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: Tom Rivers


Date of Interview: 9 April 2004

Tape Number 40


Interviewer: Kris Gray


Place of interview: Mr. Rivers’ home in Visalia

Places where Mr. Rivers lived during 1941 to 1946: Goshen, Texas, Scotland , Germany , and Czechoslovakia .

Subjects covered in the interview: Service in World War II, life in Tulare County as a teenager

G:  This is Kris Gray. It’s April 9, 2004. This is an interview for "Years of Valor, Years of Hope, Tulare County and the years 1941-1946." I’m here with Mr. Tom Rivers at his home in Visalia.

Mr. Rivers, we thank you for participating. First I’d like to start with a little bit of background about you, like your date of birth and where you were born.

TR: I was born February 19, 1926, in Visalia.

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

TR: My father was James (Jim) Blaine Rivers and my mother was Elmina Sullivan -- Elmina Helen Sullivan or Helen Elmina Sullivan. They called her Mina. My dad originally was from Illinois.

KG: Okay.

TR: And my mother was born in Oakland. But her parents-- I’m not sure of that because of the fact that they came from back east. My grandfather, (Timothy (T.T) Sullivan) on my mother’s side was a mining engineer and he lost his health in the mines and he moved to California because of his health. And then he lived in Oakland for two or three years and then he moved to the Valley to get into the dry climate for his health. He also opened up two Cristafe mines above Porterville cause he was a mining engineer.

KG: Is that how your mom got her name, Elmina?

TR: No. They called her Mina. I don’t know where my mother got her name. My dad was named after James Blaine, the president.

KG: What did your dad before the war? What was his profession?

TR: Well, he was a manager for the Montague Ranch.

KG: Did you have brothers and sisters?

TR: Yes. My brother went into the service six months before the war because of the fact that he had three years of cavalry training in Monterey there. And they needed experienced people for cavalry because they were getting ready for war. His name was Donald Lloyd Rivers.

KG: Any other brothers or sisters?

TR: No. I have a sister Betty Jean (Banton).

KG: How old was she?

TR: My sister when she died, she was 70, but she’s dead now. They’re both dead.

KG: What schools did you go to?

TR: I went to Willow, Goshen and Visalia High.

KG: December 7, 1941, you were how old?

TR: I would have been, I think, let’s see. ’41, I’d be -- 16, I’d have been 16.

KG: And what are your memories of that day?

TR: We were delivering the mail and from one ranch house to the next ranch house. We drove into the second one and the people all come out hollering that we’d been attacked. So within a matter of five minutes it had come on the air between the two houses. And that’s what we were doing, delivering the mail to the ranch houses. My dad would pick up the mail in a big mailbox on Goshen Avenue on Saturday evening.  Then he would deliver the mail to the six dairies.

KG: What did you think, what were your thoughts?

TR: At 16 you’re not thinking too much. My dad all he could say was "I’ll get that .348 and I’ll kill them all." But he didn’t say it that mild. And the first one he was going to kill was old Kondo. He was Japanese. We only had one Japanese in Goshen: Kondo. He said, "I’ll go kill old Kondo." But he wouldn’t have done it. He was just saying. But that night he stayed up waiting all night alone in his chair with that .348 across his lap because there was all this report that there would probably be an invasion and didn’t know what was going to take place. I was really confused as far as, you know, what was taking place.

KG: What do you remember about the rest of the day? Anything? Did you sit around the radio?

TR: Well, yeah, yeah. We stayed around the radio. At 16 it don’t hit you like it would if you was older and talking about --

KG: What did you notice about life that changed suddenly after the war, the first big change?

TR: Well, it’s the men. 'Cause, you know, this was a farm area. You use a lot of men. But there were a lot of men that signed up and lot of men that were drafted. There were a lot of men signed up right away.

KG: About how many men did you have working out there?

TR: On a ranch?

KG: Where you were.

TR: There would be probably twelve. It varied because the season, you know. I’d say between -- that’s including the people that lived on the ranch, worked on the ranch, there’d be between twelve or sixteen people, probably. But most of the ones on the ranch were older, you know. They had some younger boys and stuff. But the only one that I know that went right away was my brother, Donald. He went prior to the Pearl Harbor.

KG: Where was he stationed at?

TR: He went to New Mexico. Now this was hard to believe. And he was under Colonel Lewis who was an old cavalry officer, since Donald was an old cavalry soldier. And he put my brother in charge of the firing range and the horses for recreation. They had always horses for recreation to ride them. Colonel Lewis -- my brother stayed there for probably close to a year, maybe year and a half. Colonel Lewis got a star. He become a Brigadier General, I guess one-star General. And he went to Washington DC. My brother had gotten married to a WAC on the base. And he got him transferred to the hills there in Santa Monica and he was put in charge of 50 head of horses for rest and recuperation with two men under him. Uniform was Levi and he was on per diem. They go down to the commissary there and get anything they wanted. And his job was to take care of these horses and have them ready for riding and stuff. And to put on a barbeque every weekend. And this was -- he was in the Air Force then. He come back in the Air Force. And this is where these pilots and stuff were coming back from the South Pacific for rest and recuperation. And they stayed right on the beach there in Santa Monica in a big hotel there. He stayed there all during the war.

KG: Tough duty, huh?

TR: Tough duty. Well, his wife got transferred with him, too.

KG: Well, that was good.

TR: Yeah. And from then he went to attaché service in Turkey , a military attaché for the diplomats, stuff like that. He was on attaché service there and in Germany . Then he went to Strategic Air Command in Spain . Then he transferred -- from Spain he went to -- I think it was South Dakota, Strategic Air Command. And then they put him in charge of the base down in Long Beach for the reserves. This’d be like the National Guard.

I was in the National Guard here, in the Infantry. And I could see the Korean War was coming on and I didn’t want to go back as Infantry again. So I got transferred from here down to the Airwing down there and was stationed at Douglas where the plant was in Long Beach down there. And I was down there, I think, three months and they activated that Airwing and they sent me to Hamilton Air Force Base for 17 and a half months. This National Guard never did get activated for the Korean War. This was the Korean War now. Never did get activated. But I knew I didn’t want to go back as Infantry again.

KG: So the first thing that you noticed after December 7th was the men disappearing?

TR: Oh, mainly, yeah.

KG: How about blackouts and rationing, when did --

TR: Well, they had a blackout for, I think, probably two or three, four days, something like that, til they got their feet under them. But then a little later they established those watch towers. Cause we had a lot of fog in the valley. They were starting these training airports, you know, like Sequoia Field here and Rankin Field and stuff like that. But that wasn’t what they were worried about. Worried about bombers that were, you know, coming back and forth and over things. But anyway, you would report any plane you heard or saw, you would report it. You report it. And I can’t remember if it was Camp 39 or Camp 37, but anyway, we were credited with saving one plane.

KG: How did you do that?

TR: Reported the plane in the fog. As soon as you heard this plane, you reported it. Went to a Command Center. They would try to find out where this was at. See, they didn't have the navigational stuff that they have now. And they would finally locate the missing plane, and then knew where it was. Just like that one that disappeared, you remember, and they had to drain -- oh --

KG: Huntington Lake?

TR: Huntington. And they found out -- figured they went there but they never -- they couldn’t find it. They found it there.

KG: So this guy was flying around lost in the fog?

TR: Well, it was a bomber. Took two engine bombers those days, you know. Yeah, they were lost. They didn’t know where they was at. This Valley just gets blanketed, you know.

KG: So where was this tower?

TR: Right there, headquarters of the ranch.

KG: And where was the ranch located?

TR: The ranch is located on Road 92, Avenue 312. He was a eight miles between Goshen and 312, and a mile and a half between 80 and Road 92. But the whole ranch, the big complex took two sections and a half, see. Not half, little more than half.

KG: When the war started and people were leaving, did it change your dad’s duties a lot at the ranch? Did he have to work harder?

TR: No. Well, we had to do with what we had. Shortages, like tires and gasoline and stuff like that, that was his main thing. You get what he needed to run the ranch. That was the main thing he had to do. He had to go always to the board, you know, allotment board. In fact, they tried to cut him on his gas and he told them, "You cut me down on my gas --you got a ranch to run ‘cause I can’t tell you how much gas I’m going to use." He says, "Sometimes we put in feed, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes I had to do this; sometimes I’d have to do that." He said, "I can’t tell you how much gas I’m - -" so they gave him a unrestricted allotment for gas. Well, everybody got allotments right away for gas and shotgun shells and tires and hose. Women, they couldn’t have nylon hose, stuff like that. Whatever they were short on, they had an allotment on them.

KG: So, since you were at the ranch and you weren’t affected real severely by rationing, you usually had enough food and you had gas?

TR: Oh, yeah, food: we had plenty of food, yeah. My dad wasn’t affected per se on gasoline. That would have been the main thing, would have been gasoline, you know, for people. You had little sticker cards, you had so much gas a week.

KG: Now, you were at Visalia High School, Visalia Union?

TR: Yeah.

KG: Did you try to drop out to enlist?

TR: Yeah. I went with Clarence Ritchie and Clarence Mathews and when I was just got 17, went up to Fresno there to sign up in the Navy. They accepted both of them and I got rejected.

KG: Why?

TR: I had a heart murmur. We’d just got through playing football. Then when I got my draft notice, Florence Doe who was in charge of some of these boards and stuff, came there. And my dad said to Florence -- they were neighbors -- 'cause the Malick Ranch was just north of us. Said -- "Florence," he said, "The old boy got his draft notice today." And she said, "That was ‘cause the war was going good there in Europe then." That was before the Battle of the Bulge. He said, "He got his draft notice." He said, "He’s going to have to leave here." She said, "I think I can get him deferred, Jim, cause we’re short on men." She said, "These deferments are getting easier to get for on the farm because of the shortage of men." And my dad said to her, "Let him go. He ain’t no different than anybody else." And I went. I trained. I went to the Presidio of Monterey. I went from there to Fort Bliss, Texas for antiaircraft training. I trained in antiaircraft and I’d just graduated and we were cutting orders to go to the South Pacific for the invasion of Japan . That was what they said to us. And the Battle of the Bulge hit. They took our whole unit and we went to Paris, Texas for two weeks of advance infantry training. And then three weeks later I was on my way overseas.

KG: What was your job? You were antiaircraft --

TR: Antiaircraft, yeah. When you train on antiaircraft gun, you train on everything. This was a 40 mm L60 Bofors anti-aircraft gun. And there’s three men handling it.

KG: How’d you get across seas, on a boat?

TR: I went on a ship, the USS America.

KG: Was it awful?

TR: No. Only thing the sailors made it awful for you because we didn’t have no escort cause we could turn around 30 knots. See, that was the biggest luxury liner the United States had at that time. We went across the North Atlantic.  Rough, oh, my God. The old propeller’d come out, the boat would shake. And if you got seasick, you were in a heap of trouble.

KG: Were you seasick?

TR: No. Never got seasick. And my job was to fill 12 saltshakers and 12 peppershakers twice a day.

KG: That’s it?

TR: And I had the run of the boat. I’d get up and run around the boat. And now you couldn’t smoke outside because of the light from the cigarette; they could spot that there. But these sailors, they’d have training. Every day you’d hear the antiaircraft guns going off, see. And they’d come running there. And of course, we was down in the hole. We didn’t know what was going on. I wasn’t but lot of them were down in the hole if you didn't have something to do. And they’d holler, "We’re being attacked, we’re being attacked." But we weren’t being attacked, see. They’re scaring us.

So five and a half days, I think it was five and a half days or four and a half days, we landed in Glasgow, Scotland . And we landed there two days after they’d buzz bombed it, the Germans had buzz bombed it. Then we went to a repo depot right outside of London. And I stayed there, I think, three days. And then we went to South Hampton, England . And we shipped out of South Hampton, England , on a Polish ship. And we went across the channel to Le Havre. And then from Le Havre we went to Kassel, Germany to a repo depot. That was a replacement pool; they call it repo depot. And then we went to another one that was right outside of Forchelm Germany . But it was quite a ways there.

Then from that one I went to Second Infantry Division. That repo depot, the second one I went to, was replacement for the Third Army and the First Army. Third Army was Patton, First Army was General Robinson. And they put us up and went to Division Headquarters. Now the Battle of the Bulge had just ended, trailing down. And they put me as a guard for Division Headquarters ‘cause I was still in my teens and they weren’t sending any teens up to the frontline units.

KG: Oh, really?

TR: Cause the war was winding down. And I had to go from the frontline back to Com. Z (supply depot) on a truck and guard the truck and pick up supplies and come back. And then if I wasn’t on a truck guarding, I would be a guard for Division Headquarters in case there was a breakthrough or something.

KG: Did you like that duty?

TR: Oh, yeah, it wasn’t bad at all. I didn’t get the combat badge, though. That’s eyeball to eyeball. When you see that -- you ever notice that blue badge up here. It’s always on top. That’s eyeball to eyeball. Only rifleman can get that. You can be an artilleryman and be out there and getting the "pee wadding" blasted out of you. You don’t get it unless you’re a rifleman.

KG: Oh, my goodness.

TR: Then you get it.

KG: Before you went into the service, before you were drafted, a lot of your buddies at Visalia High School were in the service?

TR: Well, I would say probably my class, probably a third of them, quarter to a third of them signed up for military service.

KG: Did most of them make it back okay?

TR: We lost,naturally, everybody lost. But we lost a few. But that was just normal. Of course, when I got into the service, we was just starting to wind down. And then when I came back, our division, Second Infantry Division, went into Czechoslovakia . The Battle Stars I got was from Rhineland and Central Europe. ‘Cause we went into Czechoslovakia and dug out SS troops there for a week after the war was declared over. But we didn’t really have to do all of the digging because they had a Czechoslovakian division that had trained in England . And they wanted to dig out the SS troops. And I seen, oh, fighter planes. They had, must have been, forty fighter planes there. They’d run out of pilots and gas. Big artillery pieces, they’d run out of gas. Most of the trucks they were using were all wood -- steam trucks. The Germans were quite adapted to doing things. Germans were good soldiers except for one thing. Once they lost their leader, they didn’t know what to do. But with an American, if you could lose -- get down to a private he could, you know, cause they was so structured. They (Germans) trained them from the time they was five years old of age.

I remember the second repo depot they took us to, they took us out. They wanted to show us what death was. ‘Cause they hadn’t picked up the bodies yet. There was a machine gun nest there and they had all these bodies covered with their raincoats, whatever they could cover them with there. Probably twenty, twenty-five bodies around this machinegun nest. And what had happened, a tank had come up there and just slaughtered them. I know the one guy, looked like a young German; he looked like maybe a Lieutenant, an officer. And he’d been hit three times. But he looked pretty good. That’s what I told the guys. Said, "I hope I look that good when I’m dead." But he did. He looked pretty good. But it was cold, see. But they got into a fight with a tank and the tank had just wiped out the whole machine gun nest there. All still there. They hadn’t picked up the bodies ‘cause we were moving so fast, especially Patton. Patton: you couldn’t hold him back. He was going, man.

KG: Did you ever get a chance to see him?

TR: No. Tanks run into us a couple times. But take all night for the tanks to run through. Lot of times they’d move -- make a movement and they’d do it at night.

KG: So you were where on V-E Day?

TR: I was on the Rhine River -- or Elbe. Elbe: I was actually on the Elbe.

KG: So what are your memories of that? How did you guys hear?

TR: Anything we could find to drink, we drank. The Germans weren’t too happy but I imagine a lot of them were glad the war was over. Part of our units got into some of those Jewish death camps. But I never seen none of that. Only thing I seen was work camps. They had a lot of work camps where they had Russian women workers. All the work camps that I seen, there was three of them I seen, they were all women that worked in factories and stuff like that. And they were Russian.

KG: Once V-E Day was declared, was it harder to stay there?

TR: You were under wartime conditions because you didn't know whether you had snipers and stuff like that.

KG: So it wasn’t really over for you yet?

TR: No, it wasn’t over as long as you’re in a war zone. Just like over there now in Baghdad, you know. It’s over but it isn’t over.

KG: So, the celebration didn’t last too long?

TR: Oh, yeah, oh, yes, sure. But it wasn’t like you know you’re going to go back into a big battle again. But we knew we was going to move out into Czechoslovakia and we didn't know how much fighting we was going to be involved there. Because there was SS troopers there, see. Then our division was the third division to come back from Europe for the invasion of Japan . And I was on thirty-day recuperation furlough when they dropped the bomb. I was down in Long Beach where my mother was. And they dropped the atomic bomb.

KG: What did you think about that?

TR: I clapped. I was never so happy in my life. ‘Cause the Japanese would have lost ten times more people than they lost with the atomic bomb. And we would have lost a lot of people, you see. That was their homeland and they fought tough enough as it was, the Japanese, ‘cause that was their belief to die in battle, see. Just like these terrorists now that they have there, that’s their belief to die in battle. Well, when you get somebody so radical like that, you know --

KG: What was Long Beach like after they announced V-J Day?

TR: Oh, yeah, everybody was happy.

KG: Big party?

TR: Yeah. Well, we’d been at war for four years, close to four years.

KG: What did you think about the atomic bomb and the capabilities to destroy so many people with just one bomb? Were you worried that somebody might use it on us?

TR: War is war. I mean, if they would have had it, they’d have used it on us. That’s simple arithmetic. If you have it you use it; if you haven’t got it, you don't use it.

KG: Were you worried that now that this had been unleashed that in the future --

TR: No. I knew this would probably stop wars. When they start getting everybody, including the big shots, well, then, war don’t happen. It’s just like that old boy over there now, hiding in that mosque, you know, he’s going to hide in that mosque.  But he does tell everybody else to go out there and fight for him, see.

KG: When you were in Europe and you’d become aware of the death camps, were you surprised by that?

TR: No, no. On our final training there in advanced infantry school, we had a live fire training. And we had a short mortar. You put increments on a mortar. And sometimes those increments don’t burn all the way. It’s like a solenoid thing. Got a 12-gauge shotgun here. You got your mortar shell here. Okay. You put increments on to make it go out so far. You drop that in the tube, you come down drop it in the tube. When it hits the firing pin down here, that ignites the 12-gauge shotgun. Or detonates the 12-gauge shotgun. This in turn ignites the increments -- if I’m pronouncing it right -- which will send it out. Well, they had a short round, the increments didn’t burn all the way. And it killed three guys. Now this was here in the United States on a live fire training exercise, see. No, we lost men all the time, you know. Not like in combat. But you lose men all the time. Accidents and short rounds and you had to crawl under wire under fire, fire going over you. You get a short round or something --

KG: It didn’t surprise that the Germans had been systematically wiping out the Jewish population?

TR: We didn’t know nothing about it till we found the camps. We’d heard rumors. But, like I told you, I didn't see the camp. I didn’t see the Jewish camps, the death camps. All I seen was work camps. And they were fine. They had been treated reasonably well, you know. ‘Cause they used them for working, you know.

KG: Before you went overseas, before you were drafted, do you have any memories of the adults in the community expressing hatreds towards the Japanese?

TR: Oh, yeah. You could pick a Japanese out fast. The Italians got in it; they were mad at the Italians. Then they were mad at the Germans. But you couldn’t pick those out. You see what I’m talking about. Japanese you could pick him out right away, see. So naturally -- but not everybody. Just like my dad was going to kill old Kondo and then he didn’t do it. That’s why Roosevelt got them out of the West Coast. A lot of people -- which was a bad thing to do. At that time we didn’t know. But they got them out because they were afraid of the fact that if the Japanese did invade us and stuff, that they would kill all right away. Lot of Japanese went into the service and fought for us and I think it’s the most decorated unit there was, was Japanese.

KG: Did you have Japanese friends in school?

TR: Oh, yeah. There was quite a few Japanese around Ivanhoe and stuff, they -- you know. But in Goshen, just the one.

KG: Do you remember them just disappearing?

TR: Not really. In fact, two of them played football here. They were here til they had to move. At that time the position was halfback. They were very good, too. Very good. I can’t remember their names, but they’d be in the book. No, there was no hatred prior, you know. Actually, with the kids and stuff there was no hatred. More hatred was in the old timers, ‘cause they had to -- they were frustrated. The only way they could do something was to hate.

KG: Do you remember seeing signs like at restaurants --

TR: No.

KG: where they wouldn’t serve?

TR: No, never was none of that.  And then, Visalia, I think, was around ten thousand people at that time. And cotton, prior to the war, there was a lot of dust bowlers or okies who came into this area. And they started raising a little cotton. Well, during the war cotton was a money crop. So that became one of the biggest crops here in Tulare County. I guess the next big one would be the dairies. There was vineyards. But not like there is now,. But now cotton is disappearing because you can’t make any money on it.

KG: Do you remember any snows or floods in that time before --

TR: Sure. Every five years it would flood in Visalia. That was just common.

KG: Out there on the ranch, did you have little boats?

TR: Oh, no. The ranch never flooded. We were high ground. Visalia was built down in the swamp. You know why, don’t you?

KG: No.

TR: In those days you had to have water for the mill and stuff like that, you know. So you always build around where the river was. That’s why most of the big towns and stuff were built by a river. Look at all the ones built up and down the Mississippi. For water and transportation. Well, these are not big enough for transportation. And the Kaweah River is -- or St. Johns now down here, it’s north of us. But I can remember digging corner post holes, which we call corner post hole; you have to dig them deeper and a bigger post. And winter time it had rained a lot and the rivers run and stuff like that, we’d hit water around four feet. On the ranch. Now, that’s on the ranch here. But, no, flood, that was just common. I mean, every five years in Visalia it would flood, you know.

KG: How high would the water get on Main Street?

TR: Depend on how deep you were. I mean, you know, if you down this way, you got deeper. This way got a lot shallower.

KG: Was there a lot of flooding at the school, where the high school is now?

TR: The high school flooded because part of the creek ran through the high school. Yeah, it flooded.

KG: I guess you were glad when they finally built the dam?

TR: Oh, that’s the best thing they ever done for this county, when they built that dam. You know where the dump ground is now?

KG: Yes.

TR: When I was a young boy, that’s the Webb Ranch. Florence Doe bought that section of land there for a sinking basin. First she bought it for the WPA work. And then in turn they dug a hole there to build Highway 80. Or Road 80. Then she bought that after the hole was dug. She bought that for a sinking basin so she could always have water coming into the Malick Ranch, which was just south of her, see. Then she had an offer from the City of Visalia to take and use that for a dump. That’s how it became a dump. So originally it was a sink -- originally it was flat land. They took dirt out of it for Road 80. She turned it into a sinking basin cause she got $20,000 to run water in there to raise up the water level. And she would always have water that way. She was Republican big shot. And then she sold that to the city for the dump ground.

But just north of that was all flood plain. And in the spring ducks by the millions now would be out in that area. And that would run from the Webb Ranch clear to Highway 99. And there would be just millions of ducks out there nesting and stuff like that ‘cause that water overflowed. And that would be on the Webb and the Hyde and another ranch there. They were big areas there. But it never flooded on the ranch.

KG: Do you have memories of any German prisoners?

TR: Yes. They were here. I just seen them couple of times. Tagus Ranch, I seen. And there was one down by Wood --

KG: Woodville?

TR: No, no. I think there might have been one by Tipton. Right by where the old overpass was, the first overpass on Highway 99, just the left hand side, there was a camp.

KG: There were prison camps there?

TR: Yeah. Prison camps. They had them there -- you know why they brought them in here?

KG: For the fruit?

TR: Work, pick the fruit, yeah.

KG: Did you converse with them or just --

TR: Oh, yeah, they talked to you, sure.

KG: Really?

TR: Yeah, yeah. They’d pick them up and take them to the ranch and feed them and they’d work on the ranch. German prisoners had it easy here. It was good duty for them.

KG: I bet.

TR: Yeah. How many came back or how many got married, came back to the United States and married some of the girls, I don't know, ‘cause girls would go out there, but like Red Cross and stuff like that and they got acquainted. And there were German people here, you know, that would talk to them and stuff like that. Take them gifts and food.

KG: What kind of conversations would you have with them?

TR: A lot of them could talk English, you know. Just talk general, you know. You never talk war. I mean, ‘cause they were out of the war. If you was here, you was out of the war. I was just a kid then, you know. And like I told you, 16 or 17. Maybe 17 by then.

KG: Was anybody afraid of having prisoners around?

TR: No, you had guards on them. No, no, they weren’t afraid. None of them tried to escape as far as I know. They had it made.

KG: I bet.

TR: They got fed good and everything else.

KG: So, when you were discharged -- let’s see, that was July of ’46, and you came home -- how did you get home and how did you show up?

TR: Oh, I come on the train. They paid your way home, you know. Mine was -- can’t think of that where I got discharged. Anyway, it’s up there by Sacramento. I’d come from Fort Lewis.

KG: What were your plans when you got out? What did you think you were going to do?

TR: I didn’t have the slightest idea. Then got to talking around -- you had a period where you goofed off. I went down to get 52/20 -- you know what 52/20 is?

KG: Let’s see.

TR: Fifty-two weeks at $20 a week. Anyway there was three of us went down there and George Reece and -- can’t remember the other guy’s name. They both got it and when it came to me, they took one look at me and said, "We got a job for you." And I had to go unload boxcars. And it was hot. And it was hard work. And I worked out there for about a week unloading boxcars. And then I thought, well, I’ll go get me a job someplace else. Which I did. I went and got a job on the ranch, which was easier. Then I decided, well, I’m going to go to college. Then I went to COS for two years.

KG: And what did you study?

TR: Well, I was studying to be a veterinarian and I got tired of that $65 a month. Trying to live on that, you know, everything. After two years , and then you had about a six-year wait to get into a veterinarian school at that time.

KG: What did you end up doing?

TR: I went to work for the County Road Department. And then at the same time I was working for them I became a call man for the Fire Department. And I stayed right at the Fire Department. And I was given the room plus $20. But then I was on call 24 hours a day seven days a week if I was in town or fire whistle went off I had to go to fire, fight fire.

KG: And that was for the City?

TR: For the City of Visalia.

KG: I thought they had a Fire Department by then.

TR: They did. But in those days they had "call men." There were four "call men." They give you a badge. The badge allowed you go to into the Fox Theater. You didn’t have to pay because they never knew when you was going to be called out. But if you were in the firehouse and you were trained as a fireman, if you was in the firehouse, you went out on the engines or if you heard the whistle, you was outside, and you came and found out where the fire was, you went and fought the fire.

KG: Did they run the ambulance also with --

TR: Yeah. Old man Woods was the ambulance driver and if you was on duty, you went with him.

KG: Did you like that?

TR: Not really cause he was almost 80 years of age. Wasn’t the best driver in the world. All we did basically was pick them up and bring them to the hospital, you know, ‘cause none of us had any training on that kind of stuff. Old man Woods, he didn’t have no training either.

KG: Just the driver.

TR: Yeah, he was the driver and at 80 years of age, he wasn’t the best.

KG: So overall, how do you think the war years affected you and way your life turned out?

TR: Oh, made you a lot appreciative of what you got here in the United States . That’s one thing. And you found out sometimes how dumb you were. You needed to get a little better education. I would say that probably those two things are the biggest things there. You grow up quick.

KG: Do you have any thoughts about how the war affected Tulare County?

TR: Oh, I would say that -- now see, we were coming out of the Depression. And there had been tough, tough times. And after the war, people started making a little money. There was progress. Because see everything had gotten so short. Cars started -- you know, you couldn’t buy a car. My dad got the first Dodge that came into Visalia after the war from Tom Spears Dodge Agency.

KG: Really.

TR: Anyway, everybody was put back to work. So everybody had a job. And wages were better. ‘Cause when I was working on the ranch I was getting 30 cents an hour. That’s what you got. And that was man’s wages. And anyway, cotton was bringing money in. Dairy was better. Everything was better. In fact, right after the war, don’t you remember, there was six or eight millionaires in Exeter. Exeter, for the size of the town had more millionaires than any other town. And they were all raising Emperor Grapes.

KG: I didn’t know that.

TR: Yeah. Well, it’s in the history thing. There’s six or eight millionaires in Exeter, little town of Exeter. All had Emperor Grapes. Now you can’t hardly find a Emperor Grape. Nobody buys them. Those grapes progressed and stuff like that. But that’s progress. And jobs were available. ‘Cause you just existed during the Depression. That’s all you did. You didn’t make any money hardly.

KG: Do you have an outstanding memory of life here out at the ranch before the war started?

TR: Work.

KG: Just work?

TR: Work. And work. But you never did work on Sunday except if you had to like on the dairies and stuff like that. You always would go someplace like somebody’s house and eat or play cards. My dad -- at that time I was dancing. My dad would take me to the dance and they had what they called the Chicken Roost there at Prince Stokes, Rocky Mountain Dance Hall. It was out there by the end of the runway out there at the airport.

KG: Oh, another lady mentioned that.

TR: And if you didn’t dance or you didn’t want to dance, you set up on the chicken roost. It was a chicken roost, just like that. Then if you wanted to dance, you sat around the dance floor, see, on the thing there. So, I’d go to the dance and my dad would dance and I’d set up on the chicken roost. Cause my mother and father were divorced then.

KG: Oh, really.

TR: They got divorced right after I was born. So, he’d always take me to the dance when he wanted to and he’d carry on. He like to dance.

KG: Did you go into town a lot to the Fox?

TR: Once a week whether you needed it or not. No, he never would, I never went to the Fox.

KG: You didn’t?

TR: That Saturday night was the dance.

KG: Okay. Is there anything that we haven’t discussed that you’d like to talk about?

TR: The only thing is that, like I showed you -- there’s a lot of soldiers that were trained in California that came back to California. So we did have a lot of soldiers that were from other states that came into this area. More so in the cities like down in L.A. and that thing. But there was quite a few come into this area, too.

KG: Well, we thank you very much.

TR: You’re entirely welcome. Now if you want to -- old boy that knows a lot be old Ed Ray next door. He went into service -- he went in right off the bat and he went to North Africa.

KG: Oh, really.  (end of taped interview)

Kris Gray/Transcribed by Colleen Paggi/edited by J Wood 02/09/05

Words in italics were added during a phone interview with the editor in February, 2005.