Virgil Getto Interview, 1 of 2

Dublin Core


Virgil Getto Interview, 1 of 2


Virgil Getto Interview, 1 of 2


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


June 17, 1992


First of two interviews. Second interview here.


Analog Cassette Tape, Text File, Mp3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Eleanor Ahern


Virgil Getto


1400 Lovelock Highway, Fallon, Nevada




an interview with


December 17, 1992 [note: the tape says it took place on Thursday, June 17, 1992. I am uncertain of the cause of the discrepancy]

This interview was conducted by Eleanor Ahern; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norine Arciniega; final typed by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum.

 Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.

Interview with Virgil Getto

AHERN:This is Eleanor Ahern of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project interviewing Virgil Getto at his home 1400 Lovelock Highway, Fallon, Nevada. The date is Thursday, June 17, 1992. The time is 1:15. We are sitting in the kitchen of Mr. Getto's house. Good afternoon, Mr. Getto. How are you?

GETTO: Good afternoon. I'm fine.

AHERN: Would you please give me your full name?

GETTO: My name is Virgil Michael Getto.

AHERN: And could you give me the birth place and date you were born?

GETTO: Yes, I was born actually across the river in my cousin's house, actually in the house, in the back bedroom. I know the bedroom that I was born in, and I was born in June 19, 1924.

AHERN: When you say across the river, which river is it?

GETTO: That's the Carson River that runs--actually, the Carson River has some history as far as our property because it is the boundary line between my uncle's place where now my cousins farm and our farm.

AHERN: And your uncle's name is . .

GETTO: My uncle was Uncle John Getto. He's deceased, and he was the first Getto to come to the United States from a small city in Italy called Ivrea which is in northern Italy.

AHERN: Do you have the address of your birth place?

GETTO: That's 1200 Lovelock Highway.

AHERN: Is the house still standing?

GETTO: Yes, it is. In fact, I was just over there this morning to visit with my cousin. My uncle and my father built that home. It's a nice looking home, except in those days they didn't have reinforcing steel and the blocks are starting to crack, and he's quite concerned about the house.

AHERN: Could you tell me something about your parents? You mentioned that your father came from Italy. Did your mother come from the same town?

GETTO: Yes. A little bit of history about my father: both my father, my uncle, there were five children in that family, a very poor family. They had very few acres, and they were farmers in Italy. That's the way they made their living. So there wasn't enough for the children, and, of course, my uncle, John, being the oldest one, left first and went to France and then my father, at the age of fourteen, left his home and went to Switzerland, and he worked in a mine down underground picking coal. His goal, of course, was to, all of them, their goals were to come to the United States, and my uncle was the first one that accomplished his goal, and he came over. There was a man--there's quite a history about him in town--Ed Frazzini, Frazzini Furniture Store, used to be. My uncle and Ed Frazzini were together, and they went out to--my uncle came to Reno first because he knew a man there. His name was Gallo, and it's ironical because that place or that establishment is still there. It's called Coney Island Bar-Restaurant--it's between Sparks and Reno--and that's where my uncle came because he knew that man. The man was a stone mason, and, of course, it was a point for him to come to this country, and then the gold mining was a lure, and so he went to Tonopah. Then my father was able to do the same thing in 19- We think, we’re not sure, it was 1907 - that he was able to put enough money together to buy a ticket to come across, and he worked in Switzerland, and then he went to England and worked in the kitchens and then back to France at Le Havre where he left on the shir to come to the United States. He landed in New York with no more money, and so he worked as a . . . they were loading gravel in the ships on the gang plank, and he was wheeling the wheel barrows with gravel up and [it] was very, very hard work, and he was a small man. He weighed about 135 pounds at that time. He was very wiry little guy, and so that's the way he earned enough money to come out here to this country. Then he went to the same place, the Coney Island Bar in Sparks. Wasn't the Coney Island Bar at that time. It was Gallo, and he built the Coney Island Bar. Then daughter and son-in-law had it, and like I said, it's still there. Then Dad worked in truck gardening around Reno. He came over with a first cousin, a fellow by the name of Gian d'Rodda. The other man was not very happy in this country. He didn't particularly like it. Besides, his mother became ill in Italy, so after a couple two years here, he went back, and I was able to talk to him. That was after my father died, and I went to Italy the first time, and I went and visited with him. He had done very well in Italy. He went back and became a proprietor of a big thrashing machine, and they harvested grain with a steam engine at that time. And he did real well. He had a nice home, and he had one child. His wife had died at that time, and he had one child, and she never married. Both passed away now. They're both gone, but he came over here as a companion to my father.

GETTO: Dad then worked in the truck gardens to earn enough money to get to Tonopah, but he didn't like the mining. He worked, also, in a place called Mary Mine in Silver Peak. And, an ironical thing about that is that I'd always heard about this Mary Mine in Silver Peak like it was some mystical mine or something, and so when I was campaigning for my senate seat the last time, I told myself, "I'm going to go to Silver Peak"--which I had never been to--"and see about this Mary Mine." Was it really a mine, or what was it? And so when I did, lo and behold, the mine was in operation again, so it was interesting. I met people there. So Dad worked with my uncle in Tonopah, but he didn't like the mining, and so he was looking for something, and then, at that time, when they were advertising in the paper for the Newlands Project--they were advertising: "Farmers, come buy some land, and we'll sell you the water, and you can have your own farm." So Dad and Uncle John and Ed Frazzini--Ed Frazzini was in Tonopah. He was a real entrepreneur. He was in the furniture business, and he was doing everything. So they all three came to Fallon, and Ed Frazzini and my uncle, John, and my dad, the three of them bought all this land together. Well, Ed Frazzini was no farmer.       He (laughing) hated it. So, eventually, in 1912, Ed Frazzini sold his. We have all these deeds, and my cousin and I were looking at them this morning. In 1912, he sold his undivided one third interest to my dad and my uncle, and that would have been this land on both sides of the River.

GETTO: And then in 1923, my dad married. He asked my mother-there was no romance. The ironical part about this was there was no dating and no romance. Dad went back to Italy in 1920, and they were trying to pair him up with somebody back there, and he didn't particularly care for her. I guess he'd just met my mom, and he said, "Well, if you ever get to the United States, look me up." So Mom really disliked her home life and things over in Italy because one other sister had come to the United States, and so she made a pledge that she would save every penny until she could buy a ticket to come to this country. She had a sister living in Indiana, and that's the point that she would go to. So, in 1922, I think it was, she came to the United States and was staying with her sister, and then she wrote my dad a letter, and said, "I'm here! I'm in this country. What are you going to do about it?" And so, Dad wrote back. I guess they corresponded back and forth, and finally--that was their romance, I guess, with letters 'cause they didn't travel that much in those days, and so finally, he said, "I'll come and get you," and he did. He went to Indiana and got her, and they came back here, and they were married in 1923. And they were still living in my uncle's house, the two families then. And that's why I say I was born over there. I was born in 1924 over there. In the meantime, they knew that they were going to separate, and so they were building my dad's house over here. In 1926, I think, they completed the house, and then in 1926 they divided the property. They just took the River line as the boundary of the two parcels. My dad got a lot more land because it was not all in cultivation, and my uncle had a bull had broken his leg, and he had a real problem because he had a plate in it. In those days they didn't have medical, they didn't have all the antibiotics they have now. He had a real problem with his broken leg, and so he wasn't as active as my dad. So he only took the forty acres, and then later on, he bought all the little farms around it so he ended up with more land later, but in the property division he took the forty. My dad took like a hundred and some over here. That's how we established then the division, and actually how my mom and dad then started from that point.

GETTO: After they divided the land, I was born. They had their house built, so then they built a barn, and they milked cows by hand. They milked like eighteen cows by hand. What was just amazing was my mother because she had a bad heart, and she worked. She had like two or three hundred chickens and turkeys. She raised a hundred and some turkeys, and pigs. And she was a better milker than my dad. They'd go milk together in the morning. She could out milk him, by hand. They were quite progressive for being Italian immigrants that had a very limited education because I think my dad had a third-grade education and mom, maybe fourth or fifth. Dad and mom worked side by side. Now here's a marriage that there was no romance, and they were so compatible. They were so dedicated to each other. I remember they used to get up and before they milked the darn cows, go down--it was during the Depression, and you had to eat and pay your taxes, and so they raised potatoes, and they dug them by hand in the mornings. They'd dig like five to eight to ten sacks of potatoes by hand, and that's a hundred pound sack of potatoes, and then they'd take them down to the Piggly Wiggly-there was a store here called Piggly Wiggly--and also Kent's. Kent's took the eggs, and Kent's took the turkeys. They were marketing turkeys. So they raised chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows, and then, of course, they farmed hay and corn. So she was a very entrepreneurial lady. I just can't believe it when I think that that lady had a bad heart. She had a garden, just a fantastic garden, and when she would go down to feed her chickens, she would take two buckets of feed down to feed the chickens, so they balanced, and she would carry back the buckets with chicken manure. Then she'd spread it on her garden, and she would spade that, and so by the time spring came, she had all her garden spaded and all manured and grow fantastic vegetables. One of her satisfactions in life was to bring vegetables to all her friends. For instance, the attorney, Jack Diehl, who was her attorney, and a lot of the friends that she had in town she would bring them just free gratis. Just bring them because she had too many, and she liked to see them have good vegetables. So that's what she did with her garden. She canned all her own fruit, and they had a beautiful orchard. It's all gone now. We pulled it out because the trees got old, and I don't have the patience. It takes a lot of care with fruit. They had a real nice orchard, and we picked apples. I remember as a young man picking apples and selling them. We'd sell several tons of apples. All these different endeavors allowed them to go through the Depression and pay their farm off. In fact, I think they paid it off just about in the Depression, so they were very entrepreneurial, very successful in that regard.

GETTO: My father, you can imagine, came--there's quite a few farmers, I don’t know how many of them are left--well, none of them are left--but, I mean, some of the old *families* here that actually came, and land, see, was not in cultivation. Part of this was in cultivation, but the lower part was not, so they would blast the trees out, they'd hire some Mexicans sometimes or even some Indian people to help them and they'd cut up this wood and get it off--'cause they burned wood, and they cleared the land. It's sort of amazing when I look at the farm what they did. Of course, it's been changed a lot now, but the way they brought the water in and because the farm is all up and down, and how they engineered the ditches to go. They put a drop here and then this level. Like this four acres right out here. That's one level, and then right at the end there's a drop where the water drops down, and then they went that way with the water and leveled another little piece of land, and they did all of this without--never had an engineer ever. Dad was really good leveling land. They used what they called a tailboard, and the tailboard was a device that was actually designed and built right here in Fallon by an old blacksmith called [George S.] Spreyer. The tailboard was made actually out of wooden boards with iron reinforcing it. And why they called it a tailboard, it was built like this, and this tailboard, if you pulled it down like this, then you set the blade and it would dig. It had rounded shoes in the front and you lifted it up, it would dump the dirt. My dad was so good at that. He'd have like a twelve-inch board that was tied to the tailboard that he would stand on so he didn't have to walk along all the time behind it, and he'd have one leg on that board and one on the tail of the tailboard, and he could allow that dirt to go just by raising and lowering his leg, and he could see. Well, just because he did it, and he watched the water how it flowed, and he just got a real practical idea of how that land should be, and he could just level this land without an instrument. I couldn't believe it.

AHERN: So, basically, the tailboard would have been also like an earth mover?

GETTO: Right. It was an earth mover. That's what it was. And they had some pretty good-sized ones. Like they'd put ten horse abreast, twelve, and it'd be like twelve feet wide, and you could move quite a bit of dirt, but the patience that those people had! Well, I couldn't do that. You're just moving that dirt at the pace that a horse is walking. Not like these rigs now when they go down the road with dirt (laughing). It'd take years to pull down a sand hill or something, and they'd just work at it every winter 'cause in the summertime they couldn't because they were farming. But, something else that my dad did. I hadn't seen anybody else do this--it was kind of an engineering feat--is that he had a big sand hill, and then there was a big low spot over here. Was kind of like a swamp. Wasn't water here, but it grew a lot of grass. It was low. So he took the ditch and he give it a lot of fall and ran the ditch into the sand hill. Made a circle like this and then ran it into this low area. Then from the low area he put a box so the water had to raise up again and go out, and so you see that going into the sand hill, it would wash the dirt into the low area and then that dirt would settle out and the clear water would go out. And so every time he irrigated, he was leveling his land.

AHERN: (laughing) That's wonderful!

GETTO: I remember as little boy it really did impress me because the banks of that were pert near as high as that room where it ran into the . . . and at night you'd hear k---rooooom down into the . . ., and it'd kind of scare me, but that was an amazing thing that he did. And he eventually filled that almost full. Just at the end they had to finish. Get a rig and pull the dirt and finish it. That is the big field I have over here. Now you would never--look at that field--you'd never dream there was a big sand hill there. In fact, there were two sand hills. One up here and one below. It's all leveled up.

AHERN: When your father and Uncle John and Mr. Frazzini had a partnership, what was the total acreage in the partnership?

GETTO: It was probably two hundred acres total. 'Cause see, they've added to it. Like my Uncle John bought a piece of land from--it was called the Rushby Farm. It's over behind his place next to the junk. It's about forty or fifty acres. Rushby was a well driller.

AHERN: With today's address, what would Rushby's address be?

GETTO: Oh, gosh, I don't know. It's on Airport Road. And then he bought--we were just talking this morning--the other place. The Moore, there's somebody by the name of Moore and that was only like about twenty-five acres. So he put the Rushby place and the Moore place--these were all little places--and then over here was a place called the Laking Place. He bought all three of those around his forty-acre farm, and so he had a hundred and some acres of land.

AHERN: Where were the Moores?

GETTO: I can get you that information.

AHERN: Do you have a general idea?

GETTO: Can we come back and fill in some of this stuff? Because I can get that for you, the actual names and the dates and such.

AHERN: Going back to your parents, what were their full names?

GETTO: Andrew. He didn't have a middle name. It was Andrea--it wasn't Andrew--it was Andrea Getto, and mom was Desolina Catrina Longo.

AHERN: Was she close to your father's age? Was she older?

GETTO: No, no. She was twelve years younger.

AHERN: You said that she had saved her money to pay for her passage to Indiana. How did she acquire her money?

GETTO: She worked for everybody--farm work, doing house work, whatever, factories. In fact, if she'd have stayed there I'm sure she would have ended up working for a factory called Olivetti. And it is the . . . and I just went back to Italy. It was a very prominent business. There's a fellow by name of Olivetti. He made some of the first typewriters, and now he's into computers and all that. I mean, the family is, and so that particular business, there were almost thirty thousand people working for that entity. And almost everybody in that little town--they farmed, had a few acres--but they worked for Olivetti. And that's what Mom would have . . . in fact, she may have worked some for Olivetti at the time. Her sisters all worked for Olivetti, and when I went back this time, all my cousins worked for Olivetti. It's just a big business in town. Like if we had one of those, it'd be great. (laughing)

AHERN: Did your parents speak English well, or did they have to learn when they came to the States?

GETTO: They didn't speak any English. In fact, there's a story about--wish I could remember the name of the fellow, but when Dad and he went out to Tonopah and they were trying to get a job and this fellow--he was married, Dad was single, and so they told him, they said, "Well, the way to get a job is you go to the boss and you invite him to your house for dinner. Have your wife cook a nice dinner." So he did that. He went up to the boss, and he says, "You come to my house and we'll kill you for the chicken, and my wife will cook it." (laughing) He got things garbled up. They had to do what they had to do, and my dad and mom, neither one ever learned to speak really good English. They always spoke broken English, but mom was a very intelligent woman. My dad was like a Rock of Gibraltar, steady, worked. He loved these animals. He liked to work. And mom had a good financial brain. So when they borrowed money from some Italian family-well, they borrowed some from the bank, but to build our house they borrowed it from an Italian family and, of course, when they paid off, they had to pay this interest, and so she immediately said, "Well, that's a good way to earn some money is soon as we get some money together, we'll lend it, then we won't have to work for it so hard. And that's what she did. They never became wealthy, but they did quite well because they lent. They were just the most fair people you could imagine. In all the loans that they made--I'd say there was over a hundred or more--they never foreclosed once. I remember one case where a couple of young fellows in town were in the sheet metal business, and they had some tragedy in the family. Had a wreck and one of the members was in the hospital for a long time, and they just let them go. They said, "Well, if you can pay the interest." So they paid the interest for awhile, and then they got to the point they said, "We can't pay the interest." "Well, when you can, you make it up." And those people caught up and paid off, and in everyone of their cases they never had to foreclose. So I think that number one thing is that they had good judgment in people. They didn't loan to people that they knew were questionable, and the other was that they were very fair and good hearted, and it paid off.

AHERN: How did your parents make it known that they had money to lend?

GETTO: Just by people--I don't know how the word got around, but they were always being hounded by somebody wanted to borrow money, and, like I said, they only loaned to the people that were a good risk. They helped those people, and they were very fair, and the interest rates were always real reasonable. One of the interesting things we were looking at this morning on the deeds. Now this is in 1910, interest rates were eight per cent. So, at that time, compared to what things were worth--like the one place that dad bought over there, the Laking Place. He only paid twenty eight hundred dollars for it, but the interest was eight per cent. That was really high compared to what they were buying. So, now can you imagine our interest rate is so low?

AHERN: Did your parents ever send money back to their families in Italy?

GETTO: Sometimes, yeah. One thing that I always remember is that mom always sent them goods. She was always bagging up, and she would take an alfalfa seed sack-it was kind of like a muslin--and she put all this stuff in there, mostly clothes, and then she'd sew it up real tight and send it to Italy. She sent them a lot of clothes. I don't know about money. Well, she sent, you know, in times when they needed it she'd send them money, too. But, mostly it was clothes.

AHERN: Of your father's other brothers and sisters, did any ever immigrate to the United States?

GETTO: Yes, I'll tell you about that. Interesting point was that my grandmother had ten children. Five lived and five died. Every other one died. Now that was just a coincidence. But the interesting part is that once those children lived beyond their baby stage or their critical stage, they all lived past eighty-five. One of them lived to be ninety-three, ninety-four, my dad was eighty-seven, and my uncle was eighty-five, and my other uncle eighty-five. They all lived eighty-five or past. The sister that lived the longest--you wonder maybe because of the lifestyle or what--was my aunt in Italy. She was the only one that stayed in Italy. All the rest of them came to this country, and she lived to be ninety-eight, and she was--I saw her twice, and I always thought she was--had stomach problems, and she was always ailing with something, (laughing) and she lived to be ninety-eight. My grandmother--her stomach was horrible. She always complained, and she lived to be ninety-nine, almost a hundred, and too bad she didn't live to be a hundred because my dad and my Uncle John had promised her that if she lived to be a hundred they were going to come back and see her again. There was another member of the family, Uncle Joe--he was the youngest of the five that lived. He came to this country with my aunt. My aunt is sort of the same arrangement with my uncle. He sent for her. I don't think there was any courting or anything, but he saw her and met her, and he sent for her. In fact, he made arrangements, I guess, with . . . no, he had his mother make the arrangements to have her come over, and so she came over with Uncle Joe. He was only sixteen years old when he came over--the youngest one--and he passed away about three years ago. He farmed for a little while. In fact, he had the place Mario Recanzone, Judge Recanzone, lives on. [End of tape 1 side A]

AHERN: Would you please give me Judge Reconzone's address? What's the current address now?

GETTO: Oh, I don't know. It's on Airport Road. It's the end of Airport Road [1990 Rio Vista], find it in the phone book, but it's the same place that my uncle lived on. My uncle, they lost a little girl there and he kind of got despondent some, and so he--he was not a real farmer. He really was not going to make a farmer, so he moved to Reno or to Sparks, actually, and started working for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and then he worked all his life there. He and his first wife, the mother of the little girl that died--was kind of a tragic death, I think--and, anyway, after they were divorced then he went back to Italy, and he met my present aunt, Angelina. They were married and lived happily for all their lives until he died, and she is eighty-some years old now. I just visited with her the other day. She probably going to live to be ninety-some the way she's going.

AHERN: You have a sister. How much younger is she than you?

GETTO: Mary Carter is six years younger than I am. We weren't too close as kids because we were that far apart, but she was always trailing, and we've become much closer as we've gotten older.

AHERN: Was she born at home or in a hospital?

GETTO: That's an interesting one. I remember Mary being born in the house right over there, right next door. Dr. Meyers was the doctor. I was six years old, and they had me shut off in a room, and I remember them moaning and all the problems that my mother was going through, and then when I peeked out the door, here was this little pink thing kicking, (laughing) and it was my sister.

AHERN: How did you feel about having a sister?

GETTO: Oh, I really enjoyed it, but I would of really liked to have had a brother. I missed a brother. My cousin and I were pretty close, but he's five years older than I am, so we were sort of apart, too. But I really would have enjoyed a brother.

AHERN: When you were an only child, did you find it lonely, or were you too busy?

GETTO: Yes, it was really because, first of all, my parents being immigrants, I didn't even speak English when I was little. I remember we had a fellow that was helping my folks, and all he taught me was the bad stuff. So when I started school, I didn't speak English very well. I was very lonely, and I had a lot of adjusting to do when I started first grade, and, of course, I was called the "Little Wop," and those things didn't help. (laughing) I think that's where big families have so much more to gain than only child or even just two members because you have to give. There's a lot more comradeship, and then there's a lot more giving and sharing.

AHERN: You said that you hadn't spoken English until you started going to school. Would you then come home and practice English with your parents?

GETTO: Oh, yes. I marveled at learning the English. I knew some. As I said, the bad stuff. It was embarrassing really what I did because I was embarrassed that my parents would speak Italian. And if they were on the street, for an example, and start speaking Italian, I would kick my mom in the shins. It was horrible! But it really embarrassed me. It was a disgrace to me to have them speaking Italian in this country, and I'll never forget that. That was so . . . Today it's just the other way around. And I'm thankful that my mom did teach me the Italian that she did, and I can read Italian fairly well. Not real good, but I can get through it slowly, but I do not speak the real Italian, the main Italian language that the country uses. I speak a dialect, but I can make myself understood even. When I went to Italy, though, I was in the province which was Piedmont.           Piedmontese is the dialect that my folks speak. Some of the people there, they said, well, they didn't know I was from the United States. I can speak the Piedmontese that well, and I can still do it. And that's the thing that's marveling because since mom died and we used to have some Italian people around here, but there aren't anymore. My mom's friends, like Mrs. Laca, Mrs. Mori, Mrs. Venturacci is the only Italian lady that's left of that era, and she doesn't speak my dialect, so I have nobody to talk to. And so it was like five or six years since I'd been back to Italy, and I went back, and I picked it right up. 'Course now and then I call them up on the telephone, and I use it over the telephone.

AHERN: When your sister came along it was a different story. She had no problems with English?

GETTO: Oh, no, because I was starting to speak English, and from the time, she started talking I was already in the second grade, and you know how fast kids can pick up a language. So it was not problem. She was in a lot different circumstances than I was.

AHERN: Did Bob speak your language?


AHERN: As children, what did you do for recreation?

GETTO: Oh, I was busy all the time. I had a horse that I loved to ride bareback first. We didn't have a saddle. We were too poor to have a saddle. Had a little red wagon, and I made a harness for my dog, Jack, and I used to take him around pulling the wagon, and I was very creative, too. (laughing) I made a--you wouldn't know what the hay derricks are. You've seen them around? The big hay derricks? Well, I made an imitation hay derrick, a little one, and then I used to take chickens and put harnesses on them and make them pull the wagon. (laughing) Oh, I had lots of things to do. I remember when I was really little like five and six years old, I'd sit in the house and cut. Mom'd give me old catalogs, and I'd cut my little animals out of the catalogs, and I'd make my farm. So, I had lots to do. And then, at six years old I started to milk a cow. I had a cow that was called Tamey because she was very gentle, and while my folks milked eighteen others I could milk this one cow. (laughing)

AHERN: Did your mother teach you how to milk a cow?

GETTO: Yeah. She was really good. She was a fantastic milker. And then I had animals all the time. When I got a little older, we had sheep. We had a (laughing) little herd of sheep like maybe fifty sheep, and we had a mean buck, and I mean mean. As kids we had more fun with that buck. We would take a fifty-gallon barrel and throw it at this ram, and he'd hit that. (laughing) And a couple of times I had a friend that got in the pen with him, and (laughing) he wasn't looking, and the buck got him and knocked him down. I thought he'd killed him. (laughing) So we always had lots to do. Then I raised . . . oh, I was nine years old--I got into the 4-H program, so then I started raising cattle. And then with ag and FFA [Future Farmers of America] I had my beef projects, and I had registered Hampshire pigs that I raised and sold. And I used to raise a . . . Do you know what a ton litter is? You know, when the sow has one litter of pigs and by six months they have to weigh a ton, and I did that several times.

AHERN: Did it bother you that you had to have a lot of chores as a young child?

GETTO: I'll tell you another thing that used to bother me is that in the summer time I had to work like hell on this farm because we were putting up hay, and it was hard  work, and these other kids were going off construction. That's when we were sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen years old. They were going off earning big money and telling all these big stories about what the times they were having, and here I was sweating it on the farm. There was nothing glamorous about a damned farm. So that did bother me. And I always had a lot of work to do. A lot of chores.

AHERN: Did your parents have hired help?

GETTO: Yes. My dad--it was very fortunate--he had a man here that, I can't remember how he happened to come here, and he lived in a dugout. Down at the end of the farm there was a dugout that was built out of poles underground. They laid all these poles up, and they put poles over the roof, and then they had straw on top of that and covered it with dirt, and he made a door. I remember there was a drain ditch there, and they had to cross this drain ditch with a board about that long, a twenty-foot board three inches thick, and Burt had a-his name was William Burton--and he was an excellent blacksmith and excellent with horses and absolutely wouldn't milk a cow, though. He said, "I will not milk a damn cow!" But, anyway, he was a periodic alcoholic, and so he'd work sometimes four or five months and never take a drink. Well, he could take some wine. He'd drink the good wine. That's another thing. My dad and Uncle John most of the times they made wine, and Dad had a big tank and a wine cellar, and once a year they made wine, and, of course, then you always gave Bert like--his hired hand--a gallon a week, and so he could have a glass of wine at mealtime. Anyway, Bert did have some good points. He would work, get his money, and then he would go down to the Kolhoss Cash Store 'cause they had clothes there, and they had everything. He'd buy all of his supplies what he needed for a month or so and have them all put in a box. He had a little dog called Toots that he just loved that dog, and then when he had it all done, he had his clothes--'cause he never washed nothing, just wore it and threw it away. (laughing) So, anyway, he would have all his clothes, everything, for at least a month's supply, maybe, and no more, and then he would go across the street to the saloon, set Toots up on a stool with him, and he'd sit there until he just got blasted, and then he'd go staggering out and fall down some place and sleep it off. We found him in ditches along heading home, and we'd see this dog sitting out there and know that he was around. But he was a very devoted, very fine worker. He fed like, Mom and Dad would get up and milk the cows, and he would feed all the cattle and feed everything while they were milking, even the horses, and harness up the horses so they'd be ready to go to work, and he did a lot of the horse work, too. He did most of the blacksmith's work, keeping the tools ready. So that's the hired hand they had.

GETTO: And then, during the hay season, was almost like a romantic period. These--we called them bums--they would come with their pack on their back and some of them would come back, look for them per annually. They would come every year. Every year you'd see them coming, and so we'd hired ten, twelve, fifteen of these hoboes, I guess you'd call them, and some of them would sleep out on the ground. We had a bunkhouse. Some of them would sleep in the bunkhouse. Some of them didn't want to sleep with the others, and sometimes there were problems. They'd get into fist fights. There were a lot of interesting, scary experiences. I remember we had one--this man was an Indian. He was not one of the bums, but he was a very quiet man. He hardly ever said anything, and he was stacking hay, and the stacks was way up there, and I always remember this. In fact, I took him into the hospital. This damn net hit it and busted, and he was in the wrong place and hit him and knocked him off the stack, and it took and shoved, broke this leg, and it shoved that bone right up through his kneecap and he never--you know, moving him-he never said, "Ow," or anything. It was amazing! He just grinned and took it. We took him into the hospital, and poor guy he was hurt bad. Had another fellow, one of these bums that came, (laughing) hobo, I should say, not bums, hoboes. He came walking barefooted. He was so poor that he didn't have any clothes. Gone through the winter, and, boy, he was a tough old guy, and he worked up in the stack, stackin' on top. That was the hardest work stackin' the hay up on top. I remember that he had an old straw hat and one of the Jackson forks we called them then. They were like a big fork, and it took up a whole pile of hay bigger than this, and then when you got it up on the stack, the stacker would say, "Dump it," and he'd pull a rope, and this Jackson fork, which is hooked like this, would release here, and it would just go like this, so it would dump the hay. Well, when it did that, then it would go like this, and this fork came and went right through his hat. And I thought, "Wow! Boy! that's close!" And he was one of the fellows that, boy, he would not sleep with anybody in the same room. He'd get out in the field someplace, and he had a blanket or two. Tough old guy.

AHERN: Have you worked on the hay stacks yourself?

GETTO: Yeah. That was the other thing I was going to tell you. I know how hard a work it is because some of the first money that I ever earned was I went to work for Joe Serpa. That'd be Joe Serpa's father, and they had the same place that Joe has now [630 Serpa Place], and they had a stack like that, and they needed a stacker, so I said--I think I got two dollars a day. And, I'll tell you. They tried to kill me, but I survived it. (laughing) Gees! It was a hundred and five degrees, and you're up to your waist in hay, and they'd take these whole loads of hay and dump up there, and you have to build a stack. You know, you got to keep the edges up. Oh! Boy.

AHERN: How high could you go with a stack?

GETTO: I think probably thirty-five feet, forty feet. These derricks--let's see the pole was, yeah, at least, thirty-five, forty feet, and they'd be wider than this house.

AHERN: And after you were done, I imagine you got a ride down with the fork?

GETTO: Yeah, you'd come down on the Jackson fork, or you'd come down on a--see, the first stage was Jackson forks. That's when we used to take the--the hay would be shocked by hand, and it was really all hand work. Then they graduated to the nets where they put two nets together like this and a whole load of hay. A wagon load of sixteen feet long. They'd pull a whole load up at one time and then when the stacker then hollered, "Dump it," they would dump it, and the nets would break in the middle, so the whole load would drop on the stack. That was the last phase before we went to mechanized haying.

AHERN: Now, when you got ready to use the hay, you would have to take from it from the bottom. Was there . . .


AHERN: Any problem?

GETTO: No, we didn't take it from the bottom. The two ways we took it--we would have long ladders. But, see, you made this stack which, let's say, it's forty feet long, and hay's all, you know, it's long hay, so it's really hard to pull this hay out. There used to be a couple ways they did it. Some of them used to take, a good big barbed wire and seesaw it back and forth with horses, and it would cut the stack down. And then the other thing is, I've got it right here, this is the way I did it. This hay knife. You take this hay knife. This was really hard work.               I'll tell you. You really built some muscles to cut that hay, so you cut--like you'd have this big long stack, and you'd cut off like maybe ten feet of the end. It'd be easy to fork it down, and you throw it down on the ground, and then from the ground you would--in fact, I've got a picture in there. I'll go get the picture.

AHERN: Do you feel that if you didn't grow up on a farm you would have never gotten interested in the Future Farmer's organization?

GETTO: Oh, yeah. The farming, definitely, growing up on a farm and because of my parental background, my parents pushing. You see, my mom and dad, especially, my mother, was always pushing for excellence. In other words, if you're going to do something, do it to the best you can, and so the agricultural life was kind of a stepping stone because I had a lot of opportunities like raising the pigs and showing of pigs and raising beef. And, then, because of farming I got really interested in ag and FFA. And, then, we had an outstanding teacher who I don't think there's a better teacher in the world was Mr. Schank, Cyril Schank's dad.

AHERN: What was Mr. Schank's first name?

GETTO: L. C. Leroy Schank. And he, as far as the farm boys, turned out more American Farmers for a small town like this than any place in the nation. He was one of the most outstanding ag teachers, so he really inspired me. I had a lot of problems because being Italian, first, being a little Wop kid. Then, I got sick. Twice in my life I had what they called a St. Vitus Dance, nervous condition, which is a rheumatic condition. When I was small, oh, I was in the second grade, I think, is when it first hit me and then my freshman year in high school. So, he just really inspired me to excel in whatever I could do, and he was a real leader. So when i went to high school then, he wanted me to always do the best. He helped me with public speaking, parliamentary procedure which I learned very well, and then shop class and then my livestock projects he used to come out and see them and then had to develop a program of work for my cattle and just was an outstanding leader. So he's the one that inspired me to go on. I won the state public speaking contest and then took second in a regional, and the fellow that beat me won the national, so I thought that was pretty good. Then I became State president of FFA, became State president of 4-H which came from the ag, and then I became a national officer, too, so those things were all very educational, too, because when you're a national officer of Future Farmers there's quite an educational program that goes with it. Leadership training schools they send you two times a year, and then you travel. I represented a western region, so I went to all the conventions and all the conferences of the Future Farmers of America in the West, and so it was a very valuable tool for me. It really all stemmed from the fact that I started on the farm, and not too many--there may be a few--leaders like that that start not being a farmer, but mostly you have to have the farming interest.

GETTO: So, I say Mr. Schank and my parents were great effects on my life. I had some disappointment, too. Being I graduated with A, I was third in my class, no, second, because I was the salutatorian, and then I had scholarships to go to school and all and yet here's my parents at the farm. My dad was forty-two years old when I was born, so there's a lot of age of difference, so he said, "Well, we want you to do what you want, but I'm not going to hold this farm for another twenty years or so," 'cause he felt that if I went off to college, I would never come back to the farm. So I thought a long time, I had this scholarship to go to Montana State, and I decided to stay home, and then I got married, and then came four--and I bought another farm, and I became very tied down, overworked and four children came along, so my life changed drastically, and I had some real second thoughts about the fact that I didn't take that scholarship. But, I was fortunate because opportunities came along. I took some courses, and I learned a lot, and then when I was elected to the Legislature was the biggest educational opportunity I think I've had. I learned a lot there.

AHERN: What started you on the road to politics?

GETTO: Well, that's an interesting story. I just told you that I lost touch. I was working so hard in my early years when the kids were first born, and it was a hell  of a lot of work, and I was working eighteen . . . and milking cows. I was milking the cows myself. I had a fellow that helped me. He and I milked, so I got up every morning at three o'clock, that was not five days a week. When you're milking, you don't have a relief milker, I was milking seven days a week and feeding the cows and all, and so I just over worked myself, and then I bought this farm out by the base, and then I really had to work. I was going day and night. I got depressed. I just overdid it, and I said, "Something is wrong," and then I realized I had real . . . I like people, and I like politics, and I said, "I've buried all that." The kids were started into school, and so I said, "Well, I'm going to join the PTA." So I joined the PTA, and within a few years they wanted me to be president of PTA. So that's what I did. I served as a president of PTA and got involved pretty strongly, and then, I can't remember who it was, but some of the Republicans came along and said, "We need a Republican candidate to run against Eric Palludan," who was the assemblyman. And I said, "I don't want to run against Eric Palludan. He's a fine businessman, and I like him. Besides, I don't think I could beat him. It'd be crazy." "Aw, come on. We'll give you support. We'll help you out." So, I thought about it a long time, and it sounded very challenging, very interesting. I didn't know anything about the Legislature. I was really naive.     (laughing) I didn't know what I was getting into, and so I thought about it, and they kept encouraging me, and so I said, "Okay, I'll do it." So, then, I guess it was because of my philosophy of--like my parents had instilled in me is--if you're going to do something you go all the way. So, I committed myself to running, and I went door to door, and Eric-he was a nice fellow. I really felt bad that this had to happen, and he just considered me as no contest, I guess, and he went to Europe. Took a month and went to Europe while I was out campaigning. Well, I beat him real bad, and so the second time, two years later when I had to run, he ran against me. He was mad and thought, "By God, I'm going to win this time," and, of course, I had already accomplished some things, and I had kept in touch with the people, and I was out . . . I did some things that he never did. For instance, I had a radio program that five days a week I would get on the radio and talk to the people and things like that that mattered. So he didn't beat me again. So that's how I got involved in politics.

AHERN: How old were you when you first won the election?

GETTO: Gees, I don't know. That was twenty-six years ago, so I'm sixty eight. 44, right?

AHERN: After you got into your politics, did it take a lot of time away from the ranch?

GETTO: Yes, it did. In fact, after I was elected, well, when I was first elected, my parents were still alive, so they were able to help keep the place going, but my father died. I was first elected in 1966 and served the first session in 1967. My father died in 1972, so it was very, very difficult, and I didn't really realize what I'd gotten into. Didn't think it was going to be that confining to have that kind of commitment, so I was very fortunate to have an employee and his wife that were really devoted. They milked the cows, fed the cattle, and I would come back sometimes in the middle of the week and I'd always come back on weekends, but then there were times when even the weekends were committed. Actually, the politics, I paid dearly for the years I served in politic life because I didn't gain anything monetarily. I'm not one that--you know, like some attorneys and some people in the right professions because of their name and of their prestige and things they draw a lot of business to them. Well, the politics for me didn't do anything as far as financially except hurt me. I couldn't really plan like I needed to plan and do the work like I needed to do. So, then there was the year that my son stayed, and we were able to move forward that year. But, see, in 1976, I did not run. We wanted to expand the farm, the dairy mainly, and so I stepped out, and I figured that that was the end of my political career, and I stayed out two years, and John Serpa was elected assemblyman at that time, and then after two years, people came after me again to run. Especially the governor who was a Democrat governor. I couldn't believe it! Mike O'Callahan called me up and said, "I want you to run again." (laughing) He and I had, even though we were different parties, we had worked very well together. [end of tape 1]

AHREN: This is tape 2, side 1. You spoke about Governor O’Callahan and his personality?

GETTO: Mmm-hmm. The governor and I, we got along real well, but when we didn't get along, in other words, when we had some confrontations (laughing), there was pretty strong language used. But I do remember this, he was really the turning point in my running again because I had stepped aside, and John Serpa had run and gotten elected, and he was doing a fairly good job. One morning I took a couple of foreign exchange students over that were from Australia. I made an appointment with the governor, and he's such a busy man. He was the guy that liked to go to work at four o'clock or five o'clock in the morning, so I called him up. He said, "Well, I don't have a lot of time, but for the exchange students, bring them over at six o'clock." I had an appointment with him at six o'clock in the morning, so we went over, and he really impressed those two students, and finally he turned me, and he said, "You son of a gun, I want you to run." And I said, "Well, I . . . Serpa's run, and he's devoted to the job and so forth." "Ah," he said, "I want you. We need you back in there." So he actually convinced me. I had other people talk to me, but when you have the governor of the state, a fellow that you admire and like, that meant a lot to me, and at that point I decided that I would run, knowing that he would not be helping my opponent that he'd be helping me. So I was re-elected back to the assembly. I have a dubious reputation or whatever, a history of being, I think, at least tied or being the freshman most of anybody of any legislator in the history of Nevada. I've been a freshman five times. Gone back and forth from the senate to the assembly and then, of course, sitting out that one time gave me another time when I was the [freshman] assemblyman. So, that's how I got back into the legislature, anyway.

 AHERN: Going back to when you first started your family and your ranch, did your parents give a share of the livestock, or did you purchase it?

GETTO: I'm glad you ask that question because my parents were very good to me, and yet they didn't hand it to me on a silver platter. First of all, when I married we went into a partnership, my folks and I. I was buying into the cattle with what I would earn. In fact, I built this house on land that they donated. They donated this land to me, this little parcel of land so that I could build a house on it. The house is still standing here, and it will be here a long time.

AHERN: You're talking about this current residence?

GETTO: This current residence. The residence next door is where my parents lived, and then we built on to that house. We went into a partnership, and they were generous in the partnership, and I did a lot of work. I worked real hard. Then I was really interested in doing something for myself, so this parcel of land, called the old Bowler Ranch down in Union District, came up for sale, and the people that owned it were going broke. They'd been in a lawsuit and hadn't really farmed the place for a couple of years. It was a good farm, but the weeds were like three feet high all over it. It was just a mess. There was an old fellow that I knew quite well, Mr. Stewart, he was a real estate agent, Clair Stewart, he was one of the first real estate agents here--I think probably Mr. Walker was the first one, and he was probably the second or third real estate agent--he really came after me and kept telling me, "That's a good place," and he got me interested in it. I went down, and he said, "Why don't you take some samples of the soil? This is a good place," because it looked horrible. Just weeds all over. So I did and decided I'd buy it, and I bought it for a hundred and fifty dollars an acre. Boy! I worked that year like you can't believe it. I fixed this whole place with my little tractors and plowed them up, reseeded, had alfalfa growing in pasture and the whole place in the first year. I farmed it three years, and then property values went up, so I sold it to another party. Doubled my money.

AHERN: What was the total acres?

GETTO: There was a hundred and sixty.

AHERN: You got it for a hundred fifty dollars?

GETTO: An acre, yeah. So then the next time I sold it I doubled my money. Then this person, we had a drought and so he, after three years of farming, fixed it up a little bit, and because there was this real shortage of water, he was from Los Angeles, he got real nervous, so I bought it back from him, and then farmed it again and made another profit on it. Then when I sold it the second time, I went up and I bought a place--it's the farm now that Skip Cann has; he has a nice home on it-and it needed some work. So I fixed it up somewhat. Re-leveled it some, and I tripled my money on that one because of inflation. You know, times were just going up, and then I bought a place out in St. Clair District that Bob Ansotegui had and farmed it. Actually, I put it all in pasture. I just wanted a place to take my heifers while they were growing up. So these are the things I was doing on my own besides the home place that my parents helped me with here. I think I got involved in the last leveling down by the river, but most of it had already been leveled the first time. Now since my parents have passed away I have re-leveled most of the farm, incorporated fields. It's cost a lot of money but so much easier to irrigate and saves a lot of water. They did the leveling the first time and got it going. So between that and my folks here and then when I sold the Ansotegui place, I bought a place here from a fellow by the name of Orville Hayes, and then I bought another place down the road called the Corbeil place, and then my cousin and I bought another forty across the river. So we've added, and the reason we had to do this was you can't make a living on 160 acres or 200 acres anymore. You have to expand your farm, but my principal business was dairying. We milked; up to when I sold we were milking three hundred cows, and we had over 750 head of dairy cattle, but now we're out of the business.

AHERN: When you had your diary business, was it all done by hand in the beginning?

GETTO: No, that's something else I'd like to point out. My parents, I couldn't believe how progressive they were for old, coming from Italy, that didn't have an education. They were one of the first dairy people to have milk, my uncle and my dad bought milking machines back before I was running around. Probably Dad must have had the milking machine probably in 1925, 1924, somewhere in there. They had milking machines and a separator to separate the milk. And then, for an example, my mother, not very many Italian immigrant women learned to drive. In fact, in this valley, there isn't, I can't think of one, not one, but my mother did. She learned to drive because my aunt didn't, Mrs. Venturacci didn't, Mrs. Mori didn't, Mrs. Laca didn't. My mom used to go around and pick them all up (laughing) and take them for rides. She was very progressive, and, like I said, so was my dad as far as milking machines. Then he bought a tractor. Soon as the tractors came in we bought one of the early tractors, and so we were moving forward.

AHERN: Who were your customers for the milk?

GETTO: Oh boy… way back. My memory, I gotta dig… There was a Crescent Creamery. But before them, I think, was Modesto. In fact, the Modesto Creamery, you know when you cross the railroad tracks there's a warehouse there. Now I think it’s a car… going back to town.

AHERN: This is on Maine Street?

GETTO: On Maine Street. Just as you come across the tracks there, there used to be a creamery there. In fact, Paul Scholz's father was the manager of that creamery. They made butter, and they made cheese, and cottage cheese, I think. Then, of course, when you skimmed the milk then you get the cream off and then you make the butter off the cream and they would sell the skim milk or also sell the whey from when they made the cheese, so we used to go down. I always remember there was a big old hose and we'd take all of our cans down there with a pickup and get this hose, and they'd pump out. If you wanted a hundred gallons, whatever, you'd get it and you'd buy. You'd go in, and you'd just stop in at the office and sign a slip because they'd just credit or charge it against your credit, and so that was quite a going business here. That was a creamery that actually made butter right here. Now the Crescent Creamery had a, down by the Oats Park School, there was a creamery there that they just picked up, it was just sort of a pickup point. They took all the cans and everything there, and they had their trucks there, but I don't think they ever processed there. But this one did, and it was, been there for a long time. The Modesto Producers I think it was called [Milk Producers Association], and that's where our milk went to. Then, of course, my parents, they separated, we just took cream down. We didn't take whole milk, so we took the cream. We'd separate the milk, and Dad had . . . (laughing)

GETTO: They used everything. That's one thing about those old country people. You can't believe how ingenious they were. They took the skim milk from the thing and we had a vat. We dumped the milk through the window of the old separator house into this drum. Then they took a horse every day, once a day, we'd take one horse and drag this barrel down. Then there was a vat, a flat vat, and we'd put, oh, my job was when I was a little kid was to pick up wherever you throw the hay down off the haystack a lot of leaves fall off, and that's the real high protein of the hay is the leaves. They're the best part of the hay, so I would pick all these leaves up and get a big tub full like this and then I'd go dump it in with the skim milk. Then my dad would take the potatoes--he grew potatoes every year, and they'd have a whole damn cellar full of potatoes, spend his winters down there sorting potatoes and sacking them for the customers. So the little potatoes, the ones that were not sellable, again we'd sack them up and he'd take them down. He had a vat down on the river bank, and he'd put like seven or eight sacks of potatoes in there and a whole sack full of whole barley and hay leaves and if we had some bad meat or something and throw it in that vat and then cook it. He'd put logs underneath it and it'd cook all day, and boy! when that got cooked it would stay warm for two days. It was a big thing like that. Everyday you'd take a couple of big buckets full of that and put it up in with the milk and the hay leaves, and it'd make a slop for the pigs, and they really grew. My job was to get those leaves for the . . . and, then, when I got a little bigger I had to turn the separator by hand. Then, of course, we got a separator with an electric motor, and then we didn't have to do that anymore.

GETTO: And then, the creamery was purchased by, I think it was Modesto then because before that it was a local creamery, Churchill County. They would take your cream down here, and then they would ship it to Modesto, California, where they actually made the butter. But there was always a market for the cream here until the farmers quit. At a point, I'd say 1945 to 1949, 1950, the creamery, actually the cream business stopped here, and then most of them went to grade A. And then in 1949--talk about starting with the business--that's when my dad and I really got into a partnership. We had milked these cows by hand. We were only milking eighteen, twenty, twenty-five, probably at the time they were milking thirty cows by hand, not by hand anymore, but by machine, but in the old barn and just separating.

[cut here where someone, sounded like a small child, interrupted]

GETTO:  I got married in 1947, had my first child in 1948, and so I was really interested in making some money, and so I talked my dad into going partnerships and building a grade A barn and really getting into the grade A business, so we did that. We got the barn built and bought some more cows, and so we were milking about eighty, eighty-five cows, doing that myself, and boy! That was work because we had to carry, the original one we had to carry the milk. It wasn't pumped like it is now. We carried this milk in the hallway, walk up a step ladder and dump it in the vat so it could go down over an aerator. The aerator was refrigerated so the milk would come off cold at the bottom into cans, and then you'd seal the cans and they'd pick it up. Well, of course, the next step was when we progressed from there, we bought a big refrigerated tank and the milk was pumped right from the cows right into the refrigerated tank. But that was really my starting point with the partnership with my parents was getting into the grade A business, and the dairy business was what treated us better than anything. That and my buying these different farms and selling them which I made a profit, but that was just fortunate because it wasn't my ingenious ability it's the fact that there was an inflation going and I'd buy them and improve them and then inflation would make more money on them which was a good thing to do at that time. From the dairy business we expanded, like I said, from, I was milking about eighty cows, we were milking three hundred when we quit which I was kind of sorry to see the cows go, but that has to be, I guess.

AHERN: When you had your dairy business, who were your other competitors, if any?

GETTO: Competitors? We didn't have competitors. What we had was an association, and we were all working together in this thing. In fact, that's a history in itself because I was right in the beginning of that. We called it the Associated Nevada Dairymen Incorporated, and I was one of the incorporators in getting that started. That was so we could market. Before that we were selling our milk individually to different creameries. They just had you over a barrel. In other words, the creamery could say, "Hey, I don't want your milk tomorrow." There was nothing to make them take your milk, but when we got an association together and all our milk went into this pool, they were able to market it and then we had contracts working with the distributors. You could say, "Oh, you signed a contract for X number of gallons per year." The dairymen soon learned. In fact, there was an incident that came up where, and I hate to name names, but I think it was Crescent Creamery that threatened the dairymen that they really didn't want their milk anymore. Well, when a dairy person, it's not like hay or beef cattle or anything, when you have milk that's a commodity that has to move every day you have to have a market. You just ruin somebody real quick, so that's when we formed the Associated Nevada Dairymen. They hired some attorneys, and we lobbied the Legislature to form a milk commission, and that helped, too, because it stabilized the prices. In other words, they can't sell milk, see, if you know marketing, what the dairymen, what these darn distributors used to do, milk is a leading product. Practically everybody buys milk, so they would sell milk at a cut-rate price and pass it back to the dairymen, so the dairyman was actually paying for the leader products, and that's why it gets very difficult to explain because a lot of the legislators used to say, "Why the hell do we have to have a price control for dairymen? They're not special. The fact is that that's fine if the distributor would take the hit on the, using that as a leader product, not pass it back to the dairyman. He's paying for their leader products. That's when we lobbied and lobbied and finally got a dairy commission passed and it's still going. And then we had the Associated Nevada Dairymen which has evolved several times and changed, and now I think it's part of a California entity, but they still have an association marketing their milk which is very important.

AHERN: When you had graduated from high school you had a special day for graduation. It was entitled "ditch day." Could you tell me about that, please?

GETTO: Oh! ditch day. With seniors we'd have a day that we could cut out, and we'd all ditch school, and that'd be our ditch day. I have to tell you a little bit about . . . I was student body president, and I was also junior class president, and George McCracken was our principal. He was very strict, very. None of the kids liked him until they got out of school, and then I have this wonderful respect for this man that was, he was just like the Rock of Gibraltar, and I don't know how he did all the things that he did. One day I, besides ditch day, I cut school with a couple of girls, and then I thought, "Well, gosh, I just can't tell McCracken I cut school," so I wrote a note--see, I used to write all my notes, anyway, and mom would sign them because she didn't write English very well, so I wrote my note, and then I took her signature. (laughing) I traced it on a window and that morning, boy! I was nervous and I went in to Mr. McCracken, and he had just railed somebody else for cutting school, and I was sitting there thinking. So it was my turn, and I went in to Mr. McCracken, and I sat there and I looked him in the eye. He said, "Well, young man, where were you yesterday?" I looked at him, and I said, "I cut school, Mr. McCracken." (laughing) I couldn't go through with it. Oh, he gave me a pretty good lecture, and he said, "What kind of an example are you setting for the rest of the students? Here you are student body president and you've cut school." And, oh, boy, I was ashamed of myself, but I felt so relieved that I didn't give him that note and have to live with that guilt. That's a very good policy in life. I guess if you have a conscience--some people do not have a conscience--but if you have a conscience the best thing is to just tell the truth all the time. Just like Darcy here. She got in trouble at school, and the other girl was trying to get her to cover up for her and everything, and I said, "Darcy, just tell the truth. Just tell the truth, and it's so easy because if you start telling lies, it's pretty hard to remember what you said. But if you tell the truth it's real easy and in the long run you'll always come out the best." And so I always thought about that time with Mr. McCracken. I probably could have given him the note and gotten away with it because I always wrote the notes and my mom signed them, but I just felt very, very good about it.

AHERN: Did your mother ever know, or rather, could she read what you had written on those notes?

GETTO: Yes. She could read slowly. In fact, mom was kind of amazing. She had a lot of mortgages between people. It was Mario Recanzone, I think, one time that drafted up a mortgage, and so when she read it, she'd sit very quiet by herself. You'd never know she was doing it. She'd sit and read these things very slowly and read them and read them, and she found mistakes in them and she took it back to the attorney and said, "You made a mistake." (laughing) I couldn't believe it. But she could read very slowly. About as fast as I can read Italian now.

AHERN: Was there any particular thing that most seniors did on ditch day?

GETTO: Yeah, the big thing was go swimming. Get a bunch of us and go swimming, and I think there was always some beer involved probably. But I remember the ditch days were swimming and having fun.

AHERN: Was there a favorite spot to go swimming?

GETTO: Well, we used to go to Lone Tree [District] here, or Lahontan Dam was a good one. The two places that I remember that we went to.

AHERN: Did the whole senior class go to the same place?

GETTO: No. Some of the seniors stayed home. Not everybody went, but most of the kids did, just like kids today. We talk about our juvenile problems, well, in a little town, I don't think. The drugs are the worst thing, but we did our share, but the fact that there was work for us and there was parental care. That's the difference. You watch the kids that come from families that the parents care, are interested, they're not going to go too far. They may get involved in some things that are not right all the time, but they usually come back.

AHERN: You've watched Fallon grow a lot. Do you like what you've seen so far?

GETTO: In Fallon, yes, I do. I'm not a no-growth person. I'm for controlled growth. Let me tell you what bothers me more about Fallon than the growth of Fallon is the water situation. That is very serious. I'm very concerned about it because if--which is a mandate to buy forty to fifty per cent of the water rights--it's going to be turned back to desert. Because there isn't a market right now to buy up all that land and divide it in twenty-acre parcels or what have you. So a lot of these farms are just going to go back to sagebrush and whatever used to grow here.

AHERN: Do you see many of that around town, a lot of farms when you were younger that were in full production in alfalfa or whatever, and now it's just weeds or just gone fallow?

GETTO: Not yet. I know there's about seven or eight owners that are in the process. I think the parcels that have been sold up to this point have been subdivided, but that market is about saturated. In fact, I've heard the fellow that did that is not, you know, he doesn't want to do anymore because he can't sell them.

AHERN: Do you feel nostalgia when you look around at what used to be farm lands that are now homes?

GETTO: Yeah, somewhat. Not so much in Fallon as I do in Reno. What's really strange, you see, my cousin lived in Reno. My uncle, Joe, the youngest brother came, and he was in Sparks area. All that area was all meadow, and we used to play out. My cousin and I would go out and play in that area. It was all meadow, and now it's all houses from mountain to mountain. Fallon is, for instance I can see it coming. The Oats property. I have some nostalgia there because--the Oats property just on the way out. I don't know if you know where it is. Well, as you're coming across the railroad tracks, you know where Sierra Pacific? Okay, that land this side of Sierra Pacific [Power Company, 346 North Maine] to the road that goes--it's where all those new apartments are and the newspaper [Lahontan Valley News, 562 North Maine]. That all was the Oats property, and that was a dairy farm, a beautiful dairy. He had some of the best registered cows in the country, and Alfred Oats and I were very close. I'd worked with him. I learned all my inseminating, and I had some registered Holstein cows. That was a very, very nice dairy farm. The brick house is still there right on the road, but the newspaper sits here and all the apartments are behind. The apartments are where the corrals used to be, where the cows used to be. So that bothers me a little. You know, it's part of progress, but I hate to see the agriculture going like that. And then Venturacci's, of course, that was all fields, too, and it's all going. I'm understanding of that.   It's progress. It's gotta go. The other part is I just hate to see this water pulling off this land and just leave it vacant. At least there it goes into nice homes and property that will bring in taxes and revenues, but if you idle this land, if you strip the water off it and then you just leave it sit there idle, there isn't anymore revenue coming to the county and then it turns into . . . some people might think it's good looking or nice, but I don't think that weeds and scrub brush are that attractive. And a lot of it will have--not so much the heavier ground, but the upper ground in this upper valley where it's sandy--will have an erosion problem eventually. Now the wind will blow that, and once the vegetation's gone, the wind will start whipping that sand. I've seen land . . . in fact, I had a field down here that was sandy like that, and in two years it changed a foot. It blew a hole in the field here and raised it a foot over there. The wind will do terrible erosion. You know, water is one erosion, but wind is a really bad one. In fact, the dust bowl is a wind. [end of tape 2 side A]

AHERN: This is tape 2 side 2. When you first started your family, that's when you first got involved with politics, also, right? Could you please tell me how you met your wife?

GETTO: I met my first wife in . . . I had just come back from a national FFA convention of some kind. I was riding on a bus, and I met Barbara, and then we . . . it was just one of those occasional circumstances where I asked her for a date and we dated. She was an attractive lady, and, I think, the attraction otherwise was the fact that she was so much different than I was. She really should've never been a farmer's wife. When we had our children, we had a lot in common. We raised our four children and she was a good mother and she was a good housewife, but when the children were grown--Marlea was still in high school and the rest of them were all gone--we just started to drift apart, and the marriage just fell apart. Our common interests just . . . I mean, I saw a different person. She got involved in psychology, sociology things, and we just didn't have the same interests anymore. And that point leads to if you don't have community interests at all and then just being around each other pretty quick leads to animosity and ends up in bitter things which our marriage did end up not too good. I mean, it ended up bitterly.

AHERN: Did you feel that politics took a toll on . . .

GETTO: Yes, yes, politics was definitely a part of the problem because Barbara was not interested in politics. She would hardly ever come over to Carson City. She just was not interested, and then my being gone so much, and then the pressures . . . See, one of the problems with politics, and it happens to everybody, especially in Nevada because we meet biannually and there's just such a pressure in six months to get this . . . and everybody's converging on you. You're totally involved in politics, and we get tremendous attention, and that's difficult for a spouse to take that because all of a sudden here's your husband or wife getting all the attention. They're Mr. Big, and I'm just a wife, and that bothered Barbara a lot, and I think it had a lot of effect on our marriage. And it's very easy to--if your marriage is not good at home--to get involved over there because, like I said, you're Mr. Big and everybody's praising you and wanting to make impressions on you. So it's hard, and that's what I told Mike McGinnis when I was really encouraging him to run for the assembly. I went to his home, and when he and Dee were there, I said, Now, before you consider this, I want you to really stop and think of first of all how secure is your marriage, and secondly, is, Dee, how you could take Mike being gone and being around other women all the time, or vice versa." You've gotta have a very, very secure marriage to do that. Mine wasn't that secure.

AHERN: Do you feel the same thing happened to your second marriage?

GETTO: Yeah. Definitely. Marilyn was just a great gal. I still really care for her as a person, but she came from Vermont which the people there are very clannish. One time I said she was like colloquial. She was not a mixer, and she was a wonderful person. She was just a great gal. I really admired her, but I couldn't get her involved, and so what I did is the first or second session I bought a really nice mobile home over in Carson City so she could be over there. She didn't have to be here. I said, "I don't want anything to happen to our marriage so I want to make sure that she'd over there." So she come over to the legislature. Well, she got tired of that. Just sitting and listening. Even got her involved in some physical program. And that was the problem again. She said, "You're always the attention getter, and I'm just your wife." So I told her one time, "Well, take a class." So she went and took a real estate course and started selling real estate. It wasn't fulfilling for her, and so she just finally said--there was no fight-she says, "I'm going back home." And I'm sure it had a very, very serious effect on that marriage definitely. Instead of my having this almost total interest in the legislature, if we'd been doing things together the whole time. In fact, I did. I took her to Taiwan once just so we could be together and went to Italy once with her. But it wasn't enough. It wasn't daily community interest, and it wasn't even a way of coming home every night and having something common to do. I'm gone for . . . and even there when I came home, it was different. I don't know. So I realized that this had a very severe impact on my marriage, and it has on this one, too, but Pat is just a good enough person that she understands, and I have made a real point. Every night I would call her make sure to communicate with her and tell her what things are going and try to have her come over as much as she could, possibly. Well, I'm glad that I finally gave it up because it may have destroyed this marriage, too. I don't know.

AHERN: Despite, you weren't paid all that much being in politics . . .

GETTO: Very little.

AHERN: And all that strain on your personal life, yet you continued.

GETTO: Well, because it's a tremendous challenge. First of all, let me say that I think that there are people that are developed through your school, your association, whatever. You become the leader type, and that feeds you. So because of my background, this was a tremendous challenge, and it's great to be known as the senator and to get the praises and all that, but there's a lot of downside to it, too, when you get cussed out by constituents and you're trying to figure out how to take care of the state and things you know that aren't going to be . . . It's pretty tough sitting over there. Like that session, that was a really a bear because we knew we were going to be into financial problems and yet people, they didn't even want us to pass the taxes we did pass. What we need is to cut down on the other end, and yet when none of us seem to have the, as a group, we cannot get a hold of that. State employees get their raises. The school teachers got their raises. Welfare got their raises, and somebody's got to pay. I know that if I would run this last time that I would have probably a more difficult time in my election than anytime. And what happened over there . . . it's not the same ball game with me anymore because there's such a change of people in the legislature that are not the old handshake type. You know, straight forward people playing all kinds of games, and Clark County just . . . people in Clark County are the ones that I just . . . there are still some very fine people down there, but a lot of the new legislatures, and they become leaders right away, cut your throat, just ugh.

AHERN: I'd like to ask you one more question. Who are the Oats brothers?

GETTO: The Oats brothers were very prominent farmers around here many years ago. The old man Oats, John Oats, Senior, was the man that he was probably a county commissioner I guess, or something. He donated the land for the Oats Park. That park is named after him. The Oats Park School. I don't know if he was ever a legislator or not, but there were two brothers in finally--they would be the generation ahead of me--one of them lived here where I told you they had the dairy there, and the other one lived out there on the other side of town where Gomes has the property now. [2600 Schurz Highway] One of the girls is the only Oats here now, and that's Margaret Oats. She's married to [Robert Davis]. He's from Denver. They still live in the house. They sold the property to Louie Gomes, and they still rent the house. He [Oats] was probably one of the greatest dairymen that was ever in this area. He sold one of the first . . . you hear now that they sell these bulls for millions of dollars, but he sold one of the first bulls to a herd sire, I think at that time was like 25,000 dollars which was . . . But he had developed these cows. He was a great dairyman.

AHERN: Did they have any influence on your life?

GETTO: Yeah, yeah. Alfred and Della. Well I’ll tell you about Della. His wife was my business math teacher, and boy! She influenced me. I tell you she was a fantastic woman. She had a lot of impact on my life. There are teachers that you go through the course but they never impress you, but she did. She had a way of teaching that just left an impression on my mind.

AHERN: What did she make you want to do?

GETTO: Well, to understand. Business math you got all these business problems so you have to figure them out, and so she instilled in me to learn how to figure out these business problems which to me was a great . . . something that I hadn't had before. To me that course was more usable than the algebra that I took. You know, took algebra. I never took trigonometry but I took algebra and geometry. Geometry, maybe, I used a little more, but algebra I never used hardly at all. But, the business math course was the one that I really learned. And she was such a straight forward, neat person, and her husband, Alfred, was . . . I don't know, I just admired him because of what he had done with the dairy cattle.

AHERN: Did you try to emulate him with your dairy?

GETTO: I started, but I never got it done. (laughing) You see, that's a point. There's a difference what he did. That was his life. That's all he did. I mean, he lived with those cows. He milked those cows, and he kept the records. That's all he ever did. I was trying to be a dairyman and a legislator and buying farms and you can't do it all yourself unless you have some really good help, and my business wasn't that profitable that I could hire topnotch people. I had good milkers.

AHERN: Did your children help out a lot with your business?

GETTO: Yes, they helped some. Mike worked on the farm. The girls fed calves quite often, and Marlea, the youngest one, was really interested in horses and roping, and she also showed steers at the livestock show. And Andrea showed lambs for several years. Mike showed pigs. So they were a help as much as most kids do on a farm.

AHERN: Looking back on your formative years, is there anything that you really wished you could have done that you didn't have a chance to do?

GETTO: Yeah, I still wish I could have gone to college. It's kind of a wish, but I wonder a lot of times what impact that would have in my life. Would that have taken me away to be some college professor or some attorney or somebody and what would I have done, just made a living. I mean, to stop and think that I didn't go to college and, yet, look what I've accumulated. I've accumulated several farms from the point that I started with with what my folks helped me with. That, I think, is quite an accomplishment. And the other thing is that I found that I was as confident in the legislature as the attorneys were or any of those people over there. I mean, I didn't feel like that they were better than I was. And the other thing is that I had a much broader experience field than they. I've got some rental houses, I'm in real estate, a farm, legislature. I've got a tremendous background, and I found that that was very valuable. It was just experience.

AHERN: Would you have any advice for, say, your grandchildren who are growing up to make them the forthright person that you are now?

GETTO: Oh, I have a lot of advice, but I don't know if they'd ever listen. (laughing)

AHERN: What do you think is the most important thing that formed you as a person, who you are today?

GETTO: I think honesty and responsibility are the two. First is honesty. The second is to be responsible for yourself and to other people, whatever. If you're responsible . . . see, that's the problem, so many of our people today is they're not responsible for themselves. They want somebody to hand it to them, or they're not responsible as far as carrying their part of the . . . as citizens we all should have an obligation to our country and to our county and to our city, and the obligation is not to see how much we can get. It's to see how much we can give, but that's not what happening.

AHERN: Who do you credit as being the most influential in your life?

GETTO: My mom and dad and Mr. Schank, my ag teacher, and I don't know which one to put first. He [Schank] had a tremendous influence on my life. My mom and dad, honesty, they put a conscience that I just can't shake, and Mr. Schank was the same way. He was just one of those honest, straight people. So I'd say the three of those are the ones that had the greatest impact on my life. The other thing with mom, besides being so honest and everything, is that she was a driver. Do something with your life. Mom and I weren't close, that’s the funny part. She was kind of picking at me and everything, and I don't know why I have so much respect for her 'cause we weren't real close. She used to get on me all the time about things that I'd do and so forth, and so she didn't have the best philosophy of how to come across, but it eventually came across anyway 'cause she'd anger me a lot of times. I'd get mad. If these young people can just be responsible for themselves and be honest, the world would be a lot better, wouldn't it? (laughing)

AHERN: Is there anything else that…?

GETTO: Not that I can think of… If I think of something that’s important maybe I can give you a ring and add to it.

AHERN: Well, Mr. Getto, on behalf of the Churchill County Museum, I'd like to thank you for granting me this interview. Thank you.

GETTO: You're welcome. It was a pleasure.

AHERN: This is the end of the interview.

Original Format

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Getto, Virgil Interview 1.mp3
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Churchill County Museum Association , “Virgil Getto Interview, 1 of 2,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed July 1, 2022,