The locally famous Vera’s Palladium of Weslaco, Texas, was recently torn down on January 26, 2017. I never attended the place, but often heard of this place from the many musicians I’ve interviewed over the years. From Paulino Bernal of Conjunto Bernal, to Gilberto Reyes Jr. of Hohner Accordions, to the great Esteban Jordan of Elsa, they all spent a part of their lives at Vera’s Palladium.
But I first heard of this particular venue from my dad, when I was growing up. So I decided to interview him to try to get his personal recollections of the now, forever-gone Vera’s Palladium.
Felix Jose Martinez’ answers are translated to English in parentheses.
Eduardo Martinez: Did you go to Vera’s Palladium when you were young?
Felix Jose Martinez: Si, ahí tocaba con un grupo que se llamaba Sandy and the Silhouettes. Ahí íbamos en los Sábados y Domingos, y luego también en Martes. Pagaba bien poquito Joe Vera, en esos tiempos. (Yeah, I would play there with a group that was named Sandy and the Silhouettes. We would go Saturdays and Sundays, and also on Tuesdays. [Promoter] Joe Vera would pay very little, during that time.)
EM: What do you remember from going there?
FJM: Ahí tocaban bastante grupos. Iba mucha gente para bailar ahí. Iban los ‘chucos, de mas antes. Hay veces que se peleaban ahí y todo. (A lot of groups would play. A lot of people would go to dance there. The pachucos, from those days, would go there. There were times where they would fight and all.)
EM: Tú conocías a Joe Vera? (Did you know Joe Vera?)
FJM: Si, el cobrava cuando entrabas a la puerta. (Yeah, he was the one that charged at the door.)
EM: No te acuerdas cuantas veces fuistes a tocar? (Do you remember how many times you went there to play music?)
FJM: 15 o 20 veces. Tenian algo every week. Cuando no tenían baile, tenían skating rink. Pero si fui con bastante grupos. (About 15 or 20 times. They had something there every week. When there wasn’t a dance, they had a skating rink. But yeah, I went there with a bunch of groups.)
EM: Cuáles eran los otros grupos? (Who were the other groups?)
FJM: Te puedo hacer name unos cuantos, pero no me puedo acordar de todos. Bueno, hay tocaba Johnny Canales [y su orquesta], Los Fabulosos Cuatro, Chano Cadena [y su conjunto], Los Dos Gilbertos, Los Únicos, tocaban muchos grupos. Todos los grupos de aquí, tocaban ahí. (I can name you a few, but I can’t remember them all. Well, bands that played there were Johnny Canales [y su orquesta], Los Fabulosos Cuatro, Chano Cadena [y su conjunto], Los Dos Gilbertos, a lot of groups played there. All the groups from here, would play there.)
(Delia Gutierrez-Pineda, along with Eugenio Gutierrez y su orquesta, sang and played at Vera’s Palladium for many decades.)
En esos tiempos, las orquestas dominated los conjuntos. Pero y luego hizo survive los conjuntos y las orquestas no. (In those days, the orquestas dominated the conjuntos. But then, the conjuntos survived, and the orquestas didn’t.)
EM: Y que le pasó a Joe Vera? (And what happened to Joe Vera?)
FJM: Se hizo retire Joe Vera. Tambien tenia Blue Moon [en Pharr] y un restaurante por la 281 de Pharr, por el pueblo. Se llamaba Joe Vera’s Restaurant. Se hizo retire y hicieron ahi una tienda de dollar store. (He retired, Joe Vera. He also had Blue Moon [in Pharr] and a restaurant by 281 in Pharr, downtown. It was called Joe Vera’s Restaurant. He retired and they made a dollar store there.)
EM: Cómo te sentiste cuando vistes que tumbaron el Palladium? (How did you feel when you saw that they destroyed the Palladium?)
FJM: Fue como surprise. Cada vez que pasaba, me acordaba. Nombre, hay muchas memorias de el Palladium. Tumbaron muchas memorias. Casi la gente de hoy en dia, no saben de todo eso. Estoy hablando de cuando yo tenía 19 years old. Ya voy a comprir 65. 46 years ago. (It was like a surprise. Every time I would pass by there, I would remember. There was so many memories of the Palladium. They tore down so many memories. The people of today, they don’t know about that. I’m talking about when I was 19 years old. I’m about to turn 65. 46 years ago.)
Muchas memorias de toda la música, canciones, todos lo que iban al skating rink, a tocar, todos lo que iban a bailar, todo. Muchas, muchas memorias. (So many memories of the music, the songs, everyone that would go to the skating rink, to play, everyone that would go to dance, everything. So many memories.)