Harold Fitz Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
This interview was conducted by Bill Davis; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum. Transcribed by Raeburn Sottile
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.
Content warning: Inclusion of an anti-Roma slur around 48:50.
DAVIS: -Interviewer for the Churchill County Museum Oral History program. I'm going to be talking to Harold Fitz at 1205 Rancho Drive, and today is October the second, 1990. We're sitting in the…
DAVIS: Kitchen, and, Harold, can you start out by telling me what some of your early memories were and how old you were at that time?
FITZ: Well, I'll do my darndest, but actually… my dad and my mother and I know they had a cook named Margo. I'll take- well, it don't make a difference. But anyway, it must have been right on the river.
DAVIS: This is in Michigan?
FITZ: The Looking Glass River, in Michigan.
FITZ: And anyway, in those days there was steamers. The main form of transportation was either boats or trains. Well, anyway, this particular Looking Glass River there must have been one or two boats that went up and down the… And I got on one of those, and I still remember getting in the pass, you know, and who the hell whatever [?], as a three, four year old kid. You'd just not expect it… his parents were there. So I rode down. This not only happened once, but I think it happened several times. Down the next place and came back. I forgot to mention where I'd been to my folks. [laughter] And then another time, I don't know what the Dickens I was doing… we must have lived close to the depot too because in those days the depots had a ramp up that you walked up, you know, to… just like this in the old [inaudible] at one time. In those days they had them horsecars. And each horse had a stall by itself. It was partitioned off. And I got on that car, you know, just stepped in from the platform into it. And there must have been a door on the other side opened, but there was some hobo in there, and he took me by the arms and the nape of the neck and dropped me over the side on the ground on the side and told me to go home.
FITZ: And I've always been so grateful for that, you know, he must have been a pretty good person.
DAVIS: Sure. Now, your folks moved from Michigan…
FITZ: To Los Angeles. I don't know why, I don't have no… but my grandmom was down there and why she got there, I don't know that either.
DAVIS: Okay, about how old were you then?
FITZ: I could have been 4 or 5.
DAVIS: Okay, yeah.
FITZ: And then my folks… Oh, I don't know. My dad had a bug in his head. He wanted to be a rancher. So he and his brother – he had a brother down there too, moved, come from Michigan – and they went up to Oregon and they bought a stretch [sixth?] of land and the Row River [possibly Rogue River, both of which are in Oregon] ran right through the middle of it. And I still remember them going out and going over about 10, 12 feet on this big tree and making what they call a… we notched the tree and put a plank in it, you know, to stand on. And why they had to go take the biggest one to cut up for firewood and go to the railroads I don't know. But they had to get, like I say, about 10, 12 feet off the ground in order to do this well.
DAVIS: When did the family come to Fallon?
FITZ: Six months later I think.
DAVIS: Okay, from Oregon?
FITZ: Uh-huh, because it rained all the time. Rained all the time.
DAVIS: So you where, what, five or six [overtalk]
FITZ: Five, because I… sent the following year to grammar school down in Stillwater.
DAVIS: Mmm-hmm, mmm-hmm. Then your dad was in… got into farming?
FITZ: Yes, and you know those people who came here originally didn't have anymore conception of what irrigation was than the man in the moon. He bought… well, it's what they call a releasement. He bought a releasement from one of the DeArmonds [?] 80-acres out in Stillwater. He bought two mules and a Fresno [scraper]. And do you know what a Fresno is?
DAVIS: Oh yes.
FITZ: Do you know what mules are? [pauses] see what I'm getting at? They had no conception what it took to irrigate, and we lived in a 12x12 tent for one year, and it had… floors made of 1x12s. And I don't know whether my dad did it on purpose now, but he left little cracks between the boards. And anyway, they'd already built the house a year later. My brother Douglass said to my dad, I still remember that because my folks remembered it, but anyway he said "Dad, aren't you gonna leave some cracks in the- Oh no, where is mother gonna sweep her dirt into?
FITZ: You know, a thing like that darn… And another thing, darn it! Now this, talking about my childhood memories, I must have been 10 or 12 at the time. …I wanna go back a little bit further. When I started school down in Stillwater, all the brush was at least, as far as I was concerned, six feet tall. It probably was four feet tall. It was all over. It wasn't like now. And my mother took me to the brush and handed me just about a mile on an airplane to some neighbors by the name of Simmons, and they had two girls, Allie and Esmée [?],I remember that. And they must have been 13 or 14 years, 12 or 13, 14, and I'd walk with them to school. And then it had to be at least two miles from the Simmons place. So I had a little warmup before I got started.
DAVIS: [laughs] Yeah! What do you remember about school?
DAVIS: What do you remember about school?
FITZ: Well, I can remember the teacher lying me down on- they had double desks in those days. Take a little nap.
DAVIS: Were there a lot of kids in school, did it seem like?
FITZ: Oh, I could show you a picture, but I think there was possibly, maybe 20.
DAVIS: Yeah. And one teacher?
FITZ: One teacher. From one grade to eight. And most of them did a very good job, and especially this one, Mrs. Luce. Kessin Luce's… There was an excellent teacher. I don't know how she did it but… she left many things in my head that stuck.
DAVIS: Were you a pretty good student?
FITZ: Well, yes, I think so, because I'm not like some of these stupid kids today the way where I'll read the paper. I wanted to learn and there's none of us kids in that school that wanted to fail, you know? We wanted to pass to the next grade, we didn't wanna be a dummy and stay in the same grade for two years in succession!
DAVIS: Sure. Did you walk to school most all the school years?
FITZ: Until I got big enough that we could see over the brush, and my dad bought my brother and myself a pony, which rode to school right through the years.
DAVIS: Yeah. [Long pause]. Okay, your father… how was the ranching going, or what did ranching consist of and when were you… began to be aware of the farming and the problems and the water?
FITZ: Oh gosh, I don't know, really, but I would say I must have been 10, 12 years old, but I can still remember my- Like I told you, my dad knew nothing about irrigation. So they'd- he'd do like the rest did- use his eye, put up a levy around, could be he'd done it pretty good there. Ass settlers, how that goes, you know, half acre, an acre of ground, you know, and close to the dirt levy. And I can still remember he and my mother taking a… a box. I suppose the box was about two feet long and maybe a foot and a half wide, something like that, and putting a rope on each end and carrying dirt and building up these levies up when there's flood irrigation over the first year. [Long pause] because… well, I don’t know. There had to be some reason for it because normally you could shovel dirt from the… dry soil.
DAVIS: Uh-huh, uh-huh. What kind of soil was down there?
FITZ: Adobe. Sticky adobe.
DAVIS: Now where was the water coming from?
FITZ: Well, it had to be coming out of the Carson River at that time, because the dam wasn't completed. [Ed- Fitz was born in 1902, so he is likely talking about the Lahontan Dam, which was completed in 1914. However, by the time he moved to Fallon, there would have been a good amount of water coming from the Truckee River via Derby Dam and the Truckee Canal, both of which were completed in 1905] I wanna talk about that. I can tell you one thing that I'll always remember. They said not to do it again, but anyway I was on this here water boat one winter, and Eddie Harriman was talking about the trouble they had in the early days of the water. Each one wanted to irrigate more or less at the same time, so they'd all build a temporary dam of brush. But anyway, some fellow got in there who got… he… some, like a trim person. And he had barbed wire from one side of the river to the other with brush fastened to it to retard the water. And he tried to stay awake, and he laid down with his shotgun, and I think it was Eddie Harriman, crept up and cut the wire so… and let him sleep so the water went. A lot of funny things took place. And on that same subject, every time I go to Carson now there's a spring just the other side of those hills before you come to Silver Springs. And I don't know weather it was Eddie Harriman's… I think it was Eddie Harriman's mother, she- I don't know what the dickens she was doing. Maybe she was teaching school someplace over there. Okay, she had a buggy, and she stopped to water the horse at that springs, and she didn't apparently hang onto the reins or anything and the horse took off.
FITZ: And she followed him on foot for several miles until he slowed down and she put up and got in the buggy. Now that had nothing to do with me, it just…
DAVIS: Yeah. It's an incident [laughs]
FITZ: Things that sit in my mind. Oh, I shouldn't tell you, but this duck I had- I had a duck. Red duck. And every night when I come home from school he'd greet me. I always had a little grain in my pocket, and he'd stick his nose there, there in my pockets, you know, eating the grain out. And one day he came up missing, and my gosh we couldn't find him for a long time, and one day he came waddling into the yard, found out where I was. Well, my dad had just finished irrigating a day or two before and our back yard, you know it was… You know, a duck's foot is a big impression. Right to where it absolutely ended, so I'd sort of come to the conclusion that a hawk or an eagle had… picked him up and… again dropped him and he didn't know where home was. I can't explain any other way! You know, you've got…
DAVIS: You must have been pretty young then, huh?
FITZ: Oh… 10, 12, maybe 8. I don't know.
DAVIS: Yeah, mmm-hmm. So after you graduated from Stillwater, well now did they have any irrigation by then?
FITZ: Had the what?
DAVIS: Any irrigation.
FITZ: From the dam?
FITZ: Oh, sure.
DAVIS: By then. Yeah, uh-huh. You don't have really any concrete or any specific memories of that?
FITZ: The dam itself?
DAVIS: Yeah. No? Okay.
FITZ: Practically everything I know about the Dam I've read.
DAVIS: Sure, sure. Well, we're interested in the… the eyewitness-type thing. So then after the Stillwater school, you spent some time in Los Angeles?
FITZ: Well, not immediately. First I worked on the General Land Office survey party, and I remember that we partitioned off Churchill County and made Pershing county out of it. [ED- Pershing County was formed form Humboldt County in 1919] And I liked it. But the next thing I think that I did… I don't know. [Long pause] Well, on this survey party, a fellow by the name of Charlie Donovan, and his folks are the Donovans over in Silver City… I don't know how in the dickens, but he must have told me to come over there or something like that and I could find work, which I did.
DAVIS: Mm-hmm. Now what were you doing for them? I mean, what was your job on that?
FITZ: On the survey party?
FITZ: I was what they call – wait a minute, let me think – I think what they called a head flanker. In other words, I had- they gave me a horse called Silverhorn, and I'd go ahead, you know, and put foresight down and pass a flank angle so he'd put a pole up, you'd see the poles. White a foot and red a foot and white a foot, same again. Stick one end in the ground. And then, oh gee, yes I can understand now. Because we were in mountainous country, we could share the time and the transit man [?] couldn't see, you know, so the chain man could see this pole so they'd line themselves up and go that way. Those days, surveying wasn't exactly what you'd call precision work.
DAVIS: But they got it done. So you surveyed Churchill County and Pershing?
FITZ: Yes, I was pretty… helped partitioning.
DAVIS: Okay, and how long did you work for them, do you suppose?
FITZ: One season. Just seasonal work.
DAVIS: Yeah. And after that what happened?
FITZ: I must have gone on towards Virginia City and worked there for a bit. Because I had to do that when I was around eighteen or nineteen.
DAVIS: That was mines? In the mine?
DAVIS: What did you do in the mine?
FITZ: I was a mucker, that’s about as far as you could get on the totem pole was-
DAVIS: Was that for a year or one season or…?
FITZ: Well I don't… really don't know. I really don't know. No, I actually worked up to more of them [?]. Well, I got form showed out there at least [?] Oh, well wait a minute, I'm going back a little bit further. One time when I let out, aside from home I know that, and I wound up in Yerington and they were building that stagnential Boies [?] reservoir, and I hired out. I didn't want to take what I was doing. I hired out as a muleskinner. Now, if you ever go four mules on a Fresno, went down and scooped your dirt up, went up the bank and dumped it. Turned right around and I got in all those motions. And I don't know how much it cost me to get there, but I could have swore as soon as I got on the job that I wasn't gonna do so… got my money back. Did I invest? I Quit, I stayed about a year, I think. And like I said now, I'm not trying to kid you a bit, but I was a good worker… But anyway, what they were doing, they were running a tunnel through a hill and digging a canal down a mile or two into the river again. And this tunnel had a… what do you call it?
FITZ: Shaft, yes. But anyway, the general foreman went to Yerington and got a big job for several days. Now, remember, I was only 18 and those two contractors, Rebel and Case [?] told me to go up and get that job up there on the shaft. Well, hell! I never even, you really might say, seen the blueprint before! I went up there and set the [incomprehensible] and told them to deal with it.
DAVIS: You took over?
FITZ: Uh-huh. And I was always proud of that. Actually proud of that.
FITZ: That these two men… one of them was actually a graduate of Yale, and they were in the construction business for several years and they had enough competency that they made me do it. I don't think I’d have done it.
DAVIS: [Laughs] They had confidence in you or needed someone, huh?
FITZ: Yes, they sure did. And also, maybe… Well, actually I ran the concrete mixer, so I was a boss of that particular gang, you know.
DAVIS: All that was over near…
DAVIS: Near Topaz. What happened after that with you?
FITZ: Well, I dare say that's when maybe I graduated to Minehido [?], you know, keeping a diary in my…
DAVIS: Oh no. [Long pause] But you eventually got back to Fallon.
FITZ: Oh. [Clears throat] Well I'll tell you, at the time I was working for the City of Los Angeles in the Department of Light, and a fellow by the name of Rikes [?] was the head of that. Well anyway, I became interested in getting my head when I was about 26, something like that. So I went up to him, and I said Mr. Rikes, what could I like forward to here if I… I'm not going to explain, but I want to get married. I still see the dirty sinner, he said it. "Fitz, as long as I have a job, you'll have a job." I said, "Fine, I'll get married." He said, "You go right ahead." Well, about a month or two later the people of Los Angeles voted no on a bond issue, and Rikes had a job and I didn't.
FITZ: Well, I had enough brains while I was working. I went broke once. Oh, I forgot all about that. But anyway, this had to be 1917 or early possibly 1918. Some of my brothers came out to visit my folks, and anyway, they said, "Come back to Michigan." And "There's all kinds of jobs if you'd be willing to train." So my folks thought that was a good idea and so did I, so but I went back there. And I'd only been back there a week and armistice was declared, so as fast as I could get some sort of a job I'd lose it. You know, somebody'd come back and reclaim it. Well anyway, I wound up – Now this may sound funny nowadays with all this damn welfare – working for the Western Union during the daytime as a messenger boy on a bicycle. I made roughly a dollar a day. That was… you paid me for the message and the time. You didn't get paid by the hour, and you didn't stand around and bitch and beller all the time either. But at nighttime I worked at a hotel for my room and board, and the board was fine but the room was horrible. I still remember a rat run on my bed at night. Well anyway, I'd saved I don't remember how much money. And I wrote to my folks and said "Send me forty or some odd dollars." I think the fare back to here was eighty dollars. And I came back. And I hadn't learned a trade, but I'd learned one thing: Never be without money.
FITZ: And that stuck with me and, by god, it still sticks with me. All my life since that time, and especially after I got married, I wanted to be in a position where I wouldn't be a burden on my kids, the county, or the state or the United States and by god I've been successful, and I intend to stay that way.
DAVIS: Now after you got back from Michigan you came back to Fallon. What happened at that time?
FITZ: I think that's honestly about the time I started for that General Land Office survey department.
DAVIS: Okay, okay, so you went to the land office, then you were…
FITZ: Then I think I went over to…
DAVIS: Topaz job, maybe?
FITZ: Topaz, I think.
DAVIS: And then after Topaz,
FITZ: Then I went to Virginia City, into Gold Hill.
DAVIS: Okay, and you were a mucker in the mine there.
DAVIS: How long did that last?
FITZ: I couldn't tell you, but at least a year. I'm sure of that. [Long pause] Because, like I say, I was a good worker. They could depend on me. And I never had a job yet that I couldn't get it and pass it to some jerk [?] right off the bat.
DAVIS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So now you weren't married yet at that time? Okay.
FITZ: Well, that brings up something else I did while I was single. [Long pause] My brother and… Donald and myself were down in Los Angeles working on survey [?] parts at the time, and I decided that I wanted to go over to Honolulu. Well, I don't remember what the fare was, but it didn't make a difference. But I had an uncle down there that had been… He'd been sort of a [tape cuts]
FITZ: No, let's go a little bit further.
FITZ: While I was still surveying, every year… I'd quit my job for some reason or another. Well, just… I'd got tell them that I wanted… wanted to quit in a week or two and I'd go get on a boat or go someplace. Like one time I went down to Cuba and… I'm a little bit ashamed of this, that's something maybe they do nowadays. Well anyway, I went broke. Theoretically I had $80 left, and I walked up to the United States Consul or something like that and I heard other people talking, do this. They said if you get stranded in a foreign country just go to the department… Consul and they'll send you back home. Well, I thought that was an excellent idea. So I went, told them that I wanted to go back home. "Very good." So he sent me back to New Orleans and, now this was tough times in some ways. [Long pause] So anyway, I couldn't get a job to save my neck and I didn't wanna spend that $80 because I want- Very clear on that, I always wanted money in my pocket. So what did I know? One of the looking back shifts [?] they were a stingy… poor bloodline. They had a dreadful reputation. And I told the chief engineer, I said "Can I get a job?" "No," but he said, "If you stow away, you could stow away if you wanted to." And he said "Just bring your suitcase. I'll put it in my cabin." So I marched up the gangplank with my suitcase. I told the fellows doing the… quartermaster doing the gangplank that I'm to see the chief engineer. Okay, so I went down and I knocked on his door and he took my suitcase, then I went and hid out right in the stern of the ship right where shaft went through the… boat. And the mosquitoes that year were as big as my thumbnail in New Orleans. And I hid in a coil of rope, big coil of rope that was probably 6 inches in diameter, the rope. And I didn't dare yell or scream or get up because once in a while some oiler would come back there to squirt a little oil on the shaft and look at things. And that damn boat was supposed to leave at midnight, and I think I got in there about 11… 8, 9 o'clock, something like that. And the darn thing didn't really leave until 4 o'clock in the morning, I think, and I had to bat the mosquitoes and stay there. And when we got out- I could tell as soon as we got on the Gulf, the regular motion of waves. So by that time it was breakfast time, and I walked up, went to the bridge, and I said to the captain, captain was on the bridge. I said "I stowed away on your boat last night." He said, "The hell you did," and I said, "yes." I said, "Now were do I get something to eat?" "Well, you go down there." [Ed- the following sentence is particularly difficult to make out, so take all of it with a grain of salt] And I said no more, sat down and started eating and boy he sent as a sailor out to me and I'd tell him if he know him and he got me and he shirt sleeved me up – Whoosh! Gonna send me down to [unintelligible], go to Panama, gonna send me ashore under the canal zone pace, send me back to New York to stand trial, you know they could do that to you, stealing, why [?]… But when I got… Well, anyway the first… The first job that engineer gave me, had to clean the cylinder out, soot in some way. So they put a gunnysack over my head, cut little eye holes, and I think one piece of that sack… I went in there and mucked all that crud out. Black as an ace of spades when I got out. I don't think I ever got clean, because they didn't have hot water in the shower, that I remember. Had just soap and cool water. Well, anyway, I found out later – a day or two later I guess it was – that that first mate turned the ship upside down on top looking for me and whatever crazy he could think of. And at the end of that night, supper or whatever you want to call it, he was complaining he couldn't find me. Well, the chief engineer said, "Oh, he's been down working for me all day. He's a good worker!"
FITZ: And by god I was good enough that when we got through the canal, instead of kicking me off I thought that dirty seaman gonna make me work all the way through the canal and then kick me off, instead of that they offered me a job as oiler. That’s what you get when you… in those days anyway when you didn't shirk.
DAVIS: Sure. Okay, well, let's get back to Fallon if you can.
FITZ: Okay. Now, when Rikes told me- No, when did Rikes…? Let me… I did this and I did that… But I still had several hundred dollars saved up. Well, when that started to disappear, I don’t intend to be a farmer and in the end… so I came back and borrowed some money from my mother and bought eighty acres and stuck my nose to the grindstone. And don't tell me about the grindstones in those days! For years, wheat had been $40 a ton, and I had the entire 80 in wheat, and the first year I had it to sell it was $30. The next year, $25. The third year $20. And on the fourth year I think it got down to $18. My god, I was sure tempted to give up. But you could look into the future and think of everything you ever turned out, I guess [?] And there certainly wasn't any profit. We'd been eating vey high on the hog and then…
DAVIS: And then not?
FITZ: No, sir. And we were very careful about gasoline. I had a gasoline tractor so I got gasoline from… benders [?] we'll say for… I think around 20 cents a gallon, no, maybe even 10 cents a gallon.
DAVIS: Okay, now you were married by this time?
FITZ: Oh yes. Maybe even ten cents… [End of tape 1 side A] They'd already started a rifle club down in Stillwater. Because it wasn't finished, we had to go up and do some shoveling and so forth and so on, you know, to make the pits for the… tires.
DAVIS: And this team did real well?
FITZ: Well, I did well as an individual, and as a… Well, that's why I got on the state team was shooting over in Carson City as an individual.
DAVIS: And how far did that take you? I mean, how far did you go as far as-
FITZ: Well, the first year that I shot over there in competition I took third. The second year was the second place. The third year I took first place. I think I put those in the safe deposit box just a few days ago. They were missing for a long time. You know, I lost track of where they were.
DAVIS: And you were on the national team?
FITZ: Yes. National rifle team.
DAVIS: Okay… Now, how did the ranching business turn out for you?
FITZ: Well, it couldn't have been too good. Because when Roosevelt was elected they started that praise [?] program… to work. Dean Stewart was project manager, and I went up to him and I said… He was gonna start something, and I don't remember exactly what you call it, but anyway, "I want the boss' job. You give it to me." And then that program was finished but another one was started, and I was a boss on that too.
DAVIS: How much land did you own down there? Did you own that land, I mean…
FITZ: I paid for it.
DAVIS: Okay. Were you in partnership with anyone or anything like that?
DAVIS: No? Okay.
FITZ: The only partnerships I had in those days… I owed money to the… caterpillar company in Reno, and I owed it to the person I bought the land from. He's a fellow by the name of Brannon. He was a railroad man.
DAVIS: Now are… you were involved with the… working on the concrete structures around, CC's [Civilian Conservation Corps] and so forth?
FITZ: Oh yes.
DAVIS: When did that come about?
DAVIS: [Overtalk] Around, or was it something you did?
FITZ: -Started that CCC business, I wrote the Scrugham, which I knew slightly and told him I wanted a job. So I became a foreman. And some of my neighbors… I think you'd better erase this, but some of my neighbors were always a little bit jealous of me, I think, because I always wound up the… Shift this off, just because I want to tell you.
DAVIS: Sure. [tape cuts]
FITZ: And then one time after, in Los Angeles there I was boarding [unintelligible] and I couldn't find a job. I couldn't find a job. That's in the Depression, just trying, I guess.
FITZ: And I walked, and I walked, and I walked. A nickel… of course, the car fare was a nickel in those days. Well anyway I wound up in one of the best jobs I ever had. Got on as a chainman on this… for the Southern California Edison Company and just… oh a month or two in they made me a transit man. In other words, I was the guy that ran the transit. And I worked that for about three years. And setting in the meantime too. And then that particular job closed down. They was running a transmission line from I think what they call Big Crew. That sounds right. To Los Angeles. You know the big transmission line? Those great big steel towers? And then what in the Dickens did I do? With the bureau of…
DAVIS: A CC Corps, right?
FITZ: …I know after being on the Bureau of Reclamation, it was the Bureau of Reclamation, uh-huh.
DAVIS: And what was the main… what was your main function and what happened as a result of that?
FITZ: Well, as you've probably noticed in this here lifetime, there's a whole lot of concrete structures around here that said B.R.
DAVIS: They have the date on them. I know they have the date.
FITZ: And they have the camp. We had two camps here, and I don't remember the names of none of the camps. And then-
DAVIS: Now where were they located here in town?
FITZ: Well, one of them was located by where… the Stockman is now, I say [1560 W Williams Ave], and the other one was located on the other side of the railroad track. [Long pause] Guess that's the other side of the railroad track where that… big warehouse is now.
DAVIS: I see….
FITZ: I'm not to sure about that but…
DAVIS: By the district yards?
FITZ: Someplace by the district yard, where the district yard was earlier.
DAVIS: Yeah, okay. And you supervised the workers?
DAVIS: Or assigned work or what?
FITZ: No, actually, what you did- they had several CC foremans, and… Well, sometimes I had two truckloads of them. I forget how many was in a truck. Somewhere around 18 or 20, I think.
DAVIS: How many in camp altogether? How many…
FITZ: Men were in camp or boys were in camp?
DAVIS: Yeah. About.
FITZ: [Long pause]. Well, you've got me. I could have told you one time, but I'd say 150, 200 something like that.
DAVIS: Okay, does that include both of the camps?
FITZ: No. Each camp.
DAVIS: Each camp. You had quite a few then.
FITZ: Because they had… Enlistment payed you 6 months, I think, and a lot of them went back each time. They think on that as a pretty good deal. The kids nowadays would turn up their nose at it, but those kids got, I think, thirty dollars a month, theoretically. They'd get to keep five, and twenty-five went to their folks. Now imagine the kids today doing something like that!
DAVIS: You felt it was a pretty positive program?
DAVIS: You felt it was a positive program?
FITZ: Definitely. Definitely.
DAVIS: What all were they involved in here?
FITZ: Well, gosh, I couldn't tell you.
DAVIS: But your… from your involvement with them.
FITZ: Okay… Well, we did a lot of riprap.
DAVIS: To keep the washing- dirt from washing?
FITZ: Yes. And some crews, they did a lot of brushing canals. All the dredges and everything around here were…
DAVIS: When did they start using concrete?
FITZ: I couldn't tell you that. Right off the bat I think. We always had several posses going through at the time. The concrete… Oh, I know one time I had two truckloads of boys, I think, take that old redwood structures around here, you know, that was put in years before and never-
DAVIS: The original? The original?
FITZ: Yes. Wallace was the project manager, that guy. And I know, for instance, that we saved the district an awful lot of money. You don't think about it, except when we're using it. And Walter Wallace, he was a Scotchman, he said, and he inherited it… Come to think about it, you must be Scotch in those! [?]
DAVIS: Some. Then when did the CCs break apart, or…
FITZ: Well, when World War Two broke out. It wasn't too long afterwards that they disbanded. Well, actually, a lot of the boys went into the Army, you know, and Navy right away. Because I'd preached to them- Well, now I won't say preached – But I used to tell them, I'd say "If you can't do anything else, join the army or navy, put in your 20 years, and get your pension. I knew fellows that had done that. And then they could… If they joined at 16, they'd have their pension when they was 26, or 36 I should say, and they were comparatively young people and they could start doing something else. And several of them took my advice, then, and gone out.
DAVIS: Now I've got a note here in my folder here that there was some kind of an explosion on the ranch once and you were injured?
DAVIS: What was that all about? I mean, how did that come about?
FITZ: Well, for at least 75 years my wife and I have been taking a vacation every year, from two weeks to six weeks, and this particular time I think we'd been away about a month. And before I left, I told the person – I can't think of his name, but he's still around here. – Not to put any more propane gas in the tank. I had a 300-gallon tank, I think. I didn't want it chock-full, but he did, and it put too much pressure on some of the gauges down in the… And anyway, we'd been away for a month and we came home about, I don't know, maybe September, October something like that. I went down in the basement and started to light a match and boof! Well, it damn near killed me, and my wife… she'd forgotten something, left something in the refrigerator, you know, and shut the door and it had all spoiled and she [laughing] first thing she did when we got home, she opened the door part way and looked, because she must have had in her mind it had spoiled, and she had her head in there cleaning out when the explosion. Well, Donald Weishaupt was passing by on a tractor and he said that house jumped a foot off the foundation!
FITZ: I don't know whether it did or not, but it sure opened it up, I know that! Darn near right me too.
DAVIS: What were your injuries?
DAVIS: What were your injuries? [louder] What were your injuries?
FITZ: Oh. I must have been burned quite badly, because one of the doctors in Reno told my wife, "your husband wont have any ears and he won't have any fingers." And they skinned me like a jackrabbit, and all these fingers are handmade, you might say. But you can tell because they don't have any hair to speak of.
DAVIS: Yeah, but they're functioning pretty good!
FITZ: Oh boy, you don't think that… that little nurse only weighed about a hundred pounds, but my god she made me scream like a baby when she was bending my fingers, you know.
DAVIS: Making you do it?
FITZ: Yes. Well, that hurts, you know. To begin with, that dark doctor put, one thing he done, he put nails in each one of my fingers so they wouldn't curl up. But when he took them out, I think he hit some of the nerves. You take that little nurse… I don't think she was 90 pounds. She'd just make me squeal like… I didn't cuss too loud, but I can assure you a lot of yelling. I squealed. And I concentrated on that. I wanted to hunt and I wanted to fish, and this I didn't particularly care about so much. I only want to be able to-
DAVIS: So you kept flexing your hand.
FITZ: Yes. As long as… when I found out I could hold a gun or fishing rod, that's as far as I went in that program.
FITZ: A little too much.
DAVIS: Now you were also a legislator for a while?
DAVIS: How did that come about? How did you get into that?
FITZ: I don’t know why, but I'd ran a couple times. Once, at least, before and lost by…
DAVIS: How was that in… Which house of the…? Was it assembly or the senate?
FITZ: Assembly, yes.
DAVIS: The assembly, yeah.
FITZ: I think I lost once by 20 votes. And another time, the last time I ran I was working as a location Engineer down in Hawthorne, I think I lost by 200 votes. And people afterwards they said they thought it was funny that I'd want to quit a good job and take that job. Little did they know, my purpose. My purpose was down there it was hotter than the devil in the summertime. Actually, I just to have one of the… the heat on that sand down there-
DAVIS: This is Hawthorne?
FITZ: Yes, Hawthorne. I put some stakes down to stand on. You know, you just had to stand there, you couldn't jump around very much.
DAVIS: Now what were you doing?
FITZ: I was running a survey party. In the winter you'd freeze. God, the wind blew from the north every day then. I put every rag I had on me on and tried to keep warm.
DAVIS: Now you represented Churchill, Mineral county or..?
FITZ: Just Churchill.
DAVIS: Churchill, yeah. How long were you over there?
FITZ: Two years.
DAVIS: Okay, what did… what were your impressions of the process, legislators process?
FITZ: Well, to begin with, they all goof off.
FITZ: I don't think any of them have any intention of doing an honest day's work or trying to get something accomplished. And the attorneys in Reno, or from Reno especially, they'd get somebody to say yes when their name was called on the roll call, and then they'd show up at 2 or 3 o'clock, just in time to… so they'd get their paycheck, you know, go back to Reno and attend their business again.
DAVIS: What years were you a legislator over there?
FITZ: I think '60 and '61, but I'm not sure about that. Maybe '59, '60? I don't remember.
DAVIS: Were there any significant situations or problems in the legislature at that time? That you remember?
FITZ: Well… no I can't say I remember anything particularly, except one thing they did do, and I always thought it was sort of silly, they eliminated a bunch of the old laws, you know, that they said didn't have any significance now, but then… I do remember one thing I voted no on. I knew I was going to be beat and I was beat. They wanted to eliminate dueling. I thought, by god if two men want to shoot each other, as far as I'm concerned let them shoot. Well they shoot anyway!
FITZ: No… these legislators can talk about how hard they work. Now just about a week ago or something like that, my wife and I took 10 days, two weeks and went back to… I wanted to see some of those historical battlefields and things like that, you know. Where history was made. Like Independence Hall [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] and things like that. Gettysburg and Jamestown and things like that. Well, anyway, one day I went into the Virginia senate room. Now that senate room was put in all the comforts of home, and some they don't have.
DAVIS: This is the Nevada Legislature's…?
FITZ: Yes. I stayed there and they-
DAVIS: That was in Pennsylvania?
FITZ: No, Virginia.
DAVIS: Virginia, rather.
FITZ: They've been legislating for 300 years, I'm sure of that, and they still have straight-backed chairs. And they didn't have… oh Christ…
DAVIS: Now how does that compare with Nevada? I mean…
FITZ: Well I think they're a bunch of… Gyps, the whole, every one of them! Well, I won't say every one of them. Two or three of them, oh half a dozen or so probably good men, but most of them are just… Some of them even introduce 32 bills well now I've… I've got the dope, but I think it is. I think the senate last session had 1100 and some odd bills introduced. The senate had 2000-something I think, and they passed 1000 I think it was. Well now that one thing alone will show you most of them are frivolous nonsensical bills, and they cost money to produce those bills. They spent six million dollars last session, and then they had a… They pat themselves all on the back and everything's hunkey-dory they hold themselves a raise, you know of the pension. A month or two later they went back and [unintelligible] they repealed it. Now they're all asking for their jobs back. But in the meantime they'll always tell you how hard they work, how underpaid they are, and how much money they could make if they stayed home. Well, by God, I'm gonna let them stay home as far as I'm concerned!
DAVIS: There was an article in one of the older papers that said that you'd made quite a significant donation to UNR [University of Nevada Reno]. Can you tell us about that?
FITZ: Well that's sort of bragging but… what we did… we've had it in our will for years to leave some money to the University, you know, and one day my wife says, "Hell, why can't we do it while we're living?" I thought a minute and I said, "Why, I don't see any reason why we can't." So… We fixed it so that… I think it'll start taking effect in… you know, in the University when they start up again. Second half of it.
DAVIS: Oh, uh-huh.
FITZ: So that some… student… from Churchill… Will have a $2,000… what do you call it?
FITZ: But anyway, I want him to pay back $1000 of it after 3 years at $350 dollars a year, you know, it'd take him 3 years. If anybody can't pay $350 a year back, why… they're not worth very much. And the other's a gift. And I have hopes in a few years that'll increase so, you know, maybe they'll have two scholarships, and pretty soon 3, 4 should… In other words, I want it to be self-sustaining forever. And on top of that, I'll just treat you and I equals. [?] [slight tape damage] – Southern California somebody is trashing them. And there's a vale line, you go straight up and you see down there, down around deep there. Well, every one of them sound like a party then, there was five, usually 5 but sometimes 6. I try to make it up to the top of that hill. And I carried a 35 pound transit, and a canteen, and an old book, you know things like that, and my lunch. Well anyway one time, now this was when Jack Dempsey was In his prime… I've forgotten what his chest expansion was. One day we got to talking, and we raised our chests and by god I could beat Dempsey's chest expansion.
DAVIS: Oh really? [Laughs]
FITZ: And I hadn't intended to do that or anything like that, but that just was… climbing hills, you know, and… not goofing off, trying to get to the top first was
DAVIS: Well, you like to be first.
DAVIS: So do I!
FITZ: [Laughs] You don't feel like a cow, or herded cattle. There's the one that's in the lead, there's the ones that's in the middle, and there're ones in the back. And the ones in the back get the dust, the ones in the middle get the crowding, and the only ones that're comfortable are the ones in the lead.
FITZ: I think that applies to humans when they go too.
FITZ: Well, anyway I mentioned Lee Simmons had two girls I walked to school with. Well, anyway, one night, or one day- it had to be in the daytime of course because… we'd walk. My folks and us two boys walked over to Simmons. I don't know why, I just spent the afternoon talking. And that must have been just when Wilbur Wright took their flight, you know [December 17, 1903 was the first flight, so probably not then] and they were talking about it, and my dad made one statement that stuck with me ever since. I can still see him, hear him say, "I wouldn't be surprised some day they could fly to the moon." Well he had no idea that, you know what, that there wasn't air out there or anything like that.
DAVIS: What do you remember about the first automobiles?
FITZ: Well, I'll tell you, Charlie Cirac I think was possibly a millionaire in those days, I'm not sure. He ran a saloon and a boarding house down in Stillwater. He built the saloon, named it Two Brick [?] Saloon. And while I was going to grammar school, he bought himself a car. I don't remember the name of it. But anyway, it had a chain drive, you know, sort of a bicycle chain. And he wanted to… each several one of us kids, give us a ride around the yard, you know. [murmurs to self] well, it sure made an impression on me, because I can still remember it.
DAVIS: Yeah. How about, how were the roads in those days?
FITZ: Well there weren't roads, just ruts.
DAVIS: Ruts. Trails?
FITZ: Trails and ruts. Actually, when my wife and I came up here from Los Angeles and started farming, she drove part of the time between Carson and Fallon. It was just two ruts with a chuckhole every 5 feet, I'd say, and then Jackrabbits. Good lord, there was a thousand dead jackrabbits that year.
DAVIS: Mmm-hmm. Now what were you- what kind of a vehicle were you in?
FITZ: I had a Chevrolet Coup, which wasn't paid for. We bought that on a funeral[?] agreement… process I guess, that's what they called…
DAVIS: That must have been quite a trip those days!
FITZ: It was. You know, actually, when I was working for the power… bureau of power and light up there in Big Creek. Big Creek? That doesn't sound right… Son of a gun that doesn't sound right, where did I…? Well anyway… I don't remember what became of it, but anyway, City of Los Angeles had a camp there of 30 or 40 men. Or 50 maybe, I don't remember. I'll tell you a little- there's something on my… but anyway, on Sunday my wife and I would take a ride in this same Chevrolet, and I bought her a Labrador dog, you know, one of those sled dogs? And he'd sit on or lie on the back of the seat, there was a shelf about a foot wide. That's where the dog would lie. But anyway, we never went out, I don't think, one Sunday to do- I didn't expect to have a flat tire really.
DAVIS: [Laughs] Oh dear.
FITZ: You do your darndest to miss the rocks and things like that, but the tires were… cars… tires in those days weren't good at all, just made of canvas you might say. A little thing coated in rubber on the outside. In order to- if you had a flat tire, then you put the spare on, and if you had another flat tire you had to jack it up, take that wheel off, they had what they called preacher [?] tires. You didn't pry the bead out of the… thing. That wasn't so bad, but when you got it all patched you had to put it back in. Sometimes it was a little bit hard not to pinch the tubing in and make another leak. And then you pump and you pump and you pump.
DAVIS: With a hand pump?
FITZ: With a hand pump. I still have one of them just to keep, just as a souvenir. Anyway, we still take those rides every Sunday, though. That was around… that was around Bishop.
DAVIS: What did you and your wife do for recreation around Fallon?
FITZ: Well, I have recreational games at gun club, and I guess my wife does visit the other women occasionally. I'm sure they must have some sort of sewing club or something like that.
DAVIS: Right, right. Were you members of any organizations.
FITZ: Well, I've been a mason ever since I was twenty-seven, or twenty-six, I think. [long pause] Guess I wanted to mature. Looking way back in Washington DC, like say a couple weeks ago. Actually, I got Ed Pine in this 35, 7000 chairs away, you know, right there by the bank. I want his advice on the Shriners. You know Ed Pine?
FITZ: No, but you know of him?
FITZ: Well now, as far as the Navy's concerned, I don't know how to say that. But the Navy originally sent me up here to stake out that original base out there [NAS Fallon].
FITZ: And the county commissioners run a [unintelligible] on them, had given some of the poorest land in this valley to them, you know, for that purpose. The fellow was just Chip Norridy [?]. And seeing that it's grown and grown and grown and, darn it, actually as far as I'm concerned it's a pain in the neck. I don't like those flights over and all that noise. I'm seen as accessible. [?] They can go south, they can go east, can't go west very well without being noisy but they should go east and south. And I had cattle, ran some head, cattle out in Dixie Valley, and one day I was riding along the road on a horse that was- happened to be a good horse, and one of those young punks came up behind me you know and roared. Humiliated me[?]- You didn't hear him until he was there!
DAVIS: No, knocked you right?
FITZ: I don't think they were more than 20, 30 feet above me. It's the darneder thing that horse didn't start to buck or jump or doing something, but he didn't. Because I could have been spilled easily [?]. And this year, oh, in the end of September… No, end of August. I was up in Alaska, took my wife, went fishing. And this particular place I fish was just two fishermen and the boat and the guide. Just six people in. Several days, a couple days I had a fellow that was part of the Northwest Arrow Rings [?] [End of tape 1. Tape two unfortunately seems to have a lot of nose in the first minute or so]
FITZ: Yes. Well, anyway, this fellow and myself, like I say, fished for two days. And your allowed three kings [presumably king salmon] out of the day. And the first day I fished, I think, I caught one fish. And there was two of them… two I guess. And the guide caught one, that's three, and he caught six! Which is nine fish for the boat. The following day, the guide caught one, and after much effort, he finally caught one and I caught six, and after I caught the forth fish I tried to get him to take my seat, you know. I think… I believe I must believe in luck a little bit, because the fish was biting for me and he knew about as much about fishing as me, and maybe he knew more.
FITZ: -Because he came down there every time he had a couple weeks off, he'd come down- [tape damage]
DAVIS: You're talking about the Haylift?
FITZ: Yes. Why, my son and I would go out every day to the base and I don't think we helped them load, but we certainly helped them unload! You know, we dragged the bales to the… to the door.
DAVIS: You were in the plane?
DAVIS: Pushing them out?
FITZ: I didn't pitch them out, no. One of the crewmembers actually pitched them out because he had a rope around him, so that if he should slip or something like that, fall out, why he'd just be dangling anyway he wouldn't be on the ground. …What was I gonna talk about...?
DAVIS: That was that hard winter when there was a lot of snow.
DAVIS: What area were you dropping bales out on, do you know?
FITZ: Mostly towards the east. [Pause] Oh, I know what I was getting at. Then when we came home one night, right out here on the summit, coming out of Dixie Valley, you know where Frenchman's station was, you know, when you get to the top of the hill?
DAVIS: Yeah, yeah.
FITZ: There was a car going along with an old man in it, an old pickup of some sort. This fellow who was flying the plane, he zipped down, just went over him. I can still see that pickup wandering off. Damn kids anyway. Oh yes, and then I was with a couple fellows one day. Now, they were both formerly enlisted men. Had risen to the rank of captain in the air force.
FITZ: And I don't know what the devil now, but anyway they started over a hill and, by God, that hill kept getting closer and closer and closer. And I thought sure as hell they were going to crash, but they finally got over. They both sighed with relief, because they didn't expect to get over either! They started a little too soon and it closed them off a little going up. [?] The Darn plane had got a-climbing just as fast as the mountain did. [Long pause] But I'll tell you something that's always burned me up a little bit. The days when everybody had horses or mules, horses mostly, the lady's Artemisia club, I think it was [Draper Self-Culture Club], they had saved enough money and gotten enough money that they had enough money to build a concrete trough at the intersection of Maine and Williams.
DAVIS: By the courthouse?
DAVIS: By the courthouse?
FITZ: Yes. Do you remember it at all?
DAVIS: I don't remember.
FITZ: By God, you should remember!
DAVIS: Well, I didn't get to town often I guess! [laughing]
FITZ: But anyway, it was quite a massive thing, you know, I mean, on the four sides they had sort of a base, you know, where the water went in, horses could come up and drink. Well, that was a most worthy endeavor if there ever was one. And then when the horses sort of got extinct, darned if the city didn't take the darn thing and turn it all to hell and took it to the dump. They should have had enough brains to hall it over to the park and park it! Well that cost- those women those days, if they could make… could get 25 cents a day to spend, they were doing good. You ask your folks, of course that was laid down by then [?] They didn't have very much money to spend either, I'm sure. You know, things like that was a pain in the neck to make. [long pause] And then they darn really they hauled it away along and they had a little tin building in the back of the… I think it was the Eagle, Eagle paper.
FITZ: Then I don't know what the dickens they… They sold it, and I remember working, pouring concrete and things like that for the foundation for the new… new building for them, and that went along nicely, and then I don't know what happened in general, but anyway sort of this… fell apart, and the later dated members must have gotten all the benefit out of selling the house. Now it's the house over there. I can't tell you exactly where it is, but anyway, I think that… the computer salesmen [?] are running it now. That was a… Oh, in those days, people would stand there, but I can still remember when Roosevelt was first elected and first started giving out things to the needy, there was a line down there at the corner of Williams and Maine, and the line ended about a block down that side of Maine Street, you know?
DAVIS: Now what was the line for?
FITZ: To get the surplus food. Beans and rice, things like that. And Fitz didn't get in the line. By god, we needed it as much as anyone did too. But I rustled and I rustled and I found jobs to do. [tape cuts] She said, she said "I'm proud of you," and I said "Why?" Well, she said, "You've done so many different things and been a success in"
DAVIS: That's great.
FITZ: Well the first time I thought – Ever really thought about because I've always had anything that I knew damn near as much as the next guy. I'm a little bit conceited. And I've always had an opinion that no matter what job I had, that if I studied a little bit, I could do just as good a job as my boss.
DAVIS: This is the end of the Harold Fitz interview, October second, 1990.
[End of tape 2]
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
November 16, 1990
This interview was conducted by Bill Davis; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final typed by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator 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.
Harold Fitz is a retired surveyor, farmer and legislator. Born to Lydia Waidlich Fitz and Victor Fitz on August 7, 1902, he reached his 90th birthday in 1992. He is a vigorous, active man who still tends his yard and garden and is actively involved in many community social events and activities.
Since the focus of the Churchill County Museum Association Oral History Project is on the history of Churchill County, Harold's discussion and description of his many travels, in the United States and abroad, and his various hunting expeditions that were part of his Oral History interview are not reflected in this Oral History. However, his accounts are captured and stored on the original audio-tapes.
Harold's account of his experiences as the son of a homesteader and a youth raised on a farm in the Stillwater District, as a foreman on projects fostered by the Civilian Conservation Corps and as a surveyor on the initial layout of the original Fallon Naval Air Station are interesting and enlightening.
Interview with Harold Edmund Fitz
DAVIS: It's 1990, I'm sitting in Harold Fitz's kitchen area and we're at 1205 Rancho Drive. My name is Bill Davis and we're going to be further exploring some of his memories of early Fallon. The date is November 16, 1990. Okay, Harold, what would you like to share with us today?
FITZ: Around 1930, I used to cut grain with a harvester for the neighbors and the people. Actually it's what made the difference between starvin' to death and havin' some money. One thing that I got out of Bill Harmon-he was an old timer, I think he must have come here about 1890--and the thing that I remember especially was that when he got to Grimes Point there's a toll bridge there and he didn't have any money. So he told the toll keeper, he said, "If you'll whistle, I'll dance a jig." (laughing) And the fellow whistled and old Bill Harmon danced a jig and he allowed his wagon and horses and stuff to come across. It sounds funny that they'd have a toll bridge there but you know that deep drain that runs to Stillwater? I think that's where that toll bridge was.
DAVIS: The channel was that way.
FITZ: Yes, from what we call the Community Pasture now and what was it at that time? I've forgotten.
DAVIS: Island District?
FITZ: It had a lake name [Carson Lake]. Another thing, a little bit more modern, is Mrs. Charlie Kent in Stillwater, wife of Charlie Kent. If you had to give her just a chance she'd tell all of her highlights. In those days there was nothing but prospectors' jobs in Stillwater. Good god, they was having a mining boom. Not a mining boom, but a-
DAVIS: In the Stillwater area?
FITZ: Mountains, uh huh. Actually, there was a corral there right adjacent to the Stillwater school and those prospectors, some of them had six and eight burros. Oh, of course, all the boys had to try to ride those burros. You couldn't ride a burro. (laughing) You know, their skin rolls! One of those years, I couldn't tell you exactly when, they had a very severe winter and some prospector died out there in the hills and he died all hunched up, trying to keep warm. So they brought him into Stillwater--the courthouse down there was the same as this courthouse down here in Fallon now--and they put him up on the second floor and built a fire and while they was waiting for him to thaw out so they could put him in a casket they had a dance. That was one of the highlights of her career, I think. (laughing)
DAVIS: (laughing) Pretty unique.
FITZ: (laughing) Yeah, they had him thawing out so they could get him in the casket, otherwise his knees'd stuck out. Now that takes care of that. Give me a moment, I need to go through the obit... Well, anyway, In those days everybody used firewood in stoves and since there wasn't any really wood around there except brush they had to go out to the hills and get pine trees.
DAVIS: The pinon.
FITZ: Which they did. My folks always seemed to go out to Shady Run Canyon and when they'd find a log they'd take a horse or two and drag it down the hill and then they'd load it in the wagon. Those roads in those days in the canyons were quite steep, so I can still remember my dad hooking a great big log behind the wagon to be a brake so it wouldn't run up on the horses on the down pitches. Course it was a little bit leveller uphill, they had to pull it. Then when you got down there was a little mud house there. I don't think it was more than eight feet square and old Hellfire Johnny lived in it.
FITZ: Hellfire Johnny.
FITZ: I've forgotten his last name. I never knew it for years, but I finally found out what it was, but I've forgotten it now. But anyway, he was an old prospector. Been there for quite sometime.
DAVIS: This is at Shady Run?
FITZ: Yes. There was quite a little town there at one time. Well, say, not exactly a town- Well, yes, you would say a town in some ways. But anyway, I was only a kid of twelve, somethin' like that, my brother a couple of years younger, but old Hellfire Johnny could do some of the darndest tricks with string, you know, tie knots in them and you'd try them, and maybe pull and the thing was clear! Gosh, that made an awful impression on me. One thing I've always remembered and enjoyed, the pinenuts just must have fallen out of the cones. And, god, I got under a tree or two and picked, oh, several quarts in just a few minutes. They were just thicker than hair on a dog. I've gone pinenut hunting several times since and, by gosh, you had an awful time gettin' a handful of the darned things.
DAVIS: Must have been a big crop then.
FITZ: Must have been an awful big crop that particular year. And that brings up another little detail. Halfway out from Stillwater to Shady Run Canyon is what they call… Mountain Wells was it? No, Desert Wells. I don't know who dug that. I have no idea, but it was cased with redwood and it had a bucket and a rope, you know, and a cover. But anyway, Roy Lindsay used to be an old-time freighter here for Tedford, and people like that, out to Fairview and Wonder. One thing that he told me once and I don't doubt it a bit – Those prospectors there was a lot of nutty people, too, as far as that goes. Probably the bigger percentage of nuts in the prospectors than there are in the average population. But, anyway, this fellow even went west to Desert Wells several hundred feet, sunk a shaft about twenty feet deep, and then started a tunnel towards the hills. Well, hell, that was a mile away, and, for some reason, he expected to cross cut some… good stuff.
DAVIS: And they were looking for what?
FITZ: Why I suppose gold and silver is what he was after. But he didn't get very far, because, you know, my gosh, one man running a tunnel for a mile.
DAVIS: Big project.
FITZ: Why, it was an awful big project. Now we'll cup up to a little bit… The first eighty acres that I bought down there in Stillwater had three ditches run across it. They were abandoned. But those old-timers, Freeman Ranch and the Kent Ranch and different ones had put, I would think, more or less temporary dams in the Stillwater Slough and when the high water come they divert the water over these ditches to irrigate their places. Down Stillwater, south of there, there was a big dam right between the back of the hotel and adjacent to the Kent Ranch. Big stone…
DAVIS: I didn't know that.
FITZ: Yes, dam. Now who in the dickens took it out, I don't know; I suppose it was the district [Truckee-Carson Irrigaion District] when they… to lower the water table, you know.
DAVIS: Hmm, I didn't know that.
FITZ: Yeah. Anyway, when I was going to school, every once in awhile some of us kids'd go over after school and catch bullheads, you know, 'cause there was a lot of fishing in those days.
DAVIS: They were pretty good sized, was it?
FITZ: Yes, some of them.
DAVIS: Well now, were you aware of the hot water in Stillwater at that time?
FITZ: Not at that time, no. At that time, that's when Charlie Cirac was a big shot in that district. It was quite a prominent family down there. They were raised in Ione, I think it was. There was three or four brothers and everyone of them, except Charlie, was a prospector. They always had a claim with something that they were--"The next shot, I'll hit high grade," you know, the big ledge. But Charlie Cirac, how the dickens he did it, I don't know. But, anyway, he built a two-story brick building down there in Stillwater. He also built a hotel and he also built a small little shack for the post office. He must have just coined money right and left because I know very well what he did. He used to give us kids five cents, I think, for two empty whiskey flasks. Then those barrels of whiskey came in fifty gallon oak barrels and I always understand that the freighters that brought them, when they wanted a gallon of whiskey, would knock one of the hoops out of it, you know, drill a little bit of hole in and fill their jug and then plug it up and dry the hoop and all.
DAVIS: I never heard that. (laughing)
FITZ: Well, by the time it got to Charlie Cirac, I imagine it was quite well diluted and he diluted more. My, god!
DAVIS: Well, he filled the bottles then?
FITZ: Yes, he filled the bottles up and put new label on it. Some of those fellows would be probably quite hard to get drunk no matter what they drank by the time--nine-tenths water, I think. Yes, there were at least three dams that I can think of. One at Stillwater, one up… no, it doesn't make a difference. You wouldn't know it now. And this was a rock dam also. And then I know there's one over there to the south. I mentioned there wasn't any trees there. There was one tree down there they would call Lone Tree. It was a big cottonwood, you know, down in Stillwater.
DAVIS: Was that way out the southern part of the valley down there? Into my area?
FITZ: Well, it was, we'll say, at least five or six miles out of Stillwater proper up the river. Two brothers chopped it down for firewood and got the people quite upset about that.
DAVIS: There weren't many trees along the river?
FITZ: Nuh-huh. Why, I don't know. There wasn't any, you might say, in those days, except willows. I don't know why. And nowadays, why… I don't know. But you leaded it anyway, dig it up and put it in, whatever. Some of those ditches were, I think the average ditch was at least three, four feet deep and they had to do that with Fresnoes. And they went to a little knoll of some sort. Like in the last place I had, my gosh, there was a ditch down there that I had to hand-fill in. Well, when I stood up I couldn't see over the bank. It had to be a pretty good sized ditch.
DAVIS: What kind of structures did you have in those days?
FITZ: Didn't have structures in those days. You just shoveled it, shoveled the openings up and opened them up.
DAVIS: Now, that was before... well, I guess the dam was in at that time, and the canal
FITZ: The dam was in, yes. Oh, now, that brings up another thing. This is just another recollection on Eddie Harriman up the river there. They put in temporary dams and those temporary dams consisted of several barb wires across the river, you know, and then they'd throw in brush and things like that to back the water up a little bit. Well, this one fellow wanted to irrigate so he went to sleep and carried his shotgun along and laid down and he couldn't stay awake only about thirty six hours so he laid down with his shotgun.
DAVIS: Why'd he have the shotgun?
FITZ: To keep people from taking his wires down.
DAVIS: Oh, okay [laughs]
FITZ: I think Eddie Harriman and someone else snuck up and cut the wires while he was still sleeping with his dam going and so they had water. Oh, and that brings up something else. You think you- Is this okay to put in?
DAVIS: Oh yes, it's good! This is how life really was!
FITZ: I think it was Eddie Harriman's… I think it was his mother, as I recall. She apparently was a school teacher and, for some reason--in those days you know everybody, almost everybody had buggies—So for some reason she started over towards Carson City or Dayton, I don't know which, and as you get over that first hill there from Fallon… Well I don't whether it's the first hill or not, big hill, divide. Down at the bottom, you can still see it, there's a spring. You must have seen it but you never knew it at the bottom of the hill.
DAVIS: Probably not. (laughing)
FITZ: Because you can see the waterbrush. I look at it every time I go by because it reminds me of something. But, anyway, she got out of her buggy and, I don't know what the dickens, took the bridle off to let the horse drink and when she wanted to get the bridle back on, the horse took off with the buggy.
DAVIS: Uh-oh. (laughing)
FITZ: And ran up the road, a dirt road, and she had to go along behind him three or four miles before she could catch up and caught the darn thing and continue. God, that must have . . . See, no one would come along, probably. Maybe no one would be over that road for a week at a time.
DAVIS: Right. Well, she had to.
FITZ: She just had to because they didn't have no telephones. How the devil could she tell anybody, "I'm lost"? Or "I'm not lost. I'm on foot."
DAVIS: But, she did catch him?
FITZ: She did catch him. I've always thought, my gosh, those people had quite…
DAVIS: A lot different than today.
FITZ: Yes, sir. The threshing crews in those days had a wooden harvester, a whole harvester, a big one. I think they cut a twenty-foot swath and they were pulled with twenty horses or twenty mules. The driver sat on a perch built on to the front of the harvester out there about eight or ten feet. So two or three teams were right underneath him and he had a BB air rifle so if the lead horse didn't suit him, he'd just "pew!" and the horse got the message.
DAVIS: (laughing) Well, that's different.
FITZ: That ran the whole darn machine, see. That's the reason it was a chain drive, and then…
DAVIS: And the horses pulled the wheels and the wheels turned turned the machinery. That actually threshed out the grain?
FITZ: Yes, it did.
DAVIS: Threw out the straw.
FITZ: Uh-huh. And they had a fellow that did nothing but go along with an oil can and constantly oil this thing, that thing, everything.
DAVIS: Keep them going.
FITZ: He was a very important person, too.
FITZ: I shouldn't… yes it was. Threshing crews themselves… I say threshers. In those days, why, some people cut their grain with binders. You know what a binder was?
DAVIS: Yeah, yeah.
FITZ: And then they'd stack it up and wait'll some threshing crew came around. They had one fellow that was an excellent sack sewer, One-Eyed Jack. The reason he had one eye, in the Spanish-American War he joined up. In those days they had nothing but horses, mules, and a mule kicked his eye out, one of his eyes out. They say he intended to become a minister before that, you know, before that. Then how he got out here I don't know. But still when I used to go around with the harvester, he sewed sacks for me two, three years and every once in a while he had to have an internal rubdown. You know, take a little drink of wine or something. He called it his internal rubdown.
DAVIS: (laughing) I've never heard it described that way before.
FITZ: But, boy, he could sure sew sacks.
DAVIS: It was an art.
FITZ: But, I think I was chairman of the Stillwater Soil Conservation District for six times, I think. Two, two, two-year terms, as I recall.
DAVIS: And that was about when?
FITZ: Oh, 1940, '50 something like that. Maybe '60. Maybe… Probably around '60, uh-huh. And I was also chairman of the Democratic county organization for six times, I believe.
DAVIS: Oh! Is there any memory that you have of what the political deal was at those times that was unusual or interesting?
FITZ: Well, gosh, I don't know. They used to call me Mr. Democrat.
DAVIS: Any big controversies or big problems or?
FITZ: Well, just like always. There's problems today and there's problems then. I forgot what the problems were, but there's always problems. Always has been and always will be. By gosh, I don't remember exactly when this was. Had to been after the war and meat was scarce as hen's teeth. I was working for Dodge's [Dodge Construction Company] at the time they sent me up to Madeline Plains [California].
DAVIS: Now, what capacity? What was your job?
FITZ: I was a surveyor, you know, a safety run off of leveling.
FITZ: I know the foreman up there. He didn't believe that I could shoot. He'd been in World War I, he was saying… I don't know how in the dickens… the soldiers were cutting down some trees and the lieutenant came up and they said, "Well, what are we going to do with this stump? Shall we pound it in the ground?" He said, "Go right ahead." So all those soldiers had to get busy and pound all day long trying to pound that stump.
DAVIS: (laughing) Oh, dear.
FITZ: Now, he probably knew what he was doing. I meant the lieutenant. (laughing) But, anyway, this foreman up there in Madeline Plains country does have a big ranch up there, several thousand acres, and there's all kinds of antelopes. Just antelope every place, you might say, so I took my .30/06 along one day, and this foreman said, "There's a coyote. Shoot him." So I up and shot, the coyote fell, I didn't say anything. He didn't either. Went along a little bit more. There was another one. And everyone of them was a couple of hundred feet away, too. And I was lucky again, shot him, killed that one. I shot three coyotes before noon, just riding around with him, just stand up in the pickup, you know. God, I was lucky and he thought I was a hell of a good shot. But, anyway--talking about this antelope--when I set the darn things off was over a thousand feet away from me. I was accustomed to stepping, you know…
DAVIS: Yeah, judging distances.
Fitz: Distances. Well, anyway, I was working one day and here was three or four antelope down there and the sagebrush up there was six, eight, ten feet high. Came around a little bit and I upped and shot, and he dropped. Walked down there and, by god, I'd hit him right smack in the head.
DAVIS: Oh, for pete's sake!
FITZ: I had no intention of hitting him in the head, but I did. I came home once a week, I think, from up there. Dodge would give me a pickup to drive so I put the antelope in, cleaned it out, and put it in the bottom of the pickup and then put some ties on top of it for fence posts and I parked it in Reno, why I don't know. But I did, for some reason, for an hour or something like that while I run and did some business. Came home, took the hide off that darn thing, never thought to tell my son--he was six or eight or ten, something like that--darned if he didn't take the horns to school the next day and show them all the kids. And I was quite embarrassed because that was illegal to hunt. But, god, that meat sure tasted good! [tape cuts]
FITZ: Well, actually, it was a federal-
DAVIS: We're talking about the CCC's [Civilian Conservation Corps] now.
FITZ: Yes, this is the CC's. The Congress must have passed some laws to make the CC's possible because those were Depression times and those boys got twenty dollars a month- no, thirty dollars a month, I think. Course they got their food and their-
FITZ: -Clothes and things like that, but twenty five of that went to their folks and that's what kept their folks from starving to death, we'll say. And the boys signed up, as I recall, for six months at a time. Now I can't tell you exactly when the first . . . well, it had to be about 1942, I would say.
DAVIS: It would be earlier than that, wouldn't it, because that'd be war time?
FITZ: That's right, that's right.
DAVIS: Had to be 1930's.
FITZ: 1933, I'd say, 1933, 1934, I think. No, that's a little too early because they were disbanded about 1942, you know, after the War.
DAVIS: Were you aware of how they picked the things they did? Which projects were selected? Where did that information come from?
FITZ: There were two camps here. One of them over on the other side of the railroad track where the Truckee-Carson Irrigation had its warehouse and then the other camp was the one I was in, and I really can't tell you exactly where it was. Jeff Robinson that has a . . . real estate office…
DAVIS: That would be near the old fair grounds [2333 Reno Hwy, Fallon, NV 89406]?
FITZ: Yes. You walk past the old fair grounds and it's more or less where the…
DAVIS: Is that about where the college is now [160 Campus Way, Fallon, NV]? Community college?
FITZ: Well, no. I'd say more apt to be… where that Raley's mall was I would think [2105 W. Williams], in that territory on the south side of the road. And now I don't remember now, but I think there was roughly two hundred boys in each camp and every foreman had from ten to twenty or something like that. Sometimes I even had forty boys, two truck loads, and the orders came from higher up. That's the best I can tell you--what to do, what kind of work you did, and then each camp had a . . . Didn't call him a foreman, what did you call him?
DAVIS: Superintendent, or a leader, or some kind of a head man.
FITZ: Yes, yes, and then the foremen were under him. Superintendent!
DAVIS: Did local people have an input as to what needed to be done, do you know?
FITZ: Well, they did in this sense. They would ask for something--concrete box or something--not individuals, but if they wanted a concrete box in the ditch whether it was a former wood box or something like that, that was fine. Well, yes, they had quite a little input as I recall because Wallace was superintendent of the T.C.I.D. at that time and these people would call him up and tell the various superintendents what work should be done.
DAVIS: Kinda of worked through T.C.I.D. a lot then?
FITZ: Yes. Actually they worked all together through the T.C.I.D.
DAVIS: And that would involve any work that they did up at the dam or in the district?
FITZ: You can still see all kinds of structures around here, "Bureau of Reclamation, Camp Thirty Three" or "Camp Thirty Four" I think it was, and that lasted until right after World War-
DAVIS: There was boys from all different areas?
FITZ: Yes, yes, yes.
DAVIS: Any specific areas or were they pretty well mixed up?
FITZ: Actually, all I ever had was more or less boys from Kentucky. Now those boys were really, some of them, were actually hillbillies. The worst kind because some of them--now this sounds farfetched--but some of them when they were paid off with five dollars they threw the bills away. They'd never seen bills before.
DAVIS: (laughing) You're kidding!
FITZ: No, I'm not, and they also believed in goofers.
DAVIS: What are goofers?
FITZ: Oh, goofer was apparently a term for a ghost.
FITZ: And some of them were superstitious as the dickens.
DAVIS: How did you become aware of that?
FITZ: Well, just listening to them talk.
DAVIS: And what would some of them say? I mean [laughs]
FITZ: Well, I can't tell you exactly now. That was quite a ways back. But those boys were good- [End of side A]
DAVIS: -Talking about filing saws.
FITZ: Now, you had to be a perfectionist in order to file a saw properly and, the way that they told, when it was correct you had to hold your saw up on an angle and take a needle. If the needle slid down to the bottom without being kicked off you did an excellent job. In other words those teeth were spread out so there was a vee in between. Some of them could do that. They wasn't dumb, except they'd never been out of their hollows.
DAVIS: They hadn't had book learning.
FITZ: If they'd got to the third grade I think they call that an academy and that's the reason when I was in the legislature [1959-1960] I got quite a kick out of it. That legislature I was in was the same as these ones today. If they couldn't agree or didn't want to agree they'd hire some Commission or some .
DAVIS: To investigate it.
FITZ: The one thing that always bothered me, darned if they didn't hire an outfit from Missouri and, like I said, some of these boys were from Missouri and what they called an academy was the third grade. They couldn't been very highly educated in Missouri in those days. And still Nevada would hire an outfit from Missouri that had that kind of . . . and I think what they did as far as I was concerned, just absolutely ignored that Commission or whatever you want to call it, that report.
DAVIS: Got it out of their hair.
FITZ: And they do that today, darn it.
DAVIS: Okay, we're talking about the beginnings of the Fallon naval base. How did you become involved?
FITZ: I was working for a contractor down there in Hawthorne. That was what they call a location engineer and I'm not to kid you or me or anybody else, I think I was one of the best damn transit men in the state of Nevada. I know I was. I'm not being conceited either because I'd had quite a bit of experience at that down in southern California. I used to work as a transit man. But, anyway, for some reason they sent me up here to locate the first road into the base and to do something else, two or three little things, or maybe runways. I've forgotten.
DAVIS: Was there a base there at that time?
FITZ: No, it was just starting.
DAVIS: Okay, And this was a Naval project, right?
FITZ: This Naval base was just supposed to be temporary. Everybody thought it was temporary, so the County Commissioners turned over some land to them. It was some of the most worthless land in the state of Nevada. You know, those alkali flats. There was one contractor after another, but anyway . . .
DAVIS: Now, what was out there at that time? Nothing?
DAVIS: Nothing. So you surveyed that road in there?
FITZ: And laid out the road and then located runways.
DAVIS: Do you remember what road that is?
FITZ: That's the one that, I think, they still use. It crosses the canal there.
FITZ: You know, the old road that went out to… The new one just goes…
DAVIS: Well, there's Wildes Road. There's Wildes Road that a lot of people travel, and then a lot of people travel Union Lane now.
FITZ: Gosh, for the life of me I can't give you the name of the road now… But it went out to Ernst's land and different ones like that that had land- homes out there at that time.
DAVIS: Berney Road?
FITZ: Berney Road. That's it. And I remember that I had to locate that bridge--it was a foot higher on one side than it was on the other--to match the existing road and the road on the other side. Then they drove the piling in and built the road.
DAVIS: Were there Naval people involved in all of this? Did you work with them?
FITZ: Yes, very much so.
DAVIS: They came from Alameda or somewhere?
FITZ: I don't know where they came from, but the Navy had an engineer out there and he must have liked me because we got along nicely. Actually I don't think he knew as much as I did, to tell the truth.
DAVIS: (laughing) Did they start construction right as soon as you finished surveying?
DAVIS: What took place out there after you surveyed?
FITZ: I located the buildings, the streets, the sewers.
DAVIS: And you worked from a plan that the Navy prepared?
FITZ: Yes. Oh, yes, I had blueprints for everything. And I remember the foreman of the construction gang. I can't think what his name was right now. We got to talking one day and he said, "Don't worry. I've lined up several of these buildings," you know, there had been a lot of barracks, to see if they're lined up. Well, that wasn't part of my trouble. I was good. Now, I'm not kidding.
DAVIS: What kind of workmen--was this a contract? Did they use local labor?
FITZ: No, the contractor was from San Francisco and I can't think of the name right now but they were a big contractor.
DAVIS: And they kind of brought in their own?
DAVIS: And they were building the buildings?
DAVIS: Did they put up the tower?
FITZ: Yes, they built the tower and they built the hangars. There was two hangars. Oh, yes, I wasn't the only one there. Every once in awhile they'd hire some damn fool that didn't know what he was doing. And on those hangars, they had some idiot, didn't know how to adjust his level or his transits, and he had one wall, I found out later on, messin' around, he had one wall six inches lower than the other wall. And the contractor couldn't get that darn arch, the doors, to shut like they should and that was the whole thing. He only lasted a week but he sure messed things up while he was here.
DAVIS: Did they have housing out there for . . . they were
mainly barracks. There was no family housing?
DAVIS: How long did that construction last? Did they start using it quite rapidly?
FITZ: I guess they did because I remember the bachelor quarters. It was no more built and it filled up with somebody. There was a group of young flyers came up and I understood that the first ones that graduated from there got on some air carrier and they were all sunk by the Japs.
DAVIS: Now, this was right at the beginning. That would be 1941?
DAVIS: Do you remember how many personnel was out there? It was only several hundred, wasn't it?
FITZ: I couldn't tell you. It couldn't have been anymore than several hundred. No, there wouldn't be no necessity for them. It was mostly all civilian workers that was doing the work.
DAVIS: What became of those buildings?
FITZ: That's something that irks me very much. After they got all through, then, they gave the damn Paiutes that stuff and they tore them down and what they did with it, I don't know.
DAVIS: This would be after 1944 or 1945?
FITZ: After World War II.
DAVIS: And there was really nothing left out there except the…
FITZ: A couple of hangars as I recall.
DAVIS: And the runway.
FITZ: I'll bet you'll probably edit this, but I sure get irked at these darn Paiutes. Seems like every day or once, two or three times a year, just like that ignorant Reid [Senator Harry Reid] now. You know, he wants to give, what is it, seventy million to the Paiutes in Pyramid [Lake], forty or fifty million to the Paiutes down here in Stillwater. My god, do we have to pack those people on our back forever?
DAVIS: In your recollection, when did they start back up again? It was defunct for a period of time.
FITZ: Yes, it had to have been torn down for some time. Two or three years later or something like that because I never worked out there after that.
DAVIS: Do you remember any community reactions? What did the farmers and what did the community that you remember have . . . what were their ideas about the Navy coming in, in those days, the first time around?
FITZ: No one had any objection to it as far as I know because quite a few farmers worked over there as civilians. I'm a civilian, too, you know.
DAVIS: Pretty good work for us, then, I mean, came from local…
FITZ: Most of it, I think, was local. Fact is, the laundry workers I know were women from here. Some of the Baumanns out there were workers… laborers, we'll say.
DAVIS: But there was a big push to get that going.
DAVIS: Uh-huh. Defense money. Do you remember any difficulties with Naval personnel and local teenagers or anything like that?
FITZ: I can't say I do.
DAVIS: 'Cause Fallon hadn't been used to service people.
FITZ: I remember that the local, Mike Lauf, down here ran the busses out to the base.
DAVIS: That was Mike Lauf.
FITZ: His dad.
DAVIS: Or his dad. Otto.
FITZ: Bring in a bunch of boys and most of them never had an opportunity to gamble like they do here so they all had to try it and most of them were just like everybody else. Unsuccessful.
DAVIS: Same as it is now.
FITZ: No, that's actually how Otto Lauf made his fortune was this Navy base out here.
DAVIS: Did you ever talk with any of the Navy boys about their impressions of Nevada?
FITZ: No, I don't think I ever did. I didn't even associate with them, to tell the truth. The first trainload of boys that came in here to Fallon, as far as I was concerned, came to the camp.
DAVIS: This was the CCC's?
FITZ: The CCC camp.
DAVIS: The first boys that came in?
FITZ: Yes. Well, anyway, they came in on a train and they had a cook stove and a cook and they cooked for them all the way from New York to here because the first bunch of boys, I think, were more or less all from New York. He was a pretty good cook, though, nevertheless. But, you know, cooking for a couple hundred boys they couldn't have been the very . . . well, on the other hand, those boys, most of them, had never eaten very high on the hog either.
DAVIS: Yeah, this was Depression days. And, apparently, the food was pretty good in the camps here.
FITZ: Yes. But, of course, just like everybody else, pretty soon someone'd start crabbin' about it. And I told some of them off. I said, "By god, you never ate this good in your life. What are you talking about?" And they hadn't.
DAVIS: What were their main complaints? As you worked around them did you hear comments about what the problems were, things at home or things like that?
FITZ: No, they never mentioned that. When they first come in--I didn't have any authority to do this, but I did, regardless--I'd work my boys a couple hours and then give them a half an hour off because, hell, they'd never done any work. Some were fifteen and sixteen. Most of them around sixteen, seventeen.
DAVIS: That young?
DAVIS: I thought maybe they were a little older. There was quite a number of them stayed in the area.
FITZ: Yes, quite a few. Well, I won't say quite a few, but a few. Let's put it that way. And the only one that I actually know much about is a little kid they called Johnny Brucker. He married some local girl [Lucille Dooley] and, boy, he was a whiz when it came to baseball. He was a little man, a little boy, but he was fast and quick and he could bat the ball and hit it and run like the devil just like a scared jack rabbit. And the last I heard him- [phone rings, tape cuts] It was in the paper that the camps are going to start up and they would need foremen and things like that so I believe that I wrote to Scrugham.
DAVIS: Who was a representative probably at that time?
FITZ: I told him I'd like a job. And then do you remember the name of the district manager over here then? It wasn't Seevers.
DAVIS: I can't remember. That would be T.C.I.D [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District]?
FITZ: Before that they had another program. Not the WPA, they didn't call them that, 'cause I never worked on that.
DAVIS: There was NRA.
FITZ: Something like that. Well, anyway, I went to this--I knew him slightly--not very well, the project manager and said, "I would like a job as foreman." I said, "I think I'm qualified for that position." So he said, "Well, I see no reason why you shouldn't be." So he recommended me and I became a foreman and, gosh, I had men all over this county, I think, a gang here and a gang there.
DAVIS: About how many do you suppose? Five, six?
FITZ: Oh, no.
FITZ: I think five or ten of maybe more in a bunch doing a little mosquito control. The only way to keep mosquitoes down was to have them dig little trenches, Out in that Sheckler District there's an awful lot of buggy land, places that like that, so they dug little trenches to drain the water and I remember some of the ditches put some men in with shovels and boots and they'd clean out the bottom of the ditches.
DAVIS: Did they do any work with gophers?
FITZ: Yes, and Ray Alcorn went around with five, ten boys, killing the gophers.
DAVIS: They put poisoned carrots into the hole.
FITZ: Yes. One thing I remember one of the CCC boys started to eat one of the carrots one day.
DAVIS: (laughing) Wasn't a very good idea.
FITZ: No, it wasn't a very good idea.
DAVIS: They did that because of the gophers' detriment to the irrigation, right?
FITZ: Yes. God, I used to hate those gophers. Every year in the fall soon as everything became nice and dormant, I had a iron rod with an angle on it out so I could step on it, push the thing until I found their tunnels and then wiggle this rod around a little bit, make a hole so that I could drop a little pieces of poison carrot down. I eliminated those darn gophers. Cause, god, if you've ever cut hay with a mower or swather, then run in those darn gopher mounds, you had to stop and clean it all out. It was just a pain in the neck. In fact, it was more than a pain in the neck.
DAVIS: (laughing) You say you were getting about a dollar an hour?
FITZ: I think so. Something like that. It was all temporary because--now, you don't remember--but they had some barracks up there towards Hazen that they built and nothing but homeless men would come there and I don't know if they did anything. They just fed them, as I recall.
DAVIS: This wasn't with the CCC's, was it?
FITZ: No, before the CCC's. It was Federal.
DAVIS: Oh, it was a Federal homeless type of program almost?
DAVIS: Depression days?
FITZ: Yes, because I can still remember seeing people going through Hazen in boxcars, whole families. Damn, that was bad.
DAVIS: These were people that were leaving where?
FITZ: Leaving every place, you might say, always just traveling with their families lookin' for work. I can still see the little kids and their father sitting with their legs dangling off the boxcars. That's one thing that I'll always remember. They had a ditch rider up there in Fernley that had a good heart. And the hoboes had what they called a jungle. Well, that jungle, I can see the remains of it now. There's a, more or less, a first gas station on your right hand side, I think, and he'd take some carrots or something like that, he'd take some carrots over and leave them, then the hoboes could make a stew and things.
DAVIS: It meant a lot to them.
FITZ: Yes, he must have raised a pretty good garden. Anyway, he shared with them. If he knew a farmer or anyone else, well, he was acquainted with all the farmers and if they had a little extra food from their gardens why he'd gather it up and take it over there to the jungle and leave it and was always going the next time. I don't remember his name at all. Always thought he had a good heart. When I first came here I had to be around five years old. I think about 1907 because the first year I started I was six, started school down in Stillwater. In those days the kids all sat in a double desk, you remember that?
DAVIS: I don't. I've heard of them.
FITZ: You sat in a double desk and this school teacher, I can still remember, sometime during the afternoon I'd poop out, I guess, and she'd lay me down on the seat of this double desk and I'd take a little snooze. (laughing) Oh, lord!
DAVIS: You were talking about the living in tents?
FITZ: Yes. Okay, well, my dad bought… he didn't take up this particular, he himself. He bought what he called a relegishon [?] from one of the Harrimans, a native. And then two boys and two adults lived in the tent that I think was twelve by twelve. The floor boards were one by twelves and my mother [Lydia Waidlich Fitz], apparently, would sweep the dirt down the cracks between the boards because when my dad built the house, my brother asked him, when my dad was putting the floor in, he said, "Where will Mama sweep the dirt down?" You know, because he was putting in floor like you- And that first winter, I'll still remember this, and no thoughts of Christmas season or anything like that, our first Christmas here in the state, I think we had an apple and something else and a sack of potatoes. That was all my mother needed.
DAVIS: That was your Christmas?
FITZ: Yes. We were poor as a church mouse. And like I said my dad [Victor Fitz] started to level land. He had no idea of what he was doing because originally he was raised in Michigan where they depend on rainfall. He had two mules and a Fresno and me, and he had no idea what the dickens he was doin'. I still remember he had a box about two feet long, maybe a foot wide, and he put handles on each end and in an emergency my mother and he would carry this box full of dirt and . . .
DAVIS: To keep the water in the check.
FITZ: Un-huh. If they was lucky, probably had five or six acres to cut.
DAVIS: What'd he plant, do you remember?
FITZ: Wheat, I think. Oh they were tough days. They'd sent the furniture here from, well, anyway the furniture came in a boxcar and they stored it outside with a canvas over it all winter and I don't think it's too good but in those days there was freighting from Stillwater, well from Hazen actually towards Stillwater and then they go over the summit there to go to Fairview and Wonder. So my brother [Donald Fitz] and I, I had to be six, my brother had to be about four, we'd line the chairs up, pretend they were horses, put reins on them and strings on them. I wonder that my mother didn't tan my pants because we'd "gee, haw" and kick that chair over. Couldn't have been very much varnish left by the time we got through with it. When I started to school, by god, the greasewood was oh, from two to, I'd say, five feet high. Well, I was only a little bit of a kid and I couldn't see over the top of it, so my mother would take me by my hand-well, I won't say by the hand--and she had to walk a mile. I know it was exactly a mile. There was some people name of Simmons that had two girls in the sixth, seventh grade and then I'd walk with those two girls to Stillwater and walk back and I guess my mother come meet me. There were no roads, no paths. You had to make your own paths.
DAVIS: Just follow the track or follow the path. Lot different nowadays.
FITZ: Yeah, I've thought of that several times. Yeah, I's only, like I say, six years old and I must have walked at least two and a half miles through brush from where our tent was to Stillwater and back again. Nowadays I'd be a . . . what .
FITZ: An object of pity! I'm gonna stop right there.
DAVIS: This is the end of the Harold Fitz tape.
[End of tape]