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Lifelong buddies celebrate a friendship that goes back 80 years



Time now for StoryCorps. Today, a friendship that goes back 80 years. When Jim Murphy was 9, his Irish American family moved to the south side of Tucson, Ariz. They were one of many families that migrated west after World War II. Carlos Velez-Ibanez and his Mexican American family were already living there. Jim and Carlos recently sat down to remember growing up in a working-class part of town.

JIM MURPHY: Do you remember the first time we met?

CARLOS VELEZ-IBANEZ: I think it was on the bus.

MURPHY: It never came on time. It was always breaking down.

VELEZ-IBANEZ: And it was green and yellow.

MURPHY: Oh, it was a hideous color. When we moved from Pennsylvania, I had never heard of Mexico or Mexican. We lived in a government housing project. They were Army barracks made into living units around a big dirt field.

VELEZ-IBANEZ: Some of the Irish kids thought we were Italian (laughter), and so they called us wops, right? So we used to ask each other, (speaking Spanish)? You know, what is that? And we used to beat the heck out of each other. I used to get an awful lot of nonsense. I had to fight an Anglo kid because he called me a Mexican so-and-so. But we were all Catholic, and that's what really joined an awful lot of us together. We used to see each other on Sundays. So the difference between us in that setting was erased. And then we started meeting each other's brothers and sisters. My sister Lucy began to be courted by young Brendan Flannery. I fell madly in love with whom? Carol Anne McClain. I had learned Irish Catholicism was more like Mexican Catholicism in their almost ferociousness of belief. Many Anglos, in fact, learned Spanish, and we also intermarried with each other.

MURPHY: I've grown to love Mexican food, the Mexican music. I think Mexican music is somewhat like Irish music. I can only stand so much of it, but after a while it all sounds the same. I feel that I could pick up the phone and call you and ask you for something if I needed it, and you'd be there.

VELEZ-IBANEZ: You got it. Because of our experience in the south side, there's a foundation that you and I have of understanding.

MURPHY: Yeah. Absolutely.


FADEL: That's Carlos Velez-Ibanez and Jim Murphy. They recently attended their 50-year high school reunion together. And their conversation is archived at the Library of Congress.

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Esther Honig