Omar Alvarez is born at 6:00 pm June 10, 1943 at Kleberg
County Hospital, according to Court Records.
My first memories of Kingsville are of living in a small house
on the corner of Yoakum and Eighth with my older brother
Gaston, and my Parents ( Marina & G. S. ) We were just a
normal Family trying to survive in South Texas. My Dad worked
for the Railroad, like most of the Men in Kingsville did. He
followed his two older Brothers Adan and Sam, he would finally
retire 43 years later in Houston, Texas, having being with
MoPac all those years, some good and some bad.
By 1949 the Family had grown. I now had two younger sisters
Norma Linda and Pearl. So my Dad was forced to add a couple
more rooms to the house. I can remember the four of us
sleeping in the same room, with Gaston and I sharing the same
bed....not sure about the Girls.
As I recall it stayed that way until 1957 when we built the
" Big House " as we called it. But I am getting
ahead of myself, more on that later.
I don't remember Gaston starting school, but a year later I
was to join him at Lamar Elementary
This was very unusual as all the " Mexican Kids "
went to Austin Elementary on the other side of town , with the
Anglos at Lamar. Somehow my parents knew that we lived within
the Lamar district, and were bound and determined to send us
to Lamar; they had quite a battle on their hands. Gaston and I
were subjected to several tests before being enrolled. We were
tested on our English reading and speaking abilities by Mrs.
Blackman, the school principal. Luckily My Parents had brought
us up speaking English, only to learn Spanish later. Little
did my Parents know the burden Gaston and I would carry from
then on thru High School.
I can still remember my first day of school sitting somewhere
near the back and the students coming in: Carlton, Larry, Tom,
Anne, Tommy, Gerald, Mike, Fred, and a few others whose names
I can't recall. For most of the next 12 years most of these
kids would remain my closest friends. Mrs. Babbs, Miss Lill,
Mrs. Halberdier, Mrs. Gwinn , and of course Coach Gillette
would be our Teachers and Mentors those crucial young years ,
and Mrs. Blackman in her own way would help shape us into what
we would later become.
In the Third Grade two boys, Manuel and Leo, were now in
Lamar, how were we to know we would become lifetime Friends.
Those were good years: The pledge of Allegiance every morning
before class started, the Mayday celebrations , dancing around
the Maypole , and of course the Christmas pageant. I can see
all of us crowded into the hallway and staircase all decorated
with Holly and Wreaths and singing Carols..........those were
By fifth grade we were all starting to shape our lives Manuel
and I in the Band, Leo on the basketball court, and Mike,
Larry, on the Football field. Anne was, and still is, our
Anne was elected to Queen of our Mayday Festival
With Mike, Larry, Tom, and myself as members of her Court , I
can see all of us in our suits and gowns walking down that red
carpet in front of all the parents and guests.
We were all happy go lucky kids with no known prejudices that
was soon to change, Jr. High was our next step.
Once again, a new Jr. High had been built and of course most
of " The Mexican Kids " were assigned to the new
Gillette Jr. High. The Lamar group was to go on to Memorial
Jr. High, A tough rivalry instantaneously existed between the
It would be a new experience for us all.
By this time I began to see that I was caught in the middle,
the Mexican Community did not accept me because I spoke
English and went to Lamar, then Memorial; on the other side
the Anglos seemed to accept me but only to a point. As long as
I knew the boundaries, everything would be okay. Don't get too
close, or even think about asking an Anglo girl for a date. I
would end up missing most of the school sponsored Dances and
events because the Mexican girls would not go out with me and
the Anglo girls were not allowed to go out with me.
Kingsville was growing the College and Naval Base and the
Celanse Plant were bringing in new people to the area. We were
now in the mid -fifties, Rock n' Roll, the Cold War, bomb
shelters, TV, Dial phones, Radar ovens, Life was good.
Dad was now thinking of building us a new home with 3 bedrooms
and two bathrooms and an attached garage, with central air and
Dad ended up building what I remember as the first brick home
on our side of town. His older brother and wife now had a
prosperous business going " The Little Flower Shop "
it would grow to become the largest floral business in town.
Kingsville was divided in thirds: Anglo, Mexican, and Negro.
Main Street had J C Penny, Terry -Ferris, El Nuevo Mundo,
Anthony's, Fergusson's Jewelry, Harrell's Drugstore, Raglands,
Gafford's Grocery, and Flato's Hardware, and of course the
Rex, Rialto, and the new Texas theaters.
On Richard Street we had Martinez Grocery, Solis Grocery, a
Shoe shop, and several other small businesses serving the
On the Negro side a young entrepreneur was building his
empire, Mr. Andrews had a small barbershop, which would grow
to 8-10 chairs in the 50's and 60's, a shoeshine stand that
you had to make reservations for, and he later added a Dry
Cleaning business across the street. Most of the College and
Navel base, and eventually the High School, were his
At that time the Negros were only allowed in the Rialto
Theater and were confined to the balcony, with their own
bathrooms upstairs. Anglos and Mexicans could sit downstairs,
or in the Rex and Texas wherever they pleased. By this time my
Father was working part time for the Rialto and Texas
theaters, also giving me odd jobs around the theaters making
15 cents an hour! This also allowed me free entry to all the
movies, which I enjoyed for the rest of my time in Kingsville.
Then of course there was The Ranch, it was in it's heyday with
people from all over the World coming into Kingsville for
their Annual Sales. The Rockefellers, Du Ponts, Sheiks from
Arabia, and many more Rich and Famous including Hollywood
stars Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, etc.
I had gone to school with both Tres and Tio of The Ranch, they
were really down to earth kids just like the rest of us. The
Brothers Cavazos ( my cousins ) from The Ranch were on their
way to fame and fortune, Dick to the Army to retire as a three
or four Star General , and Larry to an Educational life that
would include President of Texas Tech and finally as Sectary
of Education under the Reagan Administration. While Bobby
would go on to football and ranching, spending two years with
the Chicago Bears.
My Mother would finish her Education at A&I by going to
Saturday classes and getting her degree in teaching and
getting a job at The Laureles Division of The Ranch. She was
teaching 5th grade thru 9th grade in one room, with possibly
10 students in the entire class. Those students that would
continue their education would then go to High School in
Corpus Christi. The rest, which was also most , would quit and
go to work on The Ranch. At that time we had a lot of
relatives working for The Ranch, the Silvas, Cavazos,
Quintanilla, Trevino, and Alaniz from the Kennedy Ranch in Sarita. Our Families were all related by Marriage or blood.
My Jr. High years would go by quickly, meeting new friends and
really getting to know how to play Drums. As my brother was a
year ahead of me, I also got to know his friends and teachers.
Gaston would go on to be President of his Class through out
JR. and High School. I had to contend with being his
"little brother", and being asked all the time why
can't you be more like Gaston ? I presume I was rebelling so I
never got the accolades he got, but I made my own name and got
by. Sandra, Pat, Susan, Shirley, Gloria, Nadia, Danny, Dennis,
were all names I will never forget from Jr. High.
Also about that time I met a man who would change my life
Jimmy Dodd: Professional photographer. I would become
his lackey or gofer for the next six or seven years. Everyone
in the State either knew Jimmy or had heard of him. His
notoriety came from his photos and, or his size. He was a
small man in height but a very Heavy round man, always with
his camera in his hand. He took pictures of Governors,
Presidents, and Famous people like Will Rogers.
As the local photographer for the Police he was also present
at most car accidents and the few homicides in Kleberg County.
As one of his gofers I was also present. We got to meet all
the "New Rock n' Roll" stars as he went to
most concerts as a news photographer , I had my picture taken
with most of them backstage : Chuck Berry , Little Richard ,
The Coasters , The Platters , Ricky Nelson , Jimmy Clanton ,
and many many more ....... No, never with Elvis.
With my High School years approaching and getting a little
older I started seeing Kingsville in a different light. I
never had a car of my own but some of my friends did. There
were two Drive-in theaters, about four major drive-in
restaurants, and several local restaurants: Cheatem's, Mac's
Chicken Shack, El Jardin, The Rainbow Café, and downtown
Cain's next to the Rialto. Sure I went to all of these,
C&M's, Skee's, Helen's, but my favorite and home was
Young's Root Beer stand............there were also some clubs
I was too young for but somehow or another I managed to get
into. The more famous were The Rendezvous, The Javalina and of
course the very famous Hilltop. Yes Kingsville did have a life
By the time I got into High School Integration was a word
everyone knew. It was 1959, and Negros were going to be at
King Hi, for the better or worse. We never had an incident the
whole time I was there that I became aware of, The only impact
I remember was in Sports, a young man named James "
Preacher " Pilot, was to change Brahma football and King
Hi forever. In 1960 we went to the State Championship Football
game in northwest Texas, Breckenridge as I recall, we had
rocks thrown at us, were verbally abused , and almost not
allowed in the Stadium because we had Negros on our team and
in the Band. Unfortunately we lost the game but we came back a
Proud Bunch for we had defeated Racism at it's best.
I remember one other time we were headed for a football game
in Edinburgh I believe, when we stopped for Supper at a
restaurant. As we all entered and placed our orders and just
having a good time, Mr. Gregg stood up and announced we were
all to go back to our buses immediately. He then went from bus
to bus to explain and took a vote. It seems our Negro band
members were not welcome. They could order take their food
back to the bus or into the Kitchen, but were not allowed to
sit in the dining room.
Did we want that to happen and go back and get our food or did
we want to forfeit supper and leave the restaurant? To a man,
we all voted to leave and not pay for the food that had been
ordered and was being prepared...........the football stadium
sold a lot of hot dogs and hamburgers that night.!
We were all pushing the envelope by that time as teenagers
will do at times. So I was trying to date an Anglo girl, as a
couple of my friends were already doing on the sly. Of course
the girl I liked was a very popular majorette whom I had first
met in Jr. Hi and we were close friends. This was not to
happen. I was approached by 4 or 5 Anglo boys and told to back
off or suffer the consequences. I never dated her but we spent
a lot of time together on school functions and group outings
to Corpus for Buccaneer days, etc. I never got over that girl,
we were to meet for a final time 40 years later at our High
School reunion and danced and laughed together in front of the
same people we couldn't in high school. She died three months
later of cancer.......
One of my friends would run off to Mexico and marry his Anglo
girlfriend and another, being an all State athlete, would
date openly an Anglo girl......without any trouble. As for my
self I had to date a girl on the sly and could never take her
out in public, even her Mother forbid us to see each
other.........Susan B. you know who you are.
My hi school years are filled with memories the football
games, the Basketball games with my best friend as the "
star " player. Skipping class and going to Moore's pool
hall in "Colored " Town and of course the Band trips
to compete with the best of the best. Also on Saturday nights
going into " Colored " Town to buy liquor from the
local Bootlegger, he never asked for ID, just give him the ten
bucks and he was happy........
I imagine that the best time I ever had was in forming my own
rock Band. It did not start out that way, I was asked if I
would play drums for a group of guys starting a band.
Eventually I became the leader and " The Shades
" were born. We would go on to play for Proms, Military
clubs, and events around town. Now I didn't have to sneak in
any of the local clubs we were Musicians. My claim to fame was
promoting a Conway Tweety concert at Jones Auditorium and
having Conway invite us to his home in Arkansas once we
graduated. Tommy, Danny Mc, and myself packed up and took up
his offer the following summer. Conway remembered us and took
us in for a few days and even got us a couple of gigs while we
Shortly there after my Father was transferred to Houston, my
Mother quit teaching at The Ranch and the whole Family left
Kingsville for good.
I will never forget growing up and living in Kingsville the
best small town in Texas.
In the era of computers and e-mail, the class of
"61" still keeps in touch with each other and
reminisce about of our days in Kingsville, even though we may
not all remember it as I do.................