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: Marjorie Coghill
Interviewer: Catherine Doe
Place: Tulare County, CA
Place of Interview: The home of Ms. Coghill in Visalia, CA
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Lutheran Church in Tulare County
Supporting the war Efforts
CD: this is Catherine Doe, this is April 26, 2004, we are in the home of Marjorie Coghill, and this is the "Years of Valor, Years of Hope." Could you state your name and spell it please?
MC: Marjorie A. Coghill.
CD: OK, why don’t you go ahead and say and spell your maiden name?
MC: My maiden name is Achterberg. A-C-H-T-E-R-B-E-R-G.
CD: That’s an interesting last name. What is the origin of it?
CD: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your parents and when you settled in Tulare County?
MC: I was born here.
CD: And your parents?
MC: My mother, Ida Dreith, was born in Denver, Colorado. She was the first generation born in the
CD: Great. So when did your parents move to Tulare County?
MC: My mom moved here when she was a young girl, probably about 4th grade, and my dad moved to the Terra Bella area and he was young man then, probably in his teens or early 20’s.
CD: So your mom moved here to Visalia?
MC: From Denver they first moved to Southern California and then from Southern California up here to Visalia.
CD: So how did you parents meet if one was from Terra Bella and the other was from Visalia?
MC: Through the church. They attended the Lutheran Church and they used to get together for different activities for the young people.
CD: So did your mom ever tell you stories about how Visalia was when she first got here?
MC: She told the story about where they first lived. My grandfather bought this property sight unseen and when he got here, he was very disappointed because it was like alkali and it was really bad. It was not fit for farming.
CD: Where was that?
MC: Somewhere out beyond, before you get to Tulare. Somewhere out in that area.
CD: So it wasn’t here in Visalia.
MC: No, no.
CD: That’s interesting because I haven’t heard of alkali right here in Visalia.
MC: Well, whatever the problem was.
CD: No, there is out there.
MC: They couldn’t farm it.
CD: What did they do?
MC: They had some really tough times for a while, and I think he had a job outside of the home. He did something with sugar beets, working that, and I think he did something with the railroads for a while. They finally bought property out on the Ivanhoe Highway and they raised peaches and they had a hatchery for chickens and they did very well in that.
CD: They deserved it after all that. What year did all this happen,when they moved here and bought the piece of property with the alkali content?
MC: That had to be when my mom was probably…fourth grade. She was born in 1905, so it could have been 1914, 1915.
CD: Your family has been here for a while. Were you born out on that property where the hatchery was?
MC: No, down the road from it. We had an acre of property. The house is still standing where I was born. I was born at home.
MC: My parents built that house.
CD: They built it themselves. They didn’t have it built.
MC: No, they had it built, but that’s the house. Every once in a while I drive by that, you know, because they change things. I’d like to go up to the door sometime and say I was born here.
CD: And you’d go look at your old room?
MC: I would like to but I haven’t.
CD: The people don’t invite you in?
MC: Well, I haven’t. I said I thought I would like to . . .
CD: Okay. So what was the school out there?
MC: I went to Crowley, no wait Carrie Barnett School and then Webster School. Those were the schools on the north side of town in those years.
CD: Out there, that’s where several Japanese families were farming, correct?
MC: There probably were, although I didn’t know them.
CD: They didn’t go to Carrie Barnett?
MC: Not that I know of. There weren’t any Japanese kids in school when I was in school there.
CD: Okay, well, maybe they went to another one.
MC: They could have gone to Ivanhoe because a lot of the kids went to the Ivanhoe’s Elbow, Elbow Creek.
CD: So there was a different school for Ivanhoe kids called Elbow Creek?
CD: So what was your family business when you were growing up? They did the farming and hatchery.
MC: My father worked for the gas company for a period of time and during the war years, he went to work in Oakland to work at the shipyards for a period of time. And then when he came back, he was always a mechanic and when he came back, he got a service station, a Texaco service station on the corner of Court and Mineral King, where the Radisson Hotel is now.
CD: And what year was that?
MC: That was during the war years and in the 50’s.
CD: What did he say about working in the Oakland shipyards?
MC: I don’t recall him saying a lot about it. I know that it was the first time he had been away from the family so we missed him. As a young girl, that’s what I remember.
CD: Why did he go? Because a lot of people stayed.
MC: I guess that was his part of the service. He had been in the First World War and he was probably too old to enlist so he went to work up in the shipyards.
CD: Did he have to?
CD: He did it for the income, for the better pay?
MC: Well, and patriotism.
CD: Right, to help out with the effort. To help build the ships. So where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
MC: That I can remember distinctly. It was Sunday evening when they announced it. We were all home. That’s when we used to listen to the radio, so we were all listening to the radio when it came through. I was like 8 years old then.
CD: Wow, that young.
MC: And I can still remember it. It was such a, you know, kind of a frightening to think about.
CD: So tell me about it. Who was around? You were all sitting around the radio.
MC: The whole family was there. My brother, Elmer, and mom and dad.
CD: And did they know what Pearl Harbor was? Had anybody ever heard of it?
MC: Yeah, yeah.
CD: And what was the family’s reaction?
MC: Shock, naturally at first. Probably some fear.
CD: And what was the next day like? It was Monday when you went to school. What was the reaction at school?
MC: That I don’t remember. It was probably talked about in the classroom and that sort of thing.
CD: With being of German heritage, your parents didn’t say anything like . . . because the war was going on before Pearl Harbor, was your family talking about it before?
MC: Probably in discussion, but not a lot.
CD: Well, you were young too. There’s different radar. Judith, my project director, mentioned something that your mother, being of German background, felt a kind of bias.
MC: That was during the First World War. I told her that I didn’t feel any in the Second World War, even with our name of Achterberg, but my mother said that during the First World War they hated to tell people their name because they received such adverse reactions.
CD: Like what? Did she say?
MC: Negative comments. Things like that.
CD: So what would she do? Would she just not say her name?
CD: Avoid that.
MC: The last name.
CD: And your father fought in World War I, you said, so he was fighting over there and she had to deal with it over here.
MC: That was probably before they met.
CD: Oh. So this time around in World War II you didn’t feel any reaction to your name?
MC: I didn’t feel it.
CD: And your mom didn’t say anything?
MC: Not that I know of.
CD: How did your family feel about the
MC: I think they were supportive of it.
CD: In what way?
MC: Well, they didn’t make negative comments about anything. They were supportive of the troops and that sort of thing.
CD: You said you had a brother. Was he getting close to draft age?
MC: Yes, he was drafted and he served in the
occupation force in
CD: Wow. When you hear the news of war and you have a son that’s of age to go to war . . . were they a little apprehensive at home? Was it a little scary?
MC: No, I don’t think so because he was young enough when it first started that it wasn’t until later when he was drafted, so by then, like I said, he served in the occupation forces, so there wasn’t really any fighting then.
CD: Most of the fighting was over then. Well let’s talk about your family at home. Do you remember the rationing? What do you remember about it?
MC: I remember that we lived on one acre and we had chickens and we had a cow and we had a garden, so I don’t recall any problem. I know that sugar was rationed and there were four of us in the family so we didn’t have any problem. Sugar, I think coffee was, canned goods, tires for the car, gasoline, shoes. I think meat was too, somewhat. I don’t remember some of the other things, but I don’t recall ever having any problem with food because my parents were frugal anyway. Or clothing, no problem with that. Or shoes. But I remember that. The other thing I remember is, I guess it was drives, because you would take the tin cans and take the lids and the bottoms off of them and you’d smash them and save them. The other thing was gum wrappers came with tin foil around it. You’d peel that tin foil off and make a ball and save it for the drive.
CD: That’s not easy to peel that stuff off.
MC: I guess in those days it was. I don’t know that they have that now, but I remember saving those things.
CD: Was that your job, like your family job?
MC: We all did it.
CD: You weren’t the official peeler?
MC: No, I don’t think so. Anyway, that’s the things that I can remember. But then the picture that I gave the library was showing me in a scene with three other women knitting because they were promoting volunteerism for the war effort. That picture appeared in the Times Delta and I don’t know when exactly,it was probably ’42, ’43 and I did know how to knit, but I was just holding that sweater.
CD: (Laughter) Oh, you didn’t actually make that sweater then.
MC: No. My mother made some. The yarn was supplied through the government or the Army or whatever, because it was that khaki green color and it was wool. They would donate it to these ladies who would knit the sweaters and in turn when they were finished they were sent to the fighting men overseas.
CD: Gosh, that’s neat. Do you remember her sitting at home knitting those?
MC: Oh, yeah.
CD: Would she just sit here and be in a group?
MC: They’d give her the yarn and she would knit in her spare time.
CD: Did you ever try one on?
MC: No, I don’t like wool. It’s scratchy.
CD: Did she ever say it was difficult to work with? She just knitted away.
CD: I saw that picture. It was so neat. With the shortages, you never ran out of shoes. What would happen if your shoes broke?
MC: In those days, they resoled shoes. They put another sole on them.
CD: People did that anyway before the rationing?
MC: Yes. Oh, yes.
CD: What about your car?
MC: Well, you see my dad was a mechanic.
CD: Oh, that’s perfect.
MC: So we didn’t have any problem with that. We had a family car and he had a car, an old car, usually a Model T Ford or something that he would drive to work, but we never had problems with cars or tires or gas. Of course, they didn’t go that much either.
CD: You mean that far?
MC: Yes. One other pleasant memory I have of that time it that you used to always pick up soldiers or servicemen along the highway and give them a ride. They usually thumbed a ride. I can remember a lot of times when they would come to church and we would bring them home for dinner on Sunday and then after dinner take them to wherever they could catch a ride back to their base. A few times when we have gone up to Sequoia National Park, there would be somebody up there and we would give them a ride down. I can remember you weren’t afraid to pick any of them up. They were so happy and grateful. Those are pleasant, happy memories.
CD: It certainly isn’t like that now. That’s a long way to go with gas rationing. Did you . . .
MC: Not very often. Just once in a while.
CD: Tell me a little about Sequoia Park back then and how is it different now.
MC: Well, it was a two-lane highway then. I think it’s still two lanes.
CD: I think they changed though, three times.
MC: They probably improved the road. It was a windy, twisty road with hairpin turns.
CD: And how did the older car handle that?
CD: Oh, just like the cars now?
CD: Oh, that’s good. So your father had a gas station during the war. Did he ever mention what it was like to deal . . . he received the rationing stamps. Did he ever talk about it?
MC: No. No.
CD: Did he ever mention any black market going on?
MC: No. There probably was in tires but I don’t recall that. In those days too, they picked up the old tires and put retreads on them. I don’t know that they do that much now, but they used to do it then.
CD: How did that work? Did the tire fall apart eventually?
MC: Yes, I imagine so, but it probably lasted somewhat longer with them (the retreads) on. They used to do that.
CD: So there was a shortage, a real visible shortage of tires.
MC: Well, I guess for some people, because you had to have stamps to get them.
CD: You had to have stamps to get a tire?
MC: Yes. Tires and gas.
CD: I never thought about the tires. Everybody talks about the gas.
MC: It was tires too.
CD: If your tire goes out, you can’t really use your car now, can you? What would you guys do for fun as the war went on, when it got to be 1944-45 and there were no boys left. What would you do for fun?
MC: Get together with the family, with the aunt, Edna Loewe and her children, Marian, Dorothy and Bob, and we played with those kids. Picnics, probably went to Mooney Grove.
CD: Did you go to Mooney Grove a lot?
MC: Yeah. And played games as a family.
CD: Were you old enough to go to dances then?
CD: You weren’t doing that yet.
MC: The war was over in 1946 and I was 13 then. That was junior high. We did go to a dance school and they had some dances on that when I was in junior high, but we were doing that.
CD: Did you guys know any Japanese families?
MC: My brother did.
CD: He was older?
MC: Yes. He had a very close friend who was Japanese and they were taken to an internment camp, but I didn’t have any in my age group.
CD: Did he keep in contact with them?
MC: He said that he received a letter asking for information or recommendation for his friend of his, so he said he wrote a letter recommending him as an upstanding person and he said he never heard anything about him after that.
CD: That’s interesting. When they got on the train and left, was your family aware of that? Did you go down to the train station or anything?
MC: No. The only time we went to the train station was when my uncle, Bill Loewe, was in the National Guard and when they called up the National Guard we went down to see them off and that was kind of sad because we liked my uncle.
CD: Did he actually fight?
CD: Did he come back?
CD: That’s good.
MC: I can remember one thing. They had what they called V-mail, where there were small letters. You always sent them to an ETO, Eastern Theater Operation, and I remember one time writing my uncle a letter and he wrote me back and I thought that was really neat. The significance really didn’t get to me until many, many years later. He had three children of his own to write to, but he did answer my letter. And I can remember writing my brother V-mails. I can remember we used to bake cookies and send them to my brother.
CD: And when he came home did he say he got them?
MC: Oh, yeah. He shared them with all the guys.
CD: They weren’t like briquettes when he got them.
MC: No. No.
CD: Good. What kind?
MC: Chocolate chip.
CD: And they lasted that long? Your mom probably knew how to wrap them up real well.
MC: I have no idea what we did that they liked.
CD: Was your uncle from Tulare County? And what was his name?
MC: Yes, William Loewe.
CD: And he went where in the service?
CD: Was he from Tulare County?
CD: And what was his name?
MC: J. Floyd Dreith.
CD: And he was a chaplain? Where?
MC: He was on carriers. Aircraft carriers. He ended up as Chief of Chaplains on the Eastern Seaboard. The Eastern Coast when he retired. So he saw a number of years of service.
CD: So it sounds like the Lutheran church played a big part in your life. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the Lutheran Church?
MC: The one that we are talking about then is still a church and it’s on Court Street.
CD: Court and what?
MC: Let me think. It would be about three blocks south of Myrtle, at the corner of Court and Sequoia Avenue.
CD: And it’s still there?
MC: Yes, it’s still a church, but not a Lutheran church. But that was the little church we all went to.
CD: And did they do anything about volunteering toward the war? Did they participate?
MC: Oh, I’m sure they did, but I don’t remember specifics about that.
CD: Did you ever have socials with other churches? How many other churches were there in Visalia?
MC: Oh, we didn’t have socials with other denominations.
CD: Oh, just with other Lutheran churches.
MC: Yes, with Terra Bella Lutheran, Visalia Lutherans, Fresno Lutherans, Bakersfield Lutherans, different things like that.
CD: Is it as big still, the Lutheran church here?
MC: No, I don’t think so. Grace Lutheran is what it is, and Grace Lutheran is now located on Tulare and Conyer.
CD: And that’s a big church. Isn’t that one of the big ones?
MC: It’s larger than it was then.
CD: Well, there’s a lot more competition now. There are more churches now in Visalia than there were in the 40’s.
MC: There’s two Lutheran churches. There’s Christ Lutheran out on Tulare and that one, and then the Baptist Church is right next to the Lutheran church.
CD: What else did you guys do for the war effort? Your mom knitted sweaters. Did you do anything like victory gardens or buy bonds or that type of stuff?
MC: We bought bonds at school. We used to take money to school. Twenty-five cents I think it was to get a stamp to put in a book, and when the book was all completed, it was a $25 bond. I had a number of those.
CD: That took a number of stamps. How many bonds did you buy with your quarters?
MC: Well, I had quite a few. I have no idea the number. We saved those to maturity and finally cashed them in.
CD: What was maturity? Twenty years?
MC: No, I think it was 10 years.
CD: So they did that at school? What else did they promote at school?
MC: I don’t know that there was anything else, like any drives. I can’t remember anything.
CD: Did they ever pick you up to go and harvest crops?
CD: Some schools did. Some schools kids went out and picked cotton. And your parents bought the bonds too?
CD: Did you feel pressure to or did you really want to?
MC: No, I think we wanted to. It was also a way of saving money.
CD: True. Right. What kind of return would you get on those?
MC I have no idea.
CD: If you bought a $25 bond, was that a good investment?
MC: Well, it probably wasn’t as good a return as you could have gotten on something else, but at the time it seemed like a good thing. And it was supporting the effort.
CD: And you lived on a little piece of ranch. Did you have a victory garden?
CD: Oh, you did. And what did you grow on it?
MC: My dad had corn that I remember. And we had strawberries and we had all kinds of fruit trees, plums, peaches and there was an almond tree, walnut tree and every once in a while they would raise a calf and butcher it or have a pig and butcher it.
CD: There was one thing a woman said after a tape was done. Do you remember Bing Crosby coming and playing golf at the golf course?
MC: No. My brother might.
CD: She mentioned it while I was walking out the door and I thought I needed to get that on tape. I’m not sure, but I think it was the war years but I just wanted to check. So how do you feel during the war years the family business went, the family gas station? Did you think it was better or did your barely make ends meet?
MC: No, he did well with it.
CD: Even with rationing stamps? It didn’t crimp business?
MC: No, I don’t think so. He did well enough in it.
CD: And then when the war was over?
MC: Of course, everything did better then because there wasn’t any more rationing. He did fine.
CD: I’m going to start talking about the end of the war. Was there anything you wanted to add about during those four years? Any particular event, or newsreel, or family life?
MC: That’s one thing too that I thought about too. A lot of what we saw about the war, aside from what was published in the newspaper, was on the newsreels. Certainly we didn’t have television. So that was one way of getting information.
CD: Some people said they were kind of scared after watching some of those.
MC: They were.
MC: You know, when you are living in this rural area and you don’t see bombs and you don’t see all this stuff, you know, it is scary.
CD: That’s true. Maybe it’s the first time you ever saw a bomb explode. It’s not commonplace around here. Do you remember some people setting up posts to listen to planes going by. Do you remember that?
CD: Air raid shelters.
MC: No, we didn’t have one.
CD: Oh, I know what I wanted to ask. Did your parents ever talk about the German prison of war camps out in Tulare?
CD: So that never came up. You never saw them working in the fields some times?
CD: So where were you when the
MC: What year was that?
CD: It was 1945 I believe.
MC: I’d have been a seventh grader then, I believe. That I don’t remember.
CD: Do you remember the event? What do your remember about it?
MC: Pictures of the mushroom cloud.
CD: Where would you see that? The movies?
MC: No, no. The newspaper.
CD: What did you think?
MC: Well, we probably saw a newsreel too, you know, in the theater. At that point in time it was hard to believe all that, do you know what I mean?
CD: Did it seem surreal?
CD: Hard to ingest, I guess.
MC: You hear about all the devastation, you know, how bad it really was.
CD: And at the time, did people know?
MC: Yes, I think they did.
CD: They did. Where was your brother when the A Bomb was dropped?
MC: That was ’45. He was in high school.
CD: So he hadn’t been sent to
MC: Yes, I think everyone was really happy. That’s all I can remember about that. I don’t remember where I was or anything.
CD: A feeling of relief?
CD: Did you comprehend that your brother wouldn’t have to go over and fight because the war was over?
CD: At the age did you understand he might have to go over and might die fighting?
CD: What a different time. Things don’t look like that now.
MC: And my uncle would come home.
CD: Right. Did you save that letter?
MC: No, I wish I had.
CD: Oh, you were just a kid. Hindsight. So how was the homecoming when everybody came home? Did you already talk about when your uncle came home? You talked about when your uncle left, but when your uncle came home, do you remember him coming home?
MC: Yes I do.
CD: And was there a party?
MC: I don’t think the homecoming was what was expected because his wife found somebody else while he was gone. So it wasn’t as joyous a thing as he expected.
CD: And he didn’t find out until he got here?
MC: That’s right.
CD: Wow, that’s traumatic. Did he go on with his life and find someone else?
MC: No, he never remarried.
CD: Gosh that’s traumatic. As far as all the soldiers coming home, how do you think Tulare County felt that it had all its men home? Did you see a visible difference? Was there a shortage of housing, were there enough jobs?
MC: I probably wasn’t really aware of that. I know that a lot of men when they came home went back to school. If they couldn’t find a job, because a lot of the women had taken over some of the jobs while they were gone. But I wasn’t that aware of what was going on.
CD: Your mom, did she work just on the ranch or did she have a job outside?
MC: No, she went to work in a doctor’s office. That was probably when I was about 6th grade, so she worked outside of the home.
CD: Did she give up her job to a soldier when they came back?
MC: Not in a doctor’s office.
CD: So she stayed? There was something I meant to ask you before. When your family picked up the soldiers that needed a ride, where were they coming from?
MC: If they were stationed anywhere around here they could have come from there. But some of them, I think, probably had some time off and as long as they were out in California they wanted to see Sequoia National Park. So they would hitch a ride up to the park and then hitch a ride back, because I remember one in particular. We brought him home, we had dinner and then my dad took him to either the main highway to catch a ride there or to the bus stop. Some of them were from out of state. It was really interesting to figure out where they were from.
CD: Did they talk much with you, tell you stories and stuff?
MC: Yes, I don’t remember any of them, but they were very friendly. We never turned one down. It’s funny, you seem like you might not have room in a car nowadays, but you always had room to pick up somebody.
CD: What would you do, just sit on your brother’s lap or something?
MC: Could have.
CD: Now you can’t do that. You have to have a seat belt for every passenger.
MC: That’s right.
CD: So, do you have anything to add about the end of the war, the soldiers coming home, and the changes.
MC: No, I don’t think so.
CD: I know you were young, but how do you think World War II affected Tulare County once everything was done?
MC: Well, I think that things changed somewhat when soldiers came home, just as any area progresses. I think when they came home they wanted to get on with their lives, and so just with the natural growth of the area is what I can think of.
CD: Did you feel Visalia was getting bigger?
CD: Did you see more businesses pop up?
CD: Did it seem more frightening?
MC: Yes. I think so.
CD: Visalia was lucky that way because some towns didn’t do as well. Like in Tulare, the population didn’t boom like Visalia. Is there anything that we didn’t cover? Any memories about the war?
MC: No, I think we covered everything that I can remember.
CD: One last question, how do you think World War II affected your family?
MC: You know, you go along in your daily life and you don’t really think sometimes about what’s going on and when something like that happens, you know, you really stop and are thankful for what you have, for what God’s given you. You’re thankful for your family and for your country.
CD: How do you think that differs now with the
MC: The news reports have said that attacking
away from our shores can help another country. I think part of that has been accomplished. I think conditions have improved for the
CD: So he’s saying the news is slanted and more negative than what is going on there?
MC: Yes, and that there are a lot of positive things that aren’t being heard about.
CD: What a difference from, you know, the Bush . . . there are people against President George W. Bush and people for Bush. During World War II, what was the feeling toward the President? Was that FDR?
MC: Well I can speak for my family. My family wasn’t particularly fond of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but they supported the war effort.
CD: Why weren’t they particularly fond of him?
MC: They were Republicans, and he was a Democrat.
CD: So there was an election during that time. Who did they vote for? Do you remember?
MC: I’d have no idea.
CD: I remember because my dad talks about it. It was Wilkie. Does that name ring a bell?
MC: They probably voted for Wilkie then.
CD: I wish you were older and could remember that because there aren’t very many, so few families, that weren’t for FDR and didn’t vote for him.
MC: There weren’t many families that opposed FDR.
CD: Interesting. But as far as the attitude, there wasn’t the President bashing like there is now. Would you say that’s true?
MC: No, no.
CD: That’s good. Did you have anything else you wanted to add?
CD: Thank you very much for your participation.
Catherine Doe/Transcr: Jan Chubbuck, 5/6/04/ Editor: JW 10/20/04
Editor’s note: Italic words were added during a phone interview with Marjorie Coghill on October 21. The whirring sound on the tape in the background is the refrigerator. This interview was conducted in Marjorie’s kitchen.)