Musicals

  Growing up in the west side I didn’t get acculturated in any form of entertainment because I didn’t know it existed. The idea of theatrical plays, concerts and musicals were new to me. However, I did enjoy movies because they set the standard of living even though I didn’t have the lifestyle the characters in the movies had.

  It was until I joined the military that I was exposed to many other ethnic groups and their lifestyle. It excited me and I wanted to know more about how they lived, eat, dress and language. I got to know Puerto Ricans, Italians, Native Americans, New Yorkers and many other groups. Living in the same barracks, we got to know each other. For example, they wanted to know why I didn’t dress like a charro and why I couldn’t ride horses.

  My most exciting experience was when I was ordered to West Point, New York as a cadre. I was assigned to an Infantry Detachment which consisted of about a hundred men. We were there to train West Point Cadets in Infantry and Ranger tactics.

  As a Private First Class (PFC), I did the dirty work. Me and others had to do Kitchen Police (KP) honor guard duty and do the field work of a rifle squad soldier. There were times that we had free time and we go anywhere. We could go roller skating or ice skating depending on the season, watch a concert by the Army band or see the cadets parade. After that it got pretty boring. Thank God we had a service club. They took us on trips to New York City for the weekend. I was excited because we stayed at the USO building where they had bunks upstairs. We could stay there for breakfast lunch and dinner. All free. Donuts too.

  While at the USO, we got free tickets to movies and plays. This was my first venture into drama plays. The first one was the play, “A Raisin in The Sun”. This was in1959 and was just starting to play on Broadway. It was so new that they had cardboard and wood boxes as furniture. (It was made into a movie later on with Sidney Portiere as the lead.)

  I got hooked on Broadway plays whether it played on Broadway or not. There were quite a few off Broadway theaters and I went to several. My initial trip to New York set me off to going there when I was free all weekend. On my own, if I had money, I would take a bus. If not, I would hitch hike all the way to George Washington Bridge where I would walk across and take a cab to downtown Manhattan. I wore my uniform in order to get a free ride and in those days, everybody in uniform was given a ride.

  This is the time when I started to get excited on musical plays. I enjoyed the colorful dancing, the songs and the music. The music had a strange sound and I never heard the kind of music that played for the staged shows. It was more horns than violins and drum beats. The second time I visited the city, I was given tickets to “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. Staged show. It had been on Broadway for quite a while and later made into a movie. I liked the stage show better. So, all year in 1959, I was able to travel several times to the city to see concerts with Joni James at Carnegie Hall, Louis Armstrong also at Carnegie Hall. Also Perry Como at the NBC building. One of my favorite play was “The Music Man” with Bert Parks, the Miss America Host playing the lead part. All that came to a halt when I was reassigned to the Canal Zone in the Republic of Panama in 1960 where I started my career in a regular Infantry unit.

 Before I retired from the Army, I was stationed in Washington D.C. at Ft. McNair in D.C. When I had some free time which was a lot, I visited all the museums and even visited the White House before my family arrived and we lived in Ft. Myers, Virginia. We had a lot of free time and we were able to attend several concerts put on by the Army, Marines, Air Force bands and also attended the Lincoln Center where we saw Jerry Lewis in “Damn Yankees”

  Now in my senior years and not working for pay I started to go see some plays at the Majestic and the Municipal Auditorium where we saw “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats” among others. When the pandemic hit our area we were restricted in our travels and activities.

  Thank God for YouTube. I discovered YouTube when I was watching Netflix movies. My son showed me how to get into YouTube and lo and behold, I was transferred back to 1959 and beyond. All the movies and serials that I watched in my younger days, wrestling at the Wrestlethon, westerns with movie stars like Roy rogers, Bob Steele, war movies with John Wayne, TV shows like You Bet Your Life, The Texaco Hour with Milton Berle, Tarzan movies and more. The current one I am really interested in is the musicals with Doris Day, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. I went back in time to see the original plays that I had seen in 1959 and others that I had never seen like “Wicked” and “Memphis”.  Thank you YouTube. Even with the pandemic I’ll be inside watching my musicals.

Battle of Flowers Remembered

 Recently I went in to YouTube see if there were any videos of the Battle of flowers parade on YouTube. I was able to get the 2018 and 2019 videos in its entirety. The cameras were on Alamo street close to the Alamo and panning all the way to the end of the island where we normally would be sitting to watch the parade. I was reminiscing to the time I first saw the parade when I was young.

  Back then Fiesta would start with the River Parade and end with the Flambeau parade or Saturday night parade. The day parade would start on Broadway and end at the middle of Houston Street. So if you were watching it on Commerce when it ended, you could up to Houston street and continue to see the parade as it snakes its way up Houston Street. Later on it ended at Santa Rosa Street.

  I remember as a youngster, that the carnival would be on Buena Vista and around City Hall. I liked to walk up and down the booth and play some games. I never won anything. I did get to see the Freak shows. I also started marching in the parade when I was a Boy Scout and we carried torches for the night parade. Each of us got a two-dollar bill for that night. I thought at first that we’ve got ripped off because I had never seen a two-dollar bill.

  When I joined the Rifle drill team at Lanier, I didn’t expect to be marching again. WE were wearing khaki uniforms with brown shoes in the beginning of my time with the ROTC. Later we had to dye the shoes black. However, we wore combat boots for the drill team that also had to be dyed black. So, when we marched in the day and night parade we were looking good. All the way from Broadway to the end of the parade, we demonstrated our exhibition fancy drill. We were sweating halfway to the end. Afterwards those who wanted to stay at the carnival would give the rifles to the ROTC instructors and the rest went home. Not me, I stayed and had fun at the carnival. My last parade was in 1958.

  As I was looking at my YouTube experience seeing the parade once again, I decided to see what other videos it had. I was surprised to see a video about the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Flowers parade shooting. It set me back in time when that happened.

  I retired from the military on August 1978 and my family had never seen the parade in San Antonio because we were always away from home. So in 1979, we went to see the day parade. We went early to claim our seats close to the Menger Hotel. Everybody was excited and all the parade goers were waiting for the start of the parade. What we got was motorcycle police officers with their sirens on rushing back to where the parade started. The news filtered back to us that a shooting had occurred back on Broadway street where the parade started. I became afraid because that’s where my son Martin, and his cousins were setting up chairs for the Boys Club to raise funds.

  I immediately took my wife and children back home and raced to where the incident was going on. I stopped on the freeway and looked down to see if I could find my kids. I went around the freeway to Broadway and parked nearby. By that time, it was over and I started to look for my kids. I saw blood on the street where the sniper had randomly shot several people before he was killed by a lone officer who managed to climb into the RV. I found out that the Boys Club manager had brought all the worker back home. I left the location and went to make sure my son was ok.

  When we got together back home, they told me that prior to the shooting they had seen the RV driving into the parking area. Later, when the man started shooting everybody went down. They crawled to a building and got behind it.  Some children were left behind by their parents in the middle of the chairs when they looked for cover, so my nephews went and rescued them and brought them back behind the building. One of the children seemed to be shot. They stayed there for about twenty minutes while the shooting was still going on.

  Reliving this now made me want to talk to my son and nephews about it. When I called my son he said that he still remembers it very well. My nephew recalled it too and it was still fresh on his mind. They remembered that after it was over, they picked up left behind purses and they waited for the owners to come back and recover their purses.

  In 1980 we went back to the same place we had the year before to watch the day parade. We were a little antsy hoping nothing will happen. We were satisfied when rows of motorcycle cops leading the parade with the van guard made up of drill teams coming our way.