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
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Farmersville in the 40’s
All white community in East Farmersville
"Jap Cabins" in Ivanhoe
CD: We’re doing "Years of Valor, Years of Hope" and I’m sitting in Exeter in Mr. Ken Hartman’s home. Mr. Hartman, can you say your name and will you spell it for me?
KH: My name is Kenneth Hartman. K-E-N-N-E-T-H H-A-R-T-M-A-N.
CD: And the date is April 28, 2004. Why don’t you start with a little bit of background about your family, your parents and where they are from.
KH: Well, my dad came to California from Missouri in 1925. He originally settled in Clovis, started in Clovis. He bought a ranch in what is now known as East Farmersville in 1927. We had 160 acres there and we raised cotton and potatoes, alfalfa, general farm crops. No livestock was there other than just the horses used to plow. My mom, Sara (Martin) was from Kansas. They were married before they came out and I was born on the ranch in 1934.
CD: The name of the ranch was East Farmersville?
KH: No, that was what is now East Farmersville. My dad’s name was Harrison, but everybody knew him as H.S. He just always went by his initials, H.S. Hartman and our property adjoined Billy Wall on the east side and across the street was one of the Pinkham ranches. There were several around in the area at that time. They were scattered all around. The manager of that particular ranch there was Troy Johnson. I used to go swipe cherries from his cherry orchard across the road until I got caught.
CD: What happened when you got caught?
KH: He called the Deputy Sheriff out of Farmersville. They didn’t have any police department then. They came down, read us the riot act, and scared the heck out of us so we never went back.
CD: What do you mean by us,a brother and a sister or friends?
KH: No, all my brothers were older. I was the baby of the family and just friends around that grew up around there. There weren’t very many, just whenever they came over to visit. There was nobody within a mile. Farmersville was four corners and that’s about all it was at that time. Matter of fact, I’ve got an aerial photograph of the area that was taken by the Production Marketing Association. It probably covers a square mile or two square miles or more of Farmersville at the time. I’ll show it to you here in a minute.
CD: Okay. When we get done, I’d love to take a look at it. Was he up in a plane? Was he a pilot? How did he take the picture?
KH: They took it from an airplane. I’m not sure how they did it. It was taken in 1932.
CD: Oh really.
KH: And it shows all the surrounding areas. I don’t know what they were doing or what they were using it for, but they pinpointed all the property and ranches and all around. Just a general agriculture survey I guess.
CD: What year did you say he bought that ranch?
KH: He bought it in 1927. Like I said, we had 160 acres. I was born there in 1934 and I had one older brother, Donald, that lived there. As far as the other two brothers, we all lived there for a while and then my oldest brother, Harold got married to Viola Cowart and moved to Farmersville. And my other brother, Melvin got married to Audrey Sikes and moved to Farmersville. And my brother, Donald, just older than I am, he took off from home and wandered around the country and joined the Army in Butte, Montana just before the Korean War. So I was pretty much left all alone. My dad sold the ranch in 1944, I believe, to Mr. Brundage, who owned the grocery store in Farmersville at the time. He subdivided it and made what is now East Farmersville out of it.
CD: Is that a home subdivision or something? What’s on it now?
KH: It’s just part of Farmersville now I guess. We called it East Farmersville at the time because it was a subdivision, that broke it up. They made three streets that broke up the ranch an sold the lots off. At that time, it was funny because it was in the era of people being still quite prejudiced.
CD: Against? Prejudiced just in general?
KH: Yes, because no foreigner was allowed to move down there.
CD: What do you mean allowed? What did they do?
KH: They wouldn’t sell them property. Mexicans, Chinese, Blacks, anybody. It was strictly a white community. It was funny. And that was pretty much that way up until . . . oh gosh, we left there in 1952, I think, and moved to Visalia and it was pretty much that way up until then. Now when it changed I don’t know because we had left. I remember at the time because there were some Mexican families from Farmersville that wanted to buy there. They were driving around looking at the different lots to figure out which one they wanted. I don’t remember who it was, but my dad wasn’t one of them. Dad was always pretty liberal. He didn’t have any prejudices against anybody, but they told them they were not allowed to move down there. I think it was some of the people working on the road at the time. They had big road graders in there and were cutting the roads through. But as long as I lived there, there weren’t any other families that moved down there, other than white.
KH: Kind of a sad thing in a way. We missed a lot of other people’s cultures.
CD: Well, that means you didn’t have any Japanese friends.
KH: No. The closest friends I had were probably a mile away at the time, up until ’41-’42.
CD: How would they get to your house? How would you visit each other?
KH: They would just come out. Dad sold watermelons and cantaloupes and stuff like this, and hay. They would come out and a couple of times a year, we’d have, like Halloween, a big weenies roast and have some kids around here. There weren’t that many people around at that time. I remember Earl Burke, he was older than me, he was my brother’s age and the Burke family would come over. Billy Wall had no kids. Troy Johnson had no kids.
CD: And the Pinkham’s?
KH: The Pinkham's didn’t live there, they just owned the ranch. They owned a conglomerate of ranches. It was just like the Tagus Ranch. Tagus Ranch was not all in one spot. Pinkham Ranch they had Pinkham Ranch No. 1 and Pinkham Ranch No. 2, No. 3, but they were all owned by the same corporation or whatever it was. But they weren’t all in the same spot. The one there must have been a couple hundred acres, something like that.
CD: What did they grow on it?
KH: Fruit mostly. As you come east out of Farmersville now, on what would be on the south side, there’s an old walnut orchard now. At that time, it was just a vacant alkali meadow.
KH: Yeah, a lot of alkali. Nothing would grow out there. They just had salt grass. They didn’t use it for horses or anything. The only out there was ground squirrels.
CD: But now there’s an orchard on it. Alkali does not affect the orchard?
KH: They’ve since treated it with gypsum and all kinds of stuff since then and plowed up and sub soiled it. A lot of stuff.
CD: That’s the same Pinkham family that is still in Exeter?
KH: I’m not sure. They’re probably related, but I don’t if it’s still Pinkham’s now or not. I left this part of the country; we moved away in ’65 and we came back this past year. We moved to Susanville and came back here. We were on our way out of the state and I had my one remaining Uncle Joe,Jonah was his name, and they called him Joe. He lived here in Exeter and he was the custodian of Exeter High School for 20 some odd years. He was 94, we stopped to see him on his birthday, and we didn’t realize he was in such bad shape. So we kind of felt obligated to stay down and take care of him because they had no kids.
CD: What was his name again?
KH: Joe, Jonah Hartman. His wife Lois had a nephew, Don Cunningham, up in Three Rivers and he was trying to run back and forth and take him to the doctors and stuff. We decided to sell our place in northern California and decided to buy this little place temporarily and stay here and take care of them.
CD: It’s a cute park. Everybody keeps up their place. Let’s get back to Farmersville. When do you think the change happened going from white to mostly Hispanic.
KH: In Farmersville itself, there were a number of Mexican families up there.
CD: In the town itself?
KH: At the time, you couldn’t really call it a town. The main part of town consisted of the four corners, what we always called the "four corners," there was the Brundage market on one. It burned down in about ’49-’50, somewhere along in there. No, it was before that. ’48. Then there was a grocery store across the corner and then there was a variety store and then the old Frontier Inn was on the other corner.
CD: The Frontier Inn?
KH: The beer joint. They used to have Saturday night fights there every Saturday, Saturday afternoon. They had a little ring set up out back and if anybody wanted to go boxing they’d bet on them.
CD: Wow. Did you ever see it?
KH: No, I was too young.
CD: Did your dad go?
KH: No, dad never was a drinker or a smoker. He was a worker. That’s all he ever did.
CD: What street are the four corners on?
KH: It’s now Farmersville Blvd. and Caldwell Avenue, the main street in town, where the stop sign is in Farmersville, the stoplight. That was Farmersville at the time. There were a few scattered houses around at the time, but none to speak of.
CD: Was that boxing thing legal, or was it back room kind of thing?
KH: It was kind of a back room thing. Of course betting on anything, and they used to have rooster fights back then too. They still do for that matter.
CD: I think they do.
KH: I saw where somebody, down in Pixley I think, got arrested the other day.
CD: I did read that.
KH: You can walk around and see these little roosters. You see these little huts with the stake out and the rooster. Those are all fighting roosters. That’s what these things are. And that’s why they’re staked out: so they can’t reach the center because they’d kill each other. But this is common and you can go to the sale in Visalia now and you’ll see fighting roosters for sale.
CD: You mean at the swap meet?
KH: Yes. The flea market out there every Thursday. I’m not saying everybody fights them, but they buy them and keep them and breed them and it was a big thing. It still is undercover now, but it was a lot bigger then.
CD: It was a lot bigger? Why do you think that is?
KH: Oh, just something to do, entertainment. You didn’t have much to do. There was no TV. We had radio in those days and that’s all you had.
CD: Watching a couple of roosters kill each other. So your Dad wasn’t a betting guy either so he never saw this stuff.
KH: No, Dad was just a worker and ran the ranch. He had mostly relatives working for him, his brothers, Robert, John, Jim, and even Jonah, and sons and several cousins from Missouri. Of course, I worked there. I wasn’t very big enough, but I could drive the tractor. I drove the tractor since I was six years old.
KH: When they cut hay, I would drive the truck. I was just barely big enough to reach the pedal. Sitting there on the seat, I would drive it in the field while they loaded the hay, but they wouldn’t let me drive on the highway naturally.
CD: So you’d drive the truck and they would put the hay up on the truck. Gosh. So, Farmersville itself could have Mexicans in Farmersville, but not in East Farmersville.
KH: Yes, just in that one little area. And there were no subdivisions around there at that time. There was a community up there of sorts because Farmersville had a school. There weren’t that many Mexicans then, but there was . . . I don’t know how many numbers and families there were. I knew a few of them around. We were in the Exeter School District at that time, so I wound up coming over to Woodrow Wilson School in Exeter. There were several of us that did.
CD: So you didn’t go to the Farmersville schools?
KH: Never went to Farmersville schools. It was always kind of weird to me because we were three miles from Exeter and only ˝ mile from Farmersville, but we were in the Exeter School District.
CD: Strange. You were talking about the workers. Can you tell me a little bit about when you Dad hired the German POWs?
KH: I was thinking about this earlier. I think it had to be probably 1940, or 1941. I don’t know how he got a hold of them. I don’t know if he hired them or not, but they had a prisoner of war camp. Matter of fact there were several of them around. The one I knew of was in Tulare at the fairgrounds there and how Dad got a hold of them, I’m sure he went through the Department of Agriculture or somebody. They brought them out. The U.S. Army had guards, who brought them out in an Army truck, what they call a deuce and a half, or a six by. They’d bring them out with the canvas on the back on it and the benches that they would sit on. I’m going to say there were probably 20, give or take, five maybe would bring them out and they had two armed Army people there with M1 rifles who stood guard on them all day. Dad used them to pick potatoes. We raised a lot of potatoes at that time and that’s the only thing they did on our ranch. My wife, Margie Lucille Fenley, was telling me she went to school over south of Mooney’s Grove with a little school called Liberty. They used to walk down that stretch and they were picking fruit, picking peaches. There was a peach orchard right straight across on the west side of Mooney’s Grove across the highway there and they would walk down toward the school, and these Germans would throw peaches over the fence to them. We were all poor then and you know anything we got to eat why we got. . . She remembered that and I remember them picking potatoes in the evening. Like I said this has to be ’40, ’41, possibly ’42.
CD: That surprises me. I didn’t know we had German Prisoners of War that early. We weren’t even in the war yet.
KH: Well, we were in the war there, we weren’t in
the war with
CD: It sounds like you spent a lot of time watching them.
KH: Yeah, some because I was curious. There was nothing else to do around at that age and nobody to play with and all alone on 180 acres. Anything I could do I did to amuse myself or pass time. Then, I’m going to say in probably ’42-’44, the place where they were kept over in Tulare, they had these big long barracks. They weren’t two stories, just single story and they had bunks in there. They sold them off apparently, because I remember my dad bought one of them. I guess they were just surplus at the time after they got done through using them. I’m not sure of the year, but they sold them off and my dad bought one because I could go over there. He and my oldest son tore them down and kept the lumber to build a barn and so forth. I used to go over there and would go across the street from the fairgrounds and play on the railroad tracks, and I’d watch for the trains going by and I remember troop trains going by. I’d get way back off the way and watch them. You could see tanks and army trucks on the flat cars going by, going wherever and coming from wherever, I don’t know, going out to San Francisco to be shipped overseas. I used to get a kick watching those go by.
CD: So did you actually see the barracks with the Germans in it, or it was after all the Germans were . . . .
KH: The Germans were all gone at the time. I can remember I was just wandering around in there and I noticed something sticking out of the rafters one day. So I climbed up, because they weren’t finished on the inside. They were tarpaper on the outside and there wasn’t much more on the inside. It was open studs and 2 x 4’s. The eaves and the rafters up there and I saw something sticking out and I climbed up there and there was a knife. It wasn’t a sharp knife. It was a black-handled, a bakelite handle that said U.S. Army on it. They were just little wide knives, they did have a sharp point but they were only about this long. I got to looking. I probably found about a half a dozen of them. I’m sure they weren’t used to form an escape or anything, because they weren’t allowed to have knives or anything like that, anything sharp. It wasn’t a prison camp, not a concentration camp, a prison like we know today. It was just a prisoner-of-war camp and naturally they couldn’t have any weapons of any kind, but I guess they thieved these or snuck them out the mess hall.
CD: Right, maybe as a souvenir.
KH: I kept them for a long time. I don’t know whatever happened to them. They’ve been lost over the years.
CD: So you said your family tore it down and used the lumber to build a barn?
KH: Used it on the barn and my dad after he sold the ranch. . . here I’m a little bit mixed up on years because my dad sold the ranch I believe in 1945 or possibly ’44, but he used it to build a garage. It wasn’t so much a barn as it was a big equipment garage which was probably 20’ x 80’, something like that. He used the lumber and I can remember, ‘cause I’d go around and generally get in the way.
CD: Is that garage still standing?
KH: No, it’s long since gone.
CD: I thought there was just one camp. We had several German POW camps?
KH: There were several around. I know the one in Tulare and I think there were three here in Tulare county at the time. I don’t remember where they were. I do remember, . . . I don’t know this for a fact because I was too young to know that much about everything at the time. I was probably only 7 or 8 years old, but I do know that I heard the talk that the Germans and the Nazis did not get along. The Nazis were a radical group of the German people and they didn’t get along, so all the Nazi people that belonged to the Nazi party they shipped out, I think to Texas or someplace. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on things.
CD: So you’re saying the Germans that weren’t part of the Nazi party were in Tulare County?
KH: Yeah, they were both here, but the Nazis didn’t stay because they caused too many problems, so they shipped them off somewhere else. The German prisoners that I knew, of course I couldn’t understand what they were saying, they never caused any problems that I know of.
CD: How did they work? Were they good workers?
KH: Good workers, yeah, they’d get right in. They wouldn’t kill themselves, naturally, but they wouldn’t goof off and sit down, they just kept working steady and got the job done. I don’t remember how long they were there, maybe a week and I guess they would move on to other ranches that had contracted to use their labor or whatever they did. I’m not sure how they got the contracts.
CD: Do you think your dad had to pay them?
KH: No, I think the government paid them. I don’t think dad paid them. I understood that they got five cents a day for working and that was to buy toothpaste, cigarettes, incidental stuff they could use.
CD: And about how old were all these fellows?
KH: Oh, they were, I would say, in their 20’s. Most of them were younger people. There was no real young people and no real old people. Twenties and thirties I’d say.
CD: Did you go out and watch them every day?
KH: Not every day. I’d go when I had nothing else to do and I’d go over and watch them. I’d play along the irrigation ditches when they were working. They’d always say something to me and wave at me, but I didn’t know anything. The Army wouldn’t let me get very close and if I started getting out there where they were they’d holler and say no and if they were down on the other end they’d holler and motion for me to get back.
CD: Did you ever talk to the Army people that were guarding them?
KH: I probably did. I don’t remember much about it though.
CD: Were the Germans prisoners shackled at all or were they free?
KH: No, they were all free. They all had prisoner of war camp, or PW on the back of old army fatigues I guess you could call it. Seemed to me like they wore just regular army clothing and had PW on the back.
CD: Interesting. In paint or big . . .
KH: Big white letters, PW, on the back. Of course, they kept track of how many were there and how many they brought out and how many they took back and so forth.
CD: Do you remember any stories of them trying to make a break?
KH: None that I know of. I guess they were pretty contented, life considering. None of them was ever mistreated or anything like that to my knowledge anyway. I’m sure there probably was somewhere along the line.
CD: So the guards were pretty friendly with them.
KH: Yes, the guards were just there and they were all armed. It was quite evident and plain that if they tried to escape they would get shot. So they never made a break for anything or never caused any problems. They’d go eat their lunch and everything, and go back to work. I guess they were allowed an hour off for lunch.
CD: Where would they sit?
KH: Just on the ground right around the truck there and eat off their laps. Matter of fact, I even ate lunch with them one day. They brought me a little . . . a soup bowl I guess you could say, all metal, and I remember I didn’t care for what they had to eat so I didn’t eat it, but it was kind of a cabbage and noodle soup with a few potatoes in it. It wasn’t all that nourishing but I guess it filled your stomach up.
CD: Did you feel guilty for not eating it?
KH: No. No. I don’t remember how I came about it. I think one of the Army cooks brought it out and they just saw me standing there, I was just standing around. He motioned up if I wanted it and I said yes, but I didn’t eat it. There was no flavor to it, very bland. No spices, no salt or pepper, stuff like that.
CD: Was salt rationed?
KH: No, sugar was. I can remember my dad. Of course, we had ration stamps then. Tires, you had to have ration stamps to get tires and gasoline, sugar and butter. Dad being a farmer, and I don’t know what the procedures were, but he got extra stamps because he was raising crops to feed the troops, so he qualified for extra stamps for his gas and tire stamps for his trucks for hauling produce. I don’t remember how much more but I can remember he got an extra allotment.
CD: Getting back to the Germans, were you surprised to hear them not speak English? Had you ever heard a foreign language before?
KH: Never had, to my knowledge. I had no idea what they were even talking about. It just sounded like they were making noises. The only thing that stuck in my head was the turnips because they ran into the turnip patch and kept saying talávee, talávees, so that was turnip to me. I’m not sure that’s even the pronunciation but that’s what sticks in my head.
CD: What did they do, did they eat them right then and there, or shove them in their pants?
KH: They took them back. The Army guards ran them out, but what they had already pulled up they didn’t take away from them. I assume they took them back to their barracks wherever they were back to the camp.
I can remember in 1941 . . . of course I was too young to understand even what Pearl Harbor was, but I can remember when my mom heard the news she broke down and cried. Like I said, I don’t even know what Pearl Harbor was. It was just a name. But in about 1943,I remember in school, one day a week they had what they called Savings Stamps Day. You could bring as much money as you could afford to buy a U.S. Savings Stamp and normally I would get a dime and I could buy a stamp and put it in a little book and when you got so many in the book, it was just like a savings bond. We couldn’t afford the bonds, but we could buy the stamps and when you got the book full it was worth, I don’t know, $10 or whatever it was. I don’t remember what it was now. In 1943, they had a U.S. Savings Bond drive and they had captured a Japanese, what they called a mini-sub, submarine, and they hauled it around the country on the back of a big semi-truck, a semi-flatbed trailer and I can remember when it came to Visalia and you had to spend $5 to buy stamps. Five dollars worth of savings bond stamps and then they would let you walk up to a little platform and let you look into the little portholes inside this submarine. They had wax dummies in there. I think there were only four men in the whole thing because it was called a mini-sub. It fit on the back of a flatbed truck, 60’ truck, so you know it couldn’t have been very big. I remember we bought a $5.00 stamp and it had one big $5.00 stamp and we got to go up. I wasn’t big enough to look inside the portholes. My dad had to hold me up so I could look in. That was a big thing. You would not believe the crowd of people. They were lined up for blocks. It was in Visalia. It seemed to me like it was in front of the Post Office, but it isn’t where the Post Office is now. Someplace else in Visalia, but I can remember that. It seemed like there was a park on one side but I can’t even remember what street it was. I can remember going up through there. People were lined up for a block, waiting.
CD: That must have been the longest line you had seen in your life.
KH: More people than I had ever seen.
CD: The biggest crowd at the time that you had ever seen in your life.
KH: There were a lot of people. Even if they spent a dime, or spent $5.00 to get their stamps, or a lot of them would buy a war bond at $20.00, $25.00. I’m not sure what the increments were. I thought that was the greatest thing. I never did get any pictures or anything. In those days, we couldn’t afford to buy film for the camera or anything.
CD: That’s the first time I’ve heard about that mini-sub coming to Visalia.
KH: They hauled it around the country I guess, to
different towns, to the bigger towns anyway. And they’d set it up and put these catwalks up there where you could
look walk up alongside and look through the portholes. I didn’t know what I was looking at other
than it was a submarine from
CD: How did you parents find out about it?
KH: They publicized it in the newspaper. Like I say, it was a big savings bond drive. You’d see these big signs, Uncle Sam Wants You.
CD: There were probably advertisements all over the place.
KH: In those days if you had people in the military they gave you a flag with a star right in the middle of it and you’d hang it in your window. It designated that you had a loved one who was serving, that part of your family was in the Armed Forces. If you had more than one then you got one with two stars in it or three stars or whatever you had. I had an uncle, John, in World War II. I lost a cousin. He was in the invasion of Normandy and they torpedoed the troop ship out there. They all went down and he was lost in action. My uncle was wounded and he was awarded the Silver Star.
CD: Did they live in Tulare County, your cousin and uncle?
KH: Yeah, they lived here in Exeter.
CD: Oh, they did. What was your cousin’s name?
KH: My cousin was Albert Phillips.
CD: And your uncle?
KH: My uncle was John Hartman. Dad’s brother.
CD: Oh, your dad’s brother was injured over there.
KH: He was shot in the arm. He wiped out a German machine gun nest. If you ever saw the movie Sergeant York, it was kind along that same line where he crawled around and was in a cornfield and he crawled around and wiped out the German machine gun nest. They had them all pinned down and he was wounded during this process.
CD: What country? Where was he?
KH: He was in
CD: Wow. He saw a lot of action.
KH: He was awarded several medals. As a matter of fact, I still have his medals.
CD: Oh, you have his medals. You inherited that.
KH: Yes. His brother Jonah was the one I was talking about earlier. He was the last one of the bunch. He had everything and when Joe passed away, I ended up with all of it.
CD: Jonah was the one who was the school superintendent?
KH: He was the school custodian. He was the head custodian for twenty some years.
CD: And that was your uncle? And that’s who you were taking care of. Let me look at my questions about the German prisoners-of-war. . .
Are those some notes that you took?
KH: Yes, just some to jog my memory, but this is some stuff my wife had written down. Do I remember the blackouts or anything like that? No, I don’t remember any blackouts or stuff. I remember we listened to the radio. We’d sit around and listen to the radio to catch up with all of the news.
CD: Just to wrap it up . . . I had a couple more questions about the Germans. Was there a large anti-German sentiment?
KH: There probably was, but I was so young I was not aware of it. Like I said, a 7, 8, or 9 year old kid doesn’t . . . it’s kind of over his head. I don’t remember . . . The Japanese that I remember had a lot more resentment against them than the Germans ever did.
CD: It seems that way.
KH: I don’t know. I can’t think of any. There were never any demonstrations during those days about German prisoners-of-war or anything like that. No one came out and picketed you.
CD: Nobody had a problem with your Dad hiring them?
KH: No, it was pretty much accepted because most of our guys had gone off to war, so he had to get help wherever he could get it. I’m sure they had to contract through somebody, the war department or the department of agriculture so they could get these prisoners to work for them.
CD: And your parents never sat you in a corner and said, "Be careful, don’t go close to them."?
KH: No, I pretty much could run all over the ranch.
CD: Out of your mom’s hair. (Laughter) We’ll let’s talk about school. You went to the Exeter School District. Where were you going to school during the war?
KH: Woodrow Wilson School in Exeter. I graduated from grammar school in 1949.
CD: Did they pick you up ever to go do the crops?
KH: No, my dad drove me in. They didn’t have any buses in those days.
CD: I mean did they ever ask you to pick crops, did some of the kids pick cotton during the war?
KH: No, we did it just to make extra money. I worked for my dad, I picked cotton, picked up potatoes, drove the tractor, cut hay and worked on hay balers. Wasn’t really old enough to work on the hay baler at that time. I did from time to time. I couldn’t really do what a man could do, but I’d get on there and do what I could. They’d let me do this or that for a while. I learned how to do it all anyways.
CD: You had a lot of spunk. How did the school participate in the war? They had you do the stamps and . . .
KH: We bought the stamps, and up through the 4th grade we all had little victory gardens. We had one little, about a ten foot square that they’d dig up and we could plant radishes or whatever we wanted to plant in this garden and we called it our victory garden. And at the end, after all the vegetables got ripe we would make a big salad. The cook would make a big salad in the cafeteria and then we’d all get to go eat our victory garden salad.
CD: And this was at the school? So they made victory gardens at the school.
KH: It was just a class project, but it tried to instill in us the idea of what war was about and why we didn’t have this and why we didn’t have that because the troops were getting it all over there.
CD: So they did try to teach you that at school.
KH: It was interesting. We all knew there was a war, but it was way somewhere away. We weren’t really concerned that much about it because we didn’t understand what it was all about or anything else as young as we were.
CD: Tell me a little bit about Farmersville. Were there any churches in Farmersville?
KH: There were several churches. There was three . . . let’s see, there was the Brundage store and Burke’s store and then there was . . . I can’t think of the other one, way down in North Farmersville, but it was a store. There were four grocery stores, if you could call them grocery stores.
CD: What were the churches?
KH: Pentecostal was one of them. Wiley’s Church is still in Farmersville. It’s one of the oldest churches that was around at the time.
CD: What was it called?
KH: Wiley. Preacher Wiley was his name. The Free Holiness I think, which is a form of Pentecostal. I’m sure there was a Church of God. Of course they used to have traveling revivals. Tent churches would travel around the country and they’d just come in, set up, and hold a revival for a week and then they’d pack up, take off, and go somewhere else. They try to do the same thing now but they move into churches instead of traveling around with their tents and stuff. During the summer they had what they called Vacation Bible School. It usually would be a week, maybe two weeks, and they’d come in and set up. We’d have church in the morning and then in the evening too. It was a church too, but for the kids they had this big bible study thing. This is later on, the late 40’s, after the war was over. During the war, everything was tight, because everything went into the war. We’d go to a movie once in a great while. It would cost me dime to get into a movie.
CD: Did you drive into Visalia? Where would you go?
KH: We usually went to the old Fox Theater there in Visalia.
CD: Do you remember the newsreels?
KH: Oh yeah, the Movie Tone News. And that was probably as much as I knew about the war and what was going on. I would go watch the newsreels and they were usually a week old. It wasn’t new news, but it would give you an idea of what was going on over there. It didn’t really make much sense to us because we wanted to see the movies, the cartoons, so we could care less about the newsreels.
CD: What about Exeter? Did Exeter have a movie theater? What was there fun to do in Exeter?
KH: Exeter had two movie theaters. They had the Exeter Theater and one called the Kaweah Theater. Neither one is here now. The old building is still there.
CD: Where’s the building?
KH: C Street. They were both on the same street. The Exeter Theater was right down here because every Christmas we would go down and they would treat us to a movie and a bunch of cartoons. And then when we came out they would give us an apple and an orange. That was our big Christmas thing.
CD: And you recognize the building still when you go by.
KH: I’m not sure of the Kaweah Theater, if it’s still there. I think it is. I know the Exeter building is because you can drive down C Street, right on the corner, and it’s about the third building on the left. You can still see the shape of the building where they had the marquees and you can pick it out because it doesn’t much match the rest of the stores along there.
CD: So the marquee is still there. It’s just been painted over?
KH: It’s been changed. Not everything is down but you can tell that shape.
CD: So did you go more to the Exeter Theaters than the Visalia one?
KH: No, dad usually went to Visalia. The Fox Theater was the only theater we went to in Visalia. They had four in Visalia.
KH: The Fox Theater, and then they had the Hyde, the Bijou, and then we had the Roxie. They always had a little poem. I was trying to think of how it went.
"Bi Joe, Roxie, let’s go Hyde from the Fox."
And that incorporated all the movie theaters in Visalia at the time.
CD: I get it.
KH: Farmersville had a theater at one time.
KH: One of the best ones in the county. It was really plush. In fact, the person who owned the Exeter Theaters is the one who owned the Farmersville Theater. It was there probably three years and then it burned down. Burned down completely and they never did rebuild it.
CD: What was it called?
KH: Farmersville Theater. It was a nice building and had really nice plush seats and they got first run movies and everything. It sat just about where Boss Hog’s café is now. Sat right down between there and the corner. It was really a nice theater.
CD: About what year was that?
KH: ’47, ’48.
CD: For such a small population, how did they keep a theater going?
KH: I don’t know. Of course, at that time then Farmersville got to be . . . after the war ended in ’45 I guess then people started coming in because there was a lot of agricultural farm work around. So they just kind of gathered around Farmersville. Farmersville was kind of the cheaper place to live at the time as far as rent and buildings and land and so forth. They had no building codes or anything like that. In those days, everybody still had the old outdoor toilets. A lot of people didn’t even have running water in their house. There was a hand pump and you had to go out and hand pump it. There were a lot of shacks. I remember that at one time they called it boomtown because it boomed up pretty much all at once after the war. Just due to the migrant workers coming in and following the crops. It had quite a reputation for rowdiness and a lot of people that lived in Exeter if they went to Visalia they wouldn’t go through Farmersville. They go up this way and go in.
CD: Because it was that notorious?
KH: Yes. They had a bunch of rowdies up there.
CD: What do you mean my rowdies?
KH: Fights and drunks because they had so many bars. They had a fight up there every night some times.
CD: How many bars were there?
KH: Oh, three that I can remember. The Frontier Club was the biggest one. That was the one right on the corner and then they had one, I don’t remember the name of it, but it burned down in about 1950.
CD: Did you say the Frontier Club burned down, or whatever happened to it?
KH: Let’s see, I think the original one burned down and they rebuilt it. I think it’s still there, or is it a car lot now. It sat on the southeast corner of the intersection there. There’s a drive-in right on the corner now.
CD: Right, a little Rainbow Burger or something.
KH: I think that’s pretty much where the old Frontier used to sit. I don’t think the building is there anymore.
CD: What about your house? Did you have an outhouse? Did you have indoor plumbing?
KH: Not until . . . on the ranch there we had an outhouse and we had to go dig holes and we had to move it, but that would be once a year.
CD: So what do you mean, you’d have to build a new outhouse every year?
KH: No, they’d dig a hole and move this one over the hole. No one had indoor plumbing back in those days in the early 40’s.
CD: And water? Did you have running water?
KH: Yes. We had our own well. We had water in the house and on the ranch there, we had several wells, commercial wells that dad used to irrigate.
CD: So by the time you left Farmersville you still hadn’t lived in a place with indoor plumbing?
KH: When we sold the ranch, we had outhouses up until, . . . I want to say ’45 probably, and then when dad sold and he bought a lot back and he built another house just up from our original ranch house there and it had all indoor plumbing.
CD: What did you think?
KH: I was in hog heaven.
CD: Wow. An indoor toilet.
KH: A lot of the people that bought property there right after he sold it, the first ones that moved in, before they got plumbing, a lot of them had outhouses. That was the thing, we used to go tip over the outhouses on Halloween. That’s an old story, but we actually did it.
CD: What was that like? Where did that originate?
KH: Just mischievous kids, ornery.
CD: Did it every happen to your house?
CD: Where did you guys do it?
KH: Around other parts. This was after dad sold the ranch and people started moving into the community. This is ’46-’47, and ’48 even. In our younger days, we wouldn’t do anything like that at all. When I was on the ranch there, before ’45, we had nobody to play with. That was it. Me, my dog, and my cat, that was it.
CD: So tipping outhouses was a typical prankster thing to do. Like toilet papering is now.
KH: Of course we weren’t into spray painting or anything like that. They didn’t even have spray paint in those days. We weren’t destructive. That’s about as destructive as we ever got. We’d only do that to people who were mean, just grouchy old people and kids.
One interesting thing, my wife lived in Ivanhoe and they had some Japanese relocation cabins over there and the Japanese, I guess they used them to work in the fields, or maybe they just rounded them up, like they did, anyway they had six or eight of them there. They used them there to keep these Japanese all fenced in and then after they moved out or were shipped somewhere else, they opened them up to poor families that could move in. So my wife and her family lived in one, they called them the Jap Cabins, over there in Ivanhoe. She lived there for a year or two, I guess, while they went to school in Ivanhoe.
CD: What did she say that was like? What was the cabin like?
KH: It wasn’t much there. It’s funny because . . .she wound up going to work in D.C. When we were in D.C., it wasn’t the Smithsonian, . . . I’m not sure now, somewhere on the east coast, oh, it may have been the Smithsonian . . . they had a replica of one of the Jap Cabins where they showed where the Japanese were rounded up and interned right after ’41. We went up there and went through this and she pointed out that "This was exactly just like the cabin we lived in. It has the same stove as the one we lived in, and this is where I lived and we had this thing hanging down between my brothers and me." She described it and it was an exact replica of what they lived in over here in Ivanhoe. Just little old tarpaper shacks, I guess.
CD: Are they still there in Ivanhoe?
KH: Just the cement foundation. The floor is.
CD: I hadn’t heard that before. They were called Jap Cabins?
KH: That’s what they were known as. Everyone knew them as the Jap Cabins?
CD: Were you aware of the Japanese being rounded up and being put into camps?
KH: Not until later on. We didn’t realize it at the time. During ’41 anyway. Like I say, being on a ranch it wasn’t like living in a town where you knew everything. We were kind of isolated out there. I’m sure my dad and my mom knew what was going on, but it wasn’t anything that was passed on to me. There was nothing mentioned at the school that I remember at all.
CD: The school never brought it up.
KH: No. The fact is that we were at war with
CD: Does your wife remember very much about the Japanese being rounded up?
KH: Yeah, she remembers the Jap Cabins because we were talking about them this morning. I don’t know if she’s back yet or not but she could tell you more about them than I could.
CD: I know what I wanted to ask about churches. Did you ever go to any of those revivals?
KH: After the war, yes.
CD: Oh, right, they didn’t have them during the war, correct?
KH: No, ‘cause you couldn’t travel or buy the gas to go around during the war. Because there wasn’t anything else to do, we went to church quite a bit.
CD: You kind of did it because you didn’t have anything else to do or because you wanted to be saved?
KH: More or less because it was something to do. There was nothing else to do. We didn’t have cars, bicycles, or anything else to get around on, to go anywhere and do anything. We couldn’t afford to go to the movies, and when those little churches would come around, we would go to church.
CD: What church did your family go to? Did your family go to church on Sunday?
KH: Dad never did. Mom was a Baptist. She was baptized a Baptist, and we’d go to church maybe on Easter, special occasions. Dad usually worked. He worked seven days a week on that ranch. There wasn’t much leisure time for anything.
CD: When the revivals came by, did they make money or something, or were they just there for spiritual reasons?
KH: They didn’t make a lot of money. They made their expenses because it took them money to pack up all their stuff in trucks and drive it somewhere else. This was the late 40’s or early 50’s when they did this. The war was over. And they’d get a pretty good following, and they’d have church every night. They have pretty much of a packed house.
CD: Let’s talk a little bit more about Farmersville in the 40’s. Did they have a post office?
KH: I don’t think so because our mailing address was Exeter.
CD: How would you get your mail?
KH: Rural delivery. Our box was Route 1, Box 633, Exeter, California. We had the old crank telephones, party lines.
CD: And where was the little operating, I don’t even know what they called it, the telephone, you know?
KH: Here in Exeter. It wasn’t Pacific Telephone Company or anything then. It was Continental Phone Company. As a matter of fact, I think Verizon bought them out just not very many years ago. Continental Phone Company didn’t get absorbed by the big companies. They had this area, Ferndale, isolated spots in California where they are and that’s it.
CD: Where they had been since the switchboard era.
KH: They’d been here for years. The old phone company building is still over here. If you didn’t know where it was at the time, you’d never recognize it as being such now. We had to crank the phone. Our number was 29S12. The last two numbers designated what your ring was. The 29S, I don’t know what that designated, but the 1-2 meant one long and two shorts. So if you rang up somebody like our neighbor was 29S13, so if we wanted to ring him up we would do one long and then one-half, one-half, and one-half for shorts.
CD: Then they would know to pick up the phone.
KH: They would know that was their ring.
CD: But would people pick up when it wasn’t theirs?
KH: Oh yeah, you couldn’t always hear the receivers clicking off. Everybody listened to everybody.
CD: You couldn’t hear the click. Oh my.
KH: Then every night during wintertime at 10 o’clock, if they had a frost warning for crops, they would ring it for about 10 seconds.
CD: And that would mean frost.
KH: Everybody would pick up the phones and they’d tell you what the temperatures were going to be. I guess that was the agriculture department or Tulare County agriculture. I don’t know who did it, but they did it. It was a frost warning. They would tell you what the dew point was going to be and what the temperature was going to be.
CD: Did you guys have anything that could freeze?
KH: No, it was mostly for people who raised oranges at that time.
CD: Were there a lot of oranges?
KH: Oh, yes, oranges and grapes. That’s all that was here then. And olives, a lot of olives around here, and figs, a lot of figs. Matter of fact, this whole complex here was a fig orchard. I used to go to Wilson School and I’d hitchhike, we’d come up here and pick figs.
CD: You weren’t stealing them?
KH: Yes, they didn’t care.
CD: Why did the cherry guy care that you were taking the cherries?
KH: Oh, I don’t know. I think he just didn’t want us running around down in his orchard. He didn’t have a big cherry orchard. He had an apple orchard and actually, he had maybe about ten cherry trees. I don’t know why they were even in there because he did have enough in there to market or anything. But he had them hid; they were in this apple orchard and we found them.
CD: Was it common to hitchhike? Was it safe?
KH: That’s the only way we had to get around in those days. Back in the 40’s and if any of us ever got a car, we hitchhiked about everywhere we needed to go. We used to go to Visalia. Every Sunday we would hitchhike over there . . .
CD: Oh, you would? Your dad didn’t drive you? I guess he would be working.
KH: He’d be working and we were 10, 11, 12 years old, so this had to be in ’44, three years in that area. We would hitchhike to Visalia and shine shoes. We had our little shoeshine box and we’d go in and we’d walk up and down Main Street. We’d usually hang out around the east end of Main Street because that’s where the bars were and most of the guys were. We’d run them down and shine shoes for a dime. We’d shine shoes and get enough money to go to the show. We’d watch the show and then catch the Orange Belt bus back into Farmersville.
CD: About how many people’s shoes do you think you shined?
KH: We’d usually make two or three dollars. Enough to go to a movie and buy a candy bar or something, bag of popcorn, and it cost us 15 cents to ride the bus back. The bus always left at 3:10 in the afternoon, so we had to be down at the bus depot and get on a bus at 3:10. There were no more buses after that until 5:00 and we didn’t want to wait that long. And a lot of times, if it was a long movie, we’d have to forsake the end of the movie in order to catch the bus. We didn’t get to stay and see all of it.
CD: Visalia seemed to have a lot of bars. More bars then.
KH: The whole east part of town was all bars.
CD: It must have been pretty rowdy too.
KH: They had their share of fights. But they had a police department over there.
CD: Oh, that would make a difference.
KH: Farmersville had nothing. Farmersville didn’t even have a deputy sheriff up until probably 1950. Well I guess they did too. They had a sheriff, they didn’t have any sheriff’s office, but they had sheriffs there that worked out of a little substation.
CD: Yeah because that would mean, when the sheriff wasn’t there that there would be a complete free for all.
KH: Yes, there was nobody to ride herd on people. You didn’t have the problems then, outside of a few drunks getting into fights. There was no drugs. We didn’t know what drugs were in those days.
CD: All right, let’s talk a little bit about the war. So, you remember your mom’s reaction when she heard the news about Pearl Harbor.
KH: Just the fact that she broke down and started crying. That’s about all I remember. At the time, I didn’t even know what she was crying about. Something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. It was a sad thing and that’s about all I knew about Pearl Harbor.
CD: Did you notice a big change after that? Did things start changing?
KH: No, not so much. They just continued the rationing stamps and things like that. No, isolated on the farm we didn’t have that much of a change. Of course, I’m sure dad did. His crops went to different locations and were going to feed the troops.
CD: Do you think he ever ran out of gas, or did he have enough?
KH: He watched it pretty close. He rationed it out just enough to where he could make it through the month. We had two, three, four . . . we had a Ford and a Ferguson and a John Deere and a Caterpillar D2 Diesel, and a Caterpillar 22 which was a gas rig, and an old Cletrac. We had two hay balers and dad would travel around the country baling hay.
CD: He traveled around the country?
KH: Yes, he baled hay everywhere from Bakersfield to Oakland. He had these two hay balers and he baled hay all around the country for different people. And what used to be the Tulare Lake, where the lake was over there, he used to bale a lot of straw over there. They used to raise a lot of wheat over there and he’d go over and bale straw. I can remember when the lake was still there and they were pumping it dry.
CD: So you saw the lake? And then they what?
KH: They pumped it dry. They cut canals down through it and I can remember the big draglines, like a steam shovel thing, with big buckets and they’d go out there. They were on a flat bottom boat, a barge, they would dig this channel through and they’d make a bank on each side. This would eventually be the canal and they’d pump water in from both sides of the lake into this canal. They’d pump it all dry and the water would stay in this canal. And they had a whole series of this for irrigation. That’s the way they got rid of the lake. And as the water went way down, the people would catch the fish that were drying up in the little holes. You could pick them up by the sack full. Mostly carp and catfish.
CD: Were they good for eating?
KH: Oh, yes. A lot of people ate them. They’re boney, but they were good to eat. And of course then, you know, you ate what you could eat. It was all free fish. You’d just go and pick them up.
CD: It’s funny they didn’t have any qualms about draining a lake.
KH: No, it wasn’t really . . . there’s a lot of alkali over there now even. We were over there at special town, Allensworth. We went down and drove through that the other day and they’re refurbishing that thing. It’s pretty neat. They have a long way to go, but they have a lot of the houses that have been rebuilt on the outside, I don’t know if they are ever going to finish them on the inside, but the shell is there, and they have a little plaque telling who lived there and what this was. This was a store, this was a hotel, library and so forth. They have pretty good roads through it now.
CD: As a child did you ever see Allensworth? But you did see Tulare Lake?
KH: I just went with dad over there. He’d take me when he went to get money, when he got through the job and go get paid and I’d ride in the car with him. That’s how I knew about Tulare Lake.
CD: That’s very interesting. Was it pretty alkali then, even with the lake?
KH: The water was pretty much alkali although it would support fish, but a lot of alkali in the area, I guess, although most of it is owned by J.G. Boswell Company now. I think he owns most of it now, the lake bottom over there. Lot of good ground over there and he’d grow a lot of cotton. At that time there was alkali, not a lot of it,, it wasn’t all alkali around. They grew a lot of wheat over there and cotton.
CD: Did you have any brothers that were of war age? Were your parents anxious that they would be drafted?
KH: No, most of them were married with kids at the time.
CD: At the time the war started?
KH: Right after. No, they weren’t old enough to start with and dad never had to go because he was too old for the draft. My brother . . .
CD: Why would your brothers not have to go?
KH: One of them went into the CCC’s.
CD: What’s that?
KH: The California Conservation Corps, and it was a type of army but they worked in the mountains up here and it was a civil, I’m not sure exactly what it was. Probably a lot of people around here remember the old CCC’s. They took care of the parks and did a lot of work on conservation around the country. My oldest brother,Harold, was in that and I don’t know if that kept him out of the army, but he never had to go into the army. My other brother, Melvin, had a disease on his hands, where his hands were real rough, and he had a medical thing so he didn’t have to go. My youngest brother, Donald was in the army, he joined in the Korean War.
CD: Right, but he was too young for World War II?
KH: Too young for World War II.
CD: So do you remember when we dropped the A-bomb?
KH: Yeah. I don’t remember an awful lot about it at the time. I remember Truman finally said he’d come to
the point where they were contemplating attacking
CD: But at the time how did people feel?
KH: People thought at that time, oh, most of them thought that was the right thing to do. Of course the aftermath came after the amount of total destruction, most people didn’t realize how much destruction the atomic bomb would be and then they got pictures back of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and saw the total devastation and of course some of the Japanese people. They played it up real big, about the little kids. That was war, you know. We didn’t start it. But we ended it. It was a matter that it boiled down to: it was them or us. What any war is, so they decided to do it and it ended the war. It actually ended up saving a lot of lives on both sides that would have drug out for another two years.
CD: Did you guys get a newspaper? Do you remember what newspaper you got?
KH: Yeah, we got two of them. We got the Visalia Delta and the Fresno Bee.
CD: Oh, you got the Fresno Bee too. And do you remember seeing the pictures? Did you pay attention at all?
KH: Not too much. I can remember just general hearsay. I learned more about it later on than I did at the time.
CD: That makes sense. How soon after when the war was over with Europe did they ship the Germans off?
KH: We only had them that one year. They were on our farm for maybe one month, then went to work on another crop on another farm.
CD: And that was it? He didn’t have them the next year.
KH: I don’t remember if he did or not. I think that one year is all we had them.
CD: It seems you would have been out there watching them the next year.
KH: Yes, I would have remembered it. That’s the only year I can remember that we utilized them. Whether they were available or not I don’t know. They might have stopped the whole plan then. The fact was that because our guys were all off at war, that’s the reason they brought them over here to begin with, but I don’t know if they were even available past that one year. I’m sure they probably were or maybe they needed them in some other part of the country.
CD: Do you remember when the soldiers came home? Your uncle? Do you remember the homecoming?
KH: Vaguely, but nothing that stands out. The victory parades and the ticker tapes and all that kind of stuff.
CD: Did they have that here? Or do you just remember seeing it in papers and stuff?
KH: No, not here. There weren’t that many people here at the time. They were too scattered around. When I left Visalia in 1959, there were only 13,000 people there then in Visalia.
CD: So in 1945 it must have been smaller.
KH: Farmersville only had less than 1,000. Exeter had maybe 2,000 at the time.
CD: Oh, you went to school in Exeter, but if you wanted to have fun did you mostly go to Visalia, or would you go to Exeter.
KH: We weren’t much in Exeter; the only thing we’d come to Exeter for was at that time called the Emperor Grape Festival. They call it something else now. It’s every October. We used to come over here for the parade and they’d close off the streets and have all the little games and street dances and stuff.
CD: Would you dad actually stop work to go do that?
KH: Yes, he would bring us over to watch the parade. Then once in a while Visalia would have a carnival that came in. They always sat up there on the corner where Toyota is now, right there on the corner of East Main Street and Ben Maddox, because that was a big open field. They set the carnival up out there. And then we’d go to carnival.
CD: Did that happen during the war?
KH: You know I don’t remember. I can’t remember during the war. I was trying to think if it was during the war or right after the war. They came through there in the 40’s, but I think it was right after the war. Everything kind of got back to normal. So they wanted people to enjoy, so they started these little traveling carnivals. They didn’t amount to very much. It was something for us to do.
CD: They sound like fun.
KH: Dad would always take us one night, never more than once, but he'd always take us once. And once in a while we’d go to a movie, maybe once a month. The rest of the time, we listened to radio.
CD: What about in Exeter, the Emperor Grape Parade? Did that still go on during the war? Did they keep that up?
KH: As far as I know. Much as I can remember it did, but it lessened during the war.
CD: Right, must have been smaller.
KH: There just wasn’t that much money floating around.
CD: So just to wrap up, you mentioned after, at the end of the war, it seems to you at the end of the war Farmersville went through a little population boom.
KH: Yes, that’s when everybody started growing their crops again and everybody could buy gas and had cars. The migrant workers would follow the crops around. They’d start out in Bakersfield and store the potatoes down there and work up through the valley, the apples and the cherries, clear up into Oregon. They’d followed the crops all the way through. A lot of them would get to this point and there was so much agriculture around here that they just kind of settled here. And they’d build a little old shack of anything they could build it out of, such as tarpaper, paper and whatever. There were no building codes and they could just buy a little piece of ground and set up on it and that was their home.
CD: So Farmersville wasn’t even an incorporated town? It was just called Farmersville.
KH: Farmersville, I don’t what date, but they weren’t incorporated until way late. I don’t think they were even incorporated until the 80’s or the early 90’s.
CD: But they had a school,what was the name of the school?
KH: I think it was just the Farmersville School.
CD: If you didn’t go and you lived a half mile away, who went? Did you know any of the kids who went?
KH: There was scattered around the country . . . there wasn’t any large congregation right in Farmersville, but there were a lot of kids scattered around the country and they had a couple of hundred kids in there. They had a pretty good school because they surrounded everybody. It was the only school around here at the time. I mean close in to Farmersville. Exeter had two schools, Wilson and Lincoln, and Farmersville had one. I don’t know how many Visalia had.
CD: So how would you say World War II affected the Exeter-Farmersville-Visalia area?
KH: I can’t really say. I don’t know what, other than the fact that it took all the manpower away, and the women . . . of course there was no industry here for like Rosie the Riveter type things. No industry although I guess they did have some women pilots.
CD: Down here?
KH: Flying around the country transporting planes. They weren’t fighter pilots or anything like that. They used them for transport. I don’t know if there were any around here or not. I can remember the old Visalia airport though, they used it as a military base. It wasn’t a military base per se, but they used a lot of, I guess refueling maybe, but I can remember B25 bombers used to land out there.
CD: Did you actually see them?
KH: Yeah. They would land out there maybe for refueling. This was long before aerial refueling, but the old Mitchell B25 bomber, that was the short range bomber in its day, although
they were still around when they had the B17 for that matter. They were little twin engines.
CD: That would be something for a kid to see.
KH: And noise, you would not believe the noise they made. They made as much noise as a jet. When they revved those engines up and I don’t know how many horsepower they had, when they took off you could feel the ground shake. Very powerful.
CD: What about your family business? How do you think the war affected your family and your family farm?
KH: Other than the rationing, that we had to tighten our belts just like everybody else did. I was too young it didn’t really register on me at the time. Other than the fact that I knew we couldn’t go and do the things we wanted to do, that we could do later on. After the war things loosened up a lot and we could do a lot more things we couldn’t have done then. At the time I didn’t know why we couldn’t but later after the war was over I could look back, you know, as a teenager I could look back and see why we couldn’t go to the movie, why we couldn’t go traveling or whatever.
CD: But did you family business just go on business as usual? Was it actually better because of the war?
KH: I can’t really say. Of course, after the war was over, everything kind of boomed. The letters that we used to get in the mail . . .
CD: From whom?
KH: My Uncle John who was overseas, they were the old V mail.
CD: I’ve heard that term before.
KH: They were a letter that you write and you fold it this way, this way and this way and it had the stamp here and you folded it all up and mailed it. They were just little four inches square and called the V mail. I can remember getting that, and of course we had the Victory stamps on there. But I remember we used to get those all the time from my uncle overseas and he would let us know what was going on, where he was. I can remember a lot of them that we got had big black lines through it. They were censored because he couldn’t tell us what he was doing and where he was. They’d actually go through and read all the mail and used a big ink blotter and cross it out and censor it.
CD: What did you think of that?
KH: We just kind of accepted it then. There wasn’t all this demonstration about
everything then. Whatever they said or
did was for the betterment of the country. Nobody argued with it. They just
said okay and went along with it. Ninety
percent of the time, they were right. I
can’t say that today, but during those times, you were at war and a lot of
people . . . it’s like today, a lot of people don’t know what we’re doing in
CD: So the Farmersville area, do you think they were pretty much pro-FDR?
KH: Yeah, everybody, he’s the one that started the CCC’s as a matter of fact. That was his and he did that to keep some of the people here that could work normally, a lot of people who were 4F from the Army and couldn’t hold up to the Army training and they would use those in the Conservation Corps.
CD: I don’t know how your brother got into that. I thought it was kind of a special thing for most people to get into that and not fight.
KH: No, it wasn’t any prestige or more money. I guess if you got into it. He might have started into it even before the war started. Once you got in there you just stayed there. He never was called. My brother just younger than him, the one with the skin disease, he had almost like a rash and it would dry out, crack open, and bleed. He was born with it, and one of his boys, Keith, showed up with the same thing. The only ones in our whole family. Nobody knows where it came from, what caused it or anything. Apparently it was hereditary though.
CD: Boy, you really remembered a lot. Being so young during the war, I’m impressed. I haven’t had anybody from Farmersville either. That was interesting to hear that. Is there anything that we missed. Was there anything else about Farmersville or Exeter, about those times?
KH: No, that was pretty much it. Pretty much, Farmersville got its name from what it was, a farming community. There were several big ranches around, the Sim’s Ranch south of town and there was the old . . . there was the CPC Ranch down there.
CD: What was CPC Ranch?
KH: I don’t know what it stood for but I think they were Porteguese. My dad did business baling hay for them. Of course the ranchers all got together on their water districts, who was going to use water at the same time for the irrigation ditches, so all the ranchers knew each other. I’d tag along with dad and I can remember parts of it. It wasn’t really interesting to me at the time, but looking back, I can remember things that happened. I remember we used to go down to the CPC Ranch, It’s still there, it is called something else now, south of Farmersville, and they had a big monstrous lane of palm trees. The palm trees are still there. It takes off of 196 or whatever road that is that goes through Farmersville, south of town about a mile and a half. About a mile, down near the south side of the Sim’s Ranch. The old Sim’s Ranch was a big ranch.
CD: Are they still around?
KH: There’s a ranch there. I don’t know who owns it now, but the old house is long since gone and Shannon, Art Shannon, was a big rancher at the time.
CD: Do you remember them getting together and talking about water?
KH: Yeah, because everybody had to water a lot. Depending on your acreage you could have the water for so many days for irrigation and all the ditches that ran through had headgates on them and we would go down and swim in the ditches.(THE TAPE RAN OUT).
Catherine Doe/Transcriber:Jan Chubbuck, 5/16/04/Ed. JWood 5/17/05
Editor’s note: The words in italics were added during a phone interview with Mr. Hartman on May 24, 2005 and another meeting at the library on September 7, 2005. During this second meeting, JWood asked Mr. Hartman to clarify where the German Prisoner of War camp was in Tulare. She had other information that proved the camp was at Tagus Ranch in 1944. Mr. Hartman insisted that the camp he visited was not at Tagus ranch, but was close to the fairgrounds in Tulare. So there must have been two camps in Tulare during the war.