History Untold: St. Paul Square holds memories for daughter of former hotel owner

Pinkie Smith’s daughter says ‘Everybody came to the Deluxe’

SAN ANTONIO – When Suzanne Smith’s father and uncle first came to San Antonio from Bay City in the 1940′s, she said, “Things were rolling and popping, and this was the place to be.”

The place was East Commerce, the main street of what is now the St. Paul Square Historic District, just east of Interstate 37 and San Antonio’s tourist mecca downtown.

“Everything up and down the street was pretty much Black-owned businesses,” Smith said. “This was our San Antonio.”

Despite the barriers of segregation back then, Suzanne Smith said her father, Pinkie Smith, was determined to go into business for himself and be successful.

Smith said her father went from a job as a chauffeur to becoming the manager of the Cameo Theater, a segregated movie theater at the time.

From his vantage point, Smith said her father saw opportunity in the building across the street from the Cameo.

He went on to open the Deluxe Hotel there, and her uncle had a drug store at the corner of the building.

The Deluxe had a soda fountain, a dining room and a lounge, Smith said.

“Everybody came to the Deluxe, especially because of the Cameo,” she said.

Smith said it made for a perfect night out, “A nice meal, a nice evening, you know, go to see a movie.”

She said her father also owned two motels, one of them was named after Pinkie Smith’s youngest daughter.

“So all my friends called me Suzanne Motel,” Smith said.

The other was the Ritz Motel, which has since been torn down. It was listed then in the Green Book, a guide to places accepting of Black travelers.

Smith said when Black entertainers came to San Antonio, they stayed at her father’s establishments since other hotels were segregated.

But when desegregation became the law of the land, Smith said, “That opened up opportunities for people to go anywhere they wanted to, and they did.”

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About the Authors

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

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