Lester Pearce Oral History

Dublin Core


Lester Pearce Oral History


Lester Pearce Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


March 16, 1995


Analog Cassette Tape, .docx file, Mp3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Anita Erquiaga


Lester Pearce


1175 Gummow Drive




an interview with

Lester Pearce

March 16, 1995

This interview was conducted by Anita Erquiaga; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.


Les Pearce lives with his wife, Betty, in a bright cheerful house on Gummow Drive right next to their family-owned radio station, KVLV 980. We sat at a dinette table before a big window which faced the west. Outside the window was a vine which had obviously been there for many years and was literally covered with English Sparrows bustling back and forth. The Pearces have put a feeder at one end and give them bird seed which encourages dozens of the little birds to live there.

Inside there are even more birds. There is a large comfortable family room with big windows to the south and east. This room is filled with many large house plants and more songbirds than I could count. Betty moved about four cages into another room and there were still two cages left with six or more birds in them. It must be a cheerful place to live.

Les has lived an interesting life, in fact as he said, he is still living it. His life span extends from the horse and buggy days to the modern jet age, and as a pilot for more than fifty years, he has played an active part in the transition. Radio, the other big interest in his life tied in with the flying in all of his jobs. I watched how his face would light up when he talked about those two things, and I could see that he is a man who has been very happy with his life's work.

He is very family oriented and speaks often of his father. He is proud of his wife, children and grandchildren, and now he says he has a great-grandson in Reno. This brought the light to his eyes too, when he told about him. He plans to see the year 2000 with his family.

Interview with Lester Pearce

ERQUIAGA: This is Anita Erquiaga of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program. Today is March 16, 1995, and I am interviewing Lester William Pearce at his home at 1175 Gummow Drive in Fallon, Nevada. Now, first of all, I would thank you for letting me come here and talk with you this afternoon. I'm sure you will have some interesting things to talk about, and I'd like to get some information about your grandparents first.

PEARCE: Okay. My [great-]grandparents on my mother's side were from Belfast, Ireland. I know very little about my great-grandparents, but they came over here to the United Sates during the potato famine in Ireland--they just starved out, and they came over here, and they settled in Georgia, and they established, first, a little farm and then it grew to a fairly large plantation. They had no children at the time they arrived here, but my grandfather was the first born. Their family name was Murray, and they settled in Georgia. My grandfather Joseph Murray was born somewhere in Georgia. At the age of fifteen he grew fairly restless on the plantation, and he joined a fur trapping party up the Ohio River. That was in approximately 1860. He was up there a short time when the Civil War was declared, and the Union Army grabbed him, and he protested that he was a southerner. That was the wrong thing to say! They said, "You serve in the Union Army or a Union prison." There he was a boy of sixteen about that time. He took one look at the Union prison and decided the Army was preferable (laughing), so he served throughout the War. He wasn't wounded, but he said he was a very poor soldier. He told my mother that. I never knew him. He said he was a very poor soldier in that he could not fire on his own people. He did after a fashion, but he was a very poor marksman. After the War he went back to the plantation in Georgia and found nothing. Sherman had gone through there with his big army and whatnot, and the house was burned to the ground. All the buildings were burned. The crops in the field were burned. There was just nothing left, and he couldn't find any news of his parents or his brothers and sisters. It was a fairly large family. There were twelve children in the family, all born in Georgia, seven boys and five girls, and he never saw any of them again.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, after the War he never did find them?

PEARCE: No. He searched all over the South the best he could, and one day he picked up a mining journal and started reading through it, and he saw where a William Murray had made a big silver strike at Silver City, Idaho. He knew that had to be his brother because he had one named William. He came all the way out here only to find out it wasn't his brother. So in the meantime he met my grandmother who was running a boarding house for the miners.

ERQUIAGA: That was in Silver City?

PEARCE: In Silver City, Idaho, yes, and they got married. My mother was the only Murray because my grandfather died from inhaling quartz dust in the mines before she was very old, but that establishes my mother--she was born in Silver City. I'll have to digress now and go back to my father's side. My father's grandparents, my great-grandparents, were from a fairly well-to-do family. That is, his grandfather was. He was a British mining engineer. He was hired by the crown of England to come out to Mexico for twenty years to run a silver mine. The British were down there mining all the silver they could get their hands on at that time.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I see.

PEARCE: That was in the early forties. I think it was about 1843 that they arrived. However, he married his boyhood sweetheart. They had gone to grammar school together, and they set sail for Mexico together, but they didn't know about the hurricane season at that time, and they plowed right into it. Vicious storms and winds, and my grandmother told me that her father said that the wind was so great and the waves were great that the bow of the ship they were on would go completely under. Then it would rise up and the water would rush over the decks and spill off of the stern of the vessel, but the decks leaked, and their bedding was wet and soggy. My great-grandfather's wife contracted pneumonia and she died at sea, and she was buried at sea somewhere in the middle Atlantic. We never knew where.

At her death, my great-grandfather was, of course, beside himself, and he appealed to the captain to take him back to England, and the captain refused. He argued that if he did that, he was under orders to land him on the shores of Mexico. If he didn't do that, he says, "The crown will take my captain's papers from me, and I will be a beachcomber for the rest of my life. He says, "I can't do that. When we arrive at Mexico, then you want to go back, we can do it. I will have fulfilled my contract, but you haven't, and I wouldn't do that if I were you." Well, my great-grandfather's wife had a maid, and the maid got a hold of my great-grandfather, and says, "Look, if you go back now without ever trying for a day or a week or a month or a year of fulfilling your contract, you, too, will be a beachcomber for the rest of your life 'cause the crown will take a dim view of this." My great-grandfather thought it over for a long time, and he finally says, "Well, I will proceed to Mexico on my assignment if you will be my wife." That maid was my great-grandmother. Of course, in this country, why, it's not frowned upon, but in England, why, that was horrible. (laughing)

EROUIAGA: You say that because she would have been lower status?

PEARCE: She was lower class. Yes. Well, so, my great-grandfather started out to serve his time--the captain married them before they got off the ship. Their first three children were boys, then along comes my grandmother as the fourth child. She played with the Mexican children, and she picked up the Spanish language, and she could speak Spanish just as well as she could English which was to their benefit later on. Well, after serving nearly his twenty years--he only lacked a short time--the Mexican army came up there and ordered them out. They were getting rich on Mexican silver (laughing) and they didn't like that, so they ordered them out, and they told them that they couldn't take anything of value with them. They could take clothing and food and whatnot, but that was it. So the wagon master got together sixteen wagons to take them to the east coast which was about two hundred miles away. Incidentally, the town--I don't know whether the town existed at that time, but it does now. It's Pacheco, Mexico. It's seventy miles northeast of Mexico City, and so they were desperate. In order to pay the miners and the administrative personnel, they shipped money over from England in barrels, and they had quite a bit of money left. They didn't want to lose it, and the Mexican army would take it if they could. My grandmother was sixteen at the time, and she says, "Look, I can talk to that Mexican general. I'm the only one that can speak Spanish, and I will talk to him. Take all of the padding out of the wagon seats, the lead wagons, especially, and stuff it full of money, and then leave the rest to me. One of the miners had a little baby who was about six months old, and she took that baby and wrapped it in a blanket and sat on the wagon seat. Her dresses at that time was yards and yards of goods, so she spread her dress over the whole seat. Well, the Mexican army under the direction of the general went through the wagons, and they found nothing of any value except clothing which they couldn't use--they were after the money. So, they came to the lead wagon, and the general demanded that my grandmother get off of the seat. She says, "I can't do that. This little baby is sick, and if I move it, it might die." So the Mexican general backed off, and they got away with it. (laughing) I don't know how much money they had, but it was all they could stuff in that . . . she says it was nearly all greenbacks, of course, so the Mexicans didn't get any of the money.

PEARCE: Well, they started out. The wagons were pulled by oxen, and they made about ten miles a day, and about halfway between there and the eastern coast of Mexico they were attacked by Yaqui Indians. When the skirmish was all over, they found that her oldest brother was missing. It was two hours before sundown, and the wagon master says, "We can't stay here. We've got to find a place where there's water and where we can put the wagons in a circle, otherwise we're open to another attack." They went on, knowing her brother was missing, and they didn't know what to do. They found this spot about sundown, put all the wagons in a circle, put the oxen in the middle, and then the men got under the wagons with their guns and waited. Nobody slept all night. The next morning just at the crack of dawn, somebody fired a shot. One of the men was trigger happy, and, of course, everybody became alert, and they looked up the road and her brother was coming down the road walking. He had been scalped, and he was all blood and everything else. The Yaquis left him for dead. [long pause] The Yaquis had killed a couple of the miners, and they took their gun butts and hit them in the face and crushed their teeth in, but they didn't with my grandmother's brother.               It's still a mystery, but they left him for dead. I guess they were in a hurry to get away or something. He went through life without a scalp. He wore a skullcap all the time, and, to please the kids, he would take his skullcap off and show them the white bone. He died at the age of sixty-six. He died of of cancer. He was over here in Austin, Nevada, firing a boiler. Everything was steam at that time. Steam engines. [tape cuts] He was firing a boiler. And he picked up a log about four feet long, and he wore leather gloves, and he opened the fire door and threw the log in and it caught on his glove, and he fell forward and hit his face on the hot boiler front, and it started a sore that never healed, and cancer set in and just ate up all his face. He died at the age of 66.

PEARCE: They started back for England. The ship arrived in a few days. They had no communications. The supply ship to supply them arrived, but they didn’t unload. They took everybody on board to sail back to England.

ERQUIAGA: Now, about what year was that?

PEARCE: It was 1860. So, they arrived back in England, and I don't know how she met my grandfather because they were so far apart. She was from a well-to-do family, but my grandfather was not. He was a poor tin miner. His parents were, too. There were two boys in the family-no more children, and I know very little, practically nothing, about my great-grandparents on that side. I don't know how my grandmother met my grandfather, but they did, and they were married in England. My grandfather had been toying with the idea of going to the United States for quite a while, and, so, in the meantime, while he was planning all of this and before my grandmother arrived in England, his brother, who was older than he – There were two boys, my grandfather was William Pearce and his older brother Nicholas Pearce– and Nicholas Pearce grew tired of the drudgery around England--incidentally, the two boys worked in the mill that refined the tin ore as did a dozen other boys. All of them about seven years old.

EROUIAGA: That young!

PEARCE: Yeah. They had to do it to make ends meet. My grandfather's family was very poor, and the boys were urged to go to work as soon as they could in order to have enough to eat. Here's an example. They looked forward to Christmas dinner because it was really something. They had a thick oak table. It was about six inches thick, and instead of dishes, they had hollowed out parts on the table, and their Christmas dinner was a boiled potato put in that hollowed out part, the fish placed on top of it and crushed.


PEARCE: That was a Christmas dinner.

ERQUIAGA: That was a special meal for them.

PEARCE: That was a special meal! Probably, it was only the potato otherwise. Anyway, Nicholas had a chance to join a mining party to go to Australia. He wound up in New Zealand, and he married down there. He had one daughter, and then he died, like a lot of Englishmen did, from quartz dust in his lungs. We have a relative in Australia or New Zealand, but we don't know where.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, you haven't been able to keep in touch.

PEARCE: No. My aunt wrote to this daughter for a while, but my aunt died and took the information with her.


PEARCE: We don't have her address or where she is or anything. She's a Pearce, but otherwise we don't know. Well, anyway, getting back to my grandfather and my grandmother, they were married in England, and shortly later they set sail for the U.S. Of course, they came through Ellis Island at New York. My grandfather didn't know anything but mining, so he inquired around, "Any mines?" "Yes, down in New Jersey there are iron mines." So, they went to New Jersey. Mine Hill, New Jersey, which is just outside of Dover, and, in fact, my father was born in Mine Hill – it’s little burg just outside of Dover – on June, 1872 in Mine Hill. My grandfather worked a long time in the mines-several years. At that time they had no provisions for protecting the miners from dust or anything else, and like so many others, he had dust in his lungs, and the doctor told him that he had to get out the mines. Well, he didn't know anything else, but they went to Vermont, and my grandfather worked in the sugar mills. Not in the mills exactly, he drove the a mule around with a sled with a barrel on it picking up the syrup from the trees, but didn't last very long. I don't how long, but it didn’t last long. He picked up a mining journal one day, and there was a big strike at Belmont, Nevada. He had to come. That's all there was to it, so he left the family back in Vermont. My father at the time was four years old, and he had one brother. Incidentally, he was named after his uncle, Nicholas Pearce. My grandfather worked in the mines and mills at Belmont for approximately eighteen months, and he sent for the family. Well, the family came to Battle Mountain [Nevada] on what was then the Union Pacific. Imagine, it had a locomotive and three cars. Two Pullman cars and a baggage car. Long train.

ERQUIAGA: Yes. (laughing) And what year was that?

PEARCE: Well, that'll be approximately 1876. So, they lived for seven years, I think it was, at Belmont, and then the mines petered out, and they had to look for something else. Well, Austin was just beginning to boom then, so they moved to Austin. The reason I know it was about seven years, my father went to the seventh grade in Belmont, and he finished the eighth grade in Austin. They lived in Austin for several years. My grandfather said that he was working for low wages. He wanted to lease a piece of mining property that had been mined before, and it looked good, so he and my father leased it. My father at that time was about sixteen. But it had been mined, and they weren't too careful about timbering or anything else. They had to clean up the whole mine, and right in the middle of the tunnel--the tunnel was about five hundred feet long, so Dad says, and right in the middle they sunk a shaft down on a stringer of ore, but they were petered out at about sixty feet. They had a door that fitted over that with tracks on it for the ore car, and Dad doesn't know who did it yet, but the door was pulled up and my grandfather was coming out with a full load of rock or ore or whatever in this car and the door was pulled up [End of tape 1 side A. Original transcript continues “and he fell down the shaft.”] Greatest wonder in the world it didn't kill him, but he was badly mashed up, and Dad went to work then, in the mill to support the family. Well, my grandfather's health didn't improve too well, but he thought it was good enough that he could go back to work, but he couldn't find any work around Austin. So, knowing only the mining end of the industry, he went to Virginia City, and he obtained employment there, but it didn't last long. He was short of breath, and he just couldn't stand up to the rigorous work, so he went down to San Francisco to see if the doctor down there could help him, and the doctor told him the best thing he could is to go home to Austin and be quiet and rest. He did. He died at the age of forty-four in Austin.


PEARCE: He's buried in Austin.

ERQUIAGA: And what was his name?

PEARCE: William Pearce. And my father's name was also William Pearce. He was the first born. Dad worked for quite a while in Austin. He had quite a mechanical ability, and the superintendent of the mines recognized it, and they put him on as a steam engineer. Gee, at four dollars a day? Why, that was terrific! He was the king of all the kids (laughing) in Austin. Then they put him on as a hoisting engineer in the mine.

ERQUIAGA: How old was he when he was doing this?

PEARCE: Eighteen. He worked in the mines there for several years, and when he was twenty-two, the mines in Austin shut down. No work and whatnot. He heard of the mine in Silver City, so he went up to Silver City, and, gosh, he got employment right now. He didn't get his job as a steam engineer, but he was very well employed, and, of course, he ate all of his meals at the boarding house and there he met my mother.

ERQUIAGA: Now, this is your parents we're talking about?


ERQUIAGA: It was your dad that went to work at Silver City?

PEARCE: Yeah. And he met my mother there. She was waiting on table in the boarding house, and she didn't like my dad to be working in mines. She had seen her own father die and several others, and she pleaded with Dad to go into ranching or something. Well, he thought about it for a long time, and he says, "There's only one ranch that I would like to have, and that's in Nevada." "Well," she says, "let's go to Nevada." "Well," he says, "I will need financial help and see if my brother will go in with me". The old man that owned the ranch, had homesteaded it in 1872. One of the first homesteads in Nevada, I guess. Had a nice stream of water, and the ranch started not as a ranch, but as a layover place for ox teams that were hauling salt from Dixie Valley salt marsh to Silver City, Idaho, to be used in the mill.

ERQUIAGA: Oh -h-h!

PEARCE: Bushee'd homesteaded it. All there was on the place was a little rock building. It had slots cut in it for rifles to fight off the Indians.

ERQUIAGA: Is that right!

PEARCE: Yeah. I never knew the spot--Dad tore it down--but I've seen the stones with the holes cut in them, and he told me that's what they were for so they could shoot out. But, Bushee was quite a farmer.

ERQUIAGA: Now Bushee was the name of the man that homesteaded it?

PEARCE: Yeah, homesteaded the place, and he built a nice bunch of buildings on the place including a native rock corral and barn and another little house. We used it for a chicken house, but I never did know what it was for. But this barn was an immense barn. It had stalls for about eight horses. Bushee did all this by himself. He never married. He raised horses. There was a great demand at that time for horses. The Army would take all they could get, so he had a bunch of brood mares and a great big grey stallion. He was an immense horse, Dad says, that he would weigh about, he thought, about a ton.


PEARCE: Great big horse, but he wasn't a horse that was too gentle, and Bushee made the mistake one day of going into the barn without speaking to the horse and let him know, and the horse let fly with both hind feet and hit him right in the side of the head. The south side of the barn wasn't rock. It was made of one by twelve rough lumber. He'd knocked Bushee clear into that wall, and Bushee went clear through the wall and to the outside. He doesn't know how long he was out, but he believes it was several days.

ERQUIAGA: But it didn't kill him?

PEARCE: Didn't kill him, but it left him with a horrible headache.

ERQUIAGA: I'll bet!

PEARCE: And Dad says you could see the horseshoe mark on the side of his face. It's a wonder it didn't knock his head clear off.

ERQUIAGA: Did that happen after your dad had bought the ranch?

PEARCE: No, before. Dad had tried to buy the place. Dad worked in the mining camp of the Kennedy ten miles from the ranch, and they used to go over and buy vegetables from old man Bushee. That's where Dad got acquainted with the place, and he fell in love with the place.


PEARCE: It had so many nice trees on it. Had a big orchard of, oh, I would say the orchard was fourteen hundred feet long by about five hundred feet wide.

EROUIAGA: That is a big orchard.

PEARCE: Yeah. Dad tried to buy the place several times before, but Bushee wouldn't sell, but he wrote Bushee from Silver City, and Bushee said, "Yes. I've got to get to a doctor. I have a sister who lives in Florida, and she believes that there's a doctor down there that can help me." He had horrible headaches, and he couldn't sleep or anything else, and he was in pain all the time. So, they bargained for the ranch for eight thousand dollars. It took every cent that Dad had and my uncle had to buy it.

ERQUIAGA: How many acres was that?

PEARCE: Four hundred and four.


PEARCE: It was a big ranch. Still is.

ERQUIAGA: What type of farming did they do there?

PEARCE: Alfalfa, hay and cattle.

ERQUIAGA: And they had this stream you mentioned for irrigating the hay?

PEARCE: Oh, yes. The stream was measured in 1920. I was about eight years old, and they measured it at 310 gallons a minute.


PEARCE: It was a good stream. It would irrigate a lot of ground, and it did. Dad cut lots of hay. I don't know the tonnage, but three or four hundred tons a year.

ERQUIAGA: So, that was their cash crop, wasn't it? And then the cattle.

PEARCE: They fed the hay, but the cattle was their... Dad ran about three hundred head of cattle.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have brothers and sisters?

PEARCE: I had only sisters. No brothers. My oldest sister was born in Silver City, and she came here to Nevada as an infant. Dad bought the place on May 27, 1900. My oldest sister was not yet a year old. I had four more sisters. My first one was Edith, my next one was Beatrice, and then came Annie and then Mabel. Mabel still lives in Winnemucca, and then I came along. 1912. And then after that, I had three more sisters.

ERQUIAGA: Were you born on the ranch or in a hospital?

PEARCE: No, I was not born in a hospital. I was born in my grandmother's home in Winnemucca.

ERQUIAGA: Was there a doctor?

PEARCE: Oh, yes. Dr. Manger. He went down to California and died. I don't know what killed him. My three sisters that followed me; Loma lives in Battle Mountain. She's a widow. Ruby and her husband live in Winnemucca. Reva lives here in Fallon. She and her husband are retired, and they live in a double-wide out here in the Hub Totel.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. What is her last name?



PEARCE: Getting back to the ranch. Now we can discuss it. Did you have a question?

ERQUIAGA: Well, how close were your neighbors? Did you have neighbors out there?

PEARCE: Neighbors, but not close. The closest ranch was the Siard home ranch was three and a half miles. He was French.

ERQUIAGA: Well, what kind of work did you do on the farm when you were a little boy? Did you follow your father around?

PEARCE: I did. Most of it I was (laughing) a cowboy, I suppose. My sister, Mabel, that lives in Winnemucca now, and I were charged with the fall roundup of cattle. Dad sold his steers and culled cows and whatnot, and we were always on a cattle drive it seemed like.

ERQUIAGA: How old were you when you did that?

PEARCE: Well, I was about six when I started to ride horses. Mother didn't exactly like us to ride horses. She was afraid we'd get killed or something, but finally one of my older sisters bought a little horse over at a ranch near Battle Mountain, and she brought it over, and that little horse was our mainstay              We called him Johnny. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Well, where did your dad sell the cattle that he had for sale?

PEARCE: Well, sometimes in Lovelock, sometimes in Winnemucca.

ERQUIAGA: Was there an auction yard at that time?

PEARCE: No, but in the fall of the year, cattle buyers came by droves up to Lovelock and to Winnemucca, and they all bid for the cattle.

ERQUIAGA: You drove the cattle into Winnemucca.

PEARCE: Into Winnemucca and into Lovelock, and we drove them into the Southern Pacific cattle yards.


PEARCE: And they bought them right there. They had scales, and they bought them so much a pound and they were loaded right then and shipped out.

ERQUIAGA: Shipped out on the train.

PEARCE: Yeah. Seems like between the time I was six years old and sixteen, I rode horses and rode horses and rode horses (laughing) always driving cattle somewhere. It was good for me in a way.

ERQUIAGA: And your sister, Mabel, you said helped. Did the other sisters do a lot of that also?

PEARCE: Not much. My older sisters did until Mabel and I could do it, and then they backed off. Edith, my older sister, was quite a horse lady. She even rode in rodeos.

ERQUIAGA: Well, how did your mother get around out there? Did she have a car?

PEARCE: Oh, yes. We had a car. We were the first in the valley to have a car.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, and did she drive it?

PEARCE: No. Dad did all the driving.

ERQUIAGA: Did she have to go into Winnemucca to shop?

PEARCE: Yeah, they did, but she and Dad went together usually. Dad bought a brand-new Reo car in 1912. He was the first person in the valley to have a car, and everyone told him how silly he was.   "You're going to regret this," but Dad hung on. One of the reasons Dad bought the car, in 1909, that was three years before the car, Dad bid on a mail contract from Winnemucca to the mining camp of Kennedy. Was sixty miles over impossible roads. They were all unimproved roads, so Dad got the best equipment he could, and he ran a horse-drawn stage for three years. Then he had befriended a car dealer in Winnemucca, and the car dealer talked him into buying this Reo. Dad held off because the car dealer wanted him to buy it in 1911, but the 1911 model, Dad wasn't impressed with it at all. It was high wheeled and was difficult to start. The engine was under the front seat, and you cranked it on the side. Only a two-cylinder engine, and it vibrated like everything. No lights on it. Dad held off until the 1912 models came in, and then the engine was up in front like it is today, and, of course, it had no starter. You had to crank, but it would comfortably haul five people including the driver.

EROUIAGA: Do you have any idea what that cost?

PEARCE: Yes. Dad paid twelve hundred dollars for the car. But, that didn't include tires. It didn't include the top, it didn't include lights.

ERQUIAGA: So, he had to pay extra to get all those.

PEARCE: He had to pay extra to get that.

EROUIAGA: For heaven sakes.

PEARCE: And at that time a tire cost eighty dollars, and Dad says if you could two thousand miles out of a tire, you were lucky. He had flats and everything all over, but he hauled people and mail back and forth from Winnemucca to Kennedy and back over. It used to be that on the afternoon of the day that he was to start the trip to Winnemucca, he'd go over to Kennedy, ten miles, and stay all night. The next morning he would load up his passengers. He had a beautiful wagon. It was a spring wagon. It had springs so that you didn't feel the jolts, and it had beautiful seats in it. Leatherette seats and the top, and he pulled it with four horses. He'd start in and trot them. Trot them all the way. It was forty-seven miles from the ranch to Winnemucca. He'd start early in the morning about six o'clock. He'd average, he thought, about seven to eight miles an hour. The horses were good trotters, and then he would change horses at Hot Springs. That was eighteen miles out. The horses were done by that time. It was another twelve miles to the Sonoma Ranch and sometimes he'd have to stay there overnight because it was getting pretty late. The next morning he'd make Winnemucca, another twelve miles.

ERQUIAGA: Well, where did you go to school?

PEARCE: On the ranch.

ERQUIAGA: You had a teacher that stayed there?

PEARCE: Yes. Every teacher boarded with us.

ERQUIAGA: I see. And there were enough children to maintain the school?

PEARCE: Well, at that time, it didn't require many kids. If you complained that you had a child that needed school, why, they brought the school to you. It was expensive, but at that time, why, there wasn't enough demand for it. They started the school in 1909, I think.

ERQUIAGA: For your sisters?

PEARCE: For my older sisters and two boys that lived six miles north of us along the mountains. Their name was Shell. Adam Shell and his brother. I forget what his brother's name was, but the little school eventually went to the tenth grade. I went that far.

EROUIAGA: You went through the tenth grade?

PEARCE: Through the tenth grade on the ranch, and then I started out with the eleventh grade, and I made it through the International Correspondence Schools, and I had to quit.

ERQUIAGA: Well, where did you go to the high school? In to Winnemucca?

PEARCE: I didn't go to high school.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, you didn't finish high school?

PEARCE: No, I didn't finish it. The Depression of the thirties came along.

EROUIAGA: And you had to go to work, I guess.

PEARCE: We were lucky. If it hadn't been for the ranch, we would have starved. There was my father and mother and seven of us kids. My gosh! Of course, my older sisters had grown up, but that didn't help any. They ate more than we did. (laughing) If it hadn’t been for the ranch we would have starved. Dad couldn't sell his beef. He made inquiries. We didn't have a cattle drive that fall. We brought them in from the range, and he couldn't sell them, so we turned them back out again. They were two-year old steers. We brought them in the next year. Same thing. No sale. So we butchered them one by one and hauled them into Winnemucca and traded them for sugar, flour, and other things that we needed. Even clothing.

ERQUIAGA: I see, because you didn't have any income?

PEARCE: No, no income. We piled up hay on the ranch until we had haystacks everywhere, but nobody would buy it.

ERQUIAGA: So, how long did it take to come out of that?

PEARCE: Ten years. We didn't get out of it until World War II came along.

ERQUIAGA: And you had hay to sell all that time?

PEARCE: We had hay to sell. In 1932 Dad sold two stacks of hay to John Mentaberry. Then had his sheep brought right there to the ranch. The winter of 1932 and 1933 was awful. We had three feet snow on the level. A lot of sheep died. He hired me and our old Chevy truck to haul oil cake or something from Winnemucca to feed the sheep. I went snow blind twice. That's the reason I wear glasses today.

ERQUIAGA:  Well, how did he have enough money to buy hay or oil cakes?

PEARCE: I don't know, but he did. To talk to him, he'd say he was starving right now. If you charged him for anything, he'd cry. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: But, he did buy hay.

PEARCE: But, he did buy hay, but Dad charged him only dollars a ton for it. He could have held him up fifty dollars a ton, I think, and he'd had to pay it. What else would you like to know?

ERQUIAGA: Did you have any interest in being a farmer?

PEARCE: Yes, I did, for a while. But along came the Depression of the thirties, and there wasn't enough for both Dad and I. However, I was only nineteen when the Depression hit, but I wanted to be an airmail pilot.

ERQUIAGA: Well, I know that you are a pilot, and I was going to ask you which came first, your interest in flying or radio?

PEARCE: In flying, it did. I hadn't seen an airplane, but during World War I, which I can still remember, Dad subscribed to the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. Right in the center of it they had a section they called the pictorial review, and it was all airplanes. Gee, I saw those airplanes, and, oh, something hit me. I don't what, but I just had to see an airplane somewhere. I wanted to go where the airplanes were, and Dad couldn't see it, so my mother gave me a picture album that someone had given her, but it didn't have any pictures in it. She gave it to me, and I cut out all of those pictures, and I carefully pasted them in there. I had the album full of pictures of planes here in the States, training planes. Pictures in Europe of the fighter planes and so forth. Gee, I knew those airplanes. I could tell you just what they were, and I'd never seen one.

ERQUIAGA: Do you still have that scrapbook?

PEARCE: No, I left the ranch, and I never thought about- I put it up in the attic and I never thought about it after that, and I've kicked myself several times since that time, but I lost it. The people that, bought the farm from Dad in 1956 tore the house down, and they probably burned the book.

ERQUIAGA: There went your pictures. Well, how did you get to be a pilot?

PEARCE: Well, it still burned, but you see, the airmail planes went right over the ranch. Gee, how I wanted to be an airmail pilot. (laughing) I read all the books I could on it, and I wanted to learn to fly, but Dad couldn't see any future in it, and my mother, oh, she was horrified at my wanting to fly. I might get killed. Well, along about 1931, the airmail planes were getting lost in the fog. They didn't have instrument flying at that time.


PEARCE: They had to fly underneath the clouds everywhere, and they'd get hemmed in in the valleys over there. The mountains were topped with clouds. They couldn't get out, so they established emergency fields where they could land, and they stored spare gasoline and everything there, and they leased a section of Dad's ranch. He had two dry fields that he hadn't used, and they used that as a landing field, and they established a radio station right on the . . . Well, I looked at that radio equipment a little bit, and it lighted a flame. (laughing) Oh, gee, I adored that radio equipment! I thought that was some of the finest. A little bit later they decided that it was too hard to get into Pleasant Valley. The mountains were too high, so they moved the facility over to Buffalo Valley just south of Battle Mountain. [End of tape 1]

ERQUIAGA: Did you learn any radio business while they had this station?

PEARCE: Well, the first radio operator that they had was very uncooperative. We didn’t get along at all, but he bid out to Elko a little bit later, and the second man was a prince of a person. He taught me a lot about radio, and he taught me the Morse Code and encouraged me to become a radio amateur. A ham. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Explain that ham. That is an amateur?

PEARCE: Well, I don't know how the hams got that name, but I understood it came from the theatre. An amateur actor was called a ham.


PEARCE: And, so, it was in radio, too. Well, I did. He helped me build a transmitter and receiver and everything else. About that time I enrolled in a correspondence course in electronics. A National Radio Institute in Washington, D.C., and I studied. Boy! I ate up that course. I got a hundred in everything. (laughing) I had a flair for electricity. The course was very easy for me, because of what this operator taught me. He spent hours with an oscillator and a handkey sending to me, and I'd copy it all down,

ERQUIAGA: Just as a learning procedure.

PEARCE: Yeah, just learning, and I owe it all to him. I gave up about that time of being an airmail pilot because the modern planes had come in. The romance of flying had changed. The big passenger ships were coming in, and they didn't look like fun airplanes to me, (laughing) and I threw everything in to becoming a radio operator. My teacher, the second government operator, had been Navy and then afterwards he became a shipboard operator. Oh, how I wanted to be a shipboard operator and see different countries and everything else. I never did make it, but about that time the Radio Act of 1934 came in, and you had to have a license to do anything.

ERQUIAGA: Well, when you were a ham operator, did you have to have a license for that?

PEARCE: Yes, you did. The ham license came first. Then later the commercial license.

ERQUIAGA: But, you had studied enough to get that.

PEARCE: Yeah. Oh, yes. I passed it with no trouble at all. My big trouble on the ranch, we had no electricity. My receiver and my transmitter required 120 volts of alternating current. Well, we didn't have that, so, Dad was very cooperative. He bought me four big B batteries what we called radio B batteries at that time. They were expensive. They cost around six or eight dollars apiece, and he bought four of them, and I put them all in series, and I went on the air.

ERQUIAGA: And how old were you at this time?

PEARCE: Oh, I was nineteen when I started studying to be a ham. By the time I got on the air, I was in my early twenties. About twenty-two years old.

ERQUIAGA: Now, something that I read about you said that you got your call letters in 1932. Tell me what that means.

PEARCE: The amateurs were assigned according to districts. At that time, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah were all in one district. We were W-6's, and then they assigned you a three-letter call after that. Mine was W6BWX.

ERQUTAGA: I see, and was that like a license that you could . .

PEARCE: Yeah, station license. That was the station license, but to operate it, you had to have an operator's license. To get that I had to prove that I could send and receive code and I can pass a written examination. They gave me a temporary license that I could go on the air with, and I went on the air with it, but that expired after two years. So I didn't dare go on the air anymore for fear I would be monitored and fined (laughing) probably. So, I wrote the Federal Communications Commission in San Francisco and they told me that if I could get another radio ham that had taken the examination in San Francisco and if he said that I was okay and he would supervise the written examination and the code examination that they would issue me my license. This was in July, 1934. Well, I didn’t have any way to get to- the nearest ham at that time was Merle Smart, who lived here in Fallon. So, I wrote Merle and asked him about it, and "Yes," he says, "you come down and we'll sure fix you up." So, I had a motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson. It was an oldie. It was worn out, but I came down through Dixie Valley and Frenchman Station and all the way into Fallon here. That night I stayed at the Overland Hotel. I phoned Merle and met him the next morning and took the examination, and he didn't grade it. He just put it in an envelope and passed it on to the FCC. I rode my motorcycle into Reno, and I visited my aunt and uncle and cousin there, and then I went up the highway to Winnemucca and then back out to the ranch, and I felt like I had done quite a bit of work. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Just the trip was quite a job.

PEARCE: Yeah, true. So, I waited and waited and waited. It seemed like it took the FCC a long time to grade that paper. They came back and said that I'd passed, and they enclosed a station license and an operator's license. I couldn't wait. (laughing) Boy! I got on the air that day.

ERQUIAGA: Well, then what did you do when you got on the air?

PEARCE: Oh, I talked to other hams. At first, only those in California and what not, but I put up better antennas and worked over my equipment a little bit better, and finally I started to reach out up in Idaho and Montana. I got a big thrill one day. I heard if you went on the air and tapped out CQ, CQ, CQ, and then signed your call letters, that meant that you were listening for anybody that wanted to talk to you. I heard that one day, and it was a W9, and, gee, a W9 was in the Dakotas.


PEARCE: Boy, I answered fast as I could, and he came right back, and it just, gee, it surprised me, and so, finally, I worked the East Coast. I was looking for work all that time. Golly, the ranch wasn't paying too much. What cattle sales that Dad was making wasn't too good. It was barely keeping him and Mother and my younger sisters going, but I couldn't find anything, so a miner over in the mining camp of Kennedy--Kennedy had long closed down, but there was a mine way up on the top of Granite Peak, and he offered Mabel's husband, Melvin McCoy, and I, he says, "Come over. I can't get this ore out by myself, but there's ore in there, and we'll ship it and we'll divide it in three parts." Gee, we jumped at the chance, and we spent the winter of 1935 and 1936 over in Kennedy.

ERQUIAGA: What kind of ore were you mining?

PEARCE: It was gold.


PEARCE: Yeah. Some silver in it, but very little. It was mostly all gold. The name of the mine was Gold Note. (laughing) So, we spent the winter over there. We didn't make an awful lot, but I made enough that the next spring I enrolled in a radio school, an electronics school in Kansas City, and Dad was still dubious. He didn't think there was anything in radio. (laughing) But, if I wanted to go, why, I went. Well, I spent the summer in Kansas City, and because we had come so far a friend of mine, a ham that I'd met in Chico, California, went with me. We spent the summer back there. We came back in September, but they gave us a whole year's curriculum in those three months. Whew! We studied and we studied and we studied and they'd give us achievement exams and then at the end of June, they said if we passed and got our first-class radio telephone licenses, we could work in their station which would look fine on our licenses. Experienced and all.


PEARCE: He didn't make it, but. I did, and I got my license on July 13, 1936, and I was torn. I could go home, but I hadn't finished the course yet. The school owned a five-thousand watt broadcast station, and they owned a television station. Imagine in 1936!

ERQUIAGA: Oh, my! I didn't know they had a television.

PEARCE: They did. They didn't have it on a tube like that. It was a little square piece of glass about four by five, I imagine, and it had a light behind it that blinked, and between the light and the glass they had a whirling disk with a bunch of little holes in it, and as those holes went up and down in time, now it's done electrically, but then it was mechanically. I thought that was the most wonderful thing that I had ever seen. But we could see progress. In July the chief engineer of this station and the school, Everett Dillard, was his name, he told us one morning that he was going to be absent for about two or three weeks. He was going to the Philco electronic convention in Philadelphia. Didn't mean anything to us at the time. But, he says, "When I get home have a lot to tell you about this electronic industry." Electronics about that time was really--war clouds were covering Europe, and here in the U.S. we weren't exactly asleep, so in due time Dillard came back. We saw him that morning, and we sat on the edge of our chairs to see what he was going to say. He says, "I saw something you'll never believe. I saw a television picture on a tube!"


PEARCE: "Well, what kind of tube?" "Oh," he says, "it was just a three-inch tube as an oscilloscope for measuring alternating current and everything, but they wired it up so that the picture was green and white." (laughing) He says, "We're going to build one of those in the lab." Talk about work. We worked all hours of the day and night on that. We were in the fifth floor of the Keystone building, and it was an old building. They'd vacated it, and the schools leased the two floors. We built that television receiver, and the school owned a television transmitter, so, gee, we tuned it in right now, and, gee, (laughing) the picture was beautiful! We thought, "Why, geez, this is excellent." He says, "I saw something else. I saw a cold electronic tube that works!" Well, at that time, everything was tubes that lighted up, you know.


PEARCE: We just didn't believe that right at the start. He says, "They've got to make it a little smaller. One tube was fourteen inches long and two inches thick and about five inches wide." It was what we know today as the… uh…

ERQUIAGA: Picture tube or…?

PEARCE: No… there’s a lot of them in there now… what took the place of the tubes.

ERQUIAGA: Transistors?

PEARCE: Transistors! That’s what I’m trying to say. That was a transistor, but it was too big! "But," he says, "gee, it sure worked. They'll get it small." Shucks, I came home that fall, and my pal that I went with, the ham--who lived in Chico, says, "They promised me a job as junior engineer over there." He got the letter while we were still in Kansas City. He says, "Come home. Come with me, and maybe we can get you on, too." Well, I still wanted to he a shipboard operator, but that required at least a second class radio telegraph license. Incidentally, the first class radio telephone test that I took that made me eligible to work in a broadcast station, it took me two days, eight hours a day of writing just as fast as I could write. Two whole days. Afterwards they came out with a multiple question exam that you could do in a couple of hours, (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I see.

PEARCE: At that time we had to draw a complete diagram of a broadcast station, and at that time, they had every broadcast station in the United States listening on six hundred meters or five hundred kilocycles for distress calls from ships at sea, and they had to stand the watch, so we had to know Morse Code, but I passed that all tight. So, as soon as I could, I- we needed a way to come home from Kansas City, and neither one of us had a dime. (laughing) My father sent me seven dollars which was practically all he had at the time I guess, and I sold a book that I had for ten dollars, I hated to part with it, but I sold it. Gave me seventeen dollars. We noted an ad in the Kansas City Times one evening that the Chrysler people wanted caravan drivers to drive new cars to the west coast. We went down there the next morning and volunteered, They said, "All right." They gave us a credit card, and we didn't know credit cards existed, but they gave us a new Dodge to drive. We drove day and night from Kansas City. We left Kansas City at six o'clock in the evening, and the next morning we were in Denver, and I saw a mountain. I hadn't seen a mountain all summer.


PEARCE: (laughing) Oh, gee, it looked good to me! We drove up Berthoud Pass on Highway 40 at that time, and up there there was snow. Gee, I played in the snow until my traveling companion says, “Look, if you don't stop, I'm going to drive away and leave you here," so I got in the car and we drove. The next morning we were in Winnemucca. He took the car on then to Bakersfield, California. I gave him a little money to eat on all the way down. And then I didn’t know what to do. My dad came in in a couple of days. I stayed with my cousin and her family in Winnemucca, and I wanted to go on while I was really hot in electronics. I wanted to get on another exam. Second class telegraph. Dad came in and I went back out to the ranch with him for a week, and I told him I wanted to go to San Francisco. "Well," he says, "all right." So, he took me to town. I got on the bus, and I got off over here at Hazen, and I was met by another ham who drove up from Yerington. I stayed with them a few days. He had a nice ham station in Yerington, so I stayed with them for a couple of days, and I used it, and I talked to hams all over the country. Even in Canada. So one evening we – His father was a telegrapher on the Copper Belt Railroad that ran from Reno into Yerington and around to the copper mine on the other side of the mountain. One evening he took us into Reno, and we got on the train there, and the next morning we were in San Francisco. I didn't get much sleep on the way down, but we went right up to the Federal. Communications Commission office, and I asked for the exam.


PEARCE: We both passed, and I thought, "Oh, now, I've got ammunition. By golly, I can hire out as a shipboard operator, but, gee, San Francisco Bay was just crowded with ships that were decommissioned because there was no trade. The big Depression was on, We had to join the telegraphers' union, and they were supposed to furnish us with jobs, but they says, "There's nothing. There just isn't anything." They showed us a string about that long of names of guys that were ahead of us, so I gave up. Shucks, there was no used trying, so I came back, we both came back. I stayed with them a couple of days in Yerington. Then I got a telephone call from Winnemucca. The owner of the theater wanted to know if I was interested in running the projection machines. Well, it was a job, gee! So I went. …Wait a minute, I’m getting ahead of my story.

PEARCE: I went home. While I was at home I got a call from this friend of mine at Chico. He says, "They have a job for you if you want to come over." I went over. Good gravy. They only paid eighty dollars a month for a junior engineer. I thought that was… But after all, they showed us the books, they weren't making much, so I stayed and I worked for forty days, but. I couldn't get along with the station manager. He was breathing down my neck all the time, and if some equipment failed or whatnot I was assigned to fix it, and he, "Oh, you're getting too much solder there," or, "You're not getting enough," or something or other. Finally I quit, and I came back and I went down to Yerington, and I stayed with this kid for two days, and then I got this phone call from Winnemucca. Wanted to know if I wanted a job running the projector machines. Paid thirty-five dollars a week. Well, five dollars a day sounded pretty good to me. That's what it was, too. I got no days off. (laughing) I went back to Winnemucca, and I worked under another operator for a couple of days until I could handle it myself. I stayed with him till long the next year. But, before I went to Kansas City, I had always wanted to be--if I couldn't be a shipboard operator--I wanted to be something to do with airplanes. They were establishing radio stations along here, Leletype stations and radios at these emergency fields for airmail planes to land, and just west of the ranch, about forty miles, they established a place they called Humboldt Field. It had both radio and teletype, and we were supposed to make weather observations and whatnot, so I went to weather school in Reno for a while under the weather bureau till I got my weather observer's license, and then they assigned me to Humboldt. Well, I went there on Halloween night in 1937, and in a little while I was a seasoned operator. Shucks, I thought that was pretty good. They didn't pay an awful lot. Our salary was twelve hundred dollars a year. They reasoned that shipboard operators were getting only eighty dollars a month. Why should they pay more than that?

ERQUIAGA: Well, that was about the mid thirties?

PEARCE: Yeah. 1937.

ERQUIAGA: Wasn't that considered a pretty good wage for those days?

PEARCE: Yeah, it was. It was fair. Then, there were other pay scales higher up for more experienced men. Well, I went there and worked until spring, and the guy that owned the theater wanted me to come back, so I took a leave of absence, and I went back to the theater running motion pictures. In the meantime I met Betty, and we got married.

ERQUIAGA: Now, what was her name?

PEARCE: Loest. Katherine Loest.

ERQUIAGA: And she was from Winnemucca?

PEARCE: Yup. She was from Orvada. Her dad had a ranch out there.


PEARCE: My dad had a ranch fifty miles south of Winnemucca. A hundred miles separated us, (laughing) but we met in Winnemucca, and so we got married. A little while later I met a guy that was a free lance flight instructor. I'd always wanted to learn to fly anyway, and, gee, I had shoved it off to the back burner for the time, but I still wanted to fly, and he came to Winnemucca, and so, golly, I hocked my typewriter and everything else to learn to fly. I soloed, flew alone for the first time on Memorial Day, May 30, 1939, and after that I threw everything into flying that I could, and on July 26 I went into Reno and got my license. [end of tape 2, side A]

PEARCE: We got married in June, 1938, and April 4, our first born arrived. A girl. Everybody says, "Too bad it wasn't a boy," and about the dozenth person that said that I felt like killing him. (laughing) I was ecstatic. Gee, a healthy little girl. She lives in Reno. Later, the owner of the theater made it known that he wanted to sell out. Immediately, I decided by golly that I'd like to get back in the airways so I'd at least have a job, so I applied for reinstatement, and they came right back almost immediately and sent me--I was hoping to get back Lo Humboldt where I'd been before, but it wasn't a real bargain. There was no quarters that Betty could live in. She'd have to live in Lovelock, and the salary that they paid, why, I didn't know whether I could afford it or not, but they sent us to Ventosa, an emergency field southeast of Wells. About fifty miles airline due east of Elko, and I stayed there for three years. Meantime, I arrived there February 7, 1940, and being the youngest operator why I inherited the mid-shift. That is midnight to eight in the morning (laughing) which I worked for a little over a year. They finally sent up another operator, and I got elevated to the evening shift four to twelve. I was happy. Shucks. In the meantime, they'd come through with a little pay raise. It didn't amount to much, but it helped, and then December 1, 1941, they promoted me to chief operator. Gee, I knew then I'd lost all desire to be a shipboard operator. Shucks, I was chief operator in the airways service and airplanes, you know. (laughing) I worked for seven days, and then World War II came on. Pearl Harbor on December 7, and so I stayed at Ventosa all through 1941. In the meantime I volunteered for pilot in the air service.

ERQUIAGA: What kind of a place was Ventosa?

PEARCE: It was just about like Humboldt. was, It had two nice dwelling houses. One house belonged to the chief or whoever could use it. If the chief didn't use it, why you could assign it to one of the other operators. The radio station was in between the two houses. You could walk clear through. You'd come in the back door of the family quarters and go clear through the radio station and go clear through the bachelor quarters and go out the back door. And then they had a 160-acre field all smoothed off for emergency landings.

ERQUIAGA: Did they still fly without instruments at that time?

PEARCE: Yeah. Yeah. They were just coming in with instruments just about that time. World War II pushed it a little. The war clouds and Europe did it. We weren't in the War yet, but come Pearl Harbor they went all out for instruments. So, I stayed there until latter part of October, 1942. I remember on June 6 I was on watch at Ventosa when the Battle of Midway came on. I missed a couple of weather sequences because (laughing) I was listening to the radio. (laughing) Oh, gee, I used to listen to Tokyo Rose and all that. They had beautiful radio equipment that you could tune to anything that you wanted to. Anyway, in the latter part of October just out of a clear sky comes a letter from the regional office in Los Angeles that I was promoted. I was GS1 when I first went to. . . I was the lowest on the scale. Twelve hundred dollars a year. Then I was promoted to chief which gave me about two hundred dollars a year more, and then out of a clear sky I was promoted from a two to a five, and I was to go to Humboldt. Gee, I was going home!

ERQUIAGA: And you don't even know why you were promoted?

PEARCE: No, I haven't the slightest idea, but I was. October 22 we arrived at Humboldt. I operated the station throughout the winter, and I brought with me one big fat kid that they offered the job to temporarily. He was from Wells, and he was the dumbest kid that I ever saw, but I used him at Ventosa a little while, and on my recommendation they hired him to come to Humboldt 'cause, gee, they were strapped for operators. They were all deserting and going back to the Navy where they'd been trained. I wasn't Navy so I didn't go. Incidentally--I'm going to regress a little bit--I had volunteered for the Air Force. They came back and said I was too old. I was twenty nine, and they weren't taking anybody over twenty six.

ERQUIAGA: As a pilot?

PEARCE: Yeah. But later in the winter of 1942- well, it was January of 1942, they came back with a letter and offered me Warrant Officer if I would be an instructor. Gee, I thought that was grand!

ERQUIAGA: That's in the Navy?

PEARCE: No, in the Air Force. So, I grabbed the telephone and I called the regional office and told them to get somebody else up there that I was going. Oh, gee. I could hear everything that guy said holding the receiver way out like this.

ERQUIAGA: (laughing)

PEARCE: "You can't go, you can't go, you can't go! We froze you to your job." I says, "Wait a minute. What happens to me after the War?" "Oh," he says, "that'll last for years. Anyway by that time you'll be here in the regional office. Anyway, you can't go." I says, "Suppose I go anyway?" He says, "We will turn your case over to the Department of Justice if you do. It could even mean Federal prison if you desert a frozen job during a national emergency." "Well," I says, "forget it then. I'll stay." So, I stayed. Then I came to Humboldt, so we stayed that winter, and we still had that kid. In fact, two dumb kids. (laughing) One of them was from Iowa. Lazy? Both of them. They wouldn't get up out of bed to eat! Much less stand watch, and one of them hated me because I assigned him to the graveyard shift. Twelve midnight to eight in the morning. So, Betty and I were eating breakfast, and the radio room was just off our house, and I could hear the telephone ringing and nobody was answering it. I went over there, and there wasn't a person in sight, and I looked at the weather log, and the first weather observation had been taken at midnight twelve thirty, and not another one clear through to eight in the morning. So, I answered the inter phone and smoothed it over the best I could. We had inter phone between facilities. Reno could call us just by lifting a phone and talking to us. Came out on a loudspeaker, and the airplanes were calling us and everything else, and I got it all smoothed over, and finally that kid got up and I got mad and I bawled him out. (laughing) He quit.

ERQUIAGA: (laughing)

PEARCE: Went home to Wells. If he had to work, why, by golly, that was too much. That graveyard shift was bad. He couldn't do it. Okay. So he left. So, they sent us another kid from Iowa, and he was just as bad. Gosh, he was lazy. But we managed to get through the winter all right, and the next spring, it was about Memorial Day, I guess, latter part of May, I got a letter from the regional office. We had to go twenty-six miles into Lovelock to get our mail, and the letter said, "You are promoted to a GS6, and you will be in charge of Buffalo Valley." Well, Buffalo Valley was only fifteen miles airline from Dad's ranch! Gee, that was lovely! I accepted right now. (laughing) And the letter says, "We are waiting your acceptance." Boy, I accepted! So, we moved to Buffalo Valley on the first of June. And that was all radio and telegraph. There was no teletype. Everything that went in or out was telegraph. Gee, I had a lot of fun. I talked to Elko. Along about in the fall of the year, they called us all into the regional office. All the chief operators had to come in, and they put us to meteorological school so we were first-class weather men. Then they put us through air traffic control school. We were gone six weeks. Boy, we studied day and night. So we came back to Buffalo Valley. The next morning I had to call Elko for any message that they might have, to see if they'd receive a teletype and then send it to us by telegraph. Asked them if they had anything. Yes, they did. They says, "You're moving to Battle Mountain." So, they moved us to Battle Mountain in October. It was just the coldest part of the weather. In the meantime the Army had made a new airport at Battle Mountain, and they built it as an outfield for Reno Army Air Base which is Stead now, and they were training pilots to fly heavily loaded airplanes over the hump from India into China, and they were using Battle Mountain as a field to land on. They'd fly out from Stead. They'd sandbag planes until you'd wonder how they could lift it. Lift seventy thousand pounds of sand. Then they’d come up to Battle Mountain.

ERQUTAGA: That was so they'd get the training for flying over the mountains?

PEARCE: Yeah. Heavy loads over the mountains, and they were ordered to fly as high as they could get the planes to fly training them for the hump. So that lasted from… We commissioned the Battle Mountain station in December, 1943, and I stayed at Battle Mountain. They called up one day and wanted to know if I would accept chief operator at Humboldt. Back at Humboldt for the third time! (laughing) "Yes," I says, "I would be glad to go to Humboldt." So, we went back to Humboldt. Meantime Humboldt had been graded up to a bigger station. It had a beam and so forth, and I was to take care of it. They liked the training I had in Kansas City. I could service transmitters and so forth.

ERQUIAGA: Arid what year was that that you went back to Humboldt?

PEARCE: That was in 1944. Well, then the War wound down, and began to look kind of serious for me because I had no military experience, and they were reserving all these jobs for men that had military experience, and they were coming back out of the Army and Navy and Marines in droves. It looked serious to me. It was the first of October. I asked far thirty-days annual leave. I had accumulated the maximum amount of annual leave, and then I was losing it. They'd allow you to accumulate ninety days, and after that if you worked and didn't take leave why you just lost it, so I could see I was going to lose an awful lot of it. I'd already lost thirty days of it, and I asked the Reno regional office if I could go on leave for thirty days. They granted it. Betty and I drove to Montana to the Bitterroot Valley. One of my younger sisters married a Montana man, and they lived there, so we went up to see them, When I came back to Humboldt, the War ended, and I walked in and here's a man sitting at my desk, and I says, "Is there something I can do for you?" He looked at me, and he says, "No, but is there something I might be able to do for you? What are you doing here?" I says, "I'm chief operator here." "No, you're not," he says. "I am. I was chief here when the War started, and I deserted and went." They gave him the same message that they gave to me that they'd turn him over to the Department of Justice, but he came back and demanded his job and he got it and I was out in the cold.

ERQUTAGA: You were left out.

PEARCE: So, I called the regional office, and I says, "What is this? Greenwood is here, and he says he's chief, and I thought I was." "Oh, Pearce, I guess we gotta give it to him. He's a returned veteran." Well, he didn't last long. In the meantime, they said, "Would you accept chief operator at Elko?" Well, gee, Elko was a big station. It was both telegraph and teletype and it had the very high frequencies were just beginning to be used, and they allowed a few stations to use them. Elko had one. Talked to pilots on real low shortwaves, and then it had a big, big thousand-watt beam station. "Yes," I says, "I'll accept Elko." Well, I served at Elko from December 1, 1945 to February 27, 1947. Then one day they called up and they says, "Well, we're closing Tentic, Utah, and we're closing another station over in northern California and those both men have previous military experience and you don't, We're going to have to demote you." Oh, shoot, gee. I took three days emergency annual leave, and I drove to San Francisco, and I talked to the Civil Service people down there, and I says, "Can they do this to me?" "Well," they says, "we don't have your folder here because you were hired under the old Bureau of Air Commerce and now it's the Civil Aeronautics, and we'll have to get your folder before we know, but from what you told us we'll have to find you a job somewhere that's equal to what you're being bumped out of." Well, I went home and they offered me assistant chief operator at Oakland. I couldn't see taking the family to a big city so I refused it. They says, "Well, the only thing we have left is a GS7 at..." See I was a 9 and they demoted me to a 7, and I served at Elko for, oh, about three days and they called up, and one of the guys says, "We did you a dirty trick. Would you accept chief GS9 at Needles, California?" "Yes," I says, "I would." So I left the family in Winnemucca with Betty's folks and I drove to Needles, took over. And housing was a problem down there. It was a railroad town, and you couldn't get any--the railroad people were served first. Santa Fe Railroad. If there was anything left why then you could get it. It was a long time before we got any place to live, We lived in a motel for a while, and it was so hot! Oh, gosh, that is an awful place! August 10, 1947, we saw a temperature of one hundred and twenty-seven degrees, and we were the official observers.

ERQUTAGA: Oh, so that was accurate!

PEARCE: It was accurate. (laughing) Oh, gee, it was hot! The poor kids. In the meantime we found a house, but, oh, gosh, such a house. It was infested with ants and scorpions, and the cockroaches were so big. They were about that long, and they rattled the knives and forks in the drawer.

FRQUTAGA: And your wife stayed there?

PEARCE: She stayed. And finally the first of July that year--I still had a lot of annual leave coming, and I asked for thirty days. Meantime I had gotten my commercial pilot's license, and I had gotten my instructor's rating, so I instructed for a while at Needles, but not enough of it. I had to ask for a new license here recently because mine was so tattered and torn. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Oh, this is your commercial pilot license, and it's still effective.

PEARCE: Yeah. And that's my radio license, I have to carry it in the airplane.


PEARCE: I have to carry it to do any work over here.


PEARCE: Transmitter. It's general now. They used to call it first. class. Anyway, I spent fifteen months in Needles. It was so hot. It was so hot that I sent the family home up to Winnemucca. The poor kids weren't getting any sleep or anything else, I stayed down there, and I took thirty-days leave in July, 1947, and I called up the flight school at Lovelock and asked them if they could use another instructor. I thought I would instruct. He says, "Yes! We've took over the Winnemucca field and we need an instructor for up there. We need somebody to manage the place." So, for thirty days I did nothing but fly students. At the end of that time I went back to Needles. And, oh, I was lonely. I left the family up here, and came around on the sixteenth of September was my thirty-fifth birthday. Gee, how I missed the family, and I went out and I had a big dinner for myself at a local restaurant. Oh, gee, finally, we left our oldest girl-she was going to school by that time--with her grandparents, Betty's folks, in Winnemucca, and Betty and the other two kids came down. Incidentally, while I was instructing at Lovelock our third child was born in Winnemucca, it was a girl. We started in with a girl and then a boy and then a girl and then our last was a boy. Couldn't have planned better! (laughing) And so, we brought the boy and girl down to Needles. Poor kids. I shouldn't have done that. They couldn't sleep.

ERQUIAGA: Now, was this the second time that they came to Needles?

PEARCE: Yeah. Second time. It was bad, so finally I sent them home, and the next spring, Betty was back and forth, we drove back and forth, and the next spring in May, I'd been there since February of the year before, and there was a message for me on the teletype, and it says, "A vacancy chief GS9 Battle Mountain. Would you accept?" Boy! (laughing) I really accepted in a hurry, and the next morning they came back and told me I had it, so I called Betty, and I says, "We got Battle Mountain." She says, "Fine, I'll be packed when you come home."

ERQUIAGA: (laughing)

PEARCE: I took off a little early after turning the station over to a lady operator we had there, and we drove to Tonopah that night. The next day we made Battle Mountain about sundown. We drove down to Winnemucca, stayed with Betty's folks, and saw our oldest daughter, and then the next day I come back to Battle Mountain. We found a house to stay in, so we stayed. Then, the same thing happened in… let’s see, that was in… wait a minute… That was in ‘47 or ‘48 when we came back to Battle Mountain. 1950 The same thing happened. They closed another couple of stations and I was out in the cold again! So they sent me to a new station established at Winnemucca, my old birth place! That was all right.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, well, That was a good location.

PEARCE: But, gee, housing in Winnemucca at that time was bad. We finally had to build a house. We bought a lot from Betty's folks, and we built on it. Built a small home. In 1952, another teletype message arrived at Winnemucca addressed to me, and it says, "Would you accept chief at Battle Mountain?"

ERQUIAGA: Oh, gosh!

PEARCE: Back to Battle Mountain again!

ERQUIAGA: Back and forth, huh?

PEARCE: Third time to Battle Mountain, so we went back there. Stayed until… [end of tape 2. Large section of damage at the beginning of tape 3, but no note in the transcript of anything being lost]

PEARCE About that time a friend of mine took over a large hotel in Winnemucca, and he believed to further his business we should have a radio broadcasting station, and he had heard that I had been trained as a broadcast engineer, So he asked me if he could raise monies if I could put in enough we'd incorporate so all together we got five people together and we pooled our resources and we built a small broadcasting station at Winnemucca. It was small. It was only 250 watts, but it covered the city very nicely, and, naturally, Winnemuccans weren't exactly tuned to a radio station. They wondered what in the world we . . . and advertising which supports a broadcasting station was difficult to sell, and, so, to help matters, Betty jumped in and did the office work around the station. Took care of the accounts, and not only that, she put a woman's program on in the morning. That was fatal. The wives of the other partners didn't like it. They weren't on the air.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, they didn't want her to be there.

PEARCE: No, they didn't want her to be there, and they made such an issue of it, I finally quit. I sold my stock to a rancher up Paradise Valley, and I left. Immediately upon leaving I jumped in the airplane, and I flew down here to Fallon to look the place over. We made several trips down here. We finally drove down one time. We needed several acres of land. it doesn't look like we need this much. After all that tower up there only takes up a certain amount, but you don't realize, all of that land that you see out there is sowed with copper wire about that far under the surface.

ERQUIAGA: Oh! I see.

PEARCE: Arid the reason for that is that a tall mast like we have out there, the radio waves come off up above the halfway mark. They come off at a forty-five degree angle, and they go up there and they hit the heavy side layer, an ionized layer of air above the earth, and they're reflected back to earth. Those that come off below the halfway mark come off at a forty-five degree angle, and they would go into the ground and be lost. So, they come off the ground and hit this copper wire that we have sowed out there, and they go another forty-five degree angle, and they join those that are going out and they're not lost.

ERQUIAGA: Is that the way it is with all radio stations?

PEARCE: That's all of them, yeah. Now, we share frequency with a station in Los Angeles. We're 980 kilocycles, but they were on the air in 1924. They have prior rights to that frequency, and they can broadcast full power all the time. We can't. We have to go off shortly after sundown because we begin to reach out then, and we interfere with them.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I see. Well, when you came to Fallon and looked around evidently you liked the looks of things.

PEARCE: Oh, we liked the looks of it. We had our eye on Carson City at first, but another station moved in there before we could even organize, so we liked Fallon, though, because it was like a hub of a wheel. We served Hawthorne, Yerington, Carson City, Virginia City, Reno, Lovelock, Winnemucca, and we do get into Austin, not as good as I'd like, but we do get into Austin. Well, we went on the air May 9, 1957, and we went on the air on 1250 kilocycles with a power of only one thousand watts, but that looked like big power to us after Winnemucca at 250. (laughing)


PEARCE: That's four times the power. So, we got out very well, but about that time, the Carson City station went from 250 watts too 5,000, and SOLO in Reno also went to 5,000. Well, I thought, "If this is going to be a grand race for power, we'll go 5,000, too," and we did.

ERQUIAGA: You could make that decision yourself?

PEARCE: We could make the decision. We had to apply to the Federal Communications Commission for permission. That was granted February, 1962. We'd been on the air five years, so we went on the air in the last of February, 1962 with 5,000 watts, and we still are. In 1966, FM radio was gaining popularity, and I reasoned, I looked in the regulation book and noticed that Fallon was granted an FM channel, so we applied for it, and we went on the air in November in 1966 with 2500 watts on FM. Well, things progressed along after that, and so they changed a lot of the rules. It used to be that we had to be on the air everyday from six o'clock to sundown. Average sundown time of that particular month, and FM could be on the air much as we liked. It was hard to sell time on FM. People had no faith in it! "What's FM? What's the matter with the radio you have? What do you have to put that on the air for?"


PEARCE: Well, gee, FM you could offer it twenty-four hours if you wanted to because the frequency that FM is on is very shortwave, and they act like light waves, like the light beam. They don't curve with the earth like these low frequencies do.


PEARCE: Shucks, our AM has been heard in Australia after midnight when the air is clear and nobody on the air to interfere.

ERQUIAGA: Your FM, you mean.

PEARCE: No, our AM. When we were on only a thousand watts! We were heard in Christ Church, New Zealand. I have the letter here yet. They wrote us a letter. Said how marvelous it was.

ERQUIAGA: How did that, happen? You weren't broadcasting out there.

PEARCE: We were testing after midnight.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I see. I see.

PEARCE: We had to have a station at that time out here on the coast above San Francisco at Bolenas Bay, California, that monitored us and checked our frequencies to see that we were right on, and so we had to broadcast after midnight for them, and that broadcast was heard in Christ Church, New Zealand.

ERQUIAGA: Golly! That’s Something!

PEARCE: Yeah. Since that time they've revised it. They have a raveling man that comes through the country, and he stops at Fernley. In his car he has measuring equipment and he measures our frequency.

ERQUIAGA: Well, you said that you can't broadcast at night on that 980 number because it interferes with the 980 in Los Angeles. Well, why is it that that happens at night but not in the daytime?

PEARCE: Because we don't have absolute, we can see it happening, but we don't know why it's happening. Above the earth somewhere there's a layer of ionized atmosphere, and it's affected by both daylight, the sun's tight and temperature. In the daytime it comes down almost to the ground. At night it goes so high that it lets the radio waves way out, and they hit it up there twenty-five or thirty miles, and then reflected way down and that's why Australia could hear us.

ERQUIAGA: For heaven's sake.

PEARCE: And here we've tested it. They granted us pre-dawn hours---that is, long before sunup to go on the air, and a couple of guys here that we knew wouldn't believe that we got out any distance, so they says, "We're going to Los Angeles, and we'll tune you in all the way down." Well, they left Fallon here at midnight. They arrived somewhere close to Los Angeles just at the crack of dawn, and they had us all the way down. That's after midnight they heard us come on the air, and so we stayed on the air all through the next day, and they said just as soon as the station that we share frequency with came on the air, bang, it stopped us right now.


PEARCE: Yeah, but back a ways from there they could hear both stations, and the station down there doesn't like that. They were on the air in 1924, so they had prior rights.

ERQUIAGA: They have the priority. Well, when you started your station here, was it pretty much a family affair?

PEARCE: Oh, definitely. (laughing) Betty and I operated it most of the time for the first year, and then we hired Jim Shelton. He had some experience. He was responsible for us going on western music.

ERQUIAGA: That's what I was wondering. How did you determine what kind of music?

PEARCE: We didn't, We got advice from the, "don't play this, play this, play that, no, no, no, don't play that, play this" until we didn't know what we were playing so we played good old music that Betty and I'd grown up with. It was difficult here. We tried to please everybody, and we found out that didn't work at all because just as soon as they heard a type of music they didn't like they'd turn it off. We have Reno stations for competition, so we found that country and western music worked here in this valley. The most people seemed to like it so that's what we did.

ERQUIAGA: It was your own decision. I didn't know whether you were told by somebody.

PEARCE: Oh, no, FCC didn't care what we played just as long, we had to be on the air.

ERQUIAGA: So, did all of your children get started working over at the radio station?

PEARCE: They did. Our oldest daughter worked for a while as an announcer, but she never took to it real well. But our oldest boy [Ed Pearce] that works for KOLO television now, started a teenage program here. He was going to high school here, so he came home after high school and he'd play an hour of teen music. That went over big.

ERQUIAGA: It was good experience for him.

PEARCE: Yeah, good experience for him. He got his start that way. He worked, oh, for a couple of years like that and finally when he went to the University he got to hobnob with television over there and finally got hired as . . . he majored in journalism, radio, newspaper and whatever, and so he was hired, and he's still at it.

ERQUIAGA: And your other two children?

PEARCE: Our youngest daughter [Dee Pearce] grew up with the station. She knew more about the station as little tot than most people know. Finally, when things got pretty heavy for me, Betty and I were doing the books and practically everything and so she took over. She's still doing a lot of it, and Mike [McGinness] her husband, was going to college at the time and he broke in as an announcer here and, finally, it got too heavy for us and I just turned the management over to him.

ERQUIAGA: And now I hear your grandchildren over there sometimes.

PEARCE: (laughing) Yes.

ERQUIAGA: You probably never dreamed you'd do all this and have grandchildren.


ERQUIAGA: Do you think that any of them will continue with the business?

PEARCE: It could be.

ERQUIAGA: Do you have any advertisers now that have been with you since the beginning?

PEARCE: Oh, yes.


PEARCE: E.H. Hursh, Kents'. An interesting thing happened. It wasn't easy to sell radio advertising in Fallon. Yeah, they were worse than Winnemucca. I tried my darndest. I met Frank Kalousek who had Fallon Jewelry at that time. He was Kiwanian. I was a Kiwanian in Winnemucca and I just transferred to Fallon. I tried every way to get Frank on the air. "Oh, no, no, no." He didn't even want to talk about it, so one day I talked to Tom Kent, and he says, "Yes, I'd like to get on the air." So we agreed on the time. He started with just spot announcements for his business there on North Maine. I was walking down the street past the Fallon Jewelry one day and Frank Kalousek came out of that door and grabbed me by the shirt front, his eyes as big as saucers. "Les," he says, "I heard Kents' on your radio!" "Yes," I says, "he bought some advertising." "Do you mean he let you put their name on your radio?" He thought that if he got on the radio people would laugh. And he thought people would laugh at Kents' for getting on the radio. That's what we had to buck. Boy, the first couple of years were pretty lean. Finally it melded out. Gee, and we hit a peak in 1982. After that due to interference and change of regulations and whatnot by the Federal Communications Commission made it much harder.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. Harder to get the advertising?

PEARCE: No. Harder to stay on the air!


PEARCE: The last one nearly fixed us. The last one was in 1994. They condemned our AM transmitter. "Oh, you gotta change it." They allowed us sixty days to do it in. We paid fourteen thousand dollars for that first five-thousand watt transmitter. The one to replace it was fifty-six thousand.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I see.

PEARCE: Holy cow! We had to scratch and dump in our savings and everything else to get it. We made it with fourteen days to spare. But, isn't that silly? They mandate you to do something. Oh, yeah, you pay for it. Whoosh! That has been a trend with the U.S. government that . . . Now like up at Winnemucca. There's quite a community out in Grass Valley now. People with established homes out there. They tested their wells, and they says, "Well, we think that the wells are contaminated," 'cause they had septic tanks out there. "We mandate that you pipe the water from Winnemucca." Eighteen miles out there and pipe the sewage back. "You pay for it." Well, in the first place, Winnemucca didn't have the water to share with Grass Valley and then pay for the eighteen miles of line. It would be good if it were all downhill but it isn't. They'd have to have pumping stations in between and look at the cost. Yeah, you do it.

FRQUIAGA: So, you think your transmitter will be good for quite a while now?

PEARCE: Oh, I hope so. The last one lasted for thirty-two years and was doing a wonderful job and I hope this one lasts at least that long.             (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Gol-lee. I hope so too.

PEARCE: Judging from the cost it should last three times that long. Another thing that the FCC has done, they criticized us for not serving the public. They said that we were using frequencies that belong to the public. Baloney! There's no law that ever said that the public owned those frequencies, but they said they did. And that got out, of course. The public ate that up just like they're eating up what the Bureau of Land Management says about the cattlemen. The cattle are on public lands. Imagine that! They're eating the grass that belongs to us! Well, gee whiz, it's caused a big stir in Washington. The Bureau of Land Management got a big boost from that. 'cause they wanted to raise the fee from a dollar a month per cow to eight dollars. Why, there isn't a cattleman in the country that could afford it.

ERQUTAGA: Well, what did they mean when they said that you were not serving the public?

PEARCE: They wanted us to prove that we were. If we held onto our licenses we had to prove that we were serving the public. Otherwise they'd cancel. Well, they were taking the bread and butter right out of our mouths.

ERQUIAGA: Well, does that mean like your public service announcements?

PEARCE: That wasn't enough. We had to recognize a need, and we had to drive for that need and recruit people to help us. Ah, shoot. We had to put all that down on paper in order to renew our licenses. And if you lost the license, that equipment that we have over there, we are taxed 166,000 dollars for it. That is, of valuation. If we lost it, that wouldn't be worth ten cents on the dollar, if we lost the license.

ERQUTAGA: You wouldn't be able to sell it to anyone.

PEARCE: No. Aw, shoot!

ERQUTAGA: Well, do you still fly?

PEARCE: Oh, every chance I get. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: And do you give lessons?

PEARCE: Well, I would love to. I had to turn in my . . . The Federal Aviation Administration is like a lot of other government agencies. They found they had a lot of power, so they issued me an ultimatum that to hold my instructor's license I had to go out and recruit ten students, fly them, not only students, but through students clear up to their first licenses which required about forty five, fifty hours each. I couldn't do it. Had to give it up. I still love to instruct. I learn more than the students do. (laughing) I love instructing. Gosh sakes. The first job I had was at. Lovelock when they had the GI school there. The returning soldiers, were granted under the GI Bill a full course in flying. Gee, the first day arrived there I had fourteen students. I flew from the time it was light enough to fly in the morning until after sundown, but how I loved it. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Does anyone else in your family fly?


ERQUIAGA: None of the children?

PEARCE: Hum-um. Ryan would like to. Grandsons. I taught Betty to fly, but when our youngest came along, she quit.                (laughing) They say you can't teach your wife to drive a car, but I taught mine to fly.

ERQUIAGA: That was pretty good. Well, tell me about some of the awards that you have won. I believe there was a silver Wings organization.

PEARCE: Yeah, it's not exactly an award. It is in a way. It recognizes me far having me flown more than twenty-five years. That's why they call it the Silver Wings.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I see. But, wasn't there an anniversary celebration of the coast-to-coast airmail flight?

PFARCE: Yeah. I flew airmail for two periods. 1980 and 1990 out of Salt Lake to commemorate. I flew that and they gave me, gee, all kinds of plaques for that.

ERQUIAGA: Well, is there anything else that you think we should cover here? You've had a pretty interesting life.

PEARCE: Yeah, I'm still having it. (laughing}

ERQUIAGA: Well, that's the way it should be.

PEARCE: Oh, shoot.. You know, it's really interesting. When my youngest sister was born, and they brought her home from Winnemucca out to the ranch, they laid her on the bed. Of course, we were admiring her and holding the rattle above her and whatnot and my dad says, "This little lady has a chance to see the year two thousand." I thought of that a minute, and I shook my head, and I says, "Well, Dad, I plan to see the year two thousand." "Oh," he says, "do you know how old you would be?" I says, "Yes. I would be eighty seven." "Well, people don't live that long." But, he did. He lived to be ninety four!

ERQUIAGA: Is that right? I wonder if he thought about that later on again?

PEARCE: I don't know whether he did or not, but, shucks, the year two thousand is within my reach now easy. Easy.

ERQUIAGA: It is. It's getting right around the corner. Well, if that's all you would like to talk about . . .

PEARCE: Well, I would love to talk about anything that you want to talk about, but that is the full…

ERQUIAGA: I think we've covered it pretty well.

PEARCE: I didn't give you my parents' names. My mother' maiden name was Jessie May Murray. My father was William Lewis Pearce.

ERQUIAGA: I don't think I even asked you your full name.

PEARCE: Well, that's another story. [End of tape 3 side A]

PEARCE: -Mother accepted it at face value. But my aunt Annie, poked fun at my mother every chance she got until all of us noticed it. When I arrived on the scene, I was the only boy up to that date, they didn't have a name picked. Because the rest were girls. They assumed they'd be girls (laughing) so they weren't prepared. Dad wanted me named William, that is first name William after him. Way back as far as we can tell, the oldest boy in the family was always named William. My great grandfather in England, his name was William. That's the only thing I know about him. My grandmother hit the roof. "No, can't do it." She had a dream. Poor lady. She had a. series of strokes from the time she was sixty years old until she died at the age of seventy seven. She had nine strokes in that time, and I think that affected her mind. She insisted that she'd had a dream that that unless that chain were broken, great catastrophes were going to befall the Pearce family.

ERQUTAGA: Oh, that's what she dreamed? Is that what happened?

PEARCE: No, but nothing happened. So, the doctor that attended my birth had the birth certificate written out as William Pearce for me. He didn't know about a middle name yet, but he assumed it would be Dad's name, Lewis, and that was the name of my grandmother's oldest brother, and so when my grandma decided that they couldn't do that, he tore that one up, wrote out another one, and says, "Well, what are we gonna do?" Mother says that a summer before I was born, we hired a preacher's son. His name was Lester Galahorn. She says, "Let's call him Lester." Well, my aunt perked right up. "Oh, sure, you were sweet on Lester Galahorn, weren't you, when he was out there. That's why you want him named." Oh, there wasn't anything to it. Shoot!

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) Well, that's how you got the name anyway.

PEARCE: The guy tore that one up, too, and at the end when World War II came on, I was required to produce a birth certificate. I didn't know of it at that time, but I wasn't Lester William Pearce!


OTHER WOMAN: Was that the Civil Air Patrol?

PEARCE: Civil Air Patrol.

OTHER WOMAN: Civil Air Patrol after the war.

PEARCE: No, it was during the war. No, it was after the war. It was, yeah. It was assumed from the time I can remember that I was Lester William Pearce.

ERQUIAGA: But it hadn't been recorded is that?

PEARCE: The doctor gave up after the third certificate they tore up, and he put down William Lister, L-I-S-T-E-R Pearce. That was what I was legally named for years though I didn't know it.. But when I found it why I had to go through all kinds of paper work and affidavits and everything else. Lorraine helped. One of my older sisters, Mabel, in Winnemucca she swore that. I'd always been known as Lester William.

FRQUTAGA: So you had it legally changed then?

PEARCE: Yeah, it was legally changed.

ERQUIAGA: And I think we did get your wife's name, but we'll do that again. Katherine with a K?

PEARCE: Yeah, with a K. Her middle name was Elizabeth, so we call her Betty.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, so that’s why you call her Betty. Well, I think we've about covered everything, so we'll conclude this interview, and I certainly do thank you for your time.

PEARCE: You bet!


Original Format

Audio Cassette


1:00:40, 1:01:08, 35:08

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Pearce, Lester Tape 1 of 3.mp3
Pearce, Lester Tape 2 of 3.mp3
Pearce, Lester Tape 3 of 3.mp3
Lester Pearce Oral History Transcript.docx


Churchill County Museum Association, “Lester Pearce Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed September 22, 2021, https://ccmuseum.omeka.net/items/show/666.