Interview with Lyle Bramson
Interview with Lyle Bramson
Interview Date: March 12, 1992

Camera Rolls: 318:40-43
Sound Rolls: 318:20-22
Interview gathered as part of The Great Depression .
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Lyle Bramson , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on March 12, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.

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INTERVIEW
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[camera roll 318:40] [sound roll 318:20] [slate marker visible on screen]
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QUESTION 1
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Lyle Bramson, take one.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

We're going to talk about the Depression, but mostly about the Fair. Let's sort of back up before the Fair starts, and when they start building the Fair. The Fair was built on an island called Treasure Island. Why was it called Treasure Island? Where did that name come from?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, there is much speculation. It is a lighter vein toward the rivers that come from the Sierras, in the gold country. Of course, in storms they would  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]  veins of gold open, and then the water would bring them down to San Francisco Bay, and so it was rumored that of course San Francisco Bay was just lined with gold, but nobody offered to mine it, and it probably was. But that was one of the things. The shoals it was built on was called Yerba Buena Shoals because of the island, and they would come out of the water at low tide, so that was the foundation for it.

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QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

So, tell me a little bit about the construction process.

[production discussion]

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Lyle Bramson, take two up.

[slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, take two.

INTERVIEWER:

So, here was this shoal that was just visible at high tide. How did it become an island?

LYLE BRAMSON:

At low tide. It formed the basis of it. They were looking for sites, all the way from the Oakland Hills to the China Basin. It required quite a bit of area. But when they found that it was possible to fill that in and make an island, why then of course they enlisted every arm of government, and the WPA was very prominent, and had crews and crews working for it. But, from a construction standpoint it was just all open bay, you see. So they would build a wall of rock and they were quarried in Marin County and Napa, and brought over in huge barges. And then they had the unique feature that when the surveyors would arrange for them to drop, and it would just open up. They didn't have to unload it or anything, and then the barge would rise and they would take it and fill it again. And they would build row after row, and they made actually rock boxes, and then they pumped tons and tons of sand for the fill. Of course, that led to another amusing thing because it was all salt, and so when you put top soil to landscape it, well of course the roots from the trees and everything would go down into that salt water, and be very sickly and even die. So they had to go to great lengths to build dams around the roots of trees so that the salt water wouldn't eliminate them. That was just a minor thing, but—

INTERVIEWER:

Because when the Fair was opened it was filled thousands and thousands of all sorts of kinds of trees.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yeah. They went all over the United States, all over California, and barged, and well, they railroad-shipped whole trees in, and then they would barge them out there and take them to a particular place where the landscape architects had told them. That's why, everyone wondered why it was so rapid and why it was so well done. Well, it was planned to the—almost every foot. And so it was done real nicely.

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QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

Now, tell me your ideas about why you think San Francisco decided to hold the Fair. What was the kind of...?

LYLE BRAMSON:

It was a celebration of the opening of two bridges, and various people were responsible, even to—one man wrote an article to the editor of the newspaper saying that they were talking about a celebration, and then they had been very successful in the 1915 Fair, and many of the people were still here, even some of the officials of that Fair. So it was just tailor-made. There was a lot of the San Francisco Fair in the architecture and in the planning of the new one. Even to the day, the opening day, it was opened on February the 20th, 1915, because it was in town, and the weather didn't bother anything, and so they wanted, the men who were setting it up wanted to open exactly the same day. But they found it was on a Monday, and so knowledgeable man in fairs said, "You never open a fair on Mondays." And so they moved it up two days and opened it on a Saturday.

INTERVIEWER:

On a weekend.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's right, yes.

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QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

Was there part of, at least part of the thinking about opening the Fair this sense of wanting to get the Bay Area going?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, oh yes, yes. There were hundreds of hotel rooms that weren't filled, and the restaurants were just getting by. Oh yes, it was a real boom for that. Everyone co-operated. We didn't have airlines at that time, but the railroads, and in railroad depots across the nation there were huge plaques and drawings from the Fair, encouraging travel. And then the oil companies got behind it, and invited people to drive. Cars, of course, were coming into their own, and so it was a popular thing to do. But I think I told you that the New York Fair was designed to open in 1938, and this fair had to, the Bureau of Expositions and Fairs had granted them 1940, because ours was to open in '38, but the island wasn't completed. So they, the New York Fair people then became a little excited. I told you that ours was to open in '38 and theirs was '40 so they just moved it up a year. So both of them opened in 1939, and that was the only time in history when two World's Fairs existed on a continent at the same time. But it worked out.

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QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

But, just tell me a little more about what people hoped the Fair would do for the Bay Area.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, there was an infusion of business from it. That was the most prominent—because the major companies and corporations and associations, everything in San Francisco from the Chamber of Commerce on down were interested in getting more visitors here, and San Francisco had had some difficulty getting its share of the visitors to California because there were many more attractions, and they started earlier on promoting, in Los Angeles. So they had to make up for that.

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QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

Los Angeles had been the main tourist attraction?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, yes. So people were California-minded, but many of them had never been to San Francisco. So every train was filled with visitors to the Fair.

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QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

Do you think part of the interest, apart from just bringing new business in, was erasing any of the negative feelings that were left over from the '34 strikes and the sense that there was a problem?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, San Francisco didn't have a good reputation because of it, no.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you say, "San Francisco didn't have a good reputation because of the strike"?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's right.

INTERVIEWER:

Could you say that?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, San Francisco was especially anxious to lighten the image that it had. They didn't call it images in those days, but—so everyone supported it. I mean, there was some little conflict at the very start as to where they could place the Fair, and how they could finance it, but they had people that worked at that, and of course they got several million dollars together.

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QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

Because the people, I guess, the labor unions were pleased about the strike, and the fact that San Francisco was a union town, but somehow that had a negative connotation too, didn't it?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, there'd been controversy and conflict, yes, because of it, and of course San Francisco was a huge port town at that time. Every pier was used, and so they had a real tight control on that as far as the incoming traffic and the shipping of goods out to sea. So then they knew that it was important to them. Los Angeles didn't suffer from it at that time. That was the contrast.

[production discussion]

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QUESTION 9
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Lyle Bramson, take three up

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Now, this is one of those annoying examples of me asking you to say something else. You gave me a good explanation of what the Fair actually did for the Bay Area, but I want you to talk as if it was before the Fair, and people are thinking. What did they hope that the Fair would bring to the Bay Area?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, they knew that the bridges had caused a nation—a world-wide interest, and they also knew that they wanted a celebration. I don't think the ones that talked about doing something to observe the openings dreamed of a World's Fair that early. But it soon became apparent that it would work, and that's why they got busy and got the site.

INTERVIEWER:

What I'm trying to say is, how did they hope the Bay Area would benefit?

LYLE BRAMSON:

The economy—

INTERVIEWER:

Would you say, "They hoped the economy would work..."?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Oh yes, yes and—

INTERVIEWER:

You have to say that. "They hoped the economy..."

LYLE BRAMSON:

OK, OK. They hoped the economy would improve, and there would be more work and more visitors of course, which brought work for everyone. As I mentioned before, that Los Angeles had the edge on it because they had actually actively promoted their orange groves and a number of things to bring people out here, and in the winter months and things like that. So there was a, it was a favorable climate for them to work in, to get more people to come to San Francisco. And it worked, it did very nicely.

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QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

And as far as tourism San Francisco has a lot to offer, doesn't it?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, it does, and it's regularly picked as the number one city, as an attraction for just the man on the street.

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QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

Now, in 1938 when you came out here, the construction was still going on, the buildings were being built. But the Depression was still on too. What was it like in San Francisco?

LYLE BRAMSON:

It was nip and tuck. I mean, it was, most people had found some work. It wasn't necessarily in their line, but they—

[production discussion]

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

End of the sound roll.

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QUESTION 12
[change to camera roll 318:41] [change to sound roll 318:21] [slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Bramson take four up.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so tell me a little bit about what San Francisco was like during '38, at the end of the Depression.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, as you say it was coming out of it.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you start over and say, "As it was coming out of the Depression..."?

LYLE BRAMSON:

San Francisco was coming out of the Depression, yes, and didn't leave too many scars. Everyone was so hopeful that it would, and anxious, and heads of families and things like that started breathing easier because of this amount of new money, of course, that was coming in. San Francisco, even then, was a service city, and so they were heavy on the food industry, which employed lots of people, from the company owners on down to the people that prepared it. And so there had been some work but it was quite seasonal. So there were some bad Februaries, of course, bur even when we started hiring for the Fair, employing for the, everything was over-subscribed. If you put out a call for fifty men or thirty men or something like that, why, several hundred would show up sometimes, because they were just looking for work that much, and they were intense about it, because it was a fact of life.

INTERVIEWER:

People would do just about anything, wouldn't they?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, they would. They would leave their field, of course, because there was a lot of professional help, professional people, and there was places for them. It helped everyone.

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QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

But you were telling me, you were saying you could make a comparison between how San Francisco was and the cities back East. In '38 before the Fair opened, were there still a lot of hungry people in soup kitchens?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Not many here, no, no. It had never been as bad, but Chicago and the Eastern cities were just desperately trying to get enough food together to be of assistance to the...

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QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

It wasn't over yet, was it?

LYLE BRAMSON:

No, no, it, well, you find many comparisons in monetarily [sic], from 1936 on it started up, but it was slow and regaining, because it had been at a very low ebb, and adults, I was a young fellow at that time, and so I could weather it and not pay as much attention, but if you had an inclination to worry, there were lots of people that were worried, and it...

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QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

You didn't actually come out originally to work on the Fair, you came out—

LYLE BRAMSON:

No, no I came out to work in the theater industry and I had a placement when I started, but it didn't materialize when I got out here, and so, a man that was instrumental in the Chicago Fair recognized me and...

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QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

Did you have that sense that a lot of people thought about California being the Promised Land, and...?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, it was, compared with the Midwest winters and of course the closeness that those people lived. I mean, even here they were more expansive and liberal-minded, because I'm sure that they had had many of the same problems but they didn't, I think the climate had quite a bit to do with it, and the attitude. And, of course, when I first came here, why, they were busy giving employment to people who lived here, and the native son was a favorite thing. Some people would even represent themselves as native sons in order to get employment, because if it came down to two people, why they would take the original one, and so it would...

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QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me a little bit now, let's move on to the Fair opening. Do you remember the day the Fair opened? Were you working that day?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Oh, yes, yes. We started at six o'clock in the morning. The Fair didn't open until nine. But we filled, the Bay Bridge was filled with cars. They were blocked up, so they hurriedly sent word to us, and we opened early then, about almost an hour. The cars just flowed through. They anticipated, we were actually as prepared for it as we could, because we had lots of people that weren't familiar with everything, but they learned what they were to do well, and so we brought in, I'm thinking 130,000. Maybe it was 165, but I'm not sure. And the boats were just, the ferry boats were just filled with people, because they could come over from San Francisco for a dime.

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QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

What was the mood that day?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Oh, very happy, yes, that's right. There was lots of activities, and not the smallest part of it was they had erected a huge, high platform and we had ski jumping by the Auburn Ski Club. They brought their own snow. They would bring truckload after truckload. At that time they didn't manufacture snow like they do now.

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QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

One of the things you were telling us before is that one of your vivid memories was of the clipper ships at the Fair. Tell us.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes. Well, Pan-American had started in Alameda, and then they had made arrangements because, to occupy the two large hangers which are still on the island. But they moved over even before the Fair opened, and of course the clippers were getting larger and larger, you know. They had Martins at first, and then they had huge bowing [sic] flying boats, and they were called "The Hawaiian Clipper," "The China Clipper", and "The Philippine Clipper." They would, I think it was eighteen hours to just Hawaii, to get, in fact, they were so long that they had berths in the clipper ship. But part of my job was, I was at the yacht admission gate, where the yachting people first came through, because we had a big yacht harbor there, that people all brought their crafts to. So they would go, I think it was on Thursdays, but they would, oh, enough to fill a lot of business.

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QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

Can you describe one day when it was taking off? Tell me a little about that.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, it was Easter Sunday in 1939. They usually took off about four o'clock in the afternoon, and they would leave from one of the hangars, which the airport building, and load it, and then they would go around the island and head of course into the gate, and then they would rev up and they would be a long time getting off, and this particular time the sun was just there, and it was just a perfect, an artist's dream. The gate, the archway, and sun coming up, and the clipper flying right into it. I'll never forget that, of course. And it was so important that they mentioned it of course, the voice of the exposition, which could be heard everywhere, and so people got out to the edges where they could watch it take off. And so Pan-American was a real integral part of out attraction, of course because—

INTERVIEWER:

It was a new thing, wasn't it?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, flying wasn't that identified, of course, not like it is today.

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QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

Did they take people on little trips around? I heard they—

LYLE BRAMSON:

They would take, yes, on just Bay Area trips. Then, of course, there were a number of people. We had a flying service on the island that would take people around, so they could see the Fair from the topside, and then they would cruise around, and then blimps were headquartered in Alameda, but they would fly over almost every day and just lull around, and just drift over the fairground. They didn't take too many people. I think there were maybe eight or ten people in the gondola, but...

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QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

When you think back about the whole Fair, what are the most vivid memories? What really stands out?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, it was a different place. The adrenaline would flow every day because of the number of visitors that were coming, that wanted to be taken care of, and we were taking care of them. I was a so-called "Junior Executive" and so I would work during the day, and then when I would come in thinking that probably that would be it, why they would send me out again, and so I'd be there until the Fair closed. I remember one particular thing, that we would be at one end of the fairgrounds, and when it closed, they kept the music going and then they lowered the lights and we would walk through the courts, and we would be dead tired for so many hours of talking to people and working, but by the time I would get back to go home, leave the island, I would be refreshed. It was just that good. And I've never worked at a place before or since where it would be so exhilarating.

INTERVIEWER:

There was some special quality there.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's right. And we sensed it.

INTERVIEWER:

How would you describe it?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, the architecture, the flowers, the gardens, the lighting.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, stop.

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QUESTION 23
[change to camera roll 318:42]

[production discussion]

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Lyle Bramson, take five up.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me that story again about being tired at the end of the day, how you'd close up the Fair at night.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, after many, many hours of work, we would start to headquarters, and exit the island. I was just bone tired, and by the time I would walk a quarter of a mile or half a mile in that, we would be buoyed up. It was so exhilarating. I would forget my tiredness.

INTERVIEWER:

I didn't quite understand the story. You'd have to go down to one end of the island or walk back.

LYLE BRAMSON:

No, that's where we would finish, you see—

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me again, tell me again. You'd finish up on one end of the island.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Often times, yes, and it was always—

INTERVIEWER:

Start at the beginning. Tell me from, "The end of the day you'd finish at one end of the island."

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's, at the end of the day we would finish with, usually at one end of the island, and go back to our headquarters, and lose our uniforms and get into our street clothes and grab one of the ferries to San Francisco. It was very lifting time, and I remember it mostly for that, I mean, because the hours didn't mean a thing in those days.

INTERVIEWER:

You're telling me the story differently. I want you to tell me, "It's the end of the day, and you were really tired by the time you walked back."

LYLE BRAMSON:

It was, because we got in so many hours, it was just not humanly possible to stay that fresh and so we would be tired out, and we would start there to leave. The Fair would be closed, and it would be quiet, and the visitors had gone, so we were there not by ourselves, not individually, but it would bring us right out of our tiredness. By the time we climbed on the ferry boat to return to San Francisco we would feel refreshed and almost ready to go to work again. I've never known a place where we could recover that quickly. I wasn't alone, other people shared it too. Visitors, of course, didn't get in on that particular part of it because they'd long gone.

INTERVIEWER:

But it affected everyone, something like that.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's right, yes. I've heard other people say that.

INTERVIEWER:

What do you think it was, that made...

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, we were surrounded by that much beauty, and new sound, of course. It was just a combination of things. Our age helped too, of course. It was a wonderment that we never quite lost. As you know, you can get very weary of watching thousands of people pass, and even if you don't have anything to do with contacting, sometimes they will contact you briefly but then they're gone. Do you want me to talk about that too?

INTERVIEWER:

Yeah.

LYLE BRAMSON:

We had a philosophy that anyone who asked a serious question, with a serious mind, should not be answered frivolously. Because of our age sometimes we would come back with...weekly, they would post the questions of the week that the various guides and people connected with the Fair had observed. So we had some beautiful lagoons on Treasure Island, and they were fresh water and had lots of floating flowers and paddle boats and things like that. So one lady went up to one of our guides with a very straight face, and he had to answer. The same lady said, "What time do they feed the lagoons?" [laughs] So that was a going joke around there because we'd say, "Well, it's time to feed the lagoons again."

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QUESTION 24
INTERVIEWER:

Do you remember any of the other questions?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Oh, yes. One lady even asked if they're going to tear down the bridges after the Fair,[laughs] and was serious about it, because she thought that the Fair was that great, that they were just conveyance to get people over there.

INTERVIEWER:

Just when it was actually the opposite.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's right. There were things that were humorous to us that probably, that didn't have that depth to it, but we would get a chuckle. We had a weekly newspaper, and they would be put in there. It was all part of it, but it was part of the fun to work there, you see.

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QUESTION 25
INTERVIEWER:

So unlike other people's experiences, when you look back at those years at the Fair, they were pretty good years, weren't they?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's right.

INTERVIEWER:

How do you feel about those?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, I enjoyed them very much. I was from the theater business, and of course we'd always been entertaining people, and to see them come out from a special performance in good humor and feel entertained. We were definitely entertaining them, educating, and there were enough special events so that there were thrills, and it wasn't just a county fair, of course.

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QUESTION 26
INTERVIEWER:

Did you feel, even though the Depression isn't over, that in those hard times it was really nice to be able to live?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, that's right.

INTERVIEWER:

Can you say that?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, I think that what we'd experienced from the apprehension of the economy and the workforce, and things like that, it was fine. It was probably, it was certainly a good relief for all of us to entertain those people that were so willing. And it exists today, because when we talk to people about the Fair they will just brighten up, you know? Or they will ask us a question about the Fair, so it was fun. It was a combination of things. The Depression was over, and the age group of a lot of people there, although there were many seniors too, of course. It had a lasting effect on it, and of course the, if you want a sour joke on it, why they always said, "It was romantic." And of course I met my wife there, and quite a number of people did too, or they were courting and would come to the Fair. That was a center point. So now we just, bad cliché, its a bad joke, now we say, "Its all rheumatic." So that's just a personal...

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QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me about the closing day. What was it like when it shut down?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, we knew it was coming. As much as we mentally tried to adjust for it, it was a big thing. When you see a grown man cry, why you know that it was a strong emotion. One of the writers said that he took the last ferry boat back when they were turning out the lights, and he said that, and he came there as a young fellow, as a reporter, and he said that we were no longer young, that our youth had vanished with the closing of those lights. That's a little strong, but there was that feeling. Most everyone experienced it. They knew it couldn't go on forever, of course. That leads into another thing, which is to how we got open the second year.

[cut]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Lyle Bramson, take six up.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, there were so many attractions that sometimes they couldn't keep them straight. People that was just an occasional visitor, they got to be very seasoned. However, the people in the Bay Area, because they came out for almost everything, they would buy seasons tickets, and it was their entertainment for those weeks that we were in, and they had relatives and friends coming.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Take six.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, you were saying people would buy season tickets.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, and they would be there for many occasions, attractions, yes, the San Francisco Bay Area people. And then, as their friends and relatives from distant places would come out, they would take them out to the Fair and be their guide, because they would want to show them all the things that attracted them, and so our guides always used to say, "There's a fellow who's after our job," or something like that. Of course, they became well-educated to it because of numerous trips, and the attraction was there, and they were very happy, too.

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QUESTION 28
INTERVIEWER:

Now about jobs, one of the things you're telling me was that as the sense that war was coming that you were getting requests to hire people that were refugees from Europe. Tell me about that.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, the parents in Europe had decreed that they would do their best to get their sons and daughters out of there. Usually they were teenagers or early, early twenties. They would get to Lisbon or Paris or someplace like that and then immediately come to the United States, but they needed sponsors. So prominent San Francisco families sometimes would sponsor several, and of course they were all on our Fair board, and it was a place that was employing, and they would ask us to take them. Well, these young fellows, they were real intelligent, but they couldn't speak English. Lots of them were Polish and Slavic and things like that. So we had a place where we could put them. It was just a dull task, but they had to count all of the tickets from the day before, to correspond with the cashiers' reports, and so they had to be sorted and counted and a record made of them. These fellows just fit in there perfectly. But we were always amazed, we almost had to talk to them in sign language the first few days and first few weeks as the other San Francisco people were doing, but sometimes within three to five weeks they would be ready to put out to greet the public. So we got well-acquainted with them, and the day that Hitler invaded Poland it was a black day on the island, just because the kids, the young refugees...their parents were in the center of the turmoil. They didn't know how they were going to make out and things like that. It reflected on all of us.

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QUESTION 29
[change to camera roll 318:44] [change to sound roll 318:22]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Lyle Bramson, take seven up.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me a little about, from '39 on, the Fair is this great wonderland, this beautiful place, but were you and other people there aware of what was happening in Europe and the storm clouds?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Very much so, yes, because of the connection that I've mentioned, that we had a lot of people who were employed that were refugees from the countries that were being overrun, so it reflected on us. The media was strong, of course, newspapers and radio, but that didn't go the depth as when you knew someone that had relatives there, or had grown up in those particular countries, and they knew that the mammoth machine that Hitler had put into the war would just sweep over them. He overran all of those countries. We knew just about...and of course we had exhibits from the various foreign countries and we had, oh, entertainers and dancers, and one lady was telling at one of our last meetings that she got very acquainted with the young people from Estonia, and was very fond of them. She just noticed one day that they weren't there, they just disappeared. And they closed the French Pavilion and they closed a number of them, and there's no longer...they called their people home or to safer places. We were an international fair, but it was shrinking because of the demands of the war effort.

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QUESTION 30
INTERVIEWER:

As the '39 season went on into the '40 season, was that sort of a constant thing, or did people think things were getting worse?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Well, yes, there was some problem as to whether they could get the Fair open again, because we had finished in debt, and of course you couldn't go back to the original sponsors and ask them to put more money in, although some did. Then we had an infusion of government money because the United States government had a big portion of the island, and so they, our money man by the name of Leland Cutler went back to Washington and came back with the promise of a loan, which we paid back, to permit us to re-open. And they did a cosmetic job on all of the buildings. I mean, they changed the colors, and they changed a lot of things so it wouldn't appear the same. The attractions were pretty much there. We didn't have as many great attractions as we had in 1939 because monetarily it wasn't possible.

INTERVIEWER:

Was the war a big factor in that, do you think?

LYLE BRAMSON:

No, it wasn't. The closing in of opportunities, however the war was far enough away when we opened in 1940, in the spring. It reflected all the people here, the uncertainty of it, and it affected us. We had a good showing, we showed between five and five and a half million people just in those weeks from May to September. It was prominent there, and it was a nice enough place, so I think some of those people came out there just for relief of what they heard in their particular positions, in the economy, and what radio and newspapers were telling them that it was coming, and so it—it was an uncertain part. I can't really describe the feeling, because you do not permit yourself to go all out in concern and worry about it, but you also feel a little helpless because you can't stop it. It was a big effort, a worldwide effort, and it had different ways of affecting us.

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QUESTION 31
INTERVIEWER:

Did you and anyone else ever—the focus was on worry about Europe, not Japan?

LYLE BRAMSON:

No, that's right.

INTERVIEWER:

Was anyone worried about Asia?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Some, yes. We'd had Japan Day at the Fair. We had a very fine exhibit of Japan, of silk weaving. We got acquainted with the Japanese people there. I mean, some of them spoke some English. But, the uncertainty, and the fact that we didn't know quite what their loyalty was. Many of them were more loyal than people that were born here. And others sent their children back to Japan to be educated, because they were fearful that they were losing their cultural grip on their families. And some of the children got caught back there, you see, at the time war was declared so it was...but the Japanese community, they had Jap town, of course, in San Francisco, and they were in various businesses. They were quite prolific, because they were real good managers, and close, but there was a huge population in the central valley of farm people, and we would have, they would come on special days when we had Japanese attractions, but not that many. They were becoming Americanized now. The days that we had Grace Moore or Bing Crosby or something like that they all enjoyed.

[cut]
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QUESTION 32
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Lyle Bramson, take eight up.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Let's talk a little more about what San Francisco hoped, where San Francisco was in '38.

LYLE BRAMSON:

San Francisco as a city, or as an area, was not, they didn't worry as much as manufacturing people in Eastern states and places like that, where the factories weren't running. There were many reasons for it: because we were close to food, and we had a favorable climate. We didn't have thousands of dollars in heating bills every winter. So they were lighter from that, but they were still concerned, and steady employment was a thing they had to watch out for, and heads of families and people that—it was very necessary to even live, why they took it very seriously. So they welcomed the infusion that we got from the literally millions of visitors that we brought here. Of course, they probably weren't great spenders, as in the present day, but it was all in comparison.

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QUESTION 33
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me something. When you look back over the whole decade, and you think what the country went through. Let's talk a little bit about Roosevelt and what he did. Do you think that Roosevelt really solved some problems or put the country back on its feet? What do you think?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes. He was a good man—

INTERVIEWER:

Say Roosevelt.

LYLE BRAMSON:

Roosevelt was a good man to meet problems. And he would do it at the level of the common person. Where before, the Depression had been on at the time that he came in, but they were trying to affect it from the top, and it would never trickle down to where the man on the street or the man that was just in a very normal job could notice that they were doing anything. And the first thing of course Roosevelt did was that we had a bank holiday, which threw everyone, but it was necessary, because it had to be stopped and reversed immediately. So that, he was a good leader, yes. The public was so anxious that they would grab on to every word. He would have his fireside chats, you know. He never doubted that there was a problem, but he would be talking of things that should be done even as much as WPA, and here in San Francisco they had a huge art colony, and they hadn't worked and hadn't eaten well for a long time. And so they actually had a WPA project on art, and they did things that still exist today. So there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and he was the light.

INTERVIEWER:

Of course, there were a lot of people who really didn't like him, right?

LYLE BRAMSON:

Yes, there were, because we had gone from a conservative government under Hoover to a man that would explore almost everything. Of course, he made a lot of mistakes, but it actually, collectively his ideas and his thoughts and his support helped to alleviate the seriousness at the time, and then as I say we were coming out of it, and of course the private sector was always anxious for that to happen but from a government standpoint, yes we were assisted. We were governed and that's the thing that—

INTERVIEWER:

Do you think that was the appropriate thing for the government to do?

LYLE BRAMSON:

It was the necessary thing to do, yes.

[end of interview]