Sally Groth Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
an interview with
August 1, 2001
This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by
Glenda Price; indexed by Norine Arciniega; supervised by Jane Pieplow, Director of the 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.
Sally has spent most of her life in Fallon. Her memories of her childhood are pleasant even though her father left the family forcing her mother to work by cleaning houses, cooking, and clerking in stores in order to feed, clothe and raise three children alone. Her love and admiration of her mother is evident as she speaks of her.
Sally attended local schools and began working at the City of Fallon Clerk's office upon her graduation from high school. Fourteen years later she accepted a job with the Naval Auxiliary Air Station. This position developed into a very satisfying career, and she also managed to attend community college and the University of Nevada, Reno to further her education in her chosen field of accounting while working full time.
Sally is a gifted artist. She has drawn and painted since she was a child. She has experimented in many media. In recent years she has discovered a special talent by developing her own unique style. A number of her admirers prefer to collect her exquisite miniatures done in oils and watercolor. She spends countless hours perfecting each piece before she decides it is complete. Her art has provided pleasure and beauty throughout her life.
Interview with Sally Groth
BODEN: This is Pat Boden. I'm interviewing Sally Groth on August 1, 2001, in the annex of the Churchill County Museum for our Oral History Project. Thank you for coming, Sally, and I appreciate your being here.
GROTH: You're welcome, Pat.
BODEN: What were the names of your mother's parents?
GROTH: It was Kipp. I don’t know my Grandfather’s name [Wilhelm Kipp] but my grandmother's name was Louisa.
BODEN: When and where were they born?
BODEN: Do you have any personal memories of them?
GROTH: No, I never knew them.
BODEN: What were the names of your father's parents?
GROTH: My father's parents were Albrecht Groth and Sally Reed.
BODEN: When and where were they born?
GROTH: Sally Reed was an American citizen. She supposedly was a DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution]. My grandfather was born in Germany.
BODEN: Where did they live?
GROTH: The last they lived was in Fallon, Nevada. My grandfather, when he came over here, wanted to cross the United States and wound up in Oregon where he met Sally, married her, and that's where my father was born in Jordan Valley, Oregon. They moved to Paradise Valley and then to Fallon.
BODEN: Do you have any personal memories of them at all?
GROTH: Just my grandmother. She died when I was quite young, and all I can remember is she looked very ill. She was lying at the Moore Hospital and dying at the time. We had come back from California so we could say good-bye, I guess.
BODEN: Were you ever told any stories of your family when they came across from Germany? Were there any stories that came down through them?
GROTH: No. My grandfather Albrecht sent a lot of correspondence back to his parents, and my cousin over there had them translated, so I have a small book of his translated letters which I find quite fascinating. Among the things that I really thought was great was, and I may have the name wrong, but he rode on the posse after the Dalton gang.
BODEN: Oh, wow! Well, then, you still have relatives in Germany.
GROTH: Oh, yes.
BODEN: Do you have correspondence with them still?
GROTH: No, I don't, and my aunts in Sparks don't either. They had a problem in the language barrier because they barely spoke English. They barely wrote it, and, of course, none of us know German.
BODEN: What was your father's name?
GROTH: My father's name was Alvin Samuel Hugo Groth. Mother always called him Alvin Samuel Hugo Groth, and I don't know whether the Samuel was in there or not. [laughing]
BODEN: When and where was he born?
GROTH: He was born in Jordan Valley.
BODEN: And your mother's maiden name was . . .
GROTH: Was Kipp, and she was born in Davenport, Iowa.
BODEN: Did she have a nickname?
GROTH: They called her Kipp, and when she was little bitty, they called her Skip, but actually the Kipp is what . . .
BODEN: I know a lot of us called her Butch. How did she get that?
GROTH: That was during the War. Of course, we had a lot of the service men over to the house. We were always feeding them. We had piles of boys in the house, and they'd started to call her Mother or Mom, and she said, "I am not your mother. You have to call me something else," and we all decided Butch was it.
BODEN: And Butch stuck.
GROTH: Yeah, Butch stuck.
BODEN: When did she pass away, Sally?
GROTH: I think it was February 28, 1976.
BODEN: And she's buried in Fallon?
GROTH: She's buried in Fallon.
BODEN: Did you say where your mother and father met?
GROTH: Here in Fallon. My mother had come with my grandmother to Fallon. My grandmother was related to the Huttmans. I believe Augusta Huttman was my grandmother's half sister. I'm never sure about that, but my grandmother Kipp was very asthmatic, so they came out because the Nevada air was supposed to be therapeutic and help asthmatic people. They made two trips out here, stayed with the Huttmans. The second time, hm-m-m, John Huttman got a little aggravated with my mother. He said she started a fire in the attic, and it was actually his boy that did it. Anyway, they were kicked out of the Huttman house, and they moved to a small house on Center Street. I don't know where they ever met up with the Groths. Probably at some dance or something. I never knew that.
BODEN: After they were married, you were born in California, weren't you?
GROTH: Oh, yes. Fresno, California. All three of us. I think my dad was on construction, and we lived in Fresno in a small little house that had a cooler attached to the back. He also had a fighting cock which I think was illegal then, but he had a fighting cock because the stupid thing leaped over the high fence and got me. I have two scars on my face from the fighting cock. My dad always told Mother that I had teased it, and, of course, my mother stood up for me. My father found out the hard way. The cock leaped over the fence and got him, too, so the cock was killed. [laughing] That's a long time ago.
BODEN: [laughing] What are your brothers' names?
GROTH: The older brother is Alvin Hugo Groth, Junior, and the younger brother is William Hugo Groth. The reason for the Hugo is because my grandfather, Albrecht, put on the dog quite a bit, and he told my mother that Hugo was a family name, and all the boys had to have Hugo as the middle name, so both my dear sweet brothers ended up with the name Hugo which they detest.
BODEN: How old were you when you moved back to Fallon?
GROTH: I think I was about five. I hadn't started school, yet, and I can remember getting on the bus. The "Groth Ranch" was on Harrigan Road. In fact, I think Skip Cann is living on the property now. The house is no longer there. I can remember getting on the bus, so I must have been five. I wasn't much older.
BODEN: How many times did you move after you got here?
GROTH: We lived at the "Groth Ranch," and that was after my grandmother had died. My grandfather had left before Grandmother died, so, consequently, the ranch had to be taken over by the oldest boy in the family.
BODEN: And that's the one that's where Skip Cann is?
GROTH: Yes, that's where that is. We lived in that house probably about a year. I'm just guessing because time means nothing when you're very young. Then we moved over to a place owned by Dodges. That was located close to the Union schoolhouse, in that area some place. I remember vaguely because of the adobe kitchen it had, and it was a two-story house. It subsequently burned down, so it's no longer there, but by the time it had burned down, we had moved out to Harmon Ranch because my dad was in partnership with the Dodge Brothers. Then we moved back to Fallon because my father left us, and we've been in Fallon ever since except for two and a half years in Sicily, and that doesn't really count.
BODEN: Did you have a room of your own in most of these places, or did you have to share?
GROTH: I really can't remember, Pat. When we were on what I called the Groth Ranch, I remember certain things from there, but not our sleeping habits.
BODEN: How did they heat it?
GROTH: I haven't the slightest idea. When we were on the place with the adobe kitchen, I had a room, I think, under the stairs because I can remember Mother coming in, and the light was shining through the window. She had been out all night. The Raffettos had a young boy that was called Tom and was the love of my life. She had been over at Raffetto's because Tommy had eaten strawberries that were laced with arsenic.
BODEN: Oh, my gosh.
GROTH: And, of course, it killed him. [sighing] Broke me up. I think I was in that room alone.
BODEN: Would you have had indoor or outdoor plumbing in any of those places?
GROTH: I just can't remember. We probably had outdoor plumbing. I just can't remember. I know Raffettos had outdoor plumbing. They lived right across the field from us, and their outhouse was way far from their main house.
BODEN: What did Butch cook on?
GROTH: Oh, wood and coal. In the Harmon house, that was indoor plumbing. That was really uptown. Must have had indoor water, too.
BODEN: Pretty good for those days. Do you remember an icebox? Was it an icebox or desert coolers?
GROTH: Desert coolers in Fresno. Probably desert--see again, I don't have much remembrance.
BODEN: Explain about a desert cooler, how they were made.
GROTH: As I remember they had the thin laths, strips of woods that were overlaid with burlap, and the water dripped down over the burlap. When the wind blew or the breezes came, and we always had a lot of those, it kept the inside very cool. I thought they were about the greatest thing. At the Harmon ranch we had adjacent to the house a very large walk-in cooling area where they hung meat. It was very thick wood, all that good stuff. It was in two parts. I think one part was for the storage for the meat. I can remember that. At the Groth Ranch on Harrigan we sold milk. I can remember selling the milk, so we must have had some method of keeping that clean. I can still see my mother cleaning the steel apparatus that separated the milk. I used to get intrigued with my daddy because he would turn a tit of the cow up and feed a cat. We always had cats.
BODEN: Where did you live after your father left, Sally?
GROTH: We lived on Churchill Street in a little bitty house that was on the alley, a real deep lot. It had indoor plumbing. Not very good plumbing, but it had indoor plumbing because one winter it was extremely cold. Everybody had problems, and I can remember our toilet freezing. We had one bedroom in that house. It had kind of a back porch. The kitchen must have very small. The living room was extremely small. Mother and I slept in the bedroom, and my brothers slept in the living room. We had what we called a youth bed which was shorter than normal. There must have been a couch or something in there because the one winter when it was so cold, Mother closed off the back end of the house because there was no way to heat it. We were sleeping on the bed in the living room, all three of us. We were sleeping kind of like logs, and my poor little mother was sleeping in the youth bed. She must of not gotten a lot of sleep.
BODEN: Did she go to work then after he left? Was that when she first went to work?
GROTH: Oh, she had to because there was no money.
BODEN: What did she do?
GROTH: What she did, she cleaned house, and she cooked meals for people. She eventually, not only cleaned and cooked, but she clerked. She worked at the dime store which was down next to the Federated. It would be north from Kent's. I can remember, I think one of her bosses' name was Joel Snyder. Very nice man. She worked there, she worked at Penney's, and she did a lot of altering when she worked at Penney's.
BODEN: Of clothes?
GROTH: Clothes. When men bought pants, they had to put the cuffs in and this type of thing. That's what Mother did. She had been trained as a seamstress in Davenport. This was at Penney's, and that's when Penney's was in the mercantile building. It’s on the corner, I think. It's hard to remember all this stuff. She was a pretty good cook, too.
BODEN: There was a Penney's there.
GROTH: Well, that's where, and they had an upstairs, or a kind of a balcony-type thing where they had their Christmas things, and Mother would be the person in charge of that. There would always be a lot of books. She said she remembered particularly Beverly Waller coming up and reading the books. He was always very well behaved. He didn't have a reputation for being well behaved, but up there he was really good.
BODEN: She was kind of in charge of Red Cross or Welfare, or was it all the same stuff?
GROTH: Well, it actually wasn't. It became all of the same stuff. Some time ago, one of her jobs was Red Cross, and I was just trying to think. She must have gotten paid a small stipend, not very much. She was on call twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes we'd have people coming in at three o'clock in the morning for help to continue on down the road. The policy of the county at that time was to get them out of town as fast we possibly could. So, Mother had reference points with the Catholic Church, and I think with the other churches as well with the county. She could get food stamps or little certificates where people could buy stuff when they needed it and then get on out of town down to the next county, I guess. Very interesting. Eventually she wound up working for the county as well. Then it turned over to be the county welfare, and she was just working half a day. She did that for quite a few years. In fact, her office was next to the city clerk's office in the city hall, so it was very convenient because I worked there at the time, and we could go home together. Somebody brought her to work because she didn't have to be to work until one o'clock, but when the county changed its retirement system, Mother persuaded the commissioners at that time to let her go on a retirement system if she paid the back dues, and we discussed it. We finally decided that it was fifteen hundred dollars that she had to repay to get on a retirement basis, because the county assumed that she worked twenty-four hours a day, so consequently it wasn't just part-time work. We dug into the savings and got out the fifteen hundred dollars. We didn't think Mother would live that long, but we gambled, and she did. [laughing]
BODEN: That was a smart thing to do.
GROTH: She was cooking one time for Gwen Maupin. It was Easter time, and Gwen wanted a lamb roast. We never had lamb at the house, never ever, and here Mother was faced with this leg of lamb, and she didn't quite know what to do with it. She had heard some place or read some place--she was a great reader--that mint was the thing to serve with lamb. Gwen happened to have a field of mint out in her backyard, so Mother went out and plucked a lot of mint, packed it around the leg of lamb, and she got so many compliments on that. [laughing]
BODEN: Lucked out.
GROTH: Yes, she certainly did.
BODEN: At one point did she have something to do with the Fraternal Hall Association?
GROTH: Yes, she kept books for the Fraternal Hall, and I always helped her with those because she had made me take bookkeeping in high school, so I was a pretty good bookkeeper, but she did that, too.
BODEN: She did a lot of things.
GROTH: She did a lot of things.
BODEN: Where did you go to school?
GROTH: I went to school at Old High, Oats Park, and Churchill County High School, the University of Nevada, and the Community College at Fallon.
BODEN: When you were going to Harmon, did you ride a horse?
GROTH: Oh, I sure did.
BODEN: Where'd they keep them when you got there?
GROTH: I haven't the slightest idea. I've often wondered because here's this poor horse, horses because my brothers rode double on one of the horses, and I got Derphy. They must have had a fenced-in area with hay and water, but I just can't remember. I've often wondered. I must have to ask the Nygrens because they might remember. They drove a buggy, so they'd have to park that some place.
BODEN: How many students would there have been out there?
GROTH: I don't know. When I went out there, I was in the second grade, and they bumped me up because the school system was different in Harmon, and I imagine the other country schools it was one full grade, and in town it was half grade, 1A, 1B, etc. When I got out there, they pushed me up half a grade, and, subsequently, when we moved back to Fallon, I was pushed up half a grade. My poor brother, Alvin, got pushed down a grade.
BODEN: Bet that made him happy.
GROTH: Oh, man.
BODEN: What recreation did they provide for recess in the schools out like that?
GROTH: Oh, Old High was wonderful. They had bars that were great big lengths of pipe, and I'm telling you the girls could really whirl around those things. They'd wrap their knees around them and swing around.
BODEN: Now, the Old High that you're talking about, is that the one that was across from the Methodist Church?
BODEN: Where the Cottages are now?
GROTH: Right. They had swings that were on a chain. They had room for a hand on the bottom and then the hand at the top, and you kind of gallop along and swing out on it, come down and gallop. There'd be about five or six of us galloping at the same time. Those, I think, have gone by the wayside because they were dangerous, but we didn't think so at the time. Those bars, honest to goodness, I never was brave enough. I have no courage at all, but I could put my knee across, link it with the other leg, and swing to where I went clear around. A lot of girls could do that and other things. Man!
BODEN: When did you learn to swim?
GROTH: Probably when I was around ten.
GROTH: Stony Beach. Good old Stony Beach. It's at the intersection where they used to have the airport. It's where five roads converge. Sheckler and Wildes. Stony was really the place to go. It had a lot of sandy area, and the road was not paved. We could lay out in the road and sunbathe. Everybody went out there for swimming. They even had a tower with a diving board. The canal was quite large. It seemed to me even now that it was larger than it is now. You learned to swim more or less. We asked our mother if we could go out there, and, of course, she didn't want us to go out there because there was no supervision, but she knew if she said no we'd go out there anyway, so she made it legal and said yes. The one brother, Alvin, was really good. He kind of looked like a dog paddler. He never got a good swimming stroke, but he could whip across that canal in seconds. It was amazing when they finally built the swimming pool in town when I was eighteen, the kids that had learned to swim at Stony would be across that pool in nothing flat because they didn't have a current to buck, and that current was really something.
BODEN: Did you ever find anything when you were swimming that kind of startled you?
GROTH: Oh, yeah, we had water snakes out there. I can remember one time coming eyeball to eyeball with a water snake, and I don't know who was more scared. Oh, my, I went across that canal so fast.
SODEN: Really made it.
GROTH: [laughing] Yeah, really made it.
BODEN: Who were your playmates?
GROTH: I can remember at Old High, before we went out to Harmon, sitting in a little patch of grass where we could make chains, and there'd be Billy Blair. I really had a crush on Billy Blair. He was such a nice little boy, and Molly Lou Allison, was Molly Lou Downs at the time. Out at Harmon I really can't remember. We weren't out there very long, actually. When I came back, I was in West End, and I don't remember kids from there, either. I think I was getting adjusted to being back in town. I can remember some people from Oats Park. Marjorie Madsen Dodge was a very good friend, and I still see some of the people , Allie Spoon, Gyneth Wemple. I never went around with them, but I just really liked them. Nice people.
BODEN: When did you learn to cook, Sally?
GROTH: I can remember when I first started cooking, I must have been at the Dodge Ranch in Harmon because I had gotten a set of little pots and pans for Christmas, and my mother was letting me use them on the stove. She didn't give me anything except lettuce, so I boiled lettuce. [laughing]
BODEN: [laughing] You used to knit. Who taught you to do that?
GROTH: Betty Mills. Honest to goodness. That was really something. I was working at the city hall, and Grace Etcheverry who was the city clerk at the time got married, and she and her husband started up the Olds drugstore. Since I wasn't old enough to be city clerk and probably didn't have that much political background, [end of tape 1 side A] Andrew Haight was just going to retire, and he had a secretary who was Betty Mills. She'd been his secretary for years and years and years, and he wanted to be sure that she had a job, so he did a little political stuff, and Betty wound up being city clerk. She became my boss. At that time the city clerk's office did the utility, as it still does. We did all the utility billing. We did liquor and city licenses, dog licenses, etc., and our workload was such that during a month we had about a day and a half that we had nothing, absolutely nothing to do because everything would be caught up, so Betty decided she'd teach me how to knit. We'd get behind the safe because we didn't want our customers to know we were wasting time, and she taught me to knit. She started me on a sock. Socks are very difficult.
BODEN: I remember. [laughing]
GROTH: You have to weave the toe and turn the heel and all this rot, and I really liked to do socks, so Betty really did me a great service in teaching me how to knit. I really like to knit.
BODEN: What kind of grades did you get, Sally?
GROTH: Oh, I was a mediocre student. I'd say Bs and As.
BODEN: But, you skipped grades, didn't you?
GROTH: Oh, yeah, yeah. I skipped grades because I--I don't think it's `cause I was overly bright. I managed to cope with the next grade. The only thing I ever regretted was when we moved back from Harmon, and I went to West End, I missed fractions and long division. I could do them, but I never knew why I did them. It wasn't until I was taking algebra at the university in Reno that Professor Oakley explained fractions to us and said that the bottom is the divisor, and you divide that into the top. Ever since then it's made fractions very easy, but that was in my thirties, and by that time, my, I've always coped with fractions, but only because I didn't how I did it.
BODEN: On holidays do you remember there being parades, and what route would they take?
GROTH: I remember way back--gee, it would be a long time because I was very small--it must have been after we moved to town, I'm never sure, but they did have parades. They would be the circuses. Actual circuses come to town, not carnivals, circuses, so they would have the calliopes and the animals being paraded down the street. As far as I know when we watched them we were on Center Street down by the street that used to go in front of the, well, it still goes, but the Catholic Church isn't there anymore. The one that runs north and south by the Senior Center.
BODEN: I think that's East Street.
GROTH: It ran down there, and then I don't know where it dissipated to, but we'd be so fascinated. They'd have PTA parades, too. They were still having that when Leslie was a pup because I can remember Sakae Tsuda and I making butterfly wings for our little girls. The butterfly wings I had made for Leslie were out of poster board and much too heavy for a little six-year-old. She was so tired by the time I saw her [laughing] dragging these big monarch butterfly wings. My goodness gracious! And we had May Day parades that were strictly children. On May first the children would get dressed up, and they'd have a parade down Maine Street. I can remember one time, well, it was the same parade that my mother had, Frances Phelps and I, Frances was a neighbor. She and I were the same age, and she made a clothes line out of us. We were each a clothes post, and then we had a clothes line between us with three or four pieces of clothing. So, we were supposed to walk down the street very stiffly and let these clothes . . . Well, Mrs. Phelps didn't think there were enough clothes on the line, so she added several more, and by that time we were all sagging. That was the same parade that Vanna Moody won best of show because she was dressed as Mae West, and she was, she must have been about five or six. Adorable! And Mrs. Moody had really dressed her. She had this big hat, and her little bosoms were half oranges.
GROTH: She was adorable. She just really was adorable.
BODEN: What clubs did you belong to? Any drama clubs?
BODEN: Well, you were in a play, though. I know.
GROTH: Yes, I was in a play, but that was during World War II.
BODEN: Pure as the Driven Snow.
GROTH: Oh, it was really something. The guy that started it was with Red Cross, and his name, I think, was Jones.
GROTH: He had written that song, Cowboys in the Sky. There was a whole mess of us. It was a melodrama, and everybody was supposed to say boo or hoorah or whatever the case may be. I can remember I was the maid, and Elena Cunningham [Getto] was a rich lady, so we decided as a maid I should wear her castoff clothes. Well, I was much larger than she at the time, and, man, they really fit. Etta Mae Mickelson was the heroine. We really had a good time. They thought it was such a good show that they packed us in buses. I think we went to Tonopah, Reno. We went to a lot of places. In Tonopah they were trying to keep the girls isolated from the men over there, so we were in barracks that were on the outskirts of the base as I remember. One of us, Frannie Latasa almost got steamed to death because when the plumbers put the water into that particular barracks they had reversed the hot water and the cold water, and when she went to the bathroom there was steam all over the place. Remember?
BODEN: Oh, I do. Poor Fran.
GROTH: Yeah, poor Fran. She didn't get hurt, fortunately, but scared spitless. We had a good time.
BODEN: You were with the AWVS during the War?
GROTH: Oh, yes, yes.
BODEN: What does that stand for?
GROTH: American Women's Voluntary Services.
BODEN: Who was the head of it?
GROTH: It was a real tall lady. Phyllis Walsh. My, she must have been about six one, six two, and she looked like a stork and very eastern. By eastern, she was a New Yorker. She used to wear tweeds and oxfords, and she was not a pretty woman. She, during World War I, had been one of the first women to get into the voluntary services in France, and they wore uniforms. Well, because she was so tall and angular, they just gave her a cape because the clothes wouldn't fit her. I was always intrigued by her. A very nice person. We were in charge of the canteen that was in Frazzini's building. We all took turns. During the days we had shifts, we had sandwiches for the servicemen. We had a place for them to meet away from home and enjoy a lot of dancing. It was a fun place for the girls in town and the fellows from the base to get together. Margaret Kent was in charge of that. She really worked very hard. Catherine Testolin was also involved in the AWVS. We used to go to Reno. My! And I chaperoned a lot of dances. Since I got older, of course, the girls got younger. Had a lot of fun. Just a lot of fun.
BODEN: Did you get an allowance when you were little, Sally?
GROTH: Yes, amazingly, we did. I think we got ten cents each, and ten cents when I was growing up was a lot of money. I can see my little brother. Golly, he was a pugnacious little rascal. He was really something. He was coming down the street one day, and he must have been maybe eight or nine, and they used to make beanies. They'd call them beanies. They'd take a man's old felt hat and cut off the brim, and then you'd make little diamonds around the edge and then you turn it up, and that was a beanie. My brother had a beanie. He wore it right smack in front kind of perched over his eyebrow. He was going down the street--now this is a little kid dressed in coveralls, this beanie, with a bouquet of violets. He had bought violets for my mother. That's when George Slipper had the florist shop on Maine Street. I'm going to make a painting of that some day.
BODEN: Did you ever have to earn your own spending money?
BODEN: Just when you got your first job?
GROTH: We got the allowance. We had certain chores around the house that we had to do, chopping wood, bringing in the wood, bringing in the coal, cleaning house, starting the dinner, that type of thing. We babysat. All three of us babysat. We got extra money that way. Mrs. Martin at the public library which was under the stairwell of the Fraternal Hall used to let us take out eight or ten books at a time because we'd read them in the night, and we'd have them back. They were always in good condition, so she kind of relaxed the rules of the library at the time because they were restricted, I think, to two books, but we always got an armful. I can remember babysitting the Moon twins. They were little rascals, but very charming little girls. But Mrs. Moon was quite frugal, and she would turn off the heat when they left to go out to dinner or whatever they were going to do, and I'd freeze my little you-know-what off. Finally I got smart and the minute they'd leave, I'd turn up the heat, and just about half an hour before they were due home, I'd turn it down again. That way I kept fairly warm, but not much. Isn't that something?
BODEN: [laughing] She was frugal.
GROTH: Oh, heavens!
BODEN: What did you want to be when you graduated from high school.
GROTH: I always wanted to be a dress designer, but not when I graduated from high school. I always wanted to be a dress designer.
BODEN: Then, right after high school is when you went to work for the city?
BODEN: Tell how you got that job.
GROTH: I thought that was really funny. You have to understand I'm a backward type at that time, and my mother was trying her darndest to get me started on the right path. Of course, with all of her catering and house cleaning she had met a lot of people. She knew Tom Kendrick who was the mayor at the time, and she knew the councilmen, so she got a promise from them that I would have a summer job at the swimming pool which was taking in the basket room that was handing out swimming suit and baskets, etc. When the time came, I didn't get the job because George Smitten who was one of the councilmen had a girl, Helen Cain I think was her name, and she was just a real nice kid. He had promised her that she could have the job. Well, the two other councilmen and Tom Kendrick decided that they needed something from George so they made a trade. They let George, if he would vote their way on a certain thing, they would let George's girl have this basket room job, but as a kind of an alternative, Mr. Wilson who was the city clerk at the time was ill, so there was a vacancy in the city clerk's office. Wasn't going to be for very long, so Tom told Mother that I could have this [job] in the city clerk's office for a short time because they didn't know when Mr. Wilson was going to come back. Well, I was in there fourteen years. Mr. Wilson never did come back. Grace Etcheverry became the city clerk. She came down to check me over, too, before I got into the city clerk's office.
BODEN: How did they do things then? What kind of office equipment did they have then?
GROTH: They had a big calculator. It was very complicated to run. I never did learn how to run it. We had been taught at the high school because I had business machines in high school, but we also had a ten-key adding machine in high school, and the city evidently, eventually bought ten-key adding machines, and they're wonderful. I know we had a big safe in the middle of the room. Humongous. If we were short in the daily balancing, we had to make up the shortage.
BODEN: Out of your own?
GROTH: Out of our own pockets. I know one day, and I don't know whether I did it or Grace did it, but we were short twenty dollars, and we had some brand-new bills, and brand-new bills have a tendency to stick together, so we both put in ten bucks. We balanced every night. We made up for the pennies. We'd go back through the cash receipts and tried to determine if we were over or short, how we did it, why we did it. To this day I think we were phenomenal in that we balanced ninety-nine point nine percent of the time.
BODEN: That's good.
GROTH: We were really good, really good.
BODEN: Pre-computer era.
GROTH: Pre-computer era.
BODEN: Did you send the statements out yourself?
GROTH: The meter readers would come in--I can't even remember the time frames. I think we had about eight books, and we would post them to a journal, make out the bills, and mail them. Then we added sewer. I know I designed the page for our sewer. I had a lot of fun at this city hall. When I first went to work, it was [A.C.] Hahn, Don Hahn's dad, and he used to always tease me. I think it's because we kids were about the same age. When we changed meter readers or something, well, again, I had about a day and a half each month of idle time, and when I did I made maps for each meter reader so they'd know where they had to go. Lattin was the city engineer at one time. That's when I discovered that the map I was copying wasn't right. I went in to Lattin at the time, and I said, "You know, this isn't right." And he said, "The reason for it, Sally, is because when the town was laid out, Mr. Williams and Mr. Oats walked the length to show where Maine Street was going to be, one of them had much longer legs than the other, so consequently the measurements are off." I thought that was just absolutely wonderful to know. [laughing] I could just see those two men stepping off Maine Street.
BODEN: What was the dress code back then?
GROTH: Oh, my goodness! We did not wear pants to work, believe me, except in rodeo time. On Labor Day when they had the rodeo time, everybody wore westerns. We either wore long dresses or we could wear western pants and boots, but we had to be dressed. That was the only relaxation. We wore suits, good dresses, stockings. We did not go bare legged. In fact, that still held true when I went to work for the base. We just really looked nice. Just nice. When we went to Reno, for example, we wore gloves and a hat.
BODEN: Jeez. Did you have after-hours jobs? You did, didn't you?
GROTH: Oh, yes, I did. I kept books for the Fallon Cafe and the Esquire and the liquor store across the way. I was trying to think what.. he was such a nice guy.
BODEN: Mr. Dunlap?. Ralph?
GROTH: Yeah, Ralph Dunlap. Nice man. I enjoyed those jobs.
BODEN: Every time I think about the Esquire, I think of when there was the earthquake, and they tried to take it down, and it wouldn't come. [laughing]
GROTH: [laughing] That was long after I had stopped keeping books there.
BODEN: When did you start work at the base, Sally?
GROTH: 1954. I think it was April.
BODEN: Was the base just kind of starting again?
GROTH: Just starting up. That was something else. I couldn't really endure Betty Mills too much. She was not a very good boss. She was not an accountant, and we had differences of opinion. It was getting to the point where I did not want to go to work. At that time with the AWVS, I had met Commander Jacka and his wife at the base, and they told me that the base was going to really expand, and that I should get out and get a job while it was still in its beginning stage. Well, I really didn't want to move, but, as said, I couldn't hack Betty. Commander Jacka had said. "We've got an opening for a telephone operator. They're going to move the equipment for the local telephone office out to the base because they're getting new equipment, and if you could work that, you'd be fine." So, I made arrangements with Harold Rogers who was running the telephone office at the time, and he let me go in there for a couple of weekends, and I learned to plug in and answer telephone calls. I never really liked it, but when I got out there I found out that I did not qualify because after all I just had two weekends of punching telephones, and I had to have at least a year's experience, but they happened to have an opening for a GS3 clerk typist, and, of course, that's what I could do the best. I made arrangements, applied for the job, and they had to fly in someone from Hawthorne. She came in a helicopter on one of the very windy days, and she was airsick she could hardly see which end was up.
BODEN: Poor soul.
GROTH: I felt so sorry for her. The typewriter they gave me was a very old clunker because that's what the base was getting was old equipment that the other bases no longer wanted. I still don't know how I passed the typing test, but I was hired as a clerk typist GS3 because they were opening the transportation area out there, their garage, and they wanted a cost clerk, and that's where I got my start. Very fortunate.
BODEN: When you were punching on the telephone, what were you doing?
GROTH: You've seen the old pictures of the operator with the headphones on and sitting there with a prong in one hand and a prong in the other, and when the phone rings, or you hear this, you have to poke this prong into a hole. In other words, you're connecting the phone lines is what one is doing. It's pretty difficult. I really appreciate a telephone operator. Oh, my. Make sure you got in the right hole, you know.
BODEN: You started in transportation, and then what?
GROTH: The supply officer at the time was Lieutenant Commander Moore. McNamara had become Secretary of the Navy, and he wanted all the armed forces to get on the same accounting system, and it turned out it was a wonderful accounting system, but it was called double entry is which is what we all do. But the Navy hadn't heard of double entry before, so Commander Moore said that he wanted me over there because I knew what a double entry thing was. He knew that I worked down at the bars, and he knew what I was doing over in the transportation area. Margaret Eslow had had the job, and she was leaving to get married, so Commander Moore just kept the job open until I said yes. He had his first class, who was doing all the work that Maggie had been doing, would try to get me drunk at the Esquire so I'd say yes to come over and work. Can you imagine?
BODEN: When you say his first class?
GROTH: It's a rate.
BODEN: It's a person with that rate?
GROTH: Yes, it's a person. His name was George Hisloff, and George was a bachelor, and he just really was annoyed with this fact he had to do all this accounting when he normally didn't have to do it, and he wanted me over me over there so badly. Then Commander Moore was very friendly with the FASRON, and FASRON, I don't know what all the letters mean. The ON is squadron, but it was one of the squadrons on the base. I can remember he had this Lieutenant Commander stop me one day, and I'm scared spitless. I didn't know why he was stopping me. It was because of Commander Moore had- [telephone rings, tape cuts briefly] Anyway, Commander, I can't think of his name, he was a big square man, and he said, "Why don't you go over to supply? That'll turn out to be a GS7 some day." I just kind of muttered and carried on, and finally I just decided, "Why not?" so I went over to Commander Moore, and I said, "I'll be happy to come over. What do I do now?" So I had to put in the application. I got the job, and the first thing I did, I think, for about a month or two months, all I did was read Navy regulations in the NAVCOMPT manual which is a Navy Comptroller manual. They took me to Alameda so somebody there could show me what this new accounting system was. It was just wonderful. I just thought it was about the best thing on four legs. Well, it didn't last very long. All of the armed forces wanted to get in their little bits. They're still using it, but it's not compatible with everybody the way it should have been. [End of tape 1]
BODEN: So, now you've learned that part of the bookkeeping system, and it isn't going.
GROTH: Well, it isn't going now, but it was going then. It was geared for computers. Well, they never got computers. I retired in 1985, and I think about six months before I retired we got a whole lot of personal computers. But, up to that time, we did not have a computer, and this system was geared for computers, so we did everything manually. The base was noted for getting in our reports and the fact that they were accurate when other people with computers weren't doing them very well. But, as I said, the system was absolutely wonderful. I really liked it.
BODEN: Well, you certainly saw the base grow over the years.
GROTH: Oh, yes, yes. When I first went out we were in the administrative building which was on the old side. We're not even on the new side, yet. I can remember in 1954 is when we had all those huge earthquakes, and I can see my supervisor who was Lena Parks coming up from the supply building past the fire and having the road wave in front of her. I didn't think she'd ever make it back to admin. I can remember the unions decided to come out, an employee union, so the employees out there had to vote on this union, and in so doing, they not only voted for the union, but they voted for the officers. The three that were running, the one who got the most votes automatically became president, the second one was vice president, and the third one was the secretary. Well, I was running for some silly reason, and I came in with the most votes, and I wound up being president, but because John Cavanaugh who came in second did not like to do secretarial work. I also did that, too. [laughing] I eventually became a manager, so I had to get out of the employees union, and I became president of the managers' union, too. I must be a bossy type.
BODEN: How many people did you have under you, Sally?
GROTH: It varied. I don't think I had very many. I think six or eight in the comptroller's shop.
BODEN: What was your title?
GROTH: Actually I started out as the cost clerk, clerk typist, and then I went over as an accounts maintenance clerk or something. And then, huh, I almost did myself out of a job. We had to rewrite the position, and it came back classified as a GS7 budget analyst. A budget analyst had to take what they called the federal service entrance exam, so I took it, and I failed it. Well, because I was incumbent presumably of the job, I had two more chances. The part I had failed was actually math and civics. Well, you know. I really had a time. A very nice man over in public works, he was one of the managers over there, said, "Sally, I'll come over every noon." He was an ex-teacher, and he had the civics book, and he's the one that taught me in math the ratio thing. Once I got the ratio format, I could convert it to algebra, and there was no problem, but I'd always had problems with story problems. There was a train goes down the track. Gee, I really had a time with that. The second time I took the darn test, I passed it, so I became a GS7 budget analyst, and over a period of time I think I got up to a ten. We finally got it up to an eleven, but it was because Alameda was doing our personnel work, and then Lemoore took over our personnel. Eventually I got up to a twelve, but I had to get a twelve by going to Sicily. When I left, the lady who took over my job, managed to get a twelve with no sweat, so I keep wondering what I didn't have.
BODEN: You went back to school in the middle of all of this.
GROTH: Oh, yes.
BODEN: That couldn't have been easy for you.
GROTH: No, it really wasn't. I was driving to and from the University and really had a time. When the base was expanding and they built the new administration office over on the new side, what we called the new side, I think that was in the early 1970s, the Comptroller shop moved over there, and Supply stayed on the old side. I was always working so much. I had a lot of comp time and overtime because reports had to be out, and I just put in a lot of work, so I accumulated a lot of comp time. I made arrangements with my boss and the commanding officer that in lieu of vacation I would use up my vacation time and comp time and go to school in the morning and then work until five or six at night which would give me a certain amount of comp time. It worked out. I used up a lot of leave that way and used up my comp time, so I managed to get in two years.
BODEN: And that gave you what? An accounting degree?
GROTH: No, I took accounting, but I did not get a degree because I didn't go long enough. With all of the stuff I've accumulated over the years, I'm sure I could have graduated, but in order to graduate one has to have a certain amount of humanities, a certain amount of math, a certain amount of English, and that type of thing. Mine was concentrated on accounting.
BODEN: But, it did help you go up in your job at the base.
GROTH: Oh, yes. In fact that's one of the reasons I took it was to help me get ahead, and I was putting in my IRS thing educational expenses, my mileage going to and from and the cost of the schooling. They caught up with me after about three years of this reporting. Somebody by the name of something like Love--I didn't think I'd ever forget his name. He called me and talked to me for about an hour on my time because it was a collect call telling me that he didn't like the way I'd done my income tax. That's when Safeway was in the museum building, and one day when Mother and I--I just had the call, and I was madder than a hornet and scared. I didn't know what I was going to do, and I picked up a horoscope book, and it said, "If you're having tax problems, go in on such and such a day," and I thought, "Well, I'll try it," so I called and made an appointment for that day and went up to Reno, and this guy was just still giving me fits, so I said, "May I speak to your supervisor?" I got the nicest guy, and he just knew what I was talking about, and I had no problems. That was the last year I reported educational expenses.
GROTH: Didn't do that again. Oh, Gee.
BODEN: You transferred to Sicily. When?
GROTH: The way to get ahead in government is to get a job with a higher grade, etc., and I knew that I'd never get a GS12 at the Fallon base, so, consequently, I applied for a job, and Sicily picked me up. I think I was about fourth or fifth down the line, so I decided to go to Sicily for GS12 bit. It was worth it. It really helped with my retirement. It was fun. I met a lot of neat people. Really a lot of neat people, but I certainly appreciate Fallon. I was never warm in the winter time. Oh! I just froze my you-know-whats off. Just real uncomfortable. I was over there for two and a half years. They have the same accounting system, and that's what they wanted. It was relatively new. They had just established their Comptroller shop at Sigonella, [Navy base in Sicily] and so I was the first deputy comptroller that they'd had. It was fascinating.
BODEN: Did Mount Etna do its thing while you were there?
GROTH: Oh, yes. It was always scheduled to do it at least twice a year. I had gone over in February, and my brother came over in September to see me. I had to go to work, of course, because I was still brand new. I hadn't accumulated much leave. I had positioned him in my house. I lived in the second and third story and my landlord in the summertime lived on the first floor. We were halfway up Mount Etna, and I could look out and see Mount Etna from my living room and from the bedroom where Baron was sleeping. This morning that I was getting ready to go to work, the house shook and the windows rattled, and I thought, "Oh, my goodness!" so I leaped out of bed and went to my living room and opened the persianas, and I could see Mount Etna doing its thing, so I went rushing into my brother's room. I said, "Baron," and I opened up the patio doors, and he could sit up in bed and watch Mount Etna, and I had to go to work. I was so annoyed.
BODEN: What's a persiana?
GROTH: A persiana is kind of like a shutter over the windows. It's actually shaped like a venetian blind. It has slats and rolls up. It's supposed to deter burglars--a lot of thievery over there--and it starts from the top and then fastens at the bottom. Mine were plastic, so it would have been very easy to get in, but everybody had them. I thought it was a great idea. I thought we should have them over here.
BODEN: When did you build your home?
GROTH: That was something else. We were living next to Mrs. Wallace on Richards Street, and, of course, during the War Mrs. Wallace had a chance to sell the property so that meant that we had to move out. Well, houses were scarce, and we wound up in a house owned by Mrs. Dalton on Stillwater Avenue. It was a little bitty thing.
BODEN: It's still there.
GROTH: Oh, it's still there and still going strong, the stucco. Really a very small little house. We could save a lot of money there because the rent wasn't very much, and my mother was very frugal. She always said she was saving it so we could have a house some day. Well, Leslie came along, and suddenly there were three of us stuck in the little bitty bedroom. There was just no room in that house, so when Ponte's [Ponte Realty] advertised this Hawaiian house, I told Mother I was going over to look at it. I went over, and I liked the plans, and I came back and told Mother we were going to buy a house. Well, it was over her dead body, but we bought the house, and we've been in it ever since. When we moved in, it was June, 1964. Fascinating. Just fascinating, and my mother loved that house. She and Beth Strand--Beth would pick her up to go to work, and they always on the way to work would stop to see how the house was going. Leslie and I didn't do that that often. We'd go, maybe, twice a week or something, but my mother knew just where every nail was. I can still hear her, "Your house. Your house." I said, "Okay, since we're getting down to paint jobs, what color would you like your bedroom?" "It's your house. You pick the color out," so I picked purple. She doesn't like purple, and she finally had to put in her druthers. Honest to goodness. We had a lot of fun with that.
BODEN: Oh, she was priceless.
GROTH: Yeah, that's really something.
BODEN: What is Leslie's full name?
GROTH: Leslie Kipp Groth Hunt.
BODEN: And she was born in?
GROTH: November 24, 1954.
BODEN: And she now lives in?
GROTH: In Florence, Italy. She's an Italian.
BODEN: And she's an astronomer?
GROTH: Well, actually she graduated with a degree in astrophysics from the university at Berkeley, but she's an astronomer at the Fermi Observatory in Florence. I think she's a pretty smart kid.
BODEN: And you have a grandchild.
GROTH: I have a grandchild. He's an adorable, charming young man, but he's autistic. Leslie had him late in life. She was afraid her time was running out, so she finally got pregnant and had the boy. She thinks he's well worth it.
BODEN: What's his name?
GROTH: His name is Winston. I don't know where Winston ever came from. It still bothers me. Winston Giorgio, and Giorgio is his Italian grandfather, Giovanardi.
BODEN: Tell me about your painting.
GROTH: Oh, I've always painted. Well, not always painted. I've always drawn. I can remember when we lived on Richards Street, we lived next door to Maims, and Mr. [Jonas] Malm was an art teacher, so Jessie, his daughter, thought she was pretty good, too. She was. She was a very good artist. She subsequently married Russell Wilbur, I think. Jessie and I had nothing to do one day, and I said, "Let's have an art contest. We'll each draw a picture of a bird and whoever's best . . ." Well, unfortunately, I had to pick hers because I knew if I picked mine, she'd kill me. I had drawn a robin. I've always been an artsy-crafty person. My mother always encouraged it because she thought I was so talented. I always said, "You had to say that because you're my mother." One year she bought a whole mess of Ivory soap, and I carved a village. I don't how many different buildings I had. It was on display at Toady Lattin's Parisian Beauty Shop. Toady and my mother were very close. My mother would clean the Parisian, and Toady would do her hair for her, and, of course, I got benefits out of it, too. I know there was one Easter I was just fooling around the house. This is when we were on Richards Street. I made heads out of blown eggs. Man! I'd take paper, and I'd curl it, and I made a snood out of it, little blue with little beads in it. They were really very nice. Toady thought they were fabulous when Mother, of course, was showing me off again, and I don't know how many of those darn things I made. Oh! I was so tired of stuffed eggs, blown-out eggs, head eggs. Gee! Then, Mrs. Wallace, of course, being our landlady and very good neighbor would have PEO [Philosophical Educational Organization] there. I did things for her, too. One time the Virginia creeper was so pretty, and it had these purple berries on it and the kind of reddish green leaves, so I decided to make corsages out of them. Well, nowadays we can encase them in plastic, but at that time I used varnish, and, or course, varnish doesn't work over something that's limp and has juices in it, so they were kind of sticky, but she had a corsage for each one of those ladies. They must have thrown them away as fast as they could. [laughing]
GROTH: My mother did florist work. She'd make sprays for people when they had funerals and what have you. She made good sprays. I learned how to do that, too. That's what Mother did before she came out here. She worked in a florist shop, and she said they could run their hands down the rose stem and take the little stickers off.
BODEN: When did you buy your first car?
GROTH: I had the choice. I could have gone to school or taken the car, and I did not want to leave home, so I took the car. That was another thing my mother did. My mother was really spectacular when I think about it. One of her jobs, it was again during the War, and she worked for the Selective Service Board. She had an office here in town, and they sent her to Austin and Eureka, all those places to do this work. She accumulated quite a bit of money which I didn't know. I never knew what my mother had as far as money was concerned, so she suddenly had this money, and she said, "You can either have a car or I'll send you to school." Again, because I didn't have courage to go to school, I didn't want to leave home, I took the car. It was a Studebaker. We bought it from Kolstrup's, and it was a very nice car.
BODEN: And you were about what age then?
GROTH: Twenty something. I must have been twenty-one, twenty-two.
BODEN: Who taught you to drive?
GROTH: Ha ha. Enid Bailey was the public health nurse, and she always knew everybody. The state of Nevada decided to put in a licensing system, and everybody who didn't have a driver's license could get one automatically if they knew how to drive, so Enid took the three children, my two brothers and myself, out in her car, and we learned to drive. Then we went down to the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles] which was on North Maine Street, and we got our licenses, and we didn't have to take any tests. So, we all had licenses. In fact, I was trying to think. My younger brother, Baron, had bought a ramshackle old car when he was sixteen or seventeen. I don't know how he did it. He always worked, though. He was pretty good at that because I know I borrowed it one day and took Suzanne McCracken for a ride, and I guess Mrs. McCracken just chewed her nails until we were back. We had a good time. [laughing] Oh, dear.
BODEN: [laughing] As an artist you belong to clubs.
GROTH: Oh, I belong to ten billion clubs.
BODEN: And you hang in what galleries in Reno now?
GROTH: I am a member of the Artists Cooperative Gallery in Reno. I have been since May of 1995. I hang there. I work there. I just recently rejoined the Nevada Artists Association, and I hang at the King Street Gallery in Carson City. I belong to the Sierra Watercolor Society in Reno. I belong to the Latimer Art Club in Reno. I belong to the National League of American Pen Women, Reno Branch, and for a long time I was a member of the Lahontan Valley Artist Association which is kind of falling by the wayside, but it is still alive and more or less kicking.
BODEN: Did you have anything else that you would like to tell us that you remember about Fallon or Churchill County?
GROTH: What I remember mostly is when we were kids, we didn't have to really worry about anything. We used to hike up to Rattlesnake Hill with our cans of soup and little bail pans and get water from the redwood tank and just really have fun. I can remember walking across the--there must have a railroad bridge or something across the canal by the Indian village and kind of skirting around the Indian village because it scared us. Just silly things. The sugar beet factory. We climbed through that one day which was not very smart of us because it was kind of falling, too, and the fermented smell of the beets still lingered. There's a lot of nice memories about Fallon.
BODEN: I wanted to ask you, or maybe we already covered this. You weren't allowed to wear slacks. We covered that already.
GROTH: Yeah. I can remember the base when it was permitted to do slacks, and we checked with the CO. He was a nice man, too. A lot of nice COs out there. "Well," he said, "I don't see why not. As long as they're good looking, and they're regular pants suits." Well, eventually, the pants suits went down to jeans and that type of thing, so it wasn't as nice, but in the beginning we looked business-like.
BODEN: And the other thing I wanted to ask, as a woman on her own asking for credit in those days, did you have any problems?
GROTH: No, and I didn't realize that I should have. The only time I ever had problems was when I asked for a credit card at one of the lead stores in San Francisco, because I was always ordering from there anyway, and I thought it would be nice to have a credit card. I never got one because I was not married, but when I signed up for the house, for example, I had no problem at all. I got a thirty-year loan. I only wanted twenty.
BODEN: And that was in the sixties, though.
GROTH: That was in the sixties. But even then credit was hard. And I know when we started the credit union at the base we were told at that time if we could get the wife's name on the loan, for example, we were more apt to get paid than we would if just the man's was on it.
BODEN: For heaven's sake.
GROTH: I always thought that was kind of funny.
BODEN: You were in on the start of that, too, weren't you? The credit union out there?
GROTH: Oh, yes, I was one of the charter members. There were five of us. Jim Reagan, Bob Mahoney, myself, and I think Lena Parks, and the guy from the fuel farm. We all put in five dollars, and I was the first treasurer because we couldn't afford to pay one, so I would stay after work and do all the work. We had a lot of fun with that.
BODEN: Well, it's certainly big now.
GROTH: Oh, man. Well, it switched. I finally had to get out of it. My boss was getting annoyed. People would come over to the supply building and want to be waited on for credit union, and, of course, I was being paid by the Navy to do other things. They finally expanded hired and hired someone to do the treasurer's work. Then they merged with Alameda, and then they merged with the United Services. Neat.
BODEN: Well, Sally, I thank you very much for your time and effort. We appreciate it. Thank you.