Grace Solaegui Perrier Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
GRACE SOLAEGUI PERRIER
August 18, 1993
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/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
I interviewed Grace at her home on August 18, 1993. She lives in a mobile home at the Ideal Mobile Home Park. There is a large half-barrel beside the steps filled with beautiful petunias. She is no longer able to have a big yard as she and her husband had before his illness, but she still loves flowers and the petunias beside the step tell you this. Grace was chosen for this interview because she was employed by the Milk Producers Association in Fallon for seven years.
The first time we talked on the phone after I sent her the letter asking her to do an interview, she was very pleased to be asked and eager to get on with it. However, she said she had to go into St. Mary's Hospital the next day for another chemotherapy treatment. About two years ago she was found to have ovarian cancer, and she had surgery and chemotherapy at that time and is now going through another series of chemo treatments. She said she would call me when she got back to Fallon and we could set up an appointment for the interview. When she called back she was in very good spirits and was already writing down names and dates to help her remember details about her work at the Milk Producers Association.
Grace appears to be feeling quite well in spite of the chemo and she certainly hasn't lost her sense of humor. Her family Helps her and visits her often. My personal opinion is that Grace has had quite a lot of tough times in her life, but her deep faith keeps her going. It was an inspiration to see how well she copes with cancer and chemotherapy. I've known her a long, long time and I enjoyed interviewing her to record her memories.
Interview with Grace Solaegui Perrier
ERQUIAGA: This is Anita Erquiaga of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program. Today is August 18, 1993. I'm interviewing Grace Solaegui Perrier at her home, number 104, in the Ideal Mobile Home Park. Hello, Grace. First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It will be appreciated very much. First thing I'd like to ask you is to give us your full name, the date of birth, and the place of birth.
PERRIER: I was born Grace Solaegui on Wade Lane at the old Travis place in Old River District on January 17, 1923. I was born at home and delivered by a midwife who was my godmother, Gregoria Ascargorta.
ERQUIAGA: And now would you tell me your parents' names and the country of their birth.
PERRIER: My father was Sam Solaegui born in 1893 in Spain and my mother's maiden name was Paula Mugartegui, and she was also born in Spain.
ERQUIAGA: When did your father come to this country?
PERRIER: Well, I didn't really remember exactly but my youngest brother tells me that it was around 1908, and my mother came later, about 1912. My father came to Jack Creek up by Elko [Nevada] and my mother lived in Winnemucca. Now when she came from Spain she came with part of her family 'cause her brother whom we met later on was also living in Winnemucca [Nevada] at that time when we got to meet him later on. He was also born in Spain and came here.
ERQUIAGA: And how old was she when she came?
PERRIER: Let's see, 1912 to… probably around twenty years old.
ERQUIAGA: And then did she get a job in Winnemucca?
PERRIER: Yes, she worked at a boarding house cooking and serving the miners around that area.
ERQUIAGA: And what kind of work did your father do at Jack Creek?
PERRIER: Well, they did sheepherding. That was why he originally came from Spain to America and they were hired by the earliest farmers, sheepherders that owned bands of sheep for them to take care of.
ERQUIAGA: Do you happen to know how many sheep in a band?
PERRIER: Well, at least, a thousand.
ERQUIAGA: So, that's quite a chore. They have to know what they're doing.
PERRIER: Yes, and also the dog has to know what he's doing. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: They have well-trained dogs. Where did your parents meet each other?
PERRIER: They met each other in Winnemucca, and they were later married in Jack Creek in 1916, and I do not know it there was a church there or if it was a missionary. I don't believe that there was a church at that time in Winnemucca, but they were married in Jack Creek and that's where they got their marriage license.
ERQUIAGA: Then how did they come to Fallon and when?
PERRIER: Well, they came to Fallon about 1918. But they were married in Jack Creek in 1916. There was a lot of their Basque friends that were coming to Fallon and they were looking for other opportunities and farming and things and more or less got away from the sheepherding so they came to Fallon to live.
ERQUIAGA: Did he have a job waiting for him here in Fallon or what?
PERRIER: Well, he went with partners into a ranching thing and 'course he was married at that time. They had their first child in Winnemucca in 1917, and shortly after he was born--that was Dan--they came to Fallon and they lived out in the Old River District at that time.
ERQUIAGA: And what kind of crops did they raise out there?
PERRIER: Well, that was alfalfa, of course, and later on my father raised potatoes and melons and some grain.
ERQUIAGA: Did he milk any cows?
PERRIER: No, he didn't except maybe one or two for family use. We never ever had a dairy herd at all.
ERQUIAGA: Did he raise a lot of melons?
PERRIER: Well, later on, he would raise like six or eight acres which at that time was a lot of melons and supplied a lot of the melons, not only for Fallon and Reno, but at that time the Kent Company would ship melons to New York and places for the elite trade that wanted the Hearts of Gold.
ERQUIAGA: I see, and how did they do the work involved with these melons? The weeding and all that that had to be done.
PERRIER: Well, of course, the family, children helped as we got older, as everyone was born and later on they had Mexicans that were probably some of the sheepherders that didn't have jobs stayed and weeded also. Then, of course, we also had these people that were familiar with Hearts of Gold. My father thought that they really weren't that familiar and he kind of raised his older boys to be the melon pickers because they knew how to get the melon with the most sugar in it.
ERQUIAGA: Did you ever raise turkeys?
PERRIER: No, we never did. We never had to raise the turkeys.
ERQUIAGA: Did they know how to irrigate when they came here? This is different.
PERRIER: Well, there was a difference 'cause that was just like wild hay and things in the northern part of the State, but I guess they picked it up from every place else. When I was a kid, I remember there was very little concrete in the ditches other than right around the boxes and so therefore a lot of the irrigation water was lost to the evaporation and saturation of the sand practically every place in Old River at that time and Soda Lake where we later lived. A lot of water just soaked into the ground and was lost.
ERQUIAGA: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
PERRIER: Well, I had six brothers and sisters. One sister who now lives in Stockton, California. My brother, Dan, was lost in the Second World War. He belonged to the Merchant Marines and joined the service in 1940 before the War actually started and later on in 1943 the ship that he was on was torpedoed and his body was never found and he was declared missing in action until the end of the War when they declared him dead.
ERQUIAGA: And how about the rest of the brothers and sisters?
PERRIER: Well, as I said, my sister lives in Stockton. I have a brother who lives in Las Vegas. I have another brother that lives here in Fallon. Joe. And then I have a brother, Pete, who lives in Sparks who is married to Elsie Bruner, Firmin's daughter.
ERQUIAGA: So, except for Dan, all the rest of you are…
PERRIER: Are still living.
ERQUIAGA: Still living. And what did you kids do for entertainment when you were growing up?
PERRIER: Well, not a heck of a lot, I'll tell you. (laughing) Probably did a lot of fighting and stuff and made circles in the sand and kind of built blocks and occasionally when there was a lot of water we'd reroute some of the water my father was irrigating with to make castles in the sand. (laughing) We were a lot of help. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: Well, kids do find ways to entertain themselves.
PERRIER: Yeah, they really do, and, of course, we had our dogs and our cats.
ERQUIAGA: Any bicycles?
PERRIER: I don't remember a bicycle. Oh, maybe I do. Probably when I was around four years old or so when my father would fill the water tank and it ran over, my brother, Joe, who is just younger than I am, he and I would -- I remember that Christmas distinctly, wherever we got the bicycles from, we had bicycles. -- We started to bicycle around the trough and my father had warned us repeatedly to stay away from there. Well, it ended up that I slipped and fell over and I still have the scar on my upper lip where I fell down and my father confiscated the bicycles and I don't know whether we ever got them again! (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: Well, did you all go to the Fallon schools?
PERRIER: Uh, yes, we did. All of us, with the exception of Pete went to Northam School.
ERQUIAGA: Oh, to the country school.
PERRIER: Yeah. We started in town, but we ended up in the Northam District and we all went to school there.
ERQUIAGA: So, how did you get to the Northam School from your home?
PERRIER: Well, you had to walk or if your parents didn't have vehicles you rode a horse and there used to be a corral at the school and you had to bring your own hay and carry your own water from the school out to the corral for your animal.
ERQUIAGA: Well, that was different.
PERRIER: Yeah. And at that time there was a parsonage, or a teacherage and the husband and wife were teachers, or whatever, lived right there in the little bedroom, bath, small living room and kitchen and I think that their room was included in part of the salary.
ERQUIAGA: How many students were there in that school at that time?
PERRIER: Oh, gee, I don't know. There was eight grades and probably thirty-five students in the whole school. There was some in every grade. One teacher took care of teaching the first through the fourth and the other one took care of the fifth through the eighth.
ERQUIAGA: Just two teachers for that many grades.
PERRIER: That's right.
ERQUIAGA: Well, then, when you went to high school did you ride the bus?
PERRIER: Yes, we rode the bus and, well, by that time Dan had moved to Silver City to work in the mines, but the rest of us all rode buses. During that time I was never a driver and neither were my brothers but I was a conductor which they don't have now, but they kind of kept some semblance of peace in the bus and no fighting. We had the authority to make the kids walk all the way to town or all the way home, and the man that was the head of the school bus situation always backed us up if we had a good reason. So we kind of got to be kind of a power. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: Did you get paid for being the conductor?
PERRIER: Yes, it was a whole magnanimous twenty-one dollars a month and, boy! we savored it. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: I'm sure you did. Well, I know that your mother died very young. Now, what was the cause of her death?
PERRIER: My mother died of a ruptured appendix in 1934 and complained of a backache, never anything else, and then about probably the second day she was in terrible pain, and my godmother who was there at the time told my father that she must be taken to Fallon to the hospital. At that time it was the Moore Hospital where Mary Foster now lives.
ERQUIAGA: On Broadway Street, right?
PERRIER: Yes, and the doctor operated on her but the next day she passed away. She had peritonitis poison, so, of course, we were at a terrible, terrible loss to think that my youngest brother was only four years old so that left quite a brood of us at home and my father at that time was just forty-six years old with his six children.
ERQUIAGA: And so I guess all of you had to pitch in and help with the work.
PERRIER: Right. We had to take care of each other and help my father with his. While he could go out and do farm work and things, we had to be- My sister was still home at that time so she and I did all the cooking and the ironing and the cleaning and I remember I used to love baking bread and we baked bread. My father baked it the next day but that evening we would fix the yeast and flour. My father, a few years before, had had an accident to his hand and didn't have a lot of strength so I was the official bread kneader which we used to do a sack of flour at night and put the bread and kneaded it in a wash tub and covered it, put it by the stove, and in the morning when it came up my father punched it down and then would put it in the pans and that day he would bake bread all day long and we were in for a terrific treat 'cause we thought there was nothing better than bread and butter and jelly. Lots of times our priest of the Catholic Church at that time used to come and pick us up on the day my father baked bread 'cause he wanted to be in there for home-baked bread and coffee. So we got a good ride 'cause it was about two miles and we had to walk that to the bus.
ERQUIAGA: You walked that far to the bus everyday?
ERQUIAGA: Well, how big was this sack of flour that you used?
PERRIER: Well, it was fifty-pound sack.
ERQUIAGA: Then how long would that amount of bread last you?
PERRIER: Well, usually the week. Sometimes we had to make a little extra if we had company or we were ravenously hungry. I still remember it. I just remember the smell of bread baking with fondness. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: And so then, what did the teenagers of that era do?
PERRIER: Well, we really didn't do a lot. We didn't have too much opportunity to get into trouble. We had a couple of saddle horses and horses and stuff and the older kids helped my dad on the farm, Mary and I took care of my youngest brother and I suppose Joe, too. I don't hardly remember. I can see he was a kind of rambunctious kid and got into a lot of problems. Lots of time his disciplining would end up with my father, not with us. So, we just stuck together and many years later--I often think about my father in those years and the responsibility of that many children. Many people probably would have maybe just let them go but I always admired the fact that my father stayed right with us. Didn't get married or anything. Maybe we were selfish and wanted him there.
ERQUIAGA: Well, it was wonderful that he did take that responsibility. Did you drive a car in those days?
PERRIER: I didn't. My father did and probably Frank.
ERQUIAGA: When did you learn to drive?
PERRIER: I was twelve years old and sometimes drove out on the highway. 'Course I shouldn't have, but, at that time, we were selling cantaloupes and my father needed me to drive the truck with forty or fifty boxes of cantaloupes to town. He got a special permit from the assessor so I could drive.
ERQUIAGA: Oh! I see.
PERRIER: Uh huh. Thanks be to God I never wrecked or anything. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: When did you graduate from high school?
PERRIER: I graduated in 1941, and for two months--it was during the summertime, of course--and my father had hay men. I didn't work outside of the house then. I stayed and cooked 'cause you know you didn't have one hay man. At that time you had six or eight. One was going out to get the hay. The other one was putting it up on the stack and so forth. Then after the third crop in October is when I started to work first at Penney's as a sales clerk and after a few months I really didn't care for that too much. Truthfully, I wasn't too fond of the boss, and in the springtime I worked for I don't how many months, it was probably the best part of the year, for the Churchill County Clerk and Treasurer prorating taxes.
ERQUIAGA: Who was the Clerk and Treasurer at that time? Do you remember?
PERRIER: I kind of think that it was John Hannifan.
ERQUIAGA: Back in 1941. It might have been. Well, to go back to this haying that you were talking about. Where did your father find the help to get his hay put up?
PERRIER: Well, a lot of farmers helped each other. Haying was a kind of . . . and at first we didn't even have nets like they had later. We had Jackson forks to pick up each windrow or each haystack out in the field and then you had to have a horse hooked to on to something to pull the Jackson fork up higher than the haystack and then somebody tripped the rope and brought the hay into the haystack and the guy that was stacking it up on top would arrange the hay around so the next one that came down would be in a good place.
ERQUIAGA: So their stack'd be firm. Did your father do the stacking?
PERRIER: Not really. Not too much. Usually my oldest brother, Frank, did the stacking. My father, as I said, had this kind of weak arm and it was easier for my brother, Frank, to do the haystacking.
ERQUIAGA: From what I've heard the stacking had to be done just right.
PERRIER: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
ERQUIAGA: How long did you work at the clerk's office at the courthouse?
PERRIER: Well, it was until the next March when Mr. Scholz came and asked me if I'd consider going to work at the creamery and I was thrilled, of course. At the time the lady - I shouldn’t say this unless you cut this out – She was unmarried and going to have a baby and was leaving the job and he desperately needed someone to . . .
ERQUIAGA: Now, this was Mr. Scholz at the creamery.
PERRIER: Yes, at the creamery. At the MPA.
ERQUIAGA: And that was the Modesto Milk Producers' Association.
PERRIER: No, it was the Milk Producers' Association.
ERQUIAGA: And what year did you start that?
PERRIER: That was in March of 1943.
ERQUIAGA: Well, tell me a little more about your job there and what you did.
PERRIER: Well, I thought it was very interesting. Each farmer had an account. We may have had four or five hundred, oh maybe not that much. The book was about that thick so I was thinking it was, but anyway we had, well, let's say two hundred farmers and each one had his own account and each week as the drivers went out and picked up their cream and our cream tester--we had a cream tester approved by the State who was then Eric Palludan who later owned Palludan's Hardware and another business in partnership with Bible.
ERQUIAGA: That would have been at the Fallon Mercantile?
PERRIER: Yes, it was that at first and then it got to be Palludan's Hardware and I can't remember whether that was after Eric died and then Chris took it over, but it was really great. I used to post each person's account how much butter fat after they'd churned this up and Eric tested it what percentage of butter fat was tested in this cream. Then that times the cost and the going price for the butter fat was what was set to their account and then I would extend it out and they got paid twice a month and we just sent part of it--it was just a rip-out sheet with the carbon copy staying in the book.
ERQUIAGA: Where was this Milk Producers Association building at that time?
PERRIER: Well, it was directly on the north side of the railroad track across from Kent's Feed Lumberyard, and I don't really remember when they demolished it to put something else in. There was a few buildings in there. Then we had the little office building which is now still uptown next to the Manpower building.
ERQUIAGA: Yes, and the address of that I believe is 406 South Maine. [ed. The oral history says 350 S. Maine, but the transcript has this address. My guess is 406 was correct and edited in to the original transcript later]
PERRIER: Uh huh.
ERQUIAGA: And is that where you worked in that office or down at the main plant?
PERRIER: Well, that office was down there. After they demolished the plant they sold that office building to, first, it was the Motor Vehicle then, it was a bail bond and it was a hundred things. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: Was it in the same location?
PERRIER: No, it was moved after they demolished that creamery the plant was sold and moved uptown.
ERQUIAGA: The office was moved uptown. I see. So when you worked in the office it was in the plant.
PERRIER: It was right there, uh-huh.
ERQUIAGA: Now you could maybe tell me about the work that went on in the plant. How they made the butter and what they made there.
PERRIER: Well, they brought in the cream, and they would save so many cans, I can’t recall. There were these vats that probably held five hundred gallons and they poured the cream and they just whirled around until they eventually churned butter and it was a process of washing and rinsing and chilling. Eventually it came out in slabs of maybe of twenty-five pounds apiece and then they were put into our chill room where they stayed until they were cut either in pound cubes or in quarter-pound cubes. About once or week or so we had several people that were some of our people that sold us cream, that came in and wrapped the butter in parchment individually, and then put it in the cartons.
ERQUIAGA: Did they make cheese here in Fallon?
PERRIER: No, they never did feel that there was enough demand for it to make it in anymore than one place, and they made all the cheese in Modesto [California].
ERQUIAGA: What was the connection between Modesto and this?
PERRIER: Well, Modesto was the head office of the Milk Producers' Association. It was the head plant. It started first and then they had another plant that started in Stockton [California]. Then they opened up the plant here in Fallon to take care of the dairy farmers who really had no one else at that time, and they thought that it would be a lucrative business to buy the cream and churn butter and so they had this third plant which lasted . . . I can't remember. [End of side A]
ERQUIAGA: Were there any other towns that brought cream to this creamery to be processed?
PERRIER: Well, they didn't bring them. We had an employee that had his own vehicle and he went to Schurz. There were several farmers out there that had dairies, and also to Yerington once a week and picked up their cream. Later on when they changed and they did churning and more, there wasn't enough call for cream and too much overhead to make it worthwhile.
ERQUIAGA: Where did you sell the butter that they made here?
PERRIER: Well, we sold it to many stores in Fallon like Kent's and Heck's Market, Hazen Store, of course, and then Herb, our driver, Herb Lohse, was our sales person on the route and he had about a half dozen different stores in the Reno-Sparks area that bought it and he delivered to them every week.
ERQUIAGA: What was the price of the butter at that time?
PERRIER: Oh, probably about thirty-seven cents up to forty nine.
ERQUIAGA: And how about that cheese that they brought in from . .
PERRIER: Oh, it was delicious.
ERQUIAGA: And what was the price on that?
PERRIER: It was two and a half dollars for a five and a half pound loaf and it was wonderful. (laughing) And there was also individual farmers that come into the office and buy the butter and cheese and we also had dairy supplement for people that needed milk powder to feed their calves.
ERQUIAGA: They powdered the milk for that purpose?
ERQUIAGA: That's interesting. Now these farmers that you got the cream from around here they were just people that had a handful of cows.
PERRIER: That's right. I don't remember any of them having anymore than fifteen or twenty. Some farmers sold a lot of cream.
ERQUIAGA: How did they get that cream separated from the milk?
PERRIER: Well, they had separators at home.
ERQUIAGA: Special machine?
PERRIER: Yeah. Each farmer had their separated the cream from the used the skim milk with this bought from us to feed their own separator and skim milk and then they supplement that they got from us to feed their calves.
ERQUIAGA: I see, and did someone go around to the farms and pick up the cream?
PERRIER: Oh, yes. We had several drivers. They went about twice a week, especially during the summer months, so the cream wouldn't get too old and too hot and nothing to get smellin'. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: Did the creamery sell little cartons of cream to the individuals?
PERRIER: No, we did not.
ERQUIAGA: Just the butter.
PERRIER: That's right.
ERQUIAGA: Well, then when did the Grade A barns come into Fallon?
PERRIER: In the late 1940's. The Milk Producers' Association, Fallon Dairymen, built their first Grade A barns under the State specifications in Lahontan Valley and we, the MPA, had several sets of forms that they used to build these Grade A barns and they rented them from us so they could build them with concrete. All of the barns that I saw were built with concrete blocks.
ERQUIAGA: And the forms were for pouring the concrete.
PERRIER: That is correct.
ERQUIAGA: And then what happened to the creamery?
PERRIER: Well, the creamery went out of business after the late. . . No, it wasn't the late 1940's. They competed. Then we had the Dairymen's Association where we could still only just buy the cream and what they called Grade B milk for those farmers who could not build a Grade A barn.
ERQUIAGA: Well, that was what I was wondering. What did that do to the small farmers?
PERRIER: Well, they kept plugging along. That's what we made our skim milk powder from for a food supplement for the calves.
ERQUIAGA: I see. And the Grade A milk was not used here?
PERRIER: No, it wasn't. It was hauled on to Reno.
ERQUIAGA: And sold as whole milk?
PERRIER: Well, it was sold as whole milk to a dairy like Old Home Dairy or Model Dairy, and they did their own processing, cartoning and packing, and you know, and they put it into small cartons and mid-cartons and had whipping cream, and half-and-half, etcetera.
ERQUIAGA: I see. Do you know the names of any of those dairy farmers at that time that went to the Grade A barns?
PERRIER: Well, I know that Frank and Warren Miller were, I think, the very first ones, and then there was Walter Davis and the Corkill Farms. I think that was about all I can remember. A lot of them, of course, have died, and, oh, I think the Gomeses, Johnny and his father.
ERQUIAGA: They ended with quite a few Grade A barns in Fallon, didn't they?
PERRIER: Yes, they did, which now furnishes their milk, of course, for the Dairymen's Association and it's all hauled to Reno since the Cann dairy closed up. We used to have a place here, another small dairy, Model Dairy, that used to pick up some milk but it got to be that it was not worthwhile at all.
ERQUIAGA: There was a Crescent Creamery in here in Fallon in the 1950's. Did they make butter here or anything like that?
PERRIER: Well. I didn't follow that. I think that they just probably picked up. I know that they had Crescent butter to sell, but I think that they brought it back from Reno.
ERQUIAGA: It was probably just the Milk Producer's Association was the only one that made it here. Is that . . . ?
ERQUIAGA: Was there anything else that you can tell me about this creamery?
PERRIER: Well, I will say it’s one of the most enjoyable times in my life. There was probably ten or twelve employees but we were all just like a family. Had such a good time and no squabbling, no unions, no nothing. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: I don't know if we explained who Mr. Scholz was.
PERRIER: Oh, Mr. Scholz was the manager for the Fallon plant. Mr. Fred Scholz. A very prominent person. He was the manager there at that time, and he was also on the school board, and his son, Paul, still lives in Fallon and is retired.
ERQUIAGA: He was our Assessor for awhile? Paul.
PERRIER: Yes, he was.
ERQUIAGA: Well, in the meantime, you met and married Alvin Perrier.
ERQUIAGA: Tell me about that.
PERRIER: Well, I knew Alvin before the War started. The families were friends, and he was my brother's really best friend. Before the War he went to Hawthorne to work and then when the War was declared in 1941 it was like a deluge then that headed out of Fallon (laughing) and he joined the service and then 1945 he was discharged and that was in October and we were married in 1946.
ERQUIAGA: Had you gone to school together?
PERRIER: Oh, no. He was a few years ahead of me.
ERQUIAGA: When did his parents come to Fallon?
PERRIER: Well, they came to Fallon in 1928 and they lived on what is now, well, I don't know if they still call it the Ogden place. At that time we called it the old L. D. Oar place.
ERQUIAGA: That's on the Reno Highway.
PERRIER: Yes. Of course, a number of the kids in the family had already married because they were somewhat older than Alvin but there was nine boys in the family and two girls and they milked dairy cows for the Bank Mortgage Corporation. I don't know whether at that time it was called the Churchill County Bank Mortgage Corporation, where a lot of people had lost their ranches and cows and sometimes they used to milk a hundred cows a day all by hand.
ERQUIAGA: Oh, my word!
PERRIER: No milking machines.
ERQUIAGA: And separated all that cream.
PERRIER: Yeah, that's right.
ERQUIAGA: That was quite a chore.
ERQUIAGA: Where did Alvin work when you were married?
PERRIER: Well, at first, when he came back from the service he worked for Dave Eason who was a home mover and builder at that time. Then later on he went to work at the City of Fallon probably about 1946, and worked there at the City for thirty-four years, then he contracted viral encephalitis and after five and a half years in various convalescent mental homes he passed away in April of 1987.
ERQUIAGA: He died from viral encephalitis which is rather rare, isn't it?
PERRIER: Yes, it is. The doctor said that people didn't usually live 'cause his fever, he was in a coma for months, and then he came out and knew nobody or nothing.
ERQUIAGA: Where did you and Alvin live during your married…
PERRIER: We lived on the Schurz Highway about three miles out. We lived there all of our married life for forty-one years, and after Alvin passed away or even before, I sold that place 'cause my kids were doing various things themselves and I had no way of really taking care of the place so I sold the place to the people who now own the old place where Alvin's parents lived. They're right across from them. It was the old Faupel place, and the Johnstons bought it from me and they live there now.
ERQUIAGA: That would be Bob and Gaye Johnston that bought your place.
ERQUIAGA: Well, now tell me about your children that you and Alvin had.
PERRIER: Well, we had our first child [Susan] May 28, 1950, and then our next child was Diane, Mitchell now, and she lives in Fallon and works out at the base, and then I have son, Martin, who is a priest in Reno at Our Lady of the Snows, and then my son, Michael, who lives in Reno who is with FIB [First Interstate Bank], will returning back to school, to the University later this month.
ERQUIAGA: And he works for FIB, besides.
PERRIER: Yeah, well, he's going back part-time, but he will work for them.
ERQUIAGA: Well, I know that the Solaeguis and the Perriers have been lifelong Catholics. Can you tell me anything about the early days here in Fallon when the church was built or what some of the things that took place?
PERRIER: Are you meaning the new church?
ERQUIAGA: Well uh…
PERRIER: The old church was there.
ERQUIAGA: Now where was the old church?
PERRIER: Was it East Park?
ERQUIAGA: I was going to check that. It's across the street from the Cottage Schools.
PERRIER: Yes. Of course, I don't think they're Cottage Schools now. They use it for something else, but it was there, and it is now an apartment building and that church, the old St. Patrick's was where Alvin and I were married November 17, 1946.
ERQUIAGA: Was there always a priest residing here in Fallon during your time that you can remember?
PERRIER: Well, there was most of the time. I didn't remember all the priests. I remember the priest best that was here in residence when my mother died, Father George Smith, who is now deceased, also. In those days we had nuns that came from Reno, the Dominicans, who were in Fallon for six weeks each summer to make sure all the children were baptized. We made our first communion, et cetera, et cetera. It was a wonderful time. Just great, and there was a lot of us Catholics, let's say, if I said fifty or sixty I would not be saying too many.
EROUTAGA: Fifty or sixty families.
ERQUIAGA: Well, did you go to these classes that the sisters had every day during that six weeks that they were here?
ERQUIAGA: How did you get there?
PERRIER: At that time there was a lot of people--you might know Helen Tolotti who was then a Jesch and Frances, her sister, I can't remember her name now, but a Jesch. Their father, who owned a barbershop in Fallon, had this vehicle. About a four-passenger vehicle, a Dusenburg, that had about four seats in it, and they started up where they lived up toward the river in Northam District. They started there and they picked up children all the way along the route, probably fifteen families that had children. Well, ourselves, we had at least four or five children in our family and that car was just packed like sardines.
ERQUIAGA: They must have been! (laughing)
PERRIER: And they were the official drivers and the Jeaches were very generous. They furnished the gas. Mr. Jesch having the barbershop he paid for the gasoline and the vehicle and it was wonderful.
ERQUIAGA: And they did that every day, loaded all of you up.
PERRIER: For six weeks, five days a week, and then on Sunday would bring us to church, also.
ERQUIAGA: And where did you have the classes?
PERRIER: We had them, I cannot even remember. There was such a group of us and it was in the summertime. We had them on a lawn, well, it seemed like lawn at that time unless it was weeds (laughing) right between where the kindergarten and that house next to where the old Jack Hanifan place is. There we had all these things. Each week we'd have nice big picnics and the families would come and make freezers of ice cream. There was the Pflums and… By that time Harold should have been here in Fallon.
ERQUIAGA: Harold Rogers?
PERRIER: Yes, and all of the Hanifans and, of course, the Jesches. There was the Stiles that lived down our way, the King family, and that's the group of us. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: And then at the end of the six weeks
PERRIER: We received our first holy communion and if you were older, you made your confirmation and the bishop would come, Bishop Gorman.
ERQUIAGA: And the next summer, if you had made your first communion, did you come again to these classes?
PERRIER: Well, it wasn't as absolute necessary but if the sisters would come and if the priest had come out and (laughing) kind of egg your parents on and on. In the summer of 1933, the Dominican sisters were coming to Fallon for a six-week extended stay and taught all we children our catechism, and prepared us for first communion and confirmation. In 1933, my brother, Frank, and my brother, Joe, and myself made our first communion and we had a really a good time. Really enjoyed it, and I had hurt my ankle. Tripped on something and couldn't go one day, and I thought that was just really going to be the end of me, but I survived and that. And then, I still remember making our confession. Confession then was not like confession is now. First, you had to make it the day before. Then you had to fast overnight to receive communion, and I remember my poor late mother, the poor thing, that we were all taken for our confession and then we came home. She didn't know how she was going to keep the three of us from sinning, so she stuck us in separate rooms and we had to spend the whole rest of the day there, the night, and the next morning in separate rooms. We couldn't do anything together 'cause she knew we'd commit a mortal sin and that would be the end of us.
ERQUIAGA: Because this was in preparation for your first communion?
PERRIER: First holy communion. Uh huh. And these days, well, little to say, the children were so blase when they first received their first confession that it's like any other day. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: It's a different world, now. Right?
PERRIER: It really is.
ERQUIAGA: Well, when your children were old enough to go to prepare for these things the nuns were coming here every week by that time.
PERRIER: Yes. Yes.
ERQUIAGA: And did you help them? Did you volunteer?
PERRIER: Yes. I worked with the religious education program. 'Course, at that time, we just called it all catechism. Catechism was different. We didn't use the books we use now. It was the old Baltimore catechism we started out there, and the sisters were really wonderful. Now, I'm trying to think, there was Sister Marian, and, oh, I can't remember the other sister that came twice a week, but she was here when Susan made her first communion in 1957.
ERQUIAGA: Now, Susan is your first child. Right?
ERQUIAGA: And I don't think we went into what happened with her.
PERRIER: Well, unfortunately, she got a womb's tumor, a type of cancer, when she was eight years old and passed away within three months after the doctors found it, but she did her first communion in 1957. She passed in December of 1958 at eight and a half years.
ERQUIAGA: How long was it before you stopped volunteering and became an employee of St. Patrick's Church?
PERRIER: Well, I volunteered all along 'cause in 1960, I had my third child, Martin, and in 1961, I had my fourth child, Michael, and I stayed home and took care of them until they were in school. Then I went and helped somewhat and then Father Sheehy who had just been transferred to Fallon from Winnemucca was made pastor of St. Patrick's here in Fallon in 1978 and asked me if I would come be the secretary-receptionist for him at St. Patrick's. I accepted and our whole family became like a member of their family. He and his housekeeper lived here at the rectory. It was wonderful working for him. He was just so knowledgeable and so caring and I really enjoyed and I kept on working for him through the years until he retired in July of 1981.
ERQUIAGA: What kind of work did you do? You worked in the office?
PERRIER: Yes, I did the bookkeeping, the office managing, collected money, took orders for masses and so on, and we just worked there in the office.
ERQUIAGA: And then what other priest did you work for after he left?
PERRIER: Well, after Father Sheehy retired, I stayed and worked 'til after Father Quilici came in July of 1981 until I retired in 1985 and still continued my close touch with things going on in the church and enjoyed it very, very much.
ERQUIAGA: And now you're living in here at this mobile home park
ERQUIAGA: And you don't have a big yard like you had out in the country. It's kind of a different life, but I imagine you're enjoying it?
PERRIER: Well, it's never going to be like it was. We know that, and at my age, now at seventy, I just don't have the enthusiasm--I love to look at flowers. In 1986 I had two bi-lateral knee replacements so I can't work on my knees so it's very frustrating to look at flowers that need weeding. Fortunately I have grandchildren that come over and do some weeding and some watering for me. (laughing)
ERQUIAGA: Now, you have your three children, Dianne, Martin, and Michael, and how many grandchildren do you have?
PERRIER: I have four grandchildren, Amy and Matthew from my daughter's first marriage, and then there is Mark and Dana from my daughter's second marriage to John Mitchell, and my granddaughter has a son, so I have one great-grandson, Tyler Matthew Johnson.
ERQUIAGA: Wow! and they all live right here in Fallon.
PERRIER: That's right. So, they're good company. Sometimes I got to send them home, but that's all right.
ERQUIAGA: Well, I think that about concludes our interview unless you have something else.
PERRIER: I just wanted to put there. I still live in Fallon, and I think it's the only place on earth. I love it.
ERQUIAGA: Well, that's good. It's good that you feel that way.
ERQUIAGA: Okay, that will conclude the interview, then, and I certainly thank you for your time.
PERRIER: Oh, it's been pleasant. Enjoyable. Brought back a lot of memories. It got me doing all kinds of scribbling. (laughing)