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: Russell M. Doe
Tape # 21
Interviewer: Catherine Doe
Place: Tulare County, CA
Place of Interview: Catherine Doe’s home.
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Acquisition of land by the government for military purposes
Airstrip on family ranch property
Political atmosphere in the County
CD: We’re just going to start with your background. Where you were born?
RD: OK, I was born in Berkeley, California on January 8, 1931.
CD: And when did you move to Visalia?
RD: Shortly thereafter. My mother,Florence Malloch Doe and father, Russell Albert Doe, moved to Visalia. I can’t tell you; I was a baby. I can’t tell you exactly when but sometime after I was born.
CD: And where did you guys move to? Where did you live?
RD: We lived in Visalia. We moved from Berkeley to Visalia. We lived in Visalia the rest of the time until I was approximately fourteen years old.
CD: And you moved around a lot? Where did you guys start?
RD: Well, my mother came down. My grandfather, Peter Malloch, had passed away in 1927 and my mother came down to take care of the family ranches, and so one time we lived on the ranch, but most of the time we lived in Visalia. My mother was in the real estate business. She was a real estate broker. She worked for Mason-McDuffy in Berkeley, and when she came to Visalia she continued as a real estate broker and we did move quite a bit as a kid, because she would buy and sell homes and she would buy one and we’d move in and stay there for a while and then she would sell it and move somewhere else. It wasn’t until the first grade that she bought a home on Main Street and that’s where we stayed.
CD: When World War II started, and you were a kid. How old were you when World War II started?
RD: I think 10 years old.
CD: And how did you hear about it?
RD: It was a Sunday and my mother had gotten up early to look at some property in Hanford, if I recall, somewhere, I think it was Hanford and she came back around noon, sometime during the day and I had already gotten up and fixed myself breakfast and she told me about Pearl Harbor.
CD: What about before that? How did you hear about the war before that?
RD: Well, that was the first time I had heard about it.
CD: Not through the movies?
RD: Well, this was Pearl Harbor. This was the start of World War II, the actual start of World War II, after Pearl Harbor. Before that, the war was in Europe and we weren’t involved.
CD: Didn’t they have little newsreels in the movie theaters?
RD: Oh yeah. Movie Tone came on all the time, but that was mostly about the war in Europe.
CD: So when she mentioned it, you knew what she was talking about.
RD: No, no one knew what she was talking about. She just said the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. We were now at war. We were in that war before Pearl Harbor.
CD: So how did she react to it? Was she scared? Or did she give it a second thought.
RD: Gosh, I don’t remember. I was only, as I said, 10 years old, I can’t
really remember my reaction. The whole
community reacted, especially with any Japanese Americans around. They were immediately suspect as to what
their position would be as far as the war with
CD: What do you remember about that? Did you see any Japanese friends?
RD: We had a neighbor, Furahashi, that had a vineyard next to one of our ranches and he was a very popular, well-liked man, and everyone was concerned about what was going to happen to him, and finally he did have to go to one of the detention camps. I think six or seven months later. Some of the people came in and told him they would take care of his vineyard for him while he was gone.
CD: And did they?
RD: Yes. But he never came back.
CD: Did he have a big family?
RD: That I don’t know. I can’t remember. I just remember his name was Furahashi.
CD: And what were their concerns? Did they think he shouldn’t be sent?
RD: Well, people were pretty emotional then. They didn’t know whether he should or shouldn’t be, but a lot of them, like the Sumida Family in Visalia, that owned quite a bit of real estate down in what we used to call China Town had to leave and the Cross Family took care of all their property all during the war and when they came back it was still there and still intact and they took it back.
CD: That’s good. Is that the same Sumida, Patty Sumida, that I went to school with? So they’ve been here a long time.
RD: Yes. They’ve been here a long time. Same as the Furahashi. There were a lot of Japanese Americans. Oh, I shouldn’t say a lot, but there were quite a few around the community.
CD: They were mostly farmers?
RD: Mostly farmers. The Sumida’s weren’t, but most of them were farmers.
CD: So do you think the community felt like they should have been put in the detention centers?
RD: Oh, I’m sure some people did. As I said, emotions were running pretty high about
the fact that
CD: How about the kids at school?
RD: I don’t think the kids said much about what was going on as far as the local Japanese Americans and the community. I can’t remember anybody you know personalizing it and going after anybody in that regard.
CD: Did you go to school with any of the Japanese?
RD: I’m sure there were, but I can’t remember them. I’d have to get out the yearbook and see. Not in my immediate class, there weren’t.
CD: So you don’t know when they were shipped?
RD: No, no.
CD: Did Grandma ever say anything?
RD: About the war?
CD: About the Japanese thing?
RD: Well she liked Furahashi because he was a neighbor, so she was sorry he was treated the way he was. But then, everyone was so upset about the Japanese that, you know, you felt nobody really. . . I guess it was just an emotional time.
CD: So tell me about going to movies and the Movie Tone and how the kids mainly kept in touch with the war.
RD: Well, everybody that I grew up with in that
era, almost everybody went to the movies unless they were super religious; they
went to the movies on Saturday. That was
a big tradition. Everybody went to a
Saturday afternoon matinee which was usually a double-header, but before the
main feature started you usually had a Movie Tone newsreel or World Wide
News. We all watched the Germans invade
CD: Did you?
RD: Yes, I was a paperboy.
CD: How did the Times Delta portray the war?
RD: Just like every other paper. It was in the paper practically everyday. I’m sure it was in the paper everyday, what was going on, especially after Pearl Harbor.
CD: And they didn’t talk much about it before? The war was going on before Pearl Harbor.
RD: The war in Europe was
going on before Pearl Harbor. We weren’t involved except for Lend
Lease. We were helping
CD: So nobody talked about it.
RD: They talked about it a little bit, but I think there was a lot of conjecture that sooner or later we would be drawn into it because we helped them in World War I. Everyone probably figured we would probably help them again.
CD: And did that ever come up in dinner conversation?
RD: Sure, people talked about the war in Europe a lot, but as far as hitting home here, nobody was involved.
CD: So once Pearl Harbor happened and everyone is talking about the war and it’s in the newspaper and on the news reel, did you see a distinct change in Tulare County or did life go on as usual?
RD: Oh, no, there was a very distinct change because then we had three Army bases right around in the County,Rankin, Sequoia, and I can’t think of the name of the other one,of course, they went into gas rationing, food rationing, there were stamps, gas stamps. So yes, there was a big change in everything, everybody’s life. A lot of people went into the service. A lot of kids graduating from high school went right into the service.
CD: Were they drafted?
RD: Some were drafted,some joined. Ones that didn’t want to be drafted probably joined the Navy or the Marines or something like that. It was a big change. After that, from almost every high school graduation class, all the guys went somewhere in the service. A few people stayed here because they got farm exemptions, but not very many.
CD: How did they get a farm exemption?
RD: If they were needed on the farm, if they were local farmers, I guess they could say they were indispensable to the agricultural industry and they could get an exemption. I don’t think there were very many people like that, but there were some.
CD: There were not many people because they didn’t want to get the exemption?
RD: I think most people wanted to go into the service and do what they thought was right, helping the effort during the war.
CD: How come you didn’t try to get a farm exemption?
RD: I wasn’t even here.
CD: I know, but for
RD: Well, by the time
CD: You couldn’t have justified it?
RD: No, I wouldn’t have anyway.
CD: You wouldn’t have even tried?
RD: No, I wouldn’t even have tried. All of my friends, when we graduated from Berkeley, all of us went into the service. It was just a foregone conclusion that when we got out of school we would go into the service. No one tried not to. All my friends went in.
CD: So, all those guys that got the agricultural exemption . . . were they looked down on at all?
RD: Well, I think in a way a lot of people weren’t happy about it, maybe not so much at the time, but I think afterwards I heard comments about some of the people that hadn’t gone in and they weren’t particularly happy. They made comments about it.
CD: What did they say?
RD: They wondered why they did that and not serve
their country, stuff like that. There
was more of that in the Korean War, but then of course the Korean War wasn’t as
emotional a situation as World War II. It was a smaller conflict, just in one area in
CD: What would you say when people said disparaging remarks about the men and the agricultural exemption?
RD: It never really bothered me one way or the other. I felt sorry for them. I felt my four years in the Navy was a valuable experience. I didn’t want to do it, but once I did it, I felt it was very worthwhile. I was sorry they didn’t have that experience.
CD: Would Grandma ever say anything about the people that didn’t go?
RD: Yes, I’m sure she did. Almost everybody said something. Probably, but I can’t remember what she said. But there were comments, sure, because obviously if you saw some guy running around, 18, 19, 20 years old farming, somebody would ask why he wasn’t in the service. And during the Korean War it was the same thing. It was more prevalent during the Korean War, but people didn’t care as much then.
CD: Did you ever go to any of those high school graduations where the men were going to leave right afterwards to go to the war?
RD: No, I don’t think so, no, no. I was too young then. By the time I got to high school, the war was practically over.
CD: What do you remember? Where was Rankin Field?
RD: Over by Tulare, just off of Highway 99, south of Tulare.
CD: What was it for?
RD: It was an Army Air Force base for training.
CD: Oh, would you ever go out there?
RD: I never went to Rankin. I went to Sequoia Field, which was near Visalia, north of Visalia, just west of the Dinuba highway.
CD: And what would they do there?
RD: Same thing, train pilots.
CD: And would you go?
RD: We went out because it was close to the ranch. And then also it wasn’t as big; Rankin Field was the big one. Sequoia Field wasn’t as big, but they were for different stages. One would be for preliminary and another one for intermediate, and they would change them and move them ahead. The Army Air Force leased Section 5 from us, from the ranch, for an auxiliary landing field but they would take off from Sequoia or Rankin Field. They would land on it and they built a strip on Section 5, put up a couple of little buildings and used it for auxiliary landing all during the war. So they leased a section from us.
CD: Right. They actually landed there?
CD: And was the ground level or bumpy?
RD: They leveled it and put in an airstrip, which we had to tear out at our expense after the war because everybody left. It was where you learned to drive. I took you out in the pickup so you could learn to drive.
CD: It wasn’t very level to me.
RD: It was bumpy then; it was old.
CD: So everybody left and it was just dirt. It was just a dirt landing.
RD: No, it was asphalt. They put in an asphalt landing strip.
CD: And what did you do with all the asphalt?
RD: We piled it all up and made a corral out of it.
CD: Oh, really. Did that happen to very many people . . . where they would come and make an infrastructure and then just leave it? What else did Tulare County have to clean up after they left?
RD: Well, it wasn’t the County that had to clean it up; it was the owners. The trouble was that everyone disappeared after the war and my mother tried to get hold of the Army and tell them that the lease said they would come and tear it up and they said fine but there was nobody around anymore. Everyone just evaporated. We were just stuck with it.
CD: How much did they pay?
RD: I can’t remember Catherine. I was just a kid.
CD: Do you remember what she said about it? Was she happy to do it? Did she tell people about it?
RD: It wasn’t a matter of being happy or not happy. You just did it because you felt it was the thing to do. And then if you didn’t do it, they would condemn it anyway and do what they wanted to. I think she was happy to cooperate and let them have it. They paid a certain amount of rent, though I can’t tell you what that might have been.
CD: What other property other than ours did they take and what did they use it for?
RD: I don’t remember any other auxiliary landing strips like ours, but I’m sure there were some around. Well, they took Sequoia Field and Rankin.
CD: And those belonged to other people?
RD: They came in and bought them, or long-term leased, or just slowly but surely acquired.
CD: After the war, what happened to Sequoia?
RD: It stayed there. It’s still there. What it is now, part of the County detention system. And Rankin, I think, is part of now… Tulare has an airfield out there, you know, with a couple of old planes and that is Rankin. Now they call it the Tulare Air Field. I think they call it Tulare Air Field or something.
CD: Do you know who they bought it from?
RD: I don’t have any idea. They probably took it over from the service. From the Army.
CD: No, I mean how did the Army get it?
RD: I don’t know what family had it. I don’t have any idea. Too long ago.
CD: So, did you know anybody who was sent off to World War II?
RD: Oh yes. All kinds of people in town that I knew were older than I was. You heard their names, you knew them. I would have been in the 8th grade, you were aware of what was happening and a lot of the kids who were seniors in high school, you just knew them by name, but you knew them. They almost all went off to the service unless they had a real physical problem or an agricultural exemption. Almost all of them went into the service. Hardly anyone stayed behind, but as I said, there were a few.
CD: And how did the families cope with losing all their young men, especially a farm family?
RD: Well, they just had to make do. They just did. There just weren’t any young people out there working. One time, picking cotton, before they had cotton pickers, they would get bus loads of kids in town and take them out and ask them to pick cotton. Of course it never worked very well, because nobody liked to do it, but they did makeshift things.
CD: Did that ever happen to you?
RD: You mean, did I pick cotton? Yeah, I had to go out and pick cotton.
CD: What did they do? They’d show up with a bus?
RD: Well, my mother used to take me out and turn me over to Santa Sing, a Hindu, who used to farm a lot of land for us and he would put me to work. But then also, they would get busloads of kids from school and bring them out and have them pick cotton.
CD: Would they know how to do it?
RD: No, no, they wouldn’t know how to do it.
Ed: There are problems with inaudible tape sequences from this point in the interview.
CD: What was the age group?
RD: I was in the 7th grade, so it would have been 12, 13, 14, 15.
CD: Junior High, or did they take little kids too?
RD: No I don’t think they took little kids. They took mostly junior high and high school kids.
CD: Did your Mom send you out there after the war?
RD: Oh sure. She sent me out there whether there was a war or not. No, she was all for my going out and working on the ranch.
CD: So all these young men were gone. Did immigrants come to work? What did they do about labor?
RD: Well you had the big influx in the thirties of all the immigrants, not the immigrants but the migrants from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and all through the dust bowl and they had all come out here during the thirties. Any of them that were younger went into the service. There was sort of a pool of agricultural workers, just not any young kids high school age or college age. They were all gone.
CD: Did any of the fields have to go fallow those years?
RD: Probably, not for lack of workers, but there was gas rationing. Even the farms had gas rationing although they got more gas than the people in town. It could have been, some things could have been cut back since the fact was they didn’t have the gas or the fuel to do it.
CD: Did Grandma cut back?
RD: I can’t remember, probably not. A lot of our land was pasture for cattle, so right now it’s all farm. Maybe then only about a third of it was farmed.
CD: So not a lot of it was being farmed.
RD: No cattle pasture land.
CD: So once the war started, did everything stay the same? Did grandma make more money? Mr. Ritchie said that when he came home from the war he thought Tulare County was making a lot more money.
RD: I think some things. Yeah, I would say they were making more money. I think he was right. By the time the war was over, because everything was in such short supply.
CD: What was in short supply?
RD: Well, everything during the war because everything went for the Services. Cotton was a very valuable crop then because they had to make all the uniforms, clothes, and the Services took most of it and whatever; they got first choice on everything. We had a small prune orchard that mostly sat around for a number of years and finally in World War II it started making money because dried fruit was very easy to ship and lasted a while. So that was the prunes. I remember my mother commenting that they were finally making money on the prune orchard. I think in oranges in those days, anyone who had an orange grove who knew what to do was doing well.
CD: So the government was buying it?
RD: Sure, the government was buying. Mostly middlemen would buy it and sell it to the government, but all that fruit was in demand. Anything that would last was in demand. Oranges, dried fruit, fresh fruit, all that stuff was in big demand. So he was probably right. I wasn’t aware of that because I was too young, but I think our agricultural industry was doing quite well during the war and I think it continued to do well after the war. I think things became more modernized, everything broke loose then, trade after the war opened up. Europe was in bad shape. We sent a lot of stuff to Europe under the Marshall Plan.
CD: Do you see things that helped Tulare County?
RD: Oh yes, Tulare County at that time was a big agricultural county, like it still is.
CD: Do you think they grew about the same things? Cotton? Things that are there now? Wasn’t there some different crops in the 40’s?
RD: Well, let me think. There were more feed crops, you don’t see anymore. Some corn crops you don’t see anymore. The only big change has been dairies. There were dairies. There were a lot of Portuguese dairies in operation then, smaller dairies during the 40’s. Right after the war and in the 50’s, the dairy business started getting bigger. Dairies themselves started milking more cows.
CD: Do you think that is a result from the War?
RD: No, no that didn’t have anything to do with the war. Just that Tulare County,Southern California was starting to get so many subdivisions and all. The agricultural land and the big dairies were in Chino area and in LA County. Growth started there with the homes. A lot of those dairymen moved up to the valley and of course we had the big influx of Dutch. The Dutch came in and for some reason were very involved in the dairy industry. I think now the dairy industry has changed a lot since World War II. It’s a big, big part of our economy now.
CD: And it wasn’t during the 40’s.
RD: Not that much. The dairy industry was here, the Portuguese dairies, dairymen around that were successful, but nothing like now.
CD: And the middlemen: how did they do?
RD: Well I think they did all right. I think everyone did alright during the war, there was such demand. I’m sure they did okay. I don’t think anyone in agriculture was making big, big money. Not like the shipbuilders or people in defense work, things like that. But agriculture did better because things were in demand.
CD: It’s funny that the Portuguese owned the dairies. Do you know why that is?
RD: I don’t have any idea. That was mostly it. It was mostly a Portuguese dominated industry when I was a kid. We had dairies on our ranch and they were all run by Portuguese.
CD: And most of the laborers were from the Dust Bowl?
RD: Some from that. We already had quite a few Mexican families here that were involved in that. Even during World War II there was a large Mexican community here in Visalia. There were a lot of Mexicans in my class when I was in school.
CD: And Chinese.
RD: Yes, Chinese were here.
CD: Were they mostly laborers?
RD: They mostly were downtown in commercial business.
CD: And middlemen - were they from Tulare County? Were there any packinghouses?
RD: Oh sure. There were packinghouses for the citrus that were here.
CD: All the same ones.
RD: Sunkist was here. There were a lot of independents. Stark was here. Part of our family were here for a long time. Orange packinghouses – yeah a lot of orange packing houses, a lot of deciduous fruit packing companies. But the middlemen would come after that. They would sell to the middlemen and the middlemen would sell to the grocery stores and stuff like that. Buyers, you would call them buyers.
CD: And once World War II started, how did the real estate market do?
RD: I don’t think the war had much effect on the real estate market. Things weren’t moving much, because there wasn’t a lot of investment in new buildings. That didn’t happen until after the war. Everything was in short supply. It wasn’t easy to build something because you had a hard time getting all the materials together. I can’t remember anybody building anything during the war. It wasn’t until after the war that things started booming.
CD: So what would be sold?
RD: Farms would be bought and sold. My mother was mostly in agriculture real estate. Farms would still be bought and sold. People died and, you know, the heirs inherited land and they would want to sell. Some people were probably still having financial trouble no matter how good times were. That’s true anytime. Certain people just never quite make it.
CD: So the real estate business stayed about the same?
RD: Yep. Stayed about the same, maybe got a little more active after the war.
CD: So you would say the biggest change to Tulare County came after the War? Like how?
RD: There was more building, more people came in and started moving into the area. You know, out of LA. LA was getting crowded. That started, I’m sure, in the 50’s. I mean it’s still going on.
CD: It is still going on!
CD: You couldn’t buy a car?
RD: You could buy a used car.
CD: You couldn’t buy a new car?
RD: I remember my mother had a brand new Packard and I think she got it just around when the war started. But then I don’t think we got another car until the war was over. You could buy used cars, but there weren’t any new cars to be had.
CD: Did you know anybody during that time who got a new car?
RD: Yeah, somebody showed up at Visalia High School, some kid; his father bought a brand new Cadillac and no one could figure out where the hell he got it. He was a big farmer over in the Tulare area. The kid showed up at Visalia High School to pick up a girl and he showed up in a Cadillac. We were out there hooting and hollering at him, because we didn’t get along very well with the guys from Tulare. And we couldn’t figure out where the hell he got a new Cadillac. But anyway, new cars were scarce, very, very, very scarce even if you could find them.
CD: Hmmm. Did that make the used car prices go up?
RD: Oh yeah sure, plus the fact that we had gas rationing. Why have a brand new car that you couldn’t put much gas in?
CD: That must have affected agriculture, like tractors.
RD: We had extra gas rationing cards for fuel for tractors. They were very lenient on that.
CD: But what if your tractor broke down? What about getting a new tractor?
RD: No, you could probably find tractors, not easily, but I think you probably could. But of course, there were a lot people taking real good care of their tractors and of course during the 30’s was when tractors became more popular and the mules were gone. I can’t remember exactly how tractors were available or not, but everyone kept farming, so they had to do it some way.
CD: So you remember the tractors working.
RD: The problem wasn’t the tractor so much; it was getting the fuel.
CD: So did they give farmers enough?
RD: No, they were supposed to. There was gas rationing. You’d run out once in a while if you ran out of your gas rationing cards. They gave you a little booklet with the gas rationing stamps in there and that’s how you got it. You’d run out of them once in a while and you had to wait until you got your next booklet.
CD: And when would you get your next booklet?
RD: I can’t remember.
CD: Do you remember seeing them.
RD: Oh yeah, I remember seeing them.
CD: So they’d given them to you. Did you have to pay for them?
RD: You had to pay for the fuel, not the booklet. Although once they gave them to you, they were valuable because people would buy them from you to get the things to get the stamps to get the gas. You weren’t supposed to do that, but people did it. Like my mother would give some stamps to Christine up in Berkeley because she hardly got any stamps at all. So she could have a little more gas. People did that.
CD: So wouldn’t grandma need them?
RD: Yeah, if she had some extra ones. Christine was always after her if she had some extra ones.
CD: Because she knew grandma got more for the farm. So what did you and grandma do to support the war? Did you buy bonds?
RD: Oh yeah, my mother bought bonds, had victory gardens. It wasn’t very successful. You did all kinds of things like that. My mother invested a lot in bonds. She bought some for me. There were always bond drives.
CD: Do you still have them? Or what happened to them?
RD: No, they are long gone. We turned them in years and years ago. Bond drives, all kinds of things you did to help the war effort, drives for clothes, drives for everything.
CD: Did she ever do any of that?
RD: No, well, she was always too busy. I don’t think she did much of that.
CD: So where was your victory garden?
RD: Behind the house we had on Main Street.
CD: You had a little yard back there. And what did you plant?
RD: Carrots, radishes, gosh, what else, turnips. I can’t remember what else. Four or five things.
CD: Did you understand at the time why you were doing it?
RD: My mother told me why we were doing it. I was too young to appreciate what it was all about. It wasn’t any big deal. It would give us some vegetables once in a while.
CD: You never thought if your little victory garden didn’t make it, that your family wouldn’t have enough to eat?
RD: No, that never occurred to me. I was just doing this because it was the thing to do.
CD: Did you ever notice the food running out?
RD: Oh sure. Sometimes you couldn’t get meat.
CD: Really. So what would you guys have?
RD: I can’t even remember what my mother would cook. Sometimes you didn’t have everything. There were a lot of shortages. We were luckier here in the valley because we were an agricultural area, luckier than people in the cities.
CD: Yeah. So you don’t remember food ever running out.
RD: No I don’t remember any of that.
CD: There was a black market here. Do you remember anything about that?
RD: Yeah. I think any time you get into rationing you are probably going to have that. I don’t remember anybody in it to tell you the truth, but I’m sure there were people doing it
CD: Did they talk about it afterwards? Stories?
RD: No, no. You heard about it at the time, but I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. I was too young. You would just hear comments by people, somebody doing this, somebody doing that. And I’m sure it was here, because anytime you take shortages of something, you know, you are going to have someone thinking they can make a big haul by getting involved in gasoline. There was all kinds of things you could get involved in by getting into black marketing. There was no doubt about that. No, I don’t remember any of that. A lot of the comments when I was a kid was about whore houses in town. You know, everybody laughed and chuckled about that all of sudden we had three or four whore houses. Of course that was the result of having the Army Air Bases around.
CD: Where were these whore houses?
RD: Oh I think one was on the top of the Palace Hotel, I think. Then there was one across from…a bigger one, down next to the Santa Fe Railroad tracks, above the old Santa Fe Liquor store. These are the two I remember. There were probably more that I wasn’t even aware of. We were all kids and you know that was one thing everybody liked to talk about. It was quite a topic of conversation when you’re 13, 14 or 15 years old.
CD: You never actually saw. . .
RD: No, no. I had a friend of mine who delivered milk for Knudsen and he delivered milk to one of them, but we couldn’t wait for him to come to school and tell us what it looked like inside, who was there and what was going on.
CD: Who would he see?
RD: It was mostly service men. But once in a while he would see someone in town that was there. He would take the milk by at 4 or 5 in the morning, so there really wasn’t much going on. So we were always waiting to talk to him. He was funny.
CD: That wasn’t here? That wasn’t here before Pearl Harbor?
RD: I couldn’t tell you that or not. My guess is it could have been, but on a much smaller scale. But it really blossomed during the war because they had two big air bases right here.
CD: And there was a third.
RD: I can’t remember the other base. There was one over by Porterville. Rankin was the biggest one. Sequoia wasn’t as big. I can’t remember the other one. There was another one over by Porterville.
CD: Sequoia and Rankin
RD: Well, they’re still there, but they aren’t part of the service anymore.
CD: And the other one?
RD: I don’t know what happened to it. I think the service left.
CD: Some people had to really cut back on their driving around. How did Grandma go out to the farms and stuff?
RD: Well, she had more gas rationing cards because of the ranch.
CD: But that was just for tractors, not personal stuff.
RD: Oh no, you could do it for cars too, and you could do it for pickups. If you were involved in the agricultural business you got a lot more stamps. I used to get stamps from my mother and would con guys into rides if I’d give them stamps.
CD: Would they go?
RD: A lot us, yeah. She would once in a while. Yeah. My friend had a car; I didn’t have a car and we would go to the movies or double date or something if you had gas. So I would get a couple of stamps, give him the stamps for the gas and we’d go out. A lot of people did that.
CD: So, just some things about your personal life and family life. How do you think the war affected you and Grandma?
RD: Well at that stage of my life, I didn’t feel any effects at all.
CD: What about Grandma? Would she talk about it?
Ed note: Catherine is interviewing her father.
RD: Yeah, yeah. It didn’t affect us. I mean my mother kept doing what they always did. Running the ranch was probably more difficult because of all the shortages. She talked about that a lot. You couldn’t get a lot of things that you needed. She, like everybody else, struggled through the war years and made do. I don’t think personally I can remember any effect it had on me because I was too young. I worked to get spending money and of course getting a paper route wasn’t hard because there weren’t a lot of older guys about to do it.
CD: So you had a paper route during the war years and you wouldn’t have any competition?
RD: No, no, well, I had to wait. Everyone wanted a paper route because it was a popular in-thing to do in town, so I waited. But when kids went to high school and got out, they were gone. They did take a lot of younger kids.
CD: Why was it such the in-thing to do?
RD: I think I was making $25-$30 a month on this paper route. There wasn’t any other place a kid my age could make money like that. In those days, that was a lot of money.
CD: How much did Grandma pay you to work?
RD: Sometimes she paid me, sometimes she wouldn’t. She just thought that’s what should be done. She paid me sometimes. Yeah.
CD: Did the kids that got sent off to school, did they get paid when they went to the cotton fields?
RD: Oh yeah, they paid them.
CD: Oh they did.
RD: Oh yes, they paid them for the cotton they picked. They had to do that. It wasn’t slave labor.
CD: That would have been child labor.
RD: Right. Yes, they paid them; they were glad to have them.
CD: Would they actually miss school?
RD: Sometimes, they would pick them up right after lunch and work all afternoon and sometimes they would pick them up and work all day, but very seldom all day, because the kids were too young. They would cut the school day short.
CD: And what would your teachers say about the war? Were there lesson plans about it?
RD: No, no. I do remember they set the school year back so the kids could work up to the first part of October. That happened once I think, where they let the school year start later and kids could still work on the farms. No, I don’t remember.
CD: Do you think that happened everywhere or just Tulare County?
RD: I think it happed everywhere, all over the country. Everybody’s in the same situation.
CD: And how did they make it up?
RD: No, they just didn’t bother. School was a lot simpler in those days. There weren’t the rules and regulations and they didn’t have the state down their back telling them what to do and what not to do. Each school district was kind of an entity on its own.
CD: So they didn’t have a lesson plan about the war?
RD: Not that I remember at school, no.
CD: How did grandma feel about
RD: She was all for it. Everybody was mad at the Japanese.
CD: What about before that?
RD: Before that happened, I don’t know. She never said much about it. I think the thought was that before Pearl Harbor everybody pretty much thought that sooner or later we would be in the war.
CD: Sooner or later.
RD: We would be involved. But a lot of people before Pearl Harbor, I mean that was one of reasons they always thought that Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was going to happen. Because he wanted to do something to jolt the public into helping the effort in Europe and of course Pearl Harbor got us into it. Before that, there were a lot of people who didn’t want us to be involved in the war.
CD: They did not.
RD: No, they did not want to be involved in the war. They didn’t want to have anything to do with Europe and a lot of them are still mad about what happened in World War I and they didn’t want to go help anybody. There was a lot of that. A lot of people felt we should and a lot thought we should stay out of it.
CD: At the time, were people aware Roosevelt had warning about Pearl Harbor?
RD: Oh, it started coming out more after the war. I think they blamed Admiral Kimmel, I think that was his name, he was the one who was stripped of rank or something. They blamed him because he was in charge of the Pacific Theater or in Honolulu when it happened. It was only after, during the 50’s, that word started coming out that maybe Roosevelt really knew about it and decided not to say anything because it would get us involved. A lot of controversy over that.
CD: What was the reaction?
RD: Well, I don’t know, it just depended. Roosevelt, when I was a kid, was very much revered by a lot of families. A lot of people thought he had rescued us from other disasters during the depression. My family was not like that. My family did not like Roosevelt including Christine who was a very liberal Democrat. There wasn’t one member of my family that liked Roosevelt. So he was a very polarizing thing. But most of the kids that I grew up with came from families that for some reason thought Roosevelt was some kind of a savior and really pulled us out of the depression practically by himself. What got us out of the depression was World War II.
CD: So they were singing his praises before World War II?
RD: Oh yeah, oh yeah. When I was a kid, if you got up and said anything against Roosevelt, you were probably going to get into a fight.
CD: And did you ever?
RD: Oh yeah, once in a while. I had a friend of mine who said all kinds of things, but he would get up in class and say something bad about Roosevelt and the kid threatened to kill him. There were some people who just didn’t feel that he was altogether that honest. It did come out, and I think most historians now feel he did know something. It doesn’t make any difference anymore.
CD: So where were you when the war ended?
RD: At home. I told you.
CD: That was when it began. What about when it ended?
RD: Oh, excuse me, when it ended. Sorry. I was washing dishes for Fresno State summer school up at Huntington Lake.
RD: I had been at Boy Scout camp and when the Boy Scout camp finished, Fresno State came over and asked four or five of us if we wanted to work for two or three more weeks before their summer school ended at Huntington Lake.
CD: You were working, not one of the campers.
RD: No, I was one of the workers at the Fresno State Summer School. We had a little tent of our own. It was in August and that’s when I heard the war had ended.
CD: Did you hear over the radio?
RD: I can’t remember, Catherine. I think we used to go down to what they call Lakeshore and there was a big store down there and hang around there. They had dances on Saturday night. The summer we found out, we didn’t have a radio. Somebody told us.
CD: And how was the reaction?
RD: Everybody was very happy and jubilant, and everything else.
CD: And you were young, but it was only four years away. Did you think you would ever get drafted?
RD: Oh let’s see. I was between a freshman, sophomore, I really hadn’t thought about it much.
CD: And your mom hadn’t either?
RD: She thought maybe it would be good to consider going to one of the military schools, which didn’t thrill me after high school. Annapolis. By that time my mother was very involved in Republican politics and she thought that maybe the local congressman would help out in that regard. That was about all she said.
CD: She was going to send you to military school.
RD: After high school.
CD: For college?
RD: That was a very popular thing to do then because of the war. A lot of kids tried to get into West Point, Annapolis.
CD: What on earth for?
RD: Because of the war.
CD: They wanted to run out and fight somewhere?
RD: They wanted to get into the service. It was a good way to get into the service and get an education at the same time. So it was a popular thing to do.
CD: Where were you when we
declared victory in
RD: I was home by then. My deal with Fresno State was about over.
CD: Was that as big of a deal?
RD: I can remember all the newsreels and everything else when they met on the Missouri with MacArthur and they signed everything. I can remember that. That was a big deal. That was on the news a lot, in the newspapers a lot. We saw that over and over again in the Movie Tone News.
CD: You owned a radio at that time?
CD: Did you listen to it much?
RD: Yeah. I listen to the radio a lot.
CD: But you weren’t listening to the radio when they dropped the bomb?
RD: I was in Huntington Lake
CD: When they dropped the bomb on Pearl Harbor . . .
RD: On no, I wasn’t listening to it then.
CD: And now after all these years, what do you think about dropping the bomb?
RD: I think we did the right thing, absolutely.
CD: Did you think so at the time?
RD: I wasn’t aware of it. I didn’t have enough
information. I was glad the war was
over, but everybody was. They felt and I
think everybody felt that if they had to drop the bomb to get the war over, it
was worth it. There wasn’t a controversy
at the time about dropping the bomb. There was later on. When they dropped
it, I would say 90% of the American people thought it was a good thing that it
got the war over. But then later on
people started thinking about it and of course a lot of publicity came out
about it and how many people were killed, what it did to the Japanese, how it
scarred them for life and everything else. The more publicity about it, the more people thought they shouldn’t have
done it and of course it got more emotional. That’s one thing I always have to hand to Harry Truman, who was
president at the time, he just made the decision to do it and they did it. I just think it saved all kinds of American
lives. We would have had to land. I saw the landing plans on Kiushu when I was
in the Navy. We would have had to land on the southern island of Japan, where
the Japanese had every kid old enough to walk out there with a gun ready to
shoot. It would have been a
disaster. It would have been awful if we
would have had to invade
CD: So you would say your opinion about dropping the bomb was pretty consistent with everybody else?
RD: Oh yeah you bet. It was a minority for sure. Most of the kids, especially, were pro-Roosevelt and thought that he had done a hell of a job. There weren’t very many of us who were that critical of him. But my family felt like that and when you are a kid you listen to your family, you know, so …
CD: So only a minority of families weren’t thrilled with Roosevelt. And where did Grandma’s attitude come from? Why wasn’t she like everyone else?
RD: Well she was. Everybody in the family was fairly individualistic people and ploughed their own furrow, doing their own thing. We weren’t a religious family. Nobody went to church that I recall. My mother never went to church except she did send me to Sunday school until I decided I wasn’t going anymore. It wasn’t a religious thing. My mother and most of the family were fairly moderate Republicans, so right off the bat they probably would be suspicious of Roosevelt. They were suspicious of a lot of the programs that were started, although I guess some of them were necessary. It was just that we were part of the minority at that time and not happy with Roosevelt.
CD: So how did that majority first react when Roosevelt died?
RD: They were very upset. Some of them were very sad, very upset.
CD: How did they feel about Truman then?
RD: I don’t think many people knew what to think about Truman. Roosevelt ran for President four times and each time he ran he brought in a new guy for Vice President. My opinion is that he never wanted anyone around him to get as popular as he was. So each time he ran he brought in a new Vice President. Truman had been a senator from Missouri, an unknown senator practically, so he brought Truman in. Hardly anyone knew anything about Truman except that he was the senator from Missouri. He didn’t have any national stature at all.
CD: Well, what was the opinion about him? Did they think he could finish it up?
RD: Well, he did. He had to finish the whole thing up before the war ended in Europe and the
war ended in
CD: Do you think the people of Tulare County understood that?
RD: During that time, a lot of people were getting very suspect of the Russians. That they were in it for something else. That Truman got taken in a little bit by Stalin. Of course, Roosevelt got really taken in by Stalin. Everybody was aware of that. But Truman more or less did a good job for a guy that nobody knew anything about and supposedly had very limited experience. A lot of people did like him. He wasn’t a very
sophisticated person. He was a whisky drinking, poker-playing guy that spoke very plain language and cussed a lot.
CD: And that was attractive to Tulare County?
RD: A lot of people didn’t like that. I didn’t mind that part of him at all. I didn’t care what he did as long as he tried to do a good job, which he did do, but there were a lot of people that didn’t like him because of that; didn’t think he was up to the job.
CD: But the consensus here was that they were happy with him?
RD: I would say fifty-fifty. A lot of people weren’t happy with him. He wasn’t as popular as Roosevelt. He came along and compared to Roosevelt, all these people thought he walked on water. Truman was a more down-to-earth person. Which I liked better but a lot of people didn’t.
CD: When did Grandma start getting involved in politics? Was she involved at all during the World War II years?
RD: Oh she was involved way back in the 30’s.
CD: What did she start with?
RD: She started working in local Republican campaigns and she got on the Republican Central Committee.
CD: What was the first campaign she worked for, do you know?
RD: She worked for a lot of them. The main campaign she worked for was Earl Warren for Governor.
CD: What year was that?
RD: I think he started in ’41, ’42 and was re-elected in ’44. She worked on at least two campaigns or more. Those were the two big campaigns she first started working on and she was a delegate to the convention for Eisenhower in ’52. She worked on his campaign, so yeah, she was very, very active in Republican politics.
CD: Was she actually running the campaign for Earl Warren?
RD: I can’t remember. I just remember she was involved in the campaign.
CD: How would the war affect that?
RD: Oh it wouldn’t affect that, they still ran for office. I was a kid and she used to give me Wendell Wilkie buttons to hand out in ’40 when Wilkie ran against Roosevelt and then I would have more stuff on my paper route or whatever. She always told me to spread them around and give them to people.
CD: Did you stick them in the paper?
RD: Yes, I put them in my pocket or put them in my bike and gave them to people. You know, just spread them around.
CD: Who was it who ran against Roosevelt?
RD: Wilkie, Wendell Wilkie in 1940. I used to do that and I had a lot of people get mad at me.
CD: What would they do?
RD: They would yell at me and tell me to get away and tell me they were going to cancel their subscription to the Times-Delta. I shouldn’t be so dumb to hand out Wilkie buttons. Like I was telling you earlier, the sentiment for Roosevelt was very strong. It really was.
CD: Yeah and you were working Wilkie buttons.
RD: People were supposed to do that.
CD: And the newspaper didn’t say anything? You weren’t risking your job?
RD: Nobody ever complained that I know of. I think they needed everybody they could get, so they weren’t going to worry about that.
CD: So did Grandma actually run the campaign for Wendell Wilkie?
RD: Yeah, she helped the local campaign; that was one of the first she got involved in.
CD: Was it the Presidential one?
CD: So as far as your feelings about the war, everyone agreed?
RD: Everybody pretty much agreed on it. Right
CD: Is there anything about the war that stands out in your memory, as far as Tulare County?
RD: I can’t think of anything, Catherine. The only thing I can think of is the auxiliary airstrip we had out in Section 5. After the war, we ended up with an airstrip out on our property that we didn’t know what to do with.
CD: I know I asked this before, but did that happen to any other of your farming friends?
RD: I can’t remember if it did or not. I’m sure it did, but right now I can’t remember.
CD: Do you think World War II was a just war?
RD: Sure, sure. Well, I think you heard all the reasons why it is. I mean, you know, with Hitler and Fascism, it
was a very just war, with
CD: One thing I wanted to ask about concerning family life is who were some of the well-known Visalians around at the time, like Al Blain.
RD: Al Blain was in the service. He was a Marine. He wasn’t here until after the war.
CD: So he was good friends with grandma?
RD: Yeah. He was younger than my mother.
CD: What other families?
RD: A lot of the families that are still here were here then. The Hayes’ were gone, our neighbors were gone, the Hagler family was out on the other side of 99. I don’t know what happened to them. The Shannons are still here.
CD: Did they go?
RD: Oh, I’m sure they did. Almost everybody did. Almost everybody was in the service at one time or another. There are still a lot of the old families around. But Visalia has changed a lot.
CD: But you don’t remember any particular family losing several sons?
RD: Oh I don’t think we had anybody like that. We had people who lost sons, but not any big . . . Yeah, a lot of people lost sons. There was a lot of casualties.
CD: But you don’t remember any particulars.
RD: No, I remember a neighbor who graduated from high school and lived on the other corner of the block from me and he was very popular and very smart, well-liked. A lot of them, when they graduated from high school, were taken into what they called the V12, V5 program, which sent them to college and they would stay there two or three years and then get a commission in the service and I remember they were very proud of the fact that he went to one of the universities on the V12 program and got there and got spinal meningitis and died.
CD: At the college?
RD: Yeah. Right after he went in. It was a pretty sad thing.
RD: He was very popular, I remember that. Right after he graduated from high school. But he wasn’t a casualty of the war. That happened to him right after he went in.
CD: Do you remember any casualties?
RD: No, I’m sure there were.
CD: Do you remember any more about the black market or anything like that?
RD: No, I don’t remember that. I remember them talking about it, but I don’t remember, I was too young.
CD: How would you say in the end World War II affected Tulare County? It seems most things happened after the war.
RD: I don’t think it affected Tulare County any
more and any differently than it affected any other areas of the
CD: Some areas of the country must have seen a decline.
RD: A lot of them did. Yeah. Tulare County started really growing.
CD: Did it seem like a boom town?
RD: No, it never seemed like a boom town, just a natural, consistent growth.
CD: Is there anything else you would like to add? A fond memory?
RD: No, I can’t think of anything right now.
CD: Can you remember anything that grandma said about the war? Did she ever talk about it?
RD: Oh everybody talked about it at the time. Well, she was like everybody else; she was trying to help the war effort any way she could. Everybody was just pulling together and helping out and hoping for the best.
CD: Do you remember if Charlie was going to go?
RD: Yeah, Charlie did, my cousin, Charles Walder. He went into the B12 program in Long Beach and some school in New York, I can’t remember the name of it, and got a commission back there and just after he got his commission, the war ended. So he was never involved. He was too late.
CD: But he might have been sent over?
RD: He was on his way overseas when the war ended.
CD: Where? Europe?
CD: What did his mom, Ruth Mallock Walder, say?
RD: Well, of course, they were all worried about
it and everything else, but they knew the war was coming to an end. Even before they dropped the first bomb,
people hoped we didn’t have to invade
CD: But that was a real fear, that
we would invade
RD: They got all the stuff where the Japanese had all their operations lined out and what they were going to do. They weren’t going to give up. It was going to be a mess.
CD: Well, OK. Thank you for your time on this project.
RD: You’re quite welcome. It was my pleasure.
C. Doe/pd 1-30-2004/final edit J Wood
Ed. note: The words in italics are from a final interview with JW in the library with Russell Doe. He also shared the following information:
the war there was a POW camp located at Tagus Ranch, south of Visalia, full of young German soldiers. When I was fourteen I had a limited drivers license because of the
war. I would drive a pickup over to the
POW camp, pick up some of the prisoners and take them to our prune orchard to
pick prunes. They were paid for this
work. Sometimes they would send a guard
with them and sometimes not. I don’t
think it made a difference since these were just kids eighteen and nineteen
years old and were not going anywhere. This was an interesting experience for me at that age. Some of them could speak a little English so
would ask about the war and told me they were looking forward to going back