California Council for the 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: Charlotte B. Chrisman

Date: October 27, 2003

Interviewer:Ginger Curtis

Place: Tulare County, CA

Place of Interview: Visalia, CA




Husband, Ira J. Chrisman, was Tulare County Recorder.

Charlotte became Deputy County Recorder during the war.

GC: I’m sitting in Charlotte Chrisman’s home in Visalia. This interview is for the Tulare County Library’s oral history project, Years of Valor, Years of Hope: Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946. Charlotte, could you repeat your name and also spell your maiden name?

CC: My name is Charlotte Chrisman. My maiden name was Charlotte Bequette, and I was born in Lindsay, California, in 1911.

GC: What were your parents’ names; obviously, your father’s name was Bequette. What was your mother’s name?

CC: My mother’s maiden name was Addie Gibson, and she was born in Visalia, California. My father’s name was Paschal Bequette, and he was born in Visalia, California.

My parents moved to Lindsay, California. My mother’s father gave them some property out in Lindsay. They moved out there in 1910, I believe. My brother, Paschal Bequette III, was born, and then I was born, and then I had a sister, Margaret (Abercrombie) born 1913. There were three of us.

GC: So what was your father doing? He had this land in Lindsay. What did he do?

CC: He raised oranges, olives and fruit. He was a farmer. Before that, he worked for the Mt. Whitney Power and Light, here in Visalia, before he moved out to Lindsay.

GC: And so, you went through elementary and high school in Lindsay. Is that correct?

CC: I went to a little grammar school out, let’s see, southwest of Lindsay. There were five in my graduation class from the grammar school. Prairie Center was the name of the school. And then I went to Strathmore High School and graduated in 1930.

GC: And then what happened after high school? What did you do then?

CC: I went a couple of years…..that was the bottom of the depression. I went a couple of years to junior college and then I went to work for the Edison Company, Southern California Edison Company, and worked for them until 1940 when I was married.

GC: So you were married in 1940 at the age of 29.

CC: Was I that old?

GC: And having gone two years to junior college in Visalia?

CC: One year in Visalia and one year in Porterville. I took business, bookkeeping.

GC: That was quite extraordinary in those days. You know the depression and everything, for a young woman to go off to college.

CC: I didn’t go off. I lived at home.  I lived at home and drove to Porterville, and then I drove to Visalia with an uncle of mine who lived out there and worked in Visalia. No, I wasn’t really bright, I just knew I had to do something. I knew I had to go to work. (Chuckle)

GC: And then, you said you worked in the Edison Company.

CC: Yes, I started in Visalia at the Edison Company. Roscoe Sparks hired me, and then I worked there a few years. Then I went to Porterville for a couple of years and then into the Visalia office. That’s where I ended up.

GC: And so the 1940’s, and even a little bit before 1940, you met your husband. How was it that you met your husband?

CC: My husband was the Tulare County Recorder, Ira J. Chrisman.

GC You were married in 1940. How did you meet your husband?

CC: I went into his office to apply for a job. (Chuckle) I didn’t get the job, but within a year or so I started dating him.

GC So he was born and raised in Visalia, and he fell in love with a Lindsay girl.

CC: Yes, yes. (Chuckle)

GC: That’s great. And you were married in 1940 in Lindsay. So can you recall anything about those few years just before 1941? I mean, you were a young bride; what was going on in your life, or in the life of Tulare County?

CC: Well, when I was married, I lost my job, because at that time the Edison Company did not hire married women, because the men needed the work. So I was not working. I was a stay-at-home wife.

I remember where we were when Pearl Harbor was bombed. It was on a Sunday, December 7, and I was out at the Cutler Ranch at our aunt and uncle’s on a Sunday morning and heard it on the news. My husband was not of an age to be drafted, but he was too old really to get into any of the special programs that they had. When they started drawing the numbers for the draft, his number was, I think, number 16 the first day. So he knew he had to find something. And yes, he wanted to be drafted.  But with his age and all, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but he did get into Navy Recruiting and went away to San Diego for training. He came back to Tulare County and was recruiting in Tulare County and Fresno County and then went over to Salinas. That was his war service.

GC: How many years did he do that?

CC: Until the end of the war. What year was that?

GC: 1947.

CC: It was the end of the war, whenever. He must have started right away.

GC: 1946, actually it was ’46. September of ’46. That when’s the war was over.

CC: That’s when he was retired. But he went in early because he had to or else be drafted. Cause his number was one of the first ones pulled. And he was the County Recorder at that time, but that didn’t matter.

GC: Right, so this is the early months of 1942. Your husband enlisted into the United States Navy. How did it come about that you took over the position of being County Recorder?

CC: When he went into the military, his chief deputy went in as the county recorder, and I went in the office as assistant county recorder until 1944 when my son was born.

GC: How was it decided that you would come back to work? 

CC: Well, that was our decision. We had to. He went into the Navy and he was an elected county recorder. So when he had to go into the service, because of his age, his deputy went in as the recorder and I went in as the assistant. I was married to him then, but that’s the way we did it.

GC: And so, you remained the deputy or did you become the recorder?

CC: I never became the recorder.  Walter Sunkel was the recorder at the time I was the deputy.

GC: And is the deputy an elected position?

CC: No, no, that’s appointed. And I’m not even sure they have a Tulare County Recorder anymore. I think it’s set up differently now, I think, I’m not sure of that. And his father was the county recorder before he was.

GC: Your father-in-law was the county recorder?

CC: My father-in-law was way back in the 1900’s and when he became ill, Jack was at the University of Nevada and had to come home because his father was ill.

GC: And your husband went by the name of Jack instead of Ira?

CC: His name is Jackson, Ira Jackson was his name, and he went by the name of Jack.

GC: So, can you remember what that was like, you know, here you are, kind of a newly-wed.  You’ve only been married a couple of years, and there was the war on.

CC: Oh, it was traumatic when we heard the news. I knew he had to go; I didn’t know what he was going into. It was traumatic because it was for everybody. I was not alone in that.

GC: It was traumatic because of the uncertainty?

CC: Because of the uncertainty and because he had to go away. We’d only been married two years and it was just some hard times.

GC: Did you have other friends, young couples in the same situation?

CC: Well, everybody was going. All the men were going and it was just a time when everything was in an upheaval and everybody was living each day not knowing anything of what our futures would be.

GC: And do you remember . . . how did you get through it? I mean, did you have friends that you counted on?

CC: Just went right ahead living everyday, working everyday, and he worked everyday at what he had to do. He didn’t have to go overseas like so many of them did, which he resented. He would like to have but with his age, he couldn’t. But he had to go in the service; it was one of those deals. And everybody just worked and you go ahead living every day. 

GC: You indicated that you had two children.

CC: My son was born in 1944. Michael, my son, oldest one, and then four years later I had another boy born, Stephan Ira, and that was our family. Jack was out of the service when our second one was born.

GC: Do you remember, was your husband able to be with you when your son was born in 1944?

CC: No, he wasn’t, but he was born here in Visalia Hospital.  I forget where he was, but he was not with me that day.

GC: Who was with you?

CC: My mother. She came over from Lindsay and was there.

GC: You had a brother and a sister. Did they remain in Tulare County during this time?

CC: My brother lived on the ranch out at Lindsay where my mother lived.  And my sister lived here in Visalia.

GC: And was she a support system for you during that time?

CC: Well, yes, definitely, her husband, James K. Abercrombie,was an attorney here in town, and they lived here. He did not have to go into the service. They had children at the time, James K. LeBon, and Susan (Blades)  so he was exempt. And she was support to me, yes, she was a big support.

GC: And, thinking back about that recorder position that you took on, that was a service to Tulare County that you performed. Were you happy to have that job?

CC: I was delighted to have it, but I had to learn it from scratch because I didn’t know anything about it. But I did learn it and it was an interesting position.

GC: And was your husband pretty proud of you for helping out?

CC: Oh, I suppose he was, but, you know, everybody was doing something. Everybody did whatever they could do. I mean we didn’t have time to think about that really, because it was his doing that I became a deputy recorder. But we just went ahead with our lives. It was, I don’t know (chuckle), just the times.

GC: But remarkable times and remarkable people.

CC: I guess they were. I think people usually are when they have to be.  I think that’s something that just happens.

GC: How about your father or mother? Do you remember them saying anything to you?

CC: My father was gone. He was not here. He died before I was married. And my mother was a great help. She lived in Lindsay and she was a great help. She was a very practical lady and she was a great help to me.

GC: She, too, must have been proud of you.

CC: Oh, I guess. You don’t think about that at the time. Everybody does what they have to do.

GC: So you said that you remember that day, December 7th.

CC: Yeah, it was eleven o’clock in the morning and we heard it on the radio ‘cause we had no TV then.

GC: And you were visiting relatives in Cutler? 

CC: No, the Cutler family who were our aunt and uncle, L. O. and Ovillah (Chrisman) Cutler, out in the country, outside of Visalia, and we were out there for Sunday dinner when we heard it on the radio. And Jack knew pretty well that he would have to go into something. Ovillah was my husband’s father’s sister.

GC: So you talked about your sister being a support to you, who lived here in Visalia and your mother was a support. But did you have girl friends, maybe from your high school or college days? Young women like you; do you remember some of those relationships? What were those women doing?

CC: Well, all of their husbands were in the service. A lot of them here in town were a little older than Jack, &'cause Jack was just about a year or two young to be exempt. One more year and he would have been exempt, you see what I mean.

GC: So they were older. Most of your friends were older than you?

CC: Yes, so a lot of them were still here. Still working and still going on with their jobs and everyday life. And we weren’t. We lived right downtown in the Chrisman home.  We had just refinished that house. It was a two story house and we had just redone it in August, and had gotten it all finished when this all happened. And I stayed there. We did, &'cause it was all rebuilt.

GC: And do you remember rationing?  How did that affect you?

CC: Oh, the stamps, the food and the gasoline stamps. The red stamps.  We had to save up, as Jack was in San Diego. I had a friend of mine who worked with the gas company. And her husband was in San Diego in the Navy. So we were going down one weekend to visit, just for the weekend. We left Friday afternoon, saved our red stamps, gasoline stamps. Couldn’t go more than 35 miles an hour, cause they were enforcing the law. We left here and drove to Long Beach, stayed all night and got up the next morning (chuckle) and drove into San Diego and got there about noon. We left Sunday about noon and drove until three o’clock on Monday morning. Time to get up and go to work almost. It was a horrendous trip, I remember that. (Laughter)

GC: Who had the car, you or your friend?

CC: My friend, we went in her car. I did have a car, but we didn’t take mine, we took hers. And San Diego was as alive at two o’clock in the morning as it was at noon the day before. The streets were full, the hotels were full. It was just a war town.

GC: Had you ever left Tulare County before?

CC: Oh, yes, I’d been away, but not to stay, but I had visited other towns. I’d been to San Francisco. I’d been around a little bit.

GC: So, there were lots of servicemen and girl friends, etc?

CC: It was all the Navy. The Navy took over San Diego and as I said, everybody was there, I guess, but the town, I just remember that. When we got there about two o’clock in the morning and the streets were just as busy as they were at noon, just jammed packed with people milling around. I don’t know, it was war time and it was just that so many things were going on; that’s the way things were.

GC: So you saved up your money and you made this one trip?

CC: That is the only time I went, because Jack was there, I guess it was six months. And that’s the only time that he couldn’t come home. That’s the only time I went down there. But it was quite a trip, (Chuckle) at 35 miles an hour, driving to San Diego and back; you can imagine now-a-days at the speeds they go. (Laughter)

GC: That’s true. So you sound like you have some memory of the gas rationing, but how about food? Do you remember what it was like, just feeding yourself?

CC: Yes, just feeding myself. Jack was around a lot because he was stationed in Visalia some and then Fresno. Whatever our stamps were, we just made the best of it. I remember cigarettes. I was smoking at the time; I don’t anymore, thank God. But they were fifteen cents a pack and he could get them in the Navy, ‘cause you could use those for tips anyplace you wanted to go because they were hard to get at the time. And something else, when I became pregnant with my son in 1944, I couldn’t get a crib. There were no diapers. At one of the stores here in town, once a month I could get a dozen, the diapers that you washed, different than they have now-a-days. I’ve forgotten. I got two or three dozen, cause I’d have to wait every month. And safety pins -- you couldn’t buy.  I got those from friends of mine who had safety pins. It was because of the metal, you see, that I could not get them. Everybody was in the same fix at that time.

GC: So whoever had babies saved the safety pins for their friends?

CC: I got them from my friends. And the crib that I used I borrowed, it must have been from my sister. It wasn’t a very good one, I remember, but it was the only thing I could get. I couldn’t buy a crib.

GC: And you needed to dress up a little bit to go to work, but do you remember the clothing situation?

CC: I don’t remember that being hard at all.  I don’t remember that.

GC: You had your wardrobe already?

CC: Well, I guess, because they had stores here, Ralston’s at Encina and Main was one store and Mervyns. In fact, they had better stores I think then, than they do now, really. They had some lady apparel shops, a couple that were very nice. I don’t believe that those stores ever stopped. I think they were still running during the war. I don’t remember having any problems with dress.

GC: Stockings? Didn’t wear stockings?

CC: No wait, yes we did, sure, and there was something, nylon stockings, I think they were kind of hard to get as I remember. I don’t remember the story on the stockings, but yes, we wore stockings, I’ll say we did (chuckle). We couldn’t go with bare legs and feet like I do now-a-days. (chuckle)

GC: Do you have any memory of your salary? Were you paid the same amount as the deputy who was a man?

CC: Yes, it was the same amount. I can’t, I simply can’t remember what it was. Isn’t that awful? But, of course, the deputy recorder went into my husband’s job and got whatever he was getting. I don’t remember what that was. It seems to me like, oh gosh, that when we were married he made something like $375.00 a month then. I don’t know, but it was certainly nothing compared to what it is now.

GC: But adequate?

CC: Why yes, I’ll say we lived on it very comfortably (chuckle). Because it was all relevant, you know, it wasn’t as expensive to live as it is now.

GC: And what do you think you spent your money on? Did you put some of your money into war bonds or anything like that?

CC: Yes, we did and put it in the bank. We saved everything we could save. We saved quite a bit because he made a good salary. He ended up a Chief Petty Officer and he made good money. And we saved a lot. We lived in the old family home down on Center Street and living was not real expensive then like it is now.

GC: And he returned in ’46?

CC: He got out of the Navy in ’46. When you say, "returned", he was in and out of Visalia. His headquarters were probably here. He ended up over in Salinas, that’s where he was when he was discharged.  But, he would come home on weekends. It wasn’t like being over in Guam or some other place. But it was better than being drafted (chuckle).  At that time, anything was better than being drafted.

GC: And did he come back to being the County Recorder?

CC: No, he came back. L.O. Cutler had married an aunt of his and they had no children. Jack had been a favorite of theirs. When he came back, got out of the Navy, he went in with them on the ranching deal and helped him run that. Mr. Cutler was quite a rancher then. He was quite an extended farmer, rancher, cattle and all kinds of things.  And when Jack came back from the Navy, he went in with his uncle to run his properties and help him. That’s the way we ended up.

GC: So, it was delightful to hear about the situation with the diapers and the pins.  Can you think of other things that happened in this county related to the war that you were aware of? I mean, how were other people living?  Do you have a memory of how other people were living or activities?

CC: It seems to me, so many of my friends were living right along, going on with their regular lives. Because, I say, we were right on the border. He was too young for one and too old for the other, if you see what I mean. We had friends on both sides of that and it seemed to me that so many of my friends went right along with their lives and hadn’t changed.  I don’t know that I resented it. I don’t think that, but it was just something that happened, you know. And we were married four years before our son was born, but life pretty much, it seems to me, kind of just went ahead like people do. People just don’t shut off, you know, they just keep going.

GC: How about food? There were food rations?

CC: Yes, I’m sure there was one, I remember we were short of. But, what else? We get so much of our food here, from out on the ranch. They had so much of it, you see, fresh food. And, meat, they had meat. The red meat, I remember, was a hard thing for a lot of people to get. ‘Cause they were supposed to use that for the men in the services and that was one thing that was scarce. But we had no problem because we raised the cattle, or the family did.

GC: So you were saying that during the years of ’41 to ’46, you remained on Main Street in town.

CC: On Center Street, yeah, it’s right across from Hadley’s Funeral Chapel, on the corner. Right where the public parting lot is between Floral and West, and our front door faced Center.  It’s where our family was. They moved that out in back of the ball park now and the house is still there. (The phone was ringing in the background at this time.)

GC: Where exactly is the house?

CC: It’s east of the recreation park on the corner there. It was a doctor’s office for awhile and I don’t know what they use it for now.

GC: So then, when did you move out to the ranch?

CC: We never moved out to the ranch. We built our home. We lived on Center Street until 1951, I think, then we moved over on Giddings, the corner of Giddings and Wescot. We built a home over there. And our son lives there now. Our youngest son, Steve, lives in the home. That was in 1951, I believe. (Chuckle)

GC: So, when your husband was discharged, you said he did not return to the recorders?

CC: No, he did not, he went in with his uncle in the farming.

GC: And the reason you stopped being the Assistant Recorder or the Deputy Recorder, was because of your pregnancy or was it the delivery?

CC: I was pregnant. I worked for about four months, I would guess, and then quit. In those days they didn’t do (chuckle) like they do now. Oh, I tried to cover it up and didn’t want anybody to know (chuckle), you know, it’s so much better the way they do now. So much better. I was thrilled to death to be pregnant but I didn’t want them to know that.

GC: Yeah, that attitude has changed.

CC: Yes, thank heaven. Thank heaven.

GC: So, did your husband have siblings that were in the military?

CC: No, he had a brother and a sister. They were older. He was quite a bit younger than the other two. One, Ireta (Thompson) lived in Fresno and the brother, Errol, lived down in Compton.

GC: So, can you remember the day that you found out that your husband was discharged? What sort of celebration was that?

CC: We went to San Francisco to celebrate, I remember, and stayed for a couple of days. My mother stayed with my baby, and that’s the way we celebrated. I remember when I heard it, I remember where I was when I heard the news that the war was over. You know, you remember those times and those dates.

GC: So, you do remember where you were?

CC: I was by myself with my baby in the buggy. I was downtown doing something and I heard it on the radio downtown. He was in the buggy and I was pushing him around. (Chuckle)

GC: And can you remember the street scene, was there much celebration?

CC: No, there wasn’t much; where I happened to be there wasn’t much. I’m sure there must have been, there was later, I’m sure, but I don’t remember any of that.

GC: So, that was September of 1945 and then your husband was discharged within a couple of months of that?

CC: Yes, right away after that. ‘Cause they didn’t recruit anymore, you see.

GC: Can you remember the day the Japanese surrendered, you know, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

CC: I can remember it but it wasn’t that great. I can remember when it happened, I think, but it isn’t a big something on my mind. It was also a part of the war and I remember when it happened, but I don’t remember any great happenings. We had the feeling that it was final, I mean, that would be the end. You know, that was a terrible thing.

GC: Would you talk to your husband or your siblings about the war? You know, did you guys try to follow the war activities?

CC: I can’t remember that part of it. We must have. You know, as my husband was in it, we certainly kept up on it, but I don’t remember a lot.

GC: You had a new baby. So you had that preoccupation.

CC: Yes, in 1944, September. Yes, after he was born, there were a couple of years there, I was pretty busy. (Chuckle)

GC: Did you need to write letters back and forth to your husband, or not, because he could come home?

CC: No, he was close enough that we could talk on the phone, when he wasn’t home, because as I say, he was home a lot.  He was in Fresno, he was in Visalia, and ended up in Salinas.  I don’t know how that happened, but that is where he ended up. He ended up a Chief Petty Officer, which was good pay for that time in history.

GC: You were saying earlier that he was away when your son was born; your mother was with you.  Did you remember calling him or how did he find out the news of his son?

CC: He must have known I went into the hospital. I was so busy, I don’t remember. (Chuckle).  Let me think now. I was in the hospital a couple of days. I guess he wasn’t here the first day and then he was here when the baby was born. I don’t remember much of the details, but he was there when the baby was born. He was there at the end, but I was in the hospital for a couple of days and this went on and on. (Chuckle)

GC: And husbands didn’t always go into the delivery room.

CC: Always? They never did. (laughter) I wouldn’t have had my husband in the delivery room. (laughter) And my grandbabies, why everybody in the family goes and watches them be born now. (Chuckle). It’s just a different generation.

GC: (Chuckle) That’s true. So 1941, we’ve established that you were 30 years old. So you had friends that had gotten married?

CC: Yes, all my friends were married; we were grown women. We went out and dated for three or four years before we were married, so we were a little bit behind some of them.

GC: Do you think dating practices or even marriages, do you think the war affected them, or friendships, the friendships that women and men had during those years?

CC: I didn’t notice any of that.

GC: Anything like people getting married quickly, because the husband was going off to war.

CC: Oh well, I’m not sure about that but, of course, in those days you didn’t live with the man before you married him. I mean (chuckle), now you can live with him for four or five years and find out whether you really want to get married, but in those days we didn’t do that. I can’t remember a lot. Oh, I do remember one friend of mine married rather quickly. Somebody in the Air Force, I guess it was. It was out at Sequoia Field. And it lasted; it was a good marriage. Those kind of things I’ve kind of forgotten about.

GC: You’re doing well.

CC: Sequoia Field was an up and coming Air Force training field for the beginners, the very beginning of pilot training. But, it helped the economy, they were in town a lot, those boys. Young kids, just young kids, I bet age 18 at that, a lot of them. ‘Cause everybody wanted to get into the war then, everybody wanted to get in and do their part. That was the feel of everything. Now-a-days, it’s so different, of course, the wars are so different.

GC: I understand your husband was fairly available; I mean he wasn’t so far away. You had some status in this community and you had a child.

CC: We thought we were all settled when we got married; he was the County Recorder and we thought our life was settled. And for a few years, it was unsettled for us. Maybe it was a good thing. I think we all gained something from those war years. We learned that it is a big world and everybody did their part. That was the thing, and nobody complained about it. I mean the fact that they didn’t like the branch of service they were in or something like that, but they were very glad to do their share.

GC: So, while those were hard years in a sense of rationing and things like that, people also had a great feeling for what they were doing for their country and for the world. 

CC: That’s right. Your life was in an upheaval, but still you worked. You were glad you had work and nothing was really settled. It didn’t undo anybody that I know of. Everybody just went along with what their responsibilities were, their contributions to the war, and were very happy to do it.

GC: How about all these young men you were talking about out at Sequoia Field coming into Tulare County.

CC: Coming into Visalia: there were a couple of restaurants that were crowded with them always. The Hotel Johnson downtown was another place that attracted them. They were just nice young fellows.

GC: That’s what I was going to try and hear you talk about.

CC: They were a little younger than I was you see, and I was busy working and I wasn’t socially with them, when I would see them around town and like that.

GC: But you never felt that they would bother you or such? You never worried about them?

CC: Oh, no, no. They were an outstanding group. It was the Air Force you see. They were going into the Air Force and, I think, the beginning of learning the flying out here. There were a lot of them.

GC: So you were the deputy recorder. I can’t help but want to hear you talk more about, you know, being the deputy.  What about other friends of yours, what kind of jobs did they have about town?

CC: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know. Most of my friends were married and had families. And the ones that were younger went with their husbands. I had one friend whose husband went into the Navy in officer’s training and she followed him around. A lot of them followed them around. Gosh, it’s so far back. No, I can’t remember a lot of that for you, I’m sorry. I had other friends that followed their husbands; they followed them wherever they went. Took the babes and went with them. Um, hum…

The biggest invention that I know of was the new diapers, the . . . what do they call them . . . throw away diapers, ‘cause that was the biggest headache for all of the mothers.

GC: No, not too young for that. I had cloth diapers also with my babies. So, I know what you are talking about.

CC: To me, it’s the greatest invention that ever happened.  (laughter)

GC: So, I wanted to hear more about these being unstable times, an upheaval in people’s lives, and yet there was a great drive, a great concern about helping the war effort and doing what we had to do. And you also mentioned going to San Francisco when your husband got his discharge.

CC: I’ll tell you one other thing, when Jack left Visalia to go into the Navy, I took him over to Hanford to pick up the train. It was coming at a certain time, and of course I thought it was the end of the world. I thought it was absolutely the end of everything. We went over there, and he went to San Francisco on the train. He never got off of the train. He came right back down through the San Joaquin Valley, right down to Bakersfield on the train, until the train stopped, and then they put them on buses and took them down to San Diego. But that’s the way they did things then, because everything was done so fast and it wasn’t an organized setup.

GC So, maybe somebody on that train knew that these boys on that train were really to be in San Diego

CC: I haven’t any idea, they must have picked them up all the way through the valley, I would guess, I don’t know, but they went right on up to Richmond, I guess, was where the train stopped.  He never got off the train. He went right back down through Hanford and right on down to Bakersfield. But that’s the way things were done then.

GC: Did he ever talk about what that day was like for him?

CC: Well, no, not really, but when he got into boot camp down in San Diego, he weighed about 210 pounds, over 200 pounds. And at the end of the six weeks, he weighed something like 160 pounds. He looked like a different man. The boot camp and the training, what they put him through, was good for him.

GC: So he looked different, how about his personality? Boot camp, it upsets their heads.

CC: Yeah, because he was not a kid and it was very tough. He had a bad, bad cold and got very ill, but he survived and it probably was good for him.

GC: What was it like for you? Here’s this man comes back and he’s lost all this weight; he’s lost 40 pounds.

CC: (Chuckle) I thought he was very handsome.

GC: (Laughter) Prior or after?

CC: Both, but he looked better afterwards, really he did, after he lost all the weight. It didn’t take him long. It was at least six weeks, I guess about six weeks, I think that’s what the training was. It was extremely strenuous. 

GC: And personality wise, was he still the kind sweet man that you had fallen in love with and was married to?

CC: I don’t think he changed his disposition that much. I really don’t. I don’t remember that it did.

GC: How about when he would come home to see you, what would you do together?

CC: We would go see our friends, ‘cause a lot of our friends were still here, living like they always did. And we just would socialize with them.  I mean it was just one of those things.

GC: Movies, did you go to the movies?

CC: Oh yes. Um hum.

GC: Do you remember what the movies were like then, those war clippings that were telling the story of the war?

CC: I can’t remember any of that part of it. But we did go to the movies.

GC: And you had a car. So did you go out to the ranch?

CC: Well, we would spend a lot of time out there, but I can’t remember a lot of the details.

GC: How about, you know, within your circle of friends, did you knit sweaters for the men?

CC: I didn’t knit. I had tried knitting years before and I wasn’t very good at it, so I didn’t do that. I did take a Red Cross class, I remember. I think that was before I started work.

GC: And you mentioned earlier, something about war bonds. Did you buy war bonds?

CC: Yes, we had war bonds. I think most everybody did that had any money, that had anything at all to spend then.

GC: Can you think of any other, you know, I liked hearing about what it took to get enough diapers.

CC: Once a month, I could get a dozen.

GC: What about the stroller? How did you get your stroller?

CC: Oh, Lord, I didn’t have a stroller for a long time. I just remember I finally got one. Probably second hand, probably one that my friends had, I would guess. Those things were hard to come by then. But my crib, I do remember that, because I could not buy a crib. I suppose whatever I used, a lot of it was second hand, whatever my friends could lend me of whatever they had. 

GC: Did you have any friends, either from Lindsay or from Visalia, who were Japanese/American? Did you know any of them?

CC: We had one, Tom Shimosoki from Lindsay. He was a very good friend of ours. And Mitsi, the girl that he married, worked for my sister. Worked for her until she married Tommy. He graduated from Strathmore High School. He was in the war, he was in with that Japanese . . . but I don’t remember any of the details, I really don’t.

GC: He went into the Japanese?

CC: Japanese group, or whatever it was, he went in late, whatever, I don’t remember.

GC: You mean he went into the Armed Services?

CC: He had children by then, gosh, I can’t tell you. I better not. I think I meant the internment camp where the other Japanese/Americans from Strathmore went. I’m not supposed to mention any names; my son told me that.

GC: So that was one family. You know, we’re not that sensitive about names, it’s okay.

CC: I might make a mistake in mentioned names, don’t you see, and I understand that.

GC: So that was the only Japanese/American family that you could think of?

CC: That I knew. There were some around Visalia that I didn’t know so well. Any of them that I knew . . . well, I knew the ones that had the store right down town and they had to close up the store.

GC: Do you remember what that was like? How did you feel about that?

CC: I can remember seeing them going into to McMahan’s and buying, one day when I was down town, buying furniture and buying things to take to the concentration, what did they call it then, the concentration camp?

GC: Internment.

CC: Internment, that’s better. And they had to go and I see these nice looking Japanese families. That was dreadful. They were in buying the few things that they could buy to take with them. They had to go down there. I’m trying to think of the man who had the big store on Center Street there, it was a big Japanese family here in town and they had to close the store down and go. And it was bad. That was bad. But they couldn’t do otherwise because there were too many of them that were sympathetic, I guess. You felt they were, now I don’t know whether they were or not. None of these families were, I’m sure. The ones that I have mentioned, I know weren’t. It was all China Town on Center Street, you know, that whole block. And there was one of them, I guess, who was supposed to not be honest, I don’t know. I can’t tell you any of that because I really don’t know; it’s all hearsay.

GC: So you just remember that that was a little upsetting to you.

CC: Yes, very upsetting, very, very upsetting.

GC: Did you ever talk to your husband about that?

CC: Well, we all agreed that it was wrong. We all felt that it was wrong, but we didn’t know what the right way was. Cause all of them that we knew, we were sure we could trust. And we could, but I’m sure there were a lot of them, I guess, that we couldn’t, I don’t know.

GC: Another big significant thing that happened, you know, was the holocaust.  Did you hear much about that?

CC: I have thought about that so often, but I don’t remember hearing anything about at that time. As I said, I think we went ahead living just our normal, natural lives and there were all those horrible, horrible things that went on. Now-a-days, it couldn’t with all the TV’s and everything else, but in those days, communication wasn’t like it is now. I’m concerned but I knew nothing about all of that. I think that is a disgrace of the world, I think that is.

GC: And so, did you see the ethnicity of Tulare County changing because of those war years? You know, you talked about Sequoia Field and there were those young men that were training here. And there was the community of the Japanese/Americans in Tulare County, who definitely were interned. But were there other ethnic groups that you were aware of that were changing?

CC: You think of the Germans, but I can’t think of any Germans. One of my best friends was a German. I can’t think of any others.

GC: How about Okies, did you become aware that there were people coming in from Oklahoma during those years?

CC: That was before, the Okies that I remember was when I was in grammar school, when the Okies came in. I remember the Okies, definitely. (Chuckle).  Out in the farming, where I lived out there. They were good people and I’m ashamed of the way I felt about them then, it was not very . . .you know. They were wonderful people, really, basically. But as a kid growing up, I don’t know. It happened, that was way back. Okies, when they really came, that was way back. That would have been in the early ‘20’s, I would guess. That would have been before the depression here, I guess. Yes, it was in the early ‘20’s.

GC: Is there, we’ll just wind this up here. You can spend a little time sort of thinking about this. Do you think World War Two affected the life of Tulare County? In other words, you can think about after the war in Tulare County, were things different, you know having been born and raised in Tulare County. You have a perspective, did life change in Tulare County as a result of that war?

CC: I don’t know that it was because of the war but, my Lord, things have changed in this county since I was a little girl. And even since the war, but I’m not sure. I don’t know why the war would have any influence on that. I really, I don’t think so.

GC: So, just history has changed?

CC: History has changed drastically, and I suppose maybe it always does. Maybe that just happens to be my opinion. It’s changed so totally in my lifetime, if I got to thinking about it, it’s just almost unbelievable, really.

GC: But you can’t think of anything, you know about those war years that really impacted the life here?

CC: Other than a lot of them came here training, like out here, and so many of them wanted to come back and live here, because they liked it. That would have been one way, I presume. I can’t think of any way that it has, other than just the normal way of the world changing since that time. All over, everyplace.

GC: Okay, Charlotte, this have been really delightful, hearing you share.

CC: Not very much. I don’t have anything very important.

GC: Well, I’d like to disagree with you, you have quite a bit to share that’s very important, and we thank you very, very much for making this available.

G.Curtis/Transcribed by P. Dilley 11/12/2003 /edited by J Wood 06/09/05

Editor’s note: Comments and names in italics were added during a phone interview with Charlotte Chrisman on June 9, 2005.