Name: Katy Price
Date: August 24, 2018
Circumstance: In-person interview; 3rd floor of the Ft. Worth Hilton (Ft. Worth, Texas), 2018 Creole Reunion.
Editor’s Note: Ms. Price brought an interesting and somewhat unique perspective in relation to my other interviewees. As someone whose career had taken her through education and social work, she was decidedly aware of cultural dynamics. This facilitate our conversation tremendously.
Here is the link to a recording of our conversation:
TK: [I asked what she studied at university]
KP: Studying gerontology 40 years ago.
I did it because of my grandmother. It was the 1980s. They had a White House conference on aging, and she went. She started a senior citizens’ center in her little town. I just got interested. I went to the University of North Texas, and they had one of the ten first Gerontology programs in the nation. So, I just went from undergrad to grad, which they tried to discourage because they felt you needed some life experience. I was very young; I had a masters at 22. Many people thought I was just too young. You may find that too.
TK: I feel that here. (laughs) You were born in Venezuela. Was it in an oil camp.
KP: No, my father was there. We lived in a little town out in the llanos. I don’t know if you know where that is. It’s called Guárico. He was working for an oil company, but we were living in the little town. My mother was 23; she didn’t speak any Spanish. They had a kerosene refrigerator. It was pretty primitive. Then my parents moved to Caracas before I was one, and my sister was born there. We moved around a lot the first five years of my life. (When?) I was born in 1954. I started kindergarten in Anaco. My father had his own business at that time. We lived in a little camp. I only remember four or five homes, and his business was there, but the business failed, so he shipped us to the States for eighteen months to live with our grandparents.
TK: So, he didn’t work for one of the big oil firms initially?
KP: No. Well, he initially went down with Mene Grande, which was Gulf I think. He also worked for Panapic. (When?) He went down in 1950, maybe. To Venezuela, then Ecuador, then back to Venezuela. They were living in a camp in western Venezuela when they got married in 1952, and she was the only married woman there. Then they went to Tucupito (not Tucupido which was larger). I remember two houses in Anaco. When we came back from my grandparents’ we lived in Tamari camp in Tia Juana. Then we got a house in Campo Verde. I went through eighth grade in Tia Juana. Then I came to the States for boarding high school. My junior year in high school, my dad got transferred to Quiriquire in eastern Venezuela. We were one of three or four American families there; the rest were Venezuelans. It was beautiful, but I didn’t like it there. My sister and I spent too much time drinking too much. Which you’ve probably heard from many oil camp kids. That was my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, and then he was transferred back to Tia Juana. They were there until 1977 when the nationalization took place. My dad went on to Brazil and then to Africa. Indiana Jones….
You want to know about schools primarily?
TK: Yes. I guess, the life of the students is perhaps a better way to put it. Your mother was American? How did they meet?
KP: They went to college together in Fort Worth at Texas Christian University. I don’t know how they reconnected after college. Pretty brave of here to head to Venezuela at 21. Venezuela was all bachelors. She was the only married woman at that first placement. It was probably very lonely for her. She could only speak a little “school” Spanish. When I was born, I think about having your first child and having no one to talk to. Any communication with the States was ham radio or telegram.
TK: At the time, was there much Spanish speaking presence in Fort Worth in the 1950s?
KP: Yes. I think Fort Worth has always had a large Hispanic population. I started working in Fort Worth when I was in graduate school and my mother was warning me about the north side, where the stockyards have always been. I worked for a senior citizens organization on the northside. But I think there have always been a lot of Hispanics here. My mother grew up in Saint Angelo, and there were a lot of Hispanics there.
TK: I was thinking about the areas where Creole recruited, and was wondering if that was because they might have spoken Spanish?
KP: I don’t know. My father was recruited for his geology degree. But some of the dads didn’t have degrees. I had always assumed they were all petroleum engineers, but some hadn’t gone to college. He roughnecked in the summers in West Texas, so he had drilling experience. As the American oil companies were entering Venezuela, they were just recruiting anyone they could to go down there. If they had oil field experience, they were desirable.
You may meet Jean Bailey. She grew up down there, and then she got married and raised her child there. Her father went after serving in WWII because he heard they were hiring. He never went to college. She would be interesting to talk with. (She can be a little forgetful sometimes.)
TK: You said it was really rural at times. Do you know anything about where you were born?
KP: It was in a hospital. In fact, my grandparents came to visit after we’d moved back. It was in second or third grade maybe. We took a trip to the hospital building where I was born, but it was an animal corral. I remember thinking I was born in a stable. The building had lost its roof.
It must have been terrifying. The doctor/nurses didn’t speak English. She didn’t speak Spanish.
Then they moved to Caracas and my sister was born there. When my brother was born, he was born in Saint Angelo, TX because my mother was rH negative for better medical care.
TK: Back to education, where were you living when you were attending school in Venezuela?
KP: Started kindergarten in Anaco. Then I attended kindergarten through the beginning of second grade in Oklahoma. We returned to Venezuela, and we went to Tamari. The two sisters were in “Special Spanish” classes because they’d forgotten all their Spanish while they were in the States. Classes were half day in Spanish and half day in English. But our classes needed to be all in English. There was one guy who said what we were in was like the “short bus” classes, but there’s no one for me to ask now… There was one boy in the class who was mentally retarded, but the others were all different ages who didn’t speak Spanish. I thought my sister was in regular classes, but she says she was in Special Spanish too. I did that program in 2nd-3rdand 4thgrade.
TK: That class specifically was it K through 8?
KP: No, they just pulled us out. The rest of the class had a Spanish speaking teacher and an English-speaking teacher. When my class would be with the Spanish-speaking teacher, I would go to the pull-out Special class. It might have been fourth grade; they decided to put all the kids whose father was on the dollar payroll got all their instruction in English, except for Spanish class an hour a day. All the kids on the bolivar payroll had separate classes. The segregated us basically. We still played together, but we were in separate classes. I don’t know if we had the same recess. I think that was probably harmful to us because I don’t remember having Venezuelan history. The only Venezuelan history I knew was Simon Bolivar’s birthday and the Independence Day, but no real history. I feel like that was a loss for us. The only history I know is what I have read as an adult.
TK: That split would have been in 1970?
KP: More like 1964-65 maybe.
TK: They paid people in US dollars?
KP: Yes, some in dollars and others in bolivars.
TK: Did they have a place to exchange?
KP: Probably. I don’t know how they did it. We had money. Maybe there was a bank…?...
TK: At the camp, would you pay for drinks at the club in dollars or bolivars?
KP: In bolivars. We used bolivars for everything. And I remember coming to the States, we had to exchange bolivars for dollars. Sales tax was odd. We didn’t pay sales tax down there. I was always confused that I needed $1.05 for an item which was $1. Back then it was 4 bolivars to the dollar; now it’s a million. I know my father always had a bank account in the States. There must have been some way to exchange money.
TK: Back to the segregation of the schools. This was a staff school, correct? (Yes) Do you know if your teachers were different from the Venezuelans?
KP: Yes. The Venezuelans had Venezuelan teachers, and our teachers came from the States. A lot of them were Mexican American, like Ms. Rivas. There were not very many Mexicans in Venezuelan, but, to me, the Mexicans in Venezuela were the same as Americans. When I came to the States, I first realized that Mexican Americans existed. And, of course, there were no Blacks. I don’t remember ever seeing a black person. There were black Venezuelans, but not Americans.
TK: Were the Mexicans in the camps different from the Venezuelans?
KP: The Mexicans in the camps were Americans. They were not Venezuelans. Their fathers were professional. Michael Soto will be here. His father was an engineer. I never thought of them as being Hispanic. I thought of them as American. We lived across the street from the Sotos for years. We never even made the distinction of Mexican Americas, they were Americans. It has nothing to do with school. Many of our teachers were Mexican American. My Spanish teacher was Venezuelan. The American teachers lived in the camp, but the Venezuelan teachers did not. Maybe it was like growing up in the South in the 1950s, you didn’t think about the separation: black kids went to black schools, and white kids went to white schools. The only difference was that the Venezuelan kids who went to school with us lived in the camps. Their fathers were professionals, doctors and engineers, but they took classes with Venezuelan kids and Venezuelan teachers in a different wing of the same school. Have you seen a picture of the school?
TK: I saw Ms. Miller’s picture. Did it have two parts?
KP: There was a main hallway with four wings, each had 3 or 4 classrooms, but I think it was designed that way for ventilation. We had windows on both sides. There was greenspace between the wings. I remember watching iguanas out the window. There were fruit trees on the grounds. Kids would pick mamoums outside. There was a big playground, but I don’t remember the Venezuelan kids being on the playground at the same time.
TK: As you got older, into middle school or when you came back from school breaks, were there ever organized sports? Varsity sports as we think of them?
KP: There was Little League for the boys. Girls did ballet. I didn’t take any music lessons, but some kids took piano or guitar lessons. We had Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. It was usually the moms that coordinated that.
TK: Did Venezuelans ever do scouting?
KP: Yes…. I had one friend, Beatriz Sodeno, who was in Girl Scouts. I don’t remember a lot of them. It didn’t seem like