Lorenza Terrones Lujano

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Interviewed by
Patricia Aguirre
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By Katie Woody

Lorenza Terrones Lujano has battled prejudice, assumed a traditionally male role as an athlete and worked diligently to send all four of her children to college, an opportunity she never had.

Lujano was born Sept. 5, 1927, to Thomas Terrones and Clara Landin, who emigrated from Guanajuato, Mexico, carrying their firstborn infant son in their arms as they journeyed through Texas and Oklahoma before settling in southern Kansas. Lujano, who goes by Lorrie, has spent her entire life in Newton, Kan., where her family settled. As the seventh of nine children, she enjoyed entertaining her family by putting on comedy shows and dancing to corrido music with her siblings. During Christmas, her parents would gather their large extended family to sing carols, a tradition that she says continues in her own family today.

Lujano remembers being at the Rex Movie Theater in Newton when she first learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II.

During the war, her family had to tightly manage their money and carefully choose what groceries to purchase with their limited ration stamps. Lujano fondly remembers her father carrying boxes of groceries on his shoulder as he returned from his shopping trips at Dillon's grocery store.

From 1937 to 1938, Lujano attended Newton High School, where she enjoyed playing the violin for the school's orchestra. Her parents weren’t able to afford private lessons, but Lujano says she learned what she could in school and practiced at home using books supplied by her music teacher.

In 10th grade, Lujano made the decision to withdraw from school because the racially prejudiced environment was too much to bear. Lujano says her older sister Esperanza was even falsely accused of stealing a cheerleading skirt from the school.

During one trip to a local soda fountain, the cultural prejudice was overt.

"One time I went to St. John's Drug Store ... and I asked for a pop and they told me they would give it to me, but I had no right to drink it in the store or sit on the fountain, that I would have to go outside and drink it," said Lujano, adding that afterward, she threw it out into the street.

Lujano's two older sisters graduated from high school, but even with their diplomas, they had been unable to obtain jobs. Their experiences led Lujano to decide her time would be better spent outside of school.

At the age of 17, she began working for $25 a week at Hurst Poultry and Egg Co., where she, with 10 other Latinas -- mostly in their teens -- plucked feathers off dead chickens and sorted out unusable eggs. Because many American men were fighting in the war, the factory employed German POWs to transport heavy crates of eggs and load chickens into a de-feathering machine. Lujano vividly recalls one German worker named Bertol developing a crush on her and even composing a song dedicated to his "black-haired lady."

"We had a lot of fun in those days," Lujano said.

Outside of work, she played on Newton's all-girl baseball team. She enjoyed participating in the American pastime with Latinas, as well as those from other ethnic groups. Some of her best memories of the period come from a fourth of July game against a Wichita team from 126 miles away.

While Lujano worked and played baseball, her brothers, Alfred and Gene, were part of the war effort as members of the Army and Navy, respectively. It was during a Christmastime visit in 1946 that older brother Gene introduced her to the man who’d later become her husband.

Gene's friend, Angel Lujano, who was visiting for dinner, was instantly enamored with Lorrie, who was so shy that she hid behind the heater in her bedroom. Angel, whom Lujano refers to as "Moe," even bought her Christmas presents, which included a scarf, some perfume and a cedar chest with a rose carved on the outside.

Lujano and Angel were married April 17, 1948, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, where her family celebrated Mass every Sunday.

The Lujanos had four children -- three daughters and one son -- all of whom grew up in Newton, attending the same high school Lujano did as a child. Lujano was a full-time homemaker until her children began college. She then began working as a housekeeper, earning $4 an hour to help pay her children's expenses. Meanwhile, Angel retained three jobs: one with the Santa Fe Railroad, another with Hanna Furniture and a third with the police department. The Lujanos' hard work paid off, as all of their children graduated from college.

Looking back, Lujano wishes she could have had the same opportunities for which she worked relentlessly to give her children.

"[My children are] very lucky. I wish I was that lucky [when I was young] ... I would have went through high school, got my diploma and found a good job ... or gone to college if my parents could afford it," Lujano said.

Lujano says she’s glad much of the prejudice she experienced as a teenager has given way to more fair treatment of all groups.

"The prejudice has gone away,” Lujano said. Society now treats “Mexicans, blacks and whites all alike.”

Mrs. Lujano was interviewed in Newton, Kansas, on August 1, 2003, by Patricia Aguirre.