Catherine "Sue" Amelia Lerch Fitz Oral History

Dublin Core

Title

Catherine "Sue" Amelia Lerch Fitz Oral History

Description

Catherine Amelia "Sue" Fitz Oral History

Source

Churchill County Museum Association

Publisher

Churchill County Museum Association

Date

March 1, 1993

Format

Analog Cassette Tape, .docx file, Mp3 Audio

Language

English

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Marian LaVoy

Interviewee

Catherine "Sue" Amelia Lerch Fitz Oral History

Location

1205 Rancho Drive, Fallon, Nevada

Transcription

CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
CATHERINE "SUE" AMELIA LERCH FITZ
March 1, 1993
This interview was conducted by Marian LaVoy; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norine Arciniega; final typed by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum.
PREFACE
An elegant lady--three words that describe Catherine "Sue" Fitz.
She welcomed me into her home and declared that she was uneasy and didn't think she had much to tell about her life--such an understatement!
Sue's childhood was fascinating. Her life in New York state was pleasant and privileged, but the untimely death of her father changed the course of her life. California became her new home and eventually she met a young man who had no time for her as she was "just a young silly girl." He was not much older, but thought himself to be much more mature. It didn't take long for him to change his mind and he courted this lovely young woman by taking her to elegant dinners, to the best theatricals and even on an open-cockpit airplane ride! She thought she was going to the theater and ended up flying in a frilly organdy dress! They married in September of 1928 and headed for a mountain cabin out of Bishop, California. The snow was so deep that winter that they were forced to evacuate to the little town of Bishop.
Eventually, they moved to Fallon where they went into the ranching business. Life was so different for Sue and she related how she and another "transplant" would have afternoon "tea time" with one another to keep some semblance of the life that they once knew.
Harold was an extremely competent surveyor and found work on the CCC projects and eventually did the initial "layout" for what is now NAS Fallon. Sue and Harold kept the ranch going with Sue following Harold's direction on everything from irrigating to moving cattle. One year the young couple traveled to Camp Perry, Ohio, for a national marksmanship competition where Harold excelled. Sue and her counterparts lived in official military-style tents while the competition was in progress.
Sue's children are her pride and joy. One story that she tells is about when her son was small she bought a five dollar ($5) teddy bear for him for Christmas. When she showed it to Harold he was very upset and said, "You know we can't afford five dollars for a teddy-bear!" Needless to say, the little boy found that "expensive" bear under the Christmas tree. Sue and Harold now have great grandchildren and Sue's interest in each one is a beautiful thing to see. The day of this interview her newest great-granddaughter was brought from Carson City and Sue immediately took the five-week old baby in her arms and her eyes shone with love.
Sue designed and made her clothes--each complete article looked like a designer original and that talent was unselfishly shared with the young 4-H girls in Churchill County. Many prestigious awards were won while the girls were under Sue's tutelage. She taught clothing design as an adult course at the high school,
too, and far more women signed up for it than were expected. Her needlepoint is still exquisite and her expertise in crafting dolls, wall hangings, and holiday decorations is second to none.
Tragedy struck the family and Harold was nearly lost in an explosion at their ranch home on Fitz Lane. Sue was at the hospital by his side through the weeks of danger and then through the months of therapy. The ranch was sold, much to Harold's chagrin, and they moved to town. Their home is surrounded by lovely fruit trees that Harold still prunes, sprays and cares for, and Sue's flower garden is a joy to behold.
Sue and Harold have traveled all over the world and are still very involved with trips to exotic places. Harold salmon fishes in Alaska each year, but their son has replaced Sue on these forays. Sue's friends comment on her gold coin jewelry and she coyly says, "Harold bought me this." It is obvious that Sue is still the love of Harold's life. What a wonderful ending to a love story that started in the 1920's and is still going strong in the 1990's.
Interview with Catherine Amelia Lerch Fitz
This is Marian Hennen LaVoy of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program interviewing Catherine Fitz at her home 1205 Rancho Drive, Fallon, Nevada. The date is March 1, 1993.
LaVOY: Good morning, Sue. How are you this morning?
FITZ: Just fine, thank you.
LaVOY: We'll get started right with our interview, and I'll ask you where were you born?
FITZ: I was born in Lockport, New York.
LaVOY: And when?
FITZ: [April 8] 1909.
LaVOY: Tell me something about your parents. What was your father's name?
FITZ: My father's name was William Baltz Lerch, and he owned a clothing store in Lockport, and he was also manager of an opera house. He died of tuberculosis when I was a baby. It wasn't because there was a lack of money, or anything but they hadn't discovered it in time.
LaVOY: And what was the name of the store that he owned?
FITZ: Lerch and Daly.
LaVOY: And this was located in what town?
FITZ: Lockport, New York.
LaVOY: And what did they sell in the store?
FITZ: Clothing.
LaVOY: Men's and women's clothing?
FITZ: I don't believe it was women's clothing. I think it
was just men's clothing.
LaVOY: Is the store still in business after all these years?
FITZ: Well, I was told by a lady I met in South America a few years ago that her husband had bought a very fine men's overcoat that winter at that store.
LaVOY: So, the store still carries the name of Lerch.
FITZ: Yes, as far as I know.
LaVOY: Well, that's wonderful. Now, where did your father die in New York?
FITZ: He died at Lockport at home.
LaVOY: How old were you when he passed away?
FITZ: I was a baby. [one year old]
LaVOY: Very sad. What was your mother's name?
FITZ: My mother's name was Frank Elizabeth Scott. Her maiden name.
LaVOY: Frank is a very unusual name for a woman. How did she happen to have that?
FITZ: Well, her father wanted her to be named Frank, and she had two brothers, but they still gave her the boy's name.
LaVOY: And she carried that all of her life.
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: Since New York was where you were born, how did you happen to get out West?
FITZ: My mother took my brother and me to Los Angeles for the winter, and a man from Lockport named Albert Bente came out, and they were married.
LaVOY: And about what year was this, roughly?
FITZ: Well, I had my fourth birthday in California.
LaVOY: So that was probably around 1913, 1914. What part of California did you live in?
FITZ: We lived in Los Angeles, and then my folks bought a ranch. There was a man who lived in the apartment house where we lived and he sold ranching in Blythe, California, and so they bought a ranch off of the map. And they got down there and it was just a sand hill (laughing) . .
LaVOY: Oh, my!
FITZ: So, Mother went back to Los Angeles and got it straightened around, and they had a little ranch. Neither one of them had ever been on a ranch for a day in their life, and when they bought some chickens and horses, and the chicken wanted to set, Mother thought it was sick and thought it was all swollen.
LaVOY: (laughing)
FITZ: And they had to lay the harness out on the ground so that they could get it back on a horse as it should have been, and then the neighbors were all helpful.
LaVOY: How long do you think it took them before they learned how to manage the ranch?
FITZ: As I've been told, I guess they made a profit the first year. (laughing)
LaVOY: Well, that speaks well for them. Do you recall anything at all living on the ranch?
FITZ: Yes. My brother and I rode with a neighbor girl to school. The three of us rode on a horse. I set in the tail end with a lunch bucket in each hand. I remember that. (laughing)
LaVOY: Did you go all through school in Blythe, California?
FITZ: No, we were there until I think I was in my junior year. I was in high school when I was twelve years old.
LaVOY: How did that happen?
FITZ: I started kindergarten when I was four in Los Angeles, so I was sort of pushed through, I guess. (laughing)
LaVOY: Oh! Well, where did you graduate from high school?
FITZ: They sold the ranches and we went to Los Angeles, and I graduated from the Freemont High School in Los Angeles.
LaVOY: Approximately what year was that?
FITZ: 1927. I had been sick for awhile, so they started me over a year. That's the reason that was a difference.
LaVOY: Did you go on to college, or did you go to work?
FITZ: No. I intended to go to college, but I wanted to stay out for awhile. I did work at Bullock's where my brother was for awhile, and then I wanted to stay out of school for awhile before I went to college. Then my mother died suddenly of a heart attack when I was eighteen. We went from Blythe, after we went to Los Angeles, they invested in a cinnabar mine in Tehachapi, and the rest of Mother's money was lost. There was a trial at Bakersfield that I remember about, but they never got anything back from it.
LaVOY: Oh, that's a shame! Now, you mentioned that your brother worked at Bullock's, too.
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: What was his name?
FITZ: Robert [Scott Lerch].
LaVOY: And what did he do at Bullock's?
FITZ: Well, he started as a decorator, and then they sent him to special schools, and when he finished, he was regional manager and operating manager of Bullock's of Beverly Hills, and he opened Bullock's, Palm Springs and was there for a number of years.
LaVOY: Is he still living?
FITZ: Yes, he lives at Leisure World in California.
LaVOY: Down near El Toro? That particular one?
FITZ: No, near Newport Beach.
LaVOY: Is that how you happened to work at Bullock's?
FITZ: Yes, because that was Depression time and I wouldn't 've gotten a job if he hadn't known people to give me a job. Mr. Bullock gave Robert his job.
LaVOY: What department did you work in in Bullock's?
FITZ: In art, needlework and crafts.
LaVOY: Were you as crafty and needlework perfect as you are now?
FITZ: Well, I've always been interested in sewing and doing embroidering and different things like that.
LaVOY: How did you happen to meet Harold?
FITZ: His cousin and I had been friends since I was about seven years old.
LaVOY: And who was his cousin?
FITZ: Rita Norine May.
LaVOY: And tell me about Harold. What did you think when you first met Harold?
FITZ: The first time I remember about him, Rita and I had a party, and he was asked, but he left because we were too young for him. (laughing)
LaVOY: Oh! I see. He was the older gentleman.
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: What did Harold look like?
FITZ: He had dark red, wavy hair, and, of course, he was about six feet tall then.
LaVOY: Very handsome young man, in other words.
FITZ: Well, he made quite a lot of money, I thought, and took me to very nice places to start with. (laughing)
LaVOY: That's when you were dating?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: Now, Harold, as I understand, was born in Fallon. Is that correct?
FITZ: No, he was born in Lansing, Michigan.
LaVOY: Oh, and when did he come to Fallon?
FITZ: I think he came when he was seven years old. His folks had come for this new project. [Newlands Reclamation Project]
LaVOY: They took up land?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: And where was that?
FITZ: Out in the Stillwater District.
LaVOY: Now, if he was seven, where did he go to the University because I understand he did surveying and whatnot.
FITZ: He went to classes in Los Angeles when he went down there.
LaVOY: And how did he happen to be going down to Los Angeles from Fallon?
FITZ: Well, he and his brother went down.
LaVOY: And who was his brother?
FITZ: Donald Fitz.
LaVOY: And they studied what? Surveying?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: And how did he happen to meet you? I know it was through your friend, but then how did you happen to start going together?
FITZ: Well, I really don't remember too much about that. He started to ask me to the . . I remember once taking me to a nice theatre the first time we had a date in Los Angeles.
LaVOY: And then what were some of the other places that you went? Since he was a man of means, where else did he take you?
FITZ: (laughing) I remember him taking me out on an airplane ride over Los Angeles. I didn't know we were going on an airplane ride, and I was all dressed up in an organdy dress and we went in this open cockpit plane for a ride (laughing) over Los Angeles. That was one of our first dates.
LaVOY: Was he the pilot, or was it piloted by someone else?
FITZ: Oh, it was piloted by someone else.
LaVOY: Well, that was very interesting as you got down from the plane and you were all disheveled, I'm sure.
FITZ: Yes, I'm sure of that. (laughing)
LaVOY: Where were some of the other places that you went?
FITZ: I can't remember too many places where we went except to theatres and such things and dinners. We used to go out to dinner a lot.
LaVOY: How long had you dated before he asked you to marry him?
FITZ: I think about three years. He had been hurt in an accident. The survey truck had gone over a cliff and his back was hurt, and his cousin and I used to go up and see him every day.
LaVOY: Did this accident happen down in the Los Angeles area?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: So then, when did he ask you to marry him?
FITZ: I think we'd gone together about three years, and we were married when I was nineteen.
LaVOY: Tell me about your wedding. Where were you married?
FITZ: We were married his cousin's mother's home. We were to be married--we had the reservations for the Church of the Flowers in Los Angeles and everything was set up. Harold and I'd gone out to a friend's wedding, and we came home, and there was a note on the door, and I thought, "Mother must be sick." And it just said, "Wet paint", but I went in and she'd had a heart attack, and she died the next day.
LaVOY: Oh, how sad.
FITZ: So we were married at Rita's mother's home.
LaVOY: Do you remember who the minister was at all?
FITZ: Yes, I can't recall the name right now, but he was from Lockport, New York, and he had baptized me in Lockport, and he had come to Los Angeles, and Mother took us over to the Episcopal Church and there he was. He held the services for Mother, and then he came and married Harold and me.
LaVOY: This is regressing a bit, but if I recall correctly, you told me that when you were a baby and were baptized that some very interesting water was used to baptize you. Could we put that in here?
FITZ: (laughing) How can you remember things like that, Marian? It was from the River Jordan. A friend had brought the water for me to be baptized when I was a baby.
LaVOY: Very few people could say that they had been baptized with water from the Jordan River.
FITZ: Well, when we were at the Jordan River, I brought some water back, and my granddaughter was baptized with it.
LaVOY: Well, like grandmother, granddaughter.
FITZ: I gave some to the Methodist minister here that I brought back, and I never heard that he ever used it in baptism or not.
LaVOY: Well, that's very interesting. Now, we'll go back again to your marriage to Harold. Where did you honeymoon?
FITZ: Well, Mother died, you see, and so we didn't go on a honeymoon. We intended to go to Yosemite for our honeymoon, but after we were married, we took off for Bishop as he was surveying for the tunnel up in Bishop, California, for the city of Los Angeles. So we went right there, and we lived in a log cabin. He had written me that he'd been painting the furniture white (laughing), and I had never seen a wood stove. Didn't know it had a damper. So I learned to cook on a wood stove without a damper. (laughing)
LaVOY: Did you live in Bishop proper or farther out?
FITZ: We lived thirty miles up in the mountains, and then the snow got so deep we had to move down close to the town. Of course, many of the ranches had been sold to the City (Los Angeles), and we lived in a big old two-story house that belonged to the City with a very small amount of furniture, and it was quite an experience.
LaVOY: And how long did you live in Bishop?
FITZ: Just that one winter, and then we went down, and Harold had lost his job after we got down there for a while because of Depression time, and then we came to Fallon.
LaVOY: Did he take over the family ranch in Fallon at that point in time?
FITZ: No, I had inherited some money, and it helped us get started on our own ranch.
LaVOY: Where was your ranch in Fallon?
FITZ: In Stillwater District.
LaVOY: Tell me how you reacted to coming to Nevada from lush California.
FITZ: I disliked it very much until--I felt very lonely. I had made a few nice friends, but I was very lonely until I had my children. It was very different.
LaVOY: What was your first child?
FITZ: My daughter, Ruth. [Marion Ruth, September 8, 1932] She weighed about five pounds, but she didn't seem small to me. (laughing)
LaVOY: Was she born at the ranch or in the hospital in Fallon?
FITZ: She was born in the hospital in Fallon. It wasn't much of a hospital, but that's what Fallon had.
LaVOY: Do you recall the name of it?
FITZ: I think it was just the Fallon Hospital.
LaVOY: And what doctor was in attendance? Do you remember?
FITZ: I had Dr. Sawyer.
LaVOY: Tell me a little bit about life on the ranch. What were some of the things that were your responsibility?
FITZ: Should I tell that I had a son two years later?
LaVOY: I’ll ask about that later.
FITZ: I didn't know much about ranching. After we'd been on the ranch with eighty acres, he worked in Hawthorne, and he laid out most of Hawthorne and then was sent up here to the Fallon base and laid most of that out. I remember when we bought this other ranch that it was up for the taxes, and he told me, "Go down and bid on it," and I was scared to death. I'd never done anything like that, and I never knew just how much I was supposed to give, and I thought I was the only one there. Then a neighbor man stepped around from the corner when they started to auction, and so I bid against him, but I got the ranch, so we had another hundred and eighty acres there.
LaVOY: So that gave you two hundred and sixty acres at that point in time.
FITZ: And then he sold that and then after working at the base engineering work and things, why we bought another ranch from the Dalton Ranch it was called in Stillwater.
LaVOY: And added that to your 260 acres.
FITZ: Well, no, we sold one hundred and something, the second ranch. Then we raised cattle for many years. I used to help with that. I've never lost a pound since I ran after cattle. (laughing) We had range out in the hills that ran for nine miles. We stayed on that ranch for fifty years.
LaVOY: Getting back to your life on the ranch, you were not familiar with the type of irrigation that we have here. Did you learn to irrigate at all?
FITZ: Well, sometimes when Harold had these other jobs, I would have to go out and turn water off and do some shoveling to stop the water running into checks.
LaVOY: That must have been a very different life for you.
FITZ: And I drove tractor sometimes. I'd always get mixed up when I was supposed to turn right, and I'd turn left. I never could remember my right and left hand. I should've.
LaVOY: (laughing)
FITZ: But I helped.
aVSY: Harold was doing surveying at both Hawthorne and the base here. I understand that for awhile he was also a supervisor for the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] here.
FITZ: Yes, he was. He started that when my son was a year old.
LaVOY: And what did he do?
FITZ: He had crews all over where they did repair work and rip rap and things that had to be done up at the dam [Lahontan Dam]. He always had money coming in doing something. He always worked hard. He was foreman for the PWA [Public Works Authority], and that was when they had farmers from all over the valley at Depression time who were doing different work to make a little money to help, and he was in charge of all of that for the Valley, too.
LaVOY: So, he did that in addition to running this large ranch that you were accumulating.
FITZ: Well, we didn't have the large ranch then. We just had the eighty acres when he did that.
LaVOY: Being alone on the ranch, what did you do to amuse yourself?
FITZ: I belonged to a little neighborhood club, and then I had one very good friend. Her name was Eunice Dalton, and she was a graduate architect from California. We were the only people who had been raised in the city, and we used to have our own little entertainment. We would sew, and we'd set up our little table and have tea parties. (laughing) We were very good friends for many years. She was PEO, by the way. Helen Kent's niece.
LaVOY: Oh! Now, what types of things did you sew?
FITZ: My mother sewed, and I really learned from her, and then I made all my children's clothes when they were little. My daughter was so small I couldn't have gotten patterns for her anyway. She was healthy, but very small.
LaVOY: So, you designed the patterns, too.
FITZ: Yes, I made all of them.
LaVOY: You have told me a story about buying a teddy bear. Was that when you had both the children, or was that just when Ruth was a small baby?
FITZ: No, it was Robert's first Christmas
LaVOY: All right, let me just ask you. You mentioned that two years after Ruth was born, you had a son, and what was his name?
FITZ: Robert Edmund [Fitz].
LaVOY: And he was born?
FITZ: In [November 1] 1934.
LaVOY: In Fallon?
FITZ: Yes, in Fallon.
LaVOY: With Dr. Sawyer?
FITZ: Yes, Dr. Sawyer.
LaVOY: I love the story of the teddy bear, so would you please tell us about that?
FITZ: Money was very close, and I couldn't resist this teddy bear in Reno. It had blue eyes, and I bought it and paid five dollars. I got home, and Harold said, "You know we can't afford five dollars for just one toy." (laughing)
LaVOY: Do you still have the bear?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: Oh, that's amazing. How did you get to Reno to buy the bear?
FITZ: Oh, we had a car. We'd drive up once in a while, and then when Robert was about a year old, why I had a sick spell so they had to take me to the doctor up there.
LaVOY: It was nothing serious?
FITZ: No, but my heart wasn't working right.
LaVOY: Oh, my goodness. At the ranch did you have indoor plumbing?
FITZ: Not when we started, and one of the greatest pleasures I think I had was a little sink that Harold had built for me. He started the wells, and we had a good well there, but we had an outdoor toilet. I remember it was a two holer, and my daughter was mad at me one day, and she said, "I'll go fall down the toilet." (laughing)
LaVOY: (laughing) Did you have electricity in your house?
FITZ: Yes, we had electricity. We didn't have a phone at first, and then when I was sick, why they came and put the phone in the day that Harold asked for it.
LaVOY: Was that one of the old crank phones?
FITZ: Oh, yes. Had two rings, and whatever our ring was, we answered. Of course, a lot of them answered any time it rang. (laughing)
LaVOY: The voices would get fainter and fainter as different people would pick up the phone along the line.
FITZ: Well, you'd always hear a click (laughing) and knew.
LaVOY: (laughing) How many years did you live out there at the ranch while Harold was working elsewhere? Approximately.
FITZ: Well, I think he was in Hawthorne probably a couple years, and I remember he would ride down with someone else usually, and often I would go down and get him. I remember one morning I took him to town and then he missed his ride and Robert and Ruth were in their pajamas 'cause we had to leave very early, and I took him all the way to Hawthorne in the dark and the children in their pajamas. It was summertime- No, it wasn’t summertime when I first took them down. There were children and their mamas standing along the road waiting for the buses, and it was dark. They had to have double sessions.
LaVOY: Oh, my. This was in the Hawthorne area.
FITZ: Um hum.
LaVOY: Because there were so many people.
FITZ: So many people had come in.
LaVOY: That were working there.
FITZ: Some of them were living in their cars and old boxes put together. It was a very crowded place. Harold was very fortunate. He'd lived in the hotel first and then he got one of the government houses. He wasn't supposed to have it, but they let him have it, and then he wasn't much of a housekeeper and one of his chainmen said that he would like to stay with him, and so he did all the housework and even made Harold's lunches. (laughing)
LaVOY: That was to Harold's advantage. And you stayed home and took care of the ranch.
FITZ: Yes, he came home on weekends and did irrigating and things. We just had that eighty acres then. And I remember when we had a sow who had pigs. The first time we'd ever had anything like that, and she had all these little pigs, and I remember watching those little pigs as they were born. And, anyway, when they grew up, we took them to Reno to be sold--most of them--and we got five cents a pound.
LaVOY: Goodness. Unbelievable considering the price of pork today. Now, you mentioned to me at one time that there was a Chinese family that was involved with you some way. Could you tell me when that was?
FITZ: When we bought this Dalton Ranch, a Chinese girl owned it, and Harold bought half of it and ran it, and they had cattle, and then Harold bought her out, and we had it to ourselves.
LaVOY: What was her name? Do you recall?
FITZ: Sarah Chun. Her folks lived in Honolulu and were very wealthy people.
LaVOY: Have you seen them in years past?
FITZ: No, her folks have passed away. I spent a month with them in Honolulu, though, that first year that Ruth was in college, and that was very enjoyable.
LaVOY: You have a pair of gorgeous lace bedspreads that belonged to the Chun family. Can you tell me something about those?
FITZ: The house on the ranch was burned. One of the little boys had gone out to get a log to put in the fire and it didn't fit, so he took it back to the woodpile that was on the back porch, and the house burned.
LaVOY: This was the Chun house?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: Do you recall the fire?
FITZ: Yes, I was in town. In fact, we were having a PEO practice, and I heard the fire whistle. I didn't think anything about it, and I went home and just got in the house, and one of the neighbors came in and says, "Oh, I'm so sorry Harold was hurt and the little boy was hurt." The little boy was burned some, and I stayed at the hospital with him for a couple of days, and just Harold's hands were hurt going in after him.
LaVOY: Harold went into the blazing house. And got the little boy out. That was very admirable on his part. Harold happened to be home and saw the fire, is that it?
FITZ: Yes, he was there on the ranch where the fire was when it started.
LaVOY: Well, it's so frightening in the country when a fire starts because there's very little chance of putting it out.
FITZ: Um hum. No, the fire engine was too late. It burned right down to the ground, and there was another little house on the ranch where Sarah and the children moved into.
LaVOY: These lovely lace bedspreads that you have that belonged to her. How did you happen to get those?
FITZ: Oh, well, there was so few things that they got out of the house, and that happened to be in a box that was pulled out of the house.
LaVOY: They're almost of museum quality they're so beautiful.
FITZ: I wish I knew what to do with them, Marian. [laughter]
LaVOY: While you were up here, did your brother come to visit you often?
FITZ: He used to. He used to come up quite often. He and his wife. They spent about a month with us one summer when they were building a new home, and he would go back to New York on buying trips for Bullock's often, and then they would spend some time with us too.
LaVOY: When your children started school, where did they attend school?
FITZ: In Stillwater. And Harold got me--well, he was working with the CCC camp at that time, and he got me a little Chevrolet car to take the children to school, and it would be so hard to start in the wintertime that he'd always start it for me before he'd go to work.
LaVOY: Oh. Do you recall the names of their teachers?
FITZ: I remember one was Mrs. Hildebrand.
LaVOY: Were they both good students?
FITZ: Well, yes, they never had any trouble in school. Robert was much smarter than Ruth, but Ruth studied more. (laughing)
LaVOY: That's usually the way it is with brothers and sisters. [End of tape 1 side A] Sue, tell me what crops Harold raised on the ranch.
FITZ: We had hay and wheat and cattle. We had the range out in the hills in Dixie Valley where we ran cattle and then had a fellow to take care of them, and then Harold would go at nighttime after work to see how he was doing, if he was all right. It was quite a ride out there. I helped move the cattle. We didn't truck them at the beginning. We had to drive them out, and I used to help with that, too.
LaVOY: What was the name of your horse?
FITZ: One was Spot, I remember that. (laughing) The one that I usually rode.
LaVOY: Now, you would get on your horse at the ranch and then ride clear out to round up the cattle.
FITZ: Well, yes, but we took them out from the ranch out to the hills, and then there was a cabin out there for the rider out in the hills, and then they had to be rounded up and brought in, and then later they were trucked back and forth.
LaVOY: Now, tell me, when you were riding out to get the cattle, how many hours were you in the saddle?
FITZ: Oh, not too long. A few hours at a time. I remember Harold got me a beautiful new saddle, but it was all quilted, and it was very uncomfortable. (laughing)
LaVOY: (laughing) Did you eat out in the hills when you went out to get them?
FITZ: Yes, we usually had something, and when Harold would go off, we'd often just take a candy bar to eat during the day, and that would be it.
LaVOY: And then you returned in the evening with the cattle, and where did you put them in the corrals? At your ranch or at another collecting spot?
FITZ: No, well, they collected them out in the range and then brought them in. Then it would take a good day to drive them in, and then we had corrals and things on the ranch where they stayed during the winter.
LaVOY: Did the buyers come out to the ranch at that time?
FITZ: Yes, yes. They didn't have the stockyard that they have now.
LaVOY: Do you remember the name of any of the cattle buyers?
FITZ: Bill Garnick used to come out a lot, and then from other places, and I don't remember the others' name.
LaVOY: What was your brand?
FITZ: Cross L. The branding iron is in the museum, one of them, a small one.
LaVOY: How many men did you usually have to feed when you had these roundups?
FITZ: Oh, I didn't feed them. We just had a couple of riders at the time, and then the one stayed out there, and then Harold and I would help.
LaVOY: Did you ever have hay crews that you had to feed?
FITZ: No, Harold had--when we had that ranch we had the balers and then we had the big harvester, but I never had big crews to cook for. One or two, maybe.
LaVOY: I mentioned that you enjoyed sewing. You must have done a great deal of volunteer work with youth groups with sewing.
FITZ: Well, I was a leader of the 4-H group, and they couldn't get a man who would take it out there, so I used to take the boys out to the ranch to see cattle and pigs and such things as that, and I was very proud of my girls. They took more prizes at the State Fair when it was here in Fallon, and I used to help with the State Fair all the years it was downtown here, and they took more prizes than anyone else in the State. So I was proud of that.
LaVOY: Who were some of the girls that you had in your 4-H groups?
FITZ: Ida Mae Viera. I don't recall the names just off hand now. There weren't very many of them, but they were all that were around the District that wanted to . .
LaVOY: You do such beautiful, beautiful needlework. Did you spend a lot of time during the day doing needlework?
FITZ: No, I don't think I really had much time when I was raising my children and helping what I could on the ranch. I made all their clothes and my clothes, though.
LaVOY: Didn't you have the Make-It-With-Wool project or something at one time?
FITZ: Yes, I did that for a number of years. I did it locally, and then I was state director and went to many different states for their national competitions.
LaVOY: Would you explain that project, please?
FITZ: They had it for the juniors and the seniors and the adults, and the winners from state would go on to national. Each winner. Not the adult section. They didn't go on to national. They just were at state level.
LaVOY: If I understand correctly, everything had to be made with pure wool.
FITZ: Yes, all wool.
LaVOY: Did you go to any of the national conventions?
FITZ: Yes, I went to a number of them. I went to Texas. And it was interesting. I remember Mrs. Nieman had us out to her ranch, and she was in cowboy clothes with great big diamond studs down the front of her shirt. I remember that. (laughing)
LaVOY: That would be very impressive!
FITZ: Yes, it was. (laughing) I went to Oregon and Denver and several different places while I was director, and it was very enjoyable.
LaVOY: Did you go all over the state of Nevada checking the Make-It-With Wool people?
FITZ: No, they came usually to Reno where they would have the state contests. It'd be up at Harrah's and different places and the big hotels and at the Nugget in Sparks, and they would see the entertainment that was going on. There were judges. We had special judges.
LaVOY: What was the most elegant wool outfit that you recall having seen made?
FITZ: I don't remember the most elegant one. I remember mostly what bothered me most when someone would make something with plaid and the plaids wouldn't be matched. That really disturbed me, but the girls really worked hard and tried to make some nice garments, and they did.
LaVOY: Was Pendleton wool used a great deal at that point in time?
FITZ: Yes, they gave us a number of pieces of wool for prizes.
LaVOY: In other words, if you won a prize, you got like a bolt of Pendleton wool?
FITZ: No, it wasn't a bolt. It'd be a dress length or some such thing as that. The first prize would be to go to national, and then there'd usually be a Singer sewing machine for second prize and on down for these different prizes.
LaVOY: Have sewing machines changed a great deal since you started that project?
FITZ: Well, not really. I think the one sewing machine I had at that time was the best machine I ever had. There were no little things that were hard to adjust, and it worked beautifully.
LaVOY: When was it that Harold was elected to Legislature?
FITZ: I don't remember what year it was.
LaVOY: In the forties or the fifties?
FITZ: I'd have to look that up or ask him just when it was.
LaVOY: Well, we'll get that for later, but tell me about his going to Legislature. Were your children out of school by that time?
FITZ: Yes. Yes, they were out of school. Ruth was married.
LaVOY: Ruth went to what university?
FITZ: Nevada.
LaVOY: And after she graduated, she married?
FITZ: Michael Pintar.
LaVOY: And then your son. He attended what university?
FITZ: Nevada, Reno, too.
LaVOY: And then he married?
FITZ: Yes, he married Clara Class. He's divorced, and soon married a girl named Laura.
LaVOY: Do they both live in Carson?
FITZ: Yes, and they're all good friends.
LaVOY: That's wonderful.
FITZ: Robert had two daughters. One of them, the older one, they had been to a baseball game one night, and the kids were riding in the car, and they'd just been to have pizza, and she was sitting on the back and the girl was driving the car turned too quickly, and she fell off and hit her head.
LaVOY: And was killed?
FITZ: Not immediately. We sat up in Reno with her two days, and then they withdrew the life support, and then he had another little girl. Two at that time, and she's a graduate of . . . . has had five years at the University. Is a decorator in Reno now. Married.
LaVOY: Following after the footsteps of your brother.
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: That's wonderful. Now, when Harold went to Legislature you told me some very, very interesting stories as your life as the legislative wife. One that I particularly liked was when you met someone at the plane, and Harold said, "Who is that?"
FITZ: (laughing) They had the California Legislature and the Nevada Legislature over at the Country Club in Reno, and the wind was blowing very hard, and Grant Sawyer, the governor, called us as we started to go by to come over, and we went over, and he introduced this couple to us, and Harold couldn't hear who it was, and he asked the man again who he was, and he said, "Well, he was Governor [Pat] Brown from California." (laughing)
LaVOY: (laughing)
FITZ: We met some very, very interesting people when Harold was in politics. He was a Democratic chairman here for many years before he was in the Legislature, and we met [Adlai] Stevenson when he was running for President. We were asked to go out to Tonopah to meet him. We met ex-President [Harry S.] Truman at the airport, and no one saw me in the parade going downtown with him. (laughing) Then, of course, we met [President Richard M.] Nixon and [President] John Kennedy, and there was a reception for him at the mansion, a private reception, where we were, and we also met his father when Grant Sawyer had him for dinner and asked us to be guests at the dinner.
LaVOY: This was Joseph Kennedy?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: What type of a person was he?
FITZ: Well, he was very congenial person. Except one thing I remember, he told how his son cheated when he was going to a private school; I can't remember too much. That night Harold had water running and we went up for the cocktail party when it was supposed to be on, and we went to that, and then they didn't eat until ten o'clock, and although we weren't supposed to leave until the guest of honor had left, we had to leave. (laughing)
LaVOY: Or your fields would have been flooded.
FITZ: Or our fields would have been flooded.
LaVOY: With Kennedy saying that his son had cheated, was he speaking of the future president or …?
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: John Kennedy. I can see how that would be disillusioning.
FITZ: Yes. (laughing)
LaVOY: Well, did you get home, and was the water safe?
FITZ: Yes, we got home in time, but I remember we were a little bit nervous coming along to wonder what had happened to it running on the ranch, 'cause he hadn't had anyone else to do it at that time. We met [President] Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird. Alan Bible [United States Senator] asked us to a dinner up at the Mapes Hotel for them, and Harold and I sat across from them, and I always remember she said, "Don't forget to thank them." (laughing)
LaVOY: (laughing)
FITZ: Harold was a delegate to the national convention in Los Angeles when Kennedy was nominated, and I had a nice seat up in the balcony--all the guests were--and people were looking back towards where I was sitting, and I turned around, and there was Eleanor Roosevelt.
LaVOY: Sitting behind you!
FITZ: I thought that was . . . I was very pleased to see her. (laughing)
LaVOY: Did you say anything to her?
FITZ: No. She didn't sit there very long. I couldn't just stare at her, but I looked around and there she sat, and then pretty soon I looked around, and she was gone.
LaVOY: She was quite an elderly woman by that time, wasn't she?
FITZ: Um hum, um hum. We saw President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt. We went to Reno to see him. In fact, he talked from the back of a train in Sparks, and then we went on to Yosemite [National Park, California], and here he was in Yosemite, and they stopped all the cars while he went by. We couldn't travel around the roads in Yosemite 'til they was cleared.
LaVOY: Oh! Well, you certainly have seen a lot of our Presidents. Which one was most impressive to you?
FITZ: Well, of course, I had a little closer contact with President Johnson. I saw him several different times, but, of course, Harold was always enthused about Truman. He always thought he was quite a man.
LaVOY: Did you see Mrs. Truman?
FITZ: No. Just the president, ex-president at that time.
LaVOY: Just the President. What do you recall about President Truman? Your feelings when you saw him.
FITZ: I don't remember except I felt quite privileged to be asked out there to meet him and to ride up to the University.
LaVOY: It was a regular parade.
FITZ: Well, just the cars.
LaVOY: Oh, a cavalcade. And no one that you knew saw you.
FITZ: Not a person along the route. (laughing)
LaVOY: That's terrible. With some of the other legislative things that you were able to attend, can you think of anything more that's of interest?
FITZ: Well, at that time we were entertained by many of the big clubs in all the nightclubs and things and entertainment was always open to us which was quite an enjoyable thing to have happen, and then Harold was in the Legislature when the Olympics were at Squaw Valley, so we were taken up there twice. The first time we went by police escort, and everything was open to us, and then another time one of the fellows from Legislature worked for Harrah's and he asked us to go up by bus and to bring our whole family, so we had another enjoyable day up there with everything open to us, and I always felt pleased about that.
LaVOY: Do you recall any of the athletes that were there at that time that you particularly were interested in?
FITZ: No, I can't remember.
LaVOY: Any of the ice skaters?
FITZ: Yes, I can't remember the names. I especially enjoyed the ice skating, but I can't remember who the champions were, and it was done, of course, so differently than now. You just waited for them to hold the number up to see.
LaVOY: I believe that was approximately 1965, I think. Right in there. Sometime, 1965 or 1966. [1960]
FITZ: Ruth and Mike [Pintar] and Robert and Clara [Fitz] went with us and Harold's mother.
LaVOY: Oh!
FITZ: I mean, when we went as guests of Harrah's.
LaVOY: I see. Now, Harold was also an excellent marksman.
FITZ: Yes.
LaVOY: Did you go on any of those meets?
FITZ: Yes, we used to have the meetings out here in Stillwater, and I used to run the target a lot for the men, and then we went to national. When we went to the state meetings, all the different state meetings, and he was first, second, and third in the state. We went back to Camp Perry [Ohio] and were there a month and lived in Squaw Camp. We weren't supposed to have them take care of the women's food as we ate in the cafeteria during that time, and at first they would put both the husband and wife's meal prices just for the husband, and then they decided they couldn't do that, so the woman put would everything on the husband's tray, except maybe a dessert which they'd have to pay for. (laughing) I remember that. And the lightning. It was so . . . and we lived in Squaw Camp was just tent places and I wasn't used to all that lightning that they have in the east. It was frightening.
LaVOY: Yes, it is.
FITZ: But it was enjoyable.
LaVOY: That was the Nevada Civilian Rifle Team?
FITZ: Um hum.
LaVOY: Was Harold ever the captain of that?
FITZ: Well, I don't know as they . . . they didn't really have a captain. They had someone, a captain from the Army, as I remember, who would help them . That was the state picture that's on the wall.
LaVOY: I noticed that that's 1931. Did he go many years to that?
FITZ: No, he just went back once to the national.
LaVOY: And that's when you stayed in the Squaw Camp?
FITZ: Um hum.
LaVOY: What did you do with the children while you were back there?
FITZ: Oh, that was the year before Ruth was born.
LaVOY: Oh, I see. What was your first impression of going back there?
FITZ: Well, we went by train, and I remember we had to pay our own ways. Must have paid our own way to get back there, and then everything was taken care of. We went on train and we just had the sleeper at night. Oh, it was so dirty! I remember my hair was just black with coal. Hunks of coal from the train, and when we were back there I remember going into the washroom and some people were talking and said they just didn't understand how people could live in Nevada. They had crossed on the train, too. (laughing)
LaVOY: (laughing) Did you tell them it's really a very nice place to live?
FITZ: Well, I probably didn't. I was rather young and probably didn't, but I couldn't understand a lot of the people talking. They were from the South, and we would be in the washroom, and I just couldn't understand them some of their talk.
LaVOY: The southern drawl.
FITZ: Uh huh. (laughing)
LaVOY: Oh, my. Well, now, when did you start playing bridge?
FITZ: Oh, goodness. Probably twenty-five or thirty years ago.
LaVOY: What prompted you to start playing bridge?
FITZ: Well, I had a very good friend who had played bridge for years, and I guess one of the first times I played was at Margaret Kent's when Artemesia Club met and they asked me to join, and I'd never played, and I will always remember my first hand had four aces. It had so much count, and they were supposed to bid then. (laughing) And I always remember starting then. It's given me a lot of pleasure since.
LaVOY: You belong to a group. The Stillwater bridge group.
FITZ: I started it. They just call it Stillwater bridge group, and there are four of the original ones. The others are different.
LaVOY: Who are the four originals?
FITZ: Pat Weishaupt and Nina Kent, Dorothy Lawrence, and myself.
LaVOY: Oh!
FITZ: I taught sewing at the high school. Did you know that?
LaVOY: No! When was this?
FITZ: I took Bishop clothing at the University, and I enjoyed that so much, and I just took it for myself that term, and when they asked me if I would give adult classes at the high school, I said, "Yes." I didn't want to do it at first. I was a little timid about doing such things. They said, "Well, there are fifteen people. You will have a class." And the first night there were forty-five. I had three classes a week for quite a while, and I started with beginners and went on to intermediate and finished with tailoring of coats and suits, and I had about two hundred and fifty women, I guess, all together.
LaVOY: By the time your classes were finished.
FITZ: Um hum. I also took oil painting classes from Craig Sheppard at the University. But I enjoyed those classes.
LaVOY: Did you ever do any painting yourself?
FITZ: Well, I've done some. That big painting inside of there I've done, and Ruth has some paintings. I took classes from Virginia Harsch, too, in Carson City, and that was when Harold in the Legislature, and then when I came back, I started the sewing classes and things, and I didn't have time to keep up with painting. I've been rather sorry since.
LaVOY: Well, you certainly do magnificent needlework. When did you start your interest in flower gardening?
FITZ: I guess I always have liked flowers, and when we lived in this little tiny place in Stillwater before we built our home, why I had the first grass in Stillwater. I had a little grass along the front of the house, I think about three foot wide, and I used sheep shears to cut it. (laughing) I guess that was the first, and then I had iris and some different things like that around there, but our place out in Stillwater I had a lot of flowers and about fifty rose bushes and things out there before we moved to town.
LaVOY: You were prompted to move to town because of the terrible accident that happened to Harold. Can you tell me about that and your reaction to it?
FITZ: We had just returned from Europe and Harold was starting the furnace. We had a gas furnace, and we stopped in town and gotten some things out of our locker where we had the frozen locker in town, and I was getting some things put away in the refrigerator, and there was a big explosion. Harold was down in the basement lighting the fire, and the refrigerator, the big side by side one, tipped almost all the way over, and I went to the steps, and the steps were all blown up. Oh, I thought, "I have to get down to help him out," and then he got out, and we didn't realize he was so badly burned. The fire engines came out, but the fire had blown out from the explosion when it blew so . . . Some things in the basement had blown, but we had so many of our things blown up.
LaVOY: Like what?
FITZ: Our dishes and so many different things that we had had for so long. Some things we never got back. A friend came, Helen Horn, a dear friend, came down, and we gathered up all these pieces in a tub and went through it so as to claim things for the insurance. A neighbor stopped by right away, and, of course, a lot of them stopped as they went by, knew what was happening. The fire engines came out, and they finally sent Harold to town into the hospital because his hands were so burned, but we didn't realize how bad it was. He had tried to get the hose going and things to put things out.
LaVOY: Did the ambulance come to take Harold to the hospital?
FITZ: They took him from Fallon to Reno in the hospital, but they took me in finally, and they couldn't give me any medicine for the shock and things unless I was entered in the hospital, but I didn't want to be entered in the hospital, and I know they made me sit in a wheel chair, and Glenna Palludan and several came over and were with us. Finally the doctor called and asked for me and he said Harold was supposed to have gone to Reno to the hospital an hour before, and they hadn't done it. Anyway I rode in the ambulance with him to Reno.
LaVOY: His hands and his face were badly burned?
FITZ: Yes, they were badly burned, and his legs were burned, and his ears were so badly burned. His mouth. I couldn't even touch him any place. And they took skin off his legs and grafted. His hands were all completely made over. They had big spikes through his hands to hold them out so they wouldn't become claws.
LaVOY: My, that was terrible.
FITZ: He wouldn't let them take him to therapy in the morning, and I stayed with Ruthie and went back and forth every day, and he wouldn't let them do anything to him until I got up there, and then we had to take him down and then they debriefed him. The tweezers. The burnt flesh.
LaVOY: But, he wouldn't let that be done until you were right there with him.
FITZ: No, and I had to go and sit there while they did He was doped, and, of course, I wasn't. (laughing)
LaVOY: Oh, my. How long was he in the hospital, Sue?
FITZ: Two months.
LaVOY: A long rehabilitation.
FITZ: And then afterwards he went back and had a finger removed.
LaVOY: This was by the doctor in Reno. Do you remember what his name was?
FITZ: Greenberg's the one who took care of him.
LaVOY: George Greenberg. How long after he came back from the hospital was he in rehabilitation?
FITZ: Well, it was quite a little while before he could do anything or even use a button or anything, and we lived in a mobile home out here on Soda Lake Road for a few months.
LaVOY: Because your home was destroyed.
FITZ: Yes, our home was destroyed.
LaVOY: Now, did you insist that he give up ranching, because I know he's still a little angry about that.
FITZ: Yes, yes. I couldn't see how we could keep on ranching when he was in such condition, and he didn't like that. He liked the ranch.
LaVOY: So, then did you sell the ranch?
FITZ: We rented it for a year, and then he took it back and had it running, and then we sold the ranches.
LaVOY: And did you build a home in town?
FITZ: No, we bought this. It was already built. It'd been built by Bernys Dodge. There weren't many houses in town to buy at that time, and we were just fortunate to get some place.
LaVOY: To whom did you sell your ranch?
FITZ: We sold one of them to Tony Silva and the other to Van Dyke who had a big dairy and he still has in Harmon District.
LaVOY: Harold must have been very, very upset having to give up his way of life. Is this when he started taking you on travels?
FITZ: Well, we had always, many years we had been traveling. We'd been to Mexico about five times, about a month each time in the wintertime when we could get away before we had so many cattle and things to take care of, and sometimes we had someone take care of the cattle.
LaVOY: Something that I've wanted to ask you about. While you were on the ranch, I believe that you had quite a frightening episode with little Ruth and the irrigation ditch. Could you tell me about that?
FITZ: She was just a little thing, and Robert was just a baby, and she was playing just outside the door, and I was doing something, and she wanted to come in, so I told her to wait just a minute, and so I finished what I was doing and went out and couldn't find her, and the water was running around the ditch that was close to the house, and I tried to find her. [end of tape 1] I started out to try to find Harold then when we couldn't find Ruth, and he was out in the field with the car, and just then he started towards the house and he had seen Ruth walking towards him out in the field, and he put her in the car, and he had a brake and then he had to fix the brake, and here we'd been looking for her all that time, but anyway we built a fence then.
LaVOY: Well, I can imagine the terror that you felt because so many small children have been lost to the irrigation ditches here in Fallon. Now, you also did some work as a statistician. Could you tell me about?
FITZ: For the agricultural statistician work I supervised it from this part of the state, from up Orovada to Minden, and I had about six different ones who would do it, and then I would check their work, and then I would have to go back to some of the bigger ranches and check and be sure they had done it accurately. Did it for several years.
LaVOY: What is involved in this statistician work?
FITZ: Well, you ask the people on a certain day how many head of cattle they had on their ranch, and they had to be just what was on that certain ranch and how many pigs and how many of this and that and how many tons of wheat and different things they raised so as to get the report that's put in the paper regularly.
LaVOY: Then who were these reports turned in to?
FITZ: To National [Washington, D.C.] finally, and I went quite a few times to . . . they'd fly me into Salt Lake City, and someone'd meet me and then they'd have our . . . the ones who worked under me would come. They had to drive. (laughing)
LaVOY: This was for the Department of Agriculture?
FITZ: Yes, for the Department of Agriculture.
LaVOY: Didn't you tell me at one time that Governor Sawyer, I believe, wanted to appoint you to some board?
FITZ: Oh, I was in the Governor's Institution Committee for several years. That included the orphanage, the prison, and different things. A woman named Barbara Coffin and I were the only women on the Institution Committee, and we were taken to the prison and they blew whistles and cleared the whole yard before they would let us cross.
LaVOY: To keep the prisoners away from you. What all did you do on that commission?
FITZ: Well, we just checked to see how things are being run and watching. At that time I think there were only about six or seven women in the State prison here. They had a place built up above and the women would get up on top as high as they could and then catcalled at the men down below. (laughing) But there were only six or seven of them. I think a couple of them murdered their husbands and little things like that. (laughing)
LaVOY: (laughing) Did you check only in the women's division of the prison?
FITZ: No, we were taken all through the prison, and I remember one thing. They had a new security fixed, and they were supposed to be able to push all the gates, or whatever you'd call them, at the same time, and something wasn't working. (laughing) But they showed all the different things that were at the prison and the orphanage.
LaVOY: Do you remember the orphanage--how that affected you?
FITZ: It was just one big building at that time, and the children all had so many toys and things that had been given to them. So many different organizations had been so good to them, and they seemed at that time very well, happy, and taken care of, what we saw. And we ate there at different times when we'd be there we'd eat with them.
LaVOY: That must have been very interesting for you.
FITZ: And then they started the individual buildings where a few lived in each house.
LaVOY: Well, you have had a very, very active life, and you're still going very, very strong. Tell me some of the travels that you have taken with Harold.
FITZ: We have been just about every place in the world, I guess. We've been to Africa and Israel, Russia, Iran, Mexico a number of times, and most of the countries in Europe and Turkey and Spain and France and China and Japan and New Zealand.
LaVOY: Very well traveled, and you just recently returned from whale watching. Would you tell me about that?
FITZ: Oh, yes, we enjoyed that. We took Ruth and Mike [Pintar]. Mike wasn't too strong, of course, after his very serious illness, but he got along very well, and the four of us went down, and we went to La Paz, and then we went by bus out to the boat. We stayed aboard the boat and had wonderful meals. Can't say too much for the beds, but it was interesting, and then we went out on little plastic boats. There were five of us in each boat. There were only ten of us on the boat, and then we went out in these little plastic boats, and I was afraid a whale would come under us and tip us right over, but I did see them go under our boat, but there wasn't even a ripple, and they didn't bother us at all. We were very fortunate in seeing what they call logging, and the whale was just lying asleep on top and baby was playing around. The babies, of course, are twelve to fifteen feet long.
LaVOY: How many did you see sleeping, or logging as you call it?
FITZ: Just two. It just happened one evening. Right outside our cabin why there was one that was lying there, but it left in a hurry. But we saw over a hundred, I think, the first morning we went out.
LaVOY: And you were right out in a small boat among the whales. Could you touch them?
FITZ: Well, I was sitting between Ruth and Mike, so I couldn't touch them, but two of them about the same time, well, a mother and a baby, came up next to Mike, and he could have touched them very easily, but he was trying to take a picture of them.
LaVOY: Did Harold get a chance to touch them?
FITZ: Well, he didn't go out the first day, but he went out the second day, and he enjoyed it. No, he didn't touch any either, but some could've, you know, who were on our boat.
LaVOY: Now, with all of your travels, which country do you feel that you enjoyed the most?
FITZ: We've enjoyed all of our trips so much, but I remember when we went to mainland China, we thought that was just really very special, and we had different ones. Went to Bali and Tahiti and a number of places like that we enjoyed a lot, but at that time we thought mainland China was one of the nicest trips.
LaVOY: Something that I want you to tell me about. I know that Harold started collecting gold coins a long time ago, and he has been very generous giving you beautiful coin necklaces and what not, but when you were in Israel, tell me what happened.
FITZ: We were watching them excavate at Jericho, and, of course, it was so interesting. We were standing around there, and a fellow dug up a coin and flipped it to Harold, and just then the fellow in charge of excavation came up, and he was so mad. He grabbed the coin from Harold. Harold said if he'd thought in time he would of swallowed it. (laughing) And he scolded the fellow so much. Of course, we couldn't understand what he was saying.
LaVOY: Well, you brought a widow's mite to one of our meetings. Will you explain what widow's mite is?
FITZ: Marion, you'd probably know better than I can. I can't remember too much about it. It's in the Bible. Tells about this widow's mite, and Harold has purchased them. He's purchased from this company in New York.
LaVOY: Well, this widow's mite is so tiny that that's the only reason I was bringing it up, and you had earrings made, I believe, for a friend.
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FITZ: Well, no, Harold gave them to Helen Horn to have earrings made.
LaVOY: But, we've heard for so many years about widow's mite in the Bible and whatnot, it was very interesting to have seen one and to know that somebody in Fallon here actually owns one.
FITZ: When we started traveling, they had little things like the Eiffel Tower and different such things to put on coin bracelets, and Harold just thought he would like to get me gold coins instead, so that's the reason we have coins from all over the world and have all the American coins except a three-dollar gold piece which is worth twelve thousand dollars or something.
LaVOY: Now, Harold has also collected old mining certificates,
and I know that you are aware of what he has and have bought some for him. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
FITZ: Well, he just collects them from Nevada, and he is very interested in them, and I'm afraid I don't take the interest I should in them. That's one of his special hobbies, and he collects all he can from these different old mines from Nevada.
LaVOY: He has quite a number of them I know. I have seen a lot of them, and I understand that Helen Millward is going to give him one called the Pellon Mine.Well, you have such an interesting, interesting life. You've also belonged to a lot of different clubs here in Fallon. Could you tell me what some of them are?
FITZ: Oh, of course, I belonged to the Stillwater Club for many years, and I was president of the Artemesia Club when they burnt the papers and had finished paying for the building.
LaVOY: Now, may I ask, what was the Artemesia Club?
FITZ: It had been started many years ago because when women would come to town, they didn't have a place to take their babies to nurse them and take care of them, so they started this Artemesia Club to help the farm women.
LaVOY: In other words, they'd go into the club and have a place to stay.
FITZ: And then I was president of the DAR here, and I was always sorry when I was invited with the rest of the presidents to a lunch there [Kathryn Mackay's], and I was invited to another luncheon, so I didn't go, and I missed seeing all that Mackay silver, and I've always been sorry I missed that.
LaVOY: Was this Kathryn Mackay?
FITZ: Um hum. So, I was so sorry about missing all of that. I belonged to a DAR and Daughter of the Nile.
LaVOY: You belong to the PEO, too.
FITZ: Yes, and PEO which is very special to me. I'd never had a sister, and so when they asked me and they were all so good to me, I always appreciated that.
LaVOY: How many times were you president?
FITZ: Nine times, I guess. I held all the offices except corresponding secretary, and I substituted at that, and then when our chapter put on the State meeting, [convention] why I acted as corresponding secretary.
LaVOY: You were also active in what garden club?
FITZ: Garden club. I enjoyed that, too.
LaVOY: Were you ever president of that?
FITZ: Um hum. Oh, yes, I'm sure I was. It was some time ago.
LaVOY: Were there any other organizations that you can think of just at this moment that you have been involved in?
FITZ: No, I can't. My new great-grandaughter is arriving, Marian and I’m afraid I’ll have to- [tape cuts out]
LaVOY: You and Harold have been very, very generous, and recently you gave quite a donation to the Shrine Hospital. Will you please tell me about that?
FITZ: We gave a donation to the Shrine Hospital to help with the new building. We gave a hundred thousand dollars to that, and a hundred thousand for scholarships and to help with children with speech defects at the University [University of Nevada, Reno], and then a scholarship locally where a child in the second year will get two thousand a year, and one thousand they will keep, and after they graduate they will return one thousand to keep the scholarship fund going.
LaVOY: I understand there's a girl from Fallon that has received the first scholarship. Would you tell me her name?
FITZ: Lisa Hanifan has it this year, and I can't remember the name of the girl who got it the year before.
LaVOY: Well, I think that's very generous for you and Harold to share what you have with people that are not that fortunate, and Shrine Hospital does such magnificent work that they certainly are very thankful to you for your largesse. I'm certain of that.
FITZ: We hope they will do things that they should be doing with it, and then we expect to make more donations to them.
LaVOY: Well, that's wonderful. On behalf of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project, I want to thank you, Catherine, for a most interesting interview.

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1:01:45, 15:41

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Citation

“Catherine "Sue" Amelia Lerch Fitz Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed December 4, 2020, https://ccmuseum.omeka.net/items/show/659.