Edwin Putnam Osgood Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
an interview with
EDWIN PUTNAM OSGOOD
September 10, 1994
This interview is part of the socioeconomic studies for Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Planning and Oversight Program.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
Edwin Putnam Osgood, Sr., father of the narrator, graduated in sanitary and civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1897. The King of Siam sent an agent to America to find an engineer to install a sanitary system in Bangkog. Mr. Osgood, Sr. was recommended and with his wife sailed for Siam. After returning to America, his interest in the Newlands Irrigation Project and the opening of homesteads brought them to Fallon in 1910 where they homesteaded forty acres. Edwin Putnam Jr. was born on the homestead in 1912.
Mr. Osgood, Sr. started working for the Truckee Carson Irrigation District as a surveyor, establishing all the Truckee River rights for the Reno Valley that affected the Fallon irrigation rights. The water situation was always very crucial to him and he was an activist, writing articles and organizing help to contest the diversion of water away from Fallon.
A man with vision, he built four houses on Maine Street in Fallon. The family moved into one of the houses and rented the other three. He sold the homestead and bought two 80-acre ranches in Stillwater where the family moved in 1921. By then there were three sons and two daughters. Since Mr. Osgood, Sr.'s work took him to Reno for lengthy stays, the older son, Henry, ran the ranch with the help of the younger brothers. Edwin, Jr. started milking cows at a young age. They expanded the dairy herd and eventually their main income came from the cream. He describes ranch life, irrigation, effects of the Depression and the valuable work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The ditches, canals and ponds provided places to swim in the warm weather and ice skate in the winter. When he was thirteen Edwin, Jr. was given an old shotgun and his older brother took him along on duck-hunting trips in the sinks below Sweetwater.
After marrying Vivian Robinson who also grew up on a neighboring farm in Stillwater, they lived in the Indian Agent's house on the Stillwater Indian Reservation where Edwin, Jr. was working on road projects for the State Highway. He describes how the reservation was part of the Newlands project, with irrigation ditches on the reservation and the Indians living the same lives as the homesteaders, with horses and cows and raising hay.
In 1945 Mr. Osgood, Sr. and Edwin, Jr. originated Osgood Engineers Incorporated in Reno. Ten years later Edwin III joined them and his daughter, now office manager, makes it four generations. Mr. Osgood, Sr. was active until the day he died at the age of eighty-six on a job climbing the Peavine Mountain, surveying water rights for a client.
SYLVIA ARDEN: This is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History Project, interviewing Mr. E.P. Osgood, Jr. at his home, 405 Circle Drive, Reno, Nevada, September 10, 1994. Good morning, Mr. Osgood. I'm so pleased that you are allowing us to interview you for the Churchill County Oral History Project. Would you please give us your full name?
EDWIN OSGOOD: Edwin Putnam Osgood, Jr.
SA: I understand you have a nickname that everyone calls you.
EO: Kewp. My father must of thought I looked like a Kewpie doll when I was born.
SA: [laughs] Would you give us the date of your birth and where you were born?
EO: July 8, 1912, Fallon, Nevada.
SA: Would you please tell us about your paternal grandparents--first the name of your grandfather, and where and when he was born.
EO: Henry Brown Osgood was born in Portland, Maine, October 9, 1843.
SA: And your paternal grandmother? Do you know her name? [tape cuts]
EO: Harriet Mary Hubbard, born [April 14,] 1845.
SA: Do you know where she was born?
SA: What about your grandparents on your mother's side--first your grandfather.
ED: It was Colonel Paul Clendenin, born [February 11,] 1860. But I don't have the place of birth.
SA: And your grandmother on your mother's side?
EO: Susan Dunn was born [October 25,] 1861.
SA: And tell us your father's name?
EO: Edwin Putnam Osgood, Sr., born [June 19,] 1876, in Oswego, New York.
SA: And your mother?
EO: Elizabeth Clendenin, born [November 12,] 1879, in Ninevah, New York. [Tape cuts]
SA: When was she born?
EO: 1979. [Tape cuts]
SA: Who was the first one in your family--what part of your family first came to Nevada, do you know?
EO: My father and mother moved to Nevada in about 1906.
SA: Do you know what brought them here?
EO: He was working in Siam. He was engineer [to] the King of Siam. When they returned to America, they first came to San Francisco in 1905, and then moved to Los Angeles in 1906, just missing the earthquake. About 1907 or 1908, they moved to Reno, Nevada for a year or two, and then moved down to Fallon permanently.
SA: I want to go back a little bit, because even though it isn't Churchill County, it's intriguing, I'm sure, to people reading the interview: What was your father's background that he got to go to Siam to work there? Where did he get his education, and what was it?
EO: He was graduated in engineering: sanitary and civil, at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1897, I believe.
SA: That was certainly early. He must have been pretty bright. Did he talk to you about how he developed to that stage? What was his earlier childhood, or his parents' influence? What brought him to that? Did he ever tell you?
EO: Not in particular, except that he had moved all over the United States with his father and mother: his father being a colonel in the Army, and stationed at various army posts all over the country. And the old home, from his mother's side, was the oldest home in New York state, in the Birkshire Hills, where they finally moved permanently there. And that was when he went on to college at Boston.
SA: He must have been brilliant in high school. Did you hear anything about that, or see records?
EO: No, I have no records of that.
SA: You said he and your mother went to Siam, so he married before they went?
SA: And did he tell you much about that experience, how he happened to go over there?
EO: I have just read the articles that the King of Siam sent his agent to America to find an engineer, because they wanted to put a sanitary system in Bangkok. And the emissary came to the United States and asked where he would find an engineer that would be recommended, and they told him the best school in the country was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. So he went there, and they recommended my father as having graduated in both sanitary and civil engineering. It took 'em a month or two to find him, but they finally (chuckles) located him. He accepted the position, and he and my mother then sailed for Siam.
SA: That sounds fascinating. That was his first job, then, when he got out of MIT?
EO: No, he'd been out a couple of years and was working on other projects.
SA: What brought them into Churchill County? Did he get a job there?
EO: Yes, he moved to Fallon, I guess interested in the irrigation project, and took up a small homestead. He had a forty-acre homestead south of Fallon.
SA: He only took forty acres?
EO: Yes, as a first homestead. Then he went to work for the District. In the meantime, he built four houses on Maine Street, in Fallon, and we moved from the little homestead into one of the houses. Then he rented the other three.
SA: Let's back up a little bit: Do you know what year he homesteaded?
EO: He must have made the homestead in about 1910.
SA: In 1910, were there children in the family by then?
EO: Yes, my oldest brother, born in Siam, was six or eight years old. My second brother, born in Reno, brother Paul. My sister, Kemma was born at the homestead in 1911. I was born at the homestead in 1912. And my younger sister, born at the homestead in 1914.
SA: What year did he build these houses in town? Was that when he first came?
EO: Yes, I would estimate they were built about 1912 or 1913.
SA: He had a lot of foresight, a lot of vision, didn't he?
SA: And did he help build them, physically?
EO: I don't think so. I never knew him to be a carpenter. At about that time, he bought two ranches in Stillwater, Nevada.
SA: Oh! Now, did he buy the lots in town then, that he built the houses on?
SA: And he also built a ranch in Stillwater, you said?
EO: Well, he bought the two ranches in Stillwater--two 80-acre ranches--and then, I presume, sold the homestead.
SA: I see. So did you then move to the Stillwater ranch?
EO: We moved to the Stillwater ranch about 1921.
SA: And before that, where did you live? You said you moved into one of the houses?
EO: Yes, we lived right on Main Street in Fallon.
SA: And then he had the forty-acre ranch that he kept, the homestead ranch? Did he ranch that?
EO: Well, he disposed of that very early in my life. I wouldn't know when.
SA: Do you remember that first homestead at all?
EO: No, not physically living there. I visited it a number of times later in life.
SA: Do you remember it during your early--not later in life--but when you were a child? Do you remember anything about it then?
- No, nothing about it then.
SA: Alright. When you lived in the house in Fallon, was your father ranching at Stillwater?
EO: No, he was working for the District, doing private surveying.
SA: Okay, so he started surveying.
SA: And where is that house that you lived in in Fallon? Is it still there?
EO: Yes, all four houses are still there.
SA: What street are they on?
EO: They're right on Maine Street, just one block north of the old high school, on the east side of Maine Street.
SA: How long did your family live in one of the houses?
EO: About nine years, because we moved in shortly after I was born in 1912, I assume, and then moved to Stillwater in 1921.
SA: Now, I want to learn from you, from your very earliest memories, because although we're going to add pages to the interview, what we want today are from your personal recollections, and also what your dad might have talked to you about. Did he talk to you much about the Project in the early years as you were growing up?
EO: Yes, the water situation was always very crucial to him. I can remember always being very worried about. . . They were destroying the Fallon water rights, and he was fighting to maintain them for years, that I remember of.
SA: Did he talk to you much about what his role in his job was? Do you remember any of that?
EO: Not at that time. In future life, I had occasion, and still have occasion, to use the mapping and information that he obtained for the Truckee River rights for Fallon,
SA: In the surveying that he did?
ED: Yes, he surveyed the entire Washoe-Reno Valley and established all the Truckee River rights for the Reno Valley that affected the Fallon irrigation rights.
SA: Oh my! And where are those records?
ED: The originals are still at the District office in Fallon, and I have a full copy of all the maps in our office in Reno that we still use.
SA: And you said ''our office--what kind of an office is that?
EO: We established an engineering office, Osgood Engineers Incorporated.
SA: Was that with your father?
EO: My father and I originated the company in about 1945, and my son joined it about ten years later, I would guess in about 1955, and it's been growing ever since my father and I formed it.
SA: So you followed in your father's footsteps, you became an engineer?
SA: Did your son?
EO: And my son is too.
SA: That's remarkable, that's very interesting. When your dad was doing surveying, where was he doing all of this?
EO: He was working in Reno, and he would stay in Reno for a week to two weeks at a time, and only come home weekends. So from my earliest recollection of what he was doing, that was the situation in which we were living.
SA: So his work there was affecting the water in Churchill County?
SA: And tell me, in those very early years that you were living in Fallon, what do you remember Fallon looking like? What did it look like as far as the trees or the ranches or grass, as it was developing through the Project. Can you remember any changes?
EO: Well, I remember our home there on MaineStreet. I think originally the street was partially paved. I remember when they built the first sidewalks, because we were the first ones to have roller skates. Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed, the four houses were in one row, in one block, and we had lawns in front of each house, and the irrigation was by irrigation ditch. There was a little ditch that came right down Main Street.
SA: Right down Main Street?!
EO: We irrigated all four lawns.
SA: Oh, I hadn't heard about that.
EO: I've often thought of that because I preferred to stay home and do the irrigating, rather than go to the baseball games down at the high school baseball field. How interesting! Are there any photographs of the house with the ditches there that you watered from? That would be unusual.
EO: We have the one photograph you saw out there with all of us sitting on the fender of that old Model T Ford that he drove back and forth to Reno. And that was taken in front of the house.
SA: Well, we'll look. Or if you find any, that's fascinating. What were those years before you were nine? The early twenties?
EO: Yeah, that would have been from about 1916 or 1917, up 'til 1921.
SA: Were people moving in because of the project and the homesteading and the luring of the settlers. Was the town growing?
EO: Oh yes, they were developing land and more farms at that time. There was a slow growth of the entire district and town.
SA: Who were the people that rented these houses from your father? Where would they come from?
EO: I was really too young to know.
SA: How long did you live in that house?
EO: I would guess between nine and twelve years.
SA: During that time, were there people coming and going in the houses, or pretty settled?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: Coming and going?
SA: Like maybe temporary workers?
SA: Do you remember, again from your earliest recollections, did Fallon start to have trees and hay ranches? Did you observe any of that as the ditches were in? Did you get around? As you were a teenager--we can move away from the nine-year-old--a little bit later?
EO: Yes, there was development of all the ranches through those years. I remember there was quite a drought. We ran out of water, I think I was about. . . . Somewhere around 1934-1935. I remember even helping dig some ditches to help deliver some drain water to Stillwater, where we lived.
SA: Did you ever move out to Stillwater from Fallon? Did you ever live out there?
EO: Oh yes, we moved to Stillwater in 1921.
SA: Oh, okay, so then you left the house and moved to Stillwater.
EO: And lived on the farm for the next… until I left, when I was twenty-one.
SA: Alright, so we'll move out of your house, and let's go with you to Stillwater. Was that after your dad came back from working in Reno? Or was he still going to Reno to work?
EO: Yes, he was still doing some work in Reno. And when that was complete, when they finally wrote the Truckee River Decree, the attorney he worked with in Reno--this was during the Depression when the farm prices were down to where it was no longer paying--and the U.S. attorney he worked with, had another water suit in New Mexico and Colorado on the Rio Grande River, and had father move there to help him on that one for a year or two.
SA: So who ran the Stillwater Ranch?
EO: So my older brother was pretty much running the ranch with the help of my other brother and myself.
SA: How old were your older brothers by then?
EO: I believe my older brother must have been around eighteen or twenty, and the next brother was a year or two younger, and I was in high school, so I would have been from thirteen through eighteen that we all worked on the ranch.
SA: That, especially in today's terms, seems like such young men for such a big responsibility. Did everyone start real early with responsibilities and work?
EO: Yes, I think so. We all learned to do the farm work as soon as we were physically capable, I would say. I can remember all through high school, I had a friend that moved in with us, and he and I milked thirty-five cows night and morning for most of our high school tenure.
SA: How old were you when you first started milking cows?
EO: I would estimate twelve or thirteen.
SA: My! What else was happening on that ranch, besides the cows? What kind of a ranch was it starting to be?
EO: Mostly alfalfa. We grew some grain--of course a little bit of garden, but mostly alfalfa for the dairy.
SA: And who did that work of the alfalfa?
EO: We all did. It was more, in those days, we traded work with our neighbors. We had one neighbor that had two boys in that family, and that made five of us that could do most of the harvesting. Then we hired help.
SA: Did you hire the Indians from the reservation?
EO: Usually Indians from the reservation.
SA: In the early days, what kind of farm equipment was used to do that, in that early period?
EO: They were all horse-drawn. I used to love to ride horseback, but I had no use for work horses. (laughter)
SA: Can you describe the process with the horses and the farm tools, what you had to do?
EO: Yes, those old mowing machines, the old McCormick, Deering-and I've forgotten the names of the others--were really a slow process, pulled by a team of horses. Hay rakes were manually operated, and loading the hay on wagons, and putting it in a stack was all manual labor.
SA: When did you start getting the mechanized equipment, where you didn't have to use the horses any more? Do you remember when that would be?
EO: That would have been, oh, in the late twenties, early thirties. I had left the ranch myself, and my brother took the ranch over entirely.
SA: Where did you go? You left the ranch, you said.
EO: I married and went to work for the State Highway Department.
SA: I see. How old were you then?
SA: Let's go back now, because we didn't touch on any of your school years in Fallon. Tell me about your first school, your elementary school where you went.
EO: When I was still in Fallon, I went to the. . . . There was Oats Park High School, what is known as the "old high school." The old high school has become an early grammar school for kindergarten and first grade. The West End School was on the west side of Fallon for intermediate grades, and the Oats Park was a grammar school.
SA: Where did you go to high school? You were in Stillwater then.
EO: We were in Stillwater then. We drove to Fallon to the high school. We had to supply our own transportation in those days.
SA: And tell me, you said you drove. You drove a horse and wagon, or a car?
EO: No, it was by automobile.
SA: Who drove? Did all of you drive?
EO: All of us drove. In those days you learned to drive at about twelve or fourteen.
SA: Really? And you were driving to high school?
EO: All of us drove.
SA: Now, tell me a little bit about high school. By then did you know that you liked engineering and ranching more than other things? Were you developing your strong areas of interest?
EO: Well basically, I think the farming didn't appeal to me. I was very tired of the dairy ranching. My father being a surveyor, we often, at that age even, went out with him on survey trips, and I developed a liking for that type of work, much preferred it to farming. So at the finish of school, that's when I applied and finally got a job with the State Highway [Department].
SA: When you got a job with the State Highway, what was your job on it? What was the actual work with the highway? What did you do?
ED: We were on a survey crew that did construction layout, so it, you might say, took everything in from what we called "punching
stakes," to instrument man of running a transit and level.
SA: Where did you do this work?
ED: We had projects all over the state of Nevada.
SA: I see, this was a state job?
SA: Where was your headquarters? Where was your home?
ED: Our home was just wherever they sent us on the particular construction job. My wife and I bought a trailer, and we lived in a trailer house for quite a few years.
SA: So this is after you're married, so we'll get to that after. Did you marry when you were just out of high school? Did you marry real young?
ED: No, I graduated at eighteen, I think married at twenty-one or twenty-two.
SA: Oh, so quite young. So let's say at eighteen, before you married, were you already working for the Highway?
ED: No, still working on the farm.
SA: In other words, you finished high school, and you were working full-time on the farm?
SA: So now let's keep on the farm then, those years that you're still single. I want to know about irrigation there--about water and irrigation on your ranch. Tell me about how the water came to your ranch from the Project water.
EO: Well, the irrigation system, of course, started from the Lahontan Dam, came down the canals, through the Project, and had a complete distribution system by canals and ditches to all the farms. When it was time to irrigate the alfalfa, you called the ditch rider about a day in advance, and ordered number of second-feet for the required time. It was usually six or eight second-feet for thirty-six hours or something, or what was required to irrigate an eighty-acre farm.
SA: Could you get all the water you wanted?
EO: In those days, you did. There was sufficient water, except as I mentioned before, there was a drought in, as near as I recall 1934 or 1935.
SA: But before that, when you were in Stillwater, did you pay for that water? How did it work?
EO: Yes, there was the charges to the district each year all the farms paid. Personally, as being just the younger member of the family, I had nothing to do with that bookkeeping. I just knew that that's how it worked.
SA: Did you have to dig ditches from the main ditch that was already there to where your plants were?
EO: That was how it was done originally. Of course they were all there by the time I was on the farm. It was just a matter of maintaining and cleaning.
SA: Do you remember the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] and the work they did?
EO: Well, yes. Yes, I never joined, but we used to see the CCC camps and the men working on the project, or the boys.
SA: Can you tell a little bit about that? About how many were there? Did you ever talk to any of them?
EO: No, I was not really personally acquainted.
SA: Would they come out to the Stillwater area and do any work out there? Where did they do their work? And what did they do?
EO: I don't think there were actually any projects right there. They may have had some up at the reservoir at Lahontan. I'm not too sure just where the other projects were.
SA: What were their projects, what were they doing, do you know? I understand they were cementing some of the ditches?
EO: They were probably putting in structures and some cementing. I don't remember any ditches.
SA: They weren't out your way, then?
SA: You didn't see them working out in Stillwater?
EO: No. [End of tape 1 side A]
SA: You said you started elementary school in Fallon. When you moved to Stillwater, how old were you when your family moved to Stillwater, do you remember?
EO: About ten years old, because as I recall I was in the fourth grade, and I went to the Stillwater School from fourth through eighth grades.
SA: And how close was that to your ranch?
EO: We were very close, only a quarter of a mile from our home to the school.
SA: Would you all walk?
EO: Usually walk. It was optional. Most of the kids rode horses. I rode a horse now and then, but I was one of the very few who found some old bicycles that belonged to my brother, and I repaired them, and so I had a bicycle to ride to school.
SA: Wasn't it hard to ride bikes when the roads weren't paved? Or were the roads paved by then?
EO: Oh, they were just dirt roads, but it worked very well.
SA: You could do it?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: Did the Indian children go to the same school?
EO: There was one family. I remember the boys very well. We only had about enough older boys in the school to make a baseball team, and these three Indian boys were three of the best players in the school. (laughter) In fact, it was rather humorous: the oldest boy was pitcher, and very good, and he even pitched for the senior team. They had a senior team for the Stillwater District that they were all the older fellows, except the one Indian boy that was such a good pitcher. (laughs)
SA: Where did the other Indian children go to school?
EO: They had a Stillwater Reservation that had a school right on the reservation, which was five or six miles west of where we lived.
SA: Is there a reason these other Indian children went to your school? Did they not live on the reservation? Or what was the reason?
EO: I never really understood it, but I'm sure, I think the father was only half Indian.
SA: Oh, I see.
EO: I never really understood it, but he did send his boys to our school.
SA: Did the communities mix, the Indian reservation people and the others? Or did they pretty much stay at their reservation?
EO: They were pretty well segregated. I just remember being very friendly with the three boys that came to our school. And then we hired the older men for the harvesting of the hay crops and
became very well acquainted with a number that way.
SA: Would your mother hire an Indian woman to help with the laundry, as so many of them did?
ED: I think she did. As I recall, she did now and then have help that way.
SA: Tell me a little bit, I want to get a feel for the recreation of the time, because some told me how they used to swim in the canals and ditches. Did you kids do that?
EO: Oh yes! At each one of the structures, it usually washed out a bit of a hole deep enough to swim in, below what we called "drops." They were just a structure to back the water up, and then for irrigating the farms above the structure. And about a half or three-quarters of a mile from our house was one that was rather off the main track and had a good deep hole, and my brother built a diving board on the structure.
SA: Oh really?! Oh, what fun! Would the gang all congregate there in hot weather?
EO: Yes, there would be quite a few of us gathered there every little while to go swimming.
SA: Was the water pretty clean?
EO: Well, at that time, we thought it was. (laughter) When I've been back since, I was a little discouraged at how it did look.
SA: I also heard that some would go ice skating on some areas? Did you ice skate?
EO: Yes, that was really a nice sport in those days. The lakes down below where all the duck ponds were would freeze over to where we could even take a car out on 'em in those days. So all through the winter we would usually go down whenever we had the time, and we'd get a car out on the ice and put a long lariat on it (laughter) and play "snap the whip" off the end of that rope. (laughter)
SA: So it sounds like you all found time to have some fun.
EO: It was really quite a delightful experience.
SA: Now, when you were going into Fallon to high school, was Fallon changing, was it growing, was it growing up?
EO: Oh yes. I would say not too aware of it, but we would notice it was larger every year.
SA: Did you go to the dances? Were there school dances?
EO: Very few school dances. There were the proms at the end of the year. But all through the winter there were dances at the country schools that we all attended.
SA: Oh! In other words, different schools--like even your Stillwater School--they'd have dances?
SA: And that would be open for anyone who wanted to go?
EO: Yes, they were public dances.
SA: So that sounded like fun. Now I want to go back to your earlier days. I haven't asked you anything about your mother. Tell me a little bit about the kind of a woman she was. I know she must have been very busy with the children, but describe her as a person to me, tell me about her.
EO: Well she certainly took very good care of the five of us. And as I say, all through high school I had a friend that moved in with us, and actually lived right with us. He and I would do the chores in the morning and then drive into high school.
SA: What was his name?
EO: Charles Frey.
SA: Was there a reason he came to live with you?
EO: Yes, his mother died when he was very young, and his father and his brothers lived fairly close to us, and I guess through high school we needed the help and it worked out very well.
SA: Oh, good. I want to get back to your mother. She must have been very energetic to do all that work. Did she have any interests? Did she have time for any interests of her own?
EO: See, Stillwater had what they called the Stillwater Friendly Club, which was the ladies of all the homes on the different ranches. I remember they had a meeting I think once each week or once every two weeks they all attended. My wife has commented a lot of times since, for a lady that was raised, you might say in an entirely different environment, she sure did an awful lot of hard work on that farm that we didn't realize.
SA: What was her life before she went to the farm? You said "different environment"--what was her life before that?
EO: Her original home that she was at most of the time was in Galesburg, Illinois. Her father was an Army doctor. Her mother had died and she, I've learned since, lived with various members of her family--she and her sister.
SA: Were these city people? More sophisticated?
EO: Yes, entirely city people. She went to college in Galesburg.
SA: So she was way ahead of her time.
EO: Yes. I can't think of the name of the college.
SA: If you find it, we can add it to the transcript. Did she pass on some of that to you children? Did she bring some of that into the home, like reading or music?
EO: Yes, we had a little music. She liked classical music, and books. I was an avid reader all my life.
SA: Did she read to you kids when you were young, if she had time?
EO: Yes. (laughter)
SA: Now where did the family buy your supplies and clothing and shoes? Where would you get all that?
EO: All that had to come out of Fallon. We were about fifteen miles east of Fallon.
SA: It was all dirt roads.
EO: Yes, in those days, dirt road. The original car we drove to school with was quite chilly. It had side curtains when they didn't blow off. The heaters in those days (chuckles) were almost zero.
SA: Oh, gosh! So you would go into Fallon, and there were enough stores to buy what you wanted?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: And talking about heat, when you were young, how did they heat the house? With wood?
ED: Yes, we had both coal and wood stoves in the house. It was entirely coal and wood.
SA: When did you start to have electricity?
ED: Oh, it wasn't until the Roosevelt program of Rural Electrification that they finally put electricity out to the farms. That would have been, I presume, in the thirties.
SA: What did you use prior to that? Gasoline lamps?
ED: We had kerosene lamps. My mother wouldn’t… hated gasoline lamps, she wouldn't allow them in the house. (laughter)
SA: Now, did she sew? Or did you buy your clothes ready made?
ED: Mostly ready made. I think the girls and my mother both did some sewing.
SA: So the girls would help your mom?
ED: Oh yes.
SA: They did the inside work with her?
SA: So good that she had some helpers. Now, I want to learn a little bit about your father as a person. I know what a brilliant engineer that he certainly was, and activist in water, but tell me about him as a person, as a father, as a man. Describe him to me.
EO: Well, he was very interested in sports--that is, I remember he taught us all to box. He was quite a tennis player. I always wanted to learn to play tennis, but it didn't work out (laughs) down on an adobe ranch. (laughter) [ed- original transcript adds “The adobe soil wasn't useable for a court.”]
SA: Did he have a fun side? fun spirit?
EO: Oh yes, he was really interesting that way.
SA: Did your family, the men, do hunting and fishing?
EO: Yes, I was going to say that the hunting was the other major sport at that time. Of course Stillwater had pheasants and ducks and quail, and geese. I remember we always did considerable hunting. In fact, I learned to shoot when I was probably only twelve, thirteen years old.
SA: Was it your father who took you out and taught you?
EO: Well, a little bit, but mostly it seemed like everybody just learned it naturally in those days.
SA: Do you remember when you went out for the first time? Or had you done practice shooting? How were you "broken in" to go hunting?
EO: Well, I guess as a very young boy, my first chore was herding the cows, taking care of the milk cows, keeping track of 'em. They even gave me a small pony.
SA: How old were you?
EO: I would say only twelve, thirteen. Also, there was an old what we called a 4-10 shotgun, so that was given to me. So even at a young age, I was out practicing.
SA: Shooting cans, or a tree, or a rock. What was the first thing that you actually shot and killed in your hunting?
EO: Well, I can remember one day, starting out with that 4-10 and shot a pheasant, so that was the first real game bird that I ever shot. I think that I was probably around thirteen.
SA: Did your father and brothers and you all go out together sometimes to shoot? Or how did that work?
EO: Well, Father was seldom home for that. My brothers--my older brother in particular--picked a time when he thought I was old enough to go along on some of their duck-hunting trips.
SA: Where would that be?
ED: That was down in the sinks below Stillwater.
SA: Did you ever go shoot deer in deer season?
EO: Not until much later in life.
SA: And what about fishing?
EO: Well, in Stillwater there was only catfish, so it wasn't until I'd left the ranch that I got out where there was any trout fishing or deer hunting.
SA: So your father didn't spend much time on the ranch?
EO: No, he was almost always out on the engineering projects.
SA: Tell me, were there any changes over the period on the ranch, or did it pretty much stay the same? Did you add any new animals or new crops or orchards, or did it stay pretty much the same?
EO: It stayed the same, except we built the herd up larger and larger-the dairy herd.
SA: What was it when you were starting to work, and what did you grow it into?
EO: I think when we first moved to the farm there were probably only fifteen or twenty milk cows, and by the time I was old enough to take over quite a bit of it through high school, we were milking thirty-five. We probably had at least fifty or sixty cows, and we installed a milking machine.
SA: What did you do, sell this to a dairy? What did you do with it?
EO: Yeah, to the creamery. There was just a cream truck that came by every few days to pick up the cream, and the milk we fed to the pigs and the turkeys and chickens.
SA: And was that a main source of income for the ranch?
EO: Yes, the cream, the butterfat, that we sold was the main income.
SA: Did your family make it's own butter and cheeses?
EO: No, very little, because the people that picked up the cream would deliver the butter back. In other words, just whatever you ordered.
SA: So you didn't have to do all the work.
SA: So that became a very busy business, with all the cows. Now, were you and your brothers still in charge of those until you left?
SA: What else was happening on the ranch? You still had the alfalfa hay?
SA: Did you have to grow more to feed all the cows? Did you have to increase the acreage?
EO: Well, we only had the two 80-acre farms. They pretty much produced enough hay for the dairy we had.
SA: Did you have any sheep?
SA: When they started with the turkeys, did you have turkeys on your farm?
EO: Yes, we put in quite a flock of turkeys for quite a few years when turkeys were first . . . oh, I would say profitable.
SA: What period would that be?
EO: About 1928 through 1935.
SA: Oh, early! And who took care of them?
EO: Well, that's what I remember my mother doing quite a bit of.
SA: Oh, I read where a lot of the women took care of turkeys. Would you kill them and dress them?
SA: Did you sell them for the holidays?
EO: Yes, that was one of the chores I learned.
SA: You did too? You learned that?
EO: Yes, that's right! (laughter)
SA: Kind of messy?
EO: It was very messy! (laughter)
SA: Who killed them?
EO: Each one of us. It's just something. . . . Just the three boys, my brothers and I.
SA: Just the three of you would do that?
EO: We would do the killing and the women would help pick.
SA: Oh, gosh. Now where would you sell these turkeys?
EO: Uh, near as I recall they were delivered right through the… I really don't know.
SA: Did you sell them to Kent's? A lot of people sold them to Kent's.
EO: Yeah, I think some went to Kent's. I don't know whether there was a. . . . Seems like there was some sort of a farm program.
SA: Oh, like a co-op?
EO: A co-op. I believe there was a co-op, yes.
SA: Okay. And what about when the Hearts-O-Gold melons came in. Did you raise any melons?
EO: Just for garden and home use. I remember once a few years, that my sister and I actually put in a little garden and raised quite a few vegetables and the melons.
SA: Did you get into the beets at all when that was starting? That was a disaster?
EO: No, I can remember, I think once I put in some sugar beets, I think we just used 'em to feed the hogs, really.
SA: So you had hogs
SA: How many hogs did you have?
EO: Oh, it varied from four or five up to ten or fifteen I would say.
SA: Did you boys also take care of them?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: You had a busy time. And would you butcher some of them for your own food?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: Now, when you hired these workers during hay season, did your mother have to cook for them too?
EO: That's right.
SA: So she and your sisters did the cooking?
EO: That was a pretty major job in those days.
SA: Where would they all eat? What did you have?
EO: Just in the dining room, right in the farm home.
SA: You had a big enough dining room?
EO: For that, yes.
SA: When your dad bought the two homesteads, was there a house there already?
SA: The house that you lived in?
SA: Describe that to us.
EO: Well, it was really a rather miserable little shack, I would say. (laughter)
SA: Do you have any pictures of it? Any photographs of the house and the ranch out in Stillwater?
EO: I can't remember any, I haven't seen any for quite a while.
SA: And tell me how many rooms, what did it look like inside?
EO: Well, the first little house probably only had four or five rooms. Sometime, oh, in say the middle thirties, I think they built a new place. It had three or four bedrooms.
SA: Totally new house?
SA: And what happened with the old one?
EO: I think it was just left there for workers or whatever.
SA: A house was built from scratch, a new house for the family?
EO: I think that first one may have been just a section built on for three or four more bedrooms there, it seems to me.
SA: So then you had a bigger place.
SA: Did you have to get a lot more furniture as you built that? Did your mom have to order furniture somewhere?
EO: Well, I never paid too much attention to that. (laughs)
SA: Okay, somebody brought in beds or whatever.
SA: Okay. Is there anything else to describe about that ranch? I'm getting a good picture of all the cattle and the pigs and sometimes turkeys and hay, and maybe a little garden. Were there trees planted? Or were there trees already there?
EO: Yes, we had just, oh, it seemed like there were three or four trees shaded the house.
SA: I understand the Stillwater area, there was water there already. When your father got the homestead, was there water from the Newlands Project by then, or was it a natural water source? I think some called it "riparian rights" that owners had?
EO: No, these farms were all on the Newlands Project. They were strictly irrigated by the Project.
SA: You said there was that one big drought. Were there other periods when you weren't able to get the irrigation water? Or did it flow pretty easily?
EO: That was the only year I remember that they went dry.
SA: So it worked pretty well? The system worked well?
SA: I know your father was involved in different aspects of the water problems. From the time that you know--because we do have a lot of material to add to it--do you remember his talking about it, or his activity in any of those problems, firsthand?
EO: Well, I was so young at that time, it wasn't that crucial to me, but I do remember he was very involved. He was always writing articles. He was trying to organize help to get people interested to contest the fact that they wanted the water upstream, up in the Reno areas. And between the power company and a number of other interests, why, they had developed schemes to move the water up there.
SA: Oh! Away from Churchill County?
EO: Away from the District.
SA: In other words, as Reno was growing, and Tahoe, and hotels?
SA: So how did that turn out?
EO: I know that for years he had managed to halt that particular phase of it. And at what time when they took the first water, finally got the right to take some of the water, I was out on my own and wasn't aware of it. So I'm not just sure when all this happened. Since then, I have found this literature where he was writing about it. And the plans for what they wanted to do, to take the water--I understand more about it now.
SA: While you were still on the ranch and running it with your brothers, any time in that period that he came home to stay, or was he always working away until you left home? Did he ever come back on the ranch while you were there?
EO: Yeah, it seemed like there was just a short time, you might say--a month or so at a time, I'm not too sure--that he would be there. But when the Depression hit in 1929, I was just old enough then to realize that the income was only a quarter of what it had been. Prices dropped so badly that . . .
SA: So he had to work on the outside.
EO: He had to go find something to try to pay for the ranch, because we were just losing money.
SA: What were some of the other jobs that he had? He was surveying, he was with TCID [Truckee Carson Irrigation District]. Was that through the whole period?
EO: Well, mostly, he was with TCID, all those years. And then like I say, he then moved to that job in New Mexico, which, of course. . . .
SA: He moved to New Mexico for a time?
ED: Yes. He went there to do the same type of work he'd done on the Truckee River.
SA: So he was away. That must have been hard for your mother and the family. It must have been very hard.
SA: So mainly you and your brothers were running the ranch.
SA: What happened when your older brothers- Did they stay on the ranch as they got older? Because I know you left. Did your older brothers stay there?
EO: My oldest brother took the ranches over entirely. The middle brother quit and went to work for Standard Oil probably about, oh, around 1928, I believe, while I was still in high school. In fact, he was still living at home, but working, and we would drive to high school with him.
SA: I see. So he was working in Fallon?
SA: So that left just three boys- two boys working on the ranch?
EO: Yes, that's right.
SA: So then when you got out of high school, you said later you married and you took a job.
SA: So now let’s get to… I’m going to change the tape because it’s ending.
EO: Okay [End of tape 1]
SA: -want to ask you a little bit about the woman you married. First tell me her name before she was married.
EO: Vivian Robinson.
SA: And where did you meet?
EO: We met right on our farm. They were at a farm about a mile away, and she and my sister went to school together.
SA: Did her family homestead there too?
EO: Well, they weren't homesteads, they bought the farm about a mile from our farm.
SA: I see. Was that the one in Stillwater?
SA: Did they buy it after you were already out there?
SA: Do you know what year that was?
EO: I wouldn't be too sure now.
SA: How old were you, do you remember when they first moved there? Can you kind of vaguely remember?
EO: I would say sixteen, seventeen.
SA: So you were in high school. Was she younger than you?
EO: Yes, she's four years younger.
SA: So she wasn't in high school yet.
SA: So you knew her when she was just a very young girl.
ED: Yes. She went to school with my sister. By then they had a school bus.
SA: She was going on the school bus with your sister? [Tape cuts]
ED: Yes, they would go to the Fallon High School, and they would both drop off at our home, and she would always come in and say, "Can I ride your horse?" We happened to have one of the biggest, toughest horses in the district.
SA: And she liked to ride a tough horse?
ED: (chuckles) She just loved it!
SA: So she was spunky?
ED: Yes. It would scare me to death.
SA: So if you were sixteen, maybe she was only twelve?
SA: So it was not boyfriend-girlfriend for a long time.
ED: No, not at that time.
SA: So you just kind of grew up. She'd be swimming in the ditches with the gang?
ED: Yes. I was very friendly with her brother.
SA: Ah! Her brother was older?
ED: Yes, her brother was my age.
SA: And what was his name?
SA: First name Montgomery?
SA: So when she started to grow up, when did you both start to become interested in each other, as more than just "kids on the
EO: About the time she was seventeen or eighteen and graduating from high school.
SA: Okay, and by now you're twenty-one or something?
SA: Yes. Then tell me, lead me up to when you finally got married.
EO: [pause] Well, all I can say is, we were going together and decided that it might be a good idea. In other words, we just decided we wanted each other.
- Wasn’t she seventeen- She was very young?
EO: Yeah, probably eighteen or. . . . I don't remember now, eighteen or nineteen when we married, yes.
SA: With the families' approval?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: So then where did you get married?
EO: In Fallon.
EO: The Methodist church.
SA: And was it a family wedding, or bigger?
EO: Yes, just a family wedding.
SA: Now did you have that job with the transportation department then?
EO: No, I didn't get the job with State Highway until a short time later.
SA: Where did you make your home together?
EO: Let's see, my first job was at the Stillwater Indian Reservation. She and I lived there for a while.
SA: Really?! Tell me, what did you do there?
EO: I was helping build some road projects.
SA: So before you got with the Highway, you were working on roads?
SA: And who was your boss?
EO: Well, my friend I went to school with, his father was the Indian Agent. When his father retired, he was running it, so he hired me to come help him.
SA: Oh, how interesting! So you lived on the reservation?
SA: What kind of a structure?
EO: Oh, it had a very nice house, It was a full three- or four-bedroom house.
SA: Was it a house that was built for the reservation?
ED: Oh yes. It was the Indian Agent's house.
SA: Oh, how nice, to start like that. Describe to me the Indian reservation, and about how big the population was--whatever you can tell us. You're the only one I've interviewed that lived on the reservation.
EO: Gee, I would say there was probably a hundred, two hundred Indians lived there. The complex where we lived was the Agent's home, the Stillwater School--I think there was some sort of a medical facility, very, very minor.
SA: Like a medical clinic?
EO: Yes, because I remember my wife being quite upset when the Indians would come and ask for help. She tells one particular story that an old fella came in and said, "Missy, Missy, I need help." "What's the matter?" "I can't pee." (laughter)
SA: Did she work in the clinic?
SA: But he just thought she knew?
EO: She was the only one there.
SA: I see, in the Indian Agent area.
EO: In the Agent's area. In fact, there was one Indian there every morning and built fires and got the house ready for the morning, before we got up.
SA: Oh, into your house?
SA: So they were kind of helping you?
SA: And did your wife have any activities there?
EO: Nothing besides just, she cooked for my friend and myself.
SA: So your work was right on the reservation?
SA: Describe a little bit about the reservation. You said there was just a little clinic. What did the women do when they were going to have children? Were any babies born there? Did they just have them…?
EO: No. I don't think they ever had that much at that time. I think they were all done at home.
SA: Oh, just done at home. Was it kind of a peaceful reservation, or was there heavy drinking? What was it like?
EO: Oh, it was pretty quiet. It was just part of the whole irrigation project. And I would say I don't know how many acres, four or five hundred, a thousand acres were just for the Indians,
SA: Oh, so they were ranching!
EO: Yeah, they all just had their little farms.
SA: Okay, so they were benefitting from the irrigation and able to farm.
EO: Oh yes.
SA: I understand they were pretty good farmers.
EO: I think they did pretty well, yes.
SA: Where did they get their horses and cows? Through the government allotments? Or they worked outside?
EO: I imagine there was quite a little government help on that. I never did know how much.
SA: So they were doing the same thing as the homesteaders, they were working and raising their hay.
EO: That's right.
SA: And selling it the same place you were?
SA: There were irrigation ditches on the reservation?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: This is a good contribution, because no one. . . . And I didn't know to ask. I just knew they hired the Indians.
EO: It was exactly the same as the whole district. It was just part of the district. The only difference you might say is that a number of them weren't too progressive, and there were some that were very progressive.
SA: That's very interesting. And how long were you on that Indian reservation with your wife?
EO: Probably a year.
SA: That was a good experience. Is that when you got the job with the transportation department?
EO: Yes, shortly after that.
SA: Then tell me what you did.
EO: On the State Highway, it was simply a matter of the survey crews that you did everything, like I say, from punching stakes to running instruments.
SA: So you got a house trailer?
SA: Where were some of the places where you went to work, and how long would you stay in certain areas?
EO: Well, the ordinary construction job would last from three to six months. The first one I went to was in Winnemucca. We built the highway north of Winnemucca, towards Paradise Valley and on north.
SA: Did you go on up to Battle Mountain? I've been working in Lander County.
SA: Up to Elko?
EO: I think my second job was in Wells, Nevada, and then one in Elko, and one in Battle Mountain, and back to Fallon, and then Tonopah.
SA: Oh yes. So you'd live in your trailer?
EO: Well, part of the time. The one in Tonopah, my wife, I guess, stayed in Fallon. I wasn't there too long, there was no accommodations there. Maybe that was before I got the trailer. I don't remember.
SA: How did she take to that kind of life?
EO: Oh, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We had the one boy that was born.
SA: How long after you were married did you have your son?
EO: That was about a year.
SA: So he came along, of course. And what's you son's name, your first son?
EO: Edwin Putnam the Third. And he's called "Ted," the same as his grandfather.
SA: And how many other children did you both have?
EO: Just Robin, our daughter Robin.
SA: Robin. And when was she born?
EO: In 1945. That was right close to the end of the war. I'd moved back to Reno. In fact, we moved to Reno to have the only doctor. . . . (laughs)
SA: Now, where was your son born?
EO: In Reno.
SA: Alright, and then you came back to Reno for Robin's birth?
SA: How long did you stay with the transportation department?
EO: About eight or ten years, I guess.
SA: That long! Did you then move to Reno?
EO: Well, no, through the war I spent about two years in Hawthorne at the Naval Ammunition Depot. When I quit the state, I went to work for the Navy.
SA: So let's come to the war years. First I want to ask how the war affected—or did it affect--your family's ranch?
EO: Well, I had left the farm then, so my brother had it.
SA: Did they draft either of your brothers?
EO: No. No, both brothers. . . . I was a little too old for the draft, and they were both older than I was.
SA: Okay. The ranch wasn't hurting because of the war, or was it?
SA: Did it increase the income? Because I read that there was a big demand for food during the war.
EO: Yes, I'm sure his prices, he was far more prosperous, because farming, like everything, had an upturn through the war.
SA: Demand for food and agriculture to feed everyone.
SA: How was your mom doing through these years, and your sisters?
EO: At that time, my father and mother had moved to Reno, off of the farm.
SA: Okay, your brothers took over the ranch, and your mother and father and sisters moved to Reno?
SA: What year was that? About
EO: Ohh… [tape cuts]
SA: I understand that your father was very active in a dispute with a mutual water users' association, with an agreement with the TCID. I don't know too much about it. What can you tell us about that issue?
EO: I have here a number of letters and articles written by my father, mostly in 1934, but for a number of years in that period in which the Reno interests attempted to secure a great amount of the Fallon water. It was so written up that they wanted to build upstream reservoirs, and Fallon had to sign away forty second-feet. Just to give an idea of what that amounted to, they called it 25,000 acre feet, it's really 28,000. My father kept informing them that that was worth millions. If they had a group in Fallon ready to sign the agreement, and if they did sign it, then they acquired the water, they were going to write off a $500,000 lien against the Project, that the Project owed to the government on the construction. I might add that I calculated that at today's prices, which I am involved in, and today that water would be worth. . . . Well, it came to about $80 million.
SA: Oh my goodness!
EO: Anyway, at that time, they finally succeeded in stopping that one, but in the meantime they have slowly been acquiring that, and I understand this year that they are acquiring a good deal more of it. [tape cuts] I can bring you copies of all the letters and articles that I still have on file. There's quite a number of 'em, and they're very interesting. It includes a letter he wrote to Harold Ickes, then Secretary of the Interior for Franklin Roosevelt, letters to the lawyers, Stoddard and different people that were involved in the dispute.
SA: That's wonderful, because I'll add that not only to the interview, but put a copy in the Churchill County Museum and maybe at the University, so people studying that issue will know the major role that your father had in this water issue. I want to return to the topic of the Depression, because know how much it affected not only everyone in the country, but I want to learn specifically, in Churchill County, how the Depression affected first your family, and then the community. Can you tell us more about that?
EO: In moving to Stillwater, my father had bought two 80-acre farms with a small dairy. When we moved there in 1921, we started building the dairy up. I was still too young to know much about it. But by 1929 when the Depression hit, I was old enough to at least understand that we'd built the dairy up 'til it was making four and five hundred dollars a month return on the milk and cream, which today isn't much, but in those days it was a very nice figure. Well when the Crash hit, that check went to under a hundred dollars a month. That's when my father had to take jobs all over the country. He moved to New Mexico for three years on a job there, doing the water rights, the same as he had done on the Carson-Truckee River for the Newlands Project. So we just didn't have a father around the farm for that many years. But he would send us all kinds of things from New Mexico that were very interesting. I remember I had beaded belts, arrowheads, and whatnot.
SA: Did he have a chance to come home any time? Or was it too expensive to travel?
EO: I don't think he made any visits home through that three years. He finally came home. He had a--which in those days was a pretty fair little car--was a Model T Ford, coupe. Even had windows! (laughter) So I learned how to drive a Model T at that time.
SA: Now while he was away during the Depression, how were things going back home on the ranch with your mother and with all of you kids without your dad?
EO: Well, Mother was doing the work of quite a number of other people, I think. Of course we ail learned… l was going to high school, but my friend and I who was living with us was milking thirty-five head of cows night and morning before we went to school, and also fitting-in a little football. I remember he made All State left end that year, and I wasn't good enough for All State, but I played right end.
SA: Now, in the whole area there, were you able to still sell your cream? Or were you getting lower prices? Economically, how was your ranch and the region doing?
EO: We had a co-op that picked up the cream every--I don't remember, every few days or once a week or just what. Like I say, the price had gone down to about less than a quarter of what it had been. Besides the cows, we had the hogs to feed all the excess milk to-turkeys, chickens, about everything you could think of, so we had everything in the world to eat. But we had to make money to pay for the operation.
SA: I understand that during that period, some people who had mortgages on their land lost it. Did you know any of your neighbors who had to give up their property?
EO: Yes, my wife's father gave up his property. That was what my father was doing, was out making enough money privately to pay the mortgage that the farm couldn't pay.
SA: Did the population dwindle in the region? Did other people have to leave who were there working and couldn't make it?
EO: No, I can't recall that many of them left. It was simply a matter of… Well, I remember we had all the milk, cream, turkeys, and what-not. They weren't worth much, but we gave a lot of it to our friends in Fallon, or wherever they needed it, because we had the milk and eggs, butter and cream.
SA: So people were eating, but struggling otherwise?
SA: Then the war was starting. Did that pick up the economy, as there was then more of a demand for food to feed the military and other things?
EO: Yes, by the time the war came on, I of course had left the farm. I was working for State Highway. But I remember then my brother had kept the farm and was making very good money at that time. Of course where I was working, wages also picked up.
SA: Do you remember anything about the start of the air base in Fallon?
EO: No, I was not in Fallon when that was started.
SA: You told us how you and your wife went around in the trailer, and then you settled in Reno. Did your career move in other directions when you moved to Reno? Were you still working on the roads?
EO: No, I quit the highway department quite a few years earlier when I took a position with the Navy in Hawthorne. We worked at Hawthorne for two or three years and when we were fairly complete there, I called the friend that was running the Reno Army Air Base, because we wanted to move to Reno for the doctor facilities here. So I moved right up here and became field engineer for the Reno Army Air Base for the next couple of years of the war. At the end of the war, one of my friends and I joined my father and started Osgood Engineers. We were the first to leave the base in order to do that.
SA: Now before we move to your company, Osgood Engineers, tell me what you did in Hawthorne, what kind of work?
EO: I was the inspector in charge of all the road construction for the naval base there.
SA: Oh, for the naval base at Hawthorne?
SA: Was that because of the start of the war?
SA: So things were picking up in a lot of different ways.
EO: Yeah, well, the war had started.
SA: Now, you said you and a friend and your father started this? Tell me about the start of the Osgood Engineering Company.
EO: Yes, one of the other engineers at the base and I became very friendly, and weekends we would work for my father, doing surveys. And as that developed, we thought it sounded like a very good idea, that as soon as we could be released from the base-which in those days you couldn't leave 'til they would release you-we formed Osgood Engineers with my father. Our first project was the sewer system for the city of Battle Mountain.
SA: Oh! Now let me ask first, who was this friend that [formed] the company with you?
EO: His name was Joe Mastrioanni,
SA: Can you spell it?
EO: Mastrioanni, the same as the movie actress.
SA: Now, you said with your father. Where was your father living then? Was he in Reno by then?
EO: Oh yes, he lived in Reno, on Forest Street. It was shortly after that that he bought a bigger place out on Lakeside Drive.
SA: Tell us in detail, when you started this company, did you have an office, or did you work out of the house?
EO: When we first started, we worked out of his home. Then I built-on and had a small office in my home. Later on, after my son, Ted, joined us, then we bought an office downtown.
SA: What are some of the kinds of work that you did, and did you work with your father?
SA: Tell us a little about it.
EO: Father had a group of very good clients here in Reno. We built the first housing project, known as Westfield Village. That was about forty years ago. It's very faint now. (chuckles) Then he also had ranches all over the state of Nevada, practically, that he did the water rights for. So I became involved in all those, and so I became a water right engineer too, purely by working with my father, who was probably the oldest water engineer in the United States, as near as I know.
SA: Wow, so you were following in his footsteps and learning from him too.
ED: That's right. I also gained about a dozen very good clients that stayed with me after he passed on.
SA: So the company was building up?
EO: Yeah. In between all this, I was doing more housing projects.
SA: Now, when you say "doing housing projects," you mean surveying for them, working with the contractors?
EO: Yes, we would start from a barren piece of ground and design the streets and all the facilities for the project, and then supervise the building of it. So the only part I didn't have anything to do with was the houses themselves. I used to comment that I had probably done five hundred houses and only been in one of 'em! (laughter)
SA: That's quite a responsibility and you probably were learning a lot on the job,
EO: Oh yeah, it was very interesting work.
SA: And did your son do this too?
SA: So it was a three-generational thing.
EO: Yes. Well, four generations now.
SA: Four generations now?!
ED: His daughter is now office manager of the Osgood Engineers.
SA: Is that right? And what is her role?
ED: Well, she graduated as a computer expert. And like I say, she's now office manager, plus installing all the computers in the office and overseeing all the help and coordinating the work for the office.
SA: Well I'm sure your father would take a great deal of pleasure and joy learning that. How many four-generation families today. . . That's wonderful. And so what are some of the things they're doing now?
EO: Well, one of the biggest projects we had before I left was the Parr Industrial Complex that we built. It now is one of the biggest warehouse complexes in Reno. I think that ran into about a million dollars just to build the site.
SA: Oh my! Are you still working with the company?
EO: Only on a very occasional basis.
SA: Did you retire from it and turn more over to your son, or what?
EO: Yes, I semi-retired probably six, eight years ago. I've been working a little bit, off and on, ever since, whenever something comes in. Particularly, old clients come in.
SA: And they want you!
EO: They want the guy they started with. (laughter)
SA: Follow me through, both on your father and mother, what their lives were like as they were getting older.
EO: Well, Father stayed very active right up 'til the day he died. I would say his favorite work was water rights. One of the clients who's right north of Reno--and it was one of the jobs I didn't go on--but I found later he climbed half-way up Peavine Mountain at the age of eighty-six, and that's where he had a heart attack and died.
SA: And he died climbing that mountain at eight-six! Amazing! Tell me about your mother.
EO: Well, Mother's health failed at least twenty years before that, and she was very sickly for a good ten or fifteen years before she passed on.
SA: Where did she live those last years? [End of tape 2 side A]
SA: -Turned the tape over, you were telling us about your parents, where they lived at the end of their lives.
EO: They were living at a home on Forest Street toward the end. And then my sister came up and joined them, just to help take care of Mother. For more room, Father bought a larger house out on Lakeside Drive, and they moved out there for the last few years of their life.
SA: So there was one sister living here besides you?
EO: Yes, my younger sister had moved up to help take care of them.
SA: So they had a lot of family around them.
SA: What else can you tell me about your life? Did you go back to Fallon at all? Or anyone else left in Fallon? Did your brother continue to ranch?
EO: Yes, my brother Henry, of course, bought the ranches from father, and maintained them the rest of his life.
SA: How long was that? How many years? When did he die, or leave the ranch?
EO: I would say he probably had the ranch for at least forty years, maybe more, and he died right on the ranch.
SA: How old was he when he died?
EO: I think he was about eighty-five or eighty-six.
SA: Wow! And did the ranch stay pretty. . . .
EO: Just this last few years, he sold the ranch to his grandson.
SA: Oh! So it's still in the family.
SA: How wonderful! Do you ever go there, do you ever see it?
EO: Oh yeah, I go down occasionally and drop by.
SA: Does it look the same, or any changes?
EO: Pretty much the same. Of course since he's gone, the house and yard are deteriorating considerably.
SA: In other words, his grandson doesn't live on the ranch?
EO: No, his grandson is actually from Ohio, lives in Ohio, and comes out for the harvest season.
SA: Hires a manager?
EO: Well, he rented the house. Whether he hires a manager or just what takes care of the farm, I'm not acquainted with that. [tape cuts]
SA: Is there anything that we haven't covered that can tell a little more about your father's work and some of yours?
EO: Early in the war my father, of course, did some work for Stolte Construction. It was a large construction firm doing work all over the country on the war projects. So the first one was Herlong, actually in California.
SA: What kind of projects are these?
EO: These were Army and Navy bases. So from Herlong I know he worked for a while in Hawthorne; then in Tonopah at the big air base there; Pasco, Washington for the Hanford nuclear plant. Pasco is quite a large city in the state of Washington. And Hanford was the nuclear facility right beside it. He did quite a little work in Alameda which is right close to San Francisco. The Navy built quite a base on. . . . They had to fill the Bay for an area there. And another one, I don't know what was up there, but Port Orford, which is on the Pacific coast in Oregon. I've been there, it's a very pretty little town, but I don't know what the facility was.
SA: So he was still traveling around, and working all around?
EO: He traveled to all of those places.
SA: Did you go to any of those with him?
EO: No. No, I was in Hawthorne all through that period. In fact, when he worked at Hawthorne, he stayed with me for a time.
SA: Oh you were there when he was there. That's interesting. Now, what county is that?
EO: Hawthorne is just south of Fallon about eighty miles.
SA: Is that still Churchill County?
EO: No, that's Mineral County. That was the largest Navy ammunition base in the West for years. And then the Navy finally gave it up.
SA: So your father was in demand.
EO: Oh yes! I understood the construction company thought quite a bit of him, because though he was in his sixties and seventies, they could rely on him, where all the young engineers were making horrible mistakes. [laughter, tape cuts]
SA: Now, I know because your son is in your company, that he lives here in this area. Does he live with a family here in Reno?
EO: Yes, his home is down on Mark Twain Avenue.
SA: Tell me about his family.
EO: His wife is a schoolteacher. Between them they bought a property out on McCarran and have the largest private school in Reno at this time. She has over a hundred students, probably a dozen teachers, and they cover all grades from, I think, kindergarten through eighth or probably higher--I'm not sure how high.
SA: Is this a specialized kind of a school?
EO: Well, it's just a private school for people that want a little better education. I understand, he told me the other day, that her students all passed their tests, this official test they give at about 95 [percent], where the public schools do well to--I think it's 35 [percent].
SA: Oh my, so they get very specialized attention and exceptional teachers, small classroom sizes?
ED: Yes, that's right.
SA: And do they have children?
EO: They have three children--they're all married, and they all live in Reno at this time. Each one of them has two children, so I have six great-grandchildren in Reno.
- That's wonderful!
EO: His son, Eric, was E.P. the Fourth, but "Eric" instead of "Edwin." He is now a chiropractor, has his own practice in Reno, and one girl and one boy. His daughter Karen is a graduate nurse and is now a nurse for the county, just moved back to Reno, has two children: a little girl, Taylor, and a little boy, Trevor.
SA: T and T! (chuckles)
EO: And Trevor is a character! (laughter)
SA: Now, that's your son?
EO: Yes. And he has another daughter, Katie, which is now our office manager, and she has two children.
SA: Now, do they all live close by?
EO: Yes, Katie lives… they all live right here in Reno.
SA: Isn't that amazing! One of the things that impresses me in the interviews in Nevada, how many of the children, and children's children stay close to the roots, because of the family and the land. Wonderful. Now, you have a daughter?
EO: I have a daughter, Robin. She now lives out of Auburn, California. I think they list the address as Lancaster, but they're all right close together there. She and her husband both work for Arrowjet, one of the large armament firms. They built a very lovely home on an old ten-acre orchard, right out of Auburn.
SA: Do you have any grandkids from them?
EO: Yes, she had three children. The oldest boy has two children. That's my oldest great-grandchild. Nicole is now about six or seven years old. The new baby is named Fallon.
SA: Oh! After Fallon, Nevada?
EO: No, I don't know where she got the name.
SA: Spelled the same?
SA: Isn't that interesting!
EO: Fallon is only about six months to a year old at this time. Her other two children: one daughter, Margo--named for one of our favorite step-daughters here in Reno--and her son, Denver, and they're both expecting a baby in the next few months. Her new husband- Oh I might mention, my daughter and her husband split up years ago, and she married a new man, who is Japanese. He's one of the finest men I ever met, and the best golfer I ever had in the family! And I might comment that on our fiftieth wedding anniversary, which was just ten years ago, I had the pleasure of playing golf with my two son-in-laws, right here in Reno. I told everybody, I only have one daughter, but I have two son-in-laws! (laughter) And we had a lovely game.
SA: So they're all still friends.
EO: They're all very good friends, right to this day.
SA: That's a wonderful story. I also surmise that you're a golfer.
EO: Not too good a golfer, but we love it.
SA: Do you spend time during the week, now that you're freer, golfing?
EC: I have friends here in Reno, we go out every weekday morning and play nine holes,
SA: Every weekday morning?! Nine holes! No wonder you're in such good condition. Is there anything that we have not covered in our interview today that you would like to add?
EO: The only thing I can add is that perhaps I think my wife and I have more fun than most any couple I've ever met. She still golfs a little, and we frequently take a few days off and go someplace off to sightsee and do a little golfing.
SA: Oh, that's wonderful!
EO: We just returned from a trip to Canada, and saw Glacier Park and Waterton Park on the Canadian side, and came down back through one of the best golf resorts I know of, right out of Portland.
SA: Do you drive?
EO: Oh yes.
SA: Well, I think it's wonderful! It's been a special pleasure meeting with you and interviewing you, and learning about your father, your mother, and your wonderful family, and especially to see what a youthful, happy, active family you still are.
EO: Thank you. Oh, I thought of one more thing. I started to say a minute ago, my daughter's new husband, which I say is Japanese, also had two daughters, and they are the sweetest two little grandchildren anybody could ask for!
SA: Now, his daughters had children?
SA: No. Now on behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project, I want to thank you for sharing your time and the materials that you've put out to share with us. Thank you, and this is the end of the interview.
EO: Thank you.