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 Graves


Date: March 18, 2004

Report No: 89

Interviewer: Lois Owings


Place: Tulare County, CA


Place of Interview:  Visalia, CA





LO: This is Thursday, March 18, 2004, with the Years of Valor, Years of Hope, Tulare County and the years 1941 through 1946. The interviewer is Lois Owings. This is the memories of Ruby Graves. Ruby lives at 58 Brussels Court, in Visalia, California, 93277. The interview is being done in her home today; it is 1:00 p.m.

Ruby, what was your maiden name?

RG: My maiden name was Ruby Alice Bryant.

LO: Thank you. What is the date of your birth?

RG: July 12, 1918.

LO: What were your parents’ names, and where were they from?

RG: My parent’s names: my mother was Linnie (Shannon) Bryant and my father was Clarence Bryant and they came to California from Texas.

LO: Thank you. Where did you grow up?

RG: Well, I grew up; I went through the eighth grade in Kansas, away out in the country, near Kiowa, Kansas. I went through high school in Texas, Stratford, Texas, that’s in the panhandle.

LO: Okay, When were you married?

RG: I was married, oh my goodness…

LO: You told me that you were married in 1946.

RG: That’s right, 1946, I hadn’t thought about it for a while.

LO: And where was that?

RG: Where did I get married? I got married in a little town, just above Fresno. Out in the next county, what’s a town, just above Fresno.

LO: Merced, Madera?

RG: I can’t remember, but I remember that I didn’t want to get married in Fresno County, because I hadn’t told my boss I was going to get married, and she frowned on it.

LO: Okay, what was your husband’s name?

RG: Spencer Graves.

LO: What year did you move to Tulare County?

RG: Well, I personally came to Tulare County in about ’39 the first time, but my parents weren’t living here then. I came to, actually, I went into training for a nurse in Colorado and I had stayed with it. Well, I was there six months. At the end of the six months, they called me in and said, "We’re sorry to tell you this, but you have a bad back and you could never make a nurse, so you find something else to do." So, I didn’t have anything to do the rest of that year. So my parents sent me out to California, because they had bought a ranch in California. They sent me out to get the ranch house in condition so they could move into it. So, I came…I got here early, but then I went back and finished my college years in Texas.

LO: Okay. What was the town that you moved to here in Tulare County?

RG: Well, we moved into the country, but it was near Lindsay.

LO: How old were you when World War II began?

RG: I don’t know.

LO: Okay. How did you find out about the war? Did you, like read the newspaper, or . . .?

RG: Oh my goodness, the young man, Spencer Churchill Graves, that I hoped to marry was drafted right soon. Actually, I was in college in Texas at that time. My one sister, Bertie (Siegenthaler) volunteered into the Army. And one brother, Orlan, was drafted. The other four brothers that I had, Odis, Allen, Herbert, and Otho, didn’t have to go or weren’t drafted because they were farmers in Texas.

LO: So, that’s what you were doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

RG: Oh, yes.

LO: So, you told me why you moved to Lindsay was to take care of your parents. So, did you go to work right after you came to Tulare County?

RG: Well, I graduated from college in Texas. And I came in ’41, from school in Texas. Then I was here to take care of my parents from then on.

LO: Did you try to find work while you were here?

RG: Well, actually, I didn’t try to find work in the beginning, but work came to me.  Someone knew that I was available and had the intellect and the Assistant Chemist at Lindsay Ripe Olive Growers had been drafted and they were short of help. So, I worked almost three years for them as the Assistant Chemist.

LO: Tell me about your job at the Lindsay Olive Plant and what you did there.

RG: Oh, I did everything I was told in the (chuckle) chemistry lab. My job was to test the barrels and to test the olives in the vats. The job that I disliked the least was to go out on to what looked to me like an acre of barrels and you had to keep track of each barrel. Each barrel had to be tested separately and they had special way that we got out the brine and took it back to the lab and tested it. Then we’d know whether to add sugar or not and that’s what I did.

LO: What about the wages and the conditions of work? Did you have any . . .?

RG: Well, I don’t remember. I had good wages. I was well paid. I don’t remember what it was, but for that time it was at least equal to a schoolteacher, maybe better than a schoolteacher’s salary.

LO: Okay. Tell me about the olive plant. Was there a lot of people that worked there, and what did they do there?

RG: Oh yes, there was lots of people. I can’t tell you how many, I have no idea, but they had to grade the olives as they went by on a belt and then they had to be put into the vats. And I don’t know. I had nothing to do with the ripe olives; actually, I never tested anything for them.  My boss may have, but I got the job of going out (chuckle) and working with the Spanish Olives, barrel by barrel.  You didn’t see him out there.

LO: Were there changes in your family housing situation during the war?

RG: No, because we already had twenty acres of olives with a home built on it by then. So there was no trouble there.

LO: Did people outside the immediate family live with you?

RG: No.

LO: How did the war affect your family income, and the circumstances of the economy?

RG: Well, I don’t think the war affected them any way at all. They still farmed and they sold their crops and I don’t know about the prices, whether they were lower or not, but I shouldn’t think they would be. I’d think they’d be higher.

LO: Do you remember difficulties in getting food, clothing or other consumer’s goods?

RG: Oh my, yes, because we had, I can’t remember whether they gave us tags, or what. You were just supposed to buy so much of this and so much of that. I remember we were limited on sugar. I remember sugar, especially, because my momma liked to make jams and jellies and canned foods, you know, she did that all the time, regardless of where she lived. As I recall, you could buy so much sugar or these things that she needed at a time. And if you didn’t buy it within that time, you lost it, so we all got our share of sugar or whatever it was, that each person was allowed, and momma kept it all whether we used it or not and hoarded it. So when the season came around to make jelly and so forth, she’d have sugar.

LO: Okay, so I asked about the effects of rationing and you told me. Did your family participate in war bonds or campaigns?

RG: No.

LO: Did your family participate in any efforts to support the war. I’m talking about like home crafts or gardens or volunteer activities, like, maybe rolling bandages or just anything?

RG: No, my mother and father were really up in years and pretty much they were at home all the time and they, neither one, drove. That’s why I was there to drive for them because they didn’t drive a car.

LO: Was anyone in the immediate family separated because of military service or war work?

RG: Well, yes. My brother was married when he was taken. So that stopped any income from what he did then. My sister had just graduated from college and she just wanted to volunteer, so she did.

LO: What did she do?

RG: Well, she had her college degree and they sent her to New York City and she was in an office the whole time. She wanted to go overseas, that’s the reason she volunteered, but she got stuck in New York City.

LO: Okay, I was going to ask, how did you try to keep in touch with anyone that was in the military?

RG: Oh yes, my brother that was over there and then the man that I would eventually marry was over there, so I heard from them all the time.

LO: How did you keep in touch, what did you do, I mean, how was the mail, and everything?

RG: Well, you wrote letters and wondered if it would get there, but usually it did.

LO: In an unstable time, what gave stability to your family?

RG: Well, I guess our faith in God and the fact that we could still take care of ourselves and we were in a safe spot ourselves.

LO: What became of particular importance to you?

RG: Whether my fiancé got home or not, safely.

LO: Okay, so I ask if you were dating at any time during the war, and you were. So, how did the war affect your dating?

RG: Well, he immediately, when he was called into the service, there was no more dating. He was over there the full time. He was over there four years, I think. And when he came home, he was discharged over there and when he got home, why he came to Fresno and we got married in Madera, because I didn’t want my boss to know I was getting married, because she frowned on it (chuckle).

LO: How about activities during the war, like, you were still young and were dating and did you go to movies or dances and parties or church or what? What were the activities that you, as young people, did?

RG: Well, I was not the average young person, I think, when I came home to take care of my dad and mom. Because they didn’t drive and they didn’t go to things like that, so I don’t remember going to very many movies.

LO: Do you think the war time romances were realistic that took place or were more people unrealistic or were people more serious about their relationships?

RG: Well, I don’t know, but I was serious about mine.

LO: So, your dating…you didn’t really date, you were engaged to this fellow, so you didn’t do any dating?

RG: No, he wasn’t available. When he came home, I married him. Before that, he was a printer and his father was a printer and so he followed in his dad’s footsteps. He was drafted into the Army and he was in various camps around, but he wasn’t anywhere near me, so we didn’t do much dating. Actually I knew him through high school. I went all through high school with him. Didn’t date him, but I went through high school with him and knew his family real well.

LO: What one event of the war stand out in your memory?

RG: When they came home.

LO: What was your opinion of dropping the atomic bomb? Did you have an opinion on that?

RG: Well, it had an effect. I don’t know whether it was right or wrong, but it put an end to things.

LO: Do you consider World War II a just war?

RG: I think so, yes.

LO: Where were you when you heard the war was over?

RG: I was in Fresno, California, working as a home demonstration agent in Fresno.

LO: Were there any celebrations going on?

RG: Oh, I’m sure there were, but I didn’t take part in any of them.

LO: How do you think World War II years in Tulare County affected you?

RG: Well, I don’t know, I worked all the time. I helped my family. I wasn’t doing anything that I didn’t want to do. It was frightening sometimes, when you would hear planes going over or you’d hear something unusual, but it was just something you lived through.

LO: How do you think the World War II years affected the way Tulare County is now?

RG: I really don’t know how to answer that.

LO: Ruby, is there anything you would like to add, something that I didn’t cover or that you would like to add and tell about World War II in Tulare County.

RG: In Tulare County? Well, I remember the towers that they had, where they had lights in them and where they were watching. I was amazed at, you know, we have to be so careful now-a-days; you wouldn’t dare pick up somebody along the road going your way. But, back then you never passed a soldier if he was in the road, woman by yourself or not, you gave him a ride and you were safe. I remember occasionally hearing sirens and wondering what was happening. I think we were conscious all the time of what could happen and we were on our toes more. Now, we get in the car and go and there’s no danger that we know of anywhere around, you know. But, back then we had to think about . . . there could be.

LO: The towers, what were they used for?

RG: Well, I think they were to see the planes in the air, watch for enemy planes. They were the watchtowers.

LO: And that was here in Tulare County?

RG: Sure.

LO: Did they have blackouts here in Tulare County?

RG: Yeah, but we lived out in the country, you know, but they did have blackouts.

LO: So it didn’t affect you at all?

RG: No, no.

LO: Okay, thank you very much Ruby. You did a really good job.

RG: You’re welcome.

Lois Owings/ Transcriber: pd 6-3-2004/ Editor: JW 11-4-2004

I moved to Tulare County to Lindsay near the beginning of the war to take care of my parents. When my youngest sister, Aurette (Spitler), joined us, I was free to go to Shasta and Mendocino Counties and I was hired by the University of California and I taught the people out on the ranches how to preserve foods and make cheeses and things like that for the war. I was a Home Demonstration Agent. Then I went back to Fresno County and worked until I got married. My husband found a job with the Lindsay Gazette as a printer for a number of years and so we moved to Lindsay.

Editor’s note: Words in italics were added during a phone interview with Ruby Graves on November 4, 2004.