George Gonzales first heard a career in radio calling him in 1951.
"I was selling hamburgers at a fiesta in Santa Fe," he says. "A couple from Chicago came up and asked me what radio station I was with. I told them I wasn't with a radio station. They said I should be. I had the voice."Gonzales came to Utah on his brother-in-law's advice and eventually went to work for KVOG. Then KTVX-TV beckoned. His weekly Hispanic show, "The Other Side of The Coin," was a Channel 4 staple for 14 years.
"I went into radio so I could let people know we're all God's children," says Gonzales today. "I went into television to let people know what it was like to be a member of a minority in Utah our concerns, fears and strengths."
Jay Livingood of the Deseret News remembers Gonzales in his heyday.
"He was a happy-go-lucky, hard-working guy when I knew him on the radio in Ogden," says Livingood. "He had a show that featured Spanish music and a lot of public service announcements dances, gatherings, whatever was going on. He was always simple and down-to-earth."
"One time because of my job," says Gonzales, "I was able to get about 3,000 people to join the American Federation of Government Employees. And I made sure they all knew me as `George.' Someone once asked me why I didn't run for office. I said I'd be in trouble day and night just trying to please everybody. I'm that way."
Gonzales is no dime-store populist, but the real thing. Humanity and the common man were his concerns 35 years ago. They are today.
His self-published autobiography ("The Other Side of The Coin") is a typical grassroots project for the man. It's full of newspaper clippings, old photographs, photo-copied letters and a gentle, rambling style that sounds more like conversation in a barbershop than literature.
Over the years he's tried to make sure he got respect for his people, his family and himself. Sometimes his style has been blunt and upfront, but it's been effective.
Looking back at his career, he's a little saddened to see the younger generation of Hispanic kids losing their Spanish, but happy to note that Hispanics in Utah have made great strides since his barnstorming days on Ogden City radio.
When asked what advice he'd give Hispanic kids under 20, he was quick on the draw:
"I'd tell them to grab that bull by the horns, to get in there and wrestle with life. You have to do the wrestling while you're young. My only regret is I'm getting too old too fast. If I had the opportunities in my time that young Hispanic kids have today, this would be an entirely different world for me."