I was 22 years old then. There wasn’t much of a future there in Oxnard. I could work on the farms, and I did, but I was a high school graduate when most of the people in town did not finish eighth grade. Many promises were made to me. They started out with, “Come see me when you finish school. We’ll talk then.” Other people said, “You are Mexican, I am never going to hire you.”
Roberto was older than me and he got fed up with the way the gringos were. He went back a few years earlier to Mexicali and found work there quite easily. He had worked in Oxnard for the lumber company, that and his ability to speak Spanish were reasons he got hired so easily. Buildings were going up on either side of the border and he quickly got promoted to sales.
I went down there and stayed with him. I started working at the lumber yard. I make deliveries to the construction sites. In a short time I felt more at home here in the Imperial Valley than I did back in Oxnard. I really didn’t have those bad feelings of people who did not like the Mexicans. Many of the white folks here were Spanish-speaking. We were all the same. In these years there was no fence between the two countries so it did not matter where you were. Mexicali, Calexico, Heber, El Centro, Brawley, or any of the other towns nearby, it was all the same. It was hard to tell which side of the border you were on.
One of my deliveries was for the Fox Theater in downtown Calexico. That’s it on the left. It was the first air-conditioned room in the Imperial Valley. It had a matinee on Sunday afternoon. There were major motion pictures from Hollywood but all the actors spoke Spanish.
I had an order to deliver some boards to the theater. I unloaded them in the back of the stage area. Back there, behind the screen, I found a large room and inside were three large blocks of ice. They looked like they were about three hundred pounds each. There was a large fan behind the blocks of ice and they blew the air into the auditorium. After my delivery the owner said I could stay to see the movie.
It felt good at first, however by the time the program ended I was dripping wet down to my bones. Everyone in there was soaking wet from the moist air. We all looked at each other and then walked away laughing.
The idea to cool off the auditorium was a good one, but there were some flaws in the plan.