Juanita Salinas, 77 years young, sighs deeply with a sentiment of melancholy as she reminisces about all the wonderful people, she’s had the pleasure of knowing throughout her colorful life.

Story By Francisco Hernández 



It all started with the patriarch of her family in Fort Worth, Texas, her father Juan Ascension Salinas. He was educated in Mexico, an engineer. He found engineering work in Texas, building a railroad line that went from San Antonio to Denton for the Katy railroad company (Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad). He fell in love with a Fort Worth girl and settled here in the 1930s, in a neighborhood called “La Fundicion,” today it is known as the Worth Heights neighborhood. Her father bought farmland and operated a dairy farm. He sold milk, cheese, and eggs.


Juanita recalls the names of individuals and founding families of the Worth Heights Neighborhood, many of which her father brought from the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi to work for Texas Steel: “Leo Castillo, Henry Mendez, Ray Garcia, Margaret Velasquez, Josey Gallegos, Blasa Hernandez, Dickey Pacheco, Dominquez, Martinez, Mendez, Rosales, Vasquez, Salinas, Ortega, Pacheco, Hernandez, Garcia, Munoz, Gomez, Torres, Gonzalez, Castillo, Cortez, Morales, Reyes, Jasso, Ortega, Valdez.” 


From the late fifties until late sixties her brothers ran the Lake Worth Casino Ballroom, she remembers the now legends of Mexican music that performed there when she was a teenager: Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Lola Beltran, Felipe Arriaga, Antonio Aguilar, Amalia Mendoza, and the immortal Javier Solis. She especially remembers Lola Beltran who had a red carpet rolled out when Juanita visited Lola in Guadalajara. Juanita was most awed by Javier Solis who sang the bolero-ranchero like no other.  


Guys and Dolls ballroom was started by Gabriel Salinas in 1969, he modeled it after Las Vegas nightclubs. Juanita Salinas was a part of that golden age of Music in Fort Worth. She remembers a young and playful Vicente Fernandez selling t-shirts after one of his performances at Guys and Dolls. Fernandez asked Juanita to take off her blouse and put on a t-shirt in exchange for a hug. “Lucha Villa, she was young, very nice, drank tequila to get her voice ready for singing,” said Juanita. A young Juan Gabriel invited her to the Noa-Noa club in Juarez when he was still performing at that club. Cornelia Reyna an unrepentant womanizer always requested a beautiful lady to accompany him during his nights while in Fort Worth. 


Little Joe, his act opened the Guys and Dolls club in 1969. Selena and los Dinos came from Corpus Christi. Selena hit it big in Chicago. she would kid with Juanita “todavia existes Juani.” Freddy Fender, nobody knew him when he came to Guys and Dolls. Very respectful, joked a lot, drank mineral water. 


Ella Fitzgerald performed at Guys and Dolls. Juanita witnessed Fitzgerald using the power of her voice to knock over a glass placed on a table. BB King, another regular at Guys and Dolls had the custom of exclaiming when he saw Juanita, “little hot tamale!” then pick his guitar to emphasize his excitement. Singer Loretta Lynn invited Juanita to her ranch in Tennessee, and before sending Juanita back to Texas, Lynn gave her a cowboy hat. 


Julio Iglesias, only 300 people attended his concert at Guys and Dolls. Iglesias was relatively unknown at the time. Iglesias loved the taquitos from a taco stand owned by Juanita’s brother Dick Salinas. Julio always visited the taco stand on his visits to Fort Worth. Another star who loved to eat, renowned for his love of food, was Lorenzo de Monteclaro.


Rocio Durcal was another regular at Guys and Dolls ballroom. Juanita fondly remembers Durcal complaining about Juanita’s enthusiastic embraces when she welcomed her, “no me abraces tanto, porque me vas a quebrar los huesitos.” Joan Sebastian was also a relatively unknown during those bygone days. On one of his visits to Fort Worth, Sebastian bought a thousand-dollar ring at the Mansfield flea market in Forest Hill. Juanita called him “El Flaco.” Juanita fondly remembers Sebastian as one of the friendliest people you could meet. 


Juanita sighs once more as she expresses, “Those were great people, those were great times, and I’ll never forget them.” 


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