Vera Martinez, Stefani Madril, and Robert Martinez

Recorded January 15, 2012 Archived January 15, 2012 39:48 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: sfb001672


Stefani Madril, 29, and father Bob Martinez, 64, interview grandmother/mother Vera M. Martinez, 83, about her childhood, her family and her favorite traditions.

Subject Log / Time Code

VM grew up in a cotton-picking camp and remembers how she used to sit on her brother's cotton sack and have him drag her as he picked cotton.
VM recalls when she met her husband and talks about how "White Christmas" came to be their wedding song.
VM talks about some of the pranks BM used to play as a boy.
VM and her husband owned a barbershop and restaurant in Merced. "We worked very hard."
VM shares important lessons for future generations and talks about her favorite holiday traditions.


  • Vera Martinez
  • Stefani Madril
  • Robert Martinez

Recording Location

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:05 My name is Stephanie Martinez. Material. I am 29 and today's date is January 15th 2012 and we are in San Francisco, California recording at storycorps and I am about to interview my grandmother. And so now. Can you tell me your name? My name is Vera M Martinez, and I am I 83.

00:31 And today's date is February the 15th, 9:20 12th 12, and I'm in San Francisco and I am the grandmother to Stephanie.

00:47 And I'm Bob Martinez.

00:51 I am 65 years old in the few days, which is January 27th. Today is January 15th, and I'm in San Francisco with my daughter and my mother.

01:03 Okay. Alright Grandma. Can you tell me where you were born? And your birth date is why my birthday is July 13th.

01:15 1928 all right. I'm sorry. Where were you born? I was born in Oxnard, California and when Emmy County? Okay, cool. And what were your parents names? My mother's name was Maria Reyes Macias Reno costanera Macias. Excellent. And can you tell me your brothers and sisters name? Yes. My sister was Carrie Carolyn Macias following with Jim Macias Frank Macias.

01:58 Benny Perseus

02:00 And myself Vera Martinez and my youngest brother was David was Savior masias and my half-brother Daniel villalpando.

02:15 Great, and also just to start tell me the names of your husband and your children. My husband's name was Robert S Martinez and my children were Robert Vincent Jr. Martinez and Linda Marie Martinez. Perfect. Okay. Now I want to know all about tell me about when you were growing up tell me where you said you were born in Oxnard and tell me how you grew up any stories that you have. Well, the one of the main stories that I can remember when I was a little girl we lived in Corcoran, California, and we lived in this Camp. It was a cotton-picking camp and they had cabins there and we used to follow all the the food Seasons up to

03:13 To San Jose but didn't the camp and Corcoran we live there mostly in the winter time because they never charged rent there and they were like Heavens one big room which consisted of the bedroom there and the kitchen also we had two of them because I had my brothers and sister and my mother and her husband. Okay, and did you go to school or what did you do as you when you were little when you were little girl?

03:46 When I was the age of 12 years old there was at school there at the camp and there was a mrs. So

03:59 Hampson, she was a very nice school teacher and she used to teach are that it was from the 4th. I believe to the 8th grade 8th grade. Okay, and she used to take care of the janitorial work and I started helping her clean the

04:20 And the school? Okay. I want the big room that they had because it was all together and she used to pay me so much for helping her.

04:31 And that's how I used to buy some of my clothes. Okay, so you were helped her. Yes. I was like her helper.

04:38 And what was your favorite subject in school my favorite subject in school with spelling spelling. And did you help your family in the fields? Did you go out with him or where you eat too young to little know. I help my oldest brother in the feels. The reason I left is because I used to used to have a big cotton picking Zach. Okay, and he used to drag it to put the cotton in and I used to lay on top of it and he would pull that and Dragonite and drag me in the sack and then when I met you that we were getting close to the edge of the Rose. I would get off and make little piles of cotton for him so that he would buy me a Coke or something when we got to the end and there's a story about a chicken when you're when you're a little girl when I was a little girl. I remember the WPA used to help the people.

05:38 They lived in a cabin in the in the camp and it was going to be Kris Christmas and we didn't have anybody money to buy a Christmas tree. So my stepfather went and got a big old World ride limb cutting limb and he put cutting around it and made it look like a Christmas tree and we didn't have any meat or anything, but my neighbor had some nice real fat chickens and he decided that that wasn't very nice and we didn't have that to eat the meat. So what he did at night when it was nice and dark he went and stole the FED chickens next door and we weren't supposed to say anything. But me I had a little girlfriend that used to come over come on outside and play and the first day that thing I did was that could smart and showed her the bone of the chicken. So she knew that you was she

06:38 And nothing was ever said about anybody stealing anything but we had a nice Christmas York your father or your stepfather did what you needed to do? Yes. He did celebrity get have a and Chris has here. And do you have any other memories from childhood or what? Would you remember your earliest memory from childhood? That's was the beginning of my child that I can remember? Yeah. Okay you want do you have any other stories that you remember that you want to share it? Do you want to keep going?

07:13 Well there at the camp at one time the Levee broke and we got flooded, LOL and everybody was supposed to get out the next morning, but my mother was expecting a child. So what we did is soon as we find out about the water getting close so you my stepfather said we got to move and it's a good thing we did because the next day and they was taking some type of boxes floating all over and everything grounded and Corcoran Corcoran same camp where we lived. Wow about your grandfather father mother.

07:53 Tell us what they were like and where they were born three years old when my father died, so I didn't know my grandfather's but my my father's have father's name was Francisco.

08:16 Francisco Macias, Castaneda Macias, and he was born in Barcelona Spain

08:26 And my grandmother was a stiffener castagnetta Macias and that was on my dad's side and my mother's side. It was residencia Romo and her father was possible. My mother was born in Durango and I'm assuming the others were born in Mexico, but I don't remember they the states of the Town rather live in El Paso connection. Yes in El Paso in horror as it was for most of my his family live towards the end and that was when my father brought us over to the United States. He watered make a better life for us. So real it came into

09:19 Into the United States where that's where I was born. My other brothers were born and Idaho Falls. Okay. It just my younger brother and I were born here and not enough snart. Have you always been a strong Catholic Family leave when my father died. He died at a very young age. We didn't have any money. We didn't have nothing. So we lived in

09:55 I think it was hampered.

09:58 And California this missionary I'm trying to think of her name. I can't think of her name. She came up found out that this there was this young Widow that had all this family and they didn't have nothing to eat. So she came over and invited my mother and divided us all to go. So we started going to the Baptist Church, but after that our refrigerator was always filled with meat and our rent was paid so cuz she helped you cuz she helped us a lot. I think her name was mrs. Simpson. She was a very nice lady. Do you have and who are your favorite relatives? My favorite relative was my father's brother Joe last name Macias and that was because he needs to call me grania's which mirrors meant hairs. He pull my hair and then he'd give me a quarter.

10:58 Tell me about the jobs that you had as you were growing up, and I'm around the time that you you met Grandpa.

11:08 I made Grandpa and Livingston California and I was a new girl in town and across the street. That was his cousin that had a big porch in the front. I could see me, but I couldn't see them. They were all making bets as to who was going to take this you girl and I used to ride a bicycle. It was nice and slim and he used to ride an old Chevy and I thought he was nice-looking and he'd go by and used to make me mad because he would look at me, but I didn't know what his intentions were after that. He went over and talked to me. I stopped one time. He stopped and I stopped and we started talking and we'd have our dates in front of the house. It was a school.

11:54 A school across the street and asked her we would have her dates and I mean early because my parents are very strict. What kind of what did you do on your dates? We just sat on the steps of the of the school and we talked about a lot of things I would go very far because I knew my brothers were going to check to see where I was and they didn't know where I was until one day. He brought me to the front because I was a little late and it wasn't even late.

12:24 And then my mother came out and she got a hold of my husband and said young man this young lady is very late, and she should be home from now on please bring her home early and that's how we met and that's how it started. I started going to the front School my mother you where I was and it was okay and tell me about Adam. What's your wedding song or what was the song that you that was your song? You're angry. He was going to be going to the service pretty soon and one time we went in his car and there was an ice cream parlor and I didn't want to go in because I didn't want my mother to know that I can in his car. So he went inside ice cream parlor and bought me an ice cream a pineapple ice cream soda, and he put white Christmas and then and then and then he opened in the eyes.

13:24 Bar and I was outside on his almost close to Christmas. So it was a white Christmas with Bing Crosby and when he came out he said that I will always be our Our Song because you were able to get her my car and come to the ice cream parlor with me play it play the song. Yeah White Christmas. The record is that always be which was always our son or your style and yes on your 25th wedding anniversary and your 50th wedding anniversary. What song did you and Dad dance to every time we care a lot for Christmas. Remember you are just get together with your your friends and and you always call me to sing white Christmas for me. That's right. And whenever I hear it, I think of you and Grandpa and all of our family.

14:24 The Christmas tree together at your house after you make chicken cacciatore, but I always think the white Chris. I always think of that time whenever I hear White Christmas,

14:36 Sing Grandma you want to sing it. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like the one I used to know where the Treetops glisten and children. Listen to hear 12 in the snow. Nice. Okay, so that's how you make Grandpa and then you guys got married and you had my dad Bob and you also had my Aunt Linda and do and can you tell me about the jobs that you had as you were in a when you just started out getting when you just married and yes, I went as far as the sixth grade, okay.

15:29 In school and school because we my family would always go to like to San Jose to pick prunes so it to Hayward to do pick up happy and to Sunnyvale to pick a string beans and I was a cook for my brothers and what we got through with go back.

15:56 Back to work or crying and then we moved to just Hannah Pollo where?

16:02 When I was young when we went to Santa Paula that was for my brother's to go pick oranges. That's where my oldest sister died. And then after that when I Met Your Dad

16:17 I went and started in the packing house. He didn't want me to work because I had my two children, but I had a good babysitter sitter which is my sister-in-law and I thought well, this is the only way that I would have helped him to be something or have something so I started working which he didn't like, but I went to work anyway, and then after that we moved to Merced.

16:45 What year did you remember what you're around what time you have to Merced, I can't remember the day. That's okay. And what happened was after that is that I start started packing and the Tomato shed and a time. I ended up being the fastest Packer they had there and then after that I started interpreting for the Merced County chords for 16 years. I wanted to improve myself and I also wanted my children to know that I was trying so that because I wanted them to go to school and educate them. So they'll know that education is the best thing. I don't want him to go through what we did without any schooling. Yeah. So I interpreted and I was also in the grand jury and 1968 that I will remember cuz there was a running case as to who you train another lady and I and I want so I enjoyed that very much and like I say

17:45 Interpreting and also ran a tomato plant for being Key & Sons, which I work there for 42 years. I did all the firing and hiring so you went from a Paki I pick her up from cotton picker to Tomato packing plant manager. Yes, and then I also belonged to the school's because I wanted to know all my children were doing in school. So I started as a room mother from Rob Bob. I was little and

18:21 I ended up being a PTA president for Tenaya school and then when they get out of school, then my daughter Linda went through their attitude through Tenaya, and then I quit there, but I was also very active in any Community things that was going like the heart are fun. And the Easter Seals. I was vice president with one of the bankers in town. So I did a lot of things. I could just yeah, everybody's Merced new you have I not remember their names, but I know their faces and they come over and say hello. How are you? And it feels good to know that you helped somebody somehow.

19:08 That's wonderful. Okay, not tell me it what my dad was like when he was growing up. And how many and how is it how he and what were he and his relationship with but with a relationship? My son Bob was always and is still a very good son my life my daughter also Linda Marie Martinez. She's also my life then all my grandchildren all my family are good to me and if it wasn't for them, I don't know what I would do because they're all loving to me.

19:40 Oh, you're a wonderful grandmother. So that's why easy for us to be loving to you. But tell me more about my dad and and how he grew out what he did when he grew up. You have any funny stories? I'm sure you have a lot of funny stories. Yes when we were at home. When when he play a lot of jokes on his sister like hot one time my daughter and I went to town and we came back we open the door and he there he was laying on the floor on the floor on the rug all full of ketchup and it look like blood and it scared the heck out of me. He was a little mischievous and then he'd also hide on the hallway of the house or in the closet and an end open the doors and go to my daughter mother good with my brother is doing and so but I mean it was done never big fights or anything like that. It's like to play tricks. Yes, I sure did.

20:40 He's always very funny with us.

20:47 I was going to be a priest.

20:50 You're going to be mad. If you were going to be an attorney. Do you remember any songs that you used to sing to them are things that you guys used to do together? Yes, when we lived in Livingston and my and your your grandfather Robert was he went to after you got out of the service. He went to Barber College El yeah, and he we had a barber shop in town in Merced. Was it called the Bel Air barber shop? And we also had a restaurant that we we're and which was at the Torino Hotel. OK and next door was a restaurant that Iran and and your grandfather ran the barbershop. We had a good business going there, but I had to close it because your grandfather wanted me to be home with his children and him to eat at home which all the food

21:50 Was there but he wanted to be home with his children and his wife so we closed the restaurant down and the barbershop he kept on until they put the freeway there and we had to rent another building for the barbershop that he owned was. Yes, it was on 15th Street 13th Street and tell me about some of the things that you love cooking and that you've you will sit down food. What kind of Mexican food noodle enchiladas tamales? And what did the Grand what do the grandkids always love and remember that you always made tortillas or flour tortillas?

22:50 There's they're the best are the very best. Thank you. I don't make them anymore. But I tried the other day and didn't come out the same. Very good though. We remember how good they were what else did she let's see tell me about do you like you and Grandpa like to Garden in? Um, yes, we had it when we lived in Lovingston. We had a nice place to to build to plant a garden a planet from string beans to tomatoes chilies and carrots corn and all of that. I used to try and and can them and we had our shelves full of stuff that I had and tell me what life was like when you know, you had just married Grandpa and you were just having my dad and

23:50 Tell me do you have any stories or yes, we had a very sad story after Bob. Your dad was born we had another child, but he died at Birth. He would have been one year younger than your dad.

24:07 But then after that I wanted a girl really bad and I was not supposed to have any children, but I wanted a girl and I did have my girl then after that that was there.

24:17 Yeah, and what's up memory of favorite memory you have of your mom from when you were little or a lot of memories to my mom was very active in school and in the community and I used to be always so very proud of her because when we go to town, everybody would know her and from Judge has two lawyers. I mean, it was just very nice it to the bees well-known like that and she was PTA president. So of course that made me the son of the PTA president is that bad back then at met something today? It doesn't give me as much as it was very nice. I was always very proud of both my mom and dad and and the way that they raised us and the successes that they had because my mom she's talking about a restaurant and a plant manager for 45 years at Bianchi's and my dad wanting the barbershop but they also had a lot of rental property. They bought rental property and my dad was always kind of a Hands-On guy.

25:17 They didn't like to do everything himself just like my son turned out. He likes to do things the same way I all on his own. But so are they that they were they were both so, you know, I was always very very proud of all of their accomplishments and all the things that they did so

25:32 We did we did very well because we knew how poor we had been When We Were Young and we wanted to have something for our children that you work hard into and properties and stuff. Yeah. Oh, yeah, but what's up with you? Do you?

25:50 In there in the restaurant. Can you describe it?

25:53 It will it was a hotel?

25:56 And in the back and in the front that the half of it was a the restroom and the other half was the barbershop. So he used to run the barbershop and I used to run the Alia the Torino Cafe. What is it? Look like yourself has my cousin. He was a big chip Janelle Paso, Texas, so we brought him down to help and then I had a dishwasher and then I had a beautiful lady which was very clean and need to wait on people and I used to go help her at the cash register her whenever she got sick or wherever I had to do that dad's barber shop at the Torino. It was a 303 chair shop it we have three Churchill Uncle Frank.

26:47 And Frank Guzman presidents Franklin's until they're three of them did the barbering at the Tarina but then when they moved to the Bel-Air, which is what he opened up, it was a center shop including sauna baths, and I used to run that too.

27:06 And when I remember a really cool old Coke machine soda machine and an old fashioned one soda, every once in awhile, and I also remember Grandpa's old blue truck that he would drive us and he's always have bubble gum in the cigarette ashtray in the ashtray and we always could always give us a piece of bubblegum when he picked us up anywhere and drove us around. I remember that and annia and Nina Linda at the barbershop to write she yes. She was in a few days of Beauty and Barber Beauty College.

27:51 What happened to the barbershop your grandpa father started getting a little sick if we hadn't realized he was getting Alzheimer's and so we sold it and when he's older. He stayed home and continue to have gardening and the back.

28:13 And I got sick for five years. He had Alzheimer's into finally passed away. You know what your mom? It's been 5 Years. It'll be 6 years has August they passed away in 2006. Yes and tell me more stories about Grandpa when you guys were at let's hear more about your relationship and how you know, when you guys were recording or when you were first married or tell it whatever you want to tell me. What are your fond memories, LOL and Livingston and the relationship with the family relationship with other family there.

28:53 Like his cousins and things who are who are his cousins cousins for the sapiens?

29:02 Joe Sapien, Elias Appian

29:06 That was his rightful. That was his uncle and we still visit with them all the time and his he was a sweep.