IRENE LEON

I have lived in San Bernardino all my life on the west side of town. I attended Ramona elementary and Alessandro elementary which were Hispanic also on the west side of town. when I was a kid I remember walking to the Railto theater which was on Third and Arrowhead. and on the way I could see the restaurants and hotels that said "White Trade Only". Also in the theater there was an area that was roped which we were not allowed to sit, that was reserved for the whites.

Mt. Vernon was the main business street when I was growing up. Most of the stores were owned by Japanese but when World War II broke out they were taken away and sent to camps then it just became a hispanic business area.

Also I remember that we were not allowed to use Perris Hill Swimming Pool. My mother was aware of this and in spite of it she sent me and my girlfriend to buy a ticket which of course we were denied. My mother and a few other people got together and filed a lawsuit which was settled out of court. The reason was that my mother felt why my brother was able to fight for this country but his sister could not swim in the pool here.

I had a brother that was in the navy and went to school on the G.I. Bill. He got his Ph.D and became the first hispanic president of San Jose City College. I'm proud of my daughter and nephew and niece that are educators now.

While I was in high school I remember not used to being mixed because all through elementary, junior high, and high school we were all hispanic. When I went to high school we were all mixed. I remember myself taking a 0 before I would recite anything, anything orally. Anything written I had no trouble with but I was really aware of my accent so that kept me from getting ahead a little more I think.

Our being segregated was a problem for most of the hispanics when I was going to high school , dropping out of school. It was never stressed to us to take college prep classes. they used to more or less have all the girls take homemaking, clothing; the boys paintshop and workshop. I think those vocational work.

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