Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Esther M. Davalos, May 28, 1982

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:31 - Introduction / Moving from Texas to Pennsylvania

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Partial Transcript: Okay, presumably that's now doing what it should be doing.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos explains where her family came from, as well as what life was like in Texas before the whole family moved north. She introduces her mother as the resourceful backbone of the family after her father died in the Mexican Revolution.

Keywords: Baldwin Locomotive Works, Eddystone plant (Philadelphia, Pa.); Influenza Epidemic of 1918; Mexican Revolution; Mothers; San Antonio, Texas; Spain

Subjects: Families.; Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919; San Antonio (Tex.)

GPS: San Antonio (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 29.446462, -98.503469
00:04:03 - Arriving in Eddystone, Pennsylvania

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Partial Transcript: We arrived in, uh, Eddystone, Pennsylvania where the Baldwin Locomotive Works was.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos recounts when the whole family moved from Texas to Eddystone, Pennsylvania. The family moved north to meet Davalos' brothers who had already moved to Eddystone to work for higher wages than they earned in Texas. Although the original plan was to meet her brothers in Pennsylvania and go back to Texas, Davalos' mother realized that the quality of living was higher in Pennsylvania than in Texas and decided to stay and open a boarding house.

Keywords: Baldwin Locomotive Works (Eddystone, Pa. plant); Boarding houses; Boardinghouses

Subjects: Eddystone (Pa.)

GPS: Eddystone (Pa.)
Map Coordinates: 39.860941, -75.344405
00:06:06 - Influenza pandemic of 1918

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Partial Transcript: Uh, then, the--they had the, the flu.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos explains the turmoil of living through the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. Her whole family contracted the illness except for her brother, Moses; he stayed at home and nursed them back to health because no one was willing to help for fear of catching the flu themselves.

Keywords: Armistice--World War I; Influenza Epidemic of 1918; Spanish Influenza; World War I

Subjects: Diseases.; Families.; Health.; Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919; Physicians; World War, 1914-1918

00:08:32 - The first move to Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: So we moved to Philadelphia.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos recalls her family's first move to Philadelphia, as well as the various homes and neighborhoods that they lived in. While talking about the neighborhoods, she also mentions the kinds of people that she lived around and the languages spoken by her neighbors.

Keywords: 3rd Street & Lombard Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); 83rd Street & Tinicum Avenue (Philadelphia, Pa.); Boarding houses; Boardinghouses; Delaware Expressway; Fishtown (Philadelphia neighborhood); Girard Avenue (Philadelphia, Pa.); Interstate 95; Kensington (Philadelphia neighborhood); Moving; Philadelphia (Pa.); Richmond Street & Shackamaxon Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Spanish

Subjects: Dwellings; Families.; Housing.; Neighborhoods; Neighbors.

00:12:59 - Becoming a Spanish interpreter

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Partial Transcript: And then I have always been active in the Spanish speaking people, not only the Mexicans, but, uh, all Spanish speaking people.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos remembers the start of her career as a Spanish interpreter. She helped a Mexican man in jail who was arrested because he had mispronounced his order at a restaurant; he had been mistaken for saying something inappropriate to a waitress and was arrested for indecency.

Keywords: Bilingual; Careers; Interpreters; Jobs; Prejudice; Racism; Spanish; Work

Subjects: Discrimination.; Employment; Immigrants

00:16:42 - Memories of growing up in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: When you think of, of growing up here, do you think of a particular neighborhood or do you have very clear memories of the different areas you lived in?

Segment Synopsis: Davalos recalls memories of growing up in different Philadelphia neighborhoods. She describes the differences between homes in Texas and her homes in Philadelphia. Davalos explains the family's financial situation growing up as well.

Keywords: 83rd Street & Tinicum Avenue; Boarding houses; Boardinghouses; Community; Finances; Knickerbocker Stone Company; Money; Suburban Station; Texas

Subjects: Childhood; Dwellings; Families.; Housing.; Neighborhoods; Neighbors.

00:25:44 - More on her career as an interpreter in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: So I went to work for the, for the Health Department.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos looks back on her twenty five year career as an interpreter for various Philadelphia departments. She started working at the Nationalities Service Center, moved to Immigration Services, and then started at the Health Center on 5th Street and West Girard Avenue where she worked for most of her career.

Keywords: 4th Street & Girard Avenue (Philadelphia, Pa.); Careers; Friends Neighborhood Guild of Philadelphia; Health Department (Philadelphia, Pa.); Health District Six; Immigration Services (Philadelphia, Pa.); Interpreters; Jobs; N 5th Street & W Girard Avenue (Philadelphia, Pa.); Nationalities Service Center (Philadelphia, Pa.); Work

Subjects: Discrimination.; Employment; Immigrants

GPS: Nationalities Service Center, Philadelphia (Pa.)
Map Coordinates: 39.954935, -75.159831
00:32:19 - On being a woman in a Spanish speaking culture

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Partial Transcript: Were you affected by that?

Segment Synopsis: Davalos explains her experience as a woman growing up in a Mexican household and the differences in gender roles in the Mexican family dynamic. She continues to explain the development of her own blended family; she had married, divorced and had two children before Davalos met her late husband who had four children of his own from a previous marriage as well.

Keywords: Blended family; Children; Culture; Death; Divorce; Growing up; Matriarchy; Mexican; Patriarchy; Richmond Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Women's issues

Subjects: Employment; Language and languages.; Marriage

GPS: Davalos Family Home as of 1940 Federal Census
Map Coordinates: 39.985675, -75.247207
00:39:35 - Union involvement in Texas

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Partial Transcript: Were either of your, your brothers involved in the unions, in the early days of the unions?

Segment Synopsis: Davalos describes her two brother's political involvement in Texas Labor Unions. According to Davalos, her brothers were able to make a difference within the Texas bureaucracy, specifically regarding Mexican workers.

Keywords: Austin, Texas; Labor unions; Mexican; Race issues; Racism

Subjects: Austin (Tex.); Employment; Immigrants; Labor disputes; Labor movement; Labor unions

00:42:31 - Importance of religion

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Partial Transcript: Was the church an important part of your family when you were growing up?

Segment Synopsis: Davalos tells Levin about her religious past as well as the importance of her beliefs to her life as an adult. To Davalos, religious beliefs are the key to "a happy life" as to why she clings so heavily to Catholicism.

Keywords: Catholic; Catholicism; Christianity; Churches; God

Subjects: Religion

00:46:13 - Husband's experiences with racial prejudice

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Partial Transcript: Was your husband raised in the city as well?

Segment Synopsis: Davalos explains some general experiences with racial prejudice that her husband dealt with. Her husband was born in the United States, but was raised for much of his life in Mexico which gave him an accent. Davalos claims that his accent alone caused others to decide that they could not understand her husband or that he could not understand them before the conversation would begin.

Keywords: Accents; Growing up; Husbands; Mexican; Mexico; Philadelphia (Pa.); Prejudice; Self-employment; Shoemakers

Subjects: Childhood; Employment; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism

00:49:04 - Gender roles and her reflection on marriage

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I believe that, uh, we're demasculating the men.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos comments on the importance of men and women's roles within a marriage and a household. She emphasizes how the gender roles are in place for a reason; the gender roles do not hold one another back within the relationship but promote mutual respect.

Keywords: Feminism; Gender norms; Gender roles; Husbands; Machismo; Masculinity; Women's rights

Subjects: Gender issues; Marriage; Sex role

00:52:31 - Entertainment and recreation

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember--well, what, what did people do for entertainment?

Segment Synopsis: Davalos remembers the various ways that her and her brothers would entertain themselves when they were children. They would sing, swing, skate and she even recalls them fighting rats. She explains that when she was a child, they did much more physical activity because there were no televisions or family cars to drive them to and from where they needed to go.

Keywords: Active; Boarding houses; Boardinghouses; Entertainment; Gardening; Mexico; Storytelling

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Recreation

00:58:20 - Separation and prejudice

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Partial Transcript: I don't know where this, uh, this prejudice stuff came out of.

Segment Synopsis: Davalos questions where the modern day issue with racial prejudice came from. She recalls that in her childhood there wasn't such a problem with prejudice and intolerance. Davalos makes the claim that there is a general lack of love in the world because of the problems with accepting others within one's community. Along with this, she points out that society has developed to value money over the quality of a person, which she believes is different from the times that she grew up in.

Keywords: Acceptance; Education; Intolerance; Miscommunication; Prejudice; Race issues; Segregation; Stereotypes; Technology; Tolerance

Subjects: Childhood; Race discrimination.; Race relations; Racism