Ethel Pedraza, a King William resident for many years, is an inveterate traveler with an adventurous spirit. She was born in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. Growing up she traveled regularly with her parents, Manuelita & Ruperto, and sister, Norma, within Mexico and to the U.S. Her dad, who learned English well while studying in San Antonio, was dismayed that she had forgotten the English that she had been learning. This wouldn’t do, so he instructed her to listen to WOAI A.M. news radio and report to him what the news was about. This was a powerful radio station that they listened to in Mexico. He also expected her to make As in history to be better prepared for eventual U.S. citizenship.
At age nine, Ethel’s family moved to San Antonio, first living on Peach Street in Lavaca. In 1961, they moved to the 600 block of Mission Street, where she still lives. Ethel attended Bonham Elementary, Page Middle School and Brackenridge High School. She attended San Antonio College and Our Lady of the Lake while working at a print shop. During junior high, Ethel became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Her homework had paid off.
Ethel decided to join the Air Force for the opportunity to travel. However, her father would not sign the enrollment papers, as he was afraid she would be sent to Viet Nam. He promised her that he would help her travel to Europe if she would stay home. Ruperto was working as an accountant for the local firm of Straus-Frank Co. (distributors of Frigidaire), located on S. Flores and S. Alamo Streets. Ethel joined the firm as a billing clerk.
Her father kept his promise and Ethel traveled to Europe in the 70s with some friends. Many more trips ensued. She stayed for a month in a rented flat in London. She and her friends rented motor scooters and rode them through the Alps on another trip.
Ethel also traveled up the ladder at Straus-Frank, where she eventually broke through the glass ceiling. She was made manager of the Frigidaire Parts Department at the firm, becoming the first female and first Mexican American to achieve that position. She was well rewarded in a family-friendly work environment. Ethel could now afford to finance her own travel.
After 25 years at Straus-Frank, Ethel thought she would like to have her own business. Joe Straus, Jr. encouraged her to first try out being an assistant manager at a CarQuest franchise that his firm owned. This gave her invaluable experience and she even got her hands greasy working on cars. In 1989, Ethel bought her own Mail Boxes Etc. (now UPS Store) franchise.
Ethel also enjoyed traveling by bicycle. She joined Hill Country Bicycle Touring Club and accumulated many miles riding in Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado and Alaska. Two thrilling highlights were crossing the Continental Divide in the high mountains, and crossing the Canadian border by bicycle.
One trip took her to the LBJ Ranch where she and a club friend, Nolan Kuehn, met Luci Baines Johnson. Ms. Johnson asked Nolan to chair the first LBJ 100 race in 2008, and Ethel was his co-chair. Their goal was to raise funds to preserve the ranch known, during LBJ’s presidency, as the Texas White House. The historic ranch is now part of the National Park Service. The annual race soon grew from 400 participants to over 2,000. This was a big job and she retired from it in 2013. During that period, they had raised almost a half million dollars for their cause.
Early in 2014, Ethel filled a vacancy on the board of directors of KWA. She has acted as the Social Chairperson and Secretary. Ethel is also part of the Cultural Arts Committee, bringing us a delightful series of Music in the Park. We have enjoyed mariachis, jazz, piano, a string quartet and a perennial favorite, Rudi and the Rudiments.
I will be looking forward to the next musical offering Ethel will plan for us. If you haven’t met her yet, I hope you will. Find out where her travel itch will take her next.
- Nora Peterson