This year, 1917, my classroom at Haydock School was downstairs in the basement. Most of my classmates were also Spanish-speaking. I was lucky that way because the Mexican children that lived and worked out in the farms and ranches could not get to school at all.
I remember entering the room for the first time with fear and apprehension. However it only took the first few minutes for me to fall in love with my new teacher. I can’t remember her name. She was an older woman, shy on looks, but generous with her kindness. She had such a wonderful personality that none of us in the classroom wanted to do anything to upset her. OK, I’ll come clean, I didn’t want to upset her.
She began by teaching us vocabulary. She wrote down the names of things on little cards and stuck the cards on the objects. She also drew little pictures about actions like you see below:
For the word “go” she would get up and go. For the word “sit” she walked to a chair and did just that. This was how we got to know new words, either by doing them or by touching them. We would learn words without having to translate them.
There was a cute little girl who sat in front of me. She had long hair. It was black and shiny and was tied with ribbons. Her name was Ramona. We had little cards with words printed on each one. Then we would have to get up and spell these words in front of the class. When it was my turn to spell a word, Ramona would spread her long curly hair over the card so I couldn’t see it.
By the middle of the school year we were already speaking English and understanding a lot of the teacher’s instructions. By the end of the year we were promoted to third grade with honors.
Outside of the school the abuse I got from my classmates didn’t stop. The boys were bigger than me and stronger. They would call me a bunch of dirty names and then knock me down. I finally got tired of walking home the same way. I decided to avoid my daily beatings and walked walk home a different way.
Those boys, and I have mentioned this before, looked for me and figured out how I was getting home now and they would hide behind some bushes and wait for me. I finally decided to defend myself so I always had a handful of rocks in my pocket.
They started to leave me alone once I started bouncing rocks off their heads.