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An Interview With Agustin Rocha
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TitleAn Interview With Agustin Rocha
AbstractInterviewer: Irene Ruiz. Interview recorded August 14, 1978. 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. Includes a typed list of contents.
NotesAt the time of the interview, Mr. Rocha was a retired proofreader from the Kansas City, Kansas Kansan newspaper. He was born in Georgetown, Texas on March 25, 1912. In the interview he recalls his early life, moving to Kansas City in 1940 and living in the Armourdale area, World War II and D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge which he participated in, his career in newspaper jobs, etc.

Number 45 on MP3 disc.
Date1978-08-14
LocationSC69-1, Tape 50, CD 50
Local SubjectWest Side
Oral History
Rocha, Agustin
Hispanic Americans
Item TypeArchival Material
TranscriptionSynopsis of Interview:

Agustin Rocha is a retired proofreader from the Kansas City, Kansas Kansan newspaper. He was born in Georgetown, Texas on March 25, 1912. He lived there 3 o 4 years and then his family moved to Beardstown, Illinois. His father worked for the Burlington Railroad. He started school in Beardstown. His parents were Agustin Rocha, Sr. and Amada Ruiz Rocha, of San Luis Potosi, Mexico.They stayed about 2 years in Beardstown. There were about 6 Mexican families there and all worked on the railroad. He has no recollection of difficulties learning English, although his family spoke only Spanish at home. He is the oldest of 10 children.

The family moved to San Antonio, Texas where Rocha attended school for two years. The family moved to Belmond, Iowa to work on the sugar beet crops. He graduated from high school there. The children missed about two months of school every year to work in the fields. Despite the difficulties, Rocha never failed a grade. He graduated in 1933. At first, the family lived in a "colonia" (colony) of Mexicans near the sugar beet factory. The Mexican families gradually scattered throughout the town. Rocha was the first Mexican-American to graduate from his school. The class had 45 students. He played football, participated in track, and won state honors as a speaker on the school declamatory team. He studied bookkeeping, typing, and shorthand.

The family was Catholic, but were not active church-goers. He wrote and did layouts for the high school paper. After graduation, the Belmond Independent newspaper offered him a job. He became a linotype operator and moved to Clarion, Iowa. He moved to Kansas City in 1940 looking for more money. He had friends in Kansas City. He joined an Italian newspaper located around 18th and Prospect which was owned by a Mexican-Italian named Antonio Dolsa. He quit because he was unable to set Italian type. He worked at the Kansas City Composition Company on 5th Street.

Mr. Rocha resided in Armourdale and knew neighbors. He attended "16 de septiembre" celebrations in Shawnee Park. He was drafted in WWII as an infantry man. He was transported on the USS Uruguay, a ship which operated between the U.S. and South America. The entire crew was Hispanic. He worked in the print shop aboard ship. Mr. Rocha landed in Liverpool, England. He was transported by train outside the city. He landed on D-Day for the Normandy Invasion and also participated in the Rhineland Campaign (Battle of the Bulge). He received a concussion and returned to Oxford, England to a hospital. He was to be sent back to the front, but instead was transferred to a psychiatric hospital when he began constantly trembling. He remained in the hospital for several months and was ruled ineligible for combat. He trained to take care of prisoners of war and was stationed in France until he was discharged in August, 1945.

Rocha got his old job back in Kansas City for $35 an hour (this can't be right!). He worked several jobs and changed from commercial to newspaper composing. He briefly worked for the Kansas City Star, then the Kansan until retirement. He is a member of the typesetter's union. His four brothers were also in the service and all returned.

The flood took everything they owned. The house was left standing and was not condemned, so they returned there. He was active in the American Legion (all Mexican-American Post), Catholic Youth Organization, American GI Forum, and the church. He married Teresa Barbosa in 1954, an employee of the telephone company. They have four children. Two are married and two are still in school. His son worked for awhile on the Santa Fe Railroad, but said there was no future there for Mexicans.They moved from Armourdale to the Swope Park area after their marriage, then to North Kansas City.

Rocha is now active in a project in Kansas City, Kansas which involves setting up a sister city program with a Mexican city in Michoacan. He enjoys staying home and will continue activities in the GI Forum.
Access This ItemYou may come to the Missouri Valley Room to listen to the interview.
Item ID210409
CONTENTdm number36369
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