Ella Hanks Oral History

Dublin Core


Ella Hanks Oral History


Ella Hanks Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


May 20 and May 30, 1991


Analog Cassette Tape, Text File, Mp3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Bill Davis


Ella Hanks


65 North Taylor, Fallon, NV




an interview with


May 20 and May 30, 1991

This interview was conducted by Bill Davis; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Sylvia Arden; final typed by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum and Sylvia Arden, Consultant.

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.


Ella Hanks tells of her folks moving from Colorado to California when she was a child. The family moved around a good deal there. She worked as a young lady in San Francisco during the bad flu epidemic and also in Berkeley as an installer of electric wiring for telephone equipment. She eventually went to the University of Nevada for two semesters to get her teaching credentials. She got a teaching job in Elko County and boarded in several homes. There she met her husband who was a ranch hand and cowboy and he ultimately became foreman of Dean Witter's Horseshoe Ranch. They raised their three sons who attended Elko schools.

They moved to Fallon ultimately and she taught in the Gabbs schools for a short while then transferred to Harmon School and later to Fallon's Consolidated School System.

Following her retirement, she has been active with the retired teachers' organization and with her lifelong active interest in oil painting.

Interview with Ella L. Hanks

DAVIS:  My name is Bill Davis and I am with the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program and today I'll be talking with Ella Hanks. We're in her living room at 65 North Taylor and today is May 20, 1991. Ella, the first thing we'd like to know is where were you born, who were your parents and what were they like, where did they come from and what were they doing.

HANKS: I was born in Denver, Colorado, October 23, 1900. My father had been interested in the mining in Colorado and my mother at one time taught school there. They moved out to Arizona when I was two years old and lived in a tent because my mother had had TB and the doctors said that she wouldn't live a year if she stayed in Colorado. So we lived in a tent and she did what the doctors told her, ate beef juice and eggs and things like that to help cure her of TB. When she got over it in about a year she seemed well, we went to California and we lived in La Jolla for a while and I enjoyed playing on the beach there. I remember once that I went out too far and someone had to pull me in to keep me from drowning. We went back to Mohave and my father was working in the mines when he got hurt but before that while we were in Mohave I used to run on the Mojave Desert in the wind and there were delightful tiny flowers to see and little pools of water when it rained. There were lizards and horned toads and snakes and I really enjoyed the desert. The school teacher there let me go to the little rural school and somehow I learned to read there. I was only five years old. It was near the Queen Esther mine and that's where my father worked. We lived in a tent and heat and wind came everyday in the summer. After my father got hurt-he had a broken knee--and we moved to Los Angeles and he got some sort of a money settlement, so we moved to Burbank for awhile while he was getting well. While we lived in Burbank I had adventures. A big white rooster attacked me one day but my sun bonnet kept him from pecking my eyes out and my dad rescued me. We soon ate the rooster. There was a time when we had real bad time with house flies and they had sticky fly paper out, but the fly paper was a real attraction to me. I was told to stay away from it but somehow I managed to get tangled up in it and for punishment I had a choice. I could go to Los Angeles with my father or I could stay home and get spanked. I decided to go with him. I didn't want to miss that trip.

HANKS: We lived in Los Angeles for quite a while. My brother was born there in 1906. My father had a little store. He had a little store on Alpine and Figueroa Street and he had a partner, but the store did quite well for a while and I went to first grade there. I started in kindergarten but when they found out I could read they put me in the first grade. My father and his partner decided to sell the store so we went in a kind of a covered wagon up to Bakersfield where my mother's brother lived. That was a good move. We had experiences on the way up with wind and with staying in an old barn where my mother was terrified that there would be scorpions and tarantulas but we stayed there anyway because of the wind. Another party moved in there with us, another outfit moved in there with us because they had to get out of the wind, too. So we went on up to Bakersfield and my uncle had this farm, little place, near Ordena [California] and we stayed there a little while and then my father got a job in a store. He couldn't do his own trade anymore. He got a job in a store up in McKittrick which was an oil town. We lived in Mckittrick quite a while and I had adventures there too. The oil people had burros. When they weren't using them they turned them loose and quite a bunch of children used to catch 'em and ride 'em and that was fun. So after a while though my uncle died and my mother inherited the little place so we went back near Bakersfield. From there it was quite a little while but my father couldn't do the work on the little farm so we went to Delano, California, and he bought a furniture store and in Delano I went to the Methodist Church, Sunday school, my brother did too, and we had a pretty good life around Delano for quite a long time and then it got very bad in the furniture business so we had to move back to the little place in Bakersfield. So from there I was getting along toward high school and there was a bus, probably the first school bus in the United States almost, took children from the Ordena District to Bakersfield to high school. Graduated from high school there in 1918 and from there we went to Modesto where we worked. We all worked one summer in the cannery, my whole family.

DAVIS:  How long did you live there now?

HANKS:                We just stayed in Modesto that summer, then we moved on north to Mill Valley and the reason we went up in that area my father's cousin lived in Berkeley and we thought if we were closer to them it might be good because they might have some work that he could do and for my mother too. So we were in Mill Valley a while. My mother and I went to San Francisco and hunted work. I got work in the Emporium as what they called a tag girl. This work was telephoning and tracking down the sales slips that didn't have the right information. I had to learn to use the telephone. I was terrified at first, but I gradually learned to do that and a lot of other things that have been useful to me in my later life.

DAVIS:  How long did you work there, how long did you stay in Mill Valley?

HANKS:                I guess I worked there for a couple of years. This was in 1918 when the terrible flu epidemic hit the country. You want me to tell about San Francisco when it had the flu?

DAVIS:  Yeah, sure. Sure.

HANKS:                Everybody had to have a mask and if you didn't have one they took you into the nearest drugstore and you had to wear one. San Francisco looked like a city of ghosts.

DAVIS:  Hm. When did you move from San Francisco?

HANKS:                Well, I think it was the following year we went to Berkeley because my father got to work at the university helping with the boys' athletic equipment because my cousin's husband was the director of athletics at the University of California. My mother got to work for his wife taking care of her children because she was teaching school. So I needed to get work in Berkeley so I tried to get work that my mother would probably approve of, but finally I ended up being hired by the Western Electric Company wiring selectors and connectors and I first started at that job dismantling the old ones and that was pretty dirty and everything, but I didn't mind. Finally they put me at a table with a bunch of other people wiring from a blueprint, wiring selectors and connectors for the phone company, for the Western Electric Company. I liked this job but my mother thought it was terrible. But there were women working there, it wasn't all men. So I kept that job for about two years. I applied to the post office department. I did their tests and applied for work in the post office, but I didn't hear for quite a long time and I needed to work because I needed to help the family. So finally I decided to come to Reno and stay with my mother's friend and take work at the University and take the school teacher's examination.

DAVIS: This was in?

HANKS: This was in 1921.

DAVIS: How many credits did you take up there?

HANKS:                I took just the one semester of education courses and took the teachers' examination and passed it and I was able to get a school in Elko County at the Hunter School which was west of Elko.

DAVIS:  What were your experiences up there?

HANKS:                [laughs]

DAVIS:  Lots of 'em, huh?

HANKS:                Well, I stayed with the Fred Klaner family out on a ranch near the Hunter School. I boarded with them and we drove to school about a mile and a half with a horse and buggy. All this was pretty new to me but I only had one bad time when the horse ran off coming home, but the children weren't hurt. The girls were sitting in the back and they jumped out and the boy was with me on the seat so no one was hurt.

DAVIS:  How many children were in the school and how far did you travel to and from?

HANKS:                About a mile and a half to the Hunter School from the Klaner Ranch. Klaners had three children: Julia and Freda and Jack and the Arrascadas had three: Amy and the boy's name I forget, but anyway the Tomeras had five children in the school, so we had quite a variety of grades there but I really enjoyed teaching these children and I was hired for the next year. I talked Mrs. Tomera into taking me for the year and I really enjoyed living with her family. She was a great cook and the meals were good Italian cooking and while I was down there--she really liked to have me because I could teach her boys, her older boys, about measuring hay. I had the rules for that and I taught them and she was very happy with that. Also there were some people came over, some section men from the section cross the track and they wanted to learn more English and learn to read and write because they wanted to get their American citizenship. So we had night school. We had a really good year. There wasn't too much snow that year. We went back and forth in a sleigh when there was snow.

DAVIS:  Who were the Tomera children that you taught?

HANKS:                There was John and Edward, Batiste, George, Julien, and Lucy.

DAVIS:  Do you remember the Arrascada names or not?

HANKS:                I can't remember them.

DAVIS:  Okay.

HANKS:                I went to the Hunter and Banks ranch quite a lot where I could ride horses at times and watch the bronc riding sometimes and even help work cattle. And of course I got better acquainted with Ed. Ed Hanks was the cattle foreman and I really admired his horse training and ability. He rode the wild broncs and made gentle horses of them without being too rough. He let me ride some super horses, gentle of course, but by the time school was out we were engaged and I went home to Berkeley and we planned a November wedding. After the wedding I came back to Nevada and we lived at the Hunter Ranch and I sort of learned, to cook and I didn't have any men to cook for except an old Mexican by the name of Remalda but he ate my biscuits and seemed to thrive and I guess it was all right. I enjoyed riding and got to help work cattle quite often. In early December my father became very ill and I went to Alameda. He knew me but was soon in a coma and he never recovered. After my father died it was not long until my mother and my brother came up to Elko County. My brother went to high school and graduated from the Elko high school.

HANKS: One spring morning Ed went to the ranch to scatter salt for the cattle in some of the high country just south of the homestead ranch and I went with him. We had a heavy load of salt, thick blocks, sort of reddish white, with four horses pulling it. When we came to the Camp Creek bridge the horses just got started across when the heavy wagon began to break through the boards of the bridge. Crunch, crunch, it sounded as if it was tearing the whole bridge apart and this startled the horses so much that they dashed ahead, fortunately pulling the wagon across to safety. We stayed at Camp Creek that night and Ed unloaded over half of the salt so that we'd take some of it to the high country northwest of Camp Creek. Only two horses were needed for this. There were no roads so away we went over sagebrush and rocks to leave a block of salt near a spring or in a shady grove of trees. We went around hills at a precarious angle and I walked a lot. And finally Ed put out the last block of salt but we didn't go back the way we came. Ed tied a heavy rope around the wagon seat and I asked him, "What for?" He told me it was for me to hang onto. I hadn't needed it so far so I laughed at that. We didn't go back the way we came but headed north and in a short time were out on the crest of a steep mountain. We were in sight of the homestead place which was a long way down the canyon. I thought it was inaccessible but Ed said, "Hold on," and he helped me loop the rope around my right arm. I couldn't believe what he intended to do, but he did it and I held to the rope for dear life and the horses dashed down that hill at breakneck speed to keep the wagon from crashing into them. It seemed to me ages of terror but finally we came to level ground all in one piece, even the wagon. It must have been a minor miracle. After my son, Roland, was born December 29, 1925, and I didn't get to go with the men much or ride too much because with a small baby, I couldn't take him and so I was happy to stay at home and do things at the Hunter Ranch where we were living.

DAVIS:  You were telling me about when he was six months old.

HANKS:                Yeah, I'll go on to that. Six or eight months old I put him in a basket and went out to the camp where the men had been gathering cattle and we got there around noontime and the Chinese cook was very glad to see us. In fact, he thought my son was very interesting so he picked him up and he took him over to the table, put his finger in the syrup jar and let my son lick it off.

DAVIS:  [laughing]

HANKS:                I was very horrified with this, but I didn't say anything. In Roland's second year he was out in the yard before breakfast one morning playing with a half-grown puppy. As breakfast was ready, I had him in cleaning up for breakfast when that dog, frothing at the mouth, jumped halfway up the back screen door. Ed didn't waste any time. He knew the dog had rabies, so he got his gun and went around the house. I shut the door and all we heard was the shot which was the merciful end of poor Spot. Edward was born January 23, 1927, and now I had two lively boys to look after. Ed took hay contracts on the Hunter and Banks Ranch and we hired a cook in the summers. One Chinese cook was very good and he enjoyed picking the strawberries which I had planted. We had strawberry shortcake very often and I enjoyed his cooking and he seemed to be very efficient with his job. On November 22, 1928, George was born, also in the Elko hospital. Ed had the care of the other two boys. They must have had quite a time because when I got home he decided that we needed a washing machine, so we bought a Maytag with a gasoline motor and I really enjoyed having that. About this time Ed started working for the Moffat Company and we moved to the Elmore Ranch up near Halleck. Edward got really sick and I had to stay in Elko for two nights with him. I rocked him all night one night and Dr. Secore gave us medicine so he was better soon. Imagine my shock and surprise to find out that Ed had moved up to Halleck to my mother's little house. He quit his job too as he found it too hard to take Roland with him when he went to feed the cattle. At the Elmore Ranch I could take the boys out and fish in the river and I caught big trout sometimes. We didn't stay at my mother's house very long because she was teaching school and she taught Norman Glaser in the first grade.


HANKS:                We went back to the Hunter Ranch and when Edward was about three years old we had a big adventure. I started out with the boys for a walk taking my little four hundred and ten shotgun in case we saw a magpie. We were coming back and we were nearly home when Edward pulled on me, my hand, and pointed to a cow that was near a straw pile looking at us. Edward got behind me like he was afraid. I started to tell him that the cow wouldn't hurt us when I looked again and she was coming, headed right for us. Roland wasn't very close to me and could have gone to the house. I thought of shooting her but she came so fast. When she was close enough I raised the gun up high and hit her over the head. She changed her direction and ran to a nearby ditch and fell down. The impact broke the shotgun apart and I fell over backwards, but the boys were safe and I wasn't hurt. I guess Edward had ESP.

DAVIS:  [laughing]

HANKS:                Ed saw what happened and came running toward us fast. He knew that that cow had the rabies so he had to kill her. What an experience. When George was nearly three, Mr. Calligan, Ed's boss, wanted us to move out near Lamoille to the Holland Ranch to feed the cattle that had been put there for the winter. The Plunkets were still there but it was a big house and we all got along for about three days until they finished packing and moving. My mother came to live with us and I started to like the place and enjoyed Mrs. Plunket's plants which she had left. Roland had to ride about a mile and a half to school. Ed was working then for forty dollars a month and we were boarding ourselves. The big depression had begun. Roland liked the hose and one day he was turning it on the milk cow. His father protested and Roland said, "Well, she's got to be clean if I'm going to milk her."        [laughing] A little stream of water running through the yard and Edward and George were tempted. George fell in and I had to give him a warm bath as he was cold and shivering, but he survived. We went to the Christmas program at the school. We all enjoyed that, but our home Christmas was a quiet one but fun for all of us. Towards spring Roland got an infected tooth and he had a bad cold. I was so worried. I took him to Elko. He felt so bad that I didn't know whether I should take him to the dentist or the doctor first. I decided on the dentist and went to Dr. Gallagher and then to Dr. Hood. With the tooth gone and some medicine he got better right away.

DAVIS:  How long did the family stay at Holland, on the Holland Ranch?

HANKS:                We were only there for that winter and when spring came Ed was offered a job working for Grayson and Hinkley in Beowawe, Nevada, at the Horseshoe Ranch which was named for the horseshoe pattern of Lombardy poplar trees which enclose a big green meadow. So we packed up and moved to Beowawe to the West Ranch which was about two miles southwest of town and about five miles from the main ranch.

DAVIS: Okay.

HANKS: Ed had to go to Gold Creek for the summer with Grayson's cattle so the boys and I lived at the West Ranch alone but we could drive to Beowawe for groceries. The next spring Mr. Hinkley wanted our family to go to Gold Creek for the summer as he had leased a big area there for his cattle. He was having a bunch shipped in that he bought in Arizona, beautiful white-faced Herefords. So we packed up, even the goat and the dog, and went to Gold Creek. By this time my mother lived with us and her school in Lee, Nevada was out for the summer. So she went to Gold Creek, too. Ed was busy riding and I went with him, too, lots of times. Roland and Edward rode, too, and I even took George on the horse with me. If the riding was slow. he invariably went to sleep and I had to hold him on, but we managed. Before very long disaster struck. The white-faced Hereford cows that had been shipped from Arizona began to get very yellow faces and to show a real weakness. They didn't eat either. The diagnosis was anaplasmosis and a lot of vaccine was ordered and sent up. The treatment required my help. Ed would rope a sick cow by the head and secure the rope and tell his horse to hold her. Then he would rope her hind feet and throw her down and get my horse to hold her feet. I would then sit on her head while Ed located the jugular vein, inserted the vaccine needle and put quite a big dose of vaccine into her. The vaccine really worked. By the next day that cow would be eating and the yellow color would be fading. We had a busy time and saved most of the Hereford cows but it wasn't easy.

HANKS: At one time Witter came to the Beany place. They had been talking with Grace and Hinkley about buying the Horseshoe Ranch and I guess they wanted to see what kind of range there was. Okay shut it off and I’ll [cuts out] One day the Witters came up to the Beany place and the car had been stopped only a few minutes when our billy goat was up on the hood. [Pause, end of side A]

HANKS: We stayed at the Beany place until fall and by then we had decided to go to California. Ed's brother, Oathe's family lived near Sebastopol. The plan was for me to take the boys and drive down there and Ed would help with driving the cattle back to Beowawe to the Horseshoe Ranch and he would come to California later. Just before Christmas Ed came to Sebastopol. Dean Witter had bought the Horseshoe Ranch from Grayson Hinkley and he wanted Ed to be the superintendent and run the ranch for him. It surely sounded good to me. We enjoyed a nice Christmas with Oast and Leona and their children and then we started home. Ed bought a trailer and we loaded it up and started for Nevada. My mother was with us so we had a car full when we started for Nevada and new adventures. [tape cuts]


Hanks: Ed had rented us a house right in town in Beowawe from Mrs. Webber. He'd known Mrs. Webber for a long time and it was a pretty good house, so we were quite comfortable there waiting for the time when Hinkleys would move out and we could live on the Horseshoe Ranch. I knew most of the people in Beowawe. Allen's store was next door and the boys went to school not far away. We moved to the Horseshoe Ranch in the spring and lived in the big farmhouse that had once been two separate dwellings. The old part was composed of a dining room with a fireplace and the kitchen had an old fashioned range for cooking, a large dining room and one bedroom. The walls were put up with no air space and in the winter the frosty walls often shone like diamonds in the cold bedroom. In the newer part was the large living room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms. There was a huge fireplace in the living room, but one winter Ed moved a wood burning stove inside the fireplace when the Witters weren't there and it was much warmer.

Davis: Okay

HANKS: There was a separate cook house and it had a fireplace in the long dining room. The kitchen had the largest black kitchen range I ever saw. In the summer during hay time there was always a cook. I hardly ever cooked. There was a dairy in the same area where the man in charge milked the cows, separated the milk and made butter and saved the cream and milk for the house and in the summer for the cook house. In the winter there was a cook for the few men and our family ate at the ranch house. Eva Brady was our first cook. She was an Indian lady, a fair cook, but the only trouble I ever had with her was her occasional failure to come to work. Then I had to cook. She never made any excuses. She just didn't feel like coming so she stayed home. Life at the Horseshoe Ranch was varied and interesting. Some very exciting things could happen and often did. There was a warm swimming pool east of the big house. There were really two pools, one really was warm even in the winter. It was a great place for daily baths. There was a small dressing room with a little wood stove. I enjoyed a warm place to dress and could build a fire very easily. The larger pool was just right for swimming so I taught all the boys to swim. Later when Witters came up to the ranch, the boys and Billy Witter made a raft and had great fun in the big pool. The pool is drained into a duck pond. There was a commissary and I had charge of the shopping for all sorts of canned goods and other supplies to keep plenty of food on hand. The slaughter house was out beyond the cottage and beyond that there were pigpens and a huge potato cellar. Witters had a cottage just south of the big house. It had bedrooms, bathrooms, and a living room and it was all furnished with antiques. There was a fireplace there, too, There was a bunkhouse for the men and a big cook house and a small pool for bathing there also, fed by another hot spring. All summer the whole Witter family often came to the ranch. Cap was about eighteen, Ann sixteen, and Billy, the youngest one, was about six. He had a Scotch nurse or governess and she took real good care of him. When friends their age came from San Francisco, Cap and Ann enjoyed riding, swimming, and fishing, with trips to Elko occasionally. Billy and my boys had Skeezix, a gentle Shetland pony to ride, the swimming pool at times, and often Agnes and I took them fishing. We had to discourage the digging of a cave in the nearby hills as too dangerous. Ed was superintendent of the Horseshoe Ranch for about eight years and by that time my oldest son was about ready for high school, so when Dean Witter leased the Hunter and Banks Ranch and put some cattle up there we moved up there. Then Roland could drive our boys into the Elko schools which were much better than the Beowawe schools. While we were on the Horseshoe Ranch Dean Witter paid my boys each Christmas a kind of bonus for helping on the ranch. Roland got a hundred dollars, Edward got fifty, and George got twenty five. They saved this money and it helped them later when they went into high school to buy music instruments. When Dean Witter's lease was up at the Hunter and Banks Ranch Ed went to work for George Russell down near Beowawe and I moved to Elko and the boys kept on going to school.

DAVIS: This is Bill Davis again and today is May 30, 1991, and I'm back talking with Ella Hanks. We were going to back a little bit and talk about some incidents that you've thought about at the Horseshoe Ranch, so do you want to go ahead?

HANKS: The Witter family always brought their Chinese cook, Quong, when they came to the ranch. He could turn out wonderful meals cooked on the old wood burning cook stove. One day Agnes and I went in the back entry and on the woodpile which was near the kitchen door a cardboard box caught our attention. We opened it a little and were horrified. About a dozen sparrows with no feathers on were running around in there. Quong was anticipating a Chinese treat. Agnes scolded him and he laughed. He said, "I tell Mrs. Witter I going to make a sparrow pie. Mrs. Witter say I'm not." [tape cuts] Once Dean Witter came from San Francisco on the train. Helen had, without telling him, bought an old stage coach and had had it restored. It looked great so she had Scott drive it to Beowawe to meet Dean. He was astonished and angry and refused to ride in it. Helen and Dean weren't always on the same wavelength. [tape cuts] When the Mormon crickets were coming to Elko County by the millions we at the Horseshoe Ranch were hoping that they would miss the ranch. But suddenly we had crickets. Mrs. Witter's little cocker spaniel often stayed with us at the ranch and he attacked the crickets. He did us fine for awhile in biting them but soon he would run along with his head in the air ignoring crickets. I think they made him sick. There were often San Francisco guests at the ranch and Ed and I often were included in the dinner parties. At one anniversary party when the champagne got a little low, Dean Witter went around with the bottle saying to each guest, "A little dividend?"

DAVIS:  [laughing]

HANKS:                [tape cuts]They didn't want any modern appliances on the ranch so we had kerosene lamps which were not easy to maintain in the best condition. Big Coleman lanterns and lamps provided light for the big dining room and the living room. Quong had a big ice chest for the kitchen, no refrigerator. [tape cuts] One winter was very cold, fifty degrees below zero for a night or two and about twenty-five below in the daytime. I remember helping Lawrence start the pickup. I steered while he drove the team of horses that were hitched to it. The men cut ice from the river to fill the ice house. This was a real necessity as the spring water was piped to the house and was warm and had a lot of sulphur flavor. [tape cut] –paper for the ranch. I kept the payroll, paid the bills and the men and sent in monthly reports to Miss Gardenier, Dean Witter's secretary, in San Francisco.

HANKS: [tape cut]The boys had not had the best schooling at Beowawe and as Roland would soon be ready for high school, it was decided that we should move to the Hunter and Banks Ranch near Elko which had been leased by Dean Witter. We moved to the Hunter and Banks Ranch so when school started that fall George went to the fourth grade in Elko. I hadn't realized that in Beowawe he had spent most of his school time playing with Joey Bell and the teacher hadn't interfered with this playing very much. …Better stop [tape cuts] His Elko teacher called me and asked me to come to see her. She said he had just been looking around and was way behind in his ability to read and she asked me to help him at home. I was really glad that she didn't put him back a grade and we had reading every night at home. He very soon caught up and began to work good at school. [tape cuts]  Elko schools were very much better. Before too long C.S. Howard brought some of his race horses to the ranch. He was the owner of Seabiscuit and he and Bing Crosby seemed to be in the racing business, at least to the point that Bing was interested in coming to see what Mr. Howard was doing at the Hunter and Banks Ranch. [tape cuts] While we lived there I painted quite a lot and used to get some ribbons at fair time. I also sold forty flower paintings to a man who wanted them for his hotel in California. A friend, Mrs. Murphy, sent me California wildflowers in the winter. It was really wonderful. I did line drawings of herbs for her book. [tape cuts] Then answered their questions about Mr. Howard's horses the best I could but I didn't know very much except that Ed thought those race horses weren't much good as cow horses, but I had taken a correspondence course in art in illustrating and they seemed interested in this and asked questions about that. Not long after their visit I received three beautiful copies of the Russian artist, Fechin's paintings from Bing Crosby. [tape cuts] Not too long after that when Mrs. Howard came up and she admired the paintings, copies of course, and offered to take them to Burlingame to have them framed for me. I was thrilled and agreed and they were beautifully framed. [tape cuts]

HANKS: While we were in Elko, Roland went into the Army and was first inducted down in San Diego. At first he was in the anti-aircraft part and then they transferred him into the regular Army and he had training at Camp Horn, Arizona. That was a very bad camp. It was rumored that one detachment had been there and had just flagged down a train and left. I don’t know if you want that… After Elko in 1945 we went to Sunnyside, Washington, because my sister-in-law and her husband were there and they wanted us to come up and we were only in Sunnyside a month or two until they left to go back to California. [tape cuts] We bought a house in Yakima [tape cuts] house in Elko, and I had a job offered me at the Shepherd's camera shop. My boys were in college except Edward who was still in Korea but Roland had come home and he was in college part-time. He'd gotten married and was working for the Phillips Petroleum Company in Spokane. I worked for the Shepherds until 1951 when we moved back to Nevada. [tape cuts] Ed had a house rented for us in Fallon and we had a Mayflower truck move our furniture. George pulled a trailer behind his Dodge car so Mom and George and I arrived in Fallon and moved into this house on Nevada Street. Ed was really glad to see us. We sort of camped out for several days until the Mayflower truck brought our furniture. George soon left as he had registered at the University of Utah to work for a master's degree in biology. Ed got work at the Big Meadow Ranch near Lovelock. I tried to find work in Fallon. I could do bookkeeping and I'd had some experience in cooking. Anyway I wasn't able to get any kind of a job, so I thought about teaching school again. Ed got hurt over at the Big Meadow Ranch, not seriously, but he quit and we decided that I would be able to teach school if I went to college for a semester and a summer. So Ed's cousin, Frank Phillips, got us an apartment near theirs in Reno and I went back to school. [tape cuts] I took an English test and scored high enough to be able to take English 102. Dr. Laird was the English teacher and really expected a lot from us. I took some education courses too and really began to like college. At the end of one semester and summer school I found out about schools where they needed teachers and applied. I was hired to teach first grade in Gabbs, Nevada, a mining community where they mine magnesium and hired quite a few men with families. Ert Moore was the principal and was a fine man to work for. When more families moved in it got more crowded and I was given the second-grade children too. [tape cuts]

HANKS: I taught school in Gabbs for two years. Perhaps I would have stayed longer but Mother wasn't too well and twice we had to take her to the Hawthorne hospital. Roland and Arlene lived in Mina where my brother had a Standard Oil distributor business. Roland worked for him. [tape cuts] While he and Arlene were in Gabbs my brother's son, Richard, was sent to Reno with the polio and about two days later he died. Before very long my son, Roland, in Mina was diagnosed as having polio and airlifted to Reno and just a few days later my son, George, who was  working for Standard Slag in Gabbs was diagnosed as having polio and also sent to Reno. We were lucky that they recovered as well as they did. [tape cuts] In the first grade for show and tell Danny Bruce once brought a large hairy tarantula in a pint jar with no lid. This was no problem for Danny. When the shaggy pet tried to climb out Danny just batted him back. I hurriedly found a lid with holes in the top and the class, except for a few girls, enjoyed the show. [tape cuts] For show and tell a first-grade boy came with quite a lot of mercury in a flask. I don't think he had permission from home. I let him show it but I helped him keep it safe and had him take it back home right away. He lived close to the school. [tape cuts]

DAVIS:  How many kids did you have in class and how many classes did you have?

HANKS:                I probably had twenty in the first grade but when they had to put in second grade youngsters it probably climbed to thirty. I'm not sure but it seemed like I had a lot.

DAVIS:  Sure.

HANKS:                Danny Bruce came to school one morning and shared some bad news. "My baby brother bit my pet snake," he said. "They were both crawling on the floor and the baby bit the snake." Danny was quite upset. [tape cuts]

HANKS:                A really big earthquake occurred while we lived in Gabbs. I got out of bed and turned out the pilot lights in the gas stove and the water heater. We didn't want to have a fire. We had aftershocks for quite awhile and a big wide crack opened up along the west side of Dixie Valley mountains. [tape cuts] We had had earthquakes in Washington and I thought I would never be afraid of an earthquake but I was. I was terrified and the flower pots fell out of the windows and a few things like that but no serious damage came in our apartment. [tape cuts]

HANKS:                I really enjoyed teaching in the Gabbs school and think the children taught me as much as I taught them. [tape cuts] George was called into the Army in 1954. He went to Fort Ord and since he had been so ill with polio I really thought he would be sent right back. To my astonishment and his, he went through basic training without any real trouble. He was glad to be judged physically fit. [tape cuts]

HANKS:                I applied for a school in Fallon and got a job at the Harmon School. We moved. We couldn't find a house to rent so we decided to build our own home. We bought a lot about one block south of the hospital and got Al Davis, contractor, to build us a two-bedroom house. There was a medical clinic on the corner to the south so I felt more secure. The hospital was a block north. [tape cuts]

HANKS:                I kept taking college classes in the summers and often taking my mother to Reno and renting an apartment. We would come home on weekends. It was a hectic life but I liked college classes. [tape cuts]

HANKS:                I taught two years at Harmon. Kelly Johnson had the upper grades from the fourth on up and I had the lower elementary. [tape cuts]

DAVIS:  About how many kids were in the classes then?

HANKS:                I probably had about fifteen children.

DAVIS:  How many did Kelly have?

HANKS:                I don't know how many Kelly had but it seems to me that he had a few more than that. The Harmon School was interesting to teach. The farm families often had entertainment for us, potlucks and things like that. It was very nice down at Harmon.

DAVIS:  Any unusual things happen in class down there? [tape cuts]

HANKS:                I liked the Harmon School. It was fun to teach down there.

DAVIS: Okay, good.

HANKS: In the Harmon School there was one boy that the others were sort of picking on and I kept the ones that were bothering him in at recess and one of them said to me, "You can't keep me in. My father's on the school board." So pretty soon, in a day or two, I kept them in and in a day or two the others were really friendly with the one they'd been picking on. [tape cuts] In two years the school was abandoned and the children came to Fallon and I taught in Fallon. [tape cuts] I kept taking college courses whenever I could. A few evening classes were given in Fallon and it all added up and I got a BS at the University of Nevada in Reno in 1964. [tape cuts] School teaching went along pretty well for the most part but I liked teaching the first grade and I could have had a sixth-grade class at one time. Don Johnson asked me but I didn't want to change. [tape cuts]Mrs. Carl and I were the first two teachers in the new Northside school. For the first few days the bathrooms weren't operational and the children were bused over to the West End school. It was amazing how often some of them thought they had to go but we had to let them. [laughing] Before too long we had normal school days with about twenty-five first-grade children each. [tape cuts]

HANKS: As more school rooms were finished and furnished, other teachers came and Northside School became the school for first and second grades. [tape cuts] We got along very well and worked well together and about the next year we had Elmo Oxborrow as principal. We were instructed to make lesson plans for a week ahead. Most of us did. The worst chore was the banking business. [tape cuts] If a parent wanted a child to have a savings account he could bring money. The teacher kept track and sent the little savings books and money to the bank every week. We also had lunch money to keep track of and our attendance records.

I had eighteen years of teaching and when I retired in 1965 Wait a minute… [tape cuts]I substituted for a few years until Ed got quite weak and I had to stay home. [tape cuts] Ed died in 1974 and I still lived in the house.

DAVIS:  As you still do.

HANKS:                And I still do.

DAVIS:  Right. [tape cuts]

HANKS:                About the middle of 1975, UNR had their Nevada centennial dinner here in Fallon at the Nugget Convention Center. I went with Jane Hanks, my nephew's wife. We knew a lot of people and had a good time. Dr. Hulse, a history professor, who had written a book on the history of the University of Nevada was the main speaker. I enjoyed his talk very much. Dr. Whitimore told me it had been nice to come and visit Fallon again. I was surprised he remembered me. [tape cuts] Later Governor O'Callaghan gave his State of the State speech in Carson City and said that Nevada was in excellent shape but that we must proceed with caution. I'm sure he was right. [tape cuts] In January, 1975, I was working on condensing an article about the dangers of storing and transporting atomic waste. I was going to send it to my son, George, who was teaching in college in Indiana. George had written warnings about dangers of radiation during the above-ground testing in the 1950's but no one wanted to hear about it then. In February I sent a leaflet to William Raggio on what is plutonium? You'd better find out. I hope he shared it. [tape cuts]

DAVIS:  What has happened to you now since 1976? How have you kept busy?

HANKS:                Painting. I did for a long time. I got that room half full of paintings.

DAVIS:  Do you take classes?

HANKS:                I took lots of classes. I took one from Louise Evans, I took two from Janice Shedd. [tape cuts] One of the first classes I took in art at the community college was from Jess Brown who taught here for several years and usually had large classes. I have painted for many years and I still enjoy it and I'm doing it to the best of my ability now. [tape cuts] I have had art displays in the library, twice on my own and once with a man from Carson City, Ray Freeman. Instead of having another art display I have been giving my children and grandchildren a picture that they choose themselves so that they'll have at least one of my pictures. [tape cuts]

DAVIS:  This is the end of the interview for Ella Hanks. This is Bill Davis signing off.

Original Format

Audio Cassette



Social Bookmarking



Ella hanks (bottom L).jpg
Ella Hanks Oral History.docx
Hanks, Ella.mp3


Churchill County Museum Association , “Ella Hanks Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed July 1, 2022, https://ccmuseum.omeka.net/items/show/378.