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
Report No: 96
Place of Interview: Visalia, CA
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY
Note: It was very hard to understand the tape of this interview. Only one of the microphones was on.
CD: Today is May 12, 2004, and we are doing Years of Valor, Years of
Hope. Could you state your name and spell it please?
AP: Arlene Pratt.
CD: Okay. We might as well start out with what we were talking about
just now. You had a friend who married an Italian prisoner of war.
Could you tell me about that?
AP: She went to
school with my husband class of ’42. And I don’t know quite how they met or anything, but he (Angelo Mirizzi) was a prisoner
of war out at Tagus Ranch. And they
married and met; he never went back to
CD: Oh! What was her name?
AP: Mary Barletta
CD: Mary Barletta. And you have no idea how they met?
AP: I have no idea.
CD: Do you ever remember seeing the prisoners of war? Were you here;
Where did you live during that time?
AP: I lived on Tulare Avenue during this time. And it’s really strange,
because at that time there was about eleven thousand people in Visalia and I walked across a vacant field to go to COS. It was
completely vacant. (ED: College of the Sequoias, a local Junior College.) Our house is at the corner of Crow and Tulare, west of Mooney, and it was all vacant except for the college. The vacant field
bordered the south side of the college.
CD: Right, wow.
AP: Tulare Avenue ended about three blocks west of Mooney Boulevard.
CD: Yes, oh yes, especially out there. Let’s start out with your background. When did your family settle in Tulare County?
AP: I was born and raised here. My mother and dad, Angele (Borel) and Harry Donkersley Sr., met in Delano and were married in Delano, California and then he worked for the Edison Company and he was transferred here. And this is where we ended up. My mother and father both passed away here.
CD: Do you mean that was right at this house?
AP: No, not in this house, but in Visalia.
CD: And so how old were you when Pearl Harbor happened?
AP: Let’s see, it was 1941 so I was born in ’26. Fourteen.
CD: Oh you were fourteen so you remember it well. What do you remember of that day?
AP: I remember hearing it on the radio and we thought it was a joke
right at first, you know, this couldn’t be: bombing Pearl Harbor.
In fact we wondered where Pearl Harbor was. And a classmate of mine was a delivery boy of our Visalia Times Delta and he came out
on his bicycle with a special edition on Sunday morning saying Pearl
Harbor had been bombed.
CD: Did they have a map to show you where it was?
AP: No. They did explain it was in Honolulu.
CD: Right. So on the panel there was a Doctor Kitano who said he wasn’t surprised that it happened. Did that surprise you?
Ed: This interview was done after the last program in April, 2004
when we had a panel of people who were in Tulare County when
World War II started. Arlene Pratt was also on this panel.
AP: Yes it did, it really did, because in retrospect, in looking ahead further
there were innuendoes that they really knew this was going to happen. But at the time I was a youngster, and I did not realize that this was going to happen. It was just a shock, a big shock to all of us.
CD: Yeah. And how did your parents react?
AP: They were shocked too, very, very surprised. They just couldn’t believe it.
CD: They couldn’t believe what?
AP: That we had been actually bombed by the Japanese.
CD: Right. So the attitude was that the
AP: Yes. They just didn’t think anything like that would ever happen.
Like I said, we thought it was a joke right away but it was no joke.
CD: No, no. What was the conversation like that night at dinner? Was it
scared? Did you have any older brothers?
AP: I had younger brothers; I was the oldest. My younger brothers, Harry and Robert Donkersley, as I recall,this was a long time ago to remember, you know. I don’t remember the exact conversations. But I think we were just shocked and we just went on our merry ways, though, lived our lives like we normally would but in the days to come, really, we didn’t know when they started taking our boys.
CD: Right. When did that start?
AP: Oh, probably just right immediately. I mean, they mobilized. They
had the draft and the boys were drafted. My husband could have been exempt because he was living here on the ranch and we were a dairy at that time and he could have been exempt but there was no way he was going to stay home.
AP: Because all his friends were going; there was no way he was going
to stay here and not indulge himself in the war. So he signed up for the Marine Corp.
CD: Wow. Before he got drafted?
AP: Before he got drafted, yes.
CD: And how old was he?
AP: He was nineteen, I think.
CD: Nineteen, and he had already graduated?
AP: Yes, he graduated in ’42 but he had graduated midway because he skipped a grade and then he graduated from High School in three and a half years. So he was a very young, a very young sixteen when he graduated.
CD: Oh my gosh! And what is your husband’s name?
CD: Glenn Pratt, and is this where he was born, by any chance?
On this piece of property?
AP: No, he was born, see, in this house right here, (pointing to a picture) the old home place.
CD: Right next door?
AP: No it was uptown where the bottling part of the dairy was.
He had the cows, and his uncle, Ira Pratt, had the bottling part on Houston Avenue and,now what was the question?
CD: About where he was born. And did they move the house?
AP: No. This was built in 1935 and then they moved out here from this old home place.
CD: Oh, okay, I gotcha.
AP: He was born in the same room that his dad (Orval Pratt) was, in this house where his grandparents (Thomas and Jewel [Huffacker] Pratt) were married.
CD: So how far back does his family go?
AP: 1882 when they first came to California.
CD: So they settled on that farm on Houston?
CD: Oh my gosh! So what was school like the next day? When did school start getting where they were paying attention to the war and wondering about the graduating classes?
AP: Well, you know, I’m just kind of oblivious about that. I don’t really recall. I know a lot of fellows in my class did not graduate. They left to go into the service before they graduated even. And as far as the other classes are concerned, they were just all going, you know, being drafted and going into the army. I just don’t recall specifically.
CD: Like after school sports and dances?
AP: We always had those. We were still fourteen. We were of the age of not…we were seniors before the boys started enlisting. I was a freshman when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
CD: So you went through the whole high school and then by the time you were a senior, then they started taking all the boys in the class. And so tell me, what was your family business? What did your parents do?
AP: My mother was a housewife and my dad worked for the Edison Company.
CD: And how did his job change once the war started?
AP: It didn’t, really. His job didn’t change. He was the head of EDS
on Ben Maddox way and that’s where he remained. In fact,
I was telling somebody the other day that we didn’t really know what the Depression was like because we were living down in Pasadena at the time where he’d been transferred, and they fired everybody up to his level. So we never had experienced the bread lines and all that kind of thing.
CD: Right, because your father was employed in a very good job.
AP: My husband’s family struggled. I mean, they grew their own food, and they raised their own meat; they really had a tough time.
CD: Right, they’re farmers.
AP: Farmers, they have a tough time.
CD: Yeah, farmers are used to that (chuckle). And so tell me a little about the rationing.
AP: Oh, we had gas rationing, and sugar was rationed. So was butter.
We put makeup on our legs instead of wearing nylons or hose because they didn’t make hosiery at that time. But we never seemed to be without, for some reason. Whether our parents just managed well or what, I don’t know, but we never had a problem with having food, and my mother always baked so she must have gotten her butter and sugar from somewhere. And of course, my husband being on the ranch here, the farmers got extra gas. That was the one plus of being a farmer. You had extra gas.
CD: Yeah. So, did she ever bake with that new (substitute for butter).
AP: I’m not really sure. I can’t remember because I wasn’t much in the kitchen at that time. I’ve worked from the time I was fifteen after school, so she always had dinner and everything all ready by the time I got home from work. In fact when I got married I had to call her every night to find out how to make something because I had never cooked!
CD: Invite her over for dinner and have her cook (chuckle)? And what was your job?
AP: First I worked for J.C. Penney when I was in high school. I worked there until probably my senior—no, after my senior year, when I started my freshman year in COS I still worked there. And then I quit and worked for the Main Drug Store for a while. And then finally after I graduated from COS I applied at the Edison Company and there I worked until I retired when I had my first daughter and I’ve been a housewife ever since.
CD: Okay. Did the rationing affect J.C. Penney’s or the Main Drug Store?
AP: Yes it did. I remember the sheets. We used to get a lot of sheets and they’d have a special sale for sheets every time they’d get their sheets and then that was it for a while. We didn’t have any sheets for a while.
CD: You just wouldn’t even have sheets?
AP: No, we wouldn’t even have sheets.
CD: That’s hard to imagine.
AP: Yes it is.
CD: And what else?
AP: That is all I can remember. That’s what came to my mind anyways.
CD: But the nylons? Did J.C. Penney’s just not have any nylons?
AP: I don’t remember that. We didn’t wear them. We just wore leg makeup at that time. I don’t remember when we started getting all these things in. It must have been probably ’46. I made the move to the Edison Company and that was in ’46.
CD: That’s interesting. So in 1946 you could go buy them. And tell me about the leg makeup.
AP: It was just awful stuff. It was terrible. It was plastered on your legs
and it made your legs look real brown. Like you had nylons on.
CD: Wow. What was it called?
AP: Just leg makeup.
CD: And it wouldn’t get on your dress?
AP: Not after it dried. It had to dry first.
CD: And in your opinion, how did that work? Did it look like nylons?
AP: No, it looked terrible. But it beat not having any color on your legs.
CD: Right, so people did it just as a substitute. What about, I thought the
makeup was the black line going up the back of the leg to make it look like silk stockings.
AP: Well, the nylons when they first came out did have the actual line in the back of their stockings.
CD: Would you do that, put the black line on the back of your legs?
AP: No, some did. I didn’t.
CD: Oh, that’s what I thought about the leg makeup. How funny. Tell me about COS. What year was it when you first started?
CD: And were you in one of the first classes? I don’t even know when COS started.
AP: COS moved from the high school in 1941. When I was in high school in 1941, that was the first year that COS had moved out from the high school. It used to be on the Redwood campus.
CD: Oh, was it in a separate building?
AP: No, I don’t know how it worked because it was gone by the time I got there.
CD: Right. Huh. That’s interesting.
AP: They started in 1941-1942.
Ed According to the College of the Sequoias catalog 2004-2005, the college district was established in 1925 and moved to its current site in 1940.
CD: So when you started, what was available and how many kids and stuff?
AP: Oh gee, there were one hundred and twelve students. Twelve were guys and the rest were women. Everybody else was in the service. 4F’s that had stayed and also ones that had served and gotten out of the service.
CD: Gotten out of the service, huh.
AP: There were not many guys. In fact, you talk about dances. For the girls, it got really slim pickings as far as we were concerned. We would go to Tulare, and the cadets from Rankin Field would come over and dance at dances up there. And visa versa, they also from Sequoia Field would come to Visalia and have dances.
CD: And where would they have the dances?
AP: I’m trying to think what building it was in Tulare. They are off Tulare Street by,I’m not sure which building it was, it was not the PGAV, but it was some kind of a building like that. Also, the senior prom, or the prom at COS, they had brought fellows in from Rankin Field.
CD: There was a prom at COS? How long did that happen. ‘Cause they don’t have that any more, do you think?
AP: Not that I know of.
CD: Oh, that’s interesting.
AP: In fact, they crowned a Jane and Joe College at this particular prom, and I was Jane College.
CD: You were Jane College!
AP: Can you believe it (chuckle)? And Grady Frymire was Joe College.
CD: What was his name again?
AP: Grady Frymire. And I believe he is deceased.
CD: How cute. I wonder how long that lasted?
AP: I don’t know.
CD: And why wasn’t he drafted, or why wasn’t he in the war?
AP: I’m not sure. He might have served and come home. I really don’t know.
CD: How did you get him as a prom date?
AP: He wasn’t my date. The girls chose Joe College and the guys chose Jane College.
CD: Oh, all twelve of them chose you (chuckle).
AP: They voted for me, you know.
CD: So who was your prom date?
AP: I don’t remember; that was too long ago, it was sixty years ago.
CD: Oh, with the slim pickings. Oh so, when you went to high school, did you have very many Japanese friends?
AP: I had a very good girl friend, Hatsumi Maeda. She was a senior when I was a freshman. And she kind of took me under her wing. And she was such a beautiful, beautiful person inside and out. She was just lovely. And I don’t know what happened to her.
CD: Do you know; did she get sent away?
AP: I have no idea. I don’t know if she graduated that year I was a freshman. And I’ve lost track of her. But she was a sweetie.
CD: Do you remember when they put the Japanese on the trains and sent them away?
AP: I hard them talking about it but I don’t remember precisely.
CD: So your mom didn’t go to the train station or anything?
AP: My mom was a watcher. She watched out for the planes. She had a platform that she would stand on with her binoculars and watch planes going overhead and recorded them when they came, in case there was someone that was flying who shouldn’t be.
CD: How did she get involved in that?
AP: She volunteered for it, I’m sure. I don’t recall.
CD: But you remember her doing it.
AP: Yes, in fact I have a picture of her here, somewhere.
CD: Oh, you do!
AP: Yeah, she’s got her binoculars, looking skyward.
CD: What time of day would she do that?
AP: Well, it had to be probably morning or afternoon, I’m not sure.
I was probably busy working or at school. I just knew that she did it.
CD: Right. And where was the platform?
AP: It was by the ball park.
CD: By the current ballpark on Goshen/Murray or whatever?
Ed: There is a minor league baseball club in Visalia that plays at a
Ballpark on the corner of Murray and Giddings Streets.
AP: Yes, it was right in there.
CD: Right, huh. Why don’t you tell the story that your husband
Has about his Japanese friends in high school. And some of them got sent where?
AP: They were sent to the Tulare Fairgrounds. And a friend of his, Bob Ingram, had a roadster and they would go over after hours, and Alan would climb over the fence and jump into the roadster and they would drive around all night, have a lot of fun, and then they would get him back, and he’d climb over the fence again before roll call the next morning, so nobody missed him at all. He was a nice guy.
CD: And what was his name?
AP: Allan Ansai
CD: And did their family get shipped to a different place?
AP: I’m not sure what happened to him.
CD: Right, he was saying he couldn’t keep track, yeah. Did you ever see the camp at the Tulare County Fairgrounds?
AP: Not that I recall. I don’t remember ever going over there.
CD: But did you hear about it?
AP: I heard about it.
CD: And did you ever see the prisoner of war camp at Tagus Ranch?
AP: No, I don’t remember seeing that at all.
CD: Do you ever remember seeing workers, German workers?
CD: Yeah, okay, what your mom volunteered for, was that an air raid shelter, what was it called, do you remember?
AP It was just a lookout.
CD: Just a lookout.
AP: Just a lookout, to look out for planes flying overhead, anything unusual that she would spot, well she’d have to report it.
CD: And did she ever?
AP: Not that I know of.
CD: So tell me a little bit about the job market and housing situation during the war years.
AP: Well, being a kid, it didn’t affect me at all, and I don’t recall worrying about anything. And the job market, I always worked from the time I was fifteen. And my girlfriends all had jobs working different places. But as far as housing is concerned, I was not aware of any problems. There might have been, but . . . .
CD: Do you guys think you got jobs because the men weren’t here?
AP: I don’t think so. Because I first started out as a clerk at Penney’s and then I graduated to the office and I worked there in the office for a couple of years, and there were no men working in the offices at that time; they were all women.
CD: And what was the pay?
AP: Thirty five cents an hour.
AP: It was raised to forty. On nine dollars a week I bought all my clothes,
Of course I put ‘em on layaway, but I bought all my clothes, all my school stuff, everything, on nine dollars a week.
CD: Wow, so you earned your money and you kept it for your stuff and helped support yourself?
AP: Yes. I was trying to help my folks out.
CD: So pretty much, all your friends worked?
AP: Most of them did, yes.
CD: What did your family do to support the war effort?
AP: We bought war bonds. That was the main thing I could remember.
My dad was always picking up servicemen hitchhiking. Whenever he went down south on business or something, we would always pick up and take a service man that was hitchhiking; they all hitchhiked then. And you felt very secure and save picking up a serviceman. And they just appreciated it so much. And one time, right at the ridge, we picked up one of my classmates, unbeknowing, who had graduated from high school with me; he was a sailor.
CD: How did your dad have gas to go down to LA?
AP: I don’t know if the company provided it because he had a company car from the Edison Company. I don’t know for sure, but I think so.
CD: And nowadays you have to have seatbelts. How did you guys all squeeze all in?
AP: Oh, there was no seatbelts, none whatsoever in those days.
CD: And if there wasn’t room, would you still pick up somebody and you guys would just squish in?
AP: Well, we always had room, because there were only two or three of us in the car.
CD: Oh, that’s nice. How did you go about buying war bonds? Do you remember them pushing them at school?
AP: I’m trying to think. I think they pushed them on the radio. You know, we didn’t have TV back then but the radio would encourage us to buy war bonds and the newsreels in the theater. The only way we got pictures of the war were the newsreels. We didn’t have them right in the living room like we do now. And they were pushing war bonds then. And different celebrities would come through and push war bonds.
CD: Oh, who came?
AP: I think, oh she’s dead, Clark Gable’s girlfriend, Carol Lombard.
CD: She came here?
AP: She came through.
CD: Like on a train and waved?
AP: I didn’t see her. I just heard she’d come here.
CD: I heard that Bing Crosby played at the golf course, did you hear that?
AP: I didn’t hear that.
CD: How did you feel about the newsreels, were they scary to you?
AP: No, they weren’t scary. They just depicted what the boys were going through. We thought about our friends over there, what they were having to go through. But it didn’t scare me, it just gave me information.
CD: Did your family have a victory garden?
AP: No we didn’t. I was a city girl.
CD: Did your husband’s family consider a victory garden or were they
AP: They were just feeding themselves.
CD: And what role do you think churches played during the war?
AP: That is a deep question. I don’t have an opinion about that. I really don’t know.
CD: Do you think they took an active role or business as usual?
AP: I’m really not sure. I have no idea. I just imagine…I can’t even hazard a guess because I think it’d be business as usual but I think they would probably encourage our support of the troops. All that sort of thing. But I can’t say for certain.
CD: Your family wasn’t affiliated with one of the churches?
AP: My mother went to the Catholic Church. And I think it was just business as usual there.
CD: Yeah, Catholics have been through a couple of wars themselves.
Do you remember at school hearing announcements that you had to go out and help pick cotton?
AP: Oh yes, they let us all go out and pick cotton. They couldn’t get helpers to pick cotton. Back then they did it by hand. They didn’t have cotton pickers like they have now. So they let the whole school out and they took us by bus out to different fields. I don’t know exactly where we went now, but we all picked cotton.
CD: Was it hard?
AP: Well, some of those kids that had been raised with their families working in the fields, they could really pick cotton.
CD: Oh, you remember that?
AP: Oh, I remember, ‘cause I think I made thirty five cents all afternoon!
I was not a very good cotton picker.
CD: What did the other ones make?
AP: Oh gosh, I don’t know. But they had huge bags full. I just had a little bunch in the bottom of my bag (chuckle).
CD: That’s funny (chuckle). Do you think it was volunteer or did you have to go?
AP: Well, they let us out of school to do this, so we felt we had to get on that bus and go help.
CD: And they paid you?
AP: Yes. I was really embarrassed.
CD: Oh, because you couldn’t pick it very well?
AP: Well, I only made thirty five cents all afternoon. I would have starved to death if I had to do this for a living!
CD: I think you would have learned fast. What else did people do back then for fun, besides movies?
AP: Let’s see, what
did we do? Movies and get together for
dances and during the war there was a –
what we called "
CD: So where was this house? It was on South Court?
AP: South Court, It used to be South Court extension, they called it.
I don’t even know where the house is right now. And like I say, it was out in the country. But it was south of Walnut. I’ll have to ask Jean sometime where that house was. But her parents were very, very giving and they really felt, for a lot of servicemen, that this would be a lovely Sunday afternoon for them.
CD: It is, and what was the name of the owners?
AP: Mr. and Mrs.
Switzer. That’s why they called it "
CD: Oh, how cute. That name sounds familiar. Is the family still here?
AP: Yes, the daughter is. Her name is Jean Switzer.
CD: And the house was big enough just to invite whoever?
AP: Yes, because they had a huge yard. And we’d just go out into the yard and have our fun out there.
CD: Yeah, that’s neat. What about when you went to COS? What was around COS in 1946?
AP: There was nothing.
CD: Mearl’s wasn’t there yet?
AP: Tad’s diner was there. That was the only thing across the street. We’d go over there and have lunch and play bridge and all that kind of stuff. That was our hangout. Yeah, that’s been there forever.
My husband worked. When he went to COS he was in Building Trades
And he helped build a house right down from Tad’s. And that was about the first house out there. In fact, do you know where the
Mineral King Bowl is now?
AP: Well, that was the edge of town. It was all vacant west of there.
CD: Oh. So COS was really out in "bumpkin land" then?
AP: Out in the country. Like I said, when I lived right across the street from it; that was all open fields.
CD: Wow. So they built Tad’s there because COS was there?
AP: Evidently. It’s been there since as I can remember.
CD: Does it look the same?
CD: Do they serve the same stuff?
AP: Probably. We would just have cokes.
CD: Oh, you would have cokes and play bridge. That’s neat.
How do you think the war affected your family?
AP: Well, I don’t really think it affected my family per se because my brothers were both too young to go into the service so they didn’t have to do that. But all my friends did. And of course, my dad still had a good job and my mother was able to stay home and take care of her family. We were just normal individuals. My mother didn’t go to the factories and work, you know, build planes and warships like a lot of the women did during the war. In fact, my husband’s aunt, Leona Sunkel, she went from a rural town close to Lake Tahoe; she went to the city to work then.
CD: Oh, did she? What did she say that was like?
AP: I didn’t talk to her about it. I didn’t know her then. But later I heard them talking about it.
CD: When did you and your husband meet?
AP: In 1943. He had already graduated from high school and I was a Junior in High School. And it was really funny because we had a mutual friend, he was one of the few who had a car, he’d gone to Reno and bought his own car and came home, so he had Johnny pick my friend and I up at noon time to take us back to school and that was a block and a half from school. At least he met me so he could ask me to go home with him from the ice skating rink.
CD: So he asked you to go out. And I suppose you said yes?
AP: Yeah, because I knew him. If I hadn’t known him, I wouldn’t have agreed.
CD: Oh right, that’s true. How cute. He bought a car in 1942?
AP: It was a ’40 Mercury.
CD: So he bought a used car?
AP: He paid six hundred dollars for it. He had earned all the money himself, working as a carpenter in Reno, built the airfield there in Reno with his uncles, Franklin and Truman Sunkel, and we sold it later and he got the same amount of money for it.
CD: You guys are the only ones that I know that bought a car during the war years.
AP: Oh, really?
CD: Nobody used whatever they had before the war started.
AP: Every kid didn’t have a car back then.
CD: So how did your guys get around?
AP: We used our parents’ cars, if they weren’t using them. My dad had his company car, so he always had an out. They really had just one car, plus the company car.
CD: Right. Somebody was pals with him so they could have the car.
You mentioned about the ice skating rink. Where was the ice skating rink?
AP: That was on South Mooney, way out in the boonies, probably two or three blocks south of Tulare Avenue on the east side of the road.
CD: Oh, okay, it was not too far from where the Mall is.
AP: It was an old building there that -- oh we had more fun there.
Everybody ice skated. Then they tore it down. Then they had one out by the airport in later years.
CD: Oh, I remember that. Now I just hate looking at that building now.
But that was really far away for an ice skating rink. How would they get business?
AP: My parents would drop me off and they’d come pick me up. And my dad always made sure that we girls followed the ball games, the basketball games. He would always take a car and load it up with us girls so we could go to the games. They didn’t have –what do they call them,bleacher buses or whatever they have now to take people to go watch the games. They didn’t have that back then, they just took the players and that was it.
CD: Right. And what basketball games would you watch?
AP: The intramural ones, like between Delano, Hanford, Porterville, and Exeter. And let’s see, what else. Did I say Tulare? Anyway, just the regular teams.
CD: As the boys were getting drafted, the basketball teams weren’t very old, were they?
AP: No, they were very young, very young.
CD: Gosh, that was neat about that Ice Skating rink. Was there anything else fun to do in Visalia then?
AP: We always found something to do. Anything organized, I don’t . . .we were busy working. But I can remember on lazy summer afternoons, lying out on the grass at my Tulare Avenue home, and watch them practice dog fighting from Sequoia Field. The planes would practice dog fighting and I’d watch them up there and it was really interesting to see.
CD: What did it look like?
AP: One after another, you know, they would veer away from each other
And try to get each other in their sights, and it was really dog fighting.
CD: Wow. That’s interesting. And what was the name of the ice rink?
AP: I don’t think it had a name. Just Ice Skating.
CD: I’d think it would be hard to keep all that ice during the summer, way out there.
AP: No, it wasn’t.
CD: Do you remember where you were when they dropped the A-bomb?
AP: I don’t remember
where I was, but I remember it very vividly, because
I was so thankful that they did that, because my husband’s unit was getting prepared to invade
CD: So your husband
was getting prepared to invade
AP: Uh, huh.
CD: And did you know that?
AP: No. They censured all the mail then. But he never would give me anything about that. I found out about that later on.
CD: Were you guys married by then?
CD: But he was writing?
AP: Oh, yeah. We corresponded all the time. We weren’t married until 1948.
CD: And so he wrote back a lot of letters. Did his letters ever get censured?
AP: I imagine they did, but he never wrote anything that they cut out.
CD: Oh really. You didn’t have big black lines, and it wasn’t cut?
AP: No, it was mainly love letters.
CD: Oh, that’s so cute (chuckle).
AP: I guess he didn’t want to write about the war.
CD: So what was the
reaction in Visalia when the A-bomb was dropped and
AP: Well, everybody was extremely happy, extremely happy that this all transpiring. I never heard anybody say anything against it. They were just so thankful that the Japanese surrendered.
CD: Right. So there weren’t any negative feelings.
CD: What about when Europe surrendered, I mean when the European Theater was done?
AP: I remember that because I was still working at Penney’s. And everybody ran outside and hugged everyone else. We were just thrilled about that too.
CD: That happened before, didn’t it? I get my times mixed.
AP: I think it happened afterwards. June the 6th, 1945.
CD: So you remember . . .how did it . . .was somebody listening to the radio, or how did the news come through?
AP: I don’t remember. I think somebody just came yelling into the store that they had surrendered in Europe, you know, and we all went running out of the store.
CD: Just like in the magazines, everybody hugging everybody?
AP: Oh yeah, it was happy; people were honking their horns; it was just so exciting.
Ed: June 6, 1944 was D-Day. V-E day was May 8, 1945. V-J day was August 15, 1945.
CD: Yeah, neat. Boy. Do you remember the election during the war years? The presidential election during the war years?
CD: Do you remember that it happened?
AP: I remember when President Roosevelt died, but I don’t remember the elections because I wasn’t voting at that time. So I wasn’t paying much attention to the elections.
CD: What was the reaction when Roosevelt died?
AP: Everybody was just shocked.
CD: Shocked? They didn’t realize he was sick?
AP: No. In fact, he kept his disabilities very well hidden. He did not want people to know he was crippled.
CD: Did your parents know that he couldn’t stand on his own?
AP: No, he just hid it so well. In every circumstance, everything that he participated in, it was completely hidden from the public.
CD: So he died and everybody was shocked, just out of the blue.
AP: It just happened very suddenly.
CD: And then, did people have faith in who was taking over, Truman?
AP: Well, as I said, I wasn’t too much into politics back then, and I don’t know what the reaction was to him, but he did a fairly decent job.
CD: So you just remember when the president died. I guess it would be shocking. Even though, now we know he was sick. It is hard to imagine.
AP: It couldn’t happen now.
CD: Yeah. So how was the homecoming when the boys came back home?
AP: They came back at varying times, you know. And one at a time. And of course their families were extremely happy to see them. And of course I was out of college by then, so I didn’t see the influx of students.
CD: Oh I see, coming back. What about, were you engaged?
AP: No, just a boyfriend. We were engaged January 1, 1946.
CD: That’s romantic.
AP: He put my ring on my finger as it struck twelve o’clock.
CD: Wow, how romantic. So that’s why you’re still married (chuckle).
AP: Yeah, fifty eight years.
CD: Oh my gosh. Well, how was his homecoming? Do you remember him coming home?
AP: Yes, very pleased to see him all in one piece.
CD: Yeah. So he wasn’t injured at all?
AP: No, but he did have a roof fall on him.
CD: Where was that?
CD: Yeah, wow, so he comes home, that’s neat. So now all the men are home from war, did you see a big change in Visalia, in Tulare County?
AP: No, not per se, because they straggled in one at a time. And there wasn’t a great influx of a huge group of people that I recall, but it was just one at a time, people coming back into town.
CD: But people have said there wasn’t enough housing at that time.
AP: Could be.
CD: But about when you got married? Where did you guys live?
AP: My dad had just passed away in March, March 1st ,and we were married May 15th and he had just passed away so we lived with my mother for a few months. And my in-laws moved this little house over here on the corner in, and then we went and lived there for the first twelve years. And then my father-in-law, Orval Pratt, died, and my mother-in-law, Anna Lorene (Sunkel) Pratt moved to town and then we moved into this house. We were married right here in front of this window.
CD: Wow, right here in this property. Neat.
AP: But the city’s coming our way. It’s going to encompass us, I’m sure.
The city limits are right across the street down here.
CD: Haven’t the city limits always been there?
CD: Oh, did they move it?
AP: Annexed six hundred eighty acres across the way here from us.
CD: Just for the tape, we are talking about the annexation of the Shannon property for the new baseball park, which is just across the street from where Arlene and I are sitting.
AP: It’s down about a mile, at the corner of River Way and Highway 63. There’s 80 acres there and they are supposed to start on that very soon.
CD: Right. These trees are beautiful.
AP: I can remember when they were planted.
CD: Oh really!
AP: This is all row crops over here. The walnuts, I can remember when they were planted and thinking, Oh, my gosh, those trees are going to block our view. They’re beautiful and they’ve buffered the sound. When those trees are bare you can really hear the sounds of downtown.
CD: So when did they plant them?
AP: I don’t remember the year.
CD: About in the ‘50’s?
AP: In 1970.
CD: Those trees last a long time. They are old beautiful trees.
Let’s see. Were your parents’ part of any organization like
The Lions or Rotary or . . . .
AP: My dad was a member of the Masons. He was a Mason. In fact, he helped organize Cutler-Orosi area for the masonry before he died. He died very young; he was only forty six years old. He died of a massive heart attack so . . . .
CD: Wow. And how high did he get up in the Masons?
AP: I’m not sure what degree. I don’t know what degrees are there.
CD: I think thirty two is . . .
AP: I don’t know.
CD: Did he ever talk about the secret ceremonies and all that?
AP: No, he didn’t. And he also won the Silver Beaver from the boy scouts.
CD: What’s that?
AP: It was actually a silver beaver ribbon. And they got it for exemplary work with the boy scouts. Both my brothers were cub scouts and boy scouts and all that sort of thing. And he was very helpful with that organization. It’s a very high honor.
CD: Oh, that’s neat. It sounds like almost being an Eagle scout.
AP: More than that.
CD: Oh, it’s bigger than being an Eagle Scout?
AP: It’s bigger than that because it’s the background, the higher ups, it’s not being an actual scout; it’s doing work for the organization.
CD: So he helped organize the Cutler-Orosi ones.
AP: The Masons, yes.
CD: Yeah, the Masons. And was he part of anything else?
AP: No, I don’t think so, as I recall.
CD: Do you remember the granges?
AP: Mmm hmm.
CD: And what were they?
AP: The granges? Actually, there’s one over here on 328 and there’s one over here on Shirk. I don’t really know, except it had something to do with farming. Our son was a member of the 4H and they met over at the grange on 328.
CD: Yes, somebody had mentioned them and I’d never heard of them before and so I thought I’d ask. And, do you remember, with the rationing, do you remember any black market with the gas or anything?
AP: No I don’t. There probably was a lot going on that we were not aware of. But I don’t remember anything per se.
CD: Was there ever a shortage of electricity? Did the war affect your father’s job at all?
CD: Things just went on as usual with electricity?
AP: Uh huh.
CD: Okay. I guess that’s pretty much most of the
questions. This is my last one. Or the second to the last one. Overall, how did your family, or Visalia, feel about the
AP: You have never seen such patriotism in your life as there was in World War II. Everybody pulled together. Everybody was very patriotic and supportive toward the troops. You didn’t get any of this stuff that’s going on today at all. Of course, we didn’t have the media influence like we have today; we didn’t have the war in our living rooms. But we were very supportive.
CD: And how would you say they showed their patriotism? How would you say Visalia showed their patriotism?
AP: Well, by participating in war bonds. And, that’s the main thing. I don’t remember if they used to have blood drives back then or not. Like I say, you’re pulling back from memory.
CD: Yeah, lots of years ago. But you’ve been interviewed three times. I’ve been thinking about this (chuckle).
Ed: The tapes of the first and second interview were done with defective equipment or equipment that was not set up properly. This is the third time Arlene Pratt was interviewed.
AP: True. But you’ve asked different questions.
CD: Oh did I? Did I miss anything that was in your other interviews?
AP: I don’t think so. You’ve been pretty thorough.
CD: So overall, how do you think, if you had to pin it down. It sounds like your family during the Depression and during the war, your family went on and wasn’t greatly affected. Did you see any affect on Tulare County?
AP: Not that I was aware of. I mean, everybody just pulled their belts in and dug their heels in and just, you know. There was never a thought of not being loyal to our troops and that was the foremost thought in our minds when our boys were overseas. And we were very patriotic and that’s about it.
CD: What do you think the biggest difference is between the feeling now about going to war and the feeling in the forty’s, going to war.
AP: Oh, it’s too big of an issue to talk about.
CD: So, things on your mind?
AP: It is just a completely different world today. Just a completely different world, a different time, a different mind set. Not every one is committed to what we are doing now. There is just so much dissension, it is just sad for our country to be in this situation now.
CD: Yeah. So did you feel like we were justified to go to war in the forty’s, in World War II?
AP: Oh yes. We were attacked. And we were attacked at the World Trade Center too.
CD: Yes, so how do
you feel about this time. Do you feel we
are justified going over to
AP: In the beginning I thought so, but it is going on too long. I think we should take care of it and get out of there.
CD: Yeah, I wish. Yeah, Yeah. What were you going to say?
AP: These countries have been doing this since time began, you know. What difference are we going to make over there, because they’re going to continue doing it for time immemorial. So it seems to me like it could be a lost cause, if something isn’t done.
CD: I want to ask, is there anything that we didn’t cover?
AP: Well, there is one thing. During the war, the Sumida’s who had a store in town, had a powder house here on the ranch.
CD: Power house?
AP: Powder house. They had black powder, dynamite and TNT. Before bulldozers and stuff, if ranchers wanted to take trees out, they didn’t have anything but dynamite to take them out with. They just blew them out of the ground. And so the Sumida’s sold the dynamite to ranchers or anybody that wanted to take a tree out. Well, the day after Pearl Harbor the authorities came from town. They took three truckloads of dynamite and black powder out of the powder houses. And we tore the powder houses down and now the bricks outline our flower beds. That’s were those bricks came from. But they had those powder houses there for several years and sold them to the local farmers. And that’s how they took out the trees back then. There was nothing powerful enough to take them out, drag them out or pull them out. So they just blew them out.
CD: And so after their powder houses were taken down, what did people use to get rid of their trees?
AP: I don’t know whether they took it someplace and somebody else sold it to the farmers, I don’t know whatever happened to it. All I know is that three big truckloads went out of here. I wasn’t here but my husband was.
CD: Right. Do you think the Sumida’s were ever compensated for that?
AP: I have no idea, no idea, but they are a good solid family.
CD: Oh yes, they’re still here.
AP: Yes, they are still here.
CD: Okay, well thank you very much for your participation.
AP: You are welcome.
Catherine Doe/Transcriber J Wood/Editor J Wood
ED: Words in italics are clarification from research or as the result
of a phone interview with Arlene Pratt on September 1, 2005
Both Judy Yoder and Catherine Doe interviewed Arlene Pratt. We were not sure we would be able to recover the first interview done by Judy Yoder. So we have included both interviews.