YEARS OF VALOR, YEARS OF HOPE:
TULARE COUNTY AND THE YEARS 1941-1946
TRANSCRIPTS OF TAPED INTERVIEWS

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

EDM - HILL

 

 

Please click on an individual's name to read their interview.

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Richard Edmiston was 17 when the war began for America, attending Woodlake High School. He said that at the beginning, people were worried about how all the veterans returning after the war would be able to find jobs, so he built a “nest egg” by working in the shipyards in San Francisco for three months, and then enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1942. He became a crew chief for B25s and was stationed for one year in Indochina. He came home in January, 1946. He learned a lot about Third World poverty but said he has no idea how this war affected Tulare County. Interviewer: Judy Yoder.

Harold Leland Edwards was 14 and a freshman in Visalia High School when war was declared. The “Tulare County Four Horsemen,” a special term for 4 men from this county, who volunteered earlier and were serving in the British Royal Air Force, are discussed in this interview. There was a 10 p.m. curfew in Visalia unless you could prove you were going or coming somewhere. There was a sticker in your car for gas rationing, A, B or C. He enlisted in 1945 after graduating and was in the navy for about fifteen months. He said the time right after the war was the “era of hope.” He feels that WWII and the development afterward, including higher education incentives, changed the whole country, including this county. Interviewer: Stan Wilkendorf.

Steve Edwards was 16 at the end of 1941, living on a cotton farm and a senior at Tulare Union High School. He spent that year working at Rankin Field, taking care of the planes. He knew Tex Rankin, and did his pilot training at Rankin Field in 1943. He talked about how he lived, his training, and social time while he was in school there. The Army Air Corp was training him and about one thousand pilots for the invasion of Japan. He went to Visalia Junior College (COS) after the war was over. He said the San Joaquin Valley farms had to step up the pace and feed the armed forces, and a lot of technology was new and has advanced in this valley every since. This was the big affect of the war on this county. He talks about the reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by him and the people of Tulare County.Interviewer: Colleen Paggi.

Mary Crow Faggart was 24, married with a six month old baby when the war started. Her parents were farmers but she lived in Porterville. Her husband was drafted in 1943 and was stationed at Camp Roberts on the coast, and came home almost every weekend. She said the way the war affected this county was to decrease the number of Japanese families here. They were sent to internment camps and some people did not return. Also, the bad air, but she doesn’t think that is related to the war. She talked about the watchtowers, the USO in Porterville, victory gardens, and said the Porterville library was the hub of the town: the draft board was there and also the place to get a driver’s license. So when the war ended, that is where people congregated. One of the ways the war affected Tulare County was the farm workers. Before the war, they were mostly from the Dust Bowl. They moved to the coast and worked in factories before the war started, and the Japanese took over. Then when the Japanese were interned, Mexicans were given an incentive to come here and pick our crops (Braceros). Also, lots more people started smoking because cigarettes were so plentiful and it seemed like everyone was smoking. Interviewer: Karen Feezel.

Ruby Fife was 30, with her little boy and her husband, who worked for the Richard Company. They lived in Ivanhoe. This interview includes a picture and description of the watchtower where she volunteered. She describes the beginning of the war and how quickly people mobilized. She said the war opened up the business market for women. Before the war started, most women were forced to quit and become “homemakers” when they married. And in Tulare County, the area where she lived was mainly farms growing barley, hay, and products like that. When the war started, there was a large demand for deciduous fruits, so farms began to irrigate their fields and plant fruit orchards. Interviewer: Karen Feezel.

Margaret Fox was 23 and living in Burbank, California when the war started. She witnessed a dogfight with a Japanese plane over Los Angeles, caught in air raid lights. In early 1942 when her husband was called up, she came home to Exeter. She started out carrying mail for one year. Her family’s farm raised turkeys and grapes. This interview has an interesting story about the Sequoia pilots flying low over the turkeys, who reacted to the planes. She did help out in a watchtower, but she said this did not last very long. She worked for the Visalia library and the Emergency Farm Labor office in Exeter that opened up during the war because there was a shortage of labor for farms. Then she was transferred to the Fresno office. She came open when the war was over. She feels the effect of the war on Tulare County was a population explosion, as many of the young men who trained here to become pilots remembered this farming area and moved here after the war. Interviewer: Judy Mayfield.

alan georgeAlan George. There are pictures of Alan in his navy uniform on the second page of this interview. He is active in the Tulare County Historical Society. This interview provides information about Visalia before and after the war. Alan was 17 when the war began, and a senior in high school. He joined the Navy in December, 1942 and participated in the Battle for Okinawa. He said people were frightened when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Stories started about Japanese Americans showing the Japanese pilots where they could bomb in California, and a submarine shelled Santa Barbara. His family had to darken their homes and there was a warden to make sure families hid their lights. He said the Japanese American children in his senior class were not allowed to graduate. He said the boys in his class were upset because the girls in his class preferred the Air Corp cadets from Rankin and Sequoia Fields. And one effect of the war was the beginning of two-income families. And the enrollment of the Visalia Junior College went up quickly since there was a veterans’ village of temporary shelters on the north side of the campus. Alan George has been called Mr. Visalia. Interviewer: Anne Marks.

Jo Ann George was 10 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, living in Tulare. Her dad sold insurance. Her mom made pies and they had to trade stamps for other goods for sugar stamps so she could go on making pies. And she talks about losing friends she had known all her life, because they had to go to “internment camps.” She remembers propaganda against the American Japanese right after Pearl Harbor. She helped her mother identify planes from a watchtower, and talked about hitchhikers during that time. She said that one way the war affected this county was the rapid growth of Tulare and Visalia when many of the Air Corp pilots who wanted to become farmers came back and settled here after the war. And one of the big reminders of the war was the servicemen, here for three weeks training, would be walking around in Visalia and Tulare in uniform. Interviewer: Robyn Lukens.

John Gilbert graduated from Reedley High School in 1940. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps early in 1942, but had to wait as there was a big rush, “everybody was enlisting” and many men wanted to get into the pilot training. He speaks about training with the actor, Jack Webb, at Rankin. John trained on several different types of planes, and never had a chance to go overseas. He was in New Orleans for the celebration when the war ended. He said after the war, a group of former pilots bought Stearmans and established an airport in Reedley. He also started the Gilbert Aviation crop duster business at Sequoia Field, using Stearman planes. Interviewer: Bob Smith.

Pete Giotta was 12 when the war started. His parents immigrated here from Visalia’s sister city, Putignano in Italy right after the First World War. They had a 10 acre vineyard farm at Pinkham and Tulare streets in Visalia. He said the shortages included chewing gum, which disappeared until after the war was over. He had an older brother who was in charge of the Bracero program. And he talked about the talent shows for kids at the Fox Theater. And other than a curfew imposed for Italians, he doesn’t believe there were prejudices against Italians. He also said one of the ways the war affected Tulare County was the fact that farmers who had been suffering before the war prospered during the war and that helped them a lot. Interviewer: Michael Tharp.

Jerry Gong was a Chinese American living in San Francisco when the war started, and moved to Tulare in 1942 to help run the Palace Market that he bought with his uncle and cousin. He talks about the growth of this business. He started running the market by himself when his uncle was drafted and talks about the way the market handled the rationing stamps. He talks about experiencing prejudice in other parts of this country when he was drafted in 1943 as well as here in Tulare County. He did not go overseas until after the war was over. When he came home, he said there was a shortage of meat. He feels the advent of the cotton machine in 1950 made more of an effect in Tulare than the war did. All the people who had been picking cotton were no longer needed and the weekend crowd of people in Tulare ended. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

Ruby Graves was 23 in 1941 and was in college in a nurses program in Texas when the war began. She came here when she graduated to take care of her parents who were farmers here. She found a job as a chemist for the Lindsay Ripe Olive Growers and went on to teach people how to preserve foods, working for the University of California. Her brother and fiancé were overseas. Interviewer: Lois Owings.

Donald Gray was 15 and in high school when the war started, living in Porterville. He talks about how he learned about the Pearl Harbor attack, and he was not concerned until after a few days, when he learned that people were excited about this. Blackouts and watchtowers started right away. His father ran a junk business and that is where people took metal and tires for the war effort. He bought the metal and then took it to Los Angeles. He dropped out of school in order to help his brother who was in the trucking business and could not find any drivers. He enlisted in the Navy in 1943. On VJ day he was home on leave in Porterville. He talks about being part of the celebration in the streets. He feels the education given to him by the Navy helped him make a living for the rest of his life. Interviewer: Kris Gray.

Pauline Gray came to California from Arkansas when she was six years old in 1936. She was living in Los Angeles when the war began. She moved to Porterville in 1944 when her dad found a job working for a lumber company logging in the mountains above Springville. She doesn’t remember blackouts in Tulare County at that time. She entered high school. She remembers being released from school early in order to help pick fruit and cotton. She talks about how lipstick came in a cardboard tub and had to be kept in the refrigerator, about arguments at Penney’s, and about her confusion about how she should feel toward Japanese Americans. She describes the celebration on Main Street in Porterville. Interviewer: Kris Gray.

Marvin Haggard was 19 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was in a class at the Visalia Junior College learning how to fly when the war started, and he finished his education, and enlisted in February 2003 into the Navy Air Force. He was in England until VE day; then he came home to California for more training. He describes the celebration of the end of the war in San Francisco. Then he was discharged and came home to Visalia. He said the war affected the whole United States. After the war, they started manufacturing modern equipment like tractors and cotton pickers and that helped the economy. He describes the difficulty in buying a new car in 1947.Interviewer: Tania Martell.

Mattie Ann Hardaway in Ducor was 15 when the war started, attending Porterville High School. She mentions hoarding, going to a business school in Berkeley, CA., war bonds, watchtowers, living on a farm, driving the school bus when she was a senior in High School (see the postscript at the end of the interview), blackouts, and explaining why the Japanese had to be removed from the western coastal states. She believes the war started the influx of Hispanic people because they were really needed to help out on farms and many stayed here after the war. They did a great job, so there was a demand for them. Interviewer: Bob Smith.

Ken Hartman was a small boy of 7 in 1941, a child living on a farm in East Farmersville. He talks about Farmersville in those days, the German POW’s and visiting one of the camps where they lived, touring a Japanese mini-sub at the Visalia Post Office during a Savings Bond Drive, going to movies in Exeter, Farmersville and Visalia, the phone system, the Visalia airport, and V-mail from his uncle overseas. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

Margie Lucille Hartman was 6 and part of a large family living in Visalia when the war started. Her interview has wonderful stories about how the children in a poor family amused themselves, and how a very poor family in this area lived just before, during, and after the war. Living near the Plaza in Visalia, then moving to Chinowth Street, then to a “shack” just north of Liberty School, near Mooney Grove Park, going to a fancy birthday party for one of her school friends, German POW’s, Linnell labor camp in Farmersville, moving to tar-paper shacks camp in Ivanhoe owned by the Klink Citrus Association in 1943 and finding out later that they were just like the homes furnished to the Japanese in the internment camps, getting her first candy bar and Christmas gift when her brother came home from the war in 1945 and discovering the public library in a home in Ivanhoe. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

Jun Hatakeda was a young Japanese American man helping with his family’s farm near Woodlake. He describes preparing to leave in August to go to a relocation camp, the trip by train, the Poston Internment camp and teaching there, being ordered to leave the camp in 1945, returning home and learning that the people who were struggling before the war now were well off farmers, due to the demand for food during the war, and also that the family farm was fine thanks to the person who took care of it during the war. Interviewer: Karen Feezel.

Patricia Hillman was in the 9th grade in Tulare in December, 1941. Her family invited Rankin Field cadets for meals and holidays. She described how school children picked cotton in the afternoons. And on page 10 she talks about the beginning of the Tulare County Symphony and she played in that during the summer. She talks about rationing, aircraft watch, spending time in the mountains, war bond drives, victory gardens, blackouts, and the celebrations at the end of the war. She said the war opened people’s eyes about what was going on in different parts of the world agriculturally. People in Tulare County who understood agriculture went out and helped all over the world, such as helping in the Heifer Project that started during the Great Depression. Interviewer: Colleen Paggi.