When I was a preschooler Dad would drive my older brother Sonny to St. Michael’s school and it would be just Mom and me at home. Mom would prepare Cocomalt chocolate milk, hot oatmeal and delicious cinnamon toast. No one could make cinnamon toast like her. I’d watch her prepare everything and I’d help set the table.
One morning she took out a special silver spoon. She told me her mother gave this spoon to her when she was a little girl during the 1936 Texas Centennial, in celebration of Texas’ 100th birthday. The spoon was shiny with all kinds of engravings on the handle. Engraved were the Alamo, a Texas Longhorn, a tiny bluebonnet, and the 1836-1936 Texas Centennial Seal. The spoon also had a cowboy on a horse tipping his Stetson hat to the Texas Lone Star.
I was happy every time we used the silver spoon! During these special breakfast events she taught me the Texas state song, and we would sing together, “Texas, Our Texas.” We would proudly sing together, “Texas, our Texas! All hail the mighty State! Texas, our Texas! So wonderful so great!.” Mom loved top sing to me. She promised one day she would take me to the Alamo.
When the day came to go to the Alamo, I took a fast bath in the tina; I put on my best clothes and shoes and off we walked to the Beacon Hill bus stop, our destination, the Alamo!
She held my hand as we walked toward the Alamo doors. She told me that we were to be quiet, that men had to take off their hats, because the Alamo was once a Catholic church and many Texans & Mexicans died there. As we walked inside the atmosphere was that of a church, somber. Inside Mom told me the original name of the Alamo; the San Antonio de Valero Mission. She explained the former Catholic Church was in cruciform shape, like most churches. She showed me where the altar may have been and the baptistry room. Missionaries taught the Indians and converted them to Catholicism.
As we walked outside the Alamo, she laid out the 1836 battlefield. Mom said the battle was bloody, 189 Texans surrounded by over 1,200 Mexican soldiers. All the Texans perished, except for the women, children and slaves.
As we were leaving, I questioned her about the bloody fight between the Texans and the Mexicans. I asked Mom, “Are there any Mexicans left?? She began laughing at me, got down on her knees, held me and told me, “Yes and you are one of them!” I immediately imagined me in a blue, white and red Mexican soldier’s suit holding a musket. She then pointed to a big building just west of the Alamo and told me: “Son, on a rainy day you were born four blocks away from the Alamo, on the 21st floor of the Nix building.” It was then that my love for San Antonio and the San Antonio de Valero Mission began.
When I began to attend Catholic grade school on the riverwalk, I would find myself many times at the Alamo. I would read every plaque and at home books on the former San Antonio de Valero mission during its mission years and as a fortress.
I have come to the conclusion there are 4 sides to the 1836 Battle of the Alamo…. the Texan side, the Mexican side, the John Wayne version and the truth.
In 1967, my brother Sonny and I visited the Alamo cenotaph and the Alamo grounds. The cenotaph is the empty tomb dedicated to the defenders of the Alamo. The cenotaph marks one of the spots where the lifeless bodies of defenders of the Alamo were stacked and burned. On the side of the cenotaph are sculptures of some of the defenders of the Alamo… Crockett, Bowie, Bonham, etc. The sculptor was Pompeo Coppini, it was begun in 1937 and completed in 1939. Since Pompeo Coppini forgot to sculpt any heroes of the Alamo that were of Mexican/Tejano descent or slaves, although their names are engraved, I decided to proudly represent them atop the cenotaph. I was daring, I even climbed atop one of the San Antonio de Valero nichos and posed. Pictures were taken with Sonny’s brand new Polaroid Swinger instant camera. If I attempted those pictures now, I would probably become a guest of the Bexar County Jail.
Now let’s get back to that Centennial spoon!
In 2014, I was cleaning out a kitchen drawer and came upon the familiar spoon. It wasn’t as shiny as it used to be, but it brought back so many memories.
Mind you, back in 2014 Mom was already afflicted with Alzheimers and I was her sole provider. I decided to place the spoon in Mom’s morning cereal. Five minutes later, to my surprise Mom began to mumble and sing, “Texas, Our Texas.” Just those 3 words she knew to sing. I sang along with her. I am sure Mom went back to those wonderful memories of her childhood.
With this thought I leave you… if you are a Mom or Dad, create memories with your children, no matter how big or small, those memories will live forever.
Oh! And there is one thing I do regret. In the 1970’s we were now living in El Paso. Mom had told me her mom was born in the 1800’s in Village Mills, Texas near Houston. Her family then migrated across Texas in a covered wagon to El Paso. Mrs Bernadine Antone an El Paso teacher and a member of the Daughter of the Republic of Texas, told me that Mom qualified to become a member of the DRT.
Mrs Antone gave us the paperwork, Mom filled it out and sent it to the DRT in San Antonio. Mom was excited, she told family and friends.
A couple of months later I asked Mom if she heard back from the DRT. Mom replied, “No, son, I guess they didn’t want me,” I felt for her.
Remember the Alamo.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 915-565-1663 (landline).