As part of a history project in Mr. Braudaway’s 1302 History I course an interview was assigned to collect and document the experiences of local Del Rioans. A Mr. Robert B. Reyna was interviewed on Nov.1, 2004, by student Michelle C. Reyna at Mr. Reyna’s home at about 7 o’clock in the evening, to discuss Mr. Reyna’s experiences of growing up in Del Rio, TX.
MCR: The date is Nov. 1, 2004 and the time is 7:00 pm. I Michelle C. Reyna has asked a Mr. Robert B. Reyna for an interview about his experiences in Del Rio, TX and he has graciousl, graciously excepted, thank you by the way, and now we will, will begin. Um first question. Could you please state your full name?
RBR: Roberto B. Reyna
MCR: And could you tell me your date of birth?
RBR: I was born on January the 6th 1947.
MCR: Were you born here?
RBR: I was born and raised here in Del Rio.
MCR: Um, where were you born in Del Rio?
RBR: I was born in San Felipe in Canos Street, but I was raised at the age of one with my mom in Chihuahua.
MCR: So you weren’t born in a hospital or anything, your were born there?
RBR: No I was born at home.
MCR: Okay Have you lived here your whole life?
RBR: I was, yes.
MCR: Okay, um, what ethnicity would you call yourself?
RBR: I say ‘American, white American’ that’s what I call myself.
MCR: Okay, Um your parents were they American citizens?
RBR: Yes, they were both.
MCR: Um, so is there ancestry from Mexico or Spain or anything, do you know?
RBR: Yes, my, originally, we, our name comes from Italy.
RBR: Italy. That’s our, our name of , that’s where it came from. Uh my grandma and my grandpa were in Mexico. They originally came from Mexico, but uh I did trace my roots back on my tree my family tree and it goes back that about Rome or uh some area around there in Italy that’s where I uh the name comes from.
MCR: So um do you know how your family got uh got to Del Rio?
RBR: I real well the only thing I say is my father and my aunt which was his sister, they came and uh from Mexico and uh I know they flee’d from Mexico and they were kinda wealthy in Mexico.
RBR: But they left everything behind and came to, to the United States.
MCR: Do you know why?
RBR: I don’t have any idea. I don’t, I don’t remember questioning them as far as why they, they came umm it got bad over there I really don’t know and ...
MCR: And is just where they ended up?
RBR: Yes uh huh.
MCR: Okay, um where did you say you grew in Del Rio here?
RBR: Uh, actually I was born in San Felipe but raised in Chihuahua in the barrio of Chihuahua like at 109 Cordelia close to the Yucco Park.
MCR: And so what did it look like then that it doesn’t look like now.
RBR: Well right there where we lived close to us was a pasture which is now Yucco Park. That was all pasture there was just woods and there was like a little ranch right back of us where we use to go play in and that was part of the property owner’s that they owned that, that property.
MCR: So was it like a neighborhood like it is no like there was a bunch of houses or was it just speratic housing?
RBR: Yeah speratic housing and like I said uh, Yucco didn’t exist there, there wasn’t anything there, now it’s got basketball courts and a little neighborhood park but there wasn’t anything there, there use to be woods we use to go play there and hunt.
MCR: So like you closes neighbor was like maybe not right next door, a couple houses down, or?
RBR: Well no they were close. Some of them were close, like I said, maybe every other lot there was, uh, a…
MCR: a house.
RBR: Yeah there was a house.
MCR: Would you say it was one of the poorer neighborhoods, one of the middle class for that time, or?
RBR: No, it was more of a poverty area.
MCR: A poverty…
MCR: But was it like one of the more poorer areas of Del Rio?
RBR: No, not necessarily, but pretty close, pretty close to that, yes here in Del Rio.
MCR: So at that time, I mean did you all have, you know electricity, plumbing, things like that?
RBR: Yes we had electricity and there were also oudhouses…(minor chuckle)
MCR: A lot of people had outhouses at that time?
RBR: Yes, yes there was. It was very common at that time because we didn’t have a lot of the, the sewage lines and stuff they were not in Del Rio we didn’t have pavement it was uh, the streets were um just dirt.
MCR: Dirt roads?
RBR: Yeah, dirt roads.
MCR: Um, can you remember some of the places of that you used to hang oust at in Del Rio, that maybe aren’t here now or that are still here now?
RBR: Well one of the places that was the theatres that we had but it was a, the Spanish theatre which was the Texas theatre.
MCR: Where was that located.
RBR: And it was located right there in South Main Street, um there in South Main um and the Rita theatre was also there which is now where you all have plays or something…
MCR: The Paul Poag…
RBR: The Paul Poag, well that was call Rita, R, I, T, A, and a block down the Texas theatre was.
MCR: And that’s no longer there?
RBR: No, it’s no longer, um a matter fact close to there Bealls used to be there downtown and JC Penney like use to be there.
MCR: Oh, wow.
RBR: And all of these were downtown but they’re no longer there, they’re now at themall so that has all been converted. There was a lot of stores downtown that no longer are there, uh for some reason they’re closed down. Jon Rollins was there, it was a men’s store that doesn’t exist anymore and there’s, there’s a lot of places, commercial places there that uh, they’re no longer there and the National Bank was over there. Now they’ve came over here.
MCR: They’ve branched off.
RBR: Um, they came to the, they moved from the South Main, further coming north, but they were still in South Main.
MCR: Oh, okay. Um what schools did you go to?
RBR: I attended Del Rio, Del Rio schools. Uh at this point we had two districts. We had San Felipe and we had what we called Del Rio and I attended the Del Rio schools.
MCR: So you attended them when they had already consolidated?
RBR: No, this was before consolidated.
MCR: Oh so because of where you live that’s where that’s why you attended the Del Rio one.
RBR: Right yeah the district uhhuh.
MCR: And then when you went to uh, I mean the people there were they mostly Anglo, mostly Hispanic?
RBR: Mostly there was mostly white people.
MCR: Mostly white people?
RBR: Yeah Anglos, and uh most of the teachers, we didn’t have many teachers that were Hispanic.
MCR: And the San Felipe one?
RBR: San Felipe was totally Hispanic, mostly Hispanic people.
RBR: But at our side we weren’t huh, we had Laughlin Air Force base and all the kids attended our school. And the ratio was higher Anglos that it was Hispanics.
MCR: So did you attend High School after the consolidation happened.
RBR: No, my high school, the consolidation tool place I think in 71’ if I’m correct.
MCR: And you went to High School?
RBR: I was in school and I actually dropped out and in 11th grade and I was there like a month and I dropped out but this was back in 67’ that ii dropped out in and I was like 17 years old I dropped out and the other wisest thing is that I got married.
RBR: And the later on in April of 68’, um of course at that time the Vietnam Conflict was on.
RBR: And um, uh, I was called for uh, to go take a test for the service.
MCR: So were you drafted?
RBR: Well at that time there was 36 of us that went for a physical and a examination, a written examination, and out of the 36 I was the only one that passed.
MCR: From Del Rio?
RBR: From Del Rio, uh, we were all from Del Rio and we went on the bus to San Antonio to take this test.
MCR: So you weren’t drafted you all were just gone by choice, or?
RBR: No, a matter of fact, uh, when I took my test, my physical and my written and everything and on the way out one of the persons that was there told me, he said, that I was going to be inducted in the next 30 days because I had passed my written and my physical and I could choose anything I wanted because I was gonna be, if I didn’t volunteer I was gonna be drafted, it didn’t matter which way it wasn’t a matter of a choice anymore. After I got back home, 10 days later the recruiter got in touch with me and says I have you inductions letter that they are gonna call you in and uh…
MCR: Did, uh, out of those people that went did, that went with you to take the military exam, did they end up getting drafted?
RBR: No, most of them, all of them didn’t…
MCR: Didn’t pass
RBR: For physicals or lack of uh, or comprehension and you know they didn’t pass the written test or…
MCR: Did you know a lot of people from Del Rio that went to the…
RBR: Yes. A matter of fact I knew most all of them, um I kinda know a lot of people here in Del Rio so.
MCR: Um, so why did you even decide to even go and join?
RBR: Well I think at that time I uh, they promised me that I wouldn’t go to Vietnam and then uh well you know we’re not so educated so they told us a bunch of , uh I don’t think it was all true but of course we never got anything in written in black and white, and of course my mom had a second , uh she went to second grade as far as education and they were not very aware of what was going on and uh of course me dropping out didn’t help either, and they promised me that I could you know do what I wanted to do. The only thing I couldn’t be was a pilot, but because of my scores were so high and everything, I could just do anything that I wanted. And I made a selection to be a combat engineer at that time and uh yeah in April of 68’ I joined the service uh big mistake because there was nothing written for them to say well we’re not go to take you and well I ended up being a support unit in Vietnam.
MCR: Oh really.
MCR: Where were you um, what did you military tour consist of?
RBR: Well I actually well I say I’ve, I’ve traveled about1700 miles and half way around the world her but um it really um it took us 3 days to get there I went to Alaska and I stayed there in Alaska for one day and then we flew to Japan where we stayed another day in Japan, which I found to be really interesting, because of the different culture exposure to different cultures. We also visit Hong Kong when we were there and um and then we flew into um Thailand and uh and in Bangkok an Thailand. Then from there. And of course when we were getting there we got escorted by fighter jets because we were reaching a combat zone.