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: Darold L. Davies

Date of Interview: 22 April 2004

Tape Number 104

Interviewer: Catherine Doe

Place of interview: Mr. Davies’ home

Places where Mr. Davies lived during 1941-1946:

Woodlake, California

Lincoln, Nebraska

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Subjects covered in the interview: Family life in Woodlake, Sequoia Field, and Air Force (Army Air Corp).

CD: This is April 22nd and we’re at the home of Mr. Davies. Mr. Davies, could you spell your name for us, give your name and spell it.

DD: First name is Darold, D-a-r-o-l-d; L, middle initial; Davies, D-a-v-i-e-s.

CD: This is the "Years of Valor, Years of Hope." And Mr. Davies knows a lot about Woodlake. We were just talking about that. Why don’t you start about the Post Office?

DD: Well, I worked for several years before World War II in the Woodlake Post Office. Woodlake was a small town at that time. There were only two of us in the Post Office, the Postmistress and myself. At that time there was no house-to-house delivery. Everyone in Woodlake who received any mail either got it General Delivery or they had to have a permanent box, mailbox in which to receive the mail. So, one way or another we saw practically everybody in town at least once a day.

CD: And how many people did you say there was?

DD: Oh, there were about 1100 people in Woodlake when we first moved there in 1929.

CD: What do you mean by General Delivery?

DD: Well, if you had no Post Office box you just came to the window and said, "Is there any mail for me?" And for people who didn’t hold a box we had what they called General Delivery. All that required was just a Woodlake address, you know, Woodlake, California. No state address, no box number or anything. So any letter that came in we put in what we called at that time General Delivery. So you go to the General Delivery and go through it. It was,we set it up alphabetically each morning with the incoming mail. So it only took a few seconds to determine whether or not you had any mail.

CD: So somebody could put: Joe Smith, Woodlake, California?

DD: Yeah. And it would go into General Delivery. And after so many days if no one ever claimed it, why, we sent it to the dead letter office.

CD: And who was Postmistress?

DD: A lady by the name of Edith Day. She later married and most people in Woodlake know her as Edith Kress.

CD: And who was Postmistress after her? Were you still working there?

DD: No. I mean all the time that I was in the Woodlake Post Office up to the starting of World War II, why, there were just the two of us. And later a fellow by the name of Pelton, Dennis Pelton became Postmaster and Al Horton and there were numerous ones that followed.

CD: Where was the Post Office then?

DD: Where was the Post Office? It’s been in about four different locations over the years in Woodlake. And it was– of course it was always on the one block of Main Street of downtown Woodlake, one building or another.

CD: So, it’s always been on Main Street?

DD: Yeah.

CD: So tell me a little bit about your background, your parents, where your parents were born and where you’re from and what year you settled in Tulare County?

DD: My father, John L. Davies, was born in Missouri and my mother, Myrtle (Cheville) Davies was born in Southwest Nebraska. And we lived in Omaha for a period up until 1919 when we came to California.

CD: And where did you first settle?

DD: We first settled in a little town by the name of Patterson up in Stanislaus County in California. And we had a small ranch there where we tried to make a living raising chickens and selling eggs. Eggs went to ten cents a dozen and so on and first thing you knew it was The Great Depression.

CD: How did you guys make it through the Depression?

DD: Barely. Like many others. I meran, when we first came to Woodlake, family men were trying to find jobs at ten and twelve cents an hour. It’s hard to imagine but that’s the way it was. Of course, a dollar went so much farther then than it does now.

CD: What year did you land in Woodlake?

DD: 1929. We came here September the 1st so my sister, Wanda Louise (Vaught) and I could start the school year in Woodlake High School. We came to Woodlake primarily because my mother was a good cook and we bought what had been a private cafeteria. It served the high school. It was across the street from both the high school and grammar school. And my mother operated the cafeteria during the school years there.

CD: So when you got here, she had a job?

DD: Yeah. That’s the only one of us had a job. And dad did whatever he could find to do.

CD: Which was what?

DD: Well, he worked for a while in the packinghouses out in Elderwood, which is a little community north of Woodlake, and at various jobs until we finally rented a service station and we’ve been in the service station business for many years after that. At first we rented the location and then we finally bought and built our own station.

CD: What happened to the ranch in Patterson?

DD: The ranch in Patterson was mortgaged, bought on a mortgage, of course. And we finally paid it off, which took many years to do. And we sold it after we came to Woodlake.

CD: Oh, okay, so you didn’t lose,you got a chance to sell it and then came to Woodlake?

DD: Yeah.

CD: When did you start working for the Post Office, while you were in high school?

DD: No, I’m trying to remember the year I went in the service in ’42. It was about early ’39 that I went to work for the Post Office.

CD: What kind of qualifications did you have to have? Why did they hire you?

DD: It was up to the Postmistress that she needed extra help, why, she hired whoever happened to be available. There were no particular requirements. You just had to be an upright, decent, honest person.

CD: I guess she knew everybody?

DD: Oh, yeah. The town of that size,as I said, everybody had to come to the Post Office once a day to get their mail. There was no house-to-house delivery.

CD: Was it a little congregating place? I mean, people must have hung out outside to chitchat?

DD: Well, we didn’t really condone hangers on, you know, we didn’t want,but as I say, nearly everybody in town if they were interested in receiving their mail came down to the Post Office sometime during the day.

CD: So you went to Woodlake High?

DD: Yeah. When we came there in 1929 I entered school as a sophomore in Woodlake High School.

CD: And how was it, how did you like the high school compared to where you were coming from?

DD: Well, we moved there from Fresno so you can see the difference in the size of the school. Fresno had more than one high school. And when I went to Woodlake, why, the entire enrollment of all four years of high school was just under a hundred, ninety seven or ninety eight students in their four years of high school.

CD: And what high school were you going to in Fresno?

DD: It was called Fresno High and it was out in the northwest area. There was another high school,I can’t remember the name of

it. I know there were at least two high schools in Fresno at that time.

CD: And how did they compare quality-wise?

DD: Well, of course, there was a lot more extensive in Fresno because it had so much more money to work with. But I was very satisfied and happy with the Woodlake High School. I have fond memories of it.

CD: Did you play football?

DD: No, no.  At that time anyone that was in sports, their parents had to sign a slip which relieved the school from any possibility of liability, there being any injuries. And my parents said they just wouldn’t sign it so I didn’t enter into sports. About the time we came there, there was a boy who was severely injured in football. And it cost his family everything, you know, for years and years after that. And we knew about it, of course. And so my folks just said, well, no, they’re not going to sign.

CD: What happened to,who was it?

DD: It was a man by the name of Edgington, Ike Edgington. And he had an ankle shattered someway in football. Someone stepped on his ankle and you know, it broke and it was a very bad injury,he limped all the rest of his life.

CD: Did he stay in Woodlake? He lived in Woodlake for the rest of his life?

DD: No. For several years after that he worked for the doctor that took care of him. And then he later moved to Lindsay, I think it was.

CD: What church did you guys go to; did you guys go to church?

DD: Well, there were only a couple of churches in Woodlake at the time and we went to the Presbyterian Church.

CD: What were the other churches in Woodlake?

DD: There was a Nazarene and,I think actually the Presbyterian was the only real large established church. There were small religious groups as there always is in any town that would rent whatever building was available for the few members they had and so on.

CD: So the Presbyterian Church was the biggest?

DD: Yes. Oh yeah.

CD: What were you doing and where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

DD: Pearl Harbor. I,let’s see, that was in,

CD: It was in ’41. 

DD: I think I was working at the Post Office at that time because I know I’d been there for a couple of years and I know I left the Post Office to enter the service early in ’42.

CD: From my interviews I know it was a Sunday. Actually, that may help our memory. Do you remember the first time you heard about it? Were you listening to the radio?

DD: Yes. ‘Cause I was at home probably if it was on a Sunday. I was probably at home. I don’t have any actual,I know lots of people who say exactly what they were doing, where they were, what a shock it was to hear it and all that. But I don’t really have too vivid a memory of a lot of that.

CD: And what was the reaction of your parents? Were you still living at home?

DD: No, I couldn’t have been living in the home because I was married in 1937.

CD: Where did you meet her?

DD: She was a local girl I met in high school. Her parents, C.V. Matteson and Lesley (Jones) Matteson, were customers of our service station. And when they’d come in for gas, why, she’d be sitting in the back of the sedan and she looked out at me and through the back window and I’d wink at her. And we were married for 53 years before she passed away. This is my second wife, Helen (Thomson) Davies.

CD: And what’s your first wife’s name?

DD: First wife’s name was Yvonne Matteson, her maiden name was Matteson.

CD: Where would you take her to go on dates?

DD: Nearly always to the theater and maybe in to the Chinese Restaurant on Main Street for chow mien afterwards or something like that.

CD: Was there a movie theater in Woodlake then?

DD: No, not in Woodlake. In Visalia.

CD: Oh, you’d take her all the way to Visalia?

DD: Oh, sure.

CD: Did you have a car?

DD: At the time I was married, yeah, I’d had --

CD: But before you got married?

DD: Before we got married, oh yeah, I had a 1931 Chevrolet coupe.

CD: That’s pretty snazzy. No wonder you won her heart.

DD: Oh yeah, rumble seat and all.

CD: Was there a very big Chinese community in Woodlake?

DD: Not Woodlake. The Chinese restaurant I’m speaking of was in Visalia on Main Street. There was practically nothing in Woodlake to do. I mean, you had to get out of town.

CD: Right, to do anything.

DD: And where nearly all the kids went was to Visalia to the Fox Theater. You can get in for about 15 cents.

CD: What would people do if they didn’t have a car? What would they do for fun in Woodlake?

DD: For fun in Woodlake? That was always the question. The complaint of all the kids, "There’s nothing to do." And they were right; there wasn’t anything to do.

CD: They had to make their own fun.

DD: Yeah

CD: After the attack at Pearl Harbor, how did your parents feel about it ‘cause they knew that you would get drafted?

DD: Well, I was married at that time and had no children. And I knew that I was prime to be drafted. And so I beat them to it and I went and volunteered for the Air Force.

CD: Where did you go to do that?

DD: Out to Sequoia Field.

CD: There was a facility there to take people --?

DD: Well, I went out there just more for information ‘cause I wanted to be sure to go into the Air Force. And so I went out there to ask how do I get in and what do I have to do and so on. And so they said, "Well, we have the right and the permission to do some recruiting although we are not regularly a recruiting station." And I wanted to fly in the cadet program. And so at that time you either had to have two years of college or pass a written examination equivalent to two years in college. Since I’d never had a day beyond high school, I had to take it and I passed the required two years equivalency of two years of college.

CD: That’s impressive. Do you remember that test?

DD: Except that there were a lot of questions I had to guess at. But I passed anyhow.

CD: So, you’re either really smart or a good guesser?

DD: That’s right. And then of course, the doctor out there on the base, I passed the physical through them and met all the requirements except that they had no one on the base that was qualified to actually swear me in. So for that I had to go to Hammer Field in Fresno where they had a recruiting station. And I was sworn into the Air Force there at that time.

CD: And then what?

DD: Well, they said there would be a short wait before I could be assigned to the ground school end of it, which was at Santa Ana, California. It was part of the 4th Air Force Western Command. And I think I waited probably three months before I finally got called and went to Santa Ana, started my so-called Air Force career, which never really was completed. But then I stayed in the Air Force for nearly four years. But I didn’t make it through the pilot program. I came out to Visalia to the Visalia/Dinuba School of Aeronautics out northeast of Visalia.

CD: There was a Visalia/Dinuba School of Aeronautics?

DD: That was what it was called because,it’s where Sequoia Field is now, you know. But its first earliest,it was operated by civilians at that time. And the instructors, actual flight instructors were civilians. They had two or three Army Air Force men there. But most of the instruction was done by private pilots. The men who had certificates of,I forget what they call it. But you had to have a teaching certificate.

CD: And how did you feel the education was? Did you learn a lot? Was it hard? How was the education? When you were sitting,was it class time, did you actually have to sit in a class?

DD: Oh yeah, we had,we went through the regular program. I mean, you had the ground schools like where they taught you weather and primary navigation things -- and theory of flight and a whole lot of things like that. It consists as part of any even present day ground schools for flight instruction.

CD: Did you feel like it was hard?

DD: I didn’t think it was difficult. I mean, I was always a good student. All I had to do was read something once and I knew it. I mean, I didn’t have to sit and study and pound the books like so many kids did.

CD: So, you were smarter than you were a good guesser? More smart than guessing. Let’s go back to the recruiting at Sequoia Field because I never heard of anybody actually getting recruited there.

DD: I don’t know of anyone else who was actually recruited there. Although they did – they had the authority to do it. But it wasn’t widely known. I mean, their main job there was the primary flight school. And not recruiting, although as I say, they had the permission to do it.

CD: Right.

DD: I don’t know of anyone else who actually went out there and said "I want to join, sign me up."

CD: You think they would because it’s so much closer.

DD: Yeah.

CD: For people from Visalia.

DD: Yeah.

CD: So there’s just not enough known about it. Had you ever been in a plane?

DD: Oh yeah, I’d been up,I had no pilot training or anything like that. But I flew whenever I had a chance, I mean.

CD: When would you have a chance to fly?

DD: For a while I lived in Fresno. For about four dollars you can go out there at the airport and get a ten-minute ride. Open airplanes, you know.

CD: How fun. How often would you do that?

DD: Whenever I could afford it. That was the big thing. Four dollars for a kid was a lot of money then.

CD: Did you live close to the airport?

DD: No. Well, it was close enough that another buddy and I could ride out there on our bicycles, which we did quite often.

CD: Was it like a weekend thing?

DD: Yeah, sure. And during the summer time when school was out, well, we used to hang out there and just,anything to be close to an airplane.

CD: Did your friend try to become a pilot, too?

DD: Well, that was my future ambition, of course.

CD: So, you were at Sequoia Field. Did you live at home while you were there?

DD: No, no. You were sworn into the Army and you were in the barracks there with people from all over the United States .

CD: Was it just by chance that you were assigned back to Sequoia Field?

DD: Yes. "Cause, see, at our ground school, preparation to actual flight school was always done in Santa Ana, California and then from there when you completed the ground school part of it, why, you could have gone to any one of a dozen different fields that were part of what they called the 4th Air Force Training Command. I just happened to draw the one in my own backyard.

CD: What did you think when you drew that?

DD: I just thought I was lucky ‘cause I was married, after all. When I had free time, it was only ten minutes and I was home.

CD: So when you had free time, is that what you would do, would you go home?

DD: Yeah, sure.  I had my car with me and jump in the car and run over to Woodlake in just a few minutes.

CD: Could your wife ever come into the barracks?

DD: No. They were not allowed in the barracks or anything like that. But then she’d come out; if I couldn’t get away like on Sundays or something, she’d drive out there. And at that time there was a friend of mine that I had made at ground school in Santa Ana who was also married. And his wife came up and lived with my parents and my wife.

CD: Oh, that’s neat.

DD: And then the two women would get in our car and drive out to the field.

CD: Where was she from?

DD: He was from out in Ohio I think it was, yeah. I haven’t really kept in touch with him since then. I did for a while after the war. But I failed to complete the flight training out here at Visalia. So then after that he and I separated ways.

CD: What was it, was it the flying part that you -- 

DD: Yeah, yeah.

CD: Was it rigorous or what was it? I know they’re real picky.

DD: It was a crazy situation. On my solo flight which took place at a little auxiliary field over close to Orosi, I was making my landing on my solo flight and a wind gust took me across the edge of the field. I couldn’t line up with it just right and in the crosswind, why, I overcompensated and stuck the wing in the ground on taxiway and what we call ground loop, it spun the plane around and damaged the wingtip slightly. Then they had a group of about three commissioned officers. Whenever any little thing happened like that they had to assess your qualifications and abilities and so on. And I don’t remember the name of the officer who just said that I was disqualified for further flight training. That was the end of that, although I stayed in the Air Force until the war was over.

CD: Right. To serve your time.

DD: Doing other things.

CD: What did they assign you to?

DD: I went to Bakersfield, California at what is now Minter Field, which is a basic flying training station there, close to Bakersfield, ten miles from Bakersfield. And there I went to a school to become a link trainer instructor. Link trainer is where you get into a box that has all the instruments and controls of an airplane and then the hood is put down over it and so all your flying would be done by instrument. And I went to school and became an instructor in link trainer work in Bakersfield.

CD: Did you continue flying on your own?

DD: No. Although we had to go fly in an actual airplane a minimum of four hours a month in order to draw what they call flight pay, which is a fifty percent addition to your standard pay.

CD: Fifty percent? Wow.

DD: And so an Army pilot would take us up off the ground and away from the field. And then they would put what they called a hood over us so we couldn’t see out. And we had to actually do the flying by instrument. And that was in order for us to get the feel of what the cadets we were training were experiencing and what the things were that we were trying to teach them in the link trainer program.

CD: Was it scary?

DD: No, because he didn’t have a hood over him. He was out where he could see what was going on. And we were flying the plane on instruments, which is what we were capable of doing and were teaching every day.

CD: I know. It just sounds scary.

DD: But then the qualified pilot, Army Air Force pilot, was sitting there were he could see out. In any kind of a crisis, why, he would immediately take over. It was just to give us instructors, link instructors, an experience of what the cadets were going through who we were instructing.

CD: Was there any chance of you going to fight?

DD: No, I was in the Air Force but I wasn’t qualified as an Air Force pilot actually.

CD: So you knew you were going to stay in the United States ?

DD: Probably. That was pretty certain unless,the only reason that I might not of was like if they had an excess of those men who were doing what I was doing and they would transfer them to some other department or division and maybe they would go.

CD: While you were at Sequoia Field, all the fellows, what would they do on their time off? Did you ever hang out with them? Go to bars or go to the dances or anything?

DD: Well, no, because as I say, I was married and only a few miles from home. So if I had any time off, why, I’d jump in the car and go home.

CD: That was a good husband of you. What would all the other guys do?

DD: They’d catch the bus into town and do whatever they could on what little money they had.

CD: Did they ever talk about it the next day?

DD: Oh, yeah. There was always chat in the barracks. So and so got drunk and so and so did this and that. That was all. That was our main topic of conversation, it seems like.

CD: Did they ever get, like, out of hand?

DD: No, no. They were all fellows that were anxious to get their flight training over with and get on with it and so on. There wasn’t as much foolishness maybe as was in some of the rest of the Army bases, regular Army bases.

CD: That makes sense.

DD: It was a little different type of person who was really educated in pursuing their hobby of flight and so on.

CD: Right. Not the infantry. Just to get back to the beginning of the war, how did you feel about the United States getting involved in the war?

DD: Well, no one is anxious to get involved in war but we all naturally trust our government enough to know if that’s what the decision was, it was the right decision.

CD: Was there much talk about the war before we got involved in it? Did you really know what was going on?

DD: Well, it’s just that was before television and so your news source was radio and newspaper. And everybody was patriotic and in sympathy with what we were doing. Of course, there’s always a few that were, well, we got no darn business doing this and so on. You always have that in any situation.

CD: Did you ever meet any of them, anybody who was antiwar?

DD: Oh no, not really.

CD: You mentioned the news. Tell me about the Woodlake newspaper.

DD: Well, it really wasn’t too much of a newspaper. It was a weekly published every Friday. It always had some local news in it. It was mostly copied, I think, from just what came over the radio and whatever the topic of interest was all over the country. Mostly your little weekly newspapers were local events, you know, and the different groups and fraternities and associations and their meetings and what went on and just general small town gossip.

CD: What kind of associations and fraternities were in Woodlake?

DD: Well, like the Masonic Lodge and the Presbyterian Church and oh, they had a Rotary Club. And I don’t remember now whether the Lions Club was formed before or after the war. I really don’t,I’m not quite sure. But they had a Lions and a Rotary and Masonic Lodge which was quite active in Woodlake at that time.

CD: Did you and your dad participate in that stuff?

 DD: I didn’t. My father was a strong Mason and a real believer in it. He was a Mason and a Shriner at that time. The only nearest Shrine organization was in Fresno. And he and other Woodlake men who were in the Masonic Lodge would drive to Fresno for their Shriner meetings.

CD: Weren’t there certain degrees? What degree Mason was he?

DD: Well, he was as far as you could go in Masonry. He was 32nd which I think is the highest. Not being a Mason personally, all I can remember is just chitchat at home.

CD: Yeah, ‘cause you see it in obituaries sometimes; they make a big deal if they were a 32nd Mason or something. I can’t remember how high it is either. What family ran the newspaper?

DD: A family by the name of Ropes. And John G., the elder Ropes, was the one that brought the paper to Woodlake sometime prior to 1920, about 1917 or ’18, I think, they came into Woodlake. Of course, we weren’t there at that time. All we knew is just what we had learned from talk.

CD: At the Post Office. Did they have experience with it? Did they come here just to make newspapers?

DD: Oh, yeah. It was a family business. He had a printing shop. Any other necessary printing that any business in town needed, that was the only place to get it.

CD: Oh, that’s good business.

DD: In the same building, why, the front end of it was a telephone office. And so they had access to all and in the front of that building was a telephone operator and also two or three sets of shelves and it was a branch of the Tulare County Library at that time. So, if you wanted a book and lived in Woodlake, why, that’s where you went to get to the library. So the telephone operator not only checked the books in and out, I mean, you know it was --

CD: She did all the calls.

DD: Yeah, because there wasn’t that many calls coming in. It wasn’t a constant operation thing that took several operators. In fact, they used to employ high school kids from about six o’clock in the evening on, which I did for a while. And they had a little enclosed room with a bed and you slept there. Many a time you’d sleep all night long. After about ten o’clock there wouldn’t be another call till say six o’clock the next morning. It had a buzzer that’d ring and if anybody’d like make a telephone call at one o’clock in the morning, why the buzzer woke you up and you went out and answered the call. It was a hand thing you plugged in and said, "Number, please." And then you had a hand-operated ringer to ring any required number. Or connect you to Visalia to the long distance line.

CD: Yeah, from my generation who grew up with phones in the house, how would that work? Someone would call -- ?

DD: Well, most of the city was individual numbers. Although some of them were on party lines. And all the rural, of course, was party lines.

CD: Would they have to go through your little switchboard?

DD: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

CD: And give me an example of a phone number back then.

DD: Like some business downtown may have the numbers 2-3.

CD: That’s it?

DD: That’s all, just two numbers. Some of them even that had been there long established maybe had one number. Call the hardware store, ring number three for me. It was very primitive although it did the job.

CD: It worked. How was the reception? Could you hear really well?

DD: Oh yeah.

CD: That’s amazing. So was that a paid job?

DD: Oh yeah, oh yeah, sure. It was a paid job. I don’t remember how much, but it wasn’t a whole lot but then after all, 1929 and ’30, why, there were men working for ten, twelve cents an hour.

CD: What happened to the Ropes family?

DD: Well, the second generation of them was Doctor Ed Ropes, who was a very well known dentist there for many years in Woodlake. And Dick Ropes was the one that finally took over the newspaper from his father. And they had a sister, Gladys Ropes, who assisted in the publishing of the newspaper.

CD: And then what happened to the newspaper, ‘cause they don’t have it any more?

DD: Well, eventually it sold to and became part of the Exeter Sun.

CD: Do you get the Exeter Sun; do you ever get that local newspaper any more?

DD: No, we never subscribed to the Exeter paper, I mean we always took a Fresno newspaper until the Visalia got circulation out there in Woodlake and then we subscribed to the Visalia Times Delta.

CD: So, the first circulation was the Fresno Bee before the Visalia Times Delta?

DD: I can’t say for sure. Whenever there was enough demand for the Fresno paper, why someone locally would take up the route of "throwing the newspaper" as we called it.

CD: So that’s interesting that the Fresno Bee would have been the paper, like if you went to a store you’d see the Fresno Bee and you wouldn’t necessarily see the Visalia Times Delta?

DD: Well, probably any location that carried the newspaper would carry both.

CD: ‘Cause currently the Fresno Bee,we get it, too. I like that paper better. Somebody told me about there was like an air raid shelter something or air raid post in Woodlake.

DD: Down at the County Fire Department House: during the actual war there was usually someone. They were volunteers there who would report any airplane that we heard fly over or something. In fact, I did that for a while, too.

CD: Oh, you did?

DD: You go down there, you’d work maybe a four or six-hour shift and then someone else,all volunteer, you know,would come on and agree to stay there and you’d go down there and sit and read a book or whatever, anything. It was quiet and if you heard anything fly over, why you’d report that you heard an airplane flying over from south to north or east to west or whatever it happened to be.  We kept track of anything that went over at night.

CD: And who would you report it to?

DD: You know, I don’t remember just who or what was on the other end of the line, really. And we’d sit there night after night and never hear an airplane go over, you know.

CD: Well, you never know. There was a lot of fear at that time.

DD: Of course.

CD: It seems kind of funny now. But then you didn’t know if we were going to be attacked.

DD: That’s right.

CD: What if it was a private plane that flew over though?

DD: Well, since,we hear an airplane go over; we had no idea whether it was military or private. There’s no way you could tell really except that probably if it was military it might be more than one engine. You could tell the sound of a multi-engine plane over a single engine and whether it was a little putt-putt. And of course, there weren’t very many people at that time flying little putt-putts around at night because very few airports outside of Fresno had a lighted way to land, a lit airfield.

CD: What was the navigation equipment like then? Would you be able to fly at night in a little private plane?

DD: That was up to the individual and the amount of experience he had. And the instrumentation was pretty sparse. Unless someone was really wealthy enough, you know, to have a good plane with all the necessary equipment to fly at night, why, there weren’t too many. So the average aircraft was flown in the daytime. And you get into a place to land before it got so dark you couldn’t see.

CD: Tell me a little bit about Woodlake Airport. Was it there when you guys moved there?

DD: I don’t think we actually had a Woodlake Airport at that time. It would have been several different places around the edges of town where someone would establish a runway. Just some farm field and you go out there with a grader and scrape the high spots off and that was your airport.

CD: Was that legal? You could just, like, make a runway?

DD: Oh, sure, yeah.

CD: And say, "Your planes can land here?"

DD: Yeah, yeah. If it was a decent and safe enough place, why it would be known among the aircraft people that it was a safe landing spot there in case you were flying over in an emergency, why, there was a place you could land. But most of the time it was some rancher or someone who could afford an airplane and had enough ground that he can scrape off a good runway and maybe he was the only one that hardly ever used it or maybe he had a friend in Fresno or something or Visalia somewhere that owned a plane and they would come flying down.

CD: Right. For a visit.

DD: All you needed was a graded spot long enough to land the plane in and a windsock so they could tell which way the wind was coming. You had to know. You had to land and take off into the wind if there was any wind at all. And the prevailing winds would be like from a certain direction, why you’d put up a windsock and you see that was paralleling the runway.

CD: I never knew what the windsock was for.

DD: Oh yeah.

CD: You have to go into the wind?

DD: Yeah, it’s the amount of wind that is going over the aircraft’s wing that provides the lift. You can fly without the wind. But if there’s any wind going you should take off and land into the wind which allows you extra lift over and above the actual speed of the plane through the air.

CD: There is a Woodlake Airport. Is it an official airport?

DD: Yeah, there is an airport now and they even have lights. The last I knew of it, if you fly over the town of Woodlake and gun your engines, well, there was always somebody that would dash out to the airport and turn the lights on. That’s all. You can’t have somebody out there waiting ‘cause maybe twice a month, why, somebody’d want to land there after dark. So you can’t afford to pay somebody to sit out there by the switch.

CD: So when did the current airport start, do you know?

DD: I don’t really know.

CD: You don’t know the history of the Woodlake Airport?

DD: I haven’t been active in flying out there.

CD: So it must have been after 1950?

DD: I would say so.

CD: In the Woodlake area, were there any Japanese families?

DD: Yes, there was, but it was mostly out towards Ivanhoe and in the Venice Hill area there were some. And of course, there was always a little bit of talk about whether or not they were loyal and, you know, that kind of talk.

CD: What would people say?

DD: Oh, you know, they’d say, well, some Japanese ,it’s long ago and it was foolish at the time ‘cause I don’t think there were any of those that were disloyal and so on.

CD: But at the time you didn’t know?

DD: At that time nobody knew and after all, what’d they do, they rounded up most of them and put them on reservations.

CD: Do you remember that?

DD: Oh, sure.

CD: What do you remember about it?

DD: Well, there was talk about whether we ought to be doing it or not. But it was a government thing, you know, after all. If we would have felt the least bit apprehensive about somebody, why, they picked them up, the whole family, and put them in a,I forget what they called them.

CD: Well, the Japanese call them concentration camps,oh, internment camps.

DD: Internment camps, yeah.

CD: What was the ethnic --?

DD: At the same time, maybe some of those families would have a young man that joined the U.S. Forces of one type or another just to prove that they were loyal. They considered themselves Americans, especially all the second generation ones.

CD: Or to get out of the internment camp. In the years ‘30s and ‘40s, what was the ethnic makeup of Woodlake?

DD: A lot of the work force was Mexican. There really wasn’t a whole lot of foreign – wasn’t very much excitement about it or talk or anything like that. About the only other ethnic group that was at all around Woodlake was Mexican and Spanish descent or something of that nature. At the time I was in high school there from ’29 to ’32, there were probably not over eight or ten Mexican children in high school. There weren’t too many.

CD: In the whole high school?

DD: Yeah.

CD: That isn’t that many.

DD: No, there wasn’t a whole lot at that time.

CD: How big was your graduating class?

DD: Probably 13 or 14, something like that I would say, yeah.

CD: When you graduated, that was the height of the Depression, right?

DD: 1932.

CD: Isn’t that right in the middle of it?

DD: Yeah, yeah, it was.

CD: What was it like to be graduating --?

DD: After all, you couldn’t afford to have a new suit just to graduate in, you know. And so they wore gowns. After all, it didn’t make any difference what you wore under the gown, you know what I mean. That was the purpose of the gown because seventy percent probably couldn’t afford,the graduates couldn’t afford to buy a suit just to graduate in.

CD: Right, I didn’t think about that.

DD: Oh, yeah.

CD: Who provided the gown? Did you have to buy --?

DD: Oh, the school provided that. You had your gown and your cap and had the tassel. Before you graduated, why, it hung on one side and you got up and got your diploma and you put the tassel over on the other side and bingo, you had just graduated.

CD: Let’s talk a little bit about your wife’s experience at home dealing with rationing and the shortages.

DD: You know, I don’t actually remember that it was any great hardship or anything. There were certain items like butter and sugar and meat that might have been a little scarce at some time or another and you just changed your diet a little bit. It never seemed to be a big issue. There was always a lot in the news about it. But I think the government news was making more of it than what actually hurt the people. It didn’t bother us greatly. You changed your diet a little bit, but then there’d be wealthy people that had access to extra money to buy anything they wanted, why, I imagine they got whatever they wanted.

CD: Do you think maybe it affected the city people more than the rural people?

DD: I would imagine that it would because the rural people after all,I know, when we were on the farm, we made our own butter and we raised practically everything we ate out in the garden. And if we didn’t, we took the excess stuff from the garden and traded it in the grocery store for something we would have to buy.

CD: You guys made your own butter?  You had a cow and you milked the cow?

DD: We didn’t have a dairy or anything. We had a personal cow, a cow for our personal use.

CD: Who was in charge of milking it, you or your sister?

DD: No, it was usually my dad or my mother. Poor mom. She did whatever was necessary.

CD: Did you ever run out of gas?

DD: I remember the days of gas rationing. Everybody had a little tag on their windshield. And I forget what the gallons you were allowed to buy at the time. Although my dad was running a service station all during the gas rationing years and so there was always a little left over. I mean, I never had any problem getting enough gasoline for my wife to drive out. After all, it would maybe be once every two weeks that she’d get out there. So it wasn’t a big problem. We knew we couldn’t just get gasoline and dash up and down the street for something to do.

CD: Cruise?

DD: Yeah. No, there wasn’t any cruising much going on in those days. There wasn’t gasoline for cruising. If you were really good about it, why, you didn’t have any trouble staying within your needs with what gasoline they allowed you.

CD: Did your dad have any stories about running the gasoline station? Was there anybody willing to pay a little extra without giving them stamps or anything?

DD: I don’t think so because I know dad was always a strict law-abiding man. I mean, he wouldn’t have had any part of it. I mean, they just didn’t get anywhere with us. To my memory there wasn’t any attempt that I knew of to evade the thing. People were pretty patriotic.

CD: So you didn’t know of any black market going on?

DD: No, no, not personally. You hear about it but then I don’t know of any black market attempts out there in Woodlake actually.

CD: I’ve heard that when you owned a store it’s kind of a hassle to deal with those rationing tickets. How did your father deal with them? He got them, took them to the bank, what would he do with them?

DD: I think the ration tickets that we would get from the customers were turned in to the gasoline companies as part of the price of delivery for the next tank or underground storage tank worth of gasoline.

CD: So you’d hand it straight to the company who was filling your tanks?

DD: Yeah, yeah.

CD: So it would be very difficult to fudge on that?

DD: Oh, yeah.

CD: Give somebody extra gas that didn’t have tickets. And you wouldn’t be able to fill the tanks back up. Was there a ration board right in Woodlake?

DD: Yes, there was. I remember there was but I don’t know who any of them were. I can remember seeing the slips that they would give out and they were always assigned by someone that was on the board there. But that again was just a volunteer thing.

CD: The board was volunteer?

DD: Oh, yeah. People were patriotic and they didn’t have any difficulty finding volunteers to do the unpaid things like that. No trouble getting someone to do it at all.

CD: Did your family ever have reason to go to the board to get extra tickets for anything?

DD: Not that I remember. I suppose if you had an emergency like something that couldn’t be handled by anyone but a stay of hospital in Fresno, why, you wouldn’t have had any trouble getting enough gasoline to make the trip on.

CD: So overall your wife dealt with the shortages probably more than you. So you’re pretty much saying you don’t feel like it was much of a hardship for her?

DD: At the time that I was in the service, whether it was locally or part of the time I was back east, my wife’s parents moved into the house the wife and I had bought. And so she was with her parents in her and my home.

CD: And your parents were right in Woodlake, too?

DD: Yes.

CD: She had a lot of family right there.

DD: Yeah. And my oldest sister was married and off and gone. There were just the two children; my sister and I. And my parents had their home there in Woodlake. And at first my wife’s parents had only a rented home and so that was the reason why that after we were married and I was in and out because of the war, why, I had a two bedroom house. So they came and lived there with my wife.

CD: Everybody get along?

DD: Oh gosh, yes. They were a wonderful family, yeah.

CD: So you had nice in-laws?

DD: Oh yeah. I had nice in-laws. I admired my wife’s parents very much.

CD: Well, you lived with them.

DD: They lived with us.

CD: Yeah, excuse me. What was the housing market like? Was there a shortage of housing for people who wanted to buy a house?

DD: Well, during the war there was because there weren’t materials to build new houses. Woodlake always seemed to have,up until after World War II, there was always a shortage of houses in Woodlake. If somebody moved, why, that’d mean four or five maybe, each one trying to upgrade a little bit, you know. ‘Cause I remember when we first came to Woodlake in ’29, there was only one house available to rent in Woodlake at that time. And it was an up and down plank house that you could see daylight through the cracks in the house. It was the only house available.

CD: Right. You knew when it was a sunny day.

DD: Yeah. Few months later, why, there was another one for rent, they’d move to that and someone else would move in. Usually a move meant four or five other people moved, too. Each one trying to get into a little bit better house ‘cause that’s all that was available.

CD: So there was a housing shortage way before the war?

DD: Yes, even before the war. Although when we came to Woodlake you could have bought any empty lot in town for $50 but a lot of people didn’t have $50 extra to buy a piece of ground with. And if they did, they didn’t have the money to build a house.

CD: Pitch a tent. So overall, how would you say the war affected your family, your wife, your in-laws, your parents?

DD: We were lucky enough that it didn’t seem to hurt us a lot. We had a decent place to live. And housing wasn’t the shortage to us personally like it was for many people. And whatever was available at the store, we bought. We were thrifty people and my father was in business, had a service station. And so, you know, we always had enough money to get along on. It wasn’t really a "pinch and save" as much as it was for many people there at that time.

CD: Do you think that had to do with the fact you guys had just come out of the Depression and you were used to not having a lot around?

DD: Well, everybody was used to getting by on what was available, really.

CD: What was your mother’s name, her first name?

DD: Myrtle.

CD: And what was her last name, maiden?

DD: Her maiden name was Cheville.

CD: And so she ran the cafeteria that fed the high school area?

DD: Yeah. It was a privately owned cafeteria. It wasn’t the school’s cafeteria. It was in a building on our property which was across the street. The high school and the grammar school fronted on the same street and there was nothing but an alley that separated the two schools. So our house was on the corner on the alley,not facing the alley, but the alley that divided the two schools ran along the side of our house also. And our house faced the same street as the high school and grammar school. It was half way between the two and straight across the street. So it was just a matter of going across the street to get into our privately owned school cafeteria.

CD: So it was your privately owned cafeteria?

DD: Yes, my father owned the property; my mother and dad owned the property. In fact, one of the reasons we came to Woodlake was because the family that we bought the property from was operating a cafeteria for school students and we bought that property. That’s the reason we came to Woodlake, because that was something that my mother could run and make money. At the same time, dad could find a job doing something else to bring in a little income.

CD: Did she actually take the food to the school or did the kids come to the property?

DD: They came to our place to eat. We had the stove, the dishes, the counters, the seats; everything was all our privately owned property. And the kids came in. They could buy a hamburger for a dime. And if the kids were really hard up, mother would cut the hamburger in half and sell them a half a hamburger for a nickel. A lot of the dishes of some kind of a cooked vegetable, it’d be five cents. A hamburger was ten cents. And she was a wonderful baker. She’d make pies and cakes. A piece of pie would cost the kids ten cents. Piece of cake would cost the kids ten cents. So they could come in there for a quarter and eat a meal.

CD: So, was it popular?

DD: Oh, yeah. It was full at noon every day.

CD: Did you eat there?

DD: Oh yeah, yeah. And we always had some schoolgirl to work for us and maybe two of them to work during the hour when people were being fed. For that they got their meals free and so on.

CD: So the big kids all the way down to the kindergartners would all be eating together?

DD: There was no kindergarten in Woodlake at that time.

CD: When did kids start?

DD: They started age six in the first grade.

CD: I wonder when kindergarten started?

DD: Well, it was sometime later, I mean. But I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you just what year. I remember when I was five we left Omaha and came to California and I know I had a few weeks of kindergarten ‘cause we came out here in October and, of course, school would have started in September. So I had a few weeks of kindergarten experience in Omaha. Then we moved to that little town of Patterson, California. There was no such thing as kindergarten. And I couldn’t go to school then because I wasn’t six years old yet. My birthday was in August and we moved out here in October so I didn’t get to go to school till I became six in August the next year. And I started first grade in Patterson at age six. Little towns didn’t have such things as kindergarten in those days. It was only larger places.

CD: Right. And Omaha was a big city then?

DD: Yeah, oh yeah.

CD: How did your mom deal with the food, the stamps running the cafeteria during the war? How did she get all those stamps to buy that food, the meat and everything?

DD: You know, I don’t really remember because, as I say, I was married and wasn’t living at home. I was married in ’37, which is well before the war. And I had my own home and I don’t remember how she handled it during those years. There was some provision for it because there were other places like ours in other towns. So there was a provision for it but just what it was I don’t remember.

CD: How long did she run it; when did the business stop?

DD: When we had acquired enough money that we didn’t feel like mom had to work all the time anymore, why, we sold the cafeteria part of it.

CD: So you sold it, ‘cause now they don’t do it like that. Don’t they have a cafeteria on campus?

DD: Oh yes, they do now.

CD: Do you know when that happened, when it switched from –

DD: No. From privately owned to part of the school system?

CD: Yeah.

DD: No, I don’t remember when that happened. That happened after we had sold the business.

CD: So where were you when the United States dropped the A-bomb?

DD: When the United States dropped the A-bomb. Oh, at that time I was stationed in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was going to B-29 gunnery school. And I had just completed the gunnery school; I got my gunner’s wings and I was allowed an 18-day what they called delay en route before I had to go to a station in Lincoln, Nebraska and crew up with the rest of the B-29 crew and supposedly go to the Pacific to bomb Japan. And I was at home during that 18-day delay en route. And I remember I was down at the service station talking to dad when the news came over the radio that we’d dropped the atom bomb.

CD: What did everybody say?

DD: Well, I mean, you know, it was just a little few days after that the war was over. I mean, it only took us two of those, you know. And Japan said, "We’ve had enough." And the war was over.

CD: I would kind of think one would have been enough.

DD: No, they dropped one on Hiroshima on the 6th of August and one on the 9th on Nagasaki. Anyway, there was two cities in Japan that were bombed. And they weren’t bombed the same day. It was a couple days in between. After we dropped the second one we said, "We’ve got more to go if you just want to fool with it." And they said, "Enough!" So by the time I had to leave on my home stay and report to Lincoln, Nebraska, the war was over.

CD: What did they do? Did yu still have to go to Lincoln, Nebraska?

DD: Well, I went to Lincoln, but it was what they call a staging station. And th re were men from all types of attack groups from stations all over the United States who had orders to report to Lincoln. But nobody was making orders to send them out of Lincoln. So Lincoln became like a balloon, you know. Men by the hundreds from all attack stations in the United States had orders to come to Lincoln. But they only stayed there a few days and they’d crew up with another bunch of,there was bombers, there was pilots, there was navigators, there was all the men that had took those to run the thing. And they were joined up in groups and shipped out to the Pacific to island stations that we had that were within bombing distance of Japan .

‘Cause the war in Europe was over and the big concentration was to bomb the hell out of Japan . And of course, that all came to a stop when Japan said they’d had enough. So all these men were coming into Lincoln and was just like a balloon. It was just growing and growing. Finally it got so big that they finally said, enough. And they turned it into a discharge station. And you were discharged according to the number of points you had. Points were for the length of time you’d been in service; double points if you had foreign service and combat. And there was a lot of that from the people that had been in the European part of the war. And so, on the number of points that you had, you became eligible. And so when they had so many points and all those guys were discharged. And so many ,then they dropped the number of points. And finally the number of points got down to what I had and, bingo, I was out of there.

CD: So you were discharged?

DD: Discharged from Lincoln and they gave me a couple of hundred dollars for pocket money and a ticket on any train to San Francisco, which was the nearest west coast spot of my home. And that was the end of it.

CD: Then you were on your own?

DD: Then I was on my own. In the meantime, I had communicated with my family and I think the wife came up to San Francisco and picked me up and, bingo, as far as I was concerned the war was over. It was over.

CD: So, before we dropped the bomb, your family was resolved to the fact that you were probably going to be sent over –

DD: Oh, sure, yeah. I was in the Air Force: I was in an active group and I was an airborne gunner and I was to be part of a crew of some bomber that was going over to bomb Japan .

CD: So what was the family conversation like that night after the war was over, after Japan surrendered?

DD: Oh well, that was all we sat and talked about. ‘Cause I still had a few days left. I had what they call an 18-day delay en route. They didn’t care what I did from the time I left Las Vegas, Nevada, where I’d finished my gunnery training, and when I reported to Lincoln. I could do whatever I wanted to do. Well, I was at home with my family. And so I caught a train whenever I had a day and a half, two days to get there. Why, I caught a train and went to Lincoln. And when we got there, the war was over and there was nothing to do. And as I said, they just turned Lincoln Field into a discharge station and started discharging men according to the number of points they had for their service. That was the end of the war.

CD: Was there any celebrating in Woodlake?

DD: I don’t actually,there was a lot of talk about it and all that. But you know, we didn’t go out and say hooray and shoot off a bunch of rockets and shoot guns and so on. Maybe there were some places that did such things. I don’t know. But I mean –

CD: So it was pretty quiet?

DD: It was pretty quiet. Everybody was just darn glad it was over.

CD: What was Las Vegas like in the ‘40s? Was it a gambling place like it --?

DD: Oh yeah. But it was all downtown. There wasn’t anything called "The Strip" in those days, where all the big casinos are now. It was all concentrated on Fremont Street, the downtown Main Street of Las Vegas at that time.

CD: And they didn’t have "The Strip"?

DD: There was one place that had built out of town. It was called El Rancho Vegas. And that was the first one built out of town and was the beginning of what later became called "The Strip" where all the casinos are located.

CD: Were you guys allowed out there on your leave?

DD: Oh yeah. If we had leave for a night or the weekend, I mean, they just turned you loose; you went wherever you wanted to go. Of course, the kids all went to the casinos. In fact, they had a bus that’d take you downtown in the middle of town and drop you off and it was up to you to find your way back to the camp in time to be on duty the next morning.

CD: How was civilian life like after the war ended.

DD: Supposedly every job that you had, whatever job you had before that you were drafted from, they had to guarantee you could return to your job. You know, if you were working at some store for some job that was supposed to be held for you, somebody had to fill it while you were gone. But then they had to guarantee you a job when you got out so there wouldn’t be just a huge rush of unemployed men. I don’t know how the big cities handled it, but as far as Woodlake’s concerned, I don’t remember any particular trouble about it, you know, or anxiety or anything like that.

CD: So you were guaranteed a job back at the Post Office?

DD: Yeah. But I didn’t go back to it. I mean, someone had to come in there and do the job while I was gone. And I could have had. The job was held for me. The lady that was Postmistress at that time, when I had to leave, she said, "I will stay and when you come home you can have the Postmaster’s job."

CD: Oh really? You could have been Postmaster?

DD: Yeah. In the meantime, I decided to do something else with my life. And I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working in the Post Office in Woodlake. So I had, after I got out I went to watchmakers and engravers and jewelry school in Kansas City, Missouri, and I came home and started my own jewelry store, which I ran for thirty eight years.

CD: Really. What was it called?

DD: Davies Jewelry. What else? The Main Street is only one block long and we owned the building in the middle of that block. So I came home and started Davies Jewelry, which I ran for thirty eight years afterwards.

CD: And how was business?

DD: Well, the town’s small enough that we made a living but we didn’t make a lot of money. And we ran that until,oh, gosh, what was it, what year did we close? Honey, what year did I close the store in Woodlake? ’85, ‘86?

HD in the background: 1985.

DD: ’85, yeah.

CD: When did you open it?

DD: I think ’49.

CD: So you closed the store; you didn’t sell it to somebody and have them run it?

DD: First of all, you’d have to find somebody that had enough money that was in the business, had the ability to operate to be a watchmaker. It would take a watchmaker and wife to operate the store. ‘Cause we had expanded it from just a little watchmaker’s shop and repairman shop into a gift shop. We built a new building and we had expanded it to where we had a good-sized building and was in the gift and—in fact, I think our cards at that time read "Jewelry, Gifts and Cards." We had a large gift department and card department. And that was run by my wife at that time. And I’ve even got a business card that we had at that time.

CD: So Woodlake needed something like that?

DD: Oh yeah, yeah. It needed a gift shop.

CD: We’re looking at the business card. You didn’t update it; you have it all scratched out.

DD: Well, of course,as I say, I ran it for 38 years.

CD: I think you need new business cards.

DD: Well, those were –

CD: I like that touch right there.

DD: Yeah, that was when my first wife Yvonne and I ran the store.  And since I started it in 1949, jewelry, gifts, cards and antiques.

CD: Oh, antiques.

DD: Yeah. I became interested in antiques after the war. And we used to travel around and pick up different items, small antiques, nothing big. Furniture would consist maybe of a little fancy lady’s desk or, you know, mostly small antiques.

CD: What was the best find you came across? Were there a couple?

DD: We were on the look all the time. And whenever I found anything I liked at a price that I could afford that I knew I could sell and make some money on it, I bought it.

CD: And what would you do? Like, sell it for twice the amount that you paid for it?

DD: Approximately. That’s the standard jeweler markup. It has been for many years. You double your money. Something costs you $10, you sold it for $20, hopefully. If you had somebody come in and offer you $18 for it, why, if you needed a little money right then, you’d do it. I mean, I’ve always had an interest in, you know, nice little things.

CD: So you’re an Indian basket collector?

DD: Oh, yeah.

CD: Those are authentic?

DD: Oh yeah, I had about forty some Indian baskets at one time. I think I’ve got about four now.

CD: ‘Cause you sold them?

DD: Yeah.

CD: The way you collected Indian baskets, could people do that nowadays or are they pretty much gone?

DD: They could. There’s an ad that is running in the Delta now, has for the last month about a man that wants to buy Indian baskets and rugs. And I dealt in both Indian rugs and baskets. I still have some. I mean, the rugs are all rolled and moth proofed and put away, you know. But I still have a few baskets around.

CD: Yeah, I noticed those three baskets. And what Indian tribe made them?

DD: Oh, they’re mostly from the Midwest on west, mostly from the Rockies west. I specialized in mostly western Indian baskets ‘cause there are plenty of Indian tribes that did basket work. That great big basket there comes from Southern Canada.

CD: Oh really.

DD: The middle one there is from Arizona.

CD: Yeah, they’re interesting.

DD: And this,

CD: Wait a minute, you’re disconnected (from the tape recorder). So I notice in your antique cabinet you have a little opium spoon. So you knew there was an opium den in Visalia?

DD: Yeah. But I didn’t buy that, you know, it never came from the one in Visalia, I know that. But just in talking to older Chinese people,see, I’ve been around here since 1929. And I’ve always been interested in anything unusual, old, antique, whatever.

CD: What would your Chinese friends tell you about the opium dens?

DD: Well, nothing too incriminating, you know. I mean, just that they knew it existed and there used to be underground connections between different buildings. So if they were going to raid the one down here, you could get underground and stumble out and come up on the streets somewhere else and they couldn’t connect you with it.

CD: That’s interesting. I hadn’t heard that. So it was like underground tunnels?

DD: Yep. Connecting some of the older Chinese places.

CD: Is there anything about the years of 1941-1946 that we haven’t covered that you wanted to talk about?

DD: From ’41 to ’46?

CD: Uh-huh.

DD: Well, a lot of that time I was actually away from here, you know. I was stationed in Lincoln, Nebraska for a while. I was stationed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a while. I’ve been in different places like that. The winter that I spent in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was one of the most miserable winters of my life. The base that I was stationed at should have been built in the southern states somewhere. It had concrete floors, tarpaper walls and we had coal stoves to heat it with. And this building was probably a hundred feet long. And it had three coal stoves in the length of it. And we would stoke those stoves up, stove by stove, and the first two joints of pipe would be red hot. If you were six feet away from it you were freezing. Anybody whose bunk was close to the stove was throwing their blankets off and the rest of us who was away from the stove was borrowing their blankets to keep us warm during the night. It was a place for the soldiers who were attending a radio operator/mechanic’s school, fine radio operator/mechanic’s school at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And, you know, the snow gets that deep. I’ve got pictures of me standing up to my knees in snow and holding on to an icicle that’s off the edge of the roof and the point of the icicle is down in the snow. Me and another kid from Bakersfield did that, our pictures are there.

CD: It does sound miserable.

DD: Oh, it was miserable. And we didn’t have any indoor toilets. For every three barracks there was,on the alley behind them there was an outdoor-type toilet. And you’d get up in the middle of the night and put your clothes on if you had to go run out through the snow.

CD: That seems primitive for the ‘40s.

DD: Well, for that far north, I mean, that wouldn’t have been bad if it had been down in Mississippi, Louisiana, or Florida or someplace, it wouldn’t have been bad. But to have that in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in the winter time and I was there in the winter time.

CD: But your house in Woodlake had indoor plumbing, didn’t it?

DD: Oh yes, yes, yes.

CD: How about your farm in Patterson, did that have indoor plumbing?

DD: Nope. We had an old wooden outhouse out between the house and the barn.

CD: So overall, how would you say that World War II affected Woodlake or how it affected Tulare County as a whole?

DD: Well, food was tight; gasoline was tight. People did the best they could with what they had. There was a shortage of things in general. And you know, you couldn’t buy a new car if you wanted one or anything. There wasn’t even any new cars built. From 1942 to 1946 there was no new cars brought on the market because all the automobile things were building jeeps and tanks and whatever.

CD: So, when was the first—what year did you buy a new car?

DD: After the war,let’s see, I had a new car in ’39, which was before,and I used that car all through the war. I think ’46 was the next new car.

CD: Oh, that’s not bad. And did the population of Woodlake increase after the war? Did things get better or was it worse?

DD: Well, things got better right away as things loosened up. I mean, the total activity of manufacturing during the war was concentrated on whatever the war happened to need that they could make. And of course that all ended when the war was over and we were all anxious to get back to producing what we needed, furniture, automobiles and whatever, farm machinery and so on.

CD: As far as the effect on Tulare County, do you think it had an overall good effect or neutral?

DD: It’s hard to describe something like that because the situation was the same everywhere. I mean, it was a total national effort. And when it was over, everybody said, "Shwoo, now let’s get back to normal."

CD: And did it?

DD: Yeah. Slowly. But everybody did what they could, I mean, afterwards, you know. There was great demand for anything that had been scarce during the war. And the manufacturers took advantage of it, naturally, that’s their business.

CD: Is there anything you’d like to add about the war years?

DD: I’m glad I went through it. I wouldn’t care to do it all over again. But it was an experience that I’ll never forget. And now in looking back, I’m glad that I had a part in it. But it didn’t hurt my life any. We were all deprived of certain things that we needed and wanted and would’ve loved to have had. But in all, it wasn’t really a bad experience for me. Of course, if I’d have been in the infantry and the fighting in Germany , or somewhere, saw killed and injured every day and all that kind of,you know, actually, I went four years in the service and never left the United States .

CD: or you could have been a fighter pilot and killed. Most of those,you must have met a lot of people who didn’t come back.

DD: Oh yeah. You bet. And I was a volunteer. I was there. They could have done whatever they wanted. The fact that I never left wasn’t my fault or anything that I arranged. I was there. I said, "Here I am, I’ll do whatever you want me to do."

CD: Yeah, you did your part.

DD: I did my part. But it was all done right here in the United States . So it wasn’t really a bad experience for me like it was for millions of others. There was close to 15 million people in the service during the war in the United States , 15 million.

CD: Do you know of any Woodlake men that didn’t go? What was it like for them?

DD: There were a few like the farm thing; people were pretty much exempted simply because we needed what they were producing. And there were certain industries and certain jobs that were exempt. They couldn’t even draft them if they wanted to, you know. They were exempt from the draft because of what their situation was. There were lots of university students that were exempted simply because they were in the middle of preparing for some type of a future, you know. And they didn’t interrupt that or maybe when they had of finished, it would have been something that would have been useful for the war effort.

CD: So there wasn’t any resentment when the veterans came h ome about the men that didn’t go?

DD: Oh no, no.

CD: That’s good.

DD: The reasons they didn’t go were good. There might have been a few of what we call conscientious objectors, although I don’t personally know of any. We didn’t go. You heard about the ones that fled to Canada to stay out. I don’t know of anybody; personally know of anybody that did that.

CD: Well, thatnk you very much for your participation. It was very interesting.

4-22-04 C. Doe/C. Paggi Transcriber/J. Wood Editor 6-28-05

Editor’s note: Words in italics are additions made during the editing, and during a phone interview with Mr. Davies on 6-28-05.