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:
Brother’s time in service
Billboard of all the names of Tulare County boys in the Service.
CD: Could you go ahead and state your name and spell it?
MT: Mada Talbot.
CD: And could you spell your maiden name too.
CD: OK, good. So why don’t you tell me about when you moved into the area.
MT: 1941. We came here because my brother had joined the Navy and we expected to be able to see him while he was still in San Francisco and when we got here he had shipped out and so we were very disappointed, but we had relatives here and came planning to stay, so we did. My dad got work here and we just loved it. And so my brother was at Pearl Harbor when it was hit. That’s the kind of events we had then for quite a long time. In fact, in 1944 he came home, just before my graduation.
CD: Oh, how special.
MT: Yes, I just couldn’t believe it.
CD: Was he expected?
MT: No, I
didn’t know he was coming home, so he had been there and hadn’t gotten back to
CD: Wow. So you came through San Francisco in hopes to see him?
MT: We came to Visalia hoping to go to San Francisco or see him. We didn’t know what we were going to do, but we came out here thinking we were going to be able to see him.
CD: And what did your father do for a living?
MT: Homer Faucett was a sign painter. He struggled because there wasn’t much work in Omaha, Nebraska, so we came out here mainly because of that. He needed work, so he came first. We had a relative here, my mother’s sister . . .
CD: And what was her name?
MT: Her name was Nancy Watts.
CD: Can you spell that?
MT: W-A-T-T-S. She married A.I. Watts who was a long time resident of the area and lived out on Pinkham Avenue, so we stayed with her for a little while. It’s funny we didn’t even know what we were going to do when we came out here. No plans or anything. So we stayed with her and then we moved over to a little one- room with the Dineley family.
CD: Why did you move in with them?
MT: Because they had a little place we could rent. It was just down the street from my aunt. The Dineley’s lived on the corner of Pinkham and Mineral King at the time. Jack Dineley was a classmate of mine.
CD: What was Pinkham and Mineral King like in 1941? Wal-Mart?
MT: (Laughter) No, no Wal-Mart. No stores. You had to walk everyplace. We didn’t have a car so we walked everyplace and I can remember walking into town with my dad. He worked for Boyd and Woods. That was their last names, and they had been in business for quite a while, so my father got work with them and was doing regular sign painting in and around Visalia.
CD: What is Boyd and Woods?
MT: Sign painting. They did all the signs around Visalia. There just weren’t very many people around doing that kind of work.
CD: I bet not.
MT: So he was very good. My father was a real artist and so was asked to letter the names of boys as they went into the service.
CD: One of the women I interviewed had two pictures of that. Could you explain a little bit about the billboards?
MT: He somehow was asked to do the lettering on a big board that was outside on the corner of the post office.
CD: Do you know what corner that was?
MT: Court and School? Court and Acequia.
CD: Court and Acequia.
MT: On the corner, and it was a big white billboard and every time a man left to serve, someone in the local area . . . I’m not sure whether it took in all Tulare County or just locally, but probably the whole county, then he would print the name on the board.
CD: OK. We are looking at two pictures of the billboard that Mada’s dad painted. Mada, do you know who that is in the picture, pointing to the name of her husband.
MT: I know her I’m sure, but I just can’t think who it is. Oh, her name is Mildred Switzer.
CD: Who is the man . . . what is the name she is pointing to?
MT: Mary Elizabeth Anderson.
CD: Did you know her?
MT: No I didn’t. But down further in the picture, I assume this is Jim Archuletta and we knew him. I believe he was in my husband’s school at the same time and his parents had a service station and Jim went into the Navy early on. Probably if I looked this over I could see a lot of names that I would know.
CD: Do you remember these people’s names? Beshwaite?
MT: I didn’t know them personally. But I know the name. Berkholt. I imagine I could find a lot of names on here, if I could really look.
CD: Well, that’s for you.
MT: Oh is it. Thank you. I know who that is, but I just can’t remember.
CD: OK, so the billboard, you remember it being on Court and Acequia. Go ahead.
MT: I do. I just didn’t think much about it to know the details of it. I just knew my dad was doing it. He would just sit out there and paint, I guess. I don’t know how it could be alphabetical.
CD: You remember him hearing about who had died and him painting the sign. Do you remember a sign like that?
MT: I thought he did and I had no idea, but this was the one on Court and Acequia. I don’t know. I’d have to look through . . . .
CD: Women . . . Did you know any women that married quickly before the men took off for war?
MT: Oh, I didn’t. I really didn’t.
CD: It didn’t dawn on you?
MT: No, I didn’t think about it. I know that if I was reminded I would know who it was. I just don’t. I remember quite a few of the girls married from Sequoia Field and Rankin and went with boys from there and married, but I can’t name any of them. I had a friend that married one.
CD: So where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
MT: In Visalia, here.
CD: But how did you hear of the news?
MT: We had just come home from church. You know there just wasn’t a lot of . . . there wouldn’t be car radios or whatever, but anyway, as we walked in from church, my dad was working that day and he called us on the phone and told us that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese.
CD: How did your mom react?
MT: She was . . . I can’t even remember. She didn’t get hysterical or anything like that, but she was very concerned, and we didn’t hear from my brother for quite a long time afterward.
CD: How long do you think that was?
MT: It was probably months before we heard and then the letters were censored.
CD: That’s interesting. How did you all feel when you saw a censored letter?
MT: Well, we just thought it was the usual thing. Something they just had to do.
CD: You weren’t shocked? As if your privacy had been invaded?
MT: No, I don’t think so. I think we just thought we, as Americans, had been attacked and probably it was necessary. We didn’t know a lot of government things then. Especially in high school, I don’t know why we didn’t. I guess we were more concerned with ourselves. I don’t remember being upset about it or anything; I just remember the little squares being cut out of the letter and you had to sort of try and guess what the words were and I imagine ours were censored also.
CD: What do you mean by ours? Oh, when you wrote him?
MT: Uh huh. When we wrote to him. The mail wasn’t like it is now, for sure.
CD: How do you know yours were censored?
MT: He said so, when we talked about it later.
CD: What did he say?
MT: He said it was something they had to do with him being in the military. He felt it was the right thing to do. And then it was every little thing they thought was being scrutinized, I imagine, the mail and everything.
CD: So how long would it take for you to get a letter?
MT: Oh, probably three to four weeks if not more.
CD: And what would a censored letter look like? Would it fall apart?
MT: No, not really. Probably in my brother’s case, he knew what he would say and what he couldn’t. But there were little words cut out. So it would just have holes in it, all over.
CD: What were they cutting out, do you think?
MT: Probably locations or times, dates. I just don’t know. We didn’t really realize what they had done that morning of the attack until we got to talk to him in person many, many years later. It just wasn’t publicized as much, you know, about the individual ships and that sort of thing. I imagine because of the danger of his location.
CD: For generations that will listen to this tape, they won’t understand why he just didn’t pick up a phone and call. Was that not available?
MT: No nothing was available. Communication was nil. We didn’t think anything about it, because we weren’t there yet. We had not experienced this world of communication.
CD: Instant information.
MT: Uh huh.
CD: Could you not call from Hawaii in those days?
MT: No. It wasn’t until many years later until my son was in
CD: What was happening with him?
MT: Well, he was in a place, a location, I don’t know if they were concerned about, they didn’t tell us where he was, but later we had a map and posted it so we would know. But we had no idea where my brother was,ever. He was on a Destroyer Escort, going from war zone to war zone over there and island to island, wherever they needed mines laid.
CD: Oh, that’s what he was?
MT: Yes, and he saw all of the battles on all of the islands and I can’t name them except the ones that are famous.
CD: Which ones?
MT: Iwo Jima. I was trying to think of the ones that the men of our age group are talking about now. When they get together they occasionally get into that and talk about what their experiences were.
CD: So, what was your brother’s rank?
MT: He was Chief Machinist Mate. He was in the engine room, so he manned the boilers. He had a lot of close calls and we don’t know what their ship had that was keeping them all alive, but a lot of the old timers, people that at the time were very experienced and everything, by the time we saw them because they were out there so long. They all stayed, most of them, on the ship the whole time. A few, maybe, were transferred if they had illnesses or something like that. It was a different kind of war. We waited to get word just by somebody else in the area.
CD: So besides letters, how would Tulare County get their information about the war? How would it get through?
MT: I suppose news-people. That’s the only way I would know that they would have gotten the information because most of the civilian population was having to wait to hear. I hadn’t even thought about it until this interview. How we were just there waiting.
CD: Would you say most people had a radio in their homes?
MT: Oh, I think so.
CD: And you guys did?
MT: Right. And we listened all the time. But you know, the only thing you got, you could ever get was news that we got from my brother, whose name was Kenneth Faucett. He came home on my graduation, about a week before my graduation, and some of the men, two or three of the men came to Visalia with him
CD: Oh, they came with him. Did they live here?
MT: No, the ship just came into San Francisco in 1944 for repairs. Evidently, they lived some place else and I remember that because I remember how it was like they had not been around civilians for such a long time and they didn’t know how to handle social functions.
CD: So how did they not know how to handle it?
MT: Well, we had a school dance, as I remember. And we went to that and they . . . I just don’t know how to explain it . . . they were just not . . . they were nervous. Kind of edgy and didn’t know what to do. They just hadn’t been around social functions and so . . . .
CD: Did they dance?
MT: As I remember, they did, but they didn’t even hardly want to ask a girl to dance. I just remember it was in the middle of summer, in June when I graduated and so we all kidded about that later, but acted like they didn’t know. My brother was the same way later. He just could not adjust. Not at all.
CD: Tell me about your graduation. What class was it?
MT: Class of ’44. A lot of the men were not there, boys were not there and a lot of the ones who had offices in the class who were in the service had already joined. And in the service, Mr. Shidler, . . . I’m not sure of his position then. He was in charge of the boys, Vice Principal. We found out just recently that he graduated some of those without having to go back to school.
CD: How much school do you think those boys missed?
MT: Some of them could have missed a year and a half.
CD: That’s a lot.
MT: Some of them, just the last few months of the year. And so I can remember some of the classmates and some who were older than we were, coming back to school and being back on campus.
CD: Going to finish school?
MT: Just coming back to see people and sign yearbooks and things like that. But I remember now that it was later on that there were so many that were in the service. It was after we had gone to COS, 1945.
CD: And there were no men around?
MT: No men around. And it seemed like a long period of time, but maybe it wasn’t that many months that we just had to socialize with whoever was there. Girls danced with girls or some Air man from Rankin or Sequoia Field.
CD: So the graduation, the boys not there. Did they do something to represent them? Their pictures somewhere?
MT: Their pictures were in the yearbook as I remember and they had inserts in the yearbook. I was looking at that the other night and I think there were some that were there and then there were some that had been killed. I don’t know how many. But there was one or two that I knew and heard of, but there again, you just didn’t hear unless it was in the newspaper. And the paper didn’t make headlines out of things like this as much as they do now. I saved a lot of papers, but I haven’t gotten them out yet. I’ll do that later and see if there is something that maybe would be pertinent.
CD: Would you say the ceremony was solemn or sad?
MT: I think so. It wasn’t the kind of ceremony that they had in later years when everyone was so happy. It was just a sad time and I don’t know if we knew or felt that as much as we would now hearing all the details of what happens and that sort of thing. It sort of emphasizes what they are going through.
CD: So, it was Sunday when Pearl Harbor was bombed. So what was the buzz at school the next day?
MT: I think we were concerned about our own and I had a friend whose brother was overseas in the Army and they didn’t hear from him for quite a long time either.
CD: And what was his name?
MT: Dorothy Rudd was her name.
CD: Was he at Pearl Harbor?
MT: No, he was in the Army and he had been over there for a while and we both talked about our brothers and what they were going through, what we thought they were going through and the danger. But you know, I think it’s just so different, it was so different then, we worried, but we didn’t just dwell on it. I don’t know why. We went on with our school activities. If we didn’t have boys to do certain things, we did other kinds of activities.
CD: Like what?
MT: Well, we had talent assemblies.
CD: Oh, that’s cute.
MT: I was in one talent assembly and there was one of the boys that wasn’t in the service over peeling potatoes into a tub and I sang "I Walk Alone," something of that nature. Things like that.
CD: How did you do? Applause?
MT: Oh, yes. We didn’t have the opportunities to act or sing or anything like that like they do now. I always thought of that and I think it’s wonderful what the kids do now. I did acrobatics, so I did a lot of that, tumbling and acrobatics, because I had done that in grammar school in Omaha, Nebraska. That was the only sport, that and field hockey, that were of any significance with the young people in Omaha before we came out here.
Anyway, that was kind of different, and my mother took children, problem children, while we were in Omaha and one of the boys she had later, he was a real problem child. Didn’t know his family, didn’t know where they were and he was obsessed with finding them. A wonderful little boy, but he was just batted from home to home, but anyway, he joined the Marines, but that really was a great awakening and he found out that he was older than they presumed he was and he found out his real name and he was on a page in the National Geographic. Well, he came to Visalia to see us after that, found out where we were living and showed up one Friday or Saturday night while the war was going on. He was assisting in saving somebody and he was an airman who crashed by the ship. So anyway, the war in those days helped some.
CD: Yes, but it didn’t help your brother.
MT: No, I guess they felt different emotionally and they came home. But that was a good thing for him, because he was a lost person.
CD: The other one, the one your mom helped?
MT: Buddy. We called him Buddy for years, even after he found out his real name. So you know those kinds of things happened during the war too.
CD: Tell me about your husband. He went into the war.
MT: He was in the Merchant Marines. He went in when he was very young.
CD: How young?
MT: Fifteen. His parents signed for him to join. He wouldn’t have been able to go into the Merchant Marines at that time; it was not considered an armed service. It was a private organization but has since been given military status.
CD: Oh, so that’s how he could get in?
MT: I guess, I guess. So he went for one trip and he didn’t want to go back when he got back, because it was very scary for him at that age. He was with a lot of older experienced people. That was the kind of ship where they did supplies. The Merchant Marines just supplied the ships and war locations, so he was in all the war zones and they got paid by the number of war zones they were in. That’s how they were paid.
MT: It’s since been given military status.
CD: And what is your husband’s full name?
MT: Robert D. Talbot. Bob Talbot.
CD: He missed high school? How did he deal with that?
MT: Yes, he never did go back. He missed his last two years. And so he went when he was a sophomore.
CD: He missed his junior and senior years?
MT: Yes, he never did complete his junior and senior years. He didn’t get his diploma. I think that’s why some young men with situations like that went into occupations that didn’t require a diploma. He became a professional baseball player.
CD: And he was born and raised in Visalia?
MT: In Visalia, yes.
CD: And left when he was fourteen or fifteen?
MT: His home was over on Tipton Street. And his father was a musician in a band here in Visalia. He had a band.
CD: What was the name of it?
MT: Oh, I’ve forgotten the name of it. But his name was Clyde Talbot. There were four or five men here in Visalia his age and they all played in the band and played at the outdoor garden next to the public swimming pool.
CD: Was that at a park, Recreation Park?
MT: No, across from Hyde Park. In that old building that’s still there. But anyway, the Talbots were very long time residents. Actually his father and their family came from Kansas and they went to Tulare. That’s where he grew up and went to school and then moved to Visalia.
CD: Where did you meet him?
MT: In school.
CD: Oh, at school. Before or after he went?
MT: Before. He went over and was just gone six or eight months.
CD: Oh, that was all?
MT: I think there was a limit to the months they could be out in that type of service.
CD: So how did World War II affect everyday life in Tulare County?
MT: Well, I imagine in the interviews and the information, it was the things you couldn’t get at that time that were scarce, silk stockings, no panty hose, just silk stockings and butter, margarine. You could get margarine but it was white and you had to mix it, add color and form it.
CD: What do you mean you had to form it?
MT: Well, you had to put it in a little container, a little pan, and you put it in the refrigerator until it was cold. You would wrap it up and sort of did your own thing and things are all manufactured and packaged now. And then cigarettes, I used to roll my dad’s cigarettes. He’d get the tobacco someplace, I suppose at a tobacco place here in Visalia and he never smoked very much, but he always had one in his mouth.
CD: The suffering artist.
MT: He got the paper and I rolled them and put the tobacco in this little machine and cranked it and then put the paper in the other end and the tobacco would come out on the paper and then roll the cigarette and then moisten it and he had his cigarette.
CD: Were you ever tempted to smoke it yourself?
MT: No. I never did smoke.
CD: So cigarettes were a shortage. You couldn’t just go and buy a pack of Camel filters.
MT: No, no you couldn’t.
CD: What about tobacco? It wasn’t rationed?
MT: Well, tobacco, I suppose it was the packaging that they didn’t have available. I’m not sure what it was, but if you wanted any of these things, you had to do it yourself. All manufacturers, manufacturing places were involved in the war effort.
CD: So there wasn’t a shortage of tobacco. He could get it in a pouch. He could always get it?
MT: I guess. But he couldn’t get his cigarettes. I don’t know how everybody else got theirs. They worked at it I’m sure.
CD: Oh gosh. What about alcohol? Was it rationed?
MT: I think it was. Alcohol. You just didn’t hear as much about it among the young people.
CD: Did you ever hear about it?
MT: I do remember that later on they drank . . .
CD: What do you mean later on?
MT: I mean not in our first years, so it was probably later toward the end of school that you would hear of it. We’ve talked about that among the fellows and they said they just didn’t do that. If they did that it was on a weekend. We thought we were really smart. They all admitted to that. It was just a different time and you didn’t have the problems or temptations they have now.
CD: What were the churches in Visalia and about how many were there?
MT: The Catholic church, the Methodist church, and the Baptist church, the Christian Church and the Presbyterian church.
CD: And what were you a member of?
MT: First Christian Church.
CD: And did the church play a part in Tulare County during the war?
MT: Yes, they did. The ladies made things that were asked for by the news media for the service men, I suppose, and they took them to a certain place to be sent overseas, knitted things, sweaters, scarves and socks. I just remember blankets being supplied.
CD: So the church would organize this?
CD: And was your mom and your aunt involved in that? Did they make stuff?
MT: Yes they were, uh huh. They always did those kinds of things. We couldn’t send things to my brother or any other service men. I do remember a friend that I knew in grammar school in Omaha that was also in the Marines and he stopped by here when in the States. I think I was a senior and so we did . . . . I wrote to quite a few of the fellows after that. But it was later years that we did that. I don’t really know why it wasn’t right away. Maybe we didn’t know who to write it to. But there were quite a few later that we wrote to and I just remember how grateful they were. And some weren’t even from this area.
CD: For all the letters. What would you write?
MT: Just newsy things that you would do everyday. What us kids, young people would do. We weren’t as mature then as the kids are today, so we just did kid things. I worked at the Fox Theater all those years and went to school.
CD: All what years?
MT: ’41 through ’44. I ushered and later worked in the box office.
MT: I’d go after school. I think it was about 5:30 to 9:00 and bought all my clothes with the money. It wasn’t much money. I earned $.35 an hour, but it went a long way.
CD: So did you get to see all the movies? What were the movies at that time?
MT: Yes we did. Oh, they were mostly all war movies.
CD: What ones stand out in your mind?
MT: I can’t think of names. That was a long time ago.
CD: But you remember them as war movies?
MT: Yes, I do.
CD: Looking back on it, did they seem propagandist at all?
MT: There were news reels between the double features. The news was very real but the media were not allowed to bring out any wartime, specific war news, which would help the enemy. They had news people that were always on the news on Sunday night.
CD: Sunday night radio?
MT: Sunday night Morrow.
CD: Edward R. Morrow.
MT: They would narrate some of the war news reels. They had news reels. Now it comes back to me. That’s what they had at the movies. And that was a way of communicating that we didn’t realize. A lot of the other,the German war was on the news reel. I can remember that so well. People would always boo in the theater when the Germans showed up. They just showed the facts. Not one way or the other. Not swayed. They just showed the whole picture. It was very strange.
CD: Was there many news reels about the Japanese front?
MT: Yes there was. As I say, I’m remembering. You have to get going . . . when you get to be a senior citizen.
CD: You have to get warmed up.
MT: But anyway, I remember the news reels now. They were very disturbing, as far as I was concerned, but that was later when I was working. Probably 1945.
CD: They were more disturbing then?
MT: To me, because the news was so real. They were getting a more realistic view of things, maybe. I hadn’t really thought of it.
CD: So, did you have any Japanese friends?
MT: Not close friends, but we were aware of them coming in and taking Japanese from around the area to the depot and we went to the depot to see them off. It was a very sad time. I didn’t form an opinion then about it, except that I thought it was sad to see them go. I don’t believe we knew it would happen or why.
CD: What did you think was sad?
MT: That they were having to leave their homes and had no public notice whatsoever.
CD: What do you mean, no notice?
MT: I just imagine it was like a weekend. And they had to be ready to go, because they left everything. They couldn’t take anything to these camps, just their personal things probably.
CD: How much do you remember them carrying?
MT: Just small cases and things like that, but they left from the Depot down on Santa Fe.
CD: Where the depot is now?
MT: Yes. . . I can’t remember. Gosh, I can’t believe I’m forgetting so much. Anyway, I haven’t thought of all of this for such a long time. Little things pop into my mind every so often and I just remember the war was nothing like it is now. It seems like it was so sudden in the Pacific and they were not ready.
CD: Who weren’t?
MT: Our men, because when they were attacked, all the ships headed out of the harbor. They got out as soon as they could. And the ones that were sunk were left there. My brother got out of there, their ship and other ships did, and they didn’t come back to Pearl Harbor. They made repairs when possible out at sea. We didn’t know that at the time. We didn’t really know where he was until we got a call from San Francisco in 1944 after his ship was damaged.
CD: By whom?
MT: By my brother, saying he was there. We didn’t even know that. It’s just so different, nobody telling you, the War Department not saying anything.
CD: And nowadays there would be a lot of protest if their son was missing and they wouldn’t hear a word. How was the feeling in Tulare County?
MT: It was accepted. Everything was accepted. You just didn’t have the propaganda type things. The protests. Nobody protested anything.
MT: No, I don’t remember there being any as far as the war was concerned. It was something that came and you just had to do it. You just did the best you could.
CD: You don’t remember anybody griping.
MT: I don’t. That isn’t something that just stands out in my mind. I think it is because of the media hype we have now that we didn’t then.
CD: So tell me, why were your mom and your aunt so motivated to go to the depot that day? Do you remember what day it was?
MT: It was in the evening. No, it seems like it was a weekday. I don’t remember it being a weekend or anything like that. At the end of the day we went down there. It was just something my aunt was interested in doing because she was such a part of this community.
CD: Was she born here?
MT: No, she wasn’t born here. My mother’s family were from Missouri and the Ozarks and then they all went their various ways. Probably moved here later in her life and met and married her husband.
CD: Right. And that was A.I. Watts. His family goes way back?
MT: Yes, his family. He was elderly when we came out and quite a bit older than she was and she was not young. But there were Boswells that were relatives of his, A.I. Watts. He had a barber shop here in town, one of the first I remember.
CD: Do you remember what it was called?
MT: Chicks, I think.
MT: I don’t know if his name was Charles and they called him Chick, but that was what it was.
CD: Like chicks, c-h-i-c-k-s. Like baby chicks?
MT: But everybody, like the Bonacich people, had a jewelry store, and Ann Bonacich still works at Gottschalks in the jewelry department out there. And her husband, these two women married brothers and the men were in the service and they had a store downtown and we got acquainted to the female end of it and we had known them for years and the men came home from the service. I don’t know the particulars, but they were all old time residents of this area. I don’t know if they lived in other towns in Tulare County or not.
CD: So your aunt felt some compassion for the Japanese?
MT: I’m sure she did. She was aware of everything that went on around her. She was sort of in real estate, not professionally, but just finding some property. So she knew people. And I rode the school bus when I first came out here and the school bus went by a lot of the Japanese farms and I didn’t know the kids who got on the bus, just by name. I didn’t have any close friends. But my husband did. When he was playing football in school and things like that.
CD: How did he feel about it? Did he go down to the depot?
MT: No, he was two years younger than I was and so I didn’t know him then.
MT: I just remember going there and standing and people gathering around and I know other people were very sad that this was happening. But I don’t remember a lot of emotion. Probably was, I just don’t remember it.
CD: Well, you were younger. How old were you?
MT: I was in high school. I should have remembered. I tell you, I lived in Omaha and the schools there were very different. When we came out here it was just a totally different view of everything.
CD: How were things different here?
MT: For one thing, you did more things. You were more involved. Back there, there were so many kids in school that you were just not noticed.
CD: So were you happier here in Tulare County?
MT: Loved it, just loved it. Oh I’ll never forget coming in through Tulare over to Visalia, it was beautiful. And the orange blossoms, we never had good smelling things like that. So it was absolutely wonderful.
CD: And how was the school better in Tulare County than where you came from?
MT: It was just so much easier.
CD: What do you mean easier?
MT: There we had to study harder and when we got here I remember I took homemaking and all kinds of different things, you know. I can remember looking out the window over at what is Redwood now and we had wonderful teachers, our English teachers, history and all of that. It was more like the fellows talk about their shop teachers. They were more lenient with the boys. The boys could get out the windows, and the teacher’s standing right there. It was just different. That was fun.
CD: So it was a fun atmosphere.
MT: More fun.
CD: What was then Visalia High is now Redwood. You’d sit out on the campus grounds in groups of friends?
MT: There weren’t any cars. Very few cars. One time I think we had backward dances.
CD: What were backward dances?
MT: Where the girl asks the boys.
CD: Like a Sadie Hawkins?
MT: I got my dad’s panel truck . . .
CD: Oh, you went to pick your date up?
MT: In the old panel truck. We didn’t care, as long as we had wheels. It had a sign on the side.
CD: Oh, his work truck.
MT: His work truck. We had to clean off the paint every time we used it. Things were simple. Simple things that we did that were fun: we’d go to the swimming holes.
CD: Where were those?
MT: Terminus and McKay’s Point. McKay’s Point quite a bit because it was closer. We’d go up and swim and a lot of the kids from the whole area would come up there.
CD: Wasn’t there a concern about gas?
MT: There was, because we had gas stamps. Gas was rationed.
CD: And so how did you get back and forth?
MT: We just did the best we could. If someone had gas stamps, we went with them. But to get gas you had to really beg, borrow and everything to get a gas coupon. Gas was cheap enough. It was just that it was rationed at the stations, so you were limited. They couldn’t sell more than what they had coupons for.
CD: But your dad with his business. Did he get more?
MT: He was getting a little bit more by then. It was loosening up by then. He was having to go to different places with his truck. He was able to get that and that’s what I remember. I don’t know how long that lasted. I know the fellows that would come when we would have our gatherings; they would talk about that and it seemed like a long time, but the fellows, someone in the group, would have gas coupons or stamps and they would all pour into that one car, whoever had the gas stamps.
CD: So tell me about dating? How would you date without any cars?
MT: We walked.
CD: It was close enough.
MT: Yes. I always lived close enough. The ones that were living in the country, I think they didn’t take the bus home. I don’t know whether they stayed in town or what, but they just didn’t ride the bus home, especially when they had sport practices.
CD: So they’d just stay in town and pick up their date and then go do something?
MT: The athletes that were around at that time, they would have after school things and I know that the activities were limited too.
CD: What kind of things did you do after school? Besides the backward dance?
MT: I think we had about four dances a year. They were all geared around the football games or some kind of activity. We didn’t have a lot of football games.
CD: What happened to the sport after Pearl Harbor?
MT: Later on there weren’t a lot of fellows around for sports, but probably some of the Sequoia Field fellows came in and there was a skating rink.
CD: Ice skating?
MT: No, roller skating. That was an outdoor rink over on Santa Fe and Mineral King and these people, they were old timers, the Fassos, and they were an Italian family and they would set up their skating rink and we skated a lot.
CD: How did they set it up? It was temporary?
MT: It was open air.
CD: And how did they set up the skating rink?
MT: They just put up the flooring and everything and moved it from place to place. So that was their summer place. So our family would go up and stand outside the whole evening watching us skate. So any of the fellows that were there, we skated with them. We skated with a lot of the service men that came. It was something for them.
CD: Did everyone own skates?
MT: You could rent them there. And if you got your own, you were really lucky.
CD: They were expensive?
MT: You had to order them. Oh that was quite a thing then.
CD: Wasn’t there a J.C. Penney’s downtown? You couldn’t go down and get a pair of roller skates there?
MT: No, you’d have to order them. In fact, J.C. Penney’s had one of those things that you put the money in and pulled the chain and it went up to the office up there. A lot of the stores were like that, kind of antiquated. The Elks . . . there were the Elks and the Moose Lodges downtown.
CD: What was the Moose?
MT: It was the same kind of organization. What do you call that?
CD: Clubs? Were they men’s? And what did they do?
MT: Clubs. Older men then. The Elks was a membership like the Elks is today.
CD: Was your dad part of that?
MT: No, he was never, ever into any thing like that in Omaha and he didn’t get into it out here. I don’t remember too many men except the locals, set up the clubs here. The Elks Building, later on in the area, that was a big night at Christmas when they had a dance.
CD: The Elks? Could anybody go?
CD: Where would they hold it?
MT: It’s now where, what’s there now? Brown’s Shoes.
CD: So it was right on Main Street.
MT: Yes, but it burned.
CD: Was that the old Elks Lodge? Where Brown Shoes was? That’s neat. So tell me all the different places you lived? First you lived with your aunt and that was on Pinkham? And then you lived with the Dineley’s.
MT: And they had a son, Jack and he was my age, so that was one reason we got acquainted because we rode the school bus together and there were walnut orchards out there, fruit and I don’t remember cotton, but anyway, my aunt knew everybody in the area so we moved into that one little room and I remember my dad, my mother and I, it was just heaven.
CD: Oh, really, why?
MT: We were poor in Omaha, because my dad couldn’t collect on any work that he did and that was just terrible and I think that’s why my brother worked with him and was going to high school at the same time. I think that’s why he went into the service, because he didn’t like that kind of a life, but my brother and my father were very artistic. So he would do paperhanging and painting of houses. He would do anything to earn some money. You just didn’t make any money in those days. I can always remember that we were destitute.
CD: You thought you were in heaven because you were in a luxurious house?
MT: Oh no, just because we had conveniences.
CD: Like what?
MT: Well, when we lived with the Dineley’s, there was the aroma of all everything outside, and then when we moved into an apartment on Mineral King, it was just wonderful. We could look out. We had a big porch on the front and we had more money available and we could buy candy and things like that. I can remember having popcorn.
CD: And that was new to you?
MT: That was wonderful. I’m not sorry I went through that period.
MT: Just because it has made me appreciate everything. I saved everything. My kids say now, Mom, you’re going to wash that plastic bag?
CD: You use your plastic and reuse them?
MT: Yes. Just the whole picture here in California. They were so advanced here. It was cold back there in Omaha.
CD: The weather.
MT: The snow. The only activity I remember having away from school was the Jostlin Memorial which was in downtown Omaha and I’d ride the streetcar down every Saturday morning to take art lessons.
CD: Oh really.
MT: And I loved it because I went all by myself. I could stay all day by myself. They had a theater there where you could go in and watch the matinee, actors and some musicals.
CD: Oh, right, live plays.
CD: But you think here there was a lot more?
MT: There was more and everybody was so friendly.
CD: They weren’t friendly in Omaha?
MT: Not really. We lived too far away. We had to go a distance to go to school. It was a big city; even then it was a big city. When my parents moved, I was sad because my friends lived clear across town and I wasn’t in school with them anymore. Things like that. When I was here, everything was in walking distance and it was so wonderful. I have told my classmates several times at our reunions that the thing I will never forget is the aroma of those orange blossoms and the beauty of the trees and the mountains. Oh my gosh, I just don’t know. I wish everybody could experience that.
CD: So where you used to live, can you still see the mountains? On Mineral King, you had an apartment on Mineral King, could you still see the mountains? What’s there now?
MT: Nothing. The freeway is through there now. They took all those homes out and I just was sick because they were all old family homes at one time probably, with lots of rooms and bedrooms and everything and they just sort of divided them up and made them into apartments.
CD: Nice porches.
MT: Oh yes and just everything was comfortable.
CD: So, standing on the porch today, even though I know it’s not there, could you see the mountains?
CD: Now, are the mountains as visible?
MT: It was more clear then. The air was better.
CD: You could see them almost everyday when you were a kid?
MT: Yes, uh huh, I really loved it because it was so new to me. I wasn’t able to make a trip to San Francisco until I was a senior.
CD: Oh, when you were a senior you went to San Francisco?
MT: Yes. There was a time when we went to San Francisco to the ocean. I think it was with relatives or a friend, I’m not sure. I just remember it being cold and foggy and that sort of thing. We just didn’t have the opportunities to make short trips.
CD: Do you remember what town you went to?
MT: San Francisco.
CD: Oh, that was the coast. That’s right. I don’t consider that the coast.
MT: And to the mountains.
CD: Yes, when was the first time you went to the mountains?
MT: I went to the mountains to Mineral King, and that was a trip and a half because it was so primitive and the roads were so windy.
CD: Did you go in a car? And what did you think?
MT: Family and friends. There were old-timers here and I just remember a girlfriend of mine and I went with her family and we went there for the weekend.
CD: And what did you think? Had you ever been in mountains like that before?
MT: I had never been in a cabin or anything. Never been exposed to anything like that. ‘Cause Nebraska is just plains, no mountains.
CD: What was your first impression of the mountains?
MT: Just wonderful. Everything was just perfect. I enjoyed school.
CD: OK, we are continuing on about entertainment and having fun and how wonderful it is in Tulare County. Do you ever remember, we talked about dates and going to the movies, do you ever remember the Sierra Ballroom?
MT: Oh, I sure do. We spent a lot of Saturday nights there and the orchestra, I wish I could remember the name. Oh I wish I could because it would be interesting, but anyway, they were older people, older men and they had such good music.
CD: What kind of music were they playing?
MT: Oh it was our era. Paper Doll and all those kinds of things. We would all sit around the edge, all the girls would sit around the edge and my mother went with me because, well, I didn’t think anything about it. I just figured that was normal. She wanted to be sure I was all right and she enjoyed it too. We all sat around the outside and if any boys or whoever was there to dance, they’d come over and ask us to dance. So we usually had three or four dances a head lined up. We just had a wonderful time.
CD: Did you have a dance card?
MT: Not a card, but you just knew when they asked you for the next dance, the next one, and the next one. We just had so much fun, good, clean fun.
CD: Did anybody ever show up drunk?
MT: Not that I remember. If they did, they went out if there was any drinking. And the Hendricks held the ballroom for quite a long time.
CD: Oh, the Hendricks family owned it?
MT: And they lived next door and they also owned the swimming pool and all that on the corner there.
CD: Oh, they knew how to have fun.
MT: Whatever they sold, I don’t know. It wouldn’t have been the same kind of drinks we have now, but it was soda of some kind. So we had all of our functions there too. They had sub-debs, if you were a member of the sub-debs.
CD: What’s that?
MT: A sorority here. And rainbow girls and that sort of thing. If you didn’t have room some place, they would have it at the Sierra Ballroom.
CD: And were you part of the sub-debs?
MT: Uh huh.
CD: And that was a sorority?
MT: Uh huh. It was just a small one. Not like they have in colleges now. It was just something . . . just a sorority.
CD: Did they have a president? Officers?
MT: Uh huh. I don’t even remember names. I was a Rainbow Girl.
CD: Oh, you were a Rainbow Girl too.
MT: I remember the initiation and walking around.
CD: What was the initiation like?
MT: They told me it was going to be terrible and told me all of these awful things, so I know I was grinning the whole way as they take you from one station to the other, but it was very serious. I shouldn’t have been smiling. But anyway, it was very meaningful and then after that I sang for a lot of those functions as their guest too. It was fun.
CD: You sang for the functions for the sub-debs and the Rainbow Girls. What songs did you sing?
MT: Probably old-fashioned songs, whatever was popular at the time. And I did a lot of weddings and things like that, so I’m sure it wasn’t classical.
CD: What was your accompaniment?
CD: The piano. How fun.
MT: And lucky to have that.
CD: And what did you guys do when all the boys left? Would you still have the dances? What would the sorority do?
MT: Well we did. We just had the dances and danced with each other.
CD: So you’d still have them.
MT: Or the men from the . . . the boys, they weren’t men, they were just boys, they were so young . . . from Sequoia Field and Rankin and all the places around.
CD: Would they get an invitation?
MT: On weekends when they didn’t have to stay, what do you call that?
CD: Leave. When they had a leave.
MT: Anyway, they would come into town. And it was good for them. As I remember, any of the boys who were here didn’t like that. They got a little jealous of the guys who took their girls away, but they needed that too. But we just had a real good time. I remember a lot of our class, the ones that come to our class dinners now, went there. We all danced together. Some of the last few years, there’s a lot of us remembering all these things. Getting these things together where we can have memories.
CD: Did the sub-debs or the Rainbow Girls ever . . . how long did it last?
MT: I just remember that I was in it, probably 3 years.
CD: Does it still exist?
MT: I don’t think it does. I didn’t follow it. When I went to COS they had other sororities.
CD: Did they? They had sororities at COS?
MT: Yes, and I don’t remember the names. I know that I was in three out there and it was just fun.
CD: No charity functions or anything.
MT: No. Charity did you say? I’m sure they did, but I can’t remember anything particularly.
CD: And how did you join it?
MT: A member would come and ask you and then they’d have a vote. So I don’t think there were very many girls around, because I enjoyed the fellowship of the girls and it was just a girl thing. It was kind of fun to be asked.
CD: So if you weren’t asked, you couldn’t be a member.
MT: No. So later on I didn’t think that was very nice, so I just stopped it.
CD: Except at the time it was okay. (Laughter)
MT: More mature and realized that it wasn’t very nice.
CD: Do you remember when the Japanese came back and how that happened?
MT: I don’t remember here.
CD: Were you here when they came back?
MT: Well, I’m sure I was. Probably we would have noticed in school. But a lot of them I don’t think came back and I don’t know what happened to their property. Maybe some of the ones would know, but I don’t remember. Maybe my husband would remember. Some of the boys maybe were in sports and he would have remembered. I just don’t remember.
CD: What was
your family’s reaction when the
MT: I do remember the day, but I don’t remember all the details. The news people . . . we didn’t get the news in the school like they do now. Kids in school weren’t worried about what was going on or concerned.
CD: It wasn’t part of the curriculum?
MT: Not that I remember. It wasn’t in the history books yet and that was the only history we had. But I don’t remember anything particular about it.
CD: How did your mom and your aunt react?
MT: You know, I think in all honesty, probably they were glad, yet had some reservations about that. I know my mother would.
CD: Did she ever say anything?
MT: No she didn’t. But as far as the people, you know, talking about the people who were affected, she was concerned about that because of the children. The children were probably the first thing she thought about.
CD: So what was the name of your mother’s business?
MT: It was Mother’s Care Day Nursery.
CD: And where was it?
MT: First she had it in her home and it was . . . we were over on one of those roads over by Hadley’s . . .
CD: I’m no good at those streets.
MT: Anyway, she had a house there and she took children into her home. That’s kind of how it developed.
CD: Children of whom?
MT: Working parents. And then in later years, after we were older and married and she was much older, I am almost sure she was in her late sixties or early seventies, they came and asked her, they were always coming to her to ask for advice on children and that sort of thing.
CD: Really. Who is they?
MT: People in the welfare and all of that. Where children were affected, because they didn’t have all of these departments and everything then. She worked at the North Side Day Care Center and she would go out at 4:00 in the morning and be there when the little ones came in and she just loved it.
CD: So when she had her own day care in her house, were there more kids out there than she could even take?
MT: Yes, there was a waiting list.
CD: And that’s because of the mom’s working because of the war?
MT: That and then I think it carried on into later years because women just continued to work or needed to work. But anyway, she was very well known in Visalia as far as the best daycare person, hers was like a grandmother type day nursery.
CD: What was her name again?
MT: Amelia Faucett. And she started that when she was in Omaha, and she took in the problem children of the welfare department and she was very good at it.
CD: So overall, how do you think World War II affected Tulare County? You were here right when it started; you were here for the whole span of it.
MT: I think it took a lot away and maybe it didn’t come back. Like the crops and that sort of thing. I know we didn’t have things available to us. They were probably shipping most of it out, I’m sure. I don’t remember any abundance. We went out after school and we would go out and pick walnuts and everything because they didn’t have anybody to help them.
CD: How did you like that?
MT: Well, we liked it. We had fun.
CD: Did you?
MT: They came into the class and asked if you wanted to do that. The fellows would go out and man the smudge pots and things and do that for the farmers because they were missing a lot of the help that they had, but I think it changed the area a lot.
CD: For the better, for the worse?
MT: For the worse for a while and now it has come back and we have good crops and things like that, and now it’s sort of going the other way for a different reason.
CD: What do you mean?
MT: For construction and that sort of thing. And the air pollution now which we didn’t have then. That wasn’t talked about.
CD: Nobody ever brought up air pollution? Like the smoggy day today?
MT: No, no, never, because you could see everything. The air was clear. I only heard of one person who had kind of a lung problem at the time and that was Valley Fever.
CD: There was Valley Fever?
MT: It was very unusual, because the air was clean.
CD: So someone you knew back then had Valley Fever? I didn’t know it was that old of a disease. Is that the same disease that they call Valley Fever now?
MT: Yes, yes it is and I think it was not just the usual thing. This person had it and it was unusual.
CD: Right. Weird.
MT: And he’s a professional person now.
CD: When they came to the class to ask who wanted to work in the fields, did everybody?
MT: No, they’d say they needed ten or they’d need twelve or so and that’s what I kind of remember, but we were all eager to do it. My husband was telling me; we were having a discussion, that we did get paid a little bit of money . . . .
CD: Oh, you got paid for it? I would think they would have to.
MT: I don’t know how much, but I think that’s what we were doing.
CD: And that’s hard labor. What made it so fun?
MT: Just being out there with the other classmates, goofing around, that’s what we did well, but it was a lot of fun. Out on the Dinuba Highway, there were a lot of ranches out that way. Over toward Dinuba, I remember that’s where we used to go and out into Lemoncove.
CD: A lot of those still seem to be there. Have you ever gone back out?
CD: And does it look different or the same?
MT: It looks different. Everything looks different. Some areas are the same, but you have to get back into the hills over there, but a lot of that is gone. It’s still a wonderful place to live. I don’t care what they say about Tulare County.
CD: You’re just as happy now as when you were fourteen?
MT: Yes. My husband keeps wanting me to get out of this house and go someplace else, but I keep saying I’m never going to leave. I’m so comfortable.
CD: Where does he want to live?
MT: He just thinks things are going downhill in this area and maybe we would like something else. But I don’t think so.
CD: Well, great, thank you very much for doing the interview.
MT: It was a pleasure.
Catherine Doe/JC/ed.JWood 6/10/04
Words in italics were added during a phone interview with Mada Talbot on May 25, 2006 and in the library in July, 2006.