Myrl Nygren Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
An Interview with
April 14 and June 10, 1994
This interview is part of socioeconomic studies for Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Planning and Oversight Program.
Churchill County Museum and Archives and University of Nevada Oral History Program
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.
In 1900 Churchill County was Nevada's poorest and least populated county, with fewer than 850 residents. It had no appreciable mining industry, and its arid valleys and basins could not support agriculture. Two federal projects would eventually transform Churchill County. The first brought water; the second brought military spending and payrolls.
Francis G. Newlands represented Nevada in Congress from 1893 until his death in 1917, serving five terms in the House of Representatives and three in the U. S. Senate. Newlands was an enthusiastic proponent of several Progressive Era notions, including the idea that rigorous, public-financed water resource management could bring agriculture (and with it, civilization) to the arid, rough reaches of the West. With Theodore Roosevelt's support Newlands authored the Reclamation Act of 1902 to achieve this purpose, and then succeeded in making Churchill county the target of the first such effort. Through a system of canals. dams, and reservoirs, close to 90,000 acres of desert were eventually irrigated by water from the Carson and Truckee rivers. Land offered for sale by the U. S. Reclamation Service attracted settlers to the area, and the communities of Fallon and Fernley formed.
The Newlands Project began delivering water to the new farms in 1905, but the pace of agricultural development was slower than had been anticipated. The irrigated soil was excessively alkaline, and there were other problems, such as distance from markets. At first alfalfa was practically the only cash crop; later, beef cattle and feed lots were tried, as were small dairies and poultry farms. Cantaloupes, sugar beets, and potatoes were also cultivated with varying degrees of success.
Most Newlands Project farmers could make a modest living from the land, but real prosperity eluded the county's residents until the U. S. Navy built a large aviation gunnery and training base at Fallon during World War II, freeing the area from its almost total dependence on agriculture. The facility was briefly closed following the war, reopening when the Korean War broke out. It has remained active ever since.
The area served by the Newlands Project has come a very long way from its depressed state at the opening of the twentieth century. However, the growth and development Churchill County currently enjoys derive less from Newlands agriculture than from the presence of the military and increasing numbers of retirees and commuters attracted by a mild climate, outdoor recreational opportunities, and the relative safety and convenience of life in small rural communities. In the summer of 1994, as part of an effort to record a passing era, oral historian Sylvia Arden interviewed Myrl Nygren for the Churchill County Museum's oral history project. The edited transcript of the interview provides an interesting and informative look at some important themes in the twentieth century history of Churchill County.
Myrl Nygren's parents were early homesteaders on Bureau of Reclamation land in Churchill County, where she was born in 1924. After graduation from Fallon High School Ms. Nygren entered the University of Nevada, receiving a bachelor's degree in home economics in 1946. Following an internship in diet and nutrition at the University of Minnesota Hospital, she returned to Nevada to take a position at St. Mary's Hospital in Reno, remaining there for twenty-two years. Then, after earning an M. A. in public health from the University of California at Berkeley, she spent ten years in state public health administration positions in Carson City, Nevada. In 1982 Myrl Nygren retired to Fallon. She is the founder and director of the Churchill County Museum's oral history program.
Since Myrl Nygren's principal residence was away from Churchill County in the years between 1942 and 1982, her oral history offers a vivid contrast between two very different periods in the history of the county. The impact of the Fallon Naval Air Station on life in the county, both during the war and since Ms. Nygren's retirement, is particularly clear. Pre-war subjects which receive attention are: ranching and agricultural enterprises; family life for a typical ranch family of the era; irrigation and water rights; schooling; and 4-H activities. This oral history also contains information about the founding and early years of the Churchill County Museum.
- T. King, Director
University of Nevada Oral History Program
SYLVIA ARDEN: This is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History Project interviewing Myrl Nygren at her home at 6800 Mission Road, Fallon, Nevada. The date is April the fourteenth, 1994. Myrl, I'm so glad you agreed to be interviewed for the Churchill County Oral History Project. Would you first give us your name, when and where you were born?
MYRL NYGREN: Myrl Nygren, I was born October the ninth, 1924, in Fallon, Nevada.
SA: Let's talk first about your grandparents, starting with your paternal grandfather.
MN: Well, my paternal grandfather was Peter Nygren. He was born in Sweden [March 18, 1855], and he came to the United States around 1870 probably. And my paternal grandmother was Olina Johnson Nygren who was also born in Sweden [January 19, 1856], and came to this country.
SA: Did they know each other in Sweden?
MN: I don't believe so. I think they met in Minnesota.
SA: Did you know your grandfather?
SA: Did he ever tell you what brought him to America and where he first went?
MN: Well, he didn't tell me that, but my understanding from my father is that they came over when the potato famine was on in Europe and things were very, very hard and difficult to live there because of the lack of food and I think because they wanted more opportunities.
SA: Did he come with his family or did he come as a grown man?
MN: He came as a grown man.
SA: Did he come with anyone?
MN: Not to my knowledge.
SA: And where did he first settle?
SA: And what about your grandmother. Did she come with her family?
MN: No, I don't believe so. Maybe she may have known him over there, but I've never known that. And she probably came over with a bunch of other immigrants that were looking for a better life.
SA: And did they also go to Minnesota?
SA: That was kind of a center for the people from Sweden?
MN: Yes. Minnesota looks just like Sweden. [laughter]
SA: OK. So that was the reason. Tell me a little bit about your maternal grandparents starting with your maternal grandfather.
MN: My maternal grandfather was Hugh Hunter and he came from Illinois. He was born in Illinois [December 25, 1846], and then later on moved to Minnesota. And my maternal grandmother was Rhoda Sherman Hunter. And she came from New York. I think she and Grandpa Hunter were married before they went to Minnesota. But then they did move to Minnesota.
SA: Did they also have a Swedish background?
SA: Who were the first ones in the family to come to Nevada and then to Churchill County . . . which ones in the family?
MN: My father was the first to come to Nevada. He came to Fallon and homesteaded in 1907. My mother didn't come out until 1913. Grandpa and Grandma Nygren and their daughter, Lily, which was my father's sister, they came, I think, around 1912.
SA: So your father was the pioneer.
SA: Tell me your father's name.
MN: Walter Leander Nygren.
SA: And do you know where and when he was born?
MN: He was born in Ottertail County, Minnesota, January 4, 1885.
SA: Tell me a little about his life before he headed for Nevada. Were they farmers in Minnesota?
MN: Yes, they were farmers and Dad had a problem with asthma, so he was looking for a climate that was better for his health. When he was a youth he worked in the grain fields of North Dakota, I think primarily to earn money. And then when he could, he went to California and worked on the Southern Pacific Railroad as a painter. He was in California when the 1906 earthquake hit San Francisco. And that kind of decided him that he didn't want to live in California. [laughter]
SA: How old was he when he left home? Do you have any idea?
MN: I have no idea.
SA: You have no idea. So then was he still alone when he came to Nevada and do you know how he heard about it?
MN: He read about the new reclamation project being started in Nevada. It was advertised in the papers all over the United States. And so he wrote a letter asking the officials at the Bureau of Reclamation what it was like, if the climate was good for bees . . . he had a hobby of beekeeping and I guess he thought he might eventually be a beekeeper. So one of his inquiries was how was the weather and what was the extreme cold and what was the extreme heat and I think he also asked about what homesteading involved.
SA: Is his one of the letters that's still available that he wrote? Do you have a copy?
SA: I'd like later to see that, to add that.
SA: And did he then come alone?
MN: To my knowledge he came alone. He came on a train up to Hazen and then probably caught a buckboard or a ride with somebody into Fallon. I think the reclamation people would take potential homesteaders out to the different areas to show them the land. And then they could go pick a piece of land that they thought they might farm. And my father and our neighbor, Mr. Else Ayers, were riding in the same wagon or buckboard and they came along where this ranch is and they also looked at the ranch where the Ayers . . . Mr. Ayers finally homesteaded. Mr. Ayers was married and had a child that was about school age and Dad wasn't married. So they decided on their land by Mr. Ayers would take the piece of land closest to the school and my father took the next adjoining land.
SA: And what year was that?
MN: Oh, I guess it was 1907. That's when he came to homestead.
SA: Was he one of the early ones?
MN: Well, as far as the homesteaders go, I think he was. Many people were here farming before that, but they were right along the river where they didn't have to rely on the irrigation water from the dam which wasn't even built then.
SA: So your father, it sounds like, was one of those adventurous, independent, strong kind of a man.
MN: I think he was.
SA: . . . to come to such an isolated place alone. So then where did he meet your mother?
MN: I think he met Mom back in Minnesota when he went back for a visit one time. This is after he had homesteaded. And he went back to see his folks and his sister. His sister was teaching and she was boarding at Grandma Hunter's home. My mother was there of course. So they were visiting and he told Mom that she ought to come west to Nevada, they needed schoolteachers.
SA: Oh, she was a schoolteacher.
MN: Yes. [laughs]
SA: And she came?
SA: Did they marry here or in Minnesota?
MN: No, they married in Fallon at the Methodist church.
SA: So when she first came, where did she go?
MN: I imagine when she came, Grandma and Grandpa Nygren had moved out by then and she may have stayed with them because she knew Aunt Lily.
SA: Now who's Aunt Lily?
MN: Aunt Lily is my father's sister. Lily Machin is her name.
SA: OK. And was that right in Fallon?
SA: Where did they live there?
MN: On 78th North Broadway. They may they lived some time in Sheckler District because my Aunt Lily homesteaded an acreage in Sheckler District.
SA: Oh, that's interesting. And what year did she homestead?
MN: I really can't answer that.
SA: Now, let's get you born. [laughter] They married and when did the family start arriving?
MN: Well, my oldest brother, Earl Nygren, was born in 1918, January 23. At one time there were four Nygrens with birthdays in January. [laughter]
SA: Oh my goodness!
MN: And Ray was born April 7, 1923. And then Maie and I were born October the ninth, 1924.
SA: Do you know the year your parents married?
SA: So then as you were growing up as a little girl, I want your very earliest memories and also when you were old enough to listen to what your parents and grandparents told you about when they arrived. What are your very earliest memories of the homestead. Were you born right in the house?
MN: No, we were born at Moore Hospital in Fallon. We were a surprise.
SA: [laughs] They didn't know it was twins.
MN: They didn't know it was twins. [laughter]
SA: They didn't have the kind of scanning equipment that they have now. And so that completed two boys and two girls.
SA: It was a big family. Well, from your very, very earliest memories, what did it look like here on, let's start on the outside on the ranch, when you were a little girl.
MN: Well, I don't think we had the trees that we have now. We did have some trees that Dad had planted and they were on the west side of the house and I'm sure they were planted for shade.
SA: What kind of trees?
MN: Cottonwood and some locust. The cottonwood grow fast and the locust grow slower, but they last longer . . they live longer. [chuckles] I can remember the corrals that we used to have just east of the house and then later on they were moved back to the south primarily, I think, because it was just a nuisance to have the cattle so close to the house.
SA: Two questions on those corrals. Are they still around?
MN: Not the original corrals.
SA: I want to know two things. Describe it a little bit and how many animals . . . it probably changed over time, but in the earliest period, what animals and how many?
MN: I'm not sure I can tell you how many, but of course horses because all of the farming in those days was done with horses. And then they had a few milk cows. I'm sure at the start they just had enough milk cows for the family. Later on, we had about fifteen milk cows and Dad would sell the cream to the creamery.
SA: And was there any hay yet or any crops?
MN: I can remember, haying was the big thing.
SA: How big of a ranch was it when you were a little girl growing up, let's say through elementary school? Describe what was going on at the ranch, how many workers .
MN: Well at that time the ranch was 160 acres.
SA: Was that the amount of the actual homestead?
MN: Eighty acres was what you were allowed to homestead, but the land just to the west, my mother homesteaded. So the two of them had 160 acres. During the wintertime we didn't usually have any extra help in . . with ranch hands. In the summer we had two or three ranch hands all summer long to help with the haying.
SA: Is it mainly the haying that the ranch hands were needed to help with this?
MN: Well, haying was a long, drawn out process then. They had to cut it and then rake it into windrows and then rake it into shocks, and then . . . . Once the hay dried enough so you could stack it, they had to pitch the shocks onto a haywagon and then the haywagon had to drive over to where that hay was being stacked. And then they would have to have a stacker to make the stack and somebody to run the derrick cart. And now they didn't just hay with one haywagon, they had about three or four going . . . or maybe even five depending upon how much help they could get.
SA: So it was all by hand? Horses and by hand.
MN: All by hand and horses.
SA: Labor intensive.
SA: And so was that hay just for your animals or were you selling hay?
MN: Dad was selling hay besides feeding our animals.
SA: Who was he selling the hay to?
MN: Probably at that time the I.H. Kent Company. They bought most of the hay around the valley. And they had a gentleman by the name of Dan Evans that would go out and make offers to the ranchers for what they'd pay per ton of hay.
SA: What would they do with the hay?
MN: I think they would sell it. Some of it they would grind up for fine hay feed. And I think they would ship some of that to other places. And then there were farmers around that didn't have enough hay, so they would buy their hay from Mr. Kent.
SA: So he was the retailer. So they were buying the hay. What else was going on on the ranch?
MN: Well, we always had all kinds of animals. We had pigs and chickens and probably by the late twenties we had turkeys and sheep. Dad quite a herd of sheep at one time. When the herd was small, he had them here on the ranch. But as they got bigger and bigger, then he and another man that owned a bunch of sheep joined together and hired a sheepherder to herd the sheep in the foothills out here in the Stillwater range.
SA: Was that the same range where Ira Kent's sheep were?
SA: The same range there. Were the sheep raised for the wool or the meat?
MN: For the wool. We never had Iamb in our house. Mom didn't like it. She said when she first got married, Dad always had a kettle of lamb or mutton on the stove and it wasn't lamb, it was always the old, old ewes. [laughter] And she said she just got so tired of that smell that we never ever had lamb. [laughter]
SA: Now who did he sell the wool to?
MN: I think he would sell it to wool traders, I guess, that would come through the valley and give a certain price for wool. And then these people would pick it up and with a truck, I think, and take it to California, I believe.
SA: Who would shear the sheep?
MN: There were itinerant shearers that came through in the springtime and they would go from ranch to ranch and shear the sheep.
SA: Oh, that's a specialized business.
MN: I used to have fun watching them shear the sheep and boy, they did it fast.
SA: Did they do it here? Did they bring the sheep back here from the range or did they do it out on the range?
MN: No. In the wintertime, they brought the sheep back to the ranch. And the sheep were always shorn in the spring and before they were turned back out on the range. And so they would always come to the ranch here and shear the sheep.
SA: About how many sheep did your father have?
MN: Well, I think when he started, he probably had two or three hundred, but when he was growing the most sheep, he had about twenty-five hundred.
SA: Oh, that's a lot!
SA: Now, who was hired to be the sheepherders?
MN: I can't answer that. Probably a Basque bachelor.
SA: Did they use Basque? And did they stay out . . . did they have a sheepwagon?
MN: Yes. They had a sheepwagon and a horse or a mule.
SA: And how many miles away from here would that be?
MN: Oh, I would think between fifteen and twenty-five miles.
SA: Oh, that far. Did someone have to go out to bring supplies and food and . . . .
MN: Probably so, but I don't remember my father doing that. Maybe the partner he was in with, maybe he took the responsibility of taking food out to the man. I just don't remember that.
SA: Now was that partner just for the sheep or for other . . ?
MN: Just for the sheep.
SA: Just for the sheep. And where did they buy the sheep or lambs?
MN: They probably bought them from other farmers that had lambs to sell. And then once you get a few lambs or a few ewes and a ram or two, you know, they just start having their own babies and the herd grows from that.
SA: Did your father -And just staying into those years before we go into school and away from the ranch - ever talk to you about what it looked like when he first arrived and homesteaded?
MN: He didn't talk a lot with me, but I can remember him making the comment that when he came there wasn't a tree around . . . you could see for miles. And there was another homesteader about, oh, three miles away from here. And they had an agreement that they would help each other when they were needed to either hay or level the land or whatever. And the way of contacting each other, they would stick a pole up in the air with a colored rag on it. And they could see, there weren't any trees or anything around. [laughter] And they could see the signals that would say "I need your help today." [laughter]
SA: The first time I've ever heard of that. That's wonderful. Now was your father all alone when he first homesteaded?
SA: And what else did you hear him talk about? Did he build his own little shack or… ?
MN: Yes, I think he built his own little shack. And one other thing I remember, he used to - even when we were small, he always had a gun by the back door. And every morning when he would get up, there would be usually coyotes in the yard. And he had the gun right there and he would shoot the coyotes.
SA: Was that so they wouldn't kill his animals?
SA: As soon as he homesteaded, did he get animals in immediately?
MN: I think so. He got at least the cow and a couple of horses, I'm sure, because he had to have transportation.
SA: And then he was working before he came, so he probably saved a little bit of money to start with?
MN: Yes. I remember the fellow from the reclamation office that wrote Dad said that a person would need at least a thousand dollars to get started here.
SA: Oh! Now there was a picture in Turn This Water into Gold of the Nygren Homestead in 1907. Who were the two men in that picture?
MN: That was my father and my grandfather, Peter Nygren.
SA: And so that shows the really rough situation when he first came.
MN: Yes. [laughs]
SA: What else did your dad or grandpop talk about in that early, early period before you were able to observe. Did they talk about the water coming in or the ditches?
MN: No, no. I can remember when Dad had to irrigate. It was, you know, it was a two or three day affair and not just during the day, but all night, too.
SA: Is this before the irrigation project or after?
SA: Describe what you remember of that.
MN: The project or the irrigation?
SA: No, what your Dad had to do to irrigate in detail.
MN: First of all, when he wanted to irrigate, he had to contact the ditch rider and tell him that he would like to have the water and they referred to a head of water . . . now I can't tell you what those measurements are. But they would order one head, two heads, or three heads of water. If somebody else was using the water, the ditch rider would say, "Well, you'll have to wait until Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones is through and then I'll send it down to you." And that means he would take the irrigation gates and raise them so the water would come our way and he would shut off the irrigation gates to the previous irrigator so that the water would come this way. Well, then Dad had . . . depending upon where he was irrigating, he would move from what they referred to as a check which was a certain sized piece of land with a levy and then there was another check and another levy and so that he'd water one or two checks at a time.
SA: Now when you say water one or two checks, how did he get the water from the ditch to the plants or to the land?
MN: Well, from the main canal, the water came to what they call a lateral ditch. Those gates had to be closed unless you were doing the irrigating. And then the water would go down the ditch at the head of the field and there were different, what they called gates to control the water and they would open two of those gates at a time and the water would just flow down the field.
SA: I see. Now, who built all of those ditches and when?
MN: Well, the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District built the main ditches . . . the canals and the laterals and . . . .
MN: Well, between the time of the start of the project which was 1903 and it probably went on until after the dam was built.
SA: And when your father came, were there already some ditches?
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: On his land?
MN: Not on his land. He had to make the ditches on his land.
SA: I see. In other words, there would be the main ditches, but each one would dig the ditches from the main one.
MN: Yes. Each farmer had to make his own ditches,
SA: And you made it the way it would be best for whatever you were doing on your ranch.
SA: So did he dig those himself or get workers or .
MN: Well, he probably dug some himself and he probably . . maybe his neighbor that he used to signal would help him come and dig those ditches. And they used what they called a Fresno scraper. The way you operate it, it would scoop up the dirt just like a regular scoop shovel does today. And of course, they had to have horses. The ditches didn't have to be really, really deep, but they had to be deep enough to carry the water so there would be enough water to cover the field once you turn the water onto the field, and they had to be deep enough so the water didn't run over the bank because you didn't want it running just anywhere.
SA: Now how did they ration the water and when your father got the homestead, did it come with certain water rights? How did that work?
MN: They had to pay for the water rights and they were able to buy, depending upon the type of soil, 3.5 acres of water right in good soil. And then farmers up on the Swingle Bench could get 4.5 acre feet of water because it was so sandy.
SA: So it was rationed? In other words, could you have all you wanted or was there a certain amount each one could have? How did that work?
MN: In the early days, I think they pretty well could have what they wanted, but as time went on, then they were rationed by the number of acres they had and the acre feet of water per acre. So if you had fifty acres in a field and you had 3.5 acre feet, then you'd have 150 plus acre feet of water that you could irrigate with.
SA: Now, let's say you ran over or would they not give you permission to irrigate? Did you ever have that come out?
MN: Not to my knowledge.
SA: Usually there was enough water and they figured it out.
SA: And then was there a monthly charge for the water?
MN: I don't know about that in the early days. Since I can remember, they charged for the water and the operation of TCID was collected by the county clerk treasurer when they collected the taxes.
SA: Oh, okay. So it would be like we pay water tax and . . . ?
SA: I see. And that depended upon how much you used?
SA: Now, coming back to the ranch as a young person, did you have any vegetable gardens?
MN: Oh, yes. We had a big vegetable garden. And most every vegetable we had growing in it. We had corn, and we even had potatoes, and carrots, and beets, and we had strawberries.
SA: And that all was because of irrigation.
SA: I took some pictures coming up here where it was all sagebrush. Did the land look like that before it was irrigated?
MN: That was what it was like. That's what it was when Dad came. He said it was just all sagebrush. You know, some places were hilly and some were low, and that all had to be leveled off.
SA: Was there equipment for that?
SA: Did they rent it?
MN: Well, they probably borrowed it at the time. [End of tape 1 side A] Well, I'm sure when he first came he didn't have any equipment and probably had to borrow it. And then when he got enough money, he would buy it. Two or three pieces of the main pieces of equipment that I can remember was the Fresno that I described that you could dig a ditch with because you could also carry dirt from a high place and dump it in a low place. And then there was what they called a tailboard scraper. The scraper was made of wood and it would do a fine job of levelling the land whereas the Fresno would more or less just dump the dirt. The scraper would quote move the dirt around and make it level. And they called it a tailboard scraper because behind the scraper there would be a board that the farmer would stand on to follow his horses rather than walk.
SA: Are there pictures of that?
MN: I think we have a picture in our photograph album of Dad on a scraper.
SA: Oh, wonderful. And did he ever talk about the hardships?
MN: Not that I can remember. I think he probably did, but when you're a kid you don't pay much attention to that.
SA: Did he start with his bees early?
MN: I think he started with a few bees right away and then later, probably in the late twenties or mid-twenties, he really started getting serious about beekeeping and raising honey to sell.
SA: Was he the main one in this whole region that was raising bees?
MN: No, there were three or four other farmers that also had a sizeable bunch of beehives, I guess you would call them. And there was one man, his name was Mr. Andrews, that's all he did was work with bees and "grow honey."
SA: So they couldn't have had bees if it wasn't for the Newlands project and the crops and flowers where the bees could get their nectar.
MN: And they probably wouldn't have had as good crops without the bees to pollinate.
SA: So that's a wonderful cycle there. And when your father had to start hiring workers about how many did you say he hired?
MN: Well, during the haying season, he probably had between five and ten men.
SA: Where did he get them?
MN: Oh, if they weren't too busy doing their own farming, he'd get the Indians from the reservation. And then once in a while he'd get a fellow in town that went to the labor department and wanted a job.
SA: People signed up when they wanted work?
MN: Yes. But it was hard to, you know, really take those people because you never knew how good they were with horses and how good they would be to work with the horses. So Dad preferred having the Indians if they were available.
SA: We'll go into depth later about the reservation and the Indians. Now in those early days, where was water obtained for home use? For baths, for cooking, where did that come from?
MN: Well, most everyone had a- [End of tape 1 side 2. Presumably well? This is a strange transition, but present in the transcripts, so is presumably original. Possibly part of an equipment issue.]
SA: Looking out your windows, I see a lot of beautiful trees, tell me about when these were planted, and how often your father planted trees, and the reasons.
MN: Well, the trees you see from the window my father planted years and years ago. They were growing as long as I can remember. And this big tree here is a Minnesota ash that he brought back from Minnesota from a visit we made in 1938.
SA: Oh, for goodness sakes!
MN: And he planted that tree.
SA: We'll take a picture of it so we know what we're talking about.
MN: Yes. Well, you can imagine coming from Minnesota which is heavily wooded to a desert with no trees. And trees were planted for two reasons really: windbreaks to keep the soil down and for shade. And lots of the trees on the fence lines that you see all over the valley were originally cottonwood fence posts and then they just sprouted and became trees.
SA: Really? Oh, my! So that when they came and planted these, the wood was available, and they were new and didn't know that or were they glad when they sprouted into trees?
MN: Well, I'm not sure, you know. Trees along the fence line help tear up your fence. And if the branches extend over into the field, they end up sometimes breaking and falling down into the field which then can gum up your machinery. So I don't think it was really intended, but that's what happened. [laughter]
SA: And then were most of them planted about the same time?
MN: Most of them were planted, well, before . . . like I say, before I can remember. It was probably even before I was born.
SA: Well, now we're going to get you started to school, so I'm going to ask you a couple of questions first. I want to know how old you were, but mainly I want to know where was the school and I want to know as much as you can tell me about your elementary school days.
MN: Well, we went to Harmon school and it's about three and a half miles from our home here. We were six years old when we started first grade and . . . .
SA: No kindergarten, then.
MN: No, kindergarten. They didn't know about kindergarten. [laughter] But the year we started was the largest group of first graders in the school that year I think ever. Well, I won't say ever. The school did grow.
SA: What caused that?
MN: Well, a lot of people were coming into the area and homesteading. And of course, they were all young when they first homesteaded and the kids all started coming about the same time.
SA: Large families?
MN: Yes. And so the Harmon school is built like a T. The two arms of the T
- . one arm on each side that make the T is a classroom and then the T part or the post part, I don't know how you call it, was an auditorium. And they used to have dances there and Christmas parties and Christmas programs. Well, when we started, there were so many kids in the first grade that we had to have our classroom in the auditorium!
SA: Amazing. Now, what year was this? 1930?
SA: And so you didn't start in a one room schoolhouse.
MN: No. [laughter]
SA: You had a big school.
MN: We had, actually, a two-room schoolhouse, but that year it was a three-room schoolhouse.
SA: OK. So two questions, in your classroom how many students about and in the total school what grade did it go through?
MN: Eighth grade.
SA: About how many kids in your class in the school. Did you have separate classes?
SA: All grades in one?
MN: All except for that one year when the first grade had to be in the auditorium, the one schoolroom had first through fourth and then the other schoolroom had fifth through the eighth.
SA: OK. So in the first through fourth . . . did it continue large after the first year? Did it keep growing or did some leave?
MN: Some left. You know, during the Depression, quite a few people didn't make it and they had to leave . . . go somewhere else.
MN: So then the numbers of students declined.
SA: What was the average number of students in that first through fourth?
MN: I would imagine about twenty to twenty-five.
SA: And were they pretty equally balanced, as to grade levels or . ?
MN: Yes, and I think pretty equally balanced between male and female, too.
SA: Really. Did the Indian children go to your school?
MN: No, I'm not sure why except that there was an Indian school at Stewart [south of Carson City] where many of the Indian children were sent to go to school.
SA: Who ran that school?
MN: The government.
SA: Oh, OK. So when they put up the reservation, they put up a school? Was that part of the reservation?
MN: Well, Stewart Indian School is over in Carson.
SA: In Carson? They had to go for first grade?
MN: Well, yes. Well, to my knowledge, they did.
SA: So they had to board.
MN: They boarded.
SA: They took those little kids? Oh, my goodness!
MN: Yes, it was hard . . I'm sure it was hard on those little kids.
SA: Oh, my! How long did they do that?
MN: Well, that school was there through my high school days and it was probably closed in the late forties, early fifties.
SA: Oh, so that was a government run school.
MN: Government run school.
SA: That boarded them.
MN: But during our high school days, the Indians from this reservation, Indian students went to our high school.
SA: So we'll go back to Harmon school and first through fourth grade. Tell me about your first teacher. Who was that?
MN: Ruby Robison.
SA: And did she teach you through the fourth grade?
MN: No, she just taught us the first grade that I can remember. And then we had a teacher by the name of Clara Plumb. And she taught us second through the fourth grade.
SA: Is Plumb Lane named after her family?
MN: No. [laughter] Then we moved into the upper grades to a gentleman by the name of Paul Liebhart and he was our upper grade teacher. He was a good teacher. Both of them. Dr. Plumb was an excellent teacher and Mr. Liebhart was too. It was fun going to this country school because everybody had to play together. You know, there weren't enough boys to make a team.
SA: I see. So, co-ed. Not boys basketball and girls. Everyone played together.
MN: Everybody played together, which I think was wonderful.
SA: Yes, what kinds of games? Would this be recess?
- Yes, during recess.
- They had an outdoor area for that?
MN: Big area.
SA: What kind of games?
MN: Well, when there wasn't snow on the ground, we would play "Black Man" which I don't know if you know what "Black Man" is, but it consists of two sides and you'd draw a line quite a bit apart from each other. And then one person from the one team would cross over and try to entice a person from the other team to come out from behind their line. And then they would try to tag each other or a person from the first team would come from behind and tag the guy that came over from the other side. And it was just kind of a chase game.
SA: It was a lot of fun. [laughter] And the girls kept up with the boys?
MN: Oh, yes. And then we played Annie-I-Over and there again we'd get into teams and one would be on one side of the schoolhouse, usually the auditorium part, and the other team would be on the other side and they'd throw a ball over the roof of the school.
SA: Oh, my! [laughs]
MN: And then the kids would try and catch the ball. And then we had lots of individual kinds of games. We had swings so you could swing on the swings. And we had what they called a giant stride. And it was a metal post and it had bars. On the top of the metal post, there was a rotating wheel. And attached to that wheel were chains long enough for the kids to reach and then two bars that they could hang on with. And the idea was to hang on to those bars and run and then take your feet off the ground and see how far you could ride just with the thing turning around. And that's why they called it a giant stride because you could take one step and then ride while the thing spun around and then you might be halfway around before you had to get down on the ground again. [laughs]
SA: Oh, my! Now, did you bring lunch? Did you eat here?
MN: Well, in the early days, we brought our lunch, but I guess it was during the Depression, they started having meals for the kids.
SA: A hot lunch?
MN: A hot lunch. And we had our hot lunch in the basement of the school which was primarily under the auditorium. And two or three ladies in the district cooked the meals.
SA: How did you get to school?
MN: Well, when we first started, we rode in a two-wheeled buggy.
SA: Who drove it?
MN: Well, first Earl drove it because he was the oldest. And we had a white mare called Nelly that was the one that pulled the buggy. When Earl went into high school, then Ray drove. Once in a while Maie and I would drive, too. But primarily it was Earl.
SA: Until he went into high school. Let's see, when you started school . . he's seven years older, so he was thirteen. How did he get to school in Fallon?
MN: He boarded a school bus.
SA: Oh, by then they had a school bus. So let's get back, you talked about the hot lunches because of the Depression. So we'll get back to school again later, but I want to continue with that a little bit. Were the hot lunches because many of the children in the family didn't have much food at home or what was the reason the Depression brought the hot lunch program?
MN: I'm not really sure whether it was the Depression or President Roosevelt's answer to part of the Depression, but I think a part of the school lunches were based on the health of the children. A lot of children were underweight and I remember we would line up . . in fact, I was underweight. We would line up to take a teaspoon of cod liver oil before we ate our lunch.
SA: Oh, yuck! [laughter]
MN: Yes! By the end of the school I got so I didn't mind it. But I think it was a health promotional kind of thing.
SA: Like a nutrition program? Was it through federal funds?
MN: I think so. I think the kids, they got stars if they gained a certain amount of weight. You know, the stars were to encourage the kids to eat.
SA: Did each district buy the food locally?
MN: I think so. At the time that program started, there weren't too many other rural schools still operating. I guess Stillwater school was and Hazen school was, but by that period of time, most of the rural schools had been consolidated into the Fallon schools.
SA: So was this program just for rural schools or all schools?
MN: No, I think it was for all schools.
SA: Did they also serve breakfast or just lunch?
MN: No, just lunch.
SA: Just a lunch. And what kind of lunches would they be?
MN: Well, we might have something like Chicken-A-La-King or soups and some kind of macaroni dish. It was all fairly inexpensive, but it was always tasty.
SA: And a lot of calories.
MN: And a lot of calories.
SA: I see. And did the kids like that? Did they like having lunch?
MN: I think they did. In those days, I think kids didn't have the liberty they have now to choose the food they want. You tended to eat what was on the table.
SA: They wouldn't say, "No, I want a hotdog." OK. [laughter] How did kids dress when you went to elementary school? How did the girls dress?
MN: Well, most of them dressed in cotton dresses with long stockings. And in the wintertime, the dress might be wool.
SA: Never pants? Never Levi's or pants?
MN: No, no.
SA: Not for girls.
MN: Not for girls at that time. And the boys usually wore overalls or what we call Levi's . . . blue jeans.
SA: Blue jeans. But with a bib or . . . ?
MN: Well, the overalls would have the bib, but the blue jeans would be just a pant part with a belt.
SA: Now tell me the kind of subjects from the time you started, taking you through the early part and then through eighth, I want to know what they were teaching you.
MN: Well, first of all, I guess art would be one of the first things because we would learn to color and we'd learn what the primary colors were. And of course, everybody had to take penmanship and that was usually the Palmer method. Everybody had to learn to write.
SA: Too bad they don't do that today.
MN: Yes, isn't it. We weren't allowed to print, we had to write. And of course, we had to learn our ABC's. And then probably by the second or third grade, we were doing arithmetic with the flash cards where they'd have two times two and you'd have to give the answer. And then we had geography and history and reading, I guess you would call it. We usually had to stand up and read a lesson from a book. One thing we had nice in the lower grades was the teacher would start the afternoon session reading from a book like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Or the Wizard of Oz. And then part of our lesson was reading. We'd have to get up and read from a book and . . . .
SA: Were they school books?
MN: Yes. Mostly school books, but we also could read from the Wizard of Oz or
SA: Was there a school library?
MN: The Harmony Social Club which was a group of women in this district really supported the school and one of the things they did was buy books.
SA: Oh, how wonderful. Were the books set up in a little library?
MN: We had a kind of a sunny room. It was part of the schoolroom, but it was kind of offset and that's where the books were. And they had a little table. And when we were real little, we could sit at the table and read our books.
SA: Could you check any out as you went in higher grades?
MN: As we went into higher grades, we could check them out and bring them home. But when we were in the lower grades, I don't remember that we did that. But fortunately for us, Mom always had books around for us.
SA: Oh, she bought books and she encouraged your homework. And as you were going through the elementary grades, what were your favorite subjects and least favorite subjects?
MN: I can't remember having a least favorite subject.
SA: You liked it all?
MN: I liked it all. I liked reading and I liked the arithmetic and I just enjoyed it all. I just liked going to school.
SA: That's wonderful. And now moving into the fifth to eighth grades, you're moving along there, were you still liking everything? Were you still good in everything? Or did you find some areas that you really were beginning to feel you, you know, were more attracted to? Or was that much later in high school.
MN: Even in high school, I liked all my subjects. And maybe there again, you had a limited number of classes you could take and you just had less of a choice than the kids do now. So I think we were more content to have the classes we had. One of the things we enjoyed which I don't know if all the schools had it, but we used to subscribe to a little newspaper called "Current Events" and it was aimed at the "News of the Day." It only came I think once a week.
SA: Who put it out?
MN: I think some national organization put it out and the school subscribed to it. And so I really kind of enjoyed the discussions we had on the subjects that were in current events. Most of them were political or governmental.
SA: So you were always interested in those kinds of things?
MN: Yes. And when the kids in the eighth grade were learning algebra and by the time we were in the seventh grade, since we were all in the same room, we were learning algebra, too. [laughter] And I liked algebra.
SA: Really? Kind of unusual. So there were advantages to the system?
MN: Yes, absolutely.
SA: So that you could move along at your own pace if you wanted to.
MN: Yes, you could learn "above your head" because the teacher would be teaching -
SA: Those who were bright enough or interested.
MN: Or interested. So by the time we got into the eighth grade, we were already knowledgeable about algebra.
SA: Oh, amazing. You were mentioning about the Harmony Social Club getting the books. Tell me about that club.
MN: Well, they were comprised mostly of the women . . . wives of the farmers here in this district. And that was why it was called Harmony, it was kind of a pun on Harmon district. And they would meet once a month. And to me, they were more like a P.T.A. in the sense that they really supported the school and they gave dances.
SA: When did they start? Were they in existence as long as you went to school?
MN: As long as I can remember. I think they were in existence before I was even born. I'm not sure, but I think so. That was a social life for the ladies in the neighborhood.
SA: Your mother was active in it?
MN: Very active in it.
SA: So tell me . . . well, several things I want to know. First where and when did they meet? Women were so busy, when did they get to meet?
MN: Well, they usually would meet in the afternoon at somebody's home. And sometimes they would even have an all-day affair and have a potluck where everybody brought some food. But they would take turns being a hostess. And they would usually meet in the afternoon for two or three hours. And the main focus of the activity was the school. Any other activities they undertook was usually to raise money to provide play equipment, books, maps . . . I don't recall that they bought musical instruments.
SA: Did you have music in the school?
MN: Minimal. Minimal music. Only if we had a teacher that could play the piano. [laughs]
SA: Now you said these women fixed the lunches, they all took turns fixing the lunches?
MN: No. I think there were two or three women in the district that were paid to fix those school lunches.
SA: Did the Harmony social club have anything to do with the lunches?
MN: Not to my knowledge. That wasn't their part,
SA: It was the library, equipment. Did they come to the school? Were they visible at the school or did they have functions there?
MN: Well, they had functions there. Like I say, they had dances there and primarily the dances were to raise money for the school.
SA: Would that be for everyone?
MN: Everybody could come.
SA: All the families and adults and did whole families go?
MN: Well, as a rule, you know, even the little kids went and then they'd go to sleep on a chair or something,
SA: Did you go?
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: Did you dance?
MN: When I got old enough to dance, I did. Well, one of our big social times was dancing.
SA: How often would the dances be held?
MN: Well, in the summertime probably once a month and not so often in the wintertime because of the cold and having to travel in the cold. But in the summer they were quite often. And then they had picnics. The school is built on ten acres and so there is quite a bit of space. And they had planted a grove of trees at one edge of the school on the north side of the property. And they had a regular little grove of trees there and it was a wonderful place to have a picnic.
SA: Oh, how nice. Now would they charge a certain small amount to raise some money?
MN: No. That was just to get together and have a social time.
SA: However, the dances they would charge a little bit?
MN: Yes, but the picnics were usually just a social time. And then the men would have a softball game going or a . . . .
MN: Pitching horseshoes. And the women . . . most of them would just sit around and visit. [laughs]
SA: You could see, you know, in this isolated area how important that
would be because you couldn't get into town very much.
MN: Not too much, at least from our place, it's almost nine miles to Fallon.
SA: While you were still in the Harmon school, how often did you get into Fallon if at all?
MN: Well, probably at least once a week. Lots of time when Dad would be going to town on business, he would take us along and leave us with Grandpa and Grandma Nygren because that's the only time we really got to see them. So we could usually ride in with him and then he'd do his business and we'd visit with Grandpa and Grandma. And usually if Dad wasn't going to town, like in the summer when he was busy haying or something, Mom would have to go in and shop for groceries. We'd go in with her then. So I'd say we got to town on an average probably once a week.
SA: From your earliest memories of going into Fallon, what did Fallon look like, thinking back?
MN: Well, I can't remember too much about Fallon. Practically all of the business at the time was on Maine Street. There wasn’t anything but residences on Williams Avenue.
MN: And my earliest memory, there were cars that were parked at an angle to the sidewalk on each side of the street. And in the center of the street, there were two rows of cars parked parallel. The one side would be facing north and the other side would be facing south. So there was a lot of parking and like I say, most of the businesses were on Maine Street.
SA: What brought so many cars?
MN: Well, I'm not sure there was so many cars, but just within a block or two, the place would be pretty well . . . .
SA: That's where everyone parked?
MN: Yes, everyone parked there. There wasn't any other place to park.
SA: So, let's see. Maybe in the early 1930's, when you first started to be able to recollect what it was like. Tell me a little more. How far out did the houses go? Was it a very limited town?
MN: The town of Fallon, it was very limited.
SA: What kind of population, do you know?
MN: No, I really don't. But you know, when we were in high school, there was about two thousand population in the town, but another two thousand out in the farm area. I really don't have a knowledge of what that population was in those days.
SA: What were the roads? Were they already paved by then?
MN: My earliest recollections, we would take a dirt road all through the desert here to the north and east of Rattlesnake Hill and then we would come into town from the north. And then when they did build the road, we would enter Fallon on Stillwater Avenue. That was the main drag then. Now East Williams Avenue and West Williams.
SA: Would take you right into Williams.
MN: Yes, But the original approach to Fallon for us was on the Stillwater Road which is the main part of town. It is called Stillwater Avenue.
SA: Was there anything there then that's not here now, that closed down during the depression? [End of take 2 side A]
- A lot of gas stations have closed and it seemed like we almost had a gas station on every corner. And now there's just a few. And one of the biggest changes is now so much of it is self-serve. In the old days, you know, the station attendant, and usually he was the owner, would fill your gas and wash your windshield and check your tires for air. You hardly ever find a station that will do that anymore.
SA: Do you think that a lot closed because they were individually owned and now these big, big companies come in like Shell and Arco and . . .
MN: That's probably a lot of it. The big companies have come in.
SA: Now Kent Store, was that the only store in the early days? The biggest store in the early days?
MN: Well, it was certainly the biggest store in the early days. But there were other stores. There was a Toggery, which was a tailor store.
MN: Yes, they called it the Toggery. And there was two or three meat markets and a bakery that I can remember and of course there were always the saloons.
SA: Was the Nugget and some of the other saloons already there?
MN: The Nugget wasn't there at that time. There was a saloon down the street called Barrel House. And it was there until after the war . . . World War II. And some of those independently owned saloons have closed, but the Nugget has come on and then there is the Stockman's which wasn't there before. And the Gallagher's Livestock Auction was not there.
SA: Oh, when did that come in? I wanted to ask about that.
MN: Probably mid-forties.
SA: And I read and I haven't been able to verify it yet, I read somewhere in my research, that's the only big auction house in the whole state.
MN: That's my understanding.
SA: The main one.
MN: It's the only one.
SA: In fact, I was shocked when I read it. [laughter] And I remember when you all took me there. We'll talk more about that in a little bit. I want to go to the Depression years. And you were still very young.
SA: Because that's just in the thirties. First let's talk about . did the Depression affect your family's ranch?
MN: Not to my knowledge. The Depression . . the way it affected our family was … of course, we probably used more chickens and our own hogs and an occasional beef cattle for our meat and I think probably our transportation, the family probably didn't go to town quite so often. But a lot of farmers failed then and my father bought several farms from those people that quote "couldn't make it."
SA: Now did they have a mortgage that they had to pay?
MN: Well, I think he had loaned them money and they couldn't pay him back. So he ended up taking the property over. Then, the same thing in town. Grandpa Nygren, I think, probably had kind of a nest egg because he had sold his farm in Minnesota and he bought two or three houses in town. And it could have been for the same reason . . . people just couldn't afford it.
SA: Couldn't pay the banks for those loans?
MN: Or couldn't pay him back for a loan he made. So they ended up with houses and farms that they never expected to have.
SA: People left . . people had to leave?
SA: Were there also during the Depression people leaving, because I know that some of those men had to work at other jobs to keep their farm and family together. Was there a shortage of other jobs? Did the construction stop for a while?
MN: Well, I think it did. I just don't think there was a lot of building going on at that time and I think the jobs weren't all that plentiful.
SA: Had the mining all stopped?
MN: Pretty much. Pretty much. The only mining going on then I think was some independent miner that had a claim somewhere and he'd go out and try to dig enough money to sustain himself.
SA: But not where people were being hired to do the mining?
MN: No. No.
SA: Now during that period from the late thirties on, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) came. Now what do you remember. What can you tell us about that? Their work and their presence in town. Can you tell us much?
MN: I can't remember too much, but I can remember the CCC camps. They were like barracks. There was one about thirty miles to the east of Fallon and there was one or two camps in Fallon. I can remember those barracks building and after they closed the CCC program, some people bought part of those barracks to build a home with.
SA: About how many barracks would there be in the one in Fallon . . . was there one in Fallon or two?
MN: I think there were two in Fallon. And I think there would be three to four barracks for each of those camps. I don't remember a lot about the boys in those camps except seeing them in town in their khaki uniforms. And a lot of them joined the amateur baseball, softball clubs in town. Then at that time, too, they had a league of basketball teams. They weren't high school teams, they were just citizens. And they had several teams that would play each other for the championship. And I think those CCC boys, a lot of them joined those teams. First of all for the sport and secondly because the teams needed them. I don't remember seeing them in the stores very much, but, you know, maybe they were in the bars, but I never frequented the bars. [laughter]
SA: Did they go to the dances?
MN: I think they did.
SA: Were there many girls who were- well these were young fellows?
MN: Yes, very young.
SA: Were there any of the fellows who were black because you didn't have others here, but I wondered because of this program?
MN: I can't remember. I doubt it because at one time Fallon had an ordinance that any black in the town had to be out of town by dark.
SA: Oh, is that right?
SA: Is that right?
SA: Oh, you're the first one who told me that. What time period is this?
MN: Well, from the time I was a little girl I think up until World War II. Yes. I think it was a pretty rigid town,
SA: Very conservative.
MN: Well, they referred to Nevada as the Mississippi of the West.
SA: Oh, see I hadn't heard that.
MN: Even the night clubs in Reno wouldn't have a black.
SA: Is that right? Oh.
MN: They had their own club.
SA: OK. So whoever was bringing the CCC weeded out…
MN: I think so.
SA: Yes. So that they wouldn't have any trouble. Any other ethnic groups or was there a restriction against other ethnic groups?
MN: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge.
SA: Now, about the work that the CCC did. Did you see any of that going on? Was any of it out here in the Stillwater area?
MN: Not to my knowledge. I know they built the cement structures and the irrigation ditches. And they did a lot of work up at Lahontan Dam, one of them being the picnic area that I talked about. But I don't have very much knowledge of other work they did. And of course, we were going to school then so we never saw them.
SA: And did any of them stay?
MN: Yes, several of them stayed and became wonderful citizens . . married a Fallon girl and stayed on and were wonderful citizens. I couldn't name them all, but I think there was at least a dozen, probably.
SA: Any of them around to interview?
MN: In Reno there's one.
SA: In Reno? That worked here?
MN: In Fallon, yes.
SA: It would be good to interview someone who was involved.
MN: It would be, yes.
SA: Would you get that name?
SA: And when the project finished, are there markers around where they did things or is it just a quiet testimony to their work?
MN: I understand on those concrete structures that they built for the irrigation canals and ditches, they all have a mark in the concrete that says "CCC," but the evidence of where their camp was, there's no marker there. And to my knowledge, I think they probably did mark what they worked on, but all I'm aware of are the concrete structures to the irrigation ditches.
SA: Now, I want to take you into your high school years. I want you to tell me when you first started. Of course, you were with Maie, so you were unlike some who felt a little lost or scared, you had a buddy. Tell me your very, very first start in high school in Fallon . . . the travelling and going through the day.
MN: Well, of course, we rode the bus to school.
SA: Did it stop all around? How many kids on the bus when you first started?
MN: Oh, probably forty.
SA: And who drove the bus?
MN: Well, usually it was a mature high school student, such as a senior or a post-graduate student. And of course, they had to take a driver's test. But they would take the bus to their home and start out in the morning from their home and they had a regular route where they picked the students up. And they didn't have to have a chaperon or somebody to keep the kids under control. [laughter] Everybody behaved themselves because if you didn't, you could get turned into the school principal and then you really would be in trouble.
SA: So you were all scared. What time would you be picked up?
MN: Oh, around eight o'clock.
SA: How long did it take from the time you picked up everyone and got into Fallon to the school?
MN: Almost an hour.
SA: Now, where was the school and what was the name of the school?
MN: Well, it was the Churchill County High School and it was on south Maine Street. Now that school is referred to as the Churchill County Junior High School.
SA: That's the large, light green building?
MN: Yes. But only when we went to school, it was white.
SA: So tell me how you felt when you first took the bus and was starting high school.
MN: Oh, I think we felt like we were grown up. [laughter] You know, that you'd make a big step from going to a country school to a city school and on a bus at that. I can't remember too much about my first day. I think we had kind of an orientation from the principal of the school. And we were told of what their expectations were. And then we had class assignments. And we would report to the room wherever the class was being held.
SA: Now this was a whole different step.
SA: You know, different teachers each class.
MN: Yes, every class was a different teacher. And we had a homeroom where we gathered first thing in the morning.
SA: How many kids in the school about when you started?
MN: Well, let's see. There were eighty in our graduating class, so probably when we first started, there were 250-300 kids . . somewhere in there. You know, we considered ourselves a fair-sized school. Like I say, once we got off the bus, we went to, what we called our homeroom and we were in there for at least twenty minutes when the school took up at nine o'clock. And the teacher of that homeroom would take the roll and mark those that were absent. And then there was a bell that rang that told us it was time to go to the next class and we had ten minutes to get from one class to the next. And so we would just go to whatever room we had for our class. If we didn't have a class, then we had to go to the study hall and that was a large room with lots of desks where, oh, probably between seventy-five and a hundred kids would be sitting.
SA: Oh, my! Was there a teacher or a monitor.
MN: A monitor. She was actually a teacher, but each teacher took turns supervising study hall. And there was a library there and we could check books out from the library. If we didn't have books or lessons that we had to work on, we could take a book out of the library and read. And then when the bell rang again, we'd go to whatever class we were supposed to go to.
SA: Did you bring lunch there or did they have a cafeteria?
MN: We brought lunch for a while, but Maie and I started working at a soda fountain called "Kick's Place" and it was downtown in the main part of town and we would go for the noon hour to wait on the kids and the customers.
SA: There was enough time to do that?
MN: Yes. We had a whole hour and as soon as we got out of class, we'd rush down to Kick's.
SA: How far was it from the school?
MN: Oh, six or eight blocks,
SA: Oh, my goodness! Is it still there?
MN: Well, it isn't Kick's Place now, but, yes, the building is still there. It's Los Rosales Mexican restaurant now. Most of the menu was hamburgers and milkshakes or sodas or banana splits, or hot dogs.
SA: How old were you when you started working there?
MN: Oh, I think we were sophomores.
SA: Oh, my goodness.
MN: So then we didn't have to take a lunch because part of our pay was our lunch. And we could have whatever we wanted, but it was mostly a hamburger and a milkshake. But then we would work that whole time. And it also had a little area for candy and we had at least twenty different selections of candy.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
MN: And kids could come in and of course the candy was wrapped,
but kids could come in and they could buy a penny's worth of candy or a nickel's worth of candy or dime or whatever. And one of our jobs was to wait on the candy counter.
SA: Did you get back to school on time?
MN: Yes, we made it.
SA: You weren't late.
MN: Well, I don't think we were late.
SA: How did you find out about the job?
MN: I really don't know. I think Maie was the one who heard about it first and whether she heard it from a friend or . . . I really don't recall that. Or maybe they announced it in class that Kick's was looking for students, I don't know.
SA: Were you the only two students working there or were there others?
MN: There were others, but I can only remember working with Maie and the wife of the owner and the owner and maybe one other student.
SA: Was it very attractive to have twins?
MN: I don't know. [laughter] They never mentioned it.
SA: In the school was there any special attention because you were twins or everyone just took you for granted?
MN: Well, I don't think there was a lot of attention given because the year we were born, there were five sets of twins born that year.
SA: How come?
MN: I don't know. [laughter] I can't tell you why that happened.
SA: That's amazing!
MN: That is. So there were more than one set of twins in school. In fact I can recall there were at least three.
MN: Three sets of twins.
SA: Did you both take the same subjects?
MN: Pretty much so. The school curriculum was divided into two or three different things. One curriculum was aimed at business and it would include typing and business arithmetic and accounting and things like that. And then there was an agricultural component and usually farm kids would go to that. But, of course, they had to take math and history and other things, but there were certain subjects that were more focused on farming. And then there was a curriculum that we entered into was called… I want to say . . . I think it was arts and science, but it was mainly preparing you for college.
SA: So you both knew when you entered high school that you were going to go to college?
MN: We knew it from way down. [laughs] Mom used to say "when you go to college" not "if you go to college." It was "when you go to college."
SA: OK. So you took the proper courses and you knew in your mind you were going to go on.
MN: That course was particularly aimed at getting you ready for college.
SA: Meeting the requirements of entering.
MN: English and language.
SA: What language did you take?
SA: Latin! Latin! [laughter]
MN: Well, we had an aunt visiting us from North Dakota the summer before we enrolled in school and she said to my mother, "If the girls don't take anything else in high school, you make sure they take Latin." She says, "Because Latin is the basis for the English language really." And she says, "You just don't learn Latin, you learn grammar and grammatical structure." And she says, "It'll be with them the rest of their lives."
SA: Amazing that they taught it here because I don't think they teach it much now.
MN: I don't think they do either. But we had a Latin teacher that really had been, I think, a missionary in China. And when she came over here, I don't know whether she came directly to Fallon, but she had a sister who was married and on a farm and I think she came to Fallon for that reason. And she taught Latin, and French, and Spanish.
SA: Oh, my gosh! She was good in all different languages. My, my.
MN: Oh, she was very good. Very good.
SA: Did you take the Latin?
MN: Yes, I enjoyed it. I took two years of it.
SA: Oh, my goodness! And it probably has been beneficial.
MN: Oh, it has been very beneficial for me because my profession was in the medical field and almost all the medical terms are based on Latin.
SA: Now as you were going through your high school years and you knew you were going to college, did you begin to know that you were going to go into the field you eventually did or were you still kind of exploring?
MN: Actually, I thought that I would be a teacher just like, well, Maie did, too. That was one of the professions you could go into, nursing or teaching. And I didn't know anything about dietetics at that time, but at that time, Dad was a school board member at Harmon school and he used to talk about the low pay the teachers got. And, you know, he thought it was awful, because, being a board member, I think he saw the value of teachers. But he used to talk about what low pay they had and not to be a teacher.
SA: Oh, isn't that strange.
MN: Well, Maie went ahead and went into the field of education, and I kind of horsed around and decided that I would go into dietetics.
SA: How did you reach that? What did you learn about the field?
MN: I didn't know a lot about the field, except that it was an area where you dealt with foods and nutrition. And I thought, "Well, that might be as desirable a job as teaching." So when I went to college my curriculum was basic and some of the basic courses like history and English and math. But then I enrolled in the school home economics and you could either be a teacher or you could go into sewing or cooking and dietetics. So I chose dietetics. And I guess it was then when Maie and I started to take different classes and go different ways.
SA: We'll cover that in more depth next time because I want to cover your adult years later. I want to go back to your high school years again and I want to know what it was like for teenage girls. I know you probably both were real cute and popular. What was it like growing up as a teenager and going to high school? Were you limited because of the bus?
MN: We were limited because of the bus. We couldn't take sports. I would have loved to play basketball, but Mom and Dad couldn't afford to go into town every day to get me after basketball practice, so...
SA: And you didn't have a car to use . an extra car.
MN: No. And to start, we weren't old enough to drive, either alone.
MN: So we couldn't take what you might call the extracurricular things like music or sports . . . .
SA: Any clubs?
MN: Or glee club, which was a singing group. The one thing we did do, though, and that was we took debate.
SA: Oh, did you take debate? I know Carl Dodge took debate.
MN: Well, Mom really helped strongly about having us take debate. The class met only once a week, so she took it on herself to drive us to town.
SA: Oh, wonderful. Now when did they have that debate? Right after school?
MN: No, in the evening.
SA: Oh, I see. So she'd come and she'd wait and stay?
MN: Come and stay.
SA: It was an evening activity? Was it through the school?
MN: Yes, it was at the school. In fact, the principal, Mr. McCracken, taught it.
SA: And did you get any credits for that?
MN: Yes, I think we got a credit.
SA: And you both were in it? And how long did you participate in the debating?
MN: I can't remember, but I think it was just one year.
SA: Did you go to any of the debating competitions?
MN: No, just among the kids in the class.
SA: And so did you belong to any other clubs or groups like 4-H?
MN: Yes, we were 4-H club members from the time we were ten years old until we got through . . . well, I think until we started college. Maybe even the first year of college we were in 4-H.
SA: OK, let's go back to the 4-H when you were ten. [tape cuts out] Tell me what that was like, how many times did you meet, and where.
MN: We usually met at one of the member's homes. We'd rotate and take turns having the quote "club." And we met during the summertime, usually starting in, I think, in May and going through until after the 4-H camp in August. We would perform just like a regular club. We'd elect officers and we'd have a president and a vice-president and a secretary. I can't remember if we had a treasurer because I don't think we paid dues, we just . . . well, I take that back. I think we did have a treasurer because we raised money to go to 4-H camp. You could take cooking or sewing. Some girls took some kind of raising an animal like a lamb or a calf or a sheep or something, but we took sewing. And of course, started out with a simple little thing like making a tea towel. But by the time we were probably going into high school, we were making our own clothes.
SA: Who was the leader?
MN: We had a leader in the community and they took turns. I think my mother was the leader one year and Jessie Freeman was the leader one year and then the ladies took turns. We also had a Cooperative Extension agent that came out and always met with the 4-H club kids and also this lady would also meet with the Harmony Social Club. She was a guest member, but she would attend almost all the meetings.
SA: Was 4-H under the Cooperative Extension or was it independent?
MN: No, it was under the extension. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
SA: Now, the person who led the meetings, was that a volunteer parent at each meeting? Who would teach you the sewing and teach you the things you were learning?
MN: Well, a volunteer parent would, like Mom would teach sewing or another parent would teach cooking or, you know, if it was an animal, then maybe it was a father. [End of tape 2] The leader of the club would, of course, attend all of the meetings, but the club members themselves conducted the meetings. If you were president, you conducted the meeting. If you were secretary, you read the minutes from the last meeting, so early on you learned about parliamentary procedure and participation as an officer in an organization. And we would usually have a demonstration about basting or making a hem or putting in a lining or cutting a pattern out so that every meeting had a focus for learning a new thing. One of our big aims was to go to the 4-H camp in the summertime at Lake Tahoe. And one of our extracurricular activities was to raise money to pay for the kids to go to camp. So as we got older, we would help give a dance at the schoolhouse and one of the jobs of the girls would be to call up the different ladies in the district and ask for a donation of sandwiches to serve like a midnight supper at the dance, Everybody would stop at midnight and have sandwiches and coffee or cake or whatever. So that was another kind of a responsibility each club member had to assume was to call up a certain number of ladies in the district and ask if they would donate sandwiches. And of course, the ladies always did. But it was a new learning experience to have to do that. And then we would make root beer and bottle it to sell at the dance. We made quite a bit of money on the root beer and the dances. Usually we raised enough money so that any kid that wanted to go to camp could go.
SA: I have a couple of questions. First, because you were talking about the officers running it, so was there a wide age range in the 4-H group that met weekly in the group?
MN: Yes, I think so. There would be some girls that were in high school and could be good officers while, say when we first entered as ten year olds, we just observed what was going on and participated, of course. But in doing this, you learn how to be an officer. And that was kind of an experience where you start out doing nothing, but by the time you are five or six years older, sixteen or seventeen years of age, then you're the one that assumes an office.
SA: So you'd meet weekly. Now tell me how many girls and what would be the youngest and the oldest age range? Were they all girls?
MN: In our club they were all girls. The youngest was ten. You couldn't be any younger than ten. And then the oldest could go clear through high school and I think there were even some that for their freshman year in college would also continue being a 4-H member. I think we got so busy at college that our 4-H activities pretty much stopped then.
SA: In the Stillwater area, how many girls met each week? Did you have only one group or several?
MN: I can't answer for Stillwater, but in Harmon .
SA: Or Harmon. Was that your district?
MN: Yes, our district is Harmon. Would be, oh, ten to fifteen girls . maybe twenty, but I think average would be fifteen.
SA: And that would be one group of different ages?
MN: Yes. For sewing.
SA: Oh, I see. According to the major. Did you pick what you wanted to do?
SA: I see. So that no matter what the age, you all started learning at the same pace?
MN: Pretty much so.
SA: Did those that have money pay their own way to camp or did this raising of funds pay for whoever wanted to go?
MN: This I think was different all over. In our district, we always tried to raise enough money to pay everybody's way so no one family had to pay for their child going to camp. But in other areas, in other districts, they didn't go about raising money. And so each family had to pay for their own children going to camp.
SA: Which meant that some couldn't go.
MN: That's right.
SA: Yes. So then describe what it was like at the 4-H camp at Tahoe.
SA: Your eyes glisten.
MN: Yes. [laughter] Well, it was really a fun time. Well, I think all the time we went to camp, we lived in tents and they had a wooden floor and then the tents were kind of like the army tents, you could roll up the side flaps. And those tents were all erected before we got to camp, so we didn't have to put them up or anything like that. And there were about, oh, eight to ten to a tent. Each tent had to maintain its tent. And that meant you had to have your beds made, you had to have your floors swept. During the day, you could roll the sides' flaps up so the tent would be well-ventilated and aired. And everybody pretty much had to go to bed at the same time at night because everybody was sleeping eight to ten in a tent. They had a main cookhouse where we all gathered . . . everybody from throughout the state gathered for their meals. And the kids had to take turns serving the meals, being waitresses. And this is kind of learning shared responsibility because you had to take turns doing it. And some of the older kids even helped in the cooking of the meals. And then of course, there was the washing of the dishes. And kids had to do that. Not the same ones that did the cooking, but there would be a group assigned to do the dishes and you did it for at least one meal, maybe sometimes more than one meal. Most of the activities in the daytime were aimed at learning something. some kind of a craft like leather work or bead work or . . I can't think of other kinds of activities, but there were always different kinds of activities for 4-H kids to participate in. And then in the afternoon, we'd usually have some games . . softball games . . . or we'd go swimming. We could go down to the lake to swim. That was pretty well supervised, though, because you had to have lifeguards and older kids had to watch the younger kids for swimming. And then at night, we usually had some kind of a program. A lady by the name of Florence Bovett was usually the main leader of the program at night. There would be entertainment by some other kids in 4-H or there would be some speaker brought in to talk about some aspect of 4-H. And we always started out singing "Home Means Nevada" that was our big . . [laughs]
SA: What was that again?
MN: "Home Means Nevada." That's the state song.
SA: Oh. [laughs] I should make you sing it on tape. [laughter]
MN: I'm no singer. But I can always remember Mrs. Bovett singing- leading the group in singing "Home Means Nevada" and we did it every night. [laughter] It was just like the national anthem. [laughter] So we were kept busy. And it was kind of supervised, but at the same time, it was a learning experience.
SA: I have several questions. First, you mentioned it was statewide, so this was a huge camp.
SA: A huge camp. Were there girls and boys at this camp?
SA: And how big an area and about how many tents? It sounds like it must be enormous!
MN: Well, it was quite large. Although, you know, statewide could mean one thing, but in the days when we went . . . oh! A lot of people couldn't afford to go and especially the people from four hundred miles away. They couldn't hardly ever make state camp.
- Like up in the Lander County.
MN: Yes. Or down in Lincoln County which is at least four hundred miles away. One or two kids could come from those counties.
SA: I see.
MN: Whereas Churchill County was almost always the county with the most representation.
SA: Would you go in a bus or buses from Churchill County?
SA: How did you get there?
MN: Well, each club arranged their own transportation. I can remember Mom driving our group up.
SA: In a car pool? How many from your group would go?
MN: Almost all because we raised the money to pay the way. So there'd be two or three carloads.
SA: And how long was the camp . . time period?
MN: It was a week long.
SA: A week long. And there had to be some very organized people who arranged who would sleep in which tent.
MN: They usually tried, I think, to assign the different clubs . .
SA: To do their own?
MN: To their own tent.
SA: Sounds wonderful.
MN: Yes. Well, I thought it was pretty nice. Everybody did. And we had public showers and toilets where the kids could take a shower after they got back from swimming. In the first camp that we had was up in the hills just below the fire station at Zephyr Cove and it was quite a walk down to the lake. It was over a mile and back up a hill. Well, the soil around Lake Tahoe was terribly, terribly dusty. So by the time the kids got back from their swimming expedition, they almost had to take a shower they were so dusty! [laughter] I think the tents usually tried to be of one club if possible. And we always had contests. Different tents got awards for being the cleanest, the neatest.
SA: Good incentives!
SA: Yes. Smart.
MN: It was. Yes, I think the 4-H experience was just wonderful.
SA: Oh, how many years did you go to camp?
MN: I would think almost every year that we were in 4-H, we went to camp. I can't remember missing a one. And there again I think that was because Mom felt it was important that we go and interact with other kids.
SA: And when you went there, would you each pack a case or pack a suitcase?
MN: A little suitcase. Maie and I kind of shared a suitcase, but each member had a suitcase. And you had to keep that neat and clean.
SA: Wonderful habits.
MN: Yes. And clothes had to be hung. They had these support spikes out to support the roof of the tent and you could hang dresses from those support bars. And so clothes had to be hung. Everything had to be neat. It was almost like being in an army, I'm sure.
SA: Being in the military.
SA: That sounds wonderful.
MN: It was a wonderful experience. [Tape cuts]
SA: Have we completed the 4-H experience?
MN: I think so. I would just say that it's too bad every kid can't take 4-H.
SA: So we will stop today. We'll end today's interview and then in June we'll continue and finish all the other things that you need to tell us. So this is the end of the first interview. [tape cuts] This is the second session of an interview with Myrl Nygren at her home at 6800 Mission Road, Fallon, Nevada. The date is June 10, 1994 and this is Sylvia Arden, interviewer. Good morning, Myrl. I'm glad that we could meet today to continue the interview. I want to go back in time to get a little bit of information on the Nygren house. Is this the house that you lived in when you were born?
MN: No. This house was built in 1951. The original home that we were born in . . . lived in, was sold to a church group and was moved off the property and was remodeled and you wouldn't even recognize it now.
SA: Several questions: why was it sold and do you know the location where that is now?
MN: Well, it was sold primarily because we had built this house and there was no need to have the other house. The people that bought it were just starting a church and didn't have a lot of money, so I don't think they paid very much for it. But they bought it and moved it off of the place and it now sits on Crook Road. It's called the Country Church.
SA: So you did live in that house that was sold growing up.
MN: Yes. Yes.
SA: And can you give us some description of what it was like at that time . . . the size of it, what kind of materials? Just a little bit so we can get a visual picture of the kind of the house the family lived in in that early period.
MN: Well, it was a multiple of add-ons. I think my father's original homestead house was just a one room structure. And then they added on a living room and a bedroom and then eventually a porch that was screened. And finally, when the family got bigger, they closed in the porch because we had to use that as a bedroom/ sleeping room. Then we had a porch on south end of the house and eventually it was closed in to make room for a bathroom. It was all wood-framed structure and we had linoleum on the floors. We heated the house first with a coal stove and then about early 1930's or mid-1930's, we got an oil stove which was a lot nicer because you could let it run all night whereas a coal stove you had to build a fire every morning. My mother's cooking stove was just a wood-coal stove. And she had one oven and warming ovens above. We had what I think was wonderful and you don't see them anymore was a pantry. It was right off the kitchen and it was a small, long, narrow room, but we kept all our supplies in there and our mixing machines and everything in there. So, you know, you didn't have to have anything out in the kitchen on the counters, it was all in the pantry.
SA: Are there pictures of that house in these albums?
MN: Maybe one or two, yes.
SA: And in that early house, when you were a child, was there plumbing? Was there a toilet and sink and plumbing in the house?
MN: No. The best I can remember is we had a small, shallow sink that was on a wooden cabinet and we had a hand pump to pump the water into the sink. And we didn't have any toilet facilities except an outhouse that we used. And our bath habits were Mom would heat water on the stove and she'd pour it in the laundry tub [laughter] in front of the stove so we'd be warm and take our bath that way. [laughter]
SA: Now when you were pumping the water, where did that water for home use come from?
MN: From the well on the property.
SA: OK. So you had a well.
SA: I know there was early electricity in Fallon because of the Newlands project. Did you have electricity early?
MN: Well, not real early. I can remember when they installed the electricity out here. It was a big day, I'll tell you! I think it was in the… like 1929 or something. And the men came out and hooked up the house with electricity. That was a big thing when could pull a string and get lights that come on rather than light a coal oil lamp. [laughter]
SA: So did your father or did someone have to wire your house to be able to use that electricity? How did that occur?
MN: Well, I can't be positive. But I think when the men came and installed the electricity, they also wired it into the house.
SA: You said you finally got a bathroom and toilet. When was that when you had inside plumbing? Do you remember how old you were about?
MN: Well, I think it was before the war, so it was probably around 1940.
SA: Oh, that late.
MN: That late. And my brother Ray was primarily instrumental in doing all the plumbing.
MN: And fixing up the shower with the bathtub and hooking it up to a water heater. That was electric then.
SA: That must have been exciting, too.
MN: Oh, it was!
SA: We just take things for granted now. [laughter]
MN: Yes, it was a big day.
SA: And anything more about the house?
MN: Well, not really. It was a roomy enough house. We had enough bedrooms and a living room and a kitchen and primarily we lived in the kitchen. But it was, you know, not a really warm house because it was a wood structure and it didn't have insulation or anything like that.
SA: Oh, so how did you keep warm at night?
MN: We went to bed. [laughter] No, we'd use the coal stove, but, you know, in those days . . . especially before we had electricity, we were probably in bed by eight or nine o'clock.
SA: And getting up early.
SA: To do your chores.
MN: Five or six o'clock in the morning.
SA: OK. So that gives me a good idea of the house. Now, I want a little more on the ditches and the swimming in the ditches. I want to know a little more about that because that's something that people away from this region don't experience.
MN: Well, we could go swimming during the summer when the water was in the ditches. And primarily we went swimming in the canals which are the bigger ditches to carry the water. And we had to go about two miles to where there was a nice, gentle place below a drop and we could swim as long as we wanted. And at that time, the water was pretty pure and pretty clean. And no one worried about getting any kind of an infection or…
SA: About how many kids would usually be there?
MN: Ten or twelve. And we'd jump off the ditch bank or we'd jump off the drop. And in the early part of the summer when it was kind of hot, there was always moss and we had to pull the moss off our heads, but it never kept us from swimming. [laughter]
SA: How deep was it? Was it over your head?
MN: Probably when we were five or six it was over our heads, but by the time we grew up to ten or twelve, we could stand on the bottom of the ditch and we would not be under water.
SA: Would people watch the little kids?
MN: Oh, yes.
MN: The parents were always there watching.
SA: That sounds like a lot of fun. Did you ice skate on it, too? On the ditches or the canals?
MN: Well, the ditches and canals were pretty well drained in the wintertime.
SA: I see!
MN: So unless you had a major canal that had some stagnant water in it, there was no water to freeze. But my folks had what they called a garden pond. It was just an excavation of dirt, and every time Dad irrigated, he'd fill that pond with water so he could water the lawn and the garden and everything. In the wintertime that pond would freeze over and then we could skate.
SA: Well, that sounds like fun. What kind of ice skates did you have?
MN: Oh, the clamp-on kind.
SA: You don't see those anymore. [laughter]
MN: No. I think that by our junior or senior year in high school, we got lace boot skates. But up until then they were just clamp-on skates.
SA: So now I want to move to the early description of Stillwater. Did you go over there? Was there a little community there that you can remember that you witnessed?
MN: Yes, just a small community. There was a grocery store that sold not just groceries, but soda pop and candy and the things kids like.
SA: Who ran that store?
MN: Mrs. Greenwood was the owner and operator and after she died, her son, Leslie Greenwood, operated it. Our main reason to go to Stillwater was there was a heated swimming pool there and it was enclosed with a wooden frame and then galvanized iron to cover the walls.
SA: Was that there as long as you can remember or was that built after you were . . ?
MN: No, it was there as long as I can remember. In fact, even before I can remember, there was an outside swimming pool operated by the same outfit. And it was larger, but the man that owned that committed suicide . . I don't know just how, but after he died, I think his widow had the pool filled in with dirt. So I never got to swim in the big pool. It was always the enclosed pool.
SA: That's pretty advanced for a tiny town in that early period, don't you think?
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: To have a swimming pool.
MN: Yes. Well, it was primitive by today's standards, you know. It was a concrete pool and .
SA: Did you have to pay to use it, a little bit?
MN: You know, I can't remember that. If we did, Mom paid. I wasn't aware if whether we paid or not.
SA: How many kids were there- the adults would go there, too, I suppose?
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: About how many people would use that?
MN: Well, when we used it, there would be a carload of us kids and Mom would usually drive us down there and we'd swim for an hour or two and then come home.
SA: Did they have a place there to change?
SA: Yes? That's so interesting for such a rural place. At that time, of course, Fallon was the county seat. What was left in Stillwater that you can remember?
MN: Well, that grocery store as I mentioned . Mrs. Greenwood's. And the swimming pool. And then there was an adobe structure that I was told was a pony express stop and it was across the street from the Greenwood store and a little bit to the east. And it was a very attractive adobe structure with a front porch like you see in the westerns. A wooden sidewalk and a shade structure over it. It was there until the earthquake in 1954 . . . '56. And when that earthquake hit, it just flattened it.
SA: Oh. Yes. I understand that was the main area affected by the earthquake.
MN: It was a main core. Well, Dixie Valley was the main area, but you know, Stillwater's just on this side of Dixie Valley.
SA: Were you damaged very much by that earthquake?
MN: There was a few cracks in the house and one of the fields dropped thirteen inches.
SA: Oh my! But no major damage luckily.
MN: No, not at our place. I'm sure we got off better than a lot of people did.
SA: While we're on Stillwater, I want to go to the Indian reservation. And I want you to start from your earliest memories of what the Indian reservation was like, what kind of interaction you had with it. Let's start with that.
MN: Well, the first thing I can remember about the reservation is when we were little kids, we used to go to the Baptist Missionary Sunday School there and we were the only white kids there. The rest were all Indians. But the missionaries used board here at our place.
SA: In your house?
MN: Well, they would eat their meals here.
MN: Especially their noon meal. And so Mom got real friendly with all of those missionaries and we felt real comfortable being there because we knew the missionaries and it didn't bother us that we were the only white kids. But the place was always packed. And I can't remember . . I think people look old when you're a real young kid. So there were probably real old Indians and middle aged Indians. [laughter] And there was a headquarters house that the Indian agent lived in. Eventually they built what you'd call a community hall where they could have dances and meetings and other things. And now they have a gymnasium and all kinds of office buildings for the housing authority and Head Start.
SA: I want to go back again because I want to find out what kind of housing the Indians at that time lived in. If you can remember. Just from the time that you can remember.
- They lived in wooden shacks very much like our house was although it may not have been as quite as big. But it was wooden and they didn't have any fancy yards or anything like that. They just had a wooden house with a window. [End of tape 3 side A] They had primitive conditions just like we did. They had to carry their water or pump it from a well. And they didn't have electricity and they had to use outhouses just like we did. The only difference I could say is, we were able . . . and I suppose this is with all the white citizens, were able to advance into better living conditions sooner than the Indians could.
SA: About how many of these small homes were there? How many families at that time about? Is it the same as now? Was it less?
MN: No. No. There were fewer families then. Now, a lot of the younger generation that used to live elsewhere in towns and other cities have moved back to the reservation primarily because they have housing provided by HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development], And they have so many benefits by living on the reservation than they do if they don't live on the reservation.
SA: Can you tell me if it's fully subsidized or did they have to contribute in some way? How does it work? Some have newer houses, some don't. How does that work, do you know?
MN: Well, I don't know it totally, but my understanding is that on the HUD housing projects, each Indian that gets a house has to participate in the building of it and contribute so much in labor. And then they are inspected every year to be sure that they're maintaining their house. And the HUD people do that. And if it needs painting or they need to repair something, the HUD representatives will tell them and then they have to do it. And they'll come back and do an inspection to see that they did do it.
SA: That's good.
MN: Many of the newer ones have a little bit . . . you know, nice yards like an attempt to grow a lawn or some flowers. But the earlier ones, it was just a house sitting in the desert. And at the time, I'm sure they were grateful to have a nice home. They have water evaporation air coolers. And they have stoves heated with stove oil. And some of them, I understand, have fireplaces, but I've only been in one home down there. And it was very simple and plain, but, you know, very comfortable.
SA: Liveable. Several questions and I want to go to back to the earlier period before we come to current. Did they have some kind of water allotment for use if they wanted to develop any crops or if they wanted to raise anything or for their homes. Did they have some kind of water allotment through the project?
MN: Yes. They had a water allotment very similar to whatever the other farmers had, depending upon their acreage and if they were registered as a quote "farm" then they got water in the irrigation ditches just like here.
SA: Did any of them farm?
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: Oh, they did?
MN: Oh, yes. All of our neighbors surrounding us or neighboring to us, they all farmed.
SA: I mean the Indians.
SA: Oh, yes they did. Oh, that's interesting. And I know that you mentioned it, many of them worked on the ranches or in the homes.
MN: Many Indians worked for my father in the haying fields. And then when we were very small, there were Indian ladies that came to help mom. They would help do the laundry and the cooking and probably even watched Maie and I when we were really tiny. [laughter] But yes, they worked . . I can't remember a summer during the hay season that we didn't have Indians working here.
SA: So they were able to make a decent living . . a liveable living.
MN: If they wanted to.
SA: If they wanted to, yes.
MN: They could farm or they could work out. And they were good workers. My father preferred them to the white people that you go and get from an employment service.
SA: And so a lot of the ranchers hired them.
MN: Yes. Oh, yes. My mother used to say she preferred them because they had so much better table manners. [laughter]
SA: I want to go back to the Indian Baptist mission and missionaries. When did that start, do you know?
MN: I think it started in the mid-twenties. I can't say for sure just when it started. In fact, I would like to do a story on that, but I just haven't had the time to do research. But I think they started in the twenties.
SA: Were they the only religious missionary coming to the Stillwater Indian Reservation or were there others?
MN: As far as I know, they were just the Baptist missionaries.
SA: Now, did they build their own church there?
MN: Yes, I believe so.
SA: Was it there when you were a little girl? Was it already there?
MN: Yes. Yes.
SA: It was built before you were born?
MN: Yes, it was already there.
SA: And was there a rotation of missionaries?
SA: So that like our Mormon center in San Diego where every year or two another couple is sent?
MN: I'm not sure just what the period of time was, but yes. Maybe it wasn't on a set period of time, you know. A lot of people didn't ever want to come West and so they might take it on for a year or two. But if they got to like the West, then they might want to stay longer.
SA: Yes. Now, where did they live? I know you said they boarded here. Where did they stay?
MN: They lived in the mission itself. In the building.
SA: So the mission was more than a church.
MN: Yes. I think they had a couple of rooms. Not very much.
SA: Was there a mission school?
SA: No. So the school was the regular government school? Was there a separate school for the Indians on the reservation?
MN: With the lower grades there was for a while. But then eventually all of the kids were integrated into the Churchill County school system.
SA: Oh, do you know what year that was?
MN: No, I'm sorry I can't answer that.
SA: No. But was it when you were in elementary school, did you have Indian children in your classes?
MN: Well, in our elementary school, we didn't have Indian children in our classes. But I don't know if that's because of the distance or the fact that they already had that Indian school on the reservation.
- OK. Yes. Did you have Indian students in your junior high?
MN: We didn't have a junior high.
SA: Oh, your high school then.
SA: Yes, by then.
MN: And they were good athletes, you know.
SA: Now, back to the missionaries and when they came to eat, so you got pretty well acquainted. Where were some of the places they came from and tell me a little bit about the people.
MN: Well, the two I can remember the most clearly was a Ms. Teeter Mary Teeter that came from Kansas. And I think she was from Topeka. And the other lady was from North Dakota and I can't think of what her first name was, but we called her Ms. Briar. And I remember them the most clearly. There was a lady that preceded them and then she married a Fallon farmer and that was a Mrs. DeArmand. But I can't recall right now what her maiden name was.
- Now, were these usually women?
MN: As far as I know, they were all women.
SA: Were they ordained?
MN: I don't believe so.
SA: So that the services weren't where certain ceremonies were performed?
MN: I can't really answer that.
SA: But you went to the services?
MN: Used to go to Sunday school.
SA: Oh, Sunday school. I see, so maybe there were more teachers than ministers?
MN: No, I think they were the only two.
SA: Would there be two at a time, two women a time?
MN: As far as I know, there were two women.
SA: And about how many children were in your Sunday school class?
MN: Well, we really didn't have a Sunday school class. We went to the regular church services, but we called it Sunday school.
SA: Oh, OK. But it was a service.
SA: And did both women participate in reading the service?
SA: About how many attended these services? I know you were the only quote-unquote "white ones." Well, you say you went . . how many of your family went?
MN: Usually just the kids. Neither my mother nor father were very oriented towards religion even though they came from religious families.
SA: But they wanted to introduce you children to it?
MN: Yes. They at least wanted us to know what Sunday school was about and what religious services were about. And I really can't remember how we got there, whether we walked or went in a buggy, but I can remember being there and, you know . . .
SA: Was it crowded? Was the room filled with people?
MN: Yes. The room was filled. There were probably maybe sixty-seventy people there.
SA: Did they serve refreshments after or did you have time to talk?
MN: Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge.
SA: That's very interesting. And are they still functioning? Are they still there?
SA: They're not?
MN: No. I'm not sure whether they have Sunday services anymore. They have a nice church down there, but to my knowledge, they use it more for funerals than anything else. And if they have Sunday services there, I'm not aware of it,
SA: And so about when did the visits of the missionaries end or when did they stop boarding at your house? What time period?
MN: Oh, I would think it was in the late thirties.
SA: Oh, OK. So it wasn't very long.
SA: Maybe ten years?
MN: Twenty, I'd say.
SA: Twenty years. Let's stay with the Indian reservation since we're there. Take me through the changes when HUD started and what changes developed on the reservation and the Head Start and whatever other developments have occurred.
MN: Well, somewhere in that period of time before HUD came on board, I think, they finally got themselves together as a tribal council. And I would think that maybe happened in the forties, maybe right after the war.
SA: Did they have some government agent to lead them?
MN: Yes. And then they elected their tribal officers and the tribal officers, to this day, make the decisions on how they're going to spend their tribal monies and what other things they're going to do . what programs they're going to have. And of course, they oversee the HUD office and the Head Start office and all the different entities that are down there.
SA: Is that all on the reservation?
SA: And is there an election of the tribal council?
SA: So that it's a democratic procedure?
SA: And you said the population has increased because of the benefits of living there.
MN: I believe it has.
SA: And did you observe when the houses started being built?
MN: Well, I can only relate it to the Indian lady that worked for my mother, Allie Williams. At that time I was living in Reno, but I would come home on weekends. And it was probably in the sixties.
SA: Oh, that late?
MN: When HUD started. And I remember her telling about how many hours she had to put in to get her house. And she did painting and she did light carpenter work and things that any amateur can do.
SA: And did they have to apply?
MN: Yes, I believe so.
SA: Or at least show a need. So that's been a big improvement. Do you have any idea how many houses there are now?
MN: You're talking about HUD housing?
SA: Yes, the kind that went up after the sixties.
MN: Oh, there must be between a hundred and a hundred and fifty.
SA: Now, beside the HUD housing have others built their own homes or are the homes that you see that are real houses all through the HUD?
MN: Mostly through HUD.
SA: Are there still some of the smaller places for people who didn't want to get involved with building a house. Are there still some of those?
MN Very few. And there are still shacks.
SA: Shacks. OK. And have there been problems on the reservation with alcohol or drugs?
MN: Well, they've had a terrible problem with alcohol as long as I can remember. Before they were allowed to have alcohol, I can remember, you know, sitting in the car waiting for Mom to come out of a store or something and a white man would put a bag of something in the doorway of a building that, you know, wasn't being operated at the time. And then pretty soon an Indian man would come and pick that bag up and we knew that it was a bottle of whiskey or whatever.
SA: Oh, they were introducing liquor to the Indians.
MN: Oh, yes. But the Indians probably paid him extra to go get the liquor and then . . .
SA: Because they weren't allowed to buy it? So it was just like prohibition, they weren't allowed, but they got it through other means.
MN: Yes, right. Yes.
SA: I see.
MN: And so there's always been a problem with some Indians having alcohol. And unfortunately, I think it goes to this day that the ones that do drink seem to get into fights more often and can never stayed employed.
SA: That's too bad.
MN: It is.
SA: Is there a drug/alcohol . . AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] organization there? I know many reservations do set up something.
MN: I'm not aware that there's one on the reservation, but I know the son of the Indian lady that worked for my mother, he used to go to AA in Fallon, but I don't know whether it ever proved successful for him. I don't believe so. And whether that's because he felt out of place with a predominantly white group or what, I don't know.
SA: Now they go to the regular schools in Fallon. Is there a special bus or is there a bus that comes out this way to pick up all the kids, including the Indian children?
MN: Yes. Yes. One goes right by our place every day . . every school day.
SA: Yes. So that's interesting that they're all integrated now.
MN: Yes. Well, even when we went to high school, the Indian students rode our bus.
SA: Beside the integration in the school, did the Indian . . and I'm going to say white . . . Indian and white kids play together and socialize outside of school or did the Indian kids go home to their reservation and you went back to your own homes?
MN: Primarily that's what happened. There were two reasons for that, think. First of all, the Indian kids had to go to school on a bus because their parents didn't have a lot of means of transportation. So you didn't linger after school and buddy around with kids. We didn't ourselves. We couldn't take in the extracurricular athletic things because we had to get the bus to come home. So that was one of the reasons there wasn't this interaction after school.
SA: Sure. Sure. It's understandable, the isolation.
SA: You're not just running around the block. Before we leave the reservation and the Indians, is there anything else to add to that?
MN: Well, I'd like to give a couple of remembrances, my first remembrances of the Indians. One of them was . . . I would be maybe seven or eight years old and my mother would say, "Go see what Bessie wants," or "Go see what Maggie wants." And Maggie or Bessie would be out squatting under one of these locust trees here. And she'd just sit there. She wouldn't come and knock on the door or anything.
SA: How far was that tree?
MN: Just over there.
SA: Just right over there. Just a stone's throw from the kitchen.
MN: Yes. Probably fifty feet. And that would be the first time I'd be aware there was an Indian lady out there. [laughter] And so I'd go out and see what Bessie or Maggie wanted, whoever it was, and she would hold out her little hand and she would want bread or milk. Usually they used milk to treat their eyes.
- Oh. Did she tell you what she wanted?
MN: She could tell me what she wanted. And so then I'd come and tell Mom. And Mom used to bake bread so they could buy, you know, a slice or two or a loaf or whatever. And when I took it back out to them, the little Indian lady would untie the coin out of the corner of her handkerchief to pay for it! [laughter] And I always thought it was so...
SA: How sweet.
SA: How cute.
MN: You know, it was just so remarkable. They'd just come and sit and wait.
SA: Now, I know you were little so it's hard to tell age. About how old a woman would this be?
MN: Well, they looked terribly old, but they were probably forty or fifty years old.
SA: Maybe the mother of a family?
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: And so would it usually be bread or milk?
MN: That's what I remember.
SA: And how many . . . two that you mainly remember?
MN: Well, you mean the two Indian ladies?
MN: Oh, there were more, but . . .
SA: That's representative.
MN: That's representative, yes.
SA: And your mother was kind and . . . .
MN: Oh, my mother, she had a great sympathy for them. Well, any woman would have sympathy for another woman that had to put up with the hardships of ranch life.
SA: Yes. But a lot of women wouldn't have sympathy if they didn't feel kindly towards the Indians.
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: So that was very nice.
SA: So they knew they could come?
SA: They knew. Maybe not every ranch, but they knew they could come to yours.
MN: The men that were close by, when it was irrigation time and they had to get in touch with the ditch rider, they'd always come up here and ask Mom to phone the ditch rider and ask for the water or tell them that it's time to shut it off.
SA: Because they didn't have phones.
MN: No, they didn't have phones. So they felt, I think, comfortable coming here.
SA: Yes. Yes.
MN: The other thing that I remember that I want to describe is when an Indian died or when they went to town shopping, they would be in a four-wheeled wagon-cart. And always the men were sitting up on the driver's seat driving and the Indian ladies would be sitting at the rear end of the wagon. And there would be a dog running under the wagon in the shade. [laughter]
SA: That's a vivid picture.
MN: Yes. Almost always.
SA: Were there little kids there in the wagon?
MN: Yes, sometimes there were.
SA: Did the mothers when they had their babies, carry them in a wrap on their back or did they .
MN: Yes. They carried them in…
SA: In a blanket?
MN: No, in a cradle board.
SA: Oh, in the cradle board.
MN: They all had cradle boards.
SA: Are there any pictures, photographs?
MN: I think there might be one in the album, I don't know if it's Mom or an Indian lady- it’s hard to tell – showing the cradle board on the back. And then if there was a death in the family, a funeral, the same kind of a procession would happen with the dog running under the cart. [laughter] But then the women would be wailing all the way . . . all the way to the cemetery which was two or three miles from here.
SA: How many vehicles would there be?
MN: Oh, just maybe one.
SA: Just one with the women. There might be more maybe a child?
MN: Uh-huh, But they would be making these terrible wailing sounds.
SA: Oh, oh my! Oh, gee! When you were little, did it frighten you when you were little?
MN: No, it didn't frighten me, but . . . you know, I'll never forget it. We always knew when somebody died.
SA: Anything more on that, on the Indian reservation?
SA: It's been very interesting and it's new information. Now we're going to go to Lahontan Dam and from your earliest memories, whether it was picnics that you went to or when you first saw the dam itself, which I think is such a beautiful structure there. Tell me about these experiences.
MN: Primarily we went up there on a picnic. And we would, you know, have our picnic lunch on that beach or if it was really, really hot, then we'd go down into what they call a picnic area which is below the dam on the east side and there were shade trees there and you could, you know, sit under the shade and have your picnic. And at the time, there were what they would call beach houses, I guess. They were rooms where people could go change their clothing into swimsuits and out of swimsuits. And those all went by the wayside, probably about the time of World War II.
SA: So when you were a child, that's what it was like? Was that swimming in what looks like a lake there?
SA: That's before the recreation area was developed.
MN: Yes. But it was just the water backed up behind the dam. There were no special facilities or anything.
SA: Was it fun to look at that huge and I think quite beautiful structure here.
MN: Oh, yes. You're familiar with the structure, so all of those steps that go from the top bridge all the way down, oh, that used to be a lot of fun to run up and down those. [laughter]
SA: Did you cross that beautiful bridge? To me it looks almost like a European bridge.
SA: Did it seem kind of special to a child.
MN: Well, I don't . . . .
SA: You just took it for granted.
MN: Yes, I think we took it for granted, you know. We didn't know any better.
SA: But was it exciting when somebody would say "Let's go to the dam"?
MN: Yes. And it didn't happen very often, you know.
SA: Kind of far, actually.
MN: Yes. It's sixteen miles from Fallon and it's nine miles from here to Fallon. So it was a twenty-five mile one-way trip.
SA: Was it dirt roads then . . gravel and dirt or .
MN: No, the roads were paved.
SA: When did your family get an automobile? Since you can remember, did they have one?
MN: Yes, since as long as I can remember, they had an automobile. One was a Durant and then they had a Buick. And I can remember riding in the Durant with, you know, no covered doors, right out in the broad wind. And oh, that car was a noisy car! But we enjoyed it.
SA: Would it be holidays when you'd go to the dam?
SA: Some special holiday?
MN: Some special occasion, yes.
SA: And would there be other families at the dam?
SA: That sounds like fun. Would your dad go on these outings?
MN: Almost always.
SA: All of you?
MN: Yes. Usually it was on a Sunday and my father and mother were very friendly with Alec and Bonita Baumann and almost every time we went somewhere, we went together as a group.
SA: Oh. A couple of cars.
MN: Yes. Well, in Nevada it's always good to have two cars in case one breaks down. [laughter]
SA: What kind of food would you have on a picnic?
MN: Usually sandwiches. Once in a while Mom would fry up some chicken and we'd have potato salad as a rule. We all liked that. And in the summertime, watermelon.
SA: Mrnm, that sounds good. Cantaloupe?
MN: Yes, cantaloupe.
SA: That sounds like a lot of fun.
SA: When the recreation center was created at Lahontan dam in connection with the State Park and Recreation, you weren't living here full-time, but when you came home, did you ever go there?
MN: No. The only time I've been there since I got home was when they had a seventy-fifth anniversary celebration of the dedication of the dam. So we went up for that.
SA: Do you know if that recreation center is used much?
MN: I think it's used a lot by campers and I think a lot by . . .
SA: Boating . . . there's boating.
MN: Yes, boating. And a lot by people travelling through in their camping rigs.
SA: So anything more on that part of the dam before we move on?
MN: No, I don't think so.
SA: Now, did you ever go arrowhead hunting since you live in Indian country?
MN: Yes, I'm sorry to say we did. We were like everyone else. We went arrowhead hunting. That was one of our main Sunday recreations.
SA: And tell me, where would you go?
MN: We'd go east of here down on the Carson Sinks, And again, it would be usually the Baumann family and our family. And we always had a picnic lunch of sandwiches or fried chicken or something like that. And in those days, cars had running boards, so when we went arrowhead hunting, usually Mom would drive, Dad would be out looking for arrowheads. But we'd ride on the running boards until we thought we saw an arrowhead.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
MN: And then we'd jump off and go pick up the arrowhead or whatever it was. And then we'd have to run to catch up with the car again.
SA: Oh, my goodness! Are there pictures of your arrowhead hunting days?
MN: I imagine we have a few.
SA: Now, so that means, the way you're describing it, the arrowheads were above ground. You didn't have to dig.
MN: No. No. They'd just lay flat on the ground.
SA: So you would just see them.
MN: And on one Sunday, you might see an arrowhead and you'd pick it up, you wouldn't see anything else. On another Sunday, maybe three or four weeks later, if the wind had blown, there might be some more arrowheads right in that same spot that had been uncovered because of the wind.
SA: So does that mean they were doing a whole lot of hunting with the arrowheads?
MN: I think so.
SA: So you'd go to areas where there might have been the hunting grounds.
SA: Or did word get around where they were?
MN: No. I think there were hunting grounds all over, but there were also campsites where they would quote "make the arrowheads" and in those areas you'd find a lot of arrowhead chips because if they were making an arrowhead and the thing broke, then they'd throw it away.
SA: I see. Were these arrowheads from earlier days when they were using them to hunt or were some being made so they could sell them?
MN: Oh, no. Just to hunt.
SA: They were all the regular, authentic?
MN: Right. Right.
SA: And what did you do with all of those arrowheads?
MN: I have them here in a box.
SA: Oh, I want to take a picture of you with them, that would be fascinating. [End of tape 3] What other kind of recreational outings did your family enjoy?
MN: Well, every fall, we'd go pine nutting and collect pine nuts. Actually, we collected the cones and would bring them home and then knocked the pine nuts out of the cones once we got them home. And that usually happened in late September or early October, depending upon when the frost hit up in the mountains.
SA: Where would you go to collect these pine cones?
MN: Well, we primarily went out in the East Gate area. Probably because it was very convenient and accessible. And we would go and Dad and Mr. Baumann would knock the cones off the trees with a stick and then we'd pick them up and put them in gunny sacks and bring them home. And then we'd take them out of the cones. Of course, the cones made good burning material. And then we'd have the pine nuts to eat and/or roast. And they were one of our sources of snack food.
SA: Yes, it's kind of gourmet. You pay a fortune today for pine nuts where I live. [laughter]
MN: That's right. Well, if you had to pick them, you'd want a fortune. [laughter]
SA: Is it easy to get the nuts out of the cone?
MN: If the cone is opened and it usually doesn't open until after the frost,
SA: I see. OK.
MN: So, that's the main thing. If the cone is closed, you can't hardly get those nuts out. But if it's opened, then all you have to do is kind of bang them against your hand or against a box or something and they'll fall out.
SA: Oh. Oh. Sounds like a lot of fun with your family doing that together.
MN: Oh, well, it was. It was.
SA: How old were you when you stopped doing that?
MN: Probably when I started going to college.
SA: Oh, so you did that all the time you were living at home. And it would still be your family and the Baumann's. Did you ever take friends along, too, or was there not enough space?
MN: Well, primarily there'd be just our family and the Baumann family. But, you know, part of that is because the valley wasn't that heavily settled and your neighbors were far apart. And so you didn't tend to communicate with a lot of people. The only time that that was different was one of my mother's and father's big recreations was playing cards and they played a game called "Five hundred."
SA: Who did they play with?
MN: Well, there is where they had lots of different friends come in and play, And primarily, they were mostly Scandinavian and I don't know if that's because the Scandinavians like to play that game or what.
SA: Well, that means there were Scandinavian homesteaders.
MN: Oh, yes. Plenty.
SA: So during that period that you can remember, was there . . of course, by the time you were born, the homesteading was starting to end, wasn't it?
SA: Yes. So they were already here when . . ?
SA: So you didn't observe the coming in of that early period.
MN: No. No.
SA: And it was pretty well settled.
MN: Almost all of the farms were settled by then.
SA: I want to get back a little bit to crops and some of the things that were happening now that the water was coming in from the Newlands project. Did your father raise any of the Hearts-O-Gold cantaloupe and get into that industry?
MN: Not as a commercial aspect. We raised Hearts-O-Gold just for our own use for eating. But I don't recall that he ever raised them to sell.
SA: It would be like you raised your own vegetable garden.
SA: You'd raise the fruit.
MN: We raised everything.
SA: And did you try the beets when they were trying to promote the production of beets for sugar?
MN: Well, that was before my time.
SA: Oh, OK.
MN: I really can't say whether Dad did or not.
SA: He didn't talk about it?
SA: So maybe he didn't . . .
MN: No. No. My earliest recollection about the sugar beet industry was every once in a while we'd go up to that quote "sugar beet factory" which is already closed and deteriorating from lack of use. Windows were broken. Birds were flying in and out.
SA: Oh, my goodness. [laughs]
MN: Yes. It was too bad because it was, you know, a nice building, but it was just desecrated like so many buildings are once they're abandoned.
SA: With the years moving along through your childhood into your teens before you left for college, were there changes in the kinds of crops that were on your ranch, in the trees or gardens or animals? Any changes over that time that were worthy to note?
MN: Well, as we got older, we entirely got out of having our own milk cows.
SA: Why was that?
MN: That's a good question. I just don't think we felt like we had the need for milk as much as we did. Mom used to make cottage cheese and of course, we all drank milk. And then it got easier to buy cottage cheese. And beef cattle brought in better money than milk or milk products did. So eventually, we got rid of all the milk cows and Dad bought the Black Angus animals, both cows and bulls, and started to raise beef cattle. And the crops, primarily, I think they're the same . . . that I can remember, they've always been alfalfa, wheat, corn, barley. Those are primarily the crops.
SA: Back to the cows. Was one of the reasons possibly that you had to start pasteurizing and more rigid health rules?
MN: I'm sure. I'm sure of that. You had to be so much more careful and you had to have quote "up-to-date" equipment. And I think Dad didn't feel like it was worth it. And my brother just hated milking cows, so he didn't want anything to do with that. [laughter]
SA: That was labor-intensive yet. Right. Now, did you keep the cattle and the bulls here on your property or did you use any grazing lands?
MN: No, here on this ranch property.
SA: And then you raised the feed for them?
SA: And were there any changes in the irrigation or in the supply of water? Any changes in the regulations?
MN: Well, I think there's been quite a few changes. Well, I think as a small child and I . . you know, I didn't do the irrigating, so I really can't be authentic on this, but farmers didn't have to worry too much about how much water they used. They were only allotted so much, but they never seemed to have a problem with needing water. Now the drought years have come along and everybody has to cut back on the water. The biggest improvement in saving the water, I think and probably other ranchers would say the same thing, is what they call laser levelling.
SA: What does that mean?
MN: Well, in the old days, every farmer if he had to level a field that he was going to put a crop in, he had to kind of eyeball it. Nowadays they have a machine that has a laser instrument on it and that laser instrument is attached onto the levelling equipment. And the farmer will sit in the tractor and pull that levelling equipment, and the laser through electronic signaling will automatically level the land to the point where . . . well, in irrigation you want your land where the water first comes out of the ditch just slightly higher than the end of the field so the water will flow downhill. So the laser machine achieved that so that the water doesn't puddle anyplace. It's just all level and it'll go down the field evenly.
SA: Does that mean you know where to build your ditches . . . dig your ditches?
MN: The ditches are pretty well in place. You don't go around changing those ditches very much. But it saves you water because if the land is not level or doesn't slope enough, it takes longer to irrigate or the water will puddle in a part of the field. And if it does that, then it will burn your crop.
SA: OK. So it tells you how much water is needed at each part of the ground. You're the first one to tell about this.
MN: [laughs] Oh, I'm not the expert.
SA: No. You're just the first one to tell about that. Did the cementing of the canals and ditches also help by preventing the water soaking into the ground. Did that help with the supply after the CCC came?
MN: Well, yes. After the CCC came and they put up cement, concrete structures. That helped with controlling the water because the wooden structures weren't as leak-proof. I've heard good and bad about cementing the ditches. it does save water, but I've also heard that during the wintertime when there is freezing action going on and the ground tends to move up and down, those concrete ditches will break. And then you've got a leakage problem. So I think there is good and bad about concrete ditches.
SA: And were there drought times before this recent long drought, were there times before that where there would be difficult years or is it only in this last decade?
MN: Yes. If there were some before that, I don't recall it. And I don't recall my father ever talking about a drought time.
- Or a hardship in getting water?
MN: No. No.
SA: Did they, over those years, raise the cost of the water because of any improvements to each rancher?
MN: I believe so. Yes. They've increased just because of operating costs, you know. They have to pay salaries and like you say, do improvements. And that cost has to be passed on to the water user.
SA: We're going to go to more current issues before we end the interview, but in that period before you went to college, anything else along the irrigation, crops, the cattle on the ranch . . . oh, did your father ever raise bees?
MN: Oh, yes.
MN: He raised bees . .
SA: Because I know that was his intent when he first came.
MN: Well, I don't know if he intended to get into the bee business, but he had a hobby of bees back in Minnesota where he lived. And so I think he always wanted to have bees around. And bees are good to pollinate the crops. So you do two things, you pollinate your crops, then you get some honey and you can sell the honey. But he got really involved in it and got into the honey business in a big way, I would say the late thirties, mid-thirties.
SA: Oh, that early.
MN: Yes. Until his health started to fail and my brother took over the honey business.
SA: Let's go back to that earlier period. When you can remember as a child, how big of a bee industry was it? About how many hives? Where was it located? Can you remember?
MN: I really can't tell you how many hives. He would have what he would
call a bee yard . yards of bees on this place.
SA: Where would it be on this place? Can you remember at all?
MN: Yes, it's just south of the house about, oh, probably an eighth of a mile. And then he would also put bees on some of his neighbors fields.
SA: Oh, just to pollinate different kinds of crops.
MN: Right, pollinate other crops. And they were happy to have them because they would pollinate their crops for them. And so he didn't just limit it to this property, but he had what he called bee yards around several different ranches.
SA: And then did he start to sell the honey?
SA: Who did he sell it to?
MN: He sold it to the grocery stores. One of his biggest buyers was a grocery store chain by the name of Sewells.
SA: Were they here or here in Fallon or . . ?
MN: Reno. No, Reno.
SA: Oh, in Reno. So sold it . . . would he put it in jars or just in bulk or what?
MN: He would put it in jars and in five pound cans.
SA: Oh, isn't that interesting? So that was another facet of his ranching.
MN: Oh, yes. Yes.
SA: Did he handle that with your brother?
MN: Well, he was doing it before my brother was old enough to take the business over. Yes.
SA: He was the one who took care of all that.
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: And is that what introduced your brother to the bee industry?
MN: Yes. We all got introduced to it very young. [laughter] I can remember having to paint beehives.
SA: Oh, did you ever get bitten.
MN: Oh, yes. Stung.
SA: Stung. Stung. Were you allergic to them or . .
MN: I wasn't, but our brother, Ray, was terribly allergic and he couldn't be around the bees.
SA: Oh, my! So which brother is it that's . .
SA: And did he take to it?
MN: Apparently he did. I guess it worked out that way. Earl had a bad case of hay fever. Every year he suffered when haying season came along. And so he didn't want to farm, but he didn't mind the bee business.
SA: OK. He wasn't allergic to bees?
MN: We all worked with the bees.
SA: Oh, isn't that interesting.
MN: When we were kids. Besides painting the hives, we would help during extracting time.
MN: Yes. And Earl would cut the outer wall of wax off of the bee frame and we would put the bee frames into the extractor. First we'd crank it by hand and then later Dad got one that was motorized. And we would put the frames in and the honey would be extracted by centrifugal force. And then we'd take those frames out and put them back into that particular beehive. And we did that all day long.
SA: Oh, you had lots of experiences that very few people have. [laughter]
MN: And then we used to fill the jars and the honey can . . . used to stick the labels on the jars and the honey cans, too.
SA: Oh, how wonderful. Now you said the labels, who created the labels? Did your Dad design it?
MN: Yes, I think my father primarily . . . he may have had some assistance from the company he finally purchased the labels from, but I think he designed it primarily.
SA: He was very innovative and had many talents, didn't he?
MN: Oh, he was. Yes, he was a very innovative man and very curious.
SA: Isn't that wonderful? So he added a lot to all of your lives, your education, your understanding.
MN: A lot to our education. There wasn't hardly a weekend if we didn't go arrowhead hunting, we went someplace. We'd go visit Virginia City or we'd go visit Fort Churchill.
SA: Was he the one who initiated these outings?
MN: Well, in a way. You know, he was the driver and he knew how much time he had. So he would kind of . . . well, once in a while he would say to us, "Well, where will we go this weekend, kids?" But a lot of times he had it in his mind already where we were going to go.
SA: So he always probably looked forward to these weekends.
MN: I think so. That was his day off.
SA: Yes. And it also showed how he loved to be with his family.
SA: That's wonderful.
MN: Yes, he was very interested in everything and he made sure all of kids were involved in everything so that we did learn. We learned a lot.
SA: Yes. Now, you said until he started to get ill, when did he start to slow down or get ill?
MN: In the early sixties.
SA: The early sixties. What was happening?
MN: He used to get just minor strokes. You wouldn't hardly know he was having a stroke unless you could observe him closely. But they just kept coming more often. And pretty soon he had a stroke bad enough it disabled one of his legs. So he had to limp a lot. He just went downhill from that.
SA: When was he unable to take care of the ranch and I suppose your brothers took over.
MN: Yes, I think Ray took over the ranching part pretty much after World War II after he came out of the army. And of course, Dad's love was the honey business, so he didn't mind that Ray took over the ranching part.
SA: He still took care of the honey and was still able to do that?
MN: Oh, yes. Yes. One of Ray's stipulations was that if he was going to farm, he wanted to have a tractor. Ray wasn't really fond of horses and cows. [laughter]
SA: Oh, he wasn't.
MN: So Dad bought a tractor. And of course, I don't ever remember seeing my father on that tractor, but Ray started doing all of the farming with the tractor.
SA: And when did your father die? How old were you when he died?
MN: I'm sorry. I can't remember, but I think it was around 1967-'68.
SA: That must have been hard. Was he at home the whole time?
MN: No, he was in the nursing home probably the last six months of his life.
SA: And was your mother fine and able to stay and take care of things in the house?
SA: Now, before we get into your college years, is there anything more about your high school years that you want to tell us?
MN: No. I can't think of anything quote "spectacular" but one of the major things we used to do at that time and I don't know if the kids do it anymore, is on Saturday nights our primary source of entertainment or means of entertainment was dancing. And we used to . . almost every weekend, especially in the summertime, they would have public dances at the Fraternal Hall.
SA: What's the Fraternal Hall?
MN: Well, the Fraternal Hall is a building. It's downtown on Maine Street. And it was built through membership subscription to this organization. And I think that the "Fraternal" came from the fact that several different fraternal organizations used it as their meeting place.
SA: I see. Like the Elks, and the Masons and . . . .
MN: And the Eagles.
SA: So they'd all paid to…
MN: Apparently. I think they paid and rented it out . . . you know, I don't know how they shared in the rental, but I think they rented it out and kept the building up. I don't think it was primarily a profit making thing. But it was used by the community.
SA: What kind of music for the dances? Were there live bands?
MN: Live bands.
MN: And in those days, you didn't necessarily have to go with a date. In fact, I can remember, never did go with a date during the high school days to the Fraternal Hall. We'd go with our brother and the Baumann girls
SA: Who would drive you in?
MN: Our older brother Ray. And then we'd stay at the dances until two or three in the morning.
SA: What kind of dances were they dancing then?
MN: Oh, I don't know what they call them. Fox-trot or . . . .
SA: Was it ballroom?
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: Was there also square dancing?
MN: No, not square dancing. Ballroom dancing.
SA: Only ballroom dancing. Did they do fast dances?
MN: I think the one in those days was called the Shag.
SA: Oh, the Shag. OK.
MN: And then waltzes, of course. And the regular two steps.
SA: That sounds like a lot of fun.
MN: Oh, it was. It was very nice.
SA: Did they have chaperons?
SA: They didn't have to in those days.
MN: Well, yes. Right. They had everybody chaperoning.
SA: There was no alcohol there.
MN: No. If somebody wanted to drink, they had to go downstairs and across the street to one of the bars. But, you know, the dancing area was lined along the walls with chairs. And if you weren't dancing, you were sitting on those chairs and you were either watching the dancers or you were visiting with whoever you were sitting near.
SA: Were there refreshments?
MN: Not as a rule.
SA: Was it allowable for the girls to ask the fellows to dance in those days or did you have to wait for a fellow to ask you?
MN: Well, as far as I know, everyone waited for a fellow to ask her.
SA: Were there many wallflowers?
MN: No, I don't think so.
SA: It was all sociable people.
SA: People came who knew others and…
MN: Lots of fellows came without dates so they'd go ask a girl who was sitting singly or with others and ask them for a dance.
SA: How did people dress for those dances?
MN: Oh, just informal. The girls would dress informally with cotton dresses or taffeta dresses. The fellows usually had on slacks and a shirt and a tie and sometimes not a tie.
SA: And so they didn't come in their Levi's?
SA: Or shorts?
MN: Not as a rule. [laughter] Not like you do now.
SA: Are there any pictures of those dances?
MN: I don't think I have any.
SA: Yes. I'd love to see that. So before we move to your college days, anything else in that time period as you were going through high school, where your brothers and all of you were still at home. And I know that you always knew, because of your mother and I'm sure your father, that you were going to attend a university.
SA: So now I want to come to the point where you had decided where you were going and then when you leave for college.
MN: [laughs] Well, we didn't have much of a decision to make. You know, Mom and Dad could only afford to send us to the state university. You know, they couldn't afford out-of-state tuition to some other place. And we roomed in a dormitory up on the campus.
SA: Did you both go together? Let's take you from when you were getting ready to leave from your house, or even before you went, did you go to the university and register? Did you arrange your housing? How did you make that big move?
MN: Well, I think we arranged the housing before we got up there and I really can't recall just how that did occur. Maie, Ray, and I all went to college together. And we all went up in a car. Ray did the driving.
SA: Were you all starting? Was Ray also starting the same time?
MN: Yes, he was starting the same. Yes.
SA: Because he stayed on the ranch? He's older than you?
MN: Yes. He stayed on the ranch and then he had to serve in the army. Most of his time in the army was after the war because during the war, he was excused or whatever word they use because he was a farmer and they needed the farmers to grow food. So he was exempt from the immediate wartime. And then once other people started coming back and there were people available to work on a farm, then he put in his military time.
SA: So what year was it when you all were leaving for college… the three of you?
MN: It would be the fall of 1942.
SA: So three of you absenting together, how did your morn feel about that? [laughter]
MN: Well, I think she thought she had an empty house. She was always glad to see us. And of course, Dad was, too. They were both happy to have us come home on a weekend. But, you know, as it is with all families, I think, as you get involved in college activities.
SA: You don't want to come home.
MN: You don't come home as often. So by springtime, you know, they probably felt lucky if we got home once a month or once every two months.
SA: So you all went together. And did you room with Maie?
MN: Maie and I shared a room in the dormitory.
SA: In the dorm. And did Ray stay in the dorm?
MN: Yes, he stayed in the men's dorm.
SA: So that made life a little easier.
MN: Yes. In those days they didn't have co-ed dorms. They had dorms for men and dorms for women.
SA: That sounds pretty proper. [laughter]
SA: So although we don't want to go into great detail, give us an overview of your years at the University of Nevada and then we'll talk about your visits home. Just what your major was and what you were doing there.
MN: Well, Maie and I both majored in home economics, but my special major was in dietetics whereas Maie's was in education. The first couple years of our schooling was pretty similar. We were both in the same classes like chemistry and physics and English and history and those things. But as we got into the last two years, her concentration was in education and mine was in nutrition and dietetics. So the last couple of years we hardly were in the same classes. We came home as often as we could, but as I said, when springtime came along, you got involved with all kinds of- [End of tape 4 side A, transcript notes sentence ends “activities”]
SA: Were there any changes on your trips home?
MN: If you're talking about changes on the ranch .
SA: On the ranch.
SA: Or the house.
MN: No. Things were moving along . . . .
MN: Pretty much the same.
SA: And what would you do in the summer?
MN: Well, primarily help Mom with the cooking and the washing.
SA: So you'd come home?
SA: You and Maie and Ray, all of you come home?
MN: Right. But, you know, we still had haying going on so we had to cook for ten or fifteen men.
SA: Oh, my goodness! So that's where your nutrition and dietetics, both of your majors helped, right? [laughter]
MN: Yes. And of course, they didn't have automatic laundry machines like they do now, so we spent, you know, at least a day washing clothes every week.
SA: What did she do when you weren't here? Did she hire some of the Indian women to help?
MN: Yes. We had this one Indian lady. Her name . . and I've mentioned it before, was Allie Williams. And she came to work for Mom and Dad when we went off to college. I remember Mom telling about how she came and wanted to work. And at first, Mom thought she could use her a day or two. Well, pretty soon, Dad was using her to help with the honey business as well as in the house. So she worked for the family for forty years.
SA: Oh my goodness! So when you would come home summers, would you be eager to go back to college?
MN: Well, I think after we got rested up and felt renewed, then we were ready to go back to college.
SA And how many years were you at the University of Nevada, Reno?
MN: Four years. Each of us were there four years.
SA: So what was your decision then? Did you take a job then?
MN: No. I entered into a dietary internship at the University of Minnesota hospitals in Minneapolis.
SA: What made you pick Minneapolis? [laughter]
MN: Well, it would have been the first time I was ever away from home for a year. And I thought, "Well, you know, I might get homesick." Well, we had relatives in Minnesota. Not in Minneapolis, but in Minnesota. And I thought, "Well, if I start to get homesick, I can go visit some of the relatives "
SA: Was it also a good school that had been recommended?
MN: Oh. excellent. Excellent.
SA: So there were a couple of reasons. And so tell me just very briefly about that. How many years were you there?
MN: One year.
SA: One year. And did you stay there the whole year? Too expensive to come up and back.
MN: Well, I did get home for Christmas.
SA: And you went without Maie so this was your first big break without being with your twin.
MN: Well, in a way you can say that, yes. I guess you could say that's the first time we had ever really been separated for a long time.
SA: For that length of time. So you were both moving into your own, separate lives.
SA: How did that feel when you first started that? Were you a little lonely for each other?
MN: No. I don't think we were.
SA: OK. You had already made the break.
MN: You know, in college you kind of make the break because some of your activities are the same, but lots of times your activities are different and you're socializing with different people. And so you start to make the break. Probably we started to make the break in our sophomore year.
SA: You were your own individual. And any major changes in that one year when you came home?
MN: No. I don't think so. The big major change was it was, you know, right after the war. And cars were just getting available again, you know. But during the war, it was hard to get a car. Well, Dad needed a new pickup so since I was going to be coming home, he made arrangements to buy a pickup at the factory in Flint, Michigan, and I went back there and got it and drove home with one of my internship pals.
MN: All the way to Salt Lake City and then she left to go to Portland and I drove home.
SA: Oh, that's the first time you ever drove that long of a distance, right?
SA: How did it feel? Were you confident?
MN: Oh, yes. You know, when you're a kid like that you can conquer the world. [laughter]
SA: Well, it shows your father had a lot of faith in you to do that.
MN: I guess.
SA: Now, that brings us into what I wanted to discuss next, the war period. You mentioned that through the war your brother didn't have to go, but we're going to stick with the war period. You were at college afterwards or during . . . ?
SA: How did it affect the ranch. I know you said you couldn't get cars. Were there other hardships. Could you get help?
MN: No. During the summertime, we not only helped in the house, but we helped in the haying. I used to ride the haywagon and load down the hay when the fellows pitched the hay onto the wagon. And I'd run the tractor when Ray levelled the land.
SA: Because you couldn't get this outside help.
SA: Now, did they draft the Indians?
SA: They did. So they were gone, too.
MN: The younger men were.
SA: The ones that would usually come and work for you were gone.
SA: And what other… were there shortages of things that you really needed like the gasoline and…?
MN: Oh, yes. Of course, Dad didn't have too much problem getting gas because of the farming. He could get barrels of gas.
SA: OK. They made allowances for that.
MN: And when we came home to visit, he'd always tell us to tank up. But between the time we came home and came home again, we had to watch our gas. And of course, we had gas stamps and we could buy gas in Reno, but, you know, you didn't go running around a lot with your car because you weren't going to have enough gas if you did.
SA: And especially you're kind of far here from the town.
SA: I mean it isn't like you could begin to walk.
MN: That's right.
SA: Or take a trolley. [laughter]
MN: Or catch a bus.
SA: Or catch a bus. Also, how was the community affected? Because I can imagine in a small community when everyone knows everyone, the morale with so many boys gone and so many deaths…
MN: I think the community was affected greatly by the deaths of the young men that got killed in the war. And in those days where everybody knew everybody, you grieved almost as much as the family grieved.
SA: Sure. It's so personalized. And it brought it back to us these recent days, you know.
MN: D-day plus fifty.
SA: Yes. Yes. So what other changes in the town because of the shortages and the hardships of hardly any young men around? Did it stop, of course, construction?
MN: Well, pretty much I think it stopped construction. You couldn't get the materials and you couldn't get the labor to build anything. I can't really say that there was any problem with the roads or things like that. But at that time, the Navy base was starting to grow and more people were coming in. And of course, more sailors were around. I can remember my mother inviting Navy boys to come for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
SA: Oh, how interesting.
MN: And most every family tried to take in a serviceman.
SA: Oh, interesting.
MN: Or two or three depending upon how well off they are or how much room they had in their house. So I think the community was very supportive and friendly with the Navy fellows and tried to make them feel at home.
SA: Yes. Before I get to the airfield because that's next on my list, I want to also ask about the military young men coming in. During that period was it part of the same thing that it is now, with the flying or was it a different kind of Navy men coming in? At that time during the war, was the base used for another purpose?
MN: No, it was primarily for flying.
SA: Always for training and flying.
MN: Training flyers.
SA: And so we'll move along with the air base. I want to go back a little bit because when the air base was coming in and I'm sure you didn't have a choice to vote or anything, what was the feeling of the community when it was known that they were going to build an air base here and what year was that?
MN: Well, I think the community really was happy about it because they thought that would be, you know, great for business. I'm sure the businessmen thought it was wonderful. And I don't think the local citizenry were concerned either. You know, at that time everybody was pretty patriotic. And they accepted the base with no problem. I can't remember just when that base started. It originally was an army base and then it closed down for a while and then they reactivated it as a Navy base. I guess I'd have to say I was in college about those times and I don't really recall just when it came in.
SA: We were talking about the patriotism so I did want to ask, I'm sure there were a lot of civilian activities going on to help the war effort here in town.
MN: Oh, yes.
SA: Can you tell of anything that you know of that was going on?
MN: Well, yes. The ladies, including myself, were asked to knit sweaters for the servicemen.
SA: Oh, really?
MN: And we all knit sweaters and then rolled bandages.
SA: Oh. Did they tell you what kinds of sweaters or just whatever you wanted or . . ? Did they give you wool or did you buy your own?
MN: I think they gave us the wool and it was all kind of a khaki color like the military garb. I think there was a couple of patterns you could knit. You could knit a sleeveless sweater or you could knit a regular sweater. But those were the only two that I could remember. But I can remember knitting a sweater for the military and I know Mom did. And I can also remember rolling bandages. Those are the two main things that I remember.
SA: Now as the airfield was being developed and the war had ended and it was actually in effect, was the community still as supportive? Because I understand some grazing land out near the Stillwater Mountains had to be taken back to the government for a flyover and it took away grazing lands from people like the Kents, for their sheep, I think.
MN: Well, I don't think that quote "government takeover" occurred until probably in the late sixties or early seventies.
SA: OK. So that was much later.
MN: And people at that time could not foresee that that was going to happen. And the reason it's happened is because of the improved jets that fly faster and need more space to maneuver because of their high speed.
SA: Yes. So . . but at that time, the community all supported it?
MN: Yes. Well, and at that time the Navy didn't have to tell anybody what they were doing.
SA: Oh, that's right. During wartime it was secretive.
MN: Well, even after the war, they didn't have to have an environmental impact statement or a public hearing where people could give input into quote "what they were going to be doing." Nowadays they're supposed to do that, but I'm not sure they do it because it seems to me that this move of the Top Gun squadron from San Diego [Miramar] up here was a cut and dried thing.
SA: You were just told after the fact?
MN: Yes. Several years ago. And then they come out with this phony environmental impact statement and hearing as if the public was going to have some input. My understanding is that was already plugged into the budget several years ago.
SA: Probably. I see.
MN: So I think the Navy talks out of both sides of its mouth.
SA: So then after the war, was there a bustle of activity to help the economy when construction would start again and fellows were coming home? What was it like after the war?
MN: Well, I think more construction was going. By then people could afford to buy materials to build a home. And get things like sinks and toilets and…
SA: They all needed cars or tires and
MN: Yes. They could get those things so economically it was, I think, a real improvement both because the men coming home could be employed and there could be materials to do things with. This house was built in . . well, I guess finished in 1951, started in 1950. But Dad was ready to build a new house just before the war started.
SA: And that stopped because .
MN: Yes. Because of the shortage of materials and the price went sky high, he just put it off until after the war.
SA: So it was in that period when you sold your house at a low price to the church when your house was finished.
SA: And then right after the war, did that help the ranch because more people here and was your father able to sell more cattle or did it have any upbeat affect for him?
MN: I'm not sure. I think maybe the cattle prices went up after that. But for his honey business, he was making a lot of money selling his beeswax for the military ammunition during the war. So when they didn't need munitions anymore, he didn't have an outlet for his beeswax. Well, he did have an outlet. He could sell it to candle makers.
SA: How did he learn that the military needed it? He just kept abreast with the bulletins and . . ?
MN: Well, he subscribed to the American Bee Journal and I'm sure there were plenty of articles in there about the need for beeswax.
SA: I had never heard that. That's very interesting. So he was doing his share.
MN: It was going at a good price. Before beeswax was not totally a waste product, but, you know, you couldn't sell it for very much of a price just to make candles. But during the war, it really was valuable.
SA: Now, when the base came in, did the base buy any of their produce or cattle from the local ranchers?
MN: I really can't answer that, but I doubt it.
SA: So that didn't help with that part of the economy.
MN: I don't think so. The only thing is that when the base first came in like that, they didn't have a commissary so that the Navy people had to buy from the local stores or up in Reno, but now, and I don't know how long it's been in existence, but at least since the seventies sometime, they have a commissary. And the people don't always have to buy in Fallon.
SA: Especially commissaries are much cheaper.
MN: Oh, yes. And there's a lot of people that drive down from Reno to buy from this commissary here.
SA: Also, don't they sell gasoline much cheaper on the base? Has it helped the economy through . . do many of them live off the base?
MN: Yes, quite a few, I think live off the base and . .
SA: Rent or buy property.
MN: Rent or buy. Well, you see a lot of building going on now and part of that is because that the people that retire, especially from California, move to Nevada because the tax structure is so much better.
SA: And the lifestyle.
MN: Yes. And the lifestyle.
SA: Do a lot of the military retire here once they . .
MN: Some of them do. I wouldn't say a lot, but we've got some people that came back from wherever they finished their military career to live in Fallon. Well, they like the lifestyle or they bought a home here and went off to finish their tour of duty somewhere else, but then came back because they had a home here.
SA: Because houses elsewhere are so expensive.
MN: Yes. [tape cuts out]
SA: After you came back from Minnesota from your education there and after the summer ended, what did you do then?
MN: Well, I went and applied for a job. [laughter] And luckily was hired at St. Mary's Hospital in Reno. One of the reasons I came back is because I like to ski. We got introduced to skiing when we were in college. When I went to Minnesota, I took my skis with me and the biggest hill they had was smaller than what I learned on. [laughter] So my skis stayed in the closet the whole time. So I decided that I wanted to come west again and get where I could ski.
SA: What year was it when you started with St. Mary's?
SA: OK. Take us through that briefly. This time you went, you weren't living in dorms, so where did you live? [laughter]
MN: Well, I lived in a little kitchenette apartment that a lady had about two blocks from the hospital on Elm Street. Her name was Mrs. Angus.
SA: Is that the same spelling as the cattle?
MN: Yes. Yes. She lived upstairs and had her living quarters up there and I lived on the ground floor, And I stayed there until 1950.
SA: What was your work? What was your job?
MN: Primarily, planning menus for the patients, ordering the food, supplies, and visiting the patients, particularly those on modified diets that had to have special kinds of food. And in those days everybody got personal attention if they were on a modified diet. I'd go see them each day and tell them what they couldn't have, but ask them what they'd like. And we tried to have kind of a menu for the fat-free and the diabetic patterned after the regular menu, but with modifications.
SA: Would you then direct the cooks?
MN: The employees.
SA: The employees, OK. Were you over them?
SA: Yes. So that you worked with them to develop the menus and ingredients and diets?
MN: Well, I planned the menus, but then I would work with the cooks on what to order, what they wanted. And then, of course, when the orders came in I quote "received them," checked them in, made sure we had what we wanted. And the only things I didn't always check in with: the meat and vegetables, and I relied on the cooks to do that . . . and the milk. But the canned goods, that type of thing, was stored not in the kitchen, but in a storeroom and so I supervised the deliveries on those things. And kept an inventory of what we had on hand. They call it a perpetual inventory, so that we always knew how much we had and how much we'd have to order to get us through the next week's menu or month's menu. Some of the deliveries only came once a month so you had to plan ahead of time.
SA: So you were able to utilize your education in that specialized field. Did you enjoy that?
MN: Oh, yes. I enjoyed it very much.
SA: Did you come home very much?
MN: Well, I think I came home at least once a month.
SA: Any changes in that time?
MN: Well, the main change was the house. It was being built. It was started in 1950. And when I would come home on some of the weekends, I'd come home and help paint or do other things. I think even Maie helped with laying the rubber tile here in the kitchen.
SA: Was your mother in charge of this project?
MN: No, my brother Ray was.
SA: Well, did she help with the design and the input.
MN: No. Well, she provided input. but Maie designed the house.
SA: Oh, Maie did. I see.
MN: One of Male's major courses at Oregon State University she was going there to get her master's degree and she took a course in architectural and interior design.
SA: Oh, how interesting. OK.
- She designed the house.
SA: And supervised even though she was away?
SA: Where was she while you were working in Reno? Where was she working?
MN: From the college days, she went to Douglas County, which is Gardnerville, and she taught there for two years. And then she came to Fallon and taught two or three years, maybe four. And then she decided to start working towards a master's degree in education. And so she went to Oregon State and it was while she was there that she started designing the house.
SA: I see. Did she take that course specifically to help with the design of the house or was that an interest of hers?
MN: It was an interest of hers.
SA: During her teaching here, did she live at home?
MN: Yes. When she taught here she did.
SA: So that was a comfort to your mother. Was your mother thrilled with the house?
MN: Oh, yes. We all were. [laughter]
SA: Was it her dream?
MN: Well, it was such an improvement over what we had lived in before.
SA: Was your dad . . . ?
MN: I think he was pleased.
SA: How long did you work at St. Mary's?
MN: I worked there for twenty-two years.
SA: So you lived in Reno.
SA: Oh, that's a lovely city. Did you enjoy that?
MN: Oh, I did.
SA: Did you do your skiing?
SA: Did you? Did you? [laughter]
MN: I skied every winter.
SA: Is there a picture of you? Do we have a picture of you on skis?
MN: I doubt it. I doubt it.
SA: Well, I hope so.
MN: I didn't have a ski buddy that liked a camera. [laughter, tape cuts]
SA: After you left St. Mary's, what did you do then?
MN: Well, I went to the University of California at Berkeley and studied for a year in the school of public health and got a master's degree in public health. And then subsequent to that I spent a year, actually it was in the school of business administration, doing research on the Kaiser Health Plan.
SA: What year was that?
MN: I left St. Mary's in 1970, so the year I spent doing research would have been the fall of 1971 and the spring of 1972.
SA: Who sponsored that year? Kaiser?
MN: No, I did. [laughs]
SA: Oh, it was your own project?
MN: Well, no the research project, I got paid for that. But the year I went to school, I paid for it out of my own funds. I didn't have a scholarship.
SA: But you said you did research on the Kaiser Health Plan.
SA: Was that your own project on the Kaiser project?
MN: No, actually it was for a professor. He was in the school of business administration, but he was also on the faculty at the school of public health. And his major interest was comparing the cost of health care under a managed health plan like Kaiser's as compared to the cost of regular care. And so I was, you know, basically looking at financial statistics of the Kaiser health plan as compared to the other kinds of hospital care . . . just the regular private health care.
SA: So then you lived at Berkeley for one year, was that?
MN: Two years.
SA: Two years. And did you come home during that period in the summer or . ?
MN: Yes. I came home for a couple of weeks in the summertime.
SA: Any changes in those little brief absences?
MN: Not that I can remember.
SA: So after you finished in Berkeley, what did you do then?
MN: Well, then I applied for and was appointed in the Division of Health in the State Department of Human Resources in Carson City. My job then I was what they call Coordinator of the Bureau of Health Facilities. And the Bureau of Health Facilities was responsible for licensing hospitals and nursing homes and group care homes. And we not only did it for the state, but we also did the certifying for the Medicare and the Medicaid program. And it was my responsibility to supervise the quote "inspectors" that went out to visit the different facilities. And to schedule their visits because you had to visit each facility at least once a year. And then depending upon how many things were wrong with it, you had to schedule follow-up visits to see that the corrections were made.
SA: That's a really responsible position. Then you lived in Carson City?
SA: How did you enjoy that?
MN: I enjoyed Carson to a degree. It's a state governmental city and it's different from Fallon or Reno because people don't tend to socialize. After they get through with their state job, they tend to go quote "home" and a lot of them commute from Reno to Carson. And I just think that it's a different kind of social mentality there. They don't socialize in the way other employees do in a business. [End of tape 4]
SA: As I changed the tape, we were talking about how long you stayed in Carson City in that position.
MN: Well, I stayed in Carson City ten years but I wasn't in that position the full time. There was an opportunity to apply for the State Health Planning Office…. The Administer of the State Planning Office. And that office was responsible for administering the certificate of need program, which is a governmental program, I don't know if you're familiar with it.
MN: But the certificate of need was intended to keep hospital costs down by making a decision and approving whether a hospital should buy an expensive piece of equipment like the CAT scanner or the MRl or any of those very highly sophisticated pieces of equipment. The problem was that all of the hospitals wanted that equipment because that's the way you get doctors. Well, if you have one of those pieces or instruments in every hospital, then the hospitals have to charge more to cover the cost because they're not used to their full 100 percent capacity. So the idea was to limit the amount of pieces of equipment that would be in a community depending upon the volume of the patient load. It also had to do with the approving or not approving of beds being built because the same thing applied. All of the hospitals would compete against each other by adding beds and instead of being at ninety percent capacity, they'd end up being at fifty percent capacity. And that increased the cost of the patients.
SA: Did some of the hospitals try to lobby you?
MN: They didn't lobby me. They lobbied the governor. [laughter] Oh, you bet!
SA: You had to deal with a lot of politicking.
MN: Oh, terrible.
SA: Oh, my. How long did you stay in that position?
MN: Well, I probably was in that position five years. You know, I can't be just positive when I switched from one job to the other.
SA: Sure. Sure.
MN: But probably five years. And I enjoyed it except for the politics. But it was a tough job because every one of those hospitals wanted to build and build and build. So then they'd either talk with my boss or the governor. My first boss, his name was Roger Trounday. He was a very good boss and very supportive because, you know, he knew what the problems were. And I guess at the time, he had the ear of the governor too. And I remember taking some heat from the hospital association one time on a report we gave. [laughter] And the governor called me out of a meeting and he said, "You stick with it. [laughter] Don't let those hospital guys bother you." Well, that helped me a lot. But then we got a new governor and unfortunately a new boss. And he was a very political animal. So, you know, they would just go to the governor and ask him to do something to make us approve those beds. You know, it got to be such an unpleasant situation, I left.
SA: Oh, my. We need some of those from that earlier administration to help with the new plan.
SA: So when you left, what did you do?
MN: Then I retired and came to Fallon.
SA: OK. What year was that?
MN: I think it was 1982.
SA: 1982. And how old were you then? When you left, because you left early, did you get a retirement plan? Did you get health insurance?
MN: Yes, I got both. I had been with the state ten years and that was, I think, the minimum you could be with the state to earn a retirement plan and a health plan.
SA: Did you decide then to end your career as far as taking a full-time job?
SA: You opted to retire.
SA: And so then let's bring you back home. Tell me what had happened by then? How were your parents?
MN: Well, by then my father had passed away. My mother was still doing quite well. And Allie, the Indian lady, was coming everyday to help our mother.
SA: Where was Maie?
MN: She was at that time at San Francisco State University.
SA: OK. And your brothers? Were they here?
MN: Yes, they were both here. And Ray was running the ranches . . his own and this place.
SA: When did he get his own place?
MN: Well, actually, I think he and Dad bought it before Ray got married, which was in the fifties, I think.
SA: OK. He was on his own . . . .
MN: Yes, he lived on his place then.
SA: Did Earl ever marry?
MN: Oh, yes. Earl married in 1938, I believe it was.
SA: And where was he living?
MN: He originally started working at Lahontan Dam. And then they lived at the dam at that time. And then he took a job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, I guess. And they were doing the building and upgrading of the wildlife preserve down east of Stillwater.
SA: Oh, east of Stillwater.
MN: Yes. And then when Dad got so he couldn't maintain the honey business, Earl took that over. So both Ray and Earl have always lived here.
SA: So when you came back, how did that feel to come back, leaving your career and coming back home? Was it mixed emotions?
MN: Not really. At the time when I left Carson City, I was getting so much heat from the hospital association and from my boss, he was making things very unpleasant for me, so I was glad to go. You know, sometimes they do that. They want to make it so hard for you, you'll quit.
SA: Oh, so that you’ll go. Were there changes in the ranch and in this area? Were there any changes?
MN: Well, all of the changes that have occurred have been in the modernization of farming equipment and farming practices. Haying is so much simpler now than it used to be. The same with the combining of wheat. The big mechanized equipment makes it so easy and takes maybe a third of the time it used to as far as haying goes.
SA: And you don't have to worry about lack of workmen.
MN: Yes. And you don't have to worry about feeding horses and . .
SA: Or feeding the workmen.
MN: Yes, or feeding the workmen. That's right. [laughs]
SA: And were there still cattle?
SA: Were your brothers still running the cattle?
SA: Did the cattle still stay on these grounds?
MN: Yes. Well, now, part of them are grazed down at what they call a community pasture and it's down by Harmon Reservoir and all of the farmers have a chance to graze some of their cattle in that pasture area. They have to pay a certain fee to the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. And they pay so much per head. And I think they're limited to the number of head they can take down there, but they do take them down there.
SA: So some of yours are grazing there. You were here, but Maie was not. So then tell me how your life developed. Of course, a long of time before that the Churchill County Museum had started. You were away working, but did you have any input or activity with the museum when you would come home or while it was developing?
MN: No, the only connection I had with the museum was through my mother. When the museum first started, all of the women in the various club groups were asked to volunteer to be hostesses maybe two or three hours a day, one day a week.
SA: Oh. And who was heading it at that time? Somebody had to be asking these people to help.
MN: Well, the fellow that was, I think, the primary head at that time, originally that started the museum going was Willie Capucci. He got the thing going. And Nina Kent was active in it and so was Doris Drumm whose husband was owner of Silver State Construction.
SA: What was Capucci's role in the community? What was he?
MN: [laughs] Well, Willie really was kind of a freelancer in a way. He owned a bar, the Esquire Club. And after he sold the Esquire Club, he went into public announcing. He bought his own sound system and he would be the public announcer at rodeos and parades and that kind of thing. And he made a living at it, I guess. And I don't know, maybe he invested well after he sold the Esquire Club. So he just kind of freelanced and did the public address type of activity. But he was always a collector.
SA: Oh, so he had a collection. Wanted a home for it.
MN: Well, I'm not sure if he wanted a home for it, but I think he did put quite a bit of his collection in. And of course, Willie was known all over town so it was easy for him to get the businesses to volunteer for giving lumber and glass and . . .
SA: Did the county give the land?
MN: No. A couple by the name of Oser, they lived down in southern California, but were good friends of Nina and Hammy Kent. They used to come up here and hunt all of the time. Well, at the time they used to do all this visiting, Fallon was trying to raise money for a library. So the Osers felt like, well, they would buy this old Safeway building that had been vacated because Safeway built a new building. And they would buy that building for the library. Well, before the thing got finalized, Churchill County and Fallon managed to get funds from the Max Fleischmann Foundation to build a library. It's my understanding Mr. Oser said to Mrs. Kent, "Well, but what else could you use this building for?" And she said, "A museum."
SA: So he must have been a rich man.
MN: Yes. Oh, very.
SA: What a wonderful contribution.
MN: Yes. It was wonderful. Wonderful.
SA: So the Safeway, is that where the museum is now?
SA: Which would have been pretty far out.
MN: Yes, it was. It wasn't a very good location [for Safeway]. The location now on Williams Avenue is much better. So the county took him up on accepting the building and the land for a museum. Well, then they formed a museum association and . . . .
SA: So the leaders were those people, Capucci and Nina…
MN: And Doris Drumm. And Marguerite Coverston and there was Mr. [Samuel (Sam)] Beeghly.
SA: So there was not a historical society before this was happening.
MN: No. No.
SA: This was the start of it.
MN: That's right. And they formed their association and at the time, all of the funds came through membership or memorials and/or donations. And they didn't have a paid staff. And as I say, the women in the community volunteered to be a hostess for a few hours a day, one day a week or whatever. And my mother and one of her very good friends used to be hostesses for one afternoon a week. I can't remember the day, but it must have been sometimes on weekends because I remember coming home and visiting and Mom would be in at the museum.
SA: This must have been a few years after the store was accepted because they'd have to get collections in.
MN: Well, not too long.
SA: They just .
MN: Well, everybody donated.
SA: I mean, they had to do something with these things that came in. Display them.
MN: Yes. They had to display them.
SA: Probably just put them out on tables, really rustic at first.
MN: Well, I imagine. I don't remember that much about it at that time because I wasn't living here in Fallon.
SA: Is the building that's there still part of that Safeway building?
MN: Yes. The whole building.
SA: The whole building. Wonderful. So when you came… We won't go into the whole history of the museum, you know, but I want to find out from you when you came home, what was the situation by then with the Churchill County Museum and Archives. What was it like in 1982 when you came back?
MN: Well, by then they had a paid director/curator. And the county at that time had agreed to pay the salary of the host and hostesses. And they maintained the building, you know, paid for the repairs and upkeep.
SA: Did they pay the utilities and . . . ?
MN: Yes, I think so. And then the association, with this money, kept the exhibits up and changed or maintained the collections. And it was, you know, kind of a mutual effort by the association and the county.
SA: Membership was growing in the association?
MN: Yes. Oh, yes.
SA: Fundraisers to raise money?
MN: Well, they didn't do a lot of fundraising and they still don't to this day which I think is necessary. But they'd have an annual meeting and it would be a potluck dinner and everybody would bring a potluck dish. And I got involved because I read in the paper that the museum needed volunteers and they were going to have this special meeting or session one day on a Tuesday I think it was for people that would be interesting in volunteering.
SA: How long were you home when you saw that?
MN: Oh, probably a year or two. And so I went in on that session. And Sharon Taylor, who was the director/curator at that time, was telling about the different kinds of activities she needed volunteers to do. And one of the things she had was a Kroy lettering machine. And she needed signs made for the different exhibits. Well, that appealed to me because I had taken mechanical drawing in college and I felt like I could work with a T-square and a few of those kinds of tools. So I volunteered to come in and make signs. And that's how I got involved in the museum. [laughter]
SA: And you've been there ever since. And they saw a great potential, and pretty soon you're . . . what were some of the roles that you performed?
MN: I filled in one time when Sharon was gone. I think she was . . . I think she was ill, I'm not sure. But she asked me to fill in as administrator while she was absent. So I did that because I had been an administrator so it wasn't difficult for me to do. And then after that when she came back, I got involved with writing grant proposals to raise money for special projects. So I was writing several grants a year. And did that for a while. And that's how I ended up with the Oral History Program. I wrote a grant to the Nevada Humanities Committee to get some money to get some training for oral history volunteers. So I wrote the grant, we got the grant. And then Sharon says, "Well, you have to be in charge of it since you wrote the grant." [laughter] That's how come I'm in charge of the Oral History Program.
SA: Weren't you the treasurer?
MN: Yes, I was elected treasurer of the museum board of trustees. So I do that, too. I count the money and bank the money.
SA: Well, I think it's one of the finest rural museums, archives and organization for the size of the town. You contributed a lot to the museum and archives.
MN: Well, thank you. I think the community's very proud of the museum.
SA: And from what you were telling me, there is so much participation from so much of the community. So that's worthwhile. When you came back, besides getting involved with the museum, what are some of the other activities then that filled your life during these retirement years?
MN: Well, gardening has been one. I've raised vegetables . . . primarily vegetables in the garden every since I've been home. And that really is a full-time summer job by the time you pull the weeds and water and everything. Well, I don't do it all now nor does Maie. We have a couple of hired Indians that come once or twice a week to help, especially with the weeding. And then I was involved with the local Farm Bureau organization for a while, but I haven't been in the last few years primarily because I became disenchanted with the leadership. [laughter]
SA: When did Maie come home to stay?
MN: I think she's been home five or six years now.
SA: I want to continue with your retirement, but I want to find out about your mother. Was she still here with you in the house all the time after your retirement?
MN: No. I think I indicated that Mom was here when I retired, but she wasn't. She died in 1977.
SA: Oh, oh!
MN: I was working over in the State Department of Human Resources at the time. Fortunately, she went fairly quickly. She developed one of the summer colds that turned into pneumonia. They had her here in the hospital here for a while and she became quite dehydrated and we didn't feel she was getting good care, so we took her to St. Mary's in Reno. And she wasn't really sick for a short period of time. Just suddenly one morning she had a very severe pain in her chest and she was gone within a few minutes.
SA: How old was she when she died?
MN: Ninety. [laughter]
SA: Oh, well, that's a nice, nice long life. Seems like she had a happy life and produced a wonderful family and had a great husband.
MN: Yes, I think so.
SA: I think she was a wonderful woman.
MN: She was.
SA: That's wonderful. Now, two things before we end this. And let's do the easiest one first. [laughter] With Miramar's Top Gun, and that's a fact now that that's moving here and you're preparing for it. How do you see that affecting Churchill County?
MN: Well, a lot of people think it's going to be great, you know. It's going to bring in millions first of all because of the construction. They have to lengthen the runways from my understanding. And of course, they have to build some housing for the military people that are coming. But I would also think there would be some contractors coming. I don't know how it happens in Miramar, but here in Fallon there are a lot of private contractors doing many parts of the operation of the Navy base. And if that applies to the Top Gun program, I would think it would bring in more contracting companies which means more families. And the danger there that I think we're mostly concerned with is what is going to happen to our water supply?
SA: Because that's all going to drain from the agriculture.
MN: Right. Well, two ways. First of all, there's more demand for water. Secondly, their reclamation is trying to cut back our water to save the Cui-ui fish in Pyramid Lake. And so there's going to be less water to resupply the groundwater. And with more demands from water wells and if there's more incursion into the rural areas where more septic tanks are needed, that's going to be a major contaminating factor that's going to endanger the water supply. So I'm really concerned about it. I really am because two or three things are going to happen. Some of the farmers will sell their farms and/or the water rights. And then the ground goes back to being a dusty desert. And there again, there'll be less water to resupply the groundwater. And if that happens, the whole quality of life here will be impacted. So I'm very concerned. I think, you know, there was a letter to the editor the other day about how some people in Fallon aren't very progressive. Well, progress doesn't necessarily mean you grow bigger and bigger and bigger.
SA: That's right. That's right. And does the base use a lot of water as they grow, do they take a lot of water?
MN: I'm sure they do. You know, they have a certain amount of water rights. And then they have farmland that they have purchased from farmers that surround the base. And the primary reason for that is the crops keep the dust down so the jets don't have a lot of problem in taking dust. And that's why they maintained these agricultural fields. Well, there's been a rumor going around that the big shots of the Navy are going to tell the Navy base here to quit farming that land. Well, then that water won't be around to resupply. And I suppose they think they want to take it back to the Cui-ui fish, but I'm not so sure they can transfer the water rights out of this valley. It seems to me there's some legislation that prohibits that, I hope.
SA: And then as you were saying before, in a little later period, they had to take over grazing land that some of the ranchers used for the line of these new sophisticated planes.
SA: And when you're out there by some of these areas that I've been out to, you can hear the planes.
MN: Oh, absolutely.
SA: There's a noise level. Is there any level of pollution in the air?
MN: Well, I haven't been aware of that. One of our friends that lives closer to the air base . . . she's sold the place now, but she used to complain about the smell of kerosene when the planes would come in to land. I don't know whether they dumped the fuel or what, but she could smell the kerosene. Well, I don't notice that, but, you know, when the plane goes over here, you can't have a conversation . . . it's so loud.
SA: Now, before we end the interview, I know that there are many, many meetings and many, many problems and a battle of water rights which certainly is so important to you because this is why the Newlands project was created was for agriculture in this region. So can you just get on tape a little bit of what is happening now. You mentioned the fish and Pyramid Lake and what else that's now being debated and your thoughts about it.
MN: Well, primarily the big thing now is whether water rights are private property. According to one of our members of the Lahontan Water Protection Association who's done a great deal of research on it and through other court cases, he has come up with a paper that says that a water right is private property and it can't be taken away from you. And if that's the case, then the federal government, i.e. the Bureau of Reclamation, can't take the water away from us, but they keep doing it anyway. They keep cutting down on how much we can have. And I think, you know, we have been in litigation over the water rights for, I don't know, sixty years anyway, I think. And it seems like it's the farmer that always loses. Maybe that's because the farmers never got together as a group before, but they are now. But I think the main issue that will make or break us is if the Supreme Court decides whether the water right is a private property right or whether it isn't. And it isn't just here, it's all over the West. They want to take the water back . . . that is, the federal government does and consider it government property I guess you could call it, and the farmers don't have the right to the water even though they paid for it. When they homesteaded here, they had to pay for the water rights, they had to pay for the construction of the dam and they've been doing it all these years.
SA: Is it supposed to go to the Supreme Court soon?
MN: Oh, no. I don't think it's really been decided yet even in a federal court. But I think it will end up in the Supreme Court. You know, there has to be a decision one way or the other whether the farmer is entitled to the water he has paid for. And I think eventually it will have to go to the Supreme Court. And you just hope that the Supreme Court can see the farmer's side of it as much as the endangered species. [laughter]
SA: And then the Indian…
MN: Well, my concern about that is, and I could be wrong, but I don't think I am . . the Indians want that water because once they get it, they will sell it to Reno and Sparks. That's my feeling. And that's why they want the water. And this business about the Cui-ui fish being a sacred fish is a lot of hogwash.
SA: But also, I went down and visited, they started a huge recreation on that lake.
MN: Well, yes. And I read in the paper the other day there's a rumor going around that I think it's Holiday Inns . . one of those big hotel companies, is going to build a lodge down there. Well, of course, that's another reason the Indians want the water. But, you know, I think there has to be some moderation and some fairness here. Because, as you said, the farmers were lured here with the promise of water and land. And the farmers came and they worked and they paid their debt. And still they want to take it away.
SA: Yes. I mean, reading the homestead letters gives you a stronger feel. Do you have good representation in Nevada to represent the farmers when they meet with these bureaus and go back to Washington. Are your representatives sympathetic to the farmers?
MN: Not very much. One of our representatives is . . . well, I could say that both of our senators are from Las Vegas. Senator Reid is from Vegas and he's the one that wants to take the water away from us. Senator Bryan is much more moderate and he's from Vegas, but he also served as governor so he lived in the northern part of the state for several years. And he knows the problems of the farmers and the ranchers whereas Senator Reid doesn't. Senator Reid really hates us. We hate him, too. [laughter] And our representatives are not very sympathetic. I think part of their problem is they don't understand what the thing is all about.
SA: They don't understand and probably there are less voters, maybe.
MN: That is correct. Well, especially down in Vegas there's hardly any agricultural interest down there, especially in Clark County. And like you say, there's fewer voters up here in the north.
SA: Las Vegas is the fastest growing region in this area.
MN: Oh, yes. It's twice the size of Reno and Sparks.
SA: And we'll be following that closely and you'll keep me posted. Now, before we end this interview, I know there's this water problem, but what do you see that Churchill County is going to be like in the next decade with all of these changes with the air base and a lot of retired people coming and water problem, what do you see happening in this area?
MN: Well, I do see that agriculture will diminish and that less of the economy will depend on agriculture. My understanding in one of the articles I read recently is right now agricultural economy is just as big a contributor to the community as the money that is derived from the Navy. But as more people come in and urbanize, then the amount of the economy that is contributed by agriculture will lessen. And there again, you have a dilemma of the farmer or the agricultural business not being considered a vital interest to the community. You know, it happens all over, I'm sure. People retire or for whatever reason come to live here from someplace in California primarily, but other cities and states, and they come here because they like the setting and the lifestyle. But right away they want to change it. They want to make it like what it is at home. [laughs] And I think that's what's going to happen.
SA: Well, on behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project for someone who's deeply involved and has been such a contributor to oral history in this region, we thank you so much for contributing your own interview.
MN: Thank you.
SA: This is the end of the interview.