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An Interview With Frank Hernandez
Not available online
TitleAn Interview With Frank Hernandez
AbstractInterviewer: Irene Ruiz. Interview recorded May 19, 1977. 1 sound cassette (ca. 90 minutes): analog, stereo.; 5 7/8 x 2 1/2 in., 1/8 in. tape; 1 sound disc; digital; 4 3/4 in. Has a typed contents list.
NotesFrank Hernandez was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 11, 1917. In the interview he discusses living in the West Side neighborhood, working, discrimination while in school, religious affiliations, etc.

Number 19 on MP3 disc.
LocationSC69-1, Tape 22, CD 22
Local SubjectHernandez, Frank
West Side
Oral History
Hispanic Americans
Item TypeArchival Material
TranscriptionSynopsis of Interview:

Mr. Frank Hernandez was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 11, 1917. His parents were Francisco R. and Josefa Hernandez. There was a family of three - two boys and one girl from his father's first marriage. The family lived at 2516 Mercy, Kansas City, Missouri or what is known as the "West Side," where houses were very old and not very well maintained. Most families were Mexicans. At that time they were all renting their places. Nobody owned their homes. People there worked for the railroad or the packing houses.

His father worked for the Kansas City Terminal, a Railway company. However, he tried to make an easier living. Therefore, while working for the railroad he saved his money and with it he opened the first movie house for Spanish-speaking people. His father used to make regular trips to El Paso, Texas to bring Mexican films. Mr. Hernandez' parents were both born in Mexico. His father was seventeen years old when he arrived in the United States, hence he did not know English. However, he taught himself with books from the library with very little outside help. Mr. Hernandez' mother died when he was six months old and his father remarried and raised a family of fifteen chidlren.

The family moved to Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. Hernandez attended the John J. Ingalls school through the 6th grade then the 7th through the 9th grade, the classes were divided between Central Junior and Wyandotte High School. The following year he transferred to and from the Argentine High School. Mr. Hernandez remembers that in the 9th grade most Mexican girls stopped going to school. The parents believed that school was not necessary for girls because their mission was marriage and raising a family.

When he was going to grade school, all Mexican children were not allowed to go to the second and third floor of the school, instead they had their classes in the basement. Also they had to come in and go out on a side door and on the playgrounds they were not allowed to play beyond a certain line. In those years, during the November and December months, the people from the beet fields working in Colorado came with their children to go to school. These children never were able to complete their education. They were always behind in their classes. There were many teenagers from 16 to 18 years of age in the fifth grade.

Mr. Hernandez was raised as a Catholic. He attended the Mount Carmel church. A Catholic nun used to come every week to take all Mexican children to church to learn the catechism until the 1951 flood. The church was located in Armourdale. There were no organizations for Mexican children. His father helped to build the basement of their church and that was the place for gathering and entertaining for children and adults. His father was well liked in the community and he had great initiative. He became a Notary Public and was the first to have a telephone installed in his house. He was well acquainted with the City Mayor and the Chief of Police. Therefore, whenever they needed an interpreter they would call him, not only to serve as an interpreter but to assist the men that were going through the town, who had no jobs or money. His father used to offer these people a place to sleep and food and later on to get them a job until they were able to establish themselves.

Mr. Hernandez loved reading, especially fairy tales. When he was in junior high school he took book working. He also played softball. However his father had about fifteen goats which had to be fed and milked, also cut wood for the home, so there was very little time left for his hobbies. His father sold goat's milk and made cheese out of it for his family and neighbors. Mr. Hernandez and his brother used to go to the railroad tracks to wait for the trains to pick up wood and coal which was used to heat their home and to cook. In the beginning of the WPA years, his father wanted him to work for it. He enrolled for part time work. He also worked two to three hours a day helping his teacher grade papers; many times he had to take home his work. However, his teacher encouraged him to go to business school and learn IBM.
Access This ItemYou may come to the Missouri Valley Room to listen to the interview.
Item ID210308
CONTENTdm number36339
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