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
PLACES WHERE INTERVIEWEE LIVED DURING 1941-1946
Life during World War II and Korean Conflict
OUTSTANDING POINTS IN THE INTERVIEW:
Life in Visalia as a young man
Family life,school life
Jobs during the war years
Recollections of life in Tulare County
MD: Today is Tuesday, January 27, 2004. I am Marvin Demmers and I will be interviewing Mr. Carl Switzer in my home in Visalia, California as part of the Oral History Program entitled, "Years of Valor, Years of Hope, Tulare County and the years 1941,1946." Mr. Switzer, could you give us your full name and when you were born?
CS: Carl L. Switzer and I was born August 12, 1930 in Visalia.
MD: Who were your parents and can you tell us a little bit about who they were?
CS: My parents on my mother’s side, Bernice Lucille Runyon, came from the Runyon Family and they were basically from around the Ivanhoe area. They were a large family; her father was William Thomas Runyon from Missouri and her mother was Will Ida Davidson, also from Missouri. And they had lived here many, many years and I think Bernice had three brothers, Harry, Clyde, and Ormal, and two sisters, Marie and Gladys. One of those brothers, Clyde, went off to war at the time, World War II. Then on my father’s side, Carl Madison Switzer, that family was also a pioneer family in Tulare County. His mother and father were Sarah Elizabeth "Sallie" Frans, who was born in Visalia in 1864, and Upton Daniel Switzer, who was born in Ohio and came to Visalia from Missouri in 1877. Sallie’s parents were John Bloom Frans, born in 1818 in Kentucky and Elizabeth Rebecca Fulton, born in 1830 (or 1831) in Indiana. So they date back a long time. Basically they were in agriculture, growing crops and things of that nature. My father grew up on the old Switzer ranch which was out on the Ivanhoe highway just before you get to Cutler Park which is on the left there. That was the old Frans home place and they had large acreage in that area. Over the years, of course, it has all been sold off, but that’s where they raised a large number of boys. I think they had two daughters, Ada and Winiferd, and five boys, Roy, T. Wayne, Walter, Carl and Earl.
MD: A good size family. How old were you when World War II started?
CS: I was born in 1930 and in ’41 when I believe it started, I was 11 going on 12 at the time.
MD: Now you mentioned you had brothers and some sisters?
CS: I also come from a fairly large family. I have three brothers, Richard, Robert and Kenneth, and a sister, Janice, and my dad and mother lived in Visalia, per se in the city limits, whereas they had grown up out in the country. When they got married in the 20’s, they came in and built a house on Myrtle Street in Visalia and raised all the family there and that’s where we grew up. I have one brother, Richard, who still lives in that house on Myrtle Street in Visalia. At the time, back in the late 30’s, that was actually the edge of town and right across the street there was a huge wheat field where Mt. Whitney High School is right now. The reason I kind of remember that wheat field is because there was a ditch that went through there. It was called Conyer Ditch or Watson Ditch. We called it a couple of different names because there was a Conyer School, then down on Conyer Street. And we were always told never to go out and play in that field because of the water. My mother had a deathly fear of water. She didn’t really know how to swim. It didn’t mean much to us because that was the allure at the time and anytime we could break away and get out into that field and get near that ditch, that’s where we headed.
MD: OK. What type of work did your dad do?
CS: Dad was a truck driver for Tidewater Associated Oil. Of course that name is not recognized as much today because they have gone out of business or merged with other oil companies. But when I was growing up he was a truck driver for Tidewater Associated Oil and the plant, the bulk plant, is right down near the cemetery. It is on Goshen Avenue and Giddings in Visalia today. If you notice, there is a large oil distribution plant there and I think it’s called today - Julien Oil Company. My dad and his partner, a fellow by the name of Lawrence DeVault were both drivers for Tidewater Associated and then later on these oil companies changed the way they were marketing and so they came to people that were working for them and asked if any of them had an interest in purchasing the bulk plant because they wanted to get out of operating all the little bulk plants. What they did was they ended up selling that facility to my dad and his partner, Lawrence DeVault, and they had it for many, many years and they sold it to the man that currently has it. As a young boy I oftentimes would ride on the gasoline truck with my dad as he would deliver gas out to the surrounding farmers and he had lots of farm accounts and he would drive out and leave diesel oil and gasoline and stove oil and this sort of thing out at many, many of the ranches out in the area of Visalia.
MD: Was that pretty exciting?
CS: Yeah. To a small boy it was. To get to ride on that big truck. I doubt if they’d allow you to do that today, but back in those days you could do that. You got to know a lot of people and it was exciting to go out into the countryside and, since I lived in town, to get out and see what the ranches looked like, the orange groves and the olive groves and that sort of thing.
MD: How about your mom? Did she work?
CS: She never worked when she was young because she had such a family and like I say we were from a large family. I had three brothers and a sister. She had her hands full. But later on, when we had all kind of left the house, she did go in and go to work for the Assessor’s Office for the county and she worked there for a number of years, in her later years.
MD: OK. Generally, how would you describe your family life growing up in Visalia?
CS: Our family life consisted of a lot of excitement around the house, as you can imagine, that would occur with four boys and a girl. The first part of the family happened to be three boys and we were a year apart and so you can imagine it was an active time with three boys running around the house.
As I recall, we had a routine we kind of got into. My dad would go to work early in the mornings. Back in those days we only had one automobile, so my mother would usually take him to work and she would come home and fix breakfast for all of us and then we’d get ready and if we were in school, we would then go off to school and so on. But we were always told at school, you know, that if there was any trouble at school, there would be more trouble at home when we got home, so they always told us not to fight and that sort of thing. We would then come home. We would usually take a sack lunch or something to school and then we would come home at around three thirty. And we would always walk to school because Conyer School
where we lived was about five blocks away. That was the grammar school where I first started school,went to the first, second and third grades there and then down at the other end of the block in the other direction was Jefferson School, which is no longer there. That was at the corner of Myrtle and Watson Streets. There is a park there now. They call it Jefferson Park. It’s a city baseball park, but then that’s where I went to the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. And then I went to Sierra Vista, which at the time was a junior high and did seventh and eighth grades and then went on to the only high school at the time in Visalia which was the old Visalia High School. So that’s kind of what we did.
The routine was that . . . you know that we had our studies and we were expected to study and come home and get that done before anything. My dad would usually get home around 6:30 in the evening. He would call when he was ready to get picked up because my mom had the car. So she’d get in the car, drive down to the plant and pick him up and then we’d all have dinner.
One of the things that was kind of an amusing situation that I recall growing up was my mother would bake oftentimes, some pies and whatever. And as soon as we would get home from school the three older boys, we would all kind of be on the lookout for what she had baked because we knew she had baked that day. We thought we would go in and find the pie and we’d eat it all up before dinner and she really got distracted and kind of got put out and she started hiding the pies. And we’d have a big search around the house until we found it and then she really got ticked off at us, so what she ended up doing was she baked the pie and she’d take it to the next door neighbor’s house and she would leave the pie there and then we’d sit down and have our meal. After the meal was finished she would get up from the table, walk next door, get the pie and bring it back and everyone would be able to get a piece of pie. That’s was always kind of amusing.
But we usually went to bed about nine o’clock or nine-thirty at night and then we’d get up early because my dad was getting ready to leave and my mom was going to take him to work. We had, like I say, quite a large family, so there were a number of boys bunking in the same room. And then when my sister Janice came along, she was the next youngest, she ended up with a room. And then they built on a large room on the back of the house and four boys were able to sleep in that room.
But it was just . . . we went to church on Sundays and that was expected of everyone. We just grew up with that and then Saturday was a big day in the family life because this was a break in the routine of Monday-Friday and we always would go to town on Saturday night back in those days growing up. We always looked forward to that. You didn’t do much; you didn’t have television back in those days. You did have radio and we would sit around and listen to the radio and of course in some ways I like the radio programs more than I do the TV programs because you had to sit there, but you had to use your mind to visualize what they were saying,the dramas. They had things like The Whistler, The Shadow and programs like this and boy, they got exciting just listening with all the sound effects and everything to create this feeling.
But we would start getting ready about three o’clock on Saturday afternoon. My dad would get off a little earlier on Saturday. He worked six days a week, but usually came home about mid-afternoon on Saturday and so my mother would begin about three o’clock trying to get us all cleaned up. We’d been out romping around all day in dirt and whatever and so by the time she got the first one cleaned up usually and we had a bath or whatever, she would start on the rest of them. And by the time she got to the last one, oftentimes the first one had gotten dirty again out in the dirt playing. She said, "Stay clean," but oftentimes that didn’t happen. My dad would come home and take a shower and about five thirty or so every Saturday afternoon we would all pile into the car, getting all these people in one old beat-up car.
MD: What kind of car was it?
CS: It was an old 1937 Studebaker. The reason it was a Studebaker was I had an uncle who was the Studebaker dealer here in Visalia, so we always bought Studebakers. We had a four door old Studebaker and it was a far cry from the cars today, but they were substantial cars and much heavier metal than the metal we have in our cars today. We would pile into the car and head for downtown Visalia. Now there was kind of event that took place in Visalia on Saturday evenings and that was all of the other families and farmers from around the surrounding countryside,
people out in Woodlake and Lemoncove, Exeter and Farmersville, Ivanhoe,they would all do the same thing and they would come into downtown Visalia to buy their groceries. But it turned into a social event.
There was one big market down in Visalia, big for then, not big for now, but it was called G & I’s, and that stood for Goldstein and Iseman and it was down on the north side of the street near Locust, and there was a drug store on the corner of Locust and Main, and then the next store east on the north side of the street was G & I. They had a large produce section. They had a large bakery section,Copley’s Bakery was located in that store. And that was the largest grocery store. And everyone would come in to buy their groceries on Saturday night or their main provisions for the week. So you’d go in, do you shopping, and come back to your car and put your bags of groceries in your car and then maybe you would go to a restaurant downtown and have dinner. Then you’d come back to your car and you’d kind of lean against the wall or you’d sit on the fender of the car. And all these people were up and down lining Main Street for about four blocks on both sides of the streets. So then people would get up and they would walk around Main Street and they would stop and converse with the different people they knew and they would pass the time of day and say "What happened this week in your life?" But they kind of caught up on the news and the gossip and so on. That was a big social event back in the 30’s in Visalia. (Ed: There is a picture of this social event in TCL History Room.)
That was a time we really looked forward to because that was a break in the routine. You got to see people you didn’t see everyday and you heard a lot of wild tales and stories that these guys would come in from the countryside and tell. I enjoyed that. It was really a good, rich time of developing relationships and getting to know different people that you didn’t see normally and hearing all kinds of stories and so on. This would go on until about nine o’clock and then you’d get back in your car and drive home, put your groceries in the pantry and maybe listen to the radio program and then go to bed. So that was our life on a Saturday night back in the late 30’s in Visalia.
MD: That’s pretty neat. It’s amazing how times have really changed. Mr. Switzer, when did you get married? Was your wife a county resident?
CS: Yes and no. I call Louise the little old lady from Pasadena because she is actually from Pasadena and she had come up here with her folks. Her dad, Earl Haverstock, (mother was Pauline Fargo) was a schoolteacher and he started teaching in different schools up here and that’s how they got to the valley. But originally Louise went to grammar school and things in South Pasadena. I didn’t really meet her until I got to high school; that’s when I first met her. We were friends and that, but I didn’t have any serious thoughts or consequences about anything in high school although I thought she was a very attractive gal and so on, a real nice gal. But then I knew her when I went on to junior college here. It was a junior college then, which is now College of the Sequoias on Mooney Blvd.
MD: What was the name of the college?
CS: It was Visalia Junior College. Anyway, I knew her and then she went away to San Jose State and I went away to San Francisco State. That’s where I attended college and of course the Korean War was on then. I had been deferred because I had been in college, but I was graduated on a Saturday from the War Memorial Opera House. That’s where they held the graduation ceremonies from San Francisco State.
Monday I was at Fort Ord, California. So that’s how fast they pulled me into the
Army. I went through training at Fort Ord and I
figured here was a guy with a college degree; I would get some soft job in the
Army. We went through eight weeks of
basic and at that point they came and assigned me to eight weeks of advanced
infantry. I said uh-oh, this wasn’t
looking so good. So I finished up with
that. However, I was assigned to Fort
Ord, California for my
first assignment after I finished my training and I had gotten into the radio
broadcasting field. That was my major in
college and so they just happened to be finishing a radio station, building a
station there at Fort Ord, which was located in Monterey on the Central
California coast and I just happened to be there at the right time and the
right spot and they put me in as the manager of that station and I was assigned
to train radio announcers for Armed Forces Radio Service. I did that for a number of months, until I
think it was December of ’53 maybe and then I received orders to ship out for
MD: The Inland Sea?
CS: Yeah, the Yellow Sea or something, (ED: An atlas shows the Korea Strait, the narrow strip of water between Japan and Korea, which connected the East China Sea to the South and the Sea of Japan to the North.) but anyway, we put into Pusan which was the southern harbor of Korea. It was in the dead of winter and boy, was it cold. They put us on a deuce and a half truck (Ed: This term was used for the "Jimmy," a 2 ½ ton 6x6 cargo truck produced by General Motors Corporation beginning in 1941.) and we headed up north and we got as far as, I don’t know, a couple of miles outside of Pusan and they put us in a tent camp. We had heaters, but the weather in the winter time there would get down as low as ten or fifteen degrees below zero, but the problem was we had heaters, but we didn’t have any fuel to go into the heaters. They gave us six blankets to wrap up in.
make a long story short, I finished off in
MD: So you just did a swap.
CS: We just did a swap. So we’ve been married since 1961. We had two children, a boy Dana and a girl, Alison, and two grandchildren, Sam and Jack. Alison, that’s her children and they live in Lake Havasu, and our son lives here in Visalia.
MD: Let’s talk a little about your personal
reactions to World War II. What do you
remember most about the day the
CS: I remember it was a Sunday and we were getting ready to go to church in the morning but we had the radio on. All of a sudden the announcement came over that war had been declared and boy, that was just a bolt out of the blue and back in those days it isn’t like today, where you kind of hear about war every four or five years. We have some kind of an infraction going on someplace in the world or disagreement. Back in those days the only war I had heard about or knew about was I had vaguely heard about World War I and that was about it. You just didn’t hear about wars in those days. When all of a sudden they said war had been declared, that was a shock. It really was sobering. I knew everyone was standing around and talking and saying, "Well, Gee, I wonder what this means," and so on.
Well, that was Sunday morning and of course everyone knows what happened history wise generally with the war. But at that point as we got into the war, there were more and more demands made on us here at home. And those demands were, you know, you couldn’t buy Crisco in the stores. Well, that was a common thing women used in the kitchen but it became scarce. And there was a scarcity of many food products. You couldn’t find bananas; coffee was difficult to find. A lot of that stuff was rationed to the stores. They just didn’t get the supplies they would normally get and as soon as that happened that started a backlog of demand and people wanting this and that. We had problems that way. My dad was in the gasoline business at the time. Gasoline was rationed because it was in short supply and we had a rationing system where they would issue you a sticker that you would put on your windshield and my recollection was they were alphabetical numbers like A’s, B’s, and C’s. One was a higher pecking order and got more gallons. And you were able to buy more every week. They had rationing stamps, little rationing books, and you would get a book that would give you so many stamps and when you went to buy gas you had to turn in and have those stamps, otherwise they wouldn’t sell you the gas.
MD: What did one pay for gallon of gas in those days?
CS: I don’t really remember. It was down in the cents. I can remember back in those days when I went to the Fox Theater on a Saturday afternoon matinee, the lowest price I paid when I first started going was nine cents to get into the movie. So you can kind of compare and figure it from there.
MD: Yeah, make a guess from there.
CS: I think the gas as I recall was somewhere was around thirty to forty cents a gallon. It wasn’t very much. People were always pressuring my dad to cut deals because they wanted to get extra rationing stamps for gas and so on. Tires were difficult. You couldn’t find tires. I had a friend of mine that worked for a food store called Justesen’s. It was a chain in the valley that has long since gone out of business. But he was a classmate of mine in high school and he worked there and I was working at the time for my uncle’s drug store. I had an uncle that had a drug store down on Main Street and that was Switzer’s Drug Store which is just east of Court Street on the south side of Main at 105 E. Main Street. Today, this year, which is 2004, that’s currently Mike’s Camera Shop, but it used to be Switzer’s Drug Store for about 50 years in the past. I remember this friend of mine would get me some bananas and coffee every once in a while and I would kind of get them out of the back door of Justesen’s, because they were really difficult to get a hold of. Another thing that was really hard back in those days particularly on the women was they couldn’t get nylon or silk hosiery. They were using that material for parachutes or whatever it was. When there was a war back then it wasn’t business as usual back home. There were scarcities and as a result there were just certain things you just couldn’t get your hands on. What happened then and the reason I kind of remember this was because in the drug store, some of these cosmetics companies came out with a liquid stocking. It was a lotion that women would buy and they would rub it on their legs and it looked like hosiery. This is why I guess they thought it was fashionable to make sure that their legs looked kind of brown or tan.
MD: Was it a washable material?
CS: Yeah, it was washable. Every time they took a shower or a bath it would come off. But these women bought this stuff by the bottle. They would put it on their legs and that would make it look like they were wearing stockings. I was always kind of amused by that because I thought that was kind of stupid in a way, but they didn’t think so I guess.
MD: Did the fact that our country was at war have any effect on your day to day activities at home or at school?
CS: Yes, at school we had trained for bombing raids. That consisted mainly of a bell ringing three times or something like that and that was the alert and you had to climb under your desk and stay there until they said it was all clear. So that was one thing we did. Another thing, at home there were instructions given to everybody generally in the newspapers and things that we were to pull our shades down at night so the light would not shine out because there were enemy bombers that might be coming and of course there were all kinds of rumors. This was a little bit after the actual declaration of war, but after we got into the war. The stories started to come back of the various problems and the sinking of ships and all of the campaigns that developed in the Pacific, on the islands such as Guadalcanal,Tarawa,Iwo Jima and so on. The people started to get kind of a little antsy and pretty soon there were rumors going around town in Visalia that the Japanese, we had many Japanese farmers here, that they were plotting to help create some kind of a problem. Oftentimes they would grow tomatoes back in those days. One of the stories that I remember was they said that the Japanese farmers had put their white caps on the top of the tomatoes in the early Spring to protect them from frost, but they did it in such a way that it pointed an arrow from the sky right towards the Visalia Airport.
Then we had the situation where they came and took all the Japanese away. One interesting story that I happen to be fairly close to is because of my dad having delivered gasoline to many of these farmers. We’d known them for years. I remember one day. I didn’t know it at the time, but Dad told me later. There was a Uota family that had lived many years in this area. They were out near Venice Hill near Ivanhoe. They had a large ranch out there. One of the principals of the Uota family called my dad and said we were being taken away to an internment camp and I don’t know what to do. I just have to leave. It just happened like this. There was no warning. They had no time to make any arrangements, so he asked my dad if he would take over his ranch and run his ranch while he was gone. So my dad and his partner, Lawrence DeVault, they did that along with their regular business which was the gasoline business; they ran his ranch for him. After the war was over, the Uotas’ came right out of the internment camp and right back into their ranch and it was there just the way it was the day they left.
MD: That’s so wonderful.
CS: So I remember that story and it was confusing, because as younger boy, I couldn’t understand why they were going after all the Japanese people because we had Japanese families in our schools and our classes and everything. It was kind of a real situation where you said why are they doing this? It was hard to comprehend. But nevertheless, it happened.
Another thing that happened in those days, we had large towers that they built and the people would man these towers on, I don’t know, an 18-hour basis or something and everybody would have a shift and they’d go up there and they’d have binoculars and they would continuously watch the sky for any enemy airplanes that might be coming over. That type of thing never developed, but nevertheless we did have that type of preparation and that kind of a routine where people volunteered and went up into these watch towers and would watch for any possible enemy action.
Another time I would sometimes ride with my dad because we had Sequoia Field north of town which was an airport that was built to train pilots during WWII and then we had the Visalia Airport which was taken over by the Air Force or the Army at the time. They didn’t have the Air Force per se, and it was a night bomber training base.
MD: The Visalia Airport?
CS: The Visalia Airport was, right. And I can remember my dad got a contract for gas and oil for a construction company that had the bid out there to build these huge earthen embankments. They were big semicircle things and man, they would go up 20 feet in the air and they were wide dirt and they would take those, and that’s where they kept the airplanes. They built these huge earthen mounds around the airplanes so if they had any kind of enemy attack it would minimize the damage to the planes.
MD: What type of plane did they keep there?
CS: They had what they called a night bomber and I don’t remember the actual designation on the plane. They had Ryan Trainers out at Sequoia Field that they trained the pilots in to fly, but these people out here were not being trained. They had already gotten their training and they were assigned for this night bombing type of stuff. Why they were there I’ll never know, but that’s what the Visalia Airport was back then in WWII.
MD: Was the war discussed amongst your classmates or in the classroom?
CS: It was discussed a little bit from the standpoint that they wanted you to be patriotic and they wanted you to conserve on things. They told us we needed to conserve on this, this, and this. We would also have periodic scrap iron drives and that would mean that everybody would mobilize on a Saturday or whatever day it was and we would go out all over the community and we’d look in vacant lots and people’s backyards and garages, out in the country for old pieces of metal equipment of any sort. Drums, farm implements, you name it. We’d pick all this stuff up and we would bring it in and pick up some things and put it in a big pile and load it on a large truck and take it to some scrap metal depot someplace. But this would happen every four or five months. We would have that type of an effort.
Also, we had things called Victory Gardens, where if you have any type of open plot of land nearby, they urged you to grow as much of your own food as you could, because they were trying to take all the production they could and ship off to the troops wherever they might be. So many, many people had these gardens. Maybe it was a vacant lot across the street, so you would cultivate that. The house next door would run a hose over and maybe two or three families would participate in that and grow a bunch of food and everybody would share in that food.
MD: Do you recall the day that the bomb was
CS: You know I remember it happening and I
thought it was hard to understand or comprehend because they were saying it
killed tens of thousands of people and it’s hard to fathom that when you hear
that because you never experienced that. It seemed to me it was kind of incredulous that that actually
happened. I had a unique experience when
I went to
MD: Did your feelings,by the time that World War II had ended,did your feelings about the war, such that you remember, change significantly?
CS: We were always patriotic and it was a supporting effort. The question in the back of my mind was why did they take the local Japanese people? Because they were American citizens. But there was a fever going on of fear or whatever, but you know, you just kind of accepted it on a patriotic basis and you wanted to do everything you could to contribute to the success of our effort with the war, and that’s kind of the feeling.
MD: Was there any kind of celebration in Visalia at the time that you remember?
CS: Well, yeah. When the war ended, all of a sudden I heard a bunch of noise, but for some reason I thought it was a Saturday morning, I’m not sure, but there was just a tremendous uproar and I couldn’t understand what was going on. I think I was on a bicycle or something and so I stopped and I asked somebody, "What’s all the noise about?" There was just noise everywhere. Kind of like the Fourth of July only it was about ten Fourth of July’s. Car horns, every car horn was honking, the fire whistle was going, we had air raid sirens and they were going off, and the guy said, "Well, the war is over." And so boy oh boy, that was a big relief. But to a young boy it probably wasn’t that meaningful as it was to older people who had lost sons or daughters or had them on the battle lines. I had a cousin who was in the 2nd Marine Division and I think he died at Tarawa after many, many months of being in the war zone there.
You know, some of the other things back in those days, just rapidly; we didn’t have any air conditioning. We had a lot of mosquitoes in Visalia. People have no idea how many mosquitoes were in this area. You couldn’t go out at night and sit in your yard without just being eaten up and you didn’t have a lot of salves and mosquito repellant back in those days and so we used a thing called a smudge pot. We’d get an old tin can or wastepaper basket and bring it out into the yard and we’d get some old rags and put in there and we’d light them and let them smolder and that smoke then would have a tendency to keep the mosquitoes away. It halfway choked you too while you were sitting there trying to enjoy the outdoors.
MD: I think my last question in regard to the war per se, what one event stands out most in your memory about WWII and why was that particular thing important to you?
CS: I think the one event and this didn’t really occur in Tulare County, but we were going to visit an aunt and uncle, Ruth and Ormal Runyon, down in Redondo Beach and so we took off. And it was a trip in itself in those days to get over the ridge route because it was just a two lane road over there and the road wasn’t very good. That was always exciting. They lived in Redondo Beach and we stayed with them there and there is a big kind of a half rainbow pier out there at Redondo Beach. Well, the first thing as we drove into San Fernando Valley, I was really taken back because they had all these large air balloons tethered around all of the defense plants which were down there in El Segundo and out in the San Fernando Valley at Douglas Aircraft and Grumman and so forth. All of a sudden this visually got you into a different part of the war that you’d never felt or experienced in Visalia because we didn’t have any of that type of thing going on. But here they were and at night when you’d go to bed or as soon as it became dark, there would be search lights on all around the skies down in the Los Angeles area.
They also, on this pier that I was telling you about, they had a large artillery gun and they had a large search light and I think it was manned by the Coast Guard, but they were afraid of the possibility of a submarine coming up and there were rumors at some point that I read that maybe something did happen. But I was never sure that happened. But they drilled and those lights would go on at night when we were down there. This was a different story and all of a sudden you got a lot closer to the war than you were in Visalia or at least I felt that was the case. That was one key thing that I really remember about the war.
MD: Excellent. I’d like to ask a few more questions. You’ve answered many of the questions that I had here. But this has been very interesting and wonderful information. In regard to your family, a little more about your family, do you recall there were any changes in your family’s housing situation during the war, or did any people outside of your family live with you at that time? Or was that a common type of thing to occur?
CS: I was not aware of that particularly happening in Visalia. We already had a large family and could barely handle it in the house we had. The houses back in those days were much smaller than the houses that you have today. Oftentimes, most homes back in those days were two bedroom homes and of course if you had any children you were full up. So I never experienced that type of thing.
MD: Did your mother and father, do you recall, did they purchase war bonds?
CS: Yes, we purchased war bonds and we were also urged to do that at school. They had little stamps and books that they handed out. And we would save up our money and hand it up like nickels and dimes and pretty soon you’d get so many stamps in the book and once you got the book full you could turn it in for a bond.
MD: What was the minimum denomination that you had to purchase?
CS: I think it was $18.75.
MD: Did your family, you mentioned the radio was a big thing. They didn’t have TV. What types of programs did your family listen to when they were around the radio?
CS: The radio back in those days, it wasn’t like it was today. They had all different kinds of programming on one station where today one station is known for music and back in those days, the station would have maybe an hour or two of drama and they would have some news or sporting events. It would just go on through the day. Then maybe they’d have an hour’s worth of music, but it wasn’t just one continuous sound of music all day. They would have commentary; they would have news broadcasts; they would have sports shows; they would have local interview shows where they were talking to various people from different parts of the community and so on. In the evening they had the blue network and the red network. KTKC in Visalia was Visalia’s first radio station and it was the blue network and they would have different network programs . . . (end of side A of the tape.)
MD: Mr. Carl Switzer and we were discussing his recollections on the home front and his growing up in Visalia and things of that nature. We will go ahead and continue. Was work fairly hard to find in Tulare County at the time that the war was going on? What did people do?
CS: I don’t think work was hard to find because many of the young people that would have been in the work force were in the service and they were gone. We had a number of women that would come into the work force and take on certain types of jobs which . . . back in those days, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t the way it is today. Women working were an exception back in those days. My recollection was that jobs were plentiful and the other thing that I remember was that I went to work selling magazines when I was in the first grade, so I had a job then as a young boy. They won’t let you work today that way. I was a delivery boy and a janitor after school for different places. During the war I think there was plenty of work and they were looking for people to fill jobs.
MD: You had mentioned that you had worked delivering flowers for Perkins Flowers. Did you enjoy the work? What did they pay you?
CS: They didn’t pay very much back in those days on anything. It was like four dollars a week or something like that. And I worked two hours after school and maybe two or three hours on Saturday morning. The interesting part of that job was I would deliver the flowers on my bicycle and if it was a large funeral I would have to spread the casket sprays over my handle bars and hold on with one hand and hold on to that thing and balance it and ride it over to the funeral home and deliver it. And I would deliver potted flowers, cut flowers and different things like that. I enjoyed the work. I always enjoyed the work because I was out meeting people and talking to people. It was a rich experience. Sometimes I liked the jobs better than I liked school. It was more exciting. I think I got more out of it in some ways.
MD: What other type of work did you do?
CS: I worked for my uncle at the drug store and that was a job where you had to open the freight and all the little bottles and check off the invoices and that sort of thing. Mark them with a price and then put them out on the shelves and then, when he felt we were able to, he would allow us to wait on customers in the evening. We stayed open until 9:00 o’clock at the drug store at night and so we’d sometimes go out and wait on the customers. That was kind of exciting, learning how to make change and ring up the cash register and that sort of thing. We also would deliver prescriptions to people. They would call up and get their prescriptions filled. We would deliver them again on our bicycles out to the families and things. I also worked at Schelling’s Men’s Wear at Christmas time waiting on customers. I worked for the county’s school office when I was a young person after school cleaning the film the teachers used in the classrooms. They had no videos back in those days. They had reel-to-reel film but oftentimes the sprocket holes would get injured or the teachers would inadvertently put the film back on the reel the wrong way. So somebody had to sit there and check it when it would come back in to make sure that it was ready to go out again to the next school. So I did that for a time.
MD: OK. I’m just curious. What did people do for fun during the war years as you recall as a young man living in Visalia. Were movies a popular thing?
CS: Basically that was about it. That was your entertainment. We would also go on picnics on Sundays off to Mooney’s Grove Park or Cutler Park and maybe you’d have part of an extended family there. Aunts and uncles would be there and you’d make a freezer of ice cream and a big pot of potato salad and some beans and potato chips and things and you’d go out there and just sit around and talk and you’d hear all kinds of stories. Out at Mooney’s Grove they had a special kind of swing. It was a double swing that had seats in it and you could get on this thing and two or three people could go back and forth and those were big attractions. The other thing was that you had sports and that sort of thing but you’d go to football games and that was about it. In the summertime maybe you’d go up to the park on a weekend or in the winter you’d go skiing up at the park.
MD: That meaning Sequoia Park?
CS: Right. Wolverton, up in that area. Or camping or hiking. That was the extent of our entertainment.
MD: As you think back about going to movies, do you remember how World War II was portrayed at the movies?
CS: Oh, yeah. We were always the good guys and we were always winning things and boy, I’ll tell you, I can remember sometimes I would go into the matinee at the Fox Theater on Main Street and come out of there after the movie was over and boy, I thought I was a soldier on the front line. I was really feeling proud and so on.
MD: They never showed you the other side of the war?
CS: I never saw that part. Once in a while, and
I’m trying to remember what it was, I think it was Fleer’s Bubblegum. But they had these little packets of
bubblegum and they had these little war cards and those were cards were pictures
of situations occurring in
MD: Do you recall what ways the community of Visalia came together as well as the surrounding communities in Tulare County to support the war?
CS: We had war bond drives, big thermometers down on Main Street that they would build. We were trying to raise so many dollars worth of war bonds. This went on continuously. And you’d have these efforts, or there’d be a special show in the auditorium where people would come in and entertain, but the main reason was to try to raise money. The fact that we had the air bases here, particularly Sequoia Field,the buses would come in on Saturday afternoon and Sunday and they would bring those cadets into Visalia and they would hit the streets and they were in and out of the stores and so I would bump into some of those guys in the drug store because they wanted to buy sunglasses. They didn’t have the PXs back in those days on the bases themselves like they do now. That was always an exciting time, to see these guys come in, in their uniforms and get off of the buses and so on.
MD: Well, Mr. Switzer, we’re kind of at the end of the interview now and I have two last questions I would like to ask. These questions - give a little bit of thought to them, maybe before you provide your answer, but these are two questions the County of Tulare really wants to have recorded. The first is: How do you think the World War II years in Tulare County affected you personally?
CS: Well, it interrupted life as it was which, you know, we were growing up and everything was fine and then all of a sudden something happened that was vastly different and not right. That was a war; that was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We lost ships, we lost people and life wasn’t as usual. All of a sudden you got more sober. There was a reason why we needed to do all of these other things that we have just discussed: to conserve and to find scrap metal and to do this and that and to raise money and so on. They wanted . . . it just kind of made you . . . I think life got more serious and you looked at life differently. You also thought, maybe, "Where’s this war going?",in the early stages. Maybe it might get here to our shores but usually it was some place else, over across an ocean and that gave you some security and thought. You knew people were dying and so it made things just more serious and life was more important.
MD: How do you think the World War II years then affected the way Tulare County is now?
CS: Well, one of the things that occurred - I think it’s because of a lack of manpower. All our young people were off to war and as a young boy, one of the things we would do during crop harvest in the fall and so on; everyone would go out and work on the farms. We’d pick walnuts, or grapes, or cotton, or whatever.
the things I noticed was there were a number of people, Hispanic people, men
that would come into the drug stores on Saturdays or Sundays and they could
speak little English if any. So I asked my uncle, "Where are these people from?" He said these people were from
The rest of Tulare County didn’t change much then. It was a rural county. We were out in the country and we didn’t have a city or urban type of life. Visalia today is much more urban and busier and a lot more traffic. Back in those days it was tranquil compared to the way it is now.
MD: Well, that concludes the questions, the formal part of the interview that I had for you. Do you have anything else you would like to discuss?
CS: No, I think we’ve pretty well covered it. Life was slower back in those days and you simply went around at a slower pace and I can tell you the skies were clearer. You could see the mountains on a regular basis. It wasn’t like you had to wait until the day before a rain as you did today in order to see the Sierra Nevadas. You saw them everyday back there in the 30’s and early 40’s. It was a good place to grow up. Kids could go out on the street and wander all over the town and nothing ever happened particularly.
MD: Well, Mr. Switzer, on behalf of the Tulare County Historical Society and the residents of Tulare County, we would like to thank you for sharing your remembrances tonight and I’ve enjoyed this interview and hope you enjoyed providing this very useful information, so have a good evening.
CS: Thank you, I enjoyed it.
Marvin Demmers/ Transcriber: Jan Chubbuck, 3/7/04/ Ed. JW 7/15/04
Ed. Note: This transcript has been altered to include the names of the people discussed in the taped interview.