My Background

The Beginning
Much of the history of the Alvarado Family exists in the oral tradition. The
Anastacio Alvarado family was part of a small number of Mexicans who
migrated to the United States in 1900. According to legend my Great
Grandmother and her husband could foresee a civil war in Mexico and
decided it was best to leave. Legend also has my grandfather returning to
Mexico to fight on the side of the federalistas. Supposedly he died in
Mexico after the war but that has not been corroborated.
Growing up
I come from a very large family. The Frank Alvarado was fourteen brothers
and sisters, twelve of whom survived to adulthood. I was born in Orange
Grove, Texas. After my father returned from the war in 1946 we started our
yearly migrations to West Texas. Every year we trekked north to hoe
cotton, pick cotton or do any of the many tasks associated with a farm. By
age seven I could drive a tractor and combine and of course, pick cotton It
was all routine work and a part of growing up. We did this pattern until
1955 when the cotton-picking machine appeared and suddenly there was no
more cotton to pick. Out of work we did what many other migrant workers
did, we moved to the city. We ended up in San Antonio.
Thousands of us migrant workers were now without a job. We could stay in
West Texas as many migrant workers did. we could go back to our small
town in South Texas or we could move to the big city. Either way there was
a scarcity of jobs. We went to San Antonio, Texas.
Life was harsh in San Antonio. My father’s meager income as a truck driver
was not sufficient to replace the income of five of us picking cotton. At first
I became a scavenger going from dump to dump picking up copper, bronze
or lead to sale at scrap yards. On a good day I could earn ten dollars which
I would give to my mother. Then it was street vending going door to door
knocking and asking if anyone wanted to buy tomatoes, potatoes, bananas
and all sorts of seasonal fruits and vegetables. It was not as lucrative
because I would earn two dollars a day if I was fortunate. After that it was
cutting the sides of tires to be sent to Mexico to make guaraches. I started
helping a friend deliver the newspaper. The paper was delivered to a drop
off point at midnight. We had to roll the paper and be done distributing by
6 in the morning. We would be docked a 50 cent fine for every paper we
missed even if it landed in the wrong yard. Every penny I earned went to
my mother.
As a young boy in between cotton fields and other work I attended school.
My high school transcript has a notation that I attended 24 public schools
before enrolling at Burleson Elementary in San Antonio ISD for the 6th
grade. This would be the first time that I enrolled at the beginning of the
school year and went to school all year. I started the 6th grade with Mr.
Torres as my History Teacher. Mr. Torres took a personal interest in my
education and he wanted me to go a private school. The idea had a lot of
merit but it went nowhere with my father. Scuttlebutt had it that Mr.
Torres had the administration mad at him because he was trying to
unionize teachers.
From Burleson Elementary I went to Roosevelt JHS. I started taking band
learning how to play the school trumpet. I also played basketball although
we showed up to the games mostly. Coach Shelton thought I would be a
great pole vaulter and he took me to the Texas Relays one day. It was a
pleasant enjoyable day. At Roosevelt I was skipped from 7th to 8th grade so I
only spent one year there and on to high school I went.
While I was in Edgewood HS I decided to joined the Naval Reserve. I do
not know what motivated me to join. My brother was in the Navy. I do
recall being fascinated watching Roger Staubach play football for the Naval
Academy. There was a natural attraction between the Navy and me. The
Navy was happy. And they told me. Especially when I took the test for
Seaman Apprentice and I was one of maybe three of over a hundred that
passed the test and got promoted to Seaman Apprentice.
I was a Senior at Edgewood High School, getting ready to graduate. Mr.
Campisi the band superintendent had promised me a musical scholarship
to St. Mary’s or Trinity University. From the first-grade I loved going to
school. It was a surreal world. I loved playing in the band. I loved hearing
the A Cappella Choir. The highlight as a musician was playing a trombone
solo to God of Our Fathers at the Edgewood Music Festival. That was
bigger than playing Hail to the Chief of Harry Truman when he came to
dedicate Roosevelt Jr High. There was no Secret Service looking for any
thing suspicious.
My education was going great. I even survived the “Say it in English”
fiasco. I was called to the Dean’s Office twice for speaking Spanish. Both
times I had to bend over a table and wait for three swats from the Dean. I
grew up speaking Spanish as my first language. How could anyone believe I
would stop. That was the language spoken at home. The board was about
21/2 feet long, 3 inches wide and an inch thick. Both times my butt carried
the effects of the cheese holes. I could sit down sideways only. It hurt.
I was in love with the Navy and the Navy was in love with me. It was a
mutual attraction. The summer I attended Navy Basic Training, San Diego,
CA. That was my first airplane ride. An American Airlines DC 7. In the
Navy at that time you had to take a test to get promoted. Even form E1 to
E2. Well, I took the test and incredible, I passed it. I was one of a handful
that passed the test and got promoted. I could see me in the Navy forever.
One day at the beginning of the school year in 1961, I got called into the
Dean’s Office and told that I would be suspended from school for playing
hooky. I did not even know what that was. I was livid. When I was picking
cotton, nobody cared that I missed school. Now this person wants to
suspend me from school because I oversleep once in a while and miss
school. I was so angry that I walked out of his office and withdrew from
school that day.
The Naval Reserve was not happy and insisted that I finish High School. I
looked around but I could not attend any high school outside of Edgewood.
To prove the point theNaval Reserve motivated me by threatening to send
me to San Diego Naval Base for 90 days as a punitive measure. That was a
non-starter. I listened to the Army overtures and told the recruiter he had
24 hours to enlist me in the Army. Next night I was on my way to Fort
Carson, CO for basic training. I had never had any intention of joining the
Army. At age 18, I was leaving the safety and security of my family and
friends and joining the Army.
Fort Carson was not without its drama. Some hilarious. In our JAG
training, this lawyer got up on the stage and assured us that never, never
had the Army ever punished someone for doing something wrong. They
had only been punished for getting caught. I found out the hard way what
he was talking about.
We had a curfew. Everyone had to be in bed at 10pm. Even if you were
downtown Colorado Springs. The lawyer informed us of the penalties for
getting caught outside Fort Carson without a pass. Again, he let us know
that the perimeter fence had a hole that anyone could walk though. I
should have listened to this.
Based on the battery of tests that I took I was assigned to the
administration career field. I was sent to Clerk-Typist school and since I
had taken typing in high school I breezed through the school. We used to
get together and rent a room at some hotel in downtown Colorado Springs
and as many as could sleep on the floor stayed in the room. The city was
beautiful and I did things I had never done before like roller skate and eat
pizza. It was fun.
While crossing the street one Sunday my wallet fell out of my trousers and
papers went everywhere. One of those papers was my pass. When I tried to
get back into Fort Carson the Military Police asked for my pass and I did
not have one. The MP called my First Sergeant who did not want to come
get me so I spent the night in jail until the following morning when he did
come to get me. That was the only time in my life that I saw a jail cell. Of
course having sinned I had to be punished which consisted of being
restricted to Fort Carson until I found my pass. No problem. A friend of
mine printed another pass got the captain that had punished me to sign the
pass and I was allowed to leave Fort Carson again. I never had a chance to
think about the hole in the fence.
I was not so lucky the second time. Privates had to pull what was called
Kitchen Police (KP). KP consisted of getting the mess hall ready for
breakfast and then nothing more than washing pots and pans all day and
into the night until the mess hall was clean. When you left you were tired
after putting in more than a sixteen hour day. I did not check the bulletin
board that night. I had make up training that night starting at six. I did not
get off until eight but that did not matter, I did not show up. The
punishment this time was two weeks of signing in every hour on the hour,
24 hours for the two weeks. This was brutal.
Looking back, flogging would have been a more humane punishment.
Imagine having to get up every hour on the hour to go sign in at the orderly
room. I did this all night. The day I graduated from AIT and the period of
agony was coming to an end. We were all boarding a train to take us to Fort
Dix NJ and on to Germany. The Army had ships so the nightmare stories of
people getting sea sick for two weeks roamed freely. Good news was that
when I graduated from school in Fort Carson, I was a Clerk-Typist.
My final day in Fort Carson I was taken out of line so I could go sign in on
the sheet. I had to sign in at 7 and I was still there so I signed in.
Technically I had not finished serving my Art. 15 punishment. I was
surprised to be taken out of the boarding line to go sign in one last time.
The company had been taking bets on me. Those that bet that I would
survive and those that thought I would go AWOL.
But finally, busses came and took us to this train. It was long. All of us
boarded and we were off to Fort Dix, NJ. I think it took about three days to
get to Fort Dix. Along the way we would stop and always it was close to a
liquor store. Drove would run in to buy the stuff. Most were underage but
that did not matter.
We arrived at Fort Dix. Everyone was told to check the bulletin board
because a ship was leaving for Germany that night. Everybody was told
where to go for onward travel to Germany by Army troop carrier ship. As
hard as I looked for my name, I could not find it. I was beginning to
wonder if I even knew how to spell my name. Certainly, someone made a
mistake. Over a thousand were scheduled to leave and there I was in the
quadrangle by myself. All instructions came over the loudspeaker. I never
go to see anyone in charge. So the loudspeaker told everyone remaining to
go to a certain barracks. I did. I stayed there for several days. Nothing to
do but go to the club and play pool. Which I did not mind because I was
pretty good so I scraped up a few dollars.
Then one day a chaplain shows up looking for volunteers. I raised my
hand. Yes, I was bored. Went to the chapel, chaplain told us to take a
break, have coffee and donuts. He figured that we were being worked too
hard and needed a break!!!!!
It got boring after a week. Finally, I was called to personnel to fill out some
paperwork. One morning the announcer told us some of us would be
leaving that night. I got out of formation into the takeoff mode. Someone
told me to get back in formation but I told them my name would be the first
called. It was. Back to the bulletin board to see about my departure. Sure
enough. Lucky for me I was flying out. It was a long flight and I can recall
my feet almost freezing. Finally, we landed. Went downtown to the 21st
Replacement Battalion.
Airplane ride
Train trip
Arrival at Stuttgart
Kelley Barracks.
One day I decided I wanted to see Paris. I asked my boss if he would grant
me some time off so I could go to Paris. Took some persuading but
eventually, he relented and agreed to let me go. Of course, everyone in the
barracks learned of my planned trip and started harassing and ridiculing
me about the trip. Things, like “How are you getting to Paris, you don’t
know French, you don’t know German and you don’t know English”. My
thick Mexican accent clearly noticeable. My reply turned out to be more
than jive talk, I replied, “when I board the train I am going to look to my left
and there is going to be this beautiful lady looking out the window and she
will speak German, French and English”. The big day of departure came
and some of my friends came to the train station to bid me good bye. Like I
was going away forever. I boarded the train, looked to my left and there
was this nice-looking lady staring out the window. I asked, “Do you speak
English? To which she replied “Yes”. German? She replied, “Ja”. French?
Wee. I boldly stated, “Wee are going to Paris!!!”.
I had plenty of preparation for the trip. GI’s know everything. My friends
kept telling that I had to go to Pig Alley. My boss even taught me the
French he thought was important, “Valez vous avec moi ce soir:” He
assured me that was the only French I needed. I landed at the Gare du
Nord, found a hotel nearby and started exploring Paris by walking.
There was also this nice lady at the hotel where I stayed. In the morning, I
would go to the lobby and she had coffee and pastry for me. Being an
American and used to having eggs for breakfast I asked her once if they had
any. She did the best she could and each morning she would bring me a 3-
minute boiled egg. She showed me how to take the top of the egg shell off
gracefully. Like a Frenchman.
One evening I asked the lady at the desk why no one knew where the Eiffel
Tower was located. She asked me how I was asking and I replied in
English. She gave me instructions on how to get there. Take the Trocadero
bus. Tell the driver “la tour Eiffel.” Sure enough when we got close I could
see it. I took my first trip to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Ceour and the
local American Legion post where I ate a hamburger. I love Paris.
. .
It was in the Army that this elderly Master Sergeant approached me one
day and told me about the value of a high school GED certificate. I trusted
his advice and took the test. I spent six and a-half years in the Army,
spending most the time in Germany. When I left the Army I was a Vietnam
veteran and a Staff Sergeant (E6).
While in the military I took advantage of educational opportunities and
completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Management with the
University of Maryland and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration
with Troy University. Fortunately, when I retired, I still had most of my GI
Bill and I went back to school and got my Teaching and Administrator
Certificates at the University of Texas at Arlington. From the beginning my
only objective was to teach in an inner city high school. I Social Studies at
Trimble Technical High School, Fort Worth Independent School District.
The most thrilling and exciting moment I have had as an educator was
being recognized during an assembly as a role model and presented tickets
to a Dallas Stars hockey game. The most rewarding moment was the day I
received a letter notifying me that I had been named by one of my students
to “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” an honor I was named to three
When I left Edgewood High School in October 1961, I decided to join the
Army. It was in the Army that this elderly Master Sergeant approached me
one day and told me about the value of a high school GED certificate. I
trusted his advice and took the test. I spent six and a-half years in the
Army, spending most the time in Germany. When I left the Army I was a
Vietnam veteran and a Staff Sergeant (E6). I am extremely proud of my
Army service because I never expected to ever wear an Army uniform, and
to do so and get promoted to Staff Sergeant in five years was no easy task.
The most challenging assignment I had in the Army was as Personnel
Management NCOIC at Headquarters, United States Army, Vietnam
(USARV). I left the Army because I really wanted to go to college and get an
education. While visiting an Army recruiter friend an Air Force recruiter
overheard our conversation. He assured me that I could get the same
education plus experience in the Air Force. His sales pitch was very
effective, so thirty-three days after discharging from the Army, I was in the
Air Force.
I stayed twenty-one years in the Air Force. I attained the rank of Chief
Master Sergeant (E-9). I started as a navigation systems technician and
when I retired, I retired as an aircraft maintenance superintendent. My
hands-on maintenance experience includes the E/C130B/E/H/Combat
Talon, C141A/B, C9A, B52D, and B1B aircraft. The most exciting
assignment I had in the Air Force was as an Inspector with the Military
Airlift Command. I really got to see a “global view” of the Air Force. The
most challenging inspection I had was with the 89th Military Airlift Wing at
Andrews AFB, Md. My service in the Air Force prepared me for an
education career. In all my assignments I always had to set up training
programs to train my specialists how to repair airplanes and the
malfunctioning hardware (black boxes) they removed. I know firsthand the
advantages of having a cadre of people with an extensive corporate
knowledge of the aircraft and its systems. I learned firsthand that constant
turnover of personnel affects the quality of maintenance.
The Frank Alvarado family is a very large family. There were fourteen
brothers and sisters, twelve of whom survive. I was born in Orange Grove,
Texas. After my father returned from the war we started our yearly
migrations to West Texas to chop and pick cotton. We did this pattern until
1955 when the cotton picking machine appeared and suddenly there was no
more cotton to pick. My father was one of thousands of workers who found
himself with neither a job nor, a useful skill. In search of opportunity, we
went to San Antonio, Texas. In between cotton picking seasons, I always
managed to get in a couple of months of education. As I reminisce, given
my humble beginnings, I think it was a near miracle that I managed to
attend twelve years of school. I never attended any school until after the
cotton picking season was over. Somehow I managed to impress my
teachers enough for them to pass me to the next higher grade. Except one
teacher, one year. She wanted me to start school at the beginning of the
school year and to make sure she wrote in my report card that I could go to
the higher grade provided that I start school on the first day. I repeated the
same grade. My transcript has a notation that I attended twenty-four public
schools prior to enrolling at Burleson Elementary School in San Antonio in
September 6, 1956.
Wanting to follow in my big brothers footsteps, I joined the Naval Reserve
in high school. This would be the first of three military uniforms I wore.
During summer of 1961, I went to Basic Training at San Diego, California.
That summer, I tested for Seaman Apprentice. I was so proud when I was
promoted. No disrespect to the other services, but to the day, my loyalty is
still towards the Navy during footbal