Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 5, 2013

Listening to History

I have always enjoyed going home — back to the places where my childhood memories were made. I have lost track of how many times I have returned home for a visit since I moved away in what seems like a hundred years ago. And although I have aged since I left home as a young man, my memories have not aged. Memories do not grow old, we do. Memories can, however, fade and become less and less well-defined over the years unless we take steps to preserve them.

I returned home earlier this week to spend time with my Dad. While there, I listened to a 2-hour taped interview between my uncle and my grandfather — a recording made on January 15, 1975. The cassette had been tucked away for years for safe keeping. I leaned forward in anticipation, waiting to hear my grandfather’s voice once again. And then, there it was, that familiar voice I had last heard in 1987. As soon as my grandfather started speaking, memories flooded the room and engulfed me in waves of pensive emotions.

1.00-Felipe Garcia in San Diego - 1911

My grandfather (center) and friends. | San Diego, Texas | circa 1911

The interview was fascinating. My grandfather talked a lot about his family. He told the story of returning to his mother’s home to visit his grandfather. While there, his grandfather died. So, he negotiated with the local blacksmith, who also had carpentry skills, to have a coffin made and then arranged for his burial. He spoke about his first school teacher and classmates and what life was like growing up on a ranch.

My Grandfather and Friends | San Diego, Texas | 1912

My Grandfather and Friends | San Diego, Texas | circa 1912

I especially liked his story about traveling from the family ranch near San Diego, Texas all the way to California in 1917. He remembered the route and how difficult it was to drive on the poor and sometimes impassable roads in those days before any highways or the interstate highway system. When he visited Hollywood he learned that they were filming a western and applied to be an extra since he was a skilled cowboy. He also met Charlie Chaplin and other silent film stars. And while on the subject of cars, he also told the story of opening a Dodge dealership in Mexico with his stepbrother and selling a car to Pancho Villa, the famous Mexican Revolutionary general.

1.1-Felipe Garcia at Draughn's Practical Business School

My grandfather’s business school classmates.

One of the most riveting parts of the interview was the time he served as an election judge in Duval Country, known for its political intrigue. When a particular election did not go as some in power had hoped, two police officers were sent to arrest him and take the ballot boxes from him before he could get them to the county courthouse. My grandfather did not give up the ballot boxes, asked to see the warrant for his arrest (none was offered), and succeeded in getting the voting results to the courthouse. He was never arrested.

Felipe and Lucy Garcia

My grandparents, Felipe and Lucy Garcia.

I loved every story he told, including the account of marrying my grandmother, starting the first Boy Scout troop in Duval Country and later in the Rio Grande Valley, enlisting in the First World War, and so many other great stories. Had my uncle not interviewed my grandfather, all of these wonderful memories would have been buried with him. And although I had heard some of these stories when I was a kid, I am so thankful to hear them again as an adult. I appreciate them so much more. They are treasures. They are a part of the history of my family.

5.1-Boy Scout Troop 20 - 1955

1955 reunion of Boy Scout Troop 20, started by my grandfather (front right).

I have written before about the importance of recording family history lest it fade from memory, never to be seen or heard again. In this day of digital ease, there are no good excuses for failing to be a family historian. If you are interested in learning more about how to record your family’s history, then I encourage you to read my posts entitled Mapping our Memories, Be a Family Historian, and The Future of History. Then maybe one day, the next generations of your family will have an opportunity to listen to your family’s history.


  1. Love your post and love your old pictures. I also think preserving your family history is important. I remember when my daughter was in 5th grade, she had an assignment concerning family heritage. That is when we realized we really didn’t know anything about our family heritage. Jim and I were both from broken homes, so we knew little about our dad’s side of the family and really not much about our mother’s side either.

    About that time we heard about the Clayton Library near Hermann Park where you could do genealogy research. Long story short, I have spent 30+ years researching both sides of our family. Jim didn’t even know the name of his dad’s parents. I found that at the library, then we ordered their death certificates and found the name of his grandparents.

    Over the years I have found lots of info, family treasures, old pictures and family stories. I have 2 original marriage licenses both dated in the late 1800’s which are framed and on my wall. I have met many cousins that I never knew and they have helped me in my research and told me family stories. We now have pictures of grandfathers we never got to meet. One grandfather was in Texas when it was the Republic of Texas.

    Recently I received pictures of my dad when he was in high school. Never saw those pictures before. Our only claim to fame is my 5great grandfather was one of General George Washington’s personal body guard who also fought in the Revolutionary War. Jim had an uncle who fought at the battle of San Jacinto. We had many family members who fought in the Civil War. I never knew any of this until I started my researching.

    I also discovered that my dad’s father was a Baptist minister. A church in New Mexico e-mailed me recently about info on him. Turns out he was their first pastor and they wanted pictures and info for their 100 year celebration.

    I continue to work on our family history as there always seem to be more to find. Also love learning about the spiritual life of our family members and that one day we will get to meet them! Love it!

    • Thanks, Beth. And thanks for sharing about your journey to find and preserve your family’s history. What a cool adventure of discovery. Love it!

  2. Omar, I love reading about your family. Thanks for sharing these stories with us.
    G. Meeks

    • Thanks, Gerry. Love making new discoveries … one story at a time.

  3. Hi I’m from San Diego Texas my names Ana Lopez saw your post and how u came across pictures that were taken I San Diego, and I hope u don’t mind I’m sharing your story and pictures on a Facebook group named old sandiego texas it’s all about older businesses an pictures I’ll post the link on a comment so u can look into it . Thank yu

  4. Feel free to look into the group


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