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

Interviewer: Judy M. Yoder

Date: October 10, 2003

Tape # 107

Interviewee: Donald R. Pinkham


Place: Tulare County, CA

Place of Interview: Exeter, CA 93221






JY: What is your name and date of birth?

DP: My birth is April 15, 1924.

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

DP: My father’s name was Ebenezer Franklin Pinkham, Jr. He was born in Vacaville, California. We moved down here when he was just a youngster and my mother’s maiden name was Josephine Virginia Brundage. She was born in Farmersville, California. Her grandfather was T.S. Brundage, who came out here . . .first he started out with a wagon train coming west. Everybody started getting sick, so he went back on a boat and met his brother, and picked up a ship around and went through the Isthmus of Panama, which was no canal at the time, it was on donkey back and whatever . . .got a boat and went to San Francisco and then he came down here. That’s my mother’s family’s history.  I wasn’t born when he was still alive, but Thomas Sylvester Brundage, his wife, Rose Crowley, my great grandmother, was still alive. When I was three or four years old, I remember her.

JY: So where did you exactly grow up?

DP: I grew up out on a ranch southwest of town, Exeter. They called it Clara Vista Ranch; it was about 60 acres of vineyard mostly.

JY: How old were you when the World War II began?

DP: Well, I would say, a senior in high school. It was December 7, 1941, as I recall. I graduated in 1942 from high school. So, my age had to be about 18.

JY: At the time of the war, were you in a relationship, married or single?

DP: Single.

JY: What event stands out in the years preceding the beginning of the war, your personal reactions to the war?

DP: Well, like everyone else, we knew there was a problem over there, as the war had already started in Europe, but the one that affected California the most was, of course, the invasion of the islands as the Japanese came there. We had Japanese people who had immigrated here and were working on the farms and also some of them owned farms. A couple of one-man torpedo boats were spotted off the coast and everyone got panicked and they shipped all of the Japanese off to camps. Which in retrospect was a mistake, because most of them were loyal citizens, but in times like that, fear takes over.

JY: Where were you and what were you doing when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

DP: I think we were . . .let’s see, that was in December . . .we had a packing house downtown where we packed grapes and I was there in the office doing some office work. I walked across the street to get a soda pop and that’s when I heard it.

JY: So you were in high school, your senior year in high school, and you’re working at the same time?

DP: Yeah, it’s not clear to me what the circumstances were when I heard it. That’s what I kind of remember.

JY: How did you feel when the announcement of the war came?

DP: Well, I felt . . . obviously we were gonna have to go to war. Beat them. It had to be done. In the beginning it was a little scary because we were certainly unprepared. Whether that was allowed to be deliberate or not, back in Washington, so that everybody would get behind it instead of trying to make the first strike. I think we had the information and they knew something was coming, but if you believe the TV and all the stories that the officers, the Navy and so forth, over in the islands didn’t have a didly of an idea that anything was happening. I do think there was information back in Washington that there was.  They were negotiating with the Japanese ambassadors. And then of course Japan joined the Nazi’s and that made the whole thing a world war.

JY: Kind of changes your perspective of things, huh?  So what event of the war stands out in your memory?

DP: Well, the one event, of course we know that the European War ended before the Japanese war did and I was never involved in the European War, but I did go overseas. I was sent to India to the CBI theatre (China Burma India Theater). I had landed and was out at a jungle camp waiting to be sent somewhere for duty when the news came that they had dropped the first atomic bomb. Of course, that was the big event.

JY: What was your opinion of the dropping of that bomb?

DP: Well, I don’t think anybody knew what to make of it except that they did keep it a secret, pretty well.  None of us were expecting it and when we realized, in a day or two, that it would mean the end of the war, we started thinking that a lot of lives were . . . a lot of Japanese people were killed, civilians and so forth.  A lot of our soldiers, American GI’s would be saved and the war would be over. So it’s not hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, but it’s something that shortened the war.  Even though it was a bad scene for the Japanese, but they brought it on themselves; the people in charge had no mercy on anybody else so we didn’t feel too badly about it. The unfortunate thing was the civilians, ‘cause the same thing happened in Europe. The civilians in Germany took the brunt of all the bombing that we did and we did it to finally . . . you know . . . so they are the ones that always suffer.

JY: So what were your general feelings about the war?

DP: Oh, it was just something that had to be done.  We just had to do it.

JY: Did your feelings change over time? And did your feelings differ from those of your contemporaries?

DP: No, my feelings did not change over time.  I suppose my feelings were . . . you know, there’s always somebody says, let’s go get those S.O.B.s, you know, let’s fight. That’s good on the battle field, of course, but I guess I wasn’t that cranked up about it. It was just something that had to be done. I can say, honestly, that I don’t know that I ever faced a shot in anger and I never dished one out . . . that’s just the luck of the draw.  I can’t speak as a combat person.

JY: Do you consider World War II a just war?

DP: I don’t consider any war a just war, but it was something that had to be done. Especially, when "we" were attacked, you know. They did have a few German u-boat people got off the east coast a little bit, it wasn’t a big deal. The same thing here, there was a few little one-man torpedo boats up and down the coast, but we weren’t in any great danger at the time. We were attacked by the Japanese . . . there was no choice.  We were in bad shape after the attack . . . caused the military, the Navy, really bad shape.  It took us quite awhile to get straightened out. One of the interesting things was how everybody in the country pitched in.  I mean, it was nothing like today, every time we have anything the press is oh, bla, bla, bla.  There was none of that.  I mean none is a blank statement, but women went to work in the shipyards, of course they got paid well, but that wasn’t the only reason.  Everybody was behind the action. This is something we have to do and we’re gonna get it done. We gonna beat those guys and that’s it.

JY: A great deal of patriotism. So where were you when you heard the war had ended?

DP: As I told you awhile ago, I was in this camp up in the boonies, north of Calcutta.

JY: Now we’re gonna switch to the home front, family life, because as some of the background reflects that you were a senior in high school, at the beginning of the war, or at least when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Were there changes in your family’s housing situation during the war?

DP: No.

JY: So did people outside the immediate family live with you?

DP: No.

JY: So, how did the war affect your family’s economic circumstances?

DP: Well, I wasn’t here a lot of the time, so I don’t know, but I think that, see I grew up in the Depression and we never had much, but nobody else did either. So everybody got along and then during the war, when I was gone, there were shortages on the home front, but none that my parents really suffered from. I think that the people locally, who were farming at the time, doing grapes or citrus or tree fruit, made a lot of money. They weren’t hurt economically, here.

JY: Do you remember difficulties in getting, food, clothing or other consumer goods during the war?

DP: As I told you, I wasn’t here much of the time. I do think it’s also true that the troops, whether it was Navy, Army or whatever, usually got the best. They got the steaks, and all that kind of stuff. Whether they appreciated it or not . . . course the guys who were out in the trenches had K-rations and stuff like that, but for those who weren’t in the trenches, they did okay.

JY: Oh, here’s a good question. Did your family participate in war bond campaigns?

DP: I don’t know, but I doubt it. By participation, do you mean buying them or selling them, or what?

JY  I think . . . yeah, I think it could be either way, either buying or selling.

DP: Well, I’m sure they bought some, but I think they were too busy taking care of their business.

JY: Do you think the war affected your dating, courting, or romantic relationships?

DP: I don’t think so. I didn’t have a steady girlfriend during the war, so it was no big deal. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a . . . what, a relationship once in awhile.  (Laughter) That’s the buzz word nowadays.

JY: Do you think unrealistic war time romances took place or were people more serious about their relationships?

DP: I think they were more serious and that, obviously, some of them took place just before somebody went overseas and they were gone a long time and, in many cases, it didn’t jell because it wasn’t meant to be in the first place, but, you know, I’m sure there was a different situation than you have nowadays.

JY: Do you think maybe the war affected how dating patterns were? I mean is there a difference from, like 1941 in dating patterns as apposed to 1946 dating patterns?

DP: Just that short period of time? I’m absolutely no authority on that, but I don’t know. In that short period of time, would it change anything . . . I think that perhaps the girls would be more interested in . . . or felt more amenable to going out on a date with some fellow. Particularly if she knew he was gonna go overseas, you know, I don’t know that it was . . . in five years time, I don’t know that the pattern changed that much.


JY: Did you enter the armed forces and which branch of the Military were you in?

DP: I was in the Army-Air Force. That was before it became a separate service.

JY: So did you volunteer or were you drafted?

DP: I volunteered.  I was signed up for two different programs and this particular one, the pre-meteorology Weather program, nailed me first. So I went with that. I had checked into my second term at UC Berkeley, got all my books, and had my lab assignments and everything, and I got the letter: "Report immediately." So I had to reverse the process and get on a train and go down to Monterey. I was supposed to go through boot camp which takes at least two or three weeks, at least, and get your basic training.  They wanted us up there at Reed to start this school, so I was only there for a couple of weeks.

JY: Can you describe your experiences in boot camp?

DP Well, it was kind of interesting, you know, I went from San Francisco down to Monterey with a whole bunch of guys that were being set to go, you know, and I was a part of them, but the NCO’s that were around, they thought I was and they kept ordering me around, so I just, you know . . . but when I got to Monterey, I wasn’t suppose to report until the next day, so I just got a hotel room and went to a movie.  I figured it was the last movie I’d see for a long time.

JY: Do you remember the title?

DP: No, no, I don’t, but then the next day I checked out of the hotel and I had a bag (they told you not to take many clothes) and I marched up to the presidio and there was a group of recruits that were training there and they had them in formation. Some guy yelled at me; he was a local guy from here. Anyway, I checked in, but it was quite an experience. They strip you down to nothing and pop you in both arms with shots and bend over for shots and all that and then they shave most of your hair off. In other words you start . . . everybody starts equal. Then they give you your uniforms and that’s it. Send your clothes home. You’re in the Army now (Laughter). I don’t remember too much about those two weeks I was there. We were supposed to . . . I guess we could go out and march outside, and I remember, you know, chow time, breakfast time was real early, like before daylight. I remember going in and sitting down, you know, and all the racket and so forth. The food was . . . I remember we had SOS or chip beef on toast and I was sitting at this table and I looked over and Joe DiMaggio was over there, yeah . . . that was somewhat interesting.  Anyway, he was there, going in at the same time I was.

JY: Now, had he already acquired his fame at this time?

DP: I think he was well known.  Yes. He had been playing for the Yankees. You know, oh yeah. But he was . . . that whole family, his brother Dom and there was another brother, they all played baseball. The family had a fish place out in, you know, in the Embarcadero in San Francisco. So they were well known.

JY: Now, was he an officer, or was he . . .?

DP: He eventually became an entertainer, you know.  They used his talents for that. They did a lot of them that way.  I remember Clark Gable went into the Air Force and went after a commission and they gave him "holy hell"; the guys did everything they could to wash him out and he took it and then he was flying after that.

JY: So, in other words, I look at it as Joe DiMaggio was not an enlisted man like yourself.

DP: Yeah, I think so, yeah, at the time. Maybe he was just going into the service like I was.

I was in India for ten months, actually on land that long, and my first assignment was at Agra, where the Taj Mahal is. We had a base outside.

JY: So what did you do there?

DP: Well, it was an Air Force Base and I was a radio . . . I had three Military Occupation Specialists (MOS’s) they call them. My first one was Cryptography.  After Reed they sent me to . . . I went to Yale and was trained in communications, to be a communications officer and I graduated there and got my commission and was stationed down in Florida for awhile on the air base. Then they eventually sent us overseas and they decided to send me to Texas . . . for some reason, to take some other course, you know, it had to do with Message Center Officer, okay. Then from there they sent me to Chanute AFB in Rantoul, Illinois to learn all the codes and ciphers.  Then I got a top secret clearance for all that and then I went to Utah and shipped over. My primary on the list was Crypto Security Officer, and I was supposed to know all those things. When I got over there, they didn’t need one and they just made me a Communications Officer and that was okay. 

JY: Now were you or your unit involved in any unusual operations?

DP: I figure I could say not. I don’t think so.

JY: So what was your first impression of that Taj Mahal there?

DP: Well, it’s stunning. You think about the history of it and how many people worked on it and how long a period and all that; it rightly deserves the title of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it really does. It was beautiful. You know, I’ve got some of the things I brought home here, just pieces of marble that had been inlaid with precious stones.

JY: Oh how nice. There aren’t many who have been up close and personal with the Taj Mahal, so you’re my first person. I recall studying that in art history. Just to look in a book at it, just looking at the lines and . . . .

DP: Well, it’s all that they say it is, you know. It’s very beautiful and of course they have tons and tons of people that go to look at it everyday. One of the things I had to do, I was special services officer and we had visiting officers come in for this and that, so I always, not always, but I often got the job of taking them into the Taj Mahal. This one guy, he wanted to go up in the minaret, and it’s pretty close quarters but it’s a long ways up to the top, you know, and I thought the guy was gonna die on me. He was middle aged and he had no business going up those steps at all.

JY: Now what’s your close estimate of how many steps that was, going up in the minaret?

DP: I never thought about it, no. It’s quite a ways, I forget.

JY: You had plenty to do, not to worry about counting steps (Laughter). Do you know how your part of the war related to the rest of the war?

DP: Well, I was not in combat, okay? So what can I say . . . I know where I was was important because this was the route over the hump into China . This was the main base, so we were outside of the city of Agra about twenty miles. They had a big air base there, joint air base with the RAF (Royal Air Force). And the big bombers or transports would come in and land there and get ready and then they’d fly the hump. That was a big deal. And Myitkyina was another base which is in Burma . Sometimes they’d go from our base to Myitkyina and then over to Kunming, China and that was our purpose, plus we, under my command, we had this radio teletype. This came all the way from the states down to the Caribbean and to Brazil and across to Dakar, Senegal and I forget what else and then they came into our place. They went to Cairo, Egypt and from Cairo to Karachi, Pakistan and Agra, India and every time it moved, the traffic moved, there was always a chance that something would screw up and it was always a pain. But they’d send messages, teletype messages from Washington D.C., that whole route would come into where we were and sometimes they would fade, you know; it was nothing like it is now.

JY: Yeah, no comparison, boy, what we didn’t know then about the introduction to new technology. Did your views towards race relations change during the war? Any specific experiences?

DP: No, I don’t think that I had any situations where we had different races where I was. The only time I had ran into it was down in Shepherd Field in Texas and I was waiting there to be transferred out to overseas and whatever and they had another section that had a whole bunch of Negro troops in there and they put me out there one day to kind of oversee their learning to shoot on the rifle range. There was a real joy, I mean, it was just so much fun (laughter), I just thought it was the greatest thing since corn flakes, you know. Yeah, I got to fly there, you know. It was really funny, really funny.  We didn’t have any problems.

JY: From some of the office skills that you learned from the various job titles that you had with the military service, how did that help you in your civilian life? Were you able to use all those skills in civilian life?        

DP: Not really, no not really. When I was training in Reed College, we were training for pre-meteorology and you have to have, you know, they just went back and reviewed all of our math. Then we had spherical trigonometry and both kinds of higher math, all that stuff. At the time, I was sharp as a razor on it, you know. I couldn’t begin to do it now. Cause it’s something you have to keep doing, you know, and I remember one thing we learned in one class, where they were teaching us how to write a letter. And the whole thing was, if you can’t say it in one page, don’t try. That stuck with me for a long time and I’d get these people that want to go on and on about something. If I have to get up and speak, which is rarely, whatever it is I have to say, I get it out pretty quick. That’s it.  That’s what we were trained to do. You can’t talk to the troops and have them sit around all day. You tell them exactly what you want them to know and that’s it. So, when (chuckle) someone goes on and on about something, I go to sleep (chuckle).  Bye.

JY: So how well were you able to adapt to the routines of military life?

DP: You mean how long did it take me?

JY: No, how well were you able to adapt?

DP: I think quite well, I mean all things considered, you didn’t have any choice, so I adapted. I mean, I wasn’t fighting it, if that’s what you mean, No. Everybody knew that everybody else had to do it, so that’s . . . life is like that. If you’re surrounded by people with the same difficulties or troubles that you are, it isn’t so bad. But if you’re the only one, then it gets bad.

JY: So were there any particular routines which you especially liked or disliked?

DP: Well, you mean when I was full commissioned and overseas and all that? No, I don’t think there was any. I didn’t think that much about it one way or the other. I suppose if I’d been an enlisted then I could say I didn’t want to be on KP, things like that, you know. So, that would be easy enough, but I didn’t have any real problems with it.

JY: So how important was war time correspondence to you?

DP: It was very important to me, ‘cause my parents would write in this V-mail . . . was it V-mail? It was not e-mail; it was VJ mail or something. It was a special kind of thin thing, kind of pale blue with a red and white border all the way around it.

JY: Oh yeah, I know what you’re talking about.  I think it is V-mail.

DP: They write to us and I get them once in a . . . you know, when ever I could get them.  They’d come in and I’d write to them, same way. And of course, our stuff was censored. Oh yeah, everything that we wrote, everybody, yeah, it was all censored.

JY: But how did you find out it was being censored?

DP: Well, we knew. We heard about it and we knew about it and I guess guys tried to put in stuff that (either knowingly or unknowingly) wasn’t allowed and they got stretched out. It really was a big deal at that time.

JY: So that’s how you stayed in touch with your family then, is with this, I remembered, it is a very pale blue, very thin paper and it all folds up and overlaps. One side had the adhesive to where you could lick it and stick it.

DP: Our address was a APO box. That way they, supposedly, didn’t know where we were, you know.

JY: So, you were in India . So how in the heck does the Post Office or postal service work?

DP: Well, I don’t know, but I assume that it was either by air or by ship. If it came by ship, (chuckle) that’s a long time. It took nearly a month to get from San Pedro to Calcutta on a general class ship, General Hershey was the name of one of them and they were built up here by Kaiser. But it took about a month to get there ‘cause we went across and hit the northern tip of Australia and went all the way around Australia, stopped at Fremantle, Australia for eight hours, picked up a couple of destroyers, the war was still on, to take us on in to Calcutta. So it took about a month. It took about a month to come home, because we went the other way. We went around through the Suez Canal and to New York. It took about a month on that on board. Well, they had a lot of people to move, you couldn’t stick them all on an airplane, you know.  Unless you were high ranking and there was a reason, you had to get there in a hurry.

JY: What do you recall doing when you had time off?  Were there entertainers or USO shows on your beat?

DP: Not really, we didn’t have any of those.  They had those out for the troops that are out in the front and that was good.  So, we weren’t suffering. Well, we played cards, you know, that kind of stuff.

JY: Is there anything or anyone you especially remember from your service time, and why?

DP: Well, I remember a lot of people. You know, I’m still in touch with some of them. They stop by here occasionally and we stop back there in Minnesota. I had one in Portland, Oregon but he’s passed away now, but we were close.

JY: Why did you stay in touch with the gentleman that lived up in Portland, Oregon? What was it about him?

DP: Well, he and I just kind of hit it off. He was having an awful time back in Yale . . . yeah, to get through Yale. They threatened to wash him out every week practically, but he finally made it. We were acquainted before that at Reed College. He lived in Portland, so we got acquainted there, had a year to get acquainted and then wound up at Yale together, okay.  And then we went overseas and we did get separated and I don’t know where he went first, but I was in Agra and I got reassigned to go to Bombay and take charge of a airbase there, that we had in joint with the RAF.  And while I was there, I’d go out to the base everyday from Bombay. I had quarters in a hotel, that’s the only way they put us up.  And they had a revolt in the Royal Indian Navy, right in the harbor. They were all over the place and shooting and this and that, so I managed to get out to the base. I won’t give you all the details, but anyway I got out there and the British brought their Mosquito bombers in. We’ll show those bloody bastards what we’ve got and it was over in 48 hours and there was some people shot and killed and all this and that, but I stayed out there until the heavy stuff was over and then I got orders to come back to Calcutta.

Then some general got on the wire and they said, "We got a guy in a hospital down in Bombay and I want you to get him and bring him with you." Well, the fighting was over then and I said, "Well, okay." This fellow from Portland, he knew about my situation, so he flew over on a plane and was gonna take us out of there and take our radio station with us, you know.  So he was there. He came and so we went into town together in a jeep with two other guys and we were armed to the teeth, carbines and pistols and the whole bit (chuckle).  I’d been living in this hotel and so I went back there to check out and get my gear and all that and Bob went with me and he stayed all night with me there.  Then we went back out and we went back to the base and flew back to Calcutta. So he really was a very close friend and he passed away about a year ago.

JY: Well, right here it says if you served overseas and we know that you did, it says what impressions do you have about the people, buildings and the culture, in the areas you served? I know what you think of the Taj Mahal. What about the people and the culture?

DP: The people were, as you know by now, you know that there were two regions or races there, the Hindu and the Islam.  They had lived together and the British was still in charge of India when I was there. But they had lived together in kind of a truce situation that had their separate religions and separate . . . of this and that, but they did business with each other, I think. They lived, you know, all over the place. And then when the British decided it was time to go . . . and Earl Louis Mountbatten was the last viceroy there and that went on, I guess, when I was there and anyway, it was time to go, and I was out of there by then. (Phone rings)

JY: Before we were interrupted, we were talking about your impressions of the people and the culture.

DP: Okay, yeah, the Hindus and the…..I want to say Pakistani’s, but they weren’t. Anyway, the two races were there, two religions, and totally different and when the British left, there was bedlam, they started killing each other, you know, for no great reason, probably there was some animosities that had built up over the years and all that and they started fleeing and killing each other. It was a real big mess, you know, but I got along okay with the Hindus. We had Sikhs and they drove all the taxis and they were very proud, tall, people, you know, they were a different religion than the Hindu and then of course the industrialists were Parsi from Persia, so they had these different. . . you know, they were pretty well separate. They had different languages too. So it was interesting, and the architecture was, of course, very different.

I got assigned to take a Sigaba machine, which is a code machine. Every week they change the wheels on it. So they had to have somebody take it up to Delhi every week or whatever and they grabbed me one time, ‘cause I was available.  They chain it up to your wrist and put you on a plane (chuckle). I rode in the belly of a B26 (chuckle. I was afraid I was gonna fall out; I didn’t have a seat hardly. But, anyway, I was up there, and I toured around in Delhi for the only time I was in Delhi.

I saw all the so called, semi-modern buildings and all the old buildings, you know, same way where I was at Agra. I’d go out and I was at the Dayalbagh Temple. I went out to Fatehpur Sikri, where the ancient Mogul conqueror first came to India . That was this big city built out there west of Delhi.  It’s all different; we saw the evidence when I was at Calcutta of the burning deaths. They still do it. They would burn the corpse by the side of the river and still had some places where their wife would be on top of it and they burn her alive. I never saw that, but I had heard if the husband died, she was to be cremated with him, so you know, it was all those kind of things and I have pictures; I took a lot of pictures. You get on into the villages and so forth; it’s very primitive. So it’s all very different, and of course, the Hindu have all their Gods and all that. I’ve got a lot pictures I brought back. It was quite an experience, different, you know. The soldiers that went to Europe, they saw a culture that was somewhat different than ours, but quite a bit like ours. That was a very different culture over there to be around it.

JY: Now the materials that they used to build their buildings with, I’m not familiar with any large forms.

DP: I didn’t pay that much attention to what that was, but I don’t know whether they used cement or what they did.  I don’t think they were very substantial. An earthquake would take them out pretty easily, I think. Out in the sticks, I got my first assignment out of that jungle camp and I was told I had to go, take my gear, and walk to this village out there and get on the train. The train was gonna take me to Agra. Well, I walked out there and here’s this village and here’s these women, just as forecast, and they’re walking around behind all these cows, and picking up the stuff and making patties, you know, and they plastered them against the side of the wall and it would dry out and then that’s fuel.

JY: They’re picking up the dung, making patties out of it and they’re sticking it up on the wall.

DP: Yeah, and it dries and then that’s what they use for fuel. And you drive around at night over there and there’s all this smoke in the air, and boy (laughter).

JY: I wasn’t thinking about the smog, I was thinking about the smell (laughter).

DP: Anyway, you know, in many ways they are very primitive.

JY: Anyway, I can feel the pain in my eyes burning here.

DP: And they have, you know, the British took advantage of what was already there and solidified it and they had lots and lots of servants. Two of us went out of Agra and lived in a very nice tent. It had double thickness and we had carpet on the floor. But it was a tent and every tent . . . there was two guys in a tent. Everybody had a bearer, it was just routine. We paid him like 30 rupees a month or something like that. It would amount to didly squat. He wanted to do everything for us, everything. Even my first day on, he wanted to hold my clothes while I stepped into them. "No," I said, "I can do my underwear," you know and stuff like that.  He’d make all the beds, wash all our clothes, do all that stuff. That’s the way they live.

JY: Is that part of their culture or is this the way that the British had?

DP: I think it was over there, because you have the four castes, you know, and the Brahmans are first and then I think it’s the soldiers and then the merchants and then the outcasts, they’re last. And they have no rights at all to speak of. They’re nothing. You can’t get out of it. You’re born into it, you’re it. That’s it. I suppose things are changing, hopefully, you know, we saw evidence of it there, saw how some of the higher casts lived and they had servants all over the place, never raised a finger.

JY: Wow, some things just don’t seem to be fair. Were you awarded any medals or citations and if so, how did you get them?

DP: Yeah, I got the standard stuff. I wouldn’t make any bones about it. It was nothing, no big deal. You know, a theatre medal, a good conduct medal and stuff like that. I didn’t get anything, I wasn’t shot, didn’t save anybody’s life that I know of. So I didn’t get anything that’s important . . . put it that way.

JY: What’s a theatre medal?

DP: If you were in the CBI, everybody got a pin, you know. If you were in the European theatre, you got one of them, you know, and so forth.

JY: Were you able to find job opportunities when you returned from the war?

DP: Well, when I returned from the war, I wanted to continue my education, so I went back to college and I got through that. I had three and half to four years to think it all over and I was shooting originally for something in science. I probably would have done okay, ‘cause I had good grades in science, but I thought about the life that my father led on the farm and all that and it seemed like an awfully nice life and I thought I’d rather do that. So, I went through, finished at Davis and one of my professors wanted me to stay and take the PhD., into a lab and all that. I said, "I don’t think so."  He said, "Why not?" And I said, "Well, you guys don’t get paid enough. My dad had made a lot of money, enough money to keep buying out his brother and his grandfather and his cousin, and things like that.  He didn’t dislike the boat, but he got out of just being a ranch farmer. So I thought it was a pretty good life. 

So, that’s when I told them I was gonna just go home and go in business with my dad. Which I did and then we built a packing house, in town here. He had been with the Exeter Fruit Association and they handled all his fruit and he wanted to be on his own, so the fact that I was willing to be . . . I volunteered to be in business with him. So he figured he could do that, so we did it.  I managed the packing house and he made sure everything got done in the field and all that.

JY  Good cooperation.  Did you take advantage of the GI Bill after the war?

DP: You bet I did. The greatest thing that ever happened. Yeah, for lots and lots of people. And the same way with the loan program they had for veterans, you know.  It allowed them to buy homes.

JY: I’m so happy to hear that.

DP: I think that in the loan program, they’ve gotten all their money back. There were very few that they had money losses and as far as education, it was great. They didn’t say, well, you’re a veteran, we’ll just pass you through. You had to get your grades.  They didn’t hand you your education, but they gave you the money to be able to survive and I did.  I didn’t have much help from my folks for that.  My mother did my laundry, I think, but of course, I could have done that too.

JY: Well, you had plenty of experience from the military.

DP: Not really, (chuckle) once you get to be an officer you don’t do that, you see.

JY: I didn’t know that. I just learned something new.

DP: Well you know, if you’re out in the front lines, everything’s different. But if you’re not in the front lines, why, those things are done for you, one way or another or you pay for them to be done. I’m not sure either, but some of the non-commissioned officers probably didn’t have to do their own laundry either.

JY: Quite a different world.  Did you join a veteran’s organization?

DP: Yes, the American Legion.

JY: So what kind of activities does your post have?

DP: Well, they sponsor a boy or two boys every year to go to Boy’s State in California.  That’s a program that I’ve been involved in. I was one of the first ones to go to Boy’s State and then in recent years, they asked me to serve on the committee to make the selections here. That’s one thing they do; it’s quite good.

JY: Okay, you’re going to have to explain something to me. I don’t know what Boy’s State is.

DP: Well, they set up a mock California government up in Sacramento and all these boys come from all over the state that have been selected and they get there and they start forming cities, electing mayors and they have a governor and lieutenant governor and a legislator and on and on and on.  They go through the whole motion of doing all these things. It gives them a practical idea of how things actually work in the state government. And not only state, because you have the cities and you elect a mayor and the whole thing. So, it’s a very good program and the American Legion has sponsored it for years. They have it now for girls too. Anyway, it’s a very good program.  That’s the only veteran’s organization I belong to. Another thing they do locally is, every Flag Day or Memorial Day, particularly, they, either themselves, or they have people help them and they go out and put flags on every veteran’s grave. That’s done every year.  And they put the big flags out. There’s an avenue of American Flags along the cemetery out here and I think they probably do that in Visalia.

JY: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve always noticed the flags in the cemetery and I’ve never given much thought as to who goes out and actually posts those flags. That’s a valuable piece of information. These questions are to be asked of all interviewees. How do you think the World War II years in Tulare County affected you?

DP: Well, other than being gone, it affected . . . one thing that I remarked about earlier, we had a Japanese family who lived on the ranch. The father was number one helper to my dad.  He did the irrigating and lot of stuff. He could barely speak English and he raised his family there and we had kind of a bunk house on one corner of the ranch and they all lived in that bunk house. I grew up on that ranch and I played with those kids and we’d catch fish in the ditch together and do all kinds of stuff, you know. When the war came why they said you’re out of here to Manzanar, California or wherever. So that was kind of a, you know . . . and when I was home one time, in uniform, the oldest boy came by the house and we said hello and this and that, but it was kind of strained. So, two of the boys live up in Selma now and have their own vineyard, but they stayed there and I can’t say that I blame them.

JY: Yeah, I was curious if they came back after the war to work for your family again.

DP: No, no.

JY: How do you think the World War II years affected the way Tulare County is now?

DP: I can’t think of a real good answer for that.  I think what has happened, in the last 60 years here, would have happened, war or no war. The development of the agriculture . . . Tulare County now is the number two county in the United States for agriculture, as far as the dollar volume of the products that we produce and sell.  So that didn’t relate to the war, I don’t think. It just happened.  The land is here, good land, good soil, and the people that want to work and do things that made it happen. 

JY: Yeah. You know there’s something I didn’t ask you. I know at some point in your life, you did get married. Did you get married during the war or after the war?

DP: After. A little after college, Helen Louise Walter.

JY: And how many children did you have?

DP: Three, Janet (Kuhn), Chuck, Marilyn (Alltucker).

JY: Three children, Okay. How many grandchildren do you have now?

DP: Two.  Uh huh. Stephen Pinkham and Veronica Pinkham.

JY: Is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered in this interview?

DP: I don’t know that there is. We’ve covered a lot of territory, you know. Basically, this is for ’46 to now, isn’t it? What happened before is not a big deal, so I won’t go into that. There’s a lot of interesting things there, but it’s not part of this program.

JY: Now I live over in Visalia, off of Pinkham. Is Pinkham named after your family?

DP: Named after the family.  You see, there’s three Pinkham families here in Exeter. Ebenezer Franklin Pinkham was number one. They all came from Canada , starting with him.  He came down to Vacaville and was doing farming and he picked up a partner and they farmed up there together. Somewhere along the line, they came down here and looked around and said this is great farming land down here and it’s cheap. So they sold out up there and came down here and started. And then my grandfather, Frank Pinkham, who was the youngest of the eight, William Pinkham’s eight children, came down later. First he went to Vacaville, then to Ceres and then he came here. I think the older brother, Ebenezer Franklin, helped him to get started.  So, Ebenezer Pinkham, the first one, became very prosperous and so forth and he moved to Southern California. He actually had an office down there in the Roosevelt Building. It was Pinkham Holdings Company. Then my grandfather, Frank, started farming as an individual.

Then one of the brothers up in Canada , actually three of them, went to Michigan. One, Joseph, became a doctor and owned a pharmacy, and the other one had a Ford Agency. The one that was the doctor, had four children and they all wanted to stay there, except this one guy, one of them., Frank C. Pinkham. His mother was kind of Irish and he went to Michigan State and said, "Hey, I don’t want to do all this stuff here." He said. "I’m going to California to see my Uncle Frank."  So, he came out here on his own and started working around on the ranches and all that and finally he got a piece of property he liked and I guess his father helped him and so he bought it and started farming here. Ultimately, he married and had two children and that was Bud Frank H. and Pat Patrick, we called them.  Those two are still here, still farming, okay, separately.

And the Pinkham that started here and then moved to Southern California, he had a son by the name of Roy Pinkham, and he came up and managed the properties and he married, Hazel, but he stayed down south.  He had four children, Ann, Edith, Peter and David. The two boys were here for awhile and, now one of the grandchildren, James, Peter’s son, is kind of running it. And Pinkham Holdings went to Pinkham Properties, Inc. and now it’s Pinkham Farms.  One of the Pinkham off-shoots owns it all now. And then I was in business with my father; we had Pinkham and Son. Then finally we sold out totally. So there were three, but I think the school in Visalia was named after the Pinkham, now called Pinkham Farms, because they owned an 80 acre piece over there, where the school is. And they had plums or prunes or something and at a certain time of the year, it created some dust and flies or whatever and people started moving in and building homes around there and then they started belly-aching about all the dust and the this and the that.  They went to court finally and finally the two Pinkham boys, David and Peter, that were running Pinkham farms just said the hell with it and they just sold it. But then, later on, they decided to build a school there, you know, and who ever was in charge just said, "Well, why don’t we let the kids name this school." So the kids came up with (chuckle) Pinkham School.

JY: And my youngest son, he graduated from there.

DP: Is that right?

JY: Yeah, so when I saw your name, I’m like, Pinkham, hey, I’d like

to get to meet you. So I’m very happy to meet you. And I just love history and it’s interesting to be able to grab on and find out how do things get named and where does the origin begin and

all that.

DP: I’m in the Tulare County Historical Society. So I’m involved in history too and my mother, for some reason, was always involved in genealogy and that sort of thing.  And she finally carried it to the point where she had all the research done so she could into DAR. While she was there, she got my dad into SAR, but anyway, so while she was at it she made sure that I got in too, ‘cause once she was in, there was no sweat to get me into SAR and then her grandchildren, our three children, yeah, she got them into CAR and they could care less.  But anyway, all this history, I grew up

with her always talking about the family and the history and who’s related to who, bla, bla, bla. It was kind of like this, you know. But somehow, some of it stuck and then when she passed away, she had these file folders, tons and tons and tons of stuff and pictures, stacks of them.  Pictures of the family, way back, and all that, you know, that she collected and I fell heir to all this stuff and I started looking at it and thinking about it and just one thing led to another and I just got interested in it to a certain extent. So I kind of keep things in my head about who’s related to who in relationships and so forth. Most people don’t give a hoot, you know. It doesn’t make you a better person or anything like that, it’s just interesting.

JY  It is interesting, yeah.  Well, thank you very much.

DP: You’re welcome.

11/7/2003 J. Yoder/Transcriber: pd/ Editor: J Wood 3/30/2006

Words in italics were added as clarification when editing and during a phone interview with Donald Pinkham on March 30, 2006.