Thomas Pflum Oral History

Dublin Core


Thomas Pflum Oral History


Thomas Pflum Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


October 7, 1998


Analog Cassette Tape, .docx file, Mp3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Anita Erquiaga


Thomas Pflum


3550 Pflum Lane, Fallon, NV


Churchill County Oral History Project

an interview with


Fallon, Nevada

conducted by


October 7, 1998

This interview was transcribed by Pat Boden; edited by Norine Arciniega; final by Pat Baden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of the 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.


This interview took place on October 7, 1998 at Tom's home on 3550 Pflum Lane. This has been his home all his life. For years he lived in the house his parents built. When he reached retirement age his nephew, Charles Crew, brought his family to take over the dairy and they moved into the home. At that time Tom bought a mobile home and set it up a short distance from the house. He has never married, and as is often the case with bachelors, his house and yard are very neat and clean.

His folks had a tank house to provide water for their use. The top part of the building held a big tank for the water, and that part has been separated from the bottom and the two parts stand side by side. They have been painted and maintained for storage. At one time Fallon had quite a few of these tank houses, but not very many remain. The dairy barn with empty corrals remain to tell their own story. I found it easy to picture a thriving herd of Holstein cows placidly chewing their cud while they make milk for the evening milking. But there are no cows anymore and probably never will be again.

Tom is very much a gentleman and very articulate when telling his memories of the early days. It was a pleasure to interview him.

Interview with Thomas Pflum

ERQUIAGA: This is Anita Erquiaga of the Churchill County Museum Oral History program. Today is October 7, 1998, and I am interviewing Thomas Pflum at his home at 3550 Pflum Lane in Fallon. First of all I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I feel you have memories about Churchill County that will be of interest. I'd like to start by getting your full name, date of birth, and place of birth.

PFLUM: Thomas Anthony Pflum, I was born August the 29th, 1917, in Fallon, Nevada.

ERQUIAGA: Were you born at home or in a hospital?

PFLUM: I was born in the place up town. Sort of a home nursing deal.

ERQUIAGA: Didn't actually have a name of a hospital, just some hospital?

PFLUM: No, I think it was on South Maine and maybe the second or third lot up from the intersection of the street that runs right by the junior high school on the north side.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I see, and was there a doctor in attendance?

PFLUM: Yes, Doctor Dempsey.

ERQUIAGA: Will you tell me your father's full name and date of birth, and place of birth?

PFLUM: His name was Bernard Aloysius Pflum. I'd have to go back and look up his date of birth; he was born in Millhousen, Indiana.

ERQUIAGA: How did he happen to end up in Fallon, if he was born back there?

PFLUM: Well, he apparently had a--I guess it was a cousin in Los Angeles--and he and his brother were working in a men's clothing store in Los Angeles at the time the project opened up. Prior to that he'd gone the harvest route; he pitched bundles into a thrasher in the Dakotas, and he worked a year or so in Elko County on a cattle ranch. And then he was selling hats and shoes and stuff when the Newlands Project opened up. And he and his brother and one of his cousins came up here and they applied for and got homesteads. His cousin homesteaded what is now McCreary's place. And my uncle homesteaded the place that's at the intersection of the double A canal and St. Clair Road, on the east side. It goes north and south for a ways.

ERQUIAGA: And your Dad homesteaded this place where you live now?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Well, tell me what homesteading involved; what did that actually mean?

PFLUM: Well, he came and had to build, of course, a place to live and then he had a team of horses and Fresno scraper and a drag harrow. I think was about the extent of his first equipment. He leveled up some land and seeded it and he got his patent on his water right, I think, in 1919.

ERQUIAGA: And other than the cost of preparing the land, was there a charge to getting this land?

PFLUM: Well, there's a water right charge of fifty some dollars an acre.

ERQUIAGA: And they had to do a certain amount of work?

PFLUM: Yeah, right. I think when he came here he had fifteen hundred dollars out of which to build a cabin, buy horses, and stuff.

ERQUIAGA: What nationality is Pflum?

PFLUM: According to Sullivan who used to be in the Knights of Columbus, it was the name from Bavaria--he, his father and his father's brother slipped out of Germany to avoid being put in Bismarck's armies.


PFLUM: And they ended up--they don't know what happened to the other brother, but my dad's family ended up down in southern Indiana for awhile and then they moved to Indianapolis. And I think there's still one or two of the family still in Indianapolis.

ERQUIAGA: Now, is this house that's here now the same house that was here then?

PFLUM: No, they built that in 1924.


PFLUM: The first one was a lot smaller.

ERQUIAGA: Had your father ever farmed before?

PFLUM: Well, I don't think he did much, he spent a couple of years in New Mexico on a ranch. He did the chores around like milking the cow and things like that. In spite of the fact that he only went to the fourth grade he taught the owner's kids to read and write and so forth.

ERQUIAGA: He had no experience with irrigating?


ERQUIAGA: How did he learn that?

PFLUM: (laughing) I guess the same way all the other homesteaders did, trial and error. I can remember when he thought he was being real adventurous ordering ten second feet of water to irrigate with.

ERQUIAGA: What is that, now, I'm ignorant about that, is that a little or a lot?

PFLUM: Well, I normally order twenty…

ERQUIAGA: And so you thought he was taking on quite a bit?

PFLUM: (laughing) Yeah, well, they all did then. All the neighbors did.

ERQUIAGA: He did everything with horses, I guess.

PFLUM: Right.

ERQUIAGA: Do you remember, did he ever get a tractor?

PFLUM: Well, we had a tractor before he died but we were one of the last . .

ERQUIAGA: Long ways down the line.

PFLUM: Into the fifties I guess, before we finally got rid of the work horses. I liked to work with work horses when I was younger.

ERQUIAGA: You did? [pause] Well, what kind of crops did you raise?

PFLUM: Alfalfa.

ERQUIAGA: Alfalfa. No corn or grain?

PFLUM: No. I can remember one year he plowed the little check that's across the ditch and put it in grain, but then he put it right back in alfalfa the next year again. The first alfalfa that he seeded which was in about 1915, 1916 lasted until the drought and the bacteria wilt in the mid '30's.

ERQUIAGA: Did the drought cause the bacterial wilt?

PFLUM: I don't think so; I think it was just more or less coincidental, that it somehow got in here.

ERQUIAGA: Well, what was it like for you as a youngster to learn how to work with horses? How old were you when you started working with them?

PFLUM: Probably, I don't remember when I started driving derrick, probably ten, eleven or twelve years old.

ERQUIAGA: Didn't scare you to drive those big old horses?

PFLUM: No, (laughing) in fact, one story I can remember my dad talking about he borrowed a Percheron stud from the Caseys to work through the winter and he was supposed to be a mean one, he looks around, and here I am walking under the horse. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: You are walking under the horse (laughing)?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: He must not have been a mean one or he liked kids.

PFLUM: One or the other.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have a horse for riding?

PFLUM: Yeah, when I got to be about--I guess twelve--and I had a saddle horse continuously till probably seventeen or eighteen. We all, out here in this neighborhood, all of us had some horse we could ride. There was the Lima kids, mainly the Lima kids. Every afternoon we'd go swimming in the canal somewhere.

ERQUIAGA: And ride your horses to the swimming hole?

PFLUM: Yeah. (laughing) And then I rode a horse to school the first year because the buses weren't taking high school kids the first year I went to high school.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, you rode the horse into town to high school.

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Do you remember if there was a charge for riding the buses at that time?

PFLUM: As far as I know, they’d just take you. Well, I don't know where the dividing line for the district was but I guess all the high school kids had to get there until my sophomore year. My sophomore year the buses started hauling high school kids. And for a couple of weeks the buses got to the high school and the kids were on the lawn so much, and McCracken [George] didn't approve of that, so then they moved the pick up up to the corner of Richards and Maine [295 S. Maine], where the bank building is.

ERQUIAGA: Why didn't he approve of being on the lawn?

PFLUM: (laughing) You could get demerit for walking on the lawn if he caught you.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. Pretty tough.

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: So your dad's cousin and his brother, you said, had adjoining places.

PFLUM: No, the cousin had the adjoining place. I was surprised, I thought that the people came in and looked around and picked out the lot, but in the correspondence that I had to dig up for this water right controversy and the other suit, I find that somebody in the Bureau of Reclamation office drew for him. They drew lots.


PFLUM: And this is the one that they drew for him.

ERQUIAGA: Sort of sight unseen . .

PFLUM: Yeah. His brother got sick and he was taking care of him in Los Angeles and they opened this up and there's a copy of the letter my dad wrote and the response that they drew for him and he got what they called Farm Unit K.

ERQUIAGA: So then what became of those two people?

PFLUM: Well, my uncle eventually got old and retired.

ERQUIAGA: He lived here?

PFLUM: Yeah, he lived right up there right where St. Clair crosses the Double A canal. I think Jim Curran, who used to be Fish and Wildlife is the guy that lives there now. And the cousin he got called into the service in World War I and he served in France and when he came back he married . . . they came here for one winter and his wife didn't like it, so he sold out and went back to Indiana.

ERQUIAGA: Well, tell me about your mother, what is her full name and . .

PFLUM: Rose Ellen Casey.

ERQUIAGA: Place of birth?

PFLUM: Flagler, Colorado, and again I don't remember the date.

ERQUIAGA: And how did she end up in Fallon?

PFLUM: Well, her family came first. They came either about 1909 or 1910 and they homesteaded a place. Bill Lee has part of it, and I think Thurstons have where the house and so forth used to be.

ERQUIAGA: Thurstons? Is that Jody Thurston's husband?

PFLUM: The electrician, yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Well, who were her parents? Some of the Caseys lived here for a long, long time. Right?

PFLUM: Yeah, but that was the beginning of this particular Casey family.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, when her family came.

PFLUM: Yeah. They came, well, their older brother I guess he was always on the move. He'd gotten into a socialist colony down around Stockton and then there was one here, you know. Down in the Harmon District.


PFLUM: And I think he heard about that and he came in here originally with the intent, I think, of getting involved in that. And then they got homesteaded where they lived. Her older brother lived there until about 1950, I guess. After World War II he sold out and left. And went, of all places, to Eureka, California, (laughing) to retire. Somebody that lived in the desert all his life.

ERQUIAGA: Well, now this is the Casey family that Alfred and Lloyd Casey are a part of?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: You don't remember their father's name?

PFLUM: No, I have the wedding license in there but . .

ERQUIAGA: So, how did your parents meet? They met here in Fallon?

PFLUM: Yeah. I don't know. I guess they were socials. When I was a kid they had a Club, used to have a big 4th of July picnic up at the old Sheckler, well, it was a school house at one time and then a community center later.

ERQUIAGA: And they settled in this house that your dad had built?

PFLUM: Yeah, at first. Then in 1924 they built the old house that's over there.

ERQUIAGA: How long had they been here before they were married?

PFLUM: I don't know. My mother worked in the candy store and factory in Oakland, and she came to take care of her mother. She used to say her mother had dropsy but Virginia thinks it was probably a heart condition, that they called dropsy in those days.

ERQUIAGA: Yeah. Well, did your mother cook on a coal and wood stove?

PFLUM: Um hum.

ERQUIAGA: And what did they use, coal or wood?

PFLUM: Both.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, okay, and then buy the coal.

PFLUM: Yeah, and then part of the time, you know, blocks about a foot long, two by twelves, two by eights and so forth, apparently ends that they cut off at the mill or something.


PFLUM: Kents used to ship a lot of it in. And then there was a line of trees along the west boundary of our place, later on, why we cut down a tree or so every winter and work it up. And then in the summer, she had a coal oil range that they sat in front of the wood and coal stove. It had an oven on it.


PFLUM: Yeah. And I was talking to Norma Achurra and she said that her folks had the same arrangement.

ERQUIAGA: Did you ever watch her cook? Did she bake things by just putting her hand in the oven to see how the temperature was?

PFLUM: Yeah, she did that pretty much that way.

ERQUIAGA: Those ladies were pretty smart I think.

PFLUM: She'd do a pie like so, put her finger down on it somehow. I don't know, I guess whether if it came back up it was done or wasn't done I'm not sure which. Or stick a toothpick in it.

ERQUIAGA: Yeah. Did you have running water in the house?

PFLUM: Not until about, well, the shed that's by the house was at one time a tank house. It was a two story deal and we had thousand gallon tank. And then we had a gasoline engine and a jack on a force pump that filled the tank and of course, gravity, we had it in the house and out to the corral. We had, in this neighborhood, we had the first septic tank that was put in.

ERQUIAGA: When was that? After you built the new house?

PFLUM: Yeah, it was put in later. The fact that they didn't do it at the time they built the house created some problems (laughing). It's probably about 1927 or '28.

ERQUIAGA: And it was the first septic tank in this neighborhood, huh?

PFLUM: Yep. I think Johnsons had one, I don't know about the older Allen family, whether they did or not. Where John's daughter lives now. John Games' daughter.

ERQUIAGA: Yeah. Well, I was going to say, do you have any idea how your mother felt about these primitive living conditions, but maybe she was used to that, was she?

PFLUM: Well, she was born and lived until she was about ten or twelve in eastern Colorado and apparently not.

ERQUIAGA: On a farm or…?

PFLUM: Yeah. It was, well, she talks about, they had some wheat I guess, and talks about cutting Russian thistle and putting them up for cattle feed, about how the cattle would drift in the storms in the winter time.

ERQUIAGA: So she was used to living out like that.

PFLUM: Well, apparently that family was always kinda on the frontier because her parents were married in Jewel City, Kansas, and I've forgotten when, but that would've been kind of a frontier by then.          

ERQUIAGA: Jewel City, two words?

PFLUM: Yeah. I think it is, it'll only take me a couple of minutes to get the marriage license.

ERQUIAGA: Did your mother raise a garden and chickens?

PFLUM: Yeah, they had a garden and first the ground squirrels were a real problem. And they had a single shot twenty-two and I guess she got to be pretty good at shooting squirrels (laughing).

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) They'd just come in and eat what they want huh?

PFLUM: Yeah. Gee. At least she said she did pretty good. I never saw her shoot a gun by the time I got old enough to remember.

ERQUIAGA: Well, then, how did she store her food?

PFLUM: Canned it.

ERQUIAGA: Did a lot of canning.

PFLUM: Yeah, she had pressure cooker; that old cellar over there still full of jars.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. Well, did you use that as a root cellar also?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: How about meat, how did they .

PFLUM: Well when it got cold in the fall they butchered a calf outside in the shade on the north, in the shade where it would be cool all the time. Usually about mid-November, early December.


PFLUM: Then we ate fried chicken most of the summer. (laughing) Cause they raised chickens.

ERQUIAGA: Did she ever sell eggs to Kents or anybody?

PFLUM: Yeah, eventually they got into the egg business; about as far back as I can remember they used to take them to Kents; I guess mostly to Kents.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have a refrigerator at all?

PFLUM: No not then. We had one some where in the mid 1940's I guess.

ERQUIAGA: Before that you just, did you have a cooler or something?

PFLUM: Yeah, in the summertime we had an old fashioned, there was a tub on top and the water dripping down the sides of a gunny sack.

ERQUIAGA: It was covered with a gunny sack? And that kept it cool in there.

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Well, were you milking cows at that time ?

PFLUM: Yeah, I think about 1920 the hay got to be so cheap they couldn't make a living selling it so they bought some heifers . .

ERQUTAGA: Before that he was selling the hay?

PFLUM: Yeah, the first two or three years he sold it.

ERQUIAGA: Who did he sell it to?

PFLUM: I have no idea.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, you don't know if it was local or…?

PFLUM: I really don't know. I guess they could have hauled to town to the mill, I don't know when the mill started, but a lot people did later on at least.

ERQUIAGA: Well, when he decided to buy milk cows what did that involve, did he have to build a barn?

PFLUM: Well, I think the first two or three years he just milked ‘em in the corral. Throw a rope around their neck and tie Tem to a post (laughing) until they learned to stand.

ERQUIAGA: I'll be--milked them out there. How many did they have?

PFLUM: I don't know maybe eight or ten, then when they got this house built they put the old house, put pipes underneath it and used pry bars and pried it over; they probably moved it fifty or sixty feet and swung it half a turn and converted it into the barn. There's still, the back wall of the barn is still the original lumber.

ERQUIAGA: And what did you do after they got the milk, did they separate it?

PFLUM: Yeah, they separated it and sold sour cream.

ERQUIAGA: Separated the cream from the milk?

PFLUM: Used the milk, well, they fed calves, fed it to the calves, I think they probably had a hog or two and then when they got into the turkey business it turned out that the soured skim was the real good antidote for coccidiosis in turkeys. So they fed a lot of it to the turkeys.

ERQUIAGA: When did they get into the turkey business?

PFLUM: Probably in the real late twenties.

ERQUIAGA: Did they hatch the turkeys themselves?

PFLUM: At first . . . yeah, we'd have twelve or fifteen hens and a tom and we'd watch and gather the turkey eggs and put 'em under hens and then when the turkey hens set, why they'd let them bring off their poults.

ERQUIAGA: Let them bring off their poults?

PFLUM: Yeah, turkey poults, that's like chicks to chickens. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Yeah, okay. So how deep did they get into the turkey business?

PFLUM: Oh about two hundred fifty, three hundred, but by that time they were buying poults from a hatchery.

ERQUIAGA: That was a lot of turkeys, that took everybody's time I guess.

PFLUM: Yeah. Well, no, not really. Some of the people raised a lot more around here.

ERQUIAGA: You had to raise them under a brooder I suppose?

PFLUM: Yeah, it was a coal brooder.

ERQUIAGA: A coal brooder?

PFLUM: So that meant that my dad would have to get up in the middle of the night and go out and check it and put a little more in it.

ERQUIAGA: Did it keep the heat even enough, though?

PFLUM: Yeah, it had a thermostat arrangement and a draft that opened and closed to make it warmer or cooler.

ERQUIAGA: How long did they do that?

PFLUM: Oh, I guess about twenty years or a little over.

ERQUIAGA: Quite a lot of turkeys went through the mill.

PFLUM: (laughing) The big chore was picking them. 'Cause in those days you had to pick 'em; you delivered picked turkey to the packing shed.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have someone come in and help then?

PFLUM: No. My uncle got to be pretty good. There's a way that you open the turkeys mouth and you stick a knife in---the veins are on--you do it all through the mouth, you brain them, stick the brain to kill 'em and then you cut the veins so that they bleed.

ERQUIAGA: And don't they release their feathers after that?

PFLUM: Yeah. If it's done right then the feathers come out a lot easier. Musta had turkeys too, huh? (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Yeah. (laughing) Did you ever raise cantaloupes?

PFLUM: Well, we had a few for the house, but we never raised them to sell to anybody.

ERQUIAGA: Where did you sell your turkeys when it was time to sell them?

PFLUM: Well, most of them sold through an association. I forgotten the title of the darn thing. Fallon Turkey Growers Association or something like that, then later they joined a bigger organization that covered several states called Norbest. I think it was headquartered up in either Washington or Oregon.

ERQUIAGA: Well, where did you sell the cream from the cows?

PFLUM: Well, it went to the, it used to be the Mutual Creamery, you remember where the Creamery was, where that Beacon's or something…

ERQUIAGA: That would be on North Maine Street?

PFLUM: Yeah, just across the tracks and just diagonally across from the old Kent warehouse.

ERQUIAGA: Fallon Creamery, I guess, was it.

PFLUM: Yeah, it has several different titles as I recall and eventually it ended up the Milk Producers Association of Central California.

ERQUIAGA: And that's where you sent your cream?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have a cream man that came around and got it?

PFLUM: Yeah, I don't remember, well, I vaguely remember taking it in the back of the Model T, but then they got enough customers that for a long time, Marker was the guy's name, remember him?


PFLUM: They'd come around and picked up the cream, and then later on a little while, Fred Weaver drove for the MPA.

ERQUIAGA: And you called it sour cream?

PFLUM: That's what they called the train I think. [End of tape 1 side A]

ERQUIAGA: When the tape ran out we were talking about the sour cream that you sold. I wondered how they kept it from turning sour, they didn't have refrigeration.

PFLUM: I don't think they did. I think Marker used to talk about during the heat of the summer they'd open the cans as they loaded them on the freight car and drop a chunk of ice in each one. To keep it from turning any more rancid than it was.

ERQUIAGA: What do you suppose they made out of that?

PFLUM: Butter.

ERQUIAGA: And you couldn't taste the sour?

PFLUM: I think it has to sour to make butter, doesn't it? At least when we churned. We used to churn our own and I think it had. .

ERQUIAGA: It wasn't supposed to be fresh?

PFLUM: Oh, I guess, they do have sweet cream butter now. But I don't know they may use some sort of a starting agent.

ERQUIAGA: How did your family get here? When they came here, your parents, did they come by train or how?

PFLUM: I guess, that was about the only way. Because we didn't have a car until about 1922 or 1923 I guess.

ERQUIAGA: So how did your mother get to the store before that?

PFLUM: Buggy.

ERQUIAGA: She'd hitch up the team and take herself to the store?

PFLUM: Well, they had a buggy and a buggy horse. And when the buggy horse died why then we got a car.

ERQUIAGA: And you say that was 1920…

PFLUM: Probably two or three.

ERQUIAGA: Well, how many of you learned to drive and how?

PFLUM: Well, my dad learned, and my mother learned and by the time I got old enough we had a Model A then.

ERQUIAGA: How many other children were there in the family besides you?

PFLUM: Three.

ERQUTAGA: You want to tell me their names?

PFLUM: Yeah. Edna and Virginia [Wilda].

ERQUIAGA: And their date of birth? Just the year, if you remember.

PFLUM: Oh, well, let's see. Edna was born in 1919. Virginia was born in 1921 and Wilda was born in 1924.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. And where do they live now?

PFLUM: Virginia and Edna live in southwest Reno and Wilda lives in Sparks.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, well, they're right close then, aren't they?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Did your sisters work out in the fields at all?

PFLUM: Not much.

ERQUIAGA: And your mother, did she have to do that?

PFLUM: Rarely. She had to milk a little bit for a winter or two, a few cows. But I don't remember that she had to pitch hay or anything like some of the other women did.

ERQUIAGA: Well, tell me about when you went to school. Where did you go to school?

PFLUM: I went to St. Clair.

ERQUIAGA: Where did that name come from, do you know, St. Clair, why is it called St. Clair District?

PFLUM: I don't really know. Except that I think the post office which used to be, I think, near where the Richard Bass's equipment and stuff like that is now.

ERQUIAGA: They did have a St. Clair post office?

PFLUM: I think so.

ERQUIAGA: Yeah, that's what I thought too. And so where was this school?

PFLUM: Well, let's see, where Richard and Celeste Bass lived [3375 Bass Rd] until they bought their place over here. There's a triangular piece of ground right at the end of, I guess it would be Bendickson's now. On the south quarter of Bendickson's triangular shaped, it runs back maybe two hundred, two hundred fifty feet, then runs to a point down on Bass road. Sort of shaped like a triangle, fairly long . .

ERQUIAGA: And is the building still standing?

PFLUM: No, the building's gone, they took the building down and Richard and his wife lived in the double wide until they got this place up here.

ERQUIAGA: And how did you get to school?

PFLUM: Well, the first, either my folks or --Harold Rogers and I started the same year and he lived right up there at the corner. And one or the other parents drove us, then we walked in the evenings, walked home in the afternoons.

ERQUIAGA: How long a walk was that?

PFLUM: Two miles. A lot different than now. We used to walk it all and sometimes never see a car, (laughing) the entire walk. Now there's a car every few minutes along that road.

ERQUIAGA: I see. How was the school, how was it set up?

PFLUM: It was one room.

ERQUIAGA: Just one room, and all the first to eighth grades?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Do you remember the teacher's name?

PFLUM: Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Meister, Mrs. Graham, Miss O'Sullivan, let's see. That just about takes of care 'em I guess.

ERQUIAGA: Mrs. Lucas was from out in Soda Lake right?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: And Mrs. Meister.

PFLUM: Well, her husband worked for TCID [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District] as a drag-line operator, if I remember, and they lived along the big canal, let's see, that would be, well there's Bottom Road on this side of McLean, I've forgotten what it is on the other side of McLean. They had a place right by the big canal on the other side of the canal.

ERQUIAGA: The other two names are not familiar to me who were they?

PFLUM: Mrs. Graham, she and her husband, had a place way out on Solias. It's been abandoned since. And Mrs. Sullivan was only there one year I think.

ERQUIAGA: Well, what all do you remember about going to St. Clair school?

PFLUM: Well. . . maybe there was about, I guess, twenty to twenty-five kids.

ERQUIAGA: For instance, when you started the first grade were there others- you said Harold Rogers started.

PFLUM: Yeah. And I don't remember for sure maybe Ed Allyn's daughter Edna could have been in that class. But she was killed by a horse. I've forgotten what grade I was in, I remember it being kind of gloomy few days when she was killed.

ERQUIAGA: And this was all in one room. How did she teach different grades different things?

PFLUM: Well, she had a bench and the class that was reciting would go up and sit on the bench and recite.

ERQUIAGA: And you had to do a lot of reading on your own, I guess?

PFLUM: Yeah, it was kind of unique. When I was in the fourth grade somebody from the state department, I don't know what they called it then, but anyhow, he came around with what they then called an intelligence test; I did well enough that I got to do the fifth and sixth grade in one year.

ERQUIAGA: Well, Harold Rogers was a neighbor of yours out here, all your life just about?

PFLUM: Yeah, until, I've forgotten now when they sold the place, they sold it to Louie Gomes. Marie's [Rogers] brother.


PFLUM: In fact, Mildred still lives up there.

ERQUIAGA: I see. Well, there's a story about Harold having to have his appendix taken out, can you tell me about that?

PFLUM: Well, the only thing I remember, is that she called me up and wanted to know if I could take him to Reno, that he was real sick. So, we got in the car and went, I took him to St. Mary's, then I guess they operated on him either that night or the next day.

ERQUIAGA: And was that unusual for you to drive to Reno like that for any reason?

PFLUM: Yeah. Going to Reno then was an undertaking of sorts.

ERQUIAGA: But you knew how to do it, you were used to it?

PFLUM: Well, (laughing) not used to it, but I'd been there enough times to know the way.

ERQUIAGA: Who were some of the other early settlers out here in St. Clair besides Harold's mother?

PFLUM: Well, let's see, there was a family where Christiansen lives now, which would be the fourth house from the corner, named Steer. And I remember that he was apparently a veteran because his arm ended here and he had a hook. That's the only thing I can remember about him. Except I was really scared to death of him (laughing) when I was real little.

ERQUIAGA: Because of the hook?

PFLUM: Yeah (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Anybody else that you can think of; how about the Hannifans they were neighbors weren't they?

PFLUM: Well, they came, they bought my dad's cousin out.


PFLUM: Maurice and Jim were there, then when Maurice got married why he bought Jim out I guess. And then Jim, he went to California I guess for awhile. Anyhow he was not around here.   

ERQUIAGA: We've heard the story about John's dad, Maurice being shot by someone out here, but do you remember anything about that?

PFLUM: Well, outside of my dad coming to the house in a big hurry to phone the sheriff. But I think what happened when my dad came in here they could go out through, well, they called it Thoma Ranch then. It's now the Bass ranch somehow. Then she closed that and then tried to go out this right-of-way on the TCID lateral and the guy that owned that place, he shut that down, so they were left with no access, so they went together and bought an acre of land, along a strip, and the dispute started over whether they put redwood posts or cottonwood posts in the fence that they built along what became the right-of-way. And that's about all I know about it.

ERQUIAGA: When you went to school what did you do, did you have recess time?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Like they do now. What did you do at recess?

PFLUM: Well, they just played quite a bit of baseball and we had a couple of games such as dare base, pump pump pull-away (laughing). Which nobody knows anything about anymore. And then there were two swings there was about a four inch pipe set in the ground and a kind of wheel on the top, and chains coming down, and what amounted to a little three step rope step ladder. We'd hang on those and swing. Go round (laughing) and since I was the littlest guy in school they'd put me through one and set me in it and then all the other kids would get their chains under mine (laughing), I thought I was at least ten feet high when they got it going good. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: It made you really feel good, huh?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: And you went through the eighth grade at St. Clair?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Then did you have a graduation ceremony?

PFLUM: I don't remember a graduation.

ERQUIAGA: Well, after that, what was it like to go into town school where there were a lot more kids?

PFLUM: A lot different.

ERQUIAGA: And that was when you rode your horse. When you went into the high school?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: What did you do with your horse during the day?

PFLUM: There was a hitching rack there.

ERQUIAGA: And did anyone else ride horses?

PFLUM: No, I was the only one. Everybody else either, well, I remember the Trigueiros and some kids out at St. Clair, Willie used to, they had a, I don't know, anyhow I guess a touring car you'd call it, he drove a bunch of the kids from Stillwater in that year.

ERQUIAGA: Wasn't easy was it?


ERQUIAGA: Did you ever have a bicycle?

PFLUM: No, it was too sandy out here to ride a bike (laughing) in those days. At St. Clair I think Raymond sass was the only kid that had a bicycle. And there was the Mori family that lived in the house that's north from where John Gomes [3025 South Allen] lives, and there were several of those kids they rode a horse to school to St. Clair. I've forgotten now somebody else used to ride a horse but I've forgotten who it was.

ERQUIAGA: Well, how about your sisters, did they have to ride a horse to high school?

PFLUM: No, by that time the buses run.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, they were younger, right. What did your family do for entertainment, play games or . . .?

PFLUM: Well, we had a phonograph and my dad used to play records; he had a bunch of semi-classical, I guess you'd describe 'em, records. Some of 'em I wish we'd kept, like we had a record with Prisoner's Song which was a terrific hit for several years. And then somebody sent us a bunch of Paul Whiteman, when he was THE band . .

ERQUIAGA: One of the big bands?

PFLUM: Well, he was considered, I think he was the king of jazz or something like that. But he was a top selling recording artist for a long time. And then we got a radio.

ERQUIAGA: When was that?

PFLUM: Shortly after they put in the power, but I've forgotten the year they put in the power. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: And after that you all had electricity.

PFLUM: Um hum.

ERQUIAGA: Did you play games, board games or?

PFLUM: No, I don’t think we did much of that.

ERQUIAGA: sing? Any singing of music?

PFLUM: No. One summer I remember we sat on the front porch, it was a screened porch at that time, and watched the lightning along the hills (laughing).

PFLUM: Real exciting. And then there was an awful lot of lightning that summer for some reason. You could count on it almost every evening.

ERQUIAGA: And you had the swimming hole in the summer time.

PFLUM: Yeah. Then my folks belonged to a card club, they played 500 every other Saturday night at somebody's home that belonged to the club.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. Did you children get to go and…

PFLUM: Not very much, no. We were big enough to stay home by then.

ERQUIAGA: Well, at school did they have programs at different times of the year?

PFLUM: You mean like parties?

ERQUIAGA: Yeah, or Christmas programs or something?

PFLUM: Well, I don't remember any Christmas program. Well, we used to put on plays. We'd spend most of November and December learning our lines and rehearsing.


PFLUM: Along with classes.

ERQUIAGA: You did that for the parents then?

PFLUM: Yeah, and they'd have the Christmas tree.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, they did have a Christmas tree at that time? How about in your family, did you have Christmas traditions?

PFLUM: Well, we used to, the whole family'd get together, like Thanksgiving, Christmas. We used to have a fair number of just dinners on Sunday, where most of the family would get together. I can remember the Orr Ditch Decree being a subject for conversation even then.

ERQUIAGA: Well, did it just go into effect about that time?

PFLUM: Well, let's see, I've forgotten exactly the history now. It went to the Supreme Court the first time it went in the 1940's. But I remember a lot of talking –  the men in the family – about the Orr Ditch Decree and the Alpine. I guess it was a suit for awhile before they handed down the decision on it. And they used to talk about something called Spanish Springs, but I can't find anybody now that knows what it was about.

ERQUIAGA: They don't know where it was?

PFLUM: No. So I've no idea what it was. But apparently someone thought it related to the water situation.

ERQUIAGA: Well, isn't there a place out of Reno called Spanish Springs up toward Pyramid somewhere?

PFLUM: I guess.

ERQUIAGA: Or a road, could be the same…?

PFLUM: Yeah, I don’t know.

ERQUIAGA: Well, did you play any kind of sports?

PFLUM: Well, we had a couple of baseball games we played Lone Tree; St. Clair played Lone Tree in baseball once.


PFLUM: But I was the smallest kid in high school for three years, so that didn't qualify for many sports (laughing).

ERQUIAGA: They didn't want you for football, huh (laughing)?

PFLUM: No, not as tackle anyway.

ERQUIAGA: Did you ever go to Lahontan?

PFLUM: Yeah, that was a spring ritual to drive up in March and see how full the dam was. And if the spillway was under water we figured we'd have a pretty good year, (laughing) if it was out of water why we were in for a little problem.

ERQUIAGA: And then did you have a picnic or anything while you were there?

PFLUM: No, not doing that. This club that I mentioned awhile back, the Thimble Club, after they had the picnic grounds below the dam, you know, along the river, we went up there a couple of times for picnics around the fourth of July.

ERQUIAGA: Did you do any fishing?

PFLUM: I didn't, no.

ERQUIAGA: Your dad?

PFLUM: No, I can only remember him going fishing once--the whole family went out to Stillwater and it rained (laughing) and Bob Curry was leading us back and instead of staying in the tracks in the road why he got off to the side because it looked smoother. (laughing) Pretty near all of us got stuck. And I think it was George Dalton came along with a truck and he got us back on the road.

ERQUIAGA: Stillwater's not a very good place to get stuck, is it?

PFLUM: Not then, because they had these, you know, these Model T's with a thirty by three and a half tire, which was real narrow. It was just the graded 'dobe down there, when it got wet it got wet it got really soft.

ERQUIAGA: Well, how did the Depression affect your family?

PFLUM: Well, before it started he'd built up the cows to about I guess, in the low twenties. Somebody came along and bought about eighteen of 'em at $150 a head. And my dad paid off the mortgage that he'd borrowed the money to build the house, and a couple of years later he was lucky to sell a milk cow for $50. There was a guy named Tessie came in used to buy a lot of cows and take them to California. In those days they didn't want springing heifers they wanted second and third calf cows. Tessie was a buyer in here for years.

ERQUIAGA: Well, if your dad sold eighteen of the cows then how many did he have left?

PFLUM: Five or six, he had to wait for the heifers to grow up before we had much of a milk check. (laughing) And that kind of pushed him into turkeys, I guess.

ERQUIAGA: Well, when did grade A dairies come into being?

PFLUM: About 1945 or thereabouts.

ERQUIAGA: And were you dairy farmers continually up until that time, and then did you go for the Grade A?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: You got the Grade A barn.

PFLUM: Yeah. We fixed the old--it was just a coincidence but Edna's husband was working for Kennecot Copper and during his vacation the old barn was getting pretty rotten and about to fall down, so, he--on his vacation he brought over a wheel barrow and we ordered a truck load of gravel and got the sacks of cement and he and I mixed the stuff, the cement in the wheel barrow and we poured the floor and the back wall of the barn all by hand. And then when they started looking for milk for Stead and for Herlong and places like that why they had to let the standards down a little bit. They encouraged us to do a little bit more, we managed to sell, and we had to keep doing a little bit more until we finally quit. Business changed, you had to either be big or get out and we didn't have the wherewithal to get big, so we got out.

ERQUIAGA: When was that when you quit?

PFLUM: 1995.

ERQUIAGA: You stayed with it a long time.

PFLUM: Yeah. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: What was the largest number of cows you had to milk?

PFLUM: We were in the mid to upper thirties, was all.

ERQUIAGA: And who did you sell to at that time?

PFLUM: When we quit?

ERQUIAGA: Well, or the last years that you were . .

PFLUM: Well, California Gold the last several years, and before that to the Associated Nevada Dairymen.

ERQUIAGA: Where was that?

PFLUM: It was local, it was Fallon and Reno.

ERQUIAGA: The truck would come to your place for the milk?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: When did you retire from the dairy farming, you didn't stay with it until '95 did you?

PFLUM: No, about 1985, when Charlie came and he'd been a brick layer and he had a ruptured disc in his back.

ERQUIAGA: Can you give me charlie's?

PFLUM: Charlie Crew.

ERQUIAGA: -Date - I mean name and who he is.

PFLUM: He’s my sister, Wilda’s, son

ERQUIAGA: And so he moved here from Reno and took over the dairying?

PFLUM: Yeah, he thought he'd like it but I guess he would have liked it, but drought came along and all the water woes, our hay all died out. I think the deciding factor for me was when we got busted from bench to bottom because I knew we wouldn't be able to double crop and we'd always be just a little bit short of getting the yields we should get.

ERQUIAGA: Do you want to explain about what bench to bottom means.

PFLUM: Well, we were getting four and a half acre feet of water a year per acre and they reduced it to three and a half.

ERQUIAGA: And you're in sandy soil out here?

PFLUM: Yeah. Some of it's real sandy.

ERQUIAGA: So, that wasn't enough water.


ERQUIAGA: Are you involved in any of the litigation that's going on all the time?

PFLUM: Yeah. We got two acres of water right that's involved in the protest. When it started out I didn't think it was going to be as expensive as it was. I didn't like the idea of simply letting them get away with taking it, but (laughing) the costs are going up all the time.

ERQUIAGA: Well, that's interesting, where your place was homesteaded.

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: That should probably be your water, and yet you have to go to court to prove it is?

PFLUM: Well, the last decision that came down, which is the one, you know, about three weeks ago, whatever it was, that should have ended it. But Jamie called me the other day and I have to meet with the attorney at three o'clock Saturday afternoon and I just got a bill on my desk from the engineer for almost $600.00 for some work he did at the last hearing. So, it's getting expensive. I was talking to Virgil [Getto] the other day and he said he spent $11,000.00 and hasn't got a thing to show for it.

ERQUIAGA: There doesn't appear to be an end in sight.


ERQUIAGA: Was there anything else about the Depression that particularly impressed you?

PFLUM: No, for us we were pretty fortunate. But there were a few families, I remember there was an old house that sits about where the multipurpose building is over at the fairgrounds. And a family lived in that. They had been in St. Clair when I was in St. Clair and I guess there was no facilities or anything, and none of the other kids wanted sit next to 'em when they got on the bus, because they didn't get to bathe very often. Their clothes were ragged. But for us it wasn't that much of a problem.

ERQUIAGA: That was the advantage of being a farmer you always had food anyway. Well, in high school, did you take Ag classes?

PFLUM: No. The family decided I should be an engineer. So I took what was called then the scientific course. But for somebody who's not good at mathematics engineering is not a very good goal. [End of tape 1]

ERQUIAGA: When the tape ran out, I was asking you if you had ever belonged to F.F.A. [Future Farmers of America]?

PFLUM: No, I was in 4-H for quite a while though.

ERQUIAGA: One of the animal clubs, or what?

PFLUM: Dairy.

ERQUIAGA: So what became of you with your electric engineering?

PFLUM: I didn't have it.

ERQUIAGA: You didn't follow through, you didn't want to go to the university?

PFLUM: No. (laughing) I probably wouldn't have made it in courses like that.

ERQUIAGA: I see, so you came home and became a dairy man.

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Did your dad keep a lot of records or his cows and milk production?

PFLUM: Yeah, he was in testing most of the time, when they had it here.

ERQUIAGA: He what?

PFLUM: He tested when they had a tester available.


PFLUM: In fact he took samples in to Eric Palludan to run for a year or so. Then they finally got an association going.

ERQUIAGA: What were they testing for?

PFLUM: Butterfat, and milk, in those days.

ERQUIAGA: How much butterfat you had in your milk?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: And was it better when there was more?

PFLUM: At that time, yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Well, dairy cows win awards and things for their milk production, have yours been on that road where they were named as winners?

PFLUM: Yeah, I got a whole shelf full of trophies in there. We had several good years. Of course before Oatses went out of business I thought nobody would ever get ahead of them, and very seldom anyone did.

ERQUIAGA: This was holsteins that you were milking, Holstein cows?

PFLUM: Yeah, I remember Lyle McGee came up and he bought the Clayton place, I don't know it's, maybe you know where it is. I don't really know for sure. And some Guernseys, I guess things didn't go at all well, so he decided to change the Jerseys and he bought a bunch of heifers from the other breeders and it turned out that they thought they were unloading something on him (laughing) that weren't that good, because a lot of the bulls' daughters in other places hadn't turned out right. For him they turned out great. Lyle had the top herd for fat for a couple of years in the valley.

ERQUIAGA: Quite a science, dairy farming.

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: So you had to keep all those records too just as your father did. Did he teach you how?

PFLUM: No, it changed. The last ten or fifteen years they were kept on a computer.

ERQUIAGA: And do you have a computer?

PFLUM: No. We got the print-outs. Jessie has the computer.


PFLUM: Charlie's daughter.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, how old is she?

PFLUM: Twelve.

ERQUIAGA: Do they still live here?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: In the house. But what does he do now?

PFLUM: He's a brick layer. He works mostly in Reno.

ERQUIAGA: How did you get your mail out here?

PFLUM: As far back as I can remember it was delivered to the mail box up at the corner.

ERQUIAGA: Did they come everyday?

PFLUM: Yep. Except Sunday.

ERQUIAGA: Did you used to get a Fallon paper?

PFLUM: Oh, yeah, we got, we used to get both the Eagle and the Standard. And then I've forgotten what Evasoviches paper was called. Do you remember what it was? We got it for awhile.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, the Citizens [Fallon Citizen] or something.

ERQUIAGA: Do you remember when the Nevada State Fair was held in Fallon?

PFLUM: Yeah, I remember taking some cows to show.

ERQUIAGA: Can you tell me about the hay palace?

PFLUM: No, we got a picture in some of the photographs that are in there but I don't recall it.

PFLUM: I remember going to the Fair and being up on a fence along the north end of the fair grounds and some guy with an airplane came along and he dove down and scared all of us off the fence. Of course, in those days an airplane was an event. Do you remember when, I think his name was Keddie, used to fly every spring over here, somebody said he was checking sheep for some big outfit.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, I don't know. I don't remember that. But that reminds me, speaking of sheep, did you ever raise sheep?

PFLUM: No, wouldn't know what to do with 'em. (laughing) I guess some of your family must have been in school when the rumor went through school that a squadron of planes were going to land in Reno (laughing). Every kid that could find a way out of school went to Reno to see it. But it turned out to be a false alarm.


PFLUM: The school was pretty empty that day.

ERQUIAGA: Well, I guess. It's surprising that they had that much transportation though.

PFLUM: Yeah, I don't know how they all got away.

ERQUIAGA: Well, what other stories can you remember about growing up in Fallon, that you'd like to tell us about.

PFLUM: Well, I can remember when Ralston Crew came over a few times and he married one of Elbert and Newell's [Mills] aunts, and he'd do aerial stunts over there over the old Mills place. About where Mewaldt, or whatever his name is.

ERQUIAGA: Where he lives huh?

PFLUM: Yeah. And then like I say that plane would come over every spring. And the pelicans used to come into the river over there in big numbers, when we were kids.

ERQUIAGA: Now how far is the river from here?

PFLUM: You mean straight?


PFLUM: About three quarters of a mile.

ERQUIAGA: But this isn't necessarily river bottom soil that you have here.

PFLUM: No. River bottom soil seems to run out about a quarter of a mile east of us. It's river bottom, the trouble is the channel (laughing) runs through the place and you can follow for two or three miles or more.

ERQUIAGA: That was before the dam was built?

PFLUM: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: That it used to wander off down that way.

PFLUM: I don't know how much credence you should put in. Sonya [Johnson] told me that when the Johnson family came that the southfork was the river and that it broke through and started going out Old River during a flood. But that doesn't quite add up to some of the other things there. Because most of the older places were along the what they called Old River now, like the Sagouspe place and places like that. [long pause]

ERQUIAGA: Well, do you have any more little stories that you can tell us?

PFLUM: That's about it, I guess.

ERQUIAGA: That's about it. Well, if that's about it we'll conclude our interview and I certainly do thank you for telling us all these things.

PFLUM: You're welcome.

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Churchill County Museum Association, “Thomas Pflum Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed July 1, 2022,