March 18, 2003
Hanson: This is an interview with Mayor Judith Valles. Today is March 18, 2003. This is for the San Bernardino Oral History Project and the interviewer is Joyce Hanson. Good morning Mayor Valles.
VALLES: Good morning.
Hanson: Welcome. I am glad you decided to participate in our project.
VALLES: Yes, I am glad to be a part of it.
Hanson: You're a very important part of it actually. I would like to start by asking you about growing up in San Bernardino and some of the family memories you have and going to school here. So if we could start there?
VALLES: Okay, we can start there. Growing up in San Bernardino, I was born in 1933 and of course I don't remember this part but I remember my mother telling us about my father being the midwife (laughs) at our births, as we were all born at home. I was born on Vine Street just one block west of Mount Vernon. And then from Vine Street, we moved to 7th Street. That wasn't that far away. It was about a few blocks, again, west of Mount Vernon. And growing up in San Bernardino, I am one of eight children. There were four boys and four girls. I was the seventh born so I guess I was one of the babies. Very traditional Mexican family; when I say traditional Mexican family, as I looked back, I didn't know that it was traditional, I just knew that's how we were raised. There was a double standard for the boys and the girls in our family. We girls waited on the boys and we couldn't sit down for dinner until my father had arrived, so that was really, very, very traditional. I remember growing up my mother of course, being the disciplinarian, and we didn't dare miss one day of school because she would threaten us by telling our father, who insisted that we learn English very well. But he also insisted that we speak Spanish at home because my mother didn't speak English. So, consequently, we were raised bi-lingual. At home we would speak Spanish and then when we, we meaning the sisters, would converse, we would converse in English. But we were not to mix the two languages.
My father was, as I look back, he was truly an entrepreneur. He had a sixth grade education, if that. So did my mother. They were both orphaned and they came to this country. My mother was fourteen. My father was sixteen, and they came with one child that was born in Mexico. So, they settled in San Bernardino because there was a maternal aunt that lived there and that's what drew them to the city of San Bernardino. But they raised each other and then they had of course, the eight children. My father, again, from my mother's oral history, was picking oranges and then from there he was hired by what they called a home supply company, which I learned later, was a company store for Santa Fe. So he began as equivalent to what a stock boy is now, but he eventually became the manager of the home supply company, which was on Mount Vernon also. My brothers worked there. Even I worked there a couple of summers. But he also managed the store and there was an organization on the west side that provided insurance for Mexican families. So, it was the Allianca, the Alliance. And I don't remember the full name of this alliance, but they would ('they' meaning the members of the Mexican community) come to our house and pay their dues for the Allianca. My mother and my older brother were the treasurers, so he [father] had a little insurance business on the side and then he also had a weekly newspaper which was called El Heraldo, which was in Spanish because the only Spanish newspaper we had was from Los Angeles, which was La Opinion. So, he had a weekly newspaper which was called El Heraldo. My older sister, her name was Naomi; she sold the ads. The whole family participated. I was just a child, but I remember having to measure the column inches. So I learned about column inches when I was in elementary school and also in junior high; measuring the column inches and doing the billing. So many column inches- so much per column inch- that's what they owed. It seems easy at the time but I guess now it would be a little more complicated. But he [father] also had a daily radio program in Spanish. First it was KFXM and then it became KITO and so it was a daily radio program. I was in charge of the record library, so I would select the records that were to be played at the morning radio show. My sister Naomi was the announcer and she went by the pseudonym of 'Lolita,' so she was a known household word. I mean she was famous in our barrio. And my brother, my oldest brother was one of the engineers; you know, the disc jockeys, so he would spin the records, cue them in and then she would be in a little separate room and she would do the announcing. So he truly was an entrepreneur, and then on top of that, because we had a lot of brasseros, do you remember what the brasseros were?
Hanson: Yes, I do,
VALLES: The Mexican nationals that would come to work here, there was a need for entertainment, so there's my father being a promoter, bringing Mexican singers and bands. I remember [inaudible] coming to San Bernardino playing at the Swing Auditorium, of course, Swing Auditorium and the Municipal Auditorium, both places no longer exist. And, again, my mother took the tickets, she was a cashier and another brother, I was too young, but I just remember the day after, counting the money. (laughing) That's what my sister Ruth and I would do every morning, not every morning, but every Sunday morning after the Saturday dances, sitting on the floor, piling up all the dimes and nickels and pennies and then putting them into little containers. We would do that. That was our Sunday morning ritual so we had a busy family.
Hanson: You sure did. That was a real family business.
VALLES: Yes, it was a family business. The promoting of the Mexican artists and we had big names that came. One of them came to my house and it was a big deal. Of course, these names don't mean anything to you, but to a Mexican being raised in San Bernardino, or back in those days, would recognize Jorge Negrete, which was the 'Crooner' and we had Canteen Flas come to San Bernardino; the big bands and the big mariachis. That was before we had our own mariachis in San Bernardino. They had to all be imported from Mexico. My oldest brother conducted the tours up and down California, and so the artists would come. They would be contracted and then my oldest brother, Tony, would be the promoter, take them on tours up and down California so that was kind of an exciting time. And so I was raised around music and art and poetry, because my father loved poetry and I would read it to him. My father became very ill about 1950, '49. He was in bed and we would read to him whatever was going to be on the radio program the next day, but the family continued with the business; my oldest sister and my brother. And he would pretty much direct us all from bedside. And of course when he passed away in 1951 it was a terrible blow for all of us. I was 16, but the work ethic had already been implanted in all of us. Of course, I'm remembering it just from my perspective, but the whole family participated.
My oldest sister, Naomi, of course, she doesn't like me to call her the oldest sister, but she is. She's only six years older than I am but of course six years now is nothing. But six years back then, that was a lot. I was eleven. She was seventeen. I mean, she was my big movie star sister because everybody knew who Lolita was. I remember that she married and moved away and then I became Lolita, but the audience didn't know the difference because our voices were so similar that there wouldn't be a break in the tradition. She married after my father passed away. Then I became the Lolita, and I don't know if the listening audience knew the difference but, anyway we kept the tradition of Lolita alive. By that time more Spanish-speaking radio programs, not stations, came in. There was one on KCAL and then there was another on KRNO, so then the competition began, but we were the pioneers, or my father was.
Also the heart of the community, the social center of the community was the church, which was Our Lady Guadalupe. This is all on the west side, west of Mount Vernon, which is where I lived, but it could have been west of I Street also because that was a heavy Mexican community. That's what we were called back then. Latino wasn't the 'in' word, neither was 'Hispanic', neither was 'Mexican-American'. It was the Mexican community and that's where we lived. But the heart of it was Our Lady Guadalupe Church, which was the parish. The original church was on Pico Street, Pico and 5th, then of course we built the new church, which was on 5th Street. I remember celebrations every weekend to raise funds for the new church, which is where I was married. That was my first marriage was at Our Lady Guadalupe. The Father, Father Nunez, later became Monsignor. He was the father figure of the community. He knew all the kids in the parish and by golly, you all had to behave because, (laughing) at least in my family, "Don't let Monsignor Nunez see you!" If we went to church with sleeveless dresses, that was a no-no-no-no. Of course, in those days our heads were covered either with a hat or with a veil. I always had to wear dresses. No pants to church, oh Lord! So, when I go to church now and I think back, and I go, wow, it has changed. But it wasn't so bad back then. It was tradition; so when today when people say well, wear your church going clothes, what does that mean? That doesn't mean anything. Wear your jeans or your tank tops but back in those days, wearing your church clothes meant wear your best, so we wore our best. You go to church, you looked nice. As a matter of fact, that was the time to show off and boys would go check out the girls and the girls would go all dressed up knowing that the boys were going to be checking you out. Anyway, that was it.
I remember my mother being a very, very devout Catholic. My father was an agnostic. Interesting, very interesting combination. He was an agnostic, by that I mean, I'm sure he was a God fearing man, because he would use "God willing," so I know he believed in God, but he didn't believe in organized religions, however my mother did. Which is unusual back in those days. So he was a member of the Masonic Lodge; again, another unusual thing for a Mexican man. But he was a very good friend of Father Nunez, the Catholic Priest. Go figure, that's the male bonding thing. We don't understand. Religion had nothing to do with it. Business had a lot to do with it because the church was used for a lot of the church fiestas; raising money for the church as well as making money for the family, of course, everything was. So, as I look back, now I understand the dynamics between the two and the bond between the two, Father Nunez and my father.
So, as far as my family, I feel that I was fortunate to be raised in a family that had such a strong work ethic. My father and of course, the boys, all had to work, from delivering newspapers on Sundays to working in the store to working in the newspaper or with the radio or tours with the artists. The girls we were Las Muchacha's. The girls, except for my oldest sister, she's the one that did have to work, sell the ads for the newspaper and for the radio program. But all of us went to the University College and University, all eight of us, even if my father did pass away when I was sixteen. But he insisted that we be well educated and of course, learn English. That was very important to him because he learned English. He taught himself English. When my father died, my mother learned English. She went to school and learned English, took her citizenship papers and became a citizen because at that point, she realized that we were not going back to Mexico. Those were my plans for my father that we would all be educated here and then go back, which is why he purchased some land in Mexico. But we never did go back, we all stayed here.
Major events in my life, again, going back to my father's strict disciplinarian, dumb things that you remember. We had to wear socks. Girls had to wear socks; you never went with bare legs although about that time it was a cool thing to wear penny loafers with no socks. But not us, at least not around my father (laughing). We had to wear socks and of course, my oldest sister, she had to wear stockings. Anyway, never go around bare legged.
But, there was a group of businessmen on the west side. It was my father, Gonzalo Valles was his name, a friend of his, Mike [inaudible], which owned the tortilla factory on Mount Vernon, which was a very successful business, La Tolteca it was called and then there was the owner of the Mitla Café the original one, that was Don Salvador Rodriguez, and now these were buddies and then there was, I think the town barber, Tino Negrete and a few others, the owner of the drugstore, I can't remember his name, he had a drugstore on Mount Vernon. These were kind of like the business leaders, and the activists, if you will, because in the early forties, before the war, and I'll talk about during the war, what happened to our family, we had the segregated swimming pools. That was at Perris Hill and one of my brothers, Mike Valles, he's still alive, you may want to interview him, not being allowed to swim, to go to Perris Hill park because the Mexicans, I think, we were assigned a day, I think Saturday, just before the pool was drained or cleaned. I don't remember what it was. (laughing) I know it was something stupid like that.
Hanson: The rules are always silly.
VALLES: Yes, the rules are always silly back then, but it's funny that the community just adhered to the rules. But this time my brother was really bummed because he went to swim with his buddies who were Italian but they could go and he could not. So he told my father and that started a little, not a riot necessarily, but an organization on the west side to integrate pools and eventually they were and the Mexicans were allowed to swim with the white guys. I don't remember the year that that happened but that had to be in the late thirties, maybe early forties. You know, there was a book that was written. It's called, Not With A Fist. I don't know if you're familiar with the book.
VALLES: The name of the book is Not With A Fist and it was written by Ruth Tuck. She was an anthropologist from the University of Redlands. She wrote the story of the city of San Bernardino in the early days, and in her book she recorded this story about what was happening on the west side and how a group of business leaders organized to integrate, to be allowed to use the swimming pool. It happened to be the Perris Hill Plunge; we called it the plunge in those days. I think it was the only on in town, but at any rate, that was the one. My brothers were in the Second World War. My oldest brother Tony, his real name is Hannibal, which is another story about my brother's names.
Hanson: I've heard a little about them.
VALLES: Hannibal is one, Hastroval was the other, Juvonal was third and Hamilcar. Now, where my father got those names, of course, I learned later that they're all historic names.
Hanson: Yes, they are.
VALLES: But of course, in Spanish, it sounds better, it sounds prettier, Hannibal Antonio, okay, so he got two names. Hastroval Francisco, naturally he went by his second name, Francisco. Gonzalo Juvonal, well that was my father's name, Gonzalo so he went by Gonzalo, not Juvonal. Juvonal was a poet, I'm sure you know this. And then Hamilcar, he just had Hamilcar. He didn't have a second name so he, he gave himself a second name, he became Mike, (laughing) and you know, to this day, I still call him Hamilcar, because that's how I grew up, Hamilcar, Hamilcar. And most people, some people call him Micky. But I call him Hamilcar. Anyway, those are my brothers. All, I guess it had to do with the Punic wars and the girls all had Biblical names. It's Naomi, and Ruth, Judith and Edith. Remember I said, my father was an agnostic and my mother was very religious?
Well, she had to baptize us on the sly, without my father knowing. That was another little secret. My father, I'm sure he knew. So we went to Father Nunez who was the father figure in church and he says, "I can't baptize your children with those Jewish names. Those aren't Christian names." So, Naomi became Maria De La Delores, which is a nickname for Lolita, you know, Delores, Lola. That's her baptismal name. My sister, Ruth, her baptismal name is Maria Del [inaudible], that's her baptismal name. My other sister, Edith, her baptismal name was Maria Lucia, and my baptismal name was Maria De La Luz. So, in the church I'm Maria De La Luz. So I remember when I was married, Monsignor Nunez baptized me and he married me at the altar. My husband was Chad Bradbury, that was first husband who had subsequently died, but, Monsignor Nunez is marrying us at the altar and he says, 'Do you Chad, take Mary Lou to be your wife?' and Chad looks at me and says, 'Who's Mary Lou?' and I said, 'That's me. Just say yes.' (laughing) I had to explain to him that he married a Mary Lou, that he didn't marry Judith, because again, very traditional. You're not going to marry a Judith in this church. But anyway, my baptismal name is Maria Luz and my legal name is Judith because my father insisted.
Hanson: Well, this certainly could complicate historical records.
VALLES: Yes, Yes. That would complicate it. But, so I am known as Judith. Nobody knows me as Mary Lou except the church. But that has changed also. You can call your children anything you want. But that was interesting with us and our names and our father's name. But anyway, my father being very active in the west side community, a leader, providing jobs for a lot of people, also, importing a lot of Navajo Indians from Arizona, I believe they came to work on the railroad. I think back at everything he did and I think, "My God, how did he do it?" But he did.
Hanson: And at the time that he did it, it was amazing.
VALLES: And at the time that he did it, it was amazing. So, we were, I believe respected in the Mexican community because of my father's activities. In 1941, you know when the war was declared; that was Pearl Harbor, my oldest brother was recruited. That's when you had the, I guess, not recruited, but, anyway, conscripted.
Hanson: Oh yes, there was conscription.
VALLES: So he was in the army, and then my next brother, Gonzalo, was only seventeen and he wanted to go to the Air Force so my parents had to sign for him to go and so he did. He enlisted in the Air Force, well he's the one that was killed in the Second World War. He didn't go to war, he was killed in training at Des Moines, Iowa. Well, I was nine. I believe I was nine, between eight and nine, oh let's see, 1933, this happened in '42, so I guess I was about nine. I was about nine. His body was flown home and my mother wanted him buried in the cemetery, which was by the Sacred Heart because she was very religious. My father went to make all the funeral arrangements and because my father was fair skinned and his English, although he had an accent, was acceptable, they thought he was Italian, but then when they found out he was Mexican, they told him that he [brother Gonzolo] couldn't be buried there because the Mexicans had to be buried in another part of the cemetery. Of course, they said it to the wrong man. He says, "Okay, my son will not be buried until we can bury him where we want." That was also in the newspapers and that was also in the book, Not With a Fist, because she did all the research and I say that because I don't want you to think that I'm making up these stories.
Hanson: I don't.
VALLES: So, my brother's body, of course I was a little girl, seemed like it was in our living room forever, lying in state. The coffin was open, people would come in and see him and he was there in our living room. It seemed like days until my father made arrangements for his body to be flown back to Arlington because by now the U.S. Air Force has interceded and he received a letter from President Roosevelt. We still have the letter in the files. So his body was going to be flown to be buried in Arlington. My mother, of course, was devastated because she wanted her son to be buried here. Finally, my brother integrated the cemetery. (laughing) How about that? And it was Mountain View Cemetery and he is buried not too far from the Sacred Heart, right at Mountain View Cemetery. That was again, that was in the newspapers, that was a big, but I mean that tells you how deep, it was just blatant racism, but at the time, it was accepted. So, if a Mexican died, you were buried in a certain part of the cemetery.
Hanson: But it must have been devastating for your family.
VALLES: It was.
Hanson: A son who was killed in the service of his country would be denied simple rights of burial.
VALLES: Well, that was the issue. That was the issue. So he was buried at Mountain View where my mother wanted him to be buried, but it took the will of my father who said, "Okay, this is injust" or unjust and wrote to who ever and what ever it took. And again, I say, I was nine years old. I wish I could remember all the calls that he made or to who that he spoke. Certainly our congressman and I don't remember who the congressman was at the time I should probably go back and check the newspapers and see how they covered the story.
VALLES: Well, significant events, those were the significant events. I'm going back again remembering stories my mother told us. My brother Tony, Hannibal, was the oldest. That's when the schools were also segregated. We lived by Ramona and Allesandro, good schools, however that's where all the quote "Mexican" kids went, and my father wanted us to learn English, so he kept my brother out of school because he wanted my brother to go to a school that was integrated, or that wasn't focused on Spanish speaking kids. So, when he went to kindergarten I think he was eight. (laughing) That took a while to integrate those schools. And so that tells you the kind of person my father was. So he kept him out until he was eight and he has to go to the school that I say, not where they tell me and that was the beginning of that integration of the schools.
But, hindsight, it wasn't so much segregation, but there were neighborhood schools and that's where all the Mexican families lived. But there again, he said, "I live here because these are my people but I want my son to go to that school." That was another fight, so he went to kindergarten at eight years old. Probably the oldest and biggest kid there. And you'd have to interview him to find out about how he felt. Those are significant events that I remember. But it was people like my father and the other gentleman that really were the trailblazers for the integration of San Bernardino. That was before the Chicano movement and all of that. So, now turn the clock forward. I'm in the sixties, right? Now we're in the sixties and I'm teaching at Valley College. I'm teaching Spanish, and I wore my robosos, of course, now they're called something else.
Hanson: Now they're a fashion statement.
VALLES: Now they're a fashion statement. But back in those days it was an ethnic statement I was making because I was teaching Spanish. And that's when the sixties and the Chicano movement was in vogue, and I couldn't help but think back of the struggles my own family had had, so I focused more on the pride of being Hispanic and focusing on the beauty of your language and your culture and just be proud of who you are. So we had a problem. I was having a problem with this Chicano movement because they were wearing sarapes, and I thought to myself, "what are you doing wearing a sarape for crying out loud? Even in Mexico they don't wear sarapes; only on fiesta days!" So, of course, then I was dubbed a coconut; whatever that means. What does that mean? But still I was insistent on the heritage and the beauty of the culture and the language. I remember they did a study on Chicanas in higher education, well there I was, there I was 'Super Chicana" in higher education. (laughing)
Hanson: So, you became the poster girl.
VALLES: But I wasn't because they came into the office, or, they were sitting in an office. I was to go in and they were going to interview me about being this Chicana in higher education and I walked in and they didn't like my look. I was too tall. You're Judith Valles? Yes. Of course, I was Bradbury because of my husband's name, but I always use my maiden name. "Well, you're not what we're looking for." And I go, "What are you looking for?" I knew what they were looking for. They wanted me to walk in with a sarape and a braid; although I did wear a long braid and I was supposed to be short and fat. And I was really offended by them. I was, I was offended because they had a stereotype of what they wanted and I didn't fit their stereotype, so they didn't interview me so I didn't get into the magazine. But I thought about that and I thought, "Something's wrong. Something is wrong." I'm not saying I didn't get involved with the Chicano movement, I did because again, all the injustices that were happening in our schools against children of color, not just Hispanic children. So, it was for a good reason. Again, championing the causes of my father but I really resented the labels that they put on us and I resented the fact that I didn't fit whatever they thought I should have looked like.
Hanson: In a way they had bought into those white stereotypes.
VALLES: Yes. They had. They had bought into those white stereotypes and then I didn't fit. And therefore, who am I to be championing a cause after all, I was married to a gringo, right?
I was married to a gringo so what did I know. And I thought to myself, "Okay, I'm not going to go there. I'm not going to say I was raised this and my father did this," There was no point in doing that. I was at Cal State here just taking a course in Ethnic Studies and I remember the professor and there I was with a name like Bradbury and he was stuck in the stereotype of what Chicanos were supposed to look like. I didn't fit it, and besides, I was married to a gringo, so he said, "And you know what happens to Chicanas, in order to improve themselves, they think they have to marry a gringo and then they're accepted." This is a Chicano teaching Ethnic Studies, to which I said, I said, "I know you're directing your comments at me, so let me tell you why I didn't marry a Mexican. I said because there was one single Mexican that had the guts enough to ask me out because I was bigger than all of you." (laughing) All the Mexican boys were short. As soon as I stood up they turned and went the other way. That's why I didn't marry a Chicano. None of you had the courage to ask me out. And this was true. I was in high school and there was this big Mexican girl and wooo, who's going to take her out. No way- so I didn't have any boyfriends in high school.
Hanson: You had the same problems as all tall girls had in high school.
VALLES: Right, I had the same problems, but you see, my problem was that I was Mexican. I wasn't supposed to be tall. I mean, where did that come from? Where did she hatch from? Well, anyway, that was interesting. That was my experience with him and he didn't like me much. He gave me a 'C' and that was not fair because I did well on my tests, but anyways I said, well, okay, that's the way it is. So that was another little incident. But still, you know, I've always been very proud of being Hispanic, or Latina, or Mexican, or Mexican. Put a word, whatever you want. Whatever label you want to put on me, that's what I am and now it's changed again, and so now if you want to call me a Chicana, yes, I'll be your Chicana. I am. I am a Chicana? Okay. I'm a Mexican? Okay. I'm a Latina? Okay. I'm Hispanic? All right!
Hanson: More important, you are who you are.
VALLES: More important, I'm who I am. I remember when I became the first Latina president of a college; higher education in California. I became a real oddity for many people, and I know why because they were wondering if I made it because I was Hispanic, or did I really earn it. You have to put up with that, too, and I did. So here I am. I was asked to be a speaker at this state conference because they wanted to know how I did it. And it was a lot of pressure on me because they wanted to find out if I had any brains or did I just make it because I was the token, because there was a lot of tokenism too. So, I spoke, and my daughter, out of the mouth of babes, I said, "How am I going to handle this?" and she said, "Mom, they don't care, they don't care about leadership books that you've read, none of that," because I wanted to quote books I had read on leadership styles, and I had pretty much read everything they had at the time on leadership, so that I would sound like I knew what I was talking about, and then out of the mouth of babes, she said, "Mom, they don't care what you read. They just want to know how you did it." I thought, you're right, so that was my talk. And I pretty much talked about all of these obstacles that we have as a woman, as being a tall woman, as being a Hispanic woman, (laughing) and a lot of the internal barriers that we have, as women; it doesn't matter what you are. So I talked about the internal barriers that one has and how you overcome those barriers, so actually, the harder I worked, the luckier I got. That was pretty much the sense of it. But you recognize what those internal barriers are and many of them are your own demons. The fear of being found out, what do they call it, the 'imposter phenomenon'? Boy, I was suffering from that big time, imposter phenomenon.
Hanson: I think a lot of women who rise to positions of power or authority have that constantly.
VALLES: Right, and I had it in spades, except that I blurted it out when I talked to a couple thousand women. They all identified with it. This fear of being found out, that just because somebody thinks you can do something and you really don't think you can do it, but then you do it and then you tell yourself, "Well, I fooled them." You know, because I got it done, and then you have another challenge so you always- so that's how I did it.
Hanson: Yes, that's a real common affliction for women.
VALLES: And I learned that some men have it too. Except women are more open about it and I, so I shared it openly and then I was okay.
Hanson: Let me ask you one question. What was the name of the school that you became president of?
VALLES: Golden West College in Huntington Beach.
Hanson: So we have it on the tape.
VALLES: Yes, that was my first one, so I was the first Latina and I became, I say an oddity, because I was the first and so people wanted to meet this first person to see if she really had any substance to her and I felt that I had to prove that I did. So what do you do as a woman? You work harder than anybody before you and that's what I did. That was, I think a major turning point in my life. Well, I had a lot of turning points in my life, but that was just one of them. The biggest turning point of my life was when my first husband was killed and I had three children. That was the turning point because I just wanted to stay home and raise my kids. You know, a lot of women do, especially back in those days. He's the one that was supposed to move on but then he's killed in an automobile accident and I'm left with three kids and I tell myself, "Self, okay, well, you're it. You're it." That was a turning point because that's when, and you know, in hindsight, I think, well, maybe I wouldn't have been president of a college. I probably wouldn't be mayor, I wouldn't have been of this national consultant that I became if I hadn't been forced to take charge of my life, because it's so easy for a woman to let the husband take over. So you, I was 34 when he was killed. I had three children, my oldest was 11 and the baby was 6. Yes, 5, 7, my son was 9. That was tough. That was really tough. I say many times that when you're faced with real adversity it just brings out a strength in you that you didn't know you had. Not that I wish it on anybody, but it brings something out of you that makes you stronger. Pride has a lot to do with it, too. And you become overly protective of your kids. That was a turning point in my life, when he was killed. Anyway, then I guess the rest is history. Yes.
Hanson: Let's talk about San Bernardino.
VALLES: San Bernardino, that's right, I ended up talking too much about my life.
Hanson: No! No, that was wonderful. But actually, let's switch gears is what we're doing here. Tell me about San Bernardino as you see it and San Bernardino ten years from now.
VALLES: Okay, San Bernardino ten years from now. I know I'm being optimistic, but I've always been optimistic. I see a real renaissance. I see San Bernardino being the family town that I remember growing up in. I mean, it was focused on families and kids. I see the lake project completed. I see around that, the water and the lakes, I see homes. I see a thriving business community around the lakes. I see San Bernardino as a destination place, which is what it was when I was growing up. It was a destination place. It did have lakes. The Urbita Lake, which is where my father had the dances. Maybe I just want to go back to that. I see water being magical again as it was when I was growing up. I see a thriving community, I see a youth sports being a real catalyst for families and I see a lot of our graduates from the university here coming back, wanting to come back versus wanting to escape; some of them coming back. In ten years I see that happening, but it's really important that the city become vital again, as it was. Because it was very vital. It truly was. There were many activities. The dances that I'm speaking of that my father promoted, some at the Urbita Ballroom, which was surrounded by water, downtown ballroom, the Municipal Auditorium that unfortunately we tore down, there was so many beautiful buildings that I remember that are no longer there, which is why I don't want to tear down any more historic buildings. I want to keep them, and create the historic districts. I see that depot area that I've been working on for five years, that whole area, not being another Olivera Street necessarily, but just as vibrant where people come to eat, to shop, take a metro link. That'll happen in ten years.
Hanson: How do we get there?
VALLES: By just staying focused. Just staying focused and not get sucked into everybody's agenda because everyone has one and that's the toughest thing, you know, to stay focused on the revitalization of the depot, the whole area, with that starting we're going to see a result of that by the end of this year, the depot itself. The entire area has to be revitalized. Staying focused on the lakes and streams, also with the water project on the south end and it's called the Wetlands and the creation of the lakes. The Vision Creek, which is bike and walkways along the freeway, that's being created. Staying focused on it and not, not be side tracked by all the nay-sayers, and not be afraid. Have the political guts and courage to stay with it, and I say I can do that because I don't care if I'm re-elected. You know, there's some comfort in that. If I were twenty years younger and I thought, "Oh, I want to become a governor or a senator," I would say, "Well, I better do the political thing. I better not upset too many people." But at this stage of the game, I don't care if they get upset. In the long run, I know it will be good for the city, so you have to have the political will, the guts, the courage to stay focused and do the right thing. Whatever the right thing is. I think I know what the right thing is. Maybe I'm wrong!
Hanson: You spoke at the Old Timer's Club last month about a historic district in San Bernardino and revitalizing homes and how many people move into that district. Where do you see that district? Where is it? Geographically?
VALLES: Geographically, it's between 6th and 9th Street between F Street and the 215. So it's do-able, it's not a big huge area, which is where the lakes were. It was too big. Narrow it down so it's do-able. The historic district then is between 6th and 9th, F Street and the 215, and the reason that was selected was because, as I try to drive through the city, different parts, that one has a collection of historic homes that are in disrepair. But they are at a point where they can be rescued and rebuilt and be brought up to their original splendor and moved, because we have an elementary school that's going in the area now. The area that is designated for an elementary school has many of these homes so I have worked with the Unified School District so they will give the homes to the city. We will move them, and then we'll make sure that they're restored. I want them all on one row of a street otherwise it doesn't have an impact if they're sprinkled throughout the area, so I want them in a single row. And also that takes a focus and I've got the economic development agency and the housing component of it working on it as we speak. So the first thing we had to do was clean it up, and notify all "absentee landlords" of their responsibilities as landlords, and that's an answer to your question. And I see that completed, I hope, by the end of this term for me. Yes.
Hanson: Are you going to run for another term?
VALLES: I don't know. That depends on how exhausting this one becomes. (laughing) I don't know.
Hanson: Let me ask you one more question. Why did you run for mayor? What motivated you to do this?
VALLES: Yes. I was recruited first of all, but when I was at Golden West in Huntington Beach, I bought a townhouse there and my husband lived in San Bernardino, he still does. I would come home every weekend, and in my coming home on weekends, I saw a visible deterioration of my town. I did. I left in 1988, that's when I moved to Huntington Beach, and from Huntington Beach I retired and then I was recruited to stay as interim president of Coastline College and then I retired again and then I was recruited to be the interim president of Ventura College so I moved. I didn't buy a home in Ventura or Oxnard, I rented a home there, but I was commuting the whole time. Coming home and then working during the week at my different assignments and I saw the visible decaying of my town. I didn't like it. So, originally, I just wanted to go back to Huntington Beach because I had made friends there, a home there. I was established and people knew me, and it was a good place. My husband was committed to San Bernardino because he has business here, owns some buildings. My sisters, of course, were totally bummed because I was leaving, and then I told myself, "What am I doing? This is my home. This is my home." My parents are buried here as well as my brother.
So, I retired and I came back to San Bernardino and I watched a couple of council meetings and they were an embarrassment to me; no civility at all. Not that I was going to change the world and I wasn't interested in running for mayor, but then Mayor Minor, at the time, said that he wasn't going to run again. It was an open seat and I was actively recruited. And I decided, "What have I got to lose?" And my husband said, "You know, you still have so much. You got too much going for you. Why don't you just try it?" and I said, "Okay, I'll try it. The worst thing that happens to me is that I get elected." (laughing) But I really believed, that goes to show you, if you really believe in something, I really believed the worst thing that could happen to me is that I get elected and then I'm really committed to four years of giving it my 140%. That's the worst thing that could happen to me, but the best thing that could happen to this city is if they elect somebody like me, that doesn't care about being re-elected, that just wants to get in and roll her sleeves up and do the job.
Well, and then you know what happened. I was elected and then I got everything going and started, so I couldn't quit. (laughing) I couldn't quit. I got to finish what I started. So, then that's my second term and that's where I am now. Fundamentally, I believe that if you do something for the right reason, it's going to be okay and the right reason, what's a right reason, you know. I said that in my little speech, just like I did when I was teaching. The right reason is are you doing it for those kids? If the answer is yes, then you keep doing it. If you're doing it for yourself, then you better go someplace else. Yes, and the same thing is true as an elected politician. Are you doing it for the right reason and if you believe you are, then you keep doing it, so that's, that's why.
Hanson: We moved here four and a half years ago and I've been very impressed by your administration and I don't say that just because you're here. I say it because I've noticed that you do what you think is right and the consequences be damned.
VALLES: That's right. The consequences be damned. That's true.
Hanson: But it's refreshing to see a politician who doesn't care about being re-elected.
VALLES: And look what happened. Nobody ran against me. It's working! (laughing)
Hanson: Everyone's afraid of you now. They're not going to run against that crazy woman (laughter).
VALLES: I must have some of my father's genes, I must have a lot of his genes. You know it's the funniest thing because he was such a macho guy. You know, but he also believed that the girls have to be just as educated as the boys because you never know what kind of luck they're going to have or what jerk they're going to marry, that's what he told my mother. Of course, he didn't say jerk in English. It was in Spanish but it was something like that, but he was right. He was right on; a man before his time.
Hanson: Oh, absolutely- in every way, in every way- it's just amazing. We're almost finished so would you like to say anything else before we finish, anything I haven't asked you that you think I should?
VALLES: Oh, let's see, oh, I forgot a very important thing about my mother. Again, a woman with maybe a fifth grade education, but she raised all of us on Proverbs. Everyday there was a proverb. At the time I didn't understand what the Proverbs were. If you ask any of my brothers and sisters, they will tell you, everyday there was a proverb that my mother would cite and I used to think that she made them up and then when I was in graduate school and I was reading Don Quixote, I thought, by golly, my mother used to say that. So, she was pretty well read, either that or she learned it from the nuns, but there was always, always a proverb in Spanish and I never knew what it meant, but by golly, I do know now. All eight of us, well, seven of us now, actually six of us because I lost one of my sisters, we all have one of the favorite sayings that my mother had and the one that I remember was being courteous does not diminish your courage.
Hanson: Very wise.
VALLES: Very wise, in other words you don't have to use strong obscene words, or be aggressive. But treat people with courtesy and be firm and that doesn't mean you're weak. Wise words. So it works for me. Actually, it works for women. That's a woman thing. Yes. Just because I'm being polite- don't think you can walk all over me, buster. Yes, that's it.
Hanson: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.