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: Ruby Depew
Tape # 26
Interviewer: Catherine Doe
Place: Tulare County, CA
Place of Interview: Ruby Depew’s home in Visalia
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Hospital in Lindsay
Agriculture around Lindsay
So you were saying you didn’t land in Tulare County until 1941?
RD: No, I didn’t get here until 1941 and I started working at the Lindsay District Hospital on December 1st. Pearl Harbor was a week later on December 7th.
CD: So when Pearl Harbor happened you were in a group of people you didn’t really know very well. They were all new people. So how was that?
RD: Well, it was wonderful for me. I went to work in surgery in the Lindsay District Hospital. They had been looking for somebody for about six months. That girl wanted to go home, and so when I came along, Mrs. Davis hired me. I talked to her on Friday night and she said she had already filled the position, but told me I could get a job anyplace in California. I was on my way to Montana to have Christmas with my family. Then I went to San Diego and my girlfriend called from Springville. She had a job for me up in the tuberculosis sanitarian up in Springville. And when I went up there, Dr. Wynn called me at 5:30 in the morning to come to work, and I told him I didn’t want to work in another tuberculosis hospital because I had just come from the one in Salem, Oregon. I wanted to work in a general hospital. So I didn’t go to work in Springville. My friend said they were looking for a surgical nurse in Lindsay, so why don’t you try over there. The wages were so much better than I had been offered any place else that I just couldn’t refuse.
CD: So the wages were better in Lindsay, than Salem and Springville? Do you know why that was?
RD: When I graduated in 1940, the hospital that I trained in offered me $60 a month and room and board. Well, we, my girlfriend and I, decided to go to Salem, Oregon and work in the tuberculosis hospital because they offered us $80 a month, plus room and board. Then when I came to California, Mrs. Davis offered me $125 a month, plus room and board, $5 extra for surgeries after hours. I couldn’t refuse.
CD: And Mrs. Davis worked at Lindsay?
RD: Mrs. Davis was running the Lindsay Hospital at that time for the city. So that was the big attraction then.
CD: So you got to Lindsay. How much did the job pay in Springville that you turned down?
CD: So it wasn’t really a promotion.
RD: That was the differences in wages for nurses at that time. Later on when I got married, and worked in New Mexico and Texas, their wages were much lower for nurses.
RD: Yes, we were paying nurses aides more than they were paying the nurses.
CD: Why do you think Lindsay paid so well? Because Lindsay was kind of a rural area. Was it well off during those years?
RD: It was a new hospital.
CD: How new was it?
RD: It had just been built in 1939, I think. Mrs. Davis came from Kansas and she was running it for a while for herself and the City took the hospital over and she was working for them. I think because there was such a shortage of nurses, there wasn’t a real attraction in Lindsay for young people, so they paid what they had to, to get nurses.
CD: So you were probably working with a group of nurses that were from outside the area. Is that correct?
RD: Most of the girls came from Tulare or Exeter . . .
CD: Of other states?
RD: Yes. There was a few that stayed in the nurses’ home with me there.
CD: So you got there and they provided your housing. Where did you live?
RD: At that time, most of the hospitals used to have nurses homes, especially the ones that had training schools. They always had nurse’s homes where the nurses would live. In Lindsay, the ones who were married they had their homes that they went to. That was a big item.
CD: What was?
RD: Having housing, especially in a town as small as Lindsay.
CD: Did they feed you too?
RD: Yes, room and board. They fed us like kings.
CD: A lot better than it was in Salem?
RD: Salem was a wonderful hospital too. It was a stay-on hospital and we used to laugh because it was between the nut house, the farm where they used to have prisoners working, and they had all the fruits and vegetables we could ever want to eat and they even furnished the nurses a home refrigerator for us to eat in between.
CD: So in Lindsay you were fed like kings even during the war?
RD: Oh, yeah. We had very good food and a very good cook that could bake anything and it tasted good. Of course you know, meat was rationed and many things were rationed.
CD: So the week before Pearl Harbor when you landed there, what were you doing? Were you listening to the radio? What were you doing when Pearl Harbor got bombed?
RD: We had just gotten through a surgical case and I was scrubbing the walls down with disinfectant and Mrs. Davis came in and said Pearl Harbor was bombed. Of course I didn’t know Pearl Harbor from a man in the moon. Finally it dawned on me where it was and through the course of the day that was all you heard on the radio was about Pearl Harbor.
CD: So when you realized it was
in Hawaii and they had bombed the
RD: My first thing that I felt was that I should enlist.
CD: Oh really.
RD: And yet I felt responsible for my being hired there and just starting work that I thought I would just wait a little while. Well then I waited a little while. Pretty soon I met a fella and fell in love and got married. That ended that.
CD: So did very many of the girls enlist?
RD: Not as many as I thought, although when I went back to my class reunion there was quite a few girls . . .
CD: Of your nurse’s class reunion?
RD: Of my classmates.
CD: So why wasn’t your husband or fiancé over fighting . . . didn’t he get drafted?
RD: My husband, Raymond Depew, was 4-F if you know what that meant in those days. He had a heart condition, so they said they would take women and children before they would take him. We got engaged in 1942, and we were going to get married in 1943. We got engaged in August and in October they called him in to serve.
RD: And he said, "I really don’t have to go." And I said, "If you don’t go, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life."
CD: Did you still believe that?
RD: I was just thinking of myself not going, so he went and ended up in India driving up over the Burma Road and all that, so he had his share. He was overseas 15 months. But in the meantime, we lived in New Mexico. He was in the Air Force and we lived in San Antonio. He was in the supply department.
CD: So you guys got married before he left? You were going to get married anyway, but did you rush it so you’d get the dependent check?
RD: No. Of course at that time, I was fascinated by all the oranges that were growing around. There were oranges everyplace and they were those great big beautiful oranges. You don’t even see those old oranges anymore.
CD: How big was Lindsay when you arrived?
RD: I think it was about 5500 people then. And it had orange packinghouses and the Lindsay Ripe Olive was there. It was an active little city.
CD: Do you regret not enlisting?
RD: Yes, many times I have thought I should have, and yet I was glad that we had our years together.
CD: You wouldn’t have met your fiancé.
RD: We had quite a few experiences. In San Antonio, Texas, we lived with five other couples in this big mansion and everybody wondered how we could get along, but it was wonderful.
CD: I heard that about the war years. Everybody did get along. Is that how you feel?
RD: We had this big house. It even had a library, but at that time we thought it was about $15,000 worth of books. It had military law books, operas, everything in that library. We couldn’t read them fast enough.
CD: Were you reading a lot?
RD: Yeah. That was a great experience. We’d have people for dinner and they would come just for curiosity, just to see if we could get along. We had 25 people over, because it had a big dining room. It was a big house.
CD: Let’s get back to your nursing career. Where did you graduate from?
RD: I graduated from the Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, Oregon, and that was in 1940 when I graduated.
CD: And you were a surgical nurse. Did you have to get more education for that?
RD: No, when I went to Salem I worked a couple of weeks on the floor. We had all that technique where you wore gowns and masks all the time, and after a couple of weeks they asked me if I wanted to work in surgery. I was thrilled to pieces just to do something different.
CD: So you were right next to the doctor.
RD: Yes, we had quite a bit of chest surgery in those days.
CD: Wow. How did the person in Lindsay find you? How did she know about you?
RD: Mrs. Davis? I went to her.
CD: You had heard about her through your friend from Springville.
RD: Yes, I was visiting my friend in Springville and she took me to Lindsay and took me to the hospital and I went in and interviewed with Mrs. Davis. Her friend had been relieving her surgical nurse, but she was only going to be there for two weeks, and she had already been there six months.
CD: She had been there six months because they couldn’t find a replacement for her? There was a shortage?
RD: When Mrs. Davis told her about me and that I had come there and that she had turned me down because she had hired this girl from Tennessee, but that girl hadn’t come yet.
CD: What happened to the girl from Tennessee?
RD: This girl, this surgical nurse said, you mean a girl came and you saw her and she looked like she could do the job and you didn’t hire her. She said she was ready to quit right then, and leave her in the lurch. So she called me back. This was on Friday night and told me to come to work on Monday.
CD: So before Pearl Harbor, the war had been going on for a couple of years, did you and your friends talk about it much.
RD: No, we didn’t feel like we
were in it at all, you know. But I can
remember, I had one friend who had gone to
CD: That’s funny.
RD: And this girlfriend said it was terrible with all the bombings going on in Europe at that time.
CD: So she was the only source really to tell you about . . .
RD: And she really wasn’t in the war zone, but I guess it affected everybody over there.
CD: Once Pearl Harbor was bombed and you are working in the hospital, did you see the hospital change? Did they hire more people? Were there more patients?
RD: Well, they hired everybody they could, but there just wasn’t very much. Many of the nurses went to the big city because that’s where they could have their pick and choice of jobs at that time. We didn’t know a great deal about the war. Course, we’re kind of inland. All the interest was in the crops and the oranges.
CD: What was the interest in the crops?
RD: It seemed to me that everybody had beautiful crops and lots of it and of course during the war they had a good price for them. So everyone was very enthusiastic about getting their oranges off the trees. Of course I didn’t realize all the problems they had.
CD: What kind of problems did they have?
RD: Like in the wintertime, they had to light smudge pots to keep the oranges warm, and oil was expensive to burn in those smudge pots, so they burned tires. Well those tires really made a mess. That soot was everyplace. I know we used to have to postpone surgery sometimes because there was so much soot filtering into the air. I’d cover all the tables and everything with sheets.
CD: The soot would get into the hospital.
RD: The soot would get in everyplace. I mean you’d have a uniform on and in 15 minutes it looked like you had been wearing it for days because it would get so black.
CD: So that was just during the winter months? They wouldn’t give farmers more oil for the smudge pots?
RD: I think. I didn’t study that,I think it was just . . . there were 23 days of freeze during the night and that’s a long time to burn oil, and they had pots every 20 feet.
CD: So for 23 nights they burned those tires.
RD: I think that was what killed my father-in-law. He was supposed to be retired, but he was such a farmer that he would go out and watch the other guys work out in the orchards.
CD: So he was breathing in that stuff.
RD: Breathing it and they’d be so enthusiastic, that instead of going home and going to bed, they’d go downtown and drink coffee and talk about it for a couple of hours. And then they’d have to go home and back and start those pots over again. They all worked like mules. They gave a lot of work to people who wanted to do hard labor.
CD: Right. So have you been to Lindsay lately? In the last couple of years?
RD: Well, just once or twice.
CD: Would you say Lindsay. It sounds like it was a fairly prosperous town when you got there. Do you think it was more prosperous then than it is now?
RD: No, it had fallen way behind on . . . it was just enough off the way of the main roads that people would go to Porterville or Visalia to shop. So all the businesses failed there, and just about everybody moved out except for the Mexican immigrants that pick all the oranges and that.
CD: When you were living there, it sounded pretty prosperous. How was the downtown? Was it active? Was that where people did their shopping?
RD: When I first got married, the downtown was nice.
CD: What kinds of shops were there? What was your favorite shop?
RD: Like J.C. Penney had a shop there. My favorite one was Lady Rose. She had a dress shop and she kept up with the outside world so she had all these lovely clothes. Of course they had banks, stationery stores, even now, I think, "Gee, if I lived in Lindsay I’d go there and there and find all those stores." But all those stores are gone now.
CD: But they stayed pretty much in business while you were there?
RD: Yeah, but since then they have had a lot of difficulty.
CD: I though the downtown looked depressed. I saw it a couple of times.
RD: They have just recently fixed up the streets. All the streets were just terrible to drive on after going through the rest of the towns that have nice streets, paved. Well, they had to do a lot of repair work on that, the government did.
CD: So let’s get back to while you were at the hospital as a surgical nurse. What were the main surgeries going on? That would have been in the ’40’s.
RD: When I worked there, I told the doctor . . . there were four doctors in town and I told them I was used to doing chest surgery, but they would have to bear with me. This girl I relieved, she worked with me a half a day there and she left for Los Angeles. She had been away from her husband for six months.
CD: She had been away from her husband for six months?
RD: So, I did the best I could and the doctors were real helpful. Mrs. Davis was very helpful.
CD: So what type of surgeries were they doing besides chest surgery?
RD: Chest surgery was in Oregon. General abdominal surgery. Those doctors were real family doctors. You have a broken bone, they would set it. If you had a bellyache, they would fix it. They were really family doctors, and they did everything for their patients. To me they were smarter than all these specialists.
CD: They saw everything.
RD: My doctor’s name was Dr. J. C. McClure. He had trained in Michigan and his father had been one of those old country doctors, you know, and he used to make rounds with his father, so he learned a lot. And I had seen him cure people other people had given up on.
CD: And did he fix them up?
RD: He’d pull them through.
CD: Wow. What was the name again, your doctor’s name . . . J.C. McClure. That’s for the transcriber so she doesn’t have to look it up. What were the other three doctors?
RD: Dr. Bowen. I don’t remember his first name.
CD: And how do you spell that?
RD: Bowen. And one was Dr. J.R. Filmore, and Dr. Campbell.
CD: And none of them had a specialty.
RD: They did everything. They helped each other and gave their own anesthetic.
CD: They did their own anesthesia?
RD: Just like I said, I told them I would have to learn from scratch. If I wasn’t sure what instruments I would need, I would put all instruments in the instrument cupboard. I would sterilize them and have them ready to go.
CD: Was it that different? A chest surgery from a leg surgery, abdominal surgery?
RD: Well you know, the speculums were different that pulled you apart so you could see in there. It wasn’t so different, but you don’t want to slow anybody’s surgery down. I knew the basic and I guess they were satisfied with my sterile techniques. That’s why they kept me.
CD: And did you ever make house calls with them?
RD: No. No. They didn’t make very many house calls. They all had offices.
CD: Right at the hospital?
RD: Not right at the hospital, in different parts of town they had their offices.
CD: Once the war started, was it all the same people? Did you get any soldiers or new people coming to town because of the war?
RD: Well that was the days when all the Okies and Arkies came from Arkansas.
CD: And did Lindsay see a lot of that?
RD: Well yes, we delivered a lot of babies. They didn’t have any money, so they would come to our hospital to have their babies and then go on.
CD: Did you help deliver babies too?
RD: Yes, I did.
CD: How’s that?
RD: That was fun. Scary sometimes. The doctors were real good about coming when I’d tell them to come, you know. I delivered a few babies myself.
CD: So you would call and tell them to come and they wouldn’t get there on time?
RD: Yes. Especially immigrants would come in at the last minute and I would have to call up to see if somebody would come and take care of them. A couple of times I would lift up the sheet and there was a baby.
CD: How many babies do you think you delivered? Would it be a lot?
RD: It was a lot to me. But then after that they got an obstetric department. The one nurse,that was all she did. So that relieved a lot when I worked there. I worked nights for a while and we used to do everything at night.
CD: Like what?
RD: Work to take care of the people on the floor. I had such wonderful help. My aides were just superb.
CD: And so the patients were mostly the farm laborers and community people. Were there any bases close to Lindsay?
CD: Wasn’t there one in Porterville?
RD: No. I really don’t remember a base there.
CD: So the closest one would have been Tulare. So there really wasn’t any interaction between Lindsay and the base people, like bringing them in?
CD: So tell me about . . . your husband, how did you meet?
RD: Well my husband, he wasn’t dating my friend, but you know how people gather. I was out with some teacher and we were in a bar in Porterville, and these two girlfriends of mine came in and with them were Ray and a couple of other fellows. I don’t remember exactly who they were. And then Ray was saying that he was from Lindsay. His folks lived on the outskirts of Lindsay.
RD: Just outside of town.
CD: Where the ranch was? Where the oranges were?
RD: They had three acres out there and they grew everything out on those three acres. That was the fascinating part for me because they had just enough strawberries, corn, blackberries, and oranges. They had a tree in their backyard that had three different kinds of oranges on it.
CD: One tree had three different kinds of oranges on it?
RD: His father, Ralph Depew, had grafted it and they all worked. He had such a time. Everyone wanted to see that tree. He had a time trying to convince people not
to pick all the oranges. Some of them
CD: And all seven boys were raised on the little property in Lindsay?
RD: No, no.
CD: That’s the father’s family?
RD: That’s his father’s family. They had all come from Missouri at some time.
CD: Oh, I see.
RD: Probably in the late . . . early thirties.
CD: So you were at a bar in Porterville with your friends, and . . .
RD: That’s how I met him, originally, in a bar.
CD: Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to meet men in bars? (Laughter)
RD: Yes, but I had been away from my mother, Aurora Tickson, five years already. Well, I used to love to dance, and that’s where you went to dance.
CD: So what was the bar scene like in the early 40’s? You would go mainly to dance, or would the girls go to . . . did very many of them drink to excess or just moderately?
RD: I would say we were moderate drinkers. But we all loved to dance. There weren’t very many places to go. You know.
CD: Was there any place in Lindsay at night? Or did you have to go to Porterville?
RD: We had to go to Porterville or we used to come over to Visalia and go to the Sierra Ballroom. Lindsay had 14 churches.
CD: How many bars?
RD: They had quite a few bars but they were mostly Mexican, I would say.
CD: They weren’t dance halls. They weren’t a place to go?
RD: No, they weren’t places I would go to by myself.
CD: What was the place in Visalia again – Sierra . . .
RD: Sierra Ballroom.
CD: Oh, Sierra Ballroom. I haven’t heard of that one.
RD: I think it’s burned since then.
CD: And it was a place you could go.
RD: It was a regular dance pavilion.
CD: With all the boys gone, who would you dance with?
RD: Here I only went to the dances with Ray.
CD: But when you were single and you went to the bars in Porterville, were there very many guys coming into the bars?
RD: I’m sure there were. The bars were always full. (Laughter)
CD: So tell me a little bit about your husband’s family. Did they grow oranges? I mean you said the smudge pots,did they have them in place or was it in just the three acres that they put the smudge pots?
RD: Well. everyone tried to protect their orange trees. It used to be smudge pots in those days. Nowadays they have wind machines and irrigation. I don’t know what all they do anymore.
CD: Well, they still freeze. Lindsay had that big freeze in 1992.
RD: I know we belonged to a dance club, and the reason they organized it was because so many of the fellows had orange groves and they would have to go from the dance to light their smudge pots or check on the temperature in their orange groves.
CD: Did you ever go with your husband to do that?
RD: No, we didn’t have an orange grove. But Ray used to take care of the house we lived in, for the rent. He used to irrigate. He did all the irrigating and anything else. The owner lived in Idaho. He treated it as if it was his own.
CD: Were there oranges around there?
RD: Oh yes. Those great big beautiful . . . I call them old fashioned oranges. The reason I say that is I had a friend who had inherited 40 acres of oranges from the family, her husband’s family, and her son came to live up here. He decided to raise his family here, and he came up here and he lives near Lindsay now. But he took out all those old oranges and put in some new kind that was seedless, supposed to be bumper crops.
CD: So the old oranges were bigger?
RD: Well yeah. You remember the old oranges were bigger and more solid. You could peel them and eat them by the dozen.
CD: Yes, I’ve seen them. I used to see oranges that were very big. Maybe the trees got old. I don’t know. So your husband and you didn’t stay in farming. Was that the main thing his dad did?
RD: No his father was a tractor mechanic. He had a business in Visalia – Tulare County Tractor Company.
CD: And how was business for them during the war years.
RD: He was one of these people who worked on tractors all the time, so he knew what to look for and how to fix them and everything, so he had a good business.
CD: Did the war affect it?
RD: Probably, because they couldn’t get as many tractors as they could have sold.
RD: I remember when the war was over and a man had come from Los Angeles and went into business with him because he was financing half of it. He would stay in the office and run that part and Ray’s father would go out and fix the tractors. This one man came in and he came in with old faded jeans on, bib overalls, and this man went to him and asked if he could help him and he said yes, he would like to buy a tractor. Well, he decided that he would let Ray’s father talk to the man, because he would know what he wanted. So Ray’s father went up and asked him what he wanted and the man said he wanted the latest tractor with all the . . . you know, they didn’t have hoods on them before that . . . cabs. I want the latest tractor I can get with everything on it.
Well Ray’s father, of course, had to look in the catalog because they didn’t carry everything right there, so he looked in the catalog and said he could order it from Los Angeles and would have it there in a couple of days. So the man picked it out, picked out the one he wanted with all the newest, latest things on it and Ray’s father told him the price. It was over $10,000 at that time. Of course, that was a lot to pay for anything at that time, and this man took out this wad of bills and paid cash for it.
CD: Do you remember who that man was? Did they every say?
RD: No, but my father-in-law laughed. When he went back into the office afterward, of course, this man was watching him all the time, and he said, "Boy, I sure goofed there" They used to get commission on what they sold, and that was a good commission. So the man from Los Angeles said, "I didn’t think that man with those faded blue jeans had any money."
CD: Well he was a farmer and came right off the field.
RD: Ray’s father said, "Around here, don’t ever judge people by what kind of clothes they have on, because there are a lot of millionaires around here that you don’t even know about.
CD: So I guess farming did well during that time. You couldn’t get a car, but you could get a tractor in a couple of days.
RD: Well, he had to wait and see if Los Angeles had them. They were getting the minimum out and they had to distribute them all over California.
CD: Do you remember it being hard about getting a new car? Did you know anybody who had a new car?
RD: No, we bought a used car, but it was even hard to find a good used car. Ray built his own car when he was in the fifth grade. His father bought two old cars for $25 a piece and he taught him how to take them apart and how to keep the parts together and put them back together again. So he built one car out of those two cars.
CD: Did it work?
RD: Yes, he drove it all through high school.
CD: What did it look like? It couldn’t have looked very elegant.
RD: Well, he picked the best body of the two cars. A little bit of paint and hard work, and he built his car. He always told me the story of taking his uncle for a ride after he got it going. He told his uncle to come with him, he would take him for a ride in his car and they went up on Todd’s Hill close to Lindsay and then they started coming down. His uncle told him to step on the brakes, and Ray said he hadn’t worked on the brakes yet. "I just got…I don’t have any brakes yet."
CD: So what did they do?
RD: It was just good steering going down this curved road.
CD: Funny. Oh gosh. I’m not that familiar with Lindsay. Where is Tout’s Hill? Is it still there? Do they still call it Todd’s Hill?
RD: It’s on the edge of town. It’s part of the hills.
CD: Is it developed with houses now?
RD: Yes, but they used to have a lot of tomato growers there. There were Japanese farmers who used to grow these beautiful tomatoes.
CD: So what would you say are all the major crops around Lindsay at that time? We had tomatoes, oranges.
RD: Oranges, olives, tomatoes and of course everybody had one or two fruit trees in their yards.
CD: Oh, they did?
RD: In between Exeter and Lindsay there were peach orchards and plum orchards. All this beautiful stuff growing.
CD: How much of it do you think has disappeared? When you drive that direction now?
RD: I would say 50%.
CD: Oh, you think half is gone. Could you spell Tout’s Hill for me?
RD: I think it was Touts.
CD: OK. Let’s get back into how the war affected Lindsay? So Pearl Harbor has been bombed and you’re at the hospital. What was the prevailing attitude towards it?
RD: Well, I don’t know if they froze people to their jobs at Lindsay, but there were a lot of young farmers who didn’t go, because they had to keep busy taking care of those oranges that were going to the boys overseas. Of course, that was when our marketing overseas got popular.
CD: But before that we didn’t market as much
overseas. It was mostly inside the
RD: Yes, I think so.
CD: You think Lindsay would have just taken off economically because of that?
RD: Of course, olives were the same thing.
CD: So while some towns were losing their young men, did you feel like Lindsay’s population stayed stable?
RD: No, no, they lost all their young men. Young men wanted to go into the service. Everyone enlisted right away. That was the way it was.
CD: And what was the attitude toward the Japanese after Pearl Harbor?
RD: Well, we had a time because many of our families had been there for years and probably inherited their little ranches from their folks. We always felt sorry for the ones we knew. We knew they weren’t mean or anything. I know one in particular, Yoshimoto, he just died last month and he went all through the African and Italian campaigns during the war.
CD: Then he actually enlisted?
RD: They’d either enlist or go to these
encampments. He enlisted and he went
through the hardest foot soldier deal through Africa,
CD: How do you spell Yoshimoto?
CD: OK. That’s what I have. So those men who didn’t enlist, the Japanese men who didn’t enlist, did they get sent to camps?
CD: And do you remember that?
RD: Not particularly. I didn’t know very many Japanese people at that time.
CD: Did your husband? Did he know those families?
RD: Yes, he had grown up and played football and everything else with them.
CD: Where did he go to high school?
RD: Lindsay High School.
CD: Oh, so he was right there in Lindsay. And what was his opinion about it?
RD: Well, he didn’t like it because he knew these people as Americans. Of course, they considered themselves as Americans.
CD: I guess they got here before Ray’s family too. Ray’s family didn’t get here before the 30’s. What was the attitude at the hospital once the war started? Did you keep updated on it? Was it the topic of conversation?
RD: Well, our hospital, I have to admit that we just had the four doctors at first. Of course, others came later. They always tried to keep up with things.
CD: They tried to keep up with things how?
RD: We had a hard time getting instruments and everything.
CD: Oh really. You had a hard time getting hospital instruments? Surgical instruments you mean?
RD: Yes, we had to wait our turn. That was true of all the hospitals. The doctors kept up with the antibiotics when they first came out.
CD: When did they first come out?
RD: I think they came out before the war, but we didn’t get them until during the war.
RD: We just had some that we used during surgery. I can remember later on when I was in New Mexico, in Albuquerque, I specialed a patient who had been in an automobile wreck out on the base, and the main reason was because I gave shots of penicillin to him and they wouldn’t allow the Army nurses there to give it. I couldn’t understand that.
CD: So they saw you as a specialist in that area?
RD: No, I was just a nurse that gave injections.
CD: So I guess before the antibiotics came to the Lindsay hospital, did you see people die because of infection?
RD: No, those doctors were very up on things. We didn’t have very many infections.
CD: What about strep? Would you die of strep throat if you didn’t get antibiotics?
RD: Well, it seemed like they could finagle enough so that they would get the necessary antibiotics and they studied them. They just didn’t give them to anybody like they do now. For colds like they do now. So I had to admire them for just keeping up with the world.
CD: And where were those four doctors educated? What made them come to Lindsay? Were they outsiders? Or were they local kids?
RD: Well, I think they were all outsiders and they came to the Valley to get the warm weather. Dr. Born, we called him the colonel; he was from back east, the southeast. Dr. Campbell, I think he was raised in California, and Dr. Filmore came from Iowa or Kansas.
CD: Yes. That would be cold.
RD: Anyhow, they took good care of that hospital and the people there.
CD: Sounds like a hospital I would want to be a patient at.
RD: Well, we had a good reputation. After I retired, the whole thing went down the drain. I was just flabbergasted.
CD: Well, look what happens when you leave. What year did you retire?
RD: I retired in 1989.
CD: Oh, that’s not that long ago.
RD: I was 72 years old and they didn’t want me to retire and I wanted to travel. I had to give up my license and everything, so they couldn’t call.
CD: That’s kind of funny.
RD: I "cut my throat to save my face," or something like that.
CD: Right. So the war is raging on and it ends in Europe and it’s still going on in
RD: I think I was in Montana at that time. Ray was overseas and I moved back to Montana and was working up there.
CD: What years did you work at the Lindsay Hospital?
RD: I first went there in 1941 and left when I got married in 1943, and then I came back and forth. I left my car there and I went back to get my car and stayed all summer and relieved everybody so they could have vacations.
CD: What year was that?
RD: That was about 1944.
CD: And did you see a change? What did the place look like in 1944?
RD: They had more people working for them and more departments.
CD: Was the hospital bigger?
RD: Yes, they had built on a big ward. It had about seven beds in it. On the end they had done some remodeling. They had built a bigger emergency room, stuff like that. We had a small emergency room before. They had their own x-ray department and things like that, where before they had to go to Porterville to get an x-ray.
CD: They had to go to Porterville to get an x-ray? So now they had their own x-ray.
RD: Yes, they got their own x-ray.
CD: What did you think of the emergency room? Better able to take care of urgent patients?
RD: Yeah. We took care of emergencies. Of course, if they were bad enough we had to send them to Fresno.
CD: Is that where you sent the real serious cases?
RD: Emergencies that came in when I was there. We took care of them all. Of course, the doctors came in and helped.
CD: So did the war end that summer when you were at the hospital?
RD: No, I was in Montana when it ended. And I was waiting for Ray to come. We had waited and they wanted me to come back to surgery to work in Lindsay. They waited from November to February and then they told me they would have to have someone by March. If I wanted to come, I better come right now. So I left in March, so the day I left, I left Montana in March, and my husband called that afternoon from Seattle. He had just got in.
CD: And did they tell him that you had gone to Lindsay?
RD: My sister, Pearl Tickson (Glosisky) told him I had gone to Lindsay because I wanted to get that job, and that spoiled his plans. He wanted to go back east, he had a job back there.
CD: So what happened?
RD: Well, he just went home.
CD: To Lindsay? And gave up the job back east?
CD: That was very feminist. Gave up his job for his wife. And what year was that you came back and settled in Lindsay?
RD: That was in ’46. By that time I was 29 years old and I wanted to start my family. We had been married four years by then. I had so much responsibility at the hospital that I was practically administrator. Mrs. Davis had left and worked in industrial nursing up around San Francisco.
CD: So who took her place? Did they hire someone to take her place?
RD: I worked for a while and told them I didn’t want to be an administrator and I wanted to quit nursing and start my family.
CD: What did they say?
RD: Well they didn’t like it, but they had to take it, but I told them I was quitting on the first of the next year. 1947. And of course my doctor told me I had lost one baby in between, so he told me it might take me a year to conceive again. I said, "I think it was just the nervousness."
CD: The nervousness of working or of having a family?
RD: Of all the responsibility. I was tired out. So I quit and I got pregnant right away. So I quit completely.
CD: So when you came back in 1946, did you see a big difference in Lindsay, between 1941 and 1946? Do you think the World War II years helped Lindsay or didn’t help Lindsay?
RD: Well it seemed like all the businesses were booming more. I suppose there were more people in town.
CD: Would you call the downtown area vibrant?
CD: How would you describe it now?
RD: Well, sad to say, it’s not so well. They don’t have any department stores. You have to go out of town to get anything any more. At least in those days we had good old J.C. Penney and we could go there and buy sheets and stuff.
CD: When did J.C. Penney’s close?
RD: They closed quite early. Probably in ’50.
CD: Oh that is pretty soon.
RD: And then gradually the stores were closing. Lady Rose didn’t leave there until about three years ago and she went to Porterville.
CD: Really! It was there the whole time. And she just closed three years ago.
RD: Well, she went to Porterville and she has a thriving business there.
CD: So did you see much change between 1941 and 1946 in Lindsay?
RD: Well, everything during the war was prospering in Lindsay. Like when I got out of high school, you couldn’t find a job, not even a menial job any place.
CD: And your parents encouraged you to go to college?
RD: Well, I was out of high school three years and I had taken all the stenographic office work I could in high school and I had my application in every place and I used to pound the pavements every morning. I worked part time for different people, you know, and then I got a job in an insurance company. They all asked you for experience. Well, how could I get experience if I couldn’t get a job, so I worked for this insurance company for $5.00 a week, 8 hours a day.
CD: Where was this?
RD: This was in Butte, Montana. Then my father, John Tickson, died and he left $1,000 insurance and my mother, Aurora Lathi Ticlson said that one of us children should go to school. My sister had just finished nurse’s training in Butte. That school had stopped and they didn’t have any more classes, so I said I wanted to go to nurse’s training, and I knew these nurses that had trained at Good Samaritan hospital in Portland, Oregon and I said I would go over there. In March I went to Portland, Oregon and entered the school of nursing.
CD: To what do you attribute your being such a good nurse? It sounds like you were a good nurse.
RD: We had wonderful training.
CD: Oh you think it was your training?
RD: Yes, they trained us in things that lots of nurses I worked with afterward didn’t know anything about. Some of those things were learned. It’s now Lindfield College.
CD: Up in Salem?
RD: No, up in Portland.
CD: Oh, that’s right.
RD: Lindfield College in Portland. It’s now a part of that. As you know, if the husband was working, the wife couldn’t work and of course my sister was married and her husband, George Glosisky, was a welder and he wouldn’t let her work. She wanted to work, but her husband wouldn’t let her. She would go take care of friends or something and when the war came along, he was frozen to his job. He had to go work in the mines and be a welder in the mines.
CD: I haven’t heard that term,frozen to your job.
RD: During the war, they froze a lot of people to their jobs because they needed them there to work.
CD: What happened to them if they wanted to strike? Was it against the law?
RD: It was against the law to strike. I suppose they had a lot of strikes, but they would always be better off. They would always win. These people couldn’t quit their jobs unless they went to work for another place that needed them as badly.
CD: Does that mean they couldn’t enlist because they were frozen?
RD: I think so, yes. I had some friends up in Butte and they wouldn’t let them enlist, because they needed them there to work.
CD: Did you know some people in Lindsay who were frozen to their jobs?
RD: No, no.
CD: All of them could have enlisted if they wanted?
RD: Of course, a lot of the fellows who were farmers, they sort of, they had to farm or enlist.
CD: Getting back to Tulare County, do you remember what your in-laws reaction was to dropping the A Bomb? Was it dinnertime conversation?
RD: Of course they were people that thought no matter what you had to do to keep peace in the family, that was the thing to do. They were very patriotic and believed in everybody doing their part.
CD: What did they do to support the war? Bonds, did they volunteer, did they have a victory garden?
RD: They had their victory garden just anyhow.
CD: They had it anyway, before.
RD: Their daughter, Agnes Depew (Thuer) (Heron), enlisted in the Air Force. She was a nurse. Ended up being a captain.
CD: What was her name?
RD: Agnes Heron. When she died, her name was Heron. She had never gone overseas but she did a lot of good. She worked in Bakersfield and she started the Eye Bank down there and she used to teach nursing students down there.
CD: And do you remember them buying war bonds?
RD: War bonds, and she used to send care packages to all her nephews and things like that.
CD: Were your in-laws considered farmers, so they got more gas coupons, or did they just get gas coupons like a normal citizen?
RD: They got extra gas because they were farmers.
CD: Well, three acres isn’t that much.
RD: No, but then he was in the tractor business.
CD: Oh, right.
RD: All I know is that when we came home on furlough, all these uncles who had orange groves and that, they would give him stamps for gas. We had more gas when we got home than we started out with.
CD: Wow. So you guys didn’t have a problem with gas. When you drove to Sierra Ballroom in Visalia, wasn’t there a question about the gas? That’s a long drive from Lindsay.
RD: You kept your eye on the gas tank and you didn’t let your gas get too low.
CD: Right, but it was rationing. Didn’t somebody say, hey, we don’t have enough coupons for this?
RD: The stations weren’t open either. Of course, Ray used to get his gas from his father. His father had a 50-gallon tank, so he got his gas from there.
CD: So the tank would be full and he would just go and fill up over there.
RD: I know when we were in Albuquerque we didn’t have enough stamps.
CD: I wouldn’t think.
RD: I didn’t know how to drive and he couldn’t take me out and teach me to drive, because we couldn’t waste that gas.
CD: So while you were in Lindsay, you had plenty of gas stamps, but when you were away, you didn’t. Didn’t your family send you some in the mail?
RD: No. I didn’t think of that I guess.
CD: Did you ever see any black market going on in Lindsay with the gas rationing, sugar, butter, and all that?
RD: Sugar was rationed, whiskey, liquor was rationed. You could have one bottle a month. Meat was rationed.
CD: Was it a hardship for you guys?
RD: No, because when we were living in Lindsay after the war and I think during the war, Ray’s father would buy half a cow and butcher it himself and put it in the freezer.
CD: Was the freezer at home?
RD: We had a freezer at home, but we also had a freezer downtown that we would put our bulk in.
CD: So it sounds like Ray’s dad really took care of the family.
RD: Oh yes he did. I laughed because when we were in the service in San Antonio, he was a butcher down there. When we’d buy meat, he would weigh it real light. That’s where we got our steaks to have our parties for the 25 people.
CD: You would have a party for 25 people and have plenty of food?
RD: We really had it made down there. One fellow worked in the bakery. He couldn’t donate anything. Once in a while he’d bring a pan of rolls home or something. Another man worked in the grocery and he would buy one head of lettuce and throw in three and things like that. He had a brother who was a farmer way down in Brownsfield, Texas and he would bring us grapefruit and oranges.
CD: All these people must have been wondering where you got all this food.
RD: Yes, we really had it made. One man worked in the supply where they had blankets. So we all got silverware, blankets, and sheets.
CD: Wow, so Ray was the butcher. And that was his service job in the Army?
RD: Yes. And one girl was a teacher, she worked out, and I worked a lot of nights there. One girl worked out in an office out on a field. One girl had a baby, so she had a washing machine and we just washed, used that washing machine to death. In the first place, it was so hot and humid down there, you would perspire at night and they told us that we had hay mattresses in that big house and they told us they were cooler than other mattresses.
CD: Did you believe them?
RD: Well, you perspired anyhow and your sheets would get all brown, so we washed sheets almost every day.
CD: Let’s get back to Tulare County. How would you rank Lindsay’s hospital compared to the hospital around, say Visalia, Porterville, Exeter? How did Lindsay’s hospital rank?
RD: At that time, it ranked at the top.
CD: Cause you were there!
RD: Not only that, it really was tops. Everybody bragged about the care they got there at our hospital. Of course they used to keep people longer than they do now.
CD: That’s the truth. Did you actually see the other hospitals? Did you go in and see Exeter’s hospital, and what did you think?
RD: I never wanted to. They offered me all kinds of jobs there but I never wanted to change. They treated me too royally in Lindsay.
CD: Would they call and offer you more money?
RD: No, Lindsay was hard to beat, but they used to call me from Kaweah Delta and ask if I would come over and work.
CD: And what do you think about Kaweah Delta hospital? What did you think about it then? In the ’40’s.
RD: It was growing just like all the rest of the hospitals. Of course they had a little more help over here. And they had help from all these little cities about. Everybody would grab all the help they could get from these cities.
CD: So even Visalia’s Kaweah Delta,did they have a problem recruiting nurses too?
CD: I had no idea. Do you think your being a nurse influenced your view of the war? Did you have any strong opinions about the war?
RD: Yes. I think I felt guilty because I didn’t enlist over there and help take care of those injured people myself. I had a lot of empathy for them. Course I didn’t do anything about it.
CD: Well, I’m sure your work at the hospital . . . they needed you there obviously if they were begging you to work.
RD: What I figured, every place I went, like in Albuquerque.
CD: Right. If you had gone abroad, then Albuquerque wouldn’t have had you.
RD: And they always wanted me to come back. After I would leave they would write me letters asking me back.
CD: Did you ever save those?
RD: Save those letters? No, I wished I had.
CD: That would have been kind of
interesting. I’m going to ask you more
about your personal reactions to the war. Did you have any opinion yourself about the
RD: No. We just thought that was the thing to do. If that’s what it took to end the war, that’s what should be done.
CD: Right. And when the war had ended? What was the reaction?
RD: Everyone was elated to think that all that killing was over. Of course it kept on in some places for a while after that.
CD: Do you think your feelings, while you were in Lindsay, were your feelings the same as your friends and acquaintances or were there some people who were anti-war who didn’t support the president?
RD: No, I don’t remember anybody like that.
CD: And do you remember . . . How did people feel about the President?
RD: Well, they were glad they weren’t in his shoes. I think people realized that it took all kinds of people to make up this world, and that was their job and they just had to go along with it.
CD: Is there anything about the war years in Lindsay that stands out in your memory?
RD: No, just the shortage of new cars or cars that were running. By that time, all the cars were worn out and I didn’t have a car until I got married. But I think that stopped me from seeing a lot of California. You can’t travel very well on the buses and if the servicemen were there needing the bus, you might be left behind someplace.
CD: So if you were going to take a bus somewhere, you had to give up your seat to the soldiers?
RD: If they were trying to move the troops, you’d have to stay. I felt sorry for people in Los Angeles. Ladies with two or three children trying to get on the bus. And I really have to laugh at my mother. My mother and I were going on the bus down to San Diego, and this one girl in Los Angeles had been there three days with these two children. And my mother went up to a sailor and said, "Why don’t you pretend like I’m your mother and I have to go home with you" and to another one, "Pretend this is your wife" and they have to go.
CD: What did they do?
RD: They cooperated. We all caught a ride on that bus going.
CD: While that lady was stuck there for three days with those kids.
RD: And my mother was with an immigrant from
CD: So she’d go up in broken English . . .
RD: She’d just tell these fellows that they had to help these people, so they could get on the bus.
CD: Wow, that was interesting. So that friend from
RD: That was just a friend.
CD: These are just the last two questions. Overall, how would you say the war affected Tulare County, adversely or for better or neutral?
RD: Well, I think not only around here, but it affected the whole country. Everything was up. Everything was looking better. People were making more money. People were spending more money. People were doing more things. It didn’t seem like all this lethargy that has gone on since.
CD: Is there anything you would like to add to the interview?
CD: Any last feelings about Lindsay or your life here?
RD: I feel sorry for Lindsay because it has gone down hill so much, but they will pull out of it someday.
CD: Did your in-laws family stay there?
RD: Well, they came from a large family. There were 7 boys and 4 girls, but they all spread over Tulare County and of course all their children have separated. We used to have family reunions, and there would be 200 people. The girls were Margie and Elizabeth (Hurt).
CD: Where would you have them?
RD: Mooney Grove.
CD: How fun.
RD: Anymore they are so spread out that . . .
CD: Do you not have the family reunions anymore?
RD: We don’t have them and people used to come to the funerals, you know, but they have all died off and spread apart.
CD: Thank you very much for taking the time to do the interview.
RD: I hope it’s interesting enough to keep.
CD: Yes, I think we’ll keep it.
Catherine Doe/ Transcriber Jan Chubbuck/Editor Judith Wood
Names and other corrections in italics were added during a phone interview with Ruby’s son, Dennis Depew, on September 30, 2005.