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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Trip to Mexico, Summer 1940

Sunday, June 30

Left Beaumont at 8:00 CST. Started raining soon and rained until we got to Wharton where we ate lunch at a small café. Man in riding boots talked to everybody about flood at Yoakum. People on bridge at Victoria waiting for the flood to come along. Rice fields change to cattle country along here. Arrived in Corpus Cristi about 4 p.m. Went in swimming at once. Water very warm, must be near 90° or 100°. Good sand bottom. Stiff breeze from the east. Stayed in about an hour and a half. Got a large cabin with kitchenette (dishes and all) day bed for youngsters, clothes closet, etc. for $2.00. This is the best yet. The place is alive with cabins. The proprietor here is from Minnesota, his wife from Wisconsin – the grocer is from Washington state. Had a bad night because of mosquitoes. Found out next morning that we should have asked for the “flit.” Had car door catch fixed – 95¢, two hours work. Hair cut – most of my locks taken off – they blow in the wind. Youngsters picked up lots of shells on beach.

Monday, July 1st

Didn't get started for Laredo until about noon because of repairs on door. Missed road out of town twice. Big naval and air base just getting started along waterfront. Very hot. Many oil fields. Cotton is in blossom, about a foot high. Corn and sorgum are the other two crops. Corn is about ready to harvest. Stopped in small town for lunch. Girls in a store sent us to a roadside park about a mile from town but the temperature was 90° in the shade with no shade and sand burrs on the ground. Ate in Mexican restaurant and found it very clean and the food excellent. Rolling country the rest of the way – sage & cactus. Windmills here & there to pump water for the cattle. Country very dry. Got to Laredo about 4 p.m. Inquired first about insurance. Rate 50¢ per day. Came to $ 23 for 7 weeks with the discount. Got it for $15 by eliminating car damage protection. Met a fellow in insurance office who spoke French. Was going to Mexico & was waiting for his passport. Went down to Immigration office to inquire about Yvette's status. US man says she can't get back in without British passport. Thinks we can't get into Mexico & sent us across bridge to find out. 10 cents over and 10 cents back. Half way over Yvette decided that the French speaking gentleman we had left with the car & the youngsters was a crook & would steal the car & the youngsters with it. The idea combined with the heat and lack of sleep from the night before resulted in a terrible headache. Mexican officials decide papers OK. American officials say go ahead & get British passport in Mexico City. By this time too late to cross border so started looking for cabins after dropping our “Swede.” Cabins higher $3.00 up & poorer than any we have yet found. Finally got on “El Patio” for $2.00. Put papers around cracks in doors to keep out mosquitoes. Got flit gun & went after bugs. Yolande & I got bitten by spiders during the night which kept us awake again for a good part of the night. All of us ready to quit & go home.

Tuesday, July 2

Got up early & ate buffet lunch on top of bureau for breakfast. Tried to find color film but couldn't get it. Took quite a while to pass customs & immigration – one & ½ hours – but Mexican officials were very polite & quite efficient. Found we had been cheated out of 3 pesos by the insurance office for a car permit. Road very straight. Bought ice from a wagon in Nueve Laredo which helped keep us cool. Cactus, cows, goats & cowboys. Also burros. Arrived in Monterrey about 1:30. Siesta hour. Finally found Sanborns open. Wouldn't let us enter because Yolande was in shorts. Came out & found car was parked in front of no parking sign. Lady in Sanborns insists Yolande will be mistreated on the streets without a skirt. Skirt at the bottom of the trunk. Everybody hot & disgusted. Found market where we bought bananas & oranges & Coca-cola. Yvette went up in the air when they were going to charge one peso for 4 bottles of Coca-cola. Reduced to American terms it came to 4¢ with 2¢ for the bottles. Car brakes went bad again. Siesta – garage closed. Waited until open at 2 p.m. Found leak in fluid line had ruined brake lining. Two hours delay & $37.50 (Mex). Went over to drug store & got malted milk & read paper. Alan interested in how to say “ice cream” in Spanish. Made good time the rest of the way. Stopped at Linares for gas & inquired about cabins. Man at gas station took us to see a room. Our first introduction to the real Mexican way of living. Our first peep in the door decided us. A beautiful patio – fountain, flowers & all leading into rooms on all sides except one which was a wall. Our room was about 20 feet square – beamed ceiling 15' or 18' high. Modern bath though we had to share it with another family. There was no hot water but we wouldn't have used it anyway. Put the car up at the garage & had it washed for 15¢ (US). Ate at Mexican restaurant while the proprietor sat with us, his hat on and talked about everything. Had spent 10 years in Texas & spoke good English. Had fried chicken at 25¢ a plate. After supper walked up & down the main street then back to our room. Had a little Spanish conversation with the ladies of the house (both in black). Room wide open to the street with 4 big doors. Protected by iron grills. Cloth about 2 feet wide protected us from the prying eyes of passers-by on the street 6 feet away. Left all doors open because of the heat. No screens but needed none. Didn't see a fly or mosquito. Here the idyl ends as we soon discovered after we were in bed that we were within 10 feet of the highway to Mexico City and that all the big trucks apparently travel at night. Furthermore they all had to turn a corner just before reaching the house and lost no time giving her the gun going past the house. Also honking the horn for the street intersections all the way out of town. There must have been a 100 roosters in our block all setting up alarms all night long. Result – another night with little sleep. $8 (Mex) for our room, $1.75 for the car. About $2.00 (US) all told.

Wednesday, July 3

Ate breakfast in our room. Still very hot. Character of the country still dry – small trees & cactus, cows & cowboys, donkeys & small boys with firewood. Thatched roof houses. Occasionally go over a rise to descend into the next valley. Occasional forest of palms. Trunks all look burned. At Valles country started to become tropical. Large trees, vines, banana trees. Population became Indian, dressed in cotton homespun. Thatched roof houses constructed of sticks. Cornfields on impossible slopes. Pigs take the place of cows. Saw parrot in a tree. Arrived to Tomasunchale about 5. Got a room in an auto court of Permex Co. Very large, modern, vermin proof. Steel windows. Banana & mango trees in the yard. Very hot. Took showers to cool off then walked over the bridge (there is no water in this river) and up the road looking for an eating place. Those wa saw not very enticing. Went back to Permex dining room where we had a good meal at American prices. Turkey & chicken the cheapest meats on the menu. Got dark very suddenly. Too hot to sleep well. Donkeys & roosters as well as some terrible bird kept us awake as well.

Thursday, July 4

After breakfasting in the Permex restaurant headed for Mexico City. Struck into mountains immediately. Corn patches everywhere on slopes. Indians everywhere on the road. Bundles of sticks, water jars, food carried on their heads, on burros. Men, women & children. Drove into the market section of an Indian town about noon where we purchased peanuts, cakes & platanas to eat for lunch. Started around square clockwise but had to reverse although there was absolutely no traffic. After passing the first range country became very dry again. Very little cultivation. Each valley seems to have but one village at the bottom. Maguey cactus becomes leading crop and people are the poorest we have yet seen. Man taking bath in buddy water by side of road. A few herds of sheep. New schools “Escuela del Pueblo.” Reached Mexico City about 5pm. Very cool. Visisted several tourist courts before finding one to meet our pocketbook & taste. All rooms are large here as in other Mexican places we’ve been in. Decided on “Royal Court” at 10 pesos ($2) – twin beds & cot for younsters, kitchen & dinette, tiled shower & bath. Electric hot plate (very slow). Went out to look for restaurant but came home with milk & sweet rolls. Took a walk after dark. Younsters interested in small carnival. Streets in very poor shape – sidewalks worse. Bought oranges, 3¢ apiece (Am), ungraded as to size & quality. Shops are hose in the wall – all open in front. Wall paint in rooms here all seems to rub off. Electric fixtures all crooked – evidently not removed when house is painted. Tiled floors common.

Friday, July 5

Spent the day apartment hunting. Drove downtown after breakfast – left Yvette & Yolande at dentists while Alan & I went to buy a map of the city and a dictionary & to the post office (no letters), then to the Banco Nacionale de Mexico to exchange some dollars. 4.90 pesos to the dollar. Traffic is bad. Very few stop lights – many streets not marked & few traffic cops. No limits to parking, even downtown exept by parking meters. Everybody honks – two short honks usually – as the right-of-way is supposed to go to the fellow who honked first. By the time we had finished these errands it was time to eat. Went back to a small café and ate chicken sandwiches & coca-cola. Went to post office again to kill time as it was siesta hour. Decided to look for an apartment anyway. Visited place after place – found them from ads in the paper – but the prices were too high or the place was impossibly dirty. Gave up about 6pm & came back to the “Royal Courts” where we took a place for a week at $65 (Mex) $13 (US). “Royal Courts seem to have few tenants. So far prices have been as high or higher than in US.

Saturday, July 6

Yvette had cramps in her legs (too much tile to walk on). Yolande has bites or swellings of some kind on her arms. Milk not kept on ice – bottles are dirty. “Centrificado” but apparently not pasteurized. Seems to be no cream.

Went to market after breakfast near Hotel Geneve. Bought supplies. Prices about same as US. Will cut any part of a chicken off for you and sell you a leg, wing or breast. Tomatoes not good. Smells are terrible. People all short. Mostly broad-faced Indian types. Many without shoes. Chicken proved tough, the pears dry.

After lunch went to visit the Cathedral. Opens at 3:30 but all the announcements about it were inside. Meanwhile visited Presidential Palace. Everything looks shabby & we were pestered by guides. Cathedral large & a jumble. Started to visit “Hostorical Museum” but it had just closed. Started to rain. Waited a while for it to stop then started for home to eat. Found a “Piggly Wigley” store where we bought corn flakes (made in Mexico) butter (and just as cheap as in the US). After supper went to see “Shirley Temple in the Blue Bird” at the “Encanto” a large new theater of modern design. Didn’t get home until 11:45. Tickets $1.25 (Mex.) each.

Table of Contents
Saturday, June 22 through Saturday, June 29
Sunday, July 7 through Saturday, July 13

Last modified on 21 March 2017 @ 19:10