William Oar Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
February 10, 1994
This interview was conducted by Eleanor Ahern; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Pat Baden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
Bill Oar is presently Transportation Supervisor of the Churchill County School District bus system.
Bill Oar's parents were original settlers in the Lahontan Valley in 1892, several years before the Newlands Reclamation project was established in 1902. His father, L. D. Oar developed a farm west of Fallon which he farmed for many years. When construction of Lahontan Dam was begun in 1911, Bill's father joined the construction crew in the building of the Dam until it was completed.
Bill relates some of his recollections of stories his father told about his activities in the building of the Dam. Also, he describes the activities and responsibilities of his father as a ditchrider on the Newlands Project while, as a young boy, he "rode" with his father. Also, he tells of a short period of time the family lived in Dixie Valley, about his schooling and of driving a school bus, and his interest/hobby in electronics.
Interview with William Oar
AHERN: This is Eleanor Ahern of the Churchill County Oral History Project interviewing William Oar. The time is 5:15 P.M. We are in his office at 283 Sherman Street, Fallon, Nevada. Good afternoon, Mr. Oar. How are you?
OAR: Good afternoon. Fine, thank you.
AHERN: Will you please give me your full name?
OAR: William Foster Oar.
AHERN: And your place of birth and your birth date?
OAR: I was born in Hawthorne [Nevada] on May 4, 1943.
AHERN: Would you please give me your parents' full name, your father and your mother.
OAR: Okay, Dad's name was L.D. Oar, and my mother's name was Julia Schaffer, and then, of course, Julia Oar.
AHERN: Your father went by the initials L.D. Did L.D. stand for anything?
OAR: No, it didn't. Just initials L.D.
AHERN: Was your father born in Nevada?
OAR: No. In Paisley, Oregon.
AHERN: Do you recall how or why he came to Nevada?
OAR: Mainly for ranching, as I recall.
AHERN: The year?
OAR: I really couldn't answer that.
AHERN: Where was your mother's birthplace?
OAR: In Springfield, Illinois.
AHERN: Your parents corresponded prior to their marriage. Do you know how they met?
OAR: They had mutual friends somehow. Dad went back to Illinois and met her and then came back to Nevada. She came out here, and they got married here in Fallon.
AHERN: Do you recall the date of marriage?
OAR: I want to say 1934.
AHERN: Are there any other children in the family?
AHERN: Your father had something to do with the building of the Lahontan Dam. Could you tell me something about that, please?
OAR: All I know, he has told that he worked on it from the time the project started until he finished, and he worked construction down there mainly in the pump house area. I don't know what specific job he had, but he talked about that aspect of it.
AHERN: After the construction of the Dam, did he stay on as a maintenance or in any other capacity involved with the Dam?
OAR: No. He went to ranching after that. I believe he and his brother and his dad started ranching.
AHERN: What's his brother's name?
OAR: It was Frank Oar. Bamford was probably his real name, but they all went by Frank, I think it was Bamford Frank Oar.
AHERN: Did your father have any brothers or sisters?
OAR: That was his brother, Frank, and he had a sister by the name of Mildred.
AHERN: Is she still living?
OAR: I really don’t know.
AHERN: Do you recall her married name?
OAR: Mildred Powell.
AHERN: Do you recall how many years your father spent in the construction of Lahontan Dam?
OAR: Other than the time it started until it was completed, I don’t know what years that was. I know it was early 1900s, and I don’t know how long it took.
AHERN: Was your father ever a ditchrider?
OAR: Yes, he was. He rode ditch out in Stillwater. Started about 1945.
AHERN: When he got involved in the ditchriding business, was it during his farming period or after?
OAR: It was after. We were at a place called Peterson Highway Station. He was working for the Highway Department at the time on highway maintenance.
AHERN: Where is this Peterson Highway Station located?
OAR: It's out east of Fallon, out east of Eastgate. It was a maintenance station there back in the 1940's and 1950's, I presume.
AHERN: Do you recall what his job entailed as a maintenance person?
OAR: Basically what they do now. Highway maintenance. Fixing roads, repairing roads, upkeep on the highways around this area.
AHERN: When he was there, was the family there with him?
OAR: Yes. Yes, we were.
AHERN: Where did you live there?
OAR: There was a home there that was owned by the State Highway Department, and that's where we lived in that area. It's similar to what Cold Springs is now. Peterson Highway Station was existing then, but Cold Springs was not.
AHERN: When your father was ranching, was it just alfalfa or stock?
OAR: Probably a little of both. He had a ranch out west of Fallon here where the Ogdens lived.
AHERN: What address would that be now?
OAR: It’s on the Reno Highway. I wouldn’t know for sure what the address is. [7925 Reno Highway] They just renovated the home there and put that big chain link fence up there, and it’s all excavated there. I’m not sure who owns it now, but the Ogdens lived there for a long time. It's a two-story house out on the Reno Highway.
AHERN: I assume that you and your brother helped out?
OAR: Okay, I don’t have a brother.
AHERN: I’m sorry, just you. You were born in Lovelock?
OAR: No, Hawthorne.
AHERN: Do you recall if your mother went to the hospital or was it a home delivery?
OAR: No, it was at the hospital, Mount Grant General Hospital, I believe. Dad was a deputy sheriff at the time in Hawthorne.
AHERN: It seems like your father did quite a few different occupations.
OAR: Yeah, he was a blacksmith in Reno for a while, too, after he came to Nevada. He and his dad had a blacksmith shop, I believe, on Sierra Street in Reno.
AHERN: Do you recall your grandparents?
OAR: Only my grandmother on my mother's side. She passed away, I think, when I was about six years old.
AHERN: What was her name? Full name?
OAR: I could not recall.
AHERN: How about your father's father?
OAR: I didn't know him, no. My grandparents on Dad's side were both dead before I was born.
AHERN: Do you recall their names?
OAR: (sighs) Frank was dad’s dad’s name, but I don’t remember Grandmother’s name, no I don’t.
AHERN: Your mother was a homemaker all those years.
AHERN: On the ranch, tell me about how your day began.
OAR: Okay, I was too young to be on the ranch at the time. Like I said, I was born in Hawthorne, and then Dad worked for the Highway Department. Then in 1945 we came here to Fallon, and we went to the ditchriding, so this ranching business was done before I was born.
AHERN: Oh, I see.
OAR: Actually, Mom and Dad were married when Dad had the ranch, and I came along about nine years later, so I was not on the ranch.
AHERN: So, when your father began ditchriding, then, that was his only occupation. He wasn't a part-time rancher or farmer?
OAR: Well, T.C.I.D. [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District] has a little acreage where the ditchriders live, and he did farm a little area there, but that was the extent of it at the time. When we moved to Dixie Valley, he worked for some folks out there that owned a ranch.
AHERN: Do you recall the names?
OAR: Stark, at the time. They owned quite a bit of property out in Dixie Valley.
AHERN: Do you recall Mr. Stark’s first name?
OAR: Not offhand, no I sure don’t.
AHERN: How old were you when your family moved to Dixie Valley?
OAR: I would have been ten.
AHERN: Were there a lot of families living out in Dixie Valley then?
OAR: No, not really. Not very many.
AHERN: How many families would there have been out there?
OAR: Probably five, not including us, and we had a little school out there we went to.
AHERN: Do you recall the names of the families?
OAR: Some. Ellises, the Barkleys, the Jensens, and Turleys.
AHERN: Now, I understand that the Turleys raised foster boys.
OAR: Not at the time we were there, no. They did do that later on in the years, yes, but they weren't at the time I was living out there. They had a couple of their own children, a boy and a girl. I think it was Lynn and Russ.
AHERN: Could you pinpoint exactly where in Dixie Valley you lived?
OAR: It was the homestead of the Stark ranch. Where the schoolhouse was when they closed it down would have been right at the end of our driveway. But the schoolhouse that I went to was further down. The homestead was just a little bit north of Turley's residence.
AHERN: Do you recall who the teacher was?
OAR: A Miss Covington.
AHERN: Did she reside in Dixie Valley?
OAR: Yes, she lived in a home there by herself. She was a single lady.
AHERN: So, you were about ten when you moved into Dixie Valley.
AHERN: How long was your family there?
OAR: A little over a year. Just long enough to go through the earthquake. (laughing)
AHERN: The earthquake of what year?
OAR: I think it was 1954. I think the ones here in Fallon were the same year, except the one out there was a little later in that year. There were two of them just about back to back. One at Fairview and then evidently it triggered the one at Dixie.
AHERN: Tell me about the earthquake. What were you doing when it happened?
OAR: I was asleep. It was early morning. I think, somewhere about three o'clock, and it wakes you, I'll guarantee you.
AHERN: It sounds like it might have been a severe earthquake.
OAR: As I remember, yes. I thought originally it was a big windstorm because I had never been through an earthquake, and Dad woke up and says, "It's just an earthquake. Just an earthquake." Didn't bother him at all. He'd been through the one in San Francisco. He was living here at the time, but he said he felt it here pretty good in 1906.
AHERN: Did the earthquake do much damage to the houses out in Dixie Valley?
OAR: No, surprisingly not. Really didn't. Lots of things fell out of the shelves and like that, but it didn't damage the home, and I don't know why. Compared to what damage goes on in the quakes we hear about in California, how these held together it's amazing. The haystacks tumbled over. Some of the well casings were damaged, but all in all, no structural damage that I would say, remembering it. We were blocked off from getting out of the Valley 'cause of the fault that ran across the roadway, but the county came in immediately and repaired the road.
AHERN: What did the fault do to the roadways?
OAR: They just opened up, and there was a big crack there that you couldn't pass through. Probably fifteen, twenty feet deep and fairly wide.
AHERN: Approximately, how wide would it have been?
OAR: Oh, I would say probably ten, fifteen feet wide. It wasn't wide open totally but smaller cracks that opened up that you couldn't pass through.
AHERN: When your dad worked for the Starks, what type of work did he do for them?
OAR: Ranching work. They had cattle out on the range and gathered cattle up. As well as just regular alfalfa hay we grew out there. Irrigation and cutting the hay. General ranch work.
AHERN: When you lived in Dixie Valley, when you weren't going to school, what did you do?
OAR: Pretty much worked on the ranch. We baled hay, irrigated.
AHERN: Is this on your own property or was it also part of the Starks’?
OAR: It was the Starks residence. Dad was working for Starks to maintain the ranch.
AHERN: Did you find it lonely out there?
OAR: No, not really. You find plenty to do. A ten-year-old kid can always find something to do. Ride horses, ride the bike out in the desert. Always something to do. I enjoyed it.
AHERN: What did your family do for recreation when you weren't working?
OAR: They didn't go anywhere very often. Pretty much homebound. They read a lot. There was no television, of course, out there, and we listened to the radio, and the folks read a lot. Once in awhile we'd go to the movies maybe twice a year to the drive-in, and that was about it.
AHERN: How often did you have to come to town for supplies?
OAR: Usually about once every two weeks. When Mr. Stark came out he brought a lot of supplies with him, so we didn't have to go to town that often.
AHERN: You said that you remained in Dixie Valley for one year.
OAR: Approximately. Maybe a little longer.
AHERN: What made your dad decide to leave Dixie Valley?
OAR: He wanted to get back ditchriding. He missed it. He had thought he would like ranching a little bit better, but he was up in his sixties at that time, and I think it was just a little bit rough on him, so he came back and rode ditch again. He spent another ten years with the T.C.I.D. from 1955 to 1965.
AHERN: During the time your father was doing ditchriding work, where did you live?
OAR: We lived at the Stillwater ditch house. It's a home that was owned by the T.C.I.D. The same procedure they use now. They own the house, and the ditchriders live in them just like they do now.
AHERN: Do you still live in that same house?
OAR: No, I don't. I'm very close, but not in the same house. No. When dad retired he bought some property and built a home very close to where the ditch house was.
AHERN: You recall the address?
OAR: Of the ditch house? The addresses in those days were all rural route box numbers, and I don't remember the box number.
AHERN: What was the location of the ditch house from where you live now?
OAR: It's the same place it was. It's on  Ditch House Lane.
AHERN: East of Fallon?
OAR: Oh, yes. Stillwater ditch house east of Fallon. Same location except the house we lived in burned down after we moved to Dixie Valley.
AHERN: Was anybody living in it then?
OAR: Yes, yes. There was a ditchrider. Montgomery was the ditchrider at the time. I think his name was John.
AHERN: When your father came back to Fallon, did he have any trouble getting his job back?
OAR: No, he got his job back before we left Dixie. That's why we left Dixie, and, apparently, they wanted him back, and he was willing to come back, and so everything worked out.
AHERN: Tell me about your father's duty as a ditchrider. What does a ditchrider do?
OAR: It's about the same as it is now. Well, in those days, the water users called the ditchrider personally. Actually, my mother was always home to take the water orders. When they watered their property, they put in their orders to irrigate certain areas. Then Mom always gave the information to Dad, and when the water became available he would open the gates, deliver the water to them. Of course, there was a lot of different diversions in the canal they have to do. Flash boards. Pull the boards, let the water go down this specific canal until they're done irrigating, then he has to change that out and give the water to somebody else. All hours of the day and night. When the water users are done at two o'clock in the morning they call and he has to go out and change the water and give it to someone else. It's changed a little bit from what it was. I believe the water users now have to call the main office and they handle everything from there. But, as far as delivering the water and changing the water, that's primarily what the ditchriders still do. In those days it was a twenty-four hour day job right through the summer. You didn't get any time off, and now I believe they get so many days off a month.
AHERN: Was it kind of hard on your mother to have your father having such irregular work hours?
OAR: No, not really. They got used to it. They both always seemed to get up four or five o'clock in the morning whether water hours or not. During the wintertime, of course, water wasn't in the canals, but they were both early risers.
AHERN: What did your father do during the winter months then?
OAR: Worked on the construction crew for the T.C.I.D. rebuilding headgates, drops, maintaining the T.C.I.D. facilities. Went up to Derby Dam and broke ice on the dam to keep ice jams on the river down. Just about anywhere the T.C.I.D. needed them. Even remodeling houses during the wintertime for the T.C.I.D. He was even doing that.
AHERN: You mentioned Derby Dam.
AHERN: Where is Derby Dam?
OAR: That's on the way to Reno just out of Fernley on I-80. It'd be on your left-hand side going to Reno. It's one of the T.C.I.D. projects there.
AHERN: Did you ever go along with your father on his ditchriding duties?
OAR: Oh, yes, all the time. All the time. That's how I learned how to drive. Yeah. I probably learned how to drive when I was twelve years old because I used to go out--it was all out in Stillwater and mostly back roads, dirt roads at the time--and it was a real good way to learn how to drive.
AHERN: Did you ever help your father with some of the ditchriding duties?
OAR: Oh, limited, limited. Opening gates. Stuff like that. That's just about it. In the mornings, once in awhile in the summer, I used to like to get up early and go with him and ride around because I like early morning. He'd start his hours to make his rounds usually by five o'clock in the morning. Sometimes earlier, and he'd come back for breakfast about seven. He'd be gone a couple of hours. Eat breakfast, and then he'd probably go out again on a round along about nine thirty, ten o'clock. Good way to spend summer, and, of course, when he didn't have to make his rounds he made things. Remodel a house or work on his vehicles. In spare time, a little ranching there where the T.C.I.D. owned the property, but pretty much had to stay home the whole time in those days.
AHERN: Does this mean that your family never left your home to take vacations?
OAR: I was never on a vacation with my folks. They never left. 'Course, you know, it was always during the summertime they worked when the water was on, and then when the water was off in the wintertime I was in school, so that prevented . . . 'course, Dad, like I said, was not a big goer. We'd go to Reno, maybe once in three years. He just didn't like the traffic in Reno and driving in that stuff. We'd go hunting on the weekends up in the Stillwaters. We did that usually during the fall, and then some camping trips up in the mountains. That's what he liked the best was getting out in the camping area. But, actually, going on a vacation, no.
AHERN: Did you miss going on vacations?
OAR: Well, I didn't know what it was, so I guess I didn't miss it. (laughing) I would now! I'll guarantee it. The weekend outings with him, camping or hunting, was a vacation for me.
AHERN: When your father received a call as a ditchrider, did he stay on all day, or as soon he had done his job of releasing the water, he came home?
OAR: Yes. Oh, yes.
AHERN: So he was constantly in and out?
OAR: In and out. Oh, yeah. He'd be gone for a couple of hours in the morning like I said, from about five to seven, come home and eat breakfast, be there a couple of hours, maybe make another round at noon. It all depends on how much water is being used. During haying time, of course, there was not much water being used 'cause they were cutting the hay at the time, so things got pretty lax. Sometimes he didn't go out until that evening so he spent the whole time at home. Usually the last time he'd go out in the evening was around about seven or eight, nine o'clock and that would be it unless he had to get up in the middle of the night and go change water. But a lot of times the ranchers took care of that themselves if they could. That's the way they still do today. But most of the time was pretty much early mornings and morning hours.
AHERN: What area did his rounds consist of?
OAR: All the Stillwater district. Yes. From Hammie Kent's ranch [13333 Stillwater Road] all the way up to almost where Earl Stuart lives now [6755 Stuart Road]. He'd stop and talk to a lot of ranchers that were water users, and a lot of the water orders were actually made there while he was making his rounds. They didn't have to call the house. They'd say, "Well, I'd like to have water sometime next week," and then make the arrangements right there on the spot. There was paper work involved in this, too. Water measurements. Of course, the ranchers had to be charged with the water. Dad had to keep track of that. Turn all the paper work into the main office on a monthly basis.
AHERN: Do you recall what ranchers were charged then?
OAR: Oh, they were all charged. Just as they are today.
AHERN: How much? Do you recall?
OAR: I don't know that, no. No. I think it was all part of their property taxes. How much water was used, and how much water they are allotted. Of course, like even today, in those days there was water shortages, and you'd get forty or fifty per cent of water. You had just so many irrigations, and when you used it up you were done. He had to keep track of how much was being used by each of the ranchers.
AHERN: As a ditchrider, did your father have any problems so to speak? If so, what kind of problems would he have encountered?
OAR: Probably sometimes irate ranchers for one thing or another, not enough water, the head of water was too small, or they couldn't get it at the time they wanted it. Things like that, but it all worked out.
AHERN: Nothing serious.
OAR: No. No, nothing serious.
AHERN: It sounds like your father enjoyed doing that.
OAR: Yeah, he did. He did. He enjoyed the people. He really did. On his rounds stopped and talked to the people. Enjoyed talking to them.
AHERN: Now you said that the T.C.I.D provided the housing free. Could you describe the housing? Was it a one-story house or a two-story?
OAR: Most of them, as I remember, was just a single story. The one we lived in was a single story, and I don't know if there are any two-story houses today that T.C.I.D. owns.
AHERN: Was it a brick house or a wooden house?
OAR: It was a frame house. Wood. Modest. Very livable.
AHERN: How many rooms?
OAR: Oh, I think it was a two-bedroom.
AHERN: Were they all basically two-bedroom homes that T.C.I.D. supplied?
OAR: I really couldn’t answer that for sure in those days. I don’t…
AHERN: Basically they were like any other home, then.
OAR: Yes. Let's say, it wasn't fancy, and it wasn't a dump, either. It was a modest home. Livable, very liveable and no problem at all. In those days they did not supply the ditchriders with a vehicle. Ditchriders had their own vehicle and put many miles in those things in the summertime. When Dad first went to work for them they didn't even supply the gas, but later on, they did supply a tank out there and kept the ditchriders supplied with fuel. I don't know when they went to giving the ditchriders a company truck, but I remember Dad going through quite a few pickups being a ditchrider.
AHERN: Did T.C.I.D. ever reimburse him for maintenance or gas or anything?
OAR: I couldn't answer that. I really don't know. It might have been all in the salary as far as I know. In those days, there were very few paved roads, especially out in Stillwater. Most of them were all mud. I remember a few times that we spent some days out there stuck in the road (laughing) during the rains and stuff. It was a lot different from what it is now. Like I said, the roads weren't even graveled. Pretty rough on vehicles in those days.
AHERN: Do you know if the house was supplied, or was there rent?
OAR: There was no rent. It was part of the ditchriders', I guess you'd call, benefits. We had to buy our own heating and oil, and I'm not sure, but I think the electricity was paid by the T.C.I.D., but it was a rent-free house.
AHERN: Did you have a general idea of what your father's salary was?
OAR: Not really. In those days I really don't know.
AHERN: If your father didn't have to pay rent or anything, did he save a tidy sum, or did he spend it maintaining vehicles or ranch?
OAR: Oh, he saved enough to buy a piece of property where he built a home--where I still live--at the time. Like I say, I don't know how much he made at those days, and, of course, putting me through school, and "I want this, and I want that," thing, you know, I'm sure that didn't help matters much and buying vehicles to do the ditchriding. So, I wouldn't say by a long ways, he saved a lot. No.
AHERN: Where did you go to school?
OAR: I started school at the Stillwater schoolhouse. [End of side A]
AHERN: This is tape 1, Side 2.
OAR: You asked me how long I went to school there. From the time I lived in Stillwater and then we moved to Dixie Valley and I went to school there. Then came back and went to school probably until they closed the school. I want to say that was probably when I was in the seventh grade, and then we were bused in to Oats Park School here. I think I spent seventh and eighth grade here in Fallon.
AHERN: In Stillwater, was the school close enough for you to walk to, or did your father drop you off?
OAR: My dad dropped me off. It was probably, I would say, close to five miles east from where I lived, but
making his rounds, he'd swing by and pick me up and maybe I had to go finish the rounds with him and didn't get home for an hour or so after school. In the morning if he had to go on his rounds early sometimes I had to be with him from six thirty in the morning till I got to school. That wasn't too awful, because, like I said, school was in the wintertime, and water came in around March 15 and then usually went out about November 15, so there wasn't a lot of overlapping time there. Mother did not drive.
AHERN: If your mother didn't drive, did your father do the grocery shopping? Someone had to stay home to receive phone calls?
OAR: They did go out in the afternoon or evening for an hour or two. No, Mother did all the shopping. Dad did not like to shop. That was not part of the man's job, I guess. No, they'd probably go to town, oh, a couple times a week when they lived in Stillwater.
AHERN: Did your mother ever talk about her background or any of her memories as a child growing up?
OAR: Not a lot. She worked at the Sangamon electric plant in Springfield, Illinois, in her earlier years. I know she talked about tornadoes back there. She seen a couple of those, but nothing out of the ordinary childhood.
AHERN: Did she like living in Nevada?
OAR: I don't think she did at first, but then she got to liking it. Yes, very much so. I think the first year or two was pretty tough. Well, she lived in the city of Springfield, Illinois, which is a lot of people even in those days, and then come out to Fallon here where in 1934 there wasn't that many people around, and I think she got pretty lonely and missed all of her family and friends and sisters and brothers back there. But it grows on you, and she got used to it, and she wouldn't leave it for the world.
AHERN: Since your parents never left Fallon to go anywhere for long periods of time, did other family members come to visit much?
OAR: Not really, no. I guess my whole family was not a bunch of goers. (laughing) They pretty much stayed home. Well, once in awhile his brother would come down from Reno or sister and maybe once every two years, Dad'd drive up there. Then once I got my driver's license we went up a little bit more. That was about it. Once in awhile Dad's brother would come down, maybe stay two, three days down here, and they'd go out and ride ditch together and whatever.
AHERN: You said your father had told you stories of when he worked on the construction on the Dam. Do you recall anything that sticks to your mind?
OAR: One thing that sticks to my mind, yeah. He went into this pump house one time, and he went to throw this electrical switch, and apparently something arced or shorted out, and he said it throwed him way to hell and gone out of the pump house. I remember those exact words, and that's the vividest one I can remember. Other than that it just was pretty much normal construction, but he did not like electricity one bit. (laughing) Maybe that's one reason. Apparently, it didn't hurt him very bad, but I imagine it bruised him up and scared the heck out of him.
AHERN: But, he never really told you about how the Dam was constructed?
OAR: Oh, not really. No. If he did, I didn't remember it, or I didn't listen. You know, when you're a kid, sometimes you don't listen to your parents a whole lot telling these stories, and you look back on it and wish you had. He did tell me sometime in his lifetime he ran stage for gold bullion out of Wonder [Nevada] and brought it in to Fallon through Frenchman's Station and the road out east. There was no road. It was just a mud trail. He said that took him about five days to go there. He did tell me that, and I don't know who he was working for at the time. I don't even know how long he did that. It had to be way back in the early 1900's when Frenchman's Station was still built, so he did a lot of little things in those days.
AHERN: You mentioned that it wasn't until nine years after your parents married that they had you. Was there any specific reason for that length of period?
OAR: I think finances. Ranching was very tough in those days, and they didn't know if they were going to make it ranching or not, which I think eventually they did lose the ranch. I think my grandfather, Dad's dad, became ill, and he had to go to the hospital and have surgery. He died during surgery, and to pay the doctor bills and hospital bills, I think they had to mortgage the ranch and they lost it. This is vague memories of what he said, so that might be one reason. They just waited until they felt that they were a little more secure. Dad had a job in Hawthorne as deputy sheriff, and they felt a little more secure, and I guess they figured that's maybe the time.
AHERN: Do you recall your dad telling of all those jobs, which one was probably the most interesting?
OAR: I think probably he liked ranching most of all. I really do 'cause he did go back to it for a year or so in Dixie Valley, but he seemed to enjoy ranching. Working with cattle, animals, and just general ranching.
AHERN: Did you have a lot of animals?
OAR: Out at the ditch house? Yeah, we had some calves, a couple of cows, pigs. I had to go do the slop pig bit every morning--and that was part of growing up, I guess--and chickens. We raised our own beef, chickens, turkeys, and hogs, and that was about the extent of it.
AHERN: Did your parents slaughter the stock there, or did they take it to someone else to do it?
OAR: He did his own slaughtering of everything. Had neighbors come by and help. For that, he'd give meat or whatever.
AHERN: Do you recall how once it was slaughtered, how it was preserved?
OAR: Oh, we had freezers. Yeah, once it was butchered, cut up, and wrapped, we put it in the freezer. We had two pretty good sized chest-type freezers.
AHERN: So the stock on the family ranch was mainly for just family use.
OAR: Yes. Mainly for food.
AHERN: From riding along with your father as a young boy, did you ever think of becoming a ditchrider yourself?
OAR: It crossed my mind, but then I went in the Navy. Spent four years in there. Got into electronics and when I got out of the Navy I worked at the radio station [KVLV, Fallon] full-time. When I was in high school, I drove the Stillwater school bus.
AHERN: How old were you when you first started driving?
OAR: Seventeen. In those years you could be sixteen and drive a school bus, and I drove when I was in high school for a couple of years. After I got out of high school I worked at the transportation department here as a maintenance person for school buses, went in the Navy, and when I got out of the Navy I got interested in the radio station out here. So I got a full-time job there.
AHERN: This is the radio station KVLV?
OAR: Right. It was 1968 when I got out of the Navy and went to work there. Then a gentleman here who used to work maintenance for the school buses moved up to the supervisor's position over transportation, and they wanted to know if I wanted to come back to work as a bus maintenance, and so I did, and here I am!
AHERN: When you worked at the radio station, what did you do there?
OAR: I was a radio announcer, disc jockey. I still do it.
AHERN: I see. It was on a part-time basis.
OAR: Yeah, just part-time. More of a hobby, really. I enjoy the heck out of it. I'd love to get into it full-time, but you just can't make a whole lot of money out of that. (laughing)
AHERN: When your dad retired, what did he do with his leisure time?
OAR: Um, pretty much building garages for the property he had. He raised a garden, he liked to garden. Raised a garden, he has about 6 acres out there, he raised hay or wheat or whatever. And he would help other people remodel houses or build things, other ditchriders he knew. He always had something going. In the summertime it'd be garden and big time garden. He'd raise enough garden for everybody out in Stillwater, I think.
AHERN: If your father raised all that garden, was your mother busy canning everything?
OAR: (laughing) Used to be. She used to can peaches and all that sort of stuff in the early years, but most of the stuff we raised in the garden ended up being given away or eaten right there on the spot. When they retired they didn't do much canning.
AHERN: As an only child, were you sometimes lonely?
OAR: I don't think so. No, always could find enough to do to amuse myself. Get into some different projects. There was always something going on. As a teenager I got into electronics and radio and television. Piddled around in it. Photography. I always seemed to occupy my time.
AHERN: Were you close with your father? You seemed to have spent a lot of time with him.
OAR: Yeah, I think so, as much as any boys in those days were, yeah. Probably more so than they are now. 'Course you all go through the teenage thing, you know, like "Dad doesn't know anything anymore," but that all wears off. You look back to the time and say, "Boy, was I dumb at the time." I try to think of that. I think, in those days, kids were closer to their parents.
AHERN: Was there anything that your father wanted you to do?
OAR: Stay out of trouble. No, not really. I got involved in bus driving, radio station, and stuff like that. No, he never did say anything about what he wanted me to be. Well, I worked projectors at the theaters and the drive-in theater when I was a teenager, too. I got into that, so I guess, basically, if I got a job that's all he cared about. So I started early driving bus and running projectors at the theaters.
AHERN: What was your salary driving bus?
OAR: Forty-seven dollars a month. Started about ten minutes to seven and got home about five twenty. But, you know, forty-seven dollars a month for somebody going to high school, that's pretty good. But, looking back now, forget it. (laughing)
AHERN: What did you do with your earnings?
OAR: Probably threw them away in radio junk. Yeah, I always get into this tape recorders, radios, electronic equipment like that. I always buy something. For normal, broke all the time.
AHERN: Describe your father.
OAR: Uh, very firm. He let you know where you stand, and you didn't back-talk him. He was one of the persons that wanted respect, especially from the kid, and you're in trouble if you back-talk him. That's the biggest thing. Be disrespectful to any adult, he would come unglued. And I found it out the hard way a few times. Smart off to somebody, and I heard about it. But, a good provider, fair, but he wanted his kid to be respectful to him and any adult.
AHERN: Is there anything that stands out in your mind about him?
OAR: [whistle] Boy! That's a hard one. (laughing) Ah, not really, that I can recall.
AHERN: What about your mother?
OAR: Gentle woman. Just about all you can say. She didn't do much discipline on me. If I give her any bad time, she'd tell Dad and then stand by! Once in a while she'd get mad and swat me with a wet dish cloth or something. (laughing) But, no, she didn't get mad much at all.
AHERN: Did you ever help her with housework?
OAR: Probably not. No, I kind of stayed away from that if I could. I didn't even like staying in the house.
AHERN: When you got these jobs, your various part-time jobs as a teenager, did you just approach someone, or was it that you knew people?
OAR: Knew people. Right. The transportation supervisor here and all of us were in a citizen band radio club and an outing club. I was interested in electronic stuff. I guess I just kind of fell into it more than likely. "Do you want to try it? Do you think it'd be neat to do it?" "Oh, yeah, I'll try it," and got the job.
AHERN: Who was the supervisor?
OAR: Here at the transportation? Leland Roberson, and that was 1971. Before that time it would have been Elmo Dericco. In 1971, Leland took over. When I drove bus, Elmo Dericco was transportation supervisor.
AHERN: Do you recall any disasters other than Dixie Valley earthquake? When you moved to Fallon, did anything else happen?
OAR: No, not that I can recall. Disasters, no. Maybe high water somewhere down the line, but I don't remember it being a disaster by a long ways.
AHERN: Were there any severe snowstorms?
OAR: I remember one time when I was at Stillwater School it seemed like the snow was about a foot or two deep, but it didn't seem to stop anybody. We still had school, and we played around in it. I don't recall any large hardships right here locally. There might have been, but, like I said, being a kid, you'd never pay much attention to that anyway. Thought the snow was neat!
AHERN: Tell me about Fallon in the early days when you were a teenager.
OAR: Oh, a teenager?
AHERN: Or even younger than that. What do you remember of Fallon? I'm sure there weren't as many cars or people.
OAR: No, I'm sure there wasn't. I can vaguely remember the parking in the center of Maine Street. Other than that, Maine Street's pretty much the same as it was back then. 'Course there wasn't much past West End School. Everything was pretty much alfalfa fields back in those days. East of Fallon hasn't changed. E.C. Best [School] wasn't here at the time, though. The old bus sheds right across the street here were there, but the east part of town has not changed much. Basically, west is the biggest change, a little north.
AHERN: When you said parking in the center of the street?
OAR: Well, you know how they park now? Okay, in the center of Maine Street, they used to have parking. The cars were parked parallel. If you look back somewhere in the Museum pictures I'm sure you'd see that. Don’t remember what year that was. Probably ’50? I’m not sure. I still remember the Christmas tree being put up in those years, too. Seen Santa Claus on Saturday afternoons, I think.
AHERN: Mr. Oar, thank you for allowing me to interview on behalf of the Churchill County Museum.
OAR: My pleasure. Thank you.