San Antonio, Texas

Larry returned from Korea, and we were assigned to Ft. Sam Houston. I was thrilled, San Antonio was much closer to our family than any place we had ever been assigned. A few days after coming home, Larry woke with his neck and jaws swollen. I took him to the emergency room where the ER doctor told him he had the mumps. Convinced the ER doctor was crazy, he insisted on going to Rob’s pediatrician to confirm he had a baby’s disease. The doctor advised him not to climb stairs as mumps can “go down” and cause sterility. In my townhouse both of the bedrooms were upstairs. For two long weeks, I had to trot up the stairs to take Larry his meals.

We finally moved to San Antonio. We found a house on the north-east side convenient to Ft. Sam Houston. I immediately went to work at Texas State Bank on W.W. White Road. The receptionist at the bank was Belinda Brooks. She was newly married to Dan, and they lived near the bank on Houston Street. Bill Sinkin was Chairman of the Board, and he was aware that the primarily red-neck tellers gave me a hard time for being Jewish. Additionally, they gave Belinda a hard time because she was Black. Actually, they gave me a hard time because Mr. Sinkin favored me. Fay Sinkin was spearheading a city-wide drive to have a recall of the new law, which would allow builders to start construction projects over the Edward’s Aquifer. At the time, San Antonio’s sole source of water was the aquifer. Bill asked if I would help Fay with the Aquifer Referendum. After several months of hard work, the recall worked, and the law was repealed.

I was the Collection Teller for the bank, and I handled floor-plans for car dealers, Treasury bonds, American Express Travelers checks and collection items. After a year at the bank, I approached my immediate supervisor, Sam Greco. I said to him that I had reservations about handling floor plan items for one of the bank officers. Sam blew up and dressed me down for thinking, much less speaking about Mr. Bell in such a negative manner. Several months later, I was sick at home, and I got a call from Sam. He asked if I still thought Mr. Bell was committing a crime and if so, did I have any idea how he was making illegal transactions. I was aware that when Mr. Bell made a cash transaction, he would go immediately to the safety deposit department. He had been falsifying car loans on the floor-plans, and he was keeping the stolen money in his safety deposit box. The bank recovered much of their money; it was parked in their building.

When we were stationed in Hanau, I planned to go to college at an extension branch on post. When I went to enroll, Larry got upset and objected to my going to a class that consisted of male GIs. In San Antonio I decided to go to school, but he took exception again. I finally convinced him to let me attend a business college, downtown. His hours at the club were long, but he agreed to come home the two nights I went to class to keep Rob. If not, I would get a babysitter. I got an associates degree in accounting, and I requested a transfer to the bank accounting department. Sam wouldn’t move me as he felt it would take too long to train another collection teller.

After a bank board meeting, one of the board members, Robert Montalvo, came over to my window to make a deposit. I divulged to him I had given Sam my resignation.  I wanted a job that would allow me to use my accounting degree. He hired me on the spot. Mr. Sinkin was happy as Robert Montalvo was extremely disorganized and was a problem customer. Bob was a wheeler-dealer, who bought and sold large construction equipment, replacement parts and semi-trucks to Mexico and Central America.

When Bob and his wife, Tilly, built their home in the Pecan Vally area, he added an office for himself in the back. He employed a sales manager and two parts people who used the front office. He shared his office in the back with me. He slept late most mornings and was away from the office frequently, so sharing an office wasn’t an issue. The company books were non-existent and in disrepair – that was the issue. He was constantly overdrawn at the bank only because he didn’t keep records. The bank was happy when I resolved that problem.

He owned an equipment parts store in Eagle Pass, Texas which was run by his daughter and son-in-law. Shortly after I started to work for him, I got a call from the Eagle Pass store. An IRS agent was there, and they were being shut down. I spoke to the agent, and he stated the company was in arrears in submitting their payroll reports and taxes. I explained I was in the process of preparing the books, and Mr. Montalvo’s intent was to get this issue resolved. Since the books were in San Antonio, he was not prone to cut us any slack. Bob had been sitting in the office listening to me tap dance with the IRS agent. He wrote me a note telling me I would be flying down to Eagle Pass the following morning with the books. The next morning, he sent me to Eagle Pass in a private plane with a signed check, so I could do the reports with the IRS agent and pay the bill.

Bob lived on the edge at all times. In the middle of a million dollar deal with 20 semi-trucks slated for a customer in Central America, he would suddenly disappear for two or three days. It would be time to pay the deposits or to close the deal. If he didn’t have the funds ready, he would leave town. He would tell me to stall any and everyone. Trying to manage and keep all the parties involved calm without them knowing that I didn’t have a clue where he went was taxing. It is amazing how many people are involved in a large deal. Once he had the funds, he would show up and have me pay everyone. After he closed a deal, he would drop two or three hundred dollars on my desk – almost like an after thought. It was a thank you I could live with.

Bob loaned his boat to a company employee who went fishing at Calaveris Lake. The employee was drinking, fell out of the boat, and he drown. As the boat was registered to Bob, a policeman came to tell us about the drowning. Every place I could think of I called, and I couldn’t find Bob anywhere. Bob had several girl friends, most of which I knew about. After the drowning, I had all their phone numbers for emergencies.

Just before Christmas, Tilly called me, and said she had just made chicken salad. She invited me to come into the house for lunch. Sitting at the breakfast bar in their kitchen, I had just taken a bite of my sandwich when she laid an envelope in front of me.

She said to me, “Do you know who this woman is?”

I was holding a Christmas card that I had picked up from the Post Office mailbox. I sent the unopened house mail including Christmas cards over to the house, because all the house mail came to the Post Office box.

I calmly assured her, “No, I don’t know who she is, but every salesman in the office got a card from her.”

Somehow, I managed to eat the fresh chicken salad sandwich which had become extremely dry and hard to swallow. When I returned to the office, I called Bob and demanded that he have his girlfriend sign three more cards and for him to leave them on all the salespeople’s desks. I was certain that Tilly would come in that night and confirm everyone, not just Bob, had received a Christmas card.

Bob purchased a building with a shop yard on south Loop 410 and moved the business. It was closer to our house, but I decided that I did not want to handle the multitude of surprises that went with the job.

When Rob was in the third grade, I found a house closer to the school. His teacher called me to tell me what Rob had said to him. In a class discussion about art, Rob announced to his teacher that I was a sculptor and an artist. He described my art work, and the teacher was really interested in what I did — up to the moment Rob informed him that I had studied with Michelangelo. He also divulged to his teacher that my favorite classical composer was W.C. Fields (Debussy).

I hired a neighborhood teenager to babysit for me. Rob loved her and informed me, “ I am going to marry Julie. For our engagement party you can have a bar-b-que for us.” He further announced, “When we get married, we will live next door to you so I can come home to eat.”

I informed him that parents could be sick or die, so eating with me may not always be an option. With out missing a beat he said, “Then we can eat sandwiches.” Like all men, Rob had figured out the secret to a happy marriage – ribs and romance.

The school put a large holiday banner over the door for a Christmas decoration, and Rob insisted they add a menorah (candle holder) and a Star of David symbol. He wanted to be a Cub Scout, and I ended up with a Cub Scout troop. He managed to earn several badges with one that would serve him forever, his cooking badge. For the Cub Scout Christmas program another mother and I paired up, and we wore a reindeer suit. At least, I was the head of the costume.

Larry went to Indiana for a six-week school, and he next went to Cornell University at the Cornell Hotel School and the Culinary Institute of America in New York for a couple of months. He went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a management school for several weeks. The Army worked club managers hard, but they gave them phenomenal resources.

Rob came into the house with a friend, and asked if they could have a drink. I said to him that it would be fine, and he would have to get it himself as I was dressing. After dressing, I went into the kitchen. The two boys were sitting at the table having a drink. I saw a bottle of whiskey out of the cabinet, and I realized he had made cocktails. Embarrassed, I had to take the kid home and explain to his mother that he had been drinking on my watch.

I decided to buy a house, and I found one in Camelot II. It was brand-new, much larger and had a big back yard for the dogs. I had a little, female Beagle, named Freckles, because I bred Beagles puppies to sale. When Freckles had her first litter, Larry had never seen puppies born before. Sitting on a kitchen stool over the whelping pen, Larry got excited and animated when the first puppy started to come. Freckles stopped having the puppy and began watching Larry. I delivered the puppy and tied off the cord with dental floss. I demanded Larry leave the room, so that Freckles could have the remaining five puppies without interruption.

Abe was one of the smartest dogs I have ever owned. Going into the guest bedroom, he pulled back the bedspread with his teeth and folded it down in a perfect triangle from the pillow. He would lay with his head on the pillowcase. Being a Beagle, he could smell things from afar. I had electric hog-wire installed on the fence in an attempt to contain him. He managed to climb over the wooden fence and was gone for three days. I was frantic, and when he came home he was so exhausted he couldn’t lift his head. Concerned, I took him to the veterinarian, who after a thorough examination said to me that Abe needed a B-12 shot. I asked why he needed a B-12 shot, and the laughing vet said that Abe had been “tom-catting” and was simply worn out. I should have neutered him then.

After I resigned as the Office Manager for Bob Montalvo, I mentioned to Bill Sinkin that I had given my notice. He had another bank customer who was constantly having problems. This company had a million dollar line-of-credit with the bank. The bank was concerned about the lack of accountability and a possible loss of the contract. Mr. Sinkin wanted me to go to work for Bernie Vasquez. Bernie had the contract for all the janitorial services at Kelly Air Force Base. He had 128 employees, tons of cleaning equipment and acres of buildings to clean to military specifications. I got the job.

The primary mission for Kelly AFB was repairing aircraft engine parts and for the maintenance for the C5-A Galaxy. It is the largest aircraft in the world. The Latino male staff were not thrilled to have a female-in-charge. In the engine repair facility, the crews cleaned with large tractors which laid down soapy water and scrubbed the floors. Then the machine vacuumed the dirty water back into a container. The tractors would have a mechanical failure, and while waiting for the mechanic to show up, the crew would goof off. The Colonel in charge of the division would call incensed because the tractor was in the way, and the crew was loafing. I talked to them, but they blew me off because I was a female. I went to the building with the mechanic late one night. He taught me to drive the tractor and how to clean the floors. The next time the tractor went down, I went with the mechanic to repair it. When he finished the repair, I got on the tractor and finished cleaning that section. Then I took the tractor to its parking place. I never again had any problems with the tractor crew.

Larry volunteered for Korea, again. When Larry left San Antonio, I found a live-in Mexican girl. Magdalena couldn’t speak English, and she had never seen an electric iron. She washed clothes daily just to have something to iron. The church group, which originally recommended Magdalena, failed to mention she had been born with a hip defect. She needed extensive surgery which would be sponsored by the church. I ended up having to hire a second maid to take care of Magdalena and Rob.

I purchased a dump truck load of dirt for the yard, and I arranged for it to be delivered to the house. The company dumped 30 cubic yards of top soil on the drive way. When I came home, I found that Rob and his playmates had turned on the hose and soaked the dirt. My driveway was a sea of mud, and it took days to dry out. The dirt dried in such large, concrete chunks that I was unable to spread it in the yard. I went to the day-labor-square and hired three workers. They broke up the dirt boulders and then shoveled it onto the lawn.

Rob caught a wild, baby rabbit which he brought into the house. I told him he couldn’t have a wild pet and he was to return it. In a flash, the dogs knocked over the box housing the rabbit. The bunny took off like a jackrabbit. We could not catch the rabbit – the dogs couldn’t catch it. For weeks the rabbit ate my house plants at night, and he would leave personal pellets in my shag carpet. I finally hired a pest control company to set a trap, so we could return the rabbit to the wild.

Robin started playing Pop Warner football when he was eight-years-old. I drove straight from work to his practice everyday. At least 100 boys tried out for the team with Rob being among the youngest, I was concerned he could get hurt. The try-outs were brutal for the kids, and the coaches cut the team down to 36 players. Rob and Bobby, another eight-year-old, made the team. When I bought cleats for Rob, I purchased shoes with red bottoms so I could see him in the pile-ups. His first year he didn’t get to play much, but the coaches put him in every game. It was a lot of effort on our part and especially for him to play 30-second quarters. Rob was happy to be a Northeast Mustang.

On a short notice, Morris decided to visit us in San Antonio. Larry asked him why they had decided to adopt him. Morris explained they had wanted to adopt and had waited for years. Tootsie wanted a girl, but when it looked positive they would get Larry, they took him. He added that a week after the adoption came through a little girl became available, but it was too late as they were already stuck with Larry. My father-in-law had no concept of hurting someone’s feelings.

Dan Brooks was working for UPS as a long distance, semi-truck driver between San Antonio and Houston. They bought a new house in Universal City and Belinda was pregnant. If Dan couldn’t return in time from Houston, I would go to Lamaze class with Belinda. The night Dacrie was born, Dot, her grandmother, and I were at the hospital. The minute they wrapped and bundled Dacrie, they let us into to the delivery room. A grinning doctor put her in my arms and said, “Here you go, Godmother.” Dot didn’t forgive the doctor for years.

Magdalena returned to Mexico, and I hired a neighborhood, teenage boy to stay with Rob after school. I had a Colt 38 revolver which had been Dad’s, and I believed it was well-hidden. I stored the ammunition in another closet separate from the gun. I had taken Rob to see a Western show where gunslingers and cowboys performed twirling gun tricks and shoot-outs. The babysitter’s younger brother was playing with Rob in the house. After talking about the show he had seen, they decided to play with the gun. The sleeping baby-sitter woke when he heard the gun’s report. The ammunition was ancient and the gun powder had lost its punch. The impact wasn’t as damaging as it could have been. The little boy was shot in the collar-bone when the gun went off. The babysitter called emergency services. In all of the confusion of EMTs and police, no one thought to let me know. In a panic, Rob called me at work, and I assured him that I would be there immediately. I drove with my heart in my throat.

After clearing the house, I drove Rob to the Ft. Sam Emergency Room. I wanted to insure he would be able to deal with this shocking event. The doctor checked him into the hospital for a over-night evaluation. The next morning, a psychiatrist talked to him and then to me. He felt Rob would be able to cope with time. I didn’t want Rob to see and deal with the aftermath at the house. I hired a professional cleaning team to remove all the blood. When the child ran through the hallway to the family room blood splattered on the walls and carpet. My boss, Bernie, was upset that I wasn’t available for a conference. I talked him in to meeting me at a park to have our meeting. While we were waiting for the bloody trail to be cleaned up, I let Rob play.

I called Larry and asked him to come home from Korea. I felt Rob needed the support of two parents. Larry called me back and said he was unable to get a hardship leave. It occurred to me that Larry could take normal leave time and come to San Antonio for a few days. He refused.

The family of the injured child sued me. Fortunately for me, both families had the same home insurance company. The insurance company wasn’t willing to sue itself, and we settled out of court. For a few days, Rob would duck down in the seat when we pulled out of the garage. He didn’t want to be seen by the neighbors. The boy’s large family would taunt Rob whenever they saw him. There is no restitution for having a sleeping babysitter.

Mother went to Mississippi to be with her sister, Clyde, who was in the hospital in Gulfport. While sitting in the ICU waiting room, she visited with a lovely gentleman named Gresham Carter. Before long they were dating, and she moved to Long Beach. He was the epitome of the Southern gentleman. He was so very soft-spoken, I could barely hear him. Before they married, she called to tell me about him. She was concerned because Van had told her it was unwise to marry an old man. They were both in their sixties. I told her she could go sour just as easily as Gresham could and to ignore Van.

Gresham had two grown sons, Charles and Carlos. About six months after he and Mother married, Gresham had a brain aneurysm and was in critical condition. At the same time, his oldest son, Charles, was in the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver. Mother was overwhelmed. Feeling guilty that I had told her it would be all right to get married, I went to stay with her a couple of weeks.

They lived at the Patio Apartments on the beach in Long Beach, and the upstairs neighbors were Jay and Ruth De Nicola. Jay and Gresham had been college roommates. Jay and Ruth made an effort to do everything they could to help. They cooked meals for us, ran errands, and they were lifesavers. Charles’ severe condition became critical, and I realized he would not survive. I braced Mother for his imminent death, and he died quietly without Gresham ever knowing.

When I first arrived in Mississippi, I slept late and Jay drove me over to the hospital. When I arrived at the area where Mother was with Gresham, I saw a sign in the ICU waiting room. The sign stated that only two people per patient were allowed in the Intensive Care area. I knew that a neighbor was with Mother, so I sat down to wait for her to come out. In about 30 minutes, Mother came out and saw me sitting there. She said she was concerned that I hadn’t shown up. I informed her that I was merely obeying the posted rules. She took me by the arm and drug me back to Gresham’s unit. She disclosed to me that the sign was only meant for Black people. In 1975 Mississippi, I didn’t realize the rules didn’t apply to me.

Gresham died several weeks later. All of my brothers, sisters, and in-laws went to the funeral along with Larry, Rob and me. After the funeral all the guys got rowdy at the hotel swimming pool, and they threw each other in the pool, chairs and all. I thought for sure we would all be thrown out. Mother made a decision to remain in Mississippi. She had her remaining brother and sister, and she had made new friends.

My musical preference has always been classical or jazz. At a private function in San Antonio, a country singer was the entertainment for the party. The singer was Willie Nelson, and I was blown away by him. I still don’t care for country music, but Willie is a natural genius and the Mozart of his genre. He was very popular in Texas, but not yet a national treasure.

I went to see him perform at Floore’s Country Store in Helotes with friends. Willy didn’t bother to come on stage until after ten o’clock. The stage was set up in the backyard at Floore’s store and restaurant. Staggering up to the stage, guys handed Willy their Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle. When he hit the first chord of Whiskey River, the crowded went wild. Back in the day Willy played as long as he felt like it. He was still on stage at 2 am when I headed back to San Antonio. Dropping my friends off, it was close to 3 am when I got home. Larry had been calling from Korea. He was beside himself when I finally answered the phone. Explaining where I had been and with whom was of no avail, we got into a huge argument. His not believing me, along with his refusal to come home when I felt Rob needed him, became a bone of contention with me.

I bought two tickets to go see Tina Turner’s tour when she came to San Antonio. She had recently divorced Ike and was playing in small venues trying to make a come back. I told Rob that he had to go with me. He was mortified and fussed about having to go see her. We went to the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium and had great seats. Tina Turner came on the stage in a red outfit with a short skirt, slit up the side. The “Queen of Rock and Roll” hit the stage and turned it on. The legs, the voice and the energy got through to my balky 11-year-old. Tina was amazing. Next to Santana, she performed one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen

Larry was due to rotate back to the States and his next assignment was for Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Larry was gone for extended periods. When he returned, I would be relegated to a second-class citizen. The first year I out-earned him, he became resentful and refused to file our income tax. I was tired of him being heavy-handed, and he feared my growing independence. When he returned to San Antonio, I informed him that I wanted a divorce. Larry pulled the “I have been gone most of Robin’s life and now is the time he needs a father” card and I acquiesced. School was out for the summer, and Larry took Rob to Leavenworth with him. I remained in San Antonio to sell the house. Fortunately, Windsor Park Mall had just been built and the area was growing. I sold the house in a couple of months and drove with Abe and Freckles to Kansas.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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