California Council for the Humanities
California Stories Initiative
Years of Valor, Years of Hope
Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946
Tulare County Library
The Friends of the Tulare County Library
And the Tulare County Historical Society
Interviews in 2003-2004
Interviewee: Patricia Hillman
Date of Interview: 10 March 2004
Tape Number 91
Interviewer: Colleen Paggi
Place of interview: Mrs. Hillman’s home
Places where Mrs. Hillman lived during 1941 to 1946: Tulare
Subjects covered in the interview: School days, clothing styles, romance, race relations in Tulare, life in Tulare.
CP: My name is Colleen Murphy Paggi. Today is Wednesday, March 10, 2004. And I am at the home of Pat Hillman in Tulare, California. This interview is being done in conjunction with the Oral History Project of Tulare County entitled "Years of Valor, Years of Hope in World War II during the years 1941-1946."
Good morning, Pat.
PH: Good morning, Colleen.
CP: I’m just going to start with a little bit of general background.
CP: Why don't you tell me what your name is?
PH: My name is Pat Hillman.
CP: Were you born Pat?
PH: No. I’m Patricia Ann. Everybody that’s a Patricia is a Patricia Ann.
PH: Yes. Popular name.
CP: What was your maiden name?
CP: Where were you born?
PH: I was born in Tulare in the front bedroom of our house on Tulare Street because they didn’t have maternity hospitals 76 years ago. And there’s a Wendy’s Drive-In right on the spot now.
PH: On the corner of Blackstone and Tulare.
PH: Yes. That’s where I was born. And my sister, also, three years ahead of me.
CP: Is that the house that my father-in-law has?
PH: I don’t know. They moved that house when they widened the Lindsay Highway. You know, the Lindsay Highway was two lanes. And when they widened the highway, they moved the house. And I don’t know whether they sold it to your father-in-law -- did they? Oh, no, no. I know what you’re talking about. No, that was my grandfather’s house that your father-in-law has.
CP: Oh. So where did the house get moved to?
PH: I don’t have any idea. You know how they will take houses that they want to sell and put them in a field?
PH: And my father wanted to know that but he was never able to trace it. But it was -- they moved it somewhere, they didn’t tear it down.
CP: Oh, that would be interesting.
PH: Uh-huh, it would.
CP: And you were born in the bedroom?
PH: Oh, always. The front bedroom, yes, uh-huh, because that was the extra room. And the doctor came to the house.
CP: Do you remember what the doctor’s name was?
PH: Doctor Fox.
CP: And you have one sister?
PH: One sister, Eleanor Heiskell. She lives in Glennville now. And she’s actually a little over three years older than I. So she’s 79.
CP: Just the two of you?
PH: Uh-huh, just the two.
CP: What were your parents’ names?
PH: My mother was Margaret Thomas and she was a teacher in Delano and she also drove the school bus. And my father at that time had a business in Delano as well as one in Tulare. And he used to see her careening around in the bus. And he couldn’t understand why they were letting this kid drive the bus. Well, she was a teacher. She had her credential. Anyway, his name was John Tyler Heiskell. And they were married in 1924.
CP: Well, this has nothing to do with World War II, but tell me who Jefferson Davis Heiskell is?
PH: Oh, Jefferson Davis Heiskell was my grandfather. And he was born during the Civil War era. And his father was an ardent Confederate. And so he named my grandfather, his son, Jefferson Davis.
CP: The reason I asked you that -- I don’t know. Nobody is going to really care about this on this tape. But my great grandfather’s name is Jefferson Davis Turner from Tennessee. So I’m just assuming they’re all great Confederates.
PH: Oh, I think so. He was from Tennessee, too. But, you know, that was a trend in those days. The man who had all the land in Tulare and gave it to the railroad was Isaac Newton Wright. You named your children after people you admired.
CP: Was Eleanor born -- she was born here, also?
PH: Yes, she was born --
CP: In the front bedroom?
PH: In the front bedroom, yes.
CP: So you grew up your whole life in Tulare?
PH: I did. My father was born in Tulare, too.
CP: Oh, he was?
PH: My father, John Heiskell, was born here in 1890. He didn’t get very far away.
CP: How old were you when World War II began?
PH: Well, it would have been 1942. Is that right? 1941. Okay. I was in the 8th grade. So I would assume I was 13. And I remember the specter of war hanging
over us. And of course, you’re pretty
encapsulated when you’re in a small town. I remember just dreading the thought that we would be going to war. And it was imminent, you know. And I kept praying that it wouldn’t
happen. I think we were more affected by
that war -- I know the First World War had to be very devastating, too. But I think we were more affected by the Second
World War because the specter of danger was very imminent. I mean,
CP: So you were in the 8th Grade and you remember this fear?
PH: Oh --
CP: In the 8th Grade?
PH: Oh, yes. I do because we didn’t really know what was going to happen to us. And we didn’t know how our lives were going to play out. And of course, when it really got heated, in high school a lot of the boys in my class went to war. And a lot of kids graduated after three years and went into the service.
CP: They did?
PH: Yeah. Actually it was about three and a half years. Quite a few of them went into the service. In fact, I looked up the list this morning. In our class I think there were 20, 25 kids who left high school and went into the service.
CP: They left high school? You mean they didn’t graduate?
PH: Some of them graduated early and went into the service. Some of them left high school and went into the service. And I remember one really poignant happening. One of the girls in our class -- we graduated in 1945. One of the girls married a service man and he wasn’t in our class. And graduation night she found out he’d been killed. And that really put a damper on everybody. And so I mean it was a very real thing.
CP Was she married to him?
PH: She had married him I think about six months before graduation.
CP: While she was in high school?
PH: While she was in high school. But you know, you were allowed to go on and graduate and he was away. He was overseas.
CP: Oh, dear. That sounds horrible.
PH: It was. I mean, it was a very -- it was a very real thing to us.
CP: Out of the whole class you said there were 25 boys.
CP: 25 out of how many?
PH: 200. There were 210 in our graduating class.
CP: So 25 boys.
PH: Either went to the service. Graduated early and went to the service or quit school and went to the service. 'Cause see, many of them were 18 and away they went.
CP: Were there changes in your family’s housing situation during that time?
PH: Not in our family’s housing situation because we stayed in Tulare. But I know a lot of people had to move to other locations. You know, either because of jobs or because they were moved there by the service. And so our friends kind of came and went. I feel very fortunate that we lived in the same house all our lives. And but housing really, for me, was not a problem. I mean, there was no change.
CP: Did you ever have anyone come and live with you outside of the family?
PH: Let’s see. Not outside the family. We had family members that came and lived with us. I remember one second cousin that was a nurse. And she came down from Idaho and lived with us for about a year. Because there was a real shortage of nurses in the hospital here. And but, no, no, we had visitors. I know a lot of the girls who were three or four or five years ahead of me or my husband’s class -- and he was seven years ahead of me -- dated all the boys from Rankin Field. But if you think my mother would even let me get a look at anybody from Rankin. They were very protective of us. They would invite the Rankin Cadets in for a dinner and we always had a group of them for Christmas. And mother would have a little box of cookies and that kind of thing for them. So they were invited -- I mean, they were very well accepted into the social life if you want to call the social life of Tulare. And I remember my parents felt really sorry for them because they were not at home and it was on holidays. But I really had no romantic involvements like some of my older friends did with Rankin Field or with soldiers, Navy men.
CP: How did your mother find these people to invite them to dinner?
PH: Oh, they had a center, you could call out there; you could call out to Rankin Field. And they would send anybody -- I mean they were eager to integrate the cadets with the townspeople because that was -- you know, they really had no home life. And so a lot of people did that. A lot of people took in the cadets and invited them to eat regularly or just for holidays.
CP: I bet those boys loved that.
PH: Oh, I’m sure they did. I’m sure they did. I remember one Christmas mother had racked her brains -- money was pretty tight in those days. And she had wrapped up a deck of cards, I remember, and some dice along with the cookies. And they came. And they were so thrilled with these little gifts. And we had a piano and one of them as a really good pianist. And I remember he was thrilled to have a piano to play. And we were thrilled to have him play. And we were musical. You know, we played -- I played flute and my sister played trumpet. My mother played violin. We had a little band and it was fun. I mean, these were like older brothers, you know. So and I think that was really a useful thing. I think a lot of people took the cadets into their homes.
CP: Did you stay in contact with any of those soldiers?
PH: No, I didn't. My mother did for years. And she would hear from them. I remember one came back with his wife and he had a couple of youngsters, came by and visited her and my dad because they were still in the same house and he remembered where it was. But as far as any contact this generation, no. I didn’t keep track of any of them.
CP: What about when the boys came to dinner? Did you and your sister flirt with them and stuff?
PH: Oh, I’m sure we did. But as far as -- they had dances, you know. And in fact, they had what they called ballrooms. There was one in Visalia. I think they used to have dances out at the Blue Moon swim area. But I was too young. I mean, I was not allowed to do that.
CP: What about Eleanor?
PH: My sister was quite shy. And I think she probably flirted like I did. But that’s where it ended.
CP: Did you work at all during that time while you were -- well, the war started in ’41 and you were in the 8th Grade. Then when you went to high school, did you ever work part time?
PH: You know what we did, and this sounds funny. I’ve told other people this, too. There were no mechanical cotton pickers at that time. The force of people that would come in and pick cotton wasn’t around. I mean, they were in the service or they’d moved to other places. So during September they would let the high school out at noon when I got into high school. And we would go out and pick cotton for about a month, month and a half. And they’d take us out there. I still remember a man named Fred Hopkins. His son was in our class, Bob. And he would come pick us up in pickups or our parents would take us out and we would pick cotton.
CP: You’re kidding.
PH: No, I’m not. So we did work at that time of year.
CP: And the high school let you out at twelve?
PH: At twelve, uh-huh. Yeah, you go to school in the morning. Now, if you didn’t want to pick cotton I assume you would either stay there -- I don’t remember what happened to the kids that didn’t pick cotton. But we all went out for usually a month or so and picked cotton.
CP: And this was just because of World War Two?
PH: Oh, yes, yes, it was.
CP: So, tell me how you pick cotton.
PH: Well, you have a big sack that goes over one shoulder. You drag it behind you and you walk along and pull the cotton out of the bolls. Those bolls are kind of sharp so you have to pull it out of the bolls and stick it in the sack. And you’re paid by the poundage that you pick and believe me cotton even with the seeds in it is very light. So none of us got rich. But, you know, the term "war effort" was a big thing here. I mean, it showed patriotism. And we were helping with the war effort. And it was -- I mean there were so many things that you did for the war effort. You saved iron and steel, metal.
CP: You did?
PH: Oh, yes. And they would take it -- and I
found out later that maybe they were sending it to
ED: Other interviews in this project indicated that the United
States had sold steel to Japan during the 1930s, before the war.
PH: Oh, shoes, yes. You would get about two pairs of shoes a year with your coupons. But you could get kind of rope-soled shoes. And I remember wearing those a lot in high school. And stockings, silk stockings, you had -- that was a real -- that was a wonderful thing if anybody -- a lot of times the soldiers had access to silk stockings. But those were rationed.
CP: Let me stop you just a minute. Tell me about these silk stockings. Were they real silk?
PH: Yes, they were. I mean, nylons were just coming in. But silk stockings -- they’re the ones with the seam up the back. Those were a real luxury. And as a result in high school, if we went anyplace we used leg makeup. And it’s not the kind of makeup that you put on, tanning lotion, now. Because that doesn’t really rub off very much. But this leg makeup was something that came out of a bottle and it was kind of orangey. But most people’s hosiery at that time, they didn't know about black and blue and all the colors of hosiery. And you would rub this on your legs and then you looked like you had stockings on. And I remember my mother just dying because you’d climb in bed at night and you’d wake up in the morning, the sheets were orange.
And I can still remember going down -- we had a small symphony orchestra. It was actually the forerunner of the Tulare County Symphony. It was started by a young man who is still in Tulare, my age, seventy six, Kenneth Lange, and a friend of his named Aristotle Garvas. Anyway, he and Ken Lange started the symphony orchestra. And they practiced in the summer. And there were about forty of us in high school that played in it. And I remember putting leg makeup on. My mother would drive us down to the rehearsals and I had my foot propped up on the dashboard putting on leg makeup so that I would look like I had hose on to go down to practice in the summer.
CP: Did the other girls do that, too?
PH: Oh, yes, oh, yes, everybody did that. That’s what you did because you didn’t have stockings.
CP: What about -- did you ever paint a line to look like the seam?
PH: Never did that, no. That would take a master brush handler, I think.
CP: What about rope-soled shoes?
PH: They were canvas. And they would take the rope -- you can buy them in the store. You didn’t have to have a coupon for that.
CP: Oh, you didn’t?
PH: No, huh-uh, because they weren’t leather. And apparently -- I don’t recall why leather shoes were at such a scarcity but anyway, if you could buy these -- but they didn’t’ last very long, you know. They’d scuff up and the rope would unravel and -- but I can remember those very well. ‘Cause you know, I was in high school and it was the social thing to wear hose and have new shoes. We didn’t -- we made do.
CP: You had two pairs of shoes a year?
PH: Two pair of shoes a year, uh-huh. And usually you had to have, you know, something that you could wear to school. So you had two pairs of leather-soled shoes you could get.
CP: But if everybody has to have two pairs of shoes it doesn’t make much difference --
PH: No, it really doesn’t. It isn’t like everybody -- some people had
five pair. And I know another thing that we couldn’t get was bathing suits
because of the rubber in them. And I
remember getting a bathing suit from a friend in
PH: Oh, yes, wool -- not fun to get off and on when they’re wet.
CP: Oh, I bet it was uncomfortable.
PH: It was. That’s why I was so thrilled to get this suit from my friend in
CP: When you had to get the coupons for the butter and sugar -
PH: And coffee and gasoline.
CP: Did you have enough?
PH: Gasoline was always a real problem. I can’t remember how they did it. They had A, B, and C coupons. And I wasn't involved in trying to obtain these things so I don’t remember how you did it. I’m sure you had to apply to the War Rationing Board. But it was always a problem. I mean, we didn’t -- butter, for instance, you could get a kind of lard like margarine. It was white. And it came with a little yellow, bright yellow button. And you broke the button and then you kneaded it with your fingers or with an electric mixer to make it yellow.
CP: Was it butter?
PH: No, it wasn’t. It was like margarine, only very sticky.
CP: Probably like Crisco.
PH: Yeah, exactly, it was like Crisco. But you did it.
CP: Did you ever have butter?
PH: We had some butter, yeah, because, you know, people could make butter. They had cows around here. I’m sure in the cities it was at a lot more of a premium. But here we did have butter. But to go to the store and buy it, you had to have coupons.
CP: What did your father do during the war?
PH: Well, we have always had a feed company here in Tulare. And he worked at the feed company. My mother was a teacher and she taught several years during the war while I was in high school. She had retired when she married my father. But there was a big shortage of teachers. So she went back and taught at Wilson School actually. And she loved that. She was an excellent teacher. But there seemed like there was a shortage of a lot of people with specialties so that was why she went back. But I’m not sure that my father’s work was affected too much by the war one way or another. You still went on making cattle feed and feeding cattle and milk cows.
CP: You probably had more access to food products than other people, do you think, because of the agricultural --
PH: I think so. You know, meat was rationed, too. But if you had your own cattle you could butcher and have meat. One thing that my mother did in her spare time, they had watch stations where you watched the aircraft go over.
CP: What aircraft?
PH: Well, there were always Army, Navy, commercial aircraft going over. And they had watch stations around Tulare; I’m sure around the whole state of California. And you’d sign up kind of like a volunteer thing -- and it was a volunteer thing. And you would go out -- we went out south of town. Can’t remember the -- the Cheney ranch. And they had a tower built and you climbed up in the tower and watched for airplanes. And then when you heard one coming, you had to spot it and see if you could figure out what kind it was. And then you’d call in to the aircraft center. I think it was in Fresno. And so they would keep track of these planes that went over and I think it was so that if there were enemy planes you could keep track of them. And I remember going out there with her for hours and it was an aircraft watch situation.
CP: Really. I have never heard of that.
PH: Yeah. I can remember that.
CP: Did she have binoculars?
PH: Oh, yes, she had binoculars. You went out there even if it rained ‘cause you could still hear the aircraft. And of course we didn’t have the heavy, heavy fog that we have nowadays. But you would go out no matter what the weather was. If you were supposed to watch that -- it was usually for three or four hours -- then you did that.
CP: There wasn’t fog here then?
PH: Oh, there was fog. But not as heavy a fog as there is now that we have so much irrigation.
CP: Oh, is that why we have so much fog?
PH: I think that’s escalated the fog problem.
PH: It has. There’s more moisture in the air.
CP: I never knew that. Were you ever separated from any family members because of the war?
PH: No, I really wasn’t. My parents had two girls. There were no boys in the family. My father had two sisters, Lucy Belle Heiskell and Elizabeth Mitchell Heiskell, that were not married. And my mother had a brother,William John Thomas, and he wasn’t involved.
CP: No cousins or anything that were --
PH: Not really. We were a very small family. Friends but no separations because of --
CP: Did you have friends that were in the war?
PH: Yes, I did, uh-huh. I had several friends that were killed in the war. One fellow I dated in high school was named John Cederlind. I mean, the war was very, very real to us because even though we maybe weren’t marrying fellows who were dying, we had a lot of friends who were involved and died. I remember one of the principals in Tulare, she was a well-known administrator, was Alice Mulcahy. And there is a middle school in Tulare named after her. And her son Lowell was killed in the war.
CP: He was?
PH: And I remember -- I didn’t even know him. He was actually, I think, in Dale’s class, seven or eight years ahead of me. But I remember feeling so terrible about that. And I think Alice was out of school for maybe two days. And then she went back.
CP: She did?
PH: Yeah. She was really a strong person.
CP: Did you correspond with any of the boys?
PH: Oh, yeah. That was encouraged. Because a lot of -- I mean, even boys I didn’t know, you know, you could get lists of boys to write to.
CP: Oh, you did.
PH: Oh, yes. Overseas. I did a lot of letter writing in those days. I still write quite a few letters.
CP: Where did you find -- where did you get these lists?
PH: You know, I think maybe we got them through the high school, I’m not sure. I would not at this point know that. But I just know that there were a lot of -- there was a lot of -- they urged men, women, and children to write to the boys overseas because a lot of them weren’t getting mail and I think it would be a real factor in their mental health to be in touch with people. And so, yeah, I wrote a lot of letters.
CP: Did they write you back?
PH: Oh, yes, yes. And that was neat. And then once in a while somebody you’d written to that you’d never seen would come through, you know. And I remember that happened, I think, once or twice. My sister and I both wrote. All of our friends did. It was part of the war effort.
CP: Yes. Did any of your girlfriends ever date any of the Rankin Field fellows?
PH: Some of them did, you know. Some of them had less strict mothers than mine. But, yeah, some of them did.
CP: Did any of them marry them?
PH: One that I can think of.
PH: And, you know, that’s neat. She married young. She married right out of high school. He came back after her.
CP: He did.
CP: Oh, that’s so romantic.
PH: Yes, isn’t it though.
CP: What did you do for fun during the war? Did you take vacations?
PH: We were fortunate enough to have a cabin up in Wilsonia which is in Kings Canyon National Park. We would go up there during the summer and spend a lot of -- most of the summer up there. And there were a lot of activities. There was a CCC Camp -- California Conservation Camp up there. So we met young men up there. But as far as taking vacations away during the war, no, because there was a shortage of gasoline.
CP: I was just going to ask you, how did you get to Wilsonia if there was a shortage?
PH: You could save up. You know, you could get around fairly well. It’s just that you didn’t have enough gasoline to take any long trips.
CP: How long did it take you to get to Wilsonia?
PH: In those days, probably two and a half hours. Now it takes about an hour and forty five minutes. But cars are faster now.
CP: What’s the CCC?
PH: I think it’s California Civilian -- Conservation comes in there --something. And these were kids that were moved into the area to work on the trails and to do back country work. And most of them were kids who either were not able to go to the service or didn’t really have families. It was kind of a home for them.
CP: Was this CCC a result of the war?
PH: I don’t think so.
CP: Oh, it was established before?
PH: I think so, yeah.
CP: Did your family participate in war bonds?
PH: Oh, yes. That was a huge effort. And we sold war bonds in high school.
CP: You did.
PH: Oh, yes. We’d have war bond drives. People would donate things and we’d auction them off and buy war bonds. War bonds were really -- you know, Colleen, I think people at home really didn’t feel like they could help in other ways. I mean, they didn’t move down and become Rosie the Riveteer or join the service. They felt like they had to what they could do. And everybody was encouraged to buy war bonds. And kids saved their pennies and it was a very important thing.
CP: How did you buy a war bond?
PH: You did it through the bank.
CP: But if you sold them --
PH: Okay. What we’d do in high school is, actually we didn’t hand them out. We would have people sign up and get the money and then go to the bank and get them. It was sort of like savings bonds now.
CP: Did they go to the bank and pick them up after they had given you --
PH: No, I don’t remember that.
CP: You don’t remember how -- they just signed up --
PH: They signed up and you were in competition. For instance, classes would be in competition to see how many they could sell. And I really don’t remember the logistics of the whole thing. I remember that a man named Hilton Bell was principal of the high school in those days. And he was really into the war effort. And he encouraged us to sell bonds. And from there on I can’t tell you exactly how, you know, mechanically how it worked. But it worked.
CP: Do you suppose there are any war bonds left in people’s homes around here?
PH: OH, I bet there are. I bet people have them in their savings -- I mean in their security -- what do you call those at the bank?
CP: Safe deposit.
PH: Safe deposit. I bet people have those.
CP: I’d love to see a war bond.
CP: Do they have any down at the museum?
PH: Yes, they do, I’m sure.
CP: Oh, they do. Do you think dating patterns changed because of the war, between the women -- especially the women in Tulare?
PH: I think people who lived in a community like this and did date, were able to move out clear around different places in the world, all over the United States because they were meeting boys who came in here, for instance, to Rankin Field and lived in other areas. And so I’m not sure that dating patterns really changed although I think probably there was more promiscuity because the overriding feeling was that they’re here today but they may not be here later so that’s kind of -- we need to do this right away. And so I’m sure there were a lot of babies born out of wedlock as a result. Actually dating patterns, I’m not sure I could answer that.
CP: Do you think they were a lot freer because of the war in the way they dated?
PH: I think so. I agree. That I’m sure happened. Because I think that kids at least in a small town were pretty well held down, you know. Parents were very protective of their kids. And then we’ve got an influx of young men coming through who want a good time. And yes, I would say in that way dating patterns really changed.
CP: Do you think your family’s responsibilities changed during the war?
PH: Toward others you mean?
CP: No. Just your daily responsibilities. Did they change at all? For instance, you said your mother went to work.
PH: Oh, yes. I think you had to change. I think you had to be flexible. Because as I said in the first place, you wanted to help the war effort. But there was a need for teachers, cotton pickers and meat cutters and that sort of thing. And I know a lot of people took on jobs that they probably never imagined they would. But they did.
CP: Did your father’s responsibilities change at all?
PH: You know, they may have. I never thought of it in that context. He was in the American Legion. He was in the
Army in the First World War. He went to
CP: What about in the household. Did you do any sort of crafting or anything in the home to aid the war effort?
PH: Oh, yes. We knitted a lot of -- we knitted socks. We knitted blankets. My mother was an accomplished seamstress. And she made clothing to send to people in other countries that needed clothing. My father was really very handy with his hands. And I don’t remember that he made anything specifically to help the war effort. But if the need was there, I’m sure he did. But we did a lot of knitting.
CP: Did you have a victory garden?
PH: Yes, yes, had a victory garden, a big victory garden. My father was one of the ones who kept the garden up. But we had about an acre on Tulare Street there. And the ground wasn’t very good. But we had a victory garden. And that was something you did, you know. You wanted to keep eating, you had a victory garden. And you shared.
CP: I was just going to say, if you had an acre, that was a big garden.
PH: Yeah. It wasn’t all garden. But you shared. I mean, there was a lot of sharing. There is still, I think, between neighbors. But they had a place where you could go downtown if you had extra vegetables, which was usually, you know, what you grew in the garden. And people that didn’t have one could come down there and partake of the extras.
CP: Did they have to buy it?
PH: No, it was usually given.
CP: Oh, that’s wonderful.
PH: Yeah, it is. There was really a wonderful spirit, I think, among the Americans at that time. And I didn’t see that in the Korean War or the Viet Nam War because those were on foreign soil and there were a lot of demonstrators and people who were upset with the notion of war. And there were people who were upset with the notion of the Second World War, too. But there was a lot more sharing and a lot more camaraderie, I think, among the American people.
CP: Did you guys ever have to blackout your house?
PH: Yes, we did.
CP: You did?
PH: Yep, we did. Everybody had blackout curtains.
CP: What were they?
PH: Usually kind of a fabric that you pulled down. It was like a window shade only black. And if they had a blackout you pulled the window shades down. You know, I don’t think we ever were in danger here. But we didn’t know we weren’t going to be.
CP: What do you mean if they ever had a blackout? How did you know there was --
PH: They would tell you that, you know, to pull the curtains down. And I’m not sure what the impetus was. I’m not sure why we did that but we did have black curtains in the house.
CP: How did they tell you?
PH: Newspaper. It would come in the newspaper. And radio. You know, that was a major communication. You didn't have television in those days. So a lot of the information you got came by radio because the newspaper had to be published and delivered.
CP: Did you listen to the radio every night?
PH: A lot. A lot, yes. My dad had a shortwave and he was really into that. And so, yeah, we usually knew what was going on because of the radio. But the reception wasn’t anywhere near what we have now. You know, you don’t have reception towers in those days. But that was the main communication source.
CP: Did you get a lot of information about the war, what was going on overseas?
PH: Not anything like what we have now, Colleen. But, yeah, we did. And that was the only way you got it. You never really knew whether what you were hearing was true or not but you had to take it at face value. And that was the way we learned.
CP: How do you think the World War Two years in Tulare County affected you?
PH: I think it made me a lot more responsible person. A lot of times kids go through high school and there aren’t any outside forces that are threatening them. I think that it made me not only more responsible, but more aware of other people and other places and other situations. And how you really had it pretty good here. When I graduated from high school in 1945 and went to college, I went to Fresno State and I think at least eighty percent of the students at Fresno State were females because the guys were either still in the war or hadn’t -- or you know, were 4F, the ones who were there.
Another thing I remembered was, I was in the band. And the band was eighty percent girls and I was a percussionist. So I carried the bass drum for the whole first year marching.
CP: You did?
PH: Uh-huh, because there weren’t any boys. There were very few boys. And then the boys started coming back, you know, and they were on the GI Bill and began to fill up. But that was just kind of interesting aspect. But I do think it made me more aware of other people and their problems.
CP: That’s good. You know, something good came --
PH: Something good came out of it.
CP: Do you remember any event that stands out in your mind in the years preceding the war in Tulare County?
PH: That was related to the war, you mean?
CP: I guess so. Anything that would stand out in your mind --
PH: I’m waiting for the big light bulb to come on.
CP: I know. I need a light bulb, too.
PH: Something that really made a difference.
CP: In Tulare County that happened. Anything that happened that was absolutely outstanding. If there wasn’t anything, that’s okay.
PH: Okay. I don’t have to think of anything. Of course, Bob Mathias Olympic thing was interesting. But that was afterwards.
CP: That’s okay. We’ll skip that question.
PH: All right. I can’t think of anything.
CP: Do you remember exactly where you were when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
PH: Oh, yes. I was upstairs in the Masonic Temple.
CP: You remember?
PH: Oh, I remember -- I mean, and I think people remember things like that. I remember where I was when Franklin Roosevelt died. I mean, those things stick in your mind.
CP: Where were you when Roosevelt died?
PH: I was standing in the campus at Tulare Union High School. And I was by the girls’ gym. And somebody came running through and said, you know, Franklin Roosevelt died.
I was upstairs standing at a desk and I was in Job’s Daughters. December 7th. And you know, it’s hard to believe something like that’s happened. Even though, as I told you, we had premonitions that we were going to be at war. To have that act fall at that particular time and know that we were at war is very -- I mean, I was impressionable, you know. It was pretty scary.
CP: I’m going to stop us just for a second. Turn tape over.
You were in the Masonic Temple when Pearl Harbor was bombed. How did you find out?
PH: You know, I can’t remember. I think somebody called and told us. And I can’t remember. I just remember where I was and that I was shocked. I’m sure-- have you ever been in the Masonic Temple?
CP: Yes. I was in Job’s Daughters.
PH: Were you. Okay. And you run up the stairs. They didn’t have an elevator there. That’s a story and a half to run up the stairs. And I think somebody ran upstairs and told us. But it might have been a telephone call. I’m not sure. It’s just that those things are so electric they stick in your mind forever.
CP: Was there anyone in Tulare or well, I would guess not Tulare County -- because you probably wouldn’t know the whole Tulare County. But was there someone from Tulare who was in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed?
PH: There were. There were people from Tulare. And you know, Dale could tell you that because he was in the service. Not when Pearl Harbor was bombed. But, yes, there were people from Tulare that were on the Arizona and were killed.
CP: From Tulare?
PH: I think so. I think there was one person. But I’d have to ask him.
CP: Was Dale in Tulare County from ’41 to ’46?
PH: Dale graduated in ’38 and I think he went into the service in about ’41. And he was in the Coast Guard. First he went down and got a job, in one of the war efforts -- where they made planes. Because you could be exempt from being in the war. And then he began to think, "What am I going to tell my kids if everybody is in the war?" He tells the story.
PH: "What am I going to tell my kids if everybody
was in the war defending the
CP: What do you think about dropping the atom
PH: You know, at the time, we were so relieved to see an end to the war and we had no idea what ramifications of dropping that kind of a bomb would be anywhere it was dropped. And I remember being very grateful that it was dropped and the war was over and there was a surrender. Looking back and knowing the devastation that it caused, I probably would have had second thoughts. But then you had to end the war and if I’d been in Hiroshima at the time I would probably have had another opinion. But at the time, it ended the war.
CP: So do you think your opinion has changed a bit?
PH: Probably, yeah, because I’ve gotten more of a world wide look at the situation.
CP: Do you remember where you were when the war ended?
PH: No. I don’t remember. I must have been in Tulare. But I don’t remember.
CP: Were you still in high school?
PH: No. Didn’t it end in ’46?
PH: Yes, then I was still in high school. And it was June or July of ’45, do you remember. I don’t remember the date.
PH: June. Okay. That would have been when I graduated.
CP: Do you remember what happened to Tulare when the war ended?
PH: Oh, there was so much jubilation. And I’m sure there was all over the United States. But, you know, small town, they had parades, horns honking. I mean, it had just been such a strenuous effort to keep going and then to see it end. It almost brings tears to my eyes.
CP: What about when the soldiers came home. Was there a ready acceptance of all the boys who came home?
PH: Well, I thought there was. If there were people out there that weren’t -- I can’t imagine that people wouldn’t be thrilled at having the boys come home.
CP: Were there parades when the boys came home?
PH: Yes. You know, actually more like celebrations. I don’t remember there being any big parade except when the war ended. But there must have been celebrations. I know everybody felt as I did that it was the end of a really crucial time in our lives.
CP: Do you remember anything about the boys talking about the draft?
PH: You know, I don’t’ remember that. I know when our sons had to sign up -- of course, that was during one of the latter wars, my mother was on the draft board. And, you see, it all kind of comes back to you when you mention the draft. And she was approached by people who wanted her to be sure and keep their kids -- you know -- and I do not remember the mechanical part of it. But they would approach her and want her to see if maybe their boys would not be drafted.
CP: What do you do when you’re on the draft board?
PH: Well, you hear cases. You know, I mean, you are responsible for sending out notifications to boys who are going to be drafted. But then there are cases -- hardship cases, for instance. In Dale’s family there were three boys. The father had died while the boys were in high school. But they still had the ranch. So the oldest brother, Marvin, ended up staying on the ranch and working. He was nineteen at the time and he kept the whole thing going. And I’ve always felt that it really affected him because he felt he would like to. When the two younger boys went to war, he was not able to. And I’ve always felt like it really affected him because he didn’t feel like he was doing his part. But that was the kind of cases I think you would hear if you were on the draft board.
CP: After the war was over was it difficult for everyone to get back into daily life?
PH: It took a long time to downscale. And so it was pretty gradual. I mean it wasn’t, okay, the war is over and now we have all the cheese we want. It took a long time for the boys to come back. And I think it was an adjustment. But it was a gradual adjustment.
CP: When did they quit rationing?
PH: I would imagine -- my guess -- and I don’t remember -- would be about probably six months afterwards that it had downgraded. You were still not able to get all the meat you wanted, for instance, or all the butter, but all the shoes. But eventually it all came back and you forgot that you’d been deprived.
CP: Do you remember any organizations or any people in Tulare who were against the war?
PH: You know, at that time there had to have been doubters and protesters. But I was either ignorant of it or too young to realize what was going on or maybe my folks didn’t want us to know. But I don’t remember any protest groups like there were for subsequent wars. I mean, that wasn’t done in those days. Now you’ve got protesters for everything. And it's kind a way of life. And in those days that wasn’t done. We came out of the Depression and you kept your nose to the grindstone and you didn’t goof around and demonstrate.
CP: Did you discuss the war at home?
PH: A lot.
CP: Your mother and father and you and your sister?
PH: And we listened to the radio every night. I mean, that was what you did in the evening. A lot of entertainment venues weren’t open. You know, they had some movies. But mostly you stayed home and listened to the radio and played board games and did your homework and knitted stockings.
CP: I just had a thought and now I forgot it. Did your father, that you can remember, have an opinion about the political leadership of our country? Or did you have an opinion? Were you old enough to even --
PH: I don’t remember having an opinion about it. He liked Franklin Roosevelt. And I remember one of his best friends was Charlie Mathias. And Charlie wasn’t too thrilled with Franklin Roosevelt. And I remember they used to banter back and forth about it. But as far as getting into arguments about it, it wasn’t the -- I won’t say there weren’t people that didn’t have strong opinions, but I don’t think my father was one of them.
CP: Did you get any news in Tulare at the end of the war about the Holocaust?
PH: No, no.
CP: Was it ever discussed at the end of the war about the Holocaust much?
PH: Not very much. I mean, we knew that something had gone on over there, you know, that Jewish people were being killed. But given the dearth of communication, I mean, you didn’t have the movies that tell all at that time. You didn’t have television. You were pretty much limited to what was in the paper and what came over the radio. And there weren’t any details. I mean, I think this all came out afterwards. I think that you really didn’t have access to that information. We knew what was going on but did not in any way recognize the depth of it.
CP: Did you go to the movies during that time?
PH: Yes. Tulare Theater was there and we went to the movies.
CP: How did it portray home life? Do you remember?
PH: How the movies did?
CP: Yeah, during the war.
PH: Oh, you know, you look back at the pictures, even if you were to get a magazine during that time. And everybody was a good little girl. I mean, there were stereotypes. I see a lot fewer stereotypes in life now. But everybody was prim and prissy if you were a good girl and if you weren’t -- you were not supposed to have anything to do with the girls who were bad girls. I mean, I think it was just so stereotyped.
CP: Do you remember any racism in Tulare, Tulare County, towards the Japanese?
PH: Well, of course, they were put in internment
camps. We thought that was terrible
because some of them were good friends of ours. And I think it was frightening that the Japanese had attacked us. And we never thought of our friends as being
Japanese or African American or Hispanic. I mean, they were just our friends. And so I mean to have us told that they were enemies because they were
related to people in
CP: Do you remember the feelings of people in Tulare when they returned, the Japanese? Were they welcomed back?
PH: By some. But not by some. You know, these kids were taken out of school. One of the girls in my sister’s class was taken out of school, put in an internment camp and didn’t get her diploma. And so I would say probably eight or ten years ago they had a reunion and they gave her a diploma at the reunion. And it didn’t’ make up for it, I’m sure. But people are ruled by fear and the fact that the Japanese came out of nowhere and attacked us, I can understand why they moved them out. But I never felt that way personally. Nor did any of our family.
CP: That’s good. How do you think the World War Two years affected the way Tulare County is now?
PH: You know, any time you have an agricultural county like this, it’s going to change whether there’s a war or not. In a way I think it opened people’s eyes to what was going on in other parts of the world agriculturally. And we, as a result probably of this eye opening, we were able to send people out -- the Heifer Project for instance.
CP: What was that?
PH: The Heifer Project was where they sent young cows overseas to different countries. And then there were projects where we sent people who were knowledgeable in certain fields of agriculture out to help people around the world.
CP: When was this Heifer Project?
PH: The Heifer Project, I remember Ernie Korte was involved in that. It had to have been in the 19 -- late 1940s, 1950s. And people from here -- the Browns were involved in that. Roger and Jean Brown. They would actually take these animals on boats to foreign countries and help people get them started and producing. I think maybe that didn’t show change in Tulare County but in a way it did, too. Because I felt like it opened our eyes of what was going on in the world and we had an agricultural basis here that we could share and we might not have known that if we hadn’t gone out and seen the need in other countries.
Ed: The Heifer project started when a Midwestern farmer named Dan West was
giving milk rations to hungry children during the Spanish Civil war in the
1930’s. He was forced to decide who would
receive the rations and who wouldn’t. When he returned home, West formed Heifers for Relief, dedicated to
ending hunger permanently by providing families with livestock. The first shipment left the
CP: Did a lot of people move here or stay?
PH: Yeah, I think a lot of people did. Not like Vietnamese, for instance. I’m not sure of that. I’m not sure that any big groups from foreign countries came but then you had the Portuguese people coming and doing dairies. And you had a group of Russians up in the middle of California that came. Ethnically I can’t think -- well, of course, you had a lot of Hispanic people come. But I don’t know that you could tie that to the war.
Ed: Braceros replaced "Okies" in the fields and packing houses of Tulare County and other agricultural areas in the Southwest during the war. Many of the dust bowl people enlisted or
migrated to Los
Angeles and San Francisco during that time and found jobs in
factories. Braceros were Mexican workers
imported for this purpose who promised to return to
CP: Well, I think that just about does it for the interview.
PH: Well, it was fun.
CP: I know that after the war you got married, right?
PH: Yes, I did.
CP: What year did you get married?
CP: And who did you marry?
PH: I married Dale Hillman. And his mother, Edith Katherine Shepard Hillman, and my aunt Bess had been best friends for years. I didn’t really know him in high school ‘cause he’s eight years older than I am. But I was teaching in Fresno and he had somebody call me -- blind date. And so we went out, the four of us, and that’s how we got started. And then I taught in Fresno for four years and he took me back to Tulare (Chuckle).
CP: Did he go to Fresno State?
PH: No, he went to UC Davis.
CP: But did he go on the GI Bill?
PH: No, he went before the war.
CP: Oh, he did.
PH: Cause he graduated in 1938. And so he went to 4Cs, which was a business college in Fresno (Central California Commercial College). And then he and his brother, younger brother Neal Raymond Hillman, went up to University of California at Davis.
CP: But you met him after the war?
PH: After the war, yes.
CP: When he came home?
CP: And then you had children?
PH: We had four children. Our oldest is a girl and lives in Salinas. She loves it in Salinas ‘cause it’s like Tulare.
CP: Her name?
PH: And her name is Honore. And her husband, Larry Foster, is a landscape architect. And she’s a computer specialist at an elementary school there. They have a daughter, Danielle. And then our second child is a boy, Scot. Married a girl from Michigan. And they have two children. And he is CEO of his grandfather’s -- great grandfather’s business, J. D. Heiskell and Company, And his oldest child is a boy who wants to come back and run the business some day.
CP: That’s good.
PH: It is neat.
CP: What’s his name?
PH: His name is Jefferson Davis, named after his great grandfather.
CP: Oh, yes. That’s great.
PH: Because he was born on the day our company was a hundred years old. And his mother was going to name him something else but she had to name him Jefferson Davis.
CP: What’s Scot’s wife’s name?
PH: Sue Ann Elliot, she was. Then they have a daughter Mallory who is fifteen. And then our next son is an attorney here in Tulare. He’s the company attorney. And he’s married to Tamara Decker who is from Visalia. And they have two children. They have Sam who is also fifteen and a friend of Mallory’s. And then they have Brooke who is ten.
CP: What is his name, your son’s name?
PH: Bret. And then the youngest son is
CP: What’s Nicole’s -- what was her last name?
CP: Like the city?
PH: Like the city.
CP: What are their two children’s names?
PH: The oldest little girl is Rae. And the youngest, a boy, is Beck. They picked two different names and I like them.
CP: Well, that just about does it. We covered everything.
PH: We did.
CP: Is there anything you’d like to add at all?
PH: You know, I think this is a great project because I really regret that I didn’t interview my grandmother. My great grandmother was a member of the Donner party. And they finally interviewed her so we got some information from her.
CP: Oh, they did interview her?
PH: She was ninety five when she finally consented to give an interview. And she remembered every detail of everything.
PH: Yeah, that was excruciating, you know, that year they spent in the Sierras.
CP: You know, before we shut this off, just briefly tell me about the Donner party, how you’re related to them.
PH: Okay. The Donner party briefly was a group of immigrants from Illinois that came to California and ended up spending almost a year on the trip because they spent a good six months in the Sierra Nevadas stuck in the snow. George Donner was my great, great grandfather. And he had thirteen children but he only brought five of them with him cause they were scattered, older kids. He was sixty two when he came and my great grandmother Leanna Charity Donner (App) was eleven. She was gone a year so she turned twelve before she got here. And that’s the relationship.
CP: And Leanna’s daughter?
PH: Leanna’s daughter was my grandmother.
CP: And her name was?
PH: Her name was Lucy Eva App, who married Jefferson Davis Heiskell.
CP: And Lucy is the one who died at 95 that was telling the story?
PH: No, Leanna, her mother.
CP: Oh, Leanna was your great grandmother.
PH: But I regret -- to answer your initial question -- I regret that I didn’t interview her. We didn’t have tapes in those days. If I just interviewed them and made notes. They were friends of the woman who had the first telephone exchange and I remember her talking about it. I never took any notes. And so I heartily agree with what you’re doing. I think it’s wonderful to get this stuff down. Because you think, oh, I’ll remember that. Or you don’t even think to ask about it later. And then it’s too late. So I appreciate what you’re doing.
CP: Okay. Well, it was a great interview.
PH: Well, it was fun. Thank you, Colleen.
CP: Thank you.
Colleen Paggi/Transcriber: Colleen Paggi/Editor: Judith Wood 8/17/05
Ed. Note: The names and comments in italics are explanations or names clarified during a phone interview with Pat Hillman on August 22.