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: Richard Clore

Date: 3/24/04

Interviewer: Carol Demmers

Place: Tulare County, CA

Place of Interview: The home of Richard Clore in Visalia, CA

PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946

Visalia, California

OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:

Life as a high school student in Visalia, Tulare County, 1941-1946


CD: Today is March 24, 2004. I am Carol Demmers and I will be interviewing Mr. Richard Clore in his home in Visalia, California. This interview is part of the Oral History project, "Years of Valor, Years of Hope, Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946."

What is your full name and when were you born?

RC: Richard Gerald Clore, born October 18, 1928.

CD: What are your parents’ names and where were they from?

RC: My father was Benjamin F. Clore and he was born in Visalia in 1903, and my mother is Edna Brock Clore. She was born in Visalia, California in 1906 and is still living now at the age of 97.

CD: Both native Visalians.

RC: Yes.

CD: Did you have brothers and sisters?

RC: Yes, I have a brother, Douglas Clore, and he is 10 years my junior, and my sister, Margaret (Clore) Thatcher, is 14 years younger than I am. She lives here in Visalia, and my brother and his family live in Salmon, Idaho.

CD: How far back, do you know, did your parents tell you when your family came to Tulare County then?

RC: Yes, on my father’s mother’s side, my grandmother, Mary Caroline Fly Clore was born in Farmersville, California, and her parents, my great-grandparents, William Nicholas Fly and Sarah Barnes Fly, and on my grandmother’s father’s side, her grandparents, John Richard Fly and Elizabeth Tennessee (Turner) Fly, which would be my great-great grandparents, are all four buried in the Deep Creek Cemetery in Farmersville. That’s one of the four sides of the family. The others aren’t as local as that.

CD: What type of work did your father do?

RC: My father was in banking. He worked for Bank of America for 44 years and retired in 1968 and just died a couple of years ago in 2001 at the age of 98.

CD: And did your mother ever work outside of the home?

RC: Yes, she worked after the family was pretty well raised. She worked at First Baptist Church as a secretary for 15 or 20 years probably. Before that, she did a lot of choir directing at First Baptist Church, Visalia and as organist-pianist.

CD: And what was Tulare County like as a boy?

RC: The population of Visalia when I was young was about six or eight thousand people and a nice quiet little town. We didn’t have as many things as Fresno did, but it was nice and quiet and we had all we needed. We didn’t know any better so we were happy.

CD: People didn’t run off to Fresno and the big city all the time.

RC: I recall at Christmas time we’d go up there quite often to do some Christmas shopping. See’s Candy was up there I recall and I thought that was wonderful. I still think See’s Candy shop is the best candy shop around.

CD: Do you like the candy shop in Three Rivers?

RC: Yes, that’s very good, but I still think See’s is number one.

CD: And how would you describe your life as a boy growing up here in Tulare County?

RC: Fine. It was very good. As most people, we were poor, but my father had a job, always had food on the table and a roof over my head. We lived very simply, but we were happy. We didn’t know anything better so everything was fine. It seems to me that going back thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years, a lot of people in that situation didn’t know any better, so they were happy. Probably better off than some people today.

CD: What schools did you attend?

RC: I attended Washington Grammar School and Jefferson in 6th grade I think, and then Sierra Vista School, at that time, was 7th and 8th grade. That was the only the second or third year after it opened that I was there. Now it’s part of Redwood High School, but it was brand new when I was there. It was a nice school. Then I went on to Visalia Union High School, which is now Redwood High School.

CD: And how old were you then when World War II started?

RC: I was 13 in 1941.

CD: And where did you live at that time?

RC: I lived with my parents down on South Locust Street in a home that they had built right after they were married in 1926.

CD: Did you live in that same house the whole time you were growing up?

RC: No, we lived there until about 1940, ’41, and then moved into a newer home in a newer area which was out near Sierra Vista School.

CD: What do you remember most about the day the U.S. entered the war, such as Pearl Harbor?

RC: Pearl Harbor was a Sunday. I would have been 13, and I remembered hearing about it out in the backyard. I can picture that. Someone was saying the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I didn’t know anything about Pearl Harbor but at that age, I didn’t really know too much about what was going on.

CD: But you were aware that there was a war happening?

RC: Yes.

CD: But, like most kids that age you didn’t pay much attention.

RC: Right. Probably didn’t pay as much attention at 13 years of age then than 13 year olds do today. Seems to me that they’re more alert and aware of what’s going on. They’re more educated, they’re smarter.

CD: Maybe not smarter, but more educated.

RC: Okay, probably.

CD: Did you know where Pearl Harbor was?

RC: No, other than I knew it was the Hawaiian Islands. I think I remember hearing that right away. When they said Pearl Harbor then that was used in conjunction with Hawaiian Islands.

CD: Do you remember how you felt about the war then, when the U.S. entered into that, declared war, or how your family reacted?

RC: No, I really don’t, too much. It just seems like it wasn’t pleasant and we called them Japs then. In fact I still do, but that’s not politically correct anymore. But to me, Japs is an abbreviation for Japanese and I like nicknames, so to me they are still Japs. I don’t see anything derogatory about it. There were Japs in 1941 and they’re still Japs. I don’t look at it as being derogatory.

CD: You don’t think of it that way when you say it, so it’s not. Okay. But you did understand why the United States was at war then after we were bombed?

RC: Yes, sure. If they bombed our ships and stuff . . .

CD: We had to get them back.

RC: We had to go to war. You can’t turn the other cheek forever.

CD: So did the fact that our country was at war have an effect on your day-to-day life?

RC: Yes, probably. We had rationing before too long, and we had to cut back on things. I don’t think anybody went hungry. But you had to look for different things to find things to eat. Maybe had to do without some of the things you liked, but nobody went hungry.

CD: Do you remember anything in particular that you really missed and couldn’t get that you wanted?

RC: No, not really. I don’t recall. I’m thinking about gasoline rationing and people talking about tires. Not being able to get tires for cars and my mother, I recall saying not to worry about things like that, we’ll get tires, don’t worry about it. We just used the car for pleasure driving practically. We didn’t need a lot so we got by fine. We had to tighten our belt. Some of the stuff that they did to us was necessary to make the people realize we were at war. We had to tighten our belts. We had to aid the war effort. As far as I’m concerned it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough food, but it was the distribution of it. I think part of it was the fact that the government wanted the American people to know that we were at war. They wanted us to suffer a little bit along with the troops, which was one of the reasons we won, and nobody was hurt.

CD: Do you remember saving foil and some of that?

RC: Oh yes. I remember stuff like that. As far as I’m concerned, that was just to make people realize that they had to fight the war too.

CD: Not so much that they needed that material for the war, but that you were contributing towards it.

RC: Exactly, so that you were doing something and you’d realize that we would have to do our part to help the overall cause.

CD: Did your family grow a garden?

RC: My grandmother, Sallie Goins Brock, did. Maybe she had one before. I did, but I don’t remember that it was so much. Maybe it did have something to do with the war, but I did when we moved to our new home in about 1941, so that would have been this time. I had a garden; I recall that. My dad had a lot of flowers, always did have. He didn’t raise many vegetables or anything like that, but I did. I don’t remember particularly that it was because of the war. Maybe it was. I just didn’t realize it.

CD: Maybe your parents suggested that you do that. It probably helped even though it wasn’t necessary. Do you remember if you discussed the war during school, in your classroom or among your friends?

RC: I don’t recall, because at the beginning I was like 13 and 14. I don’t recall that much about it. We must have a little bit at least, but I don’t recall much about that.

CD: How about later when you were in high school? Were you concerned about the draft at all?

RC: No, I wasn’t. Well, I was getting up close to 18, but not quite, and then the war was over just before that. Some of the fellows in my class, I think they volunteered. I think maybe, when I was in my senior class, I think they volunteered. I think some of them were a year older than I was because the war was over when, in 1945?

CD: Yes.

RC: I’d have been about 17 when it was over. Some of the boys would have been 18 and would have gone in.

CD: So your brother and sister were younger than you. Did you have any cousins or friends that you were pretty close to or family members who went into the service?

RC: Cousins probably that went in, but I wasn’t too close to them. Nobody that I really remember that I was real close to. Oh, my uncle, Dave Brock Jr., was in the army and was in San Luis Obispo all during the war.

CD: Nobody that your family worried about and wondered about.

RC: No.

CD: Did you ever write any letters or anything to the servicemen as a class project or anything like that?

RC: My wife, Charlotte, she’s three years younger than I am, and she had an English pen pal, Sheila Beavis (Pugh), during the war and she corresponded with her. She still does. She’s been over here a couple of times in the last 30 years, but I didn’t.

CD: So they have remained in contact all this time.

RC: Yes, all this time. It seems less and less as each year goes by but only because they’re busy, I think. The English girl has been over here three times, I think, and we’ve never been to England , even though we’ve been other places around the world. Not a lot of them, but some, but we haven’t been to England . I don’t know why. I’d like to go.

CD: Maybe you better do that soon. (Laughter)

RC: Soon.

CD: And so did your feelings about the war change over time?

RC: No, general propaganda was fed to us, rightfully so, that the Japs were bad. They were the bad people and we were supposed to hate them. That’s fine; I went along with it. Of course it shouldn’t have extended to the Japanese in the United States , but its just human nature, I guess. We had to win the war. We had to have something to go on to win it, so hate the Japs was the way to do it and that’s why we won it.

CD: Do you remember that the movies portrayed that?

RC: Pearl Harbor?

CD: Newscasts. When you went to the movies did they show the war?

RC: Oh, back then. You’re not talking about the Pearl Harbor that came out two or three years ago. Oh yeah, this propaganda was fed to us constantly and rightfully so. That’s the way it should have been.

CD: Did you realize it at that time that maybe it wasn’t all . . . you just believed it?

RC: We believed the Japs were no good because they bombed Pearl Harbor and that’s the way it was. And somebody had to be the enemy for us to be at war and they’re the ones that were there.

CD: Did you have any Japanese friends or do you remember any Japanese in your school?

RC: There were a few in our school, yes. Not many, but some.

CD: Do you remember animosity towards them in particular after that?

RC: Well, they were taken away probably and sent to the concentration camps, which is what we called the internment camps, but they were concentration camps. That’s just a difference in terminology to make it sound better. My wife had, like I said she was three years younger, and in Visalia the Buddhist Church had a Japanese minister and his daughter, Yoko Kawasaki (Umeda) was a friend of my wife’s and she was in the same class. They took them all away and sent them to the concentration camps. She came back afterward and came to school. In fact, I don’t know if she knew her before. I don’t think she went to school with her before she went away, but when she came back she knew her in school. We still send Christmas cards back and forth. We saw her and her family, her and her husband, at my wife’s class reunion. She usually comes to those. I recall that my grandparents (Dave Brock Sr. and Sallie Brock), let’s see, how was it, my grandparents had a home that they sold in 1939 to a Japanese family, and then when the war came the government shipped them off and they sold their home. Somehow they had to sell it and sold it at a depressed price. I don’t know the particulars, but I’m sure they got less for it than they paid my grandparents. That was too bad. I don’t know, looking back on it and knowing that to win the war you had to hate somebody,that didn’t have to be done. Maybe that could have been done differently. Maybe we certainly should not have blamed the Japanese Americans.

CD: But it’s somewhat understandable.

RC: Yes, somewhat, not that it’s right, but it’s understandable.

CD: So do you remember hearing about when the bombs were dropped on Japan ?

RC: The atom bomb? Yes. I was a little more grown up then. Two or three years. The atom bomb.

CD: Which was of course the beginning of the end?

RC: Right.

CD: Do you remember how you felt about it?

RC: I thought if the war was going to be over, that was fine. I don’t know. It seems to me that like it would have gone on a little longer and how many more of our boys would have been killed if it went on for some time longer. If it took that to get them to stop, so be it.

CD: How about the Holocaust? Did you know anything about that? Were you aware of that?

RC: No, I know more about the Holocaust in the last 20 years I think than I did in the 40’s, 50’s, or even the 60’s.

CD: Okay.

RC: We took a trip to Europe and went to Oberammergau in the year 2000. Oberammergau is a town in Austria , I think, that has a passion play every ten years. I think it was around the 1500’s that there was a black plague that went through Europe and the town of Oberammergau said that if the lord would spare them and not . . . this is not about World War II, is it . . . would spare them from the black plague, they would put on a passion play every ten years. And, apparently their town was spared pretty much, and they have put on this Passion play every ten years since the 1500’s. We went over in the year 2000, and went to Dachau, one of the Nazi concentration camps in Austria , and went through that, and that was very interesting. It’s interesting to hear some of these people in the last five, ten, or fifteen years saying that there wasn’t any such thing as a Holocaust. They try to say that it didn’t happen.

CD: You wonder. It’s an interesting idea. What one event of the war stands out most in your memory?

RC: One of the things I’m thinking about is the food rationing. I worked, before the war was over, I worked in a grocery store, going to high school, when I was probably 16 or 17. Rationing was on then and people had food stamps. Food didn’t come into the store. Certain things were hard to get, like shortening. A lot of things were and I remember that primarily because I was used to it, working in the grocery store. Gasoline stamps,you had gasoline stamps to buy gas for cars. Nobody thought they had enough of them because they probably didn’t get to pleasure drive as much as they wanted to. It was good to tighten your belt, because we had a war on. We, the people, had to participate somehow.

CD: Everybody pulled together.

RC: Right.

CD: So you worked in a grocery store after school?

RC: Yeah, at G & I Grocers on Main Street just east of Locust after school and on weekends.

CD: And did you do that most of the time through high school?

RC: I must have started probably when I was 16. 16 or 17. I liked that. I liked making money. That was a lot more fun than playing baseball or football. I thought making money was better than that.

CD: What do you remember what people did for pleasure, for fun? Did you go to the movies a lot?

RC: I did. I went to movies a lot. They used to have wrestling matches here and I used to go to wrestling matches some. Mainly just to laugh at the people and audience more than anything. The way they thought it was serious business, the wrestlers.

CD: That’s interesting. Was it like WW . . . the wrestling federation stuff like they show on TV now? Similar to that with a lot of show?

RC: Yes, but not as bad as it is now. It was put-on. It was strictly entertainment. I used to go and love to watch the people and their antics and their reactions to the wrestlers, more than watching the wrestling. Apparently I didn’t have anything to do and that was the best to do.

CD: So you remember the wrestling matches and movies some. Did you swim?

RC: No, I liked to drive. My dad let me drive his car . . . I’m trying to think when. Maybe some of this was after this period of time. But during this period of time, some I drove. I was always real lucky that I didn’t have a wreck or anything. I used to take the car out and drive up to Sequoia National Park, usually by myself. I loved to drive. Gasoline was cheap and if the car needed repairing, my dad did it, so he never knew how many miles I put on it. Apparently he never paid any attention to the mileage. Or possibly he did and thought, well, he didn’t have a wreck or get a ticket, so that’s fine.

CD: He wasn’t worried about it. So that’s the main thing that you remember that you really enjoyed doing?

RC: Of course I went to school and worked some, so I probably didn’t have a lot of extra time, a lot of free time. Going to the shows. I went to the movies a lot. I remember that.

CD: You mentioned that your mother played the organ and piano in church; did your family attend church regularly then?

RC: Yes. My grandfather (Dave Brock Sr.) on my mother’s side helped build a church that was on the corner of Garden and Mineral King in 1910. He helped build the blocks for building the church. That’s where the Visalia Convention Center is now. In fact, we just had a meeting at the Visalia Convention Center relative to church matters and it was just about 300 feet from where that church building was that I attended until 1960, until we moved out to the present location.

CD: Do you remember, were you aware that jobs were difficult to get? Did any factories change?

RC: Here during the war, probably the reason I got a job in the grocery store was all the eligible men had gone to war. They were happy to have kids; they didn’t have much choice. During the war, it was easy to find jobs. A lot of women were doing jobs that men had done before.

CD: How did your mom feel about that? Did she ever talk about that? How the women were going to work, did she think that was Okay?

RC: When I was growing up I think she worked part time. A little bit. Part time in a job in this same grocery store in the office. Because it was ten years before my brother came along, I was an only child until I was 10 and then my brother came along, and then my sister 4 years after that, so she was busy for another five or ten years, but then she started working part time, mainly to have something to do. To get away from home, probably it was to make some money too. She was rather conservative.

CD: You don’t remember her talking about that too much? You know, that times were changing for women being out in the workforce.

RC: No, not really.

CD: So, did the war affect your family’s economic circumstances very much.

RC: No. My dad had a white color job as a bank teller and never made a lot of money, but enough to put food on the table. We never wanted for food or shelter. We didn’t have a lot of things, but we never knew any better, so we got along fine. It was very good. Much better than sometimes people today who want many things and they don’t have quite enough money.

CD: We talked a little bit about people’s reactions to the Japanese. Do you remember any other prejudices? Were there Germans?

RC: There were a lot of prejudices because I think it’s human nature. When you have a problem, you have to blame somebody. You never want to blame yourself. It’s always somebody else’s fault. The Japanese here in this country looked like the Japanese in Japan and the Japanese in Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, so some people thought, they honestly thought, that they were bad too. Because they had relatives over there in Japan . Just to want to have somebody else to blame, I think they wanted to blame them. I think as time goes on, our generations coming on now are much more tolerant of other races. I think it will get better as time goes on, but it’s going to be a generation at a time.

CD: Evidently there were some German prisoners-of-war here? Were you aware of that?

RC: Yes, I think I remember hearing something like that.

CD: But it didn’t really affect you that much?

RC: I don’t recall that it did. I don’t think people had as much prejudice against them because they looked more like us than the Japanese and you could tell the difference in the Japanese because they looked different. Maybe that had something to do with it.

CD: OK. I think we have just about covered the questions in the interview. So I have two questions I would like to ask you now? First, how do you think the World War II years in Tulare County affected you?

RC: I think it probably made a better person of me because we had to go through this, these problems. They really didn’t affect me much. I didn’t have to go off to war. My dad didn’t have to go off to war. He had a family. He was just old enough not to have to go apparently. We had some sacrifices, but those kinds of things only make you better if you have to go through them. I think anytime you have adversities you are better off when you get through. When you go through hard times and things get better, you have something to look forward to and things get much better. Even though it was a long time ago now that it happened and it’s sometimes hard to remember, I think it affected everybody positively. Things are much better now than they were back in those times.

CD: And secondly, how do you think the World War II years affected the way Tulare County is now? Do you feel like it made an impact?

RC: Probably made an impact. I think now, many years after, people are more tolerant of the Japanese, for instance, more tolerant of race prejudices and they realized that the Japanese people now, a lot of their parents and grandparents were here before. We shouldn’t have done what we did to them. But as far as basically in Tulare County, I don’t know much more than that.

CD: OK. Well, thank you Mr. Clore. I’m sure others will enjoy your remembrances as much as I have.

Carol Demmers/Transcriber:J. Chubbuck, 4/23/04/ Editor: JW 10/29/04

Editor’s note: Words in italics were added during a phone interview on October 29, 2004 and during another discussion of this interview with Richard Clore on September 28, 2005, when he added: When I was working at G&I Grocers in 1945, there was a flood. I had to help haul boxes of groceries from the basement to a truck that they hauled to a warehouse so the groceries would be on higher ground.