How Exxon influenced my life ...
My name is Refugio Martinez. My father, Elias Martinez was hired by Humble Oil and Refining Company in 1919 as a laborer. The company had some houses for the Mexican laborers in a fenced area southeast of the refinery and west of the street which is now known as Harbor Street. On July 4, 1935, I was born in one of the houses on Humble property. The area in which I was born is now a parking lot.
The company had a community building for Anglos southwest of the refinery and another community building for Mexicans. The Mexican community building was located close to the Post Office in Old Baytown where Market Street curves west to south. East of the Mexican Community Building was a bus terminal and Adams Gas Station on Market Street. The company had a separate housing area for the Anglo employees farther south but I do not know much about that area.
The company sold the Mexican housing units to the Mexican employees and some of the houses were moved to the area where Cherry Street, Pine Street, Magnolia Street, and Cypress Street now exist.
My father bought a lot and built a house at 1123 Magnolia Street. My father, mother and 8 siblings lived in that house for a long time. Across the street from my home was the original Baytown Mexican School. By the time I attended that school it was known as De Zavala Elementary School named after Lorenzo De Zavala, the first vice president of the Republic of Texas. Only Mexicans attended De Zavala School, the Anglos attended separate schools and the colored students attended even separate schools. De Zavala Elementary School building has been torn down. Another De Zavala Elementary School has been built at another location.
I feel extremely very blessed by Humble Oil Company because, since my father was employed by Humble Oil Company, our family had a steady income and an opportunity to get a continuous education. Some of my friends had to miss school to go and pick cotton, fruit or something else. They did not have a continuous education and many of them dropped out of school.
My family spoke only Spanish at home so I did not know even one word of English when I started school. The teachers were strict and did not allow us to speak Spanish in school. We had to speak only English; therefore, it took us two years to cover the first-grade material. Thanks to that, I learned proper English from the book without colloquialisms. Elementary school was 6 years at that time so I had no contact with Anglo English until I attended Baytown Junior School for 3 years and Robert E. Lee High School for 3 years. After graduating from De Zavala Elementary, I had some contact with Anglos but I managed to avoid picking up too many colloquialisms.
Some persons have asked me which country I came from because my speech does not have a Mexican accent and because my English is different from most Anglos. They are very surprised when I tell them that I am one of the few native Baytownians born on Humble Oil Company property even before the city of Baytown became a city in 1948.
Bless Humble Oil Company which is now known as ExxonMobil.