History guy makes history

After 12 years of weekly radio chat, you might think State Archivist Guy Rocha has run out of things to say.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

History, Rocha says, has a great deal of utility in modern days.

"Everything we confront now has been confronted by past generations," Rocha said. "People die, but the decisions they make live on. The past lives with us all time whether we recognize it or not. We live in the moment, but history is always there."

Rocha is quick to pull examples of how the past affects humanity in the present. Specific to Nevada, he points to mining from the 19th century, which left abandoned mine shafts, contaminated water and a legacy of land laws. For many the past is out of sight and out of mind, but Rocha charges himself with "making the past relevant to the present."

Rocha has expounded upon ideas like this as host of "History for the Lunch Bunch" on Carson City's KPTL 1300 AM on Mondays.

"I try to provide food for the mind over the lunch hour," Rocha said. "I say, 'Here's something to think about. You nourish your body while I nourish your mind.'

"If I didn't have to hold a job to sustain myself, I'd do this every day. This is my window of opportunity to get into people's kitchens, living rooms and cars and help people better understand what kind of world they live in."

The show about history made history as Rocha and the KPTL crew celebrated its 12th anniversary Monday, making the show the "longest continual broadcast live call-in show in Northern Nevada," Rocha said.

Rocha had the interviewing table turned on him Monday as he became a guest on Lunch Bunch for the first time. KPTL Program Director Scott Gahagen interviewed Rocha about some of his most memorable shows and his job as the state's main record keeper. They also celebrated with a cake and 12 candles. It was the first pay he'd received for the job, and they nearly set the studio on fire, Rocha joked.

"It's amazing to me that the show has lasted this long," Gahagen said. "Most radio programs last for a very short time. Radio stations change formats regularly, and not even many radio careers last for 12 years. To have Guy has been a pleasure and a tremendous asset to the station. His subjects are interesting, and he gives people a new perspective on Northern Nevada."

Rocha's fascination with history's relevance landed him a spot on the air after a speaking engagement on the subject at a chamber of commerce meeting. Craig Swope, president of the chamber at the time, asked Rocha if he could do a monthly history-themed show for KPTL. Not one to be short of words or ideas, Rocha said he could do the show weekly.

Twelve years later, he'd like to be syndicated worldwide. He thinks the message that "the past is prologue" is worth sharing with anyone who "wants to know more than living in the moment."

"The highest calling is a spiritual calling to improve the human condition," Rocha said. "I'd like to delude myself into thinking I do that with my radio show."

His first shows were broadcast from places like the Ormsby House and from a poker room at Cactus Jack's - an idea his eastern colleagues found exotic, he said.

Rocha takes current events pertinent to his listener's lives and tries to tie those events to the past. His guests range from local residents and university professors, to state legislators and Nevada legends like author Robert Laxalt.

"We don't live in isolation from the past, and those who do are condemned to be manipulated by others," Rocha said. "History enriches life and gives it depth. The way you view the world is shaped by what you know. If you want to have an influence upon things you need to know what's going on.

"It's unbelievable that the show has lasted this long. How much longer will it last? If it ended this month, hopefully other people have learned the value of history."


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