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: Madelyn Snow Iden
Tape # 28
Interviewer: Catherine Doe
Place: Tulare County, CA
Place of Interview: Her Home
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Dating,Being a teenager in the 40’s
Narrator talked a lot about Visalia businesses and locations
War stories of friends and husband
CD: Spell your name please.
MI: My name is Madelyn Iden. M-A-D-E-L-Y-N I-D-E-N.
CD: My name is Catherine Doe. I am the interviewer, and it is October 29th and we are sitting in the house of Madelyn Iden doing the project Years of Valor, Years of Hope. And she has already spelled her name. We can get started. Why don’t you start with when your family moved into the area.
MI: My mother, Enid Elam Snow and father, Bryan Snow, were both born in Tulare County, however, they were born in Dinuba and we moved here in the fall of 1937 when I was in the 7th grade.
CD: So you came from Dinuba to Visalia?
MI: I went to Webster School on the north side. There were two elementary schools and Webster was on the north side and Jefferson was on the south side. So we were on the wrong side of the road.
CD: What do you mean by the wrong side of the road?
MI: Don’t they always say one place is worse than the other. I think we had a lot more poor kids than Jefferson did. But we never talked about that back then. Nobody ever talked about that. But then I went through high school,we came in in 1937 and two years of grammar school and four years of high school. My parents bought a house on Center Street which is now a travel agent’s office, but we lived there right by Redwood High School, which was Visalia Union High School then.
CD: Right. So you lived on Center Street?
CD: And what’s the travel agent’s name?
MI: You know I don’t know, but the number is 1019. I have forgotten. I don’t travel a lot, so I don’t know what travel agent it is. Those houses are all businesses or a lot of them are now.
CD: How old were you when the war started?
MI: I was 17. I would turn 17…no I was really 16, because I turned 17 on December 13th, which was right after Pearl Harbor.
CD: What did you know about the war before that?
MI: Actually not a great deal. Not a great deal. Everybody was really furious with
CD: Where’s the plant?
MI: Redwood today. The building. Redwood today and they had COS there as well as Visalia Union High School. But by the time 1941 rolled around, they had their own building out on Mooney Blvd. And everybody said no business will ever go out there.
CD: Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
MI: Absolutely. Absolutely. Across from the Fox Theater there was a photograph studio, and I had gotten a job working there because I knew most of the seniors, by their picture. And they didn’t want anybody to get their names mixed up and get the wrong pictures. So I went to work there and a friend, Dick Huff, who worked part-time at Mixter’s Drug Store which was on the corner of Court and Main, the northeast corner of Court and Main, picked me up for lunch and he had heard it on the radio, and we had the radio on in the car, and we listened to all this stuff in the car.
MI: I just remember being picked up for lunch. I don’t remember whether we went somewhere. We usually didn’t go somewhere for lunch. People usually didn’t do that. He probably took me home.
CD: And how did you and he react?
MI: We really at first could hardly believe it and we had no animosity toward Japan. We knew they were out there somewhere. We had a lot of Japanese kids in our school that we loved just like we loved our other classmates. We certainly didn’t hold them responsible, but I had a couple of friends in the National Guard, and the National Guard went just like that. They took them immediately. I don’t remember where I was when Roosevelt gave his infamous speech.
CD: Does that speech have a name?
MI: It says Japan will live in infamy. And I don’t remember where I was when I heard that.
CD: When you say you just couldn’t believe it. What couldn’t you believe?
MI: Well, you know, World War I was a long time ago and some of my friends had fathers who had been in World War I. One in particular had gotten mustard gas and so we knew about World War I and it was kind of like World War I is ancient history. We never thought…we never realized it would be like it was.
CD: What do you mean be like it was?
MI: We just couldn’t believe that this would be happening to us. And on the radio, all the time was, "There are submarines off San Francisco Bay, there are submarines off the Port of Los Angeles, they are going to invade." They did a lot of stuff like that. I never remember being the least bit upset about those reports because we were in the San Joaquin Valley, of course. But we did have a lot of reports like that where they’re unloading their troops in Eureka. And of course none of that was true. And I had read recently that there was indeed a submarine out there, but we weren’t aware of it. As truth at the time, I was not at all aware of that. I just thought those little Japanese people need to be taught a lesson, you know, which we did. And later on, this was my senior year, little by little, a lot of the fellows…and I don’t know what I mean when I say a lot, but many of them quit school just like that and joined. You don’t see that now. You didn’t see that in the Korean War at all. And I don’t know why.
MI: But that’s what they did, a lot of them. And some of them were given their diplomas early, and some of them I don’t know whether they ever got a diploma, but who cared. The way I grew up you didn’t ask someone if they had a high school diploma before you hired them. You just never thought about doing that.
CD: That wasn’t considered a qualification?
MI: No, I don’t think so. And I don’t feel it’s much of a qualification any more. One of my sons went to Cal Poly and he came home in his senior year and said he’d had it. And I was so angry with him but he does custom farming and he’s done very well, and he always says he’d be a millionaire if I hadn’t made him go to college, and does anybody ask him if he has a college degree?
CD: No, no.
MI: So it’s really not that important even now.
CD: So the boys that just quit high school and went off, did you know many of them?
MI: Yes, quite a few. In the long run I think maybe several of them were killed. Some of those…we lost a lot, in our class we lost a lot of fellows during the war that were killed.
CD: How many?
MI: I don’t know. I have a book here somewhere. I’ll try to find it and see if I can figure it out. I don’t know. There were two hundred eighty in our class and you know Alan George. Alan and I have counted them up to see how many actually died during the war and I have forgotten. But they all went. You just didn’t not go.
CD: Did you know anybody who didn’t go?
MI: I went out to COS and my good friend, Barbara Eckert met a basketball player, Eugene Daniels, and they eventually married and he didn’t go. He had high blood pressure supposedly. I don’t know anybody who didn’t go, come to think of it. We had a party not long ago on our 60th high school reunion, and one of our friends, Guy Honnell, said when you got out of high school you had three places to go. You had a choice,Army, Navy or Marines. And that’s the way it was, kind of. I never knew anybody really, really well who was killed in action. My brother, Benjamin Snow, died during the war, but he was up in Oregon and he got meningitis and died.
CD: Before he got shipped off?
MI: He was in Officer’s Training and things were winding down pretty much during that time. It was 1946 and things were winding down. But everybody went. You can’t tell the kids now, everybody went. I suppose there were a lot that didn’t, but personally I don’t think I was aware except one of the basketball players at COS who was a friend of my friends.
CD: How would you hear when one of the guys got hurt or died?
MI: It would be in the Delta. There would be a piece in the Delta. Nobody that I knew really, really well was killed in action. A lot of the fellows went in early and went to Officer’s Training and got commissions, not that that made them less vulnerable. You either went to Japan or Germany,one of the two. I mentioned Guy Honnell, he lost his leg at Guam. He was always going to be a pharmacist. Of course he couldn’t be a pharmacist because he couldn’t stand all day, so he’s a CPA and a good friend.
CD: So you’re in the car and you hear about Pearl Harbor, and the next day you went to school and what was the buzz at school?
MI: It was just unbelievable. I think that’s the way it was. People were…I don’t remember how soon the President spoke. I don’t really remember how soon it was after Pearl Harbor,in hours or days, I don’t remember. But he addressed both sessions of Congress and he gave this magnificent speech about how we were struck and we had to do something about it.
CD: How did people feel about his speech?
MI: I think most people agreed. We just can’t take this. They bomb our property and we can’t take it. So I think that’s the way it was.
CD: How, when you went to school, what was the feeling of the boys?
MI: They all wanted to go. They all wanted to join the Navy, the Army. Not very many joined the Army. If they joined, they joined the Navy or the Marines. And in our particular class, a lot of the fellows joined the Navy. My brother was in the Navy Officer’s Training School so he was in the Navy. Some waited and got drafted into the Army. A lot of the girls got married right away. They married their friends, their boyfriends. I know four or five that graduated from high school with me that got married that summer.
CD: And why did they do that?
MI: Well, their boyfriends were going off to war and they could go with them.
CD: And did they?
MI: Yes, yes. I know a half a dozen of them that traveled all over the
CD: And how about you? Did you consider that, or did you not have a boyfriend at that time?
MI: No, I didn’t consider that. I never really considered going into the service. I wanted to go to college. Yeah, I had a boyfriend at the time, but I wanted to go to college. I really wanted to go to college. So I went to college.
CD: And what was your goal?
MI: I just wanted to be a teacher and the war was on and I was at Fresno State and there were no fellows hardly.
CD: How many do you think there were?
MI: Maybe ten. I can only remember two. There weren’t any fellows. Everybody went into the service. Catherine, you can’t believe the difference because everybody…when I say we did thus and so, but everybody, all the fellows, I don’t know too many. I know one fellow that was really crippled with polio and he went out to Sequoia Field and got a job. A civilian job. So everybody had this feeling. Not a lot, to my knowledge, of the women from my class went.
CD: Went where?
MI: To the service,WACs, WAVs.
CD: What is that?
MI: Wacs,let’s see. Women’s Auxiliary Corp and Wavs, I don’t know. It’s Navy. The WAVs were Navy.
CD: The WAVs were Navy, and that’s an acronym.
MI: It was Wavs,W-A-V-S.
CD: How many women do you know that did that and what did they say about it?
MI: Actually I only know one at the high school time that did that and I never had a chance to talk to her and we’ve lost her name from our class list so I never see her. Everybody’s always wanting to find her, and nobody makes the effort. I don’t know if we could find her. We’re all older, 79. I’ll be 79 pretty soon. We’re all pushing 80 and you know, a lot of people our age aren’t alive any more.
CD: What’s her name?
MI: Marian Menier. M-E-N-I-E-R.
CD: And her first name was Marian?
CD: So had people heard of Hawaii much before this?
MI: Yes, and I knew one person who was in the Army that was at Pearl Harbor. The only person I knew that was at Pearl Harbor.
CD: And who was it?
MI: His name was Art Neal, and he was sent from Pearl Harbor to Sequoia Field, and one of my friends married him.
CD: So he was from this area?
MI: No, he was not from this area, but he married a girl from this area, so we got real well acquainted.
CD: Who did he marry?
MI: He married Veneta Shephard. And I was the maid of honor at their wedding and they had a really small wedding, and I tried to call. . . she passed away and I tried to call him on December 7th last year. I tried to call him and I couldn’t get him, so I don’t know if he’s deceased.
CD: So you were saying once you were talking to him, your groups of friends found out about the destruction?
MI: No, I think, you know, I can’t remember any emotion stronger than just fury. How dare they? And I can’t remember me personally being frightened or…they said thing like . . .
CD: Who are they? Radio?
MI: Newspaper and radio. They had news reports that the Japanese lived and owned a lot of property in the Ivanhoe-Woodlake area and they did garden crops. They had tomatoes and cucumbers. The news people said that they had arrows, their white caps, showed arrows pointing to Sequoia Field.
CD: The Japanese?
MI: There wasn’t a Sequoia Field there, but to the airport maybe. The Japanese people out in Ivanhoe would have the white caps. You know how you look down on a Halloween maze. Well they look down on the white caps and the white caps had arrows pointing. We all just laughed at that because we knew the Japanese kids,Roy Maeda, Masahara Hashimoto, and Sakaye Tanabe. They were just friends of ours. They were mad also. And oh Catherine, a bunch of us went down, when they put them on that train and sent them to Arizona. First of all, let’s go back to our graduation night.
MI: The Japanese children were not allowed to go because it was after dark. The Japanese people were not allowed to be out after dark. Now isn’t that barbaric? These guys had all gone through high school, all through grammar school with all of us, so we go down and tell Mrs. Goad, a big wheel for the women, about ten of us, and we say, "We’re not going to go if they don’t go." She told us to go back to class, and we went back to class. But we should have stood our ground.
It was after graduation and I don’t know the day or anything but we all went and the depot was on the southwest corner of Main and the railroad track, which was Santa Fe. The depot was there because the railroad track came in right there. We went down and they all got on the train. All their families got on the train and we hugged everybody. I don’t remember crying. I cry now when I think of it, but I don’t remember then. And my brother was a real good friend of Roy Maeda’s, who was in my class, and he wrote my brother letters. I have them somewhere, but I have never found them since I moved here, fourteen years ago.
CD: But you think you still have them?
MI: Yes, I think I still have them. He was such a nice guy. Most of the Japanese students that were in our class, do not answer the class reunions notices. The 50th reunion they did,several of them came, and maybe they’ve come once. Roy Maeda comes with . . . they were brothers . . . let me think of their names . . . but Roy came to the 60th and he came to the 50th and I talked to him on the phone the other day. I don’t remember why I called. I called him about something. I said to him, you don’t think you can gather enough enthusiasm to have people go? He said he didn’t think so, they were all old.
CD: How was the reunion with him there?
MI: It was great. I think perhaps it was kind of like . . . you know the story of the elephant in the living room. You don’t dare talk about that. I think it was kind of like how I do with a black person. Being overly cordial, because we don’t want to hurt them, because we know they have been so hurt. But he had a really good time. There were two brothers that were also in our class. One of them passed away,Matsushima,one of them passed away and he brought the other one.
CD: So you’re saying you didn’t talk about it? You didn’t talk about graduation, about their not being there? The internment camps? You just talked about the good times?
MI: Yes. To add to that story, most of the people in my class were in the Army. They went down there to Arizona and they asked them if they wanted to be in the Army and they said sure and they fought in Italy. You probably already know that. The Japanese troops fought in Italy. They sent them over there.
CD: The Japanese went to the Arizona internment camp and they asked them to . . .
MI: They asked the Japanese kids if they wanted to go to the Army and as far as I know, the ones that I know did. You know it wasn’t that big of a school. You might not know everybody to sit down and visit with, but you certainly knew who people were. These Japanese kids mostly were like from the Ivanhoe area and they would come in on the north side where I went to school. Main Street was the dividing point of north and south for schools.
CD: Tell me about the depot again. Who did you go with?
MI: I can’t remember who I went with. I suppose I went with several girlfriends. I imagine that’s who I went with. It was whoever could get a car.
CD: Who had a car in your group?
MI: We all could get a car once in a while, but not very often. So anyway, the fellows that we were dating then could usually get their parent’s car and we’d go always for a double date. Who doesn’t have a car? Now I know you are going to ask me, sooner or later, the difference between high school now and high school then and I’ve been thinking a lot about that. You know what the difference is, Catherine? We had fun. And I have seven grandchildren, Garrett. Devon, Bryce, and Riley Iden, and Benjamin, Alison and Joseph Anders. And I don’t think any of them would say they had real fun in high school. I mean they did fine. Three of them, Devon, Bryce and Alison, are in college now, two, Benjamin and Garrett, didn’t go to college and one’s just out of the Army (Joey). One joined the Army, but he just got out after three years. One, Riley,is still in high school. Our whole social life was around the school. Every Friday night there was something. There was a basketball game, a football game or something and there would be a dance afterward. Like I said, everybody went. Now what do I mean by everybody? What I really mean is most of us went and the dances were crowded and we had a really good time. We probably had to be home by midnight. The dances would be from 9:00,11:00. That would give us time to go and get a Coke if we wanted to.
CD: And the music?
MI: The music was big band and we had several local people that had bands, but we weren’t above dancing to the records of Glenn Miller or Tommy Dorsey or any of them.
CD: So out of that class of 250 . . .
CD: How many was it again?
MI: I think it was 286, but I’m not sure.
CD: And how many do you think would go. You’re saying every Friday night there was something.
MI: I’d say at least 100.
CD: That’s a big crowd.
MI: Oh yeah. The gym we had . . . the gym isn’t there anymore. Just as my street ran into Main Street, there was the gymnasium. So I just lived a half a block away. The gymnasium would be crowded and it would cost $.25 to get in; the girl’s league would sponsor it and they would get the music and they got the money that was left over, if there was anything. But by far, it was the focal point of our lives and I think it’s sad, well, I think life is sad for kids today anyway. Nobody expects them to do anything and they don’t.
CD: So there was all that activity on Friday night. But then Pearl Harbor happened and there was still about four months left of school.
MI: That’s right. We still had the basketball games and the dances after school. Like I say on graduation things had kind of come to a point of doing something about the Japanese people and you know that story probably.
CD: Go ahead and tell it.
MI: Some of the people out there owned property; a lot of them owned property.
MI: The Japanese people owned property and had these gardens and they still raise tomatoes out there that are wonderful. They had what we call truck gardens. Tomatoes, cucumbers and squash and that sort of thing.
CD: Why were those called truck gardens?
MI: Because you had to put them on trucks to get them to market I guess. I really think that’s why.
MI: Yeah, we weren’t so complicated. It wasn’t too long until they said no Japanese kids after dark. I can remember two of the fellows, one of them lives right down on the corner of Caldwell and Demaree on this side, Branton Swift and Neil Gates. They would take Sakaye Tanabe and they would drive him up and down Main Street after dark and just push him down in the seat and just laugh. They were close friends, really close friends. In fact, Sakaye came to one of the reunions; one was there and they just sat over there by themselves and talked the whole time.
I never considered doing anything but going to college and although my parents weren’t so well off that here’s a million dollars so you can go to college, I went up there and got a job and went to college. Pearl Harbor didn’t interfere with my personal life like that. But in my personal life also, every fellow I knew was in the service and I used to have a lot of letters, but I don’t have them anymore.
CD: They would write you.
MI: Oh yes.
CD: What would they say?
MI: Have you ever seen e-mail?
CD: E-mail, yeah, I’ve got e-mail.
MI: Maybe it wasn’t called e-mail, but the fellows would write a letter on a piece of paper and they would photograph that letter and make it small and send it to whoever got it. And I have some of those around here. I must give those to Alan. I don’t know where they are. But we would get, I don’t know what it was called, but it was microfilm. And sometimes it would be censored, sometimes the letters would come and they would have hunks taken out of them.
(Ed. She was referring to V-Mail)
CD: Do you know what they were taking out?
MI: Probably locations. Where this guy and what Army base he is at, at that moment. Mostly these were from overseas. I don’t think, I don’t really remember, getting a lot of letters from people who were in the United States. I know a half a dozen fellows who didn’t go overseas, but most of them did.
CD: So do you know why they microfilmed these letters and made them small?
MI: No. They must have just . . .
CD: To make e-mail (laughter).
MI: You got mail! I just saw that movie. No I don’t, except it would be a very simple thing to do. Maybe it was on board ship and they might do this and they would just send the film and have it printed and they wouldn’t have all those bulky letters. Probably the reason, that’s what I always thought they did it, less bulk, and they would also have a record.
CD: How long did the letters take to get? How long for them to get your letters?
MI: It just depended. Sometimes it was thirty days. Sometimes it was two days. And mail to our fellows was slow going. But most of us wrote pretty regularly to several fellows. Not love letters, but friendship. I had a lot of boyfriends and I say that meaning friends who were boys. We would never consider dating. They would come to my house or a bunch of us would go out, but none of us were madly in love. Well some of us thought we were too, but you know. I don’t know, I just feel sorry for the kids now. They don’t know what it’s all about.
CD: To how many boys do you think you were writing?
MI: Oh, six or eight probably. I have those letters somewhere.
CD: That’s neat.
MI: Although when we turn this off, I’ll tell you my husband found them and threw away a lot of them.
CD: Oh really. Did he really?
MI: Yes, he and his brother, Wade, thought that was really fun.
MI: Destroying my letters.
CD: That’s awful. So what was it like . . . we have already talked about school . . . what was it like at home?
MI: Well, you know, I had a little brother, Benny. He was sixteen and my parents knew he would probably go. So he was two years behind me in school and he signed up for the Navy so he could finish high school and then he went to Texas to a college and then he was transferred to Oregon. Then the war ended and they let him out.
CD: How did your parents feel about him going?
MI: I’m sure they were certainly reticent about it. You expected people to do it. You just expected fellows to do it. I’m sure they were delighted he was accepted into this program, which was really good for him. It was a good program and he would have come out an officer, but then he died. He was getting ready to come home when he died. We think maybe he had meningitis and he wouldn’t go to sickbay because they would have made him stay there longer.
CD: He wanted to come home.
MI: He so wanted to come home. He did it his own way I guess. I still have a hard time with it.
CD: Sad. How did the church . . .?
MI: Oh yeah. Let me talk about that. My grandmother helped found the Presbyterian Church in Dinuba. So when I moved to Visalia I went to the Presbyterian Church. And all of a sudden I met a couple of young people that went to the Methodist’s young people fun Sunday night, whatever it was called. So I transferred. I didn’t transfer my membership, but I went to the Methodist Church and we had a lot of fun there on Sunday night.
CD: Like what?
MI: Well, one thing I remember, there were only about six churches in town, but we would go on one Sunday night to the Presbyterian, then we would go to the Methodist and we’d go to the Christian and we’d go to the Baptist, and we would have what they called singspiration. We’d just sing all the old hymns. We just belted them out. We really had fun doing that. I can’t remember how the war . . . Pearl Harbor just really . . . it didn’t interfere with my day to day living because I was still in high school and I knew I had to study and I knew I had to get the grades. Some of the fellows were going and it was really kind of romantic. Some of them were coming back in their beautiful uniforms, but everybody went. You just didn’t not go and some of my friends, a bunch of them, Alan George included, and several others from our class went down and joined the Navy kind of together. And they were up in Idaho for a while together and then of course then they parted and went different directions during the war. They weren’t on the same ship or anything.
CD: So your life went on and college, but how do you think after Pearl Harbor the war affected Tulare County?
MI: I’m sure a lot of people in Ivanhoe, a lot of people in Ivanhoe . . . I can’t think of the word, screwed the Japanese out of their property.
CD: That’s pretty . . .
MI: Is that blunt?
CD: It gets right to the point.
MI: But most of the people, some of the people, the Japanese people, handed their land over to Mr. Jones here and he took care of it until they came back, but not very many of them came back.
CD: Where did they go?
MI: The kids went down into the Los Angeles area. I guess the parents came back, but I would say that not very many of my generation came back. The Japanese kids. In fact, I can’t think of any that did come back here. Almost all of those kids were really smart and they got really good grades. They, almost all that I know, went to college. Not all of them, but many of them went to college. I think the biggest thing in my life that Pearl Harbor meant was this Japanese situation. That hit me really personally. We went down and saw Satsuki and her sister Rio. They were all on that train with their parents. Then they went down; they left the area. Some of them that came from the North stayed at the Tulare County Fairgrounds and they slept in the stalls. I have read this. I’m not positive about this.
CD: Tulare County Fairgrounds was an internment camp.
MI: No, they just stayed there overnight. The internment camps were all down in Arizona somewhere. I can’t tell you where they were, but I believe without a doubt, Pearl Harbor was the biggest change in my life. I wasn’t very happy about the way they treated them. It just didn’t seem right to me. But my mother was in Dinuba High School during World War I and they burned the German books. She was taking German, the language, and they burned the books. So it’s kind of the same thing. I don’t know what the next generation will do. That was terrible. To put those people down there in that camp. Wonderful people.
(Ed. Most of those who were interned from Tulare County went to Poston, Arizona.)
CD: Why would you say not many of them came back?
MI: Well, I think because they’d been treated like they had. They had been classmates forever and not to be allowed to go to graduation. They got their diplomas I guess, but they weren’t allowed to be there. None of us should have gone, we should have just stayed home.
CD: What do you think the reaction would have been if you had done that?
MI: I don’t know. I think about it a lot now. We went down there and Mrs. Goad said, "Hey
you guys, go back to class." So we
went. We were just so determined that we
were going to do something about this, so I guess that was the biggest
change. Not somebody shooting people in Pearl
was overseas. Everybody was either in
CD: You keep on mentioning Ivanhoe.
MI: That was where a lot of the Japanese kids lived. They lived in Ivanhoe and the Woodlake area. Probably not the Woodlake area because there was a Woodlake High School. The Ivanhoe area parents had acreage and had farms. They had truck farms like I said before. They made money that way. There was one family . . . there was a Drug Store here years later . . . I don’t know how they related to my friend.
CD: What was the name of the drug store?
MI: It was on the northeast corner of Center and Bridge or Garden, I can’t remember which one. I think it was Sumida’s.
CD: Oh, it was Japanese. And how do you think you spell it?
MI: S-U-M-I-D-A. I know how to spell it. If that’s what it was. You better check with someone else on that before you debate a fact.
Ed. note: Roy Sumida has also been interviewed.
MI: Okay. What else?
CD: Well, we were talking about Ivanhoe.
MI: Most of the kids came in on the bus. It was not a disgrace to ride the school bus. Kids didn’t have a car. I only really knew one who had a car of his own. Nobody had a car of his own. His family wasn’t wealthy either. He just had worked and gotten a car, but those kids all came in from Ivanhoe on the bus and they were just our classmates. They weren’t any different. We never thought about them being our Japanese classmates. We just thought well heck, there they are.
CD: And most of them were born in the United States?
MI: I’m sure they must have been born in the United States. The kids.
CD: What’s your opinion of when they came back? About the ones in Ivanhoe, did any of them lose their land? Did you keep up with any of them?
MI: No, no. I have since I started working for the reunions. After fifteen years we had a class reunion. That would be 1957. That was our first class reunion. But I have not kept up. I felt kind of guilty. You feel kind of guilty.
MI: Yeah, sure you do. You think: why did we do that? We did it. Why did we do that?
CD: And you felt you could have done something about it?
MI: Well, you read the paper today. I could have gone down and sat in the middle of the grandstand and say here I sit until you let them come. In those days, you never even considered . . . a trip to the Dean’s office was pretty way out. We went right back to our class. I didn’t consider there was anything I could do about it, I guess. I never thought about having to do something about it, like I do now. I think now we should have done something. But like anyone would tell you, Catherine, things were different then.
CD: Nobody said that was an unpatriotic act? Did you get any backlash for going to the Dean’s office?
MI: No. She just knew us really well. She said, "Get back to class."
CD: And your classmates? When you told your classmates?
MI: I don’t think I told them. There were about six of us that went in there and, of course, we went back to class. Being in high school was important and I wanted to go on to college. I never thought about going against her will and sitting down and saying, "Now look, Mrs. Goad. I guess the people in Washington made these rules and nobody understood how a rural area would be with Japanese kids." But God, I just think about it now. I would like to talk to Roy Maeda about it, but I never have. I have never talked to him about it. But I know he was in the service. I know he joined the Army.
CD: And he went into one of the . . .
MI: Italy. He and Matsushima, and I can’t think of his first name, Lloyd, I think. They both came together. They both live in Los Angeles and they came together and the last reunion we had a dinner at the Lamplighter and then a picnic at Mooney’s Grove, which was included in your $25.00. We’ve got a little money, our class has in the bank, and I was trying to get rid of it. But anyway, I said to Roy, "I wish you could come tomorrow." He said he couldn’t, he just had to get home. But I said it’s a lot less formal and a lot more fun than this dinner. And I thought maybe he would be there, but he didn’t come.
CD: Wow, that sounds like an emotional time.
MI: Yes, it was.
CD: To get on with something lighter. For entertainment it sounds like mostly the high school, but when you guys weren’t going to dances or games at the high school what was your fun?
MI: Well there was Sierra Ballroom. Do you know where that is?
CD: No, but I heard about it.
MI: (Laughter) Let’s see, it’s on Garden . . . I never can remember if it’s Bridge and Garden or Bridge and then Garden. But anyway, it’s on the last one and there was a great big swimming pool, that whole block. It was Sierra Plunge. (Laughter). That is funny, isn’t it.
MI: I keep saying they and nobody, but nobody had swimming pools, so everybody would go to the Sierra Plunge. The plunge was here and here was a ballroom and we’d go there for dances on Saturday night.
CD: What would you do when all the guys were gone?
MI: I don’t remember. Really, when the guys were gone, I was in Fresno. We would go out to the base to dance with the fellows. The bus would take you, like you’re at the sorority. I don’t believe in sororities, but I was in one. They would take us out to the base and we would dance. There weren’t any fellows and there weren’t any social activities at school during the war years.
CD: So, pretty much at school, all that came to a halt?
MI: Kind of . . . I lost my trend of thought . . . .
CD: We were talking about entertainment.
MI: I can’t remember any entertainment in school . . .oh, I know what I was going to say. I graduated from school in 1946 and 1945 was the end of the war, so people were kind of dribbling back. They were coming back here too. I will never forget . . . I will have to mention names here . . . Ed Volmer and I were really good friends. Now we’re still really good friends; do you know Ed? Okay. One time, my husband and I were walking on Main Street and Ed was coming toward us in his Marine uniform and I was so glad to see him, I guess I acted like I was really glad to see him and we stood and talked for a minute and I’m sure Ed was glad to see me because we had been really good friends. He dated a friend of mine and we were together a lot, but we didn’t date. That happened back then. For months afterwards Don would say to me, "Well, Ed Volmer!"
CD: Teasing you.
MI: Yes, but I was really glad to see him. And they kind of dribbled back, the fellows kind of dribbled back.
CD: What about movies? Did you go to movies?
MI: Oh, yes. We went to movies lots.
CD: What was the newsreel before the movie?
MI: It was terrifying at times. But we were right here in this little flat country and we raised crops and went to a small town school and I don’t really think that . . you’d think that at the age I was at that time, 17, 18, 19, I would have been more impressed.
CD: Impressed with what?
MI: Impressed with the newsreels and how
terrible they were. It showed the
bombing and showed our aircraft bombing
CD: What were the newsreels like?
MI: Like I say, I just don’t think we identified. We knew the fellows were all gone, but I can’t remember being horrified by some of the newsreels we saw and yet I probably was. Everybody had a newsreel. All the movies. In the movies, when you went to the movie, you saw the previews and you saw the newsreel, which was our TV I guess you might say.
CD: You never thought that was some of our guys being blown to bits?
MI: I don’t think so. I don’t think I did. That was terrible, wasn’t it? Wasn’t very smart.
CD: You’re just an optimist.
MI: Yes. I never dreamed somebody would die in a war.
CD: There were some from your class that did?
MI: Yes, Burgess Hadley, Archie Lafond. I have a book somewhere that tells about it.
CD: Who was that? Burgess . . .
MI: Hadley, from Hadley Funeral Parlor.
CD: And who was the other one?
MI: Archie LaFond. L-A-F-O-N-D.
CD: And these people died?
MI: Burgess died in the Battle of the Bulge and I don’t know where Archie died. There were also two things in town that were really nice. One was on the corner of the Post Office down there. Right on the corner. I have a picture of it. I just saw it the other day, this great big board and on it was printed all the names of all the kids . . . have you seen it?
CD: I interviewed the daughter of the guy who painted it.
MI: Oh, did you really? And they had everybody’s name on it. And I have a picture of that.
CD: Oh you do.
MI: I’ll have to get that to somebody, because I have a picture of it.
CD: I don’t think she does. I asked her.
MI: I’ll try to find it. I also have a picture of my house on Center Street that I promised to send to the people that own it now, but I haven’t done that either. Yes, I make all these promises. But I think the war kind of . . . it makes me sound really cold, but I don’t think I’m a cold person, but it just didn’t interfere with what I had to do. I went out to COS one year and transferred to Fresno. That’s when COS had Tad’s.
CD: What’s that?
MI: Absolutely, Catherine, you know what?
MI: My blood boils when they talk about Mearle’s. Because they always used to say it was Nielson’s.
CD: They did?
MI: But, the people that built it . . . the lady that built it had three sons and they were maybe a little bit older than I was. I don’t remember. She named it Tad’s because a T son and an A son and a D son. And they live in . . . I’ll try to think of their last name, Beshwait. They live in Exeter now, but they built that place and that’s what it was when I went to COS. It was Tad’s.
CD: Mearle’s was Tad’s.
MI: It was Tad’s. The same building and everything. We’d go over there and have a coke and play bridge at the tables. But then like I say, at this point in time I was a freshman in college and there weren’t hardly any fellows around, so we didn’t date a lot. Some of them dated, they would go on buses out to Sequoia Field, after they got Sequoia Field, and then the Elks Club, during the war, would always have a dance for the soldiers. And you could go up there and dance and there was no disgrace about that. Girls didn’t dance with girls like they do now. There was no disgrace about a bunch of girls going because there’d be a bunch of fellows there from the . . . and several people married fellows that were stationed there.
CD: Did you go?
MI: Yes, I went a couple of times. I didn’t do that so much as I did in Fresno. We’d go out to Hammer Field and that was never . . . I didn’t really like doing that at all. I don’t know, I just didn’t like doing it.
CD: How come? You enjoyed it more in Visalia or you just didn’t like it at all?
MI: I just didn’t like it at all. I just didn’t like the idea, so I didn’t go a lot.
CD: So why does your blood boil about Tad’s?
MI: Because they never mention it in the Delta. They tell you all about Mearles’s burning not long ago. All about Mearle's, and who owned Mearle’s beforehand. I just almost have that name on the tip of my tongue.
CD: You’ll think of it. You can even call me later.
MI: The momma opened the place and she ran it. She had a cook, probably. I don’t remember there being a father, but one of the gals who was a year ahead of me in school married one of . . .
CD: Oh, you almost had it.
MI: Yeah, I almost had it.
CD: And did the boys work there in the restaurant too?
MI: I don’t remember the boys being in the restaurant. They would have been . . . I was like 18, they would have probably been 19, 21, 22. They were very close together and they probably were in the service shortly after she opened it. But she opened it several years . . . probably about the time that COS went out to the current COS location. That’s when she opened it.
CD: That’s when they said no businesses would go out there.
MI: That’s right. I have a friend that probably has more money than anybody I know and he said to me one day, "You mark my word, there will be no businesses out on Mooney Boulevard. It’s too far out."
CD: And you can’t say who that is?
MI: No, I don’t want to say who that is.
CD: Do you ever make him eat his words?
MI: Yeah, occasionally. Sure I do. It’s like Ed Volmer. I said to him when he was mayor, "You take my property into this city, I’m going to blackmail you." "You better not," he said, "Two can play at that game." So I didn’t blackmail him. But he’s a good friend and he’s also my CPA. He takes care of everything. My husband passed away two years ago . . . .
CD: Oh, I’m sorry.
MI: And it’s been really rough, but that’s how it goes, you know. You’re almost 80. I’ll be 79 soon and you expect things like that.
CD: When did Tad’s turn into Mearle’s?
MI: I don’t know. I don’t think it turned into Mearle’s. I think it turned into Nielson’s.
CD: Oh. Do you remember it being Nielson’s?
CD: Did you go?
MI: Not as much, because I wasn’t at COS. I’m diabetic and some day I’m going to go down there and have a chocolate malt.
CD: Ugh. That’ll kill you.
MI: It will be worth it. There might have been somebody else in between. Mearle’s was a man’s first name, but Nielson’s. . . when I was growing up, there was a Nielson’s Creamery in Tulare and they made ice cream and stuff. They bought that for a while and then they gave it to Mearle’s and they called it Mearle’s. And for years, some kids that went to high school with my daughter are running it. Barbara Bass and Melissa Bass have run it mostly. It didn’t mention Melissa when it burned.
CD: How was that ice cream in Tulare, Nielson’s?
MI: Oh, very good. Also we used to go, after the prom, we would go to Tulare.
CD: Really, after the prom, why would you go to Tulare?
MI: There was place on . . . oh, you’re really bringing back memories. There was a place in Tulare that had Chicken in a Basket. Nobody else ever heard of Chicken in a Basket. They didn’t . . . I guess they gave us utensils, but we were supposed to eat this chicken with our hands, you know. And we’d go over there, it was probably two dollars a person, which was quite a bit of money, but it wasn’t that much, but that’s where we would go and there was never a fellow and me. There was always . . . I had a special person . . . a lot of people had a special person, but we didn’t have to go off by ourselves. We always had a lot of friends with us, a bunch of people, that made it so much fun that we never thought about running off by ourselves too much.
CD: That gives parents less to worry about?
MI: That’s true I guess, yeah, I guess it’s true, but people . . .
CD: Back then in high school, was it normal just to go to one prom?
MI: No. You go if invited, if your mother would let you.
CD: How many proms did you go to?
MI: I went to three. I went when I was a sophomore, when I was a junior and when I was a senior.
CD: Okay, we’re still talking about the prom and I’m looking at a prom picture. What year is this one? Oh, 1941, Junior-Senior Prom.
CD: Oh, so that’s after Pearl Harbor, but the war is going on?
MI: The prom was in the spring I think, so it was before Pearl Harbor. What does that say?
CD: It doesn’t say.
MI: Okay. This doesn’t have anything to do with the war really, but you went to the dance and you never danced with who you went with; you never danced with that person except the first and last dance.
CD: Oh, that’s interesting.
MI: You’d always trade dances with the rest of them. But that was in the back of the Tea Garden. There’s a parking lot there now, across from the Convention Center on Willow. A block south of Main Street there was this huge building. I can’t remember what they called it, but that’s where we had the prom. We also had wrestling matches there and boxing matches on Friday night. Then I guess they tore it down. It’s not there anymore, so they must have torn it down, the Municipal Auditorium.
CD: What’s there now?
MI: A parking lot. It’s just north of the Convention Center.
CD: And how were you feeling? Did you feel that the boys were going to leave? Wasn’t there a little of a desperation feeling at the prom?
MI: I’m sorry. I really don’t remember that.
CD: You’d think that there would be? An anxiety?
MI: I’m sure we had anxiety, but I think people have more anxiety now because nobody wants to go. Nobody wants to run and the join the Army. This was true in the Korean War.
CD: What was true?
MI: The fact that nobody ran to sign up. Now the only person I knew that was in the Korean War was in the Marine Reserve, and he got called back. But outside of that, I don’t know anybody that was . . . probably a lot younger people. Some friends of my kids went to Vietnam, but I only know about three young men that went to Vietnam.
CD: So you’re saying when Pearl Harbor happened, they did all go and sign up? And they haven’t since?
MI: I don’t think so. I went to a speech one time. We had a speaker for something and that was what he was talking about. Not Iwo Jima, Vietnam, but the Korean War. For instance, in the POW camps, he said in World War II they just made haste. When you got to the POW camp, you organized.
CD: Who, the prisoners?
MI: Yes. The highest-ranking prisoner was in charge and, you know, my husband was a POW.
CD: I didn’t know that.
MI: He said they didn’t do that in the Korean War. They didn’t seem to have the stamina and whether it was because we had been through this World War II and thought we were finished. And I was reading about the Korean War the other day and people just don’t remember that and it was terrible.
CD: What was?
MI: The Korean War. It was terrible. It was awful.
CD: Tell me about your husband. Was he born here?
MI: He was born in Visalia on South Church Street.
MI: And went to Jefferson School, which was the other side of town, and I never really knew him in high school. I knew who he was. My dad came home one day and at dinner he said to me, "Do you know Don Iden?" I said, "I know who he is." And he said, I met his dad today downtown and I just felt so sorry for him, because they don’t know whether Don is dead or alive. For a while it said missing. And his father was so upset." And I said I knew who he was but I really didn’t know him that well.
CD: And how did you meet?
MI: Gosh. I’m telling you all about this Visalia like it used to be. On the southwest corner of Willis and Main there was a drive-in thing where you got hamburgers and cokes called the Barbeque, and I was in there with one friend, Evelyn Jones Bennett, whose husband, Kenneth, was back east and she was in Visalia; she was married and the other friend, Reva Hansen, wasn’t married, and myself was there having a Coke. And my friend that was married went to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades with Don out on the highway school. This was a place where the carhop would bring food and put the tray on the door of the car. Donald Iden recognized Evelyn and came up to the car to say hello. There was a little school named Highway School, so she was really glad to see him. Oh, God, right then I just…I did.
MI: I did! I did! I fell in love. I just absolutely thought, "Oh my gosh!" That’s what happened. And I get real upset because my kids date, my grandkids date people and they don’t seem very excited about . . . I have a niece getting married and she’s really excited. I think people should be more excited about their weddings and their love affairs and things.
CD: So you met and he had already served?
MI: He had come home on leave, but he was going back to Texas to be mustered out, they called it. To get his release. So I went out with him, a few times with him and then he went back to Texas and I just thought, "Oh my God, I’ll probably never see him again." But when he came back I did see him.
CD: Did he call?
MI: Well, it was really funny. There was a kid . . . I don’t want it to sound like I was such a prima donna, but there was a kid in Exeter named Don that used to come and see me lots. We went out a few times and when I got home from school for Christmas, there was a package there. And I asked, "What’s this?" And she said, " Well that’s from Don." And I said, "Oh God." And she said, my mother said, "Maybe you should ask which Don brought it?" Well, it was Don Iden and it was a music box, which our daughter Leslie broke. But anyway, I’ve had a really good life. I haven’t had a lot of . . . my kids, as far as I know, have never been in jail. Nor my grandchildren. They’ve all finished high school. Two of them decided not to go onto college, but they’re all right.
CD: So when your husband’s parents didn’t know whether he was dead or alive,he wasn’t in Texas?
MI: He was in a German POW Camp. Are you in a hurry?
CD: No, I need to leave at 12.
MI: OK. I’ll go get those things, if I can find them. The first they heard that Don was all right was on Christmas. People on the east coast picked up radio flashes from the prisoners of war, but nobody on the West Coast or Middle America picked them up. But Don’s mother got three or four letters saying "I heard this on the radio. Merry Christmas to my parents in Visalia, California."
CD: And it was Christmas, what year?
MI: It would have been ‘44. Yes, 1944. Then they got official notification that he was a POW and he really . . . my grandchildren are all kind of upset, because grandpa never talked about the war. Well grandpa didn’t want to talk about the war. Some fellows that were in the war will bore you for two hours and Don, if you asked Don a question, he would answer it, but he never volunteered.
CD: And did you ask?
MI: No, I didn’t ask. I don’t know why I didn’t, but I didn’t. I picked up a lot. Several of his POW friends . . . he had three sets of friends. Those he went to cadets with and learned to fly, those that were on his crew and those that were in POW Camp. So when we were first married, he wrote out this list of all these people and every year I sent them a Christmas card. I wrote a note on them,Don doesn’t like to write, so I’m writing. We have seen several of those people, because everyone wants to come to California. Anyway, they’ve come to our house. One guy talked a lot about it, but after he left Don said he thought he thought he made most of that up. He’s the only one I know that I could ask questions, but was afraid to ask. I wasn’t afraid to ask him, but I’m afraid he’ll tell me things that aren’t true.
CD: And how did the servicemen adapt to Tulare County after they got home?
MI: Well, they drank a lot, I think.
CD: You think.
MI: Yeah, I know they did. I know Don did. I think afterward, I think about it now, how could I have married him? He never drank much after we were married. Maybe at Christmas or something. But that’s what they did. We went to the Hotel Johnson. It was on the corner - you know where the Hotel Johnson was?
CD: No, but go ahead and say.
MI: It was on the northeast corner of Church and Main and there was a bar and restaurant there. Then there was a bar south on Church Street that opened off of Church Street. I want to say it was the Rendezvous. The only place we could go would be out to dinner or sit in a bar or go to a movie. And once you’ve seen the movie . . . . And I think a lot of them did, a lot of them drank and maybe never got over it.
CD: Do you feel your husband did?
MI: Oh he never . . . he didn’t drink. He drank while we were dating. I don’t know how I could have, I look back now and I would say to Don, "I just can’t believe I didn’t just turn you down because you drank so much." But that’s what they did when they came home. And then they tried to get jobs and of course in my class, the kids, the ordinary kids, either went to work for the Edison Company, the telephone company, or the gas company and they were all three companies hiring on. Don went to work for the gas company, but many went to work for the Edison and we, all of us, that went to work for the three utilities, have pretty well come out of it well. The companies were good to us. They aren’t now I guess, but they were, except Edison I don’t think pays any . . . what do they call it?
CD: Benefits, retirement?
MI: No they paid better retirements than the Gas Company did, but on the stock, the dividends. They quit paying dividends. I think they’re supposed to start in January. Everybody, that’s what the fellows did. They went down to the Gas Company. A lot of our friends worked for the telephone company and they all had wonderful benefits. Wonderful health insurance, wonderful drug insurance. For me today, even now, I have it. We had wonderful benefits. We always say, Catherine, we lived through the best of everything. We lived through the best movies. Did you ever see "From Here to Eternity"?
CD: I think I did. I’ve seen that genre in "The Best Years of Our Lives". It was really good.
MI: Oh "The Best Years of Our Lives." I just can’t watch that. I start watching it and start crying.
CD: That’s an emotional one.
MI: Yeah, yeah.
CD: There’s a whole slew.
MI: We had the best movies and the best. . . . . I don’t think 100 years from now people are going to want to watch the kind of movies we have now. "You’ve Got Mail" was a cute, nice movie, and the other one they made, "Sleepless in Seattle", but I don’t think they’re going to be world shakers a year from now.
CD: Let’s go back to the companies. Do you think companies would hire the servicemen? Would they hire the serviceman even if there wasn’t a job available, do you think?
MI: No. I don’t think they would. Although when Don went to work, he was going to be on a crew that dug ditches. That was all right with him. He needed a job. We were married. He had a part time job and I was teaching school.
MI: I taught the first two years at Highland, but he would make in two weeks what I would make in a month. I taught for $1,600 a year. In 1946 I signed a contract: $1,600 for the year.
CD: And he would make more digging ditches?
MI: Well, he never did dig ditches. Right away, I think what they did, was they hired people to dig ditches and then they looked them over and decided which ones could . . . so they sent him down to school and he was a serviceman. It was a Gas Company school and he was a serviceman.
CD: And how much do you think his salary was?
MI: It was probably $200 a month, $250 per month. I don’t know. We didn’t have any kids for a couple of years and then one day we got tired . . . I don’t know if we were aware . . . right after the war . . . let’s see . . . there’s a parking lot, you know, where the COS Theater is . . . there’s a parking lot here. Somebody at the Housing Authority of Tulare County brought in a bunch of barracks buildings that they had for servicemen I guess and they were here, here, here, and here. There were six of them. Each one had two apartments and they halfway brought them for the teachers and I was a teacher and we got one. So we had a place to live, which was unheard of. It’s too bad we didn’t take many pictures of that, because that was like a little village.
CD: Did it have a name?
MI: No, I don’t think so. Probably it’s more where the freeway is now, but it was right there on the corner of 198 and Mooney Blvd. Too bad someone doesn’t have pictures of that.
CD: Did you get it for free?
MI: No, we had to pay rent.
CD: But you still felt lucky to get it?
MI: Yes, $35 a month or something. Don had bought some property. . . Don’s dad had bought some property with the money he had sent home. Don was furious with him, but outside of that it worked out really well. It was on the northwest corner of Caldwell and Santa Fe, and Don took a hammer and nails and got some boards and built a place for us to live.
CD: He built your house?
MI: Uh huh, and when Leslie was born we added on a bedroom and when Barry was born we added on another bedroom. Just a tiny little wonderful house. Then we built on a nice big lovely living room there on the corner. It was barn red. Maybe you remember seeing it. It hasn’t been there for fifteen years, so you probably don’t remember seeing that. Anyway, we stayed there until . . . . Don always wanted to live in the country, always had horses and we found this property and we traded property and where our property runs along Santa Fe there’s one street and they’re all beautiful homes. Right next to railroad track, but they’ve taken the railroad track out.
CD: Tell me about why you felt lucky to get a house. What was the housing like?
MI: There were no apartments. There was a little place on West Main Street called Gray Gables, and I think they’re still there. There are little houses and that’s about the only apartments I knew about.
CD: So there just weren’t apartments?
MI: No, there just weren’t apartments. And people were coming home, they had gotten married in the service and were coming home. Maybe that was our first big bulge in population, I don’t know, but there were no apartments. Look now how many apartments there are.
CD: Let’s see, we talked about the churches, the Japanese. Ok, let’s start talking a little about family life. Did the rations affect your family? Do you remember rationing?
MI: Yes, oh certainly. We probably ate more eggplant than anybody in the world.
CD: Why do you say that?
MI: Because you could buy eggplant and you dipped it in cracker crumbs and fried it. It was like a meat substitute I guess. But the other thing we did, we had ration stamps for meat, sugar . . . in fact I have some over there in a drawer . . . but we also saved all of our bacon grease and we put it in coffee cans and we took it to the meat market and they were supposed to make bullets out of it or bombs or something out of it.
CD: Bullets? No.
MI: Munitions. I don’t know. I often wondered if they just tossed it. But we did, we saved every bit of grease.
CD: And you were told to do that?
MI: Oh yes. Yeah, I bet you never heard that before. Goody, I’m glad I said a new thing.
CD: Oh, you’ve said a lot of new stuff. But the eggplant, why was eggplant grown?
MI: Well the eggplant was more like meat than squash would be or something else, so I know that when Don came home we still had rationing for a little while and I served him eggplant, eggplant, eggplant. He still liked it really well.
CD: Was it grown here?
MI: No. It wasn’t in grocery stores like everything else, or people raised it or whatever, you know. It was just that the eggplant . . . you couldn’t fry a cucumber and make meat substitute. You could do that with squash, but we didn’t. We just did a lot of eggplant.
I wouldn’t say that we were starving for meat. We probably had enough meat. At my mother’s house, she had my mother, my father and me. She had three rations. My sister was married at that time and my brother was off at the service, so there were three stamp booklets she had.
CD: So you don’t remember feeling a loss for meat?
MI: No, I don’t. I really don’t. We had gasoline rationing also. There’s a place on Main Street called Togni-Branch.
CD: Still there.
MI: And Charley Togni owned that. He’s Greeley’s father. Do you know Greeley at all?
MI: Charley Togni is Greeley’s father and he owned Togni-Branch. His sister was married to man named Mr. Branch and they had a Togni-Branch in Hanford. So the Branch didn’t mean there was a branch in Hanford, it meant the sister-in-law’s name. Like their name was Branch, and Charley Togni had all the gasoline. He was on the board.
CD: On what board?
MI: He was on the ration board. If you needed more gasoline, you had to go before the ration board and plead for more gasoline. I don’t remember us ever needing . . . ever not having enough. The same thing with the meat, but when I went to college, I don’t remember what I did about them. We had kitchen privileges where I lived and we ate out a lot. People just didn’t go to restaurants very much. My family would go to the Tea Garden for Chinese food, but that was about it.
CD: Did you ever know anybody who went before the ration board? Would they be successful?
MI: It was fun. It was so much fun because Charley was this character. And I was the first girl he ever hired. I went down there and I asked him. He was so funny. I loved his wife. She was so neat. He was a neat man, but he would yell from the back of the store to the front of the store - No more gasoline! There wasn’t a board meeting, but these people would come in,like Mr. Buckman from Buckman-Mitchell and they would just harangue each other, but he was on the board and he was very fair and an extremely nice person underneath the grouch.
CD: So you’re saying people would come into Togni-Branch and talk to him personally? Mr. Buckman would come in?
MI: I don’t know specifically if he would ask, but some of them would come and talk to him about that. I don’t know whether the gas rationing board was separate from the food rationing board. Would you like to see a ration booklet?
CD: So did your family have a victory garden?
MI: No we didn’t. I think we had a few tomatoes in the back yard, but people didn’t really have a victory garden to my knowledge. I don’t know anybody who had a victory garden where you would grow your own food. Sometimes my dad would plant . . . no, I don’t think so, because he loved delphinium and he always had a lot of delphinium which was really nice. But I don’t remember anyone having a victory garden.
CD: What is delphinium?
MI: It’s like a larkspur, only it’s bigger and better and has a bloom stalk about this tall and it’s all blue, pink flowers. Pretty beautiful flowers. It’s a perennial so I’ve planted them here, but the rabbits get them. We have rabbits.
CD: I’m going to go into your personal reactions
to the war. How did you feel about the
MI: Oh, we had to. There was no question. I doubt there was a fifth of the population
that was against it. It was nothing like
CD: And how about that 5% that didn’t agree. Did you ever meet any of them?
MI: I never knew anybody that was against the war. I never actually personally . . . . And I knew a lot of people.
CD: Sounds like it.
MI: I don’t remember anybody ever saying we shouldn’t have done this.
CD: And how did you feel about dropping the bomb? About our dropping the bomb?
MI: I thought it was definitely the thing to
do. The thing to do, because they killed
. . . I’ve forgotten how many people we killed, but on the other hand we saved
how many lives? I don’t remember people
being against that. I don’t remember
everybody saying we shouldn’t have done that. They’ve said that in later years, but at the time I think we were so
overjoyed that we had
CD: Does he live here in Tulare County?
MI: He was born here but lives up in Idaho now, but he, always in later years, he’d say, "I missed the boat." But as it got to be later years, he would say, "Thank God I wasn’t on that."
CD: Why did he say that?
MI: Because of all the turmoil it caused when we dropped the A Bomb. I think probably most people thought it was the thing to do. From your point of view, as the way you have grown up, you’d probably think it was a terrible thing to do, but it did finish the war and it did save how many hundreds of lives of our men set to go in there. The Japanese people are pretty ‘stick to it-ive’. They were going to be heroes even . . .
CD: Even if they were going to be dead heroes.
MI: Yeah. Like we see now some with the bombings and so forth.
CD: So do you feel like your general feelings about the war have changed over time?
MI: No. I
think we did the right thing. We did the
right thing, I’m sure we did. We were
invaded. We couldn’t attack
MI: Which we did. Not
CD: As time has gone by and the stories came up that the President lied about not warning about Pearl Harbor. How does that make you feel?
MI: I think it’s not true. I don’t think that’s true at all. They’re also saying Bush knew about 9/11 and I don’t believe that either. I think people are just grasping at straws. In fact, not long ago, I read this thing about Roosevelt and it said something about him having been accused. Well the Japanese delegation was in Washington, DC, but knowing about it ahead of time . . . . Do you know who Oliver Stone is? Sometimes I think somebody should put out a contract out on him because he makes all these historical films and he takes liberties. Your kids are going to watch them and think that’s what happened.
CD: Yes, I agree. So overall, how would you say World War II affected Tulare County?
MI: Well, I think partially it was our first bulge in population, but outside of that I can’t see how it affected Tulare County. We’re just where we are, it’s the way we live and the way we all want to live, and I can’t see where it made a lot difference in my life except I got married.
CD: Right, but when you came back from Fresno State, did the place look different?
MI: No, no. Nobody was building. There were no buildings. No new houses. There wasn’t anything like that. There was nothing like progress and lots of people got married and lived with his parents or her parents because there was no house available, and then they started kind of building houses and they’ve raped the whole farmland, right? Right.
CD: So is there anything you would like to add about the years 1941 to 1946 that I didn’t cover in the interview?
MI: Nope. I think we covered just about everything. Rationing, bacon grease, or the excess grease. I lived right near the high school so I went home for lunch, but you could buy a can of chicken noodle soup and my brother and I would go home for lunch. We didn’t have meat at lunch. We just had whatever was there and at night, I can remember thinking, "Oh, I would just love a pork chop." Or "I would just love a t-bone steak." At home we fixed round steak quite a bit. My mother always fried round steak and it seemed a lot better than it is now. The only thing about the war was the influx of soldiers coming home without a job. But the three utilities companies really opened up their arms. Visalia was growing and they needed them. I don’t think they added them for the benefit of the servicemen. I’m trying to think,several of the men I knew went back to college afterward. For instance, Ed Volmer, the CPA, and a neat man, a great man, I love him, he’s really special and his wife is special too. But outside of coming home and needing places to live and they brought those tin houses in, where I lived. Gosh, I’m so sorry I didn’t take a bunch of pictures of those. But that’s about the biggest change. Maybe Alan has some pictures of it.
CD: And the men who couldn’t find a job?
MI: Most of them found jobs. Most of them found a job here or a job there, but I would say a lot of people in my graduating class went to work for one of the three utilities. The fellows that I knew, a lot of them went back to college. Alan went back. Do you know Alan? I keep talking about Alan.
CD: No. Alan George? Okay, that one I have heard of and he went off to war?
MI: He came home and then he went up to Davis, the school, and the fellow that I was telling you about that was on the backup crew for. . .
CD: Right, do you remember his name?
MI: Sure, I do remember his name. He name was Stewart Williams.
CD: And he was born where?
MI: I think he was born in Visalia. Surely he was. He had an older brother, Harry Williams, Jr., that was killed in the war. So he’s the last one. His mother and dad are gone. Except for things like that, you know, we would have people here, not over at that other house and not very many people talked in great detail about the war. Now there’s a guy Chuck Mannering that will talk to you eight hours about the war. Do you know Chuck?
CD: Somebody gave me his name to be interviewed.
MI: Well, he’ll tell you that he was on a B-17 and flew so many missions. My husband was on a B-24. Someone asked me if they went down on that first mission and I think it was the 12th mission.
CD: Oh, interesting. And he went down where?
MI: He went down in
CD: Because he was from Visalia.
MI: Sure he was.
CD: And he came back.
MI: He was born on South Church Street. He landed in somebody’s vegetable garden in
The interesting part about this is, one morning they all got up and the guards were all gone. Now this is hard to imagine in this day and age. The Russians had come in and liberated the prisoners. When they woke up there were no guards there, only Russian soldiers. What are they going to do? You know they were there. So they migrated in groups down to France and Paris and on the way the French people were pretty good to them, but there was no organization. There was no Army base. There was no Army man to go talk to. The poor POWs you know. I just told Cathy (her nurse’s aid) this.
Editor’s note: From a web page
(http://www.b24.net/pow/stalag1.htm), based on interviews of former POW’s in this camp by Military Intelligence, is the following information.
On 30 April 1945 the SAO had several conferences with the Commandant, who had orders to move the camp to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Russians. The SAO stated PWs would not move unless force was used, and the Commandant finally agreed to avoid bloodshed. At about 2200 that evening, the guards turned out the perimeter & street lights. A few moments later these same guards were observed marching out of the camp leaving the gate unlocked, As soon as this news was conveyed to the SAO, he formally took over the camp, The following morning the PW "military police" of the camp were put in charge of all guard stations, to see that the men remained orderly and stayed in the camp. Another organization was formed to serve as exterior guards to prevent wandering parties of Germans from coming into camp. On 1 May 1945 contact parties were sent out to make contact with Russian advance troops. After 2 or 3 days of having Russian commanders of scouting parties visit the camp, the Russian commander of the area was finally reached, and arrangements were made to provide food for the PWs.
the actual liberation was performed by the Russians, no effort was made by them to evacuate the PW from the area. On 6 May 1945 Colonel Byerly, the former SAO, left camp with 2 officers of a
British airborne division and flew to
I’ve met several of the American POW’s who where
there with Don, and they all said the same thing: they woke up and the guards
were gone so they left. Finally, he got over to
CD: OK, well thank you very much for participating in the interview.
MI: My pleasure. I really don’t think I was much help.
CD: Oh, my gosh, this was great. Are you kidding?
Catherine Doe/JC/ed. JW 01-05-06 and 05-14-05
At the time of the interview, Madelyn had broken her ankles and so had a nurses aide. In 2006 she is completely recovered. Words in italics were added as additional information or during a phone interview with Madelyn on January 5.