Every trip was by automobile and was done as inexpensively as possible. This made for some interesting experiences that probably gave us a better view than some of the real Mexico. The first time we went was in 1950 and preparations were minimal. Dad packed his .38 revolver in the glove compartment and once we arrived in El Paso, he simply stopped and took out insurance that would protect us for the time we were in Mexico.
We crossed the border in minutes and were in another world. It was busy with people walking everywhere, hollering out the names of the goods they had for sale. As soon as the car stopping in a parking spot, young boys ran up and asking, began smearing the dirt around with towels and buckets of dirty water. Dad ran them off without payment because he knew what would happen if he gave them so much as a peso; a hundred more would appear, either begging or offering to perform chores for payment.
We wandered around marketplaces and ate in small cafes the first day in El Paso and ended up getting a late start for our next destination. We took off in a plume of dust and drove into the night. My mother was terrified that we wouldn’t have a place to stay and it was obvious that we wouldn’t make it to our destination tonight.
Fortunately, Dad spotted a very small adobe motel built around a courtyard, just off the road. He was able to get us two rooms and even paid the proprietor to prepare us a meal. The motel was too small to have a restaurant so the owner prepared just what he and his wife would eat. In this case, fresh tortillas stuffed with refried beans and shredded beef served with lots of rice.
It was close to midnight when we finished dinner and we were immediately told to go to bed. It was only minutes after we turned in that gunshots erupted outside our doors in the small courtyard. When we looked out the window we saw men milling around and firing pistols into the air.
Mom ran over to our room, certain we were all going to die. Dad took a more conservative view, picked up his .38 and walked past the men to the owner’s office. The owner didn’t speak much English but got the gist of Dad’s complaint and went out to break up the pistol party going on out front.
Everyone, except Mom, went back to sleep and we continued on our way the next morning to Mexico City.