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South Texas Living

Memories of the old barrio

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
December 12, 2012 | 1,901 views | Post a comment

Recently I attended a wake for someone that I knew since we moved to Railroad Street in December of 1944. I believe I have mentioned before that it was known as el barrio del depot because it was so close to the train depot. Vicenta, “Chenta” as she was known, lived with her family at the end of the street closer to the railroad tracks and the train depot. We lived on the end close to Second Street -- not at the corner because that was an empty lot.

Chenta and her mother and sisters would pass right in front of our house and then take a shortcut through the empty lot on their way to town. I can’t say Chenta and I were close friends, but we did know each other. And I have become close friends with some members of her family.

The family spoke highly of Chenta and of the ways they remembered her. They said she loved her Spanish music, especially the corridos. Later I got to thinking that since her family already lived in the barrio before we moved there, she probably grew up listening to that kind of music. There were three cantinas on First Street pretty close to each other, just around the corner from the train station. The one on the corner was what everybody called El Charro’s -- an old-fashioned unpainted wooden building that looked like it was sitting on stilts. The other two were smaller buildings, also unpainted. I don’t know if the businesses were closed in the mornings, but about mid-afternoon, we would start hearing music. All of them had jukeboxes, so I was told. (We called them vitrolas). When all of them were playing at the same time, the music floated through the neighborhood. But, we couldn’t make out the words. All we could hear was a monotonous sound. And it went on into the night. This is just my thinking -- that that’s when Chenta fell in love with the corridos and canciones rancheras and all the rest. Of course, they could have had a radio like we did. We didn’t listen to the Spanish stations much because Mamá didn’t approve of the music. Mostly we listened to comedy programs like “Amos and Andy” and “Fibber McGee and Molly.” I liked to listen to spooky programs like “The Inner Sanctum” and “The Whistler.” But Papá and us kids managed to listen to Spanish music, enough for me to learn, when I was about 13, most of the words to “El Corrido de Juan Charrasqueado.” You know how sometimes you get a melody in your head and it stays with you for days at a time? It’s in your head when you go to bed and it’s the first thought that pops into your mind when you wake up. Well, Papá would say that the popular love song, “Noche Plateada,” would stay in his head for days. So he wouldn’t listen to the Spanish station that often.

Another memory I have of the depot was getting off the train coming back from San Antonio. My brother-in-law Hilario and my sister Jovita would occasionally on Sundays come for us and take us to visit with them in San Antonio. They would usually drive us back, but one Sunday they took us to the Katy Depot, where we boarded the train for the trip back to Floresville. I don’t know if they couldn’t bring us back or if Papá just wanted to give us the experience of riding a train. The trip was uneventful. There was not much to look at during the ride, but it was still exciting to me. We got to the depot at dusk, and we walked the short distance to our home. That has been the one and only train ride of my life.

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