Coty’s maternal grandfather was a wealthy man who had a lot of land where he raised cattle and horses, tobacco and coffee beans near the small town of Tonila in Mexico. He also had what is called a “Colonial” home in the town. Her father Gumersindo Coria and mother Rosario Verdusco met and married in Tonila.
Coty’s maternal grandfather was a wealthy man who had a lot of land where he raised cattle and horses, tobacco and coffee beans near the small town of Tonila in Mexico. He also had what is called a “Colonial” home in the town. Her father Gumersindo Coria and mother Rosario Verdusco met and married in Tonila. After their marriage her parents moved to Mexico City where her father went to medical school. He did not finish his medical training and the couple moved back to Tonila.
Her father opened a pharmacy and since there was no doctor there he used his medical skills to help the people. Coty said, “One time a man who had been shot was brought in to get the bullet removed. The man lived but was unable to pay so later he brought in a big sack of corn, some fruit and chickens to pay his bill. We used the corn to make corn tortillas and ate the chickens and fruit.” Another time a man was shot and brought in at night. Since they had no electricity, Coty had to hold the kerosene lamp so that her father could see to remove the bullet. Coty said it was very common for men who had been shot to come to her father for help.
Coty had nine brothers and sisters all born in Tonila. Their family lived along with some other family members in her grandfather’s large Colonial house that covered half of a block in the town. The house was built in a square with rooms all around and a large garden area in the center. They had one large kitchen and they all ate together. There was plenty of room for everyone.
When she was about fourteen, Coty’s family moved to Manzanillo in the State of Colima where her parents purchased their own large house. This house had a walled up natural spring where they got their water for drinking, washing clothes and other needs. At the age of five Coty was sent to a Catholic school nearby where she went to live with the nuns. She stayed at the school until she finished grade school. She said that the nuns were good to them but very strict. “One day,” Coty said, “they were swimming in the ocean, one of the nuns was farther out in the water and a shark bit off her leg. They were able to get her back to the shore but she died.” After that, Coty was always afraid of water.
While they lived in Manzanillo, Coty’s father worked for the government and was in charge of all product imports and exports for the State of Colima. They lived by the ocean and many of the locals were seaman. Mr. Coria started a fund for the widows and orphans of the men who died at sea. He discovered that some men were stealing from this fund and he turned them in to the state. The thieves then hired a hit man to kill Mr. Coria. He took Coty, another daughter and one son to Tijuana where they lived in a warehouse and slept on bags of corn until he could get a house and purchase a store. In the store that he purchased he sold all kinds of goods to tourists. When they were settled in Tijuana, the rest of their family joined them. After some years past, they donated their big house in Manzanillo to the nuns for a home.
Coty was now about sixteen and she went to work for a Greek man who also owned a store that sold to tourists. She said that she enjoyed working for this man and while working for him she learned to speak Greek. Later she worked for her father in his store that was located on Revolution Street.
Eighteen year Coty was working in the store one day when an American sailor named Elmer Blocker came in to purchase a picture and a Mexican hat for his grandmother. She said that he flirted with her and came back again. He was stationed in San Diego which was not too far away. He wanted to date Coty but he did not speak Spanish and she did not speak English. That didn’t keep them from going out together. A girl who also worked for Coty’s father could speak English so she went along on their dates as their interpreter. After about six months they decided to get married. Her father went with them to San Diego where she and Elmer were married. Her mother didn’t go because she was opposed to the marriage.
By this time Elmer was out of the Navy so he brought his new wife home to Shawnee, Oklahoma. Coty said, “Moving to Shawnee was difficult for me because I spoke very little English and had a hard time understanding ‘Shawnee Okie’.”
Elmer was a home builder in the Shawnee area and Coty kept books for him. The couple had four children, three girls and one boy and all of them graduated from Shawnee High School.
In the early 1980’s, the Blockers opened a Mexican restaurant called “El Conquistador” which means “the Conqueror”. The restaurant was located on Beard Street by the fire station just south of Main. Coty served original Mexican food and she also had a gift shop in the restaurant. She sold sombreros, guitars, sarapes, bean pots, maracas and Mexican hats, etc. They ran the restaurant for about nine years but when she and Elmer divorced, they closed it.
Beginning a new career, Coty went to Gordon Cooper to get her LPN license where she graduated top of her class. She then went to work at the Shawnee Medical Center. Later she worked at Rose Manor and then at Sunset Estates until she was old enough to retire. While she worked at Sunset Estates she also managed the Sunset Estates condominiums.
After retiring, Coty went to California where all her nine brothers and sisters lived. She visited with them for about two years. In late 2016, she came back to Shawnee when she moved into the Primrose Retirement Community. Coty said that she is still getting acquainted with the Primrose family.
Note: Story submitted by Pat Gaines on behalf of Primrose.