Monday, May 4, 2015

Grandma "Tota"

I haven’t written much about Victoria (Trujillo) Gallegos, my great-grandmother on my father’s side, even though I have a pretty rich collection of historical photos, documents and stories about her and her mother. My Dad only had bad memories of his Dad’s mother, and I hesitated to portray a one-sided picture of her. But he wasn’t alone. When my Grandma Rise was alive, she had similar memories of her mother-in-law. All she said was she mean, she was a hard drinker and if you crossed her, she never forgot.
Victoria Trujillo circa 1900

My Dad tells the story of his Grandma Vicky giving gifts to his sister, but ignoring him when they were children. His Grandfather, Luis Gallegos, would take him aside and make sure he got some jerky or candy so he didn’t feel left out.

My Dad still refers to his Grandma Vicky as his “Grandma Tota,” or his other grandma. He was much closer with his Mom’s mother, Emilia DeTevis, who helped to take care of him when he was an infant and his father was in Europe serving during World War II.

He also tells how he would go fishing with his grandparents at Story Lake in Las Vegas. He loved to fish with his Grandpa Luis. He remembered his Grandma Vicky drinking straight whisky with beer chasers on the beach of the lake. “She was just mean,” my Dad would tell me.

Other cousins agreed that Grandma Vicky wasn’t warm and fuzzy. One cousin reminded me that it wasn’t uncommon to have older grandparents in that era with a mean streak. They lived tough lives.

My Grandma Rise said her mother-in-law didn’t approve of her, and took out her disapproval on my Dad.

Luis Gallegos and Victoria (Trujillo) Gallegos

Victoria (Trujillo) Gallegos and Luis Gallegos with granddaughter, Martha Gallegos
Victoria Trujillo, or Grandma Vicky, was born in 1892 in Anton Chico, the daughter of Juan Trujillo and Leonore Martinez. Victoria married Luis Gallegos in Las Vegas in 1910, and they had seven children: Clemente, Eloy, Carlos, Bennie, Arthur, Nancy and Grace. All five sons, including my Grandpa Carlos, served in the military – three in World War II and two in the Korean War. Eloy was killed in action in Italy during World War II, and is buried near his parents at St. Anthony Cemetery in Las Vegas.

My Dad didn’t realize that his Grandma Vicky was from Anton Chico. He said there was a family home out there, but didn’t know that’s where her roots were planted. My Dad used to have a bumper stick on his white Ford Pickup that read: “Where in the Hell is Anton Chico, U.S.A.?”

Perhaps Grandma Vicky inherited a toughness from her mother, Leonore, who had a reputation in Las Vegas and its surrounding villages for being an independent woman with an Old West sensibility.
Wedding portrait of Esteban Montoya and Gertudes Trujillo. Couple on far left is Alberto Trujillo and Leonore Martinez. one of the two girls in front is Victoria Trujillo
I found an oral history that describes an incident in which Leonore was walking in Las Vegas with a younger sister to get groceries. As they walked past a saloon, two drunk men, including a Frenchman, made a nasty remark. Leonore slammed him, knocking him down, and got on top of him and beat him up. The story was told by Leonore’s grandson, Max Montoya in a 1977 oral history published by Richard Gehling in the USGW Archives.

Maria Leonora Martinez was born about 1845 in Algodones, the daughter of Clemente Martinez and Maria Seferina Valensuela, of Las Tusas.

Both Juan and Leonore were married for the second time. Leonore had two children, Ceferino and Delfinia, from a previous marriage with Jesus Maria Martinez in 1864. After the death of her first husband, she married Juan Alberto Trujillo in 1878, who had children from his previous marriage.

Leonore and Juan had four more children together, including the youngest, Victoria. They moved their combined family into a three-room house on 9th Street near the Normal College, which is now Highlands University, according to the oral history by Max Montoya. The surrounding area was known as the Chihualita Barrrio, one of five Spanish-speaking districts of the “Old Town’ area of Las Vegas.

Leonore took the clothes that people would give to her and use it as barter for other goods in surrounding villages.

"Every summer she would make 2 or 3 trips to Anton Chico, to Dilia, and other villages and trade clothing for produce. People at the villages already new her, and when she would arrive they'd flock around the covered wagon to see what surprises she had,” according to the oral history by Max Montoya. “She would not set a price on anything. People would just choose what they wanted, like a dress or blouse or maybe a pants, tie or hat, and give her a chicken or corn or green chile or maybe fruit. She would accept anything that was edible. Many a time she would come home with a wagon loaded with green chile, melons, watermelons, peaches, apples, apricots, and plums.

"Then she would gather us kids to go around town selling until she would sell what she wanted. Like we would sell a bucket full of green chile for 25 cents or a bucket full of peaches for 50 cents. After we would get thru selling, she would gather all her grandchildren in the patio and cut some melons or some watermelon, and have a party."

Leonore died in August 1923. Her grandson, Max Montoya, remembered her death:

"My Granma Leonore died in August of 1923, when I was 14 years old.  She died in her bedroom, which stood on the north end of her house.  It was the coolest room in the summer and the warmest in the winter because it had a big pot-bellied stove.

"My granma's wake was also held in that room. The wake ended around 2 A.M. My Uncle Manuel was supposed to blow out all the candles, but instead he got me and my cousin Alfonso to do the job.  First we blew out the candles furthest from the door, and then hurriedly the others, and ran out the door and back to bed as fast as we could.  I slept with him at his house that nite.

"After Granma's death, there were so many heirs that my mother was willed the bedroom where granma died.  She sold it to Aunt Lucy for $50.  Aunt Lucy was living in the house next door at the time.  She moved to granma's house to take care of my granpa until his death in 1927."

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