Helen Osgood Le Blanc Oral History

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Helen Osgood Le Blanc Oral History


Helen Osgood Le Blanc Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


September 10, 1994


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Sylvia Arden


Helen Osgood Le Blanc


405 Circle Drive, Reno, Nevada


Churchill County Oral History Project

an interview with


Reno, Nevada

conducted by

Sylvia Arden

September 10, 1994

This interview is part of the socioeconomic studies for Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Planning and Oversight Program.

© 1994

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.

SYLVIA ARDEN: This is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History Project, interviewing Helen Osgood Le Blanc, at the home of her brother, Mr. E.P. Osgood, Jr., 405 Circle Drive, Reno, Nevada, and the date is September 10, 1994. Helen, I'm just so delighted that you were able to come over while I was here to interview your brother. And so we're going to take advantage of you and have a brief interview with you. Would you first tell us your full name and where and when you were born?

HELEN OSGOOD LE BLANC: My name is Helen Osgood Le Blanc. I was born in Fallon on August 18, 1914.

SA:         Now, I want to go to the years that you can first remember, when you were living in Fallon or Stillwater, and tell me your earliest recollections of the house you lived in. How old would you have been?

HL:          Probably I was three or four. It was a house on Maine Street. There were four houses that my father had built, and we were living in the closest one to the high school, because we could see the high school down from us. The night I was born, I think their old homestead burned to the ground, which was always something interesting to me, that I came into the world (chuckles) in a blaze, I guess. (laughter)

SA:         I want you to tell me how many children were in the family, and where you were in that lineup.

HL:          There were five of us. I was the last of the five children.

SA:         So you were the sweetheart of the family, with all those kids to pamper you?

HL:          I think maybe I got a little spoiled. That finally was taken out of me. I think I threw my last tantrum, and I thought, "Well, this isn't getting me anywhere."

SA:         So you were living in that house on Maine Street that your brother told me about. How long did you, as a little girl, live in that house?

HL:          I lived there until I was eight. Then we moved to Stillwater.

SA: Let's stay in the house in Fallon. If you stayed there 'til you were eight, first let's talk about what was the house like? What did it look like inside the house: the rooms, the furniture, the setup. Tell me,

HL: Hm, probably very simple. A little dark, as I remember it. There was wooden wainscoting halfway up the walls. I think there was a porch on the front of the house that was my brothers' bedroom, which I liked to go to and sneak crackers out to. The kitchen, I don't have too great a memory of that. But I do remember the living room. There was probably a wood and coal stove that we dressed by in the mornings when it was cold. I remember lots of books around. The family did a lot of reading, so we always had books. We were always given books. There was probably only two bedrooms, and the front porch for the boys, because I think I had a cot in my mother's and father's room. And from then on, I don't remember.

SA:         When you said you were given books, who gave you the books?

HL:          Our parents. They always saw that we had a lot of reading material.

SA:         Sticking with that period, 'til you were eight, tell me a little about that household, as you were getting toward eight and would have a better memory, what would a typical day be like, let's say, when you were going to school from the time you woke up. Can you remember when you were eight what a day would be like? Did you have any chores at that early age?

HL:          Just a few, I think. Probably helped with the dishes, but I don't remember too many chores there. It was only later that we had chores. In Fallon, it seemed a pretty free time, as I remember it, as a child. Not too much to have to do.

SA:         What would a mealtime be like? Let's say dinner.

HL:          We always met at dinnertime, and it usually was a pleasant time. Mother tried to teach us some of the nicer things. We didn't have a great deal, but she tried to teach us the correct way to do things, let's say. She was good in trying to have the niceties, I think, that she had been used to when she was a young woman, because it was a completely different kind of life than she'd had earlier in her life.

SA:         What was her life like?

HL:          Her life, I would have said, was not an ideal home life, because she spent so much of her time in either the grandparents'--her mother died when she and her sister were quite small. So she lived with grandparents and she lived with aunts and uncles. So she felt very keenly, keeping a family together and how we were raised. She took it very seriously. She was a good mother, a very good mother.

SA:         You were eight when you moved to Stillwater?

HL:          Uh-huh, to Stillwater at eight.

SA:         And you were in elementary school?

HL:          Right, third grade.

SA:         Do you remember how you felt when you left that house to go to Stillwater?

HL:          I wasn't particularly happy with the ranch. It was kind of an old house, a bachelor had been taking care of it. I think I was aghast at the black cobwebs. No one had gone down and cleaned the house before we went--I don't know why. We must have gone and decided and went. So after we got there, then there was the process of cleaning the house and making it a little more livable. It wasn't very great, it was kind of a little comedown from the house in Fallon, because it was a little more stable house, I would say, than the ranch house.

SA:         When you moved to the ranch, did you start school right away, or was it over a summer? Do you remember?

HL:          I think it was probably in the fall, because I remember it being kind of cool. I would say I started my third grade there.

SA:         How did you feel starting in a new place?

HL:          Very nervous. I didn't take to change very well, I never did in my life. Here was a school with four grades in one room, and four grades in the other room. Just a two-room school, two teachers. They called it the big room and the little room.

SA:         Were any of your brothers or sisters in the same room?

HL:          Yes, my brother and my sister both went to school there. I think the two boys were probably in high school by then.

SA:         Were any of them in one of your rooms?

HL:          Yes! My brother Edwin, when I went to the fourth to the eighth grade, he would have been in that room.

SA:         Did that create any problems?

HL:          No problems, no.

SA:         Let's say after you're settled in and used to that new home and school, and a couple years down the road, what were your earliest chores or kinds of things that were your responsibilities in that big family on that ranch?

HL:          Well, other than the usual dishes that we fought over, I think when we had hay men, my mother taught my sister and I to make the cakes and pies. That was our chore, to do the baking. So we learned very early to bake.

SA:         Did you like that?

HL:          Yes. And for my brothers I was always the candymaker in the family.

SA:         Candymakerl Now, how old were you when you started doing the baking and the candymaking?

HL:          Oh, I was probably nine or ten with the candymaking, and at the same age, I think, I started doing the baking.

SA:         How much time would you be spending on that baking?

HL:          Hm, not a great lot, because when you're living on a ranch, you have all this nice cream and eggs, and I think one of my friends from high school said she couldn't believe that you could whip up a cake so fast, you know, with just putting a cup of cream and three or four eggs and you had a cake that was delicious. We ate well on the ranch. We ate very well.

SA:         You probably felt proud serving those to the hay men.

HL:          Oh yes. Of course we helped {with] other things besides the cakes for the hay men.

SA:         Did you learn to cook, working alongside your mom in the kitchen?

HL:          I learned to cook a little, but I really didn't learn to really cook until I married, and then I didn't know how to cook, because I didn't have cream and all these good things at my disposal. So my first cookies were a disaster. (laughter) You couldn't make them with milk, you had to use shortening. So I had to learn a new way of cooking when I left the ranch.

SA:         Now, did you ever do any chores out on the ranch?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         What would you do, what would be your chores?

HL:          My one chore was feeding the calves. That was always quite a challenge to get the new calf and teach him how to drink.

SA:         With a bottle?

HL:          No, you used a bucket of milk. My sister did the separating, and I did the calf feeding. So you'd go out and take a bucket of milk to each calf, and you'd have to use a finger, and push his head down into the milk, and he would immediately start drinking, because he would be sucking on your finger.

SA:         Oh, for goodness sakes!

HL:          So that was the way they learned how to drink. They were never left with the cows, because we were milking. So they had to be taught early to. . . .

SA:         And how much time did you spend doing that?

HL:          Oh, probably an hour or two at night, which in the summer I didn't mind. But when the sun went down, I was one of these people that would awake with the sun and go to bed with the sun.

SA:         So you did that at night?

HL:          Morning and night.

SA:         Oh my goodness. What did the ranch look like?

HL:          Well, there were the eighty acres. It changed. There were a lot of old buildings that were rather old and shabby-looking. The old house was very shabby-looking until, as we grew older, my father added two rooms to the front of it. The one would take care of the boys or any hay men or people that we had to put up that were helping on the ranch. And the other room was my room, because by that time my sister had married. Before that, she and I shared my parents'. . . .

SA:         How old were you when you got your own room?

HL:          Probably fourteen.

SA:         Did that feel good?

HL:          Oh, it was nice to have my own room! Yes, that was a real up. So then the other job that I did on the ranch was herd the cows. And this went with my spirit, because I liked to be outside.

SA:         Did you ride horses?

HL:          Sometimes I would ride the horse, but I really wasn't a horsewoman. I didn't care for the horses--they always sort of intimidated me. And we had this one that was just a little--he was a little more than I could handle most of the time. But I either did it on foot, or later we had an old Chevrolet without a top on it, and sometimes we'd take it down the ditch bank to the other ranch. We had forty acres that were down the canal from where we were. So sometimes I would take the old car down there.

SA:         How old were you when you first drove?

HL:          Oh, I was probably about twelve or thirteen, I think, when I learned to drive a car.

SA:         So young!

HL:          Uh-huh. So I'd spend the day down there keeping the cows out of the fields that they weren't supposed to be, except one time I got a little too interested in my book, and the next thing I looked up, and here were the cows in the irrigated alfalfa. So it took a little doing to get them back where they belonged. But I paid a little closer attention then.

SA:         Would you be doing this in the summer during school vacation?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         I'm sure by now you'd made friends that lived in that area?

HL:          Oh yes.

SA:         What were some of the things you did for fun?

HL:          Usually, it was to pack a little sandwich and maybe take off to different spots, have a little picnic. If we did have horses and could get them that we could ride, we sometimes went out to a peak that was, oh, about five miles from our house. And we'd go out there, or we'd drive a car out there and have a picnic out there.

SA:         Would you go swimming in the ditches or canals?

HL:          Oh, that was our summer pastime. We would probably plague our mother, the minute it was warm, to go swimming. So we spent most of the summer swimming in the canals. We led a very, very nice life, really.

SA:         Would gangs of kids meet to swim? or your family?

HL:          It was our family plus a few others that I think we taught to swim. But most of them, really, didn't do swimming until we kind of introduced it to them. And many a time you'd have to pull one out that was getting into water deeper than they could handle. I can remember doing that.

SA:         I was going to ask about it, because you hear sometimes of little ones drowning in ditches. Did anyone ever drown?

HL:          I was taught to swim before I was eight, because I learned when I was a girl in Fallon. So then, other than the years that sometimes the diseases would come along with the animals, and then we were restricted from the canals.

SA:         Did you go ice skating too on the water?

HL:          Yes, we did ice skating. There was the sinks or flats down below Stillwater where some of the wastewater would go, in the old days when there was enough water. It would freeze solid enough to even put automobiles on it.

SA:         Oh my gosh, really?

HL:          Perhaps my brother told you about that.

SA:         It would be that cold?

HL:          Yes. Of course there was one time, it was right after the earthquake, and we knew there'd be cracks, so we all went down, There were probably more skaters than swimmers, I would say, in Stillwater, so there was quite a group of us that went down, built a fire on a little island in the middle of it. So then we decided to find the crack. Well of course I was always an eager beaver, so you know I had to be on the front of it. And I was sliding along to find this crack. I found it--right up to my neck!

SA:         Oh my! (laughter)

HL:          But fortunately, we were all hanging hold of each other. We all held on and they pulled me out.

SA:         When you say "we," how many kids would there be?

HL:          There was probably a couple of my brothers and there were probably ten or twelve of us. I would say probably that many.

SA:         Did you go to dances?

HL:          Oh yes, there was usually a Saturday night dance at one of the halls, and the whole family went.

SA:         Oh, the whole family!

HL:          All the farmers went with their wives, their children, and their babies. And at that time, I think at eight to twelve, I loved babysitting the babies. So I would dance them around and help put them to bed in the cloak room.

SA:         Oh, how cute!

HL:          Yes, there was quite a social life.

SA:         Did your mom and dad dance?

HL:          Yes. Dad was never really home enough that. . . . I can't remember them dancing too much, now that I stop and think about it. But Mom would be there, we'd all take our different refreshments and joined in, and then they'd have a big coffee break.

SA:         What kind of dances? Did they do square dancing?

HL:          There was very little square dancing down there. Other places had it, but it was mostly probably just the one-step, two-step, fox trot-until my older brother and myself introduced the Charleston.

SA:         Oh, you did?!

HL:          Yes.

SA:         Where'd you learn it?

HL:          I really don't know.

SA:         There wasn't television.

HL:          There wasn't television.

SA:         A movie?

HL:          Did we go to the movies? It could have been a movie.

SA:         Did they have a movie?

HL:          They had a movie in Fallon--we would go to it once in a while. But my oldest brother, Henry, and myself, we both learned to dance the Charleston. So my brothers were very nice, they'd always come and dance with me once or twice. But Henry’d [say], "Come on, Sis, let's dance the Charleston." (laughter)

SA:         How cute! Now where did your family get your clothes and shoes and things?

HL:          I would say there were two different stores in Fallon: I think Hurshes had a store. Now there's where my memory leaves me. I can see a couple of stores.

SA:         So right in Fallon there were stores?

HL:          There were stores, yes. It seems like there was one other one at the end of Maine Street. But there we'd get our shoes, stockings, and I suppose the boys' jeans. Clothing was kind of a close thing. I think we sort of inherited everybody's clothes as they went down through the family.

SA:         What did girls wear to school?

HL:          Skirts and sweaters, probably, and cottons.

SA:         Not pants?

HL:          No, we were not allowed to wear pants, ever. I think I went to one high school prom and just at that time, why, these big flared--I'm not what sure what you called them, but they had...

SA:         Bell bottoms?

HL:          No, they were more flared than that. They were cotton flowered pants that were real flared at the bottom. But the principal, McCracken, met us at the door and said, "Ladies, you can't come in like that."

SA:         Really?!

HL:          No, we had to wear dresses--dresses or skirts. So we followed the dress code. Didn't even get away with it that one time! (chuckles)

SA:         Now, where did you go to high school?

HL:          At Churchill Public.

SA:         So you drove in for high school?

HL:          Yes. For a while we drove our own car and took in some close neighbors with us. And then my final two years, I think a bus took us in. But up until my junior year, why, we drove.

SA:         When you were in high school, were you beginning to find subjects that you really liked, and others that you didn't? What were your favorite studies in high school?

HL:          I think home arts probably was my strong liking, because I liked the sewing and the cooking. I liked arithmetic. I didn't take algebra or any of those, but I did like arithmetic, and fairly well in English. I liked it. (pause) I can't remember anything else that was really outstanding.

SA:         Did you have extracurricular activities in your high school, like music or clubs or orchestra?

HL:          There was music, but there was no music in me, so I didn't. . . . It came along in my children--they all belonged to it. But myself, why, I didn't fare very well in that. I think I belonged to a glee club for a short while. And I didn't go in for the sports. I wasn't one for basketball or any of those. So it was just four years of studying.

SA:         How many in your graduation class, do you remember?

HL:          I would say there was probably sixty.

SA:         Oh, big class!

HL:          It was a fairly good-sized class, uh-huh. That's a guess.

SA:         What year was that?

HL:          In 1932.

SA:         During that period when you moved to Stillwater--let's go back to Stillwater a little bit--what kind of changes did you see happening with the irrigation project progressing and were more neighbors coming in? were more fields being developed? were more animals coming in? was it changing? Do you have any recollection--when you were old enough to observe--more trees? more fields?

HL:          Oh yes, I would say things progressed there for quite a few years. Of course, we had gone down, and shortly after we were there, why, the Depression hit. So there was a real curtailing of everything, I would say. I think my early years were so involved in being careful-you had to be careful of everything that you had, everything you used--that I really was very conscious of it.

SA:         How old were you then?

HL:          I was eight at the start of it.

SA:         And so from the start of it, you had a strong recollection of it.

HL:          Right from the start, uh-huh, being very careful of taking care of your clothes and making do. I know I made over trunks and trunks of clothes--sewing probably was my strongest suit. And that was the one thing that I followed in my life, was the sewing, so that I ended up making my mother's clothes and my own, and doing quite a bit of the mending for the family.

SA:         Did you take sewing in school?

HL:          I took sewing in school. Most of it I learned at home. I think my mother taught me to sew, and from then on I kind of took over the sewing for the family and did a lot of mending, did a lot of darning, because she taught me all of those.

SA:         How interesting!

HL:          So those things don't leave you, they stay with you.

SA:         Now, is that when your father left to go work in New Mexico and was gone a great deal?

HL:          Yes. I think he came back about my third year in high school, so it was probably when I started high school that he left.

SA:         How did you feel with your father gone so much?

HL:          He kept so in touch with us, because there was a letter every day.

SA:         What?!

HL: He wrote a letter every day, and if Mother couldn't write him, she would ask me to write him, or I think the other children wrote him. And he sent the paper from there, so there was a paper came of the Alamosa something-or-other. I can't remember. I can just remember the big round roll of paper coming in, so that we were all readers, and probably I didn't read this paper at that time, but the letters we still have little copies of some of the letters that were written at that time.

SA:         So devoted!

HL:          We kept very close contact.

SA:         Did he come back at all during that period?

HL:          In that three years, he didn't get back, no. This was during the Depression and it was just imperative that he go to keep the ranch going and keep the family going.

SA:         Probably harder for him being away from all his children.

HL:          Oh, it must have been. It really must have been. I think it was pretty tough on my mom, because here she was with five children, to see that we all, to keep the ranch going. My two brothers were old enough. Well, I would say my oldest brother was responsible enough to take over the duties of it. But she still had to see that the family kept going. It wasn't easy for her.

SA:         No, I imagine. So that was three whole years.

HL:          It was three years, as I remember it, that he was gone. But it kept us solvent. I think the thing that bothered me the most when the Depression hit--and I don't think I'll ever forget it--was that they would come and pick up our cream that my sister had separated, and there would be that extra spending money. Mostly we'd have to charge our groceries at the I.H. Kent Store, to last until the season where you sold your crops and the money came in. But we would have our cream go in, and this would be that little extra spending money, was from this check that would come in from the cream. Well, it had been sizeable, and one time I can remember sitting and talking with my mother and her saying the check had come in and it was only $3.28, after having that nice check. So that impressed me very much as a young girl, that we were in serious trouble. And I think I worried about the family's finances. My mother would say--I'd need a pair of shoes--and she'd say, "Well, we'll have to get you a pair of shoes, but let's not bother Daddy about it." So they were each trying to protect the other from the hardship of that time.

SA:         So you had to grow up real fast, with all that responsibility.

HL:          I think so.

SA:         Not like kids today.

HL:          Oh, so different!

SA:         It's amazing. What did your family do about health care and medical problems? Do you remember? Did anybody get sick? Or when babies were born? Or when someone had an accident?

HL:          Well, I was the last, so that there weren't any babies being born. We were usually taken care of at home. I had quite a serious illness at ten or eleven, and the doctor would come to the ranch. In those days, doctors would come.

SA:         And there was a doctor in Fallon?

HL:          There was a doctor in Fallon that you could get.

SA:         What did you have?

HL:          Inflammatory rheumatism. So I was laid up, I think, for quite a few weeks. I don't think I could hardly even move my arms. Those things happen. I can't remember my brothers and sisters being particularly ill.

SA:         Any accidents? Farm accidents?

HL:          My oldest brother had one when he went into the bull pen, that he shouldn't have been in like he was--this was my oldest brother--and the bull cornered him, and I think broke both shoulders, because he was laid up with not too much mobility.

SA:         Where did he have to go to be treated?

HL:          I'm sure they must have taken him into Fallon to be taken care of. That part of it I sort of remember, but I just remember my mother had to take quite a bit of care of him, And when he'd get an itchy back, why, he'd get his sister to scratch it for him! (laughter) if the wall wasn't handy.

SA:         So then your dad came home. Was that when the war was starting and things were picking up? Or when did he finally come home from New Mexico?

HL:          Well, he came back, I would guess, in. . . . If that was my last two years in [high school], it must have been in 1930. Now, I'm not sure about those dates. But he came back. I remember it was quite an occasion. We were at the library, waiting to go home, probably waiting for the boys that were playing football to pick us all up, because we'd all go to the library.

SA:         Is this the town library, or school library?

HL:          No, this was the town library, because the school was closed by then. So we'd go there and wait for whoever was going to take us home--which was the boys that were driving the car at that time. But this time, up drove this old Ford, and here was my dad. So he picked us up, so it was quite an exciting moment.

SA:         How was that reunion?

HL:          Oh! It was quite an exciting moment, I can assure you! Very exciting, because we hadn't seen him for so long. Of course we always adored our dad, because he was a "weekend dad" you might say. When we were little kids in Fallon, why, we'd all go down to the corner under the big light and wait for Daddy to get back from Reno, because Daddy usually would have come with a little bag of candy or something for us.

SA:         Oh, you didn't see him all week!

HL:          I used to think, well, we always adored our Dad, but here was Mom, always there taking care of us. So sometimes I wondered if we were completely fair to her. (laughter)

SA:         Now, then he came home and he stayed?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         Did he work on the farm?

HL:          He worked on the farm.  I think he must have still been… You know, right now I can't answer that question.

SA:         That's okay. Let me ask you this: You graduated high school. What did you do when you graduated high school? Did you stay home and help take care of things at home? Or did you leave?

HL:          I started to, and then I decided to take a post-graduate course for a while. [End of side A] I knew that I wasn't quite prepared yet to get a job or do what I needed to do, but in the meantime, I decided to marry. So I married.

SA:         Did you go back for any classes? You meant back to high school?

HL:          For a while, uh-huh, for a post-graduate course.

SA:         And what were you taking?

HL:          Probably took typing and shorthand at that time to try to. . . My dad had always said, "You girls are going to have to learn typing, because in this new age, women are going to have to work," and we would need to know how to work. My dad had real far sight.

SA:         What vision.

HL:          He did have. He saw what was happening, and that we would probably have to work.

SA:         So now you said you married. You can't marry unless you have someone in mind. Back up a lithe bit.

HL:          Yes. Well, I had been dating this man since I was a freshman in high school.

SA:         Now, who's "this man"?

HL:          This man was Montgomery Robinson.

SA:         Where did you meet him?

HL:          He had come to Stillwater, probably my first meeting – Let's go back. I have a little paper that possibly I didn't meet him, but I must have seen him when I was probably six or so in Fallon, because I have a little slip that I got ahold of the other day where he was in an extravaganza of some kind that was put on in Fallon at the theater, and he was either a soldier boy or something in it, and he was three years older than myself, and I must have been one of the little somethings dancing something-or-other in it.

SA:         So the family had lived in Fallon and moved to Stillwater?

HL:          Right. They bought a ranch catty-corner from us, so of course we all met. I guess we were immediately attracted to each other because we began dating.

SA:         How old were you?

HL:          I was probably sixteen or seventeen, I think.

SA:         Okay, about the right age.

HL:          Now wait a minute, I would have had to have been fourteen, because we dated in high school. So if I was fourteen, he was seventeen. So we dated until he went back East with his parents. The ranch didn't pay out, and they had to go back East. So they went to Ohio.

SA:         Was this during the Depression when they had to leave?

HL:          This was the Depression time.

SA:         Did they sell the ranch?

HL:          They had to sell out, yes, and leave. So they went back to his father's home in Ohio and tried growing fruit trees, and I guess that turned out to be a disaster, 'cause the rains didn't come, or something happened to them. So within two or three years, they were back in Fallon.

SA:         Now, when he left, did he correspond with you?

HL:          We corresponded, right.

SA:         So there wasn't a break entirely.

HL:          No, we kept corresponding. When he came back, why that was, of course, an exciting time, and we continued to date on then.

SA:         So when you got out of high school, you decided to marry?

HL:          So we decided to marry.

SA:         How old were you?

HL:          I was nineteen, I guess, by the time we finally. . . . So I continued on with my course in high school that I was taking, for a while. I'm not sure, it kind of left me how long I went on with this course. I got a little out of it. Then things happened that I gave that up. We stayed on the ranch at that time.

SA:         You married?

HL:          We married.

SA:         And whose ranch did you stay on?

HL:          We stayed on my parents' ranch.

SA:         Where did you live?

HL:          We lived with them.

SA:         In the same house?

HL:          In the same house.

SA:         Okay, because you couldn't start your own household. Did you both work on the ranch?

HL:          We both worked on the ranch until that next summer. We were married in October, and the next summer--he was a musician and he got a call in Tahoe. . .

SA:         What instrument?

HL:          He played trumpet and drums and trombone and a little bit of this and that, you know. (laughs) Quite a good musician. So then we got a call to go to Tahoe and we excused ourselves from the ranch, which neither of us, I think, were really crazy about.

SA:         And you wanted to be alone.

HL:          Yeah. Spent the time in Tahoe.

SA:         Is that when he was working there with a music group in Tahoe?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         When you wanted to get married, did your families approve of such an early marriage?

HL:          I think his parents were just a little reluctant at that time, because financially it was just not really a good time for anybody. But we had been going together quite a while, and we decided to get married anyway. We went ahead, and with their approval, why, we had a nice wedding. Then after we came back from Tahoe, we kind of got out on our own.

SA:         Where did you live?

HL:          At this time we were workin' on the ranch, we had started a house trailer, I guess is what you'd call them in those days. And his father was quite a carpenter, so he and his father built this house trailer. I'm sure his father did most of it. So that we lived in that for probably a year or so.

SA:         Where was it stationed?

HL:          So we stationed it at his parents' house, in back of his parents' house, or at the side of it.

SA:         So that was also a little ranch?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         Were they back on a ranch?

HL:          No, no, they were back in Fallon then. When they came back from Ohio, then they lived in Fallon--they didn't go back on a ranch. So we lived there until our first child was born.

SA:         What year were you married?

HL:          In 1933.

SA:         So that was right still during the Depression.

HL:          Right. So we had very little income coming in.

SA:         And you had a child?

HL:          After two years we had a child.

SA:         Girl? Boy?

HL:          Well, our first child was a boy.

SA:         His name?

HL:          His name was Paul Montgomery.

SA:         Were you both working at different things? What were you doing?

HL:          At this time he was doing dance jobs, and then he started working in a garage. He was a mechanic and metal man and quite an expert paint man. But the only way at that time that a man could keep a job was to have a child. So even though things were tough, we decided to go ahead, after two years, we decided to go ahead and have our first child. And right after our first child was born, he got his first steady monthly income.

SA:         They wanted to hire someone with a family.

HL:          Somebody with a family. The child was born in January of 1936, so it was almost three years, I guess, before we had a child.

SA:         Now during that period of the Depression, was that the period that the CCC were there working?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         Did you observe any of the activities of the CCC, or see any of them around town, or feel the presence of this group?

HL:          Oh yes, very definitely.

SA:         Tell me what you can.

HL:          Now here's where my memory will probably not be too good--that's too long ago.

SA:         Just whatever you recall.

HL:          Too long ago to remember it, but it seemed like they were on so many projects and built so many things, that I specifically can't say which ones they did.

SA:         Did the fellas come into town?

HL:          Yes, some of 'em.

SA:         Were they part of the community?

HL:          I think they were. I think they were pretty well accepted.

SA:         Did they go to the dances, did they mingle, things like that?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         Do you have a visual picture? For instance, were they young fellows, were they a mixture of ethnic groups? Who were they? (pause) If you can remember.

HL:          I'm afraid I'm a little. . . I'm going to be a little vague on that, because I don't remember too much.

SA:         That's okay.

HL:          I just remember that they were there, that they were on these projects. I don't think I had any contact with them myself to where I did observe too much of this.

SA:         You were a mother by now.

HL:          I was a mother, and I probably was in my own little world at that time, striving to (laughs) keep it going.

SA:         Now as the war was starting and the Depression was ending, did you feel a betterment of the economy as far as your little family was concerned, as things started to bustle more?

HL:          Oh, oh, definitely. And I saw it with the whole little town.

SA:         Give me some specific ideas of how. What happened with your husband and your family and your mom and dad?

HL:          I think everybody began to move around a little more. You could travel and you went to more things, you did more things, you saw more things happening. It seemed like there had just been kind of. . . . Everything was static for such a long time, that then there began to be movement--people were going places, coming back.

SA:         For instance, in the economy, were jobs opening up because of the war?

HL:          Jobs were opening up, yes. It was a real boom. I think the part that I disliked the most about it was that people began to. . . They began to "play" a little bit more. It seemed like they played too much--there was too much drinking, too much. . . .

SA:         Gambling?

HL:          Uh-huh, the whole thing. People just felt a freedom to where they could go down and sit at the bars and. . .

SA:         Do you remember when the naval air base was beginning?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         Tell me what you can remember, because that added bustle to the town and new people. Tell me about that.

HL:          Oh, that really started things going. It just seemed like it was a whole new world opening up, there was so much going on.

SA:         How did the community feel about it? Were they glad because of the economy? Were they upset because strangers were coming? Do you have any recollection?

HL:          I would say that they mostly were. . . . I think they mostly welcomed the people. I think they accepted it. In fact, I think they were pretty happy that it was happening.

SA:         What was your husband doing during this period?

HL:          He was a mechanic, working in a garage.

SA:         Was business picking up because the town was?

HL:          Business was picking up, yes. Salaries were increasing, and you all of a sudden felt the… ease of having a steady income.

SA:         And how were things doing out on the ranch with the start of the war, and I understand beef prices were going up?

HL:          Oh, definitely.

SA:         How were they doing?

HL:          They were doing much better.

SA:         Who was taking care of the ranch?

HL:          My oldest brother.

SA:         And where was your father?

HL:          My father had left and had come to Reno to start his own engineering business.

SA:         So he was away again, except for weekends?

HL:          Oh, no, he and Mother both moved and turned the ranch over to my oldest brother.

SA:         Oh, okay, And how long did you stay in Fallon?

HL:          I stayed in Fallon probably for nineteen years.

SA:         Oh, so a long time.

HL:          Over twenty years, I would say.

SA:         So you were there, and you can tell me things your brother can't, because he left earlier.

HL:          Uh-huh.

SA:         So during the war years, through that period, were a lot of the young men going off to the war?

HL:          Yes.

SA:         And was there a shortage in town of workers? Or what was happening?

HL:          I don't know, it seemed like there were plenty of. . . .

SA:         They didn't draft your husband, did they?

HL:          No.

SA:         One on each farm could stay on the farm?

HL:          I believe that was the way it went. Of course we weren't on a farm then, we were in Fallon, and away from there.

SA:         But your brother was.

HL:          But my brother was. And I think during that war there was only one nephew that went into service. And I've often wondered about that myself, why we were. . . . We were just the years in between to be drafted or.. .

SA:         Well, because he had a child, wasn't that. . . .

HL:          That might have been some of it--I'm not sure on that. But it seemed like it was more the age bracket.

SA:         And through those war years, was the military base more of a presence? Could you hear the planes? Did they have the planes then? Were they practicing?

HL:          Oh yes.

SA:         A lot of military coming and going in the town?

HL:          Uh-huh. It was far enough out so that we didn't have too much noise or any of it from it. It was far enough out that we didn't feel that, other than there was an influx of people so that the town. . . .

SA:         Was growing? You didn't know everyone the way you used to?

HL:          I guess that was the beginning of, you suddenly realized that your town wasn't small where you knew everybody, and here were new people coming in.

SA:         And during those years, because of the rationing, did you find it hard, you couldn't use your car during the years because of gasoline and tires?

HL:          Right.

SA:         So did it start another period where people stayed home?

HL:          Up to a point. It didn't seem like, in a small town, unless you were commuting, or had to have your car, you never felt it too much. I know we had finally become affluent enough to buy a new automobile, but at that time they were going to conscript them, so the doctor that lived catty-corner from us wanted to buy our car. This had been my husband's dream, was to have a new automobile. So he had bought this new Buick. And so when they said they were going to conscript. . . . I don't know whether I'm using the right word. They might have to, for the war effort, take away your car. Conscript--I think that's the word.

SA:         I hadn't heard of their being able to do that.

HL:          Conscript. I'm not sure, but as I remember, that was the word they used.

SA:         Would they buy it from you?

HL:          We didn't have that happen to us, so I don't know how they were going to do it, because we elected to sell our car to this doctor that lived catty-corner from us.

SA:         In other words, you weren't allowed to have a car?

HL:          We could have had it, but we elected to go ahead and sell it to him, in preference to them coming and taking it.

SA:         Oh, my goodness!

HL:          So my husband being in the automobile business, he went ahead and thought, "Well, perhaps we'd be better off selling it to him, because he wanted it." And the cars were at a premium.

SA:         And doctors had to go out and make house calls.

HL:          And doctors had to, and I think he felt that the car probably would do more good by going to a doctor, and he could pick up any little car just to take care of himself.

SA:         Yes, so it was the war effort. What else? Can you think of anything else happening in that whole period between the Depression and the war years that sticks in your mind that might be of interest or importance?

HL:          I don't have the memory of those things. I wish I did, but I don't. I think that I was living in sort of a little world of my own at that time.

SA:         Did you have a second child?

HL:          Yes, I had a second child.

SA:         How many years between your children?

HL:          There were four between the first two.

SA:         How many children did you have?

HL:          I ended up with four children. But at the time that I had my third child, we lost the first child. I think all those back years of mine are kind of in a. . . It was a difficult time in my life, so it's probably a lot of it I didn't want to remember.

SA:         Of course. So you had four children. When did you have the fourth child?

HL:          The fourth child was. . . . Oh, that's a good question! (laughs)

SA:         How old is she?

HL:          She was born in 1944.

SA:         That was just about the end of the war.

HL:          Yes, the war was ending.

SA:         So you were a real busy mama.

HL:          I was busy, I was also doing sewing on the side. I think I just didn't pay attention to what was going on in the world too much--other than I observed what a change had been taking place.

SA:         And your parents were now in Reno.

HL:          Uh-huh.

SA:         So anything else happening in the town? Anything that you observed from that period after the war until you left Fallon? Anything that you can remember that might add to the picture of Fallon? You weren't on the ranch any more, so you may not have observed the benefits of the Newlands Project--or did you?

HL:          Oh, I think I was always aware of that, Dad being on the Project. I think I was always interested in what he was doing, and his feeling about it. I think I was always interested in that.

SA:         Did he talk about the water problems at all?

HL:          Oh, quite a bit, quite a bit. This was in the back of his mind. I think when I ended up living with them, that he had gotten a little discouraged. He had tried to set up a. . . I don't know what you would call it, he and one of the other gentlemen in Fallon, to try to save the water for the Project. And he really put forth a great bit of effort. So at the end there, why, he felt that he had wasted a lot of years of his life. I always felt very bad about it, because he had put so much into it. And then to see it kind of dwindling away, he felt that he'd wasted a lot of his life, giving it to them. But I hope in time that that will change.

SA:         Did you, in that period, ride around at all? Did you visit your brother's ranch? Did you see any changes out in the. . . .

HL:          Oh, on my brother's ranch, instead of farming like we had farmed, he had then gone into farming harvesting. He'd gone into it, he'd given up the dairy cows. See, we were kind of dairy cows, we were turkeys--we tried everything.

SA:         Pigs?

HL:          Well, we didn't have too many pigs--just for our own use. I don't think we had them to sell them. But then as the economy progressed and my brother was on the ranch, then he started putting wheat in around the state, and harvesting wheat. So he did much better, I think. So the economy for them was much better, and I'm sure a lot of the other farmers did the same thing. There was just probably a few dairies that stayed that were big, and it wasn't just every little farm having a small herd of cows.

SA:         Consolidated so that there'd be a dairy taking over some of the smaller farms and consolidating?

HL:          I'm sure that was what happened, because then there were the milk companies. And before that, why, each little ranch had their cows and their milk and they'd sell this cream to the creamery that would come and pick it up. So I think that all ended.

SA:         And so he went into the wheat. Was anything else happening that was changing in the area? The military was there and the war was over. Was the town kind of stabilizing, or was it still growing? Do you have any recollection before you left? This is in the fifties.

HL:          Well, I left in 1956. I think the economy had been good at the time that I left.

SA:         What happened that made you, your husband and children, decide to move to Reno, to leave Fallon?

HL:          Well, this was another little problem. I had finally had to become a single mother to raise my own children. Then I thought it was best for me to leave Fallon and come to Reno.

SA:         You had three children by then.

HL:          And then I had the three children, because I had lost the first one.

ARDEN: (expressing concern) Oh, So in other words, did you divorce?

HL:          Yes. My husband was just not well, and we went on to separate. Then I came on into Reno. My mother and father needed me then, because my mother wasn't well. So I lived with them.

SA:         Okay, so that's why you left.

HL:          So I helped my dad for about seven years, I guess.

SA:         And your children were there, so they had a home and a family.

HL:          My oldest child didn't come with us. By then, why, she was. . . .

SA:         How old was she?

HL:          She was probably seventeen or eighteen.

SA:         Okay, so she was independent. So your other two then had an extended family.

HL:          Yes.

SA:         So then you left Fallon. And by the time you left and you looked back and you see any changes that had occurred between the war and the time you left? Or were you too busy with. . . .

HL:          My new life? (laughs) I didn't go back too many times, but it seems like Fallon started to grow a little bit more, as every place is growing, I think Fallon had its share of growth. And I think my greatest shock was when I went back a week or so ago, because I hadn't been back for quite a few years, and Fallon has really grown in the last ten years, I would say. I was amazed, 'cause I drove around and saw some of the new areas and I said, "Well. . . ."

SA:         The superhighways.

HL:          Just kind of had a little nostalgia trip back to look everything over, and thought, "Oh, my goodness, this has been a lot of years!"

SA:         Now is there anything about your mom and dad that you want to share before we end the interview? Because they were really, such extraordinary people for their time.

HL:          They were. They were, they were the unusual that stayed married, a single marriage and stayed married. And even with my mother's declining memory, the whole bit, that was, I think, why I stayed on and didn't go on. After I moved to Reno, I stayed with them, because she really needed help. It was wonderful for my two children to see a marriage as strong and as good as my mother's and father's, so that it was the best thing in the world that could have happened for my two children, because they gained insight to what a marriage should be, and what a home should be--which was wonderful for them. And it was just good to be with my dad and my mother in those last few years.

SA:         Oh, and that was wonderful for them to have you and your children.

HL:          I would say, summed up, it was good for them, it was good for me, and kind of gave me a little start on a new life.

SA:         Oh, good.

HL:          My father, I guess, was kind of an inspiration to all of us 'cause here, right on up 'til he was eighty-six, he was still out working and surveying and enjoying it and loving it and doing such a wonderful job of it.

SA:         An inspiration to his grandchildren.

HL:          Yes. We try to tell the new generation about it, that there were people that were like that, what he was.

SA:         That's wonderful. Now, before we end it, is there anything else that you can think of that you want to share that we haven't covered?

HL:          Oh, I'd say we've covered most of it. Most of anything else would be personalities that are unimportant as to the whole picture. But I would just say that I'm glad this is being done. I'm very glad that it's being done and that it's being reviewed, this whole Newlands Project, because it was my father's life. In seeing it being done, I think I'm happy over seeing that done.

SA:         And your brother is sharing a lot of rich material to add to it.

HL:          I'm sure he is.

SA:         So I'm grateful that we reached your brother, and that we reached you!

HL:          Well, mine is just a little small part of it, but thank you.

SA:         On behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project, we want to thank you for your contribution. This is the end of the interview.

HL:          Thank you.

Addendum to Helen Osgood LeBlanc Interview

The following information, written by Helen LeBlanc, was sent to be added to the interview:

After my parents died, I married August LeBlanc, a native Nevadan and longtime friend of my brother "Kewp" and his wife. With this marriage I acquired two stepchildren and subsequently four more grandchildren.

"Augie," as everyone called him, was a food salesman for forty years covering the Northern area of Nevada. His companies were first Trupak, then Sun Blest Foods, who a few years later were taken over by Monarch Foods. Next Consolidated Foods took over Monarch Foods. A few years later Sara Lee bought out Consolidated Foods, and this was his last company.

August died December 10, 1974, at home, after a short bout with cancer.

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Churchill County Museum Association, “Helen Osgood Le Blanc Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed May 8, 2021, https://ccmuseum.omeka.net/items/show/614.