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: Betty McDonald


Date of Interview: 4 March 2004

Tape Number 83


Interviewer: Anne Marks


Place of interview: Betty McDonald’s home near Camp Nelson

Places where Mrs. McDonald lived during 1941 to 1946: Porterville and Florida

Subjects covered in the interview: High school, family life, Porterville businesses, and family business just prior to and during World War II



AM: This is a taping of an oral history provided by Betty Jones McDonald of Camp Nelson, California as part of the Tulare County Library Project, Years of Valor, Years of Hope: the War Years 1941 to 1946. Today is Thursday, March 4, 2004. My name is Anne Marks, spelled M-a-r-k-s. For the sake of accuracy, would you say your name and spell your last name.

BM: Betty Jones McDonald, M-c-D-o-n-a-l-d.

AM: Where were you born?

BM: Porterville, California.

AM: And what year was that?

BM: 1925.

AM: So, you’re a native of not only California, but of Tulare County.

BM: Yes.

AM: And what were your parents’ names?

BM: Donald Jones and Frances (Sheela) Jones.

AM: And you had siblings, any other children?

BM: I have two sisters, Helen (Griswold) and Mary (Richardson).

AM: They were living in the family home with you as you were growing up?

BM: Yes.

AM: How about extended family in the county, did you have relatives, aunts or uncles in Tulare County?

BM: Oh, yeah, lots of them.

AM: Lots, okay. Nearby in --

BM: Lot of them in Porterville, most of them in Porterville that were in the county.

AM: Okay.

BM: Some in Bakersfield and some were in San Francisco at different times.

AM: Now, when you were growing up, you were residing in Porterville proper?

BM: Yes.

AM: Okay. For most of your early adulthood and childhood?

BM: Ah-huh. My son, Jim McDonald, lives in that house now. He bought it from my parents after they died. Or from us after my parents died.

AM: How about your father’s occupation?

BM: Hardware store. Jones Hardware.

AM: I had seen that listed. And your mother, did she work outside the home?

BM: No.

AM: She raised your family. Where was your family home located in Porterville?

BM: 424 East Morton Avenue.

AM: And that home you’re saying is still standing, because your son is in there?

BM: Oh, yes. My son owns it now.

AM: Does it look pretty much the same as it did?

BM: Oh, exactly the same. Except they just repainted a different color. It was pink and white; it’s now kind of beige and white.

AM: As you were growing up, it was pink and white. Now, had other families been in it --

BM: No. They built it.

AM: And it’s been in the family then --

BM: Yes. I was five years old when we moved into that house.

AM: Still from a home in Porterville?

BM: From Roche Avenue, two blocks away.

AM: Now, a place of worship where your family would have --

BM: Congregational Church.

AM: Is that church still standing?

BM: Oh, yeah. It’s one of the old historic spots in Porterville.

AM: What would your family have engaged in for entertainment?

BM: Play cards.

AM: Is that right? You’re a card-playing family?

BM: Yes. Always we would go to my grandmother’s house, very often, my mother’s parents, Frank and Mary Emma (Stadtmaller) Sheela, and play cards. All the aunts and uncles would be there. Kids even played. They went all the way down.

AM: What were your grandparents’ names?

BM: This was out at Sheelas, Frank Sheela and Emma Sheela.

AM: How would you spell that last name?

BM: S-h-e-e-l-a.

AM: Were your parents involved in any organizations, clubs or maybe professional organizations?

BM: My dad was in the Rotary club. He was in the American Legion for a while. My mother was just PTA, that was about it. I can’t remember her being in any club other than that.

AM: Was your church active in activities for --

BM: They were not real active in the church.

AM: I see. Did you have a telephone in the home as you were growing up?

BM: Yeah.

AM: A party line?

BM: No. We never did have a party line.

AM: No, probably not in the town proper.

BM: We were in town. It was on the outskirts of town then.

AM: How about getting around town, did you have a family car?

BM: Yeah.

AM: And then probably vehicles for your,for the delivery --

BM: For the store. Yeah, we had pickups for the store.

AM: But a one-car family?

BM: Mainly, yes.

AM: What make was that?

BM: Oldsmobile.

AM: Is that right?

BM: My uncle sold Oldsmobiles.

AM: In the --

BM: In Porterville.

AM: Yeah. What sort of activities could the youth of Porterville, you know, during your childhood, be involved in -- were there scouts that you were involved in, or 4-H?

BM: I was not involved in any of that. I’m not a club person.

AM: What sort of thing would you do for fun with your friends?

BM: I don’t remember anything particular. I took dancing lessons for ten years. Didn’t do me any good!

AM: Was your family musically inclined, you know, were you musically inclined?

BM: No, none of us really were, huh-uh.

AM: Okay. Was there a city pool?

BM: There was a city pool -- no, not until later.

AM: No.

BM: Well, let’s see. We -- well, I’ll tell you, my parents had a pool in the backyard. And they built it in 1938, the pool.

AM: Quite a novel thing, I would imagine?

BM: Yes, it was. And you had to be invited to come swimming, I mean, the kids and all. And you had to help clean the pool. Every ten days it was emptied and you got brushes and cloths and got down there and cleaned it. If you swam, you had to help clean it.

AM: Cement sides?

BM: Cement.

AM: Hand dug, I suppose, huh?

BM: Well, they had a horse and what they call -- what’s that scraper, Fresno scraper. And that’s what really dug it were the horses and the Fresno scraper.

AM: What do you remember like other areas around the county --- camping or fishing or places to go?

BM: I was just going through this scrapbook and there are pictures in there. We used to go every year, my mother and her lady friends and their children to - -

Loren McDonald: Doyle Springs.

BM: A park over in Tulare, Mooney Grove. They had boats on the river. There’s big pictures of it, boats on the lake out there we have pictures of us kids on the lake. Then we had picnics once a year over there. Just the women went and the kids.

AM: Around what time of year would that be?

BM: It was spring of the year, I believe, as far as I remember it.

AM: And you did that --

BM: Every year for a long time.

AM: Good memories. And how about Porterville? Any community events, do you recall? Did they have fireworks display --?

BM: Not till later.

AM: No. That wasn’t a common thing then?

BM: No, can’t remember.

AM: Parades or --

BM: Well, there’s a parade every November the 11th on Armistice Day we called it at that time. And that was the big day, the big celebration. Yeah, all the stores closed. And we had special football games and what else? Lindsay and Porterville played football on that day. That was a big rival at that time.

AM: How about during the war, what sort of shows of patriotism, do you recall, you know, the town having banners or were there war bond posters that you remember?

BM: Oh, they were up around but I don’t remember anything in particular.

AM: Nothing particular, just doing their jobs.

BM: Can’t remember anything.

AM: How about a radio in the home?

BM: Yes, we had a radio.

AM: Standing console that you’d have in the parlor or perhaps the living room?

BM: Ah-huh.

AM: What kind of programs that you might recall --

BM: We had to be home every Saturday night by nine o’clock to hear the Hit Parade.

AM: Yeah.

BM: I loved that. Yeah, I always remember that. See, my dad worked at the store and he was there till nine o’clock on Saturday nights; it was open. And we had to be sure we were all home so we could hear that.

AM: That was a family gathering?

BM: More or less, yeah.

AM: How about, you know, FDR had his Fireside Chats?

BM: I never listened to that. That was there but I never paid any attention.

AM: Were your folks or the adults in your immediate family favoring any strong political persuasion?

BM: Very strong Republican.

AM: Yeah.

BM: And they didn’t listen to those Fireside Chats either.

AM: They did not?

BM: I don’t believe so. I don’t remember ever hearing them.

AM: Apparently there were three movie theaters in town.

BM: There were. I worked at the movie theater. I worked at Monache. I also worked at the Molino if they needed somebody over there. I went back and forth. There was the Crystal Theater, also.  I started in what, 1940. And I was an usher, usherette, whatever you want to call it. Then I went into the box office and I worked there till I got married. My first job was at Woolworth’s.

AM: Is that right? On Main Street there?

BM: On Main Street, ah-huh. I worked at the cosmetic counter.

AM: How old would you have been?

BM: I think I had to be 16, didn’t I, to work?

AM: Yeah. You worked there for long?

BM: Not very long. Well, I started in at Christmas one year and then just mainly the Christmas business and then they would call me back now and then. They called me back at Easter time one time and Loren was home and I wouldn’t go work. So they never called me back! He was home from the service.

AM: I see.  Since working at the theater you probably didn’t have to go back with friends and pay the quarter to get in.

BM: I watched it. I was working.

AM: Saw all the films you wanted to?

BM: Oh, yeah. The gathering spot of the teenagers was the theaters so you saw everybody that was in town or came to town. That was the social life, really, of Porterville during the war.

AM: Any soda fountains or places they’d go for ---

BM: Well, there was the one next door, I thought of that this morning. It’s right next door to the theater, Dairy Lane.

AM: Dairy Lane?

BM: Ah-huh. And they had a juke box in the back room. And you could dance. And they had the regular soda fountain.

AM: Now, there’s a daily newspaper in town, I guess, the Recorder, Porterville Recorder?

BM: Yes, it’s still going.

AM: And would your family have obtained news, say, from the newspaper or listening to the radio and did your dad read the newspaper daily?

BM: Oh, yeah. We had that newspaper daily. Still get it.

AM: Was that an influence to the kids; did you little ones pick it up at all or, you know, pay much attention to the newspaper?

BM: I don’t think so. I read it. I can remember every day but I don’t ---.

AM: Most kids when they’re teens don’t have time for it. Talking about teenagers, you know, music is an important thing. Do you recall any particular singers?

BM: Glenn Miller.

AM: Yeah.

BM: Tommy Dorsey.

AM: They were favorites?

BM: Oh, yeah. And there were several others at that time. We liked the big bands.

AM: And did you -- that would have been probably the group of friends you hung out with, would have been something that they would find popular too?

BM: Oh, yeah.

AM: Were there dances put on by the school or anything?

BM: There were except for about the last year that I was there, because of the war. And there weren’t enough boys to go to the dances. I went to JC for one year and in this book I think there were five boys in the class and there were only about 25 or 30 people in the whole JC that year. It was very small.

(Viewing yearbook photos, Porterville Junior College)

AM: And that would have been -- you graduated in --

BM: ’43. High school.

AM: So, this - - -

BM: This would have been ’44.

AM: ’44. So it’s a - - -

BM: It’s just up until October first, 1944, that I went. I was part of ’43, part of ’44 in Junior College.

AM: That was on the same campus? 

BM: It (The JC) was across the street. That building is still there, but it’s used as part of the high school now.

AM: I see. So photographs you have in the album?

BM: Yeah. This was taken,see, there are all the boys that were in -

AM: That’s a grouping of --

BM: Two, four, six, eight -- nine.

AM: Nine.

BM: Nine boys.

AM: That would have been like the class of --

BM: There are two classes there, actually. The JC had two classes.

AM: Any --

BM: Here’s the whole thing.

AM: Oh, sure. It’s a picture of a grouping of girls.

BM: Mainly. Well, there’s another one that has the boys in the back.

AM: There’s a couple there.

BM: That one. There are the boys.

AM: Oh, sure. So, probably two to one, girls.

BM: Oh yea, ah-huh. Now, we didn’t have any dances in the college in the JC at all that year.

AM: Now, where are you located in here?

BM: I can’t find me in there.

AM: Is that right?

BM: Huh-uh.

AM: Meaning that you don’t recognize where you’re at or you just don’t think you were there?

BM: I don’t know. I don’t think I was there that day. I don’t see me there at all. Unless that one might be me right there.

AM: Hmm, partially hidden behind the other girl’s head.

BM: Yeah.

AM: Like in the third row back on the right middle. Would these folks have been kids that you had gone through, say, elementary school with?

BM: Most of them were, yes.

AM: High school with?

BM: All of us did, Ah-huh. I have a picture that was taken at Bartlett Junior High School, which is earlier than this time. And of all of us girls, only one has died that was in that picture. And we all see each other once every year.

AM: Really. You still have a gathering, a get-together. What is the size of that group would you say? How many are gathering still?

BM: I think there were nine.

AM: I’ll be darned.

BM: One died long ago. One died just about two years ago. One moved clear to Florida so she never comes back. This is me.

(Viewing the Bartlett Junior College Yearbook, 1943-1944)

"The Log," they used to call it. I guess they still do, if they have it.

AM: And you’re flanking the principal on his left, front row. Looking at these pictures, would there have been -- well, probably not so much as -- you’re probably like an 18, 19 year old in those. But as a teenager, do you remember any fads or any particular fashion trends?

BM: We had -- we always wore bobby socks, saddle shoes. My kids laugh about that now. "There’s mother in her saddle shoes."

AM: Were there any crazy things that you remember that kids in the area would have been doing that you either were partaking in or not partaking in?

BM: Well, every year at high school we had a Rube Day, junior, that was our junior year. We had a Rube Day. And we dressed up crazy. And when you’re seniors you have Senior Hat Day where you’d wear a crazy hat.

LOREN MCDONALD: You’ could get away with murder but they won’t catch you.

AM: Get away with murder?

BM: But, I can’t remember any -- well, yeah, you never washed -- Loren wore cords and he didn’t wash them for over a year because they didn’t even wash those things.

LOREN MCDONALD: They stood up by themselves.

AM: Kids will do that kind of thing won’t they?

BM: Other than that, I can’t think of anything special.

AM: Okay. Now, you probably started your first year of high school, say, in ’39 I would think or ’40?

BM: Yeah, I graduated from Bartlett in 1939. The first graduating class from Bartlett Junior High School.

AM: Now, where was that located?

BM: Porterville. And it’s still there.

AM: Okay.

BM: And then I was a freshman at Porterville High School.

AM: Okay. That would have been ’39, that would have been the year that Hitler’s Army invaded Poland and started -- his armies started the advance, his advance across Western Europe. Now, do you recall any mention in your classes in high school of current events or developments in the war in Europe?

BM: I don’t remember anything about it at all in high school, even in Bartlett or high school.

AM: So, the name Hitler was probably not really heard until --

BM: Not then. Not till later.

AM: Okay. And you said the adults in your family were strong Republicans?

BM: Very. Still.

AM: So, would you have, say, in a couple of words, what would have been the attitude or the opinion of FDR then in your family?

BM: They didn’t care for him. I don’t know what else to say. My Granddad Sheela was a staunch Democrat.

AM: Is that right?

BM: So, there’s a little friction sometimes, they’d argue.

AM: Well, in 1938 when you were at Bartlett Junior High, you would have been only, what, 13, perhaps?

BM: Yeah.

AM: So, maybe this isn’t pertinent to your recollection, but the first Democrat in 40 years, Governor Culbert Olsen took office. And I just wondered if there was any recollection about the governor and what the state was doing?

BM: I don’t remember anything at all; I don’t remember it, really.

AM: Okay. You were pretty young. Now, still speaking of the school activities, do you recall - - during the war years, was there any particular change in how school was conducted or were there any interesting activities, collection drives sponsored by the school?

BM: Well, the only thing I can remember is that they let school out early so you can go pick oranges or lemons or whatever because there wasn’t enough people to do that. Picked cotton, I picked cotton. Whew! I’d never do that for a living.

AM: That’s hard work.

BM: Ah-huh. But that was about the main thing that they did.

AM: Do you recall how the war affected --

BM: Yeah. And it’s being that there’s no boys in the school either, hardly.

AM: Now, in the years just preceding the war, you know, say, late ‘30s, the country’s economic strength had faltered, we know the stock market crashed in 1929, and it’s been written "the war was the dividing line between the Depression and the prosperity that followed."

BM: I agree with that.

AM: Do you?

BM: We were really never destitute during the Depression. My dad had the store. He worked 12 hours a day. And we had everything we needed. We had no extras. We had no luxuries. We were never for want of anything necessary. And then during the war, for the store, I worked in the store for years. You couldn’t buy anything for the store that wouldn’t sell, because people couldn’t buy very much. So, it went good. The business did well.  And I think that helped a lot, yes.

AM: And then post-war, or just, you know, towards the end of the war -- well, with the production, the war machine, people were working. Post-war, did you -- were you aware of people buying more automobiles, or buying more things from the store?

BM: You couldn’t buy automobiles during the war. I wasn’t there at the end of the war. Loren and I were in Florida at that time.

AM: And you were married in what year?

BM: I was married and when the war was over, we had a six-week old son by that time. And we started home. Loren was discharged. Not discharged completely as he stayed in the reserve, the Naval Reserve, but he got out and we came home. WE got here by November Eleventh to celebrate that year.

AM: What year were you married, then?

BM: We were married in 1944.

AM: And where?

BM: Porterville, Congregational Church.

AM: He had already entered the service?

BM: Yes, he was home on leave.

AM: From which branch of the --

BM: Naval Air Corp.

AM: Where was he serving when he originally entered the --

BM: The service? The first place? I can’t remember. Oklahoma City, he was there for a while for one of his classes. He was in Monterey for one section.

AM: Now, you had been going together before you married him, then?

BM: Oh, yeah.

AM: And he entered the service --

BM: He was a senior in high school when he joined but they didn’t take him. He did finish his high school. I can’t remember the first time he left, even. But he was here for a while after he joined. And then he joined and he was in and out.

AM: Then he returned, he got leave, able to come home and you were married. Did you have a military wedding or just --?

BM: Just the church. Just a regular church wedding.

AM: Nice. Did you have a large wedding?

BM: Yeah, probably 200 or so. I don’t remember. We were waiting for him to land. He had to pass a test to land on an aircraft carrier before he could come home. Well, the weather was bad. He was at the Great Lakes. So, it was delayed day after day after day. And we were sitting here waiting for the wedding. He was supposed to call the minute he made some,‘cause it’d take him a few days to get home. Then we would invite the guests. Everything was ready except for the guests to be invited. And when he finally did call, we invited the guests. And it was all by phone, telephone, word of mouth or whoever. Anybody could come that wanted to, really. So, that’s when we were married, how we got married.

AM: And then you followed him then to his station?

BM: Yes. After that I went to Atlanta, Georgia with him, his first base. He was an instrument instructor there for a while. He didn’t like that very well. But that’s what he was.

AM: Did he serve aboard ship, then?

BM: Yes, he did. Well, he was called back in the Korean War. And then he served aboard a ship.

AM: But during World War II, he was stateside, then?

BM: Yes.

AM: I see. Fortunate.

BM: Yes.

AM: How many children did you have?

BM: We have five

AM: Five. And were they born - - -

BM: One, Mark, was born while he was in the service. And then we came home and he was six weeks old. And then the next boy, James, -- they’re two years apart. The first three are two years apart. Jo Anne (Laubacher) was the third one. The last two -- there’s one, Melinda (Adler), that’s six years later and one, Chrystie (Carpenter) that’s four years later.

AM: So, all boys?

BM: No. Two boys and three girls.

AM: I see. Now, back to the city activities and the business at hand in Porterville during the war. Then you were gone from ’43 to --

BM: About ’44. ’44 to end of ’45, a little over a year.

AM: Okay. Well, the 1940 census, which is the closest you can get to that era, says the population was 6,500 people in Porterville. So it was smaller than the city of Exeter today. It said it covered a square mile area of six and a half square miles. Some of the businesses that I found listed were Sprouse-Ritz. Remember Sprouse-Ritz? There was a Buy-Rite Drug Store, there was a Bullard’s Department Store, there was a Jones Hardware, Mode-O-Day Women’s Apparel. One of the markets was Justesen’s on South Main. There was a Safeway and a Purity also. And I was wondering if any particular shops that your folks would have --

BM: We shopped at Loyd’s Grocery Store.

AM: Did you?

BM: It was -- I shopped at Bullard’s, Cobb Drug Company. I don’t know if that was on there. And we always charged. My dad says "If you charge, they know you’ve been there shopping, so they’ll be back in our store." So that’s the way we did that.

AM: How typically would your family have shopped? Would they have done direct shopping in town or did you do mail-order catalogues at all?

BM: Oh, nothing. They didn’t have that particularly then. I guess they did have Montgomery Wards or something. But my dad didn’t believe in that. We did our local shopping.

AM: How about produce, did you purchase that or did you have your own garden in the yard?

BM: No, we bought -- Loyd’s Grocery Store had fresh vegetables. And Hallford’s, there was a Hallford’s Grocery Store and they had fresh vegetables.

AM: And how about your apparel, all your clothing?

BM: Bullard’s.

AM: Bullard’s, okay.

BM: That’s where I got most of them or there was The Vogue and there was Clare-Retta’s. Mrs. Bridges had a shop. But it was all done -- most of it. Once in a while we went out of town, but very rare.

AM: And the Hardware Store was kind of a general store in that you could find just about anything from rope to candles --

BM: Yeah. It started out years ago with my grandfather as a harness shop. And he made harnesses. When that business died down a little bit, they slowly went into the hardware business. And then they added electrical appliances, pumps, tractors, and all those little small items in between the other. And then eventually they went into house wares, and then giftwares. And that developed over the years to where there was quite an inventory.

AM: I imagine. And you and your siblings worked there off and on as young adults?

BM: Ah-huh, Ah-huh.

AM: On to major events of the war. On December 7, 1941, you would have been 15, 16 perhaps. Do you have a clear memory of how you came to hear of the bombing?

BM: Heard it on the radio is how I heard it.

AM: Can you sum up, you know, how your initial reaction to that?

BM: Well, it was unbelievable. I really can’t remember anything more about it.

AM: Was there any perhaps a sense of fear?

BM: No, I don’t believe so. I just couldn’t believe they’d be - - I guess my attitude was that nothing could happen to us.

AM: Now, was Loren older than you that he --

BM: He was a year older. He graduated in 1943 from high school.

AM: So he wouldn’t have been in the service at that time?

BM: Not during -- not when the war was announced, no. He joined after he heard about that.

AM: Did you have male relatives that joined soon after Pearl Harbor that were compelled to do that, to join up and enlist? Any friends that you - - -

BM: I did. Some distance cousins who joined afterwards, right afterwards. But all my nephews or what have you, they joined. They were most of them all around here and eventually in the service. 

AM: Sure. Do you recall hearing either on December 8th President Roosevelt announce the declaration of war?

BM: I don’t remember that.

AM: And then shortly afterwards, you know, we entered the war with Germany and Italy . Now, during the war years you grew from perhaps, like we said, a 15, 16 year old teenager to a young woman of 20, 21. And most of your teenage years were spent in those war years.

BM: Yes.

AM: In a country that was in a state of being at war with another country or several other countries. I was just wondering if you would be able to reflect back as to your teenage years and being in that state, you know, did you have a particular sense of -- I asked you about fear or anxiousness or were you living a pretty much a normal teenage life or --

BM: It was a pretty much regular teenage life, I think.

AM: So, you had confidence, then?

BM: Yes, I did.

AM: Would you say there was a good deal of pride in the country?

BM: Yes, I would. The big thing that bothered me most was that in our high school class we had some Japanese students. And they lost their ranch, of course. They were moved out -- but these Japanese students joined the service and they were in the service. But they could never come back here because they didn’t have a ranch left. That kind of bothered me.

AM: I imagine. Did you know the kids personally?

BM: I knew one of them. He was in my class at school. He keeps coming back every year for our class reunion, every time we have one.

AM: So, you remember the mandatory, compulsory evacuation?

BM: That I do, yes, because of him, because of the one I knew.

AM: Were there several families in the area?

BM: I only knew the one. But there were several, I think.

AM: Do you recall if your feeling was, say, maybe mirrored in the community, do you think there was a general feeling of feeling bad?

BM: I don’t know. I don’t know that they even really -- I never heard anybody ever really talk about it.

AM: Were you aware of any folks of Italian descent? I believe you said you were of German descent. Did you notice any particular bias one way or the other?

BM: No, I never did. I had an aunt who was strictly Italian. Her parents were fishermen in San Francisco. And they didn’t even speak English for a long time. I don’t believe there was anything against them or the Germans either. I never noticed. Now we did have a German colony in Terra Bella and they were all from Germany . And they all lived in one section and the kids came into Porterville to school. I never saw anything about any hard feelings.

AM: No harassing?

BM: But the parents out there did. They say they were harassed by different businesses, I guess. I don’t know. But I never did see it but I was told about it.

AM: Okay.

BM: I didn’t care. Germany didn’t mean anything to me. German, French. I have an aunt who’s French who spoke nothing but French for a long time. And then I had an Italian aunt. It was just all the same thing.

AM: Relative to the Japanese-Americans, there was the big scare because, you know, California’s --

BM: Yes, I can understand that.

AM: -- whole coastline was there. Do you recall any of that where people talked about --

BM: Not much. I didn’t pay any attention. I guess if I did, I don’t remember hearing much.

AM: Okay. And on to another major item of the war years. Do you recall any discussion or mention of the Holocaust or any --?

BM: No, not until after the war, entirely.

AM: It was kind of unknown at that time in a lot of sectors?

BM: Ah-huh, I think so. It was to me, anyway.

AM: And you would have gained most of your news then through the newspaper or newsreels perhaps?

BM: Oh, newsreels, the radio, yeah.

AM: The country geared up with the war effort, mechanizations. But it also put an effort -- put a challenge to the people, the individual people to gear up for changes in their lives. Such as serving in the military and I’d asked if anybody in your immediate family had served during the duration?

BM: No, I didn’t have any brothers, just had the sisters. They both got married during the war. Both had one child during the war. Had the child, came back home till their husbands got out of the service.

AM: So, there were brother-in-laws?

BM: Yes.

AM: Okay. Then fortunately you didn’t mention your dad because in ’43 they extended the age limit eligibility.

BM: Oh, he was too old. He was in the First World War.

AM: Very good. Any classmates, not that you’d recall but --

BM: Oh, I had a lot of classmates -- in fact, they all were. ‘Cause many of the boys --

AM: As soon as they graduated?

BM: Yes.

AM: Did you lose anybody in the war that you were close to?

BM: No.

AM: They all made it home?

BM: Uh-hmm.

AM: A blessing. Any girls that you knew, friends or classmates that entered the service in the WACS or the WAVES?

BM: I knew some of them. There’s some twin sisters who went to our school. One of them joined the Army. She lives in New Orleans right now. She married the fellow while she was in the service. Still married to him. Her twin sister lives in Porterville still. But she never joined the service. And there were others that I knew, but not very well.

AM: I see. Now, the draft was the first peacetime draft in history. Do you recall any sort of one way or the other attitude about the draft?

BM: Oh, I wasn’t old enough. Things didn’t bother me that much when I was a teenager. 

AM: Yeah. Well, you know, the country was so geared towards winning this war.

BM: That was it. We just did everything we could to do it.

AM: Yeah. Other changes that families or individuals might have been called upon to do such as rationing, of course. Do you recall those coupons?

BM: Oh, yes, certainly. We had sugar and we had gasoline and I had two pair of shoes a year or something like that. Now they did start making shoes without leather in them. I don’t know what they were. But you could buy those without a coupon. They didn’t last very long. I had a couple pair of those.

AM: Is that right?

BM: Yeah. Oh, yeah, we had all that rationing. It didn’t really bother me that much.

AM: Was there any other shortages or limitations other than the rationing of course? Things that you just quite couldn’t get such as metal and rubber of course, ‘cause there were drives for those. None that you recall? I know there were people who took in boarders, you know, to help out with income.

BM: Yeah.

AM: Did you personally know of anybody that would have changed their households?

BM: Yes, Mrs. (Effie) Elder used to, especially after they came home from the service, all the people from Porterville. She rented rooms out to them because they couldn’t get housing when they came home. It was real low. And she made a pretty fair living off that for a while. It was after -- well, some little bit during the war but not much, mainly after.

AM: Was she on your street or a church member?

BM: No, she was not really a relative but they came to all of our family doings. But she was not really related to us. She was a very close family friend.

AM: Now, just another thing, another quote I’d like you to comment on. It’s a concept. During the Depression it was considered, we’ll call it "good homemaking" to conserve and save and store things away in advance for the eventual use. However during the war those same practices of conserving would have been called hoarding and that would have been almost unpatriotic and anti-war effort. You know, you had grown up in the Depression, and saved things and used things over again. Do you know of any problems with people storing - -

BM: We didn’t have any problems with hoarding that I know of. It just kept going on the only way we’d been raised. I don’t remember anything like that.

AM: Okay. Do you remember perhaps in the contrast that during the war years people helped out more, you know, with one another and maybe shared --

BM: Well, I kind of think so probably.

AM: Usually that’s the way with people’s good hearts.

How about any comment on how the war would have affected the roles of the family? Certainly, with the men being absent, you know that would have affected how women took on new roles. You said your mother did not work out of the house?

BM: Never.

AM: Never did. Your dad remained in the home, you said, ‘cause he wasn’t serving.

BM: Yeah.

AM: Had you heard of any family friends or people you were aware of who had never worked and all of a sudden they found work?

BM: I never paid any attention to it.

AM: Okay. Well, you were in a family that women were -- it was acceptable to work --

BM: Yes.

AM: -- obviously because you were out in the hardware store. So it wouldn’t have been that big a change probably.

BM: Yes.

AM: And how about just another concept to think about and get your comment on: romantic relationships. It was said that marriages sometimes suffered, you know, during the war years. Spouses were gone for long durations.

BM: I imagine they did.

AM: Relocating for work and that sort of thing. Would you have been aware of any divorces?

BM: Not in our family. A lot of them got married but they stayed married too; most of them did up until they died.

AM: Excellent. How about dating? You would have been fairly young, I guess, when the war started. Again perhaps it’s not pertinent, but they were talking in one source I read, about patterns of dating changing, you know.  Do you think it became a more serious heartfelt moment, catch the moment, I mean -- intense?

BM: I suppose it did. I started dating Loren when I was a freshman in high school. I’ve dated him ever since.

AM: So, you’ve had one guy all along?

BM: So, I don’t know.

AM: Okay. Another event was April twelfth, 1945; FDR died. Do you recall hearing that news?

BM: Well, yes, but we were in Florida, Loren and I, Miami Beach, when that happened. I can remember that, vaguely. And then Truman became President.

AM: Do you think there was a confidence in Truman or the opposite?

BM: It was just there. And you did it. And it was during war so you didn’t -- you felt that he would know what he was doing and would be in the know on doing what was right.

AM: So there was not really a concern that the loss of FDR’s continuum in the leadership wouldn’t lengthen the war or --

BM: No, I didn’t think so.

AM: Very good. Again, another event, August sixth, the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Do you recall an initial reaction or hearing --?

BM: Horror. I think we were in Florida at that time because it was just shortly after that when the war was over. And we came home just as soon as we could afterwards. But that’s the only thing I can remember about it.

AM: And then Japan ’s surrender was a pretty exciting moment, I can imagine?

BM: Oh, yeah, cause then I got to come home.

AM: You and --

BM: I was in Florida.

AM: -- thousands and thousands of other families.

BM: Yeah.

AM: Do you recall hearing any of the broadcasts of President Truman’s speech or MacArthur?

BM: No, I don’t remember anything specific.

AM: Okay. How about celebrations? When you came home, had celebrations --

BM: Oh, yeah, we got home; I guess we got home on the tenth of November. And as I say, the 11th of November was always a holiday in Porterville. It was Armistice Day. And that was one hell of a week --

AM: I imagine.

BM: -- of parties, and renewing friendships and all that, for about a week.

AM: Celebrating life.

BM: Uh-huh. Just from one person’s house to another person’s house. We had the parade, the big parade, of course. And all those activities going on and everything combined.

AM: Speeches perhaps?

BM: Oh, I imagine. But I don’t think I heard a speech.

AM: Sure. Lots of hoopla, as it should be. Just generally, one major memorable impression that was impressed upon you during the war, be it pleasant or unpleasant, or perhaps a few words that would sum up your experience of World War II.

BM: I learned a lot. I moved from a small town in California to a big town in Atlanta, Georgia . And we rented a home, a room, from a lady. We never met her husband. He was off someplace; I don’t know where. But the home was on the edge of the golf course in Atlanta, Georgia that was a very exclusive Southern home area. I learned that you don’t wash your clothes and hang them on the line. I learned you don’t help a Negro do anything. And I learned that little boys can’t -- little Negro boys couldn’t sit up close to you in the bus. They had to go clear to the back of the bus. I mean, it was a whole new learning of a system. And then right in the middle of Miami Beach there were Negro women doing their laundry outside in the backyard over a fire, a big bonfire with a big pot boiling the water. And that was right in the middle of Miami Beach -- I couldn’t believe that. It was those things -- a lot of little old things like that that I had never ever experienced. And this Mrs. Lawless, she was a very nice lady but she was very Southern. And she gently told me I was doing wrong. But there was a gal -- another gal who lived there who rented a room from her and she was from the East Coast. She was related to the -- oh, somebody up there. Anyway, she was a "damn Yankee." But I was a little innocent Western girl and didn’t know better. The other girl was my same age but she was a "damn Yankee" and she ought to know better than do things she -- I learned all that.

AM: So, were you glad to get home in that regard, too?

BM: Oh, it didn’t bother me that much at the time. But I was glad just to get home.

AM: And then you’ve lived here since your return?

BM: Oh, yes.

AM: And raised your family here, then?

BM: Yes.

AM: Two questions, two major questions, finally, to sum up the interview. This project of the library is called "Years of Valor, Years of Hope." And would you care to comment on that description of those years that the country was engaged in war?

BM: That’s fine with me. I don’t have any --

AM: The project of the library "Years of Valor, Years of Hope," that description pretty much fits?

BM: Yeah, I think so.

AM: Okay. And the two questions that we’ll end this questioning with: In what ways do you think you were affected in your life by being in Tulare County during those war years?

BM: That’s all I knew. How would I -- that’s my lifestyle. And I knew Tulare County. I don’t know that it affected me one way or another. I just grew up in it.

AM: Very good. Could you say in what ways World War II’s five years of war affected the County itself? Did things change in any way?

BM: I really don’t know. I never thought about it changing. I kind of accept things as they come along.

AM: Natural course of things.

BM: Yes.

AM: Natural course of events. Well, the County survived, the Country survived and your family survived.

BM: Yes. So, that’s the main thing, I think.

AM: With the grace of God, there we go. Do you have any other comments on those war years or your experiences?

BM: I don’t think so. I don’t know what they would be.

AM: Okay. Well, I sure appreciate your time very much.

*       *       *

This is a continuation of some thoughts during the taping of the oral history by Mrs. McDonald on March 4, 2004. You were talking about summertime activities.

BM: Well, we went to Doyle Springs during the summer cause it was cooler up there. We went the day after school was out and we stayed till the day before school started.

AM: You had a cabin up there?

BM: We had a cabin, if you want to call it that. We had hot water -- we had running water but it wasn’t hot. We had to heat all our water. All that kind of stuff. But my mother did all of our canning up there. And she sewed to make all of our school clothes during the summertime. My dad came up on weekends. Brought food and whatever else she needed. No phones or you’d have to walk to Camp Wishon, which was a mile down below to make a phone call if we needed anything special.

AM: Was it just like, sort of, a one-room structure?

BM: No. It was a cabin. We had a big living room; we had a kitchen, one bedroom and one bath, and a porch.

AM: And that was on a private compound?


BM: It was on private land. I have a book on it. It’s very,I enjoy --

AM: Interesting?

BM: Ah-huh.

AM: How many other families --

BM: There are fifty cabins allowed. And there were not that many at that time, but the lots, they’re all full now. All the lots are full. There are fifty cabins. It’s kind of exclusive now. Very expensive. But it wasn’t then.

AM: That was quite a trek for your dad every weekend.

BM: Yeah. It took him an hour or so to get there. And, he came up on Saturday night after work. At nine o’clock he got off work, so it was late when he got there and he went back down early Monday morning. He also came up on Wednesday nights after work and brought things if we needed anything, and went down on Thursday morning.

AM: Did you have electricity?

BM: We had electricity, yeah. When we were there we did. My dad sold that cabin in 1938, I believe, and built the swimming pool in Porterville. He gave us a choice of the swimming pool in our backyard or the cabin.

AM: And the vote was the pool?

BM: Yeah. My sisters outvoted me. But all my friends were at Doyle’s. Even my girlfriends that I went to school with had cabins there. And I didn't want to leave it.

AM: And I bet there are a lot of good memories of - -

BM: Oh, yeah.

AM: -- growing up during those summers. How about, if you were no longer going to the cabin, did you do -- still -- did your mother can?

BM: Oh, yes. My word, yes. By that time we had the coolers, not air conditioning but coolers, which made it better.

AM: A swamp cooler?

BM: Swamp coolers, ah-huh. So that we could really stand it more than we could before. And that’s when he decided, well, he really didn’t like that travel up the mountain there all the time.

AM: Did your mother make your clothes all through your --

BM: Well, by the time I was in high school she made very few then. But all in grammar school she did all of them.

AM: Yeah, when you were children.

BM: Then my dad, his other hobby -- his really big hobby was raising Arabian horses.

AM: Is that right?

BM: We had five acres there and they bought another five acres next to it and it was full of barns and horses. And he raised them --

AM: On Morton?

BM: - - on Morton Street. And when they built that house there, that was in the middle of an orange grove. It’s since gone, it’s all been pulled out. And he loved his horses. And he raised them until he couldn’t, he got so old he couldn’t take care of it himself.

AM: So, he was a breeder?

BM: Yeah, he bred them, he bred the Arabians.

AM: Would he have any -- did he sell horses across the country?

BM: Oh, yes. Maisie Tankersley (spelling not verified) is a name that comes to me. She was quite well known on the East Coast. He sold her, I think, five horses. And she was in the elite section of the East Coast on horses. It was called Jones Arabian Ranch.

AM: So, he had employees, then?

BM: Yes. Well, one man that did the training. And then he also did the feeding. My dad did a lot of it. He didn’t train them, but he did ride them. And he did feed the horses and all that kind of stuff. But just the one man is all that he had.

AM: How long did he do that?

BM: Oh, shoot.

AM: From your earliest memory?

BM: Yeah. I can’t -- he sold Transamerica stock to buy his first mare, Arabian mare, and she was bred. Her first colt, he named her Transa. I was in high school, I think, when that started. Just barely. And from there on, he just kept raising horses.

AM: So, you were a teenager when he started?

BM: Yes.

AM: So you weren’t particularly involved with any aspect of it?

BM: I’m not much of a horsewoman. No. Neither were my sisters. I think that kind of disappointed him but we didn’t really care that much about them. But he did. He loved them.

AM: On that same train of thought, did you have family pets?

BM: A dog. Buggs was his name. He was part Chow and part whatever. Loren will tell you he was mean. He used to chase Loren when he’d come to visit. And he was a little ornery, I guess, but not to the family. After Loren and I got married we stayed at my parents’ house while they went to Alaska on a trip. They were gone a month. So we moved in there so there’d be somebody there by the pool. And Buggs was still alive at that time. And we had to have him put down ‘cause he was just so bad. He couldn’t move any more. So he lived a long time.

AM: Now, you said you dug the swimming pool. Just a quick final question for you -- with the use of harness and horses. Did you use horses for transportation?

BM: No. A contractor did it. I think it was his first maybe -- Chamberlain was his name. I can’t remember his first name right off hand. He’s the one that dug the hole. But he was a contractor. And I think he actually did the pool building, too. But he’d use a horse and --

AM: You didn't use any of the horses then for your own --

BM: No. These were not for that. 

AM: No, not the Arabians. You didn’t have other workhorses?

BM: No.

AM: Well, again, thank you very much for your time.

Anne Marks/ transcribed by CP/ edited by JW 9-30-04.

Words in italics were added to clarify this interview, based on a phone conversation with Betty McDonald on September 30, 2004.