California Council for the Humanities

California Stories Initiative

Years of Valor, Years of Hope

Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946

Tulare County Library

The Friends of the Tulare County Library

And the Tulare County Historical Society

Interviews in 2003-2004

 

Interviewee: Richard Edmiston

Date: 1/16/04

Tape # 80

Interviewer: Judy M. Yoder

Place: Tulare County, CA

Place of Interview: Mr. Edmistons’ Home in Woodlake

PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946

In the military,Kansas, South Carolina, China . Enlisted November 1942.

OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:

General Background

Personal Reaction to War

Military Experience


JY: This is Judy Yoder. I am the interviewer and I am interviewing Richard Edmiston in Elderwood on January 16, 2004. Could you please state your name and spell it for me?

RE: Richard Edmiston.

JY: What was your date of birth?

RE: December 19, 1923.

JY: What is your residence?

RE: 20545 Avenue 380. Woodlake.

JY: What are your parent’s names and where were they from?

RE: My mother was Irma Ricker. She was born in Iowa and came to San Diego as a young girl and went through - at that time they called it a normal school - and came to the Elderwood area to teach school. She boarded, this was a country school, and she boarded with my grandmother, Malvina Edmiston Fudge, and that’s how my parents met.

JY: And can you spell her last name?

RE: Ricker.

JY: And your father’s name. And where he came from?

RE: Thomas A. Edmiston. He was born in Arkansas in Canehill which is up in the northwest corner of Arkansas. They came to California when he was very young. I don’t know the exact age, but I’m under the impression it was six or seven years old. They originally came to the . . . at that time there was a big promotion for land out in the valley . . . I can’t remember what they called the area at that time, but it would be right around Hanford, east of Hanford, in that area, and that was just a short period of time. Nothing suited them there. Then there was this land available in the foothills which they bought and still own. I still own it. ‘Course my dad left . . . let me regress a little bit. My grandfather, Thomas Edmiston Sr. had fought in the Civil War and came home and got pneumonia and died as I understand it, in his late 20’s. Then my grandmother remarried and came to California and her second husband was Fudge.

JY: How do you spell Fudge?

RE: Just like the candy.

JY: F-U-D-G-E. So where did you grow up?

RE: In Elderwood.

JY: And how old were you when World War II began?

RE: I guess I was seventeen. I was in high school.

JY: And were you working? No, you already answered it, because you said you were in high school. What high school did you attend?

RE: Woodlake.

JY: And at the time of the war were you in a relationship, married or single?

RE: Single. I was seventeen. (Laughter)

JY: You have to understand, my grandmother-in-law, I think, was married when she was 14 or 15.

RE: Well, I think my grandmother Malvina was about the same thing.

JY: That was quite common back then. So let’s see. Let’s go to personal reactions to the war. So what event stands out in the years preceding the beginning of the war?

RE: Probably my most vivid memory was when war was declared in Europe because I sat up half the night listening to the radio. I knew we were going to get into it sooner or later. Even at that time.

JY: Was the radio the only source of information at the time?

RE: Our television didn’t work.

JY: I was thinking about newspapers.

RE: The fact is that I saved some of the newspapers. I’ve still got them, the headlines about "war is declared" and that sort of thing and two or three that I thought was history. I’ve always been conscious of history.

JY: I do the same thing. If I see a headline that catches my attention and I think it’s relevant as far as history goes, I save it.

RE: In fact I was back there just before you came, kind of looking through it, and unfortunately they are all falling apart. But I save stuff. I’m a pack rat.

JY: That’s Okay. Some of the best teachers are. So where were you and what were you doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

RE: I know that a couple of my buddies were going to come over and we were going to go over on our ranch and go squirrel hunting, which we did, but the news came on early so we were aware ....

Well, I was in Elderwood.

JY: What one event stands out in your memory?

RE: You mean in my own experience? Probably one of the memorable things was when we were overseas. I was stationed in South China. We were right down about 20 miles from the Indo-China border. There was a direct highway, well, I know there was a railroad. I don’t know if there was a highway or not from Hanoi that came up and over the border into the area where we were. At that time, when I first got over there, Indochina was occupied by the Japanese. In fact, it was kind of comical, because I have an old copy of Time magazine that shows our base being down in Japanese occupied territory. Basically, we were right close to the border. Technically if you went off the south boundary of our air base you were in Japanese territory.

JY: That’s close.

RE: There were no problems there. They weren’t attacking us or anything like that. There were quite a bit of bombing runs up into Kunming, where I was at first. But the last bombs that were dropped were the day before I got there and after that we had several alerts and we could hear the Japanese planes come over. They had a very distinctive sound because of their bombers, they didn’t synchronize the engines. (Mr. Edmiston makes the sound of the engines.) I remember the first night I was there, I no sooner sat down and was taking my shoes off to go to bed and they had a gong that they rang and I said, "What’s that?" This guy was already in bed and he said, "It’s an air raid!" And I said, "What do we do now?" He said, "Follow me." And before I could get my shoes back on, he was out of the bed and going out the door.

JY: There was no time to waste.

RE: Anyway, he said, "Follow me." I don’t know how far we went but it took us about a half hour to walk back. He had found a place about half a mile from the air base and there was a big ditch there. So we just got down in the ditch. No bombs were dropped. That’s the closest to combat I ever came. I think there was one more after that and then we didn’t even have any more alerts. I didn’t get into any action or anything like that. It was pretty tame.

JY: What was your opinion of the dropping of the atomic bomb?

RE: Wonderful. We could go home. I don’t know if we had any great ideas on it; it was another bomb. I mean we all celebrated; it was wonderful. As far as we were concerned, they deserved it.

JY: Did your feelings change over time?

RE: No.

JY: Did your feelings differ from those of your contemporaries?

RE: Well, the only contemporaries at that time were my fellow GIs and we all celebrated. This was wonderful. After what they had been doing, it was what they deserved.

JY: Yes, exactly. Did you consider World War II a just war?

RE: Yeah.

JY: Where were you when you heard the war had ended?

RE: I was in Mengtze, China .

JY: How do you spell that?

RE: Mengtze. And it’s right down on the Indochina border south of Kunming, so it’s inland. And that was the main headquarters of the 14th Air Force. And when I got into China . . . of course we had to fly the hump (the southern part of the Himalaya Mountain Range) in from India, so as it turns out I left from the East Coast, from Newport News, Virginia and crossed the Atlantic. At that time we had no idea where we were going. I thought we were going to Italy because we ran through the Suez Canal and through the Straights of Gibraltar. I knew we were going to Italy , but we went right on past Italy and through the Suez Canal and landed in Bombay, India . It was interesting, because we made stops in Algiers and the Suez. We were able to see the sights and we went down and stopped in Aden, which is at the southern tip of Arabia and across to Bombay and off the ship and onto a train and it took us a week to cross India in this train, which was real interesting because it was these third class coaches. The way the cars were made is they were divided crossways and you had compartments and it was set up so it accommodated four. You had two benches and two that folded down and then when the train stopped, everybody on the car could step out, which we did. As soon as it stopped, we would all get out and the first thing is to grab our canteen cup and run up to the locomotive and get a canteen cup full of hot water so we could make some instant coffee.

JY: Oh yum.

RE: Yeah, it was great. And of course, all they had given us was a week’s supply of K rations. I don’t know if you know what K rations are.

JY: Oh yeah.

RE: Like a box of crackerjacks, so you know. This was no problem.

JY: So how old were you when you enlisted?

RE: Eighteen.

JY: I’m going to go back to the top of this questionnaire. There are questions I need to ask all interviewees. How do you think the World War II years in Tulare County affected you?

RE: How did they affect me? I don’t recall that they affected me. We were very patriotic and everybody, that’s all of us, talked about getting drafted. It was, "What branch am I going to get into?" I was very careful. As far as I was concerned, getting drafted was a stain on your character. So I enlisted.

JY: And which branch did you enlist in?

RE: In the Army. And they had a program where if you had any mechanical experience, you could enlist in the Army as an aircraft mechanic, or in the Air Corps as an aircraft mechanic. At the time, it was the Army Air Corps. So I thought this was great. So that’s what I did. ‘Course in the meantime I had gone up to San Francisco and worked in the shipyards. In those days all anybody talked about was what are we going to do with all these veterans when they come back. They’re going to all have to sell apples on the street corners because there aren’t going to be jobs for them, so I decided I wanted a little bit of a nest egg, so I went up and worked in the shipyards for about three months and save up some money there, and actually I enlisted in San Francisco then.

JY: Oh wow. So how did you think the World War II years affected the way Tulare County is now?

RE: I wouldn’t have any idea. I don’t know.

JY: Let’s go over here to military experience. We just talked about how you entered the Armed Forces and you just gave me your attitude toward being drafted. If you were drafted it was a stain on your character as opposed to being patriotic and enlisting.

RE: Of course, at that time they weren’t drafting eighteen year olds.

JY: Oh, so what was the age limit?

RE: I think it was twenty.

JY: That is quite old.

RE: After I enlisted they dropped the age to eighteen, but I was already in by that time and I was very happy that I did. Forcing you to do your patriotic duty just ran against my grain.

JY: Yes, exactly.

RE: I don’t say its right or wrong, I just didn’t want to be forced to do that.

JY: Do you remember the date that you went into the military?

RE: Oh, absolutely. November 5, 1942.

JY: How long was your tour of duty?

RE: I got out in January of 1946.

JY: So you spent most of your tour, most of the years, in the military. What that in China ?

RE: No, I only spent a year in China . From here I went to La Junta, Colorado and they had a special recruiting drive to man this new air base there. We didn’t have too much basic training. It was pretty rudimentary, but then they had a mechanic’s school which was rudimentary, and then we were mechanics on the base. So I was Assistant Crew Chief on B-25s. I thought this was great because one of the crew was supposed to fly with the airplane all the time as engineer and there were three of us on the crew and nobody liked to fly but me, so I flew all the time.

JY: It’s nice that you have an interest in aviation, so that’s pretty cool.

RE: Yeah, since I was a little kid. I built model airplanes.

JY: So describe your experiences in basic training. I know you said there wasn’t much as far as basic training went, but describe what little there was.

RE: Well, I have to stop and think. It wasn’t too rigorous. We had classes and all the military law and this sort of thing. It really wasn’t much of a basic training. We just learned close order drill, but not like the Marines.

JY: I know. I wouldn’t appreciate being a Marine. Okay, where did you serve during the war and what did you do?

RE: You mean from start to finish?

JY: Yes, let’s try that.

RE: First of all, I was in La Junta. As soon as we got through this abbreviated basic training they put us out on the line as Assistant Crew Chief and we maintained the airplanes.

JY: La Junta? Where is that?

RE: That is in southeastern Colorado, east of Pueblo.

JY: How do you spell La Junta?

RE: La Junta. It’s The Council. More like the meeting place. Junta is the meeting or council in Spanish. Of course this is all Hispanic, much like around here.

JY: Made you feel right at home. Something I have noticed is that when you grow up in an area and are surrounded pretty much by the same culture, you move out and you wind up relocating very much in a similar same culture. It’s very comforting.

RE: Of course this area wasn’t as much a Hispanic area when I was a kid. It’s become more so through the years.

JY: So Colorado was the first leg of it and then after your training, is that when you went over to China ?

RE: No. While I was in La Junta, one day on the bulletin board I saw they had a program, they called it the ASTP Program, Army Specialist Training Program and we could apply. They sent you back to college and we were told that this might entail staying in the Army as an occupation. We would go back to college, get an engineering degree and then they would have a Corps of Engineers to rebuild Europe, whatever damage had been done by World War II. I thought the chance to get a college education was great, so I applied for that and was accepted and went to St. Louis University, and I was there, they had the quarter system. I was there for two quarters. The first quarter I got by just fine. I’ve always had a problem with math and the second quarter we had analytical geometry which I was low from the start and I did fine on everything else, but I flunked analytical geometry and if you flunked one course, then you were out. So by the second quarter, at the end of six months, I was out. So they sent me to Jefferson barracks, which is just on the southern outskirts of St. Louis, back to the Air Corps. This turned out to be one of the most fortunate things that happened to me because, like I say, I flunked out of the second quarter. As for the rest of the class, I was right there and I’d come back and visit with my buddies on the weekend and they came back after the break. They all got a week break in between and went to school for about a week and then they shut down the entire ASTP program. It was done. Most of those who were there were transferred to Louisiana and put into the 44th Division Infantry and so basically being a little on the stupid side probably saved my life. They went through combat infantry training and then shipped out to Europe. One of real close buddies, I corresponded with him all the time over there. In every letter that I got, he would name off one of the group, "Well, so and so got killed the other day."

JY: The good Lord was looking after you and made sure you did not understand analytical geometry.

RE: (Laughter). Yep, yep.

JY: That is a blessing in disguise.

RE: Being dumb isn’t always the worst thing. (Laughter) I guess from there I went to Jefferson barracks and went through basic training all over again. They treated us like we had just joined the Army and then I was sent to South Carolina, which was a B25 base there. I was crew chief on B25s.

JY: What’s the function of a B25?

RE: Bomber, medium bomber, twin engine. Actually, the earlier models had a bombardier’s nose in it and then they took the green house (glass) out of the nose and put just heavy fire power there. They even had a 75mm cannon in some of them.

JY: Wow.

RE: It didn’t work too well. It sounded great and of course it stuck clear back into the cabin, below the pilots’ area.

JY: Well, that would take a lot of room.

RE: Yeah it would. It wasn’t too practical, but on the later models they mounted 20mm cannons and 50 caliber machine guns. I can’t remember the amount, but two 20mm and four 50 calibers. So there’d be six guns at the front and when they let go a burst, it pretty much plowed things up. Anyway, where were we, La Junta?

JY: No, we were at St. Louis and they sent you someplace where you could work on the B25s.

RE: That was South Carolina. I was crew chief there and every morning we had a formation just before we went out on the line and the first sergeant came out to tell us if there was anything new, new instructions, anything we needed to know for that day’s work, and then we’d go work out on our airplanes all day. So one morning I was lined up right in front of the first sergeant and he said they needed three volunteers for overseas. So I was able to take just one step forward and I was right in his face.

JY: Okay, were you the eager one? You were the first one of the three to step forward.

RE: Well, I was the closest. There were several. Everybody wanted to. I wasn’t any gung ho. I just didn’t want to spend the war sitting in the backwaters. From there I went to Greensboro, which is an overseas replacement depot and we went through all the preliminary stuff before you go overseas and all the shots and lectures and garbage. Then from there we went up to Newport News, Virginia and left from there and headed across the Atlantic. We all knew we were going to the European Theater, so we went in through the Straights of Gibraltar and thought we were going to Italy . It was interesting because first we docked in Gibraltar and we never got off the ship and then we went across the Mediterranean and docked in Algiers. Then we went up and docked in Suez. So then through the Canal and down to Aden, which is on the southern tip of Arabia and we pulled in and docked there for two or three days. Never could get off the ship, but we saw a lot of territory. Then across the Arabian Sea and landed in Bombay. They took us right off the ship and put us on a train. The train pulled right up to the dock and we got on the train and crossed India which took us about a week. This was fascinating because the cars that we had were compartments with four men to a compartment. Each compartment opened to the outside. So when the train pulled up and stopped you could open the door and everybody could get off.

JY: So you didn’t have to go into a center aisle.

RE: No, you just stepped out of your compartment. They had a wooden walkway on the outside, so if you wanted to get from one compartment to another you could go outside and walk along.

JY: While the train is moving on the tracks?

RE: They had handholds.

JY: That is fascinating.

RE: These were third class coaches, wooden. All we had was a wooden bench to sleep on.

JY: No comfort.

RE: Well, it wasn’t first class, no. Actually it was third class accommodations for India .

JY: And it was better than they treated their own Indian citizenry, correct?

RE: This would be what the Indian people had for their accommodations, if they rode on the train. But most of them, the train would pull out, and you had Indians hanging off all over, and some of them . . . the window would be open and they would be trying to climb inside.

JY: India was under English rule at the time.

RE: Yes. This was the first time that I had really been exposed to third World poverty and it was real bad.

JY: Kind of a rude awakening.

RE: Yes. Not that it was a shock. Well, I guess it was kind of a shock, but the shock to me was how some of the British troops that had been there treated the natives. I can see why the Indians don’t like the English. These British soldiers were pretty brutal. I wouldn’t say that either, not like the Chinese and some of those were, but it was just my introduction to the real world, I guess.

JY: Exactly. We’re going to move on here. Did your attitudes towards war change during World War II?

RE: No, not that I recall.

JY: Did you know how your part of the war related to the rest of the war?

RE: We were kind of in back of the war. I was very upset because we weren’t out in the thick of things and we were very excited because just before the war ended . . . you see, I was a crew chief with a very close relationship with my pilot and the officers had more intelligence information than we did, of course, and when the war ended, I found that if it hadn’t have ended that we were slated to go out, basically out to what was the front lines. They were going to make a landing on the China coast. We were in the inland China and then our squadron was slated as one of the first operations of an airborne assault on this Japanese airfield in Canton,Whitecloud Airport. The day that they were going to drop an aerial assault and secure it, or get a foothold, on the same day, our squadron was to go in and land a small detachment.

JY: Low level flying.

RE: Well we were going to go in and invade. There was going to be an airborne invasion in Canton as one of the first attacks on the mainland of China and the objective would be to go in and secure this large airfield in Canton,which was Whitecloud Air Base. We were to go in the same day. There was going to be an aerial assault, probably before daybreak and then we were to go in about midday and set up operations and just a small detachment of our squadron, which would have been some armors and some crew chiefs. I was on that list, which was what I wanted to do. So we were to go in and set up a rudimentary station and start servicing. They would fly supplies and fuel and that sort of thing and bombs, ammunition. It would have been a very small group. There was one mechanic per airplane for gas and oil. The armors would load the ordnance. So we were to set up there and start flying missions out of there. Most of the missions would have been about ten minutes, because they would have to take off, go over, do some strafing and bombing and come back and reload. But that didn’t happen.

JY: Did your views towards race relations change during the war? Any specific experiences about race relations? I think this might be in regard to the separation of black troops and white troops.

RE: We didn’t have any black troops in China . China did not allow black troops in their country. It is not politically correct to voice these things, but this was the Chinese. But in Burma and India , there was a lot. Particularly in Burma , there were a lot of black troops. We had Chinese troops. In fact, we didn’t have any ground troops in China . This was all Chinese, so we had all the guards around our base, that was all Chinese. We had to pull guard duty, but the only thing we were doing was keeping the Chinese from stealing the supplies.

JY: They recognized quality products.

RE: You have to understand; these people were starving. They didn’t have anything, so all they could do is steal. And who had anything but us.

JY: It’s about survival.

RE: Yes, it’s about survival.

JY: Your instincts take over and it’s about survival. So did you gain skills from your military service?

RE: I learned KP pretty good. Now I can do dishes. I think it was just a day-to-day experience that I got. I don’t know; that’s hard to answer.

JY: How well were you able to adapt to the routines of military life?

RE: No problem. I enjoyed it. To me it was a big adventure.

JY: Oh yes.

RE: I was eighteen years old and never been out of Elderwood, and how much of an adventure could you have? In fact, if I had my choice of where to go overseas, I ended up right where I wanted to go. Because, you know, I’ve been raised reading the funny papers, "Terry and the Pirates," about the military in China and all that and they were my heroes.

JY: For those folks who do not understand why we are laughing, I was driving into Elderwood and looked at the Welcome to Elderwood sign and the population as of today, January 16, 2004, is at one hundred seventy. So when you are back in 1941, what was the population? Maybe half?

RE: Probably.

JY: So for you to go out and enlist and go halfway across the globe of this earth . . . my gosh, you saw a lot. Experienced a lot.

RE: I’ve always been interested in that sort of thing so I had done a lot of reading. So this basically was one of my big interests. Aviation and China , because "Terry and the Pirates" was one of my favorite comic strips.

JY: Good sense of humor. So how important was wartime correspondence to you? How did you stay in touch with your family?

RE: Just writing letters. It always took three weeks for a letter to get there.

JY: In today’s technology, that’s really had to fathom because of
e-mail. It’s instantaneous.

RE: There’s a lot of things that I would have liked to have told, but the fact is that a lot of my letters got a lot censored out of it.

JY: So the military read your letters. Someone reads your letters.

RE: Of course.

JY: They censored them.

RE: Oh yes, they censored them. You were supposed to only write on one side of the page because they censored them with a razor blade.

JY: Oh.

RE: Yes, they just cut it out.

JY: That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. I’d be quite upset to learn that some had used a razor blade and took out a few choice words.

RE: Well, most of what got censored out was if I made any inkling at all about our location. I can’t remember. I’d have to dig out some of the letters. I never throw anything away.

JY: You might consider donating them over at the Historical Library at the Tulare County Library, at least one. What do you recall doing when you had time off?

RE: I’d go into the village, particularly when we were down in Mengtze, where we were down very close to the Indochina border. It was just a small village and we would just go around and poke around and buy souvenirs.

JY: Were there entertainers or the USO on your base? Any Bob Hope?

RE: The closest I got to one of those was before we went down to Mengtze. There was a troop that came through and I was on duty and I mentioned that I would like to see the show. I was told to get my tail back and get to work. I can’t remember who it was.

JY: Glenn Miller, the big band guy.

RE: No, it wasn’t Glenn Miller.

JY: Is there anything or anyone you especially remember from your service time and why?

RE: My pilot. He was one of the finest persons. He was just a prince of a guy. He would even come out and help me wash the airplane, things like that. Well he wasn’t my pilot, but one of the others who was just unbelievable. And he had been an enlisted man and then went back and got pilot training and came back.

JY: Do you recall his name?

RE: I’m trying to, but can’t. The kind of a guy he was. The pilots got a whiskey ration. They got whiskey so when they came back from their harrowing mission they could unwind a little. This guy loved his booze as much as anybody, but when he got his whiskey ration, he would go down the tent row for all the enlisted men and go in your tent and give everybody a shot of whiskey. I don’t think he drank any himself.

JY: Wow, that’s incredible. That’s really generous. Thinking about other people before yourself.

RE: But that’s the kind of guy he was. And he got shot down. And this was a guy I have never seen. I have never seen the whole squadron. It was like we lost our best friend and we had.

I have never seen . . . because we lost pilots. And there were one or two for whom nobody shed a tear. In fact there was one pilot that was ready to leave on a mission and he was checking his parachute. You have a ripcord and then there’s a flap over the ripcord protected by a snap. So when he got in the airplane, he snapped it open to check the ripcord and the ripcord was wired shut, so if he pulled the ripcord he wouldn’t have a parachute.

JY: Wow.

RE: Nobody liked him. He was a jerk.

JY: Did you pack your own parachutes or did someone pack them for you?

RE: You had a parachute rigger that did that. You had just a ripcord and then there was a flap. Anyway, the parachute is wrapped in a deal and then it is secured with bungees to flop it open and when you pull the rip cord the whole thing pops open and then it’s made so that you have this small parachute that pops out and that pulls the rest of the envelope out of the pack. This guy, nobody liked him and he was getting ready to go on a mission and it was safety wired shut, so he would have pulled the ripcord and nothing would have happened. Well, he was gone from the squadron that day. He was immediately out of there.

JY: Yeah, if you have someone rigging your parachute.

RE: No, I mean the pilot was. Nobody liked him. He was one of these, you know, if he had been shot down, we all would have had a party.

JY: Were you awarded any medals and citations and if so, how did you get them?

RE: No. I got a good conduct medal. Oh, I got a Chinese medal. They just came through and handed them out. The good conduct medal,that’s nothing. But then the Chinese had this, I can’t even remember what they called it. I could probably dig it out and show it to you.

JY: Oh that’d be cool. Actually I have to go ahead and stop this. Let’s go dig it out.

(Judy stops the tape and we come back in mid-talking.)

RE: Cause they didn’t find out.

JY: What you don’t know can’t hurt you.

RE: This was my award.

JY: This is interesting. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s quite heavy. Actually this is the Chinese medal. It’s quite solid. It is inscribed.

RE: Can’t you read it?

JY: I cannot read it. It’s quite dark actually. Efficiency, honor and fidelity.

RE: Doesn’t that sound . . .?

JY: That sounds really good.  For good conduct. That’s quite snazzy.

RE: Everybody that didn’t get court martialed got one of those. Seriously, it was just one of those things.

JY: You know, these medals, the Chinese and the good conduct medal weigh about the same, just by testing with my hands. Very sweet. They’re still really in good shape.

RE: Anyway, this was all my medals for heroism.

JY: Were you able to find job opportunities when you returned from the war?

RE: Yeah.

JY: Or did you go back to school?

RE: No, I got married instead.

JY: OK. That’s going to lead into a new chapter here. When did you meet your wife? Was it before or after the war?

RE: In high school. Actually I had known her before then. We were both born and raised in Woodlake. I went to grammar school in Elderwood and she was in Woodlake, so we didn’t meet until high school.

JY: It was quite uncommon back then to go to high school. I mean even my mom, the children in her family were expected to go through 8th grade and then quit and go to work on the farm. High school was more of a luxury. So did your family encourage you to go on to high school?

RE: Oh yeah.

JY: That’s great. OK, now you have to tell who you married and spell her name. Maiden name?

RE: Kress.

JY: First name?

RE: Ruth Elaine.

JY: What day did you get married?

RE: 1947,oh, crap.

JY: Hey don’t feel bad. I have difficulty remembering my anniversary.

RE: I’m having a mental block. Ruth, I’m having a mental block and I hate to even bring it up with you.

JY: I asked him what day he was married.

Ruth: Well, it’s the first.

RE: March 1. Isn’t that what I said? 1947.

JY: My husband has the better memory of the two of us. I don’t remember dates very well. So did the war affecting your dating, courting or romantic relationships?

RE: Yes, I was in China and she was here.

JY: I knew that was coming.

RE: Actually we had been off and on in high school and it was still off and on. She dated when I was gone. There was no permanent commitment or anything like that.

JY: Do you think unrealistic wartime romances took place? Or were people more serious about their relationships?

RE: I don’t know. Before I went overseas I was dating when I had the chance to. You would meet a girl and go out a time or two and that was about it.

JY: That doesn’t seem too unrealistic. It’s kind of interesting because I got to see all those black and white flicks about war and there always seemed to be an unrealistic type of wartime romance going on.

RE: Of course, of course. They were all unrealistic.

JY: But in reality that was not what was going on.

RE: I didn’t have any desire to have anyone to spend the rest of my life with.

JY: So do you think dating patterns changed because of the war?

RE: Oh I’m sure.

JY: So did you join any veteran’s organizations? And if so, what kinds of activities does your post or association have?

RE: We started a VFW and after about the first three meetings I dropped out because everybody said, "Let’s adjourn so we can go down and have a beer." It just wasn’t the kind of social life I was looking for.

JY: How many children do you and Ruth have? Genders. Boys? Girls?

RE: Two and one. Two girls and one boy.

JY: How many grandchildren now?

RE: I think five. Yes, five. We had one daughter, Susan Malubay, that doesn’t have kids. She wouldn’t be a good mother anyway. She’s more interested in pets and animal rights and that sort of thing. I have a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Rebecca (Becky) Nelson Lopes Scott, both in Alaska and my son has two girls, Lora, Margot, and one boy, Jonathan Blair Edmiston.

JY: What is your son’s name?

RE: Tom.

JY: And the daughter who has children?

RE: Becky.

JY: And how many children does she have?

RE: She has two, Timothy Nelson by her first husband, Randy, who died young at age 22, and also Jeremy Lopes by her second husband, Gary Lopes. And then my grandson Jeremy has a daughter, Megan and one on the way.( a daughter born August 2004, Lauren). And he’s probably my daughter’s youngest. Her oldest is the one on the left, Tim, then the next one is hers, Jeremy, the next two are my son’s, Blair and Lora, and then there is one . . . he has another daughter, Margo, and we don’t have her picture.

JY: So what we are doing is looking at the living room wall and there are 11 x 14 frames hanging up in a parallel line and the pictures are the grandchildren.

RE: The second one, Jeremy, is the father of our great grandchildren.

JY: Well, you’ve got a good looking group here.

RE: Yeah, we like them.

JY: Good genes. Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview?

RE: I have no idea. At this point, I’m not sure. I don’t know. There probably is, I know there is. I’ll think of things the minute you leave. I really enjoyed my time in China . It was an adventure. I really liked the Chinese people.

JY: What is it about the Chinese people and culture that you like?

RE: They were friendly, by and large they were. Now and again you would have a sour experience. One of the things: a lot of the guys got kind of upset with this. But you would go into the village and they always wanted to bargain. You know, how much? They didn’t respect you if you said okay and paid them. I know one time I was in Shanghai and I was off down in the . . . I found out later it was off limits . . . I was down in the Chinese area and I bought this one real nice . . . here, let me get it . . . .

JY: We’re walking across the room and into the dining area.

RE: Oh this is one of them.

JY: Wow, that’s a bison.

RE: No, it’s a water buffalo.

JY: Water buffalo. The water buffalo stands probably two inches tall and it could be two and a half inches long. Look at the detail. What kind of stone is that?

RE: Ivory.

JY: Wow. It is very smooth. Very soft. Wow, the detail in this for being such a small statue is exquisite. And these are sipping cups? (pointing to another set of objects)

RE: Gombay cups.

JY: How do you spell Gombay?

RE: G-o-m-b-a-y. Gombay is Chinese for "dry the cup." This is a shot glass.

JY: It’s a metal. It’s not porcelain. It’s tarnished so I think it’s silver.

RE: Yes, probably is.

JY: It looks like a cobalt blue.

RE: A cloisonné type of thing.

JY: Nice flowers. Looks like a butterfly on the outside, great colors.

RE: And that is jade.

JY: Wow. This is really hard to describe.

RE: This is a jade carving. It’s two colors of jade. It’s red on one side and green on the other.

JY: Very ornamental.

RE: Actually it’s two goldfish. That’s a fish.

JY: That’s a fish? Oh, yes, that is a fish.

RE: And see, you have one on the other side.

JY: I just realized it had to be something that represented the ocean because I started noticing seashells or something that looks like seashells, as I was looking at the detail in it. That is really nicely cut, very smooth again, great artistry.

RE: Yeah, that’s one of my better items.

JY: You don’t see this stuff much anymore.

RE: As I recall, this was just down in this little shop. I’d go poke around generally by myself. I enjoyed the Chinese, so . . . .

JY: Now did you have to bargain for this?

RE: Oh, yeah!

JY: How long did it take you to bargain?

RE: I think the first price was twenty five dollars and I bought it for five dollars.

JY: Wow, that’s incredible. Twenty five dollars back then. We’re talking 1941 - 1946, that’s a lot of money.

RE: Yeah, five dollars was a lot of money. It was something that caught my eye and turned me on. Like I say, I’m down in this area, off limits where I wasn’t supposed to be and it was not patrolled by the American military or anything, so it was strictly Chinese. We started bargaining on this and within five minutes we had this big crowd, crowded up there and every time I would get them down a notch, they’d pat me on the back. They enjoy that. This is their recreation. If you go in and they give you the price and you just hand it over, they don’t respect you.

JY: That is just so fascinating.

RE: Back in the boonies there wasn’t too much stuff available, so when we got up to Shanghai there was a lot of that stuff.

JY: I think that concludes our interview.

RE: Well, that’s life.

JY: By the way, the appointment time for this interview was at 10:00 a.m.

Judy Yoder/ Transcriber: Jan Chubbuck, 2/17/04/ ed. JW 6/07/04

Ed: Words in italics were added during a phone interview with Richard and his daughter, Becky on October 3, 2005.