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South Texas Living

The joys and aches of family trips

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
August 7, 2013 | 2,456 views | Post a comment

The summer is winding down but some people are still going on vacations. Not me. The two real vacations I had were when I went to visit Letty and her family at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and Sara and her family at Fort Lewis in Washington state. Lia was with me that time. Both times I stayed about a week. When I went to Arizona I went by way of Denver City, Texas, where I visited with Loretta and Bob for a couple of days. All the other vacations were weekend excursions to the coast and to Garner State Park when the kids were growing up.

One that was different was in the summer of 1968. Frank was the baby, almost a year old. Henry decided that the Falstaff business could do without him for one weekend. His Uncle Buddy was very capable of doing the deliveries on Friday and Saturday. So we took off early Friday morning with nine kids and Aunt Mila in the secondhand station wagon we had bought from our friends, Buddy and Chacha Zuniga. It was air-conditioned. Something our last two cars did not have.

Henry said we were going to the Valley. No specific destination, just mostly sightseeing. However, we ended up in San Juan, where we visited The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos. After that we continued on our tour, stopping to eat the lunch that I had packed at a roadside park. Mila had her delicious oatmeal cookies. That evening we ended up in Rio Grande City. It looked like a very old town. The only place that had a vacancy was a run-down motel with a musty odor. We were tired, so we had to make do. Then Mila got sick to her stomach, real bad! Henry went out and found a drugstore and bought some Pepto Bismol. Mila started taking it but continued being sick way into the night. By morning she was feeling better, but very weak.

We didn’t know then that there was a Caro’s Restaurant in that town and that its owner, Modesta Caro, would later perhaps be credited with creating the “puffy taco.” We left there and sometime later we crossed the border. This time we went to a restaurant to eat breakfast. Surprisingly, the kids behaved. They weren’t used to eating out. Mila ate very little. She was afraid to get sick again.

Afterwards the kids went shopping for souvenirs. Some of them bought Mexican sombreros that they could wear; the older ones bought the small velvet sombreros to hang on the wall as decorations, and a couple of them bought maracas.

Then we took off again. For some reason Henry had rolled the back window down. Soon after we took off he hit the button under the dashboard to roll it back up. The kids started screaming. Without looking back, I told them to be quiet or they were going to cause their father to get in an accident. They kept yelling, and when I looked back I saw DeeDee, who was three years old, with her head caught in the back window! Henry quickly pushed the button to roll the window down. He found a place to park on the side of the street, and we got down quickly to check on her. Thank the Lord she was okay! Just a little scared. Later I explained to her the dangers of hanging her head out the window.

After that we decided to head back home. We could see Mila wasn’t feeling well. I was tired of holding Frank in my arms, and he wasn’t that comfortable either. There were no car seats back then. But it was a weekend I will never forget.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is

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