paid. I owned the house, I bought it from the railroad and I sold the other house to my in-laws. They were going to have to move from where they were, so I sold them my house for what I paid for it. And I'll buy Tony's and then we'll go from there.

If I can save some money, I can buy a house someplace else, I'll save the money, if I can't, I'll move in a house. I'll buy a lot. That's when I bought these two lots. Just in case I had to move. You know, the railroad gave you thirty days or sixty days, you had to move. I bought these two lots and, I said, "Well, I'll have a place to move if I have to." So I saved some money and this house, the fellow that lived there was a railroader, and I knew him, and he was going to move, so he told me, he had the house there vacant for a year, said I'll give you a good deal. I want to get rid of the house, I'll give you a good price, and you can move in there. We talked it over. Okay. We arranged the payments and everything so we moved over here and then after we lived I don't know, ten years or so, my wife said, "Well, if we're going to build, now's the time to build. " So she got a contract to build this house. I'm glad we built this house in '63. The way I remember was that was when John Kennedy got assassinated.

BC: The village closed in 1955?

LS: In 50-something.

BC: What was that like? Were you living there then?

LS: We used to live right here. That was the family home right here. So when they took - there was three rows of houses here that the railroad had built. They backed them up to put that big tank there, see. This was the family home and then when I got married and then we went to live on Avenue L and lived there several years and they told this part they had to move and the in-laws lived here. So, I said, "Well, we don't need this big house, the four of us," so they were worried what they were going to do and so I said "Well, I'll see whose house - Tony lived right here. He had already started, 'cause he knew what was coming, so he had already started to built his house over there on J, 800 J. He was about done with it, so I told him "What are you going to do with your house." He said, "I don't know, sell it, probably rent it out to somebody." I said, "Well, would you consider selling it to me?" "Yeah." I said, "Okay, I'll buy your house. I can move in there and live there a year or so and save some money and make a down payment on, you know, with the money that I'm making on this house, I can get another house.

So, no, we lived there for several years until Mayrath was, they, built this office to load out wheat, you know, they kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger so they finally said we're going to remove all the houses. But by then I had bought over here on G and this guy didn't have a house and he asked me if I'd sell it to him. i said, "Yeah." I'd sell it to him for what I paid for it and he moved it up here right across Thorow from the ball park there. So this was August 1955.

BC: What was your, uh, what were your feelings? What was your perspective on that?

LS: On the village?

BC: When it was closed?

LS: When it closed, well, I knew it was going to be rough on a lot of them people. They weren't really true to us about it. They condemned it 'cause said it was sanitary conditions. Well, they'd lived there for fifty-some years. Nothing was said about it. But Mayrath wanted to expand, they wanted the ground. And, I guess, the railroad figured, well, now's a good time to tell, you know. They got the doctor to say that sanitary conditions are not that great and all this stuff, and so, I said we're going to have to close down, they give you so much time to move, you know. And Mayrath tried to get us out of there. He had a big speaker out there so many times a week turned that thing so loud you couldn't sleep, you know. Said, get you guys out of here, you know. If I'd a had a gun, I'd -a shot the hell out of that speaker for him, I'll tell you that. (laughs) He was expanding, he went to Monmouth, Illnois, I think. He started a big plant over there, too. They were delivering clear up into Canada. They were doing all over the place. He had a big business going.

BC: You also mentioned you were Mayor of Dodge City.

LS: I was the Mayor in '84. I was on the City Commission for four years. They just elected Jurado here you know, not too long ago. They came out 'First Hispanic.' Naw, I was elected in 1982. I was the only Hispanic up to Jurado got elected to any public office. Nobody had ever been elected, you know. I didn't even want to run but the people said, "Well, we'll put your filing fee, you know. I said, "Okay" I never even campaigned. But I'd been the umpire chief for twenty-five years over here. Everybody knew me. We had taught ballroom dancing for twenty years. So, I'd been involved with the Chamber, I was involved with the Community Chest, I was on the board of that. The reason I got on the board, my boss asked me if I could contribute some money. I said, "I've got four children in school. "He was on the board so he told them, you know, get him on the board, see if he can do any better.

BC: Looking back at the 30's - looking back to that era - that was a hard time.

LS: It really was.

BC: How did people keep up a life then, physically in the village.

LS: Well, we were all in the same boat. I've had people tell me this, and I guess it's true - We didn't know we were poor. We were survivalists. We knew we had to, you know. Well, this is the cards we were dealt. These were the cards we were going to have to play. I'll tell you what, people don't believe me. When I went to school, I didn't have a pair of shoes. I didn't. I'll show you the picture, there. My twelve brothers ahead of me. They handed clothes down the line. I got patches on top of the patches and I'm not exaggerating, that's the truth. But, you know, it was rough. If you ever get a chance, look at the film, "The Grapes of Wrath" and see that. That really is a good film and it's truthful. And everything that you see in it - Henry Fonda was in it and that's a good movie. But, somehow or other, like I said, we ate tortillas. Some guy said, "What'd you eat for breakfast?"

"Tortillas and beans." "What'd you have for supper?" "Beans and tortillas. We had cactus, lambs quarter, we had livers that they would throw away, the intestines, that's what we had to eat. A lot of people, and the ironic thing about it is now, in Mexico, just the high society eats the cactus, 'cause Mexico City has grown so much they have to go so far out to get the cactus, it's a gourmet fruit now in Mexico, they tell me, in Mexico City. Things change, eh?

You know, I have what's called a mocahipe. What's that good for, you grind the corn and I've got it. It looks like an egg-shaped rock and you have to work on that thing until you get it smooth and that's what they used to put peppers in there and grind them up. Well, I had one and my wife used it for years and years and years, and we had it here on this coffee table as part of the decoration

Well, you probably didn't know Rosemary Mock. She was the original Dodge City Kitty. She started the role of Kitty here in Dodge at the Long Branch Saloon [Boot Hill Museum]. She was the original, her husband [Dr. L.E. Mock] played the piano and she was the, played the part of Kitty. Well, I got laid off from the railroad when the diesels come in, middle of winter and couldn't find a job. So my wife said, "Well, maybe I can find some work, you know, kids going to school." I said, "Well, I'm going to be on unemployment compensation for a while, in the middle of the winter, it's pretty hard to find a job. So, uh, somehow or other she heard about Kitty. Of course, she did it before she was Kitty, Rosemary Mock. Dr. Mock was an optician, an eye doctor. Somebody told her she was looking for somebody to do her housework. So the wife went and talked to her. Well, she hired her. So we became good friends with them, you know. Well, one day, I finally got a job, I can't remember where I was working. So, anyway, we had the one car. So my wife said, "Well, I guess I'd better go on home. And Mrs. Mock said, "Well, Louie's not here." "No, he's working." She said, "You gonna walk home?" My wife said, "Yeah." "Oh, I'll take you." And so we weren't living here, we were living in the village, and she saw this mocahipe and she went and grabbed it, "Oh this is mine, I'm gonna take this." She took it.

So we had to buy another one and I had to go through the process of getting it smoothed out so it wouldn't get any grit and sand in the salsa. Well, I took it up there and I gave a talk at the library for the Ford County Historical Society. I took the mocohipe and I took the metate and I showed it to them, you know.

I said, it's ironically, here the other day I was looking for a movie, and I was looking for and I saw one it's a new issue, the school kids went to Mexico and they went up there to the store, you know, and when they went to the restaurant here this guy is using a mocohipe making the salsa even today. And so I was telling and my sister-in-law about that. She says, "Well, what'wrong with that.?" "Nothing wrong with it but they have grinders nowadays." I tell you my sister-in-law is 84 years old and she still uses one. Oh, Lordy.

BC: Is there anything else on the 30's -- your memories, the dust storms.

LS: We had a lot of them. They would last two or three days at a time. I used to get headaches all the time, all that dust I was inhaling and to this day I still have to take sinus pills once in a while to clear my sinus up. And so, uh, Mr. Mock, Dr. Mock's ceiling started to cave in and he called me to come up cause he knew I was out of work, you know, there for a while. Called me to come up and look and see what was going on. Well, I got a ladder, and had a what do you call 'em, the opening, you know.

BC: An attic?

LS: Oh, yeh an attic, and lifted up this - and God, you couldn't see the beams up there, the dirt, the dirt was that deep. I called him to come up there - look. He says, "Oh, my God, where did this come from?" I said, "It's from the dust storms we've had. That's where it comes from. You're going to lose all your ceiling unless you take all this dirt out." So he said, "Well, are you willing to do that. I said, "I'm not working. I'm available." So I had to go there and get a bucket and scoop that dirt out and let it down with a rope and go dump it out. I mean that thing, you couldn't see the ceiling joists.

BC: Was this later?

LS: Yeh, This was in the sixties.

BC: Still from that dust, the dust storms?

LS: From all that dust. He had never been up there, you know, so he didn't know that the ceiling --- what's going on? So he hired me. He was on the school board. So, yeh, we had to make do, that's what this article says, doing without and making do, or something like that.

Asked these guys from Garden, you know, says "Well, we used to buy two-three hundred pound sacks of beans and they had to do until we could go work in the beet fields again.

I remember one time, I don't know, where, to this day I don't know, somebody brought one of these coal cars and it was full of apples and they parked it over next to the village and somebody said, -----get some apples and we really had a feast on apples. I imagine, I really don't know, I imagine they had an oversupply of apples and the (governor, government?) probably bought them and said no need to waste them so bring them to the people up here at the village and let them eat them. We did.

I was probably six years old and my job was to go up there and knock the cinders, knock the ashes and the cinders out. One day I forgot. And so about three oclock in the morning. "Did you clean the cinders out?" "I forgot." He said, "Well, the stove is not working." I had to get up and start shaking the grates and getting all them cinders and ashes out

I don't know whether Lol Crum told you this, she said, "My brother he was driving me over there to teach and he was going to school. When he got to the village he's would always have a flat tire. and I said, "Well, them railroad tires that we used for fuel, if they had nails in them, the railroad put them on the year that they replaced that tie."

If they had nails in them you know, they had big tacks if '32, 1932 they would put a big '32 so they would know what year, how old that tie was. Hell, we didn't take time to take them out of there. Now those things were valuable - collectors items. They would chop them up and put them in the pot bellied stove to heat the place up, you know. We would shake them and throw them out, then you'd have a car but when somebody else come through they'c pick up them nails and she said "My mother would get so mad at me!" "You've been to that village again, haven't you?" "How do you know." "I have a flat tire."

BC: What were your houses like?

LS: On the roof, we had tar paper, you know. Nobody could afford shingles. We'd have a hail storm and then we would have to put buckets all over the place to keep out.

BC: Were the houses improved later the old ones made out of grain bins.

LS: Some of them. But most of them were old lumber that the railroad discarded. Well, this house that I bought from my brother-in-law, his Dad then a pretty good carpenter, too, he bought the saws, and everything then he started with our neighbor making the caskets for all the funerals and all this kind of stuff. He had the saws and everything and he built this house but that was store-bought lumber. But it was a small, real small house. There was three or four of them that were made with store-bought lumber. But the rest of them weren't. They were built with timbers from or grain door discards and stuff like that. But you can't get by on 50 cents a month for rent and for the use of the water.

Then, like I said, there's a drainage ditch there. A guy came here from California, he left when he was probably five years old. He came here about three years ago so he's in his late sixties. And he came up here 'cause he wanted to see "---what the hell, where's the roundhouse." He used to live pretty near across the tracks, but on Earp. He said, "I couldn't find the roundhouse." "No, it's gone." He said "I couldn't find that great big tunnel that was there." I said, "No, the tunnel is still there." "I couldn't find it." I said, "Remember you were about this high when you left. That tunnel is only about seven foot high but, to you at that time, God, that was a monster! And I said, "Now, you go to Avenue J, and I said, the weeds are hiding it, the weeds are higher than the tunnel. You go to Avenue J, it's still there.

The kid came back, said, "I remember that thing being huge. " I said, "Yeh, but you have to realize you were this tall. That's the difference."

I was talk to her about this gentlemen that had the radio. He was only about five foot one. Pretty short guy. "Oh, yeh I remember that, he was a big tall man." He was about your height. He was maybe half an inch taller than you. Remember, he's been dead for sixty years. When you're three years old, everybody is big. That's right. We used to, well, some of the farmer had a truck garden here and they would hire us kids to go u and weed their gardens , he looked like a gypsy, maybe he was a gypsy. He had a cart, a two-wheeled cart, he lotta the banana, shoot, that was really living. Shoot, that was living high on the hog, then. I'll tell you. Movies were a dime, didn't have a dime.

We'd make a quarter or so and Man, we were rich! There was an old gentleman. He looked like a gypsy, maybe he was a gypsy. come down there about every two weeks on a Sunday. He a cart, a two-wheeled cart, he come up there to the village, "Yah, gotta da banana, gotta da banana." If my Dad had the money, he'd buy each one of us a banana. Lots of years, somebody would come up there selling ice cream and we'd get an ice cream. I still remember that gentleman's picture in my mind. I was about eleven years old. And where the telephone company was, there was a theater there, the Crown Theater. I was thinking, "Oh, God, I wish I had a dime to go in there." He must have read my mind. He said, "You want to see the movie? I said, "Yes sir, I sure would." "Come on, I'll talk that woman into let you in free." "Oh, I can't do that." "Ah, come on," he said. So he went up there and I guess he winked at her and said, "Come on, let this man in - this boy's going in free." She said, "Okay." I'm sure he paid for me. I was about ten years old. So that's about sixty-five years ago. I can remember like it happened yesterday.

BC: Again, where were you on Black Sunday ?

LS: You know where Carnegie is. That used to be the library. That's where I was when this storm hit. I came across the street. You know where the north entrance to the bank is there - right there, beside the alley. That was KGNO - second floor. I walked across the street, over here, went to the bank, started going up and everything went completely dark. And I thought maybe the fumes -- So I got ahold of the handrail and I climbed about halfway up.

That's when the storm hit. I didn't know it but that was so well insulated because the cars would go by there and it had to be so insulated so the sound wouldn't go over the air, you know, so the microphone wouldn't pick it up. Then two couples come up there. You couldn't tell who they were. They looked like a bucket of dirt had dropped it on them. But it their eyes were watering. You couldn't see the color of their face. I thought they hit the building. Hell, the cars had dirt on 'em. When you hit the building, all the dirt fell on you. "No, there's a dust storm out there." "What?" "Where have you been?" "I just come in about ten minute ago." I could look north, there was a great big house there where the parking lot is now right in back of Carnegie Library. There was a great big tree there so you couldn't see up north with the globe building there. I really didn't believe them and, God, you couldn't see the curb.

BC: That was the worst one?

LS: That was the worst one. The sand was - it was peeling the glass doors, sand blasting that glass and a lot of cars lost their paint. They would get a car out in the middle of nowhere, sand roads, and the winds would come up. It was just like somebody sand-blasted with a gun, you know. It would just chip all that paint off them cars. It was bad. I stayed there I'm going to say about three hours. I said, "Hell, my mother's going to wonder where in the world, what happened to him, where is he?"

Right across from the village, they had built a ball diamond. Of course, they could see north and when they saw that, you know, they saw that Face of God they tell me that people were on the ground crying - "It's the end of the world." They thought 'cause they saw that face - looked like the face of Christ, you know. "This is it! I went into the bathroom and got about a dozen paper towels and wet 'em and I put them over my face. After I'd been there about three hours and began to see a little bit. Even then every once in a while, that wind and tht sand would hit me in the face, I was trying cover my mouth and my face. I'd get close to the building. It was about a mile. I finally made it home. I had a headache for about three days afterward.

BC: That's pretty much what I have for questions.

LS: I hope I gave you some useful information.


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