California Council for Humanities California Stories Initiative

Years of Valor, Years of Hope

Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946

Tulare County Library

The Friends of the Tulare County Library

And the Tulare County Historical Society

Interviews in 2003-2004

Interviewee: Morris Bennett


Date of Interview: 5 March 2004


Tape Number 69


Interviewer: Catherine Doe


Place of interview: Mr. Bennett’s home

Places where Mr. Bennett lived during 1941 to 1946: Woodlake, Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, Europe

Subjects covered in the interview: Glider program in the U.S. and Europe, life in Woodlake after the war.

CD: This is an oral history project for the World War II period, "Years of Valor, Years of Hope." And we’re sitting in the home of Mr. Morris Bennett. And could you give your name and spell it, please.

MB: M-o-r-r-i-s, B-e-n-n-e-t-t.

CD: Okay. Could you tell me a little bit about your background? Like, where you and your parents were born.

MB: Well, I was born in -- between Lemoore and Armona in 1922. And my father, William John Bennett, was killed in 1930 near Hardwick, California, which is just north of Hanford. And we (mother: Geraldine McClurg Bennett) moved to Dunlap in the Mira Monte area after my father was killed, for one year. And then we moved to the Elderwood area and I’ve been here ever since. Went to the Elderwood School, grammar school, my fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh and eighth grades. And then I went to Woodlake High School, which I graduated 1940. And the next day I went to work at the Woodlake Hardware Company. And this was May 28th or 29th of 1940. And then I was a refrigeration and washing machine repairman -- that was before they had the automatic washers and all them type of things. We had wringer washers. And the refrigerators were belt driven and they had sulfur dioxide for the refrigerant and ammonia. And that was the job I was hired for -- to be a repairman. And in six weeks time they give me a service truck and I was doing the work as refrigeration and washing machine repairman. And I met my wife then. I was working on a restaurant -- the old Bimat Restaurant (Bimat Café) in Woodlake. They had to close it down because I had to pump the refrigerant out and they had to close the restaurant down. In other words, that’s how I met my wife. And so I was married in 1941.

CD: And what is your wife’s name?

MB: Ruth.

CD: Ruth, and her maiden name?

MB: McPhail. She lived in Three Rivers and originally she was from Savannah, Georgia . But her mother had passed away and so she moved with her father, Jefferson Davis McPhail and brothers, James D., John I. and William D. to Three Rivers in 1938 or ’39, somewhere in that neighborhood. Then in the fall of December of ’41, in other words, at that time I was always raised in the mountains as quite a fisherman and a hunter and I never missed hunting season and fish’n season when it opened. And so in December of ’41, my uncle, Merk McClurg and my grandfather, Walter McClurg, our family, we was up at Snelling, which is just out of Merced. And we were duck hunting. And we came into the community store, the general mercantile store in Snelling. And they had a little RCA radio with a little dog, I think, or bear on top of it, kind of round thing. But that’s where everybody went to get all the local news and so forth. And they had on the radio, in other words, that Pearl Harbor was bombed. So, everybody was -- didn’t know what was going on. Although we had been studying the last three years in high school, in other words, about Germans and Ethiopia and all of those things, so, you knew a little bit about the world history.

The draft had already had started. And a lot of the people that was earlier in high school with me was already in the service. And they had started -- most of them had -- the boys that went to college, COS, they had a flying deal there. And so several of them had got to be pilots and so forth.

CD: What kind of flying --

MB: What they call civilian pilot training, CPT.  And several of them went on up to be Generals from Woodlake.

CD: Like who?

MB: High-ranking officers that had taken that preliminary training.

CD: Really?

MB: And then Earl Davis, who was a senior when I was a freshman, he ended up being an instructor at Sequoia Field. And so when I was working at the hardware, he’d bring in some of his equipment -- earphones and so forth -- in other words, they wasn’t working right and he had me work on them. So, in other words, I kind of thought I wanted to be a pilot. So, after that -- long about, oh, April, or March I guess it was, in 1942, everybody was talking about -- you’re going to get drafted or whatever the case would be. In the meantime, in other words, we had air raid towers in Woodlake. We had our observation posts and all volunteers would go down and work two or three hours at night.

CD: Do what?

MB: Watching for the airplanes that came in and see if anything was called in because we thought at that time that we were going to be very invaded by the Japanese from the Pacific.  Anyway, I went to Fresno at Hammer Field, which had just started up and I took a test to be a cadet. And I think it was six or seven of us that went up in my car. There was six or seven high school -- some of them still in high school, couple of them were just out, and the year before and the same class I was. I was the only one that passed the test. Although most of the time in the cadets, they wanted at least two years of college, or semi college. It didn’t -- that or more, you know. But anyway, I had general enough knowledge, I guess, that I was able to pass the preliminary test. And I came back home and didn’t hear anything of six weeks or so and then I got a letter from President Roosevelt and it said that you are qualified to be a glider pilot and report to Sequoia Field for a physical and from there -- in other words, we’ll let you know what happens.

Ed. The United States Army Air Force had a Pilot Training Program at Sequoia Field, located between Dinuba and Visalia.

CD: How did you feel?

MB: A matter of three or four days I was in the Army, you might say. I -- there was three of us left from Visalia. A fellow by the name of Stanford, who worked for the Edison Company, I forget what his first name was and Gene Stokes, who later on went on to work for Lloyds Plumbing in Visalia and myself. And then that was all from Tulare County that went in. And the train stopped at Tulare; we went up on the train. We were supposed to report at Salinas Army Airbase -- that was our base.

CD: And this is after you went to Sequoia --

MB: After I went to Sequoia.

CD: To get your physical and --

MB: I took my physical and I passed that. And then two or three days later, or whatever it was, you report to Salinas Army Air Base for further instructions. And we’d gone up on the Southern Pacific trains. At that time we had the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe; both ran to San Francisco. But there was no Bay Bridge yet. And so we rode the ferry. And I had never had been out of San Joaquin Valley. A couple of times I had been to Southern California. But it was always warm. I got to San Francisco and it was cold. This was in the first part of June in 1942. And I just had Levis and a shirt and I didn’t have no jacket, nothing like that. I’d know better now but in other words, at that time I didn’t. And we went across and we had to catch a train in San Francisco down to Salinas. And so about three or four hours we had to wait there. And at that time we joined up with approximately twenty other people. In other words, a total of twenty-five in this group there was going to take this glider training from California. This was all they had recruited from this area.

CD: Now, this would be considered Army and not Air Force?

MB: This is Army. At that time the Air Force was not in force.

CD: Oh, I didn’t realize that.

MB: This was the United States Army. It called the United States Army Air Force.

CD: Oh, okay.

MB: So, consequently, we went to Salinas and there we took further physicals. We thought we was going to fly gliders. We didn’t know what we was going to fly. We didn’t even know what a glider was. And I don’t think the Government knew what a glider was to speak of. But the reason that they went ahead and formed it was that the Germans had landed over the Siegfried Line in between Belgium and France . And that was the line that -- they did it in a matter of 15 or 20 minutes. In other words, they took the whole –

Ed: the Siegfried Line, or West Wall, was a German defensive line built along Germany’s border with France

CD: Was that the line they weren’t supposed to be able to cross?

MB: Right. And so that’s why the major generals of the United States Air Force, they thought we ought to have a glider program. And so they got Mike Murphy, who was the original glider put together major, and Hap Arnold, which was the Air Force; they got together and said we ought to have this glider program. And this was in the early part of ’42, so really we hadn’t even been -- they were still, I think, defining the -- in Africa the tanks and so forth hadn’t even got that far, they hadn’t even started the other invasion. So, the first invasion that they used with the gliders was in Sicily. And the pilots weren’t very well trained and the tow pilots weren’t very well trained.

CD: What happened?

MB: So, they almost threw the program out down through the line. So, anyway, back to where I was in Salinas. We had to be there to take further physicals. You had to be not over six-one or six- two or,the total height, I forget exactly. And you had to be at least five eight or something. And you had to be physical and you had to have real good eyes and real good ears and real good coordination and all these things.  And be able to take all the mental tests and physical tests that they had. And we was there about two days. And you had to weigh so much. You couldn’t be too light and you couldn’t be too heavy. So some of the fellows, they’d go get bananas so they could weigh more or less or whatever the case would be. Anyway, there was twenty-five of us. They sent us over to Ford Ord and this all happened within four or five days.

In Fort Ord there, they give you a little book and went through the line there to measure your feet and your deals and they give you your uniform and you were in the Army. So they said, "Well, a cadet would be able to be, when they graduate -- a flying sergeant is what you would be as a glider pilot. And then when you advanced to and then graduated from advanced flying, combat gliders, then you would be a lieutenant. The pay rate at that time was real good compared to civilian life.  So, I figured -- in other words, I mean, you know, we can go with it. And I went from there; well, we went back to Salinas Airbase. They gave us three days, a three-day pass so a lot of us hadn’t even -- we just left home. We didn’t know we was going to be in the service or not until youexactly said, "I do." And so they give me a three-day pass, came home and I was in uniform then. I told my bosses, I says, in other words, "I’m gone." Of course, they probably figured I would be. And my wife, she stayed at Woodlake for two or three weeks and then she moved back with her father in Three Rivers.

And the fourth of July then, I was in Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas. They sent us from there to Randolph Field, which was the Air Force Academy, where the Air Force at that time did advance training.

CD: Right.

MB: And there we went into pools and they were sending people in from all over the United States into Randolph Field. They already had started one program at Twenty-Nine Palms.

And those people were people that had been training in the civilian pilot training program so they already had flying time so they sent them to Twenty-Nine Palms and in advanced glider and combat glider. That’s the only thing that they flew. They flew little sailplanes in and went right into combat gliders so they were the first people that graduated and that was in the latter part of ’42. And they were the ones, the pilots that flew into Sicily and some of them were sent to the South Pacific. But they didn’t have the training in the whole program that they really set up for us down through the lines.

Then in Randolph Field we went into a pool and our group that was there, some of them by this time, they had -- you go down to the bulletin board and see what was going on and then in the meantime you did -- we was just privates. So most of the time you did KP or you worked out on the deal or you learned to be a soldier. In other words, your basic training. But it wasn’t like going through a regular boot camp that you had to go to.

CD: So, you didn’t have to do that?

MB: So, well, what I did -- in other words, people transferred from other organizations in the service and a big portion of them were officers or a high ranking officers -- sergeants, master sergeants, tech sergeants. And so they already had people that was in there. So, they would be able to train us guys that didn’t know nothing about being the service, in other words. So, they formed up their own little deals. And everybody be proud to be

-- your squadron or your group was the best there was. So I think probably of the twenty-five of us or so that was there, there were probably twenty of us that went on to Hays, Kansas. That was where we went. We took our primary training there. And I never had been in an airplane or around airplanes; I had never been in one.

CD: That’s funny.

MB: And we trained in Cubs and Aeronicas and Taylorcraft, light aircraft. And you had to solo in five or six hours. Stokes was still with me and Stanford was still with me. But Stokes would get air sick real quick.

CD: Really.

MB: And so consequently -- in other words, through the line, I think he went clear on through basic training. Then they washed him out after basic training.

CD: Where did he end up going?

MB: He got out of the service.

CD: Really. And he never --

MB: He came back and I didn’t see him until I came back home. And I don’t know what happened to Stanford. In other words, I lost track of him down through the line.

CD: But did he become a glider pilot?

MB: I don’t know.

CD: Oh, really.

MB: Out of the group that went to Hays, Kansas, I was able to keep track of three of them. Some of them washed out down through the line and different things.

CD: Were all these twenty men from Tulare County?

MB: No. This group was all from California.

CD: California, okay.

MB: In other words, what they did, they took the people from the east coast and sent them to the west coast and the west coast people they sent them to the mid -- near to the east coast.

CD: Right, just to get away from --

MB: But they opened up several bases in Texas for this primary training. And then I got about sixty hours in of total flying in light aircraft at that place. And out of that you take dead-stick landings -- in other words, the pilot turned the engine off and you had to come in with no propeller. There was night flying, so many hours of night flying and so many hours of cross country. In other words, the same as what the civilian pilot training people did.

And from there we went back to Randolph Field and then they set their group again and finally -- in other words, they broke us up. That’s how come you lose part of your people that you were with. Went to Smyrna, Tennessee which was a new Army base.

Ed. note: Smyrna Army Airbase, later known as the Sewart Air Force Base and closed in 1970.

But we thought we was going to fly gliders there and we didn’t do nothing. In other words, we were just a pool where we picked up cigarette butts and did ground training and deal and this type of thing.

So, then a group of us went to Greenville, South Carolina. And there we took our basic training, which was sailplanes. And all this time we were doing this we were taking the aircraft identification and meteorology. Like Hays, Kansas, they usually use universities, where we went. And so the university professors were your professors that you talked to. You had meteorology and geometry and history, aircraft identification and this type of thing. Then we went to Greenville, South Carolina and there we take our basic. And I graduated there in November of 1942 from basic sailplane. Out there they made us flying staff sergeants, which is basically six months in the service. But in other words, when you moving you never caught up with your paycheck so you never got much money either. ‘Cause I started out at $21 a month and then they took a bond out for six and a half and another half of that went home to any dependents. So, you had your clothes and your food and everything.

So, from there they went back to Stuttgart, Arkansas, which had opened as a advanced glider training deal, which would been Lubbock Army Air Field -- Lubbock, Texas and Stuttgart Army Air Field, Arkansas and Twenty-Nine Palms. That was the three advanced training, which is combat glider training. And I forget how many -- because there are different bases they came in, had the classes there. And too many glider pilots came in at the same time. And about that same time is when they had the Sicily invasion and it was a kind of a failure. I mean, they got the job done but they didn’t fly in like they was supposed to. A lot of the pilots went down in the ocean before they got in. And some of them went over, past the fields. And it was a night mission. And then when they took off in Africa there was lots of dust so some of them had lots of trouble. So they almost threw the program out. Or decided to. In January of 1943, they give most of us -- sent us home for two weeks leave.

And so we came back. In other words, they went through and really redid the whole program, shut down Stuttgart as a training base and sent everybody to Lubbock, Texas. And that’s where the final advanced glider program was. And 80 percent of the combat glider pilots graduated from Lubbock, Texas.

CD: Right.

MB: And we’d get to Lubbock and we had too many people there at the same time. So they decided to send every glider pilot to engineering school. So that was at Sheppard Field, Sheppard Army Air Corp Training School, Wichita Falls, Texas. So they started breaking them up then and sending them to Sheppard Field to go through the glider training program, how to manufacture -- not how to manufacture but how to put them together, how they were made, and all of that deal. So, it was about a twelve week course or something like that in Sheppard Field. Then we go back to Lubbock in September, October, something like that, ’43, and take our advanced training. Meantime you’re still going through the link trainer and meteorology and all this type of things and small arms, shooting rifles and pistols. I graduated in December, middle of December 1943 from advanced glider training at Lubbock. And then I was made a flight officer.

And from there I went to Louisville, Kentucky and I was at Louisville -- that is where they was -- they sent everybody -- all the graduate pilots to Louisville and then they would start putting them from there into the different squadrons and the different groups, wherever they might be. Meantime, at Louisville there was a field artillery at Fort Knox. In other words, we had to go out in the field. We went out and shot the cannons, the Howitzers and the machine guns and this type of deal. And the things we would be able to take in the glider, because a glider could haul a Jeep -- the combat gliders we had at that time could haul a Jeep or a Jeep trailer, a .75-milliliter Howitzer, which is a small cannon, or a little baby bulldozer. ‘Cause a lot of times you’d drop the gliders in with a bulldozer and they’d make the landing fields for the deal. Especially in the South Pacific, they did that quite a bit with that.

And so we was supposed to be six weeks there but I was there about ten days and they took two of us that had graduated together and been together for quite a while. And they sent us to Indianapolis, which was headquarters for troop carrier in Indiana. And there -- in other words, we’d go to the factories. There was about 20 of us doing this. And we’d go to the factories and pick up gliders and then take them to the training fields and then to Polk Field in North Carolina and Fort Bragg in South Carolina where most of the people in the Airborne was getting together and being trained.

So then I stayed there ‘til the middle part of April. And I went out one morning to go on a flight to pick up a glider and we flew quite a lot of gliders. We’d pick them up in Sedalia, Missouri and we picked them up in Minneapolis. There was two factories where most of the factory gliders were coming from.

CD: And then you’d fly them --

MB: But they’d take them back -- back to Indianapolis and they’d usually have high ranking officers there and we had to come in and we had to land at a certain spot just like we was in combat. And we had a big deal. That way you show them that we were good enough to be able to do what their C.O.s had told them what we could do. The newspaper people and the rest of the people could see what was happening. So we was there ‘til first part of April and went out one morning at about six o’clock and they said at eight o’clock you be back here and you’re leaving back to Louisville and you’re going to be there for one day and then you’re going to go to Polk Field for some special training and you’re on your way overseas. But they never told us what. And I had my wife living with me then. And this other friend, we transferred up there together. And we went home and told them, I said, "Well, take the car down and get it sold." But the Army took care of moving them back to their homes.

So, then this was the middle of April, and we were there about ten days. And we went back to Fort Wayne, Indiana, which supposed to fly us out of. We took immunization there-- all the shots for polio and typhoid and whatever. And from there we went and they issued us side arms and special watches. We didn’t know what we were in for. We were supposed to fly out of there. But we were there for about eight days -- in other words, every morning they’d -- nothing came up. In the meantime, they had put the invasion off -- in other words -- in Europe for a time. In other words, it wasn’t just -- wasn’t our time to go because in other words if we had of, they’d of dropped us way behind the lines so they’d never got to us, in other words.

Anyway, they sent us on over. We finally went over on a troop ship about -- took us about three or four days -- instead of flying us over and went to different squadrons and groups when we got over there. Split us up again so everybody I’d been with before was all gone again. And so every time you went to base you end up with somebody that you didn&'t know. Once in a while you’d meet somebody. Like this friend of mine, Jack Beiser, he went to 93rd Squadron of the 439th. I went to the 94th Squadron of the 439th. And at that time that was about ten days before D-Day.

CD: But you didn’t know?

MB: June 6th. No. Well, the base was closed down. You knew it was going to be pretty close. There was no leaves, nobody off of base.

CD: You knew something big?

MB: Security was real tight. But they had the air show and we would march for, oh, ten or twelve hours and run at double time and 80-pound packs and everything, you know. So you knew what you’re doing, in other words, might -- then they briefed us a day or two before, in other words. And then they give us a big steak or chicken dinner or something.

CD: That’s not a good sign.

MB: You knew that you were going to be going. But then -- I mean, most of us then knew. I only had a couple of fellows that really was scared and backed out.

CD: There was people who backed out?

MB: Right.

CD: How could you, would they make you do it?

MB: Well, that’s what they get -- what do you call them -- dishonorable discharge or scared of active duty. I don’t know happened, maybe psychiatric deal, in other words.

CD: Yeah, breakdown.

MB: Breakdown, nervous breakdown. I don’t know. I never did see them anymore. I don&'t know what happened. But anyway, in other words -- I was just a fill-in deal to help fill in the squadron. So I flew in with another glider pilot, Cliff Mueller, in a Horsa glider, which was a British glider that took thirty men into Normandy on -- minus hours. In other words, before the actual invasion started on June 6th of 1944.

And the next day we got back to beachhead. That night we took -- in other words, some of the guys rode back on bicycles and some of them rode back in wagons or whatever they could get back in. And there was a group of us, fifteen or twenty, all of us piled in an old Jeep -- it was a new Jeep that had been wrecked. In other words, it was in the glider. And it was in the Horsa glider. And it had hit the hedgerows, in other words. The Jeep was -- they couldn’t use it as far as any activity was concerned. But we got a gas can and somebody sat on the hood and took the hood off --

CD: I read that in that article.

MB: Poured the gas into it and --

CD: Ingenuous.

MB: Then we got back to beachhead. Before we got to beachhead, Patton was coming in with tanks and they said, "Get that piece of junk off the road." So they just bulldozed it off of the road and away we went onto the beachhead. And then we got to the beachhead and there a British cruiser that had shot its guns out earlier -- and they was going back to England -- so in other words, they got us on landing craft and we got on the barge about nine o’clock that night. And next morning I was in England .

And then the squadron and the other groups was transferred to France about, oh, somewhere in the latter part of June, maybe first part of July, somewhere in that neighborhood. And we lived in tents there.

CD: How many times did you actually fly to France ?

MB: In combat missions?

CD: Uh-huh.

MB: Oh, three combat missions in gliders. Well, we fly from England -- in other words, if the group was there, we was closer to the -- see, the troop carrier not only took in men, they took in supplies; they took in gasoline and landed right behind. The C-47s would land in behind the deal and it was hard for them to keep the supplies up. Not only the trucks but, in other words, the aircraft, C-47s would take in gas cans or food or maybe sometimes --

CD: Then you’d get back on and go back to England ?

MB: Right.

CD: And then you’d get on another --

MB: Right. Yeah. And that’s what we did because we was a whole group that we went -- the whole group of us that transferred to France as it became secure. And then shortly after that, they were preparing for the advance of -- come into southern France invasion. The Allies had already taken Rome, so then they were going to go into southern France , in other words. Then they thought they were going to have to use airborne ahead of Patton before he took Paris. Evidently we were marshaled to take off. This was in the middle of July. So in other words, I was supposed to go on that drop and I didn’t go with the rest of the group to Italy . And they split us up partly and kept part of us there so we could give them a drop. Then the tanks and the artillery and they had moved out faster than what they did, so in other words, they overran what we were going to drop, the drop zone. And so that mission was cancelled.

In the meantime, we was still training then for different missions. And so the next mission was the Holland mission; Arnhem, Groesbeek, and Nijmegen. The Bridge Too Far is a movie about the battle at Arnhem.  And they used three airborne. It was the largest airborne mission at that time. And it was a daylight mission. Some previous missions, part of them were at night missions. But so in other words, it was a day mission. And we took off in September, 15th or 16th I recall -- don’t recall exact date now, but pretty close to it. And this was in 1944. And it was Sunday morning and we landed there about ten-thirty, eleven o’clock. And place was at Groesbeek, which was with the 82nd Airborne and we was to take the Nijmegen Bridge, which we did the next day. And the British, the next group airborne, was north of us and they was supposed to take Arnhem Bridge. And then the 101st dropped south of us and they were supposed to take the town of Grave and a couple of other deals and hold the road open to let the tanks and the other people come up. Well, they -- in other words, the Germans counterattacked a couple of times, they kept the resupply from getting in for four or five days. And then the weather turned bad. And then most of the roads there in that part of the country at that time were built on top of dykes. So, in other words, you didn’t have no flat country to go across. You had to stay on the top of the levees to get to where you want to go to. So, that was part of the problem. And this was in the fall years so the weather hadn’t turned real bad yet.

And we flew that mission. I didn’t have a co-pilot. And I had, while out there, a CG-4, which is an American glider. And I had a master sergeant and a corporal and a tech sergeant. And the tech sergeant, I made him my co-pilot. And we had radio equipment and signal equipment. And we had the trailer that had all this equipment on it. And on the way in -- in

other words -- we was under a lot of fire and I could see the tracers coming through the -- see -- coming through the tow ship, going down the tow rope and then you could hear it go right through the glider. And so we knew the mission was going to be tough. So, in other words, I had used three flak suits, one on my legs, and one under the seat and one over my shoulders. And then you’d still scrunch down --

CD: Oh my gosh.

MB: -- and that -- I didn’t get hit. I mean, in other words, the glider was shot up pretty bad. But aeronautic controls were shot up bad enough to -- but all the Plexiglas and all that stuff was shot out. It’d be like going down the road with your window shot out.

CD: You still landed okay?

MB: I still landed. I landed a little bit downwind because it was some small arms coming up and I landed close to some trees -- but in other words, so I know it was over a little bit. And the paratroopers were dropping -- normally we don’t drop at the same time as the paratroopers, they’re usually in ahead of us to secure our deal. But we dropped at the same time they did. And a Lieutenant ran over to me and said, "Are you all right, sir?" And I said, "I think so. We’ll see if I can walk." So, in other words, I --

CD: Yeah.

MB: -- because front end was kind of smashed up a little bit. And so we didn’t have no opposition to speak of on the ground. Because I mean, this many people come in so quick that the Germans weren’t prepared for us. Although not very far away -- in other words -- they did have several divisions, Panzer tanks, and good fighting people. But that particular first day -- in other words -- it was real easy. No different than what Normandy was real easy. The biggest thing in Normandy was the hedgerows that we didn’t know that rocks and things were up there eight or ten foot high in the hedgerows. They told us about the trees. The trees never bothered us much. But we didn’t know the rocks was in the hedgerows. And Normandy, for years and years and years they had to collect these rocks out of

the field and just threw them over and made the -- that’s what made the fences, and the trees grew up in the rock piles.

CD: So, you didn’t know the rocks were there?

MB: And so we didn’t know the rocks were in the deal. That’s what give us more trouble than anything else. In other words, the trees -- in other words -- you can hit a -- a glider can hit a tree and make part of the leg -- or wing off or landing gear and you can still land it. But if you’re flying right into rocks, you can’t very well do it. And so that was a major deal we had there.

So the next day, being that we didn’t get to resupply that we thought we’re coming in with tanks and the other people that normally come in behind us, they didn’t get there. So, they took about six or eight of us glider pilots -- I don’t know, wasn’t very many of us, I know that. And I was on guard duty for about ten days. They made me a military policeman.

CD: Right. I remember reading that in the article, too.

MB: And for several days. And finally the trucks did come through -- in other words -- and I rode on the back of the truck back to Belgium and then I got back to my outfit. And then when we was -- all the time -- we’re back in France by this -- we had moved to Chateau Dunn, which was south of Paris. And they were short of navigators in the organization. So what they did with different glider pilots, they’d make somebody maybe a transportation officer and mail officer and mess officer and whatever they needed other officers for different things. And so I was kind of free, so they said -- in other words -- and they went through and asked, you know, took a test so they could qualify to be navigators. And so out of our group they made two glider pilots out of the group -- in other words -- which is a group. You got four squadrons and then you have headquarters group. So, there were three glider pilots they made navigators. And each squadron usually only had about two navigators of regular people that went through navigation school. And then you had the group navigator. Well, the group navigator and these different head navigators would give the test to us other people, and they were the ones that were instructing us and so we got to be --

CD: Navigators?

MB: Navigators. And so we flew navigation lot of times. Well, especially on - -, oh, like resupply where they take gasoline up and pick up prisoners of war the last six weeks or two months after we really was going. We’d take them up and they would take and get the people there. And then we’d put them -- they’d fly them back. And then, sometimes --normally a C-47 could hold about 15, 17 people. We’d have as high as 40 and 50 people because they only weighed 50, 60 pounds. I mean, people had been starved. At that time then we’d have nurses. Some of the times, they were there. In fact, some of them were little people, and sometimes we just had people that we could sit on benches or whatever, we’d put them in there. But every time we run on those missions, then we’d have to come back, be deloused -- in other words -- they’d give us that powder and,‘cause, I mean, you know, they were all underfed and undernourished and sickly and so but we take gasoline up and we did -- there was a lot of the troop carriers that was doing that at the tail end.

And then we came back and the next mission was crossing the Rhine at Wessel. And that was in April of ’45. And that was just the beginning of when the war was over. In other words, it was really the big deal when we crossed the Rhine. And it was about 60 miles south of where we dropped in Holland in September. So, it was just up the river a ways. It’d be like dropping it here and then you go take the San Joaquin River and drop it over in Sacramento someplace. Same idea. In other words, it wasn’t very far. But then in the meantime and during the Battle of the Bulge -- in other words -- which is half in between. That’s about where they came through is in that same area where we dropped behind them. We flew a double tow two gliders behind a C-47, dropping in when at the Maas-Waal Canal mission. And then when we resupplied with B-24s, they dropped pair of packs and things like that about a hundred feet right off the deal after we got on the ground. And it was -- the first night fighting -- in other words -- was pretty serious at there.

But in other words, everybody -- by that time they got the people across the river and the tanks and had the heavy equipment and so after that many missions, several of us -- some of them was the first -- that we -- cause we took the -- I forget whether the 17th Airborne -- I think it was the 17th. But that was their first mission. The only thing that they had ever fought in before, they were in the Battle of the Bulge. They brought them in on trucks and used them in the Battle of the Bulge. But because the 101st and 82nd both, they’d brought them back and they used them in the Bulge for a while.

But in other words, then when they finally secured the lines they -- because 101st was the ones that really had the -- McAuliffe give them the talking, told them, that’s it. In other words, they weren’t going to surrender, you know. But after that -- in other words -- then I went back to training and then the first thing I knew I was back in the states.

CD: How was the homecoming? Were you treated like a hero?

MB: Well, in other words, they flew us back in B-24s because they knew what we was going to do. We was going to go on to Japan . In other words, they’d already --

CD: They were going to send you to Japan ?

MB: Yeah. But they give us 30 days furlough and in the meantime, they had brought some new people in. The copilot I had, that went in Wesel in Germany when we crossed the Rhine, was a major and he had been instructing at Arizona at Air Force at a fighter station. That’s all he’d ever done. But in other words, he’d become a copilot in a glider. In other words, he wasn’t very happy about that. But you’d make the mission. In other words, two hours and you’d never see the fellow again. You don’t now who -- you know, you’d meet him, shake hands and that’s it. And then you’re gone. It’s like, you know, you don’t -- you don’t see the same people. So I never, I often wondered how some of them guys felt that they had to come in and do that. They -- they’d -- whatever happened to them if they stayed in. So they came back in and they were the people that stayed with the squadron then for a while and til they finally broke it up after the Japanese surrendered. So I came home and they gave me 30 days leave and I was over here with John McPhail.

CD: Where? Did you come here?

MB: In Morro Bay with my wife’s uncle, John. And I got a telegram. I’d heard it on the news that they’d dropped the atomic bomb and two days later -- in other words, I got a telegram that said,

"Well, report back to Santa Ana 30 days more." So you got 30 days more leave. Cause they didn’t want everybody coming in at the same time. So, I went back to Santa Ana and was there for ten days to two weeks and they give me what they call a separation of orders to wait for further deal. ‘Cause they didn’t know when they going to use glider pilots or what they were going to do with us. And finally they -- I never have got a discharge.

CD: Oh, really.

MB: It was just a separation from active duty.

CD: How funny.

MB: And that’s why they kept the glider pilots. Because I think they were still going to use us but in the meantime they’d already started with the helicopters and started training helicopter pilots -- to place people in. So, in other words, they already knew they had to use airborne.

MB: Because, in other words, they’ll start dropping here and they drop ever so far but then they’ll be scattered maybe five or six, seven blocks by the time they get together -- in other words -- if you -- if you’re right in a group of people -- in other words -- then you’re, you know -- depends on the location, what’s going on. But if one or two paratroopers come down right together for a certain -- object -- in other words, was real good. But when you put in 15 to 30 people and with their Jeep and their guns, implements there and machine guns on a Jeep and you got more maneuverability than you had with a guy that just carrying it on a deal (glider). See, like in -- where we went in to Normandy -- in other words, we had a lot of trouble getting off the ground because normally the glider’s off the ground before the tow ship goes off. And it was at night. And I could see the exhaust coming from the tow ship so the tow ship was already in the air before we were still on the runway. We were just ready to cut loose. And almost every glider was overloaded because we had personnel. Everybody had taken on two or three more packages of ammunition, two or three more hand grenades, two or three more of this, little bit more of this. And so if you added 50, 75 pounds per man -- in other words -- and you got 30 people, you had a lot more weight than what you should have. There was a lieutenant standing right behind me when we was taking off and I sat in the glider, and I says, "Get some of these fellows in the back end a little bit so we can get this nose up," cause we couldn’t get the nose up off the runway. Both of us were on the column. But so Cliff came back, he’s dead now -- he died here about six, seven years ago. But he came by and visited me here about ten years ago or so and he said, "I’ve always thought a lot about what you did" -- in other words -- "getting them guys out there so we can get off the ground, otherwise we’d of cracked up because we’d of --" The end of the runway is right out in the ocean. Cause that’s where we took off from was there, and we’d have run right out in the ocean.

CD: Let’s spend the rest of the -- that was interesting. I need to focus a little bit more on Tulare County.

MB: Did what?

CD: I need to focus a little bit now on Tulare County. Let’s go back to when you were in Snelling and you hear over the radio that Pearl Harbor has been invaded. Did you say a lot of your friends had already joined the Army?

MB: There was a group of us -- in other words -- school deal. That’s what we went in and almost all of them -- in other words, most of them had gone into the Navy, the bulk of them.

CD: But before Pearl Harbor?

MB: Well, there was people that went in before Pearl Harbor, right. Quite a few of them went in, in the service.

CD: Before United States declared war --

MB: Before the United States because they had already started the draft. And it wasn’t too much work really at that time yet. In other words, there was fifteen or twenty people I know already had went into the service.

CD: And what was the reaction standing around that radio that day?

MB: Just --

CD: Were you shocked?

MB: That’s what we were going to do.

CD: But was that a surprise?

MB: But of course -- in other words, we were attacked and that was a whole different deal, you know. But we never knew how long -- in other words, the Government -- be before they would get us into it anyway. In other words, the diplomats and whatever the case may be. But when you’re a young person you don’t think the same thing as people that’s 80 years old (chuckle).

CD: So, when you came back to -- and you were already married?

MB: Yes, I was married before I went in the service.

CD: So, you came back --

MB: That’s one of the reasons why I had to have a more than just $21 a month job, although I wasn’t making that bad. At that time I was probably making about $50 a month at hardware.

CD: Oh, at the hardware.

MB: And I know you got more expenses when you’re separated and all this type of thing. But in a job you had enough money to be able to buy your clothes and be able to support what you had to do.

CD: So, your wife lived in Three Rivers.

MB: She lived in Three Rivers.

CD: While you were gone?

MB: Right.

CD: And would you guys write back and forth?

MB: She joined me in Wichita Falls for a short time. Then her father passed away in the meantime and we got emergency leave and we came home. And then I had to go back. I only had just a few days. And then she joined me; she was with me again after her father passed away. In other words, she was on her own you might say. And so she joined me again when I went back to Lubbock for the final training. So she was with me all the time from that time when after I graduated -- well, before I graduated in -- when I went back to Lubbock in fall of ’43, she came back and was with me at Lubbock. And then she went with me to Louisville and then Indianapolis and that’s when I went overseas and that’s when she was --

CD: And how did she say life was like in Three Rivers during the war?

MB: Yes. She had -- they had the rations. In other words, they had -- you know, you had so much sugar and so much flour and so much bread and so much whatever the case may be. ‘Cause I know when I came home at one time that emergency leave I came home, they gave me a card to go someplace. In other words, I had to get special gasoline stamps to go get the gasoline to drive it even.

CD: And you had never done that before?

MB: No, oh, no, no. In other words, I mean, everything was rationed. In other words, people forgot about all the rationing that -- and I remember that they -- oh, collect the toothpaste wrappers and aluminum foil and anything like that you always threw away. In other words, I mean, it was collected for it so they went into the -- everything people could save and recycle, they really recycled it to that time. See before Japan declared war, I was in the mountains a lot around Pinehurst and Miramonte and Hume Lake. There used to be a big -- lot of logging equipment around Hume Lake. And they had trains up there, big locomotives. And they did the logging with. And that’s why Hume Lake was formed for a logging camp. Well, then in ’37 or ’38 -- in other words -- the Japanese started paying so much money for scrap metal that they -- which we knew this, that it was going -- where all these things -- taking all this stuff out. Well, they’re getting all their money out of it and they sent it to Japan .

And the same way with -- when I was little fellow -- in other words -- Fresno had streetcars and railroads tracks all up and down the line. Well, they started taking them out, taking the streetcars out and few of the buses were starting to run and they were taking the railroad tracks up and just shipping them to Japan for the steel because they were paying big money for steel. The same as right now is happening; China is paying big money for steel. And already the prices of steel in the last two to three months is really going up. People don’t realize that. China is paying big money for steel right now.

CD: Interesting. So, after you guys -- you hear the news that Pearl Harbor’s been bombed and you had been hunting and you come back to Woodlake, how soon did they start making the air raid shelters? Did they have like a community meeting or how did they organize that?

MB: It was very short time. It was just probably within maybe two -- week or two weeks or something. Where the parking lot across from the hardware now was there and that’s where we had a little hut-like thing and a telephone in it.

CD: That’s where the air raid shelter was, the parking lot across from the hardware?

MB: Across from the hardware. In other words, a liquor store now. It was a grocery store. But in other words a parking lot, now where the old post office was about a half a block from there. And they had the little air raid house.

CD: Oh, it was a house?

MB: Yeah, just a little building. Somebody build a six by 12 deal, you know, with a telephone in it. And that’s where -- observation point, we’ll call it.

CD: So, it wasn’t a shelter, it was a place to watch to see if --

MB: Right. And anything you hear; if you heard any noise, anything coming over at night or whatever it is -- in other words -- and the volunteers had to go down and you had a two-hour or three hour run. So they had about ten or 12 people, especially. I did it at night because during the day I was working. Well, they sent maybe housewives during the day. They would go work two hours and somebody else would work two hours. And that time the telephone system was still the old punchboard keys, you know. They didn’t have the -- and the crank phone --

CD: Right.

MB: -- they had the crank --

CD: So, who were they going to call if they saw Japanese planes? Who would they have called?

MB: Right.

CD: But whom? They would call like the operator or the --

MB: Well, you just -- you call it in. In other words, if you heard an airplane come in you had a certain place to call. And then that would put it in to their deal, which I don’t know -- nowadays, they’ve -- you’ve got all of the other fancy equipment that they can automatically spot it, you know. But at that time it was more or less manual.

CD: Right. That’s interesting. Did anybody know what they were looking for?

MB: They gave us a pamphlets and --

CD: Oh, the Government?

MB: We had some kind of briefing. They had got it out quick enough too, anything that was -- that might be where it could be something. ‘Cause at that time there was several Japanese families in the area. Not right in Woodlake but Venice Cove and behind Venice Cove and Martin Ranch they had a group of people. And then there were a couple of other Japanese farmers, who were from Japan themselves. Now, their children -- their children and everything had been really raised here. But the old timers, they were -- some of them were still in favor of -- I forget what the man’s name was now,Hito?

CD: Oh, Hirohito.

MB: Whatever it was. But they was still, you know, they didn’t talk very good English, but they would -- but when you talk to them -- because I was doing refrigeration work and working on refrigerators -- in other words -- we sold several refrigerators in the Japanese homes. And I’d go into the house and check the work on them. And the kids you get along with and be able to talk English with them. But the older people, some didn’t talk very good and so they still from the old -- they were still from Japan . Some of them weren’t. But fifty percent of the older people still believed in Japan and what they were doing.

CD: And how did the community feel about the Japanese?

MB: Some of them didn’t like them; some of them did like them.

CD: And how did they feel about the internment camps, when the Japanese got sent to the internment camps?

MB: It wasn’t -- I was gone by that time.

CD: Oh, you were gone. Did your wife ever talk about it?

MB: No, because, I mean, she was in Three Rivers and probably she didn’t know any of them. And like there wasn’t that many people around. There were more people around Ivanhoe probably in that area because of Venus Hill, there was four or five Japanese families out there.

CD: Were there very many Japanese students at Woodlake High School?

MB: We only had three in our class. And one of them was from Martin Ranch and other two was from Venice Hill. In other words -- I forget the ranch . . . Uota Brothers and they were out there for a long time. And there was this other girl from Martin Ranch. And I think there’s one or two others. Probably all in high school we probably had ten Japanese students.

CD: And do you know what happened to them?

MB: Most of them came back. They came back to the area. In other words, most of them did. Of the students that I knew, but I don’t -- most of them have passed away now -- because they got too old.

CD: I have some more questions about the air raid shelter. Did the United States Government actually send pamphlets to communities to --?

MB: I don’t recall exactly now what they sent us out. But they did -- we did have information on what to do. Whether like the -- at that time, see, we only had a city clerk -- City of Woodlake and then incorporated four or five years. We had a city clerk and a chief of police. Well, the chief of police and the police, he was one man. Before that we just had the constable; Rennie Brown was the constable. That’s all we had was the law enforcement. And so they were the people that basically that you would go to. And they still kept a constable in the area after -- even after we got the chief of police. But you didn’t have the deputy sheriffs and all the other people. I know we got more people now than what we had then. But they still got more cars and people running around. Then when you really need them, they’re cruising someplace.

CD: So did the constable call a meeting and the community --

MB: Yeah, yeah, right.

CD: Where would you guys meet back then? Was there a place to meet?

MB: Maybe a restaurant or whatever the case may be.

CD: About many people were in Woodlake in 1942 or 1941?

MB: I would say probably 1500 or 2000. There was -- when I started high school, I think there was around 50 of us in a class. And then I think only 35 or 36 of us graduated in 1940. ‘Cause usually a couple of them dropped out, in the service. Some of them moved away. And we had one or two new people come in because of the CCCs in Three Rivers. If they qualify, they would still send them to school. And they were CCCs but they still come to high school.

CD: I can’t remember what CCCs were.

MB: Civilian Conservation Corps.

CD: Oh, right. So, they would go to Woodlake High?

MB: Yeah. There were a couple of them in our class.

CD: So, you only had about thirty-nine, forty people in your graduating class at Woodlake?

MB: Right, in 1940.

CD: In 1940. And so you were working at the hardware store. Do you own it now?

MB: I own part of it.

CD: Part of it. Oh, I see. So you just started out as an electrician?

MB: I started out as an electrician, worked at $30 a month, a dollar a day.

CD: A dollar a day. Wow.

MB: Nine hours a day. Actually, about ten hours a day. Because at that time the store was open at seven o’clock in the morning and we stayed open until six o’clock at night. And you supposed to be there 15 minutes earlier than you came and you swept the sidewalk, did all your paperwork for anything you had carried over from the day before. And be ready to go, leave the store at seven.

CD: To go work on refrigerators?

MB: And then on Saturday night every other week we took off at five o’clock and at six-thirty you’d come in and stay and they kept the store open til ten o’clock. And then Saturday night, because people came, at that time people shopped on Saturday. In other words, the farmers’d come in Saturdays. During the week in other words you didn’t do too much. But that was during the Saturday night. And then when I came back from the service in other words they had already changed from eight o’clock and did away with the Saturday night opening and did away with six o’clock and went to eight o’clock because in other words they didn’t have enough personnel, I guess, to manage it. And they said they had to open at eight til six. Now in other words, we’re open from eight to six and close at five on Saturday nights.

CD: No more Saturday night shopping.

MB: Right.

CD: What did people do in 1941 for fun in Woodlake with only 1,000 or 2,000 --?

MB: For fun?

CD: Yeah.

MB: Had baseball games. In other words, I played baseball every Sunday. And then we had the hardball on Sunday and softball during the week. McKay’s Point was a gathering point for dances. And Terminus Beach -- at that time they ran a train from Visalia that ended up at Terminus. And there was a place to go swimming. And they also had a concession stand and that’s where everybody went to there.

CD: The beach is gone; it’s underneath water right now?

MB: Pardon?

CD: The beach is under the water?

MB: No, the beach itself now is back this side of the dam. But of course, they can pull the water down so in other words the river isn’t the same as what it used to be. I don’t know what happened to McKay’s Point, ‘cause I think it finally got closed down.

CD: Nothing there. What was there? Was there a dance hall?

MB: Yeah, they had a dance hall, floor, platform, maybe twice as big as this room. And their bandstand, and sometimes during the week, if they’d have this deal -- in other words, sometimes they even had weddings and this type of thing.

CD: Pretty there. And during the war, what did your wife do for -- I mean, what did she do when you were gone?

MB: I don’t know.

CD: Never talked about it?

MB: Well, she moved. She stayed with my aunt (Vivian Goodwill) in Fresno some and she went and stayed with my mother (Geraldine McClurg Bennett O’Mara) some and when I got out of the service she lived in Santa Ana. So she was down there when I came home because she’d already found out I was on my way home someplace, in other words. And so -- I don’t know.

CD: What year was it when you came back home?

MB: My wife?

CD: No. What year was it when you came home and they gave you that 30-day leave? I guess that must have been 1945.

MB: 1945.

CD: ‘Cause you were in Morro Bay when they dropped the A-Bomb.

MB: Right.

CD: What was everybody’s reaction? What was your wife’s and your brother’s --?

MB: Everybody was happy. There was dancing in the street and there was -- we came in -- the troop train came across -- they flew us back in B-24s, we glider pilots. And I lost one of my best buddies on the way back, ‘cause the B-24 went down and that was the end of what they said. They said when the records normally got him where he was killed in action during World War II during our last invasion. But he wasn’t; he was with me. There was four or five glider pilots in a B-24 and another four or five in another one. We heard them talking on the radio and they was having trouble and he went in and they hit. But we came into Boston. We got on a troop train and all it was was officers. And we came to, north of Sacramento, I can’t think of the name. Anyway, that’s where they sent everybody, all of the officers there. And as soon as they got there, of course, they gave us a leave. We went into town that night. I mean, the town was --

CD: Was it Marysville?

MB: Marysville.

CD: Oh, was it Marysville?

MB: Marysville. And goin’ around there, in other words, patted on the back all the time. So the next morning I got on a bus and I came to Fresno &'cause I didn’t know where everybody was. My grandmother ( Cora McClurg) lived in Fresno at that time. I still lived in Dunlap but I had some relatives that lived in Fresno. So I got to Fresno, nothing I could do. And I rode a Greyhound Bus. We stood up in it. I mean, there was no seats. In other words, it was that crowded with all of us guys coming home. And there was a fellow by the name of Jones. I never seen him again. He got off at Atwater and I got to Fresno and that was end of the deal.

CD: But you didn’t know --

MB: No. At that time, see, we was still active duty, the war was still going on.  They just give us leave. But everybody was really happy that the war was over in Europe. But in other words, they was still -- wasn’t completely over because I mean -- of course, you got these fellows that got their ribbons on and two or four, I forget what they had. See, I‘d been overseas for two and a half years. And you know the hash marks and --

CD: How many did you have?

MB: I don&'t remember now, quite a few. And then I got six air medals. And all the ribbons that I could have had I never did. I know some of them I never did buy what people give me, like the good conduct medal I never did put on and two or three others deal. And about the only one I wore was air medals and my Presidential Citations. We had Presidential Citations on every mission we went to.

CD: Well, you should. Gosh.

MB: And then invasions with the arrowheads that you have on the air medal.

CD: So, after you guys settled back in Woodlake?

MB: Finally we came back. Before I went in the service about 1939, my mother (Geraldine McClurg Basey Kuethe) had a wood yard half way between Woodlake and Elderwood, We had a flat bed truck. My grandfather, (Walter McClurg) and my uncle Marion (Mac) McClurg were carpenters in Dunlap and Riverdale and the different areas. And so we had bought the houses from Hume when

they was starting -- when the guard house -- when they still had the guards up at Hume when they were building the road into Cedar Grove and they had cabins or homes. And so the family had bought the houses and most of them -- my uncle (Mac McClurg) and my grandfather (Walter McClurg) at Dunlap, they had taken several of them there. And we had brought four to Woodlake/Elderwood and my mother had put them on placements, she had rented them.

CD: They were mobile homes?

MB: Pardon?

CD: They were mobile homes?

MB: No, no. No, you take and cut the house down like you’re moving a house. So they didn’t put wheels on it. But you run in and cut it into sections and you take it down. Then you put it back together again. So, anyway, when I came back -- in other words, I decided to go to work, I mean back to the store. ‘Cause I didn’t want to stay in the service or -- they had already had told me that I could come back to the store when the war was over there. They was starting to write letters -- I was getting letters from them asking if I was ever coming back and so forth. So, anyway, one of the partners had bought this lot and he bought the lot south of me. So, in other words, he says, "Do you want it?" and I said, "I’ll take it." And so my friend next door, which was a brother-in-law of the owner, he bought the other one and so we built houses together.

CD: So, you’re talking about right here?

MB: This same lot we’re staying in.

CD: So you bought this lot from the boss?

MB: Right. He had a chance to buy them for $75 a piece. Then he says I want $150 for them.

CD: Really.

MB: Well, he’d had them for four or five years.

CD: Oh, well.

MB: You know. I mean, it was still cheap, you know, at that time. And so even to them, I guess $75 was a lot of money at that time. So, two of my uncles (Mac and Merk McClurg) and my grandfather (Walter McClurg) and two or three other volunteers, we went out and brought one of these houses down from my grandfather’s place. I bought it from him. At that time materials were real short; this was ’46 by this time. And we’d go to Sanger and Riverdale and whatever the case and buy more lumber. ‘Cause lumber you couldn’t -- wasn’t enough lumber in Woodlake to do what you wanted. ‘Cause we rebuilt it a little bit. In other words, use basic for the same deal, but added to it a little bit. Made a little bit bigger house than what they were. And several different lumberyards and different places would get roofing material one place and something else somewhere else. And I rebuilt it and we lived in it. At that time we didn’t have any sewer so we had an outhouse for a while. And then we put a septic tank in and then I finally was able to put inside plumbing in and put a septic tank in. All the houses was that way along here.

CD: How many years were the houses using outhouses?

MB: What?

CD: How many years -- what year was it where these houses were using outhouses? Was it 1946?

MB: 1946. It was about 1950 before we had the sewer that come down the line. Well, what -- my neighbor and myself -- the high school had had a sewer line. And so we had a ditch digger, hired a ditch digger. Not a man with a shovel, but a machine. And he dug in the alley and we tied into the high school’s sewer. And at that time we used Orangeburg pipe, which everybody’s taken out now because it collapses. But we didn&'t know it at the time. It was something new. The hardware would buy it by the truckloads; we used so much of it. Houses was being built in town. We had a truck and trailer load of Orangeburg come in at a time and so it’s scattered all over the -- not just this community. Every community is the same way. And cast iron plumbing fittings you couldn’t buy anywhere ‘cause when we sold them we’d have plumbers from Visalia come and buy them and pay retail prices even to get the fittings that we’d be able to come up with. Anyway, we tied into Woodlake High School; we’d do away with our septic tanks. ‘Cause they would always overflow and the drainage lines -- we put them in by hand, in other words. And they’re always a mess. Then about three or four years later then the city had a sewer bond or something and then they redid the whole thing so then we tied into the main street out there. See, we lived in that house in 1960. I built this house that we’re in now and moved the other one down the street, used it for a rental for several years and then I sold it.

CD: So when you came back to work at the hardware store, was it hard to adapt after two and a half years?

MB: No.

CD: So, how was Woodlake different?

MB: It’s changed a whole lot in the last few years.

CD: But how was it when you landed back in 1946? Did you see a lot of changes in Woodlake from when you --

MB: Not too much at that time, really. In other words, it was still,‘cause we still played ball on Sunday and we’d still -- one or two nights a week we’d have a softball games and we’d played in Goshen and Coalinga and Tulare and the VFW had a team and we’d play in Farmersville, Lindsay, Exeter and Orosi and so it almost went back on to what we were doing mostly.

CD: And how was the pay in 1946? Did they give you a promotion?

MB: Yeah. Then when I came back from the service -- in other words -- I had a chance to go with several different jobs. I could have went to Visalia -- one of the partners had opened a business in Visalia, appliance business. I could have went with him in there. Or I could go to the Ivanhoe store, Ivanhoe Hardware, and be a manager there, or I could work in the furniture department at Woodlake or I could go back to doing repair work like I was doing before. And I thought, well, I thought the best way to learn a business would be to be the manager at Ivanhoe Hardware which would be kind of on its own. So I did until 1952. And then they made me general manager of everything.

CD: Of the three stores?

MB: Of those stores. I got general manager and then I started buying some of the partners out and the people died off, their families, and whatever the case would be.

CD: Did you have anything to add about -- just about Tulare County, like how -- how do you think the war affected Tulare County overall?

MB: I don’t know. That time I wasn’t into politics or into deal too much. I came back. In other words, I was on the grand jury within two or three years, Tulare County Grand Jury. I was one of the youngest ones that been on the Grand Jury. I don’t remember what years that was. It must have been about ’47 -- ’47 or ’48. They put me on the draft board.

CD: Oh, they put you on the draft board. Was the draft still going?

MB: After I came back from the service. And then I was on the Tulare County Road Commission. I was a business advisor -- in other words that the Chamber of Commerce or whatever it is that they had in Visalia. All these things -- they wanted us young guys that come back -- in other words -- do that. And I did that for several years, which really looking back on it now, it was good experience. But you still stayed away from your family when you should have been home, really.

CD: And did you have kids yet?

MB: Uh-huh. I had a boy and a girl and a boy. We had three children. Gary, Virginia and Leroy Bennett.

CD: And just lastly, is there anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t covered today?

MB: What?

CD: Is there anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?

MB: I don’t think so.

CD: Anything about Tulare County?

MB: I think we pretty well --

CD: Overall how --

MB: General deal, in other words, nobody liked what the Japanese did and nobody liked what Hitler did. And if we hadn’t done it -- I was saying yesterday, looking at some of those pictures up there in the museum in Fresno. They had a picture there of their -- people that they -- that the Holocaust lost. And I was thinking of that. And then they had pictures of -- I think a picture of some of the bombings of London and people talk about war but what happened in New York on September 11th is what happened every day in war. In June, war -- when they really were dropping the bombs and really shooting things up and some of the towns you go through and some of the destruction that can happen. And now, of course, with all of the high falutin&' missiles and things that they have now, in other words, the destruction would be so terrific that people can’t realize what would happen. If they really -- like if you drop something in the city of Los Angeles downtown -- in other words, it goes clear out to Garden Grove and Santa Ana and clear up in the foothills and everything. So, I mean it -- and just think of the thousands of people -- in other words -- that would happen if you have something come here comparison to what’s there. It’s a lot better to be forced to go fight someplace else than it is to fight here at home.

CD: Did you ever go back to France ?

MB: I’ve never been back. I’ve been asked several times to go but I’ve never been back to go.

CD: Did you think about going?

MB: No, I don’t think so.

CD: How come?

MB: That’s the same way with flying. In other words, I came home and I never -- I’d like to flown when I first came home. But to fly an airplane, you have to have it in number one flying condition at all times. And you can drive a car where the brakes may be bad or the headlights a bit bad or one headlight. But you don’t fly an airplane and walk away from them. And I’ve had several forced landings when I was flying. So, in other words -- and I’ve walked away from every one of them. And it was -- maintenance is what -- on them. So if you don’t have a good ground crew or somebody that you could afford to hire a good mechanic and keep it in top shape or have the top of equipment -- in other words, you better stay on the ground.

CD: So, you never fly commercially?

MB: Oh, I fly commercially.

CD: But you wouldn’t want to fly to Europe?

MB: No. Well, I would if I had, you know, you had a plane. Now in other words, I’m too old now. Because I can’t hear and I can’t see as good as I could. But that was --

CD: No, I mean, would you fly -- would you get on a plane --

MB: Oh, yeah.

CD: -- and go?

MB: Oh, yeah. I’ve flown, oh, five or six times with private people. A couple of times I’ve flown with a couple of people that I wish I hadn’t been up in the air with because they didn’t know much. But --

CD: I know there’s that airport right there, the Woodlake Airport. So when you came home, did you do much flying?

MB: No.

CD: No, you thought --

MB: That’s what I say, in other words, I didn’t -- they’ve always had a little local club, but -- in other words, there was several people that went into together with the thing. But you never knew who was flying the plane before and if they wasn’t red line or didn’t have the right mechanic to be able to fix it right.

CD: Now, you’re exactly like this other man, Floyd Nesbitt. Do you know him?

MB: Who?

CD: Floyd Nesbitt.

MB: I’ve heard of him.

CD: He said the exact same thing. He said, "You know, I got shot at, I lived through, why tempt fate."

MB: Yeah.

CD: "I was pushing the envelope by flying anymore." He never flew anymore.

MB: That’s -- you know, that’s basically the --

CD: Yeah, it’s a good point. And so your wife never talked much about what life was like, how life changed?

MB: No. No. She never did like Woodlake.

CD: Oh, really.

MB: You know, where would you want to live? 

CD: Did she want to live someplace else?

MB: No. She worked with the girl scouts when the kids were little and other deals. She had her own activities but she would never join the garden clubs or that type of thing.

CD: Well, thank you very much for your time.

MB: Okay.

CD: It was very good.

C Doe/C Paggi, Transcriber/ J Wood Editor 7/7/05

Editor’s note: Words in italics are the result of an interview with Morris Bennett on July 7, 2005 and corrections made by him at a meeting on September 20, 2005.