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Interview with Tony Martinez




Tony Martinez was born in St. Paul on Oct. 31, 1932, and attended Lafayette, Franklin and Lincoln schools in St. Paul before graduating from Johnson High School. He worked in the fields with the Cortez family, entered the military in 1950, and worked with a private mapping company and the state highway department's mapping department. Later he established the Martinez Orthography Company, of which he is owner and president. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: His life as a worker in the fields - schools - the armed forces - and his start as the owner of a business.





World Region





18, 1975

This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Tony

was born and raised in st. Paul, Minnesota.

Without the advantages

of influence and wealth,

Martinez, at age forty three has achieved presidency and

mmership of his own business, a hiehly technical service firm The Ortho Photo Company of st. Paul. He is the proud father of ten children spanning an age range of twenty years.


availing himself of an education in the public schools and armed forces traininG prograrr,s and by virtue of his own ambitions and hard work, Tony Martinez has achieved a full and happy life here in :r.1innesota. This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. The original tape recJrding is available in the

Audio-Visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.


JUNE 18, 1975


This is Grant A. Moosbrugger interviewing Mr. Tony Martinez, the owner and manager of Ortho Photo Company in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mr. Martinez is a life long resident of St. Paul, is that right?
year were you born? Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: I was born in October 31, 1932 at Ancter Hospital. Anch:er Hospital right here in St. Paul? Right. Had your folks lived here in St. Paul for some time prior to that?


As far as I know, they had lived here not too long, approximately five years.

Moosbrugger: Martinez:

Where had


lived' previously? In fact, she presently resides in

My mother is originally from Kansas. Kansas. My dad is now deceased.

He was born in Rio Verde, Mexico.

Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger:

How many brothers and sisters do you have? .Are you the eldest or youngest? I am the youngest of three. I have one brother and one sister.

Are they still living in the area here? My sister lives in Fridley and my brother lives in St. Paul. Could you recall something about your younger days; any milestones, the schools you attended,



I attended Lafayette School for a short period of time, here on the West Side. Then I attended Franklin School on the East Side. I also attended

Lincoln Elementary School.

I went to Kindergarten in a small town near You see, the tendency in those days

Crookston, Minnesota, called Fisher.

was to enter school late in the fall and get the education in the winter time and then in the spring time you would be taken off to the fields again. This is why one went to so many different schools. Moosbrugger: So as a child you did have experience working in the fields picking crops? Martinez: Definately. I was raised with another family, other than my parents, as a We all were.

migrant worker. Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger:

What was the name of that family? He was Santiago Cortez. He had five daughters and two sons of his own.

Are Mr. and Mrs. Cortez, or their children living in the Twin Cities area now?


Mrs. Cortez died in the early 1950's, Mr. Cortez is still alive. I heard he was in Chicago. He comes and goes quite often.

The last

He is in his

late 80's or early 90's by now. and that was many years ago. Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger:

He was an older man when I remember him

Did any of his children settle down in the State of Minnesota? They all live in the State of Minnesota. Mostly out state? No, they all live right in town. Right here in the Twin Cities?




In fact all of them live in St. Paul.

Except one of the sons,

Richard, was killed in a car accident in 1955. Moosbrugger: Can you tell us something about your brother and sister. own marriage? children. Martinez: My sister married Izekiel Moreno, which was another old family from the West Side. They presently live in Fridley. My brother is now divorced We have ten children Or about your

We are interested in knowing about your marriage and your

and lives in St. Paul. and live in Burnsville. interviewed. Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger:

I married Guadalupe Morales.

Mr. Morales would have been a good one to have

He lived in the Twin Cities area for a long time? Oh sure. When did he pass away? He passed away approximately four years ago. His wife isn't

No, she passed away six or seven years ago. Perhaps your wife would recall some of the background or stories they used to tell.

Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez:

Right. How old are your children and what is the age range? The oldest one is Russell. she is five and an a half. He is twenty-five. The youngest one is Sylvia,


Are any of them married yet?

-4Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: No, none of them are married. They are all living in or around the Twin Cities? Living in or around the Twin Cities, yes. Do you have any recollections of interesting anecdotes or little curiosities from your youth or from your childhood? Just any thing that

might be of interest about the experiences of life as a Mexican American in Minnesota. Martinez: One of, the things I would like to put on record is: much about this word "Chicano". we have heard so

It has been used as a cultural type There have been many I remember hearing

of way to describe the present day Mexican.

discussions as to where the word actually came from. the word when I was a young man.

We would be riding in back of a truck

going from our farm to the fields and we would see another group of Mexican people working in the fields. was, "Hey Chicanos!" Moosblugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: Martinez: Pizzano? Pizzano would be about the same comparison. A pal. A pal, a fellow worker, or a fellow Mexican. We would even called them Like I said, It's The way we would use the term

Like, what's another word •••

"Chicaspatas" I am sure you have heard this same term too.

I have heard all these discussions about how this word derived. not a new word, it's quite old. Moosbrugger:

Perhaps it would have been used, you say, maybe fifteen or twenty years ago? Somebody might have used the term "Chicano" almost like saying

"Hey Mano", short for "Hermano", hey brother, a kindred spirit.

-5Martinez: Moosbrugger: I think it probably is a derivative of Mexicano. Going back, we kind of dropped the thread of your story at the point where we were discussing your education and how it was. aspect of travel. We got into the

Going back to some of the things that led up to the

type of work you are doing today.

you fill us in a little bit on

what were some of your interests or what led you in this direction? Martinez: I think it started in high school. I had a course in mechanical drafting

and I really enjoyed working with drawings. Moosbrugger: Martinez: Which high school was that? That was at Johnson High School. was one of my classmates. In fact the governor, Wendell Anderson,

Since I enjoyed drafting, I decided that this I enlisted in the In those

was something I wanted to do in my mature years.

military service right after the Korean War started in 1950.

days if you enlisted you had an option of the types of schools you could go to. I noticed that the Corps of Engineers had a school for drafting, But at the completion of my basic training,

which is what I signed up for.

as assignment to the proper schools was being made, it was found that the course was all filled up. I had to choose from among several other courses Surveying, printing, heavy equipand they also had this course

that were made available to me, such as: ment operator, heavy equipment called Photo-Mapping.


I asked the counselor what Photo-Mapping was, and It mentioned that it was working from Well, the minute I saw the word

he showed me a brochure on it.

airia1 photographs and some drafting.

drafting I said this is for me, and this is why I landed in this profession. That was in 1950, approching 25 years ago.

-6Moosbrugger: Martinez: Did you go into business for yourself right out of the service? No. In fact, the training that I had in the service, kept me out of At one time we were assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division But, they looked at my M.O.S. and they said, we I stayed in To1yo for two and a half years,

the front lines.

in Korea as infantrymen.

need this guy here in Tokyo. which was rough duty!

After coming back, I went to work for the Highway

Department for a short time, not knowing that there was a company in Minneapolis that was doing exactly what I was trained for in the service. The minute I found out that there was such a company in Minneapolis called Mark Hurd

Surveys, I contacted them and went over there to visit They hired me righl there on the spot.

them on a Monday morning. Moosbrugger: Martinez:

What year would that have been? That was in December, 1954. I remained with them for seven years. Then

during late 1959 or early 1960, there was a rumor going around that the Highway Department was going to open up their own mapping section.


having worked for the department for a short time, knew some of the people who were involved. Some contacts were made.,JThey contacted me. In 1961

when they were ready to purchase equipment, they contacted me wanting to know if I would come and initiate their mapping department from scratch. They didn't have a person who knew anything about mapping what so ever. I left Mark Hurd and went to the Highway Department. I initiated their I had been

mapping section and trained operators as they needed them.

with the Highway Department for eleven years when I left to join a private firm as manager of the mapping section. Since then, I decided that I

have knowledge of the whole field, having had quite a few contacts in sales and calls on clients. I thought I could make it on my own by

opening up my own business and offering my own mapping services.

-7Moosbrugger: Maybe in layman terms, we should explain just what it is that you do. What is Ortho-Mapping, A~r~a1 Mapping? Martinez: Orthophotography is a relatively new process in the whole field which is called Photogramatry. This is the whole trade name and Orthography is What it really is, is that it removes all the

just an arm of that field.

distortion out of an airia1 photograph, so that you can get a true photographic map out of that photograph. is being accepted very well. the very near future. Moosbrugger: Then you can take an a~r\a1 photograph and actually see depth and be able to measure depth? Martinez: You won't have to measure depth. It is not basically that. It is that It is a relatively new field that

It is going to be the state of the art in

you remove the distortions being caused by the relief in the photograph. you remove that relief out of that photograph and inadvertently, what you do is you remove the distortion. So that now you can measure any So it

thing you want in the photograph and get a true distance on it. can be used for design and for measurement and so forth. Moosbrugger:

Now let's talk about what are some of the things that people can do and what, specifically, do you do that helps keep alive for you and your wife and your children, the pride and awareness of your Mexican heritage? Cover anything you might do at home. traditional Mexican dishes at home? Do you for instance have any typical,


The main dish of course is my wife!

We have tortillas and beans.

I have

always told Lupe that as long as we have beans in the house you can go any where you want, any direction. lunch or supper. You can have beans for breakfast,

If you have beans, you can have hamburgers and beans,

-8Martinez: eggs and beans, chorizo and beans, beans will go with anything, you know. Moosbrugger: In other words, all this Hamburger Helper and everything helper isn't the real helper, the big helper is "frijoles", beans. Martinez: That's right. Right?

My wife is a notoriously good cook, an excellent cook. We tried to make "menudo" a

She makes "Sopa de arroz" and "Ca1dor!. few times.

We can do it, but we feel that it's easier to go over to Incidently, he is another He is an Anglo, but he

my brother-in-1aw's house to have it there. pretty strange person; his name is Reynolds. speaks better Spanish than you and I.

He is the one who makes the "menudo" He used to be a field

and he is originally from Bakersville, California. boss for the "Braceros" out of Mexico.

That is how he learned Spanish. Another area we used

We generally share our receipes with our neighbors. to be involved with is music.

For example, I used to play at "La Casa

Coronado" with Joe Gaona, Robert Pineda, and Roberto Del Villar for a period of nine months. Moosbrugger: Martinez: What instrument did you play? I played the guitar. Joe Gaona used to be the M.C. of the group. He

would start off the evening by saying, "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Casa Coronado." Then he would present our group "First of

all we have from Ja1isco, Mexico e1 Senor Roberto Del Villar, from Guadalajara we have e1 Senor Robert Pineda, from Tamau1ipas we have e1 Senor Antonio Martinez, and I am Joe Gaona from Shakopee! t·,. Moosbrugger: Martinez: Had to do a little job on the crow~d, eh? Right, and they usually liked it. We still have two guitars at home;

and the usual amount of Mexican records.

-9Moosbrugger: Martinez: Did you take formal guitar lessons? I tried it once and, there is no way in hell that they could teach formal guitar lessons on the beat of the "Huapango", "La Huaracha" or sounds like "Malaguena" that have a special beat. Moosbrugger: Martinez: How do you teach that beat from Guadalajara? That's a terribly fast beat. The way I learned it was from Pete Devora.

He would very patiently try to teach me these rhythms, but it's something you have to feel within. I am sure it is being taught formally,

but, I think it's a lot easier to play and it sounds better if you feel it inside of yourself too. Moosbrugger: You married a girl of Mexican American descent. Did you grow up with any

strong convictions that this would be a preferable life style or something that you had a personal preference for? Martinez: I think it's kind of a difficult question. and I sought out my friends. I was living on the East Side

Tony Franco was a close friend, and Ralph At one time it was

Silva who is now a resident of Denver, Colorado.

Tony Franco, Ralph Silva, Tony RuizlTony Gangi, myself, and there was another Tony, I don't recall his last name. the Greek's pool room on Jackson Street. would be getting a call for "Tony" up to get the phone. We used to hang around Nick

The phone would ring and we

and there would be five guys standing

Anyway, the thing of it is even though I lived, more

or less on the East Side, we still came down to the West Side and obviously we found an attraction down here. Probably without realizing it the Although when you are young, you

attraction was the pretty Mexican girls. are not looking for colors really.

-10Moosbrugger: Then would it be fair to say you would not be upset, if one of your sons or daughters came home with the announcement that they were going to marry somebody of a different nationality or perhaps a different race? Martinez: The only objection I would have would be if they were going to marry someone of their own sex. Other than that everything is wide open.

That is the way I feel about it. Moosbrugger: Well, I think we have pretty well gone into your past and your present. We are hoping that your future will continue to be as wonderful as the outlook is or has been up to now. Are there any strong feelings that

you have about your past, which you would like to share with us? Martinez: One of them, as I mentioned earlier, was how I was raised as a migrant worker. Although I was a young man, you still served your tour of duty I don't think that I personally What

out in the field at a very early age.

ever resented the hard work that I encountered out in the fields. I think I resented the most, were the living conditions the farmers made us put up with. our living quarters.

They were directly responsible for supplying us They were able to go into their fancy three bed-

room homes after their hard day',s work and take a shower, and we had to go and look for a river in which to take a bath and get that dirt out of our system. I think of one specific case in Hollandale where this

farmer gave us two chicken excrement out of it.

to live in and we had to clean all the

And even as well as you can wash a chicken coop

that is full of this stuff, on a hot muggy day it still seeps out of the woodwork. Moosbrugger: How many people were expected to live in these two coops?

-11Martinez: Well, there was Mr. & Mrs. Cortez, their seven children, my sister, another gentleman from Mexico, and myself. So there was a total of

twelve people that had to live in two chicken coops.

As you can see

we had to add a wing to the dwelling and that amounted to a tent, which we used as a kitchen and as a bedroom for the gentleman from Mexico and myself. In Southern Minnesota, the night wind storms are so strong that The nicest There

you would have to go looking for your tent the next morning.

place we had was down by Blue Earth, a little town called Guckeen.

was an abandoned farm which had a two story dwelling that was to be ours and the farmer there was a very gracious, very good person. But, again, The

the building itself didnft have plumbing, no wiring, nor screens. basement was flooded so it cou1dn f t be used. solid structure we ever had.

However, it was the most

The farmer carne out and plowed about an He was really

acre of land and disked it and let us grow our own crops. a nice person. streetcar.

Fisher, Minnesota was a fun place, because we had an old That was really

It still had that door that would swing open. We used to play with that.

a big thrill. it was clean. Moosbrugger:

That wasnft too bad, at least

You have really experienced a wide variety of life styles in your short life span.


The last place I worked was in Fairmont.

We used the facilities that

the canning company, not the farmers, but the canning company., provided for their workers. At that time they were imported from Jamaica. They were clean. These

were barrack like places.

They were just like army

barracks) you had your showers and everything else, so that wanft too

-12Moosbrugger: Martinez: Moosbrugger: That would have been approximately what year? That was in 1946-47. So, far more than the hard work, you objected to the living conditions that you had to face afterwards. Martinez: There were a lot of times, especially down in Hollandale, this was the worst area that I saw, when you would be driving down the dirt gravel road and you looked to the side and there would be a tent with a bunch of people living in it; whole fami1es; not a big tent either, just a little tent. Moosbrugger: It was really sad! I don't know what the conditions are now.

This history project will be looking into that next summer and we will be anxiously awaiting some information in that area. very much Mr. Martinez. Well, thank you