Remo Matteucci Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
an interview with
August 19, 1995
This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Pat Roden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of 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.
Remo Matteucci's reminiscences of his life and experiences of growing up on his parents farm clearly depict the toil and hard work of farming in Churchill County in the 1920's and 1930's. As he describes, typically there was no indoor plumbing in his parent's home, all the household water was pumped by hand and all of the actual farming activities were done using horses and primitive farm machinery. A major farming activity was a vegetable garden and a fruit orchard, the produce of which were sold to citizens or stores in Hazen, and Fallon and as far away as Carson City. In addition to his farming activities, Remo also speaks of his experience of being a bus driver during his last two years in high school.
Remo tells of his father coming from Italy to work on the Southern Pacific railroad as a track layer, saving his money and buying the ranch that was to become home. Later, Mr. Matteucci sent money to Italy so that his "bride to be" could come to America and, still later, was able to acquire additional ranch property. Obviously, with dedicated hard work by Remo and the other members of the Matteucci family, they managed to make a success of farming in Churchill County.
Interview with Remo Matteucci
AHERN: This is Eleanor Ahern of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program interviewing Remo Matteucci at his home at 12801 Carson Highway, Fallon, Nevada. The date is Saturday, August 19, 1995. The time is 11:15. Good morning.
MATTEUCCI: Good morning.
AHERN: Would you please give me your full name?
MATTEUCCI: My name is Remo Joseph Matteucci.
AHERN: Tell me a little about your parents. From what understand your mother was sent from Italy by your father.
MATTEUCCI: Yes, my father came over here in 1914, and he sent and got my mother in 1920--that's when he was married--and she came over from Italy, and they lived on the ranch here on the Carson River which was on the old Lincoln Highway that went in front of the ranch. The ranch was originally the Kaiser Ranch years ago, and there used to be a stage stop there that I remember. The old house had square horseshoe nails. That's what they used in those days, square nails.
AHERN: That's what the house was put together with square nails?
MATTEUCCI: More or less. It was those square nails, and it was only single wall, and they had outside bathrooms, and we had a well out in front that we pumped all our water by hand for years, and then I remember that Dad used to bake bread outside. We had an oven, and he'd bake about eight or nine loaves of bread, and when I was ten or eleven years old I had to carry the wood over to build a fire, so it was quite an experience.
AHERN: Could you tell me why your dad came to the United States?
MATTEUCCI: Well, his brother was workin' out of Lovelock over to Oreana, and he had him come over, and my father started workin' up there. Then he ended up in Wadsworth and worked on the railroad there building the railroad to go to Pyramid Lake up that way. Then my father and his brother bought a ranch down here which is next door to the ranch where we live now. Then he bought his brother out and then he bought the home place which is on the Carson Highway now.
AHERN: You mentioned that your brother had worked in Lovelock.
MATTEUCCI: It was my father. Out of Lovelock. Oreana. He worked for a mining company up there, but they never did pay him.
AHERN: So, in essence, he was working for free?
MATTEUCCI: For free.
AHERN: Did he get anything else in return other than pay?
MATTEUCCI: He got some papers that said they was going to give him money, but he never did get it. You know, being from Italy, didn't know how to talk English. They ripped him off.
AHERN: Do you recall the name of the mine?
MATTEUCCI: No, I don't. I don't. That was years ago.
AHERN: Did your father know your mother before he married her?
MATTEUCCI: I think so, but I think in those days they corresponded, and I think he paid my grandfather so much for my mother. (laughing) I don't know. They was married in Reno. Actually, it was April 11, 1920.
AHERN: And from Reno he brought her to Fallon?
MATTEUCCI: Yes. They came to Fallon, and they lived on that old ranch house down there.
AHERN: You said that it was a ranch that was owned previously by Kaisers?
MATTEUCCI: Kaisers, yeah, and then Donderos. I've got a list. It started out years ago with the Tennessee Railroad. I've got the book on how many people owned it and everything, so it's quite a history to the place. But it was a stage stop there at one time.
AHERN: You say it was a stage stop. Was it like a passenger stage?
MATTEUCCI: Yes, I guess so. That's what I understand. 'Course the Kaisers is the ones that knew all the history. They're all passed away.
AHERN: Was your dad a farmer by trade, or did he just fall into it?
MATTEUCCI: No. I guess he just fell into it. Over in Italy they did a lot of farming, but they've got small places over there. They don't have the acreage we have here.
AHERN: Did he go into partnership with his brother?
MATTEUCCI: He did part of the time.
AHERN: What was his brother's name?
MATTEUCCI: Amadeo. He moved to Susanville later. That's what they used to do. They'd get somebody to bring them over here with the idea of making money and going back, but they never did. None of them. But I know my mother and father really worked hard during the Depression and cutting wood and stuff, so it was a hard life for them. And, especially, my mother, didn't know a word of English, and I can tell you right now when I went to first grade I didn't know a word of English at all. It was kind of funny, but some way or another you communicate with the kids anyway.
AHERN: I imagine she eventually learned to speak English.
MATTEUCCI: Yes. They'd send home these cards of these numbers, and we both learned to speak English.
AHERN: Your father had spoken a bit of English, right?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yes.
AHERN: Did he help you and your mother?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. It's kind of hard when people come over. In fact I used to be ashamed of the Italian language 'cause people'd make fun of you. My mother'd be in the store and she'd be talking Italian to me, and I'd hide. (laughing) I went to school at Northam. I can give you some of the names of the teachers I had.
AHERN: First of all, exactly where is Northam located?
MATTEUCCI: It's down road from here. It's about a mile and a half, two miles. The school's gone now. They tore it down.
AHERN: It's a mile and a half on the Carson Highway?
MATTEUCCI: Actually it's on the old Pioneer Road and we used to have to walk to school. In the wintertime when it was snowing--we didn't have buses in those days, so it was kind of rough.
AHERN: Describe the school for me, please.
MATTEUCCI: Well, it was a stucco building. It had two rooms. It had living quarters for the teachers. In fact, they had a big belfry, and I think the Museum's got the bell now. Willie Capucci had it for awhile, so anyway it was quite a school. It had two big rooms and had a sliding door in between, and I remember when we was going to school they had wood stoves in there, and my folks got wood and sold it to them, Then they put in oil stoves later on.
AHERN: Who were some of your teachers?
MATTEUCCT: The first ones I remember was Mr. and Mrs. Conner. They was a man and woman teacher. She taught lower grades, and he taught from fourth to eighth. Then there was Miss Porteous which is now Marie York. Then Mrs. Stark was the eighth-grade teacher. She taught fourth through eighth. She was my teacher for a while. Then Mrs. Belaustegui. When I graduated she was the last teacher I had.
AHERN: Did these teachers, they weren't there all at once? It was just one . . .
MATTEUCCI: Yes. Different years. There was more in there. They'd change teachers. The teachers lived there at the school, most of them, till later years.
AHERN: So, at any given, there was just usually two teachers.
MATTEUCCI: There was, yeah. There was the teacher for the first through fourth and then fifth to eighth. I've got a picture. I'll have to share that picture of all the class. I should take it in there so they can make a copy of it.
AHERN: Oh, yes. That'd be nice. How did you enjoy school? Were they very strict?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yes. (laughing) Tell you what. Nowadays they're not allowed to spank the kids or anything, but I can remember Mrs. Stark. We did something wrong one day, and she grabbed us by the hair and then used a ruler on our hands. I mean you had to behave. Some of those kids was pretty good sized, too, but those teachers wasn't scared of them. I don't know. Nowadays I guess they can't even use a cross word to them.
AHERN: Were there a lot of kids in the school?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. There was quite a few. I can't remember exact. Probably about forty or fifty. I'll show you that picture after. We can count them. The man teacher, Mr. Conner, he used to use a strap on us.
AHERN: Usually was it just the boys who were being disciplined?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, no. The girls, too. The boys was the ones that was always in trouble. When I graduated there was only three of us. There was Joseph Perrier and Helen Copple and myself. Frank Gomes was in the eighth grade but he never did graduate. I don't know what happened. He moved away. I think he moved over to Harmon.
AHERN: So after you graduated from Northam, what's the next school that you went to?
MATTEUCCI: I went to high school in Fallon.
AHERN: This is the Churchill County High School?
MATTEUCCI: Yes, I went there.
AHERN: By then what were your means of transportation to that school?
MATTEUCCI: Well, then the school bus came by and picked us up. In fact I drove school bus for two years. 1937, I think, is when I was driving.
AHERN: How old were you then when you first started driving?
MATTEUCCI: Seventeen, I think. Sixteen or seventeen. See I graduated in 1942. See I lost a half a year. Kind of goofed me up.
AHERN: Going back to your parents' farm. I imagine, like every other farm here, was self sufficient. What did they raise on the farm?
MATTEUCCI: Well, Dad had a vegetable garden. He raised tomatoes and onions and the whole works, and at that time Hazen was a thriving community, and we'd pick the produce and everything, and he had a little Ford pickup and he'd go over to Hazen and Fernley and sell it out of the pickup. We all worked hard, and I remember getting down on our hands and knees and weeding the onions and stuff 'cause he had about three acres of garden produce, cantaloupes and the whole works. See, at that time, Hazen was a thriving community. I'd say there was about fifteen or twenty houses over there, and that's the time when they had the roundhouse there. The trains would come there from Mina and they'd congregate there, and then one'd go to Fallon.
AHERN: How many children were in your family?
MATTEUCCI: There's three of us. I have my sister, Phyllis, and then Alma. Alma Whitehead and Phyllis Baker now.
AHERN: Were you the oldest?
MATTEUCCI: Yes, I was the oldest. In fact, there's another thing. My mother had triplets in 1922 after I was born, and one of them, I think, lived about eight hours. See, in those days, the doctor would come to the house. They didn't have no way of keeping them alive. I think it was two boys and a girl. It'd been something if they'd a lived in those days.
AHERN: Were the produce picked in the morning or the night before?
MATTEUCCI: Sometimes we'd pick them in the afternoon before and then early in the morning and he'd load it up and away he'd go.
AHERN: Did any of the kids go with him?
MATTEUCCI: No, not usually. 'Cause at that time my sisters wasn't old enough. It was hard work and we didn't enjoy it but we had to do it in order to make a living.
AHERN: Did you raise any cows?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. We had a dairy, and I had to milk ten or twelve cows before I went to school in the morning, and we didn't have a barn in those days and we had to do it outside in the cold weather and everything. It was a rough life, but we survived, you know.
AHERN: Besides the cows, any other livestock?
MATTEUCCI: No, we had dairy and beef stock. Of course, we had horses. In those days, you had to mow the hay with a mowing machine and rake and everything. In fact, I was pitching hay when I was fifteen years old. In those days, I don't know if you know or not, they used to windrow it with a rake and then bunches, and the only way I could get the hay up, I'd have to stick the handle in the ground and lift it up.
AHERN: Did your family also sell the milk?
MATTEUCCI: We had cream, sold cream. At that time there was a creamery here in Fallon. They'd come twice a week and pick up the cream. We had a separator. In fact I got two of the separators out here yet.
AHERN: In the summer months how did you keep the cream from spoiling?
MATTEUCCI: They kept it in the root cellar. They made butter and stuff out of it, so even if it was curdled, it didn't bother anything. But it was down in the root cellar and it was pretty cool down there. In fact we had two big root cellars. Dad raised potatoes, too, and we had to harvest them in the fall. It was sure hard on the back leaning over picking up potatoes, and this root cellar had a hole in the top and we dumped the potatoes down through this hole. One year he had about an acre of onions and couldn't sell them. Just couldn't get rid of them and the cows got in there one day. He had them outside there and they got out and got in there. You couldn't stay in the corral. You couldn't believe it. But, I know I survived.
AHERN: Did your mother have to adjust to farm life? Was she used to it?
MATTEUCCI: Well, yeah, over in Italy, my mother had- my grandfather had- there was nine of them in the family. They'd send them out to cut wood and bundle it up and they'd work out in the olive orchards when they was ten, twelve years old. See, they started out early. In fact my mother only went to the third grade so that was kind of hard on her. My dad passed away when he was eighty-one years, but my mother was ninety-three years old and she was a rough one. She was a toughy.
AHERN: Did she learn how to put the fruits and vegetables up?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. I don't know how she learned, but she learned. She used to do a lot of canning. I guess it just comes. Probably people helped her 'cause there was a lot of Italian people here in Fallon at one time. In fact Mrs. Lawrence Mori was our neighbor down here. That's where Kytes' place is now.
AHERN: When your father came to be with his brother, I guess he was working in Italy and he had probably saved enough money to go into business with his brother?
MATTEUCCI: Yes. Well, after they bought the ranch, yes, he saved his money when he was working on the SP Railroad.
AHERN: What was your father doing, what type of job on the railroad?
MATTEUCCI: Well, he was laying track. And, incidentally, my father had eleven brothers in Italy.
AHERN: Oh, wow.
MATTEUCCI: 'Course I had a lot of cousins. In 1976, I went to Italy with my mother, and I met all my . . . On my father's side I think there was fifteen cousins that I met, and then on my mother's side there was a lot of cousins there. Mother had a brother and two sisters that were still alive, and now they all passed away. My mother outlived them all.
AHERN: But your father's brothers. Were there others that had come to the United States?
MATTEUCCI: No, just the two of them. And Dad never did have a desire to go back, but after fifty years my mother went back. It was a nice trip.
AHERN: Could you describe your house that you grew up in?
MATTEUCCI: It had a kitchen and a living room and a bedroom. In the bedroom there was a second story on it. In fact, in 1936 Dad decided to move part of it. They tore the old part down and then was building a house up there on the hill up above. The original house was down on lower ground, and the road was about twenty foot from the side of the house from the yard. I can remember years ago when Andy Drumm'd come through with his car he'd run over our chickens. Well he was comin’ down, he had a racecar, you know. But the living room and the kitchen was just a one wall deal, you know one board with batten on it, and Mama used to get upset because the roof leaked and everything, but then in 1936, 1937, they built a house up on top. We had to move that two-story house with horses and we had planks down with pipe rollers and then had a double block and everything. We pulled the house up. It took us a week to move it, and we moved it up on the foundation where it sits now. The other house is built out of railroad ties. The outside rooms. In fact the Sheritts are living in it now. [12950 Carson Highway] And that was built in 1937, 1938, so that was quite an experience.
AHERN: Who helped your dad build the new house?
MATTEUCCI: Well, there was an old miner. Old Sam Spring. He lived down there on the river which is down by Louie Mori's place down there. He had a one-room cabin and he used to have a mine east of here. I think it was Cherry Valley or something, and he'd go up there and spend months, but he was a blacksmith, he was a carpenter, and everything.
AHERN: So, there was just the two of them?
MATTEUCCI: Well, then he hired some other help. I don't remember who helped him, but they put those railroads up and they was heavy. But, this old Sam Spring he didn't have a square. Everything's out of ... you know, at later years I had to do some remodeling. We didn't have a bath. I had to put a bathroom and nothin' was square. In those days they wasn't very precise, but the outside of it was all stucco and so was the inside. That upstairs, we never did use it. It was just storage up there.
AHERN: Besides that you worked pretty hard on the farm.
AHERN: I imagine your sisters worked hard along with you.
MATTEUCCI: Oh, they did, yeah.
AHERN: When you weren't working, what did you do for enjoyment?
MATTEUCCI: Nothin'. Not really. I didn't get to go fishing until I was twenty-seven years old. Can you imagine that? That's why I do a lot of fishing now. Well, the folks didn't think you should go around playing. But we'd go on picnics sometimes down on the river when the family'd get together on the Fourth of July, and that's about all. 'Course I had a bicycle and a horse, and I didn't do any hunting 'cause I never even had a gun when I was a young kid.
AHERN: Did you go visiting to the other kids' homes?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah, we used to visit. In those days the roads wasn't too good, but they'd go visit. All the Italians would get together and visit.
AHERN: You said all the Italians would get together. Did they just congregate at someone's house?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah, and they'd throw a party or somethin' and have a ball. In those days there was the Mussis. There was a whole bunch of them. The Gettos. They'd all get together once in awhile and just sit around and eat and drink. The kids would go outside and play. There was always something to do. In those days you couldn't go to town to a theater or nothin'.
AHERN: Since most of your food was available on your land, did your mother- your mother was the one who would go to Fallon to shop?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yes. Dad would take her 'cause she couldn't drive.
AHERN: What were some of the things that she did buy that you didn't have?
MATTEUCCI: I don't remember really. I imagine a lot of stuff. Canned stuff. In fact there was an article in the paper about my mother and Mrs. Achurra. I don't know if you've seen that or not. A lady come out and taped her and my daughter, Nicca, was helping her, and my mother says, "I'm not through yet. I got more stuff to tell you." (laughing) It was an interesting life she had. In fact we got movies of her. My daughter got her. She liked to cook. Make raviolis and stuff. My daughter's got all that on a tape. It's really interesting, and Dad didn't get to be a citizen until during the War. See, when the War broke out, I had a camera. They took my camera away, and we had a radio. It had a shortwave in it, and they took it away, too.
AHERN: Who took it away?
MATTEUCCT: The Government. The County. The Sheriff come out and got it.
AHERN: What was their reason for doing that?
MATTEUCCI: 'Cause the United States was at war with Italy, and they figured we'd be. I think at the time I had a shotgun. I had to give it to my uncle 'cause you was not allowed to have any guns or nothin'.
AHERN: Which uncle was this?
MATTEUCCI: My mother's brother lived at Massie. But it's like that camera. It was just a little box camera, and I got it back, I think, about five years ago they finally gave it back to me after all that time. Finally, I think we got the radio back as we had somebody go in there and take the shortwave out it. It was an old Crosley radio. Wasn't no bigger than nothin'. See they was afraid that they'd get messages or somethin'. Same way with the Japanese. They took all their stuff away. It's terrible. But anyway my father studied for that citizenship and when he finally got through it that man never missed an election, I'll tell you that.
AHERN: How old was he when he finally attained citizenship?
MATTEUCCI: I don't remember. He died when he was eighty-one. Must have been around sixty, maybe, or a little younger yet. I don't know.
AHERN: What about your mother?
MATTEUCCI: She never did make citizen. My mother couldn't read or write. She never did even read Italian. Like I say she only went to third grade, and she lost it all. 'Cause my grandfather made all those girls work, and Dad, man, he was proud. He was able to vote. He never would miss. And he learned to read and write. He wasn't too good at writing English but he got along.
AHERN: Did he teach himself?
MATTEUCCI: I guess. Yeah, probably did. Now my mother couldn't read or write, but I'll tell you one thing. She knew those figures on those checks when she wrote a check out. She knew the value of money. It came hard.
AHERN: What do you remember about your mother's character? Tell me a little bit about her. Did she have a strong character?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. My wife Josephine's the one that could tell ya. She really thought… She was a strong-willed person, and she just enjoyed life and she lived by herself. [End of tape 1 side A]
AHERN: We were talking about your mother. Was she a very strict mother with you?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, pretty good, yeah. She didn't want you to do anything wrong. She never did the spanking. My dad did. I guess I can tell you this. I don't know how old I was, but in those days we had an old gas engine that we pumped the water with, and I was just telling my wife about it the other day. I filled the gas tank full of sand and where the water was and my dad went to start it and I could hear him out there raising the devil, and I hid under the bed, but he found me that night and he used a strap on me. I never did that again. But even going to school, we ate good. That's one thing. We always had a good lunch all the time, but we knew darn well that we shouldn't be doing bad things, so I guess they was strict.
AHERN: What about your father? Were you pretty close with him?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. In those days you worked and later years Dad had arthritis pretty bad and he put in an orchard. He had three acres of orchard, and that was his life, and he enjoyed that. The only way he'd get around was in that old Ford tractor, and he'd go out there, and he'd be trimming the trees. He enjoyed it. 'Course that orchard's gone now. They never irrigated it, so they lost it, but that was his life, and the last year that he was alive we picked, oh, I'd say about twenty ton of apple off that orchard. People'd come with little kids. They'd buy a box of apples, and he'd give them two boxes for the kids. The little ones, you know, that he couldn't sell. But he'd always give something away.
AHERN: Did your mom just cook Italian meals or what?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. She cooked. 'Course lots of times we'd have a fifteen hired in the summertime on a hay crew, and she'd cook for them all and wash the dishes. Didn't have no hot water heater in those days. It was all heat the water on the stove and everything. It was all wood stoves. Didn't have electric stove till years later when we moved up to the new house. She did all that by herself. I can remember that my mother was on the other end of the saw when they was cutting wood. You know, a hand saw. Yeah, she worked hard. They both worked hard. That's how they was able to pay for the place.
AHERN: You said that they sold wood to the school.
AHERN: Where was the wood coming from?
MATTEUCCI: On the river. See, down on the lower part of the ranch there's a lot of trees on the river. In fact, they had a deal with the Government. When the Government put the Dam in down there, the people that owned the property that they took the property from, was allowed to cut wood on there. It was their wood. That's in the contract, and he'd sell wood. Haul it to town. Had a one-ton Model T truck, and in those days you hand split, too, and he had a buzz saw made up out of an old Model T engine. That's what they cut the longer logs with.
AHERN: Did your mom ever sell any baked goods to people?
AHERN: It was just the vegetables?
MATTEUCCI: Was vegetables. And she used to get on trading post. She was famous. (laughing) Everybody'd know her even clear up into Winnemucca. She'd say, "This is a Mrs. Matteucci. I got the tomato plants and I got some"--see, Dad used to put in a hot bed, and then in the wintertime, "I got the apples, and I got the pears." She was famous. In fact, Ted Romero--that was probably before your time. He used to be the announcer down here, and he'd get a bang out of my mother. He'd tease her when she'd get on trading post.
AHERN: (laughing) So the people'd come to the place?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. That's right. And then the word of mouth. People'd come all the way from Reno to buy apples. It was quite a deal. Then, 'course, they'd go to the sale yard in later years when they had the sale yard here. He'd load up the pickup and have apples and squash and stuff. They'd let him sell them there. 'Course he'd go inside and watch the auction and leave my mother out there, and she'd get really upset 'cause she couldn't go to the auction. They had a good life really.
AHERN: (laughing) Did your dad buy any of the small stock from the auction?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. We used to raise calves. Day-old calves we'd buy them, and we'd have to hand-feed them and everything. Lot of that stuff I had to do before I went to school.
AHERN: After you had raised the calves you'd just turn around and sell them?
MATTEUCCI: We'd wait. If they was bull calves, we'd make steers out of them and raise them for beef, and then the heifers we'd raise them up and breed them and sell them to people. These dairies from California'd come and buy them, and that's how we made our money. In fact when I got married, I think we's milking fifteen or twenty cows, and at that time it supported two families 'cause, I was married and I had kids to support and we's making enough money to support the two families. See, I bought this piece of ground that I'm on now, I bought it for two dollars an acre right after the War 'cause my father said I should have a piece of ground so it was handy that I had it, and then I decided to get married and we built a house. Part of this house came from Portola from Walker Mine.
AHERN: Do you mean Portola, California?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah, I had it hauled in here, and what happened, I paid five hundred dollars for the house, and it cost me six hundred dollars to have it moved here. Of course I've added on quite a bit since then. It's been remodeled three times.
AHERN: Where was your parents' original home? Was it also on the . . .
MATTEUCCI: Yeah, it's about a quarter of a mile down the road. That's the home place. And this ground was available at that time for two dollars an acre. I should have bought the whole works. There was eighty acres in here.
AHERN: How many acres did you buy?
MATTEUCCI: I had nineteen acres. It was a good investment. In those days you didn't have any money. I just got out of the service. See, when I went in the service, my father had lost sight in one eye, and he was pretty well crippled, but they took me anyway, and I came home on leave and helped them hay, but my sisters was helping haying and everything. Everybody worked. You was asking about the earthquake. That was quite a deal, and I can remember stuff falling out of the cupboards here and everything, but it didn't damage this house.
AHERN: How old were you?
MATTEUCCI: Hell, I was married. That was in 1954, I think.
AHERN: Do you recall what you were doing when it happened?
MATTEUCCI: Sleeping. I remember earthquakes before. We was down on the old place down there.
AHERN: This was your parents' place?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah, and I was only about ten or twelve years old, and I was sitting on a horse and all at once the chickens started running and everything, and we seen the ground move. The chickens knew and the animals knew ahead of time that the earthquake was coming. That's the first experience I had with an earthquake, but it wasn't a very bad one then. It's kind of frightening.
AHERN: During the years that your parents had their truck farm, did you ever have any severe weather where it damaged the gardens?
MATTEUCCI: Not that I remember. I know one year we had corn planted, and we got snow in July. I don't remember what year that was. See, we, used to plant about an acre of sweet corn. Alternate so we'd have sweet corn all year long and cantaloupes. He raised good cantaloupes in those days, and that's how he made his money. In the wintertime, he'd butcher a beef and quarter it and then he'd go over to Hazen, and he had a little handsaw and he'd cut off whatever they wanted, and 'course you can't do it now, but he had it in the back of the [truck]. It was cold in the wintertime, and we'd butcher our own hogs. 'Course we'd butcher about five hogs and then we'd have to grind the meat up, and that was quite an ordeal.
AHERN: Was it to make sausages?
MATTEUCCI: Sausages and salami and Dad used to make the hams and cure them in salt which they call prosciutto now. It's an Italian ham. But, hell, I can remember grinding the sausages with this grinder. It was a lot of work in butchering the hogs and everything. It was an all day deal and then it was about two days and then lots of time some of the Italian friends'd come from Fallon, help Dad with stuffing the sausages and everything and I even got pictures of sausages in the kitchen. He'd have them hung up along the wall for them to dry. And then salami, I remember he had a wine barrel buried in the root cellar and that's where he stored the salami because it was dry down there and cool, see.
AHERN: Basically, salami is uncooked?
MATTEUCCI: Yes. It's cured with… They used to put, I think, saltpeter and salt in it. My folks didn't smoke none of their stuff. This sausage was all, and then we used to make beeroldo which is blood sausage.
AHERN: Was it actually made from blood?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah. Well, it's blood and headcheese and stuff like that. That's what they grind up. It's got a little blood in it. Well, you can still buy it in the store now.
AHERN: Was there ever a time when your dad couldn't sell all the produce?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. There'd be times.
AHERN: What did you do with the remainder?
MATTEUCCI: Feed it to the pigs. I mean, you had livestock that would eat it. But there was a time I can remember right after the War I came home, and we had about an acre of tomatoes and I used to go to Carson City in this old 1934 pickup and go up there and sell the tomatoes to the store, and I'd have to get up there early because there'd be other people trying to sell them, and I had a bunch of customers in apples and stuff. In fact, one day I had to go over to the prison and get rid of them, and I was scared to death.
AHERN: (laughing) Which prison was it?
MATTEUCCI: The State prison in Carson City. But I did pretty good up there. 'Course, there was no traffic in those days and there wasn't all this produce from California, so it was easy to get rid of. We'd pick it the day before and then next early in the morning I'd leave here about five o'clock in the morning and get up there when a store opened up.
AHERN: When your folks had their house, did they have any running water or was it just a well outside?
MATTEUCCI: At first that's all it was was a well outside. A bathroom was an old privy outside, and that was it. They had a sink in there but she had to pump the water by hand, and then later years they had a water tank for the cattle and it was up on an elevated deal, and that's what would pump the water. Either that or it was a gas engine on there and it'd fill the trough up about once or twice a day. Later years we got electricity, and Dad got his first pressure system in. I don't think we still had water in the house down there. We might have, I don’t remember now. Yeah, I think we did. We run a line from the corral down. I remember that. We finally had water in the house. We still had that well out there, but…
AHERN: In the produce business, who handled the money?
MATTEUCCI: Dad. He was the banker. Of course, Mom’d keep track of it, so. You know, they didn’t make much money, but it was some. But he’d go all the way to Fernley. Sometimes he wouldn’t even come back [cough] late in the night. And one time the old Model T didn’t have no lights on it. He had a lantern on the front of the radiator. So, you know, it was a hard life. Of course, lots of times, you know, I was- I can remember when I was just barely, couldn’t even get under a cow to milk. Dad’d be out there in the middle of the night milking cows. Been gone all day, and yet… I’ve got all the old mowing machines I’ll show them to you after we’re done here.
AHERN: Do you recall at what age your dad taught you how to milk a cow?
MATTEUCCI: No, I don’t. Well, it just comes natural. I think I was about eight years old when I started milking. Barely big enough to get a bucket between my legs. I used to put it on the ground and squirt it in there.
AHERN: Did your mom ever milk the cows?
MATTEUCCI: No. She tried, but she wasn’t stout enough. And once in a while we’d have hired help, you know in the summertime, and they’d milk cows too.
AHERN: Did your dad go out and advertise for help, or did people just stop by?
MATTEUCCI: No, well, I can remember in later years when I’d go to Hazen and they had a hobo camp over here. We’d pick up these guys and they’d come and work. Some of those guys, the worked for us for years. The same guys would come through on a train.
AHERN: Were they paid in money or just-
MATTEUCCI: No, money.
AHERN: I thought they were just… room and board.
MATTEUCCI: No, no. We paid them, I don’t think, maybe two dollars a day. I don’t remember now. Because I remember working for a dollar a day myself. But we’d feed them, we’d give them board and room, and lot of them had their bedroll and everything. You'd always find people to work, and either that or I'd go to Fallon. There was a hobo camp behind Kents' mill over there off of North Maine. I know there was one old guy. I think he worked for us for three years. Every summer'd he'd come.
AHERN: Did you ever find out why they chose that life? The hobos?
MATTEUCCI: I don't know. I never did know. A lot of them probably didn't have a family.
AHERN: But you really weren't afraid of approaching their camp?
MATTEUCCI: No, no. It was all nice people. They was just down on their luck. They didn't have no work. And a lot of people used them. Sometimes it's kind of hard to find anybody to work. Then we had some local people that come and work all summer. Dad'd keep them on.
AHERN: Did your dad ever talk about when he came here what he might have originally wanted to do instead of being a farmer?
MATTEUCCI: No, he never did say. A lot of the Italians went to work on a railroad and became foremen. I don't know why my father never. His brother was a foreman up there in Susanville. He worked for a lumber mill, and then my mother's brother worked for the railroad. He was a foreman.
AHERN: What was your mother's brother's name?
MATTEUCCI: Mario Bonuccelli. He was at Bango for years. He married Rosie Capucci, and they lived at Bango for years. Then he moved to Pyramid Lake. See, a lot of those Italians became foremen. In fact, I know from Lovelock to Reno there was at least six or seven foremen that was all Italians, so I don't know why Dad didn't pursue that. I think he just liked to farm. That's all. See, then he owned that ranch there across from Winans [Winans-Yoder Furniture, 5070 Reno Highway], with his brother for years. I can remember we used to have to take the mowing machines from here over there to mow the hay and put it up. That was quite a deal in those days to run the horses that far.
AHERN: How long did it take for you to get from here to there?
MATTEUCCI: Probably about four hours. (laughing) But, I can remember running the mowing machine when I couldn't hardly lift the sickle bar up.
AHERN: Isn't that ranch out by Winans?
MATTEUCCI: It's across the road where Morados' dairy is there.
AHERN: It was just fields?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah.
AHERN: Was there a house on it?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah, there was a house and everything on it.
AHERN: Did anyone live in that house?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. There was people living in it. And then, right on that corner of McLean and the Reno Highway there was a big hill there at one time. Had that all leveled off, and they owned that whole corner there.
AHERN: This is your dad and his brother?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah. They owned it about three years.
AHERN: So, basically, that's how your dad had gotten his start by selling . .
MATTEUCCI: Yeah. When he bought this place down here with his brother, my father did all the work, and my uncle got the benefits more or less, and that's one reason he sold it. Bought this other place over here. In fact, Mr. Kyte was telling me awhile back that he seen where my father had put in for water right on that place, when he was checking his water rights. I guess they survived.
AHERN: Did any of the events in Fallon ever affect your family like, for one thing, they had the sugar beet factory?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. Dad raised sugar beets one year, but it didn't work. I don't know what the deal was. I was still little, but I know he put in sugar beets one year, and they just didn't make out. I don't know what happened. But I can barely remember the sugar beet factory over there. That was years ago. (laughing)
AHERN: Do you recall when you were older, say about in grade school then, your parents at the dinner table, did they discuss happenings in town or anything?
MATTEUCCI: No, not that I remember, no. We talked nothing but Italian. In fact I'm losing it now since my mother passed away. I don't have nobody to talk to. It's kind of rough. In fact, like I say, when I was going to school I was ashamed of it. Now we think it's the thing to do is to talk Italian. But, kids used to make fun of you, because you was Italian. I can remember, Bango had a lot of Mexicans down there, and this one kid wanted to go to school. Mr. Ratti was here then, and he'd bring him up here, and I'd take him to school, and the kids made so much fun of him that he only went two or three days and went back. That's terrible what kids will do.
AHERN: When you went to school, your sisters followed you shortly, did you in turn try to teach them how to speak English?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, probably did. They probably picked it up from me talking English. In fact my sisters don't talk as good Italian as I do. I was able to communicate with my mother all the time. 'Course she'd mix a little English in there once in awhile. When I went to Italy they thought I was born over there. It's a good thing I had a passport. They weren't going to let me come back. (laughing) When my mother come over, she come over with her sister. Her sister went to Westwood, and Mama came here.
AHERN: What was your mother's sister's name?
MATTEUCCI: Cesira. My son named his daughter Cesira. Isn't that something? Named her after his aunt.
AHERN: And she went to Westwood, California?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah. In fact, when they came here, they came to Wadsworth. My father picked my mother up at Wadsworth, and my uncle worked in Westwood, so he came down on the train and met them at an old hotel there. It belonged to the Gori family, and that was the first place they hit when they came to Nevada. In fact, my uncle, Mario, went to pick them up in Salt Lake, and they came to Wadsworth, and they got on the train and they went to Westwood to get married. But, up there they had to wait three days in order, so they bought a license and they couldn't get married, so they got on the train, came all the way back to Wadsworth. My father had an old Dodge touring car with an open top, and he drove to Reno, and they got a license there, and they went to the Catholic church, and the priest wouldn't marry them. He says, "You gotta wait till tomorrow." My uncle says, "My wife she's a pregnant." (laughing) He was a kind of a funny guy anyway, so they got married in Reno. They stayed here over night, and they come home, and Dad and Mama come home and my uncle and them went to Westwood, and then they had this extra license. They didn't know what to do with it. I understand my uncle sold it to a Mexican up there. (laughing) So, I don't know. I think it was just a big joke.
AHERN: (laughing) So, did your uncle, your father's brother, marry your mother's sister?
MATTEUCCI: No, no. This is another uncle. This is Uncle Paul. This is Paul Gianini. This is another part of the family. No, my father's brother, my uncle, married a girl from Reno. I think they was already married then, when they lived up there in Lovelock. But, I think, well, the idea they came to the United States to make money to go back and buy a place back there, but none of them ever made it back.
AHERN: Did your father ever send any money back to his family in Italy?
MATTEUCCT: Once in awhile when he had some he'd send them some money to help them out, but money was short. But otherwise that’s about all I can think of right now.
AHERN: You said your mother would have to cook for the workers.
AHERN: Were these workers that would come in from Fallon, or were they just a . .
MATTEUCCI: Well, we had tramps. Whoever was helping. A lot of the neighbors. Sometimes the neighbors would get together and everybody would help each other farm. Then when you went to the neighbors they cooked. That's usually what happened. [End of tape 1]
AHERN: Living out here you really didn't get to go to Fallon that much, did you?
MATTEUCCI: Not really.
AHERN: Were you able to kind of keep up with the events happening in Fallon, however?
MATTEUCCI: When I started going to high school then I was able to drive. I'd get to go to town, and, of course, when I was in high school, I'd get to be in town all the time, and then later years I don't remember when I started going to football games. It wasn't very often, and I didn't take any sports because we lived so far out. Most of the time I was more interested in getting my education and, of course, I think it was the last two years I was in school I drove a school bus. In fact, in 1937 I had an appendicitis attack and I was off school for six months so I lost half a year. I think in 1938 I started driving school bus. In those days, they was giving us thirty dollars a month. You know, it was an honor to be able to drive school bus.
AHERN: Were there a lot of kids then riding the school bus?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. I think the furthest I went was down past Mori's down there, and that was it. Picked them up all the way down on the old Pioneer Way and then out through part of Soda Lake. In those days we had a conductor and Grace Solaegui Perrier, you know she passed away, she was my conductor.
AHERN: What did a conductor do?
MATTEUCCI: Supposed to keep track of the kids and make sure they behaved and, 'course, some of those boys was bigger than Grace and I both, and they used to threaten us all the time. In those days if they didn't behave, we made them walk. That's right. You stopped in the middle of the road and made them walk home.
AHERN: Did a lot of them walk home?
MATTEUCCI: Not too many. (laughing) That was the rules. The guy that's superintendent of the buses enforced it, too. They wouldn't take nothing off of them. Like I say, in those days they was strict with the kids.
AHERN: Do you recall how many school buses were running then?
MATTEUCCI: Not really. Probably had about fifteen or twenty. I can remember when they had those old school buses. They used to go by me and I was walking. They weren't allowed to pick us up. They was the old school buses with the leather curtains on them. They came from Hazen, and one day Bill Boman was driving the school bus from Hazen and the snow was about six or eight inches deep and I was walking. He felt sorry for me. He stopped and picked me up and let me ride down there. In the summertime we'd ride our horse down there. There's three or four kids had horses and they had corral for them over there and we'd put them in a corral and then ride the horse home. 'Course nobody had a bicycle in those days. But it wasn't a bad walk, I guess.
AHERN: If you walked to school, do you recall how long it would take you to walk?
MATTEUCCI: I don't remember. Probably played around, you know. (laughing) And there was a lot of kids walked further than I did. Now the kids that lived at Bango, the father would bring them and then pick them up at night 'cause that was quite walk. I think the furthest one was up at the old Ogden place. In fact, he was a little richer than anybody else. He had a little pickup that he could drive. Either that or they'd ride a horse.
AHERN: As time went by did your father belong to any type of association?
MATTEUCCI: He did join the Eagles once years ago, but he never did keep his dues up.
AHERN: He was never in any farmer's association?
MATTEUCCI: No. Well, he belonged to Farm Bureau, but he joined the Eagles 'cause he had two or three friends join the Eagles. They got him in. He never kept it up. He never did go to none of the meetings.
AHERN: You said that after he earned his citizenship at about age sixty that he started voting regularly.
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yes.
AHERN: What party did he belong to?
MATTEUCCI: He was a Republican. I don't why he picked that. I'm a Republican, too. I don't why. My wife says it's because my dad was a Republican. It was an honor for him to be to a citizen, and he tried, I don't know how many years, I can remember he'd get his first papers, but he'd never follow through. Just didn't have time, I guess. He was too busy working.
AHERN: Do you recall even after the children had grown up, did they ever go to town to have dinner or just entertainment?
MATTEUCCI: No, not that I remember. I don't think we ever went out to dinner. We ate at home. Either that or we'd go to some neighbor's house for dinner, but I can't remember going to dinner. I think in those days you didn't do that. I don't know. Well, when I was in high school I used to go to a show. I'd get to go to a show 'cause I was allowed to take the car then. 'Cause when I was driving school bus I had to have a license. Otherwise I really didn't do any fun things. Maybe I led a dull life.
AHERN: You said your mother never really learned to speak English well?
MATTEUCCI: No. She'd get along. She had an accent, but she was pretty good by the end there, but, like I say, she couldn't read or write, but she could see figures. She really knew how to invest her money, too.
AHERN: (laughing) What did she invest her money in?
MATTEUCCI: In CD's. But she knew the bank that paid the most interest, and she was real smart. She didn't put it all in one bank either. She says, "One of them go broke . . ." In fact, I had twenty-five dollars in the bank in Fallon when it went belly up. They had the Churchill Bank there years ago.
AHERN: Do you recall what year it was?
MATTEUCCI: No, I don't know. It was Wingfield is the one that owned the bank. That's when all the banks, I think it was in 1930. I can't remember when they went up. I had twenty-five dollars in there in a savings account. I think I might have got five dollars back. I don't even remember now. That was a long time ago. I don't know how much money the folks had in there, but that was all the money they had. It was really rough. So, like my mother used to say, "I don't a put it all in a one a bank."
AHERN: (laughing) Smart woman.
MATTEUCCI: In fact, when we built that other house, she had a wood stove in there, and I don't know where she went. She went someplace. She went to California, I think, and when we come back I talked to my father and we bought an electric and a woodstove combination and put a hot water heater in there. That was a water tank and it ran through the stove to heat the water. She come back she had a fit. She wanted to know where in hell her stove went, but she was happy. It had a wood burner on it. She enjoyed the electric stove later on. Of course, we piped water to the sink and everything. She had running water in the sink and the whole works. She didn't have to heat water on the stove anymore. I guess when you're used to that other stuff, good stuff don't count, right?
AHERN: That's true. Can you recall any other major events happening while you were growing up that affected Fallon?
MATTEUCCI: Not that I really know. I can't think of anything. Of course, I can remember this highway over here. Carl Dodge said that the last highway that was done with horses was over east of here. In 1930, I can remember they had horses putting this highway in. In fact, they stored the horses down there in our corral and they fed them down there, and a guy'd come there five o'clock in the morning and harness all the horses they had a couple of Cats that did all the heavy work, but most of the work was done with Fresnos and horses.
AHERN: What are Fresnos?
MATTEUCCI: Those are scrapers that they, but I'll have to talk Carl Dodge next time I see him. But I can remember it 'cause all of these guys was more or less WPA workers, I think. It was during the Depression. They'd haul them out here in a bus. Yup. I can remember those guys with the Fresnos building the roadbed up, and, of course, coming off the hill and for all the cuts they had a small Caterpillar, a real tiny one, and it did all the big work, but on the roadbed that's what they used. I can remember that. In fact, I'll have to show you the Fresno. You've never seen a Fresno?
AHERN: Hum-um. Never have.
MATTEUCCI: I've got one out there.
AHERN: When the work crew was out there building the road, did they come for lunch or ask for anything from your . . .
MATTEUCCI: Oh, no. I think they'd give them a lunch and everything from town. In fact those Fresnos are kind of dangerous. We had a four-horse Fresno, and I can remember one day I was on it. Hell, I only weighed probably a hundred pounds, and that thing hit a stump or something, and it threw me over the top of the horses. (laughing) It was dangerous.
AHERN: Is that what your father used to level his land?
MATTEUCCI: Oh, yeah. In those days they had a tailboard to level the ground. I think you got something there at the Museum. It's a kind of a scraper and it's got a tail on it.
AHERN: How many horses pulled it?
MATTEUCCI: Four. Well, the bigger ones they probably had six horses on the great big ones. In fact the neighbor borrowed it and never did bring it back. What I did when I was able to have a tractor I put a weight on the back of it and then I had a rope because I didn't have a hydraulic scraper in those days, and I'd pull on that rope when I wanted to dump it and then the weight of the iron would let it down and load it up. But I can remember riding behind those horses all day long.
AHERN: Were the horses all side by side?
MATTEUCCI: Yes, side by side. But, man, you'd be covered with dust. That's how you smoothed the ground out and made levees with it.
AHERN: When your father had planted the fields, was it done by seeder or by hand?
MATTEUCCT: We had a little hand seeder. In fact I got it out here, too. In fact, we'd plow the field with three horses. I got the plow out here, and it took forever. You wouldn't get very far in one day, but everything was plowed up, and then you harrowed it and then smoothed it off with a tailboard. We had a hand deal we made the rows with and then the little seeder. It's got things on there, you can set it for corn or radishes or whatever you want to seed.
AHERN: The setting would be the holes where the seeds drop through?
MATTEUCCI: Yeah. The thing turns. Had a little plow and then I had a wheel behind it covered the seed back up. In fact, I used it a few years ago. It's sitting out there. I'll have to show it to you after. It's interesting. But for corn it had a deal on there would trip and plant corn. You could set it every six inches, every four inches, it'd drop the seed in the ground. Nowadays they can seed ten acres in about an hour. 'Course when we seeded corn, though, you know the big field corn, then we had a regular two-horse seeder for that, but this was for garden stuff, like radishes and onions and stuff like that, lettuce. The same way with the onions and stuff what we'd do we'd have to go dig them and then we'd find these long jutes and that's what we tied the onions together with. 'Course we had to wash them and clean them and everything and bunch them. Same way with radishes. It was quite an experience. In those days you could sell that stuff because people didn't go to town.
AHERN: Well, Mr. Matteucci, thank you for taking the time to interview.