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: Albert Nunes

 

Date: 10-02-03

Tape # 3

Interviewer: Stan Wilkendorf

 

Place: Tulare County, CA

PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946

Visalia, Tulare County, California

OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:

When you have an essential job during the war years, you received the supplies to do that job. Mr. Nunes was an essential hauler and obtained tires, gas, tools and equipment easily.


This is Stan Wilkendorf speaking. Today is Wednesday, October 1, 2003. I’ll be interviewing Mr. Albert Nunes in his home here in Visalia, CA. This interview is for the Tulare County Library project, Years of Valor, Years of Hope covering the years of 1941–1945.

SW: Mr. Nunes, would you please state your full name and spell it out for me?

AN: Albert Nunes.

SW: Thank you. When and where were you born?

AN: I was born in Visalia, California in 1912.

SW: What were your parents’ names and where were they from?

Joe Nunes and Catherine (Casella) Nunes. My dad was born in Lemoore, and my mother emigrated from Italy . She was born in South America, Brazil . But she came over. She was born in 1891. Dad was born in 1882.

SW: Where did you grow up? Tulare County?

AN: Yes, I lived all my life here.

SW: And your father apparently as well?

AN: He was born in Lemoore and my mother came over when she was 13 years old.

SW: What were you doing during the years 1941 – 1945?

AN: I was in the trucking business. I hauled farm produce and I’d

been a milk hauler before that, but I sold that out and went to hauling farm produce. Hauled hay and grain to one of the big cattle companies in Exeter and they were selling meat to the Army and they were very essential. I had four trucks at the time being and I’d always drive one and kept the three drivers busy whenever I could. We hauled local and we hauled to L.A. and San Francisco different produce and stuff. Oranges was the biggest item, and hay and mill feed to the Gil cattle company in Exeter in the Yokol Valley and that put my drivers with essential hauling and I got three of them exempt from there.

And I forgot to put in an exemption for myself and they called me and I had to go up. They drafted me and I went to San Francisco and they turned me down because I had a big hernia that I needed fixed. I wanted to get it fixed, but the doctor said, "Don’t do it, the war’s about over." This was just six months before it was over when they started drafting families. I was a father, 29 years old. They was taken them, they drafted ‘em. In the meantime, I came back and stayed with my business and kept hauling essential stuff, because they were rationing tires, gasoline. Time being…I had gasoline trucks. As far as food was rationed and certain foods, I know sugar was the one of the most important ones, which we didn’t use much of for coffee and different stuff.

SW: How about gasoline? Did you have trouble getting gasoline?

AN: No. I hauled essential stuff. I had so much ‘A’ gas for my car, so much ‘C’ for the pickup and ‘T’ stamps for the trucks that did the essential hauling. You had to haul essential stuff. If you didn’t you couldn’t get tires, you couldn’t get anything to repair the trucks. We got along pretty good with everything. The speed limit was 45 miles an hour. I experienced once getting a ticket for 45 miles and they made an example of me. There was a lawyer that knew me real well and Sullivan who owned Togni-Branch who knew me real well and he really raked me over the coals when they called me on the board. They said I wasn’t setting a good example for my drivers for driving 45 miles in a 35-mph zone. That’s why they did it. But 45 is what you would do. Otherwise they penalize you and take gas away from you.

SW: How much was gas? How much did gas cost during that timeframe?

AN: In the teens. Diesel fuel, a year later, I used to buy that in large amounts and got it for 11-12 cents a gallon and tax was 11 cents a gallon on it. But as far as repairs and stuff like that, to get parts was hard for the trucks. But hauling essential stuff, they would put you in line and get it for you. Tools and stuff like that. Every time I went to the parts house, they’d always have some kind of tool that I didn’t need, but you took them because they were available at that time. Tires, I never had any trouble getting them, and when they wanted you to haul something and you had to do it whether you liked to or not or they wouldn’t let you go.

My one experience was hauling some empty cans which were just thrown in the dump pile out in the City dump which was located on East Main. There used to be a dump there. We had to go over there and they said they would have school kids to help us load them little cans up into the truck. We had side racks and we put wire up so they would fall out between the slats and take for recycling. Well, we went over there and there were no children. So I and the driver threw in a bunch and finally went to San Francisco with them and got rid of them.

SW: You carried the recycled cans and they re-used the tins.

AN: There wasn’t anything in them or crushed.

SW: They wanted the metal out of the cans.

AN: Yes, that’s what they wanted. We did haul cannery fruit too at the time being and we hauled empty new cans from places. That was a nightmare. I remember one experience,we pulled in there and they were making these cans, and tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, and we laid up on top of the supplies. We couldn’t get a motel room and wait until those cans were made. They came in big bails and you had to stack them like bale hay in your truck and tie them down with a tarp, because it was covered with paper and it was wintertime. Due to fog, the paper would deteriorate. We experienced that in as far as hauling essential stuff. If you went to San Francisco or L.A., they wanted you to back load and not go back empty. It was one case where I went with a load and I waited for a day and stood overnight and I couldn’t get a load so I came on home and they had stops on the way and they wondered why you were going by empty out of the Bay Area. That was again my record there and I told them I had to get back home to my business, so they kind of excused me there, because I did stay over.

One occasion they came up to me over at Ford Ord for their equipment. Over there they brought a better bunch of tires to get recapped in Visalia. Perry Tire Company. So they recapped them. They called me up and told me to go take them back to the camp over on the Coast, Fort Ord. So I took them over there, hired the driver and believe it or not, I only got $40 and I paid the driver $20 and some gas or everything. But you didn’t talk back; you had to go ahead and do it ‘cause you had to do that part because it was essential. And as far as them hauling essential stuff, I would do whatever they asked me, but the biggest part was to keep produce going and that haul I had to Gil’s and hauling stuff from Fresno from the mills, and Kingsburg had cottonseed meal and stuff that they mixed with the bale hay. And I hauled an awful lot of whole baled hay that they mixed in their meals, where the wires were rusty and they mixed that in to make cattle feed and bought the cheapest hay they could get. I remember the wires would break on us and everything else and they were the old style bales.

As far as drivers, they were very good to the customers and kept everybody happy. We would do everything to make them happy because we didn’t want to lose any hauling. At that time, whenever we hauled to San Francisco and Oakland, hauling produce, we had to join the union. They wouldn’t let the drivers unload up there. So they were put in the union. But as far as farm produce, it didn’t make any difference. They weren’t really strict on anything like that as far as farms. Later on, you never went where it was picketed. If you did, they would fine the drivers. So that was bad later, but during the war I didn’t haul anything that was really . . . except unloading in San Francisco and Oakland and L.A.

SW: OK, what were you doing actually when Pearl Harbor was attacked? Do you recall that event and where were you and what was the situation then?

AN: Mostly we were hauling raisins and stuff like that to Fresno and oranges and stuff to Oakland and San Francisco.

SW: And you heard on the radio or by someone telling you or the newspaper? How did you hear about that and what was your reaction?

AN: When we was loading up some place, one of the farmer’s daughters came out and told us about the attack and was telling us about it.

SW: How did that go across? Were people shocked by that?

AN: Oh, yes, very shocked. We didn’t know what to think with our fleet paralyzed like that. So many of them were killed and all the ships and stuff blowing up.

SW: And the next day, I believe it was, when Roosevelt declared war, did that sound reasonable? What were your thoughts on that?

AN: Yes that was something that there was no warning or anything. At least they claimed there wasn’t. Later on they did, but . . .

SW: I guess there were some questions on that?

AN: Some of the customers we hauled for, the Japanese were called in, and there was one case where there was an Italian fellow that was a neighbor to us, and he had a shotgun that he didn’t declare and they put him … it was his brother- in-law that took him out, turned him in because he would use it to shoot jack rabbits. He had a young vineyard started and they would eat the deals. He didn’t turn that shotgun in and they put him in jail.

SW: Did you know any of the Japanese that were interned?

AN: Yes, there was some in Ivanhoe that we would haul stuff from. There was one from a big farm. We hauled grapes and stuff from his place and when the poor feller . . .before they were taken, they were sitting with just a little belongings at the packing house to see their wives until they finally put them on not very good buses to take them over in . . . God, I think it was over… where was it? Kansas? I don’t remember.

SW: They went to different places.

AN: Yeah, that’s where they went. And when they came back, poor fellows had a real hard time claiming their properties.

SW: Getting it back. Yes, I understand that was a real issue.

AN: Yeah, it was an issue. And then years later, they did give them so much money for their inconvenience they put up with.

SW: Is there any particular event during the war, either here at home or in the war itself that really stands out in your mind? Any particular battle or event?

AN: Well, I was pretty busy working all the time. I know that we had blackouts at different times. You were supposed to turn your lights off at certain times. The lights in the cities were turned off at certain times when they figured they was going to be raided. I was worried about it. As far as radio or televisions, we didn’t have television, just radios. I was working the days all the time and at night I would want to get my rest. I wasn’t much outside of reading the newspaper and a little on the radio. I know that I was very busy at the time to make ends meet. Everything was hard to get and tires. Busy hauling essentials. I got by, by recapping stuff like that. Like I said, I had three drivers and the fourth truck I had I would make trips myself. So I was a busy man.

SW: You mentioned the blackouts. I read some of the articles where they said they had air raids where they had to shut down and pull off the side of the road. Air raid sirens and all. Did you hear sirens and how was that announced to you here in Tulare County? How did you know there was going to be a blackout situation?

AN: It was on the radio.

SW: Okay, that’s what they used to announce it to people in those large unincorporated areas, a lot of country. It’s hard to have sirens everywhere. You couldn’t hear them if they did that. Maybe in town, I don’t know. Let’s see, you were married at that time? You were married and had your children?

AN: Let’s see, my son, Albert Jr., was born in September 11, 1945. Just about the end of the war. My oldest daughter, Geraldine (Fergerson) was born in 1940 and the other, Beverly (Baldwin) was born in 1944.

SW: You were married? When were you married?

AN: 1939. I didn’t get married until I was 27 years old.

SW: The war was ended by the atomic bomb. What was your reaction to that?

AN: Well, we hated to see what happened, but we were very glad. There was a big celebration then in the town. It was very noisy after that.  As far as Japan , they had it coming, we figured. We hated to see it. President Truman had to do it in order to save our country. He was quite a president. He was from the "Show Me" state.

SW: Right, Missouri. Have your feelings about the war changed over time? Do you still feel it was a justified war? Everything should have been done the way it was? Now that Japan is sort of an ally with us now, have your feelings changed much?

AN: Well I think that they know that we did something wrong, but it was justified because there was a lot of people, military people killed, in their bombing with their sneak attack. I think the people realize it because they want to patronize them. Look at all the automobiles they are shipping in here. They were an ally that bought all our stuff because food is not grown in their place. It all has to be imported.

SW: Shortly after the atomic bomb, they surrendered. What was the feeling? Where were you at that time and what were the feelings of the people? Were they exciting times?

AN: Yes, exciting times. Whooping and hollering in the town and stuff, a big deal. Of course, as I say, I wasn’t much for that. I was never . . . wild. There were a lot of things and recreations and theaters didn't show lots of pictures. Far as recreation, we did not take any vacations. We did not recreation. We were just bringing up a family in a hard way and starting up with one piece of equipment and starting in business like I did, you had to watch everything to make it. There were people who went under. There was a bunch of them that started and didn’t make it through. I remember one outfit, Hannah Trucking today, is still going. His grandson is taking care of it. We worked together. I gave him some of my hauling and he didn’t buy me out, but finally later, my drivers went his way and took a lot of hauling away from the guy that bought me up when I sold out in ’56. That’s where Hannah Trucking is doing that type of work. He didn’t have any of that equipment like I had later.

SW: He had a large fleet later.

AN: I would start buying diesels before I got stuck hauling cement and sand and gravel. In ’46. I was getting away from produce.

SW: During the actual war years, did your family housing situation change? You were working pretty hard just to maintain.

AN: I built a new home in 1939 and stayed single and had enough money to build me a little two bedroom home and then in 1950 I added another bedroom. We only had a two bedroom home to begin with.

SW: You had the home when you got married?

AN: We rented until we built a home. We got married in June 1939 and in December we moved into our new home. I married Mary Compton. She passed away in March of 2004.

SW: But you didn’t have any problem getting food for yourself or clothing for your family?

AN: We got it because we didn’t live high and as far as rationing, that particular stuff we didn’t use a lot. Sugar stamps,my wife baked, but not that much and a lot people were running out of things. Cigarettes, I had to keep after my drivers. They could take the ‘T’ stamps and get cigarettes. I told them, "None of that."

SW: You needed ‘T’ stamps for other things.

AN: Well, the ‘T’ stamps were for gasoline and if you got caught doing something with them . . . I had good drivers. They were family men and they realized everything.

SW: Did you participate in the war bonds or savings programs of that type?

AN: Yes, I did. I bought a lot of bonds. In fact, I have some bonds today that I changed in after 40 years. I changed them into HH’s and I have nine of them in the HH’s that I was thinking about turning in, but they are still paying 4 percent, so I’m keeping them.

SW: Four percent is pretty good today.

AN: So I still have nine of them, HH Bonds, that are over 10 years, but they are going to 25 years before they stop paying interest. And I’m getting interest from them twice a year. They were paying six percent, but they cut that down. I did my share. I first started buying them when they first issued them and I kept buying them. Every time they had a drive I’d go in and buy ‘em. At one time, that was before I had any money, I had to buy bonds. I had a sister, Anna (Bryan) that worked for Montgomery Ward and they would have a campaign and I would buy $400-$500 worth at a time. Any money that I saved up I put into bonds. To tell you the truth, right today at Bank of America, they say I’m about the only one that still has them. After 40 years, I put them in HH’s. I do have some E’s; EE’s that I haven’t cashed in. I still have them.

SW: Those would be collector’s items. You’re one of the few that still has them as far as the bank knows.

AN: Well they used to put in to get the old ones done. They would send in for you. Now they’re not doing that. But there are some of the older people that are in there, they promised they would help me send them in, because I was wanting to get rid of them. After all, I’m 91 years old and I don’t want to have any troubles. I remember giving some over to my daughters and they had an awful time getting them cashed in, because they were in my and my wife’s name. They were real strict and it was two to three months getting the money out of them.

SW: Interesting. You mentioned your sister. You had other family relatives and how were they affected by the war?

AN: Well, my sister had one son, Kenneth Bryan. She worked for the telephone company. She retired from the telephone company. My other sister, Mary (Ramos), was married to a Portuguese fellow, Gerald Ramos and he moved from here to Morro Bay and he was a fisherman. In fact, my sister is still living yet. She’s 95 and in Morro Bay. She lost her husband two years ago. The other sister just had the one son. He’s in the excavating business. Mary had a son, Gerald and a daughter, Marjorie (Ladle).

SW: You had no direct relatives involved in the war effort? As far as the fighting part?

AN: No, my brother Henry went. He was drafted, but he never went overseas. He had a bad leg and he worked for the deal, the army.   He was a driver of trucks. Then he drove for me for a while. He was an electrician, but he couldn’t get materials, so he did drive for me for a while.

SW: Let’s see what other questions I have here. Any other comments you can think of at this point that are pertinent? Did you go to any movies during the war?

AN: No, we didn’t.

SW: Impressions of the government and military leaders? Truman, you said, was very impressive.

AN: As far as he . . . in fact, my wife was from Missouri. She came over when she was 14 years old in 1936, and I had visited the state after that three times visiting relatives that she had. In fact, my wife, she’s the only one in her immediate family left.

SW: You said she was from Italy . Does she have anyone left in Italy ? Her family was over there when she was here?

AN: No, my grandmother was in Italy .

SW: Did your mother have any problem communicating with her? Was that an issue?

AN: There was someone here that would write a letter. My mother didn’t have much education and would send a few dollars. Her mother passed away and she lived with her stepmother Philomena Casella, when they came down. Her mother passed away in Italy . Grandpa was quite a man, John Casella. He took his family from Italy to South America and that’s where my mother was born and then he went back to Italy and then came to California. I have an uncle still living, he’s 103, Tony Casella. He came as a baby and there was others born after that. And he’s still living. He’s in a rest home right now. He passed away in 2003.

SW: Did you experience any censorship during the war with letter writing or newspapers? Did you feel things were censored? Did you really get the news you wanted to hear when you read the newspaper?

AN: Yes, we took the local paper and that was our news items and whatever we got over the radio. I never was much of a sportsman and that high school I had, I knew as much as the teachers when I was a sophomore and quit. Put in six years, hard years on the dairy during the Depression from 1928-1934. And then I went to driving milk trucks as a relief man and working on the dairy and then at nighttime relieving some of the drivers for the creamery. There was a new creamery in Visalia. I did four of their routes and worked for $1.50 to run those routes, picking up the 10 gallon cans. That was before they had tankers.

SW: $1.50 an hour, or $1.50 a day?

AN: $1.50 for the night. If it took you three or four hours to run that route, that’s what you got. Us boys, Dad, Joseph Nunes, couldn’t give us spending money when we was in the deal and we worked for the neighbors for two bits an hour. Chopping corn, picking it up and putting it in, picking fruit, hauling grapes, doing anything to make spending money, because Dad couldn’t afford to give us spending money. They used a big machete to cut the corn, where now it’s all blowed out. Our neighbors, any time us boys was around, they wanted to get us because we were good workers.

SW: You were good workers.

AN: We did it right and we would haul in wagons with a team of horses, grapes, raisins, corn, peaches and alfalfa hay. Then we would milk cows at night and very early in the morning at the family dairy and took care of the barn and worked for our dad. And at night from seven until ten I would run a route to pick up milk from the different dairies for the Knudsen Creamery when the regular drivers couldn’t do it. I was the relief driver for four routes. I did this 1928-1934.

SW: Any other comments about the World War II era years 1941-45 that you can offer?

AN: Well, as I said, I was always busy and I just went along with whatever they put out for me to do. I tried to be a good citizen and do what they did.

SW: How do you think the World War II years in Tulare County affected you? What was your personal reaction to those years?

AN: Well we had some hardships, but as far as I say, it wasn’t much bringing up a family. We were almost home all the time. We never went out for recreation. I never was much for social affairs. Any time some of the neighbors would get together as friends and spend our time playing canasta once a month. Each family, if we had four card tables, we’d take our turns and that was our recreation.

SW: My mother still does that. She goes out and plays cards in card groups like that. How do think the war years affected the way Tulare County is today? What changes happened in Tulare County as a result of the war years?

AN: Well, for one thing, it’s been very prosperous being that it was a produce area. Farmers improved land. I’ve seen where it was hog water land and farmers went in and leveled that off with big equipment and took the hard pan out and now it’s all orchards, walnuts and oranges, to where the land wasn’t worth farming because with horses and mules, equipment couldn’t tear it up. But after the tractors came in and got it, it really went through and the produce really goes all over the states and shipped out what’s grown here, exported. It helped Tulare County grow.

SW: So the County has grown significantly as a result. We had the military fields down at Rankin Field and the other one here locally.

AN: And prison camps and Tagus Ranch, which was a large orchard. Lots of acreage in fruit ranch. When we used to haul grapes to the wineries, they had prisoners,German prison boys would get in there with boots on and big shovels and forks to pick the grapes out. There was no mechanism to pick the tank up and dump it. The last year that I hauled grapes, they did have hoists to pick them up and dump them. Before that, these prisoners... you couldn’t give them any money. You could give them cigarettes, something to eat, candy. But they worked for free. Tagus Ranch had a big camp there.

SW: This is Tagus Ranch just down the road here?

AN: Yes.

SW: Oh, Okay, real close.

AN: And that ranch, at one time they issued their own stamps for their money. They had a bank there and they paid $.17 an hour for the migrants that came and worked there and you had to spend your money there to buy your groceries. I hauled a lot a fruit from there to the Visalia Canning Company.

SW: Like a company store type thing with script.

AN: That was a big place on the map. They were talking about it. Tulare was wanting it. Actually most of it is in Tulare. Visalia has been battling for it to be in Visalia. But that was a big place. I hauled fruit from there locally into the cannery here and into San Jose and Oakland to be processed, apricots and peaches.

SW: How many prisoners did they have? You said they were German?

AN: German prisoners.

SW: They were brought over from Germany ?

AN: They was captives, soldiers from Germany , yes. They fought long.

SW: About how many did they have there? Do you have any idea?

AN: I don’t know how many. I only know there was maybe a half dozen or so that they would bring on over and they would have guards watching them while they were working.

SW: There were more, but they just brought a few over to help you.

AN: Oh, yes. They would bring them over to do that.

SW: Okay, interesting. I don’t have any more questions, unless you have anything else you would like to comment on or talk about.

AN: Let me look at my notes. I don’t think I had anything outside of I had to haul essential stuff. Anytime officials asked you to do any hauling, you’d dare not turn it down or you’d be denied your stamps for gas, tires, and equipment. I put in for a new pickup and never did get it during the war. And a car and never did get it during the war. And in 1948, I did buy a new Plymouth car.

SW: But you couldn’t get them during the war years.

AN: They didn’t issue me any. But I did get two new trucks during the war for hauling cattle. I got two certificates for new trucks. I had to pay but one of the trucks, it was a 1941 model, and it was in storage for 18 months, and I had to pay the storage bill. But I did get it for stealing price. But I did get two trucks during the war. Mostly for hauling for the cattle company

SW: And to meet all of their requirements and all. I would like to thank you very much for your input here on behalf of the Tulare County Historical Society. Thank you very much.

AN: OK.

Stan Wilkendorf/PD Transcriber/JW Edit March 21, 2006

Editor’s note: This was the first interview transcribed, and we were all learning what to do. Words in italics were added doing a phone interview with Albert Nunes on March 21, 2006. Pictures of Albert and his brothers and sisters are on the Celebration page of the Visalia Times Delta, March 18-19, 2006 Page 8E.