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

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

HILT-MED

 

 

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Arline Hilty was a young woman aged 20 in December, 1941. She was 4 when she moved to Tulare County to a farm in Strathmore that her father purchased. She was at the University of Laverne in Southern California when the war started. She was a Mennonite. Most of her male classmates signed up for Civilian Public Service right away. She talks about meeting her husband-to-be in Missouri. She taught school during the war and describes teaching in a primary school. She also talks about the Japanese children and prejudice, and the cap rack business that they used to have. Interviewer: Robyn Lukens.

Calvin Hilty was 22 and living in Missouri working on a family farm when the war started. He was a Conscientious Objector and a Mennonite. He began a fire fighter, a smokejumper, for two years and was sent to North Fork, California. He visited Arline several times. Then he transferred to Oregon and then Maryland to train for relief help in ravaged countries after the war. He talks about the celebration parade in Washington D.C. at the end of the war. He describes being a sea-going cowboy in 1946 when horses were shipped to Poland on a very rough sea. He talks about German POW’s helping pick crops here. He feels the war affected Tulare County in two ways: first there was a big demand for the food produced here so farmers became prosperous and second, people came to California to train in the military or to work in the factories on the coast and after the war, many people came back to California to live. Interviewer: Stan Wilkendorf.

William Benjamin Horst remembers the German Prisoner of War camp in Tipton and the escape of a prisoner. His mother was the president of the rationing board in his area of Tulare County. He talks about life around Pixley, and the Sausalito School. He lived on a farm. He talks about befriending a Japanese American boy on the way to school, shortly after Pearl Harbor. Benjamin Horst felt the impact on Tulare County was the fact that costs went up, farms became more mechanized after the war, and veterans got G. I. grants and came here and started big farms, so many smaller older farmers went bankrupt. Also, we became more tolerant of other races. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

Dick Hover talked about fires in the mill in downtown Visalia, Visalia High School during the World War II and the Japanese submarine off the coast of California. He talks about the Fox Theater, and felt the war did affect Visalia and the West Coast very much. Page 13A of this interview is the 1942 Football team at Visalia High School. And the first few pages are copies of several articles from the San Luis Obispo Telegram Tribune Dec. 23-24, 1941 that describe the rescuing of the crewmen from the oil tanker sunk by a Japanese submarine. Interviewer: Robyn Lukens.

Madelyn IdenMadelyn Snow Iden lived in Visalia during WWII. She graduated from Visalia High School in 1942 (her senior picture is included) and lived at 1019 W. Center Street. After one year at C.O.S., she went to Fresno State to become a teacher. She talks about the rumors involving the Japanese American farmers in the Ivanhoe-Woodlake area of Tulare County, about the curfews for the Japanese Americans. She went to the Depot at the corner of Main and Santa Fe and witnessed the Japanese Americans getting onto a train that took them to Arizona soon after her graduation. She corresponded with overseas servicemen. She also talks about the history of Mearles and the social life in Visalia during the war, about rationing and about living in a barrack building where the North parking lot is now at C.O.S. with her serviceman husband, Don Iden. There is also information about a German P.O.W. camp where Don Iden was. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

Ted Iles was born in 1933 in Strathmore. During the war his father worked for a woman with 40 acres of citrus and olives. Eight year old Ted didn’t understand the disappearance of his Japanese American friends. He gives information about how his poor family dealt with the rationing. He talks about riding a steam locomotive train between Strathmore and Porterville to shop, about his life as a child, about the change in the flag salute. He says the Japanese set fires in the Northwest, Oregon and Washington, through Helium balloons and talked about prejudice against Japanese ethnic people after the war and about a Japanese friend who was part of the 442 Army unit in Germany after the war that helped liberate a holocaust prison. Interviewer: Kris Gray.

Sam Imoto was born in Lindsay in 1927 of parents who came here from Japan. He went to a Japanese school on weekends to learn Japanese language and culture. He was at that school when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and talks about the reaction of his teacher and how his family burned anything they had from Japan and also the Kendo equipment and uniforms, as the children were learning sword fighting before then, about the curfew and preparing to leave. He described the relocation camp at Poston, Arizona and the atmosphere in Lindsay when they returned in 1945, and about being drafted and life for a Japanese American soldier right after WWII, and about finding there was prejudice against Japanese Americans even as late as 1991 at his job in Tulare County. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

Louis Jacques was born here of Portuguese parents who came to America from the Azore Islands through Ellis Island. He was born on a dairy ranch on Shirk Road as the eighth of nine children. He dropped out of school in 1943 and joined the Air Force. He talks about rationing and getting food from pottery pots in his family’s cellar, about competing as one of the members in the band at Visalia High School, about being a tail gunner in Europe, about preparing for
D-Day. After the war he went to Cal Poly and came back to Visalia to work. He said the Visalia airport was a B26 base and there was a dance hall just south of there where four hundred couples would dance every weekend to western country music which could be heard from his home on Shirk Road. One way the war affected Tulare County was the exit of many people who could not find work here and
migrated to the factories in larger cities on the coast. Interviewer: Marvin Demmers.

Sam Katano’s family settled in Tulare County in 1925. In 1927 his father became the owner of a laundry business in Visalia. He talked about the Japanese community in this area, about the Buddhist temple, about the Japanese School, about his family burning everything they had that linked them to Japan just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He said the authorities picked up three people, the head of the Japanese Association, the head of the Japanese Kendo Club and a man who had a farm in Venice Hills and refused to honor the curfew. He said the good thing about the relocation camps was the fact that his mother did not have to work any longer. This was true for the poorer people who were relocated. Now they had a place to stay and food to eat. He talks about the people who moved further East instead of going to the camps, about going back to Poston to see his parents after being drafted when he was on the East Coast, and finding the camp empty. He talks about the prejudice against Japanese Americans when they returned in 1946. One effect of the war was the disappearing of the Japanese town on the East side of Visalia. At the end of the interview you will find drawings and descriptions of the Poston Internment Camp. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

John Kirkpatrick remembers going to work at age 12 as all the young men had gone to war. His family moved to Lindsay to his mother’s family farm in Spring, 1942. On page 5 he talks about rationing and how they made margarine. His father joined the local militia. John collected metal. He feels the GI bill after the war probably advanced agriculture technology which had some long lasting effects on Tulare County. He said the last severe flood was in 1937 and he remembers no severe flood during the war years. He talks about the escape of a German POW from Tagus Ranch. Interviewer: Lois Owings.

Shig Kitauchi was 14 when the war broke out. He and his brother were Nisei. They lived in Orosi. They had to go to the Poston relocation camp, and the family that lived in their home did not take care of it. They had to ask the FBI to help them claim the house when they returned to Orosi. He talks about life in the relocation camp as a teenager, and the prejudice encountered in Orosi just before they left and right after they returned (house burning). He also talked about the people who helped the Japanese ethnic people when they returned to Orosi. Interviewer: Arvilla Boswell.

Ruth Leak and her family came to Tulare County in 1938 from Oklahoma when she was 16, then her family moved back to Oklahoma and she finished high school there. She married a Tulare city boy, Raymond Leak, in 1940 and returned to this county. Their first child was born in 1942. In 1943 her husband was drafted. She talks about baby supplies shortages during the war. Her husband said “I got $30 a month.” Ruth said “At first I got $55 a month and then I got an increase to $80.” She talks about the Japanese who were placed in a “camp” in Tulare before they were relocated and about traveling with her baby to join her husband in another part of this country during the war. She feels the initial boom in population in Tulare during the 1940s may have been caused by people moving inland from the coast. Interviewer: Colleen Paggi.

Mary Line moved here with her family in 1933 and was 10 years old, the youngest of five children, when the war started in 1941. Her father was part of a band that played at the USO in Tulare during the war. He brought the airmen from Rankin and Sequoia Fields home to visit with her older sisters. Mary remembers them very well, and some of them did not return from the war. She lived in Visalia near Goshen and Willis. She talks about how her mother managed to feed her family with extra people coming into the home. They had a ’39 Chrysler and used it to show the servicemen the sights here as well as going to the coast and Sequoia Park. She mentions the big milk bottle sign at the old Hyde Ranch Dairy where K-mart is now, and about having a victory garden in the vacant lot next to their house. Her father was an air warden also. She talks about children needed to help pick the crops, and about her experience doing that, about the kids club at the Fox theater, the flood in 1945 and about other activities in Visalia. There is a short history of the Visalia rodeo just after the interview. Interviewer: Judy Mayfield.

Robert Line grew up on a citrus ranch between Ivanhoe and Woodlake. He was 8 when the war began in December, 1941. He remembers the family coming together in the living room to listen to the radio on December 7th. They talked to their neighbors, and everyone was afraid that the Japanese would attack the west coast. He describes the watch towers in that area and how the people manning the watch could report planes. He also talks about the Japanese farmers needing to sell their farms very quickly and he talks about the prejudice against them and any merchant who served them. He said it was very hard to get tires: “You really didn’t get new tires, you would get recaps if you were lucky…otherwise you ran the tires until they were just bare, almost…. It got to be a little political too…who you knew and that sort of thing.” He talks about how they could get a permanent campground all summer in the mountains, when it was so hot in the valley. He talks about working in the fields and about what they did for recreation, such as board games and radio shows. He said the war did change the economic situation in this county. Farmers bought the Japanese farms and made a lot of money. Interviewer: Sheryl Strachan.

Louise Longan’s husband, George, was already in the service and was stationed in Central America and they had a baby. When the war began, she and the baby moved in with her mother and mother-in-law. She talks about the stores in Tulare at that time and about working at the Tulare City library. “There was a scarcity of toilet paper,” she said and talked about how she was able to get gas for her car. “Everybody worked together…nobody had any money. Everybody was poor.” She talks about introducing her child to his father after five years of being away. She said they put German prisoners in the same place where the Japanese had been before they were moved to relocation camps. She said the war helped the government recognize the importance of farmers who helped keep the food supply going. Interviewer: Carol Demmers.

Morey Low’s parents were born in Canton, China. He was born right where the Bank of America is now on Main Street and was a high school student during the war. His father ran a meat market. Morey describes an opium and gambling den in the cellar of the Chinese Pagoda at Bridge and Center. He went to Chinese School in Hanford after the public school hours. There were only about five Chinese families in Visalia. His father took him to China in 1949 and they came back just before the communists took over that country. He said young people here go to China to find a mate, and then come back. He talked about the Black Widow planes in bunkers at the Visalia airport. He said they had to constantly say they were not Japanese. They had to be very careful. He became the president of Sierra Vista school during the war years. He talks about the history of Mount Whitney and Redwood High Schools. California Hotel, above the meat market, was a brothel. He talks about opening a market in Los Banos. He talks about the bad tactics of union organizers. He finally sold the stores and joined the army and went to Korea. He said everybody prospered after the war with Japan. He mentions playing “war” in the Mill Creek tunnel that ran under downtown, and talks about the flood of ’42. Interviewer: Catherine Doe.

Don Macmillan grew up in the Tipton area and was 9 when the war began in 1941. He was picking cotton when the bombing of Pearl Harbor started. The Tulare and Tipton schools closed for two weeks “so the kids could help pick cotton which most of us did.” He particularly remembers the German prisoners of war in Tipton who came in the late part of the war to help with crops, especially cotton. He said the main barracks and mess hall in that camp are now at the Faria ranch east of Tipton. He says WWII as the only war where American citizens mobilized the way they did. Interviewer: Russ Dahler.

Ronald Martell was 7 in December 1941. He still remembers the reactions of his parents when they were going to church and heard on the car radio about Pearl Harbor. He talks about rationing of food and how they managed on a farm, west of Visalia. He remembers bond drives, watch towers, and the German POW prison camp at Tagus Ranch. At the end of the interview, a post interview revealed that Ronald knew about some companies that retooled for the war effort. Interviewer: Tania Martell.

Theresa Mastrangelo was a sophomore in high school when the war broke out in 1941. She said if you were 16 the school would let you out early and the girls in her class worked in a local cannery. They also had victory gardens. She danced with cadets at the Sierra Ballroom. Her mother was an Italian citizen so she could not go out after 8 p.m. There was a curfew for Japanese, Germans and Italians. Theresa and her sister would sneak out and go to a skating rink. She remembers a flood in 1945 where her family’s canning was lost when their basement at the Bridge street home near the Hyde Park (now the Convention Center) was flooded. Visalia city ended at Giddings Street. She loved movies and went to the Fox theater every Sunday. Interviewer: Diane Jules.

Betty Jones McDonald lived on East Morton Ave. on the outskirts of Porterville during the war years. Her father owned Jones Hardware, which was started by his father as a harness shop. He also bred and raised Arabian horses. Her family had a pool in their backyard, and the kids who were invited to swim there had to help clean the pool. Her family used to picnic at Mooney Grove Park and ride the boats every Spring. She was an usherette at the three movie theaters in Porterville. When she was in high school, they let school out early and she picked cotton. She went to Porterville Junior College in 1943. There is a picture of the girls in her class on page 13A. She left school and married Loren McDonald in 1944 who was home on leave from the Naval Air Corp. She followed him to Florida and Georgia during the war years. When she was in the South, she learned about racism toward black people. She remembers seeing black women doing laundry in a pot over a big bonfire in a back yard in Miami Beach. Interviewer: Anne Marks.

Luis Medina was 23 when the war began for the United States and lived in Mexico City. At age 25 he crossed the border as a Bracero and worked first in Montana. When it started snowing, he and other Braceros from the same town in Mexico took a train to Lemon Cove, Tulare County to work in a packing house. He talks about how he became a Bracero under contract with the U.S. government. They provided an interpreter for them. He was here when the war ended. He asked the farmer where he was working for immigration forms and received permission to stay here. He married a local girl. This interview tape is in Spanish. Interviewer: Tania Martell. Translator and original transcriber: Ben Hernandez. Formatted for this project by Colleen Paggi.