Helen Blair Millward Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
September 21, 1990
This interview was conducted by Marian LaVoy; transcribed by Nancy Durden and Linda Stephens; edited by Marian LaVoy; first draft typed by Pat Boden; final typed by Glenda Price; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum.
Helen Blair Millward is a vivacious woman, small in stature, but a giant in mind and comunity action. Her pleasant home is filled with mementos showing a close relationship with her mother, Minnie P. Blair and her husband, Bill. This interview was recorded on the sunny side porch of her home and she had photograph albums available to show all periods of her eventful life.
Helen was chosen as an interviewee because of her father's involvement with the Wingfield banks in the first three decades of the twentieth century and her mother's civil activities and business acumen in starting and managing the "Atlasta Turkey Operation" which made sales not only to local turkey raisers, but to people coast to coast as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. The local "Spudnut" franchise started with Helen and her mother and went on to years of success under the direction of Helen and Bill. It was her involvement with the "Spudnut" that prompted Helen to enter and win a sandwich making contest that gave her the opportunity to be wined and dined in Europe at some of the finest restaurants. When Helen and Bill retired she moved in to such fields as astronomy, studying and tracking Monarch butterflies, identifying native plants, studying about and identifying birds as well as other civic interests. She is a person of many talents and a great lady.
HELEN MILLWARD INTERVIEW
LaVoy: -Voy, of the Churchill County Oral History Project, Interviewing Helen Blair Millward at her home at 475 S. Bailey Street, Fallon, Nevada. The date is September the 21st, 1990. This is tape number one. Good morning, Helen.
Millward: Good morning, Marian.
LaVoy: It's very nice being here with you on your lovely sunny porch. Now, let's get started on our interview. Can you tell us where you were born?
Millward: I was born in Goldfield, Nevada.
LaVoy: And when?
Millward: December 15th, 1910.
LaVoy: Who were your parents? What were their names?
Millward: My father was Ernest W. Blair, Ernest William Blair, and my mother was Minnie Pauline Nichols.
LaVoy: Why were they in Goldfield?
Millward: They were both natives of California. My mother was from Folsom and my father was from Placerville. My father, as a young man went to work for the Wells Fargo Express, first as an express messenger on the train and then as a relief agent where he was transferred from town or city for maybe two weeks at a time in California, Nevada and Utah- This is Territory. But, he came back to visit in Placerville. My mother moved to Placerville with her younger brother in 1902. Her mother had passed away and she went to live with a married sister, Maude Inch. Maude Inch's in-laws owned a stationery store and mother had two jobs, she worked in the post office in the day time and in the stationery store in the evening. . . there she served as either a sales clerk or the telephone operator on the switch board. Young people gathered at the store in the evening, it was sort of a recreation spot to see who was downtown and get acquainted and there Minnie met Ernest. They were married December 26, 1908.
LaVoy: In Folsom?
Millward: No, in Placerville. This was all in Placerville where she moved in 1902. They had a honeymoon in San Francisco for two weeks which was really quite a wonderful honeymoon from my mother's description of it. Then they moved to Goldfield, my father had built this little house, and that's where they settled down.
LaVoy: What was your father doing in Goldfield?
Millward: Well, he left the express company when he was sent there to relieve the agent and he discovered the excitement of a booming mining town. And he became a banker. . . right then and there with the John S. Cook Company.
LaVoy: Now was this John S. Cook Company a branch of the Wingfield Bank?
Millward: No, Wingfield bought it later on.
LaVoy: I see. Well what are some of your memories of Goldfield?
Millward: I have excellent memories of Goldfield because my father and mother were camera fiends and they took the first pictures of me at six months. Of course I don't remember that. . . my albums are like a diary up until the time I was fourteen years old. All the pictures were put in and all were dated. My very first memory of Goldfield was the Goldfield Flood on the 13th of September... I think the 13th is the right date... 1913. My mother was having a combination birthday party for members of the bank employees, and that was sort of like a little club -- and she was preparing the dinner. About noon I came in from the dining room where the front room was and said, "The water's coming under the door." She dashed out and started shoveling, but she called my father first and he came home in a taxi and they were the last car to get onto that side of our town. The taxi driver didn't get home all night. My father grabbed his camera and ran down and took pictures and he didn't have too much film but he used all he had and then they developed their own pictures. He sold enough pictures from this disaster to buy a Graphflex camera.
LaVoy: Oh, that is very interesting. Now with this flood... you as a little girl. What were your memories of it?
Millward: I remember getting my mother because the water was coming in the door and I remember that my father came home. Then of course I remember the pictures lying on the dining room table every night to dry.
LaVoy: Did you see pictures of houses floating down the canyon?
LaVoy: Did you actually yourself see the houses floating?
Millward: Yes. We lived on the top of the hill and there was a gully behind the house, rather deep; the water went down that channel and there was lots of buildings that went down.
LaVoy: You were fortunate that you lived on the top of the hill.
Millward: We certainly were, I don't remember this, but my mother told me about it, that the water was coming down off the eaves or a valley in the roof and that was what was causing it to pour in the front door, but this hail came along and it formed a blockade and it diverted the water the other way.
LaVoy: That was certainly fortunate for you family. How long did you live in Goldfield?
Millward: We lived there until the Spring of 1918.
LaVoy: Then where did you move?
Millward: We moved to Tonopah.
LaVoy: Why did you leave Goldfield to go to Tonopah?
Millward: Because my father had received a promotion. In the meantime, Mr. Wingfield had bought the bank in Goldfield and he was working for Mr. Wingfield. He was moved to Tonopah and became cashier at the bank, the Tonopah Banking Corporation.
LaVoy: I see. Now were you the first child in your family?
LaVoy: Were there other children?
Millward: My brother Bud was born in Goldfield on December 16, 1912.
LaVoy: What does the "Bud" stand for? What was his real name?
Millward: His real name was Seward James Blair. The Seward was from the William H. Seward who was in Lincoln's cabinet and also was instrumental in the purchase of Alaska. William H. Seward married Francis Miller and my great-great-grandmother was a Miller and was Francis' Aunt. On my father's maternal side was a Schooly line. My... great-grandfather was a cousin to this Francis Miller. He came to California to seek gold but right shortly after he arrived he died and he's buried in the cemetery at Coloma. So that left the family at home with no breadwinner and my grandmother was sent to live with the Seward's as a paid companion to one of the daughters who wasn't well. My grandmother was very proud of that Seward connection, I am sure. I'm very sure, that she showed off about it because there were a lot of Seward's mentioned in their home and pictures and letters...
LaVoy: That is very, very interesting. Then, what were your other brothers' names?
Millward: My other brother was born in Tonopah and he was Ernest
William Blair, Jr. He was born on November 10, 1922.
LaVoy: Oh, I see. Now give me your memories of Tonopah.
Millward: Well, we lived in three different houses while we were in Tonopah. We were there for about six or seven years. The first house was up on a hill. Tonopah was very hilly and it was a steep walk up that hill. We didn't stay there very long. The house was owned by Warren Richardson who later moved to Reno and had the Ford dealership there. Mrs. Richardson had decided she didn't want to live in Tonopah and she was in California, then she changed her mind after we had just gotten nicely settled and came home and evicted us. So we made a move clear across town to a house on Belmont Avenue. It was a very nice house, large and lots of room, and it had a little shed- or quarters out back for the maid.
LaVoy: Did you have a maid?
Millward: No! My mother rented it for $25.00 a month. Then for a while she rented the living room, a great big double room with sliding doors. She closed this one door off and she rented it to a lady... I don't think she was a teacher, I think she worked at an office somewhere in Tonopah. She was getting $25.00 a month from her. Somehow or other she talked once too often and the people that we were renting the house from heard about it so they raised our rent to $100.00. Then, she decided that that wasn't good so in the meantime they moved into another house. They were always moving houses from abandoned mining towns in and fixing them up and renting them. A man moved this house in, it was just a block from the school, so my mother went to see him and he said yes, we could rent the house. We moved there and Daddy only had about a block to walk to work and Bud and I just walked up the hill to school. It was much more convenient for the family.
LaVoy: Tell me something about that school in Tonopah.
Millward: It was a nice school. It was a big cement type building and I think there was an addition put on it after I started school. It took all the grades and high school. I think that our, the elementary school, was probably on the lower floor and the high school students were probably on the upper floor, then we had the part that was added to it. We didn't have a junior high but it was the 7th and 8th grades.
LaVoy: Who was your first teacher, do you remember?
Millward: Uh... she had red hair and her first name was Rowena but I can't think of her last name right now...
LaVoy: That's quite all right.
Millward: I think she was related to the Budelmans that lived in Tonopah.
LaVoy: What prompted your father to come to Fallon?
Millward: Well, it was time for me to enter high school and then it would be the university and this opportunity came up. Mr. Wingfield was buying the banks... there were two banks in Fallon and he was buying both of them, as I understand, and then was only going to operate one bank.
LaVoy: What was the name of that?
Millward: It was the Churchill County Bank.
LaVoy: Where was it located?
Millward: On Maine Street, that shop that has the bedspreads and draperies [137 S. Maine] ...
LaVoy: Close to the theatre, close to the present theatre?
Millward: Yeah, but the other side of that shop, closer to Kent's.
Millward: Maybe part of that became the arcade.
LaVoy: Within that area on Maine Street.
Millward: Right in that area on Maine Street.
LaVoy: What did your father do there in that bank?
Millward: He was cashier of that bank.
LaVoy: Was your father very active in affairs in Fallon?
Millward: Very! He was one of the starters of the Greenhead Club and he was a charter member of the Rotary Club.
LaVoy: Now excuse me just a minute, for history purposes would you tell me what the Greenhead Club is?
Millward: It's a duck hunting club and my father was a great hunter and fisherman all his life. Before they’d had to go so far from Tonopah [tape cuts out]
LaVoy: Helen, I read someplace that your father was involved with the Nevada Sportsman's League. Can you tell me what that was?
Millward: I don't have the faintest idea.
LaVoy: I just read that he was the Secretary of that and I thought you might know. We will go on about your father, I understand that he was a stamp collector.
Millward: Yes, he was. He had a very fine stamp collection.
LaVoy: What has happened to that collection?
Millward: My mother gave it to a granddaughter and possibly they sold it, I don't know.
LaVoy: Had he been collecting stamps all of his life?
Millward: From a small boy.
LaVoy: That would be a fabulous collection to see. Now tell me, when they moved to Fallon how did your father happen to buy the property that you had?
Millward: Mr. Wingfield owned this ranch, it was 80 acres, and he was very unhappy with a tenant he had, a Mr. Chamberlain. His family was living there. They raised cantaloupes, primarily to sell the seed the next year. He was far behind in his rent, so it gave Mr. Wingfield a chance to sell the property to my father. The house was in horrible condition so we couldn't live in it and Mr. Chamberlain was still living in it anyway. It took six weeks before we were able to move in the house, and Mr. Wingfield let us live at the Bailey Ranch until the house was ready. Now the Bailey Ranch was north of town and it's the ranch that the Serpas have. Its a grey stone house ... I don't know whether it's an artificial stone or real stone but it's... well, it might be painted white now, but we stayed there until our house was ready. The house was very bad inside, it all had to be rewired and plumbing fixtures changed and a great deal of work that way. Upstairs he had spread canvas on the floors of the bedroom and in the attic, and stored the cantaloupe seed there, but the mice had had a field day. It was nothing, years later if you tore out a board in the attic you'd pull out a bunch of cantaloupe seed.
LaVoy: Oh, for heaven's sakes! Now, tell me exactly where your ranch was.
Millward: It was on Taylor Road just South of the City limits before you crossed the canal and the ranch went from the Ferguson Ranch place which was where the Lutheran church is now. That was Mapes and Lottie's house on that property.
LaVoy: And how far back did it go?
Millward: It went to the canal on Taylor Road and then it went back. It was a quarter of a mile wide and a half a mile deep and it went back to the property that has the old McCuskey home where Mae Berrington now lives.
LaVoy: Oh, it was a large piece of land.
Millward: Yes. In fact when McCuskey built that sand hill that Mae Berrington's is on, he built the house too, but he wanted it on a hill. They hauled the sand in for that and he bought a small piece of property from my mother, I think so that he could have his cattle get water at the drain ditch, there was a drain ditch back in there, it wasn't an acre or anything, just a small piece he bought from my mother to add to his property.
LaVoy: So that he would have water.
Millward: So he would have water for the animals.
LaVoy: Now this seems interesting to me. Where did he haul the sand in from and how did they compact it for that home?
Millward: Well, my brother was an architect and he said, "That house will never last," but it's lasted. There was sand hills on the property. He might have even possibly bought some sand from my mother, but that ranch that he bought was the Carl Smith Ranch . . . he was a bachelor, I believe, and an old-timer here. I can't really remember him that well but he and my mother got along. They had to share irrigating water and all that and they never had any problems.
LaVoy: Well, now, your parents had alfalfa on that ranch?
Millward: When they came there, there really wasn't maybe but one field of alfalfa or maybe two because Chamberlain had put everything to cantaloupes. So, in order to work the ranch, we had to have horses to pull the equipment. My mother bought a team of horses.
LaVoy: What were their names?
Millward: I don't remember the team but she also bought a... she had to take everything the man had for sale, his name was Brotherton and he was an old-timer here in the Valley but I don't personally remember him. . . and she got the team of horses, a pony, two cows, and a calf from him... I think there was another riding horse too, but I don't think we kept that horse. I think mother sold it.
LaVoy: Now she bought these things from this man to put on your ranch?
Millward: The Wingfield Ranch loaned her the equipment and sent one of their hired men to work for her that summer so she was able to get the fields plowed and put the crop in – it was a late crop, but they got a crop in – and plant a vegetable garden and then she bought chickens and turkeys.
LaVoy: Well, now tell me, your mother took care of the home front while your father was in the bank, is that correct?
Millward: You could say that my father was the cashier of the bank and my mother was foreman of the ranch.
LaVoy: Well that's a very good description. Tell me something about the ranch house. Did you have indoor plumbing?
Millward: Yes, we had indoor plumbing, we also had outdoor plumbing.
LaVoy: Well, what type of heating did you have?
Millward: We had.. the first stove in the living room was a coal-fired burning stove, I think it was called a Heatrola.
LaVoy: Did it have the chrome around it?
Millward: Yes. And I'm sure she bought that stove to go in the house.
LaVoy: Who cut the wood for the stove?
Millward: We didn't use that much wood we just used kindling and burned the coal.
LaVoy: Were your brothers responsible for bringing that in?
Millward: Bud was probably responsible, yes... for bringing that in and probably chopping the kindling.
LaVoy: What were some of your chores that you had to do out on the ranch?
Millward: Wash the separator.
LaVoy: Tell me about washing the separator. First of all let's say what a separator is for.
Millward: Well, a separator was to separate the cream from the milk and we really lived high on cream. Anyway, then it had to be washed. It wasn't electric, we had a handle we had to turn and you poured the milk in the top and somehow or another it swirled around these series of cones, I think there was maybe about twenty of them in the section, and the butterfat would stick to those cones and if you didn't get it off the first day then the next day it was a little yellow and the next day it was a little yellower and pretty soon my mother would come out and say, "You're not cleaning the separator good!" and she would scold me and scrub the separator cones.
LaVoy: How would you clean them? Did you have to use brushes?
Millward: I had to use a brush and I think in the summertime I cleaned it outside and put it back into the separator.
LaVoy: Did you bring tubs of hot water out or did you have sinks?
Millward: I would have had to have a tub of water. I hated that job, I just hated it. Of course I had to wash the dishes in the house, too, but I didn't mind that. Bud and I, when it was just the family... we washed or dried, we took turns and that was our chore in the evening. In the summertime we had company like you can't believe. We had always gone to California every summer from Tonopah and Goldfield to spend our vacations. When we moved to Fallon, all that stopped and everybody came from California to visit us. There could be as many as twenty people at a meal sometimes.
LaVoy: Was your table large enough to seat twenty people?
Millward: We had a back porch, the whole width of the house and it was a screened porch. In the summertime we were able to eat out there and this table would probably seat twelve people and it was put out there and then we had another table that was probably put along side when we had an overflow crowd.
LaVoy: By "this table" you're referring to the round table we're sitting at now? And it opens up, it's a drop leaf table that opens up.
Millward: Yes and it takes four leaves and you can easily seat twelve people.
LaVoy: Did your mother do all the cooking for these people?
Millward: Well, just about. Besides, she did a lot of work watching the garden. She was the one who knew when the cantaloupes were ripe or when the corn was ripe or when it had to be irrigated and the boys had to weed the garden. During the daytime in the summer the girls had to do the dishes.
LaVoy: Now with all that company I can see that you had a lot of dishes to do. With that amount of people coming in, did she do the laundry?
Millward: Now that was another thing. We had what we called a squaw boiler in the back yard. It was close to the house and we had hoses to water the garden and outside faucets and you attached the hose and carried it over to the "squaw boiler". . . it was a combination fire bed, galvanized, and you set a tub in it, it would hold a large wash tub and you'd fill it with hot water and the squaw would come and build her fire and fill her tub and then mother would fix her breakfast. She didn't want to eat in the house she usually wanted to eat outside but in the wintertime mother made her eat inside. Unless it was terribly, terribly cold they still washed outside.
LaVoy: Do you remember what the Indian woman's name was?
Millward: Mamie Dick. She was the sister of Wuzzie George.
LaVoy: And did she do the laundry for all the years you lived there?
Millward: For probably all the time I was in high school.
LaVoy: Well, now tell me, she did the washing and did she fill something else for rinsing?
Millward: They put the soap in that tub that had the hot water. They did the sheets first, the whites first, and then they worked down to the dirty overalls. She had other tubs, hot, hot, and she may have taken some water out of the hot tub and the other tubs to take the chill off of them. I think she wrung them by hand.
LaVoy: And then hung them...
Millward: Hung them on the line to dry.
LaVoy: Then did she take them off the line or did your mother do that?
Millward: Probably the sheets were dry by the time she got down to the end of the wash and possibly my mother finished up in the afternoon--the overalls and things that were on the line. I don't know whether she came back and did the ironing on the next day or not. Possibly she did.
LaVoy: Your mother didn't do the ironing?
Millward: Well, my mother loved to iron. She would sit down to iron. She had an ironing chair and she would sit down to iron. She took a great deal of pleasure in her ironing and it always turned out nicely, but then there were times when she got so busy after she got the turkey business that she just couldn't handle all that work. After Mamie, we had other Indians. We had Eva and her husband George when I came back to Fallon in 1952.
LaVoy: Do you remember their last names?
LaVoy: Eva and George Washington?
LaVoy: I can see that your mother and you kept very, very busy as well as your two brothers. What school did you attend here?
Millward: I went into the 8th grade when we moved to Fallon. We moved in April and I had maybe only five weeks or six weeks… it was the lower 8th grade.
LaVoy: What school was that?
Millward: That was over at Oats Park. Bud and I both started at Oats Park. He was two years behind me. The day that we went to school . . . my Aunt Fannie had sent me an embroidery dress for Christmas. . .
LaVoy: Who was Fannie?
Millward: My father's sister.
LaVoy: Fannie what?
Millward: Larken. She did embroidery all year for Christmas presents. She started in January and was never idle, French knots by the dozens or hundreds. This was a little blue dress, rather short, and heavily embroidered. It was a beautiful day and my mother thought that I should wear that dress to school and I had on silk anklets and black patent leather slippers when I went to school. Bud always was having a problem with his hair, it was always wanting to stick straight up and he didn't want it to. He used Sta-Combed by the jars to keep his hair flat but it would end up sticking up. Anyway, he wore his Plus-fours and a shirt and when he got to school all the boys were in denim overalls. . . and when I got to school all the girls were in long skirts and blouses with silk stockings and shoes with heels.
LaVoy: And here you were....
Millward: And here I was dressed like an eight year old. When we went home Bud said he would not return to school. It was quite a day! It was raining and mother walked to town to the Elridge and Hursh store. It was probably yardage and clothing and shoes and she bought Bud his overalls. I went to school in something else the next day but it wasn't as bad as the embroidered dress.
LaVoy: Well, I think you would have been very pretty in your blue dress, Helen.
Millward: I was embarrassed.
LaVoy: Well I can see that you were. Who was your first teacher here?
Millward: I can only remember one teacher from that class and her name was Pearl Marshall. She taught the Palmer method of penmanship and she didn't think much of my handwriting, but I wasn't in the class long enough. I remember several of the girls, there was Louisa Frazzini and Lois Berney. There was a Baptist minister here by the name of Landers and he had two daughters, Ruth and Edna. [End of tape 1 side A] We had county schools, and country schools so the rest of them I didn't meet until I got into high school when they transferred from their schools into the high school.
LaVoy: And you walked to school every day?
Millward: Yes. When I was in Oats Park I took the bus, after we got on the ranch in the fall I took the bus to Oats Park. but then when I got into high school I was able to walk to school everyday.
LaVoy: Would you describe what the bus was like?
Millward: It was a very antique looking bus.
LaVoy: Who was the driver?
Millward: The drivers I remember were the Renfro girls.
LaVoy: Oh, women drove the bus?
Millward: Della Renfro [Later, Oats], her father was the foreman for the Bob Douglass Ranch and he had two daughters Della and Eleanor. Della drove the bus, she was on the end of the line and she came up Schurz Highway and picked up all students there and took us over to school.
Lavoy: Did you have a graduation from 8th grade?
Millward: I can't remember if we did or not, but I did have Laura Mills for teacher when I was in the 8th grade. The other teacher I remember, this was the fall semester was Vera Wickland, her mother was, Belle. She taught the home ec.
LaVoy: Did you enjoy home economics?
Millward: Yes. Oh, I love to cook, my mother started me on biscuits and a chocolate cake when I was probably seven years old.
LaVoy: Oh, that speaks well for your cooking ability. Do you remember what the name of the principal was of the school? Of the 8th grade of that school.
Millward: No. Right after that Mr. Best came but I don't remember who was the principal prior to that when I was there.
LaVoy: Now you went on into high school. I'd like to hear something about, where did you go to high school?
Millward: At the Churchill County High School.
LaVoy: And where was it?
Millward: It was on the South Maine Street. It's now the Junior High School. And we were a mid-year term class. We were practically isolated from the rest of the high school. We had a home room and we were given two classes of algebra and two classes of English each day, probably three periods in the study hall.
LaVoy: Why was this?
Millward: That way, if we could get enough credit we could graduate in three and one-half years otherwise we would have to stay four and one-half years. We had one year of algebra and one year of English to our credit when we finished that Spring term.
LaVoy: Oh, who was your principal?
Millward: Mr. McCracken was principal of the high school at that time.
LaVoy: Was he a very strict man?
LaVoy: Could you tell me some stories about him?
Millward: You were always threatened with a punishment that you would be expelled from school or you would be suspended maybe for three days if it wasn't too bad but that was really as severe a punishment because it upset your classes. He was a good principal. He didn't teach us algebra when we went in but he always taught the geometry and trigonometry classes. He was an excellent mathematician and his students turned out well.
LaVoy: Tell me, what was your favorite class in high school?
Millward: That's hard to say. I liked my English classes and Nevada Semenza was my... I don't think she taught us the English in those Spring classes but possibly she did. I had her for the first year and then two years after that I had Ruth Curtis for an English teacher. I didn't take home economics until a teacher by the name of Mildred Forest came and I really loved her as a teacher. Eunice Allen from the Lem Allen family was the Spanish teacher and then they added some French also to her classes and I took two years of Spanish and one year of French from her. Unfortunately going through in three and one-half years, and my mother wanted me to go to college, was not too good for my learning what I needed in college. I only had one class of chemistry with Mr. Giblin who had been there for years and I had math and history with Mr. Scott. We called him behind his back, "Daddy" Scott.
Millward: Well.... [Long pause, then tape cuts out]
LaVoy: Helen, I understand that you won some sort of a contest in home economics in high school. Could you tell me something about that?
Millward: It was a contest where we were supposed to go to Reno and work in the Home Economics kitchens at the University of Nevada. We were to cook a luncheon for three people. We could not order supplies we wanted, the supplies would be there and we were to choose what we could make from what was there, and serve the lunch. We were graded on how we did it, they watched us cook and how things that we might have done might have been a little better or a little unusual, how we set the table, and how we acted at the table with our guests. There was somebody from the Home Economics Department and my other guest was a Mrs. Sawyer who lived in Reno . . . I think I stayed overnight with her while I was there for this contest. I don't remember. I don't think any teachers came with us from Fallon. We were on our own.
LaVoy: You're saying "we" who was "we"?
Millward: Well, there was Phyllis Scrugham was one of the contestants and I think there was a third contestant. I don't know if there were some more contestants than that, but only three of us were working in the kitchen at one time. My menu, I had planned it at home and I was going to serve a creamed dish on toast and it had chopped hard boiled eggs in the sauce but I wanted fresh asparagus to put on the toast and then cover it with this and maybe I even had a little ham in it, I can't remember. I had a recipe for a mock sponge cake and you took out two cups of flour and you added two tablespoons of corn starch and that made it comparative to Swans Down flour and then you sifted it well, and then egg whites and sugar, basically it was an angel's food cake. I only made part of a recipe and I baked it in a six cup muffin tin and then, I had fruit for it, I think it was strawberries, and I put strawberries and whipped cream over it, but that's a little hazy.
LaVoy: And this was the menu that won you ... what prize did you get?
Millward: I was the State winner for this contest as a friend reminded me the other day, I had forgotten but we were to visit with our guests before we went to the table. We were to be seated and I think we had a salad on the table and we cleared the table and brought our entree in and cleared it and brought the dessert. When we were ready to go to the table I invited my guests to come to the table and have their salad and Phyllis Scrugham says, "Come and get it." Eleanor George and I had a few laughs over the phone yesterday on that, I had really almost forgotten this part of my life. Then we had to go back to the kitchen and clean up our dishes and put our food away. When they put our food out they had canned asparagus and fresh asparagus, I used the fresh asparagus because it was in season. I had to write up the paper on why I did everything and I think I just was lucky enough to do everything right and give them the right answers.
LaVoy: Was there a monetary reward for first place?
Millward: I don't think so. I think we just got a green ribbon or a blue ribbon or a red ribbon or whatever.
LaVoy: And you mentioned that you had gone down to Asilomar. Was that something to do with this contest or was that another one?
Millward: No, that was the Girl Reserves were organized in Fallon and there was a lady by the name of Mildred Van Avery that came from Reno and was establishing troops of Girl Reserves all over the area.
LaVoy: Are Girl Reserves like Girl Scouts?
Millward: Similar, yes. We had a meeting here and I was elected president of the Girl Reserves and all my friends, close friends were elected to offices. I think it was kind of a rigged election, except Annabelle Buckner was made secretary or treasurer. It was coming up we were going to have a trip to Lake Tahoe or Zephyr Cove where that church site is, and we didn't want Annabelle to go. They said "You're the president, you're gonna have to make her resign." So I forced Annabelle to resign and then I appointed Echo Morgan who was later my roommate in college to her position so we were all friends that went up to the Lake, but I was the only one that went to Asilomar.
LaVoy: Why did you go there?
Millward: Well, it was sort of a national convention, there were girls from Hawaii and girls clear from Texas, Oklahoma, maybe New York, all over the country and we had and we had different meetings everyday and then we had free time and we could do things that we wanted-- they took us out on a battle ship, and...
LaVoy: What battle ship?
Millward: The Mississippi. I can't remember really too many things that we did do, but we had a wonderful time.
LaVoy: How long did you stay there?
Millward: Probably about four days.
LaVoy: And how did you return to Fallon?
Millward: Well I went around to visit some friends of my family that lived in San Francisco and from there I went to visit some people in Palo Alto. The people in Palo Alto - He had been a lawyer in Tonopah and their daughter was a couple or three years younger than I was.
LaVoy: Do you remember their names?
Millward: Yes, he was Hugh Brown and he was an excellent attorney. His wife was Marjorie Brown and she wrote her memories in a paperback book, oh twenty or more years ago, a very interesting book. Unfortunately I don't have my copy anymore. It told about her wedding in San Francisco and then her days in the desert after coming from a family of means in San Francisco and then up to the desert. She was a very gracious woman and her Uncle was Theodore Roberts the movie actor. Anyway I went to stay with the Browns in Palo Alto and I had a wonderful time with them. It was Jerry's birthday and we came up to...
LaVoy: Now, who was Jerry?
Millward: That was their daughter. We came up to San Francisco on a Saturday and had lunch at Helwigs which was a bakery but also a restaurant, then in the afternoon we went to the Orpheum Theatre and saw the matinee and I can almost remember the names of... somebody Seale, that was on the stage. That was quite a thrill to see a live stage show. That night we went to Bernstein's Fish Grotto and had mussels for dinner. That was my first experience with them, but I liked everything so it made little difference what we had to eat. Anyway I stayed with them for about a week. I don't know how I got to, uh... Pacific Grove. I don't know whether the Browns might have taken me over--they probably did. When I came home, I think I came home on the train.
LaVoy: Well, that seems like a very interesting trip for a Fallon girl to take!
Millward: It was a fun trip.
LaVoy: Now, you mentioned that your mother raised turkeys. Can you tell me something about her years of turkey raising?
Millward: The first year we were there, Mrs. Balgoyen called her and said, "I heard you were looking for turkeys," and she said "the gnats are biting mine to pieces and I don't want to bother with them, would you like to have them?" Mrs. Balgoyen was the wife of one of the ditch riders here in the Valley. Mother went out and got the turkeys and their poor heads were all bloody . . . there was probably a dozen turkeys. She went out to the extension office to find out what to put on them. She nursed those turkeys along and she started counting them and thought that we could send everybody a turkey for Christmas. She went out and bought more turkeys for these turkeys so all the relatives would have a turkey on their table for Christmas and that continued until she went out of the turkey business in the late 1940's.
LaVoy: I understand that she had a label and everything else that she used in selling her turkeys.
Millward: Well, every year she'd increase her flock. Her first year maybe she had twenty-five and of those twenty-five she was able to tie 'em up, kill 'em, dress 'em, pull the feathers off, do it all. They were New York dressed and that left the insides in the turkey and the head and feet on them, that way there was no surface to spoil when they were shipped. They shipped them to all the family by Wells Fargo Express.
LaVoy: With the innards in them?
Millward: It might have been American Express here then.
LaVoy: And they were iced and everything?
Millward: They went into a cold car, yeah, it was a cold car. Eventually she shipped some of her turkeys to Hawaii, Florida, Washington D.C. and New York and I don't know whether one got to Alaska or not, it would have gone on the plane if it had... I'm not sure about that.
LaVoy: Well, now she started out with these few turkeys that had been given to her by this Mrs. Balgoyen and I understand that the first year she had about three hundred turkeys.
Millward: The first year she didn't have that many, but people would say, "Oh your turkeys sure are good." She would send one to the Southworths who were very dear friends of ours in Tonopah, in fact we probably took one to the Southworths the first year we were here because we went down to Tonopah for Thanksgiving. She would add to it and her flock got to be about twenty-five hundred before she was through.
LaVoy: Did she have to have sheds built?
Millward: Yes, they built sheds and she... and when the turkeys came she raised turkeys with Buff Orpington hens. She saved a few turkeys and a tom and then she had to chase around and find where those crazy turkeys were laying their eggs and gather them before they sat out too long. She bought Buff Orphington hens to brood the eggs. She had little "A" shaped houses with slats on the sides with a little tar paper over it so in case it rained they would have a little shelter. They took one check from the field in the back of the house and put it into grain... or alfalfa so the turkeys would have a little green to eat on. That was getting to be too much work when she started to get more turkeys and then she contacted a hatchery and built her flock up to twenty-five hundred and the hatchery gave her an exclusive to sell their turkeys for them here in the Valley. She also had exclusives to get baby chickens for people. She had quite a business in the spring making commissions off of all these sales, writing up all these orders. Turkeys would come and she would have to notify all of her people they were here. There was one Indian who would get turkeys from her every year--and chickens. After we were back in Fallon one night the dining room door opened and it was the biggest Indian man I had ever seen in my life. He opened the door and said, "Minnie Blair.. I want some turkeys!" She introduced us and he told her when he wanted the turkeys and she took his order. He always came to her, he never knocked, he opened our door and walked in the house and he had the most beautiful handwriting...Ellison McMasters... and there are McMasters that are living in Schurz now that are his descendants.
LaVoy: Was he successful, too, in raising turkeys?
Millward: He was successful in raising turkeys and he sold his turkeys. If mother needed extra turkeys she probably bought his turkeys or guided him maybe to a market to sell them. She was very helpful to all the people that bought them if there was a need for turkeys to be purchased.
LaVoy: What was the name of your turkey products?
Millward: She'd named the ranch "Atlasta Ranch" so she had headbands made for the turkeys, you used to put a brown paper bag, a small one, over their heads because she'd clean them all as best she could, wash them off, but they were a little gory or bloody, so they had this... it was a triangular piece of paper and it would wrap around the head. My brother, Bud, had designed it and it had a logo which was the State of Nevada and Atlasta Ranch. I think it said "turkeys" on it.
LaVoy: Did it have a picture of a turkey on it?
Millward: Yeah, it had a turkey on it, maybe.
LaVoy: And that was put on the head of the dead turkey.
Millward: Dead turkey, yes. The body of the turkey went into a big brown bag that had the logo on it and the feet stuck out . . . they were hung by their feet.
LaVoy: She had twenty-five hundred turkeys, now the killing of those, did she hire people to come in?
Millward: She had to hire them but she was very lucky, in the first place she set a beautiful table, they had baked ham and turkey and everything... all the trimmings for the noon meal. They would come to work and somebody would stab them and somebody else would come along and the feathers would relax and they would pull the feathers off. . .I think they even scalded them sometimes... they put them in a big water tank because it was faster.
LaVoy: I understand she had about twenty-four people working for her at the peak of the season.
Millward: Yes she'd have to have because there was a lot of work to it. When they were all hanging from nails in the shed she would go out -- they'd been weighed -- and she would personally pick the turkey she was going to send to Mrs. Lillie B. Mars. One went to President Roosevelt but he was a Democrat so she wanted no credit for that. There was one that went to a Catholic bishop or I guess it was higher than a bishop, in New York City, a Cardinal I guess. I can't remember the noted people that got them but they all came to Reno for a divorce.
LaVoy: Lillie B. Mars, that's the mother of the man that started the Mars candy company?
Millward: Yes, she came here for a divorce. . .she was into race horses. There was a lady who called herself Madame Grimm who was sort of a beauty operator and a masseuse and these ladies would come to her for treatments and then she would drag them down to Fallon to meet my mother. They would see the turkeys and they would all order turkeys for their Christmas. It was like wildfire, she didn't have to advertise.
LaVoy: Now, something I'm wondering about. About how much a pound did she get for her turkeys?
Millward: Oh, I don't know that she ever got a dollar a pound. She might have.
LaVoy: Someplace I read that nineteen cents was about what they got.
Millward: Maybe in the beginning but she got in the sixty to eighty [cents] when it was pretty good business. My father would take them after they were all bagged, he had the book from the express office, and he would sit there and do all the waybilling. He had done as a young man the same type of business. He would do all the waybilling and he would take them on a trailer all the way to Hazen and they would load them in the car. They went on a passenger train that had a baggage car or a baggage messenger in it... that was the way they were shipped.
LaVoy: And they never spoiled that your mother ever knew of?
Millward: I don't know whether one got lost but once she sent me some partridges and they got lost and mildewed. I didn't get them in time for my dinner so I had to run down to the delicatessen on December 7th, 1941. I hadn't been listening to the radio because I was so upset, I didn't know what I was going to substitute for dinner. . . I was having a family birthday dinner. I heard about December 7th at the delicatessen where I bought some turkey to make creamed turkey ala king.
LaVoy: Something that I had read that I wanted to ask you if it's correct. They said that for picking the hens the people got ten cents and for picking the toms they got fifteen cents.
Millward: Well, the toms were bigger so it would take longer.
LaVoy: That's not very much for picking a bird as big as that.
Millward: No it isn't. That's not much. They might have gotten up to twenty-five cents toward the end.
LaVoy: Now how long did this business go on?
Millward: It ended in about 1947, I think.
LaVoy: In other words, she was selling turkeys from about 1929 or '30 to 19....
Millward: She started raising turkeys, the first one came in about 1926... 1925, no '24. Our first Spring here she had the turkeys.
LaVoy: 1924 to 1947? Approximately?
LaVoy: Well, that's very, very interesting, I had always heard that Fallon was the turkey center of the west and the Atlasta turkeys were very well known by everyone. Do you have any other interesting things that you want to tell me about it? You mentioned some very prominent people, I read someplace that she sold a turkey to Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein.
Millward: Yes, that was one of the names on the list.
LaVoy: The wife of the famous composer.
Millward: They would meet someone back there and they would tell of the wonderful turkey and these women would take the turkey to their butcher to be drawn and have to pay the butcher to draw it. Of course the women didn't do it themselves but the butcher would say, "Where did you get this turkey, I've never seen such a fine bird".
LaVoy: Well how did your mother know what to feed them to make them such fine birds?
Millward: She just hobnobbed with the extension agents and what they thought was good she thought was good enough for her. She slept with those turkeys for six weeks every Spring. She had an army cot or maybe a metal bed with a little mattress on it. There was lights on, the brooders were on, but if the coyotes would get a little close and the birds would hear them or if a dog would start barking they'd panic and they'd all run under the brooder and then they'd smother and she'd have to get up three or four times a night to separate all those babies and get them quieted down again.
LaVoy: She did this for six weeks?
Millward: She did that for six weeks! She had one little time in the early '30's where she was going to sell a patent... it wasn’t a patent medicine... it was called Maalox and it was made from apple juice... Of course we all know apple juice is good for you. It was put out by the people that had something to do with Post cereal and she got the Sacramento territory and she sort of commuted between here and Sacramento . . . I'm sure they still had turkeys but just enough for the relatives at that time. After the Maalox didn't prove out is when she really got into the heavy turkeys.
LaVoy: The Maalox, what was it used for? There's Maalox now that is for digestion.
Millward: That’s… Maybe Maalox isn’t the right word [the transcript calls it King's Maalum]. She'll tell you about going to Sacramento in her life history. That was one project that wasn't profitable. So she came back to the turkeys and said, "I can make more money on my turkeys and eggs." Then another thing, Laura Mills' mother used to get the cream from the cows and that was hers to sell, so Laura Mills would bring quart bottles of cream to my mother on her way to school in the morning and by that time we had taken in part of the back porch and had a refrigerator inside ... no the refrigerator was still on the back porch. She would open the refrigerator and put the cream in the shelf on the refrigerator. There was a little money box on the top with the halves, quarters, nickels and dimes in it and you would come out and get your quart of cream. [End of tape 1]
LaVoy: Helen, I understand that your mother did a lot to help the Indians in this community.
Millward: Yes, she did. She was a friend to all of them. She would order their chickens and turkeys for them and she gave them credit but they always paid her. . . sometimes it was a little slow. She decided that they should have electricity and water out at the Indian colony by Rattlesnake Hill. . . this was in the late '40's or very early '50's. She found out how much it would cost to get a transformer to put out there and she went around and asked for donations. When she got to Andy Drumm he said, "How much are you going to have to raise?" She told him, and he said, "You will never be able to raise it. You won't be able to get it in this town, but if you get so much, I will give you the balance." She finally went to him and showed him that she had so much promised and he wrote her a check for the balance. I don't remember the amount of the figures, and that is in her memoirs. And they got their electricity. I think they had a water faucet in the village and they would go out and get a bucket of water but I think she had something to do with getting some pipes laid so they could pipe the water into their little houses, too.
LaVoy: She was a very enterprising lady, very much as her daughter, Helen, is. Now, tell me, Helen, when you finished high school here, where did you go on to school?
Millward: I went to the University of Nevada for one year.
LaVoy: Where did you live there?
Millward: I lived in Manzanita Hall and Echo Morgan, from Fallon, was my roommate.
LaVoy: Can you tell me something about life on campus?
Millward: Well, I don't think I was prepared to study enough, really. It looked like it was going to be a good time and I was rushed by the sororities, by two in particular and I had a bid to both Gamma Phi Beta and Kappa Alpha Theta. Sometimes I think if I had taken the Gamma Phi I might have ended up better off, in that I transferred the next year to Oregon State.
LaVoy: And where is Oregon State? Medford?
Millward: No. It's near Salem, but... Corvallis. A Theta, Martha Williams, from Sparks, went up there with me and we decided we would shun the sorority bit. . . we would live in the dormitory. We had the dreariest old room... a high-ceiling room, that you ever saw. One day, we wore our Theta pins... we were going to shun the sorority, but we wore our pins.
LaVoy: Oh, you did pledge Theta at the University of Nevada?
Millward: Yes, I pledged Theta, and when this little girl, a pledge to the Theta house in Corvallis, saw our pins she went back and told the sisters and they immediately contacted us. The house wasn't full, and here were two more boarders. We moved in. Well, they were lovely girls and they were very nice to us, but they also were very wealthy. They had fur coats and one had gone to all her school in private schools mostly in Switzerland. There were quite a few from Southern California and Palo Alto and up and down the coast and they just were monied girls. We didn't have very much to spend, and the dates weren't too frequent. I think they felt sorry for me and finally got me a date with a professor, but I couldn't stand him, and that was kind of a disaster. Then when I came home for Christmas my brother had chicken pox just before I was ready to go back so I cheated and took a couple of extra days. Martha couldn't go back because her father was a building contractor in Sparks and he had gone broke. It was the '30's and he had gone broke and he committed suicide shortly afterward and so I went back on the train. I think I cried all the way until I got off the train at Salem. Our train was late, and mother left me over at Wadsworth at the hotel in the dining room until the train would get there. It didn't get there until the afternoon. It was supposed to have gone in the morning, and that made us late getting into Oregon... Klamath Falls, Oregon. I was the only passenger on the train. Well, I didn't know that the railroad was supposed to put you up at a hotel, it was about midnight and it was the porter and I on this car that was put off. A passenger train has to pick it up and take it on into Salem, and it wouldn't pick us up until early in the morning, maybe even 9:00 o'clock in the morning. I didn't know what really to do, but I thought, "well, I'll send my folks a wire." In the meantime, the porter said as long as I was going to be alone on the train, he would fix up... what's the nice one on the end, in the pullman... there was a special room and a family could have this instead of being out in the berths. It had a lock on the door, and he would fix that for me. I said, "well, the people won't be able to meet me in the morning and they are wondering where I am." So I had to send them a wire and send my folks a wire. In my folkses' wire, I said something to the effect, "I feel like Mrs. Gotrocks with her own private stateroom on this train. I will get into Salem tomorrow morning at such-and-such a time." I wired the folks that other people were going to pick me up at Corvallis, but when I got to Corvallis they were fit to be tied, and they said, "They should have taken you to a hotel in a taxi and brought you back. Didn't you know better than that to stay on that train with a porter who had one blue eye and one brown eye?" He asked me, when we were going to be there, if I wanted a drink, it was bootleg, and I said, "No, I didn't want a drink." but I didn't tell them that.
Millward: Then I went back to school. I just got signed up for my classes and I came down with the chicken pox! They put me in the infirmary for fourteen days. I was only sick the first day. They would not bring my books, so I could study. I couldn't have anything that I would take out with me. When I got out... it was only a six week term, they were in quarters and here I had missed about three weeks of it. There was no way I could do it... no way. I went to see each teacher, and they said just take my course and I will really cram it for you and get you through this and you will have that credit. I decided I would go home and come back for the spring quarter and stay the summer quarter, which probably wouldn't have worked out too well. Well, I came home, and if I didn't get the same porter on the train going back down! They didn't pay any attention to me. We had more passengers on the train, but we had to lay over somewhere at night for a while to pick up for our train to take us back down to Wadsworth. I think they all got drunk that night, and oh, they were in horrible shape the next day, but I made it home. I wanted oatmeal for breakfast and I think he may have put me in a stateroom again that night, and told me to lock the door. Boy, that dining car was a mess and he told me I couldn't go in the dining car for breakfast. Finally they did bring me some oatmeal for breakfast.
LaVoy: You must have been starved. Did your mother meet you, then, in Wadsworth?
Millward: Yes, she met me in Wadsworth, and I came home. Bill was working up at Lake Tahoe and said he could get me a job in the dining room.
LaVoy: Well, where had you met Bill?
Millward: I met him when I was going to the University of Nevada. Lucille Sanford, who was a Theta, about two years ahead of me in school, said, "I need some girls who want to make some money." So she explained that we would go up to Tahoe Tavern, at Lake Tahoe, and go in on the train on Saturday morning right to the dining room and serve breakfast to the people who would come in on this train, serve lunch and dinner that night, and we would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day. We would go out on the train that night and spend that night in Truckee, they would have a room for us. Then we would pick up the train in the morning and get back into Reno about 8:00 o'clock in the morning.
LaVoy: Now, what train went up to Tahoe?
Millward: A special train that came from San Francisco. The Elks would have a weekend, and they would run this train from San Francisco on Friday night. They would all have a hilarious time all night and then come up and the train stayed there, but they stayed in the hotel. They would have their rooms and come down to eat and they would have a big dance on Saturday night. If there was snow, they would go out in the snow all day long but there didn't happen to be any snow that Winter. It didn't snow until the day the season closed.
LaVoy: How did Bill happen to be there?
Millward: Well, he had the orchestra. The orchestra would play for dinner music and dancing after dinner. Lucille had promised the orchestra she knew some cute girls and she'd bring them up and they could all have a date with these girls. Well, I don't think we got much sleep, because the boys had to play quite late and then we'd see them in between times in the daytime and then we'd leave that night, so we just barely got to meet them, that was all. But we went up-
LaVoy: What instrument did Bill play?
Millward: He played drums and did some singing. That was the first winter when I was still in Reno. That summer Martha and I asked Mr. Mayhew if we could come back and work that summer. He said yes we could, but we'd have to work in the officer's dining room, which were all the higher-ups of the employees... from the gift shop and the clerks, and so forth.
LaVoy: At Tahoe City?
Millward: Near Tahoe City. It was a mile to Tahoe City, and the orchestra was going to eat in there. I drew the orchestra to wait on, and did they ever give me a bad time.
LaVoy: What was the name of this orchestra?
Millward: I don't know. It was probably just called the Tahoe Tavern Orchestra. He usually had the same people working with him, but I can't remember if they had a special name or not. He also worked a lot of casual jobs where he would play with someone else who had an orchestra that had a name, but then, as I say, I went up to Oregon to school and he and I wrote to each other during that time. Then I called him when I got back to Fallon and he said, "Come up, Mr. Mayhew says he can use you, so I went up and I worked and we got married there.
LaVoy: Now, give me your husband's full name.
Millward: Joseph Eugene Millward.
LaVoy: Was he from Nevada?
Millward: No, he was from Utah.
LaVoy: Oh, I see. And now, when were you married?
Millward: February 24, 1930.
Millward: At Tahoe City, By Judge Bliss, and it was the first wedding he had ever performed. He was an elderly man. They had a pretty little home in Tahoe City. The Blisses were natives of Tahoe. We had to get a license and the only way we could get a license... we were in Placer County... and it had to come from Auburn. There was no way we could go to Auburn unless we went on the train and that would take us away... we would have to find a way to Truckee first. There wasn't any snow, so we could drive to Truckee if we wanted to, but anyway, we let Miss Johnson in on the secret.
LaVoy: Who was Miss Johnson?
She was Mr. Mayhew's secretary and he was the manager of the hotel, somehow or other she handled it. She wrote and got the papers for us to fill out and they came back by mail. She gave them to us and then the license didn't come and didn't come and we were afraid we wouldn't be able to get married before we left and so we [tape cuts out] aasked her about it and she went in and looked on Mr. Mayhew's desk and it was on his desk so she got it for us. The season was closed. We worked Sunday and the last group left. They were going to bring a train up from Truckee... an engine and a car... to take us all out. We walked over to Tahoe City -- we had already asked Judge Bliss if he would marry us. And it seemed quite fitting. There was a man that was quite wealthy who walked over to Tahoe City with us, he didn't know we were on our way to get married, but he gave us some very sound advice that we couldn't follow. He said that the property around the old wood wharf was for sale and if we could scrape any money at all together we should buy that property... buy property up there... you will be very wealthy. I can't think of his name, but anyway we didn't have hardly any money when we got married. Bill had five dollars and he gave that to the judge and the judge gave me the five dollars for a wedding present. His wife was very embarrassed because she didn't realize we were going to be married there or she would have made a cake for us. Our best man was a man by the name of Harry Ogden. He was a man that was in the horse business. He used his horses to do road building or, in the winter time, he took his horses to Tahoe and they hauled the sleighs, the great big sleighs with all the seats with a lot of people in them. If the snow was right they'd have a moonlight trip to Truckee by sleigh. He had all these horses and then when the hay came in for the horses he would enlist the men from the band to unload the hay. It was always a special deal but there were gallon cans of alcohol in the hay! It was great drinking... great drinking. They really put it away up there, and they mixed it with Mission Orange, a carbonated beverage.
LaVoy: This was during bootlegging, er- Prohibition?
Millward: Yeah, but this was real potent and it had to be cut.
LaVoy: And it was brought in with the hay?
Millward: It was packed in the hay.
LaVoy: My goodness.
Millward: In a boxcar. Then when we came back to the hotel, we went to somebody's room to have a farewell drink and Harry went with us. He kept singing "I know a secret I can't tell about two little peanuts in a shell." He just kept that up all night long and we all went down and had our final dinner. We all sat together and then we got on the train and went to Truckee.
LaVoy: Now tell me, just digressing for a moment. Who was your maid of honor?
Millward: The judge's wife. They were the witnesses... that was it.
LaVoy: Mrs. Bliss?
Millward: Mrs. Bliss.
LaVoy: Did your mother and father know that you were getting married?
Millward: No, I wasn't going to tell them. I was going back to school, and so Bill told them he was going to go to Reno with me, and we got off the train, and then we went over to the hotel and got a room.
LaVoy: What hotel?
Millward: I think it was called Sierra something, but I'm not sure. It was in the middle of the block. I think the only thing in the block was "speakeasys". When the "prohighs" would come to Truckee and padlock the joints you could walk down the street and count 32 padlocks. So, anyway, we got this room in this hotel and it was upstairs over...
LaVoy: Excuse me, now, this is the hotel in Truckee?
Millward: In Truckee. We stayed all night in Truckee, and when we went into the room there were no shades or curtains on the window. It overlooked the redlight district, and here were all the girls in the cold, either leaning out a window or sitting on a bannister of the porch.
LaVoy: That's very interesting, Helen.
Millward: Well, that is the way that it was, and the next morning Bill took the train to San Francisco. He thought he had a job to go to, but by the time he got there it had blown up, so he went to work in Leighton's Cafeteria and his roommate the saxophone player and Matt couldn't get a job. Jobs were hard to come by, so he used to snitch a couple of hardboiled eggs when he got off work and stick them in his pocket and take them home for Matt to eat. They were really broke.
LaVoy: Now, where were you?
Millward: I went home. I went to Fallon.
LaVoy: And didn't tell your parents that you were married?
Millward: Not for a while, but I was there maybe four or five days and I decided that I would tell them that I wasn't going to go back to school. So I told my mother and she took it pretty well, she wasn't too happy, but my father... my daughter, married to a musician! That was terrible! Then he went down and he took his secretary, Lois Maupin, into the vault and he told her first, and he said he couldn't understand what was wrong with me and why I had given up all this to marry a musician. He came home that night and he wouldn't speak to me. I don't think he spoke to me the next day and then he had to make a trip to Reno and I said, "Would you stop and pick up Martha and bring her down when you come down?"
LaVoy: Who was Martha?
Millward: That was my roommate from college at Oregon, Martha Williams, who had been unable to go back, and I said, "If you don't bring Martha with you, I will be leaving. I will take the bus to San Francisco or Berkeley." He brought Martha home and it began to ease a little bit, then he finally wrote Bill a letter. I still have the letter, but he conceded, more or less, and things were smoothed over. Then Bill got a job on the boats going to Alaska in the summertime, but right now they would go down to Los Angeles or San Diego and then come back up the coast to San Francisco, and then they would make a trip to Seattle and then back to San Francisco. So, I went down and stayed with some friends and when they came in I met him about midnight down on the waterfront at San Francisco, at Pier 18. These were the Alexander boats. It was the Amadorfi, and then he'd have a couple day layover and then I would go back to my friends and he'd go down the other way and back. And in the meantime I went to Sacramento or Placerville and kinda back and forth.
LaVoy: You left Fallon and joined him down there in this more or less transient arrangement?
Millward: Yes, until we went back to Tahoe. We knew that we were going back to Tahoe.
LaVoy: So this happened for about eight or nine months?
Millward: Oh, no, no, this was just a very short time. We were going to Tahoe in June.
LaVoy: Oh, I see, and you were married in February.
Millward: In February. So anyway, the boat was going to go to San Diego and come back and then go all the way to Alaska and come back and then they were going to get off the boat. They made the mistake of mentioning to the purser that they were only going to make this one trip to Alaska and he told the Captain. The Captain fired him in San Diego and they didn't have even enough money to get home on, so the Captain arranged for them to go back to San Francisco on a cattle boat.
LaVoy: That would have been interesting.
Millward: It was interesting, but in the meantime I had ten dollars that I had been guarding. I was in Sacramento with my aunt -- we went down to Weinstocks and I saw a pattern for a hooked rug which was one like Mrs. Southworth had made several years ago . . . with an urn of flowers on one end ... and I bought everything to make this hooked rug and it took all my ten dollars. Then I lost my lipstick, but in the meantime somebody took me to Placerville to visit so my Aunt wanted me to drive her to Sacramento so she could shop one day. I said I would drive her if she would buy me a new lipstick, so she bought me the lipstick.
LaVoy: Your parents were sending you no money at all?
Millward: Oh, I was just living off the relatives, and I had deposited. . . they had sent out announcements and everything. . . and I had deposited one hundred twenty-five dollars in the savings bank at second and Virginia. My father took me upstairs to meet Mr. Wingfield and tell him I was married and to meet him again in hopes that he would pass me a nice wedding present, but he didn't. Things were getting tough for them, right then. There was handwriting on the wall so, anyway, I had my one hundred twenty-five dollar savings account there, but I didn't want to touch it. I wanted to keep it for a rainy day, then I lost it all. The bank crashed.
LaVoy: The bank closed, and you lost your hundred and twenty-five dollars? So you really were without one penny?
Millward: In the meantime, Bill, I think he went back to work at Leighton's and then it was time to go back to Tahoe and...
LaVoy: Where were you living?
Millward: I was living with my relatives, between Placerville and Sacramento.
LaVoy: Where was he living?
Millward: He was in Berkeley yet, because that's where all the orchestra was and they might pick up a job on Saturday nights, but it was a very short time and we left for Tahoe but I'm trying to think if my father came over to Placerville and then took me up to the Tavern or if I went home first. No, I went home first, I think and then they took me up to Tahoe when Bill got up there, I guess, and then we worked the summer then and then it was Fall and we didn't go back again. He got a job in the bay area. We moved to Berkeley.
LaVoy: Did you live in Berkeley?
Millward: Uh-huh. I intended to start at the University of California. I sent for a transcript of my records, but the season was so late starting I couldn't start in the Fall. I had to start in the Spring, and by spring he had a job in San Francisco and had to move to San Francisco because of transportation.
LaVoy: How long did you live in San Francisco?
Millward: From 1931 until 1952.
LaVOY: Did you work in San Francisco?
Millward: I had to get a job. Bill got a job in a Chinese restaurant with an orchestra and it was really a good job. It was steady and it lasted for about two and a half years but we weren't quite making both ends meet. He met a friend that he had known by the name of Ed Allen. Ed had had restaurant experience and he saw Bill and Bill said, "You don't know where my wife could get a job, do you?" Ed said, "Yes, I've got the restaurant concession at the F & W Grant Store. Send her down Monday about 12:00 o'clock and I'll put her to work. She'll only work a couple of hours a day, so I went down and it was in the basement. They served a half of a fried chicken for twenty-five cents, with vegetable and a biscuit . . . I don't know whether your drink was extra or not, but if it was extra it was only five cents.
LaVoy: What were your wages?
Millward: I had to go to work for a trainee's wages, which were $14.40 for a forty-eight hour week, and I could only work that for six weeks -- then I had to get $16.00 a week for the forty-eight hour week, which boiled down to twenty-five cents an hour. The first day I worked, I was so mad at that man. I hated him. I thought I could never work for such a rude, horrible person, and I went home and I told Bill I wasn't going back to work. He said, "You have to," I said, "No, I'm not!" So in the morning I woke Bill up and I said, "You go around the corner - there was a public telephone on the building around the corner -and you call that store and ask for Ed Allen and they will call him to the phone and you tell him I'm not coming back to work." Bill went and he came back and he said, "Ed fired a girl to give you a job and he said to tell you to get your butt out of that bed and get down there and work the week out," so I went back down. I wasn't happy at all. He came to me at 1:00 and I said, "Well, it's 1:00, I'll go home now." He said, "I want you to go upstairs and work the soda fountain," and I said, "I've never worked a soda fountain. I don't know what to do," and he said, "You get up those stairs and work the soda fountain. You can put a hot dog on a bun, can't you?" I went up and I learned how to work the soda fountain, and when the end of the week came, he said, "Don't you think you'd better stay?" I thought well, maybe I'd better, we need the money and I'm learning, so I stayed and worked with him for several years, even at different places, but he was such a crook. At the store, everything was floundering and going under. The poor man would come from the Bayview Market and he would say, "What does he do with the bills I bring him for the chickens?" And I would say, "Oh, he has to send them to the East... they have to be paid from the Eastern office." He said, "Well, he owes me an awful lot of money, and I've got to have some money," and I would say, "Well, I'll tell him, I'll remind him again." I found out that Ed was just tearing up the bills and throwing them in the wastepaper basket. About that time the whole chain went under but prior to that they had been writing all these glowing records about how much Mr. Ed Allen and the San Francisco store, how much money his restaurant- [End of tape 2 side A]
Millward: His first job was the Chatterton Bakeries had gone into bankruptcy. He was appointed to manage two or three bakeries and restaurant combinations, and I went to work for him there. I met a girl by the name of Millie there. Millie was pretty outspoken and she was pretty unhappy with Ed 'cause he'd make us wait for our checks. [Phone rings, tape cuts out] Millie quit her job and went to work at another place. In the meantime Ed had another restaurant and I worked for him there for a while but they fired him right away and a couple days later they fired me. That was the only job I was fired from. And then I met Millie on the street and I said, "I need a job." She said "You're crazy going to work in the dimestores, get out and work where you can make some tips, I'm working for some real nice people and you go over and see them." I went over to see them and Joe was an Italian he had immigrated from Italy and was a wonderful cook.
LaVoy: So his name was...
Millward: Joe Gillio. He had married this girl Evva and they had a daughter and it was like a family and Evva had a lot of relatives. They were always keeping her relatives working too, but it was kind of like a little family and I worked for them for several years -- from about 1932 to 1939. They’d build up a restaurant, and then they broke real hard, and then they’d sell it and take the rest and start another one. And I worked for them at 4 different restaurants in that period of time. Then it was the year of the Fair and they weren't working. I got a job at the Oxford Hotel/Coffee Shop and stayed there for nine years.
LaVoy: This was the World's Fair in San Francisco?
Millward: In 1939. And then in about '48 Bunnies were going to take over this coffee shop and I didn't want to work for Bunnies. I quit and Evva and Joe had a restaurant in the Olympic Hotel and I went back over to them but they sold it to a couple of cooks and two families and they were very nice people so I worked the rest of the time for them until I moved to Fallon.
LaVoy: So basically you worked until 1952-
LaVoy: As a waitress in the different restaurants. Then you and your husband went to Utah to visit his brother and you tasted a Spudnut. Will you take the story of Spudnuts from there?
Millward: I thought it was the best thing I had ever eaten in my life, it was just fresh and I didn't really think I cared much for doughnuts unless it was some fried dough my mother made for me, but I wanted to take one home, so we went into Salt Lake and we couldn't find a place open. We had gone in for dinner in the evening and I finally found a chocolate covered one at one store. I took it back to Fallon and my mother thought it was still pretty fair, I thought it was pretty awful, but I thought it would be a good business to go into. It was getting to be in the Fall probably in October... and I went back to California, but I was looking at a location for downtown and we were gonna come up and go into business with them. It didn't develop so I decided we didn't want to go away . . . we were making good money, we better stay in San Francisco. My mother went to Salt Lake at Thanksgiving time and talked to the Peltons and wanted a franchise and they decided to... but she had to build the building. So she built the building and then when she opened the shop I came up and helped her open. In the meantime we bought some property in Tahoe and I thought we won't stay in in the wintertime, we'll come over here and help the folks, we'll get away from San Francisco. That was the plan, but it didn't quite work out that way and we did stay in San Francisco. We bought this property and stayed in San Francisco long enough to pay for it, then we moved to Fallon and just kept the property rented up there.
LaVoy: I believe I said a wrong date a few minutes ago, I noticed here that August the 27th, 1949 was when the first Spudnut opened.
Millward: Well, that was it
LaVoy: Excuse me just one minute there was one thing I wanted to ask. Was your father able to stay with the banks, or did he have to-?
Millward: No. He could not take a job in a bank in the State of Nevada. The First National Bank or whatever the bank was that opened the Churchill County Bank, would give him a job in California but he could not work in Nevada.
Millward: Well, they just didn't want any of the old Wingfield or "old guard" around. He liquidated the bank in Yerington that went under which wasn't a Wingfield bank and he would go over and work about two or three days a week in Yerington for maybe a year or two until it was all liquidated.
LaVoy: When your mother started the Spudnut I understand that he helped set up the cement block house or the shop it was in. Where was this shop?
Millward: Right where the shop is now. [1350 S. Taylor]
LaVoy: On your ranch property?
Millward: Right on the property. We had a man that had come from Yerington that Daddy met over there. He was a building contractor and was quite a cement man and a good worker. He ended up living with my folks. More people lived with them! Finally my mother couldn't stand him and his little dog sleeping upstairs in the attic of the house. She told him he could have a little shed out back and he fixed that up, slept out there and rigged up a shower so that in the summer he could fill a five gallon can with water and he could have his shower out there.
LaVoy: What was his name?
Millward: Vic Meekum.
LaVoy: I read someplace that your father helped make the cement block is that correct?
Millward: Yeah, they got a block machine and they made all the cement block for the original building.
LaVoy: I understood that they wanted to buy a place uptown but the restauranteur wouldn't sell it to him.
Millward: Well, they wanted to buy LaViega's and I was the one that tried to call him to see if he would make a deal -- it happened to be on Nevada Day and I didn't realize that it was a holiday. I couldn't imagine why a businessman didn't answer the phone. . . that's when I drew out. I think they probably looked uptown, but nobody thought they'd make a go of it. In the first place nobody really knew what they were gonna have.
LaVoy: It was interesting that Andy Drumm came to the rescue. He was evidently fixing the canal and wanted it finished before the opening of the Spudnut Shop and had his men work overtime for that "dear little old lady," your mother. Tell me something about the restaurant.
Millward: As she had it?
LaVoy: As both of you had it.
Millward: She started out with just spudnuts and coffee and soft ice cream and soda pop. They added a sandwich called the barbecue bun and people meet me yet and say they sure would like to have a barbecue bun. It was a hamburger bun but it wasn't cut in two halves -- it was the whole bun and you made a slit in the bun with a knife and you put it on a toaster, slid it so it was toasted on both sides, and you wanted it nice and crisp and then you had this hot barbecued beef . . . we got a special spice, we ordered it out of Chicago . . . we got it from the Spudnut first, but when I could see a chance to make another dime I was usually the one that would cut off the supplier and go to the source -eventually I was buying the spice in twenty case lots out of Chicago. That sandwich was very popular, we cooked the meat in the electric roaster and after it was done we added a little water and stirred in the spice, my mother always stirred in a little extra something or other that she thought made it taste better, and we got a quarter for it.
LaVoy: And that was basically what they served for the first couple of years.
Millward: That was basically what they served when she had it and when I came. Then after I came the teachers would come out and have a barbecue bun and a spudnut and I'd think, "Oh it's a shame," so I'd make a lemon pie and they'd all have a piece of lemon pie for their lunch besides their barbecue bun. Then I started making a tuna sandwich or a deviled egg sandwich. Then I decided I could make a "little special" for their lunch, so I would make a pasta dish or a casserole or I'd make them crab salad. I could make them a crab salad real easy. I got the most wonderful pound can of crab meat, Dungeness, just delicious, for $1.00 a can.
LaVoy: That's hard to believe knowing the price of crab right now. Well then did Bill help in the restaurant?
Millward: Well, Bill was going to go to work at the base but we had to put a bathroom upstairs in the house so he and the old man put a bathroom upstairs and by that time he went down to see about getting the job at the base and to draw his unemployment. He couldn't draw his unemployment because he left his job to come with me. I should have left my job to come with him.
LaVoy: I see. Now were you living with your parents?
Millward: We were living in the house with my parents. We had our meals and everything together but we had a bathroom and a bedroom upstairs.
LaVoy: You mentioned the bathroom upstairs. Who helped Bill fix that?
Millward: That was this Vic who helped build the shop. He was still living there.
LaVoy: I read that your mother and perhaps you served "ditch bank" asparagus and "hearts of gold" melons and then green tomato pie when the frost first came. Was this popular with the local people?
Millward: Pie, everybody would take it because it was a novelty but we only made it two or three days maybe. The asparagus they loved and the ranch was just loaded with asparagus. Then they built Manchester Circle and all those people would sneak down in the field before we could get up and get it. Mrs. Ray Couch was living next door to us and she would take the dogs up in the field and pick all the asparagus and that really cut into our asparagus. But we had beautiful asparagus.
LaVoy: Did truck drivers stop at the restaurant?
Millward: The truck drivers came right from the very beginning. There were ammunition trucks going to Hawthorne and they could not stop in town and we were out of the city limits. They would stop for a spudnut and coffee. And after I came one morning, a truck driver came and he said, "I am sick and tired of eating a spudnut and coffee every morning for breakfast." And I said, "Do you want two fried eggs?" He said, "Yes." I said "Watch the shop." I ran out to the henhouse behind the shop and grabbed two eggs from under a hen, I ran to the house and got two slices of bread and popped it in the toaster and fried the two eggs and ran back to the shop and set it down in front of the truck driver. He said, "Well that is service!!" He was tickled to death. Well, then I said, "We can put a little stove where this table is and we can fry eggs for people in the morning." So we bought a little stove and it had a grill on it and it had a little oven and that stove is still being used in the Spudnut shop.
LaVoy: Now tell me, how far from your house was the Spudnut shop?
Millward: I got a better way I can tell you. . . We were making what they called the "spudover" and we bought the fancy machine to roll the dough. We didn't have room in the shop for that machine so we put in on the back porch on a table over at the house and I would take the frying screen over which would hold twenty-eight turnovers and I would take the dough and the can of fruit over. I would roll the dough and toss mother the piece of dough, she would lay it on the cutting machine, put a spoon of fruit in it and turn the handle and we had a little half moon turnover. She would lay twenty-eight of those on the screen, I would grab the screen and run back to the shop, put four little wooden blocks on it to hold another screen on top of it so they wouldn't float, immerse them in the fryer and run home. It took seven minutes for them to fry and I could get back in time to take them out of the fryer.
LaVoy: Well that was down to the last minute I must say.
Millward: It sure was. Of course Martha was there and she was warned, watch...
LaVoy: Who was Martha?
Millward: She was the lady that rolled the spudnuts, Martha Phillips. She was aware that they were cooking. . . they never would have burned if we slowed up. We made at least three trays of those every morning.
Lavoy: At what time in the morning?
Millward: Well, we had to do them when we didn't have something else so we had to do them while she was rolling the second batch of dough. I went in in the morning...
LaVoy: About what time?
Millward: About eight o'clock.
LaVoy: So you didn't have an early-early morning cooking shift?
Millward: Oh, yes, we got it finally to the point where I was there about five o'clock or maybe three o'clock, after I took over, after we remodeled. When we still had the little old shop, we got a stove, then there was a group of duck hunters that used to come from Reno, they were doctors, and had a duck pond on the Sorensen Ranch. It was a private club. They always used to stop and buy spudnuts on their way back to Reno. One day they called me from Reno and asked me if I would open up and cook them breakfast at four o'clock the next morning and I said yes. So at four o'clock the next morning I was over there and I had ham and bacon and eggs ready to cook for them. I cooked six or seven or eight breakfasts. I never got all ten of them at the one time as we only had nine stools and the little table that held four people. But, that started my duck hunter's breakfast.
LaVoy: When did you expand?
Millward: The fall of '57 and we couldn't find anyone to lend us any money. Mother had the ranch to put up for security but the bank appraiser came and made the appraisal and he left and we never heard anything from him. Mother got a bill for $7.50 for an appraisal, it was charged to her bank account and we still heard nothing from them so finally she called up and I think the man's name was Smith and she asked him what had happened to our loan, we wanted to start building before winter set in and he said, "Oh, well, the board of directors voted against it, we can't loan it to you." They never notified her and she really told him off over the phone. Here we were sitting here waiting. It was time to start to look for money. . . Reno couldn't come down because we had to be within so many miles and it was too many miles over where the location was. Finally somebody came to us... boys that we had asked to build the building and they said, "Mrs. Blair, we can't help you and you're being held up, but we know where you can get the money and a builder." J.D. Edwards was the contractor and Gus Martin who lived in Stillwater had the money and was willing to loan us $20,000.00 on the ranch, but we never put up one cent of money. They started building in September and they did everything that they could before they had to close us up, we kept on working just as long as we possibly could. I even mixed up a batch of spudnuts and went over home and fried them in a big kettle of lard for someone who just had to have spudnuts, I had promised them that I would be open and I wasn't --but we got open for Halloween. February came along before they even came along and wanted to settle up and told her how much the building had cost and how much we owed them. I was really going to pay them anyway and between the two of us we paid them off in about a year and a half. They only charged us 6 percent interest and they didn't start the interest until we started paying them. I don't know how anybody could have been any fairer than that.
LaVoy: Now let me just get this clear in my mind. Your mother and father started it and then you and Bill came and joined them as partners.
Millward: No. We bought the business but really I bought their inventory and I gave them something for goodwill, but it was a very nominal sum and their equipment.
LaVoy: And that was about 19...
Millward: January 1953.
LaVoy: You started building the new building...
Millward: The Fall of 1957.
LaVoy: Then you opened up on October of '57.
Millward: October 30, 1957. I think we were able to make spudnuts but they were still installing stools and things.
LaVoy: I saw pictures of the parade and there was a spudnut in the parade. Who was responsible for that.
Millward: I was.
LaVoy: Will you describe the float very briefly.
Millward: Well, we had a logo, it was Mr. Spudnut. He was a big fat doughnut with a face on the front, he wore a little cap and he had two short little legs and two arms. I wanted to have him in a parade, so the first year we fixed him up on a cart, I've got pictures of all this, and Laurada's boys pushed the cart and that was Mr. Spudnut! I don't know if they threw out some spudnuts or some spuddies.
LaVoy: Laurada Hannifan's boys pushed it? What were their names?
Millward: John and Kerry. The next year I wanted to get fancier and we had a float on a hay wagon. We built a fire out of cow patties, they burn and make a lot of smoke, it smoldered and we had a tripod with a little iron kettle like the pioneers had and we had Billy Lawry, and my nephew, Ricky, frying these spuddies and we had them in little glassene bags and we tossed those out. Oh, that was Davey Crockett time and they even had coonskin caps on and we were playing Davey Crockett but that's the way we got away with Mr. Spudnut, he had a coonskin cap on and he was Davey Crockett for the parade. Then Christmas time I had him out... I had a stairway built... Spudnut put out an ad with the little children peeking through the rails on the stairway and Mr. Spudnut putting the gifts under the tree and we put that outside. My mother made the dolls she used pajamas for the boys and a nightgown for the girls and made their faces and embroidered them. I had a bag of day old Spudnuts out there everyday but I had an awful hard time because the dogs would come up and eat them and they might pee on the bag. The little kids would go over and I had to warn the mothers, "Don't let the little kids get near the bag of spudnuts out there." Anyway it was a very cute float, I think that was my best one. Then one year I decorated for Halloween and I had witches and Mr. Spudnut.
Lavoy: You must have been a very enterprising restauranteur.
Millward: Well, I get bright ideas and I like to carry them out but I had lots of help with my planning, too. My mother backed me up all the time.
LaVoy: Now in 1961 you won a national sandwich contest from the Institute and Restaurant Association. Now how did you happen to enter that?
Millward: I took a vacation in 1959 to Chicago and really it was just a chance to get away for three or four days but the shop could pay for it. I joined a restaurant association and went to the convention. . . it was quite wonderful. I went by this display and this was the fourth year of the national sandwich contest and here was this dismal looking creation that had been sitting there for a day or two. One prize winner had slashed a hot dog, threw it in the fryer and it curled into a circle. It was served on a bun – a something dog. The lady that won used the famous sandwich that has corned beef and thousand island dressing and Swiss cheese on rye bread [Reuben]. I looked at all of them and thought I could do something better than that. I came home and I wrote for the entry blanks, I was going to make a sandwich that was cut like a cake and very fancy. I made it, but I also had a new oven and I wanted to try out my oven, I cooked a roast beef prime rib and I invited the teachers to come out. In Chicago I had had a roast beef cocktail made of thin sliced roast beef and sour cream and horseradish and I took my idea from that. I made it into a sandwich on rye bread. The teachers just loved it and they said it was better than that other one -- send them both in. So I sent them both in and at five o'clock it was time for the mail and it had to be mailed, it was the last day. I said to my mother, "I've got the recipe typed, what'll I call the damn thing?" and she said "Atlasta Good Beef." I'm sure the name had a great deal of influence on the prize, but that was quite an experience.
LaVoy: You went to Chicago to receive your award.
Millward: No, I went to New York to receive my award and they had a big party. I even was written up in a magazine, I wish I could remember, it's from New York. It's very popular, been around for years and it's rather reasonable. . . it'll come to me [New Yorker]. Anyway, I got a world of publicity all over the United States when I won the first prize. I thought I was going to lose, I was just heartsick because they weren't paying any attention to me and these two men, they were just gushing over them.
LaVoy: Tell me what was the first prize?
Millward: A trip to Europe and $500.00 cash.
LaVoy: Did you and Bill take the trip to Europe?
Millward: We took the trip to Europe and it was supposed to be for two weeks or fifteen days I think, but I managed. I told them I'd take a couple of extra days and I would pay for it. The first thing we went to Europe, we went to Copenhagen and we went to Oscar Davidson's restaurant and they gave me the most wonderful party in the world. That night some men called me at the hotel room, I had just come in -- it was about eleven o'clock and they wanted to take my picture. I came downstairs and they said, "Well, we want to take your picture with a sandwich." and I said, "That's easy, maybe they'll get us two slices of bread from the kitchen and I'll just hold the two slices of bread and it will be a sandwich, if its on a plate." They wouldn't let us in the kitchen, the kitchen was locked and the boys said, "Well, let's go to a nightclub." I took off in a Volkswagen with two fellas I had never seen in my life and we dashed around to two or three places. First I said, "Let's go to the hotel where I had gone to dinner and introduce myself to the Chef." I was supposed to make my presence known. That kitchen was locked. We went to a nightclub and they kicked us out. Then we went to another nightclub and they consented. The boys promised me if they don't do it here then we'll just take you back to the hotel and just take your picture. They took us into the kitchen and we made a ham sandwich on white bread and I've got a picture of me holding it up to take a bite out of it. Then from there we went to London and I appeared at a fair there and they had a reception for me and then Paris and I was entertained in Paris. And Switzerland was very wonderful. . .then I took the train from Switzerland to Italy and I wanted to go to Venice and we really had a ball in Venice. Then I had to go back to Germany to Munich to the Oktoberfest, I appeared there and then I had to fly back to Copenhagen. I had gone on a trip and our trip turned out to be late and they didn't get me back in time to confirm my reservation, I was sure messed up. Then our plane to Copenhagen was late and I didn't know if I was going to get home or not and by that time I was so tired. . . by the time I got to Los Angeles I was exhausted. They had to order codeine for me and put me to bed and calm me down and everything, I was just exhausted, but I had a ball. I was supposed to go first class everywhere, but going over the Los Angeles airport was in a terrible turmoil and I got stuck in the economy and we were late leaving. Finally I decided there was no point fussing, the girls didn't know anything, they hardly spoke English, so I just went there. Bill kept laughing at me, "You thought you were going to sit in first class and drink champagne all the way to Europe." We got to Europe and when we got there there was nobody to meet me because there was a postal strike. Finally I got ahold of somebody and he told me to take a taxi into town and I think I had to pay the taxi. He was from the SAS airlines and they were my carrier. He told me he'd see me the next day for lunch at Oscar Davidson's.
LaVoy: It sounds like you had a wonderful time.
Millward: I had a wonderful trip and I was treated just royally. We met some Millwards going from Copenhagen to London and by chance they had made their reservations for their seat in May and we had made ours in September and I appeared at the airport first and they gave us their seats. When they came they just raised holy heck, they wanted these particular seats. So we got to meet them and he was very snooty and we said we'd like to meet them, our name was Millward and their name was Millward but they were very disdainful. When we got to the airport in London they met me with a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur. I was to be met everywhere with a chauffeur and an American Express man. They had brought me a bouquet of flowers that was this long [twenty-four inches, end of tape 2]. I had all this attention, I had a Rolls Royce with a chauffeur, all these flowers and I'm sure they must have wondered who in the heck I was. The British couple took us to dinner at Simpson's on the Strand and it's very famous for its roast beef served on the cart. I must have made a hit with them because the same people had taken all the previous winners there but this time they brought over the guest book and had me sign the guest book. So a "sandwich queen" got her name in, along with all the movie actors and actresses and all the big shots that eat at the Strand.
LaVoy: Well, I think that's marvelous. It must have been a downplay to come back to Fallon.
Millward: No it wasn't, because I got back and the shop was just loaded with flowers. You can't imagine. . . when I came back from New York was when it was really loaded! I was on this T.V. program out of New York, they held me over for three days so I could appear on this program and then I went to San Francisco and I was able to see it on the T.V. in San Francisco then I came to Reno and the Garnicks met me and I was on the local T.V. I got so much support from everybody at home and they were wonderful, just wonderful.
LaVoy: Well, your living at the restaurant and working at the restaurant was anticlimactic after that.
Millward: I took my slides of Europe and showed them for one year. I didn't go often, but if anyone asked me I went and finally some girls asked me in January of next year and I told them I couldn't do it, I had just all of it that I could take and that it was so old hat now that I just couldn't put myself into it.
LaVoy: Now how many years after that did you keep the restaurant?
LaVoy: Fifteen years! Was your father alive all of that time? Millward: Well, my father died in 1953 right after we came up.
LaVoy: It was basically your mother that was here?
Millward: My mother and Bill and I lived together in the house and we got along very well. My mother was a great help to us. She had a little cake business on the side and she was making and decorating wedding cakes. When I started serving pies she started baking the pies over at the house for me.
LaVoy: Well now tell me, when did you move to this home here on South Bailey [475 South Bailey]?
Millward: Fall of 1978. Lee would not buy the restaurant unless he had an option on the rest of the property.
LaVoy: Who is Lee?
Millward: Mr. Garner. The man that owns the restaurant now. Finally they made the proposition that they would have an option on the rest of the property, there was less than three acres with a house and shop.
LaVoy: What had happened to the rest of the property?
Millward: The rest of it had been bought by the school. The school district built the Minnie Blair school out there. I finally decided that I had to be out and he was the only person that I had seen that would be capable of carrying on a business there. People that came to look at it were… Some people from Fallon came to look at it, like one man wanted to buy it but he wanted to hire all the help done and the money wasn't there. He asked me and I told him, "The man you're going to put in here is a good man but there's not enough for you to make a profit and for him to make a profit."
LaVoy: Why did you decide to sell?
Millward: I couldn't take it anymore. I was tired and I was approaching sixty-five and Bill was seventy-two and we were still standing on that cement floor everyday -and those awful hours -- we cut it down to where we were only working five days a week. It was just a question that we had to get it done and on top of that I lost my mother in 1973 and it was time to quit. I had a nephew that wanted it but I... they came up and looked at it and she wanted to take my books and know what they weren't going to do but she was going to work for the Welfare in Carson City or somewhere and she had two adopted children. I made the right decision. I couldn't let them have it. When my nephew Mickey came that was the idea that he would be trained to take over but he didn't have the temperament and he blew up in a couple of years.
Lavoy: Now this is Mickey...
Millward: My nephew, Mickey Blair.
LaVoy: This has all been very interesting in hearing about the Spudnut Shop because it was one of the most famous spots in Fallon. When did they change the name from the Spudnut shop?
Millward: They never served a Spudnut except the last order of the mix I ordered. I was feuding with the Spudnut company a little bit and they wanted me to charge $1000.00 more, or in other words give them a $1000.00 for the franchise out of the money I was getting from Lee. I wasn't getting all that much down to risk a $1000.00 on that, so I told them that I would stay with Lee a month and I said I would teach them and they said, "No, we don't want you to teach him. You've been a good operator, but we want things done our way." Well, Lee wouldn't have stood for that anyway. I said, "I am ordering one more batch of mix and I will sell it to Lee on my inventory and you can come anytime after the first of July and do what you want." They never came. Lee went to Reno and started buying doughnut mix. . . so after I was out they never had Spudnut mix again.
LaVoy: So then they changed the name?
Millward: No, they kept writing on and on and on, it was still the Spudnut shop, the sign still said Spudnut. Finally they woke up about two years later in Salt Lake and realized that they had never been paid for the franchise but they were having a real bad time and were on the verge to go under so they wrote Lee and told him that he had better pay up or they were going to sue him, he was using their name. He just tore the signs down and put up the chicken and the bull, the cock 'n' bull. He decided to get that name because the breakfast grill was still out front and all these fellas would sit there and have coffee and breakfast at the counter. They used to joke with Bill and they would joke with Lee, although Lee wasn't as jovial and couldn't have as much fun with, as you could with Bill. One morning he thought he was going to serve chicken and he was serving roast beef and he thought all this conversation is just a bunch of cock 'n' bull. He came over and he said, "I've got a new name for the place but you may not like it." and I said, "It's your place I don't care what you call it." He said, "What about Cock 'n' Bull?" and I said, "If that's what you want, you have it."
LaVoy: And that’s the name it has today. Now after you retired I know you kept very, very busy doing civic things and what not.
Millward: Oh, I belonged to the Republican Women's for awhile. I took some classes at community college.
LaVoy: You became interested in caterpillars I understand.
Millward: I had found one in my back yard on my tomatoe plants and I didn’t know what it was and Mike Mackedon happened to come by and I said, "I got a strange caterpillar out here." He said, "Well, that's going to be a Monarch butterfly." With the help of Mary Holliday who was a teacher in Reno I got into the butterflies. There was one summer that I had at least seventy-six that emerged from the chrysalis either in the house or in my yard.
LaVoy: That's amazing and I know you gave some very interesting programs on them.
Millward: I took pictures of it and I took my slides to the school and showed the third graders and then I dropped down to the second graders and I tried the first graders but I liked the second graders the best.
LaVoy: Then you also got involved with birds, how did that happen?
Millward: Well, I took a course in birds but I got into the birds with John McCormick because I was into botany with Pat Lott and I took her botany classes and John McCormick's botany classes and real recently there was a bird class came up and I got into that. When I got through with that I decided that that was my last class at community college. It was getting a little strenuous taking notes...
LaVoy: I'd like you to tell us about your feeding the robins each winter.
Millward: One winter probably around the 17th of January, there was a robin on my patio and I didn't have anything to feed him and I went out to Willy's...
LaVoy: Now who is Willy?
Millward: Willy Capucci. He gets lettuce leaves and things, fruit that's past stage, from Raley's to feed to his ducks and some birds. I brought some grapes home and I also brought some very ripe strawberries. . . they were strawberries from Southern California, grapes from Chile, berries from New Zealand and I think something from Australia. And I'd bring home a little of them and put them on the step and the bird would come and eat. He stayed for almost two months. He left, I think, on the 7th of March. I felt like I'd lost a friend but I was able to take pictures of him, laying on the floor here with him and he'd come up and get his blueberries and I had fun with the pictures. The next year, in January, there's a robin again. I've had a robin in January every year since. I think this is probably the fourth or fifth year. I'm never sure whether the robin actually stays but he might make a little trip out and come back ... their plumage changes and I can't recognize them. I wish that I could put a tag on one some time and see. But anyway I almost feel it's just one robin and he gets food.
LaVoy: And he's been doing that for four or five years?
Millward: Yes. I tie bunches of grapes in the trees. I have all different ways of feeding them but now I just throw a bunch of grapes on the ground. I get the babies in the summer and mamma teaches them that this is a good boarding house and then she takes off and they just gorge themselves on grapes and they leave again in August. Maybe it's not good for them but I think they thrive on it.
LaVoy: Well now you're also interested in flowers and you mentioned Pat Lott and John McCormick and you belong to the Hoe 'n' Hum Garden Club. Could you tell me the little story I heard about mustard?
Millward: Well, I'm a little hazy about that one right now, but John McCormick told us a story that there was a man... I forgot the man's name.... John Hill, and he had a railroad in Canada. He used to ship hay and seed into the northern states and it would come across the Dakotas and into Montana. All of a sudden they had this mustard seed that was being germinated and it would grow. . . It was quite a tall mustard plant and they called it the "John Hill mustard" because it came from his train that was carrying this seed. It's quite a tall plant and it grows along in that canyon going up to Mountain Wells.
LaVoy: So Joe John Hill has put his name clear across the United States with his mustard.
Millward: There's a sequel to that story. John had a son Sam and Sam married a lady that was of royalty or very close to royalty and was from Europe, I believe, I'm a little hazy on this now it's been a long time since I've told it. But he built a beautiful home for her either up in Oregon or Washington in a very scenic area, probably on a river. He was kind of a daredevil and the people up there used to say, "What in the hell is Sam Hill doing now?" or an expression to that effect. So he was carrying on his father's name, first it was, "What in the heck is John Hill doing?" and now it was, "What in the heck is Sam Hill doing?"
LaVoy: Oh, that's very interesting. You and Bill celebrated your 50th wedding anniversary not too terribly long ago.
Millward: In 1980 we celebrated our 50th and this year we celebrated our 60th.
LaVoy: Oh that's wonderful. From such a shaky start you have had a very firm, strong marriage haven't you?
Millward: My cousins came to the 60th. We had just a small thing, we went up to the Nugget and stayed all night and they came back and stayed a day with me. Two girls and my cousin Zelda said, "Well this has lasted a long time and when it happened we all said it wouldn't last." It did last.
LaVoy: It did last and you're very happy together. I want to digress just one moment here. This Minnie Blair school that was named after your mother, you say that the school district bought the land from you or your mother?
Millward: My mother.
LaVoy: ... your mother for a school and why did they name it the Minnie Blair School?
Millward: Well, she didn't know it was going to be called the Minnie Blair School but she'd hoped that when they built a road into the property that they might put the name "Blair" on the road. She got her first check from the school district and she was already in the convalescent home. They said that she'd tried to get out of her chair and fell, but I don't believe that, I think she probably had a slight stroke and fell and hit her head, because she was very cautious at this time about walking. She went into the hospital and she was fairly lucid the first couple of days but after that she just went downhill and she died the end of August. She was probably in the hospital about three weeks. Her check came and she went into the hospital on a Thursday or maybe Friday and I wanted her to endorse the check. Oh, I couldn't endorse the check, I could endorse her other checks but I couldn't endorse this check because it was property so I had to have her sign it. I didn't know if she could do it or not. She used a heavy black felt-tipped pen a lot, so I took the pen down and the check and I took a large board or a book that she could write on and then I told Bernice Morrison and Ruth Coleman if they could come to my mother's room at the hospital about twelve o'clock. The only thing that I wanted was that someone could say that they witnessed her signature and I wanted them to make themselves known that they were there to see Mrs. Blair. I gave her the check and I told her, "Mother this is the check for your..." I took the check down to her on the Friday when it came and I told her "You got your check from the school district." I think it was about forty-four thousand dollars Vi was with me and mother kind of looked at the check and held it and Vi said, "Grandma let me hold that for awhile, I've never held that much money in my hands ever and I never will." We kidded her a little bit. When I got there at noon on Monday and she took the pen and she started to write pretty big and I said, "Slow down you're going to run off the end." She slowed down and she got Minnie P. Blair across the check and definitely it looked like her handwriting. We took the check to the bank and deposited it. She was going to do so many wonderful things with that forty-four thousand dollars, she was going to give everyone a little gift of money.
LaVoy: Was that the full price of the school?
Millward: No, no it was much more than that...
LaVoy: That was the first...
Millward: That was the down payment. I think all together we got about $160,000.00 or maybe a little more.
LaVoy: Well when the school was finally built. I was reading the dedication for the school and I was very impressed with the fact that she had almost every important state dignitary at the school.
Millward: She knew practically everybody in the state.
LaVoy: Oh, I noticed that... and Anne Berlin gave the history of Minnie Blair and that was written up quite well, but I noticed that Governor O'Callaghan [Mike O'Callaghan] and Senators Laxalt and Santini [Paul Laxalt and James Santini] continuing right on down spoke very highly of herself and of course yourself as being her daughter. The school has now become the high school. Do they still have her name on it?
Millward: They called that original building the Minnie Blair building.
LaVoy: So it's Churchill County High School with the Minnie P. Blair building.
Millward: I'm not sure. Maybe they used the Minnie P. I don't know.
LaVoy: Helen, now tell me, what are some of the things that have given you the most pleasure in life?
Millward: Personally, myself?
LaVoy: Personally, yourself.
Millward: Well, one of the things that I just dearly love is Bill's music. He had a beautiful singing voice. Maybe he could have or should have gone further with his voice than he did, but it was always a question of he shouldn't take the most expensive teacher, he should find somebody else. He loved his music and I loved it to.
LaVoy: When did he get his organ that you have?
Millward: When we moved to Fallon we had a piano and my mother had this great big square Mathushek piano and she called John McCormick and told him he could have the piano for $100.00. Her father had ordered it for her in the late 1880's when she was born in '86 . It came around the Horn and was in the Placerville home until she moved to Goldfield. When she moved to Goldfield, her father had the piano shipped to her in Goldfield. It was moved from Goldfield to Tonopah and in Tonopah it was in three different houses. When we came from Tonopah we used the boxcar and practically filled the boxcar and brought every single thing that we possessed. Everything was boxed and the boxes were numbered and the contents were labeled. And so anyway, then we had the piano in the house here in Fallon. I'm wondering if they had to keep the boxcar or did they put the thing in storage or did they have to pay rent on the boxcar until we could get into the house. I'm not sure about that. I don't know how that would have worked. But anyway, John wanted the piano for his girls and he had room for the piano at his house out at the Experiment Farm. He came and the piano tuner came . . . there was a girl in Goldfield who hit the piano keys, they were ivory and she had broke three keys and I had scratched the end of the piano with a knife or a needle when I was a baby, a little girl. . . Anyway, he had the sounding board taken out and everything shipped back East and it was all redone. That is the piano that is in Susan McCormick's house now.
LaVoy: Well, why didn't you and Bill keep that?
Millward: Mother said we don't need two pianos and Bill had his piano. It needed tuning and it needed work and she figured that John wanted that piano and she wanted John to have the piano. I think it cost John $1500.00 to get it fixed up and then when they moved from the Experiment Farm they didn't have room and they offered it to us if we wanted it and I said, "There's nobody in the family who had a place for it." I may have stepped on someone's toes but it was a monstrosity to move it was so big.
LaVoy: But it's a beautiful piano.
Millward: It's a beautiful piano and as Susan says. "It divides my dining room from my living room and sometimes I wish it wasn't there but it's there."
LaVoy: Did Bill play at public functions in Fallon?
Millward: Yes when he got the organ and started playing the organ. I hate to tell you how many organs we went through. First, we got a little Spinet instead of the piano and I tried to learn to play "Asleep on the Deep" but I couldn't, I didn't have the ability. So one day this man came down from Reno in the '60's. . . it was Dick Woodard from the music store and he brought this organ and left it for six weeks and then called up and said, "Do you want to buy it?" I told Bill yes, trade the old one in and we'll buy it. Then Bill decided he wanted a better one in about a year because it didn't have an automatic rhythm. We went to a used one which was a terrible mistake. It was a Hammond B-3 with a great big box for a speaker and we'd pick up all the truck drivers with all their chatter and we'd pick up things at the base, and then it picked up a funny tick and he'd be playing and there'd be this alternate beat on it so he cleverly got rid of that one and got a Yamaha. He got it out of Sacramento and the man came and he called us back and said "Does this organ have a funny tick?" I don't know what they told him but, he didn't come back and give us back our organ. Then he met Rex Curry, who was an organist in Reno and he decided he had to have this Allen. That was an expensive organ and heavy as all outdoors. You couldn't move that. He decided he had to have an organ he could play on, so he bought this second organ. You name the organs and I think we've had them all. We even had two organs in this house for a long time. Finally he bought a nice little one you can take out, and it was really nice.
LaVoy: Where did you take it out to?
Millward: The Elks Club, or someplace. Some jobs he got paid for and a lot of gratis jobs. He enjoyed it, but he couldn't hear and if I didn't go with him he wouldn't listen to people when he was trying to play and they would want to request something and I think they would get kind of picky about it. He was the organist for the Elks for years. He just quit that this last year.
LaVoy: I understand that Paul Laxalt came and thanked him for playing the organ at some function that Senator Laxalt was at.
Millward: Well, he always played the organ when we had a barbecue for the Republicans over at Oats Park. He would take the organ over.
LaVoy: So you feel that Bill's music has been one of the most enjoyable things in your life?
Millward: Yes, we really enjoyed his music and he has enjoyed his organ and he still plays every morning or every day for a while.
LaVoy: Oh, that’s wonderful.
Millward: If we have company he'll play the organ for them.
LaVoy: Well, that's just great. I think you've had a marvelous life and it will be very, very interesting reading when we get it transcribed.
Millward: And I've enjoyed all the cooking I've done. I started cooking, as I said, very early and I was always trying new recipes or something a little different or a new way to do it and I'm still cooking.
LaVoy: That's great. Now, on behalf of the Churchill County Museum, I certainly want to thank you for all the time that you have taken and this will be the end of our interview. [Tape cuts out]
LaVoy: This is going to be a recorded addendum to our initial interview. Helen, would you please tell me what you wanted to say about fishing?
Millward: Well, several years after we were in the Spudnut Shop, we decided we should have a vacation and we closed for a week and went to Hawaii between Christmas and New Years, but that was just a lazy vacation. A few years later, about 1960, we thought, "Well, we like to fish, so we'll go in the summertime." We still keep winter vacation period, but we'd take a week or two weeks in the summertime and go somewhere where we could fish. We went mostly to Canada and had lots of wonderful trips and we brought lots and lots of fish home. We had a big walk-in freezer and we would freeze the fish for a few days or a couple of weeks and then on a Friday which really wasn't announced to the public, but would get whispered around a little bit, there would be a free fish lunch at the Spudnut Shop at noon. We would probably serve fish to one hundred fifty people. We served them the fish and we had coleslaw and scalloped potatoes or maybe a vegetable. They paid for their coffee, or what they wanted to drink, because that gave us a record. We would have a waitress' check so we would know how many people we had actually seen. It was often that we served one hundred fifty people at this free lunch. We also gave a Christmas party for several years, we’d do that on a Monday on a day we were closed, and that was an invitation party and we probably served food from 11:00 to 2:30 until it was all gone. It was a buffet and we had turkey and ham and shrimp that they really enjoyed.
LaVoy: Well, that's wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Helen.
END OF INTERVIEW
There is a slight discrepancy in the Goldfield flood story
. . three of the bank group had birthdays in September:
Mr. Blair on the 15th, Mrs. Walther on the 12th and Mrs. Blair on the 9th. They always picked the Saturday closest to these days and the dinner was always at the Blair house. The house was decorated with crisscrossed festoons on the ceiling and lighted decorations. Mrs. Blair was on the closed-in back porch freezing ice-cream when the storm hit.
Mrs. Blair knew Anne Martin, Nevada's most famous suffragette, and the Tonopah-Goldfield women quietly impressed upon their "menfolk" and leaders of the community that the privilege for women to vote was a thing that should be done. Congress signed the bill into law that gave women the right to vote on August 26, 1920.
Andy Drumm, Jr. told Mrs. Blair she would never raise the money for the transformer at the Indian Colony, but if she should raise $350.00, he would give her $50.00. The line to each house and meter deposit was to be paid by each individual user and the T.C.I.D. agreed to divide these payments over several months. Mrs. Blair collected $425.00 and the transformer cost $385.00. When the wiring was completed and the meters installed she gave the Reverend William Plants the extra money to pay the monthly light bills at the little church as long as the money lasted. This is also a slight correction to the story that Helen told.