Cherished Memories
of a San Antonio Easter
Lent and Easter are some of my favorite Catholic childhood memories.
As a child I couldn’t figure out what the Easter Bunny had to do with the Resurrection of Jesus, the same for Santa Claus and the birth of Jesus. Santa wasn’t at the manger or the Easter Bunny at the Calvary or the tomb. As I got older, Mom explained Jesus is the center of our Catholic faith, as for Santa & the Easter bunny I will let your mom explain.
Herewith are my gathered memories of a San Antonio Easter…
On Ash Wednesday, after the 8am Mass the entire school body would line up to receive their ashes.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” How many hundreds of times did Father have to say those words throughout the day?
I was always hoping for an extra dab of ash so it would last throughout the day and proudly show it to Mom & Dad after school. Somehow most of the girls and the nuns always got that extra dab. I figured maybe they needed it more. I always got home with a thin raya (stripe) of ash.
In the classroom, Sister Mary Laura, CDP, would stress to us that we should give up something for the forty days of Lent. And to not to eat meat on Ash Wednesday, of course Fridays and to go to the confessional more.
Sister said in some way we should take up our own cross for 40 days. I gave up ice cream, but not orange sherbert. Orange sherbert was not ice cream!
I loved those orange sherberts in a round cardboard push up that kinda resembles a toilet paper roll, on a stick from Metzger’s Dairy that I would buy at the little store at the corner of Dawson & Pine Sts.. Best nickle I ever spent. Every now and then Mom would serve ice cream during Lent, always passing me up. I think she was purposely testing me and showing me what it was actually like to give up something.
And now to the hard part…
Sister Laura handed out Lenten cardboard coin holder cards. She instructed us to put a nickel, dime or quarter in each of the 40 slots in the folder, one coin per day throughout Lent.
Mom, Dad, and my brother Sonny would help me fill the folder, especially Sonny since he was already a veteran of 8 years of Catholic grade school and knew what I was going through. Every Sunday when I received my allowance I would think twice about filling in a slot, but I always did. Mom would scotch tape the coins to the folder so I wouldn’t get tempted.
Sister Laura would remind us daily, in class, to not to forget to fill our Lenten cards. To this day I go to my Church and request a Lenten coin folder. Some things you get used to.
I liked Fridays during Lent. If I ate in the cafeteria it would either be fish sticks, red cheese enchiladas or a scoop of tuna salad on a crisp leaf of lettuce. Delicious and this was fasting? Oh, and don’t forget the 2¢ glass bottle of delicious chocolate milky!

I knew we were getting out of school early on Fridays, because we would all have to go to Church for the Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross refer to a series of depictions of Christ’s passion and death. They represent 14 key moments in the trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus Christ. And along this journey was his Blessed Mother. Fr. Isidore Garcia, OMI, was good at explaining each station for us kids.

Three altar boys would be chosen to serve the Stations of the Cross. Two of them with lighted brass candleholders and one with the crucifix would walk along the walls of the church and stop at each station.
Being an altar boy I liked carrying the brass cross on a tall stick, I could rest the stick on the floor, unlike the heavy brass candleholder, you always had to hold it with both hands. If you had an itch it was impossible to scratch and by all means I was not a weightlifter.
At each individual stations of the cross we prayed and we sang. Singing the verses were the best, cause you knew you were onto your next station. Sister Laura always told us, ‘When you sing to God, you pray twice!” If you went to Catholic school this verse and tune stuck with you for life, like a Beatles song.

I am singing it now!

“At the cross her station keeping

Stood the mournful Mother weeping

Close to Jesus to the last.”

At St. Mary’s I was chosen to be one of the twelve altar boys to have their feet washed on the evening of Holy Thursday services. This is the depiction of the Last Supper, which was the first Mass. Jesus washed his apostles feet. I figured since I was to get washed, no need me for me to go to confession.

I couldn’t wait to tell Mom the news.

Mom went into action. She looked at my shoes and decided I needed new shoes and socks. Don’t know where she got the money but we went to Joske’s and she bought me a new pair of shoes and socks. Usually, she’d buy my shoes on layaway and get irregular socks from Solo Serve. Not this time, this was an emergency!

Mom would always press on the tip of my shoes to make sure there was some growing room. You know how moms are.

As we left Joske’s I turned around and took a glance at the giant inflated Easter bunny atop the store canopy. The bunny was under inflated and was kinda approvingly nodding at me as I held my new boxed shoes. When we got home, Dad made sure I’d slap on an extra shine on my shoes at his barber shop.

I was good to go!

Fr. Sammon, OMI, our pastor did the deed of washing the feet of us 12 obedient altar boys. We took off one shoe and sock. The water was cold! I looked into the pious crowd and saw my black veiled Mom smiling at me! She was proud I was a Knight of the Altar, and that’s all that mattered.


After Church, across the street, Mom treated me to a steaming hot Coney hot dog and an ice-cold bottle of Dr. Pepper, before we took the Nolan St. bus home.

We would usually catch the bus at the corner of St. Marys & Houston in front of National Shirt Shop, but that night I asked Mom if we could walk down Houston St. I was always fascinated by the neon signs. Back in the 60’s, it was the heyday of neon signage. Practically every store sign was adorned in neon, some with magical fast motion, like the monolithic Transit Tower, the Alamo National Bank with its iconic weather spire that predicted the weather, the theaters, even the third run Joy theatre marquee with the lady’s marching legs.

Downtown SA reminded me of Petula Clark’s 1965 #1 hit “Downtown”.

“Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights so much brighter there

You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

So go downtown!”

Exactly my feelings! I felt Petula Clark wrote that song about my glimmering downtown San Antonio.

Always on Good Friday evening, Dad would go get battered fried fish to go at the Moon Lee Cafe on West Commerce St. Mom would always insist I go with him. Moon Lee reminded me more of a saloon than a restaurant. Two swinging narrow doors, a wooden bar on one side and the other side had old wood dining tables. I’d sit at a table and Dad would order me a cold bottle of Dr. Pepper. Dad would stand at the bar and talk to Mr. & Mrs Lee while he enjoyed his refreshment from the “Country of 1100 Springs”, a bottle of hometown Pearl. Fried fish ready, hot & steamy, in a white paper bag, off we’d go back home. Mom had prepared homemade mashed potatoes.
Lenten life was good.

But my “most bestest” memory of Easter was on Holy Saturday. That’s when we would color Easter eggs and make cascarones (confetti eggs).

For 2 weeks prior, Mom carefully cracked our breakfast eggs open from the top and would dry the egg shells for our cascarones. Mind you, we lived at the corner of Pine & Nolan, in a strip mall, in the back of Dad’s barbershop that he had divided in half. Next door to us was Ebrom’s Print Shop. Mr. Ebrom, a German Catholic and a parishioner of St. Michael’s parish, would give us scrap paper. Mom told me to go fetch different colored paper from Mr. Ebrom, who generously complied.

Mom cut the paper into tiny colorful diamond squares: confetti with her pinking shears. She then made her own concoction of masa (flour) and water: glue! Sonny and I filled the eggshells half way with confetti. Mom carefully lined the top with her homemade glue and covered it with thin paper. We’d put the cascarones out to dry. For some reason we never colored the eggs.

Now we get to the good part! Painting the hardboiled eggs!

Dad gave me thirty-five cents to buy an Easter egg coloring kit. Like Dad, and his always thrifty grocery shopping, I too would always search for the best prices at the five & dimes downtown. Somehow I always found the cheapest prices in the “Mexican part of downtown San Antonio.”
Yes, there was a “Mexican part”.

As a kid I really didn’t know what discrimination was all about, I just knew cheap prices and was a junior capitalist. I could never figure out, who wouldn’t want to make more money by selling to people of different color or races? Dummies.

I found the cheapest Easter coloring egg kit at the “Kress chiquita” (little Kress) store at the corner of Houston & Flores street. I even walked away with a giant hot clown faced bag of popcorn. On the way home on the bus, I opened the kit, inspected the colorful pills, the brass egg holder, its magical mystic writer, character transfers and read the instructions carefully several times. Quite a bit of stuff for only 15¢!

Following the instructions, Mom brought the water to a boil and let it cool down so as not to burn us. She carefully poured the hot water into 6 of her mismatched coffee cups. I dropped the colored pills into the cups and watched them dissolve into colorful colors.
One by one we would dip the eggs and color them. Some I dipped half way, let it dry and then dip the other half: duo tone! I was never good at placing the transfers, they would always come out blurry. The best I could do with the “mystic writer,” which was basically a clear colored wax crayon, was write “Mom”. I could never see what I was writing, but “M-O-M” was simple. Sonny was very good at coloring and writing the eggs. All our work was then, set out to dry.
On Easter Sunday, we always wore our best to Church. Even Dad, wore a suit and tie. My beautiful Mother in a spring-like yellow hat. Sonny and me, in suits, too.
We attended Mass either at St. Michael’s, St. Mary’s or St. Joseph’s.
Mom had two green thumbs and in back of our house she had a natural barrier of poinsettias, rose bushes & plenty of lilies. Sometimes per request of the pastor, Fr. McManus, Mom’s red & white lilies would adorn the altar at St. Michael’s.

No matter the grateful request, whether it was baking oatmeal cookies for the class, sewing a costume, making ABC cards for the entire class or running an errand, Mom never said no to Sister Laura or Fr. McManus. I always knew Mom was doing it for the Church and children.
Mom was a room mother for 16 years, 8 with Sonny and 8 with me. She did it all for us. Because of Mom, to this day, I too, am sensitive and generous to nuns, any nun. If I see a nun shopping at a store I will go up and introduce myself to her and will pay for her merchandise, many times urging them to buy more things. They, in return, say they will pray for me and I kindly request, “Sister, please, pray a Rosary! Pray for me as I pray for you.” Call me a sucker for nuns and I mean that in a very good way. Just hope I never run into a nun at a car dealership!

Now back to Easter Sunday…

Dad always saved our Easter baskets in the barbershop. He had bought them some years back including the artificial grass at the Salvation Army.

With an empty basket in hand, I was ready for the hunt! Sonny would hide the eggs in our huge backyard which was actually the parking lot of the strip shopping center. We lived in the back half of Dad’s barber shop. There were plenty of trees, weeds and leftover construction and electrical materials. He hid them very well and it would take me a good a while to find them. Our dog Smokey would always follow me.

Upon finding the last egg, I’d ask Sonny to hide them again! After a third time, my tired brother said no.

If Mom had extra money she would sometimes complement our baskets with silver Hershey Kisses (2 for a penny at the Red & White!), candy eggs, jelly beans and sometimes Peeps. I sat and ate hard boiled eggs and candy…and ate and ate and ate….. Smokey liked the candied eggs.

Some of the neighborhood kids had those expensive store bought, pre-wrapped cellophane Easter baskets with plenty of candy, toys and a stuffed bunny. I never longed for those. I had something much more valuable, my parents, my brother, nuns, priests and a bountiful Easter basket from the Salvation Army.

You don’t buy memories, you make them! It was a wonderful adventure to have grown up Catholic in San Antonio.

Oh, I almost forgot, once, it must have been 3 weeks after Easter, I did uncover a forgotten hidden hard boiled Easter egg in the back yard. Mom made me throw it away.

Happy, happy, Easter to you! He is risen! Thank you, Jesus!

Rick Melendrez, is a native San Antonian. Melendrez considers himself fortunate to have been born in San Antonio, just 3 blocks from the San Antonio de

Valero mission (the Alamo) at the former Nix hospital on the riverwalk and to have attended Catholic grade school on the southside and on the riverwalk.

Catholic education is very close to his heart. Melendrez attended St. Michaels for five years (1960-65) and then attended St. Mary’s School on the riverwalk (1965-68) and onto Cathedral high school in El Paso, Texas.

He is the former publisher of the El Paso Citizen newspaper and former chairman of the El Paso County Democratic Party. He writes a page on Facebook titled “Sister Mary Ruler, Growing Up Catholic In San Antonio”. Everyone is invited to read about his San Antonio of the 1960’s

You may contact Melendrez via email at or by phone, 915-565-1663 (landline).