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
Report No: 36
Place of Interview: Ducor, CA
BACKGROUND, INCLUDING HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE, 1941-1946
PERSONAL REACTIONS TO THE WAR
FAMILY LIFE ON THE FARM DURING WAR
COMMUNITY AND NATIONAL ISSUES
HOW WORLD WAR II YEARS IN TULARE AFFECTED THE WAY TULARE COUNTY IS TODAY
BUS DRIVER 1944, SENIOR YEAR AT PORTERVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
NO ELECTRICITY ON THE FARM
GERMAN AMERICAN FAMILY
BS: This is Bob Smith, and it is November 18th, it is approximately 10:25 am, and I am speaking with Mattie Hardaway, here in Ducor, California, for the project for the Tulare County Library of Years of Valor, Years of Hope, Tulare County and the years 1941 through 1946.
Could you please give me your name and date of birth?
MH: My name is Mattie Hardaway. My maiden name was Zimmerman. I was born March 30, 1926, and I was born in Porterville, California.
BS: And what were your parent’s names?
MH: Lloyd and Fannie Zimmerman.
BS: And where were they from?
MH: My dad was born within about a mile of where we are right now. My mother, Fannie Tunstall was born in Camp, Arkansas.
BS: And where did you grow up?
MH: Right here (chuckle).
BS: Right here in Ducor.
MH: Right here, yes.
BS: How old were you when World War II began?
MH: Well, that was ’41; I must have been about 15 or 16 years old.
BS: And, of course, you were in school at that time before the war.
MH: I was in Porterville High School. I was in church the day the war started.
BS: Okay, we will be getting to that, cause you were in school.
Ah, at the time of the war, were you in a relationship, married, or single?
MH: I was only 15 or 16; I was just in high school. (chuckle)
BS: When were you married?
MH: I was married in August of 1946, when I was 20 years old.
BS: Did you have any children at any time during the war?
MH: No, I wasn’t married then; I was in high school, yet. (chuckle)
BS: I’m sorry. What, being in high school, at that time, what events stand out in the years preceding the beginning of the war?
MH: Before the war started? Well, for myself, I, of course, was just around the house here and did a little bit of helping with the farming. I mean, I was an only child and my dad was a farmer, so I would help him with the farming sometimes; I’d drive a truck or a tractor or something. I played summer baseball; I was on the Ducor baseball/softball team and that’s . . . you know, just did the kid things. I went to the ballgames and that sort of thing, the high school games and all those things.
BS: And you went to Porterville High School?
MH: Porterville High School, yes.
BS: Where were you and what were you doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
MH: I was in church. And when I got out of church, I heard the news. I came home and, my first question after I got home: I asked my dad, I said, "Where is Pearl Harbor?" I didn’t have any idea and then, when they told me it was over there in Hawaii, I got a map out to see how far from San Francisco (chuckle) and Los Angeles Pearl Harbor was. In those days, it was a small world, we didn’t know our geography and our history so much as we do now. Well actually, we had a radio, but we didn’t have anything . . . we didn’t have television or anything then. So we just had newspapers, radio and movies.
BS: How did you personally feel when the announcement came? What was your feeling?
MH: Well, of course, I thought "Well, what next, how soon does this affect
all of us and what kind of an effect will it have on us?" I remember my dad saying, "I’m probably way
too old but if things get bad enough . . . ." He was in
It wasn’t but very few days until all of the Japanese students were no more in school, they were gone. I felt sad about that, because they were friends and all. At the same time, there was always that thought in the back of my mind and everybody’s mind, as I remember, that maybe, just maybe, there was a conspiracy among all of these Orientals, all of these Japanese. So I had mixed feelings about that.
BS: What one event of the war stands out in your memory?
MH: Well, I have a cousin, Dennis Grigsby, who was drafted and was the first one of my relatives and all to be in the service. He was in Casablanca in the invasion over there and he was killed and that was one of the main things. I think that was about 1942, oh, I don’t know, ’42 or ’43, must have been ’43.
BS: When we invaded North Africa.
MH: Yes, when we invaded North Africa, yes, and he was killed. He was in a tank. Ah, that was one of the things that stood out in my mind a little bit more than the others did. Now, I didn’t attend . . . I didn’t get to go to movies very often. I didn’t get to see a lot of things, being out here in the country. With gasoline rationing and all of that, we were just out here and didn’t do much traveling around.
BS: When it did occur, what was your opinion of the dropping of the atomic bomb?
MH: I was relieved, I thought that was the only way we were gonna get this war over and stop killing our boys. Get it over with, and I quite frankly couldn’t see any reason to not do that. Although it killed a lot of innocent people there. They were killing a lot of our boys here. I felt that that was the thing to do, and if they would have had it sooner, I would have been for dropping it a year or so earlier.
BS: What were your general feelings about the war itself?
MH: Ah, I don’t really know because I was in high school, then I went to college and all of this during the war. One of the things I was thinking about all the time was, should I, after I got out of high school, should I go to college or should I join one of the women’s, the WACs or the Waves or something like that. I didn’t express that too much to anybody. It was just crossing my mind and, of course, I didn’t join; the war did end before I was all through college. So, I don’t know, I just kept busy reading and listening to the radio and that sort of thing, hoping that things would get over with soon. I guess I didn’t worry about that too much; I just wanted it over with.
BS: Have your feelings really changed over the time or the war?
MH: About the war? You mean whether we should have gone there? Oh, no, no, as a matter of fact, my own personal feelings is, I wish we’d started before Pearl Harbor and maybe put an end to some of this before that happened. Get a head start on it.
BS: Did your feelings differ from any of your contemporaries in school at the time?
MH: Quite frankly, I don’t think so; I don’t remember that we discussed it very much. I don’t think we talked about those things. I don’t remember any classes where we discussed it very much either.
BS: Did you consider World War II a just war?
MH: Ah, well, yes. We had to get rid of that dictator, all those dictators and all. And, yes, I think that we needed to do that; no telling what our country would be like had we not stopped them and controlled them somewhat.
BS: Where were you when you heard the war had ended?
MH: I was in college. I was in class, but we knew the war about over because all the radios were on and everything. When I came home from school that particular day, the war ended shortly after I got home and it was on the radio. I took off for San Francisco to celebrate with everybody else. (chuckle)
BS: Were there changes in your family’s housing situation? What was your housing situation during the war?
MH: Well, I was living right here in this house, so there was no problem with it. And then I went away to school. I was in a boarding type house up there, so there was no problem with my housing at all.
BS: Did people outside the immediate family live with you?
MH: No, no. We didn’t have anyone with us, just my mother and dad and myself.
BS: How did the war affect your family’s economic circumstances?
MH: Well, of course, there was rationing. The rationing didn’t bother us a whole lot because we were farmers. We had our own meat. We had chickens and eggs and cows and butter and cream and all of that sort of thing. So it didn’t bother us that way. Economically, I think it might have helped us since we were farmers; we got a good price for our produce.
BS: So the effects of rationing for you were really not that severe, other than maybe shoes . . . .
MH: Oh, it was inconvenient somewhat. You don’t have the gasoline and all that, to go and travel and go places. You were supposed to travel no more than 35 miles an hour. I remember when they took me up to Berkeley to go to school, I thought it was an (chuckle) awfully long ways at 35 miles an hour, but we went 35 miles an hour all the way up there.
BS: You mentioned going all the way to Berkeley. You graduated in ’44. So you didn’t go to Porterville College, you went up to UC Berkeley.
MH: No, I didn’t go to UC Berkeley. I went to Armstrong Business College, but it was in Berkeley.
BS: Okay. Was your family . . . did you hear of any black market activities at all?
MH: Oh, yeah, there was that. There was some of that, yes.
BS: Here at home in Ducor, or while you were at Armstrong College?
MH: No, the only black market thing I heard of was hoarding of things. Is that what you mean, that type of thing?
MH: Yeah, a lot of people, if they could get their hands on some things they would, tires especially, that sort of thing. I heard of it. I didn’t know of anybody who did that, but I heard that it was happening. I couldn’t tell you who did it or anything. I just heard about it. But there was some of that talk and I am sure there was some hoarding of the gasoline and tires and that sort of thing.
BS: Did your family participate during the war for war bond campaigns?
MH: We purchased the war bonds, yes. Oh yes, yes, we bought war bonds. The school had them. When we were in high school, they had an auction and that sort of thing and we bought war bonds there. I purchased a $1,000 war bond, you know, my folks gave me the money and while they were doing it, why I was able to buy a war bond. And there were several others who bought $50, $100, $1,000 war bonds at the school itself. The people in the area participated and all of that.
BS: In your other family activities during the war, since being on the farm of course, you would have your own home crafts, you know, as well as your gardens. Did you have any volunteer activities outside the home?
MH: Ah, I personally did airplane watch. They did have, I don’t know how far apart they were, but maybe every five, six, seven miles, they would have places where you would go. Most of them were like tank houses that people had or little homes that they had set up and you would watch for airplanes. They had the telephone set up and you’d see an airplane fly over. You were supposed to note how many engines it had and which direction it was going. Then you would try to tell ‘em how high it was and all (chuckle) and I’m sure that none of us got any of this perfect, but we did this.
BS: Did they give you the agency that was supporting it? Did you receive any training?
MH: I don’t know who they were. No, we did not receive any training; they just had a card there that told you what to do and which direction to tell the planes were going. I think I went twice a week and I did three or four hours, I think is what it was.
BS: Three to four hours and there were two of you?
MH: Most of the time it was just one. Sometimes a friend would go with me because it was kind of boring to sit there. You had your glasses to look through and look around and you had to keep looking in the sky and all. You couldn’t always . . . these were small airplanes back then and you didn’t hear ‘em most of the time, unless they were flying very low. I don’t know that they did a whole lot of good.
BS: So, was it basically young people in school that was doing this?
MH: Oh no. My dad and my mother and everybody took their turn and it went on, I think they even did it at night, but I don’t know how they could see them. But I know my mother, my dad and all my relatives and friends, all around, took their turn at the airplane watch. I went down here, a couple of miles on down the river, but there was also one right there in Ducor too. But I went to the one down here.
Mattie’s relatives living just outside Ducor during WWII were Ector and Ruth Zimmerman Grigsby. Their children were Dennis, Florence, Philip, James, Roger and Joy. Also, her aunt and uncle, A.J and Margaret Zimmerman lived near by. Their children were Herbert and Robert. Paul and Verna Zimmerman lived near A.J. Zimmerman. Their children were Ilene, Noel, and Beverly. Barbara Carlisle (her mother was Mabel Zimmerman Carlisle) lived with her father, Clyde Carlisle, as her mother passed away in 1937.
BS: Where is here?
MH: Two miles down the river at another home, the next home down.
BS: I see. You made mention that you had a cousin in the military previously and was unfortunately killed in the North African campaign. Did you try to keep in touch with this cousin or did his death occur before he could receive any mail?
MH: Oh, his family got . . . he wrote to them all the time and they would pass the letters around. It was my dad’s nephew, my cousin, and we were all a close family. So we got the letters and they would pass the letters around and we would read them. So, we knew what was going on with him and all.
BS: You were in high school at the time. How did it affect your dating and courting relationships?
MH: Well, until the end of my junior year, there was very little dating. It was always kind of a joke. All of us out here in the country, we didn’t date much. It was mostly the ones in town. They didn’t have to travel and use their tires and their gas. I did very little dating until about somewhere around the middle of my junior year. Then, I did find a young man who was fortunate enough to have gasoline and tires, so we dated. He ended up being my husband. (chuckle)
BS: In this unstable time, what gave stability to your family?
MH: Well, I think the fact that we were just farmers and we just went ahead with our farming, we were a stable family to begin with and the war had nothing to do with that as far as our personal lives here.
BS: Being out here in the country here near Ducor, away from where you went to school, for high school, what activity did you enjoy as a way of getting away from the war?
MH: Well occasionally, we could go into town to a movie, something of that sort, and the school had dances and things of that sort that we could go to. You know, there were very few young men around, because from the time they were 17 and a half they were gone. So, there weren’t very many young men around.
BS: Ah, you previously stated that being on the farm, you really didn’t travel that much, other than your trip up to the go to Armstrong College. Did your family take any other vacations or trips or any kind?
MH: No, no, but that wasn’t unusual, we just weren’t in the habit of taking very many trips.
BS: Because of the farm.
MH: Because of the farm, you didn’t leave it very long. We would occasionally go over to the coast and spend a couple of days, maybe, just after harvest or something like that. During the war we didn’t do that.
BS: How did the women’s roles and responsibilities in your family change during the war?
MH: Well, of course, it was just my mother and I in the family and the only change would be - we did raise our own chickens and all. My mother would have the chickens for people around who would run out of meat and all and she could give them chickens and eggs and milk and butter. She did a lot of that; she gave a lot of things like that to the people who might not have enough ration stamps to get by. But it didn’t affect me any. I guess I was lazy. I didn’t help her much with that. I did, when I was a senior in high school, I was the one who drove the high school bus that year because there were no young men out here old enough to drive. I was one of the older ones from out in this area, so I drove the high school bus my senior year.
BS: So, you picked up classmates and took them to school and then when school was out . . .
MH: I brought ‘em back.
BS: How did that affect students that were gonna stay on campus for football practice or basketball practice or if you wanted to stay after school for certain events?
MH: Well, you just couldn’t do it. You couldn’t stay on campus. You had to get on the bus and you had to go. The kids out in the country were not able to participate like they do now. But they did let school out early. School would be let out maybe the last two periods of school. And you would get on the bus and that was to let the kids get home in order to help pick olives and oranges and work like that. And I did that also. I wasn’t a very good picker, but I did some.
BS: You did your share.
MH: I did what I could.
BS: Were you aware, since you were here and you were an only child, what about other people’s child care arrangements? How were those childcare arrangements made?
MH: Now, you’re talking for little children? You know, I honestly didn’t know any little children. None of the people around here that I knew of had any really little children. I know there were a number of them as soon as the war ended, there were quite a few little children then. But really, at that time, most of us were my age down to 10 years younger than I and so there weren’t any really little children that I knew of. We had a teacher shortage, of course, with the teachers having to go in the service, high school teachers and also grammar school teachers. And I went to a one-room school out here, it was called Thermal, which is the same school that my dad went to and graduated from. The school started in 1888. That school folded up because they couldn’t get teachers and it consolidated with Ducor School in 1943-44. That is the year I drove the school bus, so I picked up those grammar school kids that would have gone to Thermal School and dropped them off at Ducor so they could go to school. And then in the evening when I’d come back, they would be waiting for me and I’d bring ‘em home.
BS: You had quite a wide range of experience. What did you get paid for driving the bus?
MH: For driving the bus, I got paid $30 a month.
BS: And that was a great deal of money. Would that contribute to the family kitty, or was it put aside for your college fund?
MH: Oh, I put it in the bank in my account. Being an only child, I could do that, I guess. (chuckle)
BS: You were able to go to Armstrong College in ’44 and after the war ended, what happened to the women’s role in society and the family and so on?
MH: Well as I said, the war ended while I was up there. I finished school in about two months. Did the war end in August?
BS: Yes, we dropped the bomb in August of ’45.
MH: Okay, I came home in November and I was engaged. My fiancé was sent over to
BS: Being here at the farm, you weren’t really subject to a blackout per se?
MH: Yes, in a way, we were. Of course, we had to keep the drapes drawn and we had to drive with parking lights and all of that. Then when I was up in Berkeley, of course, it was all, all dark.
BS: Yes, I went through that phase of the war in the Bay Area.
MH: Um hum, where you only had one light on every other corner, streetlights and that sort of thing up there.
BS: When you were up there in Berkeley, were you ever caught on the street when there was an air raid?
MH: No, never anything like that. There was never anything like that when I was up there. Ah, all the time I was gone, it was just the fact that it was blackouts. You had to be careful with that. And other than that and the rationing and the streets full of sailors and soldiers, you wouldn’t know that there was anything different going on, that there was a war on. As far as I was concerned, that’s the way it was.
BS: That question that I just asked was in reference to so many times if you were out shopping and the air raid siren went off, you had to get off the street and I didn’t know whether or not you may have experienced that.
MH: No, it never happened any time while I was there.
BS: In your local area here, you would be really related to Porterville. How was that affected by any industry conversion to war plants or other special employment conditions?
MH: We had an airport and we had soldiers and people out at the airport, which I didn’t know. I knew it was there but I never was around it. I saw a few of the military men walking around on leave, I guess, in town, but that’s about all I knew. As far as the town, I guess it just stayed like it was. It was not a big town, of course. Porterville was about the same from the time I could remember until after the war. It hadn’t changed very much. The same people owned the same buildings and businesses.
BS: So, as far as business being affected by rationing and shortages, you really didn’t notice . . .
MH: I didn’t notice. I think the ones that noticed it the most would be the grocery men. They couldn’t get a lot of things in their grocery stores, so the housewives couldn’t buy all the things they wanted. There was a shortage of that, but . . .
BS: Because all those goods went over to the troops.
MH: They all went overseas, so there was just rationing to the different grocery stores in the different towns. But we didn’t starve; we had plenty to eat. Not just us, everybody here, they didn’t cut it down to where there was anybody going hungry, I’m sure.
BS: What was the impact of the wartime mechanization and mobilization on local agriculture? Was that of any effect here?
MH: Ah, the only effect would be you couldn’t hire people to help of course. That wasn’t the answer to your question. But they also couldn’t get parts for their machinery. So they had to make do with what they had. I remember my dad, - he was quite a mechanic, and he had his own lathes, and he had all of the equipment and he made a good many parts. Some of the other farmers would come over and get him to help make parts, because he was pretty good at it. They worked together that way. The farmers would try to help each other out if a tractor broke down for somebody. If they didn’t have a part, maybe this one would have the part that would fit or they could make it fit, make it work somehow.
BS: Even today, that is a common thing within farm families.
MH: They do that today, yes. Yes, that’s something they still do except that everything is so computerized now, and all, you have to have a real mechanic work on things.
BS: While you were up at Armstrong, during your college years, do you remember any special events connected to wartime activities?
MH: (Laughter) Not really. The only thing was, they would recruit some of the girls and tell ‘em to go to the military base to dance with the boys and all and that sort of thing. (chuckle) I didn’t take part in any of the other activities at all.
BS: Do you remember any of the attitudes of students toward the enlistment or the draft?
MH: Any attitudes? Well, I think that they were all anxious. When we were in high school, all of the young men were apprehensive, some of them of course, but they were all anxious to join or ready to be drafted, if they didn’t join. I never heard of anybody who was against doing that. They were disappointed; they had their plans to go on to college, many of ‘em, and this interrupted their lives, but they knew it had to be done.
BS: How did your family react and yourself react to the news about the holocaust, itself?
MH: Well, I personally was horrified. I don’t think I really believed
so much horrible stuff could have gone on, until later when I read books and
read the history about it and all. I was
just horrified about that. My family are
German and they had just come from
BS: You previously made a comment regarding the relocation of the Japanese/Americans, how quickly it occurred. What were your feelings about that?
MH: Well, I think I explained that I missed them, and I didn’t . . . I
knew it had to be done, but we didn’t know when Pearl Harbor was bombed whether they could
come right over to San Francisco and Los Angeles or Seattle within a few more hours. They could have gone back and started all
over again with another attack and we didn’t know how many of these people were
Americanized and really for
BS: While you were in high school, did you have any fellow students that were Japanese?
MH: Only one, only one and he was a very fine person and we missed him. It was 40 years later, he came to one of our class reunions and we had a great time with him. He has since passed away, but he had sort of a chip on his shoulder, feeling that he wasn’t treated properly. He was in the Army and was sent into the European theatre. So he was a good fellow; he was an American.
BS: Being with German heritage, did you ever feel that the possibility of the government saying all German relatives have to be rounded up. Was there ever any fear of that?
MH: Well, there was no fear of it, but I could understand that it
wasn’t fair to take the Japanese just because they looked a little different
and we looked like everybody else. I
could understand that it wasn’t the right thing to do and I suppose if the war
got to be real bad, well they might have taken all of us too, I don’t
know. They didn’t do that in World War I
either. My dad was in the service and he
BS: So obviously, he could speak German?
MH: No, he couldn’t speak German. They could speak English; he couldn’t speak German. They could speak English and they asked him, they said, "Why are you fighting on that side? You’re supposed to be on our side."
BS: During the war, how did your family find out news of the war itself?
MH: You mean the Pearl Harbor?
BS: No, just the news itself. During the war, listen to the radio?
MH: It was just radio or newspapers were about all we had. We could go to a movie and see the newsreels, but we didn’t do much of that, if any. I don’t remember my folks ever going to a movie.
BS: Did you listen together?
MH: Sort of, yeah. We didn’t even have electricity. We didn’t run it out here at this house at that time. We had a battery-operated radio which we ran. My dad would listen to it within the kitchen. And yeah, we would listen to it together.
BS: You must look back now and say, how did we exist like that?
MH: It was really nice and calm and quiet.
BS: Did you get any newspapers?
MH: Oh yeah, we got our newspapers and we read the newspapers and we got magazines and things. Yeah, it isn’t like now, when you hear about everything and you know all about what’s going on all the time. We just lived in our own little world, I guess.
BS: You indicated that you, growing up, really didn’t go to the movies that much and being out on the farm, I can understand why. Do you remember how the movies reflected the war at all, of the limited amount of movies that you saw?
MH: Well, there were newsreels. I really don’t remember too much about that. There were the newsreels and they did show some of the action and the fighting.
BS: But, as far as the war movies itself, how they portrayed back home or anything like that?
MH: I don’t remember too much about that. I went to quite a few movies when I was up there in Berkeley, but I don’t remember that sort of thing. Most of ‘em were war movies, all right, like South Pacific and those kinds, you know.
BS: I think the war movie that I remember was The Best Years of Our Lives. Do you remember that one?
MH: No, I don’t remember seeing that one.
BS: What were your impressions of military and political leadership during the war?
MH: I was not very political at all, but as long as we were in the war, I just felt like we ought to keep on fighting it until we got it over with. That’s about all I can say about that. I didn’t know too much about the political part of it at all.
BS: Where were you when we found out that FDR had died?
MH: I think I was at school. I can’t remember.
BS: You were up in Berkeley?
MH: Yeah. I can’t remember for sure where I was and what I was doing at the time though. I know that the others that lived with me there, there was quite a bit of them that talked but it didn’t bother me too much. Not that I wanted the man to die, but I don’t remember that it made too much of an impression on me.
BS: How did you, yourself, illustrate your attitude toward your country during the war?
MH: I don’t know that there was much I could do, other than go to school and help out with what I could on the farm and driving the bus and picking the oranges and so forth. There wasn’t much more I could do.
BS: When you were at college, you may have been in contact or been aware of attempts of censorship or cases of news distortions during the war. Was that ever a situation that you were aware of?
MH: Well, yes, when we were talking about the cousin who was killed in Africa, his letters were all censored. But that’s about the only one that I knew of where I saw that things were censored. I don’t remember anybody else that I saw. I didn’t write to anybody who would send letters that would be censored, but they were censored, yes.
BS: Censored by cutting out pieces?
MH: By cutting out and sometimes tape was put over some of it or something of that sort.
BS: How did the local community, here, react to the end of the war? I know you were up in Berkeley, but how did your parents . . .
MH: My parents and I think a lot of other people, nearly everybody, went to Porterville and they just . . . I think they had a street dance on Main Street, as I remember right what my folks said. I know they called me up there, because they had heard all of this . . . had the radio on, of course, and they heard all of this news about San Francisco going wild. They wanted to be sure I was okay and fortunately I was home when they called and assured them that I was okay. Actually, I had gone over to San Francisco to meet my girlfriends, who were ahead of me and I couldn’t find them; it was such a mess over there in San Francisco when I got off the train. I finally managed to get back on the train and I came right back home, cause I could see it was a pretty dangerous place for a girl to be running around. So, I came right back home, got the call from my folks and reassured them that I was okay and then they went to town. They said that they were gonna go into town, that there was a street dance and celebration there in Porterville. But it was real chaos there in San Francisco.
BS: In your opinion, Mattie, what was the overall impact of the war on
MH: The impact of the war? Well, I think to begin with, we were all so shocked. The majority of the Americans just never dreamed that we would be attacked on our own land. I think that was the initial shock, but as soon as we were in war, everybody was right behind the war effort and the people who never had worked before got in and worked in the factories and all, so that the men could go off to war. Everybody just cooperated. I often wonder if we would do the same today, if we are that Americanized, if we’re that patriotic. If we would do that today and yet, when the World Trade Centers were hit, I think that we proved that we were right behind our country and ready to stand up to fight for it.
BS: Your analogy toward 9-11 is very interesting because certainly the patriotism that was shown. Everybody suddenly had a flag out. Do you feel that the patriotism in the waning moments or now, two years removed has changed?
MH: Well, I think at the moment something happens, everybody is all exited and they get right behind everything and then it kind of calms down and they go back to their old way of doing things.
BS: I’d like to talk a little bit about how you met your husband. You met your husband while you were in school. And then after the war, you indicated to me that you were married in 1946.
MH: That’s right.
BS: Okay, when did you meet your husband? And then he went off to war?
MH: We were both in school and when we graduated from school, he went
into the Navy. As I said, I went up to Armstrong College. He got his basic training and then was sent to Hawaii to radio school. He was over there longer than he should have
been, because he had to have some surgery. The war ended while he was in Hawaii. He then was sent to occupied
BS: How relationships have changed and even at my age, high school dating was totally different than it is now. How many children did you have?
MH: Two, a boy and a girl.
BS: And when were they born?
MH: Ah, our daughter, Rebecca, was born three years and one day after we married and our son, Donald Jr. was born 16 months after she was born. They were born in ’49 and ’51.
BS: And do they still live in the area?
MH: Yes, my son is a CPA in Bakersfield. My daughter works for the Post Office in Springville. She lives in Porterville.
BS: Ah, the final questions I’d like to ask you are: how do you think the World War II years in Tulare County affected you?
MH: I was young enough that I don’t think that they really affected me; I was able just to go on to college. I might have gone on to college a little more had it not been for the war, but I really don’t think that it had much of an effect on me.
BS: How do you think the World War II years affected the way Tulare County is now?
MH: Hum, that’s kind of a tough one, because I . . .
BS: How have things changed from wartime on the farm to now?
MH: Ah, one of the biggest changes I would say in Tulare County or in the valley is the impact that the Mexicans have had on us, because during World War II, we needed to have the them come in and help on the farms and they did a great job. They came in and helped on the farms, and, of course, they did not all leave. Then they brought more people in. I do think that is what started the influx of the Mexicans into California and Texas and all of the other states that they have come into. So, I don’t know what kind of an impact I would call that, but they came in to help us and they did a good job. The farmers just had to have help, that’s all there was to it.
BS: In view of the fact that the young men were off the farm and fighting the war.
MH: That’s right, and they used all of their daughters to work and I drove a truck and I drove a tractor and I raked hay and I did all of these things. We were a small farm and the large farmers had to have help. So they got the Mexicans to come in.
BS: And at the time of the war, how many acres were here?
MH: In this family? Probably 600 acres.
BS: Six hundred. And the crops and so on varied from cotton to hay?
MH: No, we had nothing but grain. That’s all we had was grain.
BS: What type of grain?
MH: Wheat and barley and oats was all we had.
BS: Mattie, is there anything else you would like to add to what we have not covered in this interview?
MH: I think that we’ve pretty well gotten everything. I made a few . . .
BS: Anything that you’d like to add at all.
MH: I wrote down a few things here.
BS: As far as the young men in this area serving: the affect on Tulare County, of course, has been the loss of those young men. You indicated that you have some sort of information.
MH: Yes, Ducor was a very small town. I don’t have any idea how many were in the population of the area during the war, but it wasn’t very many. But, we lost a lot of men. One, two, three, four, and five that I can think of and I know that were more of them who were killed during the war. That is a good number for the size of this community. I think I have heard some people say that we, per capita, that we lost as many or more than anybody else did. So that was one thing that . . .
BS: Thank you Mattie.
BS: This is a postscript for Mattie Hardaway. Mattie, in relationship to your bus driving skills, you have been so kind to lend me a photograph of you standing out in front of your school bus. I like for you to describe some of your situations that you experienced as a bus driver while you were a senior in high school.
MH: Well, the principal called up just a couple of weeks before school started and said that they were desperate to find somebody in this area to drive, since there were no young men available. They were all in the service. And I was the oldest person, I guess, out here in this part of the country. So I sort of reluctantly agreed. I didn’t know whether I could do it or not. So, I went in and I managed to pass the test, but I had a little problem. They wanted me to weigh 100 pounds. So I had a little problem with that, so I ate quite a bit for a couple of days and managed to get up to at least an acceptable weight. So I managed to drive the bus. It was a little difficult for me. I couldn’t turn the bus around very well by sitting in the seat, so when I had to turn it I would get up and stand on the side and pull the steering wheel (chuckle) to turn the wheel and then I’d sit down and drive it. But I did very well. It was a wet winter that year.
BS: This was back in 1943?
MH: This was 1943-44. A number of my students that I picked up were in the orange groves out south of where I lived, near Ducor. I would have to drive down between the rows of the orange groves to get turned around sometimes. It was muddy and I did get stuck a couple of times. So fortunately, I’m related to a number of the people in the area and I could send somebody to my uncle’s house, Uncle Ector, and he was very kind to come down with a tractor and pull me out and get me started. If I was close enough to my own house, my dad would do the same thing and that happened a couple of times. I also broke down a few times and had to get to a telephone and call the school and they’d send a mechanic out and another bus and I would transport - the kids would all change buses and I would drive that bus in. They would fix my broken down bus.
One time I was about a half hour late getting into school and, of course, we all had to go into the principal, Mr. Grismer, and get a late permit slip to take to our classroom. So the principal called me in and was very upset, because I was late. I thought it was kind of a foolish question. He asked me why I was late. I said, "I got stuck. I got stuck in the mud." And he said, "Well, why did you get stuck in the mud?" I said, "I had no choice. I was out there where I always drive and got stuck in the mud." But, anyway, apparently he was not a person who was out in the country very much. Anyway, I explained to him why I was late.
I had no problem with the kids. The kids were all great. They sometimes would get a little bit rowdy and all I’d have to do was just look at ‘em and then tell ‘em to please quiet down and they did. They were all very good kids and I had no trouble with ‘em at all. We got along just fine and I liked them and I think they all liked me.
BS: Very good, I really appreciate this postscript. That concludes the interview. Thank you very much, Mattie.
MH: You’re welcome.
Bob Smith/pd 2-28-2004/ed. JW 7/28/04
Ed. Note: Various names of people were added to this interview through phone calls with Mattie Hardaway in July, 2004.