Earl Nygren Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
July 18, 1993
This interview was conducted by Marion LaVoy; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norine Arciniega; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
Neat as a pin in his omnipresent blue bib-overalls--a smile on the countenance of a "Swedish" heritage unlined face--skin glowing with health--Earl Nygren welcomed me to his spotless home. He had files and a scrapbook on the table to "jog" his memory should he forget family statistics. I realized early in the interview that this gentleman was the historian of the Nygren family memorabilia from the article re his parent's wedding to letters dating in the 1940's and earlier re his father, Walter's, honey business--nothing was in disarray--each missive was filed in chronological order!
A fascinating story unfolded of a man who set aside his university education to return to Fallon to help his parents run their ranch. Years later he married and pursued other interests for a while. He was employed by the federal government, but at an important juncture in his life he put his interests aside and once again assumed family obligations. He put on the mantle of the Nygren Honey Company and soon upgraded the equipment, labeling and marketing of the company plus the plain hard work of supplying citizens of the state of Nevada and other states with the delicious alfalfa honey. His comment that at times he looks at his old friends and co-workers who have now retired with government pensions while he is still making a living, led me to wonder if he occasionally questions the decisions he made so many years ago.
Earl has sold much of his apiary equipment . . . he is keeping just enough to give him "something to do". His sons are pursuing their own selected careers with Earl's blessing and the community of Fallon and the state of Nevada will be the losers when the last jar of "Nygren Nevada Honey" is sold and the bees are silent.
Interview with Earl Nygren
LaVOY: This is Marian Hennen LaVoy of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project interviewing Earl Nygren at his home 1225 Lovelock Highway, Fallon. The date is July 18, 1993. Good afternoon, Earl.
LaVOY: I wanted to ask you, I understand that it was your grandparents that first came to Churchill County. Is that correct?
NYGREN: No, no. My dad was the first one. Dad came through here in 1906, and at that time, of course, there was publicity about the Newlands Project. Prior to that, Dad was born and raised in Minnesota. He was born in 1885. He left his home area because of the fact that he didn't like to hoe corn. He thought there was something better to do than hoeing corn, and he worked, as he told me, on the threshing crews through Minnesota and the Dakotas, on up into Canada for a while. He went to work with the, I assume, what is now the Southern Pacific Railroad, well, it's now the Santa Fe, but it was the Southern Pacific Railroad, as a painter, and, of course, 1906, they had the Depression, low depression and what not, and the painting crew was reduced down to him and the foreman, and he thought that his job was pretty safe. Then one day he was notified that he was being laid off, and that was the end of his railroading. He came through here in 1906, I guess, looked the area over and what not and went on home to Minnesota, and while he was there he wrote the, I have this here, it's a copy of a letter that's on file at the Museum in fact, government relation service addressed to Hazen, Nevada, wanting to know the condition for entry on the government land 'cause the Truckee Project cost us some, how much money needed to carry one through, also send maps if possible, let him know what is left and how far from the railroad. "Do you know how this is for beekeeping? What is the land adopted [adapted] for? How is the climate? How cold does it get? Please send full particulars as soon as possible. We'll be through there in fifteen days," and, of course, the government answered him. Do you want me to go through that?
NYGREN: This, of course, is addressed to my dad, Walter Nygren, Dent, Minnesota. It said, "Dear Sir: I have received your letter of October 11 and sending you such literature as is now available. We do not recommend anyone take up this land who has less than a thousand dollars in cash or goods. This, of course, depends on the man more than anything else, and some of our settlers are succeeding on less. Beekeeping has been an important business in this valley for many years and it has proven exceedingly profitable. I'm told by the bee men that the honey will go average seventy-five pounds per hive and the price varies from eight and half to ten cents a pound. There's a great deal of bee pasture in this country, and as the amount of alfalfa increases with the extension of the irrigation, the possibilities of beekeeping will be increased. Our land is adapted to practically every variety of crops grown in the north temperate zone. The climate is mild with a large amount of sunshine which induces rapid plant growth. The coldest temperature recorded in the last two winters has been two degrees below zero. As a rule, the temperature does not go below fifteen degrees above except for one or two nights during the winter. You will find people from all over the country here, many of them well satisfied with our neighborhood. I hope to see you when you reach Fallon. Very truly yours, the engineer of operation," and who that is, I don't know. In December of 1914, he's got a letter here from the Department of Interior land office. Apparently, he had inquired about maps of the area, and the answer is, "This is the only map of Nevada that we can send out. It is free. If you want a better map, I can get one from the bookstore here for twenty-five cents and postage." This map is--it's hard to read--it has some kind of information about the state and it's signed by Mr. Rogers who's the register.
LaVOY: Well, now, I just want to ask you, 1906 is when he made his first inquiry so evidently he decided not to come out until later because if this second inquiry that you mentioned is in 1914 that would be just prior to World War I. When did he finally come to Nevada?
NYGREN: He homesteaded here in the fall of 1907.
MILLS: Right. In 1907 in an area that is in the Harmon District adjacent to the Indian reservation. At the time he came in here on the railroad from Hazen he met a gentleman from Michigan by the name of Ayers. The two of them traveled the area primarily, I guess, going towards Stillwater, and there were two pieces of ground available that they come on that they thought they would like. Mr. Ayers had a daughter in his family that was school age. Dad, of course, was single, and Mr. Ayers took the nearest piece of ground because of the fact that it was closer to the schools. The daughter wouldn't have so far to travel. Dad took the further one. There was an eighty-acre parcel between the two which my dad did buy later from the person that had homesteaded it because he gave up, was quitting, so my dad bought the adjoining eighty. He homesteaded. Later Dad told me that prior to homesteading here in Churchill County he had the opportunity to take up land in what is now the middle of Hollywood [California]. Kind of ironic, but here he is in Churchill County, and what life would have been like having settled in what is the middle of Hollywood today.
LaVOY: Did he have to be down in that area with the railroad or just traveling?
NYGREN: No, that was where he was laid off in that area of the railroad. The albums that the girls [his sisters, Maie and Myrl Nygren] have that are out at the ranch, and I may have one that my aunt had, has a lot of pictures that Dad took of the country that he was traveling through when he was working for the railroad, and apparently he did a lot of his own film processing because the type of the material, and later on when going through some of the effects that were left over and whatnot, they found the type of equipment that would be used for the developing of negatives and things of this nature.
LaVOY: I just want to ask you one thing. We've discussed your father a great deal and I did not ask you his full name. Would you tell me his full name at this point in time?
NYGREN: Well, his full name was Walter Leander Nygren.
LaVOY: And he was born where?
NYGREN: In Minnesota. I think Dent was the name of the nearest community.
LaVOY: And approximately when was he born, or do you recall?
NYGREN: He was born January 4, 1885.
LaVOY: All right, fine. Now, we'll continue on because he was certainly an ambitious young man to have come this far west and to have done all the things that he has done.
NYGREN: Well, figuring his age and when he homesteaded here he was twenty-two years old, so he was definitely a young man as far as that part goes.
LaVOY: What did he do on the railroad?
NYGREN: He was a painter.
LaVOY: That's right. You told me that.
NYGREN: Yeah. He was a painter on the railroad. Worked with the painting crew. I don't know how large the crew was, but the little research I might be able to show you a token of his deal on the railroad on it. This is a scrapbook that my son, Ron [Ronald Nygren], made up. May eventually end up in the museum. I don't know just what it will be. A brief history of the Nygrens, 1901. Goes on through. Shows a photograph of somebody collecting a swarm 1901 and 1906, back in Minnesota. This pamphlet is a record that my dad kept on beekeeping. The first entry in it is 1901.
LaVOY: Now, this was back in Minnesota?
NYGREN: Back in Minnesota. He bought one colony of bees from a fellow by the name of Modine, June 14, 1901. He bought two more in July the same year. One died that spring. Took off sixteen pounds of comb honey September 28 on the first colony. They put them in the cellar in November, 1901. Up in the northern tier states, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, in those areas when winters were so cold that it was necessary to protect bees through the wintertime, they put them in cellars so they wouldn't get too cold. Bees can stand, I don't know how cold, over a short period of time. Here's where chronological time will differ, but we had in 1949 what I call the year of the hay lift. We had temperatures here at twenty seven below for over two weeks. The bees, we lost about a third of the colonies during that period of time. Primarily they starved to death. In fact, they couldn't move from where they were to where the honey was. Going back to the old saying, "Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink," they had honey all around them. Couldn't get to it to eat.
LaVOY: Because they were so cold.
NYGREN: So cold they couldn't move. Had it warmed up in that period of time for two or three days to where they could have moved for honey they would have lived. And that's the only year that we've lost bees from weather being so cold, and we don't cellar them here. They spend time out year in, year out, day in, day out. But, anyhow, this record involves the years 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, telling about what he did. Well, here in 1905, we increased to ninety colonies. Harvested about 1250 pounds colony honey. Received about 140 dollars for same. Fancy, it wholesaled at twelve and a half cents. And Friberg and Richfield [Minnesota], which are two communities close to him, buying the most, three hundred pounds, once at twelve and a half cents. Put them in the cellar on November 29. 1906, took them out beeing the fifteenth of April. Commenced at seven and finished at eleven. Nice weather all day and many days after. Four hives were dead. Cause too little bees being plenty of honey in all hives. Two were united. Two of them were put together and made one. All have wintered very well to all appearances. This date is April 25, 1906. Taken in the first pollen on the eighteenth of April. Has been nice weather to this date. I seen nice weather. Robbing was very bad. Increased loss. That apparently is the end of his beekeeping in Minnesota, and that was the year before he came out here and homesteaded on it.
LaVOY: Now, was he married when he came out to homestead?
NYGREN: No. No, he didn't get married until 1915. Married Anabel Hunter who was a neighbor in Minnesota, and she came out originally, taught school in the old Harmon School, and, if my memory serves me correctly, was also the first teacher in the new Harmon School which is present building.
LaVOY: Do you think she came out because she knew your father, or just an adventurous soul?
NYGREN: Could be a combination of both as far as that part goes. I'm not aware of that. I think, well, according to my aunt, my dad's sister-
LaVOY: And what was her name?
NYGREN: Lily Amelia Nygren. She married a man by the name of Machin. Otto Machin, in fact, and he was from Missouri. She homesteaded here in 1912 when her and her parents came out on a homestead out in Sheckler District where she homesteaded on it. Later, she married Otto Machin. They moved to eastern Washington, Colfax area, Palouse country. That's what it was. Pictures here showing the Nygren home in Minnesota. Various sights of it. Also showing the original homestead tract. Who took the picture I don't know, but Dad is shown in the doorway with a broom in his hand. Apparently brushing a bunch of trash outside the door.
LaVOY: And this was in 1907?
LaVOY: Did he build the house that was on it, or was it already there?
NYGREN: Apparently, he built it. I couldn't say for sure about that but, apparently he built it.
LaVOY: Is that still standing?
NYGREN: No, it's not. A portion of it could still be in the area, but all the additions that were added on over a period of time. Whether it's actually being used as a church or not, I don't know, but when they built the new house, the Country Church bought the old building and had it moved to the Country Church site now, and to my knowledge it's still there, but I haven't been by there so long, I don't even know whether I'd recognize it.
LaVOY: Now, where is the Country Church site?
NYGREN: That's on Stark Lane.
LaVOY: By the airport there?
NYGREN: Well, it's, to a certain extent, by the airport. Either on Stark Lane or Crook Road. Just right in that area, I know, but I haven't been out there for quite some time. [775 South Crook Road]
LaVOY: And you think that actually that is the home that your father built. Now, he lived by himself from 1907 until 1914 in this home. Is that correct?
NYGREN: Yeah, 1915. They were married 1915. Matter of fact, I have a copy of the wedding announcement invitation in my possession.
LaVOY: Now, tell me, what did he do between 1907 and 1915 on this land that he had acquired? By now, he has 160 acres I assume.
NYGREN: Well, apparently it had to be debrushed, leveled to the point where irrigation could be done.
LaVOY: Did he do that himself?
NYGREN: I have to assume so.
LaVOY: Did he use oxen or mules?
NYGREN: No, he had horses. He used a Fresno or a scraper. I know he had both a two-horse and a four-horse scraper, Fresno, and also a tailboard which was used to level off over a larger area at one time. I don't know whether those are still on the home place or not. They were, to my knowledge. I don't know whether Ray [Nygren], my brother, has done anything with them or whether they're still sitting out there. I couldn't say about that.
LaVOY: And what did he plant?
NYGREN: I would have to assume that his major crop was alfalfa, and I can remember when I was large enough, big enough, old enough, to ride a mower and drive a team of horses and whatnot, but the hay we cut, to my knowledge, was still the alfalfa that was planted when he originally planted those fields back in 1907, on up, as far as that goes.
LaVOY: Now, he got his water from the Lahontan Dam. Is that correct?
NYGREN: I assume. I don't know how else he would get it. Now, how it was received, but after all, the Dam supposedly wasn't built until 1911, and recorded history shows that there were two Carson Rivers in this area. There was the South Carson and the original one which is the one that goes by my place now. How the water was diverted out of whichever river to the properties east of town, anybody's out there, Ayres', or any of the rest of them, I don't know. I never inquired, never asked. I know the ditches were there 'cause as far back as I can remember, I can remember the canals being built and dug and everything. Of course, the S-line canal which goes down to the Stillwater area including Harmon and the Indian reservation takes out of the Carson River at what we call, well, it branches out of the Carson River, I should say, at the Coleman Dam. Now, whether that was the original start of the S-line I can't say. T.C.I.D. [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District] would probably have records of that, but I can't, from my own personal knowledge, say.
LaVOY: Well, it seems to me that if the Dam not being finished until later that probably he did get his water from the Carson River.
NYGREN: Have to assume so. I know that Dad did say that at one time, well I probably mentioned it, I guess, maybe once or twice, three times that they had a flood here in 1907, and Kent’s lumber yard was floating all over the country. (laughing)
LaVOY: I've seen pictures of that. There was lots of water around. Did that affect him at all?
NYGREN: He never said that it did. He never said that it did. He just commented the fact that they had a flood here in 1907. Kent's lumber yard was floating all over. He might have made other comments, but that's the only one that I remember about (laughing) as far as that goes. When Dad actually got started in bee business here in Nevada I can't say. I was never curious enough to ask him when he started or how he started. And by how, I mean whether he bought bees from people that came in here with bees from California or whether he ordered packaged bees and equipment from some of the supply houses, I just don't . . . I was just never curious enough to ask him how he got started. I knew he had bees in Minnesota and whatnot like that. Was acquainted with them, and, consequently, there's a period of time that I can't fill in, as far as that goes. My first experience that I remember with bees. I was probably, I don't know, four or five years old, something like that. Dad was going to go down and work with the bees this day, and I inveigled him to let me go and help. So they dolled me up in a veil to protect my face, gloves to protect my hands. Whether they actually tied my pants legs down so they couldn't crawl up the pants leg or not, I don't know. But, anyhow, we went down in the bees and Dad started working with them, and I, of course, was watching all the time. One of the main tools of a beekeeper is what we call a smoker, and that is a device to which you use mostly gunny sacks, burlap sacks, to produce smoke, and the purpose of the smoke is more or less a deterrent. Just recently I heard a comment on TV that kind of goes against the fact they didn't know why the bees objected to the smoke, but it was always my opinion and more or less everybody else's opinion that smoke indicated fire. Fire indicated loss of home, so consequently you took steps to protect yourself until such time as you could get reestablished. So you gave the bees a little bit of smoke which they connected with the fire and loss of home, so they busied themselves with filling up on honey for the purpose that if they had to leave home, they'd have something to live on until such time as they could reestablish themselves in a new home. Well, Dad turned the smoker over to me, and as he got done with one colony why I'd open up the next one and smoke it and whatnot, so that he could work on them. This went on down the line for several colonies, and the bees are just like humans. They have bad personalities, too. I opened this one hive, gave it a little smoke. They didn't pay any attention to the smoke. They just came out a fumin' and fightir'. I dropped everything and ran up to the house, and I don't remember when I actually went back to beehives again as a particular date, but I did get involved with them at a later time all right.
LaVOY: Well, now, did you get stung at all?
NYGREN: I don't remember that I did. It was just the fact that the bees, this flock of them came out, and it scared me and I just took off, as far as that goes.
LaVOY: So your father had to pick up the smoker and take over from what you had neglected to do.
NYGREN: Yeah. (laughing) He had to go on from there, and my recollection, probably, at that time, Mr. Nygren probably had around fifty colonies of bees, and I'm guessing as far as that part goes. Got a census report here in 1928 that shows he had fifty colonies of bees. They were valued at $250 then.
LaVOY: Now, I'd like to regress just a moment. By this time that you're speaking of, your father and mother were married. Can you tell me when they were married? The date? Approximately.
NYGREN: I could, but not right off hand. (laughing)
LaVOY: Well, we'll catch up with that later then. And you were the first-born child?
NYGREN: Yes, I was born January 23, 1918. As I understand just at the close of World War I. My brother came along 1923.
LaVOY: His name?
NYGREN: Ray Hunter [Nygren]. Hunter was after his mother's name. [End of tape 1 side A (?)] The twins, Male and Myrl [Nygren], were born in October, 1924, and I can remember that Dad and Mom had a little discussion as to what their names would be, and they finally came up with Maie and Myrl which rhymed with Earl and Ray and me being so much older than Ray and Maie and Myrl, I was, to a certain extent, their overseer when they were able to get up and be around and whatnot like that, and I was responsible for teaching Maie and Myrl, both of them, to walk. Getting them started to walk and whatnot, but backing up a little bit. You asked about when my parents were married, and it was Wednesday, October 27, 1915, at Fallon, and there's quite an article in the paper about the wedding and whatnot like that.
LaVOY: Now, since you were the eldest of all of the children and you had to take care of Myrl and Maie and Ray to a certain extent, when did you start school?
NYGREN: I started school, well, it must have been the fall of 1924. I'd be six years old, and my first year of school was in Stillwater. The reason for that was that my mother's sister was also a school teacher, and I presume, I guess, she was inveigled to come out, maybe, to help my mother with the twins and also that there was a vacancy for a teacher in the Stillwater school. So she came out, and they bought a Model T Ford coupe so that she could drive the approximately eight miles from the home place to the Stillwater school, and she being a teacher and whatnot like that, why it was logical that I go to school with her.
LaVOY: Now, what was her name?
NYGREN: Her name was Bertha Hunter. She was single at the time. Married later in life. But, anyhow, going down to school in Stillwater, one incidence that I can recall, well, actually, two of them. One of them was, of course, every school had their baseball team and recess and, primarily, lunch time as far as that goes, ball games would be inaugurated and this one particular day why one of the boys hit a home run and knocked the ball over the school building, and I made three trips around the bases while they were finding the baseball. I can remember that. But there's one time later where my aunt Bertha taught the upper grades. There were two rooms. The lower grades, first, second, third, and fourth. The upper grades, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. She had to keep some students after school, so that left nothin' for me to do but get into mischief, and havin' the Model T Ford there was a little gadget down on the front panel that was used to adjust the gas flow I guess is what it was. But, anyhow, I got to playing with that. Well, the students finally got let out of school, and Bertha and I started for home. We got approximately a mile and a half down the road and the car quit, and, of course, it wouldn't get started again, and she'd be asking me what did I play with anything or whatnot like that? "Yeah, yeah, I played with that thing down there." And I got a verbal blasting in no way shape or form. Well, later on, one of her Indian students came by, offered to help which he did. Finally got it started, and we got on home. I imagine when I got home I got some further discipline. I don't remember exactly what it was, but I probably got some further discipline. Possibly a spanking, but also during the winter I didn't get into any more mischief that I can remember, but I know they had problems getting that Model T started. Had to pour hot water over the carburetor, and they'd hook up a team of horses and pull it down the road and get it started that way, and that was some of the trials and tribulations of getting to school on time during the wintertime.
LaVOY: Now, one thing I want to ask. Who took care of keeping the stove going during the winter at school?
NYGREN: That is a kind of a peculiar situation. If you're familiar with the Stillwater area they have hot water deep wells down there, and that was how the school was heated was with the hot water.
LaVOY: That long ago!
NYGREN: Well, as I remember, they had down in Stillwater itself they had a outdoor hot water swimming pool. They also had an indoor hot water swimming pool.
LaVOY: Now, who built that?
NYGREN: Those I can't tell you. I don't remember their names. I probably did know at one time, but that's been so long ago, and they've been so inactive for so long, I just don't remember who built them. They were on the north side of the road going down through Stillwater. One was just east of the slough, and then the hot water pool was just east of that, and that building is still standing. Now whether there's water in the pool or anything like that, I don't know, but the building itself is still standing.
LaVOY: Did they charge you to swim in the covered one?
NYGREN: A nominal fee, probably. I don't remember, but it would of been a pronominal fee is what it would be. I can't tell you which particular year it was, but Fourth of July, of course, it was a great picnic area and picnic deal and everything like that, and that Stillwater was one of the places that generally had something going the Fourth of July. The fact that they had the big swimming pool there. Stillwater had a ball club. So did the Indian reservation had a ball club, and on these picnics why people would start arriving probably around ten o'clock in the morning, something like that. As I remember, they'd have a barbecue. The old style where they dug a hole in the ground, burned wood, and I suppose beef, possibly pork, but they were barbecuing. Then each District, those that had them, anyhow, brought five gallon freezes of ice cream that each District made up. I know Harmon had one of them. Had it for a number of years in fact. I suppose the thing is way gone by the wayside many, many years ago now, but I can remember that. They'd have foot races for the kids and all types of activities for, well, kids up to ninety, far as that part goes. I can remember spending my time in the swimming pool and the next day I was beet red.
LaVOY: (laughing) I imagine so. Mention the names of some of the families that came to this Fourth of July celebration.
NYGREN: Well, that would be kind of hard to do. There was the Nygrens, of course. There was the Baumanns, and there were two or three branches of Baumanns. Ayers and then the Stillwater District. Practically everybody in the Stillwater District was there. The Weishaupts and the deBragas, Vieras, probably some that I don't even remember now. Well, the Kents definitely, and then there were the people up on the Freeman ranch that were there. Probably, the Swopes, Dick Swopes. Fitzes. I can't remember about the neighbors so much, but anyhow those were a few.
LaVOY: Now, did they bring their own blankets and whatnot, or were tables set up already for them when they arrived?
NYGREN: There were some tables, and a lot of people, of course, horse and wagons and buggies back in them times. Not too many vehicles. They brought their own, well, to a certain extent, potluck. There were tables set up, but you ate wherever you could eat was what it amounted to. Brought your own utensils that I can remember now.
LaVOY: That must have been very, very exciting to have been able to take part in something like that.
NYGREN: Well, it was at that time. (laughing) In some respects, I kind of miss those old Fourth of July congregations and what not and the parties. Everybody turned out. Later on, why, you had your politicians and parades in town and things like that.
LaVOY: Well, now, when did you transfer from the Stillwater school to the old Harmon school?
NYGREN: Well, that was the next year. 1925. Had a horse and buggy. The horse's name was Nellie, and it was approximately three miles to school. The original route is impossible to travel today. I had three different ways I could go to school from where I lived. I generally took the shortest one. There was a neighbor by the name of Elmer Erickson. He went to school at Harmon School. I really can't remember just how he got to school. Whether he had a horse and buggy or whether he rode a horse. My other neighbor were the Franchis, and some of their descendants live in Reno. Myrl probably can fill in more about the Franchis. There was a girl and two boys that I remember. The girl's name was Rena. One of the boy's name was Salvatore, and I can't remember the name of the other boy, but sometimes goin' to school or somethin' like that why we'd have a race going to school to see who'd get to school first. And sometimes I got in front, sometimes they got in front.
LaVOY: This was riding your horses?
NYGREN: Well, horse and buggy. They had a horse and buggy. I had a two-wheel cart, really, I guess it what's you'd say, and they had a four-wheel buggy. They had a bigger one, and I don't remember now whether they had one or two horses to it. Probably only one.
LaVOY: Now, where did you leave the horses during the day?
NYGREN: At school they had a tie rack to where the horses were tied up. Was on the east side of the playground next to the road. What it was, I can't say just exactly how far it was from school. Probably about two hundred feet from school, the building itself.
LaVOY: Did you bring feed for the horses and leave it there?
NYGREN: No, we didn't. Poor old horses had to go through the day (laughing) without eating. And I can't remember even taking the horses to water. Matter of fact, I can't even think that there was a watering trough there now that you bring this to my attention. Poor old horses had to suffer is what it was.
LaVOY: And who was your teacher at this point in time?
NYGREN: My teacher was Ione Dalby Kennedy, first grade, and I can remember that winter Dad having to go down to Old River to get some wood posts. I can't remember that for sure, but, anyhow, Ione lived down on the road to the old Sagouspi Ranch [5522 Indian Lakes Road] and my mother had made arrangements with her for me to go down with my dad and I'd stay off and visit with her during the time that my dad was down getting the wood and he'd come back and pick me up, and so that was my first year of school. Well, second year of school was in the Harmon school, and I graduated from the Harmon school in 1932.
LaVOY: Who were some of your teachers during that period of time?
NYGREN: Well, second grade must have been Theo Morgan. Third grade must have been Theo Morgan. Fourth grade, too, 'cause fifth grade was Lillie Stark, and she was appointed principal, and I had Lillie Stark for the next four years. She was a strict teacher. She had originally taught out in the Dixie Valley area, and she lived in the Stillwater District, and she had to drive back and forth to school and one winter, probably the fifth or sixth winter, fifth-grade winter, she was late getting to school one day, and it was in the wintertime and Stillwater was a sticky area, slippery area to be in when it was wet, and she had slid off the road and got stuck and consequently was delayed in getting to school that day, but she taught for four years in there. She taught, I think, before she came to the Harmon. If I remember correctly, she taught over in the Lone Tree School.
LaVOY: Did you finish in the new Harmon school or the old Harmon school?
NYGREN: The new Harmon school was built in 1915.
LaVOY: Oh, so you were in the new Harmon school.
NYGREN: I was in the Harmon school all the time is what it was. But the Harmon school, the present, what is known as the Harmon school, was built in 1915, and at one time, 1929, 1930, 1931, somewhere there, it must be 1930 and 1931 they had three teachers out there. They had so many students that two teachers couldn't handle it, and the school when it was built was built with three rooms and one of them to be an auditorium. That's what it was to be and used for, and that's where the third class was, was in the auditorium. The auditorium was used, well, school plays, graduation and stuff of this nature. Had a stage that was raised so that the people wouldn't have to just look over each other's head, They could look up at the stage and whatnot like that.
LaVOY: Now, did your mother not teach at that school for a while?
NYGREN: I think she was the first teacher, but let me check and see here.
LaVOY: Now, your mother did not teach at the new Harmon school?
NYGREN: Apparently not. From the history of the Harmon school she's not listed as a teacher, and Harmon School was built in 1915.
LaVOY: And was retired in 1957?
NYGREN: That's right.
LaVOY: So, she taught in the old Harmon school.
LaVOY: And for how many years?
NYGREN: I imagine maybe just the one year. 1915. 1914-1915, I guess, is what it would be.
LaVOY: This was before she married your father.
NYGREN: They were married in October, 1915, and I come up with that newspaper article in regards to their wedding, anyway, here.
LaVOY: Now, I think this would be a good time that you could just fill that in and then we'll go on into your high school years.
NYGREN: Okay. "Churchill County Eagle. Saturday, October 30, 1915, happy wedding event. Walter Nygren and bride have big reception in the Harmon District. Very pretty home wedding was solemnized at ten o'clock Wednesday morning in Fallon when Walter L. Nygren and Miss Anabel Hunter were made husband and wife, the ceremony being performed by the Reverend J.A.," I think that's supposed to have been Jacob, "the pastor of the Methodist-Episcopal Church at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Nygren, parents of the groom. The contracting parties are well known in this community, the groom being a successful young farmer in the Harmon District while the bride who comes from the old home neighborhood of the Nygren family near Underwood, Minnesota, was engaged in teaching at the Harmon school this past year. Both the bride and groom are highly esteemed young people and the plighting of their vows is a matter of rejoicing for their many friends. This fact was clearly shown at the reception of the newly married in Harmon District Wednesday evening when seventy friends assembled to extend congratulations and wish Mr. and Mrs. Nygren bon voyage on the matrimonial sea. It was a time for merry making and the crowd made the most of the opportunity. The gaiety reigned supreme until midnight. Bounteous refreshments were served in the evening while games and other amusements entertained the party. Mr. and Mrs. Nygren were the recipients of a great many wedding presents as tokens of the high esteem in which they were held by their many friends in this locality." That's the end of that.
LaVOY: Now something that was mentioned in there was your grandparents, Peter Nygren. Now, when did they come out?
NYGREN: They came in 1912, but I can't give you a definite month as to when they arrived. They bought a house, at least I'm assuming that when they came out they bought this house on North Broadway. The house is still standing to this day. Alma and I lived in it for a good many years before we moved out here, and it was a well-built house. We stood two, if not three, earthquakes that I can remember of (laughing) without falling down, so it apparently was pretty well built to start with. Well, I think, they were probably added on at a later time but my memory as far back as I can remember why had a bathroom, back porch, kitchen. Kitchen was utilized for dining as far as they were concerned but they did have a dining room, one bedroom, a walk through closet and I'd guess you say it was a living room is what it was and then a front porch also.
LaVOY: Now, was your grandfather retired when he came out here?
NYGREN: He came out, as I understand, for, to a certain extent, for health reasons. I can't exactly say what his problem was with the health, but my dad felt that due to the dryness of the air out here it would be better for him to come out here. They had a big auction sale at the ranch in Minnesota prior to their leaving, and whatever he realized off the sale of the property back there was what he lived on. He did odd jobs around town. I can remember back in them days I'd go too when the folks go in to visit them, stuff like that, or they'd go in shopping and leave me with the grandparents, there'd always be a bunch of wooden blocks there to play with, build houses with and whatnot. These were acquired when he would unload wooden blocks, wood… I can't think of the word I want for it right now, but they come in gondola cars for C.B. Likes who had a wood yard alongside the railroad tracks which ran behind my grandparents' residence. This was part of the Y that the railroad used in turning around. It extended as far as the present bulk plant for Texaco, was Standard Oil, now B and M Petroleum [Bi-State Petroleum], I think it is, and that way the other spur of the Y went out to the sugar beet factory to supply the sugar beet factory with whatever material was needed in the production of sugar and also transporting the sugar out. I don't remember the exact years that the sugar factory was running. I do remember one visitation we made there one Sunday, I assume, probably. One of the employees had the bad accident to lose part of his finger, and they had it on display there for anybody that wanted to look at it, and I know my folks and I saw it all right. Probably weren't too happy about it. It was too bad that the sugar factory was eventually demolished prior to, and including the first part of, World War II, and a lot of people felt that our military forces got part of that steel back from the original sugar beet factory. (laughing)
LaVOY: Well, that's one good thing that happened. Now how long did your grandparents live?
NYGREN: My granddad died in April, 1933, I think it was, and my grandmother passed away a year later plus a month or so. Something like that. She lived just a little over a year more than what my granddad did. My granddad had been in ill health for over a year.
LaVOY: Did she like it out here in Nevada?
NYGREN: I really can't answer that, whether she liked it or not.
LaVOY: I know I'd heard one story saying that when she stepped off the train in Hazen she was very upset by seeing the desert and the Indians and all of that.
NYGREN: That could be. I haven't heard about that part of it far as that goes, but you mentioned that in the fact, and there's been a lot of people settled in Churchill County, Fallon, that had the same impression that you just gave, left it, and still came back. The wife's folks came from Pennsylvania and her grandmother was very disappointed in the way things looked here. [End of tape 1] My wife's grandmother was out here, moved out here, of course.
LaVOY: What was her name?
NYGREN: Georgina Strauss, and she was disappointed with it here. She wasn't going to live here, so she went back to Pennsylvania, but she didn't stay in Pennsylvania very long before she came back to Nevada, and that was it. No place like Nevada, and we've had CCC boys. They were here at three different camps. A lot of them came back here and retired here. Lived here for quite some time, retired here. Some of them have passed away since, and we have the Navy personnel. A lot of them when they hit this area for the first time think that they're off in hell somewhere, but it's surprising how many of them retire out, stay here.
LaVOY: Well, Fallon is a very friendly town. Now, regressing just a bit, let's get back to your schooling. What high school did you attend?
NYGREN: Churchill County High School.
LaVOY: Tell me about some of the classes and some of the teachers.
NYGREN: Well, let's see. I started high school in the fall of 1932. I took what was known then as an agricultural course. The teacher was L.C. Schank, and he produced some winning teams and various judging contests. Beef judging, dairy judging, weed identification, crop identification, and we had a certain amount of blacksmith work, woodshop work connected with the agricultural course that L. C. Schank taught all through the time that I went through high school and some years afterward. I had an algebra class. Two years of algebra, in fact. Principal George McCracken taught those, and he was a strict teacher. Good disciplinarian, and I don't think there's any student that went to school with Mr. McCracken doesn't think back and more or less thank him for the directions that he headed them in. We all thought he was a great man. One of the things when you were in Mister McCracken's class we always had an assignment, turned a paper in everyday, and you wondered sometimes whether he actually graded them or not, but every student was called upon to put a problem on the board. Sometimes there might be two or three students called in one class, sometimes only a couple. You never knew exactly sure when you were going to be called on to put that problem on the board, but you better be ready because generally that was where you got your grade from was on that problem. So you had to be ready. Well, there was two or three of us, or four of us, that every morning we'd get to school we'd get in the study hall and sit down. Dale Miller was one, Ray Sorensen was another, myself, we'd check over our algebra problems to see whether we had them right or we had the same answers or not or we didn't have it. How did you do this, and why did you do this and whatnot like that. That was generally the way we spent the period of time from about the time we arrived at school at 8:30 until school commenced at nine. You were assigned a homeroom which lasted for twenty minutes. Your attendance was noted, or absence, either one, and at the end of twenty minutes why you went to which ever was the first class. Forty minutes later a bell rang and you went to your next class and so on through the day. School ended at 3:20. The country boys, of course, went to school on buses. I was on the Stillwater bus, and that bus picked me about ten minutes to eight in the morning, and I'd better be ready, and I generally got home about four o'clock in the afternoon. There were chores to be done. Might be a note on the table, build a fire, maybe do something else in the way of starting dinner or whatnot. Just depended what's on the note. Change your clothes and went out and did your chores.
LaVOY: What were some of the chores?
NYGREN: Well, probably the first one was gather the eggs. Be sure there was wood and kindling and coal available and feed the chickens, feed the pigs, feed the cows and horses, sheep. I don't remember that we had any other livestock around, but those had to be done every night and every morning, plus the fact that the cows had to be milked which generally came after dinner. Mother, I think originally the cows were generally milked before dinner, but Mother came up with the idea that the cows would be milked after dinner while she was doing the dishes so that when the dishes was done and the cows were all milked, the evening was free to do whatever we wanted to be done, and those going to school had to study. Generally, was in bed by 8:30 or nine o'clock. Might regress a little bit here because of some things that come to mind. I think it was my first year of school or the second one. My tonsils and adenoids started acting up, so I had to go to the hospital and have them removed and that was done during the Christmas vacation. I can't remember the year but originally the light system was kerosene lamps in order to read by. Later on when the gas lantern and gas lights, and then I'm speaking of gasoline, not propane, or butane, came out why Dad first bought a gasoline lantern and he'd, occasionally, at night go down and check on the sheep and make sure everything was all right. Well, before he'd used the kerosene lamp and lantern, and they didn't throw too much light, but this gasoline lantern really lit up the country, and we'd go down, and we went down this first night to try it out. It was great. Dad later bought a gas lamp for in the kitchen to use to read by and study by. I have that gas lamp, and they also acquired a shade for it to direct light down instead of up. I know at one time it was used as a reflector out at the ranch on a light that was put up by the horse corral to light the cattle corral and the horse corral. See there after dark. Whether it's still on that pole or not I don't know, and if it isn't it's probably gone by the wayfare, but when we got the electric light, I can’t remember the year, I know I was in bed with some kind of a physical problem. I don't know whether it was sick from the mumps, measles, or something else, but, anyhow, the first light was hung in the kitchen and my dad carried me from the bed out to the kitchen so I could see the electric light that had been installed. Don't have the slightest idea when electricity was put in the place out there, But, anyhow, getting back to high school. Let's see, I've had algebra, geometry, English, for sure. Dean Moore was the English teacher, and he was rather strict in his ways, too, and I was never very good in English in any way, shape, or form, and grades didn't increase any better with him, either. (laughing) The themes that we'd have to write and everything like that, why I was never very good at writing anything and that's probably why I was reluctant to get into what they're trying to push me into in regards to the history of beekeeping in the State.
LaVOY: Tell me about your graduation. Who were the people that graduated with you? And tell me something about the ceremony.
NYGREN: [laughs] I don’t remember that. I’d have to dig out the yearbook.
LaVOY: What were some of the things you did for entertainment in school on the weekends?
NYGREN: Primarily, well, going back a little bit, when I was younger, weekends, generally the weekends as far as the entertainment is concerned that was on Sundays, and there'd be picnic with the grandparents, Rattlesnake Hill, out to, I guess they call them the Hidden Caves. We called them Bat Caves then, and in conjunction with the picnic at the Bat Caves, why, go hunting arrowheads down on the flat below. There was an oil exploration deal in progress when I was five, six, seven years old. Prospecting for oil, and one Sunday we had picnic at that site. Later on we'd go arrowhead hunting down below the Fish and Wildlife area.
LaVOY: Did you find any arrowheads?
NYGREN: Found a lot of arrowheads. I couldn't give you a number far as that goes. Mortars, pestles. There were several knolls down there. If you find one of those knolls that had a little charcoal or something on it why that indicated encampment deal and . . . It was funny. You might look that area over this year and have everything was on there. A year or two later you'd go back to the same spot and it's covered with arrowheads. The wind come along and uncover them and stuff like that. Generally, the way we'd work it out, we had a 1927 Buick at that time; it'd be one kid on each fender and one on each bumper on the rear. Dad would be driving looking out the window and Mom'd be on the other side looking out the window and that's the way we'd go down across the flat looking for arrowheads, and the material, flint, as we called it, I guess it's obsidian--is a good name for it--had a definite light reflection to it. If you caught that reflection, you knew that you either had an arrowhead or a piece of one, one or the other, so you'd be looking for them and you had a big area to scan. Most of those that were riding outside were looking further away where those that were inside were looking closer to the car. Surprisingly, my dad coming from an area with ten thousand lakes we did very little fishing although fishing was available in the area, primarily catfish. After I got up to the point where, well, primarily, I guess in high school, first years, freshman, sophomore, why, one of my buddies, Harry Stuart, another one, Sam Morehouse, Sam had an old Model T runabout, we'd get together and ramble out around the desert doing nothing in particular, just wandering around seeing what we could find, see. And, of course, there were dances, school dances, Harmon had that auditorium that I spoke about earlier, was used for a dance hall for dancing. There was dancing down Stillwater. Dancing at Fraternal Hall. Almost every Saturday or every other Saturday from the latter part of September, first part of October 'til February, March why there was a dance going on some place, and we'd go to the dances.
LaVOY: Now, this is you and your Mr. Stuart?
NYGREN: Yeah, yeah, we'd generally get together some way in nature that way, or later on, of course, when I was in high school why I dated different girls. We'd go different ones then. Back up a little bit. I was a 4H boy. Let see, I learned to drive when I was in the eighth grade. My mother taught me. Had a Model A Ford. I don't know how I got to school, but anyhow, one day she came to get me and the rest of the family home from school. No, couldn't been the rest of the family because it was just her and I, but anyhow she turned the wheel over to me. It was between the Harmon School and the corner today where Perazzos live alongside of the what used to be known as the Long Ranch; Edna--I heard she passed away the other day-Edna Barrenchea where she lives is about where my mother turned the car over to me. I drove it home and, fortunately, didn't have any accidents or dire problems, and that was when I had my first driving experience.
LaVOY: Then did you drive into high school?
NYGREN: No, took the bus to high school. About the only ones that had cars at the school, and there weren't very many of them, were what you might call the elite of the community. One fellow that had a vehicle to school was a fellow by the name of Bill Brunell. I don't remember the make of the car, but didn't have any top to it, and it was always around school, but that's about the only one that I can remember of having vehicles at school, but I imagine one of those Dodges probably had a vehicle of some kind, probably two or three others, but there weren't too many there. Most of the students lived in town, some of those that were the furthest from the high school might have had vehicles to get there, but the majority of them walked. Those from the country rode to school on buses, primarily, on buses. My bus was the Stillwater bus, and it was strictly high school, and the bus to Hazen was a high school bus.
LaVOY: Who was your driver?
NYGREN: Well, we had several of them. I guess the first driver I had in 1932 was Ray Shoffner and the last two years, I know, was Elmer Weishaupt, but there could have been one in between. I can't remember offhand as to who it might have been, but most of the drivers at that time were students in high school. Had their driver licenses. What they got monetarily, I don't know. I don't know their salaries. They were undoubtedly paid something, but how much I don’t know.
LaVOY: Now, while you were in high school and whatnot, had your father continued on in the bee business for that time, and do you recall starting an interest in it in high school?
NYGREN: Well, yeah, my dad… I don't know when he got originally started in bee business, having bees. I can remember one incident involved when harvesting. That would be the latter part of August, first of September. Honey when it was extracted run from the extractor into a large receiving tank. These tanks level would hold a hundred cans. Cans would be five-gallon cans, so there'd be five hundred gallons. By weight that would be six thousand pounds, honey weighing twelve pounds to the gallon. This one day he was drawing honey off. Probably around this time of the day, two or three o'clock in the afternoon. A couple of fellows came by as I remember, might have been more, but I remember two and inquired about the honey and what kind of a price he'd want. I don't know what all the conversation was. I know they were there for half an hour or so. Something like that. Maybe even a little bit longer. The next morning my dad went out, check things out. Some of the honey was missing. Some of the five-gallon cans were missing. Called the sheriff, and, if I remember correctly, his name was Jim Smith. He came out and investigated, and the people that had taken the honey had had to carry it about the length of two football fields to a road that ran on a canal that went through the ranch. They'd driven on this road. Apparently'd looked it over the day before when they were out, and they had packed that across those fields, and I don't remember offhand how many cans were stolen. Six or eight I suppose. Maybe a few more. Anyhow, there's an article in the paper about the fact that the theft had been made, and it was assumed at that time, still being during the Prohibition, that the honey was used to make alcohol products out of. Now, that's an assumption. Nobody knows that for sure, but it was assumed at that time that where's the honey was to make whiskey
LaVOY: Now, when did you become interested in the bee industry?
NYGREN: Well, I can't give you a definite date in that respect being a farm boy and Dad had bees on the farm there all the time. I eventually probably got to the point where I went with him. I remember when Dad started to expand. He started packaging honey as I can recollect sometime around 1928, 1929, maybe 1927, maybe a year later, but during that period of time. Primarily I think this theft deal was one of the things that got him involved but having to find somebody to sell the honey to to start with, the expense of shipping it, and all the trials and tribulations of this thing I think he finally came up with the idea he'd try packaging it. How he made his various contacts I haven't got the slightest idea. Probably started with I. H. Kent Company because I know his first packaging was with pints and quarts. Jars.
LaVOY: Jars, not the tins?
NYGREN: Yeah, pint and quart jars. Masonry jars. Primarily, I think, because at that time that was about the only thing available in the way of containers, and he bought the containers through Kents' Supply, and I can't give any definite dates as how long this went on, but he later went into the metal containers which was a two and a half pound size, five pound size, and a ten pound size.
LaVOY: And where did he buy those?
NYGREN: Well, according to the records here he bought them from Diamond Match Company which is located down in California. Chico, I think, was its address, and, of course, you had to have labels on them, and he bought the original labels through the American Bee Journal, which printed labels pertaining to honey labels of various kinds. As a matter of fact I can show you some of the original labels later on. Anyhow during the period of time he tried the pint and quart paper ice cream cartons. They were the round cartons. He tried those for a while. They didn't last very long primarily because of the fact they collect dust awful easy and after a short period of time didn't look very good on the shelves. So the next container he went to was round glass. And that was in eight-ounce size, one-pound size, and the two-pound size, and that was the ultimate production capacity wise he ended up with. He had the eight-ounce glass, the one-pound glass, and the two-pound glass, two and a half pound tin, five-pound tin, a ten-pound tin. Those were the six containers that were used to package honey. Eventually we went into the queen line type of honey jar primarily because instead of being round, it had, I guess, an oblong type of shape. More flat and showed up better display wise on the grocery shelves and whatnot. Showed the color.
LaVOY: Was he selling at some place besides Kent’s at this time? [End of tape 2 side A]
NYGREN: There was Kent’s and… I might have a little memory problem here but… There was Kolhoss' Store in town. There was a Safeway store. There was Piggly-Wiggly's. Not necessarily at the same times, and eventually, he moved into selling in Reno. There was a Sewell's Store, and I might go a little further in regards to Sewell's Store. He became familiar and quite acquainted with the Sewell brothers originally from Elko County. Their first store was out at Tuscarora, and then they had a store in Elko and Reno. They had stores in other locations, too, as I remember, and at one time or during a period of time Nygren's honey was sold in every town in the state of Nevada with the exception to my knowledge of Caliente and Pioche. Those are the only two towns that I know of that I don't have any record of, at which our honey had not been sold at some time or another.
LaVOY: That's wonderful.
NYGREN: Of course, when we got started in the Sewell stores why that was stocked in all the stores.
LaVOY: I believe Herb Sewell managed the grocery stores, didn't he?
NYGREN: Dad knew them both. Dad knew them both eventually, and, of course, having known them, why, they got into the Sewell stores, sold in the Safeway store in Lovelock. There were a couple of stores. Going through the records I could probably come up with the various stores, but we sold stores in Winnemucca. Pretty sure there was a Safeway store up there. Sold honey in Elko, Wells, Austin. There was a store in Eureka that made periodic trips into Reno for groceries and whatnot, and whenever they did they let us know and they'd pick up their honey on their way back.
LaVOY: Now, that's something I wanted to ask you, how you got the honey to all of these stores.
NYGREN: It was generally shipped either by truck or railroad one way or the other. Most of it, as I remember now, went by truck, but there were some that went by railroad. Up in Elko, I know, went by railroad.
LaVOY: Now, I can remember at various fairs seeing displays of Nygren honey. Who handled that? Did you travel and take them to the fairs, or did your father?
NYGREN: No, must have been my father back in those times. Well, the only one I remember fair wise, as far as that goes, was when the old fair grounds were still out on the west end of town. We had honey displaying out there and display was put in, more or less, under three different people in the same family, you know, and, of course, when it came time to judge the honey, why, we were there to see who got the prizes and everything like that. The fellow that was head of the bee industry at that time of the State was a fellow by the name of George Schweis, and he come down to judge the honey. Looked at it and I can remember one comment. I can't give the exact words now, but it was to the extent that somebody was trying to pull a fast one on him because the honeys looked so much alike. That somebody was trying to pull a fast one. I can remember him making that comment, and I think we came away with prizes that year all right, but the other fairs I can't remember much about. I could be involved with them, whatnot like that. You talking about the one I got interested in I really don't know, but I did have bees as project in my agricultural courses all right. I probably, you know, over a period of time just got more and more involved with them. I was the only one in the family that could tolerate bees. My brother, Ray, is highly allergic to them. He gets stung, better get him to a doctor immediately. Needs an adrenalin shot. My sisters, to my knowledge, probably are bothered with hives. I know my mother was. When she got stung, she was bothered with hives, but for some reason or another bees didn't bother me that way. I guess I took on the tolerances that my dad had developed over his period of time with bees.
LaVOY: When did you take over the company?
NYGREN: I took over the business itself in 1960. I had a decision to make, but going back a little bit further-I'm trying to remember this 1960 deal now, but in 1932, 1933, Dad's honey business got to the point where he wasn't having enough honey to supply the demand and prior to that he'd been able to buy from local beekeepers. There was a fellow by the name of Raffetto and Mr. Lima, Mr. Dupont, several others. There was a Mr. Andrews who also was the bee inspector for this area, and his job was to go around check bees, see how many bees each individual had and also to see whether they had diseases or not. And there was a Mr. Harmon and there was a Mr. Beeghly and then there were the McCarts. Dad bought honey from them. Well, it came down to the point where there wasn't enough to supply the demand. Occasionally he'd go over to Mason Valley and buy from one of the beekeepers over there, but that got to be a long haul, so he decided to increase his own operation. In 1932, 1933, some place right in there, he made arrangements with the Westwood Box Company, if I remember the name correctly, to cut up lumber to the dimensions of the bee boxes, and he must have made this arrangement late summer, early fall because I can remember it was a wintertime when the stuff was ready. Had a two-wheeled trailer, 1927 Buick, drove over to Westwood [California]. Had to be a working day. Got there shortly before dark. Dad made contact with the lumber company and made arrangements the next day to pick them up. We stayed in a hotel that night, I guess. Loaded them up the next day and brought them home. My job was to nail the boxes together, so I spent the summer of 1932, 1933, nailing boxes together, and in the interim we had to have the frames to go inside of them, and he set up a saw deal where he could saw out the top bars, end bars, the bottom bars, and that turned out to be my job nailing them together.
NYGREN: Getting back to the boxes, brother Ray, sister Maie, and sister Myrl were obligated to paint the boxes, so they ended up painting the boxes. Well, on the frames you had a wire support type of deal to support the foundation that was placed in the frames, and Dad, being a Swede, Swedes being kind of close with their money and everything like that, plus the fact that the Constitution [USS Constitution - Old Ironside] was making a visitation to San Francisco, he made a combination business-sightseeing vacation trip, and I got to go along primarily to see the Constitution. Dad took a couple of empty suitcases along and what he did, he contacted outfits in San Francisco that produced what they call binding wire which is wire that's used in binding books and things of this nature, and rather than buy at an extra cost this wire through the supply houses he went to the original maker and bought it there for a reduced price. Well, consequently, came down and got the frames nailed together and that had the wire weld on the end bars, and manufactured frames, all of them, they drill holes in which to thread the wire through. Well, Dad wasn't set up to drill the holes through and he was quite an ingenious man, too, when get thinking back on what he's accomplished during his life. He came up with the idea of putting the nails through the end bar and then bending them over and making a hook on them and then hooking the wire through on the nails. Workin' that way which worked very satisfactory. As a matter of fact I had an ex-beekeeper's wife stop here last spring, early in the spring. Had a grandson that was interested in buying bees and getting the bee business back up in your country again. Elko. Got 'em out in Lamoille [Nevada], in fact. But, anyhow, she spotted that wire and it's the first time, I mean there was nails on the end bar, and it was the first time that she had ever seen anything like that, and she thought that was really an ingenious deal. A lot faster to put the wiring through, hook them on the nails, than it was to thread it through. Of course, that ended up to be my job and also putting in the foundation. But, anyhow, that was the summers of 1932, 1933, probably some of 1934 putting all of that equipment together. Getting the extra bees and we got a lot of the bees through buying out other beekeepers, one of them being Mr. Dupont. Those dissatisfied with the area or something like that and he wanted to leave, Dad bought his bees. There was a fellow by the name of Grinnell that had a few colonies. He bought some of those bees, and there were some beekeepers in and around Reno that had bees up there that were wanting to sell out and whatnot like that, and he bought a lot of their equipment and bees, and that was one of the ways that he acquired the additional bees.
LaVOY: Now, this was pretty much during the Depression, wasn't it?
NYGREN: Yeah, uh huh. Pretty much so, in fact. All through the Depression in fact. Speaking of the Depression, I can remember George McCracken making the announcement of the foreclosures at the banks and at a later time I got a notice from the State Bank Examiner to the effect about the Churchill County bank. I had a savings account in there and a court deal on it. But by that time Dad didn't have all his eggs in one basket. He had money in different places so the Depression didn't really hurt the Nygren family too much.
LaVOY: Did you get your money that had been foreclosed at the bank eventually?
NYGREN: Not all of it. No. I got a portion of it back but not all of it. Nobody did to my knowledge. I don't remember now what the percentage on the dollar was, but I could look in the records I think. I've got a record as to what they were going to pay. But, anyhow, it affected us, but, like I say, by that time Dad had eggs in other baskets so we weren't really too hurt as far as the Depression was concerned. I can remember Dad had a last, which is a deal to repair shoes with and whatnot, so when our shoes got thin why he re-soled them and sometimes, once or twice, I think, the soles was part of an old tire was used to keep the feet from the ground (laughing) on it, and, like I say, he was, you look back, he was quite ingenious.
LaVOY: Well, now, after you graduated from high school, you continued to work on the ranch. Is that it?
NYGREN: Uh, after I graduated from high school, I graduated in 1936, went back in 1937, 1936-1937 for a post-graduate course primarily because my two buddies [Stuart and Morehouse] were one year behind me and I really didn't know what I was going to do, as far as that goes, but in 1937 I went up to the University of Nevada. Started school up there. Started in mechanical engineering class. Got into that country kid in a big town type of deal (laughing), started smoking which my mother didn't appreciate one bit. Well, when I first started school, I lived with some I guess could you say friends, at least, the folks knew them. The woman was a sister to one of the Baumanns down here. Their name was Riggle. They lived in Sparks, so I stayed there and had to take the bus to school every morning and eventually well my two buddies got tangled up with the Lambda Chi [Alpha] fraternity.
LaVOY: Now this was Stuart and…
NYGREN: Yeah. Harry Stuart and Sam Morehouse, and I eventually moved in there with them. Some nights, that was back when they still had the steam engines, why you could hear the train whistlin' when it left Sparks and if we decided we could hurry, we could get to a picture show before the train went across the tracks there in Reno and be on time. If we had to wait for the train to go by, we were late, but a combination of two things. Come the wintertime, late fall, my dad was inflicted with an old medical problem. It was a rheumatism type of deal. He'd been bothered with earlier in life a couple of times, but this time he eventually went down the Saint Helena Hospital in California, and he was down there 'til April the following year. That'd be 1938, and consequently and Ray and Maie and Myrl were too small to handle things at the ranch, so at Christmas vacation my higher education went down the drain. I stayed home and worked on the ranch. Dad, of course, had this arthritis, rheumatism, and so I ended up staying on the ranch and doing that.
LaVOY: For how many years did you stay on the ranch?
NYGREN: Well, until about the middle of 1940. Alma and I were married on April 13, 1940.
LaVOY: Now, Alma's full name?
NYGREN: Alma Mae Strauss.
LaVOY: You had known her for quite sometime?
NYGREN: (laughing) Yes and no. On the yes part, I knew her in high school, but we'd never associated with each other. I saw her going down the hall and whatnot like that and that was about the extent of it as far as that part goes. I never paid much attention to it, but she had inveigled--I don't know whether she inveigled--but anyhow she worked up a deal with a girlfriend of hers that I knew and had dated in high school, in fact, taken her to ball games, maybe a dance or two, but she got this girl to invite me to a party out to her place. I didn't know too much about it, but anyhow that's where and when Alma and I started going together.
LaVOY: Where were you married?
NYGREN: We were married at Reverend Brewster Adams' residence on Riverside Drive in Reno, and, case you're interested, it was a Friday the thirteenth is what it was, and my mother wasn't in favor of our wedding. She didn't go to the wedding, but my dad and Ray and my sisters they came, and then Alma's side of the family were all there.
LaVOY: Where did you go on your honeymoon?
NYGREN: Riverside Hotel, and that was the extent of it. Also, at the wedding was Sam Morehouse, my good friend, Sam Morehouse, and Harry Stuart were there, and the dinner afterwards was at the Colombo Hotel. We all went down there to feed on Lake Street. I had worked when I was going to college up there. I had worked as bus boy at the Colombo and so I knew some of the waiters and whatnot and it was a good place to eat. One of the better places in town at that time. After the dinner, of course, everybody went their merry ways and we went up to the, we, I say, Harry Stuart, Sam Morehouse, and Alma and I went up to the Riverside Hotel. I don't remember whether we had reservations ahead of time or not. Anyhow, Sam and Harry and I celebrated for a period of time, finally got to the point where they had to leave. Later on I heard that Sam had quite a night, that night later when he got back up to the fraternity. Anyhow one of the people that I forgot to mention, the woman who instigated this party that Alma and I were both to was a girl by the name of Alice Wade. Lived in the Old River District. Matter of a fact, there's a road named after them. Wade Lane. And retrogress a little bit more, in fact. One of the ball games that we went to, let's see, that would be 1935, I think, winter of 1935. I remember it happened to be a rather cold night, was going to a basketball game, and I invited Alice and, regress a little bit more, being the oldest member of the family, anytime I went anyplace, why, "Take Ray with you. Take Ray with you." And so, of course, I had Ray with me that night and also Harry Stuart. Well, I came to town. I left them off at the high school and went out and picked up Alice, came back to the ball game. Being so cold and whatnot like that, I drained the radiator so that it wouldn't freeze up, and I knew that I could drive from the high school to the Chevrolet Garage on Center Street get it filled up with water before it got too hot, which I did when the ball game was over, and I took Alice home and stopped and sparked a little bit along the road and whatnot and came back to town and the radiator was a steaming. Well, I had put the blow torch in the Model A Ford so that in case such a thing did happen that'd thaw the radiator out. Well, we tried thawing the radiator. We thought we had the radiator thawed out finally. We, that's Harry Stuart and my brother Ray, we started for home. Pretty late at night, too, by this time. We got out by what was known at that time as Bill Harmon corner and the car quit on me. Couldn't even turn the engine over. Now, what do we do now?" We sit there and finally a vehicle comes by, stops. Happens to be a neighbor of Harry's. A girl by the name of Rita Jones and she lived where the dairy, can't think of his name, the Dutchman, and where the dairy is now. She took us home, took us to Harry Stuart's, I should say. Rita happened to be working at the phone company and, of course, she was just getting off shift at that time. At Stuarts' why I called home, told them where we were, what the problem was. Ray and I were going to stay at Stuarts' that night and they would come over the next morning and get us. They had a screened-in front porch with a bed on it, and those are the coldest sheets I ever crawled into in my life.
NYGREN: And anyhow we spent the night there, and then the next morning why the folks came over and picked Ray and I up, got the Ford and pulled it home. It sat there for a long time and, of course, I was graduating in 1936. Ditch day was coming up. Well, Dad finally took it into Bradley's Garage to have it repaired, and I was sweating it out whether he'd have that done by the time the ditch day was here or not. Well, fortunately, he did, and we went ditch day and was up at Zephyr Cove, all the class went up. I had Donna Blanchard and Violet Cearley with me and come along going home time in the afternoon, the party split up. Some of us went on around the Lake [Tahoe], down the Truckee River into Reno. Others went back the way we had come going down through Carson City. One of the graduates was killed on his way home.
LaVOY: Who was that?
NYGREN: Well, I can't give you his name right now. I'd have to look in the yearbook and come with it. [Fred Hawkins] But, anyhow, one of the other groups, Don Weishaupt and [end of tape 2] June Ferguson. June Ferguson's dad was one of the employees for Sierra Pacific at one of the power plants on the Truckee River. I can't remember now which one it was, but anyhow we stopped there to visit with him a little while. Went on into town [Reno] later on, and Blanche and Violet and myself went to a picture show at the Majestic Theatre. I don't remember now whether we had snacks or something like that. I can't remember, but anyhow we came on home and Donna Blanchard lived in town, and I dropped her off. Violet Cearley lived with the Smith family out on the Old River. I took her out there. I got home just about daylight, as I remember, in time to go out and milk the cows and whatnot.
NYGREN: But, anyhow, during that school period time why the honey business continued to grow. Dad's first deliveries were made by that 1927 Buick. Took out the back seat. Filled it full of honey. Took it up to Reno to the various stores that he was selling to up there, and the trip was, oh, he made the trip probably every two to three weeks, would have to make trip at that time. Through the summertime I'd help him. Of course, during the school months why he'd have to do it by himself. Finally ended up with approximately eight hundred colonies of bees. In 1943, at the start of World War II, or at the time that it begin to look like the United States was going to get involved with it, why, at that time, I was ditch rider for the Truckee [Carson] Irrigation District up at Lahontan and Dad being the parent not wanting his kids to get involved in the war and whatnot like that, why he decided to expand the bee business more and wanted me to go in with him on a share basis which I did. It didn't pan out to be too profitable for Alma and I over the years, and when the Fish and Wildlife first came in here to start the, well, prior to that, I worked with the Parrish brothers moving houses and also with a fellow by the name of Dave Eason, and I helped him move houses out of Stead [Air Force Base, Reno]. He had a deal to move some houses out of the Tonopah Air Force Base and we moved the equipment down there just before Thanksgiving.
LaVOY: Now, what year would that have been?
NYGREN: Well, now you're going to tax my memory. I'm not sure I can come up with a year. But, anyhow, we moved the equipment down there. Was coming back from Thanksgiving and it started to snow on us on the way home, and that ended up… the moving business as far as I was concerned. That must have been 1949. As I remember now that was the year we had the heavy snows and I worked part time what chores I could on the haylift. Riding the planes out, kicking the bales of hay out of the back doors to feed the snowbound stock over in Spring Valley, and what was the other one? There was two of them. Over by Ely I remember now, and times were pretty scarce, pretty rough for Alma and I during that period of time.
LaVOY: Now, where were you living at this time?
NYGREN: 78 North Broadway in town was where we were living.
LaVOY: Is that where you moved right after you people were married?
NYGREN: Well, when we came back, no when we were first married we lived on a house in Humboldt Street, and Ron [Ronald Grant Nygren] was born August 30, 1941. We were up at Lahontan when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor because I happened to catch it on the radio. There were four couples up there. Three of them worked at the power house on the various shifts, and we were all friendly. One of the couple's name was--I can't think of her name now--but, anyhow, Don Gott. They were out wandering, think, to check the water going down the Truckee Canal, and I went out and told them about the bombing and whatnot on that. We had moved up there from a duplex on the corner of Center and Taylor. We had moved in there, I guess, when Ron was born or something. I don't remember the exact circumstances. Alma could probably fill in on that all right. But anyhow, um [long pause] The next spring… I had something wrong here with the dates.
LaVOY: Well, now, after you were married you worked for T.C.I.D. and then you worked for your father for a little while and then you worked at moving houses, and I assume that you were not drafted for service with the armed forces.
NYGREN: No, I wasn't drafted. I don't remember what year they started out, but, anyhow, I was his second employee, the Fish and Wildlife Service, when they started the Stillwater Project. Fellow by the name of Weaver was the first man. Tom Horn was the Project manager at that time, and we had gone down, we had spent the day down, talking about Mr. Weaver and myself, down in Stillwater to a yard down there that they had established, and the vehicle had a dead battery in it. That night brought the battery in so it could be replaced, and I remember Mr. Horn saying he couldn't believe anybody would automatically just do something like that. Well, that's the natural thing to do.
That's what it was. But, anyhow, I worked with the Fish and Wildlife for quite a number of years. Was their Project manager for a little while. I was more or less a flunky before then doing a little of everything and anything, and the construction more or less came to an end, and they offered me an opportunity to be a, I guess you'd want to call it, a range manager. They had developed several pastures down there to pasture cattle on. I really didn't want that because of hard feelings that might be raised due to the fact that I was a native here. I knew all the people that would be having cattle and renting pasture, and I could see where favoritism would be involved, and I just didn't like the idea at all.
LaVOY: Now, that's what's called government pasture?
NYGREN: Yeah. Well, it's the Stillwater Wildlife Management area. There's pastures down there.
LaVOY: Oh, I didn't realize that.
NYGREN: Well, there were. We developed pastures down there and got them seeded and whatnot. I'm assuming there's still pastures down. But, anyhow, they offered me an opportunity for a job up at Fort Peck, Montana. Well, that didn't sound too good to Alma and I neither one. So then there wasn't any other opportunity. Well, then I quit Fish and Wildlife with the understanding that if a similar position opened up later in the future I could go back to it. Well, in the interim, I can't remember now what they did but it wasn't too far in the distance I went to work out at the Navy Base as a carpenter, and there were rumors going around – Which were true – that might be some nepotism involved, but they were just rumors. People really didn’t know what they were talking about. Although I guess if you wanted to, you’d have to know the history in order to know what was going on, and I don’t think that would necessarily come in here. But, anyhow, I worked out there for them to 1960.
LaVOY: You worked for "them." Who is "them"?
NYGREN: The Navy Base. I worked at the Navy Base 'til 1960 at a which time I had to make a decision. My dad was getting to the point where he couldn't handle the honey business anymore. I had almost ten years of government employment behind me. Ten years further in the future to a retirement. I had to make a decision which way to go. Well, at that time, I decided to take the honey business over, and I'm not too sure to this day whether I made the right decision or not, but the employees I was working with at that time are now retired and drawing a retirement check. I'm still in the bee business and trying to scrounge a living out. (laughing)
LaVOY: (laughing) Did you go and take over your father's business lock, stock, and barrel?
NYGREN: Pretty much so, yes. I took it over, all of it, the selling of it, pretty much everything that was on hand. All the stock that was on hand and everything like that.
LaVOY: Did you buy it from your father?
NYGREN: Well, it was set up. Some of it was bought, some was given. It involved an estate type of deal is what it was. The containers, that were on hand I bought and whatnot, but the bees were involved in the estate type of deal with the rest of the family and when Dad passed away.
LaVOY: Now, when did your father pass away? Approximately.
NYGREN: (sighing) About twenty-five years ago (laughing) when he passed away. He eventually ended up with a stroke, and he was in St. Mary's Hospital [Reno, Nevada] when he passed away. I didn't happen to be there. I didn't get there soon enough was what it was. But, anyhow, I took the business over in 1960. But retrogress quite a few years here, going back to the 1930's, Dad came up with the idea that instead of buying stock labels from printers and supply houses, developing our own label, so the family went to work on coming up with a label. Several different designs, submitted to different printing outfits for costs and ideas and whatnot of that nature and see which one would come out the best. One of the ideas I guess I can describe. It's Delicious Silver State in a circle-type deal, honey for help, a blank space for net weight, produced and packed by W. L. Nygren, Fallon, Nevada. [tape cuts out] The old stock label, this is the one I happen to be reading from, was purchased from American Bee Journal. At the top: net weight ten pounds, Nevada U.S. Fancy Honey, producers and packers, W.L. Nygren and Sons, Fallon, Nevada. That was stock label. Well, we decided we wanted somethin' a little different, so we, I said before the family got together and tried to work up some labels, made several samples and everything. What we finally ended up with on the bigger sizes was a label approximately three by five across the top: Nygren's, and below it: Delicious Nevada Honey. 100 percent pure for health. U.S. fancy grade. There's a spot for the weight. Produced and packed by W.L. Nygren and sons, Fallon, Nevada. This particular one that I'm holding is green and gold which was for the ten pounders. We have red and gold, same wording, for five pounds, and then we have another one with blue and silver that's two and a half pounds.
LaVOY: Now, something you didn't mention is that you have the state of Nevada in the center and that the wording is through the picture of the state of Nevada.
NYGREN: Then, for the smaller containers I don't know really how to describe the label. The same wording is on it, however. Has a larger label and here again the two pound label was blue and silver wording. On the one-pound label was green and silver with a mixture of yellow and green wording cover, and then on the little one, the eight ounce, was red and silver with red and silver wording. Those were the labels that we ended up with. Researching through my scrapbook I'd probably come up with the date that those were established. But, anyhow, those were the six labels that were quite attractive and received a lot of comments on that particular label.
LaVOY: Now, I'd like to ask you some questions about the bees and whatnot since you have taken over the business now from your father and have the new labels and everything else, what do you consider as being the best blossom for honey?
NYGREN: That is to each individual's taste that's what it is. You take people that are from an area where buckwheat is raised, as far as they're concerned there's nothing better than buckwheat.
LaVOY: That's very strong.
NYGREN: It is very strong. You take people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, some of those areas where basswood is predominant, they think basswood's the best. You take down the swamps of Florida, Georgia, as far as they're concerned you can't beat tupelo honey.
LaVOY: Now, isn't tupelo a very clear honey?
NYGREN: It is.
LaVOY: And they get tremendous volume and they mix it with other honeys to get color.
NYGREN: Uh-h-h, that I can't definitely say, but I do know they work from barges. The bees are actually out in the swamp is what they are. Tupelo is considered a premium honey. It really is, and, although, I can't verify it-maybe I shouldn't even mention it here--is considered the only honey that diabetics can utilize. Now, I can't say this for definitely sure. Probably, the one that, well, you take down in California, Florida, Texas where oranges are raised can be delicious honey.
LaVOY: Well, something I want to ask you. One year, my son, John, was a bee inspector for the State, and he went up to Denio [Nevada] and he could not get over how the honey in Denio that I believe is alfalfa honey was such a darker color than the honey from here. What would be the reasoning for that?
NYGREN: That is an excellent question. Nobody can answer it to my knowledge. And, now, that you've brought up this honey color situation, I wasn't aware of up there at Denio, but take the Lovelock area, Churchill County, and Mason Valley, alfalfa being predominant in all three valleys, as a rule, the honey in Churchill County was darker than the honey in Mason Valley or up in Lovelock.
LaVOY: That's interesting. No reason for it.
NYGREN: Why? Yeah, why? Off the same plant. Off the same plant. Another relationship in talking with this and whatnot, even in our local area, my dad, the predominant number of his bees were in the Harmon-Stillwater area. The honey coming out of the Stillwater area was always lighter than the honey coming out of the other areas.
LaVOY: That is really is an enigma.
NYGREN: Yeah, and there's no rhyme or reason to it.
LaVOY: I understand that rabbit brush, you know we have so much rabbit brush in Nevada in the fall that that is great for wintering the bees but it's not good for eating. Is that correct?
NYGREN: You mentioned about buckwheat being strong flavored. You ought to try rabbit brush flavor sometime. (laughing) It is strong! No doubt about it. It's just non-palatable to the public's taste is what it amounts to. So, consequently, you mentioned using it for wintering and whatnot like that, those that do do that, and I did it for a couple of years during the War when I was running the bees, you take honey out of the brood nest which is light colored before they get the rabbit brush into it and then put the empty frames in there and let them fill up on the rabbit brush. Now, I did this for two years when I was running the bees with Dad. We'd take them up to Washoe Valley. The east side of Washoe Valley is heavy populated with rabbit brush and could take them up there and let them fill up in the fall of the year on the rabbit brush up there and winter through on it. You just changin' one honey from the other is what it amounts to.
LaVOY: Do you find that you have to feed the bees in the winter very often?
NYGREN: I leave my bees so that they don't have to be fed which is one thing that I'm not sure everybody else does, and it's a different operation from what my dad did. Speaking of your bee colonies and everything like that, bee colony can be anything from one box, two boxes, to six, seven, eight boxes high. It's still one colony. I figure all the honey that's in the two bottom boxes is theirs. Anything that they bring in above those two boxes is mine. I don't take anything away from those two bottom boxes in any way shape or form. Those are the first boxes that are filled whenever the honey flow comes on is what it amounts to.
LaVOY: Now, do you believe in giving the bees terramycin to keep down foul brood.
NYGREN: It's general use today is what it is. General use today. Matter of fact, from what I've heard, although I can't verify it personally, California has almost quit inspecting for foul brood because of the fact that so many people are using it, terramycin on it. I use it primarily as a preventative measure. In this area you've got your feral bees in houses, old sheds, cottonwood trees, you name it, and whatnot like that. Undoubtedly, some of them have got foul brood. Some of those have died in foul brood. The foul brood is there, so in the spring of the year when I first go through my bees, my first trip through, I give them about an ounce cup mixture of powdered sugar and terramycin to each one irregardless of what they look like when I'm going through them, and when I take the honey off in the fall I do the same thing.
LaVOY: And you've had no foul brood at all?
NYGREN: Very, very seldom do I come up with it. Once in awhile I might find one. As a matter of fact, yesterday we took honey off. We, I mean my son and I, Ron, and one swarm that I picked up this spring, whether my equipment had it or whether they had it when they come in there, I don't know, but he said it was foul. I didn't look at it, but he knows enough about it and he knows what he's looking at.
LaVOY: And so you didn't destroy them. You gave them terramycin.
NYGREN: I've got to go back and do it. I didn't have it with me at that time, but I've got to go back and do it.
LaVOY: Now, I thought that if you found foul brood that you had to automatically burn the entire hive.
NYGREN: That used to be the regulations and is still the regulation as far as that goes, but they're overlooking it, is what they're doing. To my knowledge. Now, they may be burning some, I don't know.
LaVOY: How often do the State inspectors come and inspect your hives?
NYGREN: Not very often anymore. The economic situation is caught up with them. I haven't had an inspection for three years, and primarily because of the fact that every time they've inspected my bees, they've found no problem, so they know my history. That's what they are. Now, there's other people, new hobbyists, and stuff like that, they may catch. If it's found one year they may go back the next year and check, and if they don't, why they may . . . I think now anybody that's got bee isn't inspected more than once every two years. That's what it is.
LaVOY: What other diseases besides foul brood do bees get?
NYGREN: Well, that's the worst one. There's another one that they call European foul. I've only had the experience with European foul one year and that was during the War. Had the bees over in Washoe Valley. Happened to be one of those years where the humidity was a little higher. It develops under a little different conditions than what American foul brood does. It was a lot easier to clean up far as that part goes. The biggest problem today is a mite problem, and there are two of them. One of them is what they call the varroa mite, and the other one's a trachial mite. A trachial mite is involved with the throat of the bees and the innards of the bees. The varroa mite is on the outside. I was mite free up until this spring. Found one colony that had mites for sure. [End of tape 3 side A] That was more less found accidently. A fellow beekeeper from California happened to be with me the day I was looking at them, and he was watching my operation to see what I did and whatnot like that. He happened to spot one of the mites on a drone bee, so that's how we happened to know that we got these. You have to look a little bit more intensively at your bees to determine whether they've got the varroa mite. The trachial mite, to my knowledge, has to be sent into a laboratory in order to verify whether you got the trachial mite or not.
LaVOY: Now, how do you destroy those?
NYGREN: Well, they have come out with a couple of deals. Not all of them approved by the Food and Drug Administration nor the Environment. One of them is what they call Mitecure. It's a plastic strip that's coated with a chemical, and I can’t tell you the chemical name right now. You insert these strips into the colony in the area of the brood nest in the fall of the year. Here again, which I will be doing when I take the honey off. I will insert these strips along with the terramycin because they seem, if you're going to lose your colony, you lose it in the wintertime probably due to the fact that the bees are confined through the winter so close together that the mite has a chance to develop. That's the varroa. Now, the trachial mite I haven't any experience with yet, and about the only way that I would know it would be the inspectors come down and take samples of the bees and they find it when they do that. They, just in the last, I think, it was the last American Bee Journal, there's a bee over in Yugoslavia that's supposed to be mite resistant. They have brought queens over to this country and distributed them to queen breeders with the idea in mind of developing more queens and making them available to the beekeeping public. That's all I know as far as that part is concerned. How it's going to prove out or not, I don't know.
LaVOY: Now, where do you buy your queens? Or do you raise your own?
NYGREN: (laughing) I more or less let mine raise their own. Do their own replacement and everything like that. My dad when he was in the business and whatnot, he used to buy queen cells from Mr. Andrews who used to raise queens, and Dad would buy queen cells from him. Queen cells would hatch in a day or two something of that nature. When Ron moved out here from Washington with the idea of going into the bee business with me and everything like that, the first year I did buy some queens.
LaVOY: Were they the Italian queens?
NYGREN: Yes, those were, but prior to that, more or less making an experiment, I bought some Carneolas, I think it was ten of each, ten queens of Carneolas and ten Caucasians, and I was never satisfied with either one of them. They eventually went by the wayside, and I never replaced them. I was happy with Italians. Stayed with them. Even the Midnight, the so called Midnight queen, I never developed an interest in them, and I, over the years, I could never see where I had a problem. I was, if not the top, right next to the top for colony producer in the State, so I always figured my bees did good.
LaVOY: What do they mean by the clipped wing queens?
NYGREN: Well, the clipped wing queen is the queen that has a wing clipped so she cannot fly, and that is done after she has made her maiden flight.
LaVOY: And what's the reason for that?
NYGREN: So she can't fly away. Can't swarm.
LaVOY: Oh. The following year.
NYGREN: Well, the following year or two years, three years, whenever.
LaVOY: How many swarms do you have a year? Roughly.
NYGREN: Hopefully, none.
LaVOY: Because . . .
NYGREN: Well, I try to manage my bees in such a fashion that they don't swarm. The reason for swarming is just like human life really when it comes right down to it, is overcrowding. When they get too many, not room for them, they will loosen a line. Start a new home someplace else is what it amounts to. And that's the reason for the swarming is the fact that the population doesn't have the room, and it's the evolutional life, starting a new swarm someplace else.
LaVOY: Common sense.
NYGREN: Your son, my son, we all go off and start a new home someplace else.
LaVOY: That's very true.
NYGREN: And that's the same way with bees.
LaVOY: Are you troubled with any predators?
NYGREN: About the only one that ever gives any problem that amounts to anything is a skunk. But, I have had experience with bears, too. Not down here, but skunks are insect eaters, and if you have skunks in the neighborhood, you're going have to a problem with them with the bees.
LaVOY: Now, I understand the skunk rolls on the bees or something.
NYGREN: No, no. What they do, they go up and scratch at the entrance of the hive is what they do, and of course the bees don't like that. They protect their home, and they fly out and they get into the hair of the skunk and the skunks, I don't know how they keep from getting their tongues stung to the point where they can't eat anymore, but anyhow they pick the bees out of their fur.
LaVOY: For heaven's sakes! Now bee martins take a lot of bees, too.
NYGREN: Primarily in the spring of the year if you got queens coming off, you're going to come up with a few queenless hives, and bee martins come just about that time of the year where you're going to have mating queens is what it is, and, of course, the bigger one out there's . . .
LaVOY: . . the one that the bee martin hones in on.
NYGREN: (laughing) Yeah. You'll find bee martins all right around bee locations.
LaVOY: What's the most number of hives that you've had. You call them colonies. I call them hives.
NYGREN: They have several different names. Was over eight hundred, almost nine hundred.
LaVOY: Now, where is your bee yard?
NYGREN: Well, the only ones I got now are here at the home place, and I've got one location over at Bill Lattin's and another one over at Hollister property. Both of them are used for pollination. The one over at Hollister's primarily for the raspberries, but both of them work for the cantaloupe and the produce that the Lattins produce.
LaVOY: Now, Hollisters, is that California?
NYGREN: No, no. No, that's out on McClean Road is where it is. If you know where Jernigan's dairy is?
NYGREN: Right next to it, and I've got a problem there. I haven't fully determined it for sure, but Lattins, Rick, because he's the one that's got the raspberries over there, and I are going to have to get together and do a little talking. But, I think the main problem is due to the fact that Jernigan's dairy is there and I'm suspecting, and I say suspect, that they periodically spray for flies, and it's getting the bees, too.
LaVOY: Well, I know for a while anytime that the spray planes were coming over the fields they would let you know and you could cover your bees but they don't do that anymore, do they?
NYGREN: I could put in a request for it as far as that goes, but periodically where they're doing it so often like that it really wouldn't hardly be worth it, but the reason why I say this, and this is the first year that it's really bothered, I took honey off Friday and yesterday, extracted. As a matter of fact you can see two jars in the window over there. I figured that out of these bees at my place and those at Bill Lattin's I probably got between thirty and forty pounds per colony. Those at Rick Lattin's there's nine, ten colonies in there, or on Hollister's I should say, three colonies we took honey off of and the others didn't have any surplus.
LaVOY: For heaven's sake!
NYGREN: And looking out in front there are dead bees and there were two colonies that were hauling. There'd been a spray apparently that morning earlier, or the night before because they were hauling out dead bees then when we were there.
LaVOY: We have a dairy close to us and Jerry Frey sprays it just regularly and I imagine that he probably goes over to the Jernigans' and catches them.
NYGREN: Catches all the dairies at the same time probably because he's got that chemical in his tank, and as long as the tank's got chemical in it why he goes ahead and sprays. I know Jerry. We've worked together in the past and everything like that. It just boils down to, well, one factor against the other.
LaVOY: You'll have to move your bees, basically.
NYGREN: Yeah, that's what I'm going to have to talk to Rick Lattin about. He needs the bees for the raspberries, but I can't afford to leave them there.
LaVOY: No, no.
NYGREN: Can't afford to leave them there.
LaVOY: I see so many bees coming through on their way to California for pollination. Have you ever sent bees to California?
NYGREN: No, ma'am, I have not. I could never figure out where it would pay. By the time I'd haul the bees down there, the expense of moving them down there, living expenses while you're down there taking care of the bees, having to move them back, I figure I could do just as well sitting here right here at home as I could by doing that. I knew there's some people that, Will Carver claimed that he could do it, and the fellow that bought the majority of my bees. You drive around the valley here now. If you look--you've got to look-there's a lot of bees come in here from California. A lot of them. And, of course, they come up here primarily because there's nothing in California for them this time of year. This time of the year down there their bees are consuming honey, eatin' up their stores and stuff like that.
LaVOY: Well, now, don't they bring them in to Lovelock to pollinate the fields?
NYGREN: To start with, they did, but they don't do it so much anymore because the Lovelock people have developed the leaf cutter bee, and the leaf cutter bee, well, to go into it a little further. The leaf cutter bee when he visits a flower will trip it every time, trip every flower. The honey bee when he makes his first visitation to an alfalfa plant will get slapped in the face and will trip the flower, but after a period of time he learns how to go around that trigger and get that nectar out and not get slapped in the face, and, of course, your seed growers up there they had to pay a certain amount of money for the bees to come in there.
LaVOY: Fifteen dollars a hive, I understood.
NYGREN: Uh, I don't what the . . . it could be higher than that now. I know at one time it was that all right, but anyhow, they developed the leaf cutter bees to the point where they're not as dependent on the honey bee anymore. Now the honey bee, between the two of them, I guess, you get the pollination, but picking the one or the other over a long period of time, the honey bee is the best pollinator.
LaVOY: Talking about the bees, I'm just curious, would you recommend a young man to go into the honey business at this time?
NYGREN: Not really.
LaVOY: And for what reason?
NYGREN: Well, there's several reasons. One of them, well, I guess you could say all of them are economic as far as that goes, but today, and I read the figures here not too long ago and could dig them out, honey is imported into the United States from China at thirty-nine cents a pound laid in San Francisco.
LaVOY: How much do you get a pound?
NYGREN: It'll be somewhere between fifty-two and fifty-three cents. I'll know sometime after the middle of next month; that's when I'll know how much it is, plus your mite problem. Not so much your disease problem anymore because of you got medication taking care of that, but the mite problem is pretty tough, and even though we have a, we, the beekeepers, have developed a research board similar to the dairy board promoting the use of honey, that costs each beekeeper a cent a pound to support that. The sale of honey in the United States has increased the last two or three years, but this board has been in existence, I guess, about six years. I was on the first nominating committee. Nominated the various members to the board, is what is was, and they're helpin', but if I remember the figures correctly, importation of the honey from China has tripled in the last three years. As a matter of fact, China's the biggest importer of honey into the United States. Honey is imported from Argentina, Australia; Canada is sold out. According to the last information I had why Canada doesn't have any last year's crop left. Quite a bit of honey comes in from Mexico. Those are the predominant countries with China being the top one of the bunch. I read it the other day, but I don't keep those figures in my mind.
LaVOY: Well, in other words, you are being undercut by foreign imports.
LaVOY: Oh, that's too bad.
NYGREN: Plus the fact that your . . . well, what's going to happen as far the tax deals comin' out? If they came up with that initial energy tax that they came out with, I would say probably ninety per cent of the commercial beekeepers would go out of business right now. That added expense would just take it away from them. I guess it was the next to the last Geographic [National Geographic Magazine] has an excellent article on migratory beekeeping. It takes the family and moves from California to North Dakota and back to California over a year's period of time is what it is.
LaVOY: Something that I read about that I just wondered what your feelings are on it. Do you think that these bees that they quote killer bees will ever get to this area or is it too cold for them?
NYGREN: Offhand, originally, if you'd asked me that a year or so ago I'd have said no, but now I don't think they can survive here, I'll put it that way, but if they should get into California, and there's no doubt but what they will eventually sometime get into California, it'll be southern California. They'll gradually work north up into the Sacramento area. They might be able to come over the hill in the summertime, late spring, early summer, this time of the year, but I don't think they can survive our winter. Most of them. There might be one litter or something, but going back on this further. In everything I've read I've never seen any place where there have been killer bees or the Africanized bees we should say, rather than killer bees, been found south of the thirtieth parallel south.
LaVOY: Hmmm, that's very interesting.
NYGREN: And so consequently, they're up against, they're hittin' cold weather and whatnot down there in that area, so consequently they'll do the same thing up here. They could come in, I don't know as they could come in here so much, but you take the people that winter, the migratory beekeeper that winters in Texas and along the Gulf Coast could pack them into North Dakota and those areas of there, inadvertently.
LaVOY: But, they wouldn't litter.
NYGREN: Well, no, if they should swarm out up there, I don't think they would. No, but there might be some that get packed back again.
LaVOY: Oh, I see.
NYGREN: You know, by moving back and forth as far as that goes. I kind of doubt that because of the temperament of the Africanized bees and whatnot. I doubt that they would, the beekeepers, I mean, once they found out they had them they'd get rid of them right now, but it might be that just in between the time that they have inspected the bees or getting ready to load them on there's a week or so in there they might end up with a killer bee queen in their colony and not be aware of it, but later on in the summer they would be.
LaVOY: Well, now, with you having all of these bees and everything, you mentioned that you had sold some. Are you trying to cut back a bit?
NYGREN: Yeah. (laughing) I'm, if you've checked the dates, seventy-four years old, taking me twice as long to do half as much, and I learned that again yesterday and the day before. I guess you could say there's two reasons why I've still got them. I got to have somethin' to keep me semi-active, and I got customers that been customers for forty years, like to keep them happy.
LaVOY: That's very true. Now, we mentioned your son, Ron. You had another son. Would you mention his name and birth date?
NYGREN: Well, the other one's Richard.
LaVOY: And he was born?
NYGREN: He was born July 5, 1945.
LaVOY: Now, neither of them are interested in the bee business, is that correct?
NYGREN: Uh, no, yes, that is correct. Richard is graduated from the Northrup Institute of Technology, went to work for NASA. Been with the NASA program ever since. Ron graduated from college with a degree in safety, and he's employed out at the base, but he knows bees and whatnot.
LaVOY: But neither of them are interested in taking over from you?
NYGREN: Not particularly, no. Not now. Ron was at one time, but Ron was employed with the U.S. Government and Safety Line in Washington, D.C., and he wanted to do it, and they moved out here with the idea of eventually taking over the business all right, but they had made, him and his wife, had more or less made an agreement that if one year was a disaster that'd be the end of it. He acquired bees, and I took care of them and he'd come and we worked at it. Well, unfortunately, his wife and him were used to a pay check every two weeks or every month, whichever the case may be, and in the bee business your pay check might come once a year, and when I quit the bottlin' deal, processing of honey and selling it local, I joined the Sue Bee organization. We had a couple of unfortunate years in there a poor crop, the price wasn't too good, and he sold out his interest is what it was.
LaVOY: Well, now are you still selling to Sue Bee?
NYGREN: What little I have, yeah, I still sell to Sue Bee.
LaVOY: You are not putting things out under your own label anymore?
NYGREN: The only occasion I do this is people coming here to the house buying five-pound containers which is the only size that I supply here. Rick Lattin's got a vegetable sale. He approached me four or five years ago about honey for his stand out there, and I have supplied him with five-pound containers, two-pound containers and one-pound containers, but it's been on a small scale is what it is. The reason I quit packaging, there were two of them. Going back a little further, quite a bit further, in fact, my dad being the type that he was, bought his containers from the companies that made, over a period of time those companies got too expensive to cater to small purchasers like my dad was, so eventually had to work through intermediaries. California Glass down in San Francisco was one of them. It got the point, well, then the company that made the bottles down there they sold out to an outfit in Missouri that had molds. It got to the point when ordered glass six weeks, two months ahead of time when I figured I was going to need it, didn't get anything, didn't hear anything. I'd finally call them up, want to know what the problem was. "Well, we're out." "Well, when you gonna have some?" "Well, we don't know. We have to wait until the factory makes the run." You never know when the factory was going to make a run, so consequently you run out of containers. You don't have the containers to fill up the shelf space, so you lose shelf space. Your managers get aggravated, and when you finally do get the bottles, it's hard to get that shelf space back again, and also we were selling it to two wholesalers at the time and the cans' quality control became a factor. In filling five-pound containers, haul them up to warehouses, the next time I'd be up there well, they got a case or two that's been leaking, and I'd have the same problem with the stores. Get five-pound container in there, and then[end of tape 3] Just got to be too much of a hassle acquiring containers, putting up with poor quality.
LaVOY: Well, so now basically you sell in great big bulk to Sue Bee's, is that correct?
NYGREN: That's right. The honey when I extract it goes into fifty-gallon drums, and those'll, the way I fill them, will generally average out 680 pounds a piece, between 670 and 680. Sue Bee I call and notify them I got the honey available. "How much is available?" They come by and pick it up.
LaVOY: By truck?
NYGREN: Yeah. They have an eighteen wheeler that comes down picks it up and if I want empty barrels, why they'll bring whatever empty barrels I want. I'm charged out when they bring the barrels for the barrel, and I'm credited for the barrels when the barrels go back, I pay for the freight both ways as far as that part goes. My honey goes down to a bottling plant in Anaheim [California] is where it goes.
NYGREN: It used to go to Idaho, but the plant up in Idaho was an old plant and so they closed that plant down. It's utilized now as a warehousing deal for the Sue Bee members in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, probably western Montana and that area, and then as they need it, why it's shipped out to the bottling plant either in Anaheim or possibly some of it goes back to the home plant in Sue Bee. I just don't know about that part of it.
LaVOY: Well, now you've been in the honey business for a long, long time, and you've mentioned some of the changes that you have seen. How do you think this situation that we have with the water here in the area is going to affect your honey production?
NYGREN: That is going to be a hard question to answer. Last year, for example, short water year, turned out to be one of the biggest honey-producing years we've had.
NYGREN: Yeah. The only thing that I can lay it to, and it goes back to the staggered alfalfa harvesting, I guess, the way the farmers were allotted the water, how much water they had and whatnot like that, and one fellow cut early, the next one cut late, and towards the end of the summer it ended up where there was almost bloom all summer long.
LaVOY: Well, that stands to reason.
NYGREN: And, I can remember back one particular year, 1929 or 1930, I think, my dad had one colony on the scale to see how much they'd bring in each day, and this one colony brought in fifteen pounds one day.
LaVOY: Oh, my goodness! They're busy little bees, (laughing) aren't they!
NYGREN: They sure are! They'll average in more or less ideal conditions and everything between eight and ten pounds a day each colony.
LaVOY: That's just hard to believe.
NYGREN: Well, my dad was selling roughly sixty thousand pounds a year, and most years we produced it all is what it is.
LaVOY: Now, what are you, roughly, selling now?
NYGREN: [long pause] Probably not much over a thousand.
LaVOY: For heaven's sake. What a-
NYGREN: Well, I guess I should eliminate, when you said sellin', I was thinkin' about here at the house. No, last year, 1992 . . . have to stop and think a little bit here. . . nine barrels at 680 pounds a piece, anyhow, is what it would be last year, plus 1500, 2000 pounds here at the house. [total of 7620-8120]
LaVOY: Well, you're still keeping very busy.
NYGREN: Oh, yeah, it keeps me busy. I figure Friday and Saturday what I took off these bees here and the ores I got, probably got about five hundred pounds is what I did, and you can figure that five hundred pounds off eighteen colonies.
LaVOY: That sounds like very good production. There's just one final thing that I want to ask you. I understood that in years past you were instrumental in going to legislature and having some laws passed to protect the Nevada honey producers. Is that correct?
NYGREN: Well, we tried to. (laughing) When they first started alfalfa seed production in the state, Lovelock, and up at Orvada. I think Orvada was the first area gettin' started in. Of course, there wasn't bees for pollination purposes. Well, Nevada didn't have enough bees to pollinate for them, and so we, the beekeepers, had to change our way of living, you might say, so we had to sit with the State Department of Agriculture and the pollinators that were coming in with California to see if we could work out a more or less mutual agreement between all of us that would satisfy everybody. Well, we came up with the idea that they could come in for pollination purposes in designated areas, and when the pollination season was over, they'd have to go back to their home state. Well, this worked all right for a while, and then we ran up with the Interstate Commerce Commission. We couldn't regulate them as to definite areas and stuff like that, so consequently now California beekeepers come in the state, well, not necessarily, not limited I guess I should say to California, but to my knowledge they're the primary ones that bring bees in here into the state now.
LaVOY: And then leave them here, is that it?
NYGREN: Take them back out in the fall or during the winter.
LaVOY: They leave them here during the summer.
NYGREN: Right. They generally come in here the latter part of May, first part of June, and take them out before the Sierras get snowed in if they can. Sometimes it runs into later, well, early spring. Primarily before the first of February.
LaVOY: Does the Department of Agriculture check them for disease before they come in?
NYGREN: They get a certificate from the California inspector certifying that the bees are free or one percent free or something to this nature, and due to the lack of personnel, economics and everything like that, they've made spot inspection, is what they do. They'll go out to a beekeeper in one location. They may check ten per cent of a location. If they find something, go further, if they don't, go on to the next one is what it does. But they just don't have the personnel to cover all of them in any way, shape, or form.
LaVOY: Well, now, I think we have pretty well covered your history of beekeeping and living in Churchill County. Is there any last little comment that you would like to make?
NYGREN: Well, I don't know as it any particular comment. It would involve probably too much noise. More could probably be gained from going through this scrapbook [Mr. Nygren's private scrapbook] as to how things progressed in the honey sales. It is amazing in going back to the scrapbook the letters that were received from purchases of our honey, the comments they had to make, where they were from, and it's quite interesting. We had people from New York, Massachusetts, and different places that in traveling through the state picked up our honey at some store, and one of them, I had one out here I was looking at before you came from Tulare [California]. They have the same last name as ours, in fact. She had sent us a check for a certain amount wanting so much honey sent down to her. As far as the same last name was concerned no relationship in any way, shape, or form.
LaVOY: Now, the people from New York and whatnot, did they want honey sent to them or were they just telling you how good it was?
NYGREN: Some of them ordered the honey, and it generally cost more to have the honey shipped to them than what the honey actually cost them.
LaVOY: Well, I think that you have done a wonderful job in keeping the honey business going in Churchill County. In fact, I think you're the dean of the beekeepers here, aren't you?
NYGREN: Well, I don't know whether you can say that now or not. I was for a while. There are a couple of things I might mention. Maybe you've read them, I don't know. Over the period of years, I think, there was three newspaper articles came out in relation to me and the business and whatnot, and, of course, the City Appeal had an article on it. Las Vegas Review Journal picked it up and one was the local paper [Lahontan Valley News], and Louie Moiola, his boy, David, helped me one summer, and I put to him working with me in the extract deal and publicity has gotten around all right a little bit.
LaVOY: Well, Nygren honey is known all over the state and evidently all over the country, too.
NYGREN: Well, it was at one time. Yeah.
LaVOY: Well, now that you are slowing down a bit, would you do this all over again?
NYGREN: I probably would, and that was one comment my dad made, too, before he finally passed away one time that looking back over the years he said that had he known what was going to happen, he'd a probably gone into the bee business much heavier, and at one time this was just at the start of World War II he had the opportunity to supply the Safeway chain with honey, but he didn't feel he had the--just didn't feel that he could handle it was what it was. Just too big a job for him.
LaVOY: Well, that would have been a tremendous thing for you.
NYGREN: It would have. I think for the time being anyway we should wind it up.
LaVOY: Well, I certainly appreciate taking your time and on behalf of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project I want to thank you for all the time that you have taken. It's a wonderful interview and this is the end of the interview.