The Community Voices: Postville Oral History Project sought to capture the remembered past of those who experienced the “Postville story,” that is, the social context leading up to, including, and following the ICE immigration raid that occurred on May 12th, 2008. The Interviews available here showcase the unique memories of 16 interviewees living and working in or near Postville. The interviews will leave listeners with a sense of how a small town in rural Iowa has dealt with and continues to deal with vast demographic change and the aftermath of an ICE raid that threw Postville into the national conversation on immigration reform.
After graduating from Kent State University in 1973, Gary Catterson moved to Dallas and became a police officer. Later he moved his family to Ohio, going in to business with his brother in law. In 1988 he felt called to Seminary and after graduating in 1991, began his ministry in Round Lake, Minnesota. Pastor Catterson moved to Postville in 1995 and became the pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church. Over the years, Pastor Catterson has served as a school board member, with the Food Pantry, on the Recovery Group after the 2008 ICE raid, and on the National Response Team of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. In the interview, Pastor Catterson discusses the changes over time in Postville, what it is like working in small but diverse community, and the aftermath of the ICE raid.
Aaron Goldsmith moved his family and his business, Transfer Master Products, Inc., to Postville in 1997. He enjoyed the safety and pace of rural America. In the interview Goldsmith discusses the way Postville has changed over time including the expansion of the kosher meatpacking plant, Agriprocessors, and the multiethnic population of Postville. Goldsmith shares his experience working on the city council, his thoughts on the media’s portrayal of Postville, and some insights into the growth of the Jewish community in Postville. The interview also includes his experience around the time of the raid, how Postville has rebuilt since then, and his work as coauthor of the book Postville U.S.A: Surviving Diversity in Small-Town America alongside Mark Gray and Michelle Devlin.
Julie Heitland moved to Postville in 1994 after completing her master’s degree at the University of Northern Iowa. At the time of the interview she worked as the librarian at the Postville School and recounts some of the adaptations the library, school, and community underwent as Postville saw demographic changes throughout the 1990s and 2000s. As a member of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, Julie is deeply involved in the annual Holy Walk, an event open to the public that occurs in December. In the interview, Julie discusses her role in planning the Holy Walk, teaching confirmation, and participating in religious traditions that were relatively new to Postville like the Posada. Julie was present in the school the day of the raid and in the aftermath at St. Bridget’s.
Barbara Herzmann and her husband bought a farm near Postville in 1972, and she has lived there ever since. She worked at the Postville elementary school for 27 years before retiring in 2012. In the interview, Barbara discusses the changes in Postville and especially within the school as students from Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Guatemala, and many other countries came to rural Iowa. The day of the May 12th, 2008 ICE raid, Barbara was teaching third grade and shares emails and recollections of the events that occurred over the next couple days. She also offers insight into how she came to understand the sacrifices and struggles of undocumented immigrants. Before the raid, Barbara, along with some other teachers, were able to take a tour of Agriprocessors and she shared that experience in the interview as well. Finally, Barbara closes the interview with her hopes for the future of Postville.
Leigh Rekow has spent his whole life in the Postville area, attending Postville High School and making a career as a farmer between Postville and Luana. After his children took over the farm, Leigh spent time in the Peace Corps and traveling overseas using his agricultural experiences to help communities in Africa and Russia. Leigh has had a long political career. He spent one term as a state representative, fourteen years as a city council member, and at the time of the interview was serving as Mayor of Postville. In the interview, Leigh discusses his experiences with the above mentioned positions as well as the aftermath of the May12th, 2008 ICE raid, how the media has portrayed Postville, and his hopes for the future and the new owners of the processing plant Agristar.
Pat Zidlicky and her husband moved to Postville in 1994, and shortly after Pat became involved in the Taste of Postville Celebration and the Diversity Council. Pat helped with the Taste of Postville from 1998 to 2006 and fondly remembers the good times as well as the complications of planning an elaborate event and meeting all the food safety regulations. At the time of the interview, Pat Zidlicky was the president of the Diversity Council, a group that hosted educational and community programs. Pat recalled many potlucks, movie showings, and celebrations held by the Diversity Council that were well attended by the Community. Pat discusses her involvement in ESOL classes, English Speakers of Other Languages, and the relationships that formed as she tried to learn a little Spanish while other residents tried to learn English. At the time of the raid, Pat spent time at the Catholic Church and comments on how the community came out to support its residents in that time of turmoil.