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: Camilla (Connie) Whitfield 

 

Date: 10-20-03

 

Tape # 23

 

Interviewer:  Kris Gray                 

 

Place: Tulare County, CA

 

Place of Interview: Connie Whitfield’s Home in Visalia

PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946

     Tipton and Visalia, Tulare County, California

OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:

   Rationing of meat

Life in Tipton

Patriotism of the community


This is Kris Gray. It is October 20, 2003. I’m here with Connie Camilla Whitfield. What’s your maiden name Ms. Whitfield?

CW: Gallagher.

KG: We’re at her home in Visalia. This is an interview is for the Years of Valor, Years of Hope: Tulare County, the years of 1941–1946. Mrs. Whitfield, can you tell me a little background about where you were born and when you were born.

CW: I was born in 1925 in Killeen, Texas.

KG: When did you come out to California?

CW: In 1937, we came to Tipton and that’s where I graduated from eighth grade and then we moved to Tulare when I was a sophomore and then to Visalia when I married Mr. Whitfield.

KG: What did your Dad do?

CW: He had a fleet of fertilizer spreaders. When we first came, we just harvested the crops, worked in the fields. The whole family did. But then he got this fleet of fertilizer spreaders and he did all the orchards and vineyards down in Tipton, Porterville, Lindsay, that area.

KG: Did you live in labor camps down there?

CW: When we lived in Tipton we lived in, you’d think it was a motel, but the people who lived in the cabins lived there long periods of time. They were rented to us as homes rather than overnight.

KG: So they were little one room, two room cabins.

CW: No, we had a four room cabin. Mom and Dad and five children.

KG: Oh my gosh. Are they still there? Did they tear them down?

CW: Oh no, we bought a home when I was a sophomore in high school in Tulare.

KG: I meant, were the cabins still there?

CW: No, the highway has expanded and doesn’t go down the main street of Tipton anymore, so that took out all the cabins and a lot of the trees in that area.

KG: What were your parents’ names?

CW: Jess Gallagher and Alice Gallagher.

KG: And your mother’s maiden name.

CW: Bounds.

KG: And where were they from?

CW: As far as I know they were from this same area where I was born, but we lived in a little community known as Tennessee Valley. It didn’t even have a post office. It had a school and a little grocery store and a church and it was an agricultural community. Today that little community is under water. The Temple-Belton dam. The people named this little valley in Texas Tennessee Valley because the people that first settled there were from Tennessee and it reminded them of home. Probably not more than 20 miles square maybe. Now the lake just covers the whole thing.

KG: You have four brothers and sisters growing up?

CW: Yes, I’m the oldest of five. And then there was a girl just younger than me and a boy and then two more girls.

KG: And their names?

CW: Alice Gallagher, actually her name is Jesse Alice. They couldn’t decide what to name her, so they had to use both of them. And then the brother, they really should have saved that name for him, and I think they were sorry, because they just gave him an initial, J.W., and so early in his life, we tagged him with Jake. He goes by Jake, but his real name is J.W.

KG: That’s interesting.

CW: Daddy was Jesse William, and they just called him J.W. But that was common in the South. I have a cousin that is R.D., that’s his dad’s initials.

KG: And your two other siblings?

CW:  The other siblings are Esther Pearl and Celesta May. Esther wants to go by Es, and Celesta May wants to go by Celeste. They soon lost their desire to be called their full name like we did in Texas. They called Jesse Alice, Esther Pearl and Celesta May, but when they got through saying Camilla, they didn’t say anymore.

KG: Let’s talk about December 7, 1941. What are your memories?

CW: We still lived in Tipton and Daddy always listened to the news on the radio. It was a Sunday morning and we were all pretty disturbed when we heard that at the moment they were bombing Pearl Harbor. I had at that time, I had met a young college man from COS, Glen Alvin Whitfield, who is now my husband of 59 years and he had asked me to go to the Christmas Formal with him. And I had bought the dress, but I hadn’t bought the shoes. And here we are going to war and mother had said, "I’ll take you by the store and buy the shoes and then take you to school." You’ll be a little late, but . . . . The Monday after the bombing, which was on Sunday, I went and bought these gold slippers to wear to the formal. I didn’t know if I would ever go, because we just figured they would bomb us next. And when I walked into the auditorium, late, President Roosevelt was declaring war. And that was my first memory. But you know, you think of the darndest things. I wore white saddles (shoes) to school everyday and I wondered -- if everything was going to be rationed, would I be able to buy white shoe polish.

KG: (Chuckling) Well, we all have our priorities.

CW: After that, kids started wearing them and never polishing them, but that wasn’t my way. Anyway, I remember that very soon, we had to put black over all our windows and we had no outside lights on. The whole valley, the whole area, even though San Francisco would obviously be the first to get bombed if they came, but even down in Tipton, we were covering all our windows with black paper and having no lights, only as little light on inside as possible. And I used to stay out; I rode a bus to Tulare Union High School from Tipton, and I used to stay for after-school sports. But by the time you get out from after- school sports, it’s dark, (December) and they wouldn’t let the bus come down the 99 highway. They wouldn’t let the traffic come down the 99 highway because that would be obvious, a highway, and they could knock us out that way. So we had to go on the bus, back and forth in the country. It took us much longer to get home from school, so that they wouldn’t see that it was the main highway.

KG: Did you go to the dance that night?

CW: It was the Christmas formal and we did go to the dance.

KG: What was the mood there? Was everyone just talking about the war?

CW: Many of the young men at the college were already out marching three hours a day. They were still in college, but they knew they were destined to go into the service. You know, we had the draft in those days and Al didn’t do that, but as soon as he graduated, he went to the shipyards and worked until he enrolled in the Navy. He didn’t want to be drafted, because he wanted to choose his branch of the service and he went in the construction battalion because that was going to be his career. That was down the line a bit. We weren’t married when he went in. He went ten months in North Africa and then he came home for five months at Port Hueneme before he went to the Philippine’s. So during that time we were married.

KG: Did you notice that life in high school or around Tipton,did it change suddenly after the war, or once the war started, or was it a gradual thing?

CW: No, by the time I graduated, I was a sophomore when it happened, a senior in 1944, maybe a third of our men; our high school boys were already in the service. Some of them came home and got to walk down the aisle with us in uniform, but some of them didn’t come back either, and now, to this day, when we have a class reunion, we have posted a large number of people who are deceased, more than the average because so many of our classmates went to war.

KG: The blackout, was that the first thing you noticed once the war started about how your life changed or was there something else?

CW: Almost immediately, everything was rationed. We couldn’t buy tires because all the rubber was gone. Then later came synthetic tires, but even they went to the Army, so what we had on our cars had to last the duration. And gas was rationed, shoes were rationed, sugar, meat, and I remember my Daddy, being in the kind of work he was in, needed good work shoes. And most generally, he got all of the shoe ration stamps. So us kids wore shoes that didn’t have any leather in them and they weren’t always easy to find, but after the war had been going a while, we began to get shipments from Mexico . They were leather, but they were from Mexico . They call them hurachis. Everybody wore hurachis, because we could get leather shoes without ration stamps. And then came the plastic soles and beautiful high heels with plastic soles.

I remember one time after we were married and Al had shipped out to go to the Philippines . I came back home and mother borrowed my car and went shopping and bought Daddy a pair of work shoes. And my car was stolen in the parking lot of Safeway. Of course she was panicked because he needed new shoes and a stamp was used up, but they didn’t take the shoes. They drove my car until it ran out of oil and burned up the motor and abandoned it. And the only thing they took,all of our shopping was still there,only thing they took was my camera. So we surmised that it might have been servicemen who needed a ride. They didn’t need the shoes; they didn’t need the other things she had shopped for.

KG: And during the war at this time, your dad was working in his fertilizer business?

CW: Yes.

KG: Did the war help his business? Did it change your family’s economic status or was it tougher to get by?

CW: No, his business helped our financial status, because the farmers still needed to keep farming. Some of the young men were deferred from going into the service if their family needed them on the farm. Al was not so, his family had six boys and one girl, Delores (Payne) and all six boys have been in the service. But during World War II, the four oldest ones were all in different branches. His oldest brother, Harold, was in the Army Engineers. He was married to Mary Polk, so he waited to be drafted. Al chose to go into the construction battalion, which is Navy-Marine. And the next one, Don, went into the Navy and then transferred into the Marines because he wanted to be a Marine pilot. Don was also in Korea . George was in the Coast Guard. The next one also, Bill, went in as a Marine pilot, but he was flying jets and was in during Korea . Norman, the youngest brother, was in Korea and was in submarines. The Whitfield family also had two dogs that they donated to the Canine Service. After the war, the dogs were returned.

And all of them came back. Now the brother just younger than Al was down at sea. He went on a bombing raid to Japan and they shot him up enough that he had to land in the ocean. He was down on a raft for three days before they rescued him. So we came close to losing Don.

KG: He’s very fortunate.

CW: And the family all got together.

KG: You were married at this time.

CW: Yes, and I had a baby, Patricia Ann (Roth) by this time. When my husband went to the Philippines , I was three months pregnant. She had been born and Al’s older brother had a little three year old. We all gathered around the folks at the ranch because they had gotten this Missing In Action thing and we were being supportive and we were all trying to remember good things about Don and keep the folks up, keep all of us up. Don’s little 10 year old brother, Norman, he said finally, "Well, you know, if it had to be one of my brothers, I’m glad it was Don, because the other two are married, and have a family." I said, "Pollyanna!"

KG: When were you married?

CW: We were married in 1944. I graduated from high school in 1944, June, and we were married in July. But that happened because he was sent back from Africa and was back here for five months, and then shipped out to the Philippines .

KG: How long did it take your in-laws to get the news that their son was okay then?

CW: As soon as they picked him up, they sent another telegram. It must have been about three days.

KG: Did you have a big party then? There must have been a celebration.

CW: You know, we didn’t feel the need, I guess, to be that supportive now. Everybody was happy that Don was okay and rescued and he was okay.

KG: That must have been a scary time.

CW: It was. It was.

KG: Let’s go back a minute to rationing. When the war started you were in Tipton. So with the gasoline rationing and stuff and you were going to school in Tulare, is that where your mom did her shopping? How big was Tipton at this time?

CW: We had to come to Tulare to do our shopping.

KG: So how did you get around?

CW: Daddy had a little . . . you know, I’m thinking . . . my memory may not be good, but we were very careful about how we spent our gas money. I know that we did do our shopping in Tulare, because Tipton had no markets to speak of. They had one little store and we did buy things. Right there in front of those cabins we lived in was a store. We did do shopping there.

KG: So you spent most of your time in Tulare.

CW: And they did have a yardage store in Tipton and we made our own things. Our own clothing.

KG: Did you have a victory garden at the cabin?

CW: My daddy could make vegetables grow in concrete I think. He dug up a little garden wherever we lived and he just had a green thumb. And that helped a lot.

KG: Especially with five kids. Since it was such a difficult time and you had such a large family and no gas, what did your family do for recreation? Were you able to get to the movies once a month? Or any type of getaways?

CW: On Saturday night my Daddy came all the way to Visalia to watch the wrestling. That was a big thing for him. But there was a barn dance in Visalia down where the airport is now, called the Rocky Mountain Barn Dance. The entire family would go there. They even had a room for the infants and my youngest sister was just a baby. We put her on a bed in that room and took turns going in to check on her. And we danced in the hall to the cowboy music. The whole family came for that.

Mom and Daddy never took us to movies, but you remember, you’re saying the ‘hard times’. These weren’t any harder than what we were born with. We were Depression kids. So we were used to skimping and saving and using things over and over. The rationing was just a way we could help the war effort. And everybody was patriotic. There were no people out on the streets protesting the war. I understand from history that there might have been some in New York or somewhere, but we never experienced any of it. When I learned to drive, the war was still going on and because if you go slower, your gas lasts further and your tires last longer, they asked us to go 35 mph on the 99 Highway, anywhere. And I was so absolutely diligent to go 35 mph, if anybody passed me and I’m going 35, I’d give them the Victory signal on the horn. My mother told me that if this war is ever over, they will kick you off the road, because she didn’t like going 35.

KG: When you were in school, was the war a daily part of your school activities? With your teachers, did you study maps? For this is where the troops are now?

CW: I don’t remember that so much, but you know so many of our people who harvested . . . it was cotton then and you picked it by hand, not a cotton picker. They used to take us in busloads out into the fields from school one or two days a week. In those days they didn’t let you wear jeans to school, but on the days when we were going to pick cotton, we could wear our Levi’s and they’d take us in buses out to the fields to pick cotton.

KG: As a teenage girl, having been one myself, when you think back, were you more concerned with the war and the war activities, or was life more revolved around boys and dating and just doing the teenage activities?

CW: I used to feel guilty because Daddy kept himself, my grandfather, too, they would stay glued to the war news. But I didn’t know what they were talking about and I always had more homework than I could get done. And then when we got television in the sixties, I used to feel guilty because I was not interested in watching this stuff. But it didn’t make me watch it, it just made me feel like I should be more informed.

KG: Did you feel, because you were in school, did you feel frustrated or guilty because you couldn’t do more for the war effort? Did you want to get down there and work in an aircraft plant?

CW: We graduated before the war was over and one of my very best friends did go work in the aircraft plant. She went to Burbank to live with her married sister and they did work, but what we did was every can that we opened, we saved. We recycled everything that was possible to be recycled. Now it’s coming back, so it’s that important. And we were already, because of living through the Depression, we were already frugal.

KG: And used to making sacrifices.

CW: Yes. Another thing I would do, any young man that I knew went into the service, I got their service address and wrote letters, dozens of letters. I had an uncle, Anthony Wayne Gallagher, one of Daddy’s brothers, in the Army and he was in Italy and Sicily, and I wrote to that man once a month. And he never once answered one of my letters. And that’s all right, that’s my contribution to the war effort. That was one thing I could do is to write and encourage them, especially kids from high school that I knew. I could tell them what was happening. It seemed like nothing to do that. It was easy for me to do that and most of them didn’t answer.

KG: I was wanting to ask that. Did you get a lot of replies?

CW: I didn’t get a lot of replies. Of course I got a lot from Al Whitfield!

KG: (Chuckling) All the replies that you cared about. Did a lot of your classmates drop out of school to join the service?

CW: A lot of them joined the service and a lot of my classmates that graduated with me, I had six close friends that were married to a service man when we graduated. So there were a lot of weddings before the guys would ship out. And I didn’t choose to do it that way. I might have chosen to do it that way, but my husband wasn’t ready to marry me yet till I got out of high school.

KG: A lot of women were working outside the home for the first time, taking over jobs for the men. Did you have any feelings about that?

CW: Well, I worked in the County hospital on Bardsley in Tulare (now the Tulare County Hillman Health Care Center), I would get on my bicycle when I got out of school and I rode about five miles to the County hospital as an aide. Prior to the war, the County had twenty two doctors because it was a residential set-up and training for doctors. We were cut back from twenty two to two, so the nurses had to do many of the jobs that the doctors had been doing and the aides had to take over the nurses duties. I went to work there as a supply girl in the surgery and it was my job to keep all the surgical supplies sterilized and ready to go. You wrap them in sterile wrappings. But because of the rubber shortage, our rubber gloves were used over and over. I would patch them. I spent hours and hours. If a needle stuck into a glove, I would find the hole and patch it and those were used for, not in the surgery, we had new gloves in the surgery, but for other exams where they needed to wear gloves, they used those. I would sterilize them over and over again and I would check every finger to see if it had a hole in it.

KG: Oh my goodness.

CW: I would put up bags of supply things for whatever kind of surgery it was. If it was a colonoscopy, I’d set up certain instruments and get them ready to go. And that was, you know, I had to be trained. I just followed a little nurse around and after surgery you had to count every instrument to make sure you didn’t leave any in there. I’d follow her around learning the names of these instruments. And one night we were counting the instruments after a surgery, and she said she had to find one more of these little gizmos. There’s one missing. And we found it, but the next time I went to work, I said I know what this instrument is, it’s a gizmo. She laughed at me. To me they were all strange as gizmos and I hadn’t heard that before.

KG: Boy, you guys must have been busy.

CW: We were busy. I loved meeting the ambulance, because I could do whatever the doctor gave me to do. The first thing I did was admit the patients. If the patient was unconscious, the family would fill out the admittance with all the information and then the doctor would allow me to hold the spotlight for him. We weren’t as modern as we are now and many times he would be sterile and I wasn’t and he would ask me to do something to the patient, but because it was his instructions to me; it was legal.

KG: Wow.

CW: At the time, penicillin was just coming on the market and when it first came out it wasn’t this thick mess that they can give now in a big needle. We gave it with hypodermic needles and we had to give it every four hours. Well, there was no way, with the shortage of nurses, they could take care of all that, so the aides had to learn to give penicillin. If I had gone on after the war was over . . . my mother who had been an aide went on and got her Licensed Vocational Nurse. She became licensed. And I could have, because I had had two years of training, but I didn’t. I wanted to be an RN or nothing. I didn’t want to be an LVN.

KG: So did you become an RN?

CW: I thought I wanted to, but God called me to teach school. Scared me to death, but it was my passion.

KG: Well, you have to follow your heart. That’s great. So what did you think about the women who were doing the "Rosie the Riveters," who were building the airplanes.

CW: I don’t think we had anything but admiration for the women and the men. I didn’t hear anything . . .

KG: Like that wasn’t a woman’s place. Can you name the activities? I know there was Rankin Field; they were always having dances for the men?

CW: Yes, I think there was a community center of some kind, a hall there, where we had dances for the cadets every Saturday night and I loved to dance, so I was always there. But I went to a Baptist church and the preacher thought we were sinners. But I never kept it from him and the interesting part was that our chaperones were also members of that church.

KG: (Chuckling).

CW: I think it probably came around that we were entertaining. And he married several service people, but he never would let them pay him. It was just patriotism for just everybody. There wasn’t anything but. We all looked for ways we could help.

KG: Do you remember any of the scrap drives or war bonds sales? Do you have stamps at the school?

CW: Yes, we bought stamps until we filled a book and then we would get a bond. And when my first child was born, he was in the Philippines and his buddies sent her a $50 war bond as a gift.

KG: Oh, how nice. Do you remember specifically families here in Tulare that lost their sons?

CW: Right down the street in the same block where we lived. My brother’s, Jake’s, best friend’s, Horace Elliot’s, sister’s husband was killed and it was one of those cases where they were married a week or so and he went over. And that was tragic for all of us in that neighborhood. Al’s brother who was down at sea, his best friend was killed early in the war and buried at sea and Don was only seventeen, but he talked his dad into signing for him to join up and he fought the war with a vengeance. He fought it for Lee, because of his friend that had died. We were fortunate that all of our boys came back and my uncle came back, but my uncle was wounded and suffered for the rest of his life, from shrapnel wounds in his kidneys. Finally it took his life, but he was an old man by then. But he wound up in the Veteran’s Hospital many times. My Daddy used to take him in the middle of the night with high fever from the infections from the shrapnel wounds.

KG: Did you know that family that, I think it was three years ago, he was a Marine and he was killed in the South Pacific in early ’42 and they just identified his remains and they brought him home.

CW: I have a vague memory of that, but it was not someone I knew.

KG: Back on track here. Do you have any memories of people in the community expressing hatred towards the enemy? Any racist comments against the Japanese or the Germans?

CW: You know I’m glad you asked that because the Japanese were put in concentration camps. I had a dear friend that I had classes with at high school and she had to leave school and go. We discussed it with her and she had no animosity toward Americans because she understood that she was Japanese and they were Japanese and we can’t tell the difference. And they did find in Exeter which is about . . . you know where Exeter is. They did find short-wave radios and arrested Japanese people there where the enemy had a hot spot where they could keep up with movements of our troops. This was in the newspaper. And the men weren’t even allowed to tell us where they were! I got letters when he went to the Pacific. Over and over I got letters saying from ‘somewhere at sea, somewhere at sea.’ But he’d never get to the island. And I thought as soon as the war was over, then they could tell us everything they wanted to. He said he was on the island of Sabu in the Philippines . That’s all he told me. What he wanted to tell me was how much he loved me and how much he missed me and to talk about sex and he didn’t want anyone else reading about that.

KG: (Chuckling). That’s great. You didn’t see any instances of people or of seeing films or newsreels where people had signs in their windows saying "We won’t serve Japs," or anything like that?

CW: Well, no, the Japanese were all taken away.

KG: And no one was suspicious about anyone with German last names?

CW: They blend right in. We’re all mixed. No. I didn’t see that. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but we just weren’t aware in our environment.

KG: When your friend went to the camp, did her family lose their property? Did they return back here after the war?

CW: I don’t think so. We just lost track of them.

KG: That happens. So when the war ended, you were 20 years old, married, had a baby. What are your memories of VJ Day?

CW: When we found out the war was over, I lived alone. By this time I had bought a little house and there was just me and the baby in Tulare and I grabbed that baby out of her crib and ran all over the house crying and saying, "Your Daddy’s coming home, your Daddy’s coming home."  She probably thought I was crazy, but she was the only one in the house and I just had to talk to somebody.

KG: Were there any celebrations downtown?

CW: Yes there was.

KG: Did you go down there?

CW: All the church bells in town that had church bells were ringing and whistles were blowing and there was a parade. But having a very young baby and working nights at the County hospital, I didn’t go to any of the celebrations.

KG: How did you find out about the end of the war?

CW: It must have been the radio.

KG: You were working nights. Who was taking care of your daughter?

CW: My mother lived about a block away and I worked 3:00 in the afternoon to 11:00 p.m. at night, so she fed the baby the evening meal and put her to bed. I’d come home from work at 11:00 and pick her up and my parents never knew. Anybody could have come in and picked up that baby, but that is the life we lived in those days. We didn’t lock doors, we trusted our neighbors and we never had anything missing.

KG: Except your car!

CW: Yeah, that was downtown, parked in the parking lot.

KG: Were you aware of the atomic bomb when it was dropped? Do you have any thoughts on that?

CW: You know I had had a year of chemistry in high school. My parents were very curious. They had never heard of an atom before. At that time they had found my car and the sheriff had told me to come pick it up and pay the storage bill. It was down in Newhall and my Mom and Dad drove me down to pick up this stolen vehicle and tow it home. On the way down my Dad was asking. . . . he had never heard of an atom before. So I explained to them what I had learned in chemistry, how they had split the atom and blew somebody down the hall down in the lab. My Daddy said, "I didn’t think you learned anything in chemistry, because you didn’t get good grades."

KG: Was it frightening? When you got the newsreels, the devastation.

CW: My husband being in the Philippines when it happened said there was more grieving than celebration because there was so much devastation, so many killed, that it was good that the war was over, but it was sad that it had to be that way. He just shared that recently, one of the grandchildren was asking. He said there was no celebration in his camp and then it was three months before he got to come home.

KG: It must have been a long three months.

CW: Yes, it was a long three months. But they were in for the duration when they went in World War II. There was no coming home on leave till it was over. Once they were over there, they were over there till the end.

KG: When did you become aware of the holocaust and what had been going on in Germany in the concentration camps and what did you think of that?

CW: I don’t think I was aware of it until later years.

KG: You don’t recall seeing any of the newsreels?

CW: My grandfather used to keep himself just glued, long before the war he could see it coming. He knew and he would tell us of some of things Hitler was doing. As he went into Poland , Grandpa would try to get me interested in that, but, you know, as a child, that was happening somewhere else.

KG: Did you view Japan as a bigger enemy than Germany ? Did you think Hirohito was a bigger enemy than Hitler?

CW: I think we did because of December 7th, but people like my Grandfather, who was more informed, saw the danger long before we were involved in it. Any many of our young men had gone to England and joined their RAF, so there were young people who were aware of it. I guess I was just too young to be that aware.

KG: How do you think the war years affected you personally?

CW: Well as far as what we saw a lot of, with him being in the construction battalion, the average age is that of men was 42 years old, and he was only 19. So that meant that many men that were married and raised their families went in because of the construction end of it. They had been in building for years, and we saw so many marriages dissolve. But for us, we thought it strengthened us. Maybe because we were newlyweds. It wasn’t that either, because newlyweds, sometimes they’d get these "Dear John" letters, that their wives couldn’t wait for them to come back. But we just felt that type of crisis on our marriage was bonding, was strengthening.

KG: That’s great. What about the County in general, Tulare County. How do you think the war affected where we live? Or did you think it had any effect?

CW: I’m sure it must have, being agriculture. They got a lot more leeway because they were feeding the troops. They had more gas and they weren’t hurt with meat rationing because they killed their own. I know, before Al went into the service, we would go to the dance every Saturday night and we danced together all night long. After he went in the service, one of the men I knew from Tipton who was Portuguese was not going into the service because he was keeping the food line going. He said, "If you would come to Tipton to see me, I’ll fill your tank up with gas." So there were black market things going on.

KG: Oh really.

CW: If you followed the right path, you could buy silk hose, chocolate candy, for the right price, but I didn’t know anyone who participated in the black market. But it was prevalent, you knew it was. We knew it was going on.

KG: Some people were making a lot of money.

CW: We didn’t have any money to spend on the black market, even if we thought it was okay.

KG: After you were married, how often did you write your husband?

CW: Every single day. Every day.

KG: Were your letters censored or just what he sent out?

CW: I think they were both. I don’t know. I don’t remember, but when he was overseas, many of our letters were what they called Victory mail.

KG: Photostats?

CW: You wrote on a special form, and they would take a picture of it. You’d write a long page and when you got it, it would be postcard size. He didn’t want me to save those letters. I’d probably still have them, but he didn’t want me to save them, so I didn’t save them. Another interesting thing, when he first came back and we were first married, he was stationed at Port Hueneme. I had meat stamps but he didn’t and he was allowed to come home every night. He just went to the base.

For the first five months of our marriage, he came home every night and went to work every day and I worked at various jobs, but we shopped at this market where we would buy meat. There was this little gal behind the meat counter and she had to charge us not only money, but meat stamps. And two of us were eating with one person’s meat stamps. That little clerk would wrap a big steak in the smallest package and charge only one meat stamp when there should have been two. She said she had to do this for the men that are fighting for us.

KG: The day that he came home for good, you were living in Tulare. Did he come in by train or how did he get here?

CW: No, I had to go to Camp Parks, up near Oakland to pick him up.

KG: Did he come in on a ship?

CW: He came in on a ship there and he told me what time to be there, and I took the baby in the bassinet. She had been frightened of everyone she didn’t know. She wasn’t four months old yet, so I didn’t know how she would react to him. So I took her in the basket and when all the men got off the ship and started coming in, I spotted him and ran. He gave me a quick kiss and headed for the bassinet. He picked up the baby out of the bassinet and started talking to her and it was just instant love.

KG: Just like they had met before.

CW: It was. She was never frightened of him. So he was going out to the parking lot with the baby and I’ve got the bassinet and the diaper bag. I have never been pushed aside by any woman other than that one!

KG: Well that must have been quite a scene, all of the sailors coming off the dock.

CW: You see it happening over here in Lemoore every once in a while. Each one watching for theirs. They came on home and it seems everyone in the community wanted to come over and see him, when we wanted to be alone. My aunts and uncle came to welcome him home and we went to their house.

KG: Is there anything you would like to discuss?

CW: I should have made some notes.

KG: That’s okay. Sometimes this is the best. Just the spontaneous talking. It’s been a real pleasure. I thank you so much.

CW: It’s been a pleasure.

Kris Gray/J Chubbuck/ ed. JW 6/16/04

Ed: Words in italics were added during a phone interview with Connie Whitfield on June 1, 2006.