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: Roy Lee Davis, Jr.

Date: 10/27/2003

Interviewer: Ginger Curtis

Place: Tulare County, CA

Place of Interview: Woodlake, CA







GC: Today is October 27 2003 and my name is Ginger Curtis and I am interviewing Roy Lee Davis for Years of Valor, Years of Hope: 1941-1946. We are sitting here at Roy’s house in Woodlake, California. Roy will be sharing with us how the World War II years affected him and how those years of 1941-1946 affected Tulare County. Good morning, Roy.

RD: My name is Roy L. Davis, Jr. My middle name is Lee. Everybody called me Roy Lee because my dad’s name was Roy and mom didn’t want to be calling me a junior, so I just got tagged with the old southern double name Roy Lee and that’s what I’ve lived with for all my life.

GC: Can you give us your date of birth?

RD: November 24, 1931.

GC: November 24, you’re coming up on your birthday. Great, and so your father, you mentioned he was named also Roy Lee. How about your mother, what was her name and her maiden name?

RD: She was a Musson, that was her maiden name. Marie, Vera Marie Musson. She was raised in Iowa, and came to Woodlake, California, in 1913.

GC: So, she came from Iowa to Tulare County and married your father, who was already living here.

RD: Yes, he was here also; he was homesteading here. His grandfather, Thomas Henry Davis, came here many years ago, in 1852, and mom’s folks, William W. Musson and Anna Sadie (Hanson), came to Woodlake to work in the old grocery store that my grand-folks had in 1913. So they had been here for awhile.

GC: Basically you could say your mother came in 1913 so she was a young girl, right?  She came with her parents as a young girl to this county?

RD: Yeah, mom’s age was always really easy to detect, because she was born in 1900, so she was as old as the year was (chuckle). 13, that’s how old mom was when they got to Woodlake, so everything was dated by how old she was.

GC: So, your father owned a ranch? Did your parents meet in elementary or intermediate school in Woodlake? Do you remember how your parents met?

RD: Well, mom was 27 and dad, I think, was in his 30’s when they married, so it was kind of late in those days to marry that late in life. But dad had a pack station in Mineral King and I really don’t know how else they met or any other particular aspect of it. I know it was 1927, because they went to Europe on their honeymoon to an American Legion Convention in Paris. So I always knew that was a big thing in their lives, that they went to Paris to that convention, because dad was a World War I veteran.

GC: So they got married in 1927 and they went on this great honeymoon to Paris, France . And then are you the first-born of the family, being born in 1931?

RD: I’m the only one. Dad was from a big family and mom was from a big family, and mom raised all her brothers and sisters. And they didn’t need anymore. (Chuckle) Dad was the second oldest. And I was born during the Depression and it's hard to feed us I guess, so they didn’t need any more.

GC: So, as a young boy, growing up as an only son of the two Woodlake parents, can you explain again what your father did?

RD: Dad was a farmer, a rancher, and his brothers, Phil Davis and Lawrence Davis,, had pack stations in Mineral King for years and years, and then dad decided he wanted his own pack station, so he started up his own in the early 20’s. He ran the pack station in the summer time and ranched in the winter time.  So I grew up with the pack station up until the early 50’s when dad sold out the pack station. So I grew up in the mountains in the Mineral King area all my life so just part of my life was mountains.

GC: Wow, wow, how great. So think about like 1941, you’re about 10 years old, you’re spending your summers up in Mineral King and living on a ranch during the school year in Woodlake, is that correct?

RD: That’s right.

GC: What schools, how did you get to school?

RD: There was a bus. I started kindergarten, went through kindergarten, first grade, grammar school and high school, all right here in Woodlake. So Woodlake’s been my home. I’m really a fourth generation resident of Woodlake. Dad said he remembers, right there at the four way stop sign as you’re coming into Woodlake, when he was just a young man, opening a wire gate to go up to the ranch. I don’t know if it was dad or my granddad, Jefferson Jackson Davis, but that’s the story I’ve always heard.

GC: Your family owned a ranch that started in the center of Woodlake?

RD: No, it was right north up in Antelope Valley is where the ranch homestead was.

GC: So, do you have other memories of living in this County prior to the war? So like in 1941, we were thinking about it, you were 10 years old, do you remember, you know, what it was like. Do you remember hearing about an impending war? What was it like living in this County in those years when you were in elementary school?

RD: Well, the only thing that really comes to mind was that dad had olives and he had Mission trees, and Mission was the oil olives. And prior to the war when Europe and Italy was shut down and they didn’t get the olive oil, the olive oil in this county was just a fantastic price, so dad did real good with the oil olives off of the Mission trees. I can still remember going out and knocking olives because you didn’t have to be real particular about how you picked oil olives, other than just shaking them off the tree and then shake the leaves out and boxed them up. So it was a fantastic price for that time of life.

GC: Was the oil processed in Tulare County or was it sent somewhere? Do you have any recollection where those olives went?

RD: Okay, right there on Lakeview and Main Street was a processing plant and they had a big press in there in that building there, and they pressed the oil out of the olives there. They had big sheets about an inch thick and that was what the pulp and the seeds came out. I remember those laying around out there in back of the plant. It was just a small plant but that’s what they did there at that little plant, right there in Woodlake. That was during the war and just prior to the war.

GC: And so your father had quite a few acres of these Mission olives?

RD: No, just about, oh gosh, maybe 15 or 20 acres of Missions and then the rest were Manzinallo olives and oranges. There was a full 40 acres of oranges and olives that he had up north of Woodlake, plus the range land.

GC: So the olive oil price went up during the war time and you have recollections of that.  Do you remember classmates of yours who had older brothers or sisters that went away because of the war? Do you remember hearing any stories like that?

RD: Not really. I was in the third grade and I still remember the day because it was Sunday afternoon, of course, because it was when Pearl Harbor was bombed.  The next morning us boys were wondering how we could go over there and just whip them. I won’t say what we said.  (laughter) We just played war games like any 10 year old kid would do. We just played cops and robbers and shot up all kinds of Japanese imperialists (chuckle) and people. 

GC: But you don’t remember any of your classmates having older siblings that would have gone off to war or really young dads that left or young sisters that helped out with the war efforts?

RD: Well, my cousin, Earl Jack Davis, was a pilot and he trained pilots at Sequoia Field and that’s what his job was, training pilots, so he didn’t have to go overseas. I don’t remember too many of my friends going. I remember them coming home but I don’t remember too many of them leaving. At that time, you know, you didn’t pay much attention when you’re younger. (Chuckle)

GC: What about, do you remember, you know, like you remembered December 7th and going off to school that following Monday. What about at home, can you recount, it was a Sunday and what time of day was it in Woodlake, and where were your father and your mother when that news came to your house?

RD: It was, of course, 7 o’clock a.m., just daylight in Hawaii, so it was late afternoon when we got word of it. I can remember that dad was irate. I mean because he was in World War I and he knew what war was. He’d been through the Argon Forest and went through quite a few battles in World War I so he knew what it was going to be. I kind of always thought of myself as growing up with World War I because I’d heard all the stories that went on in World War I, so I knew quite a bit about what was entailed in war.

GC: So your father, your mother was 41 and your father was a little bit older.

RD: No, she was 31, oh no, 41.

GC: Forty one when the war started, and your dad was a little bit older than your mom, so he was about 50. There was no chance your father was going.

RD: He was nine years older than mom. He had already done his share.

GC: But he knew what war meant to people.

RD: Right, right. And none of my uncles went because they were all too old at that time. So, I think my mother’s youngest brother, Wilford Musson, was in his 40’s, late 40’s, so he didn’t have to go.

GC: So do you think your life changed much for your immediate family? You talked about, you know, the price of olive oil generated a little more of an income for your family, but were there other things that changed as a result of war to this country or to the world?

RD: Well, I don’t think it would change too much for a rancher or farmer, because of all of the rationing of everything. We had to raise our own beef and our own chickens and we always had gardens and eggs, you know, things like people in the cities didn’t have what was available to the people who lived out in the country, who just took it for granted. Our gasoline was to run the farm and the equipment so you had plenty of it. There wasn’t really a shortage for a rancher. I remember dad planting lots of extra wheat and barley on range land that had never been planted before, because they wanted more wheat and barley for the grain products. And so he did a couple of pieces of property in wheat and barley just for the war times.

GC: And by the end of the war, a 10 year old boy, an only son of a rancher, you, at a very young age, were helping your father. It wasn’t like you sat at home and watched TV. (laughter) What TV?

RD: Well, I think it was radio. (laughter)  I didn’t see a TV until early 50’s. (Chuckle) But I did read………Ernie Pyle was my hero; I read everything that he ever put down on paper. I just couldn’t wait until the paper came out, so I could read his commentary. He always had a piece.  He was in Europe for quite awhile and then he was killed on the Philippine Islands somewhere, I think, but I just read everything of his. I had a book of his for a long time, but I’ve lost it since, but he was my hero for a long time, growing up.

GC: And do you remember, like talking with your father. Would you discuss what you read. How much time did your father have? Being a big rancher, he had a lot of work to do, right?

RD: Well, I really don’t remember talking too much about it, except war was hell. That was about what we said, since he had been through so much of it, he didn’t elaborate on it a lot. The only time that they ever . . . on Armistice Day, his outfit would always get together and it was a group of . . . let’s see, I gotta think about it for a second.  It was the 91st Division, 364th Infantry Regiment, Company C. And the nucleus of that Company C was drafted from Tulare County in 1917. And they went to Fort Lewis, Washington for training there, then they went to Europe as a group and came home as a group. So every year since after the war, they got together and they called it The Last Man’s Club. It was quite a production every year that they would get together, and that was when they’d get their diaries out and I grew up listening to their stories about older men had gone through Argon Forest in France . So it was really enlightening to just grow up with that background of knowing what war was about.

GC: Wow, that’s great. And when they got together, was it just the men that would get together and then some of the sons, or?

RD: (chuckle) Well, what was kind of funny about it was when I was just, oh in the late 30’s and early 40’s, just the men would get together and we probably wouldn’t see dad for a day or so, ‘cause they would go in . . . and they would party.  Then the older they got, they decided, "Well, we’ll invite the women." And for years and years the women came and they had their reunion at the Hotel Johnson in Visalia. Most of them were from all around the area. So finally then it got to be, instead of the women, the whole family. They’d have their party Saturday night and then we’d have a big barbeque Sunday afternoon and there would be a couple hundred people show up. The families just looked forward to that big event of the Last Man’s Club. It got to be quite a (chuckle) production that dad put on. Oh, we’d barbeque meat and every kind of thing that you could imagine, so it was pretty good. And then we’d go up to Ray Buckman’s, up at Three Rivers, that was for many years, that’s where the barbeque was, up at his home in Three Rivers.

GC: So, did your mother ever talk about the war? You know, her feelings about the war or anything?

RD: No, mom didn’t say too much about it. I don’t remember her feelings. Of course, she disliked it immensely but I don’t remember her saying. She wasn’t as outgoing as dad was on the subject, ‘cause he knew what it was and it wasn’t pretty.

GC: So, you, you know, talked about being on the farm and you had the capability of getting your own food so the rationings really didn’t affect your family. How about, like farm equipment or anything like that, did your father sort of change his practices or did he solicit you to work harder or do you think any changes took place because of the war effort in relation to the farm equipment?

RD: Well, we kind of lucked out because in the spring of ’41, when the olive prices were real good, dad bought a truck, a pickup and a car, and we went back to Detroit by train and picked them up. And then we put the pickup on top of the truck and then mom drove the car and dad drove the truck and so we toured the United States coming home from Detroit. But that was prior to the war, so everything dad had was new, a new truck and a new pickup and a new car. So when December 7th hit, you know, and he had already just bought a new tractor, an old Cat 22, which was the state of the art then in ’39 or ’40, so he had some pretty good equipment to start with but had to last through the war years. (Chuckle) So he lucked out on that aspect of it for equipment wise. And, we used the mules. I remember a lot of times, for swamping oranges out of orange groves, dad had a team of mules that would pull, swamp the oranges because they didn’t have too many four wheel drive vehicles and mules were real great for swamping oranges out of groves.

GC: Say, I don’t want to show my ignorance here, but can you explain what swamp the oranges is ?

RD: (laughter)  Well, when you swamp, you pick up the boxes out of the field. That’s just what is called swamping.  Now, everything is on a forklift. But then, you know, you picked in boxes. You had a stack of boxes by the trees and you’d go along and stack them on the trailer and then go out to the end of the row and swamp your oranges. That’s called swamping, onto the trailer and then you’d swamp them onto a truck to take them to town. (Chuckle) Of course, I don’t think anybody knows what swamping is, because everything is by forklift now. I don’t think they even pick up a box now to move it. They wouldn’t know how to pick up a box. (laughter)

GC: (laughter) Oh, no, no, let’s not complain about these young people. These lazy young people we have these days. So, how about clothing, you know, here you are this young kid, growing up in rural, very rural California. What was the population of Woodlake? Do you have any sense of how this town has grown in the last 60 years?

RD: Oh, gosh, well as far as clothing, mom was a sewer. She sewed everything; she made all my shirts and dad’s shirts, and she knitted. In fact, that was one thing she did during the war. I remember her sitting around and knitting for the Red Cross. She’d have big spools of yarn and she’d just knit sweaters and gloves and (chuckle) I can still remember the big piles of yarn sitting around. People would bring yarn to her and she’d knit it up into something. (Laughter) And, also, during that time when she was knitting, she was right down next to the dentist office there in Woodlake. There was a tower where they had an air-watch.  And Mom would volunteer to go up there and she sat for two or three or four hours. I remember going up there and we spotted airplanes. Any airplane that was flying over, you wrote it down and reported it. So, I remember her knitting and being up in that tower right there. Of course, now it’s a big garage, but it was just a vacant yard then. 

GC: That’s great. So, you were right there in town going to school, so if your mom happened to be doing that.

RD: Yeah, she was right there, spent quite a bit of time in that tower, spotting, because the training field, you know, was Sequoia Field. I remember just little bi-planes and these little blue planes, just all the time flying over here. And their trainers, I’ve forgotten what they called them, but it was always fascinating to watch all the trainers flying over.

GC: At Sequoia Field, I’ve heard of that, but was that in Tulare or Visalia?

RD: It was just north, kind of northwest of Visalia about five or six miles. Where the detention home for the juveniles was. That’s Sequoia Field.

GC: So, can you remember something about school. Thinking about school, so when the war was over, you were 15 and how big was your class then?

RD: Well, in high school, I was in the biggest class in high school, I think there was 50 of us. (Chuckle)  I think the enrollment of high school was around, close to 200 then, in ’45 or ’46 when I graduated.

GC: You graduated in 1946. You were 15 years old?

RD: Oh, no, that was grammar school, excuse me. I started in ’45 or ’46 from grammar school to high school. There was that many in grammar school, and it stayed about the same all through high school. Frances White was the Superintendent for the grammar school and that’s about all I can remember.

GC: And then intermediate school. Did you do an intermediate? Well, in 1946, you’re now 15 years old, you would have been in high school?

RD: Well, mom put me back one year, because my birthday was in November and instead of starting me when I was six, she started me when I was seven, so that way I was a year behind a lot of the class. I don’t know, that’s just the way she did it. (Laughter) So, I lived with that. (chuckle)

GC: Well, you were the smartest kid in class then. (Laughter)

RD: I don’t think so. (Chuckle) That’s not what my mom said. ( Chuckle)

GC: So, it sounds like while your father could verbalize the horror or the difficulties or the sadness of war, your parents were definitely patriotic and supported the war?

RD: Oh, definitely, that was a must. (Chuckle)

GC: And the farmers, in those times, like your father growing the oranges and stuff like that . . . was there any subsidy or were oranges sent abroad or ever given to the soldiers or anything like that? Or would he just sell it on the open market and so on?

RD: Well, you know, it all went to the war effort, the olive oil, and a lot of the fruit. Some hit the local markets, but everything that was essential, fruit and vegetables went to the service and what was left over, went… (Chuckle)

GC: And the meat, the beef went to the war effort too?

RD: Oh, yeah, that’s why there was meat rationing during the war, was you had to have, I’ve forgotten what they called that. Anyway, you had to have food stamps and gas stamps and, of course, dad was quite a hunter so we always had a lot of venison in the locker. Meat wasn’t a problem at our house at all.  (Chuckle)

GC: What about, you know, you mentioned that you spent your summers in Mineral King, working the pack station. The pack stations were for people that would want to go up into the mountains or did you have cattle up in Mineral King?

RD: No, it was all just for back country people. Just to take tourist in the back country. That didn’t stop during the war, people still went on pack trips, you know. Most of dad’s parties came out of San Francisco and they’d go on two or three week pack trips in the back country and that was what we used our stock for from about 1st of July until the middle or end of deer season, we’d be up at Mineral King except for when school started, then I’d have to come home to go to school but, basically, I didn’t know what a summer was until dad sold the pack station. It was always nice and cool up there.

GC: So, would your mom join you up in Mineral King?

RD: Yeah, we had a cabin at Silver City. And that’s where we stayed all the time. Mom would move up there and she’d cook for all the crews and the packers.

GC: And during that time, would you make a trip down from Mineral King in the course of the summer, or you just stayed up there?

RD: Just stayed up there.

GC: And someone brought you food, flour and sugar or your mother always took that up?

RD: Well, dad was always hauling hay and stuff and so he would go up and down the road, once or so, enough times to bring our supplies we needed up there. Course there was a little store at Silver City and there you could buy some of your staples, like milk, and of course, there was no refrigeration up there in those days. There still isn’t, there’s just no electricity. (Chuckle) Just propane refrigerators and so . . . but it was great growing up, up there.

GC: So, you mentioned the business went all right. There was still enough rich people that they could somehow get to Tulare County and do hunting during the war years, for back country experiences?

RD: Oh yeah, yeah. It didn’t slow down hardly at all, because there was still people that still went on vacations and still could travel, so instead of traveling overseas they went traveling (chuckle) in the back country in Tulare County. (Chuckle)

GC: (Chuckle) With Roy Davis . . . and Roy Lee Davis Jr.

RD: Well, I didn’t start packing until I was 13 when I took my first pack trip out by myself.

GC: Uh, oh, well, that sounds pretty young to me. Your mother was a brave lady to let her son go and be responsible, not only for the animals but for the people.

RD: Oh well, you know, when you grow up with something, it just comes second nature to you. My first pack trip I went on when I was seven so I grew up sitting on a horse, so I didn’t know anything else. (Chuckle).

GC: You knew how to tell people how to do it. Those fancy ladies with those long dresses and all.

RD: Well, I don’t think they wore dresses then. But even then, they didn’t ride side saddle, because that’s why they had side saddles, so ladies could wear dresses (Chuckle).

GC: So, can you remember, you know, from 13 to 15, a couple of summers, you were in charge, can you remember some things or people you took to the back country or you helped your father take to the back country during those war years?

RD: Well, there was a fella that was a doctor, out of San Francisco, and he was getting ready to go on a pack trip and he got this phone call and he says, "Don’t accept it for me", (we had a phone at this pack station) because he was wanted back east somewhere for some real delicate operation, that only he was one of the few that perform, but he referred him to somebody else. Dad took out PC Hale Brothers for quite a few years, and there was a fella by the name of Nasigger, and Lillian Fall, I can just remember some of the names. And the Pope and Talbot steamship out of San Francisco, we took them on a pack trip. I remember taking them, so it was quite an experience. (chuckle)

GC: What kind of things did you do on pack trips?

RD: Oh, it was a lot of fishing in different places in the back country and on horse back and just learning how to pack and shoe. Shoeing is one of the hardest jobs that was ever invented, because you’re working upside down and backwards on most things. (chuckle)

But, when your dad teaches you something: you usually don’t want to learn from your dad; you can usually learn a lot easier from somebody else than your own dad.

GC: But obviously, your dad had a lot of experience to share with you and you also appreciated the life your father had created for his family.

RD: Oh yeah, fishing and hunting was his number one priority in life (chuckle), so anyway, I grew up loving to do both too. Of course, I got spoiled on fishing, because I was used to real good fishing. You go out and in half an hour you catch all the fish you wanted and I loved to eat fish, so now if I can’t go out and catch all the fish in half an hour, I don’t even go. (Laughter) But I always had good equipment and the people that went on pack trips always had the best. So every once in awhile, for a tip, they’d give you a fishing pole or some of their gear. So I had some real fine equipment for a long time when I was growing up at the pack station.

GC: And did your mom, did she go out on those pack trips with your father and you?

RD: No, she didn’t much care for back country riding. It wasn’t her cup of tea, to ride. She’d rather stay home and cook. (chuckle) And she was good at that. She was a terrific cook, but she did go on several pack trips. My very first pack trip, she went on, when I was just seven. We went over to the Kern River and that was in ’37, I think. We went back on that trip and mom went. And then we went on another big pack trip, just for our own enjoyment and we were gone about 20 days or so, just wandering around in the back country.

GC: Wow, you’ve seen some beautiful, beautiful territory.

RD: Yeah, from Quaking Aspen to north of Yosemite, I’ve been on most of those trails. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot. (chuckle)

GC: So, you were saying earlier that your father didn’t see that part of his life, that business that he had in the summertime of taking people into the back country, really change much because of the war and all the rationing.  I guess the reality is that there are always rich people; your father had quite a group of people who knew that they could have an enjoyable and spectacular trip up in the mountains. So your father continued to have that life.

RD: Well, I remember dad going to a meeting one time, because dad bought a lot of the groceries for the trips that he took out and it would be like a restaurant being able to go and get extra food stamps to go buy your sugar and your butter, so dad did get extra stamps to be able to carry on his business, over the people that didn’t have a business. But it was a business so you did get extra rations to buy your staples which ordinarily were not available.

GC: So your father would get extra food stamps to buy what sounds to me like a few luxury items for these people. Or maybe a little extra sugar, where the common folks that are working in the city maybe wouldn’t get that?

RD: Well, it would be like a restaurant or any business, they could have enough to carry on their business, rather than restrict them to one amount. There was one story dad always told, during the war, that come March and April, or early March, they needed more gas and gas stamps, and the regulatory was back in Michigan and we said we need our gas stamps now. They’d say, "You don’t need the gas stamps now, the ground’s still frozen."  Well, he’d say, "Back in Michigan it was still frozen but here in California we’re ready to go to farming and that’s bureaucracy at its finest." (Chuckle).

GC: (Chuckle) So, you recall December 7, 1941, but how about, I believe it was in September of ’46, when they bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, do you remember that day in your family?

RD: All I can remember about it is (chuckle) that it needed to be done. I knew enough about war at that time. That’s war, I mean, you can’t explain it any other way. Everybody says, oh, we shouldn’t have killed them, but why did they bomb Pearl Harbor? We got 2,000 people still down in the Arizona, that are still entombed there. We didn’t start that war, they did, but we finished it and they quit, real quick after the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened. We saved a lot of our lives by doing that, because we would have had invade Japan itself. It was bad enough to go to Iwo Jima and Okinawa and all those islands where we took heavy casualties.  So that just stopped it (chuckle) in its tracks.

GC: So, do you remember the day the Emperor of Japan surrendered? Do you remember that?

RD: Yeah, because dad had a pack trip that came in off of the mountain that day and big day, they had a big party that night. I mean, they partied all night long. Up at the dance, I can remember them just having a great time because they were celebrating the end of the war (chuckle). Of course, Europe had already surrendered, but then I think it was the 2nd of September, it seems something like that. But they had a great party that night (chuckle). So that’s what I remember about the end of the war.

GC: So, what were you doing up in Mineral King in September? I thought you started school by then.

RD: Oh, then, school didn’t start until after deer season. Or even after picking season, like the grapes, and a lot of times school didn’t start until middle September sometime, so the kids could work in the fields.

CG: So, your father, I’m just trying to understand that a little bit more. Your whole family is basically up in Mineral King, so did you have a foreman or someone to handle the oranges and the olives down here?

RD: Yeah, dad had a fella that stayed down on the ranch in the summer time and then, of course, he worked year round, so he took care of the ranch in the summer time while dad was up in the mountains with the pack station.  Even during the Depression, that was a source of money, where the ranch wasn’t. It was an income during the Depression and the oranges and the olives, we almost suffered because you couldn’t even pay to irrigate them (chuckle).

GC: But he didn’t lose his land?

RD: No, he kept it. That’s what the pack station did; it kept everything intact because that was a source of income.

GC: And love, I mean your father obviously loved the pack station.

RD: Evidently. (chuckle)

GC: What do you think it was that your father loved about being a packer? Is that what you call it, a packer?

RD: Yeah, he was a commercial packer. I think a lot of it, he loved people, he loved to meet people and he had a real good gift of gab. (Chuckle) He was a storyteller; he’d tell all kinds of Ben Harris stories, ‘course he knew Ben Harris. Ben Harris was an old time storyteller from the Lemon Cove, Exeter, and Farmersville area. You ought to go into hearing some of Ben Harris’ stories, they were pretty wild. The mules were packed, and people rode horses.

GC: Harris, spelled H A R R I S?

RD: Yes, I just got the S from the wife, she’s a speller. (chuckle)

GC: What was Woodlake like? Woodlake was a farming community and, you know, while your father was young enough to fight in World War I, but in this community did you see like an influx of people that came here because the sons and the young fathers needed to leave Tulare County? Was there any change in ethnic grouping of people in Woodlake during those war years?

RD: Well the only thing, as far as the people, the people from Oklahoma were here. They’d come up during the dust bowl days in Oklahoma and there was quite a few. I went to school with them, quite a lot of the kids were from Oklahoma and Arkansas.

GC: But was that in the war years or that was in the Depression years?

RD: You know, I can remember a lot of the kids I went to school with were still coming to California from Oklahoma. Of course we didn’t call them Okies.  (chuckle)

GC: What about Japanese/Americans, were there any Japanese/Americans in Woodlake?

RD: Ah, there was a group over here on the back side of Venice Hill where Dr. Ropes place is now that was all owned by Japanese and of course they had to sell out. And they were all over in Owens Valley. I think that’s where they went. Then after the war there were some Japanese boys in high school with us. Of course, that was after the war that they came back.

(Ed: All Japanese/Americans from Tulare County who shared their memories with us were taken to Poston, Arizona in 1942.)

GC: Did you have any friends that were Japanese/Americans?

RD: Yeah, in high school I did, there was George Obata, he was a real good friend of mine. We had played football together. He was in my class, but I don’t remember the others. There was two more boys, but I can’t remember their names. I always remember George because he was just a neat guy.

GC: But did you know him during the war years? Do you remember when he left Woodlake?

RD: No, because they went to different grammar schools. It was over by Seville, where he lived and so he went to another grammar school. But when we went to high school, we started as freshmen together.

GC: So, can you think of anything else that you would like to share about those years, about the war, either in your family or in this community of Woodlake?  You know, the life that you experienced. Having gone through those years in Tulare County, did that change Tulare County, from your perspective, or the perspective of your family?

RD: I don’t think so, it kind of seemed pretty much business as usual. Growing up with it, the families were . . . oh, I don’t know how to explain that. Hum, I’d say it was the main shopping place in Visalia, that had big items, of course Woodlake Hardware had everything that you ever needed. So, as far as . . . it was just a small community and everybody knew everybody, that was when you could pick up the phone and it was a party line phone and no telling . . . oh, I remember when our phone number was 42W and you’d pick up the phone and that was the switchboard down there in Woodlake and they’d pick it up, "No they’re not home today. They’re over at so and so’s house, and I’ll plug you in over there." (chuckle) They knew what was going on. And even in the summer time when we were up in the mountains, the people on the switchboard were -- a lot of times it was high school kids, you know, and during the evenings would say, "No they’re not home, but I’ll tell you where they’re at," and they’d plug you over to wherever everybody was living. Everybody knew what everybody else was doing, it was just very old times. So that’s what really has changed. (chuckle)

GC: Yeah, that changed throughout the country or the world, you could probably say.

RD: Yeah (chuckle).

GC: Well Roy, this has been really delightful, I really appreciate you sharing all these memories and your experiences of these years, 1941 to 1946.

RD: Thank you.

G.Curtis/pd 11/19/2003/Ed. JW 7/9/04

Ed: Names and explanations in italics are additions to the interview based on an interview with Roy Davis on 9/22/05.