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
Report No: 38
Place of Interview: Porterville, CA
LIFE IN PORTERVILLE, CA
KF: This is November 25, 2003, and I’m interviewing Mary Crow Faggart in her home on the Years of Valor, Years of Hope Project. Mary would you give me the date of your birth and your name, with your maiden name also?
MF: My maiden name was Mary May Crow, and I was born on January 11, 1917. You can tell then that I’m almost 87 years old.
KF: What was your maiden name?
MF: Crow. (ed: Mary’s father’s name is Chris Crow; her mother’s name was Mildred Wood Crow. Her father was James Monroe Wood and he helped set out the olive trees on the Cairn’s ranch on the Tulare-Lindsay highway. Mary’s husband, Ernest M. (Bud) Faggart’s parents were Ernest A. Faggart and Grace E. Ritchie Faggart.)
KF: Crow, okay. And how old were you when World War II broke out?
MF: Well, I think I was 24.
KF: Were you married?
MF: Oh yes, and my baby, was six months old the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and on my lap. We were
in the car and we heard it on the car radio that Pearl Harbor was being bombed. And, of course, by evening we’d heard
President Roosevelt declare a state of war, between the
KF: Okay. What event stands out in the years preceding the war? What do you remember?
MF: Well, of course, what I remember is when the German Army started
KF: And what were you doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
MF: Oh, I’m just like everybody else; I guess I remember when we got where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. We were on our way to our parents’ homes in Terra Bella. We were both raised in Terra Bella. And, my six month old baby boy was on my lap, and here came this news, it was about noon when we got the news that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed. You see, they are five hours ahead of us. And, so what we did, that was such big news, and we knew that the little church that we always attended, the Terra Bella Presbyterian Church, we knew it was about to be over with, the service and everything. So, we stopped and waited until people started coming out and I remember the first gentleman that my husband went up to and told him and then of course the news just spread like wildfire. And, so that was the beginning, as far as we were concerned.
of course, that night when President Roosevelt announced that we were now in a
state of war with
KF: Did your husband have to go?
MF: Oh yes, everybody did that was able bodied, but he didn’t go overseas.
KF: When did he leave?
MF: He was drafted into the Infantry because he didn’t want to go. He was drafted into the Infantry and it turned out good. After being inducted at Fort Ord, he was sent to Camp Roberts, over here you know, by Pismo Beach. And he spent the duration of the war over there in the motor pool, which was right up his alley. (chuckle) And he came home nearly every weekend to see me and our baby. By then Ted (Edwin Allen Faggart) was…….Ted was born in ’41 and my husband left in ’43, so for two years he commuted back and forth Sunday nights. (chuckle)
KF: Okay. How did the war affect your family economic circumstances?
MF: Well, I don’t recall that it did. My father was a grain rancher; raised wheat. I imagine the wheat was a pretty good price during that time and we didn’t suffer. Of course, they were out there with a big family, and one brother-in-law. I’m one of five girls, so there were lots of brother-in-laws. The five girls are Mary May, Barbara (Baker), Lorraine (Stephen), Elizabeth (Betty) Jean (Lane), and Eleanor (Rutherfurd). I also had a brother, the last child in the family, and his name was Chris Lyle Crow.
One brother-in-law, Ralph Baker, joined the Air Force, and he went to the map and chart division in St. Louis and that’s where he spent the war. But another poor brother-in-law, Richard Stephen, even crawled along on his stomach on the Anzio Beachhead. He was in the Army, and he was in the Signal Corps. So he really experienced the war. Another one that became my brother-in-law, Roger Lane, a little bit later was a pilot, a Navy pilot, in, you know, in one of those one-seated planes. They were bombing the Japanese, just like the P38, and all that, you know. Well, he only had one close encounter. One of those Kamikaze planes (is that what they call it?), came at him, but he and the plane that was near him, or something, got rid of it. So, yeah, we were all involved.
KF: Did you remain a housewife during that time?
MF: Yes, I was not gonna farm my baby out (chuckle), and me work. (chuckle) How we got by, really, was that my husband bought an old De Soto, that he took over to Camp Roberts, and there were three or four Porterville boys, one out at Ducor, that were fortunate enough to be that close to home, and he’d bring them home on weekends. Take ‘em back on Sunday nights and they paid him a little bit, of course. So, he always had a little bit of money to leave me, and then the government sent a check to me every month for $80, for me and the baby. (Chuckle) So, we got by, we had a little savings too, and so on. My folks being ranchers gave us eggs and milk and vegetables and things, you know, so we did all right.
KF: How do you think the war years affected you?
MF: Well, it’s just like anything else you go through that isn’t pleasant, you just get it behind you and go on. I don’t think it really affected me. I learned to trust, I’ll tell you, during all of that. We were all gonna get through it all right. My mother was the one that prayed. She prayed for everybody, every single day, and some of the ones in the family will tell you that’s why they weren’t injured or anything, and why they got back.
KF: How do you think the war affected Tulare County, or how did it change Tulare County?
MF: Well, Tulare County has changed terrifically, all our bad air and all the stuff we got, but I don’t think the war did it, that’s just been everywhere. I’ve thought about that because I knew; you mentioned I’d be asked that question and honestly I can’t think of anything, except, maybe, we just didn’t see any more Japanese people around here. You know, those that were here were all taken to the internment camps. Is that the way you pronounce it? Well, anyway, you know what I mean. I think that might be the main thing, that they just disappeared.
KF: Okay. Did you have difficulty getting food or clothing?
MF: Not clothing, but of course we did have our ration stamps. We had little round red tokens for meat and sugar. That was no problem because I never used a lot of sugar; I didn’t do a lot of canning or anything. No, there was no scarcity of food; it was just that we schemed around. I did particularly, so that I could have real good meat on the weekends when my husband came home.
KF: Did your family participate in the war effort, as far as raising money?
MF: Well, my father was on the board out at Terra Bella to give out the stamps and things like that. My mother-in-law, Grace (Ritchie) Faggart, was what they called a spotter. Certain days of the week they would go to this certain place and they listened for and looked for unusual airplanes. If they did see anything, I don’t know if they ever did, but if they did, then it was reported. And then, let’s see, somebody else in the family did something. Well, anyway, everybody did something, and I’d work at the USO now and then. I baked a lot of cookies for the USO, because we had a little something; it wasn’t like Lemoore’s Airbase, but it was a little one out here, and we had barracks. So, Porterville was good to all the guys that were out there in those barracks. One, Melba Lloyd, even got a wonderful husband, Bud Rauber, out of it all, that she met while she was playing the piano at the USO for the boys to sing.
KF: Does any one event of the war stand out for you?
MF: Well, of course, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and everything that went with it. Keeping up with the war news all the time, and listening to, his name was H. V. Kaltenborn, you’ve probably heard of him, and Edward R. Morrow. And there was one; I think his name was Howard K. Smith. Those were big news commentators; we always had the radio handy to hear what’s next. At times it seemed like they were getting kind of close, you know, as when San Francisco had to black out. I guess Los Angeles did too. I don’t remember anything real special.
KF: Do you think your circumstances were similar to those of your friends, and other people around you?
MF: Yes, I think in this little town we were all about the same thing.
KF: So, fewer women went to work here, would you say.
MF: Well, I didn’t really know any that went to work in the shipyards, but there might have been. Our town was very small at that time. I don’t think our population was over 5,000 at that time.
KF: Did people do any other things that you remember, your family, like gardens, and so on?
MF: Yes, everybody had a victory garden. Yes.
KF: How did that work?
MF: Well, for instance, the one that we had, it was a vacant lot next to us, and all the neighbors helped with the garden, and then whatever they liked, they could have. It probably was all tomatoes in the summer time. I just don’t remember too much about that, not being a man and not tending to it. I just don’t remember. I remember where it was.
KF: It sounds like most of the men in the family went away, either overseas or like your husband. How did you guys keep in touch, and how do you think it affected you, and your relationship?
MF: Well, we were so fortunate, because my husband could come home every weekend, so we didn’t have that big adjustment period, like a lot of families had. There were divorces even, they just couldn’t adjust. But now, here in this little town, with the people that I knew, we were all young women with our babies. We were all taking care of ‘em and, I don’t know, I was busy all the time, because I didn’t . . .the reason I chose not . . .I did have a stenographic job offered to me, but I didn’t want to do it. I thought I could do better by doing our yard work. I remembered every Friday night I mowed the lawn. I pushed that old type lawnmower. I wanted to keep everything ship shape for my husband getting home. He’d get home on Saturday afternoon; we had a few hours and then Sunday evenings he go back again.
KF: How, do you remember his attitude being while he was away?
MF: (Chuckle) He didn’t like it. The wasteful nest of stuff, he didn’t like. He never just took to that Army life like some people. He didn’t even want to join the American Legion when he got home. He had other things he was more interested in. (chuckle) Those foggy, cold nights . . . to find your way back over there. And he would drink so much coffee before he’d leave, so he could keep awake, and then he’d get over there about one o’clock in the morning, and then he couldn’t sleep when he’d go to bed. So, I don’t know, he didn’t care about any of it. But he was so thankful that he got put in the motor pool.
KF: Wash your community affected by any industry conversions?
MF: No, we didn’t have any. Everybody was a farmer or a dairy person.
KF: Do you remember what the impact of the war was on local agriculture?
MF: Well, agriculture was in great shape because it was needed. The oranges were a good price and the wheat; I think the wheat was a good price. There was a dairy in Terra Bella. Well they, of course, just went right on. Terra Bella and Porterville are really all I know. Strathmore and Lindsay and all those towns were just about like Porterville, just going along about their business. The fellas being drafted.
KF: What was your impression of the military and political leadership during that time?
MF: You know I never thought much about politics (chuckle), that kind of stuff. My interest was in home things. I think a lot more about all that now, you know, but I don’t know, Roosevelt, everybody loved Roosevelt, you know, because he was our leader. We respected him.
KF: Did you feel like it was a just war?
MF: Well yes, when you’re bombed, what do you do, get back again. And,
KF: Where were you and what were you doing when the war ended?
MF: We were still in our little house on "D" Street. That’s where we stayed that whole time and then a couple of years after my husband got back; he went right back to his same job and everything. He even became a partner in the business. It was the Tom Spear Automobile Agency, Dodge and Plymouth. And, ah, let’s see what was I starting to say, (chuckle). What was the question?
Well, we lived almost in the heart of Porterville. The city library was the hub of everything, that’s where the draft board was and that’s where we even got our driver’s license. I guess the library part was just in a corner, I don’t know. And, ah, then when VJ Day came, we celebrated the end of the war, right after the bombing of Hiroshima. All of us congregated down on the lawn of the library. That was only about two blocks from where we lived. We lived, well, in our back yard practically, is where the Southern Pacific Train ran. That’s one thing, we had lots of trains going through, and lots of airplanes flying over, because it wouldn’t be foggy here when it was foggy over near Lemoore and like that. So, they would do their practice stuff over Porterville and so, I remember I walked down to the library, oh it was a happy time, everybody was very jovial, and I had my little boy, he rode his tricycle down there. We all just congregated you know, and sang songs, patriotic songs and so on. So that was really a happy time at the end of the war. Of course, it was a while yet until our husbands got home and so on.
KF: Tell me more about that.
MF: Ah, well, let’s see now, something occurred to me when I was
telling that. It was kind of before
that. Was it about the train? We had two trains in Porterville at that time, that ran all the
time. The Santa Fe Depot that was to
the east of the town and the Southern Pacific, and, incidentally, I took that
train right after my husband left to go to Fort Ord. He called me from San Francisco, there was something about . . .
they were waiting for orders just when to report at Fort Ord, I think that was the idea, that
was the induction point. So, either my
parents or my husband’s parents came and got Ted, our son, and me. I guess I
walked to the Southern Pacific Station, ‘cause it was only a couple of blocks
away and took that train to San Francisco. I remember there were so many, many soldiers on that train and I guess
that’s why we had so many trains going by, part of them were troop trains. Of course, the train only took me to Oakland, then I took a bus over to San Francisco and I had a sister, Lorraine, that was in training up there;
she was going to
KF: Any other changes in women’s roles in your family, mother or sisters or anything like that?
MF: They just went on with what they were doing. The one sister was in San Francisco, that’s when she completed her nurses training. And then the one, Barbara, I told you about the husband that was in the map and chart division in St. Louis. She had stenographic training and she got a job right away back there at Monsanto Chemical, that’s where Bobbie worked for several years. And then another sister, Betty was, I guess, about that time she was at Heald Business College in San Francisco and she went on to work for Shell Oil in the stenographic pool. I think that completed her time for the war. And then let’s see, Eleanor was just in high school, she was 15 years younger than I. So we just went on with what we were doing.
KF: Did you see many changes in the population, like . . . you said the Japanese left.
MF: We didn’t see any more Japanese, they were all rounded up and taken to the camps.
KF: Did that affect your family in any way?
MF: No, no, it did some orange growers though. I know a lady whose husband employed a lot of them and he really was good to those people and helped them out in a lot of ways. I hope she gets interviewed. She lives out west of town. She 90 years old now, so her memory is really good about it all, you know, because of her years. So no, as far as population, all of that happened after the war. I guess a lot of people came from Oklahoma after that. I don’t remember what years those were. Personally I didn’t notice an influx of population.
KF: Okay, Braceros I believe came in, Mexican farm laborers.
MF: Well, it seems like, I guess a lot of them took the place of the Japanese, yeah, they would have in the truck gardening, in the orange groves, citrus and so on. But, it seems like we’ve always had them more the last few years.
KF: Okay. Did you have other children during the war?
MF: No, no, the war is what got ‘em. (Chuckle) By the time my husband was home and we were settled, after a couple of years, we were ready to start building a house, and then my son started to school, and I was in PTA and all that. It just seemed like it was going to be too much distance between children to start in again. We had just the one good healthy boy. He runs our business now, the automobile business. ( ed: Faggart Buick-Pontiac-GMC)
KF: Okay. Did you see much change in loyalty or patriotism toward the country during the war, or maybe since the war?
MF: Well, I’ve noticed it more since the war. Ah, what big thing was it, well, the big surge of patriotism we experienced was after 9-11, the attack on the World Trade Center. No, I didn’t notice a big burst of patriotism following the war.
KF: How about during the war?
MF: Well, I don’t know, everybody was just loyal and I’m not thinking anything different. Everybody was supportive, oh yes.
KF: Were there any people that made special collection drives or any special events related to war efforts that you remember?
MF: I remember we saved the tin cans; we smashed ‘em down. Ah, no, I don’t remember . . . not like they do to the heifer project, and things like that. We were just such a little town, and such a few people, you know.
KF: Were there a number of men that went from this area.
MF: Oh, yeah, we lost quite a few young boys on the Anzio Beach Head. Yeah, Porterville really took a hit on the losses in World War II.
KF: How was that for the community?
MF: It was very sad. We all banded together about those things. Yes. I can’t think now how many people Porterville lost, young boys, but it was more than the national average, you know, we were among the highest. I guess our boys were just about the right age is the reason. I think most of them had volunteered, had enlisted. Yes, a lot of families were really affected.
KF: At that time, were most of the young men involved in agriculture?
MF: I think most of those around here, and from Porterville, were just getting out of school, out of college and out of high school, and they volunteered and away they went. Because those that had settled down with good jobs and so on were married, they weren’t anxious. No young man is anxious to leave his job and his wife and baby and home, you know. They were the ones that were drafted. The ones that didn’t volunteer.
KF: Did your father have a ranch? Ah, did he notice a change in his ability to get workers, or . . .
MF: Well, you know, I was married at that time and I was living eight miles (chuckle) from the folks. I never heard him complain about it. Maybe in the summer time when they harvested the wheat. You need quite a few people to tend to the harvest, sew sacks and all of that, but it seemed like daddy always had about the same people year after year.
KF: How did you get around, how did you get to see your folks?
MF: Drove out there. We had a nice Plymouth, a nice blue Plymouth, a 1941 Plymouth. My husband was selling them, so we had, you know, the latest. And, he left the Plymouth for me, for here around town and everything, and go to Terra Bella. He had bought that old De Soto that I told you about that he ran back and forth.
KF: Did you have any trouble with gas?
MF: Oh, yes, gas was rationed. You had to be very careful about the gas usage, yes.
KF: But, he still had enough to get back and forth.
MF: Yeah, he did, because it seems like those fellas were all entitled to a certain amount of gas too, and by pooling the tickets, he never did run out of gas that I heard about. We always got along. People weren’t extravagant like they are now. We were just naturally conservative. Tires were rationed too. If you needed a new tire, you had to scheme around to get it.
KF: Do you remember much talk about the holocaust, or the re-location of the Japanese?
MF: No. No.
KF: Okay, I think that’s probably about where we’re gonna stop, unless you can think of something special you remember from the war that I haven’t mentioned to you, or you haven’t talked about.
MF: Well, I told you when I woke up the first thing this morning, which is usually about 4:30, then you know you don’t go back to sleep. I was trying to think of things, you know, that would be unusual, but really things just went on pretty ordinary here and we kept up with all the news on the radio. I just remember a lot of soap operas I listened to everyday: The Guiding Light and Mary Marlin and Ma Perkins and all of those. They kind of set my schedule of when I could leave home and I was real fortunate that, our two good grocery stores, well, there were more, but the two biggest ones weren’t very far from where we lived because we were, I told you, just a couple of blocks from Main Street. I could walk and get most of my groceries. When I needed quite a few they all delivered. So you didn’t have to worry about that. And, ah, I don’t know, I just kept busy doing all the things that housewives do.
KF: Okay, well thank you very much. This was very helpful.
MF: Oh, when you’re young you don’t think about the rest of the world as much as now, when you’re older and have time to think and read and everything. I don’t know, just keeping up with what you had to do (chuckle) was just about enough.
I’ll tell you one thing that happened though during the war: that’s when a lot of people started smoking, just an awful lot. Because, well, the movies or anything during that time that you watched, people were smoking. And, then of course the movies all had these glamorous gals smoking, and I think that’s one thing and then my husband, he would go to the PX over at Camp Roberts, I guess that stands for Post Exchange, I don’t remember. And the local librarian liked Herbert Tarrington’s, they were a longer cigarette and they were an English cigarette. And she was English, so every Saturday afternoon he’d bring a carton of Herbert Tarrington cigarettes to this lady. I know she shared ‘em with a lot of her friends. That’s just one little kind of a humorous thing that went on.
KF: Did your husband smoke during that time?
MF: Yes, he did. He hadn’t smoked until then, but he said that was one thing that helped keep him awake driving back and even the boring trips over this way on Saturday afternoons, late. They just all smoked and he never was a heavy smoker. As he got older, he went towards cigars, and then his pipe. (Chuckle) He loved his pipe and it smelled good. He’d sit in his big chair over there watching TV at night and he’d smoke his pipe. I do think that’s when a lot of people got addicted to cigarettes and really paid the price later on.
KF: You saw some movies. Was there a theatre in town?
MF: Oh, yes, we had a good theatre. It was the old Manache Theatre. I hope somebody interviews Jimmy Howell, because he’s almost as old as I am and he saw all the movies, because his father was the manager of the theatre. And then, later on, he became the theatre manager. And he would go places where they went to rent movies, you know, for the town and preview the movies and things. So, yes, we had a lovely theatre. There again, only about two blocks from us, because everything was in the hub of town.
KF: Did the movies change, do you remember much about the movies during the war?
MF: Oh, yes, the girls were so glamorous and, you know, had these tiny waistlines and pretty clothes, the long wavy hair and everything, ‘cause the movies were very glamorous. Our main entertainment was our movies and our church affairs. There wasn’t a whole lot more for young adults to do. Oh, we had card parties and things like that. We had a dancing club. The dancing club was a great thing. I don’t remember, I think it was after the war that we joined a dancing club.
KF: Were you involved with the church?
MF: Oh yes, the church in Terra Bella.
KF: And, were there a lot of activities related to the war?
MF: Not related to the war, we just had get togethers. We had what we called clipper clubs. All Presbyterian Churches had them, I think, for young marrieds. Then when you’d get so old, you’d walk the plank. (Chuckle) We didn’t get that old.
KF: Okay, well thank you very much.
1-31-2004 K. Feezel/ Trans.pd/ed. JW 6/17/04
Ed note: The words in italics were added during a phone interview with Mary Faggart on January 31, 2006.