Ralph William "Bill" Lattin Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
an interview with
RALPH WILLIAM LATTIN
MARIAN LA VOY
June 6, 1996
This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of the Oral History Project, 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.
One's first impression of Bill implies that he has led a very normal and quiet existence, but as his life story unfolds one realizes that his life has been anything but simple.
Bill's extreme intelligence became obvious when he casually remarked that while he was living at Lincoln Hall he tutored Marion Motley, the 1940's football hero at the University of Nevada, who went on to greater professional fame. He also helped other students in Lincoln Hall with their studies.
His amazing, yet hair raising stories he told of the Motorcycle Unit he was attached to while serving in the Army would make me wonder how he ever survived that period of his life. His transfer into an Armored Division where he served in tanks would raise the admiration of most listeners. Admirably, he never mentioned the Purple Hearts or other medals for bravery that he so painfully and fearlessly acquired.
Planning on an early return from Europe, he and another young officer were chosen to straighten-out a wayward tank company of soldiers that had arrived in Europe when World War II was nearly over. I was fascinated to hear that a soldier from that wayward group was recently interviewed on TV regarding heroic exploits. It was a tale of glory that Bill couldn't believe he was viewing and hearing. Lies! All Lies! A few nights later the TV station put out a disclaimer saying, "All was not verified in the preceding broadcast." Bill chuckled over that!
Army days finally over, Bill returned to Fallon and farming. He set up dairy operations and it wasn't long before he realized that the creameries buying the milk were short-changing the milk producers, so he started the Associated Nevada Dairymen that helped them stand firm against the unfair practices.
Education was always his forte so he went into an illustrious teaching career that eventually led him in to prison education and later prison administration where he rose to the top, becoming a Warden in Nevada's prison system. His description of life behind bars with its "pecking" order among prisoners is not only enlightening, it is frightening.
Busy as a retired senior, he keeps active on the farms that have been in the family for generations, but are now owned by his children. He has moved to town, but is currently repairing antique farm machinery and enjoying every minute of his puttering.
Interview with Ralph William Lattin
LaVOY: This is Marian Hennen LaVoy of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project interviewing Bill Lattin at my home 4325 Schurz Highway on June 6, 1996. Good morning, Bill.
LATTIN: Good morning.
LaVOY: I'm going to start off this morning by asking you when you were born and where.
LATTIN: I was born March 15, 1920, in Reno, Nevada.
LaVOY: Oh, and what were your parents' names? Your father first.
LATTIN: My father's name was Ralph Williard Lattin.
LaVOY: And where was he born?
LATTIN: He was born [December 29, 1897] in De Smet, South Dakota, as I remember it.
LaVOY: And your mother's name?
LATTIN: My mother's name was Ileene Greenough, and she was born [November 23, 1897] in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
LaVOY: How did the two of them meet, do you know?
LATTIN: They met at the University of Nevada.
LaVOY: Oh! Well, when did they come to Nevada?
LATTIN: My father's family came, to the best of our knowledge, about 1909. He might have been here a time or two before looking at property, but he's on the 1910 tax rolls.
LaVOY: Why did he come here?
LATTIN: He had health problems. He was in the Spanish-American War and developed lung problems, and the doctor recommended that he get out to this climate, so that's the reason he came.
LaVOY: And your mother, why did she come?
LATTIN: Her father followed the mining business, and she, at a very early age, wound up in Goldfield and Tonopah where she went to school and then on to the University of Nevada.
LaVOY: Well, then, your father came out here basically to look for land.
LATTIN: My grandfather. My father came out with his family. Ralph Williard Lattin came out with George Lattin who was his father.
LaVOY: Oh, I see.
LATTIN: And they came out in 1910. My father would have been twelve, thirteen years old.
LaVOY: So, as a young man, he came out with his father.
LATTIN: Yes, he came out with his family.
LaVOY: And that was George William Lattin. And then George William Lattin was married to whom?
LATTIN: Sarah Van Patten was her name.
LaVOY: And they came originally--George William Lattin came from where?
LATTIN: De Smet, South Dakota.
LaVOY: Was he born in Poughkeepsie, New York?
LATTIN: He was born [April 23, 1858] in Poughkeepsie, New York, and I don't know when he moved to South Dakota, but all of his professional life until he came here was in South Dakota.
LaVOY: And what did he do in South Dakota?
LATTIN: He was an attorney, and he had a newspaper.
LaVOY: And then his wife, Sarah Van Patten Lattin, was born [May 23, 1861] in [Lee, Lee County] Illinois, and where in the world did they meet?
LATTIN: I have no idea where they met.
LaVOY: But they came out to South Dakota together?
LATTIN: I don't know that for sure. Whether they met in South Dakota or whether they met before then and moved to South Dakota after they were married. I've got no idea.
LaVOY: What kind of legal work did your grandfather do?
LATTIN: I’m not sure. One of the interesting things about it is I’ve heard it mentioned that he did something with the legal work after he got out here for this socialist colony that was out here in Harmon District, Stillwater district. He did a little work for them.
LaVOY: Well how interesting! Do you ever recall him mentioning anything about that?
LATTIN: No, I was very young when he died [August 24, 1932], and I heard other members of the family mention it afterwards. But I don't recall it specifically coming from him, and I haven't seen any documentation on it. We've got a couple of books about that colony, but there's no reference to legal work in them.
LaVOY: When he came out here and purchased land, did he come because of the advertisements?
LATTIN: I would imagine, and he was looking for a dry climate.
LaVOY: For his?
LATTIN: For his lung problem.
LaVOY: I see. Where did he settle here?
LATTIN: Well, he bought a place that's over on Harrigan Road. I can't recall who owns it now. It's changed hands two or three times since it was sold after Sarah passed away. [December 15, 1934]. It's a two-story white house out there that is still there strangely enough.
LATTIN: And he bought several pieces of property, but that's where he built the house, and my understanding is that he built that house in 1914.
LaVOY: And then your father, of course, was a young man at that time. Did your grandfather get into politics or anything like that while he was out here?
LATTIN: To the best of my knowledge he did not. He, for the most part, stayed right there on the farm.
LaVOY: Did he have an office in town?
LATTIN: To the best of my knowledge no.
LaVOY: He just practiced law basically from his home?
LATTIN: Well, and I think he practiced very little out here. I think that when he moved out here, that he moved out and then stayed right with the farming.
LaVOY: What kind of crops did he raise? Do you know at all?
LATTIN: Well, they had alfalfa and grain. He had several other pieces of property around the valley because his sons bought the property from him when they went to ranching.
LaVOY: How many sons and daughters did he have?
LATTIN: I can't remember. I think there were about ten children in the family. A couple of whom died early, but I think there were ten children in the family.
LaVOY: Then your father went on to the University, is that correct?
LATTIN: It's correct, yes, for a year or two.
LaVOY: What did he major in?
LATTIN: I don't think he was there long enough to establish a major. He was there for a year and a half, two years, I think.
LaVOY: And while he was at the University, did he come back to Fallon to help his father all the time?
LATTIN: He worked in the mines when he was in between school semesters. He worked at Wonder, and he worked in different mines.
LaVOY: What kind of a job did he have in the mines?
LATTIN: I have no idea.
LaVOY: Probably just good old hard work.
LATTIN: Yeah, probably a mucker.
LaVOY: And then when he met your mother, and they were married, did they set up a home here in Fallon?
LATTIN: Yes, they bought the place out there on Lattin Road I think about eighty acres, maybe a hundred acres. They bought that, and it's kind of interesting because the original house was a room that they moved in from Wonder.
LaVOY: Oh, and how did they do that?
LATTIN: Well, they did it with horses and wagon. Moved the original room from Wonder.
LaVOY: And lived in one room?
LATTIN: One room for a while, and then they added on to it.
LaVOY: That took a lot of ambition. Do you know who he bought the land from on Lattin Road?
LATTIN: That was part of the land that he bought from his father.
LaVOY: Oh, I see.
LATTIN: See, his father bought several pieces of property when he came in 1909, 1910. At least three of the boys, Mark and Herb and my father and then there was another one that I think, also, by the name of Homer, I think they all bought property from their father, and it was scattered in Union District and Sheckler District and out here along Harrigan Road.
LaVOY: Well, your grandfather was very farsighted, wasn't he?
LATTIN: He was farsighted. The only thing was he made a couple of bad mistakes with the property. He was used to that soil back in South Dakota, and the family jokes about that quite a bit because those two places out on Harrigan Road are probably some of the poorest soil in the valley. But he bought it because it looked like the soil that he was used to back in Dakota, so he didn't do too well with the quality of soil.
LaVOY: Was your father active in the community?
LATTIN: Yes, he was very active all of his life as I remember it. I can't remember the year or even how old I was, but he ran for sheriff once and was soundly defeated. I think that was during Prohibition. I was very young, and then after that he was active in Farm Bureau and the Legion and that sort of thing. Later on he ran for [Nevada State] Assembly and was elected. I forget the times, but he was rather successful at it, too, because I think he was only defeated twice. He was defeated once when he ran for sheriff, and then in 1940 after he'd been in the State Assembly, in 1940 the Republican Central Committee talked him into running for Congress. That's the year that Wendell Wilkie ran for President and was soundly defeated, and my father ran for Congress and was soundly defeated. Those were times when the Democrats reigned supreme in the state of Nevada. The Republicans did quite well in some of the rural counties, but not on a state-wide scale.
LaVOY: Did he run for office again after that?
LATTIN: I can't remember, but he served several terms in the Assembly and then in the Senate [in Nevada]. Had enough seniority so that he was chairman of the Senate finance committee and that sort of thing.
LaVOY: Did you as a small child get to go over to Carson and attend some of the sessions?
LATTIN: As a small child there as a youngster, I didn't. There was a time or two I went over when I was going to the University. I went over and took in some of the things that were going on then, but for the most part, I stayed pretty well away from it.
LaVOY: Were you very proud of your father being a state senator?
LATTIN: Well, I must have been. I don't recall right off hand that it was any big deal, but I must have been.
LaVOY: While he was away in Carson, your mother must have had a hard time keeping up with the farm.
LATTIN: Well, she always worked. She had a beauty shop in town and always worked from the time, I think, that I was six or seven years of age.
LaVOY: What was the name of the beauty shop?
LATTIN: Parisienne Beauty Shop. I can't remember the exact year she went to work for a lady that owned it, and then years later she bought it. She changed locations two or three times, but it was always the Parisienne. For a while she had a dress shop along with it.
LaVOY: That's very interesting. Did the dress shop have the same name as the beauty shop?
LATTIN: Yeah. It was the same name, same building, everything.
LaVOY: And where was the building, the final one?
LATTIN: The final one was that little house where Edna and I are currently living over on Broadway. My brother and I bought Mother and Dad out in 1965, and she retired when we bought them out. Then one of the ladies that had worked for her leased it from us for several years, and then when that lady retired why one of the girls that worked for her leased it from us for several years. Finally here three or four years ago that girl moved out to the Raley's shopping center, and we converted it into a dwelling.
LaVOY: And you and your wife are living in it now.
LaVOY: That's very interesting. I want to digress again back to your father. When did he and your mother pass away?
LATTIN: Well, I've got it right there on that sheet, and I'd have to look at that to . . . He was born December 29, 1897, South Dakota, and he died December 16, 1964, and my mother was born November 23, 1897, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and she died January 28, 1992.
LaVOY: So, she was a widow for quite some time.
LaVOY: Now, going back to your childhood, you were born where?
LATTIN: In Reno.
LaVOY: Why were you born in Reno in as much as you lived in Fallon?
LATTIN: I have no idea.
LaVOY: Probably for better medical care.
LATTIN: Who knows?
LaVOY: And what is one of the first things that you remember about your life on the… would have been on the ranch, wouldn't it?
LATTIN: On the farm. I don't remember a lot, really, until I started school.
LaVOY: Which was your first school?
LATTIN: My first school was what we called the Old High then. It was located where the Cottage Schools are now.
LaVOY: Do you have any fond memories of that?
LATTIN: Well, I always enjoyed school. Right from the very start I enjoyed school, and I was always a very poor student, but I liked school.
LaVOY: Who were some of your teachers that you recall?
LATTIN: I can't recall teachers' specific names and attach them to specific grades, I don't think, until I was probably in the third of fourth grade. A couple of the Mills people taught, and, of course, Laura Mills, later on in eighth grade over at Oats Park was one of my teachers. There was Mrs. [Lucy] Burton, I think, at West End. I went the first year to the Old High, and then I went over to West End.
LaVOY: What was West End like at that time?
LATTIN: Well, again, the building, as I remember it, was pretty much like the building at Old High kind of a red brick building. Plenty of room out in the playground, I remember that. It was just a typical square building.
LaVOY: Were there houses all around West End at that time?
LATTIN: Doesn't seem like there were, but I couldn't say for sure. There were houses down here around Old High, but I don't recall how many dwellings there might have been at West End.
LaVOY: Was that Mr. Mori's property? Had been his property?
LATTIN: Could have been. I don't know. It could have been. I know Mr. Mori owned right down into town somewhere, and he could have well owned that.
LaVOY: Who were your particular friends when you were there at West End?
LATTIN: I don't recall at West End who might have been
particular friends. It just seems like I grew up with Allie Spoon and David Spoon and Ronald Coleman, the Hammond boys. From out in the country there were the Capuccis and Williards. I would have to really stop and think. I don't remember when I met the various ones.
LaVOY: Did you always come in by school bus from your ranch?
LATTIN: Generally speaking, yes. In later years, occasionally, I rode in with my mother when she'd come into work, but in the early years, I rode the school bus.
LaVOY: I understand the school buses were driven by high school students.
LATTIN: We had a high school student was always the driver, and we had what we called the bouncer or the conductor which was another high school student of high moral character that sat in the back of the bus and made sure that we did what we were supposed to do and didn't do what we weren't supposed to do.
LaVOY: Are you implying that you were not particularly model students on the school bus?
LATTIN: That system worked pretty well. With me, they threw me off once for lipping off or whatever it is that I did. I don't remember, and I had to walk maybe a mile to get home, and that kind of cured me. After that when she said to behave, why--it was a girl. I think on every one of the buses that I rode on, the conductor would have been a girl, and when they said to snap to, well, I snapped to. I didn't like to walk.
LaVOY: (laughing) What were some of your chores that you had to do while you were a school person?
LATTIN: I don't recall specifically. We had cows, and I don't know at what age I started milking cows, but I was fairly young. Started milking cows and feeding. We had cows to feed and the calves to take care of. We always had rabbits and turkeys and I remember that I was not very fond of any of that. I did what I had to do, but it was not my thing.
LaVOY: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
LATTIN: I had one brother.
LaVOY: Just one brother?
LATTIN: One brother.
LaVOY: And he probably picked up what you didn't like to do?
LATTIN: He was more in tune with the things on the farm. He always was. I think he and my dad were quite a bit closer together. I think that they spent a lot of time together and enjoyed the same things.
LaVOY: Was he older than you?
LATTIN: He was younger.
LaVOY: And what was his name?
LATTIN: Richard. Dick we called him. Richard Sydney was his full name. Seventeen months younger than I was.
LaVOY: When you were in high school, what were some of your fond memories of high school?
LATTIN: I enjoyed high school. I was fairly active. I was in the band. Played the drums in the band and was terrible. Why they let me stay in, I don't know, but they did. Maybe just to keep me off of the street, and I played football and basketball. Managed to earn my letter in both and was terrible. Absolute truth. They were just being kind to me to let me do that.
LaVOY: I think you're being humble.
LATTIN: No. No, I'm not. I was not much of an athlete in high school. Did better later on in college, but in high school I didn't amount to much.
LaVOY: What are your opinions of the teachers at the high school?
LATTIN: I had two or three outstanding teachers, I thought.
LaVOY: And who were they?
LATTIN: The one that sticks in my mind the most was a fellow by the name of Dean Moore who was the English instructor, and I really enjoyed his classes. He's the one that really sticks out in my mind, and it's kind of interesting because most of the kids weren't much impressed by him, but it was one of those things where we just clicked on what we liked and that sort of thing.
LaVOY: Was he strong on literature?
LATTIN: Yeah, he was strong on literature. He was really strong, and I enjoyed it particularly when he'd get to reading Chaucer and some of those things that he could really handle it, and there are not many people in the English department that could really handle those old-timers.
LaVOY: That's wonderful. What were some of your social activities in high school?
LATTIN: I was always on the debate squad. I think they called it Forum. Every Tuesday night we met, and I don't know whether I was on that because I liked to debate or whether I liked to go out Tuesday nights, but either way I was on that. I can't remember any of the other things specifically.
LaVOY: Did you go to the dances that they used to hold in the school?
LATTIN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Went to all the dances. I didn't do much dancing, but I stood around and looked and enjoyed them thoroughly.
LaVOY: I understand that local musicians went out to the schools and played.
LATTIN: That's correct, as I remember it, and maybe even phonograph. I don't recall that particular part of it. But, I did. I tried to go to everything connected with the school because I really liked it, and I liked the people I was going to school with.
LaVOY: I understand you had one little, uh, what's the word I should use? Foray with Allie Spoon.
LATTIN: Well, I probably had more than one with Allie Spoon. One of the things that's really interesting related to school, and I'm not sure that Allie wasn't connected with another one when we were even younger. But I'm sure that people that you've interviewed before have referred to the demerit system in the high school and the broom squad. Of course, basically, being a lazy person, I think I made the broom squad my very first semester in high school, and I disliked that so much that I behaved myself after that. Get maybe two or three demerits, but I was pretty careful to stay off of that broom squad.
LaVOY: Explain what the broom squad was.
LATTIN: Mr. McCracken, George McCracken, was the principal at the high school at that time, and to the best of my knowledge for the three and a half years I was in high school, the only person having to do with maintenance and cleanliness was a fellow by the name of Art Corbeil who was the maintenance. I don't know what they called him. We called him a janitor, but he had a cot down in the boiler room, and I think a lot of nights in the winter time when the weather was bad that he just stayed in the boiler room, but it was his responsibility, and to the best of my knowledge his sole responsibility to keep the high school clean and to keep everything functioning. Because one person couldn't do that, why, they designed, and I don't know when they started it, they started this broom squad where if you got your fourth demerit you were eligible for seven and a half hours on that broom squad, and then on your next demerit they doubled that. You got fifteen. Of course, Allie's a very dear friend of mine, but I can remember us speculating he'd get so many demerits that we'd wonder if he was going to get a summer vacation or if he was going to have to work all summer to work it out.
LATTIN: But, as I look back, I've got to give credit to Art Corbeil for just being a fine supervisor 'cause he kept a pretty doggone clean orderly building, and that includes the workout with the lawns. I can remember the girls and boys both sitting out on the lawn picking dandelions. If there was nothing else to do, why, they were digging out dandelions out of the school lawn.
LaVOY: Probably had the nicest non-dandelion lawn in the county.
LATTIN: Probably. It worked good, but that's the way that worked. I'm not sure on Allie. I can't remember. But one of the things happened to me since you brought up his name, so help me, I cannot remember for sure the names of the people, but when we were a good deal younger than that and foolin' around town nothin' to do one day, we decided to hike out to the sugar beet factory. Of course, by then the sugar beet factory was closed and boarded up. We hiked out there and we were foolin' around outside of it, wandering around, and decided that we'd never seen the inside of it for years. We'd decided maybe it might not be a bad idea to pry one of those boards off of a window and go in and scout around which we did. There were two or three of us, maybe four of us. I can't remember, but, anyway, we got the board off and got in there, and, of course, there was enough light leaking in so you could see, but just barely. Our eyes got used to the dust, and we decided to do a little more scouting around. About that time we started hearing the strangest noises. Ho! I'm telling you. Well, we pert near tore the rest of the boards off of that window getting back out. I don't think we stopped until we got clear back to Fallon because we were hearing some horrible noises out there. Of course, [End of tape 1 side A] we had no business being there anyway, so we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and we didn't say anything about it to anybody.
LATTIN: It wasn't until years later that I realized and became fully aware of what was going on. That was still during Prohibition, and one of the larger stills, to the best of my knowledge, in Churchill County had been established on the upper story of that sugar beet factory, and it'd been functioning for some time. I suppose whoever it was that was running that still knew just exactly what to do to get rid of curious kids. I don't know. I remember later on that federal agents got the still, but I can't remember whether they got any people or not, but they got the still. My understanding was that the federal agents were in on that because they hadn't been selling the liquor locally. They'd been hauling it to Sacramento. So anyway, they followed the chain back up through and finally located it, and that, of course, was common knowledge of the people around. One of the things that, of course, was common knowledge, too, is I don't think anybody ever got arrested in Churchill County for having the still. By then it was the local law enforcement. If they were going to get arrested, it would have to be by a federal agent, and usually that involved one of two things. They were either selling liquor to the Indians which got the feds interested right away or else they were going across the state line in larger quantities. I don't think any of the local law enforcement people ever messed with the local stills. Goodness knows there were enough of them around. When T. grew up it just seemed like everybody had a still, either making wine or something. It was just common practice. But, anyway, the feds got in on that, and they arrested a neighbor of ours that was making booze and selling it to the Indians down at Schurz. So they got him and sent him away for a while. He came back and very promptly started making booze again, so I guess it didn't do any good. (laughing)
LaVOY: It didn't deter his activities. (laughing)
LATTIN: (laughing) Not a bit. Not a bit. Yeah, there were stills all over the valley. Some of the people probably wouldn't have made it during the Depression had it not been for stills.
LaVOY: And thirsty people.
LATTIN: And thirsty people. Always a place to get rid of it. No question about that.
LaVOY: Well, that's very interesting. Now, you graduated from high school, when?
LaVOY: Had you met your wife at that point in time?
LaVOY: Who did you go to dances . . . well, you said you didn't dance very much. Did you date anybody at all during your high school years?
LATTIN: I don't remember specifically. It seemed like rather than formal one on one dates, it just seemed like we drifted around in groups. Three or four boys, three or four girls.
LaVOY: What were some of the activities that you did, like going out to Lahontan, or what?
LATTIN: Well, I don't recall too much of that in connection with our friends in school. Transportation in those days was a problem. We didn't have cars. I can remember at the high school that the principal had a car, and he parked in front. Two or three of the teachers had cars. A good many of the teachers walked to school, and I can only recall one or two students that had cars. So, transportation was a problem. Didn't do a lot of that. We did it with families. We didn't utilize Lahontan too much. We used to go over to Carson River for picnics, and we used to go down to Stillwater to catfish when the weather was right for catfishing. Of course, later on, when, I can't remember exactly how old I was, but probably when I was eleven or twelve, our family got to going up to Twin Lakes [California] in the summertime. I had an uncle that was a contractor that had a place up there, and we spent a lot of time with him. When we got old enough to drive, some of my friends and I would go to Twin Lakes, but I don't recall Lahontan being all that popular in those days.
LATTIN: When you graduated from high school, what year did you tell me?
LaVOY: Did you go right straight to the University of Nevada then?
LATTIN: The next semester, yes. The summer that I graduated--I can't remember the exact order, but I think that one summer after I graduated I had a pack and saddle train up at Twin Lakes. I got some horses together and moved them up to Twin Lakes and ran a pack and saddle train up there all summer. Made almost enough money to go to school. Then the next summer, I worked down in San Francisco and lived with an uncle down in Mill Valley.
LaVOY: What did you do?
LATTIN: I was working for the Doughnut Corporation of America. They had a big plant on Mission Street about the 1100 block, and they had four or five secretaries doing clerical work of some sort in the front. I worked out in back in the warehouse. That was the west coast distributing point for the automatic doughnut machines which were making a real start in those days, and the parent outfit was in New Jersey. The machines and the flour came from New Jersey via boat, and then they trucked them up from the ships up to where I worked. They distributed the machines and the flour and everything from that building. It was my job to put all of the printed material for the advertising into packets and get it sent out to wherever it was supposed to go. So I worked all summer at that, and it was a good job. I got tired of doughnuts because one of the things that they did was service the machines and test them there, and so I lived on doughnuts for three months there.
LATTIN: But, anyway, it was interesting work and I enjoyed it.
LaVOY: What did you study at the University?
LATTIN: I was an English major. I've also got a major in economics, but English was my primary major.
LaVOY: How long did you attend the University?
LATTIN: Four years. I graduated in 1942 and very promptly went into the service.
LaVOY: While you were at the University, tell me some of your activities there.
LATTIN: Well, I didn't belong to a fraternity. I was not pointed toward fraternity work, and I always had a full-time job. I owe a lot of my education to Safeway because I was always able to go to work at a Safeway store, and so among some of the other things that I did, I always had some kind of a job at a Safeway store. They treated me very well. They let me work all of the hours I wanted to work, and yet if I had something to do relative to school work--I was on the boxing and wrestling team. Primarily the thing that took my time was the wrestling team, and if we had meets anywhere out in the state or anywhere like that could always get off and go to the meets.
LaVOY: How were you as a wrestler?
LATTIN: I did better as a wrestler. I was the state champion for four years in a row as a wrestler and second in the Far Western Conference two years in a row. I didn't amount to much as a boxer, but I roomed with a guy that was a good boxer, and so I was his sparring partner a lot of the time.
LaVOY: Who was that?
LATTIN: It's a fellow by the name of [Ted] Knopf. He transferred up from San Jose. He'd been on the boxing team there. He transferred up from San Jose to take engineering at the University of Nevada, and he stayed active in the boxing.
LaVOY: Where did you two live?
LATTIN: We lived in Lincoln Hall, and I roomed with him for one full year. I roomed with different people at different times.
LaVOY: Do you recall their names?
LATTIN: The first semester I was up there, I roomed with Fred Stiverson who was a Fallon boy. We went up together as freshman. Fred still comes back. I think he's living up in Oregon, and he still comes back to Fallon occasionally. Then I roomed with this fellow that's name was Ted Knopf who has always spent his life in California. He was, until he retired, a building contractor down there. Then I roomed with a guy by the name of [Jim] Keogh. It was an interesting thing. Very, very intelligent guy. Did well at school, but he was also an alcoholic, and every so often he'd have to go to the infirmary and dry out, and he'd come right back. Always kind of resented him because in the classes that we took together he always got better grades than I did no matter how he'd been conducting himself socially. He always did real well in classes. I got even with him, though. When the War came along and I saw what was going on, I jumped in the middle of advanced military. The ROTC program. When I was a junior I made a bid to see if I couldn't get into advanced ROTC and earn a commission, and I was lucky enough to do that, but he couldn't make in there. He tried, but he couldn't make that, and, oh, maybe a year, maybe two years after we graduated, I was back at Fort Knox, and who should show up, but him. He was going to OCS, and, man, it was hard on him 'cause he still had that drinking pattern, and OCS didn't show you any mercy in those days at all. But he made it through all right, but I used to laugh at him because I said, "Well, you know, you had a chance to straighten up, and you didn't do it." A lot of fun.
LaVOY: Oh, my.
LATTIN: Small world, isn't it?
LaVOY: Indeed it is. Then who was your fourth roommate?
LATTIN: I guess that it was it. Three would probably be it over a period of time.
LaVOY: Old Lincoln Hall has been on campus for such a long time. Have you been there recently and gone through the rehab of it?
LATTIN: Yeah. I've just wandered through. Now it's coed, isn't it? The part they've added on to it I think is coed. They've kept adding on it. It was interesting because in those days the school of mines was well accredited. The University of Nevada had one of the better school of mines and of the students in Lincoln Hall, I think, there were about ninety of us in there at that time--I would guess that a good eighty of them were engineers that had transferred up. So I was living in a nest of engineering students with the possible exception of three or four of the people that they imported to play football. They put some of the football players in there. I recall this one that they got there. He finally achieved national recognition. A fellow by the name of Marion Motley. Fine football player. They brought him in and put him in Lincoln Hall, and another fellow--I'm forgetting his name right now--took care of all his expenses and everything like that. I got to know him very well because I tutored him in English. He had trouble with English, so I spent a little time each week tutoring him in English and helping him get through English so he could stay eligible for football. He went ahead and played for the Browns for years as a professional player.
LaVOY: Nevada had a real good football team at that time.
LATTIN: Yeah. Yeah, they did. They imported four or five of those guys that were really really worth the money.
LaVOY: Who was the coach at that time?
LATTIN: I think that Jim Aiken was coach as I remember it. They changed along in there, but I think Jim Aiken was the guy that came and developed that football team with Motley and those guys.
LaVOY: Jake Lawlor was head of the department, wasn't he?
LATTIN: Jake Lawlor came after I left. I knew Jake well. He served on the parole board when I was at the prison. Jake was a member of the parole board so we got to be very friendly, but he hit the University long after I left.
LaVOY: Now, Doc Martie was there when you were there.
LATTIN: Doc Martie was there, and as I remember it, his long suit was basketball. I think that was his end of the thing.
LaVOY: Didn't he have something to do, too, with ROTC? No, he didn't. That was Mr. Ryan, wasn't it?
LATTIN: You know, it's strange. I cannot remember who the colonel was, or the major. I think we had a major in charge of ROTC, and I can't remember to save my soul what his name was.
LaVOY: Was he from Sparks, Nevada?
LATTIN: I don't think so. I think he was from out of town or out of state. I cannot remember.
LaVOY: While you were at the University, who was the president at the time?
LATTIN: I've got to stop back and think. If you'd name a few of them, why, I'd probably recall, but right offhand I'm drawing a blank.
LaVOY: Well, I am, too, so I'm no help to you at the moment.
LATTIN: I was never on personal terms with the president.
LaVOY: Who were some of your favorite teachers at the University? If you were in the English department there, since you had such a good English teacher here in Fallon, I know that you probably did very very well.
LATTIN: I didn't do well ever in school. Not until I got to doing graduate work. After I got to doing graduate work, why, I straightened up my hand and got some fairly decent grades. Bob Griffin was one of the ones in the English department that I had quite a few classes from. I just don't recall specifically who the others were.
LaVOY: But, you enjoyed your years at the University?
LATTIN: Oh, very much. Very much.
LaVOY: Did you date at that point in time?
LATTIN: Well, yeah, a little bit. Not a lot, and it was during my years at the University when I came back to Fallon that I met Edna. I think I was probably about a junior when I came back to Fallon and met her. She was working in a restaurant, and I went in to get something to eat and met her. So that's where we became acquainted.
LaVOY: So you started dating, and what was her name? Edna what?
LATTIN: Edna Brite.
LaVOY: Which restaurant did she work in?
LATTIN: She was working at the Sagebrush when I met her. Sagebrush used to be a pretty popular watering hole for a lot of the adults.
LaVOY: It was owned by whom?
LATTIN: It was owned originally by Bill Powell, but in those days I'm not sure that Al wasn't running it. I think Bill was still alive, Bill and Marie, and, of course, Al was there just forever. That was where she was working when I met her.
LaVOY: When you were graduating from the University, you were immediately taken into the service. Is that correct?
LATTIN: The next day.
LaVOY: The next day!
LATTIN: Yeah, I was in Salt Lake City the next day after I graduated.
LaVOY: Where did you go in Salt Lake?
LATTIN: Salt Lake was kind of funny. I went over there, and Fort Douglas [Utah] is where I had to report for duty. Fort Douglas was full. They didn't have a room left on Fort Douglas anywhere, so they quartered me in a hotel downtown in Salt Lake City. I can't remember the name of the hotel. It wasn't the Utah. It was down the street from the Utah. They quartered me there, and I hung around for a day or two not doing anything, and then they found something for me to do. You had to have an officer in attendance any time anybody went through the tear gas chamber or--what do they call those courses that they put you through, and they shoot over your head and all that kind of stuff? Anyway, whenever they put a group through, the rule they had there was that you had to have an officer with you, so I got to escort people through that tear gas chamber and through that other deal. I'll think of the name of it. I thought I'd never forget it. For a couple of weeks. I was months getting the tear gas out of my system. Clothes and one thing and another like that. It kind of has a lingering effect on it. Then for some reason or another, I was commissioned in the infantry, and I'll never know exactly why or anything else, but they reached out and snatched me up and sent me to Fort Knox and put me in the armored command. Of course, what was happening, we didn't, of course, pay a lot of attention. What was happening was that the armored command was growing from nothing to a huge operation, with all of the armored divisions and one thing and another, so they were reaching out and snatching people here and there and putting them in the armored command. I went from Fort Douglas back to the armored command and when they put me in there, I had to go back to school again. I went through thirteen weeks of what they called Newton's College. Named after the general that was so proud of it.
LaVOY: Where was that?
LATTIN: At Fort Knox [Kentucky], and they were trying to whip all of us infantry and artillery officers into decent enough shape so that we'd make good armored officers is what they were trying to do.
LaVOY: Now, this is tanks and whatnot?
LATTIN: Yeah, tanks. So, I got to go through that. Then when I left that, I went to the Fifth Armored Division out on desert maneuvers, and I went all through the Mojave Desert all one summer on desert maneuvers.
LATTIN: I just want something clarified. Were you commissioned at graduation ceremonies?
LATTIN: Right. I was reserve officer with a commission, second lieutenant.
LaVOY: And your family attended your commissioning services?
LATTIN: I don't know. They attended graduation.
LaVOY: I just wondered if you had a separate commission.
LATTIN: I don't recall one. If we did, I don't recall.
LaVOY: You probably did.
LATTIN: Probably, but I just don't recall.
LaVOY: We have you back now in the Mojave Desert, and where'd you go from there?
LATTIN: I went back to Fort Knox. Out on the Mojave Desert-that was kind of interesting--those were the years when the reconnaissance platoon were still on motorcycles. That was before Jeeps and before light tanks, and I got assigned to reconnaissance platoon out on the Mojave Desert. So I did the summer out there on motorcycles, and from there I went back to Fort Knox, and I went right to the armored board testing motorcycles. The Army then was thinking in terms of their military police and reconnaissance platoons and everybody being equipped with motorcycles instead of Jeeps. They decided that the current crop of motorcycles by Indian and Harley-Davidson weren't adequate for the work there, so they commissioned the Indian Motorcycle Company and the Harley Motorcycle Company to each build a thousand machines and they shot for the armored board which was a board that was supposed to be testing. That was their job. They tested gun sites. They tested tanks. They tested everything. They sent out five Indians and five Harleys to the armored board to run a test on, but at the same time they sent five of each down to Camp Hood and people down there tested them at Camp Hood, Texas. I was put in charge of that test. We ran those motorcycles three shifts a day, day and night, for weeks. I was in charge of that test, mainly doing paperwork. Something kind of interesting happened. The day shift rode across Fort Knox. Strictly cross country. No trails, no nothing. Fort Knox is a big post. I'm sure you are familiar with it. They did cross country, and then the swing shift was secondary roads. You got a chance to ride on gravel and dirt roads and one thing and another. The graveyard shift was out on the main road behind Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky. The crew that was riding that night shift, would point them down that highway, and they'd run as far as they could go in half of their shift and then turn around and come back. Everything was going along fine, we thought, until one night one of the senior officers, a colonel, as I remember it, was going home. I think it was between Louisville and E Town there somewhere. He was going home and stopped at one of the local taverns to have a drink and parked out in back with these motorcycles. They were up on the kickstands with the engines running and the speedometers going, and these guys were partying instead of tending to business. They were showing the miles on their machine and everything when they'd come back, but they'd stop and party for an hour or two and then go ahead and go on. It turned out they changed the whole damn thing, and I had to ride a shift. They brought in a couple of other officers that could ride, so I had to ride a shift for the rest of the test. I imagine it was another three or four weeks that I had to ride on that graveyard shift between Bowling Green and Fort Knox.
LaVOY: Well, did you enjoy riding motorcycles?
LATTIN: Oh, I enjoyed it, but it's like anything else. It's a lot of work. There was no traffic on the roads, gas rationing, that sort of thing. We just poked those things down the road. [end of tape 1] We'd go down the road as far as we could go in half a shift and then turn around and come back, and there were accidents at night and driving as fast as you can go. I wiped myself out one night. I hit a fox. I was going around the corner and probably halfway out of control anyway, and I hit a fox. I picked it up and took it back to the post and weighed it. It weighed twenty-seven pounds.
LaVOY: My goodness!
LATTIN: It was big, and it just took that motor out from under me slicker than a whistle.
LaVOY: Did you ruin the motorcycle?
LATTIN: On those motors then, we had what we called crash bars, and they caused the motor to slide down the road if you're lucky enough to stay on the road. The weight of the motorcycle is on the handlebar and the crash bar primarily, and so I was able to ride the motor back in. It had to be worked on, but I was able to ride it back in. I had on a leather suit and roll OD's and longjohn underwear and it wiped everything right out down to my hide. Give me a blister or two, but other than that, I wasn't hurt.
LaVOY: Thank goodness!
LATTIN: We ran ten motorcycles three shifts a day. That meant you had to have thirty able-bodied men on any given day, and we probably had fifty men on the roster that could ride, and we'd have as many as two or three in the hospital at any given time. Had one guy break his leg before he ever started the motorcycle. (laughing) He straddled the motorcycle and got ready to start it and lost his balance. The motorcycle fell on him, broke his leg, and he hadn't even started it yet.
LaVOY: (laughing) Oh, dear.
LATTIN: In that cross country thing, you know, when you're riding motorcycles cross country, it's like some of these races the kids ride now. You're bound to crack up occasionally.
LaVOY: Where did you go from there?
LATTIN: Then I went to the motorcycle department, teaching. They had a thirteen-weeks course for motorcycle mechanics and riders and one thing and another. I went to that, and then about that time the Jeep got to be popular, and high command recognized that motorcycles were a thing of the past. So I was just in the motorcycle department for a short amount of time. I went to the tank department, wheeled vehicle department, and taught there for a while, and then, of course, immediately overseas.
LaVOY: Where did you go overseas?
LATTIN: I landed at Omaha Beach.
LaVOY: Oh, that would have been fifty-one years today, wouldn't it?
LATTIN: I'd have to look at my records. D-Day was June 6.
LaVOY: And today is June 6.
LATTIN: Yeah, well, see I didn't land on D-Day. I was company commander of a separate tank company, and I'd landed on something like D plus 29, or whatever it was. They couldn't get their tanks on the beach right away. So I landed among the first of the ones where they could form a complement of tanks on the beach, and then went up through Chartres [France] and St. Lo.
LaVOY: I just wanted to ask you. Having been to where you landed, did you think that you would ever get on to France? The terrain was so terrible, and the Germans had it so fortified.
LATTIN: Well, see, like I say, we didn't land on D-Day. The troops, the paratroopers and the infantry had made a pretty good . . . they were in several miles by the time we got there, so we had room enough to gather our tanks together and our trains and everything and go. A separate tank company is a poor place to be because what they did is they just assigned you to different outfits that they thought needed tank support. It's not like being in the armored division that I went to later. I went all the way up through--oh, I can't remember. We were the other side of Paris.
LaVOY: Now, you mentioned St. Lo. What did you do at St. Lo?
LATTIN: Just on through.
LaVOY: The fighting was finished then?
LATTIN: The fighting was finished at St. Lo, but that was the trail we took, and then we got engaged up somewhere up by the side of St. Lo, Chartres, somewhere in there. I can't remember. Then I was with that separate tank company until . . . oh, I can't remember exactly. I'd have to go back and look, but the Tenth Armored Division, I think, hit France in October, and the first time they got engaged, they got some real heavy casualties. So they broke up a bunch of these other outfits and used them in the various divisions as replacements, and I went to the Tenth Armored, Eleventh Tank Battalion. I did the rest of the War with the Tenth Armored, Eleventh Tank Battalion.
LaVOY: Who was the overall commander of that?
LATTIN: It would have been General William Morris, Junior.
LaVOY: What was the name the Germans gave to this Tenth Armored?
LATTIN: Well, they called it the Ghost Division.
LaVOY: Why did they call it that?
LATTIN: Because it turned up so many different places. I think at one time or another, we were in three different armies. I know we were in the Seventh under General Patch for a while, and we were in the Third under General [George] Patton for a while, and then there was another one. I'm drawing a blank on it right now, but we were in at least three different armies at different times.
LaVOY: Well, you must have been formidable to have the Germans call you the Ghost Division.
LATTIN: I don't know whether formidable is the right word, but we turned up in different places.
LaVOY: Did you fight in the Battle of the Bulge?
LATTIN: Yes, we fought in the Battle of the Bulge. I can't remember exactly, but it seemed like the outfit that I was with which was at that time, Combat Command A, I think we were in--can't remember for sure the name of that town--but, anyway, the call got out, and we had to get moving. Some of the outfits in the Tenth before that engagement moved over a hundred miles in one night to get to where the action was which was down in the Bulge. Our Combat Command B wound up with one task force in Bastogne where it stayed until the end of that Battle of the Bulge, and the rest of the outfit was scattered around various places within miles of Bastogne. So, depending on which task force you were with was where you were. We moved better than a hundred miles to get into that thing, and we'd done that several times when they needed an armored division somewhere.
LaVOY: Didn't you have cold terror in your heart in some of these battles?
LATTIN: Well, I think you're always concerned. Yeah, absolutely. I think there's no question about it.
LaVOY: I just think it would be terrible being inside a tank and just wondering if you were going to get out of it.
LATTIN: Well, that's kind of interesting, too, because tanks didn't work for some people. Back in the States when we were in training, even out on the desert maneuvers, you didn't have the feeling of claustrophobia in the tank that you had when you actually got in battle conditions and had to button up, as they called it. Some of the guys, the claustrophobia got to them. They just couldn't handle that. If they could be out in the open, why, they were all right. Kind of like submarine duty
LaVOY: Did you have any hits? On you?
LATTIN: I've got two Purple Hearts.
LaVOY: And where did you get those?
LATTIN: I can't remember the exact name of the town we were after. I didn't get hit during the Battle of Bulge. I got hit one time before and got skinned up some, and then I got hit after the Battle of the Bulge.
LaVOY: Going north into Germany?
LATTIN: I can't remember exactly which direction or what time.
LaVOY: After the Battle of the Bulge, where did you go?
LATTIN: I'd have to look at a map.
LaVOY: But, you went into Germany?
LATTIN: Oh, yeah. We didn't stop. We just had to keep going.
LaVOY: When the War was over, you were in Germany, is that correct?
LATTIN: When the War ended our division headquarters was at Garmisch Parkenkirken. I was at a little town called Fusen which would be probably be thirty miles from Garmisch Parkenkirken. This was again Combat Command A, and we were occupying or going through Fusen and Slangow on the way to Innsbruck [Austria]. I'd have to look at the maps.
LaVOY: You certainly had to have a little bit of recreation. You couldn't have been fighting all the time because you would have absolutely lost your mind. What did you men do for--I'm putting recreation in quotes because there's not true recreation during a war.
LATTIN: I don't know. I made the hospital twice for very brief periods of time before I got shipped back up to the front. Well, division hospital, if you want to call that a hospital.
LaVOY: That's when you got your Purple Heart.
LATTIN: Yeah, I hit the hospital on two different occasions. For one time I was there for almost a week, and one time I was there just a couple of days, but it seemed like during periods when we weren't actually under direct fire--and that's the nomenclature we use-you're either under direct fire or you're not. You may be in reserve and you may be subject to indirect fire, but no direct fire. But when we were not under direct fire, we were either patching up equipment or trying to get new crews into the tanks, replacements. We had real heavy casualties, and we were just continually trying to get replacements trained so that they could function and keep our equipment going.
LaVOY: You were in Europe when the Germans surrendered?
LaVOY: And what part?
LATTIN: As I remembered it, I was either in Fusen or Slangow. I can't remember exactly which.
LaVOY: And what were your reactions?
LATTIN: Well, we'd kind of been expecting it. It wasn't any big surprise. At that stage of the game, why, we were expecting it and hoping for it certainly.
LaVOY: Did you have a big celebration?
LATTIN: No. I don't think there was a big celebration until weeks afterward when at Garmisch Parkenkirken, which is where division headquarters were, they had a tremendous blowout with--I can't remember whether it was Bob Hope or whoever it was that showed up--entertained all of the troops. Patton gave a speech. Only swore a little bit. But that's the first I remember. Within a day or two of when they surrendered, I was assigned--they called them Krises, I think as I remember the German word for it which would be the equivalent of a county. I was assigned two counties to take care of until regular occupation forces could come. They have professional people that do the occupying and take care of food distribution and making sure that everything . . We had a couple of DP [displaced persons] camps, and my job was to supervise those DP camps and make sure that things went the way they were supposed to which they didn't. Get hold of the mayors in each little town and make sure that we were lined out as to what they could do to move food around and take care of the people or whatever the case may be.
LaVOY: What rank were you at that time?
LATTIN: I was a captain at the time.
LaVOY: Did the people greet you happily, or were you resented a bit?
LATTIN: I think in that part of Germany they weren't too resentful. I think they were glad that it was all over with, but you could never tell. They always acted friendly. I had a real good interpreter when I corralled a lady whose husband was in the German service, and she kept in touch with me. He, strangely, turned up at the Russian front later on, and they were reunited. But she was an Austrian lady that had been educated in England, and she spoke about five different languages. We utilized her steady, until I was relieved, to communicate with the people. She spoke excellent English with an English accent.
LaVOY: That must have been different.
LATTIN: That was different, but she spoke excellent English, and I functioned primarily through her.
LaVOY: Where did you live at this point in time? In a German home?
LATTIN: German home.
LaVOY: The family was happy to have you with them?
LATTIN: Oh, no, they weren't there at all.
LaVOY: Oh, you took over a house?
LATTIN: Yeah, we'd take over a house.
LaVOY: About how many of you were involved in doing this in that one place where you were in charge?
LATTIN: How many towns?
LaVOY: No, how many people, roughly, were under your command?
LATTIN: Not more than maybe one for each town to kind of monitor what was going on afterwards. Primarily the thing we had to make sure of was that they had something to eat.
LaVOY: Did you get any place near Auschwitz or any of those camps?
LATTIN: The one that I got next to was Landau. That's not a very famous one, but still in all, Landau was one of the ones that we liberated.
LaVOY: What was your impression? Were you horrified at what you saw?
LATTIN: Yes and no, because that kind of an experience leaves you pretty jaded anyway, but, yes, I was horrified. No question about that. I think it's so interesting now that people are saying that there wasn't any such thing as a concentration camp, wasn't anything such thing as the ovens and that sort of thing.
LaVOY: And you know different.
LATTIN: I know different.
LaVOY: Did you see the Jewish prisoners in their striped outfits going down the road?
LaVOY: What did you feel when you saw them?
LATTIN: Well, you just feel like, you know, I don't know what to say. You feel terrible. You feel terrible about any of that that it has to happen.
LaVOY: The inhumanity of man to man.
LaVOY: How long did you stay in this position of overseeing the German town?
LATTIN: Oh, maybe, three to four weeks, and then they got people up from division or people up from trains to take over. They relieved us just as quick as they could.
LaVOY: And then where did you go from there?
LATTIN: That's kind of interesting, because about that time the point system came on. Do you remember the point system?
LaVOY: Yes, but explain it, please.
LATTIN: The point system is a system that was designed to get the people that had been there the longest and under direct fire the most and that sort of thing. They weighed Purple Hearts so heavy, and months of service so heavy, and Bronze Stars so heavy and all that was given different weights. By then, because of the fact that I'd been in a separate tank company before the Tenth Armored ever got there, when the point system came out, why, I was a pretty high pointer. There were eleven of us, and I remember this well, there were eleven of us that were all high pointers, and they decided that they would move us to an outfit that was due to go back to the United States right away and give us early discharges. They killed two birds with one stone. They had an outfit that had been giving them trouble. It had never seen a day of combat, an outfit that had been giving trouble, and they decided that that outfit was going back to the States, but that also somebody needed to take charge and try to shape them up and get them on a boat and get them to the United States. So they sent eleven of us with that outfit. To make a long story short, Tenth Armored Division got back to the States before I did. I got marooned in that outfit. A horrible story, but it was just a long old grind. Like I say, Tenth Armored got back before I did.
LaVOY: And you remained in?
LATTIN: I remained--I don't know. That outfit may still be over there.
LaVOY: In Germany?
LATTIN: Or in France or Belgium or Luxembourg somewhere.
LaVOY: Well, did you straighten them out?
LATTIN: Well, I don't know whether we did or not. We got relieved before they finally found out what was going on, that they weren't going to move that outfit. So all of us got relieved and eventually back to the States, but it was one of snafus that you run into in the service.
LaVOY: And all of your points didn't do you that much good.
LATTIN: Not a bit of good. Not a bit of good. Hell, the guys with half that many points were getting out when I got back to the States.
LaVOY: Did you ever get to Berchtesgaden?
LATTIN: No. I never did. We weren't very far away from there at Garmisch Parkenkirken. Could have easily enough, but never had any desire to.
LaVOY: You missed Innsbruck. What were you there for?
LATTIN: We weren't there. That's, I think, where we were generally headed when the War ended, was down that canyon.
LaVOY: When did you finally get home? Approximately.
LATTIN: In November, 1945.
LaVOY: November 11, 1945?
LATTIN: 1945, yeah.
LaVOY: I bet you were overjoyed to finally be home. What port did you come into?
LATTIN: We came into New York. I came back on the Queen Mary. When I went over, I went over on the Isle de France, landed in Glasgow, Scotland, and then down through Scotland into England and then across the Channel that way and then came back on the Queen Mary.
LaVOY: And when you landed in New York, how did you get back to Fallon, or did you come back to Fallon?
LATTIN: No, I was discharged in Salt Lake City. I can't remember the exact details of it, but, anyway, I got on the train and wound up in Salt Lake City where I was discharged.
LaVOY: Then when you came back to Fallon, I imagine there was much rejoicing.
LATTIN: Yeah, I was glad to be back.
LaVOY: Your wife, were you still dating her at that point in time?
LATTIN: Oh, no, we got married when I was back at Fort Knox.
LaVOY: Oh, I didn't realize that.
LATTIN: We got married when I was back at Fort Knox.
LaVOY: Did she come from Fallon to Fort Knox?
LATTIN: She did.
LaVOY: And where were you married? In the chapel at Fort Knox?
LATTIN: We were married in the chapel at Fort Knox.
LaVOY: And how long was she able to stay with you?
LATTIN: Well, I think she was with me for the better part of a year.
LaVOY: Traveling, or at Fort Knox?
LATTIN: No, traveling, because when I was out on desert maneuvers, she lived in Palm Springs [California], and we went back to Fort Knox. She stayed at Fort Knox. Well, not Fort Knox. We lived in Louisville for a while and then in Elizabethtown for a while and then in Brandenberg [Kentucky] for a while.
LaVOY: Then when you got your orders for overseas, did she return to Fallon?
LATTIN: Yeah, she'd returned long before that.
LaVOY: Before you got your overseas orders.
LATTIN: Yeah. I was in Camp Campbell, Kentucky, or Tennessee. Whatever you want to call it. It's right on the boundary. I was down there for a short period of time, and when I went down there, why, she came back to Fallon.
LaVOY: And what did she do in Fallon while you were away?
LATTIN: She stayed with either her folks or my folks.
LaVOY: So when you came home, you had a happy reunion, and what job did you get?
LATTIN: I didn't get a job. We didn't do anything for a period of time, and then my brother and I teamed up together and bought the farm.
LaVOY: And your brother's name again?
LATTIN: Was Richard, Dick.
LaVOY: You bought it from your father?
LATTIN: No. No, no. We bought a neighboring ranch. That was in 1946. Then we bought my father out in 1964 or 1965. Somewhere along in there.
LaVOY: Well, then you and your brother farmed together.
LATTIN: We farmed together for three or four years, and then he went into the beef business, and I went into the dairy business, and we went our separate ways.
LaVOY: Where was your dairy?
LATTIN: I bought the Kispert place. There was a little dairy on the Kispert place.
LaVOY: What kind of cows did you have?
LaVOY: The diary business is such a difficult business. Did you have to hire a lot of milkers, and how many cattle did you run?
LATTIN: No, it was a very small dairy, and I handled it myself with hired help on occasion. But I was only milking a hundred cows when I went out of business.
During the time I had the diary, we organized here in western Nevada what we called the Associated Nevada Dairymen and were instrumental in getting some laws through the legislature with the help of my father, who was in the legislature at that time, to create a marketing association. We kind of did the dairy industry some real good getting the association and getting the marketing in order and that sort of thing. Dairy business before had been a terrible business in that distributors, the bottling plants, just controlled it. Milk is highly perishable. You either got it sold the minute you have it or you're in trouble. Because there was no organization among the farmers, the distributors were just able to pay whatever they wanted to pay, whenever they wanted to pay. We organized the Associated Nevada Dairymen and got our own trucks and got things going and really did some good.
LaVOY: Did you have to have refrigerated tanks to hold your milk?
LATTIN: They were changing. When I went into the business, when I bought the dairy in 1956, the dairymen were just in the process then, between changing from the cans that they cooled and water coolers and shipped that way to the big tanks that they shipped in bulk. When I went into the business we had a bulk tank. The distributor owned the tank, and that's why you were at his mercy because if you made one false move, he just didn't pick up your milk, and you had to dump it.
LaVOY: About how much were you paid for your milk?
LATTIN: I can't remember now.
LaVOY: I mean in relation to what it was sold for? You got a lot less?
LATTIN: Oh, yeah. Less than half.
LaVOY: Your feeding operation for your- [End of tape 2 side A]
LATTIN: We grew our own alfalfa, corn, wheat, that sort of thing. Bought concentrate, too. Primarily grew our own.
LaVOY: How often do you have to feed your dairy cattle?
LATTIN: Well, there's different schools of thought on that, but I think most of the dairymen feed twice a day plus anything that they might give them in the way of an extra ration in the barn as they milk.
LaVOY: Did you have chopped hay at that time?
LATTIN: We had chopped hay and baled hay both.
LaVOY: I don't quite understand this chopped. When they put the alfalfa into pits, what is that called?
LATTIN: That's silage.
LaVOY: Did you have silage, too?
LATTIN: I didn't use alfalfa silage. We had corn silage.
LaVOY: How is corn silage prepared?
LATTIN: You chop the green corn and put it in the pit. You try to catch the corn last thing before frost with as much grain in it as possible, but you have to catch it before it starts to dry out because it's got to have good high moisture content if it's going into the pit of silage.
LaVOY: How long is left in the pit before it becomes silage?
LATTIN: It starts to cook immediately. I don't know. Generally speaking, we waited a few weeks at least before we started feeding it.
LaVOY: And when you open those pits, they smell real good.
LATTIN: Smell like a distillery.
LaVOY: (laughing) Your dairy was on McLean Road there. Is that correct?
LATTIN: Yes, that's correct.
LaVOY: And it's now what diary?
LATTIN: It's now Jernigan's dairy. Earl Jernigan.
LaVOY: And you had that for approximately five years?
LATTIN: Approximately five years.
LaVOY: What prompted you to get out of the diary business?
LATTIN: I either had to get big or get out. So I decided to get out. I didn't think I was cut out to dairy the rest of my life, so I just made the decision to get out.
LaVOY: And what did you go into then?
LATTIN: Again, I’d have to look . .
LaVOY: You sold your dairy, I believe, in 1959. Is that correct?
LATTIN: That's correct. Or leased it out.
LaVOY: Oh, you leased it.
LATTIN: Yeah, I leased it. I leased it for several years before Jernigan bought it, and I can't even remember now just exactly what the pattern was. Lyle Magee had it leased for a while. I think Elbert Mills had it leased for a while. I forget. There may have been someone else in there. I can't remember the exact year that Jernigan bought the dairy and six acres in there where the dairy is now.
LaVOY: And that six acres was part of land that you had bought.
LaVOY: When you started your dairy, it was also land that you bought that did not belong to the Lattins.
LATTIN: Yeah, the original place, yes. It was part of the Kispert place.
LaVOY: I'm curious. I haven't brought this up before, but how many children did you have by this time?
LATTIN: We've got three children.
LaVOY: When was your first one born?
LATTIN: Richard is the oldest, and he was born May 8, 1944.
LaVOY: So, he was born where?
LATTIN: Here in Fallon, and then Dennis . .
LaVOY: Excuse me just a minute. 1944. He was born then shortly after you had gone into the service. Is that correct?
LaVOY: All right, and so then . .
LATTIN: Well, before I went overseas, actually.
LaVOY: Your wife went with you down to Kentucky.
LaVOY: And then she came home to have the baby?
LATTIN: She was home, yeah, when she had the baby. I was not here then.
LaVOY: And then your next child?
LATTIN: The next child was Dennis born March 10, 1947.
LaVOY: And you'd been out of the service about a year?
LATTIN: About a year.
LaVOY: And he was born where?
LATTIN: He was born in Reno.
LaVOY: Probably, because for medical purposes.
LATTIN: I think doctor. I think probably the doctor that Edna had been going to probably transferred to Reno, or he said to go to Reno. Whatever it was.
LaVOY: And then your third child?
LATTIN: Third child is Vicki who was born October 12, 1951, here in Fallon.
LaVOY: Now, is that a girl?
LATTIN: That's a girl.
LATTIN: No, Vicki. Just plain Vicki.
LaVOY: Oh. And she was born while you were still in the dairy business?
LATTIN: No. Before I went in the dairy business.
LaVOY: I see. Now, you have all these little ones. When you decided to sell the dairy business, and what did you do after that? I know you said you worked on the Grand Jury. Was that after this period of time?
LATTIN: Yeah, it was after this period of time. I know I was on the Grand Jury in 1961.
LaVOY: For how long?
LATTIN: I think three or four years that I was on the Grand Jury. I was chairman of the juvenile committee on the Grand Jury. Then later on Judge Gregory appointed me to a county juvenile committee, and we hired the first, I think, juvenile probation officer.
LATTIN: That's when we started to approach modern times, I guess.
LaVOY: Well, that's very interesting. And you were farming at the same time.
LATTIN: Farming at the same time, right.
LaVOY: What did you do in the wintertime when you were not farming?
LATTIN: Well, in the wintertime I leveled land. The first person I worked for was Percy Mills. He had a D-7 Cat [Caterpillar] and a leveling operation. He'd work one shift, and then I'd work a shift. So then I did that for a period of time, and then Percy passed away, and Curly Eckert bought his equipment, and I went right ahead winters still working for Curly on different land leveling projects.
LaVOY: Did you have the laser at that time?
LATTIN: No, we did not have the laser at that time.
LaVOY: How did you level the land?
LATTIN: Well, they put stakes at hundred-foot intervals, a square grid, and the stakes are marked cut or fill, and you had to operate accordingly. The difference is that you levelled as close as you could with the carryalls which is pretty close and then finished it off with the land plane. It wasn't until several years later that they started using laser.
LATTIN: But the laser's made a new ball game out of it. Wonderful, wonderful thing. Laser.
LaVOY: Well, then, you farmed until approximately, I will say, as a livelihood, farming and using the land leveling, what year did you decide you were going to go back to school?
LATTIN: I didn't decided to go back to school then. I got a chance to get a job as education advisor for the Air Force. I think the first contract I had was in January 16, 1963, as I remember it.
LaVOY: What Air Force?
LATTIN: I can't remember for sure, but there was a radar squadron out here at the Fallon base. I think it's the 858th if I'm not mistaken. I'd have to go back and look at that number. It's been a lot of years. But, anyway, the assignment operated out of Stead [Air Base]. I dealt with the commanding officer up there at Stead, and they wanted an education advisor at here at this radar installation, and so I went to work there and worked there for a couple of years. Then I got tied up with the Navy and started teaching some classes out there at the same time.
LaVOY: Classes in what?
LATTIN: English. I taught the men and officers that wanted to pick up whatever training they needed to be on the promotion list, that sort of thing. It was a real good teaching experience because those guys really wanted to learn. They weren't in there because they had to be. They were in there because they wanted to be, and they could sure gobble up the material.
LaVOY: How many years did you do that between Air Force and Navy?
LATTIN: I think I was there for a couple of years.
LaVOY: Was that a full time position, or did you teach just in the evenings?
LATTIN: I taught just in the evenings, but as education advisor in the daytime. Of course, my job there--the government during those times had a tremendously fine opportunity program for service personnel that wanted to further their schooling. They had a program they called "Boot Strap" and two or three other programs where if the commanding officer of the outfit they were in was favorable to it, they could separate from the base and go to school somewhere. That was primarily my job to get these guys in school. A Major that was charge of this Air Force base out here was really… One, he had plenty of airmen to do the job, and, secondly, he was really education oriented, so we had just a hundred per cent cooperation from him to get people in various programs.
LaVOY: This "Boot Strap" program, you needed to be one year from graduation from college, didn't you?
LATTIN: No, you didn't have to be one year from graduation from college. What you had to be was one year of retainability after you completed your schooling. You had to have been in the service so long. I forget the exact number of days, but then you had to have a year of retainability after you graduated from the school. That was the primary criteria, and that, of course, is why these commanding officers liked kids going to school is because they were going to have them for a year after they did their schooling, and it worked out real well.
LaVOY: The base was just starting to gear up again, wasn't it?
LATTIN: Yeah, it was in the midst of gearing up again. That radar outfit was very active, and the planes were very active.
LaVOY: Do you remember when you came back from World War II, this base was pretty well deactivated, wasn't it?
LATTIN: Completely deactivated.
LaVOY: What had they done with the hangars and things?
LATTIN: As far as I know they were just there. There was a lot of equipment stored in them. I think I saw an article in, I don't know whether it's one of these interviews [In Focus] or something about the people that bought those surplus engines that were out there. Barney Fritz was one of the people that was involved in it, and they bought all those surplus engines and were going through them and then selling them to South America or someplace. To the best of my knowledge, why, they just shut the base down completely for a period of time.
LaVOY: And then started it back up again.
LATTIN: Started it back up. I know at one time there was--I don't know how many tons of landing mats down in a big pile. I saw in one of these surplus deals where you could bid on these landing mats, and I thought, "Boy, they'd really be good for corral materials to use those landing mats." So I figured up what it would cost to build a good corral out of conventional lumber and what it would cost to build a corral out of those landing mats which would be a far superior corral and bid accordingly so that I could re-sell those landing mats to people that wanted to build corrals. I didn't get the bid, and when I asked for a copy of whatever had happened, well, whoever got the bid had bid one cent a ton more for those landing mats than I had. I got beat out by a penny a ton.
LaVOY: Oh, my goodness!
LATTIN: It was hard for me to believe me that was on the up and up
LaVOY: Was it somebody local that got them?
LATTIN: No. It was a professional bidder. They came in with transports and immediately moved them out of the valley.
LaVOY: Well, that does lead you to wonder.
LATTIN: It leads you to wonder what had happened.
LaVOY: How long did you continue teaching out there or being in charge of the education program?
LATTIN: I went to work in 1963 as education advisor. I don't know. I was out there a couple of years. Then I went to the high school and taught a class, again English. English and psychology at the high school.
LaVOY: Who was the superintendent at that time?
LATTIN: Lou Hirschman was the superintendent. It was kind of interesting the way I went to work at the high school. Lou had a couple of classes that were giving trouble and I think one or two teachers had tried the classes and quit, and he just didn't have anybody. He asked if I'd come in and give a shot at those classes, and I did, and it worked out real well. I enjoyed it, and it was a good bunch of kids. They didn't give me any problems whatsoever.
LaVOY: I sometimes think that military background like you had does a lot to keep a classroom in order.
LATTIN: Well, there's some advantage to the military background. There's no question about that. I noticed that particularly when I went to work for the prison. We can get to that later on, but we were very fond of hiring retired military for that particular job.
LaVOY: How long did you teach at the high school here? Approximately.
LATTIN: I went to work in 1965. Between 1961 and 1965 I was either at the air base or at the high school.
LaVOY: And who ran your farm at the time?
LATTIN: I did.
LaVOY: You did both things.
LATTIN: Did both things, yeah.
LaVOY: My goodness. Then after that what did you do?
LATTIN: Then after that I had a chance to go to work at the prison.
LaVOY: What prison?
LATTIN: Nevada State Prison. What had happened, I forget the exact amount of time, but Governor Sawyer and the then warden at the Nevada State Prison in the late fifties recognized that things were changing and population was changing so the Legislature authorized a new prison. So what we know as the medium security prison was started, and it was completed in sometime late 1964 or 1965, at least the first or second housing unit. The concept then was to go from what we in the business call a straight custody operation to a care and treatment operation. So when they started looking for people to get in this secure and treatment phase of the prisoner--and I don't where in the world I stumbled on it, what happened, but, anyway, I had an opportunity to go over there as a teacher, and I thought that'd be fun. I had two choices that looked like fun to me. The Major that I'd worked for in the Air Force was over in Italy, and he was running something over there. He needed a teacher, and I had an opportunity to go over there, and then that prison thing came up and I had an opportunity to do that. My daughter was in school, and I didn't want to uproot her and take her to Italy, and I wanted to do something different, so I decided to go on that prison deal. Well, the prison didn't have any positions or anything like that for teachers or education advisor or superintendent, so what they did was, they contracted with Ormsby County for their academic staff. So I went to work for Ormsby County, and I worked for a couple of years at the prison but I was being paid by Ormsby County until the Legislature created positions and authorized them to hire teachers.
LaVOY: I surmise you were teaching English.
LATTIN: No, I was teaching a little bit of everything. Whatever needed to be. Somewhere along the line while I was doing the rest of this, I went back to school and I got a counselor's endorsement.
LaVOY: Is that a Master's?
LaVOY: No, it's not a Master's, but what it is--you know how school counselors work. It doesn't require a Master's, but it's got pretty strict requirements of the number of units you have to have in guidance and counseling. I picked that up. The reason they were interested in me, I think primarily, is I not only could teach, but I also could run a test center, and I was authorized to give tests and all that sort of thing, so that's what I did. It was interesting work. Ormsby County paid me for a couple of years, but during those two years I taught and ran the test center for a little while, and something happened to the supervisor of education. He went on his way, so I was promoted to supervisor of education.
LaVOY: Was this for Ormsby County or in the prison system?
LATTIN: Well, both. You know, still being paid by Ormsby County, but supervisor of education at the prison. I think that about the first time that I actually drew a state check was in September of 1967. I think by then things had happened and so the state picked up the position. I was then working for the prison instead of Ormsby County and about that time I made associate warden, so I transferred completely out of the school business and became associate warden.
LaVOY: Who was the warden at that time?
LATTIN: Well, at the time I made associate warden, they'd replaced Jack Fogliani with Carl Hocker who had an excellent background. He'd been a captain at San Quentin for many years, and he left San Quentin and went to work in San Francisco for parole and probation for a while. That happened when [Paul] Laxalt became governor. The first thing that Laxalt did when he became governor was fire Warden Fogliani, and he brought Carl Hocker as the head of the division of wardens. Shortly after he came, he promoted me. He brought with him from California an associate warden. Somewhere along the line--just very shortly after he got here--why, he moved that warden to what they called a deputy warden and promoted me to associate warden. The associate warden theoretically was in charge of care and treatment. In charge of all the programs. Just any number of things other than outright custody. I did that for a period of time and then just flat out became a superintendent or a warden depending on who was governor at the time.
LaVOY: Were you superintendent?
LATTIN: After Carl Hooker left, Ed Pogue became the warden, and I think [Mike] O'Callahan became governor. Immediately upon O'Callahan becoming governor, Ed Pogue becoming warden, we quit being associate wardens and wardens and became superintendents, one, two, or three which means you're in charge of the institution but instead of being a warden, you're a superintendent one, two, or three. We quit having convicts in prison and started having inmates or residents or whatever the case may be. That happened until O'Callahan left office, and then I think we went back to being wardens and having convicts in prison. It varied with the times.
LaVOY: Tell me, did you commute to Carson?
LATTIN: Oh, no. I'd moved to Carson.
LaVOY: What did you do with all of your farm?
LATTIN: I leased it to my brother.
LaVOY: Oh, I see. And then you and the children moved to Carson?
LATTIN: Well, the two boys were gone by that time. Rick was in the service and Dennis was in school.
LaVOY: What branch of the service was he in?
LATTIN: He was in the Army.
LaVOY: And then the other boy was in the university?
LATTIN: The other boy was in the university up at Boise, Idaho.
LaVOY: And you just had your daughter with you.
LATTIN: Just had the daughter when I moved.
LaVOY: And you moved into Carson City proper.
LaVOY: How was that as a change from living in Fallon and in the country?
LATTIN: Oh, it was interesting. Vicki got along very well in school over there. She just did real well in the Carson City School District. They got along fine and enjoyed herself and did real well. Of course, that was primarily why I decided on that rather than go overseas.
LaVOY: Well, the prison system has changed so very, very much. Now, when you were in charge of what did you call it? Handled everything from medical to…
LATTIN: Care and treatment?
LaVOY: The care and treatment. What was involved with that?
LATTIN: Well, gracious, we supervised all of the education, whatever that might be, and the counselors and anything related to the, well, really, the care and treatment of the inmates. Custody was an entirely separate thing.
LaVOY: Did you have a lot of drug problems at that point in time in the prison?
LATTIN: There's always drug problems in the prison. It's a major thing that never, never stops. It's a real major problem.
LaVOY: How did you try to handle that?
LATTIN: Well, you try to stop the drugs from coming in.
LaVOY: And how do you do that?
LATTIN: Well, there's any number of rules and procedures that you must follow in bringing material into the prison, letting people come into the prison.
LaVOY: What were some of the ways that they brought drugs in?
LATTIN: Well, a prison is like a small town. You've got food trucks coming in. You've got laundry trucks coming in. You've got everything moving in through the gates, and, of course, on the physical aspect of it coming in through the sally ports, why, you've got a very elaborate system of shaking down the vehicles and checking whatever it is that's coming in. And then you have a lot of family and friends coming to visit the prisoners. Just a lot of those. You've got a lot of volunteers. You've got a lot of staff. And prisoners are very, very sophisticated at compromising people to where they'll bring contraband into an institution. But I’m not talking care and treatment now. I got out of care and treatment pretty fast because the warden thought that I could handle custody, and, so I got to doing that. And, of course, I got to running my own institutions.
LaVOY: Now, running your own institutions, is that when you were the . . . what title did you have then?
LATTIN: Well, either warden or superintendent. Depending.
LaVOY: You were number one man?
LATTIN: Number one man in that institution. In other words, the medium security prison at Stewart or the maximum security prison outside of Carson. At one time, well, on a couple of different occasions, I'd been in charge of the maximum security prison. For quite an extended period of time in charge of the medium security prison at Stewart and then I went down to Jean [Nevada] and I was in charge of the medium security prison down at Jean plus the honor camp plus the restitution center down there for a period of time.
LaVOY: Let me ask, isn't Jean a women's prison?
LATTIN: They've got women there now, but for a long time that was the men's institution. Governor O'Callahan and Ed Pogue envisioned a minimum security prison down close to Las Vegas where they could house the prisoners at night and then run in to Las Vegas to various jobs during the daytime. [end of tape 2] They built the Jean prison strictly under the guidelines of a minimum security prison where the better class of inmates could be housed. But before they could even open the prison they recognized the fact that the Nevada State Prison system didn't have that many inmates available that could be trusted to be working downtown and bused back and forth. So they changed the designation to medium security and added an extra perimeter fence around the outside of it with razor wire inside of it, and just decided then that it was going to be a medium security prison. So, that's what it was.
LaVOY: Didn't you have a lot of problems with the people, even though they were minimum security, going in to work in Las Vegas, didn't they bring back a lot of contraband?
LATTIN: It's always a problem. No question about it. I think probably in some respects with work details going out, no, we didn't do that long. We did it for a while and then we shut it down for two or three different reasons, some of which are political and some of which are practical and some of which are economical. But a prisoner coming into the institution, why, you can do what we call a skin search which peels them right down to bare naked and check their hair and body orifices and the whole nine yards to keep them from bringing contraband in. In many respects, those details, if the staff is following procedures and doing the proper shakedown, those people are probably as easy to control as any. But staff that gets compromised and visitors that are compromised and volunteers that are compromised, those are the things. And then the mail. They're allowed to get certain things in through the mail and all of those things are just sources of potential contraband at all times.
LaVOY: Does there always seem to be one ringleader in among the prisoners?
LATTIN: There will be more than one. It doesn't make much difference whether it's maximum security or medium security or minimum security, there will generally be an Indian that calls the shots for the rest of the Indians; there'll be a black that calls the shots for the rest of the blacks; there'll be a caucasian that calls the shots, and anymore now we're getting--well, ever since the Merilitos boat lift when we started getting Cubans why there'll be perhaps Cubans and Hispanic-speaking people, and those various groups will have leaders, and they vie for power within the institution.
LaVOY: Do the race group leaders try to take over the other groups, or do they stick pretty much to their own nationality?
LATTIN: It varies. You can't really generalize. I'd say, generally speaking, they stick pretty well to their own group as long as the other group doesn't have something they want, or they have something that the other group wants. They tend to operate that way, but there's always racial conflict. I noticed in the paper that they had locked down the medium security prison a couple of days ago because they had a conflict. Well, it didn't go into it in the paper, but no doubt that was racially or gang oriented.
LaVOY: What type of prisoners did you . . . I won't say, feared the most, but disliked working with the most?
LATTIN: I don't know as there was a lot of difference. They've got their own pecking order inside a prison, of course. Now, they're not always equal, but other things being equal, if you killed somebody, why, generally speaking, you've got a little more weight going for you than somebody else, and it kind of goes down the spectrum to the sex offender and the child molester. Now, that's in their society that those guys are more liable to have troubles in prison than say a murderer will. What my experience has been in the prison system is more or less it's an individual thing. In the late fifties and the early sixties when all of this started, they started phasing people out of mental hospitals. Our mental hospitals were largely shut down, and powers that be had decided that we could control people with mental problems with medication and with counseling and that they didn't have to be institutionalized. In a reality a lot of those people wound up in prison because they couldn't be adequately medicated or taken care of, and so some of your prisoners are really mental cases. Really serious mental cases. Well, a serious mental case, depending on the nature of it, is always difficult to deal with. Some of them are harmful only to themselves. Some of them are pretty predictable, but others are pretty unpredictable. So, administratively, why, some of those people are a little more difficult to deal with. Of course, then you have the outright gangster that wants to terrorize the rest of the prison yard, and you've got to have a way to handle him. But, to generalize, take sex offenders. I've seen sex offenders that couldn't walk the yard. Had to be put in what we call protective custody. We refer to that as PC. Just couldn't walk the yard because they'd of been killed if they tried to walk the yards. I've seen other sex offenders that committed just as serious an infraction that were able to walk the yard unmolested because they had none of the overt symptoms that would cause people to prey on them or whatever the case may be. I've found out you can't really generalize. They sort themselves out according to the individual's behavior and personality to quite an extensive degree.
LaVOY: Something that I have often wondered about with our state law for drunken driving, are they putting some of these people that have never had another thing against them other than--is it three counts of drunken driving-that they have to go to prison. Do they put them in with the rest of these?
LATTIN: What the prison administration tries to do is, you've got an intake process where when the prisoner hits the institution they immediately put him in individual housing until his record catches up with him, and sometimes that might be a week or two. But until there's been a complete battery of tests given to him which include a psychological profile that a psychologist takes a look at them--usually the psychiatrist doesn't get involved at that stage of the game, but the psychologist will get involved immediately and run a cross section on them, so you have a very complete workup. Eventually by the end of two weeks you've got the guy's pre-sentence report which the parole and probation department does which is supposed to be a real good summary of a man's prior history. You will have his rap sheet which is the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] rap sheet or the CIA rap sheet or whatever the case may be, and you'll have the results of everything that you've done since he got in the prison. Well, then that inmate goes in front of what we call a classification committee, and during my tenure, the classification committee, most of the time that I was a warden, most of the time the warden will sit on that classification committee along with the counselor that did the evaluation, and along with somebody from custody. But there'll be a committee of four or five people theoretically that are trained to evaluate that, and they will give him his primary assignment and housing. In other words, he will go to general population. He'll go to protective custody. He'll go to honor camp, whatever the case may be. In answer to your question, what you're looking for, really--you can't generalize on alcoholics, either. But if an alcoholic is a classic first offender that's got no criminal background and no criminal orientation and his only problem is either alcohol or drugs, why, that person, unless he's got something that really disturbs you along with it, generally speaking, try to boost them right out to an honor camp. Not get him involved in the prison politics in the yard if you can help it. So the classic first termers, a lot of those, will go right to an honor camp somewhere which has got its problems, too, but they're far less than you would have if you were putting that person in the yard.
LATTIN: I have really got mixed emotions about sending classic first termers to prison. I know you've got to do something about drinking and driving. I know that, but certainly the prisons as they're operated these days, even with quote, "all of the care and treatment that you're supposed to have" can do very little for a person. If you're talking about alcoholics, the best program that can possibly happen to an alcoholic is AA [Alcoholics Anonymous], and, of course, in the prison system, we encourage AA and Narcotics Anonymous. We encourage people to come in from the outside and run those things two or three nights a week. But that's about all you can do. If you're looking for high-powered help from the group counseling or psychiatrists or psychologists or whatever the case may be, the prison system just is not equipped. In spite of the propaganda, it's not equipped to deal with that.
LaVOY: Do you have a lot of recidivism?
LATTIN: Yes, there's a lot of recidivism. I don't know what the figure is now, but we used to say that you got to work pretty hard to get to prison other than these classic first termers. You got to work pretty hard to get to prison, and most of those guys have had priors either at a youth facility like, in this state, up at Elko or Caliente for the girls or county jail time. My goodness, you get people in with page after page of rap sheets and some of them more serious than others. Some of them are just life on the installment plan, so to speak, of light-weight offenses, but people that just can't make it outside. But then some of them are just downright serious. The key to the whole situation, of course, is being able to separate that and do something about it. Now, the parole board gets a lot of heat for releasing people like that guy that killed the policeman up in Reno not too long ago, but if you know the full history of whatever it is, why, generally speaking, they've tried to take the best option of a couple of different choices where a guy, if he's about to expire his sentence, for instance, if he expires his sentence he goes outside with absolutely no outside supervision. They just dump them on the street and say goodbye. If he goes out under supervision, why, he's gotta do certain things and check in at certain times if the parole officer isn't overloaded, which they all are in this state, he gets checked on every so often. If he goes out under intense supervision, then he's supposed to be checked on like pert near every day, that sort of thing. Well, maybe that happens and maybe it doesn't and they lose track. The tracking system in this state has been less than good, but they're getting better. As these things happen and people get killed, they gradually try to mend their ways and do a little bit better job.
LaVOY: Do you have trouble hiring guards for the prison?
LATTIN: You don't have any trouble hiring guards. You can hire lots of guards, but you have trouble hiring good guards. Generally speaking I don't refer to guards as a separate entity from staff because you've got such a large staff, the guards are a small part of it. Maybe numerically they might be about half of it, but when you figure your cooks and the maintenance people and the teachers and the counselors and all that, why, pretty soon you've got a lot of people. It's very difficult to hire good staff that you can rely on over a period of years. My experience running one of the institutions, I would say that we never ever averaged less than one a month that we had to fire for having been compromised and bringing in contraband or breaking rules or whatever the case may be, so it's difficult. I don't know whether I mentioned it or not, but one thing if you're talking about officers, one of the groups of people that I like to look at very closely for officers was retired military people that had retired early enough that they wanted to work another five or ten years, but were young enough so that they were in good physical health and one thing and another. I liked the military people because they were used to the chain of command and they were used to following procedures and that sort of thing. Not all of them work out, but by and large that's a pretty doggone good pool of people to rely on if you're looking for officers. Now a lot of those people likewise are perfectly qualified to be teachers or counselors or social workers, and I would say the same thing about them. Not every warden agreed with that. Some of the wardens preferred to just go out and snatch people that they just happened to like the looks of. It's an individual choice.
LaVOY: It must have been very difficult all those years working with the prison system. Something that amazes me--I don't know who is responsible for passing the laws, but the prisons have to be brought up to such, well, I won't say country club status, but, can you comment on that?
LATTIN: Well, what happens, and I saw it happen, because we changed from sheer outright custody where they whipped inmates if they didn't do what was right to now a system where they've got their individual tv's and radios and that sort of thing. That's a combination of things. In the late fifties, early sixties, why, the trend was to close the mental institutions and to equal opportunity for everybody and all kinds of social things started taking place in the sixties. I think with prisons--prisons are expensive enough to run that our state legislators tended not to want to finance anything that costs money other than sheer outright custody and only what they had to do then to keep convicts or potential convicts from terrorizing the various communities. The legislature hated to spend money on that and rightfully so, but the courts started jumping in. For instance, there at maximum security when I was associate warden before I was in charge of the whole thing, we got a court order what we called the Craig-Hayter Decree--it was a decree handed by a federal judge. We had to then go into maximum security and eliminate all of the Oriental toilets. That would eliminate isolation as we knew of it then in connection with the Oriental toilets. In the maximum security cell block where your very, very worst people were, we had to go in there and double the size of the cells. We had to add so many teachers, so many counselors, so many this, that, and the other thing to the staff, and that was all under a federal court orders. Well, then the ball is in the legislators' hands. They've got to come up with funding to either enlarge the cells or build a new institution or whatever the case may be. So there's a good deal of scrapping and bandying things back and forth, and, of course, politics get in it depending on which the way the governor leans. See, the director of prisons and the wardens are not covered by state personnel. In other words a director of prisons or a warden in the Nevada system can be fired like that. You don't have any protection from any State Personnel Act or anything like that, so, generally speaking, an awful lot of it winds up being a political football back and forth.
LaVOY: What did you think about putting all of the telephones out in the yard that the convicts can use?
LATTIN: (laughing) That kind of tickles me because I have been to court over that so many times. When we first started letting an inmate use a telephone, and again, we're looking at one of two things. Either a court order or the attorney general who is the prison's legal advisor saying, "Hey, you gotta do this," so when we started letting inmates use telephones, why, they could come in a room, and the counselor would dial the number and get whoever it was that was supposed to be called. Then the inmate could have a very brief highly supervised conversation. Well, it moved from that to where you couldn't supervise or listen at all if he happened to be talking to his attorney because then you're violating attorney-client confidentiality rules. Well, over a period of time, the thing has escalated to where it just almost impossible to keep inmates from pretty fair access to the phone. Now, down at Jean when I left, we had the phones right outside the captain's office where he could look out there and look into the phone booth and see anybody that was making a call. One tower operator could look down and see if there was anybody hanging around the phone booth pressuring whoever it was making the call. Then on top of all of that, we had monitors so that officer could monitor those phone conversations. Well, from a practical point of view, one man that's trying to watch a yard and a fence perimeter and all of the things that that one tower officer's got to do, has a hard time monitoring five different conversations on the telephones, so it just winds up to be a terrible mess. If the prison administrators had their way there would not be any access to the telephones. It's just too much of a headache.
LaVOY: I understand some of the biggest drug rings are run from the prison.
LATTIN: Oh, I'm sure they are. I can recall one black inmate over at maximum security that I got to know real well, and he was quite fond of me in spite of the fact that I used to have to arrest him occasionally. But, anyway, he was running the whole damn thing down in Las Vegas. Once a month or once every two weeks, who would show up but the minister with his satchel and sit there and go over all of the transactions and one thing and another that had been going on. Well, we all knew what was going on. We couldn't do a damn thing about it. Here you got a minister with his… couldn't do a thing about it.
LaVOY: That's unbelievable.
LaVOY: Have you been sued a lot by prisoners?
LATTIN: I've spent a good deal of my time in court. In fact, I think I went to court the last time about two years ago when I was sued. It's been about three years ago since I was sued by a prisoner. The last suit was about two and a half years ago by a female correctional officer I wasn't sued individually, but I was subpoenaed and had to testify because of a transfer that she'd been given, and it was no skin off of my nose either way. But about three years ago, four years ago, the last suit that hit me. This inmate had been catching the new inmates and saying, "Hey, I'm a legal eagle. I know the law. I can help you fight your case," and he would convince these guys, and the guy was a . . . he lived in the law library. He had access to all of the information and he could do certain things, no question about it. But what he was doing, he was catching these guys and saying, "Now I'll do this, but." He says, "I can't do it for free, and since we're not allowed to have any money change hands or anything like that, why, you have your mother take five hundred dollars to this address and as soon as they get the money, then I'll file your legal brief." No money changes hands inside the prison or a darn thing. Well, anyway, we knew the guy was doing that, and so we finally found on the outside a person that had been fleeced of four or five hundred dollars that was willing to testify. Her son or her boyfriend or whatever it is had been moved to a different prison, was even out. We located her, and she said, "Yeah, that happened to me. I delivered so much money to so and so to resolve this." Well, anyway, we wrote up the disciplinary and we tried the guy all in new fashion very fairly and found him guilty of violating institution rules. So we transferred him from the Jean prison to the Indian Springs prison just to change his locale. Well, anyway, he went to doing the same thing over there, and, so eventually, they caught up with him and sent him up to maximum security in Carson City.
LATTIN: So, he starts to file legal briefs about discrimination. We've harassed him because he was black, and we discriminated against him and on top of that we made him room with a guy that smoked, and he was allergic to smoke. We weren't giving him the right to diet because he had this kind of a religion, and we didn't have provisions in the diet line for his particular religion. He got all of this stuff. He got some judge to buy into this, and so they brought the case to trial. I got subpoenaed as a witness because I'd signed off. Actually I'd signed off from what the disciplinary committee had done. I'd signed off on his transfer to Indian Springs. That's what I'd done. So, I'm subpoenaed to testify. They moved the trial down to Las Vegas, and we had to come down to Las Vegas, and I spent two days at taxpayers' expense in Las Vegas. They heard all of the witnesses down there, then moved up to Carson City or Reno, and we had two more days of testimony there. I was one of the last witnesses to be called. And here we're talking about five years after I retired in 1985, and the last time I ran maximum security was in 1981. They had a bad hostage situation and got some people hurt and one thing and another and so they [End of tape 3 side 1] wound up relieving the warden that had been in charge and asked me to come up from Jean and run the institution until they could get somebody to take over which I did. And he was in maximum security then. But, anyway, all this testimony went on, and I finally I had a chance to say yes I did sign off on that disciplinary. Well then, lo and behold, this guy who's acting as his own attorney at that stage of the game, and he had another attorney, and the judge had given him a lot of leeway because judges give inmates a lot of leeway because they're afraid if they don't. Well, I forget even the year now, because it wasn't in 1981 when I was there that this guy'd been killed, but when I was at maximum security before that one of the inmates stabbed another inmate and killed him. Anyway, he brought up the fact that a certain lieutenant had done the stabbing and that he'd done it at my insistence. That I had put a contract out on the guy and wanted him killed and that I'd had this lieutenant, and this lieutenant was my right-hand man. He had that right. Had this man killed, and, oh, immediately the deputy from the attorney general's office hopped up and said, "I object. That has nothing to do with the trial and the legal procedure," and the judge said to him, "That's absolutely right, but it's an interesting story, and I want to hear it." So, this guy went on and belabored how I'd handled maximum security, and that the guy's life was not safe, etc., and on and on and on and on, like that, and here's this deputy AG just chomping at the bit and the judge just listening like nobody's business. Well, to make a long story short that judge not only threw out the case, but when he threw it out, he says, "Now, if you can prove that Mr. Lattin has done this, why certainly that would be ample reason to bring another lawsuit if you'd like to, but in the meanwhile, why this is all garbage and it's all dismissed, and I can't understand,"--he'd taken over from another judge--he says, "I can't understand how Judge So-and-So ever let this come to trial," and he just threw the whole thing out. And here's this inmate accusing me of having this guy killed just slicker than a whistle.
LaVOY: Oh, I think that it's just gotten completely out of hand, and I hope we'll have it turned around going back in the other direction, but I don't see it any time soon. I understand that they can't be made to work either.
LATTIN: No. You can put a lot of pressure on them, but you can't. A lot of them like to work because the time passes faster, and so what the prison administration does is, you don't have enough free help to run the institution. You've got a free cook, for instance, on duty at any given time, but all he does is supervise the inmate cooks. His job is strictly supervision. You call him a cook, but he supervises. Well, that free cook has to take an awful lot of heat if the food is not good, so what he wants in that kitchen are inmates that are, one, good cooks, and, two, willing to work, so what do we do? Instead of trying to make some guy that's a behavior problem go in there and cook and screw up a bunch of food for a lot of people, why, we put the good inmates that want to work and want to pass the time, put them to work in these kind of positions.
LaVOY: About how much are they paid, do you know?
LATTIN: Oh, they're paid--now, this could have changed since I left, but the top institution job paid for by the state would probably be thirty to forty-five dollars a month would be the very tops, and that would be like the laundry supervisor, the culinary supervisor, whatever the case may be, of the inmates. The inmate supervisor.
LaVOY: Do they have to save that money?
LATTIN: Well, theoretically, it goes into their account, and, theoretically, they have to save a certain amount of it. But the system is such that here several years ago, for instance, the legislature passed a law that for them to go on sick call, why, they got to pay so much for that doctor's visit. Then if they go on sick call, they take so much out of their account for the doctor's visit. These guys get awful cagey at keeping their accounts down to where they're poverty stricken all the time, so it's tough.
LaVOY: Do they have to support their families?
LATTIN: How could they?
LaVOY: I mean, I thought there was a law passed that said that if they earned money, the money had to go toward family support.
LATTIN: Those are for the people in the restitution center or the inmates that are working on private contracts or that sort of thing, but then, yes, they've got to pay restitution and got to pay whatever the court says, but there aren't many of those. Honor camp inmates, some of those they tag them for a little money. The guys that are working in the private industries that are run inside the prison, you can get a little money out of them. We used to be able to get a little money out of the guys that were giving blood. We had those plasma programs in there, and they could make pretty good money giving blood, so we used to get a little money out of them, but to all intents and purposes from a practical point of view, you get pretty near nothing from an inmate.
LaVOY: Well, you certainly had an interesting, interesting career. What prompted you to retire? Just tired of it all or age?
LATTIN: Well, I think that probably as much as anything I got tired of the court hassles and that sort of thing. I was spending too much time in court, and it just had reached the point where it didn't seem like it was a real challenge. Besides that, yeah, I wanted to spend a little time with the family. It was a combination.
LaVOY: So when did you retire?
LATTIN: I retired in July of 1985.
LaVOY: Well, now, you've had about eleven years of retirement, but part of it you've been back in court defending yourself.
LATTIN: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.
LaVOY: Did you stay in Carson for a while, or did you return right to Fallon?
LATTIN: No, I returned right to Fallon. During the period of time that I was with the prison system, I rattled back and forth like I've mentioned. If they had trouble, why, I went in there for a while. At the time I retired, I'm not sure whether I was running Jean or Indian Springs or both of them. Because I ran Jean for a while, then I ran Indian Springs for a while.
LaVOY: Did your wife move down to that area with you?
LATTIN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we were always together. She put up with a lot.
LaVOY: So then you retired and returned to Fallon. Where did you live?
LATTIN: Went out and lived at the place where my folks had lived before.
LaVOY: On Sheckler?
LATTIN: On Lattin Road. The place on Sheckler and McLean where Rick lives is the place that we bought after the War. The place down on Lattin Road is where the folks lived, and we moved in there.
LaVOY: What did you do for--I can't say entertainment--but, what did you do after your retirement? What were some of your favorite things that you did?
LATTIN: I just worked around the ranch.
LaVOY: Is it you or your son that has set up the large cantaloupe stands?
LATTIN: That's my son. I don't do anything except maybe run a few errands. Way back early on, I think within months of the time that I became a warden, I incorporated and turned everything over to the children so that I didn't own anything except a car. The lawsuits were hitting these wardens around the United States, and they were losing them, and you couldn't buy insurance. Theoretically anybody can buy a malpractice insurance. I went to an insurance agent down here in Fallon and explained my situation. Said, "Hey, I want to buy a little malpractice insurance. Cover me and the property and one thing and another in case I'm sued." He says, "Great. I'd like to write that for you." A couple of weeks went by, and he calls me up and he says, "Bill, I can't write that. Can't get anybody to underwrite you on this. Wardens are not considered very good risks, so they refuse to write it." So, I checked a couple more insurance agents. Then I belonged to the American Correctional Association. They were having that same kind of trouble throughout the United States, and so they got going on the same thing. Well, the upshot of it was you wound up through the American Correctional Association you could buy a little piddlin' dab of insurance that wouldn't cover you for anything. You were on your own, so at that stage of the game I incorporated and unloaded everything I owned.
LaVOY: Do all three children have it?
LATTIN: All three. It's a corporation.
LaVOY: I know Rick works very hard on the raising of things. What's the other . . .
LATTIN: Dennis is up in Elko. He's head of the, I think it's employment security up in Elko. He's in that office, and my daughter is in Salt Lake City. She and her husband have got a computer store over there. They're into computers. He's a colonel in the National Guard, and she teaches at the community college plus their business, so, they're busy. Rick handles it all. They have a meeting once a year, and Rick just reports to them at the end of the year, and it works out fine.
LaVOY: Sounds to me like Rick doing all of the work. (laughing)
LATTIN: He is, but on the other hand, they're paying him for it.
LaVOY: And then he teaches school, too, doesn't he, at the community college [Western Nevada Community College]?
LaVOY: Oh, you're a very ambitious family. Now, you and your wife have just recently moved from your ranch home into town.
LaVOY: Why did you make that move?
LATTIN: Well, my wife doesn't drive, and so we just felt it would be better to get in town where she could get around a little bit if she wanted to.
LaVOY: And what do you do to amuse yourself during the day?
LATTIN: Generally speaking, I go back out. I've got several projects going. I'm trying to restore a covered wagon. I've got some artifacts that I'm working on. The other thing that I do is help take care of the equipment. Got a pretty decent shop out there.
LaVOY: Well, you're just a busy man from morning till night.
LATTIN: Something to do, yeah. But I like it that way.
LaVOY: I think that's wonderful. I think that we have pretty well covered most everything about a very, very interesting life, and unless you can think of something that you would like to tell me, why . . .
LATTIN: No, I don't think of anything. Of course, I think the objects of these things, I suppose, is for people that want to know something about the valley.
LaVOY: About the life of someone that's from the valley. Their lives are very, very interesting, and yours has been very, very fascinating. I've enjoyed every minute of it.
LATTIN: Well, I've enjoyed talking to you. It doesn't look like a very outstanding life, but . . .
LaVOY: Oh, I think that it is. And I tell you now, on behalf of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project I want to thank you, and I will say that our interview is ended.