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: Jane Nash
Tape # 76
Interviewer: Catherine Doe
Place: Tulare County, CA
Place of Interview: Mrs. Nash’s home in Visalia, California
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Fear of Japanese
Picking cotton and oranges
Floods of Visalia
CD: We are interviewing Jane Nash, and the date is February 27, 2004. We are in her home and it’s the Years of Valor, Years of Hope. Mrs. Nash, could you please state your name and spell it?
JN: Jane Higgins Nash. J-A-N-E H-I-G-G-I-NS N-A-S-H
CD: And Higgins was your maiden name?
JN: Maiden name.
CD: OK, let’s start out with a little bit of your background. Where were you born?
JN: I was born in the old Kaweah Hospital in Visalia and that’s where the Times Delta Parking Lot is now. This was called the Garcia House and a group of doctors started a hospital in it.
CD: Are your parents from this area too?
JN: My mother, Mabel E. Green, was born in Tulare. My father, Decatur Higgins, was born in Missouri.
CD: And when did he come out here?
JN: When he was 17 years old. I’m not sure of the year, but I guess it was the early 1900’s.
CD: So your mother’s family must have been a long time family here.
JN: Well, her father, my grandfather, William Edgar Green, came to Tulare probably in the 1880’s, late 1880’s.
CD: So you said your family had a store and that’s what your family business was?
JN: My father had a market and then he also had a ranch. He raised Thompson Grapes. But the store was in different locations. Originally it was way down on East Main Street, called the Pioneer Market. He bought it from Dave Toomey’s father. Mr. Toomey and another man had this. My parents came here in 1913 from Tulare.
CD: And the market, then where did it go?
JN: Then it went to West Main Street about where the 225 Club is now and then he bought the property on Willis Street, on the corner of Willis and Acequia and that had been a miniature putting course that had gone bankrupt, and he bought it to build his store there.
CD: About what year was that?
JN: That would have been about 1933. So a man named Mr. Nelson, Herman Nelson was the realtor, and he said my dad had been looking for property and he thought that was a good location. Of course the town moved west so that was good but it took a long time.
CD: When your family had the market, how did they handle the stamps, the ration booklets? Do you remember that?
JN: I don’t remember that. I just remember they had to turn them in to the department here that was in charge of that.
CD: You mean your parents had to turn what they received . . .
JN: My father. My mother had never worked. During the war she did come and help because you couldn’t get help, but she really didn’t work all the time.
CD: So they had to collect the stamps and how often did they have to hand them over to the board?
JN: I think you had a leeway of a certain length of time because people would come and you took all the old stamps. I really don’t know. I was too young to be interested in that.
CD: How old were you when the war started?
JN: I was a freshman at Visalia Union High School. So I was probably 14. It was December and I had probably just turned 14.
CD: So I have a couple of the ration booklets. So you Dad would . . . what about the black market. Did the stores that collected the stamps ever want to re-use them? Or sell them?
JN: Oh, no. They probably got extra stamps from people that didn’t use them, but they didn’t sell them or anything. People were very honorable, most of them. Never thought of that.
CD: That’s good. Hopefully they didn’t either. We’ve heard different stories about the black market, but mostly it was selling the stamps.
JN: I never heard that. I never knew about that.
CD: So, we’re looking at one of the booklets. Did you have any idea what these were?
JN: I think those were for food stamps, but I can’t remember for sure.
CD: And do you remember them having to fill it out?
CD: Was your mother’s name Jane?
JN: That’s me.
CD: Oh, that’s you. You would have your own booklet even in high school?
JN: Yeah. Well, there’s another one.
CD: Oh here’s you again. And who is Mabel?
JN: That’s my mother.
CD: So you would get a . . .
JN: Everybody got one.
CD: Everyone in the family?
JN: Yes. And I see sugar was one of the things that said receive no sugar stamps. I don’t know what that is. Anyhow, but I really don’t remember that much about it other than we had the rationing and it was a big thing. Butter was rationed and that’s when margarine became used quite a bit. Nucoa was the margarine that Best Foods made and you had to put yellow coloring in it and mix it all up.
CD: And how did it taste? (Jane is making a funny face.)
JN: Well, a little better than Crisco.
CD: And what was it?
JN: It was a . . . I’m not absolutely sure how they made it, but it’s just like some of the butter substitutes today.
CD: So they’d put some dye in it or something?
JN: It came with a little packet that went in the package. It was packaged just like a pound of butter. A little package of yellow coloring and you had to mix it up, because it looked so kind of grim. It was pure white and you’d mix the yellowing coloring in it and it kind of resembled butter. You were fooling yourselves.
JN: But anyhow, we got along and it probably changed a lot of our eating habits.
CD: What do you mean by that?
JN: Well, a lot of things you got so used to cooking with it, and . . .
CD: Oh, you actually cooked with it?
JN: Yeah. Like cakes and things that required butter, but we still did have butter but it was rationed.
CD: So you would actually run out of butter. That’s one of the things you would run out of. What are some of the other things that were rationed that you would run out of?
JN: Well, as I said, the lady, Faye Gadsby next door horded coffee and when the war was over, I think she had a basement that she had to empty of coffee.
CD: Because it was bad?
JN: I imagine she had saved it so long, it was kind of spoiled. In those days it was packaged in cans. I don’t know what she did with it, but anyhow I remember she was always saving things.
CD: How did she get so much coffee if it was rationed? She just wouldn’t drink it?
JN: You know some people didn’t use all their stamps. And they would give them to you and you could then go get some extra and that’s how they did work things out. I don’t know how she did it.
CD: And what were you saying about the prices?
JN: I have an old newspaper here and the prices of butter; butter was 49 cents a pound. Sugar was 59 cents a pound; no for 10 pounds and milk was, well, this is evaporated milk, was 9 ½ cents. Coffee was 29 cents. Flour was 10 pounds for 52 cents, and then, I don’t know, Arden’s Sherbet and Ice Cream were 20 cents a pint, and imitation vanilla which I just bought for about $4.00, a 4-ounce bottle was 12 cents. Anyhow, it just gives you an idea about how prices were.
CD: And what’s the newspaper?
JN: It’s the Visalia Times Delta.
CD: What’s the day and year?
JN: July 14, 1943.
CD: Interesting. So you were going to Visalia High at the time.
JN: Visalia Union High School.
CD: Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
JN: Yes, my father had taken me horseback riding out to Mr. Warren’s house and he had two daughters (Imogene and Barbara) that rode and actually they were both rodeo queens. He was a friend and so I’d always wanted to ride horses. Didn’t everybody at that age? So he had taken me out and we hadn’t listened to the radio. Jane and Peggy Betts came by to pick me up to go to the show and that was about 1:00 or 12:30 and that was the first time we had heard about Pearl Harbor. And from then on, our lives all changed. They really did. We went into the war and everyone being in a small town you knew an awful lot of the people that went away and it was a very hard and difficult time. If you didn’t have anyone immediately in your family you at least knew someone or had good friends who had sons going off to war. And you ached for them.
CD: How did you hear about who was leaving?
JN: Oh, well, that was the talk of everything. Everybody knew of your friends, of my parent’s friends, who was going to war, who had enlisted. It was just everybody. Visalia was smaller and everybody that you knew very well, you had a very close feeling about them and you’d known them as you were growing up even though they might have been older. It still was a difficult time.
CD: Do you remember that billboard by the Post Office? A man was painting it of all the boys that had joined . . .
JN: I remember the billboard, but there must be a picture of it somewhere, don’t you suppose? What I remember, I went to the show and we came out and I probably still have it, the edition of the paper that announced that we were at war and about Pearl Harbor. From then on, as I say, our lives did change and I do remember the Japanese that lived here. I know they felt very hurt and didn’t understand. At that time, shortly after war started, there were ships and submarines sighted right off the coast here. They had them off of San Francisco. They know right over here at the Central Coast there was an oil pier right there between Cayucos and Morro Bay and they sighted subs out there. There were boats that came in there and loaded up this oil to take it overseas and so people were very frightened. In a way I feel that the fact that they sent the Japanese away, maybe that was partly for their protection too. There were people who were really upset and they were very angry. It’s interesting.
You don’t realize the fear that existed at that time. My father had it figured out that if the Japanese invaded that we would, he had it all figured out how we would leave California and along with that, I don’t think he was any different than a lot of other people. Annie Mitchell told the story that she had a cousin that lived in San Francisco and after the war started he brought a trailer down to Visalia and parked it in her garage and if California had been invaded or bombed, he was going to come with his family from San Francisco and get in the trailer and take off or at least live down here. And that trailer sat there for years and years and years. Even after the war. And Annie told me that story several times because we talked about the war and how it affected all of our lives.
CD: Was the trailer packed with food?
JN: I have no idea what was in the trailer.
CD: Did she ever go in?
JN: Oh yeah, she said whatever was in there was long gone. But he never came back and got it.
CD: He didn’t?
JN: No, so she had to finally dispose of it.
CD: What did she do with it?
JN: I suppose she sold it or gave it to somebody, whatever. Anyhow, that gives you an idea of the fear people had. We just didn’t know what was going to happen and this was a pretty frightening thing.
CD: At the time, did they actually know that the Japanese subs were out there?
JN: They had sightings.
CD: They did.
JN: I think if you read the newspaper, they were also up in Northern California, I mean, along the Washington and Oregon coast too. After that surprise attack and how ill-prepared we were, maybe we didn’t need to be but we were, I think, everybody was very frightened of the unknown.
CD: Tell me a little bit about the plan that your Dad had. Did he sit you down at the table?
JN: He just had it all figured out that we would go down toward Bakersfield and go over what they call the Greenhorn Mountain. I really don’t know that much about it, but that was the way he was going to get us out of California. And he discussed that you couldn’t take anything much.
CD: How many kids were there with your mom and your dad?
JN: I was an only child.
CD: So it was just you three making the plan. Did he ever mention how far he would go?
JN: No, it was just get out of California if it was invaded.
CD: Wow, that’s interesting.
JN: Or bombed or whatever.
CD: Right, right. Did you ever see the fear manifest itself? Were there any acts against the Japanese Americans?
JN: No, but I think people were very uneasy. We had a lady that helped us in the house and the most wonderful gardener we ever had was this Japanese man and they had lived here a long time and they were nice people. This lady that helped us, she was a scaredy cat anyhow and when he came and she was there, she would go around watching where he was.
CD: She’d sit and watch him while he was gardening.
JN: She just kind of kept track of him. See, you’re afraid of the unknown.
CD: How did you feel about your gardener? Did you trust him?
JN: Yes, oh yes. Sure. There were people, but a
lot of them had relatives in
CD: Do you remember at the train depot when they shipped all the Japanese out?
JN: No I don’t.
CD: You don’t. So at school, were there very many?
JN: There were Japanese that had to go, yes. Families. But I don’t remember that much about it.
CD: You hear it on the radio in the car and the next day was Monday, I believe. What was school like after that?
JN: I don’t remember that there was a lot of controversy about it. I mean, they thought this was what they had to do, so they did it. It wasn’t a local choice.
CD: But what about school life? Do you remember a lot of the boys leaving? What about dances, football games and such things? How did it affect your life at school?
JN: I don’t remember other than we were really cognizant of the war and what was happening. Actually, the people in my class were too young. It was the people that had just graduated or were seniors that it really affected, because they were the ones that did go. Most of them, I think the majority finished high school.
CD: So you were a freshman. By the time you were a senior were the boys still getting drafted? Were they still leaving?
CD: They would wait until they graduated?
JN: Well, I would say some of them didn’t, but some of them did. I’d say I think most of them graduated and then went.
CD: How did they maintain a sports program with all the boys gone?
JN: As I say, I think they did, but I don’t remember that part.
CD: Where were you; what was your reaction about when they dropped the A Bomb?
JN: I don’t remember where I was. There was great controversy whether that should have been done. It did end the war and that’s how they justified it.
CD: And how did your family feel?
JN: I think that was what they felt too. It was probably something, you know, anything to get it over at that point. And of course, we didn’t know all of the ramifications of dropping that bomb.
CD: What church did you go to?
JN: The First Presbyterian Church.
CD: Did they ever get involved? Did it ever come up at the church?
JN: I’m sure it did, but I don’t remember it having any significant impact on the church.
CD: You mentioned something about the bonds and about the ration booklets.
JN: There were government bonds that you bought and for school children and younger people you bought stamps and you filled out a booklet and got a bond. Or you could buy these bonds for a $1,000, $10,000, whatever and it was to help the war effort. Then you turned them in when the war was over and I think you got the money back that you put into it.
CD: So you actually bought them yourself?
JN: Actually my father bought them.
CD: Do you remember saving them?
JN: Yes, but I remember saving the stamps and I think a lot of people did that and I think it helped the war effort.
CD: And my mom always mentions Victory Gardens. Did you guys plant your little garden?
JN: I don’t think we did that. We didn’t, but I think a lot of people did.
CD: You mentioned to me over the phone one time that when you were at school they would pick you up to go pick cotton.
JN: Right. After the war got started, they decided they needed help for agriculture, so they had us come to school at 8:00. We went from 8:00-12:30. Then you took your lunch and they put us on a bus and they took us. Where I went was out west of 99 to some fields of cotton. They gave you a big sack and you picked cotton. I had never picked cotton. Picking cotton is hard. Now we have pickers so you don’t have that problem, but I suppose in the South where they have small patches, maybe they still do that. So we worked there until 4:30 or it started to get dark and they put you back on the bus and took you back to school.
You did that, I think, everyday for a period of time and then later, when the oranges needed to be picked, they put us on busses and took us out. Actually, a friend of my parents took a carload of girls, friends of mine, to his orange grove and we picked oranges. Now picking oranges is a lot of fun. Well, better. It was cool and you didn’t have puncture vines. It was better than picking cotton, for sure.
And my father had a vineyard and they made raisins. Once he took me out there; during the war he took me out there, because they used a lot of neighbors around where this vineyard is and so the neighbors came every year and help pick, but sometimes then, there were kids that came too. They would just come with their families and they would spend the day. In picking grapes, you take about one lug box and that makes about one tray and you have to put a paper tray down and you put the grapes on it and spread it out and then of course they have to stay there until they turn a bit. These are sun-dried raisins and they have to turn the raisins over. Now I was never involved in the turning, but I went out with him when he would pick the grapes.
CD: How exactly would they turn them?
JN: You had this tray of raisins like this and you put another paper on top of it and they did it like that.
CD: I’m thinking they were turning.
JN: Well, you prayed it didn’t rain. Then a lot of people that had emperors, that’s when people that had emperors made so much money because the emperors were shipped. It took four tons of green grapes, I think this is right, to make one ton of raisins. Well, the green grapes were selling a fabulous price and the raisin price was controlled by the government because they were sending those overseas with food for the service because they could be preserved. So that’s when emperor growers made a lot of money. They got four times as much as the raisins were bringing.
CD: So you got a lot for the grapes, but not so much for the raisins because the price was being controlled. Are the emperor grapes the green ones? I forget.
JN: No, they are a kind of purple and they have seeds. Now of course, they have been more or less, I think, but they were considered the fancy grape, always the grape that was sold a lot at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
CD: And where was your family’s vineyard?
JN: On Lovers Lane.
CD: Oh, on Lovers Lane. What is there now?
JN: It’s walnuts now.
CD: Oh, it’s walnuts, so it’s still agriculture.
JN: I guess as long as I can hold it out it will be agriculture. Probably as long as I live.
CD: Boy, 8:00 – 4:30 is a long day.
JN: It may have been,maybe it wasn’t quite that long.
CD: But the work was hard. Was it volunteering when they came to bring the bus to school? Did you have to get on or did they ask for volunteers?
JN: Oh, I’m sure you didn’t have to, but everybody wanted to do something for the war effort and that was the one thing you were doing. Everybody wanted to help, so that was what we did.
CD: And do you remember getting paid?
JN: Oh, yes. You got paid; they weighted the cotton and I’m not sure it was worth much what we earned, but that was okay.
CD: Boy, that cotton picking sounds hard. Wow. And it’s hot during the summer. Let’s see. What have I missed here? Did any family members get drafted?
JN: No. I didn’t have anybody who was of that age.
CD: And so were you writing anybody?
JN: Well, probably, maybe, I think we sent some to Ben Levy, but that was maybe all. I don’t know.
CD: Who was Ben Levy?
JN: Well his father was the postmaster here once. He was, she was one of my mother’s best friends. Grace Levy. He was an only child.
CD: And what happened? Where did he go?
JN: He came through all right. In fact, I found a Christmas card he had sent from Paris.
JN: And then Greeley Togni that lived across the street, on Willis Street. He was in the Marines and of course he was an only child, so we were praying for a lot of different people to make it through and two of my parents’ best friends’ sons were lost. Burgess Hadley, his father was Josh Hadley that owned the funeral home and then Tommy Finch. He parents were,his mother goes way back in Visalia’s families and he was a pilot of a bomber, I believe.
CD: And he didn’t come home?
JN: Yeah, the plane was shot down. They were told but they kept this hope that
he would have gotten out somehow. I
don’t know if somebody did get out of the plane and survived. I think it was over
CD: Do you think it changed him?
JN: It changed all of us. It changed all of our lives. You had grown up feeling very secure and of course, I have a book written by Susman Mitchell, who was an old, old timer, Annie Mitchell’s uncle and he said, this was after World War One: "There will never be another war." That’s what everyone hoped and prayed, but that was not so.
CD: And they really believed that?
JN: They did.
CD: Yeah it is amazing it happened so fast. Also during the war years, my program director mentioned something about the floods of ‘42, ‘43 and ‘44.
JN: Oh yes, that was big, big excitement. They closed school. That was the best part. Anyhow, one time, and Visalia was always known for its floods but it did its damage. Actually I don’t think it got into my dad’s store, but we lived on North Willis Street and that was called the Highland Tract, so I guess there really was someone named Highland, but I decided that maybe that’s because it didn’t flood except one time when the levee broke out toward Cutler Park. The farmers had the levee on the north side that they had built up, but the levee on the south side was not as well maintained. All this water came down and there was this break that I will never forget. We went out to see the Perkins’ who lived out here on Green Acres because Mill Creek ran right behind them. There was water all around and we drove out there. We waded over to the Richard’s house and they were sandbagging to keep it out because the lower level was pretty low to the ground and then we went home and there was water just running through the whole yard and it flooded the basement, but it didn’t get into the house. So that was one of the floods.
CD: So what was the worst hit part of town?
JN: The desirable southwest section, which they used to advertise in the real estate, was flooded and that was because that is lower land.
CD: Is it in the path of something?
JN: Well, see the only reason it ever flooded on the north side was because it broke so close to town. Normally if it comes in through the creeks and everything, it will go to the south.
CD: And Mill Creek would flood?
JN: Mill Creek flooded, yes. It does go to the south more than the north.
CD: Was that the only line of defense,the sand bags?
JN: Well, at that time, yes.
CD: Were they successful? Your friends when they were sandbagging?
JN: They kept the water out, but in the 50’s flood that didn’t work so well.
CD: That’s the one I always hear about. The one that happened in the 50’s, what made that one so different from the ones in the 40’s? Everyone remembers that one.
JN: Yeah, maybe you weren’t born yet.
CD: No. But people talk about it.
JN: Well, that one as I say, did go south. It was clear out around Farmersville. It was around Christmas time and I can remember we lived then on South Jacob Street right off of Myrtle Avenue and I had gone to my mother’s and it was high and dry over there and my husband, Bill, called and he said, "You better come home, water is coming down the street." And so I drove home and I got to Center Street and that was a rushing river. But there wasn’t any water past the railroad tracks. Anyway, I got back to our house and I put the children in the car and I struck out and of course, Myrtle was a running river, it was Myrtle, not Kaweah Avenue and so I went down Myrtle west and I hit Giddings Street.
CD: How was that?
JN: That wasn’t too bad, but then I had to go across Center Street again. But when I got out towards the cemetery and the ball park, it was dry.
CD: So it’s higher.
JN: That’s what I said. The north side is higher.
CD: So Visalia was known for its floods and now just because of the dam, there hasn’t been one.
JN: That’s right. The dam has been a good thing.
CD: That’s interesting. So to get back to the war, do you think your feelings have changed over the years, through the years, about the president, about Pearl Harbor, and about the A bomb?
JN: Yes, I really feel that Roosevelt knew that this was imminent and he didn’t really, because he wanted to get us into war, he didn’t take, didn’t alert them enough.
CD: Do you think we should have gotten into the war?
JN: Well, I don’t know. I think we probably had to get into the war, but I don’t know. I thought he could have saved a lot of lives at Pearl Harbor and afterwards if he’d taken a little tact on it. I don’t know. Who knows? Can’t change history.
CD: Yeah. Did Annie Mitchell tell you any more stories about the war years?
JN: No, we didn’t talk too much about that.
CD: She was here during all those years?
JN: Yes, yes. She was born in White River. That’s south of Ducor.
CD: Is that still in Tulare County?
JN: I’m pretty sure.
CD: And so how would you sum up how the war affected Tulare County? Is it better or worse?
JN: War never does any good. I guess somebody had to stop Hitler, so that was the whole thing and we did, at a terrible cost.
CD: Did you see a big change in Tulare County after it was over and the boys started coming home?
JN: Well, yes. The town started to grow more at that time. I think that’s kind of when conditions became better. The war actually, I believe, got us out of the Depression.
CD: Yes, I’ve heard that.
JN: I believe that’s so.
CD: And Visalia and Tulare County was pretty hard hit by the Depression.
JN: We were, and we had a lot of people come in here from the mid-west that had lost their farms and had lost everything, so they were really very hard up. That was a tough time.
CD: Is there anything that you would like to add?
JN: I was going to tell you that they did have this fundraiser and all the clubs in town kind of went together and they each had a candidate. And these candidates – it was a fundraiser to build, as I recall, to build an airplane. They brought money in from different areas and this went on for quite a while and it got the community, all different groups of the community to raise money and support the war stamp purchases. So that is what they did. It did kind of help raise money and that was the whole point of the thing.
CD: We’re looking at a news clipping of the clubs. Is that your picture? Are you pictured in there?
JN: Uh huh.
CD: Where are you? Look at that. And this is the 1943 Visalia Times Delta. Oh there you are! The Rotary Club. Oh. There’s the Lions Club, the Soroptimist Club, the Chinese Association of Visalia and you represented the Rotary Club. There’s the Kiwanis Club and there was the Italian-Catholic Federation, Associated Business Girls, Armenian Colony of Visalia, and the Business and Professional Women’s Club, Mexican Honorary Commission, Spanish American Alliance and Portuguese Association of Visalia. So they all got together.
CD: Did you get voted as the Rotary representative?
JN: I don’t know. Harvey Gilmer just came and I guess he talked to my father and then he asked me if I would do that and I said sure. I don’t know why me. Anyway, see it says here that they raised more than $50,000, which doesn’t probably sound like a lot of war stamps and that was it. As I recall, it was to build a plane.
CD: $50,000 is a lot of money.
JN: At that time.
CD: How did you guys raise it?
JN: Each organization went out and contributed. It’s just like we’re trying to raise money for the library right now. So you go and ask people to donate. It did encompass all groups in the area. You tapped into a lot of different people. Actually the Chinese came from San Francisco and put money into it.
CD: Did the Chinese ever get mistaken for Japanese?
JN: Oh, I’m sure they did sometimes. People today still don’t know the difference. Here it says they chalked up ,the contest was $196,972 worth of stamps sold. And I guess the goal had been $50,000.
CD: Wow, that is a lot of money.
JN: Anyhow, that’s what it was. I believe it was to build a plane,
CD: And did you hear about it and if a plane was built?
JN: No, but it seemed . . . .
CD: Well, this is the end of the interview, and I want to thank you for your time and contribution.
JN: You’re very welcome.
Catherine Doe/Transcriber: Jan Chubbuck, 3/14/04/ed. JW 7/2/04
Editor’s note: Words in italics were added during a phone interview with Jane Nash on March 6, 2006. A history of medical care in the Visalia area written to Jane Nash by Karl Weiss in 1986 follows this interview. Dr. Weiss came to Visalia on July 4, 1927. His history starts with the first place in this area that offered nursing care to the ill people, Fenwick Place on East Mineral King Avenue in the early 1900’s.