La Villita Restoration Project

"A Man of Vision"

This interview will focus on the La Villita Restoration Project. Lasca Fortassain organized and supervised a stenographic bureau for the City of San Antonio during the term of Mayor Maury Maverick.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background before you came to work and how you came to work for Mayor Maverick?

At the time it was suggested I talk to the Maverick administration about a position, I was right out of high school with six months' experience in journalism. I had been editor of my high school newspaper in Laredo, Texas. The previous school editor had gone to work for the local paper, and then she'd gone to college. Then, the summer after I graduated, [the local paper] was looking for me because I was the only person with any journalism experience. So, I worked there for about six months and then came to San Antonio.

It was a bad time for someone without specific office skills, but, in about three months, I did get a position with an insurance company. I went to night school and took shorthand, which I rarely used, but it had been suggested I do that. I was in the insurance business, specifically in claims until 1938 when I went to work for the Ranson-Davidson Company Texas, a municipal bond house.

While I was there, a man named Dodie Smith, who was the agent for Dictaphones in San Antonio, came up to the office and asked me to go and apply for a position. My reply was that I had a position. He knew that quite well because he had just sold Dictaphones in that office. I thought I had some part in recommending Dictaphones to Mr. M.E. Allison, who was one of the partners in the firm. Well, Mr. Smith replied, "One should never turn down a proposition without listening to it," and I took his advice. I did go over and talked with the people who were interviewing for the position of Dictaphone operator for Maverick.

Maverick had been in Congress the previous term and had become very interested in the use of Dictaphones because they saved so much time. He could go home at night and dictate six or eight records, take them to the stenographic pool in Washington the next morning, and get that much of his work off before he even hit his office. So, in San Antonio, he was interested in doing the same thing.

I might add, too, that in some offices it had been the custom that each of the commissioners would hire people who were particularly loyal politically and who had a great many brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins and uncles, who paid poll taxes. To what extent that affected Mr. Maverick's decision to have a stenographic bureau, I never inquired, but it did appear to me that that was a possibility.

A stenographic bureau was a more efficient operation for many reasons, but one of them was that frequently people who were hired by the commissioners were not particularly well equipped to do a job in an office. In a stenographic bureau, the work goes to the bureau, and the bureau gets it out, and, when the secretary or the stenographer is finished with one piece of work, she goes on to the next piece. In an office where there might be two or three stenographers, very often one or two of them were idle for periods during the day because the director of that office was absent, busy in conference, or the dictation was all done and she had no other particular duties. We didn't have the luxury of wasted time in the stenographic bureau.

In any case, the idea of working with Maury Maverick appealed to me greatly because I had known about him from someone who had worked for him. As a matter of fact, the first recollection I have that my mother ever entered into any political activity was at the time Maury was running for county clerk and he did get elected. The problem with the position they offered me, however, was that it didn't offer any more salary than I was getting, and it was a political job, which might or might not last longer than two years. I was interested in politics, but I was not interested to the point of wanting to make it my life.

So, I decided that, if I stopped what I was doing and took two years out or some period of time, then, at whatever else I was started, I would have to start over. I didn't feel that I wanted to lose that much time, even though I would be missing what I was sure would be a very exciting experience from all that I had heard of the kinds of things that Maverick was interested in.

I told them that I was not inclined to consider it favorably and told them why. They suggested that I go out and think about it. So, I went back to the office and hadn't done much thinking because, within fifteen or twenty minutes, they called back and asked if I would consider the possibility of being the supervisor of the bureau. Would I organize and supervise the stenographic bureau? That was more interesting. I had not done that kind of thing and didn't know if I could, but I thought that this was a chance to find out.

I did take the position, and what we did was to the stipulate that I would not be forced to accept political appointees in the bureau. If the work were to be done efficiently, I would have to be able to screen and choose my workers. It was agreed that, if I hired someone who turned out to be a lemon, it would be my job to get rid of that person and that, if anybody who was a holdover under my direction turned out to be a lemon, that would not be my responsibility. It didn't turn out that way. I didn't have the job of moving along a couple of people who didn't really fit into the kind of job that had to be done for the bureau.

Well, now, Maverick ran for some county offices here. Then he was congressman and was defeated, right?


Then he came back to San Antonio and ran for mayor?


And you worked for him what dates now?

As I recall, it was the latter part of August in 1939 until the first of February 1941.

How did you find Maverick as a person and as a person to work for, the mayor of San Antonio?

Well, my contact with him was not nearly as frequent as it was with the deputy mayor, who was Floyd McGowan. I had a great deal of contact with the heads of the departments because the bureau was supposed to send help to the departments as needed. When I hired someone-at first they were all women-they had to learn to work in at least three or four different offices so that, wherever the need was greatest, I could send an extra force.

The bureau did not entirely replace the clerical, secretarial help in the offices, but the bulk of the secretarial help was in the stenographic bureau, with the one-time exception when they hired a number of young women to try to get up to date on traffic tickets that were months, even years, behind in collections. They hired workers, and it was the "powder puff" squad whose work was specifically trying to get that up to date. For a time I did have some people who were assigned over there.

Maverick was a very interesting man because he was a man of such vision. He also was a very funny man. He could charm the birds off the trees, and yet there were times when he was very blunt to many people, almost ugly in the way he spoke. I recall a time when some of his political enemies, objecting to something he had done, wrote a letter to the newspapers lambasting Maury for his behavior on a certain issue and saying almost directly that, "If you're not a coward, you'll answer this letter and tell us why you did it-you know, explain yourself."

Well, Maury's sense of humor was excellent, and there was such emphasis laid on his answer to this letter. You know, "If you don't answer, we will know the sort of person you are." So he sat down and dictated practically a one-line letter saying, "Dear So and So, Yours of the 16th inst., received and contents noted. Sincerely yours, Maury Maverick," and he sent copies to the newspapers. [Laughter]

The only time I had a problem with him in the bureau was right at first, when he would come rushing in saying, "Where's my speech? Where's my speech?" and I would say, "I told you I would have it ready by ten-thirty." And he would say, "Yes, but it's ten-fifteen." And I'd say, "All right. If you get out, you'll have it by ten-thirty, but, if you stay here, you'll make all the secretaries so nervous they won't be able to finish it." And he'd say, "All right, Miss Fortassain." It only happened a couple of times, and after that, if I said "ten-thirty," he knew it would be there at ten-thirty, and that was satisfactory for him.

How did he feel about the La Villita Project? I've read in some newspaper articles that he went out on a moonlit night and just had a vision of this or something, you know, and that's how it came to him. Do you think that might be credible or is that part of the legend of Maury know, put out by Maury Maverick?

I have never heard him testify to a vision, but he was a man of vision. He was always envisioning things that would be good for the city, and he was very concerned about the people. So, the Villita Project, in a way, was sort of an intertwining of his interests in what would be good for the city and what was good for the people. He saw it as a people place and also a place that would bring money to the city.

We were beginning to have conventions, so we needed to have a lot more [places to go]. He saw that we needed to have an open-air place to take advantage of the beautiful weather in San Antonio. There needed to be an open-air place where people, convention groups, and other groups could meet. He also was extremely interested in good neighbor relations with Mexico and had a great interest in the whole cause of liberty. Are you familiar with his writings?

Not really.

Do you know In Blood and Ink?


It is a marvelous book about the documents of liberty that I think you'll find interesting.

I do know he was determined that the houses, as they were restored, should be named after South American liberators.

Yes, the whole cause of freedom was so important to him that he sort of put everything together: his interest in the freedom of man and the freedom of peoples, his interest in the Latin American countries, and his interest in improving the economic situation in San Antonio. But, as far as this legendary vision is concerned, it was my understanding that the restoration of that area was something that had long been a dream of the women in the Conservation Society. Whether Maury had the dream independently or whether this was something that, because he knew those ladies and it had come up in discussions and started him thinking about it, I don't know. My own interpretation has always been that they were all interested in the same things.

But the Conservation Society women did not know the ropes, and Maury did, having just been in Washington and having just gone through for the past several years the business of helping to get legislation written, as a result of which we were able to get a WPA [Works Project Administration] project to clean up the river and make the river banks a place of enjoyment. He knew where the money was, in what piece of legislation, and what it was possible to do with the appropriations. He knew about the National Youth Administration [NYA].

All of these, of course, were "depression children"-government depression children, but the money was for useful purposes. The projects would never have been set up had not there been such unique unemployment all over the country. The river was a WPA [project]. La Villita was a National Youth Administration project.

Do you personally know anything of the relocation of the...I think there were 119 residents, and then they didn't know how many you know what happened to them?

I understood they were being located...relocated, but I did not have any personal knowledge of where they went or who was taking care of the relocation.

How about opposition to this? Surely in America there was opposition. You know there must have been.

I suspect there was opposition, perhaps not so much to the project as to Maury, because there was a strong political faction working against him, of course. He defeated them at the election, but they didn't lose any time attacking him during the course of his turn at the wheel.

Did he only serve one term?

Yes, that's right.

So they did succeed in getting him?

They succeeded in getting him out of office, but not before he started so many things that have meant so much to San Antonio. In the years since I have been back in San Antonio, since 1962, I have heard any number of the people who fought him say, "Well, old Maury was a kook, but he did some good things." The people who opposed him based their opposition on the idea that Maury was a radical and even a Communist. A lot of people's sniping at him was done from that point of view.

But, at the time the Villita project was mounted, there were all sorts of opposition, all sorts of comments. "Well, crazy Maury, just sitting there figuring up ways for the city to waste money." Because the city did, I suspect, have to put in a piece of the money. I think that was a part of all of those projects. I don't think they were one hundred percent funded, although I might be wrong in my recollection.

Well, then he was so politically adept that he just kind of moved over them or went around them or...?

Well, they couldn't keep him from making an application to NYA, as that was a project that would employ San Antonio youth. And the project was not to be a one-time thing; it wasn't just rebuilding, restoring Villita. Inherent in it was the codicil that they teach, they re-teach particularly the Mexican-American youth, the arts and crafts of their forefathers, which were rapidly going into disuse. There was no market for them. The older people who did these things were, I suspect, getting less and less work. They weren't teaching their children. Many of them had learned their crafts in Mexico, and, when they came here, it was a different ambience completely.

There was the same sort of thing there [Villita] that had been in a small community in Mexico out in the country where everybody taught his sons and the women passed on to the daughters the things that they knew. So, there were classes in copperwork, and there were classes in weaving. The tiles that were originally the paving in La Villita were made by these young people; the curtains, original curtains, I remember, in the office, had been woven by students from the project.

Another stipulation in the proposal was that these places be rented; there'd be shops, but, where there was a shop selling something, they also had to be making something. They didn't have to be making everything they sold, but they were supposed to be making some things that they sold. I think that is honored more in its absence now than it is in the presence.

When they started out, it was to be that way, and it likely would have continued that way had we not gone to war because all of these young people either volunteered or were drafted. The young people who had been working for the project became involved in the war. I suspect it was some defense industry for a great many of them because they were of draft age or of the age to volunteer, and they went into military service.

Was the project completed enough?


Completed in 1941?

Yes. I left in 1941 in February, and, by the time I came back in August of 1942, La Villita was a jumping joint. There was something going on at La Villita every night, in two or three places. The Cos house was available for rent, and there were things going on in Juárez Plaza and entertainment of the very top type.

I knew a number of military men who were from the theater and writers' world in New York, and they were so impressed with the types of entertainment that were put on by the recreation departments. The groups, the Mexican and Spanish dancing groups of the recreation department were so good that these fellows would tell me the kids would be a sensation in New York. And this was a recreation department activity. What happened in the parks department is another story.

A story that I think you'd be interested in is the story of the Little Church and how it came to be a puppet theater. At first the church was in disuse and had come to a place that you almost couldn't get into it. It was in such bad shape that it was cleaned up. They did some restoration. Maury had added to the Recreation and Parks Department staff a cultural and educational director.

We had never had that kind of thing in the parks department before. He hired Rose Bernard, who was a woman with no formal training for the job but of tremendous creative ability and soul. When the building was about ready for occupancy, Maury called Rose and asked her to meet him over at La Villita. They looked around, and he said, "Rose, if you had this building, what would you do with it?" And she said, "I think I would make a puppet theater here." And he said, "Do it." She didn't know anything about puppet theaters, and she'd never made a puppet.

But she did have friends who were artists and writers and designers and what not, and she had lots of free consultation available. She had another asset because, under WPA, there were many people in San Antonio who had gone to work for the WPA because there was no market for their particular talents at the time-writers, musicians, artists, and whatnot. The city had no idea what to do with them because they didn't have, at the time, anyone like them on the payroll; there was nothing. The city fathers, at the time, did not see any specific way to use them to the limit of their abilities, and they had been put on the recreation department payroll to occupy them, handing out baseballs, mitts, bats, as they were turned back in. Well, Rose was permitted to draw on the recreation department for these people. She got artists and writers and designers and musicians. They wrote their own first show with Maury Maverick, a puppet, introducing the show. You saw the puppet in La Villita the other day, its little stomach sticking out with its outfit made out of a shirt that Mrs. Maverick had given.

I think the first story was about San Antonio in the early days...the days of the chili queens, and it was great. Everything that was in that show was put in it by these people who had been underemployed as far as their skills were concerned. Later I remember one of the things they did was Chekov's Jewel Tree with some of the best screaming of a witch that I ever heard. [Laughter]

In a church it might be real, very real.

They did the scenery for the first one. They wrote the script, made the scenery...they did everything about it. But there is one little story that I should put in here. When they had gotten about to the point where they were ready to go into production, one of the friends who had come to help Rose Bernard was Mrs. Sidney Berkowitz, who was herself an artist.

Rosalie Berkowitz, shortly before the plays were ready to go into production, looked about the Little Church and liked what she saw except for one thing. The thing that she missed was stained glass windows-a church should have stained glass windows. Naturally there were no stained glass windows available to put into the Little Church, and, indeed, maybe it had never had stained glass windows, but Rosalie and her friends decided that there was something they could do about this.

So they designed scenes from fairy tales and cut the different colors of the design out of what would have been called cellophane and came in and pasted the "stained glass" onto the inside of the window. When they had finished and the sun came through, they were delighted with their work. But still there was one thing that was missing-the stained glass looked perfect. It had no crinkles in it, and stained glass should have some little imperfections in it. They couldn't think of a thing to do about it. They went home, came back the next day, and the paste had dried, and they had their stained glass windows with the little crinkles in the glass.

Perhaps another thing that I might mention at this point is that, when Rose began to organize her talented staff, she had reached out, as I have indicated, to friends who were artists in the community, and one of these was Octavio Medellin-a sculptor who, as far as I know, is now living in Dallas, Texas-he was there in the late '50s and the early '60s. Medellin had attained a local and, I would say, state and national reputation. But he was a man who was always ready to help someone else.

Rose asked him if he would come and show her staff how to make the faces and heads for the puppets. He came and showed them how to carve the heads. The whole thing was kind of a community project, and, of course, all of these artists were very much interested in everything that went on here and were regular attendants at the performances that were given.

If I could go back for a minute to the kinds of things that were going on during World War II when I came back to the city after an eighteen-month absence. One of the local groups that was performing there was a group from Sidney Lanier High School. They were a group directed by a teacher named Rosa Elida called Elideños. The girls in this group were selected almost as if for an honor society. They had to have [good] grades. They had to have character. They had to give service to the schools, and, of course, they had to be susceptible to being taught to dance.

But the kinds of things they did were so professional that they elicited bravos and other cries of admiration from people from all over the country who came to the fiestas that were being held in La Villita during the war. I don't know what has become of the Elideños. I don't know whether someone else took over the group when Rosa Elida ceased to be its sponsor.

But that is a story of interest and significance because it was making it an honor to be a good dancer in the same way that, I understand, nowadays is true, if you are in the Jefferson Lassos or one of the pep school organizations. This might have been the forerunner of the standards that were set up for the youngsters who go into organizations like the Lassos.

What do you feel were the basic aims of Maury Maverick or the basic purposes of the project?

The basic purposes of the project were several, and I may have touched on these before. Maury was great on preservation and great on history. If one reads his speeches, and he made a lot of speeches in those days, you are aware that the man was a considerable scholar and a person whose education was possibly much deeper than people who heard him in ordinary conversation might have thought.

I think there is a story that Maury did not graduate from the University of Texas because of a course that he didn't pass with a very rough teacher. I'm not sure of all these details, but I do know that...I have been told, however, that this was the only course that he hadn't passed. Considering the eminence of the man as time went on, I can think of lots of people who have been given Doctors of Letters who had not accomplished nearly as much as Maury Maverick had. I have been told that the University of Texas refused to let him take the course in absentia and pass it.

Eventually he got a degree from a university in Washington. Now, I have not checked that one out, but I have been told that is true. He was always studying. He was always reading, and the results of this studying and his reading went into his speeches.

Another of his favorite soapboxes was Pan-American friendship. I don't know if we've talked about this before, but one of the purposes of La Villita was that it would be a place where Pan-American friendship could be celebrated. That's why the different houses, the old houses that were restored, are named after various Latin American heroes who fought for liberty: San Martín House, the Cos House, and others.

These all memorialize the heroes who believed in liberty, and Maury believed in liberty. He believed in free speech for everybody, even if you didn't agree with him. He believed that you had a right to express yourself.

That's what caused the auditorium riot, isn't it?

It was that strict construction of the idea of free speech and also the strict construction of the purpose to which the Municipal Auditorium was dedicated, that led to the incident which gave rise to the auditorium riot. The auditorium riot was framed, in my opinion. There need never have been an auditorium riot, had there not been people, and I must include the American Legion among these, who thought that it was right for any group who did not agree with them to be refused the use of the auditorium.

I don't have the exact quote, but the auditorium was dedicated in the '20s, probably '23, '24, maybe '25, along in there, to the idea of liberty and free speech and in memory of the men who had died for this kind of thing in World War I. So, when Maverick came into office and he was out of town for, oh, possibly a week, a young girl named Emma Tenayuca asked for the rental of a room in the auditorium. Theoretically, the rooms were available to the public to rent without anybody's inquiring what you wanted to rent the room for as long as you were responsible for taking good care of it. But Miss Tenayuca, who was seventeen and tubercular, was sort of the head of a very small group of people here in San Antonio who considered themselves Communists.

You have to recognize that in those days it was not against the law to be a Communist. As a matter of fact, a lot of the young intelligentsia were leaning in that direction. Not that they bought the Russian expression of Communism, but that they taught the idea that there were advantages in a system in which we were not all working for ourselves but had some concern for the group as a whole. A great many people were later clobbered because at one time they had been card-carrying Communists in the days of their youth. They really had been card-carrying Communists in San Antonio.

It seemed to me that there was, in the state of Texas at that time, a total of something like seventeen Communists. This group was having a little meeting, and they wanted to rent one of the rooms in the auditorium. To do that you had to pay a fee and get a permit. So Floyd McGown, who was the deputy mayor , approved the application, they got their permit, and immediately the guns started to blaze.

All the people who were against Maverick were dragging out the fact that Maverick had sold out to the Communists, and , of course, I think that was purely political. Anybody who came from a family like Maury's is not going to be a Communist. That's not the way he's going to go. He's going to work with them and assist them and try to effect the remedies that he thinks are indicated. In any case, there was a great hullabaloo about it, and, by the time Maury got home, there had been demands on Maury to rescind the permit.

Maury said, "These people have paid their fee, and they are citizens of the United States. They have asked to rent the room, and they have as much right to rent it as anybody else." But Maury had brought in a new chief of police, a fellow called Ray Ashworth, who had done some reforming, reeducating of police groups in several cities in the country. He wasn't a very old man. I doubt that he was as much as forty. He was a really progressive, new-idea type police chief.

When Maury had hired Ray Ashworth, a great cry had gone up. Why did we have to go out of state to hire somebody for a lucrative position such as this? They passed completely over the fact that there wasn't anyone available who had the kind of training and experience as Ashworth had. They were too comfortable with the kind of police force that they had had. The idea of reforming the police force was the last thing that some of these people wanted to see happen. [Laughter] So, newspapers began to be peppered with letters; there were all sorts of interviews with people who were objecting. Anybody who would like to read about this can go back to the newspapers and see it. [Laughter]

Among other things the dissident groups had trained a group of young people, male youth of San Antonio, in what to do to start a riot. They kept peppering Maverick to know what he was going to do about it. They expected him to withdraw. They demanded him to withdraw the permit right up to the last minute. When the time came, there were very few people who were in the meeting room. The people had, as I recall, a room in the basement; either that or they went down to the basement when the danger threatened.

Maury had had consultations with the police chief, and the police chief had given his men strict instructions that there was not to be a shot fired. There was not to be any violence. They were to use fire hoses if necessary. So this little, inoffensive group met, and one Catholic priest from Boerne had come because he wanted to refute their arguments. They permitted him. I mean, they didn't say he couldn't come, as anybody who wanted to come was welcome. But the people who wanted to come did not come to the meeting. They wanted to come to make trouble for Maury, and they did because they were determined that this was not going to pass off peacefully.

Even though the police did not attack the crowd, the people who had planned ahead of time that they would attack, did, and they stormed the auditorium. They ran over the seats and ripped up the seats with knives and did thousands of dollars worth of damage.

I don't remember what the amount was, but it was considerable, and all because a dissident political group had decided that this was the way to make political hay, to make it appear to be a big mistake on Maury's part, and to try to picture him as a person who sympathized with the Russian type of government.

The [city] salaries were very poor, and I imagine that whatever he made from his regular bureau speeches was a very welcome addition to the family income, but Maury was colorful. He was...well, for instance, he's the father of the word "gobbledegook," as you know. He became the father of the word because he got so disgusted with all the jargon they used in Washington, which he characterized as "gobbledegook."

He was very inventive himself, in the way of words. He wrote well. He'd go home, go to some meeting that he had to attend in the evening-got home maybe about ten o'clock at night, and by eight thirty the next morning the chauffeur, Albert Chavez, would come in with a couple of racks of records that Maury had dictated before he went to bed the night before. He wrote very well. I mean his ideas were good, and he expressed himself in a colorful way so that he was an interesting man to listen to. The speeches were interesting.

I understand he had an injury.

He had a World War I injury.

He was in pain most of the time.

The information I have from Terrell was that he didn't know how long he had to live. Of course, none of us does, you know. But, he was sort of on borrowed time. I believe what he had was, I think, he had been hit in the spine. And he did walk with a kind of forward lean, with his head kind of forward and canted. I've forgotten whether it was to the left or to the right, but he had a limp. It was obvious. It wasn't obvious that he had a lot of pain, but he didn't pay attention to things like that. He just toodled along and worked at the things he was interested in.

I think you'd be interested in one story about him. Some famous national musician-it may have been Goldschmann, who was the director of the St. Louis Symphony, he was quite famous at the time-came through here...or it may have been a violinist who was here with the symphony. I don't recall the name, but Rose Bernard had called Maury and had said to him, "Maury, I would like to bring this man over tomorrow. He wants to meet you." And Maury said, "Oh, sure, bring him over." She said, "Now, look, I'm not going to bring him unless you're going to be nice to him; you know, if you're not going to have time, a few minutes at least, to be nice to him, I'm not going to bring him." And he said, "I'll be nice, I'll be nice."

So the next day she brought him, and he was just charming. And the man just fell in love with him, with Maury Maverick. After they had spent, oh, I guess ten or fifteen minutes, much longer than Rose had expected that they would have, then they started out, and he called Rose back, as if he were going to talk business with her, and said, "How did I do, Rose?" [Laughing] He was just as mischievous as he could be. He was a great civil libertarian too, as is his son.

He went on to be head of one of the...

Small Business. I don't know his title there, but he was in the Small Business Administration.

Of Roosevelt?

Yes, and I know also from Terrell. I think of her as Mrs. Maverick. When she is in San Antonio, she thinks of herself as Mrs. Maverick, and, when she is in Austin, she thinks of herself as Mrs. Webb. At any rate, Terrell said that during the war Roosevelt had sent him several times on secret missions into fields of operations. He apparently was that close to Roosevelt that he would be trusted to do things of that sort.

When we were out there in La Villita the other day, you said you thought that St. Philip's College classes had begun, original classes had begun...

My information from a couple of directions has been that the original classes for St. Philip's College were sewing classes for young Negro women and that they were held in the church. Now, last week somebody challenged that and said to me that it was in that two-story house next to the church where that occurred.

I haven't done any research on it myself, but I believe one of the people who told me was Melvin Sance, who is the person in charge of black history here at the Institute. It seems to me that Dr. Scott told me the same thing. Dr. Scott is the assistant superintendent of education for the San Antonio School District, and the impression that I've had from two or three people has been that the first classes were held there. Yesterday I heard something that interested me-that St. Philips had at one time been a Catholic college. I'd never heard that before. It had been an Episcopalian, I mean, for a long time, it was Episcopalian.

Well, the church at that time was Episcopalian, wasn't it? And then they sold it to the city or gave to the city.

Well, at the time St. Philip's College was started, the church was probably Episcopalian, and I don't know whether they abandoned it or whether they sold it to somebody else, but eventually it was abandoned. I mean, the Little Church was not in use at the time that La Villita restoration was begun. I could be wrong, but that is my impression.

That it had been abandoned in that area.

Could have been that people lived in it.

The area was, way back centuries ago, was a nice place to live, wasn't it, because of its location? It never got flooded.

Well, it is said that there was an Indian village there. I remember in one of Maury's speeches a reference to the fact that there is a description of the place where the spring comes out below the Fig Tree Restaurant. You know where the water gushes out? According to some research that Maury had seen, the description of a place where one of the Spanish explorers, and it could have been Cabeza de Vaca, had come in 1539, I believe. There was a description of a place that was very much like that, so it was thought to be some possibility that the Spanish explorers passed this way, but they didn't stop. There was no settlement.

But there is said to have been an Indian village on this site. Then it became a not very elevated community, primarily inhabited, I think, by the Spanish soldiers. Then there was a flood, and the people on the other side discovered that this was high ground and it was not affected. Of course, then there were only two classes-either you were really poor or you were pretty well-to-do, and you either had practically nothing or you had quite enough. The quite-enough people came and lived here after the flood.

And it just kind of went downhill, you know, to the slum area that was there...

Of course, it had a considerable number of years in which to do it.

Well, yes.

I think one of the interesting things that happened before I left, and really before La Villita was finished. There was a woman in town who was going to be ninety-eight years old, and she was said to be the first white girl born, I think maybe the first white child born in San Antonio right after Texas became a state. Sarah Riddle Eagar. Have you ever heard of Mrs. Eagar?

Well, she lived to be well past a hundred, but at that time she was ninety-eight, and she was a tiny little lady who made rare public appearances, but when she did she was always very meticulous and dressed in black, you know, and would be what you call attractive. It was a time when that would have been proper for a lady of her era. One of her brothers had settled in Eagle Pass, and so I'm practically a member of the family in the Eagle Pass branch.

I never knew her except from a distance, but she was a person and a personage, and Maury felt that some honor should be done, that there should some recognition for this lady who had reached such advanced age, because of her history. The thing they decided was to have a reception, and they did. He was concerned about her. He wanted her to be able to sit down at a place where not everybody could get very close to her, but where they could speak to her and be close. He knew that her strength was limited. He didn't want her pressed upon, but he did want to do something to honor her. So they had an open-air reception in La Villita. I was working, so I didn't get to go!

That shows how he really did care.

I think it was estimable. You asked the other day whether Maury really cared about the people or whether this was just a political technique. Well, I don't think it was a political technique because he spoke truth to power when it would have been to his advantage politically not to raise so much dust. But he didn't seem to hold back, and sometimes he seemed to delight in raising dust. Particularly if the people he was dusting were very stuffy people.

Institute of Texan Cultures Library

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