Taft – After her cousin’s (Martin Yglesias ‘The Raspa King’) passing in May, Alyssa Yglesias began to reminisce about her childhood in Taft.
Yglesias distinctly recalls her best memories being during the summers at her grandfather’s store Hidalgo Mercantile Grocery on Davis Road. While the store is no longer around, she cherishes the memories made there.
“Martin’s death brought back this wonderful time because he was so much like [my grandfather], he loved everyone and was always happy,” said Yglesias. “May you rest in peace, Mr. Raspa King.”
Taft was originated after the Southern Pacific railroad crossed the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company land in 1886 as a flag stop, according to the Texas State Historical Association’s website. In 1900, Joseph F. Green, decided to build a town at that location.
During the 1930s, when local farmers began planting vegetables, packing sheds were built in Taft along the railroad. Vegetables continued to be packed in Taft until the 1950s, when the last shed was torn down.
“Taft was a very small town that to this day has been called the best cotton picking town in Texas,” Yglesias said.
She was informed by a relative that her grandfather, Francisco Yglesias Sr., was able to build the store by selling his ranch and cattle in Engle, Texas. She also claims that he was one the first grocery store owners in her neighborhood on Davis Road.
The store was opened sometime during the 1940s – Alyssa could not recall the exact date and year.
“My grandpa was the first man that ever came and built the store there on Davis Road. And then everybody else saw how much business there was and all Davis Road had businesses,” Yglesias said.
Along with F. Yglesias’ store, Alyssa remembers several businesses that were located there such as a Mexican bread bakery, two stores that sold food, a tortilla factory, two dance halls, a barbershop, a pool hall and a Mexican restaurant. Business boomed along that road.
When she was a teenager, Yglesias was hired by her grandfather to work at Hidalgo Mercantile Grocery. The young women would sell ice cream cones and raspas while the young men would clean and market merchandise.
“We had a lot of fun working for my grandpa,” she said. “And he was never very stern or screamed or anything; he was very nice.”
Hidalgo Mercantile Grocery could be compared to a Walmart – selling anything you can imagine, Yglesias said.
One product that was popular among the young women was ballerina shoes. Along with Hidalgo Mercantile Grocery, F. Yglesias owned a dance hall that was located next to the store. The young women would buy the shoes in order to dance better.
“Those times in our past were the most beautiful and happiest times,” Alyssa said. “We learned to dance and to work and be sociable and be happy.”
The dance hall would have all the windows open, so everyone could listen to the music. Yglesias said that musicians such as Isidro Lopez, Elijio Escobar, Tony de la Rosa and many more would come to play at the dance hall.
“You could look inside [the dance hall], you know, and that’s how a lot of smaller ones learned how to dance by watching all those people dancing,” Alyssa said.
Around the dance hall, vendors would set up shop, selling items like toys and jewelry. On the side of the dance hall, F. Yglesias would sell raspas and hamburgers to people leaving the hall.
When the cotton picking season was over, many of the people Yglesias got to meet would go back north or return to school. She said it was always sad when the summers ended but she would always be left with the memories of those days.
“Memories are permanent parts of our lives and the Yglesias family were very lucky to have lived this great life,” Alyssa said. “Everyone that lived during those years have fond memories.”