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Archuleta, Dolores

About | Story: Can't I have a bath? | Abstract


Relates an incident that occurred when, as a child during World War II, her life intersected with those of the prisoners of war incarcerated in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Interviewee Dolores Archuleta, female, born in 1933
Date Range 1943-2000
Date & Location June 12, 2000, NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, Las Cruces, NM
Project Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Region Southwest New Mexico
Number of Tapes 1
Transcribed June 13, 2000
Download Abstract

Story: Can't I have a bath?

DA: Okay. I, I s-, I documented it for the first time not too long ago, and it's probably around 1943, when the city of Las Cruces, uh, um, out-, banned the outhouses in, in Las Cruces, and so, you know, we all had outhouses and now we couldn't have 'em. And so my dad then built a little room, added on a little room to our house, and we had a bathtub, which is, uh, oh, my gosh, that was something that I was looking forward to use because I hated those washtubs. I just, I just couldn't stand 'em. And so, uh, I was lo-, really looking forward to it, so when it was finished and built, I was waiting to get my first bath in this bathtub, and not knowing that you couldn't do it because it had to be hooked up to the sewer lines. Well, every day I, I talked to my dad and my dad said that, um, the trenches had to be dug and it was going to be slow because all our men at that time were at war. And so I was very patient, very patient, waiting. Uh, then one day I asked, "Well, it's taking too long." I talked my dad, uh, "Why can't you talk to somebody in the city about it" And he says, "Well, I did already talk to Don Carlos. And the only Don Carlos that I knew at that time was Don Carlos Sanchez, who owned the grocery store, Sunshine

Grocery Store, on Mesquite Street. And so he says, I says, ???What does Don Carlos have to do with the bathroom and the, and the bathtub and trenches?????? And he said, ???He, he . . .????? my dad then told me, ???He is a city councilor.????? And I said, ???Okay.????? And I???d let it go at that but I was still not too happy with the situation because it was taking too long. So I waited and waited and coming in from school, I went to Holy Cross Catholic School which was in downtown at that time. And every . . . JO: How many blocks from where you lived? DA: Oh, it was about three blocks from my house. And???uh, so one afternoon that I came home from school I saw the, uh, two guards, as I remember, two guards, and there were, uh, blond, young, blond, blue-eyed, uh, digging tr-, the trenches, but they were one block from my house, and so I went home and I told my dad that that's what they were doing. And he says, "Yes, those are the prisoners of war." And he said, "Just stay away from them, ah, just be very careful, and, and stay away from them. They'll be here eventually 'cause that, those are the people who are digging the trenches." And then I kept track of 'em, and after, each day after school I'd go look and see where they were and they were nowhere close to our house. And I was very disappointed because our bathroom was ready. So I talked to my dad again, about talking to somebody in the city. And he said that he would talk to Don Carlos again an', an' so I got impatient, and I says, "Well, who does, uh, who is Don Carlos??? boss" And he told me was the city manager. And of course you, Carlos had a, other job, so I thought the city manager had another job, so I said, "Okay, where does this city manager work, during the day" And he told me at, that the city manager has the job all the time and he is at city hall. Okay, I says, "Where is city hall" And he says, "City hall is on Church Street." At that time the city hall was at

Church Street and the fire department was right next to it. Then that night, I says, "Well, I know where that is. It"s right behind our school." So I made my plans to go visit the city manager and tell him, this, my, my (laughs), my problem is that I wanted to take a, a bath in that new bathtub and we couldn't get it hooked up because the prisoners of war were digging every place around except in my neighborhood. In my, my street. So right after school, then, the next day, I went across the street, and it was just across the street from our, from our school. And there was the fire department right next, like I said, and I saw the fireman and I went over there and I asked him that I wanted to go see the city manager. And he says, well, he directed me to the secretary's office, but then he took my hand, and he took me to her office, and I told her what I, that I just wanted to see the city manager. I didn't tell her for what reason. And she said just wait a minute ???n??? went into another office and then came back, and took my hand again an' directed me to, to the city manager's office. I remember it was, it was a big, big desk, and it was full of papers. Uh, I remember that, very clearly. And then he asked me to sit down at a big chair. It was a, a brown leather chair, in front of his desk. And I, and I sat down, but when I sat down, I went down to the bottom or either that or something happened. I lost track of the city manager. I couldn't see his face, and it was important for me to see his face. So I sat on my legs to raise myself up, and, and I told him, I says, "You know, um, our house has a, a new bathroom and it's got a bathtub and we're ready for it to be hooked up to the sewer, a-, but the, but the prisoners of war are not digging where they're supposed to be digging. They're supposed to be digging in front of our house, and it's around the neighborhood except our house. So he didn't smile, he didn't make fun of me, he, uh, he was very gracious. He said, wh-, he asked me my

name and my telephone . . . He asked me my name. I d-, we didn't have telephones at that time. My name, and my dad's name, and where I lived. And I gave him that information, he jotted it down, he says, "You go on home now and we???ll take care of it." And I think the words he said was "I'll look into it," because I was, I was frustrated because my dad had already told me that he was looking into it and Carlos Sanchez was already looking to it. But he had so much paperwork on his desk and I didn't want to push my luck there, to press my luck, so I says, "Okay," so, uh, I, I walked home very slowly, to give him the opportunity to take care of this problem that I had. And hoping that when, by the time I got home then s-, uh, the prisoners of war were then at my house, digging the trenches. And, uh, I got home and of course they weren't. And so, I didn't tell my dad that I had gone to see the city manager. At all. And we went through the ritual that evening of the homework and the bath in the stupid old washtub and, and went to bed, said my prayers, and went through all that and, and my dad never mentioned anything. Then the next day went to school as usual, and then I came home from school directly to the house to look for the prisoners of war. And Lord and behold, there they were, right in front of the house, and they were digging the trenches. So now that meant that I could take a bath. JO: (Laughs) DA: And my dad was waiting for me at the door and he tried to keep from smiling at me but he says, "Now, are you happy now." And, of course I was, I thought that by the time that the, that the prisoners of war left and then I could take a bath. And not knowing that, that the lines had to be hooked up and the sewer lines had to go somewhere an???, uh, I didn't know any of that. I didn't realize at that point that that's what ha-, had to be done. Uh, it's . . .

JO: I wonder how many months it was before you got your bath in the uh . . . DA: I wish I could remember how, how, how long it took, by the time that they'd started digging the trenches up un-, until it actually happened. Yes.


Tape 1, Side A

The consultant was a child during World War II. She relates that in approximately 1943, outhouses were banned in Las Cruces. Consequently, her father built an indoor bathroom. She was very anxious to be able to take a bath in the new bathtub, as she hated taking baths in the "tin washtub."

The consultant soon learned that "blond" prisoners of war were digging the trenches in which the city's sewer and water lines were to be laid. Prior to learning this, her teachers had not discussed with her or the other children that prisoners of war were incarcerated a few blocks from their school, Holy Cross Catholic School.

The consultant continued to grow more anxious when daily she would find that the prisoners of war were not digging the trenches on her block. After her father failed to remedy the situation, Dolores went to city hall and met with the city manager. The very next day when she arrived home from school the prisoners of war were digging in front of her house! Although her father knew about her visit to city hall it was never discussed in her family.