The Memoirs of
Federico José María Ronstadt
Transcription of the Original Text
from the manuscript in the Ronstadt Family archives
at Special Collections, The University of Arizona Library
My father bought a large lot with an old house that was rebuilt for us and we were soon settled in a home of our own. We had a nice patio and garden and a large "trascorral" -- back yard and stable. My father had a good saddle horse and his two horses for the road wagon.
While I was 14 years old and my schooling had been very limited, there was no chance in Magdalena as the public school was a very poor one and only for small children of the first grades. So my time was occupied by helping my father. I would go with him on his trips of inspection to the mines. Many beautiful spots were visited on these trips.
I will never forget a few days we stayed at the Aguaje Canyon near a mine which my father was inspecting. I had nothing to do but shoot with my father's engraved Winchester and tramp over the canyon, resting as I desired under the aliso's shade by the crystal like water flowing over the rocks.
While in town I used to ride my father's saddle horse to San Ignacio and down the Magdalena River to San Lorenzo and Santa Ana. I had a favorite "ondable," water hole, north of the town where I could swim.
This idyllic life could not last forever. My father had planned to send me to Philadelphia to learn the ship building trade. He had a friend connected with one of the large shipyards who had offered to look after me. My mother had protested when my father had wanted to send me to Mexico City to a preparatory school for the military college where President Juarez had granted him a "beca" (scholarship) for one of his boys. She did not want any more soldiers in the family. I was disappointed but now I know how sound her judgement was.
Both finally compromised on sending me to Tucson where Mr. Dalton and his brother-in-law, Adolfo Vasquez, were operating a carriage shop. The carriage and wagon industry was a major one in those days and my parents decided that I could do well in that line. Mrs. Dalton was my mother's cousin, and I was to live at their home while serving my apprenticeship.
While waiting to be taken to the U.S., I occupied my time hunting rabbits, doves, and quail in the foothills near Magdalena. I also made some stools and benches for my mother at the carpenter shop of our neighbors Alberto and Alejandro Barreda. Mrs. Barreda's maiden name was Elias of the old Elias family, founders of the town of Arizpe from which we know at the present day, Pancho Elias, ex-governor of Sonora, and one of Ex-President Calles' right hand men. One of our great grandmothers was an Elias and my mother always recognized these blood relations and we were taught to know them as parientes (relatives) in the well established Spanish custom. A pariente even in the fourth or fifth degree is a blood relative and must be recognized as such. Therefore about half of the people of Sonora are descendants from the Redondos, Vasquez, Urreas, and the Elias. We have an army of blood relatives (parientes).
One day two German friends of my father returning from Europe arrived at Magdalena by the Tucson stage. The stage from Magdalena to Hermosillo was not leaving until two or three days later, and my father sent these friends in his own road wagon to the Santa Fe Rail Road camp which was located then near La Noria south of Santa Ana. This Railroad was being built from Guaymas to Benson (ca. 1881). My father's driver, Juan de Dios, drove the team, and I was invited to go along. We arrived at the camp after dark. I was surprised to find the rails made as they were. I had imagined railroad rails to be channeled. When I saw that they were not steel channels, I thought surely that the locomotive and car wheels had to be channeled to stay on the road. When the work train came in about midnight, the locomotive appeared to me as a tremendous monster (as a matter of fact, it was a very small wood burning engine, a type common at that time).
When I got over my surprise I walked close enough to notice the wheels had no channels or rims. It was a great puzzle for me. The train kept moving until it backed away toward Guaymas, and in the dark I had no chance to notice the inside wheel flanges. We went right back to Magdalena and my father had to explain to me what it was that kept the train wheels on the track. However it was not altogether clear to me until I came to Tucson and saw the S. P. Locomotives in action.
In Magdalena I worked in the wagon and carpenter shop of Don Manuel Martinez, whose shop was located in part of the large home of the Monroys. Rafael Monroy married a cousin of my mother, Chonita Redondo, and as they were also related to the Gallego family their home was always a gathering place for a lot of young people. Don Pancho Gallego had six beautiful daughters. The most beautiful, Tona, was three or four years older than myself. I used to dream myself in love with her. She was very white with beautiful brown eyes and a wealth of light brown hair. Two years later she came with her father to Tucson and I was disappointed when I saw her all dressed up and wearing a hat that did not become her a bit. Tona Gallego ceased to be my ideal of a beautiful girl.
Her younger sisters were good looking also, and so were Carolina Monroy, Lupita Aguirre, and Virginia Campbell. I had opportunities to see all of these girls later when they had grown up, but they never looked the same as when I used to see them from Don Manuel's shop.
Don Manuel had a contract to build a concentrating drum out of 6-inch thick mesquite planks. He placed me to rip mesquite logs about 10 feet long by 12 inches thick with a hand saw. This job lasted several weeks and was excellent exercise for my right arm.
One day Don Manuel stayed away from the shop most of the day. He came in late in the afternoon well illuminated with mescal and proceeded to cuss the woodworker that he had left in the shop, and threw the tools around and stormed around everything and everybody. When I went home that evening I told my parents about it and asked them not to let me go to that shop again. My father told me how I should learn to tolerate those episodes common to some of the best mechanics and told me to go back to work. I started out but decided to think it over for a while and I sat down on a large stone which had been placed around the corner of the house where it was shaded from the sun. I had only sat there for a few minutes when my father spoke to me. He had evidently observed my dejection and told me to come back to the house and forget about going back to Don Manuel's shop. A few weeks after that my father started with me for Tucson.
Our driver was Juan de Dios, the same man that my father had for all of his mining trips. The first stop was made at Las Casitas. The Santa Fe R.R. Co. was building the road from Guaymas to Benson. They had a camp of men cutting railroad ties along the road from Imuris to Nogales. As a matter of fact, there was not any Nogales then in April of 1882.
The next day we passed Calabasas. As we crossed into the United States of America, my father told me, "Now you are in the United States of America, without any question the greatest nation in the world. You will enjoy great liberty and protection under the American Government and you must always feel and show deep appreciation for that. When you become a man (I was fourteen years old at the time), you may want to establish yourself in the United States and see that your life and conduct is such as will entitle you to the privilege of American citizenship." I was impressed by my father's words. My father had served for 22 years as an officer in the Mexican army and I have an idea now, that, while he never expressed it, he must have realized that he might have offered his services to the United States at that time.
At that time the International Boundary between Mexico and the U.S. had not been definitely established. [see note 1] The settlers of Calabasas expected the line to run close to them and had made plans for the future border city to be located there. Mr. Wise, father of Joe Wise who is now a prominent citizen of Nogales, had built several houses and a very nice brick hotel in anticipation of the expected boom for his townsite. It was said that Mr. Wise had elaborate calendars advertising his Calabasas city lots with pictures of steamboats running in the Santa Cruz River along the future docks of Calabasas.
It was a great disappointment when the line was found to be five miles to the south and the City of Nogales was founded with its Custom houses and other Port establishments, leaving Calabasas, its beautiful little hotel, its brick houses and all the dreams of Mr. Wise five miles to the north.
Before coming through Calabasas, we passed by Pete Kitchen's ranch. My father had known Pete Kitchen and told me some of the episodes of his life. The country around his ranch was infested with the Apache Indians and Pete Kitchen had many fights with them. At one time he shot an Apache from the front door of his ranch home.
Pete Kitchen was a famous pioneer and many tales about him may be found in the archives of the Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society. [see note 2]
Our next stop was at Tubac, the place where my father had nursed General Pesquiera, the Governor of Sonora, and many others of the General's staff 20 years before when the Maximilian invasion had forced the capital of Sonora to be transferred to Tubac as close to the U.S. as possible, and they all went down with malaria (chills and fever).
Here we visited Sabino Otero who was then living at Tubac. My father also called on his old friend Glassman. Mr. Glassman was an uncle of Colombus Glassman, well known cattleman who lived in Tucson until 1934.
The next morning we started on the last day of our trip. We stopped to get water at Junction, called so because the road to Arivaca joined the Tucson road at this point. At Junction I noticed the Chinese cook of the stage post (change station for the Aguirre stage line) dressed like a cowboy with a large 45 Colt revolver hanging from his belt. We passed the old Canoa Ranch, at that time owned by Maish and Driscoll, then Sahuarito, another stage station. Here was Mr. J. K. Brown and his family, another well known of the early pioneers. One of Mr. Brown's sons, Roy, is still living in the new Sahuarito. One daughter married Hon. Mulford Winsor, another one is Mrs. Miles Carpenter and a third one is living in the old city home on S. Fifth Ave.
We reached the south edge of Tucson about 4 P.M. and drove north along Meyer St. From the time I had seen the new houses at Calabasas, I was struck with the symmetry of the lines. The adobe walls appeared to me to have perfect lines on the corners, and the doorways, also the roofs, were so perfect as compared with the houses that my eyes were used to seeing in Sonora.
Coming to McCormick Street I saw a military looking man riding a beautiful black horse. He was the Tucson City Marshall. His name was Buttner [see note 3], a tall, lanky man who looked like General von Moltke's pictures. He was known to be a very brave man and a fine officer. He rode his horse ahead of us into Conn's livery stable on Meyer Street. The Carriage and Wagon shop of Dalton and Vasquez was located in the same block only a few doors north of Conn's livery stable. The old stable and corral is still in the same condition as I write these lines as it was when I came on the 23rd of April 1882.
The wagon and carriage trade at that time and for many years after was a major industry in the U.S. The shop that Dalton and Vasquez had was a plain frame building, but what it lacked in buildings and equipment was made up by skill in the art. Mr. Dalton, himself a man of culture with an excellent background, was an artisan of rare skill. Mr. Vasquez was also a splendid mechanic and they had with them a very fine painter and finisher. His name was Saint Onge. The carriages made in their shop were works of art, made principally from second growth hickory, yellow poplar, Norway iron hand-forgings, and trimmed and painted like the finest furniture.
In the shop of Don Manuel Martinez in Magdalena, the iron forged by hand was rough and even after straightened by much filing was still crude and without symmetry or grace. It was a revelation to me to see the beautiful shaped hand forgings perfectly fitted to the wood parts, the graceful lines of the wood work, and most of all, the mirror-like finish of the carriages. I made up my mind that I was going to learn that trade!
After leaving our wagon and horses at Conn's Stable, we came to Dalton and Vasquez shop. They were both young men in their early thirties. Mr. Dalton wore a full beard, light brown, and Mr. Vasquez only a heavy mustache. Both were handsome specimens of manhood. I thought it strange that they should be wearing working clothes, particularly Mr. Dalton, as he had a very distinguished personality and I knew from hearing it at home that he had come from a very high class family in California and that he was well educated, spoke several languages and was a real gentleman by breeding and education. His Spanish was pure without a trace of accent. I thought this was remarkable knowing that his father was English. I did not know until later that his mother was Spanish from the original Zamoranos that settled California. We were taken to their home on Tenth Street where the present Acme Print shop back of the Russell Electric store is now located. There I met Mrs. Dalton who 22 years later was to be my mother-in-law. Mrs. Dalton was my mother's cousin. That was one of the reasons for my coming to their home. My parents knew their beautiful character and that I would have a real home with them. Mrs. Dalton's mother, Tia Chona was then about 45, very vigorous and in complete charge and control of the home. I had seen Tia Chona at Magdalena a few months before when she had gone there to visit her brother, Don Jesus Suastegui. Tia Chona was very methodical. Her house was well managed and she exacted punctuality from everyone but, with all that, she was kind and very charming. I soon learned to love her. However my ideal of a young mother and wife was Mrs. Dalton.
At that time she was only 27 years old, a rare beauty, and lovely in every way. Her only baby then was Hortense, about three years old. Lupe, my own wife, came that same year of 1882 in August. It was my privilege to have been sent at midnight to call the midwife that took care of Mrs. Dalton. I was then 14 years old. I never imagined that some day Lupe would be the mother of my four boys.
Tia Chona had a nice garden in the back lot and part of my work was to draw water every evening from a sixty foot well to irrigate the garden. In the morning before breakfast I had to fill the barrels and ollas for the day's supply and carry water to the front of the house to water the trees. I also had to chop fire wood and keep the yard raked. This work together with 10 hours of shop work kept me from mischief. In the shops of that time, we also had to draw water from our wells, as Tucson did not have water works until 1884. For drinking water we would get a few buckets from Joe Phy's water wagon at 5 cents per bucket, and for a hot bath we would go to Sander's Bath House located about the present site of the Carrillo School house. At home I washed from a pail out in the yard through summer and winter. Sometimes we had to break the ice on top of the water tub to get water for washing.
My first year in Tucson, Tia Chona saw to it that I made my First Communion and was confirmed. I was confirmed by Bishop Salpointe at the old St. Agustin Cathedral on Church Plaza. Part of the old building and the main cut stone entrance still stand. It is now used for a garage. This is a historical landmark that should be preserved. [see note 4]
The prayers that my mother taught me I have always remembered. Morning and night I have always said besides the Lord's Prayer and my Hail Marys,Gracias alabanzas te doy gran Senor y alabo tu gran poder pues con el alma en el cuerpo me has dejado amanecer. Yo te pido creador mio por tu caridad y amor, me dejes anocher en gracia y servicio tuyo por siempre jamas, Amen. Angel de mi guarda, amable compania. No me desampares de nochi ni de dia. Con Dios me acuesto, con Dios me levanto. Dios con migo, yo con El, Dios delante y yo tras de El.[I give you praise and thanks, great Lord, and I praise your great power, for you have allowed me to awaken with my soul still in my body. I ask you, my Creator, in your charity and love, to allow me to reach the evening in Your grace and service forevermore. Amen. Guardian angel, amiable companion, do not abandon me this night or during the day. I lay me down with God and I get up with God. God with me and I with Him; God before me and I behind Him.]Then to end I have always said one more short prayer that my father taught me. "Virgen Purisima cubreme con tu manto celestial" and in the morning "Virgen Purisima no me dejes caer en tentacion."
My father told me about a great sinner who had sold his soul to the devil with the condition that he could take him only while asleep at night. This sinner would never fail to say, "Virgen Purisima cubreme con tu manto celestial" before getting into bed every night and of course the devil would always find him covered with the Virgin's mantle and never could take him. My father also told me about a very old woman living in Altar who seemed very tired of this life and would pray fervently every night to the Lord that she be taken to Him. The town joker stopped by this old lady's window one night while she was saying her usual prayer. At the end, he spoke in a sepulcral voice to her from the dark and said, "Soy un angel del Senor que vengo por ti." ("I am an angel of the Lord who comes for you.") The old lady heard this seeming voice from the other world,and after thinking for a few seconds she answered. "Oye, angel del Senor, dile a tu Senor Dios que no estoy aqui, que me fui para Oquitoa." ("Listen, angel of the Lord, tell your Lord God that I am not here, that I went to Oquitoa.")
The S.P. Railroad had reached Tucson only about a year before, (it arrived in March, 1880) and many of the large twenty mule freight wagons were still handling freight principally from and to the mining towns. The wagon business was then a major industry and Tucson had three very good wagon shops. Charlie Etchells had the largest. Dalton and Vasquez had theirs on Meyer St. south of Ochoa. A Canadian Frenchman named Gravel had a shop on the corner of Ochoa and Convent. Gravel was considered by far the finest carriage maker here. There was another shop on the corner of Pennington and Meyer. John Mott and James Quinlan, both very good, men owned it. Jimmy Moss who died recently was the horseshoer. Jimmy was married to Mary Lee, daughter of the Jimmy Lee who built the first flour mill and dam at Silver Lake, south of Tucson. When I came to Tucson the exciting days of the pioneers were about over, and I never experienced anything very exciting. The public lights, gas, were lighted by a man on horseback every evening and put out in the morning. This man, Jack Spencer, is still living in Tucson. The first electric lights were placed on top of high poles about 50 feet high. We had one on the corner of Congress and Sixth Avenue, another on Meyer and Council St. and the third one some place on Stone Avenue and Ochoa. Frank Russell had to climb these poles to change the carbons. They hoped to light the entire city by these three lights but they soon saw that it was a mistake.
After Chief Buttner died, the office was given to Billy Roach. One time a man named George Bundy while drunk had tried to kill a woman across the street from our shop. The woman escaped and ran through our shop to hide in the back paint room. Roach had been called and while trying to arrest Bundy he cracked him over the head with his 44 pistol and knocked him out. While waiting for a carryall to take Bundy to jail, Bundy revived and jumped up and made for Roach. Roach jumped back and leveling the gun at Bundy ordered him to stop but Bundy kept walking towards Roach planning, no doubt, to get close enough to snatch his gun, and Roach's threats to shoot him did not seem to scare him a bit. Roach did not want to kill him and was afraid to let him get too close. I was looking on from the shop door when Roach shouted to me to come and grab Bundy.
As I grew up in Tucson, I was undecided about my ultimate location. My mother had considerable property in Sonora. Some town houses, a very fine farm near Magdalena with its own gravity water, also, title rights to two very large cattle ranches in Magdalena District, another large tract between Caborca and the Gulf of California, a farm and orchard near Altar, all which would come to us.
The plans for getting reasonable revenue from these lands were, to say the least, quite vague. We had some of it rented for very low amounts, specially the farm near Magdalena "La Cotena": 500 tercias (bushels) of wheat per year. The Altar farm paid $300 pesos per year, at that time $150.00. The title rights on El Sasabe ranch, Santa Ana, Arituava and Los Pozos had never been claimed, requiring legal process for partition and distribution. These pending matters in Mexico together with claims of my father's estate against the Mexican government for unpaid salaries made me vacillate about applying for American citizenship. In time, however, we made disposition of the farm lands and the houses. The Mexican claims were assigned to a relative who was in a better position to negotiate for them. He collected a small part of them. $15000.00 pesos in Bonds of the State of Sonora that were worth only 20 cents on th peso. Part of that had to be given to a government official and the rest was lost in the shuffle. The large claim against the Federal Government was never cleared up. The man to whom it was assigned was a member of our family. He died and we thought it was best to forget it. When these matters were out of the way, I promptly applied for citizenship to carry out my dream and ambition of years. Soon after I was naturalized I enlisted in The National Guard of Arizona. The commanding officers in Tucson were Col. John H. Martin and Major John F. Black.
I must return to my first day in Tucson. As soon as I was introduced to the ladies of the house, I found my way to the garden in back of the house. I saw trains and locomotives moving about only two blocks away and ran over to see them closely and find out how they operated. The S.P.R.R. yard with its labyrinth of rails and switches amazed me. It was getting dark, and I returned to the house promising myself to come back and see more of the railroad the next morning. My father had been calling me; I ran through the garden in the dark, and my neck caught a clothes line right under my chin -- hard enough to throw me flat on my back. I had a red welt on my throat for several days from that. My father told me when I came in that the family knew that I played the flute and were curious to hear me play. I was hardly in the mood but evading was out of the question. l played Schubert's serenade for them and begged to be excused for that evening. Josefita Vasquez was beginning to take piano lessons at that time although she was then 24 years old. My father bought me a number of piano and flute pieces the next day at Mansfeld's Book Store, all of them very good and some quite beyond my capacity -- selections from Norma, Tancredi, The Barber of Seville, Traviata, and others. In time we learned parts of them. Later he sent me two fine collections of Mexican and Spanish music for piano. So we soon had a music library.
I only had one day of leisure after my arrival while my father took me around to purchase a few things for me. I was outfitted with a supply of the regulation dark blue heavy flannel shirts for work near the forge, also heavy overalls and heavy work shoes. The second day I went to work as a helper to Mr. Vasquez.
I was not altogether green. My experience of a few weeks in Don Manuel Martinez' shop at Magdalena served me in hand. There is little to tell about the work. It meant 10 hours a day of helping in the blacksmith forge: blowing a bellows, swinging a ten pound sledge, hard grinding, filing carriage forgings; taking wagons apart for repairs and putting parts together; and observing how the iron and steel were shaped by hammering red hot iron, welding, tempering and fitting, drilling, cutting threads, and finishing. The shop life was interesting, but the same one day as the next.
I had three years of that without any pay. The 4th year I was paid $8.00 per week and my board and room -- the 5th year, $12.00 per week and room and board.
Tio Adolfo Vasquez was getting along in years, about 35, and had not yet married. He decided to look around, and while his mind was absorbed in this, he neglected his business very much. Sometimes he would stay away for a month at a time. This gave me a chance to run the shop and take care of all the details. By that time I was getting efficient in my trade and ambitious to try different work, heavier machine forging in Railroad shops, etc. So we will forget the carriage trade for a time and tell about the life at home and about the town.
My father wanted Mr. Dalton to arrange for me to attend night school or have private lessons at night principally in accounting, English, and music. Mr. Dalton said that he would be glad to teach me himself and also give me classes in French and said that in music he would see that I would not neglect practicing, would have me join a local band and practice with me. He had learned to play cornet and also could play some on the flute. He had a good cornet and played with this band twice a week in the evening for the pleasure of it. He also had an old French flute which I soon discovered was a very fine one.
I had finished the English Ollendorf in school before I left Altar and could read and write English fairly well, but my night lessons with Mr. Dalton helped me a lot. I found great difficulty with the pronunciation of French, and my father advised me to drop it. The musical practices did not last long. As a matter of fact, Mr. Dalton's musical education had been limited, and he decided that he could not help me very much in that. However he took me to the band room and introduced me to Mr. Katz the director. Mr. Katz was glad to have me as they needed a piccolo player. The first time the band played, I thought that the roof of the room would blow off. They were all beginners and their playing was not at all inspiring. So I dropped out. My evenings at home were all occupied with my lessons, practicing my flute, writing music, and reading for my Tia Chona. My father sent me several good books, and Mr. Dalton also had a good number of them. During those years, I read many Dumas works in Spanish for Tia Chona, many of Perez Escrich, Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, and many others. Tia Chona would sit up many times until midnight listening until I would get too sleepy to read clearly.
I would call sometimes on my mother's aunt, Mrs. Pedro Aguirre, Tia Chatita, a very lovely old lady, my grandfather's sister. Her daughter Beatriz was then about 20 years old, and very lovely. Her older sister, Margarita, had lost her husband the year before and was living with her mother. They were all very fine to me and it was a pleasure to call on them. These Aguirre girls gave me my first lesson in dancing. However, I never took very much to dancing. One night I went to Levin's Park, a beer park located about where the Woman's Club building is now. I found that my old music teacher Don Lazaro Valencia and his small orchestra had been engaged to play at the park for the season. When Don Lazaro saw me he fell over my neck and nothing would do but for me to play the flute parts with the orchestra. Their flute player was glad to be relieved while I took his place. Before I knew it, it was 12 o'clock. Next morning Tia Chona had to know where I had been and I was told to stay away from the Park.
In the shop of Dalton and Vasquez where I was serving my time there were four young men with whom I naturally made friends although they were all several years older than I -- Manuel Zuniga, a blacksmith helper whose father Captain Bernardo Zuniga had been a soldier under my father during the French invasion of Mexico; his uncle, Don Maximo Zuniga, who had also been one of my father's soldiers, had a barber shop on Meyer Street only a few doors south of our carriage shop. The old print by my bed of the boy looking at his sweetheart with adoring eyes while the dog looks at both was one of Don Maximo's art pictures in the barber shop. He knew that I admired this print very much and when he closed his shop several years later he gave it to me. I know it is a cheap picture, but I love it now as I loved it then when I was 14 or 15 years old and used to go to Don Maximo Zuniga's barber shop to have my hair cut and also to hear him tell the episodes, true or otherwise, of the time he was a soldier in Mexico before I was born. He told me many things about my father's military life that I had never heard before. The other three shop mates were: Santos Aros, a young painter, who could play the guitar by ear (Santos Aros taught me the position of all the major and relative minor chords on the guitar); Frank O'Neil, a young Irishman, was a horseshoer, quite a romantic fellow and full of fun. The other one was Carlos Gastelum, also a painter full of fun, a dudish dresser, good dancer and quite a fighter. However, he loved to be considered artistic and many other things that he was not. Carlos Gastelum was the only one of the four that lived to be an old man. He left two or three sons that look very much like him, but seem more intelligent, one of them, a butcher at the Public Market and the other a hardware clerk at Steinfelds. As I go along I will recall funny episodes connected with Santos Aros, Manuel Zuniga, Frank O'Neil, and Carlos Gastelum.
Maximo Zuniga had a way to exploit his young friends. He took a liking to a gold watch that my brother Henry had given me in trade for a silver one which had a fine movement. Zuniga would admire my gold watch and tell me to let him know if I ever wanted to sell it. It was not long before I needed a few dollars and offered my watch for sale. Zuniga worked on me until he traded his own silver watch, which was supposed to be very special with an excellent movement, for my gold watch. He gave me $15 to boot. This wonderful silver watch did not keep good time and in a few weeks ceased to run. I sold it to one of the shop boys for $10. Ten years later a friend of mine showed me a fine gold watch on which he had loaned Zuniga $100. It was my old one for which I only got $25. Zuniga tricked me also into buying from him an old Singer sewing machine for $35 to give it to my sister, Maggie, but at another time he did not fare so well. He had an antique barber chair, hand carved, with beautiful swan heads in the side arms. The wood was mahogany but the years of use had made it look dirty. He offered me $5 if I would clean, repolish it and varnish it. It was a tedious job to scrape the old varnish from all the carving. It took several nights from 7 p.m. to 9 and 10. I did a good job of cleaning and polishing, and if the chair had been rubbed with oil or a light quick-drying varnish it would have looked fine, but Zuniga insisted on the best wearing English Valentine body varnish. He had heard us say around the carriage shop that this particular brand of varnish was the finest for finish and long life. He did not know, neither did I, that it required a specially prepared surface to take it. So I talked our painter out of a pint of this fine varnish and I made Mr. Zuniga very happy by applying it to this chair. It looked gorgeous, but when it failed to harden after 24 hours he refused to pay me the $5. I hoped and prayed for the varnish to dry up for several days. It never did, so I lost my $5, and Zuniga never could use his beautifully carved mahogany chair. Attempting to clean that varnish was something that no one cared to undertake. He agreed that it was a mutual mistake and we both took our loss.
Maximo Zuniga was not only a barber, he was the neighborhood wit, practical joker, self appointed celebrator of the Mexican national days and he also used to extract teeth, and sometimes he would pull out the wrong ones.
My first 16th of September (Mexican Independence Day) 1882 in Tucson was celebrated with a great public feast. They had a number of fine floats in the parade, and a troupe of boys had been uniformed and drilled to act as a guard of honor to the queen and her court. I was a private in that troupe. The parade marched to Levin's Park where the annual fiesta of St. Agustin was in full sway. This feast (honoring the patron saint of Tucson) started on the 28th of August and lasted for a month. The guard of honor was formed in a square along the back of both sides of the stage. The queen of the celebration and her maids of honor occupied the center and the members of the Junta Patriotica (the executive committee) and the speakers sat on the sides. The official speaker of the evening was to be Don Vicente Lomeli, the Mexican consul, a highly cultured gentlemen who had just arrived from Mexico City. Everyone was anticipating a Spanish masterpiece as he came with the reputation of a fine orator. The first musical numbers in the program were given and when Sr. Lomeli did not appear, his secretary stepped forward and in a few words told the waiting audience that the Hon. Consul was indisposed and begged the audience to excuse him. This left the Junta without a speaker, and in a rather embarrassing situation. This same barber, Maximo Zuniga who was a member of the Junta on the stage went to the Chairman and pointing to me told him that he knew I had prepared a speech to deliver it at the end of the program when it was the custom to invite voluntary speakers. I had prepared a patriotic speech, more for the fun of it than expecting to have a chance to use it. I had recited it to Zuniga in the barber shop when there was no one else around and he had liked it. So the President of the Junta pulled me out of the ranks and announced to the audience that I would speak. I am sure that I must have been scared stiff, but I knew my piece and I delivered it so that every one would be sure to hear it. It evidently made a hit at least with a good part of the crowd. Before we left the stage and after the regulation abrazos (hugs) of congratulation someone brought me an invitation to a champagne supper. Before I could decide what to do I was pulled through the mob into one of the restaurants (fondas) of the fiesta and here were eight or more women and men standing around a table loaded with food and bottles. I was to be the guest of honor, a boy of 15 years old. I don't remember how I acted. I do remember that I did not like the champagne and drank water. The next day I received by a messenger boy a very nice letter and a silver eagle cut out of a Mexican peso. Don Miguel Roca, the father of our well known citizen, City Councilman and personal friend, Lautaro Roca, had sent me the letter and the eagle in appreciation of my speech. Don Miguel Roca was a native of Chile but was then a merchant and a prominent citizen of Tucson. His family was socially prominent and leaders among the best people at that time. Of his daughters we still have with us Mrs. Ben Heney and Mrs. George Smalley. I remember particularly that Mrs. Ben Heney, Erminia Roca, was an accomplished pianist and an attractive girl.
After this celebration and my unexpected introduction I met a good many people and made some very dear friends. However, I suffered much embarrassment at times on account of my position of a simple apprentice in a shop where it was necessary to wear overalls and go around with face and hands full of grease and coal soot. I had to go from my work in my working clothes and some of my men acquaintances did not care to recognize me without a white collar. There were exceptions, however, and I have in mind one lady who never failed to give me a most cordial greeting no matter how grimy my face or my clothes. That was Mrs. A.V. Grosetta, Warren Grosetta's mother. I became acquainted with A.V. Grosetta and his young wife soon after they were married on account of our mutual love of music. She played the piano. Mr. Grosetta played clarinet and I played the flute. The boys at the R.R. shop had organized a band sponsored by Master Mechanic Bonner, and A. V. Grosetta was the leader. I joined it and played a baritone more than a piccolo, so I took up the baritone and played that until that band was disbanded.
On the following 16th of September 1883 I had charge of the chorus girls and boys to sing the National Mexican Hymn. We needed a good tenor and someone remembered that a Spaniard, whom everybody liked, by the name of Rufino Velez had a very good tenor voice. I had seen Rufino Velez once or twice. He was a short man from the waist down. His body was of normal size, with very powerful short arms, and he always cropped his hair short. He walked with a swing, a large cigar in his mouth and no hat. For a better idea of his body: his trousers had to be made to order 42" waist and 22" long. His tailors would refuse to believe these dimensions before checking them two or three times. When he sat in an ordinary chair, his head and shoulders were on a level with those of any large man but his feet would not reach the floor. He came to our rehearsal and his voice, so large and of such beautiful quality, made us all stare at him in wonder. He did not know a single note and could only carry a melody if someone else would sing or play along with him. I had to coach him and sing along with him in a soft voice so that his own wonderful voice could be heard pure. We had a lot of fun and became warm friends. We called each other companero and he proved to be the best chum and friend I ever had in this world. He was a man around 30 years old and I was only 16. I will say more about Rufino later. However, I should say now that he was a Vizcaino, Vasco from Balmaceda near Bilbao. His father was a fisherman and also the official musician at Balmaceda. He played a silvo (a small flageolet with 3 holes and a tamborin). Rufino left Spain when 14 years old. He was sent to an uncle who had a store in Mazatlan, Mexico. It took his ship, an English sailing bark, six months from Liverpool around Cape Horn to Mazatlan. He worked for his uncle for six years, saved his money, and he and a young friend named Durazo put their savings together, bought a load of Guadalajara wear and other trinkets, chartered a small schooner and sailed with their stock to Puerto Libertad where they loaded their wares on a 10-mule wagon and headed for Altar through the desert. This happened in the year of 1875 about the time we were to leave for Guaymas. I remember when all the boys in Altar were blowing Guadalajara ware whistles purchased from the new store of Durazo and Velez. Of course I do not remember Rufino at that time. He was in Altar during the Serna revolution. One day the soldiers placed him on a bareback horse and led him into the foothills to demand a contribution of $400 or his life. He gave the officer a piece of his mind in warm Spanish vernacular for making him ride a bareback horse and they returned to Altar to get the $400. He sold his half interest in the store to his partner Durazo and stayed in Altar having a good time, dancing and singing until the money was all gone. He came to Tucson, worked as a clerk for Lord and Williams, saved his money again and in time he opened a dry goods store with Jose Rebeil. Their main sales were made to Altar merchants who in those days used to transport their purchases in bundles covered in heavy white duck sewed tight to make them waterproof. They would use two and a half yards of canvas for each bundle and would sell the canvas for sleeping cots. The merchants would charge 50 cents for the labor of making each bundle. Rufino was an expert at that and many days he would make twenty or more bundles. The bundles were made up to weigh about 50 pounds so that a man on horseback could carry two of them on his horse. All these bundles of dry goods, shoes and all kinds of goods were smuggled across the Mexican line by expert horsemen. They had good horses, knew the trails away from the traveled roads and were hard to catch by the Mexican custom house guards.
A Tucson merchant named Isidor Myers sold a good number of bundles to some Mexican smugglers and in place of making up the bundles with the new goods for which the Mexican smugglers had paid their cash, Isidor made some easy money by filling up the bundles with rags, old shoes, and old clothes; he then sent word to the Mexican custom house at Sasabe that these smugglers were to leave Tucson on a certain day and cross the border the following night. The guards set a trap and caught the smugglers with the bundles full of trash. Myers paid plenty for this trick. He did not only lose all the smugglers' trade, but, for fear that some of them would kill him, he sold his store and left Tucson and did not come back until many years later. The smugglers were considered legitimate traders. Most of them were men of great courage and the guards were not always anxious to encounter them. They had fine horses, good arms and many friends among the ranchers. One of the outstanding smugglers was Damacio Garcia. Several of his sons and descendants are living on the old ranch near Sasabe and in Arivaca. The firm of Velez and Rebeil closed their store about 1882 soon after I came to Tucson. Rufino Velez continued to handle purchases for Altar merchants on commission. He also kept the books and handled the stage lines for Don Mariano Samaniego, who operated U. S. Mail and passenger lines from Tucson to Arivaca, Oro Blanco, Quijotoa, and Mammoth. It was then that I became acquainted with Rufino and our friendship lasted until he died in 1906.
Mr. Dalton decided that he could do better by taking government contracts and farming, and discontinued his connection with Mr. Vasquez in the carriage shop about 1884. Mr. Vasquez gave me the additional job of keeping the books for the shop. I knew very little about this, but by following the single entry method that Mr. Dalton had used and with an occasional aid from Mr. Dalton and the help of a bookkeeping manual that my father gave me, I managed to get by.
Notes (click on the note number to return to the text):note 1 The U.S. and Mexico Boundary was surveyed and marked here in 1855. It was the construction of the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad through Calabasas in 1882 that led speculators to predict a boom for the site. The details are in David F. Myrick, The Railroads of Southern Arizona: Vol.1, the Southern Roads (Berkeley: Howell-North, 1975), pages 279-81.
note 2 A colorful version of Pete Kitchen's colorful Arizona career is in Gil Procter, Tucson, Tubac, Tumacacori, Tohell: The Trails of Pete Kitchen (Tucson: Dale S. King, 1964).
note 3 Adolph George Buttner was Tucson's first Chief of Police. See article by William F. Hogan, (Arizoniana) Journal of Arizona History Vol. 5 No. 2 page 26.
note 4 The story of the original St. Augustine Cathedral is told in George W. Chambers and C. L. Sonnichsen, San Agustin: First Cathedral Church in Arizona (Tucson: Arizona Historical Society, 1974). The "cut stone entrance" now adorns the entrance to the Arizona Historical Society's headquarters in Tucson.
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Last updated 13 August 1997