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: 98
Place of Interview: Porterville City Library, CA
LIFE AROUND PIXLEY
MOTHER WAS PRESIDENT OF RATIONING BOARD
GERMAN PRISONER CAMP IN TIPTON, CA
FARMING AND DAIRY LIFE
CD: This is the Years of Valor, Years of Hope, and we’re in the Porterville Library interviewing William B. Horst. Could you please give your full name and spell it please.
BH: William Benjamin, middle name, (chuckle), the last name Horst.
CD: Okay, why don’t you start out first, before we get to the scrapbook about who were your parents and where you were born.
BH: All right. On my mother’s side, my grandfather, William V. Freeman, was born in 1885 in Santa Monica, California. His parents, Charles and Laura (Bean) Freeman, were from Maine. My mother, Margaret Ada Freeman was born there in Santa Monica, seven or eight blocks from the beach in 1905, and lived there most of her years, growing up. Then, in 1919, my grandfather moved them from down south to a place about eight miles west of Terra Bella, six miles east of Pixley, a little area called the Saucelito School District.
My grandmother, Mabel (Harmer) Freeman said she cried for a month because they were in the middle of the desert. She was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then to Santa Monica, with the beach nearby. Of course, she had grown up near the Atlantic Ocean area, so when she came to the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, it was a desert. My mother grew up there, went through the eighth grade, and then went back to Santa Monica and Los Angeles to go to Business College. Then, after about 10 or 12 years working in offices of the motion picture industry, she came back to home at the ranch and started up a little business of her own, writing articles for the Terra Bella News, the Pixley Enterprise, the Porterville Recorder and the Tulare paper, which I don’t remember the name of the Tulare paper. She got like .25 cents for each article she wrote. Back in those days, that was good.
CD: About what year was that?
BH: Well, that would have been about 1930, ’31, and ’32. My father’s people came from Maryland and Wisconsin and down into Kansas. My grandfather, Benjamin L. Horst, went into Oklahoma Territory and took up land in the Cherokee Strip opening in 1889. Then he went to visit people in Kansas, who were relatives, which was across the line from Oklahoma, where he had taken up land and met my grandmother, Leah (Detweiler). They were married in 1893 and my father, Jonas D. Horst, was born in 1895 in Harper, Kansas. Then they moved over to Protection, Kansas and then they moved in 1909 out here. They landed at Dinuba at the railroad station, because just a few miles west of Dinuba was a Mennonite Community where they had some friends and relatives. My grandfather on that side, Grandpa Horst was a Mennonite minister; although he’d never preached secular, he always had just what commonly is called a "You All Come" Church.
CD: (Chuckle) That’s cute.
BH: Then I think in 1910, he found some land near an area called the Saucelito School District, which as I mentioned is where my mother’s folks bought in 1919. They developed two-80 acre parcels, which he bought from relatives of J.P. Hayes for $5.00 each. So he got 160 acres for $10.00, gold coins.
CD: Is that the big Hayes’ family that owned property all over?
BH: Well, I don’t think so. I don’t know. J.P. Hayes is the only one I heard of in any historical research which I’ve done on early West and California and specifically local areas. There was Captain Jack Hayes from Texas, who was in the early 1860’s in Visalia, then out and up to the Washoe District of California and Nevada. I don’t know if there is a connection in those families or not. And so that’s how we landed at the Saucelito School District. My mother and father met when mother came back to her parent’s ranch and farm and dad was doing work for them, training mules and horses and had his own teams. So he did work around in leveling land, etc., etc.
CD: Oh, and is the Saucelito School District still there?
BH: Saucelito School is still there. It’s one of the few country schools that is still around. The old school disappeared, I should say, in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s, when they tore out the old brick, two-room schoolhouse, actually one room, with a folding partition. That was destroyed and a new school built. It’s still there at the site which is, like I said, about eight miles west of Terra Bella and six miles east of Pixley, just about a straight line on Avenue 104 out of Pixley. My grandfather and grandmother on my mother’s side lived on Avenue 96 going out of Terra Bella towards Pixley.
CD: What do you think attracted your mother’s parents to move to a desert from Santa Monica? What was the attraction?
BH: Well, my grand dad said it was just getting too crowded. And he got a lot more money for what he had there than he could turn down. My great grandfather came there and established a livery and teaming business.
CD: And what was his name?
BH: Charles E. Freeman and my great grandmother’s name was Laura Bridges Bean.
CD: Is that Bean?
BH: Yes, Bean, related someway to the Bean’s that have the sporting goods business back in Maine. And your last name kind of surprised me because also, on her side, are the Doe’s.
CD: Oh my gosh, really, from back East?
BH: Yeah, there was a man there in Maine who was an ancestor of hers that
was named John Doe and he was an officer in the Continental Army. He was like 6’7" or 6’8" in height, very
tall. He stood out, and I’ve always wondered
if that’s where the term "sign your John Doe here," whatever, came from. But anyway, they’re all Scotch, of Scottish
decent. Before it was Bean, it was Mac
Bean, or after it was Bean, it was Mac Bean, and Mac Bean means Son of
Bean. And, before that in
CD: And what year were you born?
BH: 1934, March 4, 1934. I just had my 70th birthday.
CD: Oh, congratulations. So, during the years of ’41 through ’46, what school were you attending?
BH: I started school in ’39 at Pleasant View, 1st grade.
CD: And where is that?
BH: That’s sort of west and a little south of Poplar. Actually, it is the school that serves the Poplar area. Dad had 130 acres over there, within a mile of Pleasant View School and that’s where I started school. So you know, the same old story about kids, I walked a mile to school.
CD: Up hill both ways. (chuckle)
BH: Yeah, (chuckle) but when it rained, I was mortified, because it rained and my mother had to take me to school and my father had the car off somewhere. So she cranked up the tractor, which had an umbrella on it, and she took me to school and I begged her to let me out way before we got there. And she said, "No, you’ll go right up to school and that will be fine." So I hopped down and ran over and kind of hid out and all the kids came over and I found out real quick that that was important, special and great, that I got to ride a tractor to school. So it wasn’t so bad after all.
CD: (Chuckle) Well, how did all the other kids . . . not everybody had two cars?
BH: Not everybody did. Not everybody had a way to get there and they walked and got wet. Some had slickers; some had hats that would keep the rain off. I later got what the old timers used to call a "So-Western", which is a raincoat and a large waterproof hat that matched it. Now some people called it different things, but I remember they called it a "So-Western".
CD: And what grade were you in when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
BH: I was in second grade.
CD: And do you remember it well?
BH: Yeah, we were at church at Saucelito. My grandfather on my dad’s side, Benjamin Horst, started a church at Saucelito School and he passed away before I was born, of pneumonia. My father and his brothers, Reuben, Daniel, Roy and Titus and my grandmother Horst kept the church going there. It was non-denominational, although my Grandmother Horst always dressed, as do Mennonite and Amish -- little white bonnet and a dress down to the top of your shoes and your shoes high laced up, sleeves down three-quarters at least. And she wore a single wedding band, which was really against their beliefs in the Mennonite Church.
CD: Oh, it was.
BH: Yeah, any show of wealth or anything like that was considered extreme. But she did anyway, because she and my grandfather were kind of progressive or more modern Mennonite. My uncle Daniel went back to Mennonite country, back in Pennsylvania and Maryland and visited some of them, cousins that he had heard about and other relatives. Some of them had generators in the barn, TV in the barn, couldn’t have it in the house. They had automobiles and they painted all of the chrome black. So they were commonly called black bunker Mennonites. Kind of like a jack Mormon, I guess, is what they say --a Mormon that drinks coffee and tipples a little (chuckle).
CD: (Chuckle) Let’s get back to that Sunday and Pearl Harbor.
BH: Well, there’s mixed things in mind. I know that we were at church and suddenly there was an uproar. Of course a seven year-old kid’s not gonna pay much attention to what’s going on. But there was an uproar and there were people talking and the church let out.
CD: Did it let out early?
BH: Yeah, we got to go home and I remember being in the house and dad and mother listening close to the radio and mother said, "We have to go over to mom and dad’s." I had an older half-brother, Claude Lorenzo (Bud) Pike, my mother’s first son, who was about fifteen when the war started; fifteen or sixteen. Well, fifteen, almost sixteen and I was seven, almost eight. We knew that Bud would have to go, sooner or later. You know, fifteen or sixteen, no, but eighteen and of course, he wanted to go right away but nobody would sign for him. So, he didn’t go until ’43 when he was eighteen.
CD: So what was it like next day at school with the teachers and all?
BH: Well, everybody was talking about it, fussing over it and kids were saying, "Well my dad said, if they come here, he’s got a shotgun." "My dad’s got a rifle and we’ll fight ‘em." Some of ‘em even wanted to know who them Japs were, where’d they come from. Why didn’t they like us? You know, that sort of kid stuff. It was just a time of change. At that time we farmed with horses at my Grandmother Horst’s, which my dad shared work there with his brothers. At our home, which was 130 acres, dad farmed the 130 with horses and we plowed and walked behind the horses. Coyotes would follow and mice would run. I’d get to ride on one of the horses whenever I wanted to crawl down there in the field and go along.
CD: What did you guys plant?
BH: Mostly cotton and alfalfa, feed for livestock. We had six horses and about eight cows to milk. I got one cow; dad would milk the other seven. Sometimes I would get through with one and go to a second one, but my job was to take the tamest old boss and start working on a bucket. Then the cats and dogs would come around and I’d get to squirt them, so they’d keep out of the way and lick each other and not bother us. Once they got through licking each other and started coming around, I’d get to squirt ‘em again.
CD: Right and that would keep them away from your dad.
BH: Yeah, so he could work. So I usually get through one, maybe get started on another, you know, a six, seven, eight, nine year old kid’s not gonna be too serious about milking cows. Then we’d go over to my Grandma Horst’s and we would go there with the milk and she had a separator and you’d make cream out of that spout, milk out of this spout, and I got to crank it.
CD: Was it hard?
BH: No, it wasn’t. You just got the thing started and that was just the centrifuge that the heavier liquid would separate from the lighter liquid and then you sent it to the creamery. The creamery truck came by every morning at a certain time. You had a rack out there by the street that you sat the cans of milk and cans of cream up on. Everybody looked forward to that monthly creamery check, because it was just cash money coming in. It would be anywhere from five to fifteen bucks, depending on how many cans of milk you had. My Grandmother Horst had, and everybody had, I should say, a screen porch. When you go in the flies are out there and not too many flies get in and then you go on into the house. If there get to be too many flies in the screen porch, you had a little spray thing, flip sprayer, and you’d spray that around and kill the flies in the porch, have the flies around the outside. You can’t have horses and cattle and dogs and cats and all those things and people, without flies.
So grandma had a refrigerator on her porch that kept quarts of milk, gallons of milk, several pounds of butter and small containers of cream. Also, dozens of eggs in little wooden box containers and she had a little sign on the front of the door that cream was so much, milk was so much, quarts so much, gallons so much. Eggs were .10 cents a dozen or .05 cents a dozen or something like that. On top of the refrigerator was a box where you put your money. She would never lock the doors on the house because she had the only telephone within three to four miles around. So a neighbor or someone might need to use the phone. There was the milk, eggs and cream and butter. People would come by and get things and there was a note pad and pencil in the box and if they had no money, they’d write down what they took. Then when they got money they’d come back and pay. A lot of time, I’d see ‘em drive up out in front and have a couple of chickens trussed up, live ones, and they’d say. "Will this cover what we owe for milk and eggs and stuff?" Of course, grandma would say, "Certainly, just turn ‘em loose."
CD: Boy, that must have been quite a little home business during the war with the butter rationing. Would she run out?
BH: Well, she died in March of ’42.
CD: So she wasn’t alive during the hardest of the rationing.
BH: But one of the aunts and uncles; one of my dad’s brothers and his family moved into the house. Reuben and Martha Horst moved in with their children: Gordon, Alice, Dorothy, Myrta, Paul, Mary Ellen, and Richard. When they moved out, dad’s brother Titus bought the place, moved in and farmed it until his death.
CD: And did they continue?
BH: They continued that to a certain degree, but the house wasn’t unlocked for everybody anymore. There were things available there, but not open. When you got there, if they were there, you could buy ‘em. But you could do that at any farm out there.
When I was a kid in first and second grade, we lived over by Pleasant View School, nearer to Poplar, which was about a mile and a half, two miles, north of where my Grandma Horst lived and where Saucelito School was, probably two miles, plus. People would come by looking for work, chopping cotton and whatever. I remember one time people looking for work came in and had two cars; everything they owned was tied on the cars.
CD: And where were they from?
BH: I don’t remember exactly, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and north Texas; somewhere up in that country. And dad said, "Well I have work, but it won’t last long, but I know other farmers around that have work or will have work." There were two adult men and two children that were in their early teens and workers. So dad said, "Yeah, I need help with the hay, chopping cotton and so on. Others around do, my father-in-law’s place and my mother’s place, so if you are serious about landing here, I’ll go into Poplar to Tobias’s General Store and get some tent tops and go to Pixley and get lumber and we can build some wood bottoms and fix ‘em so you can have tent tops." So down between the house and the barn, which was about, oh I guess, so people would understand, it was probably about the length of a football field. The barns were usually north of or east of the houses.
CD: Really, like consistently?
BH: Well, the wind blows from the north-west here. So flies and stink would go to somebody else’s place. Everybody, I mean, our closest neighbor was about half or three-quarters a mile away. We always planted alfalfa and cotton right up above the house on the north-west side, so we’d get a breeze through that. There again is another story, about how to survive without air-conditioning and coolers. I never saw an inside toilet until I was in fourth grade at our home. My Grandma Horst had one, but that was the only one I knew about. Got to use it once in a while, but she also had an outhouse. If you were in a hurry and you were outside and you were a kid, that outhouse or a bush was good enough.
Anyway, dad fixed them up and he rigged up a little shower down underneath the tank house by the barn. They stayed there for the better part of that year, through chopping cotton and weeding the cotton, bringing in the alfalfa hay and picking cotton. Then the winter months came on and they packed up and moved.
My father’s name was Jonas D. Horst and everybody called him J.D. He came here to this area when he was about twelve or thirteen and was pretty good with horses and his dad the same way. Then when he was nineteen, his father passed away in 1914 and he became the headman as the oldest son.
CD: And he was the one who trained the mules?
BH: And he trained mules and horses and he cowboyed a little bit and broke all of our stock. He was good at bucking out a horse. They didn’t use a coral, they’d just saddle ‘em up and put a bit in their mouth, wrap a bandana around, through the head stall, over their eyes and climb on.
I’ve got some pictures of about four different situations where one of my uncles is holding the horse by the head and one ear, and my dad standing by the horse. The next one, my dad’s on the horse and the next one, the horse is loose and everything’s a blur and in the air. They’d buck ‘em out and if you stayed on, then eventually the horse would just get into a run and you pulled him around, that after you’d gentled ‘em over time. You didn’t try to break a horse like that until he was at least two years old.
CD: Were you ever amazed that there weren’t more broken bones?
BH: Well, yes, most generally they’d try to buck ‘em out on plowed ground.
CD: Oh, so it would be a soft landing. I always wondered about that, you know, you could die from a serious break.
BH: Oh, yeah, dad got a belt caught on a horn one time and he said he was surprised that I got here, because of the discomfort and damage that was done.
CD: (Chuckle) But he lived through it, I guess.
BH: Yeah, he said it was terrible, the hurt. And he got kicked shoeing a horse one time and broke his nose loose, right across the upper lip. Old Doc Miller, who was one of the old doc’s here in town, sewed it back down, so dad’s nose always had a kind of little hook on the end of it, because the doctor pulled it a little too tight. But dad never worried much about that. You know, he had all his fingers. He never got a knuckle popped off or anything like that.
CD: I guess that was common, huh?
BH: Yeah, yeah and so I kind of got off of the thing we were talking about first. We were back and forth to these three different farms and ranches, because dad would have to take a team over to help at my Grandma Horsts’ or over to work at Freeman’s, my other grandfather. My Grandpa Freeman, when they first got here, and his two daughters, my mother and her sister, Alice (Kent) and their older brother, Norman, were kind of in shock because there wasn’t any place to jump in the water when it was hot. So my grandfather built a large reservoir. That reservoir served as a swimming hole for everybody from Terra Bella to Earlimart, to Pixley, Tipton. I run into people still who talk about Freeman’s reservoir. They’d all go to Freeman’s reservoir after work and cool off in the summer.
CD: I had a question about the workers, once the war started. I mean, there wouldn’t just be people showing up to work? Wasn’t it hard to get the crops picked? Who came up to do the work?
BH: No, I started with this kid named J.D. and that was his only name, just J.D. My dad’s nickname was J.D., so I remember that. Anyway, they started to school and they were, you know, some of ‘em were not going. Folks wanted them to work. My dad said, "Well, you can’t do that out here. You gotta go to school."
CD: Was it the law then?
BH: Yeah, yeah. They didn’t push on it that hard. You know, if there was work to be done and there wasn’t anybody else to do it, they’d go easy on it. But if you missed too many days, you just didn’t get moved up to the next grade. I got held back in the second grade, because I figured I knew about all I needed to know after I finished the first. So I just couldn’t stay home; they wouldn’t let me. So I went and dummied up. When I figured out, you know, when that year went by and I stayed, then I decided I’d better get to work. So I did a second year in the second grade at Pleasant View.
Between the second grade year and third grade year, which would have been in the summer of ’42, we moved right across the street from Saucelito School, on a little less acreage but a little better house. It had an inside toilet -- but it didn’t work. We were there for the better part of the third grade year and dad never got that inside toilet fixed. There was an outside one, you know, and what the dickens, that’s what you’re used to when you’re four and five. Mother was a city girl and she didn’t like that.
If you got to school early at Saucelito, you got to ring the bell. Being the kid whose father was one of the, I guess now-a-days you’d call them deacons, at that little church in the school, at Saucelito, I was always there on the weekends, on Sundays and sometimes through the week we’d have little box socials, get-togethers and things like that. So I’d get to ring the bell. That worked out great because when I got to living right across from the school, I was always the first one there. But pretty soon the teacher said, "Billy, we gotta let somebody else ring the bell or we’re gonna get in trouble here." So, I got to ring it once in a while. I had to just give it up to other kids that were trying to get there too.
CD: That’s hard for a ten year old though (chuckle).
BH: Yeah, that was the fun thing over at Saucelito, because a lot of relatives went there and a lot of the people that we knew were involved in that school. My dad was one of the board members. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Freeman, he was a board member. So in those days, you hired the teacher, well, the teacher. . .
CD: Just one teacher?
BH: Yeah, well, I shouldn’t say that, teachers. There were two. One room had a folding partition and one teacher had first, second, third and fourth and the other had fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. It was a kind of help-teach situation; the older kids would help the littler kids. If I had graduated from Saucelito, which I didn’t, I would have helped too. We had moved into Porterville by the time I hit my eighth grade year. But if I had graduated from Saucelito, I would have been one of two graduates. You see, we had only anywhere from 35 to 45 kids that went to that school. So the teachers would be hired, but the teachers didn’t do janitor work anymore. They used to. So the board members took turns being the clean-up guys, a week at a time. And then it was the other guys turn. So, we got to go down . . .I got to wash down the black boards and help clean out the restrooms and sweep. We always had wood floors then and so we had a can of oil-wood sawdust, redwood sawdust or cedar sawdust that was oiled and you would spread that around on the floor and then sweep it up. That would transfer the oil to the floor. So, you had to clean everyday, because dirty little feet stick to an oily floor pretty good.
CD: About what year did the teachers stop cleaning?
BH: I have no idea, but they weren’t doing it when I was in school. Pleasant View was the largest school and they had a custodian. Saucelito was a small district and couldn’t afford that and the board, as gentlemen, were not going to tell the teachers they had to do that. They did not require the teachers to light the oil stoves which were used for heat. So one of the board members would go to the school early, like five or six o’clock in the morning and light the oil stoves and get the rooms warm. Then you’d shut em down.
The war years were a big change, because in ’42 dad bought a tractor. He bought an Oliver Tractor because of production.
CD: Right, was it brand new?
BH: Yeah, a beautiful thing, but I hated it because I didn’t get to ride the horse anymore, not that much anyway. We still used the horses getting the hay in and such. But actually working the field, the tractor took over. It had huge red or yellow decorated, what we used to call "lug wheels." They were a round-spoked, iron framework with these hard, huge steel spikes sticking out on it, that would bite in. The front wheel was steel, a set of steel dishes that came down to a center line and that worked pretty good, if you were trying to keep a straight line planting or cultivating or whatever, because it bit in and it didn’t turn unless you turned it. No power steering. So dad, after about a year, got rid of the lugs and got rubber wheels, but it took a year to get the approval to get the rubber tires.
CD: Right, because during the war. . .
BH: Everything was rationed. In this book that my mother kept because she was the chief officer in the rationing board at Pixley . . .
This is a photo album, 12-14" wide and 8 to 10" high, tied with a string spine. It is full of documents and ration stamps used for rationing for the entire war period.
CD: Chief officer, does that mean . . .
BH: She was in charge of the office. There was a rationing board that had to meet every week or two or usually every week. They had to sign and approve or disapprove applications for gasoline, extra gasoline or diesel or more than the allotted number of shoes for a family. If there was a death in the family and they needed to go from here to there and use their gasoline allotment and then what are they gonna do after that? We saved every wrapper off of chewing gum and peeled the metallic off. You needed something for everything. There were two other ladies that worked in the office, because everything had to be, if not hand-written, had to be typed and most things had to be typed.
CD: Like what, the requests?
BH: Well, take a look at this book, scrapbook, and you can see.
CD: Okay. Right now, we’re gonna take a look at the scrapbook and this is of your mother’s, she kept a scrapbook of the . . .
BH: She kept a scrapbook which was the office book, telling of the different forms. The first form here is the first application for war ration book #1 started in May of 1942 and then an example of the war ration book #1, for sugar, coffee and shoes. Then there are examples of the stamps that you would have. Stamps #1 through #16, inclusive, for sugar. Stamps #17 and #18 for shoes. Stamps #19 to #28, beginning with #27 for coffee.
CD: And did she use this actually in the office? Did you ever think it was strange they didn’t say that on the stamp? You know, have you ever seen a ration booklet and you’ve got all these stamps, and there’s no indication what it’s for.
BH: There’s no place until later. Then we have a validation stamp for war ration book #2 and a consumer declaration, which is an application for war ration book #2 started in February of 1943. So, you had to declare what you were applying for. And then here’s an example of the war ration book with the stamp of approval on it. You had these stamps inside. The blue coupons A to Z for processed food were blue and coupons A to Z for meats and fats were red. You had to have a stamp to buy lard to cook with.
CD: Right, did everybody have this memorized?
BH: Right, everybody had to go by this and everybody did. We saved and made large balls of foil to take to the collection center. Everyone opened cans at both ends, put the lids inside the can and mashed them flat, put them in sacks and carried them to the collection centers.
CD: Do you know what they were used for, all this foil and such?
BH: Yeah, all the metal that went into the war.
CD: Huh, even the wrappers on the gum?
BH: Wrappers on the gum, that was the kid’s job. And, rubber bands, you’d never throw away a rubber band. Big huge balls of rubber bands that would be taken to the collection points. Then we got war ration book #3 and you’ve got stamps, brown stamps, used for meats and fats. Then these are general stamps. They have a picture of a fighter plane and a picture of a Howitzer cannon and a picture of a tank on some of them. There’s a picture of an aircraft carrier on these.
CD: Right, but how’d she know what they were used for? Were they used just for everything?
BH: By this time, they were so busy, she didn’t have time to write a lot of it down. There is a little description in the back of the book about which things were used for what. This was started in September of 1943.
CD: So just to summarize, book #1 and #2, they actually had an identification for each of the stamps, but . . .
BH: Yeah, but by the time book #3 came out, people were used to dealing with it. There’s my mother’s book and there’s my book.
CD: Oh, you had one, even though you were so young!
BH: Anybody over, I think five or six years old was considered a consumer. See, this is for breads, flour and water, because it has the little wheat thing on it.
CD: And this?
BH: This is red and that’s meats. This is green and that’s vegetables.
CD: And everybody knew that already. And then that one says coffee.
BH: Yeah, and this one says coffee. And I didn’t drink coffee, so mom and dad were slipping mine out too.
CD: What do you think the spare meant?
BH: The spare you could toss in for other items. Now, exactly what spares were used for, I was a kid and if I wanted to go get something, I needed to get one of them stamps. Candy, I mean just everything.
CD: Did you need that stamp for candy?
BH: Yep, certain kinds, certain kinds. And here’s an application for renewal of a basic mileage ration.
CD: This is for people who needed more gas than they were allotted?
BH: This is basic mileage and you were allotted that. This stamp here would get you four gallons of gas.
CD: Oh, these are the gas tickets. Actually, I haven’t seen the gas tickets.
BH: You see she had to stamp void on all of these that she used as examples. They were required to write their vehicle license number on each stamp. This one was voided for some reason. This is motorcycle mileage rations.
CD: Oh, I’ll be darn, like who would . . .
BH: And all of them on the back are stamped void. This you put on your windshield; windshield sticker.
CD: I wonder what for?
BH: You couldn’t get gas unless you had a sticker.
CD: But everybody got ration tickets.
BH: If they applied. If they didn’t apply, they didn’t have them. Did you have to apply? Everybody had to apply. That’s why I say, they were so busy. There were tons of people in there standing in line. First type "B" book, 16 coupons attached, four gallons of gas for that one. The second were new types of "B" coupons. First type of "C" coupon, second type of the "C" coupon. These were for gasoline. Application for supplemental and occupational mileage. Windshield stickers for "C" book holders. So you had a certain book. If it was a "A" book, then it was just for basic mileage, just every day use. This was for official government or Red Cross business, school officials, transportation, public health, minister, priest or rabbi, essential hospital, labor. Anything that was essential got a "C" stamp to put on the windshield and they also got a book of stamps.
CD: What do you think "B" was for? It says "B" book holder.
BH: It was a commercial. Here’s an application for gasoline for owners of trucks.
CD: Oh, here’s a "T".
BH: Yes, and here’s the truck, "T" for truck, T-1, T-2, and "T" went on the truck. Five gallons, five gallons, five gallons. Essential things. A double "T" was the new type, which came out in ’43. Application for non-highway ration, mileage ration and program; highway rations, non-highway rations. This is for tractors, farm stuff. Bulk, this is if you had a service station.
CD: Oh wow, why she must have been busy. Did you say there was just three people in the office?
BH: Yeah, three girls, my mother and two girls. And this is a non-transferable certificate for purchase of tires or tubes or re-capping service. Again, a second type of that same application and then other types of tire certificates. Certificate of purchase of ration foods and needs used by institutions. Every institution had to have a special set of ration books. It goes on and on, ah, certificate to acquire men’s rubber boots and rubber work shoes.
CD: Wow, they get specific. You know what’s nice about this, is when people saved their ration booklet, they only have the last one. This has the first and the second, which nobody has if they used all their coupons.
BH: And then there’s an example here of each one of the applications. Report of farmers, also to be used by small primary distributors for meats, fats, fishes and cheeses. In other words, if you were a farmer, you had to make a report of what you were producing or what you used, so you weren’t selling black market.
CD: Was there much of that?
BH: I didn’t know about it. Of course, a kid wouldn’t, but I remember my mom talking about it and the people got into pretty bad trouble for it. And like today, with the welfare stuff and food stamps, a lot of these people getting food stamps and selling them.
CD: Oh, so is that what happened?
BH: Yeah. Somebody needed gas and he had a sticker on his car. He went to his buddy and he said, "You know, I gotta go to Bakersfield and back today and I don’t have enough." Some people were buying gas at that time for a dollar a gallon by the time they paid the price for a sticker or a stamp. And then the other thing that was happening at that time, that people now-a-days don’t realize, is every automobile had a little sticker on the speedometer. Thirty-five miles an hour and maximum fifty-five. Your best gas consumption and least gas consumption, people went by that. Somebody went by driving too fast and somebody went after ‘em or saw ‘em later and said, "Hey, you know, you might have killed one of our boys. He might not have had enough gas to get out and go do what he needed to do." And everybody had somebody over there. And everybody hated Japs, Germans and the bad guys.
CD: Right, so in your little school, Pleasant View or Saucelito, were there any Japanese?
BH: After the war . . . eventually you’re gonna get to 1946. Well, in 1946, my sixth grade year, I went to school and at that time, we were living in a house over at my Grandpa Freeman’s. There were two houses on that property and dad had properties leased and we had moved out from nearer to Pixley, back there, and that house was available. So we moved into it. Well, it was east of Pixley, near Saucelito School. So, I’m gonna go to Saucelito School and I take off and it’s a half a mile to the corner and a mile north to the school. So, I walked. I got down to the corner and I turned the corner and headed north. I don’t know why but I turned around, you know, looking. And here’s a kid back there about three or four hundred yards, walking the same direction I am, going to school. He was about the same size I was. He was about 11 or 12. So I stopped to wait for him and he stopped.
CD: Oh, because he was scared?
BH: So, I waited a little bit. Then I thought, "I can’t stand around here, I gotta get to school." So I started walking and I looked back and he’s walking. Then I stopped and he stopped and I started walking toward him. He turned around and started walking the other way. So I stopped and turned around and started walking and I got within maybe an eighth of a mile of school and there’s a vineyard there. I figured, you know, he’s far enough back, he’s not gonna be able to tell where I am. So about two or three rows before I got to the school ground, I turned around and I started walking toward him. So he turned around and started walking the other way. So I skimmed over into the vineyard and disappeared. I watched and he started walking, coming on down. And when he got right across from me, just about 20 or 30 feet from me or less, I stepped out and I realized he’s a Jap.
CD: Was it the first Japanese person you had seen?
BH: No, I’d seen them ever since I was a little guy, because there was a Japanese who had a business in Pixley and Japanese families over here in the Lindsay area and we’d see Japanese people. So I knew who they were and what they were. And of course, he was just oriental.
I said, "Hey, are you Jap?"
He said, "Yeah, so what?"
I said, "Huh, you gonna go to this school?"
And he said, "Yeah, so what?"
And I said, "Well, I guess it’s over, and did you guys think you were gonna win the war?"
He said, "Yeah, we did, my dad did."
Well, I met his father later and his mother. His mother was about 20 plus years younger
than his father. When we were about eleven
or twelve years old, his father must have been in his 60’s. He was a man from
CD: Do you remember the last name?
BH: Ito. Larry and I became fast friends. His brother was a little ornery. But his brother was older; his brother was just barely of military age, maybe 16 or 17 years.
CD: When the war started?
BH: No, when the war was over; after the war. He was really a chip-on-his-shoulder kind of a guy. Well, I got talking to Larry and learned his name and that he was a Jap and proud of it and wasn’t gonna be changing anything and so we decided to walk to school. We walked on in and here comes all the kids:
"What are you doing walking with this guy? Is he a Jap?" "Yep, he’s a Jap, but he’s pretty nice, you know, he’s not a bad guy."
There was one of the bigger kids who said, "Well, we’re probably gonna have to whip him."
And I said, "Well, I don’t think so. The war’s over and we won, why rub it in?"
So, after that day and all of the first little, like a bunch of puppy dogs, smelling around and growling and strutting and all that, things kind of calmed down.
And Larry was a good kid and we were good friends and I would always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my lunch. And I loved rice and Larry would have about two rice balls that are made in a teacup. Sticky rice mixed with salt and then pressed into the teacup and then wrapped in wax paper.
Those would come to school and I’m setting there watching and he gets out one of those rice balls and I said, "What are those?"
He says, "Rice balls."
So I said, "What are they like?"
And he said, "They’re rice balls."
And I said, "Well, would you trade one?"
He says, "What have you got?"
And I said, "I got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," which I still don’t like. But mother didn’t know it, because I would always trade ‘em for something else.
CD: Well at least they got eaten by somebody.
BH: Oh yeah, nobody threw anything away. So, I got a rice ball. So that got to be a big deal. Then he started bringing four rice balls. So, I told mother, "I might like another
sandwich." So, we had a pretty good
thing going there, all through that sixth grade year and the first part of my
seventh grade year. And of course, the
summer in between, we had the reservoir over there and Larry would come over
and stay and we’d go swimming at Freeman’s reservoir, down from the house,
which was only about two blocks away from where the house was. If you talked about city blocks, maybe two
blocks, maybe a block and a half. It was
on the other side of a long 40-acre field and it was on the short side. So that was ’46 and his people were not happy
CD: What were the conversations like with his mom, later on? I mean was she . . .
BH: She never talked. She was always very courteous and very little conversation except to Larry or members of the family and the old man. I was not anything but a kid in the house with their kid.
CD: So they kind of ignored you and the mother didn’t talk to you?
BH: Yeah. No, one time we came in, Larry said, "Come in, mom’s got some rice balls in the refrigerator." So I went in, and where they lived was on a farm and they were farm hands. They had lost all of their place that they had, whether they had a place, but I understood that they did have a place before that and that they were from up around the Dinuba to Fresno area, up that way. Then I went in and sat down at the table and she brought that over and put it down and gave me the little complementary bow and then she said something to Larry in Japanese and he said, "You want something to drink?" And I said, "Yeah." He said something to her and she poured us a couple of little glasses of milk.
CD: So, she probably didn’t speak English very well, or you wouldn’t know, I guess.
BH: I didn’t know. I didn’t have conversations with her. I wasn’t gonna say, "Did you think you were gonna win the war too? What’s wrong with you guys?" No, I was raised to be cautious and courteous. I spent time in the Marine Corps through the 1950’s and early 1960’s and I learned how to fight.
CD: Um hum, were you in the front lines?
BH: No, I was a weekend warrior. I was gonna get drafted, but we’re clear out of the 40’s, we’re into the 50’s now. I was gonna get drafted; it was 1954 and I was out of high school and going to Porterville College and I was gonna get drafted.
So, a friend of mine said, "Hey, I’m going over to Tulare, they started a Marine Corps unit over there, Reserves, and I’m gonna go join that. And, if you join that, then you won’t get drafted."
So, I said, "All right, I’m with ya."
So we went early in ’54 and joined the Marine Corps Reserves. We went and had basic training, then came back and were weekend warriors for six years and got out in 1960.
CD: Okay, let’s get back to the ‘40’s.
BH: Yeah, the 40’s. In 1943 my brother went into the Army. Everybody was upset.
CD: How old was he?
BH: He was 18, age of consent, didn’t have to have mom and dad, grandma and grandpa or anybody sign for him.
CD: Oh, they didn’t want him to go. I know you don’t want your family to go.
BH: My grandfather tried everyway, because my brother grew up at my grandma and grandpa Freeman’s.
CD: Which means he’s a Mennonite?
BH: No, that’s the other side of the family. The Horst side was Mennonite. But on the Freeman side, mother had him in 1925; she got an annulment immediately. She tried to live with the father. It didn’t work; he was involved in motion pictures and a real playboy. So Bud came along; she kept him there for about a year and then decided that she could not keep her job, keep working, do these things, support him and keep the place. So mom and dad, her father, Bill Freeman, and mother, Mabel Freeman said, "Well, bring him here, we’ll take care of him." So Bud grew up there until mother came home in 1930. Then when mom and dad got married, mother lived there too until mom and dad got married in ’32 and mother moved over to the horse place, where dad built a little house for them.
Bud said, "No, I still just want to live with grandma and grandpa." That’s where he was growing up, and grandpa needed him. You see, farm kids are working kids and they are serious about their responsibilities or we were. I still see that, myself, and in kids that are on working ranches and farms. They’re serious about their responsibilities. And so, Bud stayed there.
CD: So he goes off; did they try to prevent him from going off to war?
BH: My grandfather tried to get him deferred because he worked on a farm.
CD: So, he tried to get him deferred as an only son, working on the farm.
BH: My brother said, "Get out of here, ain’t gonna work."
So he took off, he enlisted. As soon as he was 18, March 30, 1943, he took off.
CD: And he was part of what?
BH: Well, he went to Fort Ord for his basic training and then from Fort Ord he got shipped out. Well, after basic, they kind of gave him an option of what would you like to be. What would you like to do or they made him think they were gonna have an option, I guess. And he said well, he’d kind of like to be a pilot. He’d like to fly one of those airplanes.
CD: Yeah, and he had never flown one, I bet.
BH: He’d never saw one, hardly, except going over sometimes. So he got off to where he was going and a month or two later, we got a letter back from him and he said he was a pilot. He was in the horse barns, piloting it here and piloting it there. He was in Fort Riley, Kansas, in the 124th Cavalry.
CD: Uh huh, where’d they end up?
BH: Well, they trained as horseback cavalry with a patent model saber and scabbard with a rifle in it, on horseback, all that stuff. I have pictures of him with his little lace-up to the knee boots and puff-sided britches. He got out of that training and had like a couple of weeks off and then shipped out.
CD: To where?
BH: We didn’t know.
CD: They didn’t tell you?
BH: Nobody got to know those things. So Bud said when he left, "I will write a letter, and the first letter that comes, every second paragraph, the capital letter starting that paragraph will spell out where I am."
CD: He already knew about censorship? That the letters were censored?
BH: Oh, you bet. Everything was cut, clipped, marked out.
CD: So did he do it?
BH: So we got a little V-Mail and it spelled out
CD: Um hum, and he was part of the cavalry? What happened to the pilot thing?
BH: Well, they got over there. Piloting manure in a horse barn was a joke. He was a "pilot."
CD: Oh, I got it.
BH: Anyway, they dropped them over there in
CD: What was that?
BH: All they wanted was a blanket and the sleeping bags were cold
weather gear. So he said, "Most of the
time, we went with no shirt, a hat, pants and boots." They got mules to carry all of their
equipment. That’s why they got the horseback
training and the mule packing (training). But they weren’t telling ‘em where they were going. They were thinking they were gonna go to
Europe and have to ride up in to some of that country by Czechoslovakia and
back up in there, where their horseback stuff might have done some good. Or maybe North Africa, but they ended up in
Mules were provided for packs. They then hit the jungle and opened up the Burma Road. They ended up in late ’45 at Kunming,
CD: So that was after the A-bomb?
BH: Yeah, the A-bomb is what stopped it.
CD: Maybe saved his life.
BH: Oh yeah, it saved a lot of boys lives because they were, at that
point in time, planning on going to mainland
CD: What’s his name?
BH: Thronbery was his last name. He’s dead now. He was in the Batan Death March. He was on Wake Island. Emmit Thronbery, I think . . .
CD: Ah, to get back to Tulare County, where were you when the A-Bomb was dropped?
CD: Pixley, and what were you doing? What was the reaction?
BH: Well, the only thing we heard about was the war is over.
CD: Oh, they didn’t say.
BH: Because I was 12 or 13. I was 13.
CD: So, you were still at the Saucelito School?
BH: Well, we had moved to Pixley in ’44 because mother was working at the Pixley Board and dad got another piece of ground over between Pixley and Tipton. So it was convenient and he was farming out there at Saucelito and over there between Pixley and Tipton and mom had this job, so they found and bought a house in Pixley which was about a block and a half off of Highway 99 at that time. Where highway 99 goes through Pixley right now, our home would have been right in the middle of the highway.
CD: Big highway, yeah, because then it was little, it was a smaller, little road.
BH: Well then it was and it’s still there; it’s the main street in Pixley, used to be.
CD: Oh I see, they just moved the highway over.
BH: They just moved it east a block or so and it went right through town.
CD: So, they had to tear your old house down.
BH: That all went away when they built the highway, the new Highway 99 which is the one they use today. The old highway followed along the railroad and then jogged a little bit toward the east, enough to put about 100 yards between the highway and the railroad track, where the town was, then back in at the south end of town and Pixley wasn’t very big.
CD: So, how do you remember the reaction when the war was over?
BH: Everybody was happy. Everybody was happy. Terrible thing, but that’s what we had to do to end the war.
CD: So, they weren’t aware, right at that point, what a A-Bomb was?
BH: Well, I’m sure people were, but to a 12 or 13 year old kid, a bomb’s a bomb. Until the pictures came out, which was after the Japanese surrendered.
CD: How much after? Did they come out in the newspaper?
BH: Oh, I would say, probably in the newspapers and a few months, maybe weeks afterwards. Remember it was a secret weapon. But now, boom, we used it and it destroyed the whole town and boom, they used it again; it destroyed another town, good Lord, what have we here?
CD: Yeah, it was quite a bomb.
BH: But, everybody was thankful that it happened and it was over. The Japanese capitulated and with an unconditional surrender.
They all figured they were gonna be murdered immediately, but MacArthur took over and said, "Well, you guys still keep your rituals and all, you can keep your emperor, we’re not gonna execute the emperor. But we have these officers that we know have done atrocious things to our soldiers and to the Chinese and Filipinos and other people in the world and we’re gonna punish them."
And they were all hung. But the emperor, their little God, was the key to keeping everybody happy and under some semblance of control. Consequently, they’re one of the wealthiest nations in the world today. And now we have all these people running around saying that we are oppressors and murderers. I still can’t abide the swastika. To me it is a sign of hate and destruction.
CD: Did you know any Germans? Were there very many Germans in the area?
BH: We had two German prison camps.
CD: How close. Where were they?
BH: One was at Tipton and one was at Tulare. It had a double fence all the way around and concertina wire at the top and machine gun towers at all four corners.
CD: And did they ever let them out to work?
BH: They worked on some of the ranches; most of the people wouldn’t have ‘em. But, Gobles and the Keslings, who were German, had them working on their places and people kind of grumbled about that. But then they said, "What do you expect, they’re Germans too, they speak German, they’ve been good citizens and so, you know, what the heck. But, I don’t have to have ‘em and I don’t want them around. They liable to go crazy and attack us." But they’d have these soldiers out there that were the prisoner guards, prisoner chasers. And they had Thompson sub-machine guns and grease guns watching the prisoners. And the prisoners escaped every once in a while.
CD: Where would they go?
BH: Well, that was the problem. I remember one specifically that escaped. Everybody was all upset. "Oh my God, where did he go, where is he!" They thought he was liable to just come in the home, anytime. He ended up…you’re pretty young and it wouldn’t be something you would remember, but along Highway 99 and the Southern Pacific Railroad track there were large groves of Eucalyptus that were planted back in the 1890’s or early 1900’s. They were planted for two purposes, one: Eucalyptus oil, which was a medicinal thing. And when they chopped them up, they could be used for wood for stoves and/or to run the trains.
The people that invested in this scam were people from downtown L.A., downtown San Francisco and from back east somewhere. They were gonna make big bucks. Most of them were older people and didn’t know that trains don’t run on wood anymore. But the oil thing didn’t pan out either, so we had these groves of Eucalyptus along the railroad track, north and south through the valley. Those groves of Eucalyptus during the depression years and before and during the modern time, at that time we called them modern times, 1930’s and ‘40’s. Somebody’s car would break down and these people would camp in those Eucalyptus groves. And, so, they would run ‘em out of those camps and run ‘em off, every once in a while. They being the sheriff, in Kern County and Tulare County. They would harbor, ah, there would be drunkenness, there’d be sloth, just all kinds of stuff that wasn’t wanted and they were building camps for them. They called them worker camps or farm labor camps, you know, that sort of thing. That would then leave old car bodies and broken down sheds and structures people were trying to live in, in those Eucalyptus groves.
This guy escaped and ended up between Earlimart and Delano in one of these Eucalyptus groves, He finally starved out and froze his tail off; just came out to the highway and waved somebody down and said, "Take me back to Tipton." So, they drove him back to Tipton. He got out and thanked them; he spoke pretty good English. So he walked out there to the gate and said, "I want back in. Where am I gonna go?"
CD: Right. Before the tape runs out, I wanted to ask you, did you lose contact with Larry or did you keep in contact with him?
BH: Yeah I did. We kept in contact until sometime around eighth grade or freshman year in high school. Then I would send a Christmas card and a birthday card. Finally, I never got anything back. One time, the last communication, I got a little box at either Christmas or birthday time and in it was a nice little silk hand decorated fan, which in the Japanese culture is a sign of friendship, a gift of friendship, man to man or man to woman or woman to woman. When we left, we moved from out there and moved into Porterville in ’47. That’s when I lost contact with him and they moved not to long after that. We used to give them meat from our butchering at the farm and they would, they had fantastic gardens, they would bring us vegetables. So, it was just kind of a friendly, oh you know, just a country friendship. I don’t know what ever happened to Larry. I’ve wondered about that a number of times. I still have the fan.
CD: Oh you do. You know, I wanted to ask you what you thought of the quality of education at that little Saucelito School?
BH: Well, I got to Bartlett at Porterville, which is a junior high school, my seventh grade year and I got sick.
CD: Oh, with what?
BH: Appendicitis, tonsillitis, tonsils out and then some sort of fever or something that they doctored me out of. Boom, I’m okay, but I missed about a month of school, so I did the seventh grade a second time at Bartlett Junior High School. That second year, I finally figured out what math really was. I had a great math teacher there.
CD: So they weren’t so hot in math at Saucelito?
BH: They were not good at all, the teacher at Saucelito, my sixth and seventh, half of my seventh grade year, was Mrs. Lindsay, who was in her late 70’s. They were hunting for teachers. The other teacher in the other room was an 18 or 19 year old want-a-be, that was just out of school, high school, barely. She was hired to teach the first, second, third and fourth. She ended up being my sister-in-law, and she still is a teacher. (Bula (Meek) Peterson, on my wife’s side of the family) She’s one of the best teachers I have ever known. She had that whole school out there at Saucelito dancing to her tune in weeks. The kids loved her and they learned well from her.
When I was on the Burton School Board, she was a teacher there and taught there for twenty plus years. She then retired from teaching, from Burton back in the middle to late 60’s. She then went into real estate, like all teachers do, and then went back to teaching and now she teaches teachers, because you gotta teach teachers how to teach and how to get along with kids. Sometimes you have to teach ‘em how to get along with people, just period. But everybody has a learning time and the best way to learn is from those with experience, who know what they’re doing and do it well.
CD: Yeah, you know, Judith mentioned to me that you knew Joe Doctor. Ed: Judith Wood, Project Director.
BH: Oh yeah, Joe’s an old friend.
CD: Is he still alive?
BH: No, Joe’s gone.
CD: So did you know him as a child, or…
BH: No, I’m a history nut and over the years, I became acquainted with Joe through a friend of mine here in Porterville, Bill Rogers, who was editor of the Farm Commune. Joe and Bill went through newspaper school together.
CD: Oh, so Joe Doctor was a reporter.
BH: He owned the Exeter Sun newspaper. Bill Rogers owned the Porterville Farm Tribune, which was a weekly. I, being a teenager in high school who was interested in history, hunted up Mr. Frank Latta, who was the primo historian for the Yokuts in the San Joaquin Valley and had interviewed people from the time he started researching in about 1910 to 1915. He wrote, finally, a number of books. The first book he produced of any consequence was Uncle Jeff stories in 1929, ’30, ’31, ’32, along in there. Then he published one on the Yokut’s Mythology in ’37. I’m lucky enough to have an autographed volume of that. Then he produced the handbook of Yokuts in 1948, ’49, and that’s when I met Mr. Latta.
I came into the Porterville Library looking for stuff and the librarian said I have a book I just got that you will have to read. I’m reading Latta’s book on the Yokuts, native Americans, local people and I’m reading about new local people who already had friends in the Indian community. I’d already listened to a lot of the old timers. I already knew things that they did in medicinal ways and traditional ways and there it was. This guy knows, this guy was in it and so I read the book and said, "How do I meet this guy? How do I find this guy?" So, within a couple years I met Mr. Latta.
CD: Is he from Tulare County?
BH: He was from up by where the San Luis Dam and reservoir is today, kind of east of Los Banos, up that way. He was raised out in that prairie country.
CD: Right, were there Yokut out there too?
BH: Well, they were Miwok, in the northern edge of the Yokut. And Miwok means the same thing Yokut means and that means the same thing that Dene’ means, which is what the Navajo called themselves and that means human beings. That just means people.
CD: And then Joe Doctor, how did you meet him?
BH: Joe, through either Bill or Frank Latta. I would do some history talks. I’d go to all the historical meetings and I started all of my own research. I actually started my own research back in the time we were talking about, because old Elbert Fowler lived between our place and my grandmother’s, on my mother’s side. Elbert Fowler was born out there within a half of mile or less of Saucelito School in 1869. His uncle is whom the town of Fowler is named after. They were cattle ranchers.
CD: Is Fowler in Tulare County?
BH: No, Fresno County. The south edge of Fresno. Tulare County was created out of the southern edge of Mariposa County. Then Fresno County was created out of that and from Fresno County, Merced County. From Tulare County, actually, when it was formed in 1852 you had Merced County, Fresno County, Kern County, Kings County, Inyo County and part of Mono County, all formed out of what was originally Tulare County. It was south of Mariposa, all that.
CD: Okay, so tell me about Elbert Fowler.
BH: Elbert Fowler was born out there in 1869 and the reason I remember that is because my Grandma Horst was born in 1869 also. She was born back in Wisconsin, a long ways off. Elbert Fowler and Mrs. Fowler would sit out on their porch and they had a beautiful porch, that had vines covering everything but the door you go in to get to the house and up the steps. Everybody had these huge vines that covered things. We had one at our house that I slept out under in the summer time. Elbert knew I was interested in the old stories, so he would tell me how things used to be. He said, "Billy, you should have been here. Back in those days, I would leave . . ." He lived in the house he was born in and it looked like it. He said, "West of here, going towards where Pixley is now was all open, hog wallow country." Now, people call those the, some kind of ponds.
CD: Vernal ponds, I’ve heard about those.
BH: Yeah, vernal ponds.
" Well, it was just ponds of back water and mud in between these humps of dirt, hog wallows, we called ‘em. And that hog wallow land was as far as you could see," he said. "In those big puddles of water, in those swells would be thousands of ducks and geese." He said, "I’d just take my little .22 and go out there and, I couldn’t get close enough to ‘em to do a shotgun, so I’d take my little rifle and I’d go out there and I’d shoot three or four shots into ‘em, when they’d jump up, and I’d get four or five, or six geese or ducks. I’d carry ‘em back home, and boy," he said, "it was something to see." He said, "Someday, I don’t know if I will ever live to see it, I’m sure I won’t, but you may live to see the Tulare Lake come back. He said, it’ll come back someday."
Well, if we hadn’t of had all the dams and controls that we had in 1966, it certainly would have been pretty nearly there, but everything was, in 1966, levied off and controlled. It did come back, somewhat, in ’38,-’39, ’39-’40 winters.
CD: Because there was a flood or something?
BH: Yeah, in ’39-’40, in that winter. Actually, you get the rain here starting around the end of November, first of December and the heaviest is usually in the last of January, February and March. I remember dad putting me up on his shoulders. Deer Creek had run out of its banks and went down the road, Avenue 96, right in front of my Grandma and Grandpa Freeman’s and out across toward Earlimart and Delano. It flooded Earlimart, flooded Pixley, and flooded Highway 99 out there and washed out some of the abutments to one of the crossings on the railroad track. It stopped a train for a while and the traffic had to go around, but that was only just for a couple of days. Dad used to put me on his shoulders at that time and had his rubber boots on and we walked around out there by my Grandma and Grandpa Freeman’s. It cut some new arroyos out through there, where it had been before and sandy ground washed through there.
The weather, I think, got pretty steady and even rainfall in summer/winter, until about 1945, ’46, ’47, somewhere along in there. We had light snow fall in the valley and heavy snows in the mountains. That ’38, ’39 winter, we had light snow fall. It covered pretty good for just a short while, maybe . . .
CD: Could you make a snowman?
BH: We tried. I barely remember that, because I was very small, I was about four years old. I do remember some things that were very early. There are things that are just shockers to a kid, so you remember. I remember that winter. It was ’39, ’40, because that’s when it flooded through my Grandma and Grandpa Freeman’s place. Anyway, it comes and goes, it’s about a 10 to 14 year cycle in this part of the world.
CD: Yeah. I was curious about, you know, they moved to the Saucelito area, and it was desert. Where did the water come from for all of your crops?
BH: They had dug wells. The well at my grandpa’s place was a drilled well. Prior to that, prior to the electric pumps and wind mills, they were the ones they used.
CD: Do you know how deep they had to go?
BH: They would go out there around 35 to 40 feet and then set a pump on a bench down there and pump from there. Or they would put a windmill over it and then they started driving points and they were easily driven out there because it was just lowly soil on down. Then they put a windmill on that.
Pixley, from south of Earlimart, near Delano, all the way along east of Highway 99 and west a little bit of that, up through where Tulare is, was what they called the artesian area and there were artesian wells out there.
CD: And what was that?
BH: That’s where you poke a hole in the ground and water comes out.
CD: This is the end of the tape, and I thank you very much.
BH: You are very welcome.
JW: There are two basic questions that we have asked of all participants, and I’d like to include them in your interview.
First, how do you think World War II affected you?
BH: It made me a little less patient with those against this country, or who show no respect for the leaders of this country. It made me more patriotic.
JW: Then, what impact did this war have on the way Tulare County is today?
BH: Things moved a little faster, the costs went up and farms became very mechanized. When I was young, there were more horses used for farming. We became more tolerant of other races. Young men got G.I. grants and came here and started big farms. The smaller older farmers, many of them, went bankrupt.
6-8-2004 C.Doe/PDilley transcriber/JWood edited 6-23-05
Editors note: Sections in Italics are the result of interviews with Bill Horst while editing the transcript.