The Other Side of the Tracks

Sometimes I think I remember everything. Maybe I do but even if I do I don’t always remember things the way they really were. What I do remember was the Mexican village in back of the railway yards. It was almost hidden away and almost as if it were on Trona Railway property. Maybe it was built to house railroad workers families but the effect, deliberate or not was a segregated Mexican American ghetto. My brother, Joel had friends there. The one I remember the best was Ernesto Dominguez. Ernesto was nicknamed “Head”.

As I remember that little village there wasn’t more than six houses and it seemed like there wasn’t a real street, just a lot that all the houses faced. Joel would go there and play baseball in the lot with his friends. I would follow him there to watch. What a pain I must have been. The problem was that Joel would always get in trouble when I followed him. My mother didn’t think it was a place that I should be and any time I was anywhere with Joel around I became his resposibility. No one ever likes a little brother tagging along anyway, especially one that could report bad behavior.

Eventually the Trona Railway moved all the houses. I’d like to think it was because it was just plan wrong to have them there.

The following is a quote from Laura Quezada’s research on the 1941 Strike:

“Discrimination was a key issue for many Mexicans employed at AP&CC. Mexicans were only allowed to do the lowest form of physical labor in the Shipping Department. Mexicans were paid five cents an hour less than the men with whom they worked. They worked 12 hour shifts with only 15 minutes for lunch. There was no chance for advancement. Mexicans could only live in one isolated area of town and there were “No Mexicans Allowed” signs posted in some Trona establishments.

A fundraising pamphlet distributed by the Union states: ‘Another AP&CC tactic has been that of discriminating against Mexican workers. They are kept at the lowest pay rates, do the most menial tasks, are not eligible for advancement, and must occupy quarters that are only seen in substandard slums. Until recently they have been refused privileges afforded other workers, such as the use of the Trona Club to dance, skate, bowl or play billiards. Against this form of Jim Crowism the Union has fought unceasingly. The Mexicans have responded by 100% Union membership.'”

If you remember the other side of the tracks better than I do I’d like to hear your story about it.

I have recently been told by Jess Dominguez that the name of the street was Mojave Street. He told me that there were sixteen houses and three bunkhouses deliberately put in a location where the Mexicans would be segregated from us white folks. When I hear that now it makes me want to cry. Actually it makes me cry. I can only remember being on Mojave Street a few times. That is why I don’t remember it well. That and 50 plus years. I know we were told that it was a place we were not supposed to go.

The way I look at it maybe I could have learned about Mexican food that much sooner and it wouldn’t have been limited to the fifteen cent Tacos from the Taco Tia in Barstow or the tamale pie recipe my mother found on the back the Kraft American cheese package. Actually I still like canned tamales like the ones we used to buy in the Trona grocery store. I think they were Van Camp brand. I sound so white.

My brother Joel told me that he can still name each of the sixteen families that lived on Mojave Street. He also told me about a dog named Rags that he got from Ernesto. He said that when he got it it didn’t understand English. The concept is hard for me to wrap my head around but I know that what he said is true. We had a family friend that had a ranch in Idaho. His sheep dog came from a Basque sheepherder. It was very good at controlling sheep and cattle but it only understood commands in Spanish.

I don’t remember Rags at all but right now I have this picture in my head of Joel calling his dog, Rags, and being ignored.

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About David L Stevens

David has been the creator and maintainer of Trona on the Web since 1996. He has been creating websites since the beginning of the World Wide Web. He is not the best person to be the webmaster for a Trona Website but someone needs to do it and Doug Polly isn't with us any longer. David worked in maintenance for the San Bernardino City Schools, retired from Honeywell, worked in IT for a while and is now working as a school bus driver.

4 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Tracks

  1. Bill Robinson

    I have to take issue with some of your comments. My father, J. L. Robinson came to Trona in The 1930’s as the General Manager of the Trona Railroad. He found that the Mexicans living in Trona were living in shacks and tents. Some worked for the Railroad.

    Over time my father became disturbed by the living conditions and treatment of the Mexicans. He insisted that the AP&CC build houses across from the Railroad to house Mexicans who worked for the Railroad. Eventually it was expanded to house others.

    There was no attempt to segregate the Mexicans by my father. It was the only way to get housing for them. Our family from time to time played host to Mexican visitors who could not get accomodation s in town. Also one summer when the family was on summer holiday in Ventura, a Mexican railway worker’s home had a fire, the family was put up in our house on Lupine St. for two weeks.

    My father died in 1952 and we moved to Santa Monica. By then my father was the President of the Trona Railroad. It was only a shortline railroad that terminated at a junction in Searles. There the Southern Pacific Railroad took the rail cars to Mojave.

    Reply
  2. Rebecca Lopez

    My Grandparents, Antonio and Virginia Lopez, lived “on the other side of the tracks” on Mojave Street with their family. My father, Antonio (Tony) was born there according to the 1930 census.
    My Grandfather also had 2 brothers and their families who also lived there. All of them working for the Borax Company there in Trona.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Jess Dominguez | Trona on the Web

  4. David Stevens

    When I wrote this post I had no idea that there had been an article in the Ridgecrest Daily Independent named “From the Other Side of the Tracks” that is about this same subject. If you can find someone who has a copy of it is worth the time to read. It goes into greater detail than I have.

    Reply

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