Camera Rolls: 318:28-31
Sound Rolls: 318:14-16
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Frank Manies , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on March 11, 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.*
We're going to talk a little bit about what you remember and what it was like back then. Before we talk about even getting out here, what it was like in California, I'd like to, to hear a little bit about back in Oklahoma and, and what, what life was there and why people decided to leave.
OK. I was born in Stevens County, Oklahoma,
Hang on. Before we go any farther, forget about the camera. Don't look at the camera.
OK. Look at you. OK.
So tell me about where you were born.
I was born in Stevens County, Oklahoma, and I lived there for a couple of years. And then later we moved to Carter County which is Ardmore, Oklahoma. And I spent my young life from, also in Tillman County. I grew up in Grandfield, Oklahoma, which is part of Tillman County. We weren't too prosperous as sharecroppers. My father was a bridge builder, but then he would sharecrop on the side. And in 1929 we weren't doing too well, even at that time, but then whenever the Black Friday came, as the Depression came, well, then, it made a hardship just about on everyone. And the price of cotton a little bit after Black Friday went down to seven cents a pound.
Was that enough to make a living on?
No, no, you couldn't. It, it doesn't really take too much of a mathematician to figure out that, if you get seven cents a pound, a five hundred pound bale of cotton would only bring thirty-five dollars. And then if you give practically half of that to the land owners, then what do you have? You have seventeen dollars and fifty cents for, to, you know, to make a living on. Well, then you go out and pick the same bale of cotton for somebody else for fifteen, so what, how much does that give you for all your work for raising it? Almost nothing.
Did your family actually lost [sic] their place? Or were they...?
Well, we didn't even own the land, for that matter, but we were just sharecroppers, and we paid the land owners. But we did have horses. And that was before they had tractors and what not.
That was the period when tractors—
Yeah, when tractors were just coming into existence. And course there were some of the farmers decided to buy tractors, and the ones that did and had their own land, well then they became prosperous, especially during World War II. But then, the Triple A came in, and...
You were saying before that, that you thought that Triple A had more to do with—
I really think it did because—
Say, "I think Triple A had..."
I think Triple A had a lot to do with putting the farmers out of business, because the land owners found out they could get, more for a not growing the cotton than they are, than they would be by having the farmer's [unintelligible]. So, consequently, they would say, "Well, I no longer need this house," so they'd just tear the house down and, and they would take in, put the farmer out of business, and I think that one thing, that caused a lot of farmers to come to California.
Those people, people talk about being "tractored out."
Tractored out. That's right.
What did "tractored out" mean?
Well, that means that—
Say, "Being tractored." Just say, "Being tractored out means..."
Being tractored out would be a, maybe come in and turning it over to some big farmer, or maybe come in and tearing the house down with a bulldozer. That would be one way to be tractored out. So that would be the extreme source of tractoring out. But—
But, I mean, you know the mythology, when people look back and say, "Oh well, the Dust Bowl drove people off the land". Was that really what did it?
Not really. It was the economics of the thing. You know, if you check on some of the experts that have made a study of that, very few people actually got blown out by the dust. It was an economic thing that existed in—you know the oil, I, maybe I mentioned this before, the oil, I think was selling for something like 50 cents a barrel. And the Governor of Oklahoma, Bill Murray at the time, I remember in a cartoon that he had on the Daily Oklahoman, he was setting on top of this oil derrick with his barrel of oil in his hand, and he says, "Who says a dollar?" He was trying to get a dollar a barrel for the oil, and he did. He succeeded in getting the price up. He had the state militia to come out and shut down all the oil companies for maybe two or three weeks or a month.
So what, with the farms going under and the oil going bad, there wasn't much you do?
There wasn't nothing left and nothing to do. And I had my problems, too. I left home at a comparatively early age and I had been working building a lake, what is now Lake Murray at Ardmore, Oklahoma. And after I worked there for awhile, I lost my job, and so I had no place to go. And 1934 I decided that I wanted to go into the CCCs, the Civilian Conservation Corps. Well, I unable to do it for some reason or another. They were, they had an over supply of young fellows that wanted to go to that CCCs, and I tried to get into it and so I couldn't, so in 1934, I decided I wanted to come to California.
Now when you'd made that decision, what had you heard about California?
Well, I had heard all these good things. That California was the land of milk and honey, and we have the sunshine, and the temperature was more milder than we had in Oklahoma. Gets pretty cold in some parts of Oklahoma, especially in the winter time. 1929 we had a terribly hard freeze. I think it was the coldest I think they'd ever had in maybe for 50 years. So, and the east and west roads were piled high with snow for maybe three feet deep, and it was days and days we couldn't travel.
So, so when do people start? I mean do people come back and tell you about California? How do you...?
Yeah, that's it. They, they would tell me and say—well, they, and I'd, you know, get stories from people who would hear from their relatives in California that it was the place to come to. And then they started, of course I don't know, remember exactly what year it was, they started circulating circulars wanting workers. And I think that was kind of misleading, too, by some of the big, big farmers that do that. But anyway, well, I think that they actually had more help out here than they could actually use, but nevertheless they did use those circulars to, to entice people to California, so we had nothing else there to resort to, so what did we do? We said, "Well, we got to go someplace." And so—
You mentioned before that you particularly remembered hearing, seeing some films about oranges?
Yeah, I loved that, yeah. In fact, I, well I saw orange, you know, the oranges and the olives, and of course I made the big mistake when I first came to California about tasting an olive without being processed [laughs], but that didn't work either. But they had all kinds of fruits.
Was it a movie? Or what did—
Yeah, it was a movie. I don't recall the name of the movie, but it was where they had the, the entrepreneur came in, you know, and started using water from these streams and, put furrows, and it was kind of a country movie. And it'd be interesting to know the name of the movie, maybe it's still around, I don't know, but anyway, it looked like a real nice place to be. And then after I did succeed in getting, that was in '34, decided to come to California, well then I had my problems getting as far as Plainview, Texas.
Well, you didn't have any money, you just—
I was broke. I just had the clothes on my back, and they weren't too good.
I'm sorry. Start over again telling me you were broke.
Yeah. When I started to California, well, then I was broke and just had the clothes on my back. And then cars weren't traveling too much, and I didn't take Highway 66, I took one of the roads further south. I started walking. Started walking and sometime I would sleep beside the road, sometimes I would get a room, talk somebody into giving me a room. But it took me days to get as far as Plainview, Texas, which was about 300 miles from where I started from at Ardmore. But then I spent a considerable amount of time walking.
Would you get jobs along the way?
No, I didn't. In fact I, in this book, I think Peter Jenkins or Jennings, or whatever it was, _Walk Across America_, now he would stop and get a job or whatever, and he had his umbrella and what not that he would use going across Texas, but in, we didn't have that privilege of stopping and working. And it was the wrong time of year, too, to pick cotton. It was in the early spring. But anyway—
—broke, and sometimes a farmer would give me a ride, say for five miles, he'd feel sorry for me, but then it would take days and days to get as far as Plainview, Texas. And then I got a place where I could live and, you know, they would give me food for a week or two. And I finally had the opportunity of taking someone else's place to go into the CCCs.
That was what you said. You said you met someone who didn't want to go.
Yeah, didn't want to go, and that in fact he told me—
Start over again. "I met someone..."
Yeah. I met someone that was going into the CCCs the following day. And I asked him, "Can I take your place?" And he said, "OK, we'll go and ask them what they say." And I went into the place where they had to sign up and they said, "Where are you from?" I said, "I'm from Oklahoma." They said, "Well, we can't allow you to do that because we have those positions for our own boys." I said, "Yeah, but you only have one day to get that, and you don't have that much time, so let me take his place. I need the job." He said, "Well, OK, I shouldn't do it," but then, he did let me take his place.
But then, I mean, you were in a pretty desperate situation.
I was in a desperate situation. I really was.
So what did, what did that represent?
Well, it represented once I got there, I would have food, and I would have clothing, and I would have medical attention and what not in the CCCs. And I remember walking halfway between Plainview, Texas, which is forty-seven miles from Lubbock, in order to get there the following morning. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to pass the test because I'd have this gimpy leg. But I did. I passed it, and then they shipped us to Camp Birdy.
Before we go on with the story, would you just tell me one more time this idea about what was attractive about California, what made you want to come here?
Well, first off, I felt like that after I had completed my tenure in the CCCs that I would like to come to California. And I knew they had a lot more cars than they had in Oklahoma, and it would give me an opportunity to work as an auto mechanic.
But even, even, I'm talking about even before CCC, when you first left Oklahoma, you had this idea about—
Of course I had this trouble, and my grandfather always told me, "Frank, you will never be able to work too hard because of that gimpy leg, and I want you to go to California." I said, "Well, maybe I will, Grandad." And, so, I, he had told me about it, and especially Southern California, he said. But then as it wound up, I, I had that in the back of my mind all that many years, and then I—
But tell us one more time about seeing films about the oranges.
Well, it was the irrigation thing, and I thought well, that is an ideal situation where you can grow your own vegetables. And you have your peaches and the oranges and the tangerines and the nectarines and whatnot. I thought it was just a perfect setup, really. And that's one of the reasons I wanted to come to California. And I didn't think at that time that Oklahoma had anything to offer, and I thought, "Well, California's for me."
Some people tell me that when they were in the CCC and NYA, that when they finished up they'd be offered a ticket to anywhere they'd want to go. And, and, and some of them would be asked, "Well, do you want to go back to Oklahoma or Texas?", and they'd say, "No".
Yes, I had that happen to me.
Tell me what happened.
Well, I, they, I'd spent four and a half years, that was 1938, in the CCCs, and they asked me whenever I was to be discharged, "Where do you want to go? You want to go back to Plainview, Texas or do you want to go back, do you want to go to California?" I said "No, I do not want anything to do with Texas", and I didn't want anything to do with Oklahoma. They gave me a ticket to the equal distance that I'm entitled to for California, so they looked on the map, and it turned out, I think, it was six hundred and fifty miles. And they said, "Well, you can go as far as Fresno, California." And at that time I had a sister who had just moved to California from Oklahoma, and lived in the little town of Selma. I said, "Give me, give me Fresno". And so I, came to California on a train. High style! [laughs]
Tell me a little bit about, about your first impressions of California. Was it like that movie you'd seen?
Well, the, the, the environment, yes. The, the lush orange trees and the grapevines and all of that thing, I really loved. And the first job that I got was, it was pouring down rain, you know. And I thought, "Well, I will never get a job in California because there's rainy weather," but that, as it turned out, was my first job. They hired me to roll up the raisins. They, you know they had a paper tray, so I'd roll them up in a cigarette roll. And that was my first job, and they paid, I think, twenty-five cents an hour to do that. And I went and worked hard late at night rolling up the raisins. But then after the sun dried up in a day or two, well, they hired me to unroll them. I thought, "Well, this is sure different from anything that I have ever seen in Oklahoma." But then I continued working in the fields. And—
California was different in a lot of ways.
Much different, much different. And the—
Tell me some of the ways California was different.
Well, the people were different. And, of course, the, the, the, we had a milder temperature than I had been used to. Of course, here in the Valley, I think it gets pretty cold, too, but not as cold as it does in Plainview, Texas or Oklahoma. But it was milder, but it did, it was also quite hot, too.
You were saying that back in Oklahoma where you grew up, you had a real sense of community and people would sort of relate to each other.
Yes, we did. That was the thing that I noticed about California, was, especially working for some—back there, well, then if we would worked, exchange work with the neighbors, or then we would hire out to the neighbor, well then we considered them our friends, and we would see them on the street, and they would be sociable, and they remembered our names, and "How you doing today? And how's your family? And what are you going to do next?" and so forth. But when I came to California, the farmers weren't like that at all. They were very anxious to get the crops picked, or whatever needed to be done, their pruning and whatever, but then soon as that was done, well that was a different story entirely. They really didn't care too much for us after, after that.
Well, that, that sort of brings us to, sort of, we talked about some of the positive sides about being in California, but there were some negative sides.
There were some negative sides. You betcha there was, you betcha there was. And they didn't seem like it, the townspeople felt like that maybe, you know, we weren't the high class of people that they would like to see around. And the, the marshals in the CHP sometimes would stop us. However, I think the CHP was better than some of the local police people. They would stop us. They rode motorcycles in those days, and they would stop, and I remember one stopped me one time and he was very nice. And, "Where you from? Do you, do you have a license?" "No". [laughs] And he said, "Well, OK. That's OK. Your car seems to be running pretty good. You go and get...how long you been here?" I said, "Not very long". He said "Well, you go and get a license as soon as you can". I said, "Well, thank you very much". I thought he was actually better than some of the local marshals and some of the local police people.
Why do you think people responded that way to the people like yourself?
I think they were afraid of us to some degree. I have heard reports that they felt like that maybe, maybe we'd take their jobs. And maybe we would. You know, of course, actually we were looking for anything that would give us life and give us a warm room and something to eat. And it was kind of hard to come by.
I mean, the other side of the coin is that, is that people here [in California] weren't doing all that well themselves.
Absolutely not because—
How were people doing here?
No very well, especially—
Tell me, "People here were not". Start out with—
People here were not doing too well, because, that is, the migrant, they called us migrant workers, they were spending a considerable amount of time driving up and down the roads. Sometimes they would work for two or three days for one person and then the job would be over. And then they would have to spend time and effort and spend their gasoline looking for other jobs. And sometimes there'd be a day or two go by before you would get another job, so, consequently, instead of have the usual twelve dollars a week, and it'd be more like six dollars a week. And so it was hard to keep a, keep going on that.
You mentioned before that actually a lot of farmers out here were losing their places.
A lot of the farms were for sale. In fact, California was going through a kind of a economic crisis—
OK. Let's stop for a minute.
I guess I was, we were just at the point where I was asking you about the fact that local people here in California were losing their farms a lot and the banks were taking over. Tell me a little about that.
Yes they were.
Say, "The local people were..."
The local people were having trouble financially because a lot of places you could probably go around, maybe twenty-five percent of the farms would be for sale, you know, by Bank of America or some other bank. So they had their problems, too. And, of course, we weren't the only ones having problems. But the, the farmers were having problems. I think the raisins at that time was only bringing $40 a ton. So that's two cents a pound if you figure out how much it is. But they had their problems. And the state was having their problems. And the Okies were having their problems.
Those were just hard times for everyone.
Yeah. Hard times for everyone, that's right.
Did, did, oh, I'm sorry. That's OK. What did people think should be done? I mean, how...?
[laughs] They had this initiative, after I was here a few days, that they were promoting, called "The Ham and Eggs". In fact, I went out to pick cotton one morning, and this other cotton picker said to me, "Ham and Eggs!" I said, "Well, what do you mean, 'ham and eggs'? I don't understand". He said, "Well, they're having, we're going to vote shortly on ham and eggs, and they're going to use a scrip"[sic]. And, it was, I think it was headed by someone by the name of Townsend or McLean or some of those guys. But anyway, he told me that they were going to have this initiative.
OK, you were telling me a little bit about Townsend, and the people were just sort of groping for some way to solve their problems, right?
Yeah. They, they were looking for something really, you know, whether it was through the "Ham and Eggs" or whatever. Anyway, well, to follow up on my story there, he, he explained to me that they were going to have this scrip that they would circulate every Thursday he called "Thirty Every Thursday". And I said, "Well, who's going to pay for this?" And he didn't know, but he thought it was something like the—
Now, we were just talking about people being desperate and wanting some way out of their problems. Did, you never actually took any help from the government, did you?
I've never received one penny's worth of help from—however, I was staying with my brother-in-law and my sister at the time. And he went to Fresno, I think at that time we lived in Fresno County. And he went to Fresno to see if he could get some help, and they said no, that we would have to be here one year. At that time, we were a little bit, making a little bit better than when we first came. And, but I never received one penny's worth of help. However, they did give him something called commodities, such as salmon and maybe oatmeal and a few things like that, maybe five dollars worth. But, apart from that, we never received one penny's worth of welfare then. In fact, I didn't want it, to tell the truth.
Well, that's the point. It was a strange idea getting help from the government then.
Yes it was.
What did, what did it seem like?
Well, I just felt like that if I had rather go out and find a job and try to make a living, especially if I could get a job doing something that I liked, such as working on cars, but it was difficult to get a job as a auto mechanic here in the Valley. I don't know, maybe it was because so many of the garages were little small garages, and they really didn't have enough business for even for themselves, so I just finally gave up as trying to get work as a auto mechanic here in the Valley.
I know you weren't involved with them, but, but during that period there were a lot of people who went out on strike and organized. Was, I mean, was that an attempt to try and improve things?
To improve, yeah, naturally, it would be. But they had their problems, too. I have heard reports that maybe they were successful, and some reports where they weren't.
You told me it was real hard to break a, to win a strike?
Yeah, it was, because the—
Start again, it was hard to win a strike...
It was hard to win a strike because they had probably four people to take the place of people that walked off. So what are you going to do? In fact, in the book , it mentions that Tom Joad, and he came to Woodville. Well, they didn't tell him there was a strike before they told him to come to Woodville and get a job picking peaches. And whenever he got there, there was this, all these police people there, and they said to him, "Well, what are you doing here?" And he said, "Well, I came here to work, picking peaches". And they said, "Well, do you know there's a strike?" And he said, "No, I didn't know that". "Well, there is. If you want to go ahead and go on in, go ahead, but then you're taking your life in your own hands, I suppose, to do it". But they went ahead and did it. And the question I ask is, "Why did he break the strike, cross the picket line?" Except that he was broke. He had to have food. And that's why he did it. And that, I think that applies to a lot of other strikers, you know.
So even though was, was fiction—
Fiction. I think it was based on the truth, really.
I mean, did it correspond to what you—
Very much so. In fact, I think John Steinbeck did a tremendous amount of research in compiling his book. That's my honest opinion. Course, I'm sure there's some fiction in there, but then, some reality to it, too.
I mean, when someone like you read his book and knew what you'd been through, did it seem...?
Yeah, it paralleled, you betcha. In fact, whenever Tom Joad came back from prison, whenever he went to look for his own folks, and what'd he find? Nothing. The house had been bulldozed down, so he said, "Well, what can I do?" Come to California like all the rest of us.
And one of the, one of the other ways that the Okies were criticized here, apart from talking differently, and somehow people would say they weren't clean. Whenever there'd be a strike, people would say, "Well, well, people don't really want a strike. It's all the Communists, the agitators". Did you hear much of that?
I heard some reports about that. In fact, I, I remember at that time I wasn't familiar with the Communist movement, but then I heard reports of Communist people coming in and wanting people to sign up. And I think one time I signed something I didn't know what I was signing. It could have been that I signed up in a Communist thing. I don't know, but I didn't realize what it was at the time.
Yeah, but what I'm, but what I'm asking is, I think there were Communists out there, organizing, but—
I think there were.
But did people have a reason to organize even if the Communists weren't there? Were their lives—
Well, as far as trying to improve themselves, yes, I think they did have a right to. In fact, I'm sure they did help, but some of them were against the unions. I've never really cared too much for unions as far as myself is concerned. And at the same time I feel like if it weren't for the unions, I think all of us would be working for a whole lot less than what we are, then and now. At the same time, I don't care too much for some of the things that the unions have done. But I'm sure that some of them were willing to join the unions. And some of them formed unions. Now, I think some of the ranchers were, joined forces together, you know, as a, not a, not a union, but maybe a, well maybe a union, too, for that matter.
You mean groups like the Associated Farmers.
Yeah. That's what I meant.
But they were fighting the unions weren't they?
That's right. They were fighting the unions, and they were trying to keep the unions out. So as everyone was battling for a little bit of extra money, I suppose, to make a living on.
Wasn't that really what it was about?
That's what it was about, is, is, is not being able to make a living, you know, I think that's the key to a lot of things, really, if you can have a good job. I used to teach vocational education, and I have always felt like it if, that's the most important thing, if you can go out and secure, be gainfully employed, well then that's, that's the trick of being, having happiness, really.
Tell me a little bit about the things, I mean, you didn't get out here until '38, so you really hadn't seen how it had been here in '34, '35, and '36, although I understood it was—did you get a sense towards the end of the decade that things were getting better?
A tiny bit. Very little better. In fact, I think the only thing that really stopped us—
Would you start over and say, "Towards the end of the decade..."
Towards the end of the decade, I think, it was getting a little bit better, perhaps instead of getting—I've heard reports that maybe in 1932 and 1933, they were getting maybe ten cents an hour, whereas whenever we came in '38, then we were getting twenty-five. So there was an improvement, a slight improvement, not a great deal, but a slight improvement. Maybe at the same time, maybe the cost of living was a little bit higher, too. I don't know.
Would that, I mean, say you're making twenty-five cents an hour. Can you live on it?
Not really. In fact, I've, I had to pool my resources with my sister and her husband. And they were renting a little cabin for six dollars a month, and he was making about the same amount as I, twelve dollars, that is if you worked steady. Of course, whenever I started putting my twelve dollars in with his, then it was a little bit better for the three of us, but then, apart from that, I don't think I could have lived. I just couldn't have.
Well, I mean there's a question between sort of basic surviving and getting ahead.
Yeah, that's right. There's a little bit of difference, isn't there. You're right, there is.
And what were [you] doing? Were you surviving or were you...?
Surviving, just barely surviving, really, yeah.
Did, I mean, did—even though things are getting a little better, did you have a sense in '39 that it was just going to go on? Or, you know...?
Well, I felt like, of course, in, in I had a hunch, too—
I had a hunch in '39 that maybe something was going to happen. In fact, if you remember, that's when Germany went into Danzig, and they declared Danzig an open city. And I felt like, too, that, maybe, that they were going to have war in Germany, and I wasn't for sure that I was in favor of that. In fact, I wasn't in favor of it. But then I thought, too, that if war did break out, maybe the prices of things would be a little bit better. I mean, at least we'd have employment. That's the negative side of war. But I felt like that maybe something that was going to, happen. And sure enough it did in '41, you know. And we were going pretty strong with the wars in '41 and after Pearl Harbor, December 7th, and, and of course we were all involved.
Did, was it, I mean, what was it like the day after Pearl Harbor? Was it like everything changed?
Frustration deluxe. Yeah. And it, it—we were mad, and we were disappointed in—in fact, I had a very close friend that had only been in the Navy five weeks that went down with the Arizona. And that made me pretty unhappy about that.
Coming after that, I mean, now I know you mentioned in '39, you mentioned Germany going into Danzig. Was, were people, at what point do people start getting aware that there may be a war, and we're going to get into it?
Well, I think that they had a hunch that maybe, like it was in September, I think, that they went into Danzig, or October. And I think that some people thought at the time that maybe something was going to happen in Germany. And I had some German friend that was bragging about Hitler, and he kind of turned me off in a hurry, because I felt like, "Well, hey, what are you talking about? I don't like what he's done at all!" But they were for him, you know, until we got into the war with Germany, and, course, then they didn't dare to say anything. Maybe they had changed their mind by then. But then after—
OK. Let's stop for a second.
We were just talking about, you know, getting a sense that war might be coming in terms of the Germans. Part of the shock of Pearl Harbor was that it was attached by the Japanese, not the Germans. Were people thinking that we would be at war with Japan? Was that an issue, too?
I don't think that they really thought that we going to be in war with Japan. That's, that's my honest opinion. But I think that they felt like perhaps we would be in Germany. In fact, I talked to a lot of the World War I soldiers that were in France during World War I. And they said, "Well, we will be back in fighting the Germans again!" In fact, I think they felt like that we would be in and I felt like that we would be, too, because of Hitler was, on a rampage going all the different places. In South Africa, and Italy, and, then he did the pact with the Russia which didn't hold up. And then, he started going into Poland and then Russia. So, all in all, I felt like that we would be in war with Germany, but I don't think that anyone, at least I didn't think that we would ever be at war with Japan. However, they had, Japan had been, in war, to some degree, in China for years before. I don't know why that we thought that we wouldn't in war with Japan, but, of course whenever after Pearl Harbor, we had two folds to fight, Germany and Japan, too.
But when you talked with your friends and stuff like that, would people be really in favor of getting into the war, or would they really have some serious doubts?
At that time, after Roosevelt—
Stop for a second. Let's cut.
Yeah. I was, I was asking you how you and your friends felt about whether we should get, go to war or not.
I think at that time...I think at that time, I think that we felt like that we should. It seems like that whenever we are faced with that sort of situation, then they have a way of making people feel patriotic, and everyone's ready to go, really. In fact, I would have liked to have been in the Navy myself, but they turned me down with my gimpy leg. But, I would have liked to be in the Navy.
Well, people have a—patriotism meant something different.
At that time, you betcha. It was very strong.
What did patriotism mean?
Well, you know, fighting for what we believed in, and fighting for our freedom to do, to live the way we want to live. And we didn't feel like that being under someone like Hitler or Tojo or whoever it was that was trying to—In fact I think that, Tojo announced that he would, after Pearl Harbor, that he would take the peace and the White House. So we didn't like that. But, anyway, we went to war, and it was a tough war. We had a, lost a lot of men, lot of soldiers, especially Guadalcanal.
I had a feeling you were talking about how people felt after Pearl Harbor. Before we were attacked, would you have had any reservations, or would you think...?
Yes, I would have had some reservations. But after Pearl Harbor, then that changed the whole attitude of just about everybody, really. And I felt like that everyone—in fact, the defense plant, it was quite an honor to work in a defense plant, especially if you were turning out the materials for the soldiers and the servicemen to do the job with. And they had awards they used to make: Army/Navy E, they called it, along with quite a few others, just a small group won the Army/Navy E for efficiency. Course, there's some of the places like Douglas, North American, and all those. Well, then there was a blanket thing. But I thought it was kind of an honor to help just a few of us win the Army/Navy E. They gave us a little pin to go on their stuff there.
Tell me something, now. The war came and, and really then the Depression is over. Looking back over that whole period of that whole decade, did it strike you as a good time or a bad time? How, how do you feel about the whole thing?
Well, it was a, the Depression days was a very tough time, a very tough time. And World War II was a very tough time. It was hard on everybody, you know, hard on the servicemen, and hard on the families that the servicemen would have to leave. Very tough times. But then once it was over with in '45, well then we could settle down to doing what, what we wanted to do.
Did, do you, I mean, do you remember any good things about living through the Depression? Or was it all just an uphill battle?
About the only good thing that I can think of is that I think—
I think the only good thing that I can think of was that, I think it taught a lot of us the respect of, maybe the word would be approval [laughs], the miser or whatever. But then, I think we've been very conservative, really. The, most of the people that went through that, at least all the ones that I've been associated with, my age, nine-tenths out of ten, they would be a conservative person. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I, anyway, that's how, that's how it wound up being.
How did, how did, in looking back, how do you think about what people like Roosevelt did for the country? Did they help it?
Well, I think that he was a good president. I'm not for sure it was right for them to have tried to serve four terms. Course they can't now. At that time, well then he, I think the last four years—course, he died in his fourth term, but I think that we'd been better off to have had somebody other than Roosevelt. But then, another thing, too, that I always appreciated Roosevelt for, in '33, whenever he'd take office, it was really desperately hard. And what did he do? He set up the WPA and CWA and the CCCs, which I took advantage of, that I, I loved. In fact I, I always think that Roosevelt did a good job in instituting those managers.
Do you think, do you think, I mean, I don't know, how much credit shall we give him? Did he [FDR] save the country?
I think he went a long ways towards it. That's my honest opinion.
Can you answer that in a complete sentence? "I think he went a long ways towards saving..."
I think that he, that he went a long ways—
One second. We got a noise. Let's just say, "I think Roosevelt went a long way towards..."
I think Roosevelt went a long ways in, in saving the country. That's my honest opinion. I think that a lot of people didn't like him, but, then I liked him. And of course he instituted the AAA and the, which actually at the same time there were some of the Californians that was using the AAA, too, to not plant cotton, which took away from Okies problem.
So it wasn't perfect.
No, it wasn't perfect, not by a long shot. But then it was better than nothing.
When you try and, I know when you talk to someone your age who's been through it, they understand, but when you try and tell someone else, like a younger kid, like when you were in school, how do you explain to them what that time was like?
It's hard, hard to do it, because it's hard for them to comprehend because they have nothing to relate to, that in fact that they think, "Well, that's, years and years past. Maybe it'll never happen again." And maybe it won't, and I hope it doesn't. But then maybe it will, too. Who knows?
Well, if it was to happen again, what would people have to do? How would they have to...?
Then we would just have to pick up the pieces like we did in those days and try to do the best we can. In fact, I see a little bit of a trend towards that right now, really.
Not as severe.
Not as severe. No, no, it's nothing as close—they always talk about what is the difference between a depression and a recession. And, if, if you're out of work, then it's a depression to you, but if I, I still have my job, it's a recession to me. But, that's the difference. But I think there is a big difference between a depression and a recession, really, because it's a depression is much more severe and much more longer in duration.
But the country did survive?
The country did survive. And California survived. And they didn't have the problems after World War II broke out that they thought they had, because they had all the industry to come in to build the ships and the planes and everything else.
Did you keep in touch with people in the Valley here when war broke out?
Yes I did. My father moved here, and tried to, he enticed me to come back to the Valley. I said, "Oh, I remember what it was like". And I, I didn't want to come back. But they, but they kept pressuring me, and my wife said, "Let's go to the Valley! Let's go to the Valley!" But it was with a great deal of reluctance that I decided to come. I said, "Well, I remember what it was like, so I don't want to go back to the same place where I had all the problems."
That's sort of like not wanting to go back to Oklahoma?
That's right, same thing, same thing. But I did. I, I quit a job. I had the job at, working in North American Aviation as a machinist, and I gave that up. And I was making good wages. But I came to the little town of Ivanhoe and put in a repair shop in 1947.
Right now? How's it feel to end up with an orange grove?
[laughs] Wonderful. And I love California. I really do. I don't want to go back. If I go back to—
Tell me one more time, "It's feel great to finally have an orange grove".
It feels great to have an orange grove and to live in California. I love it. And if I go back to Oklahoma, I'll make sure that I have enough money to come back home. That's my honest opinion.
No one-way ticket.
No one-way ticket.
OK. Let's stop. Did we get that? Great.