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Interview with Jesus J. Mercado

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Jesus John Mercado was born in Spearville, Kansas, on Dec. 19, 1921. His family moved to St. Paul in 1935, and in 1941 he graduated from Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul and won the middleweight championship of the city's Golden Gloves amateur boxing organization. He enlisted in the Marines in 1942 and served in the South Pacific. He won the Guadalcanal light-heavyweight Golden Gloves title, was wounded on the island of Guam and again at Iwo Jima, and was discharged in April of 1945. A month later he married Mary Salas and returned to St. Paul. He joined the St. Paul Police Department in 1948. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Family history - schooling in Kansas and Minnesota - his service in the Marine Corps - and his career in the St. Paul Police Department. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Supplementary papers on family history are in the Mexican-American Project file in the oral history office.

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0:20:22

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j

TRANSCRIPT OF AN ORAL HISTORY mTERVI,SH l'lITH JZSUS JOmJ l3RCAIlO AUGUST INT.sRVIEHER: This interview l·:inne sot a. Jesus John Kercado, was born in Spareville, Kansas. Kinnesota '>Jith his parents in months from August
/

5, 1975

GRANT A. r.IOOSBRUGGER

"laS

conducted as part of a series on the 1'·lexican American in

He came to st. Paul,

1935.

He served in the II;arine Corp for thirty-six He has been a Policeman since
interviev~

1942

to August

1945.

1948.

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded ease of comprehension for the reader.

edited to aid in clarity and

The origiDal tape recording is available in

the Audio-Visual Library of the J.:innesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH JESUS JOHN MERCADO AUGUST 5, 1975 INTERVIEWER: GRANT A. MOOSBRUGGER

.-

Moosbrugger:

This is Grant A. Moosbrugger interviewing Mr. Mercado at the St. Paul Public Safety Building where he has his office. Today is August 5, 1975. Do I

have your permission to interview you for the Minnesota Historical Society? Mercado: Moosbrugger: Yes you have. This interview will belong to the Mexican American History Project, which is a part of the Minnesota Historical Society. Could you start out by

telling us your name, and where and when you were born? Mercado: I was born on December 19, 1921, in Sparevi11e, Kansas. S-p-a-r-e-v-i-1-1-e.

My name is Jesus John Mercado.
Moosbrugger: Mercado: What rank were you in the family? I am the first in the family, the oldest. a short time. We lived in Sparevi11e, Kansas for He was transfered from

I

My father worked for the railroad.

Horton, Kansas, approximately in 1925. Horton, Kansas, for the Rock Island. Then we came up to Minnesota.

He worked for the railroad also in We lived there until approximately 1935.

The reason we moved from Horton, Kansas to In Horton, Kansas there wasn't any

Minnesota was because of the depression. work available. the railroad. country.

When the shops closed, the Mexican,people used to work for They migrated from Horton, Kansas to different parts of the So he convinced

My grandfather had been in Minnesota, prior to this.

my father to come to Minnesota. exact year we came.

We came here in 1935, I'm not certain of _~tbe We worked on the farm, in the

It cou1d t ve been 1933.

wheat fields during the havvest.

-2-

Moosbrugger: Mercado:

Which towns would that have been? Lake Lillian, Minnesota. Then we returned to Horton, Kansas. The work there

was scarce, although my father was fortunate because the railroad gave him a piece of property for his use. He was able to raise a few cows on it, ap-

proximately sixty; hogs; chickens; and of course we had milk and meat most of the time. So he was more fortunate than other people. Besides that, he

used to moonlight.

In 1935, after coming to Lake Lillian in the summer time, Then we moved to St. Paul.

he finally decided to come with the whole family.

He had other friends that had moved here before him. Moosbrugger: Between 1930-1935 it would be a matter of spending the summers up around Lake Lillian. Mercado: Moosbrugger: Mercado: No, between 1933-1935, only two years. OK, only two years. Horton, Kansas. Then you traveled back and forth to Horton, Kansas?

Then they moved here and for the next two years, I don't

know if he went for the next two years, he might have, but the boys did, including myself. The three of us went every summer. Then we came back to

St. Paul and went back to school. Moosbrugger: Mercado: Could you mention who your younger brothers and sisters are? Well, the brothers who went to work with me were; John Jr. and Boniface. other brothers and sisters weren't old enough to work. do any work. are: It was just the three of us. The

So they really didn't

My other sisters and brothers

Elvira, Casper, Margarito, Irene, Alice, Richard and Helen (Helen passed

away a couple of months after she was born.)

-3-

Moosbrugger: Mercado: Moosbrugger: Mercado:

When did your folks come across from Mexico? Yes. 1915.

Or was it your grandparents?

I believe it was in 1915 when my grandfather came. Right around the time of the revolution. They mention it on this paper that I am giving you. The

Yes, 1915.

revolution was in 1915, when he came to the United States. didn't come. paper too.

But my father

My grandfather sent for my father in 1919 and that's in that My mother came in 1916, but they came and lived in Dodge City,

Kansas for a while, which is near Sparevi11e, where we lived. Moosbrugger: O.K., that will be contained on a supplementary paper. up to, say, 1935. So that brought us

You were living in Minnesota and your; family had moved What schools did you go to in St. Paul?

to St. Paul on a permanent basis. Mercado:

When we first arrived we lived for a short time on the East Side of St. Paul, Hoffman and Kellogg. It was the Third Street at that time. I attended

Van Buren School, and so did my brothers, for approximately three or four months. Then my folks moved to Grove Street. I attended Franklin School,

and I graduated from Franklin School and went to Mechanic Arts High School. I graduated from Mechanic Arts High School in 1941. I started working here during the summer months. anymore. In about 1938 or 1939

I didn't go to the farm I was fortunate

I worked for the street car company as a laborer.

at that time to get a job. farm on their own.

My other two brothers still continued going to the

In 1941, when I graduated, a friend of mine made an I was able to get employment and Between 1941

application for me to a fur packing place.

I stayed there from 1941 to 1942, when I went into the service.

and 1942 I fractured my right ankle, so I wasn't able to do much during that time. I entered the Marines in August of 1942, and I spent approximately 36

months in the Marine Corps, in the South Pacific.

-4Moosbrugger: Mercado: Why did you choose the Marines? I enlisted. Did you enlist?

Some of my friends joined the Marine Corp and they convinced Leonard Lopez went into the Marines before

me that I should join, so I did. I did.

In fact, that's one of the reasons I joined the Marines afterwards.

I was fortunate enough, though I went through Bogenvi11e, Guam and Iwo Jima. I was wounded twice but I came back. Packing for a short time. Moosbrugger: Mercado: Back to where? Superior Packing. But I didn't see any future in that so I went to Dunwoody When I graduated from When I came home I went to Superior

Institute and took up refrigeration under the GI Bill. there, they placed me at whirlpool. as an inspector. eration at all.

I worked for Whirlpool for a short time

But the job was not related to air-conditioning or refrigIt was just an inspection job that I had to do. Anybody

could have done it without attending school. Moosbrugger: Mercado: When was this, about 1945 or 1946? It was approximately 1947 or 1948. In the meantime, we had a place where we

used to work for a man by the name of Joe Sagrin. Moosbrugger: Mercado: Sagrin? Sagrin, S-a-g-r-i-n. He convinced some of the
fe110wsin~the

neighborhood,

including myself and Leonard Lopez and the Renterias, to take the exam for the Police Department. Well, I
didn~t

take it the first time it was open.

I

didn't have any intentions of being a policeman at all. first one to take the exam. job for a while.

Pete Renteria was the

He passed it and after he passed it he was on the The next time there was an

He convinced us to take it also.

opening in the police department, and the examinations were posted, we applied

-5Mercado: for it. We took the exam and passed it. That's the only reason I got on, I I decided

was still working at Whirlpool at the time, still as an inspector. to be a Policeman and I have never regretted it. Moosbrugger:

You and the Renteria brothers and Leonard Lopez have been buddies since childhood, right? Played ball together and so forth? All of us came from Horton Kansas. Like I say, the job

Mercado:

Played ball, and came from Horton, Kansas.

We were good friends than and we are good friends now. has been good to me here. Moosbrugger: I have no regrets.

I raised my family.

Maybe you could tell us a little bit about when you got married, who your . wife is, what your wife's maiden name was, and your children?

Mercado:

I was married in May of 1945, to Mary Salas.

She was born in Mexico.

She

came to the United States approximately in 1930. when she came, but it was around that time. attended Van Buren Harding School. March of 1946.

I really don't know exactly

She was just a young girl and she

Dale, our first son was born in 1946, They

In October of 1949, our daghter Rose Mary was born.

both attended St. Bernards High School.

The boy had a handicap, he's hard of Now he's

hearing, so he had permission to have his education in High School. working at Union Grass as a coremaker. also.

My daughter graduated from St. Bernards She's now

She continued her education at the University of Minnesota.

teaching at Highland School. Peterson.

She married a young boy by the name of Guy My son married a girl by the name of

They have no children.

Ronnie Brown. Moosbrugger:

They don't have any children either.

Would you say, John, that your parents have played a role in helping you form your philosophy of life and your goals and value system? Would you say that

your Mexican American heritage has influenced your life by making you the type of person you are today?

-6-

Mercado:

Definitely.

As a child I would always hear my father say; if nothing else, Be honest, stick I used to com-

get an education so you will never have to work like I do. with the family when they are in trouble, help each other.

plain once in a while about my brother who would come over and say, "Lend me a five dollar bill!.!" money from me." I used to complain to my dad, "He is always borrowing

One of my dad's favorite expressions was, "That's what After my brother and I were married, Johnny used to bring

brothers are for."

his daughter to the house and my father and my mother would have to babysit. Dad used to complain once in a while. He would say, "Ehave
to,'~babysit

to-day."

So I used to reply to him, "That's what grandfathers are for." that my parents did playa definite role in my up-bringing. endeavor to do.

Now I think

In whatever I

I agree that we were poor and we worked hard in the wheat But as a youngster_I. We were fortunate.

fields when we were young for three or four years.

never heard a lot of people complain about migrant workers.

We worked with a farmer by the name of John Aspes, in Lake Lillian, Minnesota. That's the only farmer that we worked for. In fact, I spent a whole summer with him. Moosbrugger: Mercado: What was his name? John Aspes. In Lake Lillian, Minnesota. He was a Norwegian. Even after we We stayed right there with him.

lived in St. Paul he used to visit us, he and his family. in White Bear Lake. Moosbrugger:

He used to live

Do you feel that you are a better person for having experienced poverty, or lesser person?

Mercado:

No.

I think that taught me what work really is, the hardship that other When I see people or hear

people encounter, even now in my own profession.

people complain, people on welfare and so forth, I think that makes me a better person. I can understand why they are in that situation. It might

-7Mercado: be sickness in the family, or it might be something else. that are on welfare are lazy or cheap. Moosbrugger: Mercado: Right. During the depression, nine out of ten persons here in the city of St. Paul, were on relief. Especially around the neighborhood that I was brought up in. We use to call Not all the people

Some people do need help.

It was not just Mexican people, but other nationalities too. it the "Lower Town." Moosbrugger: Mercado: Lower West Side? No. Right here on the East Side.

My family never lived on the West Side.

We moved to where the markets are right now. Moosbrugger: Mercado: Oh, by the farmers' market? Yes, Grove Street. where my home was. on Canada Street. Right where St. Paul Ramsey Hospital is right now. That's

There were only three homes in that area, the last one was I forgot the address. In 1953 or 1954 we built a new house My folks,

on Iowa and White Bear.

Of course, we never got to live there.

my mother and the rest of my brothers and sisters, did live there for a while. Then they got married and moved out of there. Moosbrugger: Just to sum it up could you tell us about some of your earlier educational experiences. The schools you went to, what kind of experiences you found

yourself in, in an early grade? Mercado: Well, in the period when we came to Lake Lillian, we use to leave school in Kansas early to come to the farm or work in the beet fields. At the time

that we arrived, school wasn't over yet, so my folks sent us to school in Lake Lillian. We went to a country school, one room, first through eight

-8Mercado: grade. Some of the kids that were attending this school were in the same As far as speaking Spanish, speaking nothing but Spanish at So they were

boat we were.

home like we did, they spoke nothing but German or Norwegian. in the same boat. Moosbrugger: Mercado: They were learning English as a second language? Yes, English as a second language. betterment of the pupils. same boat. As we were.

It all came about for the

For the simple reason that everybody was in the

I don't think anyone made fun of anyone else, as far as not The teacher commended

knowing the English language when they started school. us as far as we were concerned. language. Moosbrugger:

They made every effort to assist us, and our

To go to a school like that, where you have a bunch of kids with different language background, grades 1-8, was there just one teacher for the whole school?

Mercado: Moosbrugger: Mercado: Moosbrugger: Mercado:

One teacher for eight grades. For all eight grades? Yes, 1-8. How could they keep order with all those kids? The teacher had the respect of the pupils. backed the teacher up one-hundred percent. would call up the parents. parents. Besides that, the parents really If there was any mischief she

Or she went to the farm itself and talked to the

They would take care of their children so they would be well

disciplined when they were in school.

-9-

Moosbrugger: Mercado: Moosbrugger: Mercado:

Do you have any hopes for your children for the future? Well, not anymore. Grandchildren? No, not yet. But the children are married now and they are on their own. I They are grown now and they are married.

think I have ••• Moosbrugger: Mercado: Given them the talents? Well, I don't know if I've given them the talents. down the right path. Moosbrugger: Mercado: Moosbrugger: Mercado: Moosbrugger: Mercado: Moosbrugger: So far so good. I think I have lead them

ij

I hope it jus1t keeps up that way.

Anything you would like to add to this interview? No, I hope I was helpful in assisting you. Yes, you have been. But if I'm not, this tape should sort of help you. It sure will fill in. If you have any other questions, feel free to call me. We'll follow up. Thank you very much.