Wheel as family ties
The century-old wagon sitting in Gary Gonzales' front yard hints at the bond that links three generations.
Gonzales, 55, remembers riding on the wood wagon as a 6-year-old when he visited his grandparents, Juana and Pedro Archuelta, in Mexico. His mother, Consuelo, 84, was born in Morenci and remembers riding and steering the mule-driven wagon as a little girl during visits to Mexico.
Gary Gonzales dismantled the wagon and moved it to his Chandler neighborhood after his grandfather passed away in 1983. The wagon's original green paint is mostly worn off and its wood frame is ther-beaten, but to this day it brings a smile to his and his mother's faces.
"It meant a lot to me and brought back lots of memories," Gary Gonzales said. "My cousins and I would ride to the ranch and spend the day there playing with the animals and riding the horses."
In 1919, Juana and Pedro gave birth to Consuelo. She traveled from Morenci with her parents to Fabens, Texas, and Chandler, where they labored on farms.
Consuelo married Guillermo Gonzales in 1935 and had two children, Gary and Yolanda. By 8, Gary became the man of the house when a stepbrother left and his father abandoned the family. Consuelo never remarried and reared her children as a single mother, imparting an important lesson in being self-sufficient.
"She was the one who raised us and taught us well," Gonzales said. "It was hard on her and probably very scary for her having three kids and having to support them."
By picking potatoes at 6 cents a sack and pooling the family's money, Consuelo Gonzales bought a small car for $200, allowing the family to travel to farms for work.
Gonzales and his siblings learned English by attending Cleveland School, where students were spanked for speaking Spanish. Looking back, he feels teachers should not have been as physical but that it "forced us to learn English faster."
On weekends, Consuelo and her children started work at 4 a.m. On Sundays, they would take off at 2 p.m. and she would give her children some money. Gary could buy french fries for a nickel and watch a movie in the downtown theater for a quarter.
One of Gonzales' fondest memories was stopping at the San Marcos Resort where his friend's mother worked as a pastry chef. Gonzales and his friend would pick up cookies and treats at the back entrance on their way home from school.
"She would always put a few aside for us," he remembered.
At 16, Gary Gonzales started working summer jobs at Williams Air Force Base for three years where he shipped airplane parts. Again the family pooled its savings to buy a house for $24,000 with $250 monthly mortgage payments. Gonzales, his sister and mother lived there until 1975, when they sold the house.
Gonzales and his wife of 26 years, Lydia, have two grown sons, Sergio Rene, 19, and Michael Joseph, 24, and one grandson, Issac Benjamin, 1. Gonzales is a media coordinator with Mesa Community College and also runs the concession stand at Chandler Center for the Arts during events.
Consuelo remains active at the local senior center and enjoys Saturday visits with her son and great-grandson. She also continues to prepare traditional Mexican meals and attends St. Mary's Catholic Church.
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