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: Beverly Rice

 

Date of Interview: 27 April 2004 Including excerpts of an earlier interview done on February 14, 2004.

Tape Number 66 A&B*

 

4/27/2004 Interviewer: Diana Jules

 

2/14/04 interviewer: Tania Martell.

 

Place of interview: In Beverly Rice’s home, Visalia

 

Places where Mrs. Rice lived during 1941 to 1946: Visalia

Subjects covered in the interview: School days, clothing styles, romance, race relations in Visalia, life in Visalia, traveling to Texas and Kansas, the beginning and end of WWII and how it affected her.

*Note: There are two tapes for two different interviews done with Beverly Rice.

The interviews were combined into one transcript.

DJ: I am interviewing Beverly Rice for the Tulare County Library "Years of Valor, Years of Hope." And Beverly, could you tell me a little bit about your background and your family.

BR: I was born in Redlands, California in 1924. Beverly Jane Seymour was my maiden name. I married Roy Cassaday Jr., he is deceased, I have remarried and my last name is Rice.

We moved a lot during the first 15 years, 14 years of my life. My father, Basil Seymour, was with the Edison Company and he was transferred a lot. So I lived in many parts of Southern California. And when I was 14 my father was transferred to Visalia, which is in Tulare County. And so I started high school at that time up here.

DJ: And how did you feel being in 8th grade and thinking, "Oh, no, I have to be torn away." What were your thoughts and emotions?

BR: I think I was so used to moving around that it really didn’t bother me. I never got so close to school friends that I minded too much. In fact, to me it was just exciting and another place to live. My father was the one that was happy because he’d been hoping to get transferred to this area for quite a while ‘cause he was an avid fisherman. And he was a fly fisherman. He loved this area. So we moved up here and I started school. And I had a wonderful four years in high school, 1937-1941.

DJ: Did you stay in Tulare County for those four years?

BR: Yes.  So, we didn’t move for a while.

DJ: That’s nice.

BR: In fact, my father said he would never move again. And he didn’t.

DJ: It must have been the fishing.

BR: It was the fishing.

TM: Did your family live in town or in the country?

BR: Actually we lived on the outskirts of town at that time. My parents, when they first moved here, rented a home on Houston Avenue, which at that time had very few houses on it. Then we moved into town, let’s see, I believe I was about a sophomore in high school, and we moved on to Church Street about four or five houses south of Mineral King. Of course there was no freeway there then. Mineral King was the main street really, as far as going through Visalia. We lived about three blocks from that main street.

TM: And you walked to school, I gather?

BR: Walked to school usually or my father took me sometimes.

DJ: And what were your thoughts when you first walked into the high school in Visalia?

BR: Well, I was frightened in a way. But my dad went with me. Daddy took care of me. And he happened to know Mrs. Goad who was then the Dean of Women’s. And the reason he knew her was that being office manager for the Edison Company he many times called the school to find out who they might recommend for a job when they got out of high school. And so usually he would either talk to Mrs. Goad, who I’m not sure -- I don't know if she at that time was teaching. But a Mrs. Crow was also a teacher of business. So, anyway, I guess he wanted to be sure I got off on the right foot. So, daddy took his little girl to high school. And they lined me up with classes according to what I thought I wanted to be at that time, which was nursing. And so I started school and I think I was truly blessed in that I met some wonderful girls. And I do say blessed because they were really nice girls. And I think maybe they felt sorry for me because a week or two after I started school, I was in home room and one of the girls came up and asked me if I’d like to go to the football game with them. And so that started a friendship and there were eight of us that went all the way through high school together. And there are seven of us left. And we still see each other every two or three weeks.

DJ: How nice.

BR: It is nice. And the class itself, we still have not just one reunion every five or ten years. We have reunions two or three times a year.

DJ: So most of the people stayed in Tulare County?

BR: Well, my friends did, yes. Well, some of the girls, of course, moved away. But we kept in touch. And then some of them are still here.

DJ: What do you think -- what made you stay here?

BR: Well, as long as my parents were here I wasn’t about to go. And after I graduated from high school, of course, I married and the young man I married was a Visalia person. So, we stayed here for a number of years until 1956 and at that time we did move.

DJ: Back to high school, what were some of the styles? What was it like getting ready the first day of high school thinking, what will I wear, how will I do my hair?

BR: We did our hair, of course, every night. We rolled it in metal curlers. And I never went to bed until -- Friday night anyway, without curlers in my hair. You just get used to sleeping in them. And you wore your hair -- there were pompadours. I never wore a pompadour really.

DJ: What is a pompadour?

BR: A pompadour is a where you would -- I guess you could rat your hair. And I even had one girl that I knew who put cotton under her hair. You comb it up like this. And make a huge roll up on top of your head. So, pompadours were in. But I kept mine fairly -- fairly straight, you know. Had curls on the end. Your hair was never long like girls wear it now. It was shoulder length usually. That was the popular style. And pageboy was big. Pageboy was big.

DJ: And what about clothing?

BR: Clothing changed very little during the four years I was in high school. I think skirts went up a little bit. I always had to argue about that because my mother, Mabel Seymour, made most of my clothes and my dad didn’t want them above the knee and I did. And so I would say most of my skirts and dresses were mid knee. Minis weren’t in at that time. It was a long way from a mini skirt.

DJ: And I had heard that women painted lines on the back of their legs to look like nylons. Was there any other things that --

BR: Well, I heard of that. And that was because after the war started, nylons became very hard to get. And we did wear leg makeup instead of hose. And of course, some women still do that. But it’s usually tanning lotion now whereas it was actually pancake makeup. It was ghastly. But yes, they did if you didn’t have hosiery. But I can’t remember wearing a lot of hosiery. Panty socks, you see, were not around. When I first started wearing hose, panty hose, in fact, I didn't have panty hose for years. They weren’t around. And we had stockings. We wore -- some girls wore girdles. Some had -- what is very stylish now -- garter belts. But we wore them out of necessity. And no, I never put lines up the back of my legs. But I’ve heard of it.

DJ: And do you remember where you were when you heard about the war?

BR: Oh, yes, yes. My senior year I went to work at the Fox Theater. And I started just as school started. And you had to work, you know, on a weekend, you always worked. And so Sunday morning was our day to kind of get up and relax and not do very much. And then my dad would take me to work. So, I had to be in work as I recall about twelve-thirty. And usually we did hear the radio; we’d turn it on. But on Sunday we did not. And so we got in the car, my dad and my mother and I assume they were probably going to go for a ride or do something so my mother was with us. And my dad turned on the radio in the car. And I heard him say, "My God, we are at war." And my mother said, "What on earth are you talking about." And of course, I thought, "What’s he talking about?" And she said, "What do you mean? How do you know?" And she hadn’t heard. All she heard was some of the news. And he said, "They just told all military personnel to report for duty in uniform. That means we are at war. If they have to wear the uniforms, we’re at war." And being an old Army man, he knew this.

So, by that time we were at the Fox Theater and I didn’t know what to think. I really am not sure I believed, you know. I thought, well, daddy may be assuming. So as I got out of the car and I started up into the theater, he called me back. And he said, "Beverly, the Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor."

So, I went on to work and I walked in the lobby. And the young woman, Jean Gross, who was then working in the box office came out of her office crying. And I said, "Jeannie, what’s wrong?" Of course, I knew, you know. I thought, "Well, she is just crying because she is afraid." And she said, "My husband is in the National Guard and they just called him."

So that was the beginning of a different life, really. You keep doing the same things every day, going to school, going to work. And of course, already there had been some training of cadets at the airfields, at Rankin Field and Sequoia Field. Before long there were lots of cadets swarming all over Visalia. And they all were about 18 to 20, 22 years old. And all of them seemed gorgeous. And of course, they had nothing else to do but come to the theaters. It was always just full of young men and good looking fellows, from goodness knows where, I mean all over. So we did see lots and lots of cadets. And they were all nice kids. We never had any problems with them at all. And it was fun. Ad lot of the girls dated cadets. During those years, many girls in Visalia married cadets. I didn't because I had a boyfriend. By that time I was engaged to be married.

And when we went to school after the war started, I think everyone was aware that things were going to be different. The boys were talking, some of them talking enlisting, some of them were just downright scared because they had their own plans, they wanted to go to college, they didn’t want to go to war. Who would? But also there was a lot of patriotism. Some of the boys quit school and went right into the service. And so that was the way it was all of the time from the time the war started on. Little by little, things changed. I changed in that I had planned on going to nursing school in Michigan where my grandparents lived, Albert and Olla Seymour, and I was going to go to Ann Arbor University of Michigan there. And instead I got engaged and got married because, I guess, everyone thought you weren’t going to live another day. And so you just took you know you took life as it came. And you thought, "Well, you just were afraid, I guess."

I married in June of ’42, right after school was out, and my husband and I lived in a little apartment on Mineral King. He was drafted. He tried to enlist but they had closed the enlistments. I don’t know why they closed them.

TM: I never heard of that before.

BR: They closed enlistments in Fresno. We said our goodbyes and

had tears and all of that. He went up with a friend and my

girlfriend, Juanita (Duncan) Willitts, went up with us because that was her husband. They got up to the enlistment place and they said "Sorry, we have closed enlistments." Now I really think it might be because they wanted to choose where they put these men.

My husband had been working at Sequoia Field for almost a year. He quit college and went to work at Sequoia. Well, he had experience, he got his airplane mechanics license in that eight or ten months. So when he was drafted he chose the Air Corps and he got the Air Corps. My friend’s husband, Dan, had worked at the phone company and he chose the Signal Corps and he got the Signal Corps. The only reason I could think they closed was that if you enlist you can more or less get to go w here you wanted, and they wanted to control where men went. But anyway, he left; he was drafted, in the first teenage draft. It was probably one of the worst memories I have of the war, the worst. I believe it was January 2nd or 3rd, not sure, 1943, the first teenage draft in Visalia. I don’t kno3w if it was the first in the County but I think it was.

They had to be there at five in the morning and in January at five in the morning it’s dark. We were there by 4:30 A.M. There were so many people, you just can’t believe, it was at the bus station. They had the buses down by the civic auditorium. You could not believe the people that came to see those boys off. They called them by name, alphabetically, (sobbing) I can become emotional.

TM: (Sobbing) Me too, just listening to you.

BR: You knew these boys. You’d gone to school with them and their

Names were called and there were lots of tears (sobbing). Some mothers were hysterical which made it terrible. You know, it was dark and you’d hear these mothers crying and screaming. Anyway, my husband left in January and I went to work that day.

DJ: What did your mom and dad think? Ed: (about the marriage).

BR: They were not happy.

DJ: Oh, you answered that so quickly.

BR: They were disappointed in it as I look back. You have so many regrets. And of course, I’m sorry that I hurt them. And that I disappointed them, I think. But they got over it. And what else would you like to know?

DJ: Well, along these lines, tell me about romance in the ‘40s? What was it like compared to romance now?

BR: Well, for one thing, romance is romance. It doesn’t ever change.

DJ: Nothing new under the sun?

BR: No. That’s one thing that isn’t new. However, when I said high school was the best four years of my life, it was because it was fun. And my heart breaks at what kids -- how they spend their high school years now. We just had -- we studied. I loved school. I got good grades. But there was always time for fun and ball games. And you went to the dances every Friday night at school and no one ever got in a fight.

We went to the ball games together and there was usually a dance after the ball games and there was never ever any trouble at a school dance. You just never heard of anything like that. You got to know everyone because even though Visalia was considered a large high school, my graduating class was 265 which was a pretty good size. We just all knew each other and loved each other and it was, I would say, probably the happiest four years of my whole life, going to high school there.

You just had a wonderful time. And you had lots of boyfriends. There were some girls, you know, that maybe went steady all through high school. There were a few. But through those four years in high school, I probably had a broken heart 20 times and got over it in a week or two. And life was so different than it is now because I don’t think there are any public dances anymore.

They had a wonderful ballroom here in Visalia called the Sierra Ballroom and it was situated right where -- oh, there’s a store there now. But right across from the Civic Center. They had a swimming pool. And it was open air the first time I went. But they closed it in and made a beautiful ballroom out of it. And I never went without a date. But some girls did go stag. And it was just wonderful. And there was lots of romance. And when the war started, it did change because as soon as graduation, boys left and went into the service. And when they would come home on leave, they would come to the dance. And you’d see them and they’d be in uniform and you were proud of them. And some of them you didn’t ever see again. And you have to forgive my emotion.

DJ: What makes you sad?

BR: Oh, I think especially one boy that I -- it was after I was married but we were at the dance and he came home on leave and he was in the Navy. And he was such a cute sailor boy. And I saw him there and talked to him and he didn’t come home. He went down on the airplane carrier. Now I can’t remember which one. It was hard, those things, you know. I didn't lose too many very personal friends.

But boys that you went all through school with and you knew that when they went to war they didn’t want to go and they were afraid but they went. And one was Virgus Hadley who -- his parents are very well known here in town, an old family, and he was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. And you’d hear, you know, about these things and you would be saddened. But my husband went into the service after -- let’s see, I’d been married six months when he went into the service. He went into the Air Corps. And I was working at that time at the gas company. I had a great job.

DJ: In Visalia?

BR: In Visalia.

I worked at the gas company, and I was the only girl in engineering. I walked in and I was crying (the day my husband enlisted). All of these men, they gathered around me and patted my shoulder and babied me. They were just so sweet and they put up with me. They put up with me day by day (chuckle). You get to the point where you know this is the way it’s going to be. I remember one girl who worked for the gas company. Her husband was in the South Pacific for four years. She didn’t see him. So, you know, when I hear about these young women now whose husbands are away for six months or something; it’s bad but it’s not years, you know, and that’s what some women went through: years.

I thought I would stay home and save money so when he came home we would have money saved to buy a house, etc. But after four months I just couldn’t stand it and I guess he couldn’t either.

In April I was so lonely and my husband was lonely. He had been sent to Wichita Falls, Texas for his basic training. So he worked through basic, thinking he would be transferred somewhere else, but they lost his records. So he called me and said, "I’ve got to take basic training all over again, so why don’t you come. I’m lonely."

So I told my parents. I walked down to their house and I said, "I’m going to go to Texas." My dad just had a fit. He didn’t want me to go and I was determined. So I quit my job and gathered my things together and got a ticket. My parents took me to Hanford and I got on that train. It was so crowded and I remember that I didn’t know whether I’d get a seat. I walked from car to car and there were no seats. Finally I did get an empty seat but I had to change in Barstow for my Texas train.

So I got on a train all by myself and I left for Texas. It was very exciting. I wouldn’t take anything for the experience that I had in those years. I followed him for over two years in Texas and Kansas mainly. And of course, you’re only getting only a very small amount of money, fifty dollars a month. And he’s getting fifty dollars a month. So he couldn’t live off base. But I got a room. First place I went to was Wichita Falls, Texas. And my parents did not want me to go. That was the picture I told you that I would show you.[1] They took a picture of me just before I left. And they put me on the train in Hanford and I had to change at Barstow and I’d never been on a train and it was wartime and you could not find a seat on those trains and they were filthy. And you were lucky if you got anything to eat.

But anyway, when I got to Barstow and I was waiting for my train, a service man was sitting next to me and I don’t know where he was going, but he had to be going my way. And he asked me where I was headed. And I told him Wichita Falls, Texas. And that I was going to meet my husband there. And about that time they called our train and I didn't know where to go, what to do. He said, "Grab my hand," and we ran. And I could run in those days. We ran over three different tracks. He knew where he was going to get on the right train. And so he kind of watched over me. And I found this every time I traveled. They realized that you didn’t get a seat on the train unless you were very fortunate. But most of the servicemen, they would call first. So they would have seats. So one of them would just take me and they would assume it was my husband and so I would get a seat. So, that was rather exciting, rather different.

So anyway, I got to Wichita Falls and, you know, you can’t live on $50 a month, so I knew I had to find a job. When I got off the train my husband met me and he said, ‘I don’t know where we’re going to live. We’ll stay in a hotel for a couple of days." But we knew we couldn’t afford to stay very long so we went to what they called the traveler’s aide in the bus station. There was a woman there and she had a list a mile long of people who wanted places to live, servicemen’s wives, and people who would accommodate them. So she said, "Well, I don’t have anything near town, but I have a really nice room out a little ways. If you’d like to go out and look at it, I’ll call these people."

So I said, "Yes, that would be fine." So we found out where it was. We got on a bus and went out to this house and met the people. Their name was Turner. I can remember that so clearly. A husband and wife made available their back room which was a bedroom but was a sitting room also. They only had a two bedroom house and they had accommodated service wives and so it was a lovely room, very small, and I had what they called a Pullman trunk. It was my friend for a couple of years. I had borrowed it from a friend of my parents and I had all my things in this Pullman trunk. So it stood in this little room and I did have a closet. So anyway, that was my life from about April until September.

And I went to work. You have to go to work, as I said, when you only have a small amount of money. First I found a job in a cleaning establishment as a checker and it lasted about four hours because not being used to the ways of Texas, the woman that I worked for, well, she treated a black woman terribly. A black woman came in to get her cleaning and she had a complaint about it. And this woman was so terrible to her that I just left. I just picked up my purse and walked out because when you’re from California you don’t -- you know, in those days they still treated the black people that way in Texas.

In fact, I got on a bus in Texas and walked to the back of the bus not realizing I wasn’t supposed to. And I think I made the black people as uncomfortable as I did the white, because they just knew I shouldn’t be back there. But it was an education; it truly was. And so I traveled with my husband. Not with him, but I followed him as a lot of young women did. And I met a lot of wonderful people. I still keep in touch with some of these people that I met. Actually, two of the women that I kept in touch with are now deceased. But one woman is in Kansas; Mary Ann Hickey; I still keep in touch with her.

DJ: Sounds like quite an adventure?

BR: It was an adventure. It really was. I finally had to come home.

DJ: Back to Tulare County. And you spoke of prejudice in other states. What kind of prejudice did you see here?

BR: Actually, amazingly enough I didn’t see any even though I went to school with wonderful Japanese kids. And when we went to war, I did not see one kid in school that said anything to the Japanese as far as --you know, these were our friends and we didn’t think of them as the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor. All of these Japanese kids that I went to school with were great and they were all terrific students. And when they had to leave, they were not allowed to go to the graduation, which just truly upset all of us because they had curfew. They had to be in, I think, at six.

DJ: Just the Japanese people?

BR: Just the Japanese. (Ed. note: In another interview, we found that an Italian mother who had never gotten her citizenship papers had the same curfew.) So, they weren’t able to graduate with us. And the day that we found out they had to leave, we walked down to the depot and said goodbye to them. And as the train rolled away, we were waving. They brought special trains in for them. Passenger trains didn’t come to Visalia as a rule. But they did for these people.

DJ: They took them to camps?

BR: And they took them to camps. All of them that I knew went to relocation camps, which were okay. I mean, it was something our government had to do and I can understand that.

DJ: What happened to their homes and property and businesses?

BR: Some of them came back. But most of them lost their property because either it was not paid for and they lost it or it was not taken care of and a good many of them lost their property. Some didn’t and some are still here, some really nice Japanese people. But they still come to our class reunions. And most of them as far as I can see went to Los Angeles when they came home, Southern California.

DJ: Do you remember any kind of segregated groups or neighborhoods in Visalia or in the area when you were growing up? Like an Italian neighborhood or different things like that?

BR: Not really. I know in the whole city, not like it is now. Like in the northern part of Visalia now it’s mostly Mexican. But then we have a great deal more Mexicans here than when I was in school, who went to school. Then there were not the Mexicans in school that there are now. There were more Portuguese and Armenians probably. No blacks. We didn’t have, that I recall, any blacks in our school. But there was no feeling of prejudice at all. And I think mostly the northern part of town was more the poor people other than any particular race. It’s just that the housing up there was cheaper and so most of the people who were poor went up into that area.

DJ: Can you recall any of prices of groceries or anything during the war years?

BR: I remember that I had never cooked. My mother did the cooking and she never really taught me. She taught me to bake. I was great at cakes. But I didn't really know much about cooking. So, I asked my mother-in-law one day -- I wanted to fix a roast and I didn’t know how to buy a roast. So I said, "Well, what do I do, how do I get a roast?" She says, "Just go to the butcher and tell him you want a fifty-cent roast." So, I bought a roast for fifty cents. When we were married, we both worked. And I didn’t pay too much attention to money. I was blessed in that we always had enough money. So when I married, we were both working; we didn’t worry about money. So I don’t think, you know, a fifty-cent roast was not impossible for me. But, oh, gee, I can’t remember -- I know that eggs were probably about thirty-nine cents a dozen. And bread was about twelve cents a loaf.

DJ: Things have certainly changed.

BR: Yes.

DJ: And when you were traveling around the country and you’d write back to your parents, did they write and tell you about the way things were here?

BR: No, I don't think they did. I knew that my father was very patriotic. And I know that when food was rationed and that started mainly about the time I started traveling. But my father being so honest and so patriotic, you know, you had to declare everything you already had in your cupboards. And my parents always maybe kept an extra five pounds of sugar and extra five pounds of flour and a couple of bottles of ketchup. I mean, that’s just the way it was. And my father declared everything. And he didn’t get any stamps, you know, because he declared all this. So they didn’t give him any stamps. Or if they did it was very, very few. And so they had rather a hard time.

Now, my mother-in-law, Myrtle Cassaday, didn’t have too much of a problem. She had two daughters at home, Ruth and Dorothy. And you see, you get more stamps with the more children you have. And so she had a little easier time. But I do know that when I would be home, between trips, she had a grocer who liked her a lot, I guess.  She was a good customer. So if he got a case of mayonnaise, Best Foods Mayonnaise, or extra butter or something, he would call her and say, we just got some Best Foods in or we just got this or that in, so she always had enough stamps that she could go down and get what she needed. Nobody had a lot of anything.

But rationing was rather hard. Gasoline, of course, was rationed. And so you had to be careful. And that’s why in those days people hitchhiked. And you weren’t afraid. You never went by someone hitchhiking without picking them up because they needed a ride. Usually it was a serviceman, which you never minded picking up. But you weren’t afraid in those days. There was nothing to fear. I never heard of anyone being abducted or murdered because they picked up a hitchhiker. That was a way of life. Once when my husband had a leave, he didn’t get the bus or the train. He got out and hitchhiked and got home long before he would have, had he taken a train. One of the ways of life.

TM: Before you continue, to get back to Visalia, I was curious to know whether your parent’s economic lives changed, such as, what did your father do?

BR: Actually, I don’t think it changed a great deal. My father was commercial manager for the Edison Company at that time. The only thing that I can remember that troubled my father a great deal, as far as his work went, was the Edison Company did not allow married women to work for them at that time. Of course during the war there were a lot of women who wanted to get married because their boyfriends were going away. And he was beginning to lose a lot of good hired help. That troubled him. I do know that one girl in particular married. She went to Yuma and got married and kept working for the Edison Company for quite a while. Finally they found out the poor girl was married and my dad just felt so badly because he ad to let her go. Well, that did change through the years. They realized they couldn’t keep that policy.

My mother went to work, and I think she felt she should because there was a shortage of labor. Their lives did not change other than my father was, as I said before, a very patriotic person. My girlfriends who did not leave,many of them married during the war. They would go over to my parents’ house, almost all of my girlfriends. They learned to play bridge. They passed the time away waiting to hear from their husbands. So they bonded with my parents quite a bit.

TM: Before you left, or if you heard about it from your parents in letters, did they do anything to support the war effort like buying bonds or anything that you know might be interesting to us?

BR: Yes, in those days people usually had the bonds taken out of their paycheck. So they did do that. My parents had moved into a small place. They didn’t have a large lot like they had before, so they didn’t grow a victory garden but my in-laws did. They had plenty of room and my mother-in-law did grow lots of things. You’ve heard of the victory garden, and there were a lot of people who had them.

My parents and I wrote a lot. All my girlfriends who chose to stay at home went to work. Some of them saved their money. One girl saved and bought a lot so that when her husband came home they built a house. She was a smart one. I ran all over the country and didn’t have anything when I came home. Anyway, I don’t regret it. (Chuckle) I had a wonderful time, a wonderful experience. I did a lot of growing up in those years. I think we all did.

TM: Did they have an office here for the USO, that’s the United Service Organization?

BR: Yes, they did, in almost every town. The USO got me out of a dreadful predicament at one time, so I cannot say enough for the USO. They were wonderful to the service men. When I was with my husband at various places, we went there for our entertainment. It was a second home to us. We had no other home because we lived in rooms. So our entertainment was to go down to the USO. They would have parties and dances for the servicemen and their wives.

TM: You know, you didn’t mention how you got married. Did you have an actual big wedding? I mean, this was wartime, and your husband was going to leave.

BR: Well, I hadn’t planned on getting married at that time. I was engaged, but I had planned to be a nurse.  My grandparents live in Michigan and there were plans made for me to go to Michigan and go to the University of Michigan for nurses training. At that time the government was gonna pay your way because they needed nurses. It was called cadet nursing. I had planned on joining the Cadet Corps of Nursing.

TM: You did, before you were married?

BR: Yes, but then I realized that the young man I was engaged to was going to have to go to war and he really wanted to get married. I did too, but I still wanted to go to college. I could have done that and didn’t realize it. Instead of running all over the country, I could have gone ahead and gone to nurses’ training. But he didn’t want me to do that. He just felt like a married woman shouldn’t be doing that, so anyway, I scraped the nurses’ program and as soon as I was out of high school we were married.

My parents were not happy with me and you can understand why. It spoiled their plans for me and my grandparents’ plans to have me back there. So I knew that they were hurt and I felt badly. I would be willing to say it was the only time in my life I ever disobeyed my parents. But I told them, "We’re going to get married. If you want me to be married at home, I’d like to be, but otherwise we’ll just go someplace and be married. My dad was just really upset, so I didn’t pursue it. I just told them when and were and if they would like to come, but what we did is we went to Reno. We got married in Reno. There was an article in Life Magazine about the marrying parson and he had married more couples than any other pastor. That’s who married us. Anyway, we came back. I was still working and he was working. We knew that our time was short. I learned to cook and he put up with it and by the time he had to leave we were very, very close. It hurt terribly.

TM: So, we left you earlier in Kansas. You stayed in this room and your husband was in the Army, and then?

BR: Well, he got leave on weekends, not overnight usually, just on leave during the day, or on pass. He would get a pass, come into town and I worked in town so I would meet him.

TM: Oh, you had jobs?

BR: First I worked at a cleaning establishment but that only lasted for about three hours. I finally got a job as an elevator operator. In those days you didn’t push buttons. You had to hand-regulate those elevators and it was in the latest, highest building in Wichita Falls, Texas, 32 floors, and it was exciting. I met all sorts of wonderful people. I learned to operate it so it would just land right even with the floor. It was just a lot of fun.

TM: And after Texas, where did you follow your husband? Was he always in the United States ? He didn’t have to go overseas?

BR: My husband was ready to go over to the South Pacific with the 29’s when the war ended. So he did not have to go overseas. He did not get out as soon as a lot of the other fellows because he did not have the points. Well, when I left Texas I went home and I stayed a while and got reacquainted with Visalia and what was going on there. I didn’t get really into anything exciting as far as the war effort went because I was only there for a month when my husband was sent to Dodge City, Kansas. So I just got on the train and went to Kansas.

During that time, I worked in many jobs, and I think the most interesting was in J.C. Penney’s, but because I wanted to go home on furlough at Christmas time with my husband, I got fired. (chuckle) In Kansas the USO was our wonderful entertainment there. We did get a little apartment, it was in the basement. People opened up their basements and made little apartments in them. One time I stayed in an apartment that I realized had been the coal bin. I could look up and see the coal shoot. So, anyway I was there until I became pregnant. My husband thought I should go home, so he got a leave and he took me home on the train and left me. I was there about a month and I just was so lonely that I got back on that train and went back to Kansas. I had my baby there. My son, Kit Lynn Cassaday, was born in Dodge City. My husband was flying by then and was a crew chief in a B26. So anyway, I decided I’d better go home and I got grounded, almost immediately. I had no more got in the air and I was grounded in Pueblo, Colorado and the USO got me home.

TM: So then you got home due to the USO and when was this, ’44 or ’45?

BR: It was May of 1945.

TM: Oh, that was getting near the end of the war, wasn’t it?

BR: Yes, and I got home and by that time some of my friends’ husbands were home. Some of them who had been prisoners of war were home.

Oh, I must tell you about one thing. When our men invaded Germany there was all this loud whistling and carrying on and we went to church. Everybody got up. It was early, early in the morning, this was in Kansas. We all, all of us when to church and prayed. That was a very emotional time for us.

Then, after I got home, I had a baby to take care of and I got a little apartment and there was not one day that went by in all those years my husband was gone that I did not write. I wrote him every day. There were very few days that he didn’t write to me.

TM: And did the letters get there in good time?

BR: Yes they did. Then my husband was transferred to San Antonio, Texas and he was in B29 school getting ready to go to the South Pacific when we dropped the bomb. During the time I was home there was a lot of sadness because there were so many people that I saw that had lost loved ones, boys I went to school with. One very close friend was killed in the Battle of the Bulge and then another one went down with an aircraft carrier. You hear these things and there were still dances going on, but by that time we weren’t dancing; we were just waiting for the war to be over. We could tell that it was going to happen before very long since the news was good. As far as the fighting went, my husband called and said, "I think I’m going to be shipping out any time." It was within two weeks after that that the Japanese surrendered.

So that day was probably the most exciting of the war and the most joyful day of the war. My friends came by in their cars, we girls opened the windows and we went up to Main Street. We went up and down that street with everybody bumper to bumper, crying and yelling and just carrying on, waving our arms and flags. It was wonderful; we just spent probably two or three hours celebrating.

TM: Who took care of your baby?

BR: I think I shoved him off on my mother-in-law. It didn’t take me long to find a place for him (chuckle).

TM Yeah. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about, that we should? I think we’re coming near the end of the tape. I would like to know how you think the World War II years affected you in Tulare County, and also how you think that he war affected Tulare County. But I’d also like to give you the chance to say anything else that we did not touch upon.

BR: Well, I feel that it brought us all very close together. I have never felt so close to people. Of course, Visalia is so large now, it’s different. There was comradery. Not just between your friends or classmates, but people in town, everyone. Even if you didn’t know them, you felt close to them. You would stop and talk and chat. Everyone had a story to tell about someone or something in the war. There was a lot of hardship. When you are young life is so much easier. You could always find something to make things look good. I think the older people, parents, of course my mother-in-law and father-in-law agonized, I’m sure. My father-in-law, Roy Lee Cassaday Sr., joined the Navy and was sent to the South Pacific. He was a barber in Visalia most of his life. So at one time my mother-in-law, I and my sisters-in-laws all lived together in their house. I was coming and going, but when I would come home I would stay with them because they were all war wives. So we got along all right; it didn’t hurt us to go without some of the luxuries. No one had real fancy clothes. You didn’t buy anything you didn’t need. There wasn’t much money because the government only gave me $50 a month.

TM: Oh, for the wives?

BR: Uh huh, so I got along on it. It was pretty amazing. My husband would send me a little money also.

TM: And what lasting affect do you think all this had on you?

BR: I grew up.

TM: Do you think you grew up faster than you would have otherwise?

BR: Oh yes, yes. Although I think the young people in those days grew up faster. I think it was t he war that caused it. I mean, one day we were carefree and not worrying about anything and the next day we were wondering what’s going to happen. What’s the world going to be like. And when you’re faced with war, you don’t know whether you are going to be with that man that you loved. Maybe something is going to happen any moment. He flew and there were many men that were killed just teaching other pilots to fly. So he was in a training area where they taught the French, the Chinese and anyone else. They brought these men over and taught them how to fly the B26, which was known as a flying coffin. They were very dangerous. They were a pursuit bomber. Very dangerous to fly because they were short-winged, whatever that means, I don’t know.

TM: You said that your husband was an airplane mechanic. Did he eventually change?

BR: Yes, they put him on the planes. He was a crew chief. In other words, he went up with the planes to make sure that they were still fine.

TM: Oh, so he was actually in the plane and in the same danger as everyone else?

BR: Yes, he was.

DJ: Well, is there anything that you would like to add in regard to Tulare County or the war or anything about your life before we close?

BR: Well, things are different, very different. But Visalia has -- since I came to Visalia, it’s five, six, seven, eight times larger than it was then. Maybe nine or ten. And so naturally it’s changed. We have so many people here. I think of the hospital. I think of the hospital and how it has changed. It was just -- it was an octagon, I think, or hexagon. Octagon center and it had three wings, I think. And it just took up a little space about where it is now.

And oh, all of the stores that were there then have either moved or they just aren’t there any more. So, people are different. You used to walk down the streets of Visalia and you knew almost everyone. And now of course, you don’t. If you see someone you know, you’re excited, you’re surprised. So growth has done a lot. There’s a lot more money, I think, now than there was then. But money seems to be much more important now than it was then. Hardly any boys had cars in school then. And now you can’t find a parking place near the college. It’s pretty incredible now.

When I started school, the college was still in Visalia High School. We had college kids going to junior college in our high school for two years. But they built the college -- probably it would have had to be in about ’40. And so then the kids started going -- the college kids started going to COS. But at that time they went to our high school. That was exciting for high school girls to have college men in your classes. But they did. They would take mainly math courses. I had a lot of them in geometry and algebra. But now COS is big and we’ve got lots of full parking lots. They used to have school buses that picked up all the college kids, you know. They went all the way to Lindsay and Ivanhoe and all over to pick up college kids. And of course, if they did that now there wouldn’t be anybody on the buses because kids want to drive their own cars. So the county has changed, yes.

Of course, growth is probably what’s made it change. My husband, when he was a boy, to make money he picked oranges. And now orange picking is a business in itself. And so your transients come in and make their living picking the fruit. So you don’t see local boys doing those jobs anymore. Which is kind of sad because a lot of them would like to -- well, I don’t know if they’d like to pick oranges. But everything is different, yes. War changed everything. Women, maybe.

The Edison Company did not hire married women when the war started.

DJ: Why was that?

BR: Well, I don’t know why it was. I never asked my dad. But I know that eventually they had to start hiring married women because there just weren’t enough men. I think probably they felt that men needed the jobs. Women were to stay home and do their thing, which is fine with me. But I guess that was it, they needed the laborers and the manpower and women went to work and they never stopped. They’re still working.

DJ: They sure are. And we have one escalator in Visalia now, I think.

BR: Actually, we have two but they’re in the same building.

DJ: So, we’re moving on up, that’s for sure.

BR: The Bank of America, of course, was the tallest building. And I guess it still is the tallest building. But it’s not the Bank of America any more. And all the grocery stores have moved, you know, out of town a ways. We had a big grocery store right in the middle of downtown, G&I. And they finally left Main Street and moved out on Mineral King and then Mineral King changed to a freeway so they had to move again. And finally they gave up. They were local people who had this store.

And so, anyway, everything is very different, very different. I still love Visalia, but it’s not what it used to be. Kids still do what kids always did. You know, I see them gathered at places to go and have a coke or have something like that after school. They still do that. But I’ll bet they don’t have as much fun as we did doing it. You know, Merle’s has been there forever and everyone thinks that Merle’s is Merle’s. But it started out as Tad’s. Ed. note: Merle’s is located just South of the Freeway on Mooney Boulevard, across from the College of the Sequoias.) And I remember when it started. I remember when it was built. And they built just about the time that the college came in. And three brothers, three Armenian brothers built it. Can’t think of their names. One was Ted. Started with a "T." But the other two, I can’t remember their names. But then it was sold to Nielson’s Creamery but it wasn’t Nielson’s very long till it became Merle’s. And of course, it’s a landmark even now. It really is. But, so some things never change.

DJ: Well, I certainly want to thank you for sharing your stories and sharing about high school life and about Visalia. It’s wonderful. And thank you, Beverly Rice.

BR: You’re very welcome.

Diana Jules, 4/27/04 interview. Tania Martell 2/14/04 Interview.

Transcribed by C Paggi      Transcribed by P Dilley

Both interviews edited and combined by J Wood 01/11/05

Ed. note: Many proper names in this font were added during a phone interview with Beverly Rice on January 4, 2005. The transcript in italics was added to this transcript, as the earlier interview was not concluded and the tape was scrapped after the transcript was done. There was additional information in the February interview that we included here.



[1] See copies of pictures taken that day on page 10A