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An Interview With Henry Villarreal
Not available online
TitleAn Interview With Henry Villarreal
AbstractInterviewer: Irene Ruiz. Interview recorded May 29, 1981. 1 sound cassette (ca. 90 minutes): analog, stereo.; 5 7/8 x 2 1/2 in., 1/8 in. tape; 1 sound disc; digital; 4 3/4 in. Has printed guide to contents.
NotesAt the time of the interview, Mr. Villarreal owned and operated the Villarreal Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas. He was born in Oklahoma in 1932 and parents settled in Armourdale in 1936. In the interview he discusses his early life, education, church, 1951 flood, burns he received from accident while in military, theater he and wife runs, etc.

Number 55 on MP3 disc.
Date1981-05-29
LocationSC69-1, Tape 60, CD 60
Local SubjectHispanic Americans
Villarreal Theatre
West Side
Oral History
Villarreal, Henry
Motion Picture Theaters
Item TypeArchival Material
TranscriptionSynopsis of Interview:

Mr. Villarreal owns and operates the Villarreal Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas. Born in Lookeba, Oklahoma in 1932, one of six children of Jesus and Petra Villarreal. Parents were farm laborers, worked their way north, settled in Armourdale in 1936. Remained in Kansas until the flood of 1951. Parents originally from Chihuahua.

Attended Mt. Carmel, a parochial elementary school. The school shared a building with St. Thomas school, but the children were kept separate. St. Thomas was an Anglo parish, Mt. Carmel was Mexican. Language did not create a problem. Attended one year at Ward High School. Parents attended Mt. Carmel church.Father died when Villarreal was 10. Mother went to work in Chief's, a Mexican restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas.

Played ball with neighborhood children. Enjoyed childhood in Armourdale, believes it is still a good location for children. Did not like school, felt he should be working to help support the family. Besides working, mother was active in the church and helped teach Spanish to school children. Got a job as a busboy at the Muehlebach Hotel, then became a laborer with the railroads.

Drafted in 1952. Oldest brother, who had been supporting the family, was drafted in WWII. At that point Villarreal quit school. During the flood of 1951, three children still lived with mother in a 2nd floor apartment in Armourdale. Recalls that it rained for 30 to 40 days consecutively before the flood, but people did not believe a flood was coming. Family lived with sister on the Missouri side until the sister's home was evacuated because of a chemical explosion. Slept in Penn Valley Park overnight, then moved to a school. People who owned houses received government aid to rebuild, but those who rented lost all their belongings also and received no help. Returned to sister's home until the family rented a couple of rooms.

Continued work for railroad until drafted in December, 1952. Stationed at an Oklahoma officer's training center. Suffered severe burns when a shell he was loading exploded in the chamber of a gun, killing three and injurying five. Spent 1 1/2 years recovering in Brooks Army Hospital in San Antonio. Was unable to work for several years, then got a job at Switzer School. Married Angelina Lopez in 1959. Lived in an apartment on West Side for five years, then in his mother's former home for 15 years.Worked part-time for school district for 14 years. Quit after suffering back injuries in an accident.

Returned to Kansas in 1979. Has a married daughter, a son still in school. Drove a school bus after leaving Switzer School job. Meanwhile, he and his wife organized "Los Sonidos", an orchestra of high school students. Group became well known on West Side, played at weddings, dances, etc. Group disbanded about 4 years prior to this interview after the group leader, Villarreal's nephew, drowned.

Decided to buy the Park-Plaza Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas. Owner showed both Mexican and American films, said he wanted out because he was losing money. Villarreal obtained a Small Business Administration loan to purchase it. He and wife now run theatre, open only three days per week. Films are all in Spanish, from various Latin American countries and Spain. Some also are made in California and Mexico. Emphasis on family entertainment. Advertises on radio and through word-of-mouth. Small clientele does not warrant newspaper ads. Business has increased. Hopes to someday open a meeting and reception hall for Mexican community. During summer, clientele come from St. Joseph, small towns as well as the city. Most are Mexicans. Mexican-Americans seem to prefer the American movies. Feels seeing Spanish language films helps people learn the language.
Access This ItemYou may come to the Missouri Valley Room to listen to the interview.
Item ID210423
CONTENTdm number36382
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