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Interview with Henry Capiz




Henry Capiz was born in St. Paul on Feb. 18, 1926. He was drafted into the Army in 1944, graduated from college in 1957 with a degree in pharmacy and became chief pharmacist at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Paul in 1960. He was president of a parent-teacher association, commander of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post and a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Educational experiences - background of his parents and family - military service - and civic and social organizations.





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Transcript of an Oral History Interview with Henry Capiz

June 24, 1975
Interviewer: Grant A. Moosbrugp,er

This interview was conducted as part of a series on the Mexican American in Minnesota. Henry Capiz is the Chief Pharmacist at st. Lukes Hospital in st. Paul. He has reached the rank of Colonel in the Air Force Reserve and state National Guard, retired. Henry is a living example of his belief in preparing oneself to qualify for a position, to acheive a roal. He is a self made man who has devoted a

substantial portion of his time and talents to civic and social service organizations in the Twin City Metropolitan Area. This a transcript of a tape-recording interview edited to aid in clarity and ease of comprehension for the reader. The original tape recording is

available in the Audio-visual Library of the Minnesota Historical Society.

INTERVIEW WITH HENRY CAPIZ June 25, 1975 Interviewer: MOOSBRUGGER: Grant Moosbrugger

This is Grant Moosbrugger interviewing in St. Paul for the Mexican American History Project, under the auspices of the Minnesota Historical Society. Could we start out by asking where you were born,

you to tell us a little bit about yourself;

about your brothers and sisters, and your parents? CAPIZ: I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on February 18, 1926. parents were living on the West Side at the time, on West Fairfield across from Robert Street down by the old fire barn. I am the oldest in the family. I have three brothers: Rachel's My

AI, Steve and Manuel; two sisters:

Rachel and Gloria.

married name is Salas, and Gloria's is Romero. the West Side all of my life.

I have lived on

I attended Lafayette Grade School, I didn't graduate

Roosevelt Jr. High and Humboldt High School. from Humboldt High School. work one year.

I had to leave high school and

I made a deal with my father because we were in

pretty bad shape. MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ: You mean financially? Yes. So I went to work at Swift's at the time and never did I went into the Army. I was drafted

finish high school.

before I had finished high school. MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ: What year were you drafted? I was drafted in 1944, and I came back in 1946. I kicked around Fi-

like everybody else did and drew money from the 52-20 club. nally, I went to work for the VA. years.

I worked there for almost two

I decided that there wasn't too.much of a future there,

-2CAPIZ: because I was driving a truck, so I decided to go back to school and get my high school diploma. Mr. Eckbergh. I did. I met my counselor,

He was very instrumental in advising me and en-

couraging me to go on to college, so I did. MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ: Where did you finish high school1 At that time they had a special Veterans Program at Marshall Senior High School. It was a high school then, a night program, I was receiving an

and we had a special Veteran Program going.

equivalency certificate, and I was able to enter the University. I couldn't enter the college that I wanted, which was the College of Pharmacy, because of the requirements, so I ended up in the General College. MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ: From there, I

to Pharmacy.

What year did you graduate from the University? I graduated from the University in 1957. I interned nine months

at Mount Sinai Hospital and stayed there for about four years. I was Assistant Chief Pharmacist. In 1960, it just happened by

accident,llike a lot of things usually do,I was at a fraternity smoker and somebody mentioned that there was a job opening as Chief Pharmacist at St. Lukes. and sure enough there was. So I hustled ove,r the next day I've

I have been here ever since.

been here for fifteen years at St. Lukes. MOOSBRUGGER: At St. Lukes Hospital in St. Paul. your schooling pretty well. Very good, that covers

Maybe we can backtrack, you mention-

ed that after you got out of the service you were drawing from 52-20. CAPIZ: No. Would that be a VFW Post? It was an unemployment compen-

A veterans compensation.


You drew twenty dollars a week for fifty-two weeks.



There was always competition among all the veterans to see how long they could draw it. I only drew it for twelve weeks. My

brother-in-law drew it for the whole 52 weeksl MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ: MOOSBRUGGER: Those were tough times. Yes. Going back, maybe you can tell us something about your parents. Were they born in St. Paul? CAPIZ: No, my parents came from Mexico. My dad was born and raised in My mother came from I never really

Mexico City, he was one of three brothers. Irapuato, Mexico. got it straight. days.

She came from a large family.

I'll have to put it down on paper one of these I think they crossed the

They came north separately.

border about 1920. MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ:

They crossed into Texas.

That would have been right after the revolution? Yes, right after the revolution. bad shape. At that time Mexico was in pretty Since crossing

They lost a heck of a lot of people.

the border was relatively easy at that time, they just came across, although they did have _)apers, they were smart enough to do that. My mother still has her papers with her with my grandmother's picture on them. There were other members of my mother's family One of them actually made a great

who had come up into Oklahoma. fortune in cattle.

He owned quite a big ranch, but for

strange That

reason he decided to go back to Mexico with all his cattle.

turned out to be a disaster because he ended up with nothing, but that was something else. Anyhow, my dad lived in San Antonio My grandmother made a (She made enchiladas and

with his family for almost two years. living for everybody through

-4CAPIZ: tortillas which she sold on the street people. to farmers and other

At that time there were just masses of people that

slipped across the border, there was no unemployment. MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ: That would have been in the early 1920's? Yes, '21 or '22. Then my dad ran into some acquantnnce of my Why don't you He mentioned

grandfather's who said, "What are you doing here? go up north? There is a lot of work up there."

Mason City, Iowa. of work there."

He said, "Go to Mason City, there is a lot My grandfather apparently sort of sloughed it He

off and they stayed in San Antonio for almost two years. sort of struggled through. the same guy again.

About two years later, he ran into

The man was on his way back to Mexico. I thought I told you to get I have $2,000 with me. I

He said, "Are you guys still here? out of here! made it. Look, I'm coming back.

I'm going back home.

I already sent a couple of

thousand home."

I guess that encouraged my grandfather to move.

So at that time there were various recruiting efforts going on by the sugar companies, or railroad companies, and a lot of the steel companies. Many of them out of Bouthbend, Indiana and

some other towns outside of

They were recruiting and

they would buy your ticket and tell you when and where to be. At such and such a time the train comes, and away you go. So my grandfather, my father, his two brothers and my grandmother, all cought one of those trains. They made it to

Albert Lea, there they were met by a farmer and they were taken to Alden, Minnesota, which I understand is outside of Albert

MOOSBRUGGER: Lea somewhere. That's how they got to Minnesota.

Then they stayed, working the crops? Yes, they worked the crops. They didn't work the crops too long My mother also


because they moned to St. Paul in 1923 or '24. came to Minnesota on a very similar trip. Alden, and that's where they met.

They were also in

Then they moved to St. Paul.

They didn't work the fields very long, only for a couple of years. My mother crossed the border in the same way, except she ended up in Fort Worth. Her mother worked for some lady. So they They They

followed a similar pattern, in recruiting, the train. came up to Albert Lea too, and that!s where they met.

married in Albert Lea and settled down in St. Paul practically right away. I think my dad started working for Swift's, and

that's how they ended up in Minnesota. MOOSBRUGGER: You are the oldest child. February 18, 1926. Perhaps we can cover a little information regarding you personal history, your marriage and children? What year were you born?



I was married in 1952 to Bonita Lopez, who is also from a long time family. dren. They came in the late 20's. He is twenty-one. I have two chil-

My boy is Paul.

He works here at

St. Lukes as an orderly. Minnesota.

He is attending the University of She is a

I have a daughter: Roxanne, nineteen.

security officer for Dayton's and also works here in the cafeteria. She worked as a nurse's aide, but she didn't like that

so, she thought she would get out of the business •. Now she's a security officer at Dayton's and she enjoys it very much.

-6MOOSBRUGGER: CAPIZ: Where did your children go to school? Both of them went to Humboldt High School. lot of educational work. I ended up doing a

I was the PTA President at Garfield; At Humboldt I was president

this was my entry into civic affairs. of the Humboldt Band Parents Club.

I like to think that I was I

instrumental in putting those uniforms on those kids back. have also been Chairman for the Marine Corps Project. Marine Band we raised about $4,000.

In the

I still work very closely I serve on various

with the school, although my kids are gone. committees at Humboldt.

Once you expose yourself to all this,

you start getting calls on various things and you get really involved. MOOSBRUGGER: Yes. Maybe you could tell us something about your involvement I understand that you

with the military since your discharge. are still a member of the military? CAPIZ: Yes.

Lieutenant Colnel for the Air Force Reserve.

Of course my

career started with the Army. into the Army.

When I left high school, I went

Like most kids of Mexican background, I didn't

have much of an educational background, so I ended up in the infantry. I applied for the Aviation Cadets, all I had to do

was take and pass a test at that time, but they closed it down before I got into it. So I ended up in the infantry. I decided

that if I couldn't fly a plane, I'd ride in one, so I volunteered for the paratroopers and fought with them throughout the war. I served with the Primary Federation Combat Team, which was one of the crack regiments in the Army. officer of the Regimental Associates. In fact, I'm a national We are having a reunion

-7CAPIZ: next month down in Florida. guys in the whole world. I think I'm one of the luckiest

I still see my first two sergeants,

my two company commanders and my regular commander frequently. This is very unusual. My first sergeant is from Anoka, but I

see these guys during the course of the year or at the reunion. One day my first sergeant walked in here, just like you did. After I got out, I served one year with the Marine Reserve. I wasn't too crazy about it. Esparza brothers. I used to hang around with the

One day we thought, "Why don't we join the It was right here on the West Side, It was based there since 1923. So we

International Guard?" right on Holman Field.

went down there and we joined.

They are still with the Guard.

Because of my pharmacy background, I was commissioned in 1959 in the Medical Service Corps, with the Guard's ical Service. Officer. Air Force

I seved as the Dispensary Administrator, Supply I served as

I originally was in the Guard in 1948. We were in supply, too.

an enlisted man.

In ordinance supply.

I served at the Dispensary, also, as an enlisted Medical Technician. Then in 1959, I was commissioned. Later, I commanded Then I commanded the

the 133rd Air Medical Recreation Squadron. 109th Air Medical Recreation Flight. ranks.

I progressed through the

From First Lieutenant, I was promoted to Captain, and Then I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and 'I was I'm no longer with the Guard, When

then Major.

assigned to State Headquarters.

but I still hold a commission in the Air Force Reserve. you are with the Guard you hold a dual commission; commission and a federal commission.

a state

-8MOOSBRUGGER: What are some of the other organizations that you've been active in? CAPIZ: Well, Primarily West Side organizations. I've joined all the usual clubs. The kids belong to the Then

Eagles Club, it's a social thing at the Neighborhood House.

in 1948 we established the Mexican VFW Post Silva Newman #9624. Ralph Lopez was the first commander of that, and then I was commander of the Post from 1951-'52. It struggled for almost fifteen

years, and finally when the redevelopment came in, it wiped out the neighborhood. That pretty well took care of it, because it It was very sad in a way. With-

scattered everybody allover.

in the last three months another one has started up from the West Side, and it has the same number but it's called thel'''Cardenas, Coronado, Contreras Post" for each one of those who died or was in World War II, the Korean War, or the Viet Nam War • . Hopefully we all are better off today ·than we were thirty years ago. Maybe it will go a little better. do this. It takes a lot of people to

Like any small organization, you need a good corp of

. people to carry these things. MOOSBRUGGER: Do you have any strong feelings about,or attach any importance
to, maintaining an awareness of appreciation of your Mexican

American heritage? CAPIZ: Yes.

And do you share this with your children? When

It all depends, I guess, on what age you talk about.

I was younger, I felt it wasn't too important. to get lost.

I had a tendency

It's a society, like a lot of our people have, and It's fortunate that we can do this,

it sort of disappears.

although some people tend to congregate in a neighborhood like the West Side. I think we have the option to go one way or the

-9CAPIZ: other. But as I got older, as I traveled through Mexico, I

became very proud of my heritage and I try to teach it to my children. My children, of course, don't speak Spanish. They

were brought up in an Anglo society, more or less, and that's the way they've gone. MOOSBRUGGER: Do you serve any Mexican dishes or meals? of the fiestas? CAPIZ: Yes, we do some. We go to some of the fiestas and we do have Do you observe any

Mexican dishes occasionally, like on Christmas or on a traditional holiday. The other traditional Mexican holidays sort of They are not as big as they

have fallefi by the wayside now. used to be, or as many.. time. MOOSBRUGGER:

It seemed we used to have one all the

Could you tell us about any other organizations that you've been active in?


I firmly believe that every professional person has an obligation to make his community a better place to live in. active in a lot of organizations. I'm

I'm on the Board of Directors I

of the United Way, it used to be called the United Fund.

have been on the various committees, one was the Health and Welfare Committee. I've been on the Legislative Committee I'm also, this pleases

and also on the St. Paul Planning Council.

me the most, on the Board of Directors at the Neighborhood House. I've been associated with the Neighborhood House for almost fifty years. Clinic. My mother carried me in there to the Well Baby I practically live

I've been going there ever since.

there now, and I practically lived there when I was young, too. I belonged to all the clubs and crafts and different teams that

-10CAPIZ: were coached by Harry Gaston, who is still there. At the

Neighborhood House Board I belong to various committees. A committee on ageing, I'm active on that, which runs the whole gambit. I'm a member of the Committee on Research and Planning, which takes care of the teenagers. I am a Trustee on the Scholarship Fund, Currie Scholarship Fund. pretty busy. I get called on various committees. So I keep I was Presi-

dent of the State Pharmaceutical Association. ten years ago. anymore. MOOSBRUGGER:

This was about

I'm not too active in professional affairs

I do mostly civic work.

You have had a lot of opportunity, no doubt, to think about a philosophy of::life. high. Your level of achievements has been

Is there any personal philosophy or recommendations that

you have given to those you cared for or that you would like to give to anybody who is willing to listen? CAPIZ: Yes. It's very difficult bb give advice in this area. My phil-

osophy has been:

work very hard, be qualified so when the time I Qnce beat a couple· of Anglos out of a Discrimina-

comes you are ready.

job because I wan better qualified than they were.

tion always exists, though I've never known anyone being discriminated against. I feel that you should work hard, set a goal for I don't

yourself, set a good high goal, and try to achieve it. know if the average man can do this anymore. technology by the tail and we can't let go.

We seem to have So I have no doubt

that it is more difficult to achieve some of your goals now than it was thirty years ago. There was a time when you only needed

a high school education, then there was a time when you almost needed a college education, now you almost need a Masters or a PHD degree. So it's getting up there. But I still feel that for



those who want to do it, hard work and a bit of ambition plus some "stick-to-it-iveness", will be all it will take to accomplish your goals. In my dealing with teenagers, they all want They all This

to make it right away without any of the hard work.

want a big car, and they all want to make $20,000 a year. is fine, if you can do it.

But you first have to show a market-

able alII or a marketable need to someone before he can give you these things. MOOSBRUGGER: Was this the message, more or less, that your parents gave to you? Your parents wen through some difficult and frightening

times, being pioneers not only to a new country, but to a new way of life.


Yes, they encouraged me. age me.

They didn't push, but they did encourHe helped me go in the I

My dad was a great philosopher.

right direction, but it was up to me to do the right thing. try to do this for my two children too, but they, like all children nowadays, are greatly influenced by their friends.


I'd tell ,them what to do, what to take, they would always come back with: "Well, I talked to Joe Blow and he said that that's not so because this, that and the other." course, but it's too late then. MOOSBRUGGER: Are your parents still living? Yes, fortunately. They were married very young. My mother was He might be wrong of


seventeen years old and my dad was twenty.

I remember when I But they are

was young I always had my mother and my sister. still around and they are in pretty good health. MOOSBRUGGER:

Do you or your parents ever have the opportunity to go back to Mexico and visit? Perhaps with relatives or friends?




For many years my mother and dad went every year.


four years ago my mother, well, it all started back in World War II. My mother asked the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos

that if we came back safely from the service, she would make a pilgrimage with each one of us. was the last one to go. made the pilgrimage. So she was pretty nervous. I She

I finally decided to go with them.

That's the first time that I've ever spent I

that much time with either parent, I think, for a long time. enjoyed it very much. and dad's sides. places.

We still have relatives, both on my mother's Guadalajara; and other My mother and dad are My mother had surgery

Some are in Mexico:

We visit them whenever we can.

thinking about going to Mexico this fall.

on her leg, she can't walk like she used to and that held her up a little bit. MOOSBRUGGER: I want to thank you very much for this interview.