One day I asked Mando how it was that he ended up attending El Paso Technical High School rather than my alma mater, El Paso High School. He gave the matter some thought and responded as follows:
The Tech thing came down like this:
In the seventh grade our class of thirtysome 12 years olds was transferred from Lamar (Grammar School on Montana Avenue) to Houston (Grammar School on Rio Grande Avenue) to make room for younger kids. They needed the room at Lamar for grades below us and they asked us if we would be willing to go to Houston to help the younger kids. (We all know that they did not really ask us, they just pretended to do so). So off to Houston we went. There was no thought of busing us there, they left getting there up to us. Jaime Trejo, Carlos Zuniga and I rode our bikes all the way to Houston every day. That was a blast!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyway, that was the introduction to hell for all of us. The ninetysome other kids at Houston (they had three classes of seventh graders) decided that because we were from Lamar we had to be inferior to them. The fact that they outnumbered us 3 to 1 helped them. My first fight at Houston (one of many to come) was with a frog eyed jerk called “Sapo”. I some how managed to kick his tail but things did not go well after that. For the next nine months it was one fight after another. I remember being a very nonviolent person who did not understand the need to fight or why I was inferior them in their eyes. I do recall that because I was the same age as these morons I was more than able to hold my ground. Near the end of the year we were asked what high school we thought we might be attending. Because (older brother) Hank had gone to Tech I marked Tech and forgot about it. When it came time to register (for eighth grade) I went to EPHS but was turned away and sent to Tech because of my answer four months earlier. I did not question what was happening to me. Now I arrive at Tech, 13 years old and out of it. Super stupid in the ways of the world, too young to be there. Four things worked against me there:
1) I was too young to be in a school that included really ugly mean people that were as old as 19. A lot of them had been sent to Tech as a rehab program because of their criminal past.
2) The gang from Houston showed up in force and remembered me from Houston.
3) compared to (even) guys my own age I was very immature physically and mentally.
4) I was by myself without friends to help me.
The beatings started and lasted my two years in the eighth grade, the ninth grade and the tenth grade. Four years of this was a lot for me. I am sure that this was a source of many of my mental problems and poor performance at school. The summer between the tenth grade and eleventh grade I spent on the road with Al and Yvonne working with Al loading and packing furniture all summer. When I returned to school I had grown about 4 inches, had lost about 40 pounds and because of a summer of forced hard labor I very was strong and muscular. I am very proud to tell you that I spent the entire year in a “payback” mode. I really put the hurt on a lot of people. I did have some good friends at Tech, in particular a kid named Charlie LaTuna (really) that was always there to help me, taught me some dirty fighting tricks and was there to make sure the fights were fair and I did not get ganged up on. Charlie was a strange type of guy, smart, strong, independent, not a member of any group but nobody ever messed with him. He was the one that told me to kick “Acido’s” butt during a lunch hour when Acido walked up to me while I was eating lunch and told me that as a reward for coming back to school he (Acido) was going to remind me who was the boss. Charlie was sitting with me and told me, “Mando, you might as well go fight him right now. That way if he does kick your butt, by four o’clock you’ll be feeling better.” I went up to Acido and told him to fight me now. He did not want to so I grabbed him by the shirt collar and dragged him to the alley where I actually knocked him out. The crowd saw something they had not expected. The next day, believe it or not, the coach Jeep Gutierrez and two other teachers told me that that was too long coming.
And that, folks, is how Uncle Mando became “The Lion of El Paso Tech.“