Monday, February 8, 2016
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South Texas Living


Remembering the Red & White Store and the Clays


Remembering the Red & White Store and the Clays
Photo courtesy of Bob Clay — S.M. Clay (Bill’s father) (l-r), Bill Clay, and D.P. “Frank” Muñiz


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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
June 25, 2014
4,578 views
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I know I have written about Papá working at the Red & White Store here in Floresville. I’m not sure when he actually started working there but it was probably 1937 or 1938.

Some of my favorite memories of the store were after I started school. I know I have mentioned that we never owned a car, so we kids walked to school. It was really close, anyway. I don’t remember my brother Tito walking with us. He was the oldest, so I guess he walked by himself. Dalila, Rufo, and I walked together in the morning, but I don’t remember them walking back home with me.

That first year, a boy started picking on me on the way home. A girl named Anita felt sorry for me and started sticking up for me. She was a lot bigger than me and the boy. He never bothered me again.

She would walk with me as far as the Red & White Store and then continue walking to her grandparents’ restaurant farther up the street. Papá would be waiting for me and he would let me pick out an apple or an orange. Then he would stand at the door and watch me as I crossed the street to the “island” that separated two streets. (Years later it was torn down to make room for parking spaces.) I would walk through the kiosk that sat in the middle, walk across the other street and across the courthouse lawn to the steps on the other side. Then I still had to cross D Street to get to the Spruce house where we lived and where Mamá was waiting for me on the porch. I don’t know how long I did that but I remember that so vividly.

Sorry, I get carried away. My story is supposed to be about the store. The following is something I have shared with you before too. After we moved to another part of town, close to Palacios Funeral Home, Dalila and I would walk to town on Saturdays and carry home sacks of groceries. After Dalila got married I would go just about every day after school to get a few things. Papá had to quit working in 1950 after working side by side with Mr. Bill Clay for 12 years or more. To me it seemed like much longer. I grew up during those years!

Then I got married and started shopping at the Red & White Store myself. As our family grew, so did my grocery list. I would buy the bulk of the groceries on Saturday and other items as needed during the week. Mr. Clay would let me charge what I needed and Henry would pay at the end of the week.

The layout of the store changed through the years as you can see in the accompanying photos. I never had to pick fruits and vegetables from baskets on the floor. I remember a neatly displayed produce center to the left as you entered the store. One thing that did not change in the two photos is the location of the store clock. Notice the stovepipe heater in the back. Another memory I have is of the elder Mr. Clay sitting by the heater warming himself.

It was a sad day for many of us when Mr. Clay closed the doors of Clay’s Red & White (Big-Low) Store in 1979. The store had changed names 10 years before, but I never got used to the new name. Rufo had worked there for 35 years, less two that he spent serving his country.

Mr. Clay was a quiet soft-spoken man, quite the opposite of his wife, Lorene. She was a petite vibrant woman who could talk a mile a minute. She was the town photographer and did the graduation pictures for Dalila, Rufo, and me -- free of charge. Mr. Clay served on the Floresville School Board for 31 years and was president of the board for 19 years. He signed his name W.T. Clay, and he signed Rufo’s and my diplomas.

Their sons, Bill Jr. and Bob, and their wives live in San Antonio where they raised their families. We see each other most years at the annual Floresville High School Fifties Plus reunions. I still call them Billy and Bobby. They don’t seem to mind. And they occasionally visit Rufo at the Frank Tejeda veterans home. Some friendships survive the test of time.

And in case some of you don’t know where the Red & White Store was, it is where Jalisco Restaurant is now.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is castrojulia022@gmail.com.
 

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