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South Texas Living

Remembering the Castro house at Seventh and B

Remembering the Castro house at Seventh and B
Popó with sons Henry, Reynaldo, Eligio, and Arturo — circa 1955

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
August 21, 2013
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The house on the corner of B and Seventh streets no longer belongs to a member of the Castro family. Henry and I live further up across the street. It seems so different now. Everything is quiet. You hardly see any activity. Not so during the years that Frank and Elisa Castro lived there.

I will call them Popó and Momó as most of the family called them. For several years after they got married they lived out on the same farm as Grandpa Castro. Most of their children were born while living there. To the best of our calculations, Popó moved the family, except Henry, to town around 1938. As I have said before, Henry chose to stay on the farm with Grandpa, Mila, and his uncles.

In town the family lived in a large weather-beaten frame house, which they rented for several years. The last two children, Frank Louis and Norma, were born during that time. In May of 1947 Popó bought the house along with the surrounding property, a quarter of an acre of land for the sum of $1,500 cash.

Bertha shared some of her earliest memories of living in that house. She says that once Eligio and Arturo, who were about 6 and 5, respectively, were chasing each other around the house. At one point Arturo stopped at a corner of the house and turned around waiting for Eligio. When Eligio turned the corner, Arturo let out a scream. Eligio stopped in his tracks and fainted! Bertha laughs as she recalls the incident. Also, Bertha says that almost all of their neighbors were Anglos. Back then they were called bolillos or gringos.

In 1949, the family moved to the house owned by Grandpa while the new house was being built. That house stood where our mobile home now sits.

Many events happened after that. The children grew up. The boys married first. Popó “sold” a lot to the eldest son Rudy, next to them facing B Street. A few years later he sold another one to Eligio behind them, facing Seventh Street. Reynaldo bought property and built a house close by, also on Seventh Street but on the opposite side of the street. You could say it became the Castro neighborhood.

Bertha says that not long after they moved into the new house, she, Momó, and Alice were sitting at the kitchen table when they heard one of the front doors open and heard footsteps. When nobody came into the kitchen, they got up to see and no one was there. She says there were a couple of more incidents like that. They had never experienced any paranormal activity in the old house.

The new house had a living room, dining room, kitchen, one bathroom, and three bedrooms. Momó and Popó had the front bedroom, the girls shared the middle bedroom, and the boys, while they were still at home, had the bedroom off the kitchen. In front of that bedroom Popó had a cement patio built. There was a pillar on its outer corner and Momó used it to keep a planter on it.

While Henry was gone to the Army, either Bertha or Alice would pick me up at my parents’ home every Sunday after church so I could have lunch with them. Then it was Letty and me. After Henry got back we continued to gather there every Sunday. Not only us, but the rest of the married boys and their families. Norma says it was always fried chicken and potato salad. I’m sure there was another vegetable dish. This went on for several years until our family got bigger and we knew we had to start our own tradition.

There was always a lot of activity at the Castro house. Popó ran three businesses at one time -- Castro’s Place, a taxi business, and delivering the San Antonio Light. He delivered the paper for 33 years! At one point, after an illness, Norma and Oscar did it for about two years. Then Popó resumed the duties. At first his sons helped him, and later the grandsons, including our boys. He ran that business from home. The papers would get delivered to the house and they would roll them up on the front porch.

By 1969, Popó’s cognitive skills were beginning to slow down. The family got together at the house to decide what needed to be done. It was decided by almost unanimous consent that the property should be deeded to the youngest offspring, Norma, with the understanding that Popó and Momó would continue to live there for as long as they were able to, without worrying about taxes or the upkeep of the house.

By then they had lost Frank Louis, whom we called Junior, and Arturo. If those walls could talk they would groan with the pain endured by those living there. And perhaps also shake from the voices of many an animated conversation!

The years went by and in 1986 Popó was admitted to a local nursing home. He showed signs of dementia and would take off walking. People who knew him would pick him up and bring him home. Momó could not look after him. In 1989 he suffered a stroke and passed away in a hospital in San Antonio at the age of 85.

Momó remained at the house and Alice spent time with her every day. About a year later she fell and broke her wrist, and after that Alice took her to live with her and her family. She passed away at the age of 92 after falling and breaking a hip. Momó loved plants and flowers and especially loved planting verbena on both sides of the sidewalk at her beloved home.

The house remained vacant for a while, and then was rented to several different families. A grandson and his family lived there for about 2-1/2 years. The last family member to live there was Norma’s youngest daughter. Renovations were done to the inside, and the cement patio was removed -- something I still don’t understand.

The property was sold in 2011 after being in the family for more than 64 years. But the memories remain for those of us who lived during those years, for as long as the Lord allows.

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