Margaret York Pilkington Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
an interview with
April 9, 1994
This interview is part of the socioeconomic studies for Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Planning and Oversight Program.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
Margaret York Pilkington's paternal and maternal grandparents emigrated to the United States from Ireland. They became neighbors in Oklahoma after riding horses into the Cherokee Strip when it opened and filing for one hundred and sixty acres of land. There her mother and father met. Her mothers brother married her father's sister and were the first to move to Nevada. Margaret's father, Joseph York, visited his sister, loved what he saw and bought the Fallon Ranch in 1912. Margaret was eleven when the family of six traveled by train to Nevada. She recalls vividly her mother crying as they started across the eastern desert of Nevada because it was so desolate after the beautiful state of Oklahoma. But Margaret was excited. However, she was not particularly impressed with her first view of Fallon.
Her father rented a railroad and cattle car and travelled with four of his best horses, five dairy cows and their furniture. The eighty-acre ranch her father bought was a mile from her aunt and uncle's ranch. Their first home on the ranch was an old shack. Her father dug a well then started building a house on the high spot on the land. She also describes how her father and uncle developed their irrigation system then planted a big vegetable garden and an orchard. The canals were the main carriers of the water to the ditches and the children all had fun swimming in the canal close to their ranch. In the winter they ice skated on the sloughs.
Her father gradually increased the cows to thirty, building up a dairy, with all the children milking cows mornings before school. Margaret describes the details of an early dairy long before sophisticated equipment and electricity. They all worked long days, from six in the morning until bedtime. She also recalls the fun they had together. Neighbor kids would get together in their big dining room and they'd have a dance several times a week. Her father provided the music with his harmonica. Her mother didn't join in since the two new babies born at the ranch increased the family to eight children.
Margaret attended the first organization meeting of the socialist colony with her father. Her parents weren't interested but her aunt, uncle and cousins joined and lost everything.
Margaret describes early school days in a one-teacher school for eight grades. As one of the "bigger girls" she was expected to help the teacher with the younger children. She rode horseback to Fallon High School, taking commercial subjects. When she was only fourteen years old her father taught her to drive their old Ford so she could take the cream to town every morning. She learned to crank the car and clean the carburetor. There were no laws about a driver's license then. The last semester in high school Margaret worked in a law office, but discovered all unhappy people, so decided not become a lawyer. Instead, she wanted to be a schoolteacher. When she was twenty she was accepted at Northam School east of Lahontan Dam. After teaching there one year she was invited by the superintendent of schools to teach at the old West End School in Fallon.
Margaret married Harold Pilkington when she was twenty-three, after a three-year courtship. Reno has been her home since their marriage. When their two children were twelve and eighteen, she returned to a teaching career for twenty-seven years in Washoe County.
Margaret was ninety-two when I interviewed her. She was articulate, with a keen mind and youthful spirit. Her grandson lived with her. During the editing process of this interview, he informed me in April 1995 that she is in a nursing home. He read her my questions and wrote her answers since it is now difficult for her to write.
SYLVIA ARDEN: This is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History Project, interviewing Margaret Pilkington, at her home, 2303 Homestead Place, Reno, Nevada. The date is April 9, 1994. Good morning, Margaret. I'm so pleased to be here to interview you this morning. Could you please tell us your full name, where you were born, and when?
MARGARET PILKINGTON: My name is Margaret York Pilkington. I was born in Renfrow, Oklahoma, August 29, 1901.
SA: Margaret, I want to first ask you about your paternal grandparents, whatever you know. First give me their names and whatever you know about your grandfather and your grandmother.
MP: My grandfather was Francis William York, called "Bill." He was born in Ireland, emigrated to the United States, but I don't know where in Ireland he was born. My grandmother was Elizabeth McCabe. She too was born in Ireland and emigrated to the United States.
SA: Were they married? Did they come together?
MP: No, they came separately and were married in the United States.
SA: Did they know each other in Ireland?
MP: I don't know.
SA: Do you know where they settled in the United States?
MP: No, I do not.
SA: Now tell me about your mother's parents.
MP: My mother's father was Patrick Ahern. He too was born in Ireland. My grandmother's name was Annie Elizabeth Sullivan, from Ireland also. Since the United States was making it hard to immigrate, they immigrated through Canada, and came down across the Great Lakes.
SA: Now, did you know any of your grandparents?
MP: Yes, I knew my maternal grandmother very well. She lived with us for years, and I loved her very much. She was a very well-educated woman. She wrote stories, she kept family records, and was always much fun.
SA: Do you know what brought them to Nevada?
MP: Yes, she came to Nevada with us. When my folks sold the ranch in Oklahoma, my grandmother moved with us to Nevada and stayed with us for several years.
SA: I want to back up a little now. I want you to tell me your father's name and where he was born.
MP: My father was Joseph York. He was born June 22, 1867, in Iowa, but I do not know where in Iowa.
SA: So then apparently your paternal grandparents did finally settle in Iowa where he was born?
MP: I don't know how long they lived in Iowa. My knowledge is that they lived in Kansas, and lived in Caldwell, Kansas, from which my father rode the Oklahoma Territory on a horse and found the one hundred and sixty acres that he filed on later when the Cherokee Strip opened.
SA: Oh, my goodness! Now, where was your mother living? Where was she born?
MP: My mother was born in Chicago. Her parents moved into Missouri, and then to Oklahoma. My maternal grandfather also made the race into the Cherokee Strip and took one hundred and sixty acres of land.
SA: So then your mother and father and their parents were neighbors in Oklahoma?
MP: In Oklahoma.
SA: Who were the first ones to migrate to Nevada? How did they come to Churchill County? Who were the first ones?
MP: My mother's brother married my father's sister. And they moved to Nevada about three years before we did. Then my father came to visit his sister and loved it out here, bought the Fallon Ranch before he ever came home, in 1912.
SA: What did your mother think about that? Did she ever tell you?
MP: Yes, she certainly did. I was with her when we started across the eastern desert in the state of Nevada on the train: She cried because it was so desolate, because Oklahoma is such a beautiful state.
SA: Did she know he was going to buy property here when he came to visit?
MP: I don't think that they were sure about that, but he was suffering from asthma, and the Dust Bowl had started. So he could see trouble ahead and decided he didn't want to stay in Oklahoma any longer.
SA: How many children in the family when you migrated to Nevada?
MP: There were six of us.
SA: What were the approximate ages of this big family?
MP: I was eleven years old, and the oldest. I have a sister who was less than two years younger than I am. And I had six brothers.
SA: Now, do you know if it was the Newlands Project that was advertising for homesteaders that brought your aunt and uncle [Joseph and Alice Ahern] here so early?
MP: I don't know how my uncle and aunt knew about Nevada--I don't know that story.
SA: Because it was a period when they were seeking homesteaders. Then did your father and mother homestead?
MP: No, they bought from the old Theelen Ranch.
SA: Do you know the location from Fallon, about where that's located?
MP: Oh yes, it's three miles west of Fallon, almost on the main highway.
SA: Is that ranch still in the family name?
MP: No, it isn't. It has been sold, but quite recently my brother Jim and his children and wife lived on the ranch and owned it for years.
SA: You were old enough on that trip here--you were eleven, did you say?
SA: Tell me a little bit about the trip. Your mother cried. How did you feel about being picked up--you were eleven, and coming to a place you had never seen. What were your feelings?
MP: I was excited! I hadn't worried a bit about it. I was glad when we got here. I saw Indians that I had never seen before. It was most interesting.
SA: Alright. So now, describe: where did you see the Indians, and what did they look like?
MP: After we arrived in Fallon, the morning that we came there, my mother took a room upstairs in a small hotel, which is still there-the building is still there. I looked down and saw these odd-looking people with plaid blankets around them, sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, and I turned to my mother and I said, "Are those Indians?" And she said, "I guess that's what they are." But they didn't look like the Cherokee Indians that I was familiar with in Oklahoma.
SA: Do you know what that building is now, what the hotel was and what it is now?
MP: Approximately. It's west of Maine Street and maybe two or three blocks off of Williams Avenue, south.
SA: Does it have a name, do you know?
MP: No, I don't know.
SA: Now, I want you to describe to me, you came to this place right in Fallon, whatever details you can remember. What was Fallon like? What did it look like to you?
MP: (laughs) It was big compared to Renfrow, Oklahoma! I can't remember being particularly impressed by it. (chuckles) That's something I hadn't thought much about. I don't think I was very impressed! (laughs)
SA: How long did you stay in this downtown building? Was it a little hotel or a rooming house?
MP: Oh, two or three hours, because those days, of course, everybody had to come and go with horses. So we had to wait for the uncle to come and pick us up. I think it was probably a couple or three hours before he was able to get there.
SA: Now, this was right downtown. Were there buildings on that main street?
MP: Oh yes.
SA: This was 1912.
MR I don't think there was a single thing with a second story. Oh yes.
SA: Were the roads dirt?
MP: I can't remember. I don't think the streets were paved.
SA: Were there any trees?
MP: I think there were lots of trees. I was not impressed by it. (laughter)
SA: Does the family have any photographs of the early period? Or weren't they carrying cameras then?
MP: No, my mother had a misfortune. She put her trunk with all her pictures in it in a basement that belonged to my brother later, after the family was grown, and the canal flooded and she lost everything.
SA: (gasps) Oh, what a shame!
MP: I have a few things. I have some, during my teen age, that were taken after we went to Fallon.
SA: Now, then your uncle came. Was your father with you, or was he here already? Did he come with you?
MP: That's probably the most interesting part of the trip. When we hadn't gone from Oklahoma yet, my father came ahead of us. He rented a railroad car, a cattle car, and sorted out his best animals-his horses and his cows--and shipped them from Oklahoma to Nevada, and he came along with them. About every so often, he had to stop and feed and water his cattle, so he was quite slow. So we had moved into an old shack that was on the eighty acres that my father bought, and we were watching every morning. We watched carefully when the train was coming into Fallon, and one morning after we'd been there for a week or so, this long arm stretched out of the cattle car, waving to us. Well, he was watching very carefully, knowing exactly where he was going.
SA: That's a very vivid description. Now, you said there was a shack. So let's go back. Your uncle brought all of you out to the ranch that was now your family's ranch?
MP: The ranch that we bought was within a mile of the one that my uncle and aunt and their family lived.
SA: So when you first arrived and they brought you there, describe what it looked like. What do you remember?
MP: I was so consumed with my mother's attitude, that I'm afraid I didn't have much reaction myself. I was so interested in what my mother would think about these sand hills. My uncle hadn't been in Nevada very long. The trees were very small yet. They were green and started alright, but it was very desolate. But I was just the right age to be very excited--it wasn't worrying me.
SA: How big did it look? How big of a ranch was this, do you know?
MP: Eighty acres is what we had.
SA: And what was on it? You said you stayed in a little shack?
SA: Was there just a shack--not a house?
MP: It was pretty good-sized. As I remember, there were about three or four rooms, but some of the floor had even been taken up. We played jumping games across from one streak of floor to the other, with my mother warning us, "For goodness sakes, don't fall." (laughter) But we managed to put our beds up, and the old kitchen was quite warm and comfortable, had a stove, because my father was bringing with him, all the furniture--the stoves, the beds--all our furniture came with my father in the one end of the car.
SA: Oh, he was very practical! Was there anything in the house when you arrived? Was it dirty? Did your aunt clean it up?
MP: (laughs) I don't think we did much housecleaning. As I say, there wasn't even complete flooring. But my mother took right over in the kitchen, and we mostly lived in the kitchen. But we came early, we arrived at the end of August, and it was still nice and warm--we didn't need the protection of a house, we just needed a place to sleep mostly.
SA: Now, he bought this from someone, so it was a ranch. Were there any crops that were already in?
MP: There were a few acres of alfalfa, and that I was extremely interested in. I had never seen alfalfa.
SA: What else was there?
MP: That's all I remember. I remember there were some fences, but there was practically nothing else. I think maybe ten to fifteen acres of alfalfa, in.
SA: Was there any farm equipment?
MP: No equipment at all.
SA: How long after you arrived did your father come with the train and the animals and the furniture?
MP: Well, it probably was a week or ten days. But my mother and the kids were in the place quite a long time.
SA: That is a long time.
MP: But the aunt used to cook, and we would run down and eat there sometimes.
SA: Okay, then your dad arrived. That must have been very exciting. Describe that to me, his arrival with all of the animals and furniture.
SA: Well, apparently he took beautiful care of them. Of course that's all he had to do. He had a bed, so he could sleep at night. He got off whenever he could and bought groceries and ate at a restaurant if he felt like it--that kind of thing. We had had a very nice ranch in Oklahoma, so we had gotten a very nice price for it. My father and mother both felt confident that they were going to manage very nicely, and be able to settle on this place and do what they wanted to with it. So the ranch itself was very interesting. We kids spread out over it, of course, and we saw pheasants. That was probably one of the most interesting things we saw--the beautiful Chinese pheasants.
SA: So when your dad arrived, about how many animals and what kind of animals were there?
MP: He had five dairy cows and four beautiful horses that he loved. That's all.
SA: And that's all. Okay. Was there any plumbing?
MP: Oh, no, of course not. There wasn't even a john outside!
SA: So where did you have to go to drag water in, when you needed water? How far was the water?
MP: My uncle brought a barrel of water every morning, fresh out of his well, and we just drank it and cooked with it, and washed dishes, did the best we could for the week or ten days that we were there.
SA: And then after your dad arrived, what did you do? Did he dig a well? Or what did you do about water then?
MP: I think it was probably one of the very first things that my father did before any building was done. He dug a well. He had already made very positive plans about what he was going to do. There was a rise in the land--I shouldn't say really a hill, but it was higher than the rest of the ranch, and he had planned to build his house on the high spot because of water, and plant an orchard around it in a semi-circle. So he did. Anyone who wanted to go and look now, it's still there, because the last time I was down, I looked. Much of the orchard has been replaced with newer trees over the years, but it's still pretty much the same plan, with the big two-story house in the middle, and the orchard around it, with the cow corral on the open side where there's no orchard. The corrals and haystacks, garage--that kind of thing--chicken house, are all in the open space where there's no orchard.
SA: Does someone run that ranch now? Did they sell it to someone who's keeping it up?
MP: I believe it is still a wholesale butcher business, as far as I know. My brother who lived there had first a large dairy, and he provided milk for the Navy while they were at Fallon, all the time--then later changed from the dairy to wholesale butchering. One of his businesses was taking care of the deer in the fall, when the hunting season was open. He took care of hundreds of people's deer that they got.
SA: I'm hoping then I can get someone to take me there to get some photographs. Your father sounds like a very capable, bright man. I want you to tell me, from that period, just tell me a little about him, so I can get a feel for the kind of man he was, and the kind of father. He sounds so capable.
MP: Well, I feel that probably he had lots of frustrated hours, (chuckles) because his big family he found quite an undertaking. But it was most interesting, later when we had started to build up the dairy from the five cows that he knew were excellent, he didn't check the growth of the dairy until he got about thirty good cows, because he had made up his mind that with such a big family, my mother needed something that the children could do mornings and evenings and go to school--in case something happened to him. So I helped the boys milk, and by the time I married and left, we had about forty good dairy cows, and my father and the younger boys were still taking care of them.
SA: Let's go back more to your dad, because it seems he's even looked ahead. First let's go to the house. When you said they built the house, who built the house?
MP: My father built the house with a little help when he needed a carpenter. He wasn't as skillful as he thought he ought to be. I remember when he had some hired men. He hired a plasterer when it was time to plaster it. He hired a painter when it was time to paint, but he did most of the work himself. He first built two rooms, a big kitchen, and a big dining room, and then put two lean-to rooms out, one off of the kitchen for a pantry, and one off of the dining room for a bathroom. And we lived, the six children and my mother and father, lived for about two to three months in it and the two rooms until he got the other part of the house finished so we had our own bedrooms.
SA: Oh my! When did you finally get inside plumbing?
MP: I never lived in my home when there was plumbing. I have an idea it was about the late 1920s.
SA: Did you get electricity? Because I know that when Lahontan Dam was built, electricity was brought to Fallon. Was the ranch within Fallon? Did you get electricity that was generated from Lahontan Dam?
MP: Yes, I'm sure we did, but I can't tell you exactly when. There was no electricity in the house yet when I married in 1925.
SA: Okay, so you didn't get it as early as it was in Fallon.
SA: I want to go back to your mom and your dad, so we can get a feeling of the kind of people [they were]. Back to your dad again: Was he always working? Did he ever laugh? Did he ever join in the kids' fun, or was he a real serious, hard worker? What was he like?
MP: We worked awfully hard. I can remember that many days we worked from six o'clock in the morning until nine or ten at night. And my sister did the housework, helped my mother with the little people, and stayed mostly in the house. But I was the sister that went out with the brothers and milked the cows and fed the pigs and the chickens and that kind of thing. The work was very hard, but we had lots of fun together. We made little games ourselves. When we would be milking, every once in a while you would feel a squirt of milk, and some brother had let you have it! Or we would pick up a clod of dirt: if we were in the garden, hoeing, somebody'd pick up a clod of dirt and let somebody else have a little. Then everybody had hysterics, it was so funny! So we always had lots of fun together, but we did very little of anything outside of-- my father played a harmonica, very well. And he played those old tunes and we'd dance night after night. All the neighbor kids would get together in the big dining room, and we'd have a dance--sometimes two or three times a week, at night, because my dad would always sit there and play the harmonica 'til we were all tired and needed to go to bed.
SA: Did your mother dance?
MP: No, my mother never did dance at those. I think she did dance-she told me she loved to dance, but I don't ever remember her joining the dancing. I imagine there was always a baby who needed something.
SA: Because there were two more babies born there, right?
MP: I had six little brothers.
SA: Now the two that were born at the ranch, where were they born? Was there a hospital? Was there a midwife? Where were they born?
MP: No, they were both born at home, and the aunt came up to officiate at the birth with the doctor, and I went down to my aunt's house with all of the little people. There were eight children in her family too.
SA: Oh my! Now, as the oldest child in the family, it must have been a heavy responsibility for you.
MP: Yes, but I loved every one of them. I never resented a single one of them, and I'm a very popular sister to this day! (laughs)
SA: That sounds so wonderful. Now, tell me about your mom. Did she have a light side of her, or was she also mainly a hard-working – What was her personality?
MP: Of course she worked too hard, but my mother was a blithe spirit. We could always find something to be happy about when my mother was concerned. She didn't seem to mind that she had all these small people. She took care of them very carefully, but she also taught my sister and me to be the best of help. My father took care of the babies too, and if somebody was sick, my father was just as liable to be taking care of us, as Mother.
SA: How fortunate to have parents like that. Was there time for them to have their own kind of a relationship?
MP: I imagine that they had a very good relationship. I suppose time was limited, but I don't remember my father ever saying anything unkind to my mother. He was very, very strict with we kids, and we got spanked, and we had times that were very, very worrisome, because my father, being such a strict man, but he always left my mother out of it.
SA: Where did the family shop for supplies, things that you weren't growing yourselves?
MP: We were just three miles from town, and my father had his four horses and a wagon and a spring wagon. This was all brought with us from Oklahoma. And about once a week, my father and mother got into the spring wagon and went to town and bought the supplies. In the fall, the family was very careful about supplies. My father bought a thousand pounds of flour, and it was stored where there was no danger of mice or rats. We bought prunes, dried apricots, dried apples by the box, five gallons of honey at a time, because of the big family. And besides that, of course, we had the products off of the ranch. We always had much food.
SA: Now, I want to ask you, back to the orchards. What kind of fruit was grown in the orchards?
MP: Everything that my father thought would grow. Many apple trees of different kinds--some of them pretty poor, some of them excellent. We had apricots, and of course each year we were hoping the frost wouldn't get them. Cherries, pears.... I think that's about it. [End of tape 1 side A]
SA: We talked about the trees. Beside the alfalfa, were there any other crops?
SA: Then you mentioned starting a dairy. How long after you arrived did your father start the dairy?
MP: I think he left the animals in a corral at Fallon 'til he was able to build a corral and buy a stack of hay to take care of everything. But just as quickly as he could, he certainly worked long hours trying to get things started, so that before snow we would have a place for the cattle and the dogs and ourselves, so we'd be warm and comfortable.
SA: Then was the dairy started at the ranch, when he finally brought the cows to the ranch?
MP: Right away. I would say the cows were home probably within two weeks.
SA: Did you have a dairy in Oklahoma?
MP: Not a big dairy. The dairy was built up after we came to Nevada. We probably had ten or fifteen cows, but not a big dairy. And my father picked the five best and brought them with him.
SA: Now, I want to go into the dairy business that was starting. You said later you had about forty milking cows. About how many years did it take before you had forty?
MP: After I married, probably. There were probably twenty-five or so when I was still home, helping milk the cows.
SA: Now, the milking was all done by hand in those early days I'm assuming?
MP: Oh yes, all by hand. We never owned a milking machine.
SA: I want you to describe in detail about this dairy business. These are some of the things I want you to tell me. How was the milk processed and sold and where?
MP: We carried the milk into what was built for the pantry. It was turned into a milk room, really, and my father and mother bought a cream separator, and my brothers very soon were turning the handle and we were having cream. There was a company later picked up the cream, twice or three times a week, the big cans of cream. At first, when I got into high school, my father and mother let me drive the old Model T Ford and take the cream to the creamery every morning before I went to school.
SA: Now I want to go back a lithe bit. You said they built a room for the dairy, and you mentioned cans. I want you to describe the room, I want you to describe what it was like, what was a machine like that you turned it into cream--for those who are not farmers and ranchers and don't know--especially in that early period, that kind of process is no longer in existence.
MP: I hope I can do this.
SA: As best you can.
MP: The room had been built for a pantry off of the kitchen. It was needed for the milk more than it was for a kitchen pantry. So it was turned into what was really a milk room with shelves for the material for the bottles, for the rags to strain the milk and everything. It was just completely taken over by the milk business. It wasn't very big, it was probably not more than six by eight. And the cream separator is going to be a little difficult for me. It stood up on legs and was a sturdy, heavy thing, with a big stainless steel bowl that held about twenty to thirty gallons of milk, with a spout. And the milk, when the spout was open, ran down over plates that were whirling. I think, not knowing too much about physics, I think they were whirling in opposite directions. We called them "discs." They looked a little like cones--one cone fit right in over the other. And there were two tiers of these cones: one of them was for the side where the skimmed milk left the machine, and the other where the cream left the machine. There were two spouts, and a cream can sat under each spout while it was working. My brothers had to turn the handle. It did not have any power, except hand power. So sort of like an old-fashioned washing machine.
SA: How old were your brothers when they started doing all this? I know you were about eleven or twelve. How old were they when they started?
MP: I myself remember that I started milking with my father alone when I was nine. My first brother was three-and-a-half years younger than I, so I suspect that he started by the time that he was nine too. Because, as I say, after we came to Nevada, we kept getting a few more cows all the time. So I have an idea that each of my brothers probably started milking along nine or ten years old.
SA: Amazing. Now, you said "in cans"--what kind of cans?
MP: Well, they were standard milk cans.
SA: The kind you see in the old pictures?
MP: They were probably made out of steel or aluminum. I imagine they were steel, because they were pretty heavy. They had an opening at the top with a lid that screwed down with a handle on top of the lid so it could be lifted off, and they came in different sizes: five, ten, even twenty gallons.
SA: Oh my! And a lot of it, I suppose, was kept for your family's use?
MP: We had much butter and cream and cottage cheese, and my mother even made. . . . We had Italian lady friends who taught my mother to make hard cheese too. We even made the other cheese.
SA: Now, were there other neighbors besides your aunt and uncle nearby? Because I know homesteading was increasing. How far were your neighbors?
MP: Oh yes. Well, there were people very close. We had one neighbor that was probably less than half a mile east of us. We had other neighbors that were north and east. Yes, all around us, there were neighbors.
SA: Were they there when you arrived?
SA: Was there enough open space there so that new neighbors kept coming in and buying ranches?
MP: Yes, indeed.
SA: And did you have other kids? Or were you busy enough with your own family?
MP: We saw lots of the neighbor kids. We could yell across to each other. My brothers soon learned to whistle loud, and if they wanted a neighbor kid to come over, they'd put out a loud whistle, and they'd come running over. Do you want to know the names of some of the neighbors? Are you interested?
SA: Yes, very much so. With the spelling, if you know it.
MP: Okay. The Branches lived very close to us, just across the highway. The big Branch ranch home is still there. Fred Branch. I was talking to Frieda Branch Lokke one whole hour yesterday, over the phone. We both live in Reno now.
SA: Alright, so that was one neighbor.
MP: Then east of us were several Italian families: the Piazzos, and the Gummows lived close to us. Barker. Those were the ones close around us. There were other neighbors that we soon got acquainted with. And there was a little country school that was the center of the neighborhood. We used to have meetings and picnics and what-have-you, there.
SA: You said there were some Italian neighbors. Do you know where some of the other neighbors came from, when they came to Nevada? Or did they homestead? Did you ever find out what brought them there? Or you just took it for granted?
MP: I'm afraid I don't know much about their backgrounds.
SA: That's okay. You mentioned school, and I want to get into school now. Is that the school where all of you kids went to your elementary grades?
SA: Tell me about it, and where it was located.
MP: it was on the northwest corner of the Branch Ranch. I would say we had about an acre-and-a-half or two acres. We had a nice big playground and a basketball court outside. It was a one-teacher school; eight grades, if there happened to be that many children. One teacher taught the whole school. Do you want to know the teachers' names, are you interested?
SA: Yes. First tell me, was there a name to the school?
MP: The school was called the Soda Lake School.
SA: Describe the building.
MP: One story; white; a belfry; front door, double; a step that walked up on into the. . . . We all walked in and carried mud and what-have you. A big stove in the corner to heat. Old-fashioned desks, but we had already gotten to the place where there was only one child in a desk. We had a bucket of water. Each of us had our own cup, and we brought the water in from a pump that was in the yard. We all brought our own lunch.
SA: How far a walk from your home was it?
MP: About a half-mile. It was between our home and the cousins' home.
SA: Now, what happened if it snowed? Did you go every day, or were there some days you didn't go?
MP: No, I can't ever remember losing a day.
SA: How many kids might there be in the classroom?
MP: Probably fourteen to seventeen altogether, from first grade. And I was mostly the “big girl” all the time. (laughter)
SA: Because you were older, or because you were more mature and wanted to be a teacher?
MP: No, just because I happened to be the big girl. I was eleven when we came to Nevada, and there were mostly real young families, and the children were still at home.
SA: Did you help the teacher?
MP: I helped the teacher what I could--everybody did! She expected it.
SA: When you first started, who was the teacher?
MR The first teacher that I had was Edith Nell Sutton. She was a Churchill County girl herself. She taught two years. She was an excellent teacher. Everything that we needed to do, I was always impressed with what a beautiful job she did. I'm sure she must have worked long hours after school.
SA: How long did she stay there?
MP: Two years. She taught me in fifth grade and in sixth grade.
SA: Did she leave for another job, or did she marry?
MP: She married. I can't tell you her married name.
SA: In those days, when a teacher married, did she have to leave her teaching job?
MP: Yes, immediately. I will tell you about it later, with the next teacher. The second teacher was Edith L. St. Cyr. Along about February, I would say, she got pregnant, and so she was immediately replaced by a young man named Olney--again, a very fine teacher, both of them. Mrs. St. Cyr taught me in seventh grade. She married, and I saw much of her later in life. We became close friends. I was real interested in her girl--it was a nice friendship.
SA: When you said she got pregnant, was she married?
MP: Oh yes. Those days, people were married.
SA: So in other words, she married and they let her stay to teach?
SA: She was unusual, probably.
SA: Now, what I want you to do is, when you were in that elementary school, describe one typical school day, from the time you woke up, until the time you went to bed. Describe one typical day.
MP: The first thing I did was get up and get my jacket on and get my bucket and go to milk. (laughter) Then when we managed to get what we had to do, done, my brothers were very young, so there was very little to do except what little things that I could do for myself and my sister who was a little younger. But we walked to school the half-mile.
SA: We go back to breakfast.
MP: Oh, go back to breakfast. My mother was always up and bustle-bustling around, and she always cooked a big breakfast. We never missed a breakfast.
SA: Like what? What might it be?
MP: Always mush, our hot chocolate, our hotcakes--anything that she happened to think of, even steak! (laughter)
SA Would she pack lunch, or would you pack lunch?
MP: No, we didn't bother ever with hot lunches.
SA: I mean, did you carry lunch to school?
MP: We could run home from school. Sometimes my mother wouldn't have something that she liked to put in lunches, and she said, "Why don't you run home?" And we would run home, yes. We could run home.
SA: And if you brought a lunch, what would that be?
MP: Oh, my mother's homemade bread, and the beef or the pork or whatever my father had butchered. We always had our own meat during the weather when the weather was cold enough to keep it, and vegetables out of our own garden. In wintertime, we made pits for carrots, celery, cabbage. We always had a big cellar with apples, potatoes. Food was never a problem.
SA: Very nutritious food, too. Now let's get you to school. Did you have a recess?
MP: No, no. Everybody walked. We were very close to the school. I don't think anybody was more than a mile away.
SA: Did you have a recess? Did you play?
MP: Oh yes, we had morning recess.
SA: What would you play?
MP: I can remember playing long hours of hide-and-go-seek, last couple out. Those games, I don't know if they still play them or not. Kick-the-can, and we'd get bruises on our shins. We had a basketball court and a basketball. It was a standard size, and the other schools would come and play against us sometimes. Then I would get into the school, and the teacher would start and take care of mostly the smaller people early. I was nearly always the big girl in school, and the teacher gave me lots of attention. I was a very fortunate person, by being in such a small school, with having such devoted teachers.
SA: Is that when you first started to think about becoming a teacher yourself?
MP: No, I was going to be a lawyer. This is digressing, but later, when I finished high school, the last semester in high school I worked in Mr. Andy Haight's law office. There will be people in Fallon who still remember Mr. Haight, I'm sure. But I found that no matter who was in a law office, they were unhappy people. It's an unhappy place, because lawyers are settling estates, and people are still suffering a death, or they're fighting over property lines, fences, animals. . . . So I decided I was going to be something else--not a lawyer. I didn't like that. So that summer then, after I graduated, I worked in the government district office as a typist. Then I made up my mind that I'd like to go to college. And so my sister and I worked as much as we could to get a few dollars together so we could go to college.
SA: We'll move into college later. I want to come back now to childhood again. And also back to the ranch again. Do you know, as you had a dairy and you had your orchard. . . . Did you have a vegetable garden?
MP: Oh yes, big vegetable garden, and we children did lots of the work in it. In order to keep from being bored, we used to throw mud clods at each other, and then have hysterics, it was so funny,
SA: Did you ever fight over these things? Was there ever fist fighting or yelling?
MP: I'm sure we did plenty of fighting too.
SA: Now, how was the irrigation done on your ranch? Did you know, as you began to know how that procedure went?
MP: One of the things that my father started very soon--this uncle of mine was making his living with six horses and levelling equipment. So he came up and did the levelling, and checks that could be irrigated with water from ditches. And the ditches that left the canal were called laterals. And so my father very quickly, with the uncle's help, got the acres irrigated, ready to put in the next spring. Then we planted a garden. The very first spring we planted a big garden, and the orchard was put in, the very first year.
SA: Can you describe the procedure of the irrigating in that early period?
MR Yes, because my brothers were still quite young, my father had to do it himself, all of it, at first. So he would call the ditch rider who had charge of the water, and tell him, need a head of water."
SA: Was it designated times and designated amount?
MP: Not too much at first. There was lots of water and not too many people, so I think you could get water whenever he decided to irrigate. Later, it had to be arranged very carefully. Then he would start in and irrigate until he was completely through. If it took well over fifteen hours, he stayed with it.
SA: Describe what happened when he called for water. What happened?
MP: He walked the ditch banks with a shovel on his shoulder, being sure to look for any holes that gophers or ground squirrels might have made, or the ditch might break and he'd have to repair with his shovel. He always had his shovel with him, and that was all there was to it--just go up and walk the ditch banks.
SA: Okay, when he asked for the water--for people who have not been here and don't know this procedure--when he asked for the water, how did the water come into these ditches on your father's land? Do you know that?
MP: (laughs) I forgot about that. They were called boxes, and they had gates that shoved down in and cut the water off, but they could be lifted up, and the water run in under them when they were lifted up. When you wanted to get rid of the water, you shoved the wooden gate down and closed the water off.
SA: Did that water come from the Truckee River? Or do you know where it came from?
MP: It came from Lahontan Dam, and the Truckee River. In Fallon, it was the Carson River.
SA: When your father bought the ranch, did the water rights come with it?
SA: He had to pay for that?
MP: You had to pay for it, it was quite expensive.
SA: Did he also have to pay a monthly amount for the use of the water?
MP: No, my father wasn't a monthly payer. I'm sure he paid at least a year each time,
SA: But they had to pay for the use of the water.
MP: But he had to pay, yes.
SA: Now, did you swim in the irrigation ditches?
MP: We swam in the canals.
SA: Now the canals were where the water first went?
MP: The canals were the main carriers of the water.
SA: And where was the nearest canal to your ranch? How far from your ranch?
MP: About a quarter of a mile. In those days we just went swimming in whatever we had on, and had lots of fun and ducked each other and slapped water on each other and just had a really good time, and then came back home, soaking wet--no changing of clothes until we got home. (laughter)
SA: Now, a couple of things: How big was the canal? How wide and how deep?
MP: Oh, probably not more than four feet of water in it, and it was eight to ten feet across between the ditch banks, probably. And they had bridges over it, so that people who lived on either side of it could get across,
SA: Did a lot of kids join you? Was it a group of kids, or your own family?
MP: Oh yes, often we got together in parties, a whole group of children. But often just us.
SA: Now, was it dangerous for little kids? I've read so much about little kids drowning in ditches.
MP: Undoubtedly it was. I don't remember. I was big enough and could swim, and all of us learned to swim very early. But I'm sure my mother and father were very careful about any of the smaller children getting near the canal.
SA: From a few interviews I learned that some people ice skated on the canals. Did you do that?
MP: No, I never was there when it was cold enough. We skated on the sloughs. We had lots of fun skating on the sloughs.
SA: Now what's the sloughs?
MP: The sloughs are the drain that comes from the canal. The canal gets overloaded, or even if sometimes the water seeps through, and there are side ditches that the water seeps out of, and natural rainfall, snow melt, collects in the low places, and we call them sloughs because they didn't drain easily,
SA: So maybe that's where they skated.
MP: That's where we skated, on the sloughs.
SA: That sounds like a lot of fun.
MP: It was lots of fun, yes. We used to always have lots of food with us, and be warmly-dressed, and the old-fashioned skates that we had to fasten onto our shoes. So we had to have good sturdy shoes. There was no skill or anything--everybody just did what they felt like.
SA: Where did you get your shoes from? Were there stores in Fallon where they sold them?
MP: I'm very familiar of all the times that my parents made orders to Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck. And in the fall, one of the duties in the fall--which was already so busy--was to get off an order for any new bedding, underwear, socks, sweaters, coats, shoes, overshoes--hundreds of dollars' worth, in the days when prices were very reasonable--to mail order houses, mostly.
SA: Was it exciting when it arrived?
MP: Oh yes, The day they came was very exciting.
SA: Were you able to select some of your own things? Did your mother let you look at the catalog and say, "Mom I'd love that skirt, or this style?
MP: My mother was very lenient. She was that kind of person. We pretty much wore what we wanted. My little brothers wore bib overalls. We all wore long underwear, because we had to milk in the morning and go to school. But my brothers all wore--they all looked exactly alike. (laughter)
SA: Were there any Indians working on the ranches around there? Or Indian children in your elementary school?
MP: Yes, there were a few children in the schools. The Indian women did very much of the laundry work. My mother had an Indian lady who came once a week to help her do the laundry--she helped, however. And they would build a fire outside under the big old black kettle that was used for the butchering, and warm her water and her man would come with her and keep her company. He didn't do much work--once in a while he'd help her hang. And my mother fed them lunch, but they wouldn't come in the house and eat, they always ate out by the campfire. But it was a big help, because the washing got done.
SA: Where did they live?
MP: They lived, some of them, at Rattlesnake Hill, at the Indian camp. But I understand that they were scattered around in other places too. I really don't know too much about that.
SA: Now, who were the Indian children who were in your school, where did they live?
MP: I never did know any of them personally, because none of them ever went to the Soda Lake School. When I got into high school, I think the Indian children had still not become used to going to high school, and there were none in the high school when I was there. [End of tape 1]
[Beginning of tape 2 cut off, but original transcript notes the following:
SA: I want to go back to elementary school again, because there's some things we didn't cover. Tell me a little more about your elementary school. What was the highest grade in that school?
MP: I had one more teacher that we forgot or missed. His name was Albert E. Welsh. He was a fine teacher too. I was the big girl in school yet, the only] eighth grader, so he gave me lots of attention. I was very fortunate in history and geography and that kind of thing, because he was so careful. I was the only eighth-grade graduate ever from the old Soda Lake School. The building was moved up toward Soda Lake in that part of the country, and we made a community hall out of it. I have an idea it is still there. We had lots of dances and parties and picnics and plays in it after it was moved.
SA: Was there a little celebration when you completed the eighth grade?
MP: I don't remember that there was. I was sent to town to this great big school with about fifty people there in the room with me--I felt like I was in the middle of New York State--to take the eighth-grade examinations. They were called "state" examinations. And I looked around, and I'd always been the big girl, I felt so strange taking the eighth-grade examinations. But I passed.
SA: When you say "big girl," were you tall for your age?
MP: Yes, I was tall.
SA: Do you know what school you went to for those exams?
MP: We went to the old Orvis Ring School.
SA: In Fallon?
MP: Yeah, and they had gathered all of the country kids--I wasn't the only country kid there--who probably felt the same way I did. But all of the eighth graders were sent in to that school to take the state eighth-grade examinations.
SA: Did you have a summer off before high school?
MP: Oh sure.
SA: Was ninth grade the start of high school or junior high school?
MP: It was, those days, senior high school. That's all there was, the four grades, four years.
SA: So what I want you to tell me is your very first day when you went to your high school--several questions--how did you get there? and tell me what the experience was like.
MP: (chuckles) I felt very strange and timid. I do know that there were other children coming from other country schools, so there were a lot of us that were strange, but we went to the little old four-room, original Fallon High School. I rode horseback to get there, and of course I felt very strange. But I soon fit into it, and realized there was a lot of other people like me too.
SA: Had you been riding a horse on the ranch for several years?
MP: Oh yes. Nobody had a bicycle, because there was too much sand. We rode horses.
SA: Did you have your own horse?
MR No, not particularly. We had two or three at different times, and everybody rode them.
SA: How old were you when you started ninth grade in high school?
MP: I was fourteen.
SA: How long did it take you by horse to get to school?
MP: About twenty-five minutes.
SA: What kind of clothes did the girls wear? Here you're riding a horse--did they let you wear Levis?
MP: My mother was very sensible, I think. She always said, "Put your jeans on"--I just had plain jeans like my brothers did--"and a skirt under." Sometimes your skirt got a little wrinkled, but you didn't worry about that, because there were a lot of other people. . . So we wore our pants and crawled off of the horse and slipped the pants off.
SA: Now, did you ride by horse alone? Or did you have other friends nearby who were going in?
MP: No, I was all by myself.
SA: How did that feel the first time you did that?
MP: I can't remember--probably pretty strange, because I didn't even go to town very often.
SA: You didn't before that, hardly ever?
SA: Did you soon feel a freedom, getting away from all the chores of the ranch and having your own life at high school?
MP: I didn't do that. I got up at six o'clock every morning and went with my brothers to milk. I didn't get away from the work at all. In fact, I think probably we worked harder and harder. We just went to school. We were encouraged to do our homework, if we had it, at night. It was a busy, busy life.
SA: Did you begin to make friends in your high school class?
MP: Oh yes, very soon, and still have some of those friends.
SA: Now tell me a little, in your own words, about your high school years.
MP: Well, there were no electric lights. We did have bathrooms with flush toilets. The school had a stove in each room, with four teachers--one of them was the principal. When I was a freshman, they had built an annex to hold the overflow. And the freshmen had their English and math out in the little annex building, taught by our principal.
SA: What was his name, do you know?
MP: Mr. McKillop. I remember I decided I was going to be a secretary, so I started right in, taking commercial subjects: commercial arithmetic, commercial law, commercial geography, spelling, penmanship--with an idea to be a stenographer.
SA: Now, did you go from class-to-class with different teachers when you were in high school?
MP: Yes, we did. Of course, I was commercial and I had mostly the commercial teacher who taught the more advanced commercial work. But also the commercial arithmetic and the penmanship and spelling. So I had the same teacher for three subjects, with the principal for my English.
SA: Who was that teacher?
MP: Her name was Ruth Evans. She was right out of college, and if I ever had a teacher who was a driver, she was it! I worked and worked and worked.
SA: Did you have any social life in high school?
MP: None at all, except just with each other. We didn't have dances or food or anything like that. We all took our lunch and we sat in our own room and ate our lunches. We didn't have any place to play outside, so we would, more than anything else, just sit around and kind of visit and relax until the bell rang.
SA: Did you begin to like the boys?
MP: Yes, I had a boy that my eye was on. He couldn't see me, though--not even my red hair.
SA: Oh, you had red hair! I'd love to see a picture. When did you have your first boyfriend where you liked each other? Was it in high school?
MP: No. I had a boyfriend that we were just friends because we were both commercial students, and we helped each other with our work. I never felt very romantic toward him, but we were good friends. His name was Edwin Coe, but I had no attachment to him, except completely on my schoolwork.
SA: Did you enjoy all these courses?
MP: Oh yes, I loved my friends. I soon made lots of good friends and enjoyed them very much.
SA: Did you ever go into Fallon with a group of friends? Were there dances or movies in town? What did teenage kids do for fun then, in high school years?
MP: I know what we did, and I know an awful lot about what the neighbor children did--it was pretty much the same thing. I don't know what the town kids did. I think they probably did go to shows once in a while. I got to a show once in a while, I knew what it was.
SA: But mainly you just went home and. .
MP: We just went home. And as I say, when we wanted company, we whistled, and a neighbor came running. We kids got together, but we were working an awful lot of the time. We changed each other. If the neighbors were doing something or they were too busy, then we went to their place and helped. It was a very close neighborhood.
SA: Now, when it was haying time, or a busy time on the ranch, did your father bring in outside help?
SA: And where would he get them, and who would they be?
MP: They were bums. We called them bundle stiffs. "Bundle" for their bundle of bedding that they hung on their backs. I suppose they were railroad bums. They got in by the railroad, and they would come to the ranches looking for work.
SA: Oh, they would come?
MP: Oh yes, right. They always came. We had many, many of them that we couldn't hire at all. But they came, and during the haying season, they came in by hundreds, into Fallon. There were nice young men among them, too--very interesting boys. But my parents made it very clear to me that I was not to be interested.
SA: Did they stay in a bunk? Did they stay at your place? Did they eat with you, or what?
MP: We had a big screened porch on the front of our house, and my father always had enough spring cots for his hired men to sleep out there. That was where they slept, and they ate with us.
SA: Was that interesting?
MP: Oh yes! It was always interesting. As I say, they were interesting young men. They were all young. I can remember one that even decided he wanted to marry me. (laughter)
SA: That's what I was wondering! And you resisted! (laughter) Did you find out, what states did they come from?
MP: Yes. And sometimes they would walk and be awfully tired and would just fall dead, almost, when they would arrive, because they had walked so far to get there. Yes, they became very friendly. They were always nice to the kids, and my little brothers loved them. [tape cuts]
SA: Did your father ever hire Indian men to work for him?
MR Yes, we had Indian hay men quite frequently.
SA: Tell me about that.
MP: Well, there isn't a whole lot to tell.
- Were they from the nearby Indian colony?
MP: I don't know where they came from, actually. It's a shame I don't know more about them.
SA: But they came and went?
MP: They came and went--they never did stay. We never had an Indian man stay long, no.
SA: Now, over those years, through your starting high school to the end of high school--and again, thinking about the irrigation project and the water--Were there any droughts or water problems?
MP: There were certainly never any droughts to my knowledge.
SA: So that period, the Newlands Project, the Lahontan Dam Project was very successful?
MP: Really, yes, very encouraging.
SA: Now, looking around the whole area where you were, from the time you came, what were the changes? Trees growing? What was the change in the landscape because of all of this irrigation and growing? How did the landscape there change, over, let's say, from the time you were eleven until. . . How old were you when you graduated high school? Seventeen?
MP: I was eighteen.
SA: Through that period, what kind of changes did you observe?
MP: Well, of course there were lots more people came to Fallon, and people came and filed on the eighty acres. The Soda Lake District filled up with lots of people. That was the first part of the land, I think, that became arid. They lost their water up close to the Soda Lake, and that district, I believe now is pretty desolate. It had begun even to show before I left Fallon. But it grew slowly, alright. It was a slow thing. I wasn't impressed, particularly, by how many people were coming in and out.
SA: Were there people that you met, did you know where they were coming from?
MP: Yes, quite a few people came in from Montana and Idaho. And some from Utah I remember. Mostly western, California.
SA: Do you know--of course you were still young--did they hear about the homesteading possibilities that were happening, and TCID [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District] was promoting homesteaders to come in to develop the land. Did anyone talk about that?
MP: Well, I didn't know any of them until after they had filed and were settled on their spots, because they didn't get with us much. As I said, we were a close neighborhood, but later when I was growing up and a young gal going to dances--particularly when we began having parties in the old Soda Lake Schoolhouse--then we began to meet these new people who had come in and settled up there. I had one of them for a boyfriend for a while, who had settled in the Soda Lake District.
SA: Where did his family come from?
MP: I think he was from Washington.
SA: You said you started to have dances at the Soda Lake School. Tell me what that was about.
MP: Well, we had lots of fun.
SA: What grade were you in then? How old were you? Or was this after school?
MP: Oh, all the way, probably, from the time we started high school. My sister and I and my oldest two brothers. Many times the whole family would go, even, and put the babies to sleep, and everybody would dance and have lots of fun. But by the time I was about sixteen, seventeen years old, I had learned to play the piano well enough. Now, I'm not a pianist, but I had learned to play well enough so I could play the dance tunes that we were doing. And so I would play the piano. I didn't get to do much dancing. But I had two partners, a young man who played a guitar and one who played banjo, and the three of us would get going and get warmed up and make lots of noise. But as I say, I did more playing the piano many times than I did dancing.
SA: Did you use a music score, or just by ear?
MP: No, we had music. As I say, I'm not a musician. I played chords entirely, and for my bass I didn't read the bass at all. I looked at the key and just started playing chords, but it was fine to dance to.
SA: So how old were you through that period? Were you high school age?
MP: Oh yes, I was still in high school.
SA: This was the Soda Lake. . . .
MP: Soda Lake Community Center.
SA: That sounds like fun. Did your dad and mom go sometimes?
SA: Did they dance?
MP: My father never danced, but when he was there, he'd sometimes join us with his harmonica.
SA: How wonderful! I wish there were pictures of that.
MP: It was lots of fun.
SA: Now, during the time that you arrived through high school and your mom had the two children, what was the health care like in that region? Were there doctors, hospitals? What happened if someone had an accident? What was the health care like?
MP: There were two doctors that I knew personally: Dr. Lehners, and . . I can't tell you the other doctor's name, I've forgotten. I may think of it. But the one was always designated as the high school doctor, and if we had been absent from school because we were sick, we had to go into his office early in the morning before school, and get an excuse to go back to school, telling us we were well enough to go back to school. He had to get up early every morning (chuckles) in order to give us our excuses so we could go back to school.
SA: What about other things, like if someone needed surgery or had a very, very bad accident? Was there good medical care? Anything like that ever happen in your big family?
MP: I think Fallon always had a little hospital of some kind, but I don't ever remember any of my family having to take advantage of it, even the cousins.
SA: That's fortunate! Because I know some of the rural areas where I interview, there's such problems with the medical care. And your mom, when she had her children, there was no problem?
MP: No, the doctor came to our house, and my aunt came up when both little boys were born. That was all there was, my father and his sister and the doctor.
SA: And fortunately she didn't have any problems?
MP: No, apparently she didn't have any problems at all.
SA: Now, in 1914, the building of Lahontan Dam was completed, and you were here. There was a celebration. Did you know anything about that?
MP: No, I don't remember going to it. It's a wonder we didn't. I can't remember missing much of that, but somebody may have gone, I don't remember.
SA: Probably all just too busy.
MP: But when we first came to Nevada, it was already under construction. We went more than once. We put up a big lunch and drove a team of horses. Of course it took most of the day. We had a few hours there. The weather was very hot, there wasn't a tree anyplace.
SA: No trees yet?!
MP: No, not yet. And we could look down into this hole where the government was building with all the instruments, the wagons, the scrapers, that kind of thing--all of the construction material. And they looked like little toys down in there. And all of the power was government mules. They had hundreds of big, beautiful mules that did all the work. And we used to sit up there and watch them work down in the hole, on mostly the south rim at that point. It was real interesting. We used to always be terribly interested in it, of course. And the lake that they made, using the material from the lake, made Lahontan Lake behind it. They were shoving all this material into the dam, pulled by all these big mules.
SA: Isn't that interesting?! Now, do you have any recollection, because to build that dam they had to bring in many, many workers--even from Europe. There were Slays from Eastern Europe, and they had camps. One was Bunker Hill, I think. Do you remember seeing any of the work camps or any of the workers who were working on the dam? Or were they just too far from you?
MP: Something I just don't remember. They probably were.
SA: I'm sure they were closer to the dam. But when you saw the mules, you probably saw a lot of workers there.
MP: Oh yes, there were lots of men.
SA: Now, World War I, were you old enough to observe how it affected the region, the Fallon area and Churchill County? Did it affect your family?
MP: Oh, it changed everything, very much. Everybody joined in the war effort. I was a freshman in high school. In the spring along about March, the government asked the schools to dismiss their boys so they could go out and work on the ranches. So all the boys just flew out of school. There may have been three or four left in school, but they were out planting and doing gardening and that kind of thing. So the school was all girls the last three or four months. We went out selling liberty bonds around the town. My father put every dime he had into savings, into government bonds. Everybody did. It was a complete. . . . Everybody went all out. I don't remember anybody that wasn't completely convinced that this was everybody's work. We left school and went to the train to see the boys off. Every time a contingent of boys left--two, three, five--we always went to the train to see them off. It changed everybody's life.
SA: Of course your brothers were too young yet, and they wouldn't take [your father,] the main rancher, would they. What was the feeling in the town? Were there shortages because of everything because of the war needs for materials? Was it hard to get anything?
MP: (chuckles) That, I don't remember at all. There was no shortage, of course, because an awful lot of people were farmers, so we had lots of food. We probably already had our tools. I don't remember any shortages at that point. It was the Second World War that we. . . .
SA: Well, after the war, 1916, I read where it was a very busy time in the Fallon area, because beef and hay prices rose, and there was a boom in construction, because everything had been at a standstill. Did you observe any of that new boom time where the economy was strong and the sales were good? Did you see a change in your family?
MP: Yes, everybody had money--that was one thing. There was no poverty after that.
SA: No street people.
MR But very shortly after that, they had. . . . I guess it was before--we had an oil boom at Fallon. That was a very interesting time at Fallon. They dug dozens of wells, and that was another thing at the school that was very exciting. If the news came that they struck oil, everybody went, climbed into all the old jalopies that we farm kids were driving to school, and went to the oil well. We walked right out of school, right out the front hall, with the principal sitting at his desk, and he just couldn't do a thing about it. We just went to the oil well.
SA: How far away was the oil well?
MP: Well, they were some of them three to five miles out of town, of course. (chuckles) It's the only time I can ever remember in school, of the children taking charge.
SA: What grade were you in when this was happening?
MP: I probably was a junior or so.
SA: Did your family do any speculation in oil stock? A lot of people were.
MP: None at all.
SA: It was quite a popular thing. We didn't cover your finally being able to drive a car! Tell me exactly when, how you learned, how old you were.
MP: I was only fourteen years old when I learned to drive the old copper-front Ford. It had a crank, and I learned to crank it up.
SA: Who taught you? Your father?
MP: My father taught me to drive it, because he needed me to take the cream to town every morning. So instead of riding a horse--I rode a horse at first, but only for a few days, because he soon got the idea that there was no reason why I shouldn't take the cream to town every day. So it was very simple. I could clean the carburetor myself. It was a very simple sort of thing. You pretty soon knew all about it. I never did change a tire, but the roads were poor, lots of chuckholes. But it was thrilling. When my sister then got into high school the next year, she went with me and we still took the cream to town every day.
SA: Was it legal? Were you allowed to drive at that young an age? Did you have a license?
MP: Nobody knew anything about a license or anything. There were absolutely no laws about driving at all. You got stuck and dug yourself out and went on if you could.
SA: How many other kids your age were driving then?
MP: Well, probably not very many, because I suppose they didn't all have something that the parents needed. There was still an awful lot of children riding horses to school. [End of tape 2 side A]
SA: Were you the only one in your class driving to school? Did everyone kind of look up to you and be jealous?
MP: (chuckles) I don't know about that at all, but I probably was the only one that came every morning.
SA: Did they want to get in the car with you and ride around?
MP: No, I had a little boyfriend that we cut school once or twice to take a little ride, but we did it very discretely--I didn't want anybody to know. (laughs)
SA: How cute! How could you do it discretely?
MP: You sneak out very quietly, and you hope the car doesn't backfire. (laughter)
SA: How did your parents feel? Did they know?
MP: No, I don't think they ever had the slightest idea.
SA: Uh-huh, would have wanted you to come home to work. (laughter) Now, did your family raise the Hearts-O-Gold cantaloupe?
MP: Never, except just for the family.
SA: Did you buy it and eat it?
MP: We would buy them often, and my brothers for years--I had one particular brother who brought me Hearts-O-Gold on my birthday, even clear up to the time I was ninety years old.
SA: Oh, how sweet!
MP: Wasn't that sweet?
SA: Now what about turkeys?
MP: No, we never did raise turkeys.
SA: Did you buy the turkeys from someone else?
MP: No. My aunt was a turkey raiser, so that was one gift we got every year of the world--two or three of them.
SA: What year did you finish high school?
MP: In 1920.
SA: I don't want to leave the high school years until we drain it. When you were a senior, were you beginning to develop an idea of what you wanted to do when you finished high school?
MP: Well, as I say, I went to work for Mr. Haight before I graduated at all.
SA: When would you go, when would you work?
MP: About March, I think I probably went back and went to work for Mr. Haight.
SA: When you were in high school, you said you were working for him.
MP: Yeah, about in March, before I graduated.
SA: So would you go after school or Saturdays?
MP: No, they let me off. I went about one o'clock in the afternoon and worked about four hours.
SA: So it was almost like an internship, part of your studies?
SA: Did you get paid?
MP: Yes, I got paid something. I remember just hanging onto it, because later I decided I wanted to go to college, and I didn't spend my money. (laughs)
SA: And your mother let you save it, they didn't take it from you?
MP: Oh no, never.
SA: Do you know what they paid you?
MP: Probably about forty dollars a month, I really don't know.
SA: What were some of the things you did?
MP: Oh, I did shorthand and typing. That's all.
SA: Did you like it?
MP: Yes, I loved it. I always had a facility for being able to write, so I wrote beautiful shorthand, I was proud of it. But I never was as good in typing. (laughs)
SA: So then when you graduated high school, was there a graduation ceremony?
MP: Yes, indeed, there was.
SA: Describe it.
MP: We had our nice new high school--new then. I think they're still using it, but it's been built onto--the one on South Maine Street there.
SA: Oh yes. Now, what year were you in when you started to go to that school?
MP: The second year. I just went one year to the little old four-room school.
SA: How did it feel to go into the big school?
MP: Oh, it was wonderful! We had a whole department of our own for commercial, a whole wing of the school was commercial, with a special room for our typewriters. It was just like an all-new world.
SA: What year was that, about?
MP: That would have been 1917, wouldn't it?
SA: How many kids, approximately, were in the whole school?
MP: I hate to guess, I wouldn't know. A hundred to a hundred fifty, probably all together.
SA: Anything new in those years at the big school, before we graduate?
MP: (chuckles) Well, we had a library room, all just for nothing but library. We had a beautiful auditorium where we could play basketball. Had a big stage. And a foyer that went all the way around the auditorium. The classrooms were built around the auditorium, with the stage at the back, and I think it's probably still pretty much the same. I haven't been in it for years now.
SA: So that was exciting.
MP: Oh, it was wonderful! Yeah, I loved it. I just loved every day of school.
SA: Oh, how wonderful. Tell me now about the graduation ceremony.
MP: The girls all wore white dresses.
SA: How many kids in the graduation, about?
MP: There were seventeen. There were only two of us who were originally started four years before. The boys did not come back to school. When they left to go out on the war effort, they just didn't get back to school. And so the class was mostly girls. I know I had a special white dress, it was long, and we had a dance.
SA: Where did you get the dress?
MP: My mother made it.
SA: (gasps) She took time to make it!
MP: Oh, she sewed beautifully--so do I. (laughs)
SA: Oh really? Back up just a little. When did you start to learn to sew?
MP: As soon as my legs were long enough to reach the pedal on the old treadle sewing machine, I was sewing up the long seams on my little brothers' shirts.
SA: (admiringly) Oh!
MP: It was a family effort the whole way.
SA: How wonderful. Now, did your whole family come to your graduation?
MP: No, I don't think the little people. . . I can't remember what was done with the little people that night.
SA: Were there still little people?
MP: Yes, I'm sixteen years older than my baby brother, and I was only eighteen--he was only two. I think it may have been my aunt that rescued my parents so they could go. But they all went, yeah.
SA: Do you have any pictures?
MP: No. No, no pictures.
SA: Oh, that breaks my heart!
MP: I have one picture of my sister and I that was taken before we graduated.
SA: Now the day you graduated, did you have a dance? How did you celebrate?
MP: We had a dance, right in the auditorium.
SA: Did you have a beau?
MP: We couldn't dance, any of us, but we tried.
SA: Did you have a special boyfriend at graduation?
MP: No, in those days, never. There was no pairing-off at all.
SA: So now you graduate. Then what did you do?
MP: I went to the university to the summer session that summer, because that was the spring that I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer, that I'd rather be a schoolteacher.
SA: When you say "the university," where was that?
MP: The University of Nevada in Reno, and spent the summer session.
SA: Did you live there on campus?
MP: I went to the university just the first semester. At the end of the first semester, my father and mother did not have money enough to help both of us--my sister and I--who had both graduated, back to school. I was old enough to do other things, so I volunteered to be the one that not go back to school. I would go back to high school and work, and she could go ahead to college. So that's the way it was. I went home and took the state teachers' examinations and passed.
SA: Let me back up a little bit. You went one summer semester to the university. That's when you were eighteen years old, when you graduated high school. You went one summer.
MP: Nineteen. And then I went just regular session one semester.
SA: Okay, one semester, so that took you into the next year. And that's when there wasn't enough money and you came home.
SA: How did you feel about that?
MP: Well, of course I was disappointed, but I was terribly interested in other things. I didn't let it bother me. I thought, "I have time, I'll do it later," and I did do it later.
SA: You came home?
MR I came home and I took the state teachers' examinations and went back to high school the second semester.
SA: To do what? What did you go back to high school to do?
MR I just took more. For instance, I hadn't had my algebra. I just picked up the things that I needed.
SA: Algebra and what else?
MP: I only took two courses. Let's see. , . . French!
SA: And did you work too?
MP: No, I just worked at home with both my folks--I didn't have a job.
SA: They probably were glad to have you home, with the little baby there and all the work that needed to be done.
MP: Vikey would have been about three, my baby brother. And of course I helped, did everything: milked cows and took care of the babies--whatever.
SA: How did you feel about that after being in college a while?
MP: Well, as I say, I didn't like it, but I can't remember letting it bother me too much, because I felt I had lots of time. I didn't have a boyfriend, I wasn't planning to get married, I had my future. I could go back to school--I knew I could.
SA: Tell me what your sister was like, that she was going?
MP: Well, she was like me, she had worked at everything. And she did fine. She didn't have honor grades, but she did alright. She just buckled down and came home again in summer and went back on the ranch and worked again. We stayed at home as much as we could.
SA: Did she go back the second year to college?
MP: She went all the four years, regularly. She didn't miss at all.
SA: Now let's move back to you. What did you then do? You took your state exam, then what?
MP: That summer I made applications to several schools. I didn't want to leave home, my mother wasn't very well. I would rather have stayed at home, so I thought maybe I could teach in one of the country schools that were still open down there. The Northam School was still open. It's the Swingle Bench School. And I went and applied, and sure enough, they gave me the school. So I walked in to teach, three days after my twentieth birthday--in to teach school at Northam School. It was an eight-grade school. I didn't have any eighth-grader that year. I had a seventh-grader, her name was Eleanor Robinson. She's still living, as far as I know. I've talked to her over the phone in the last few years. She taught in Reno. We taught together--we didn't teach in the same building, but we taught at the same time in Reno later. I had about fourteen to seventeen children.
SA: Where was the location of the school?
MP: It was just below the bench, near the river, east of Lahontan Dam.
SA: Okay, so you had to live there?
MP: No, I went back and forth in the old Ford.
SA: Oh, so you stayed at home, but you'd go to teach, and then go home.
MP: Uh-huh. During the winter, it was a winter that we had a very heavy winter with lots of snow, so I couldn't go back and forth during January, February, along there, so Mrs. Morgan asked me if I wanted to live with them. So I moved into the Morgans', and Echo Morgan, one of my fifth graders, she and I went back and forth in a buggy with a horse to school every day. She still lives in Fallon--her name is Echo Woods. I talked to her within the last three or four years.
SA: Was she teaching too?
MP: She taught later, yes.
SA But when they asked you to live with them, were you friends with them? What initiated their asking you to live with them?
MP: No, I didn't know them before at all. Of course they were parents of Echo. Echo was a fifth-grader.
SA: Oh, she was a student of yours!
MP: Oh yes.
SA: I see. How did it work, living in the home with the student of yours?
MP: Oh, it was fine. They were a nice family too. I enjoyed them. They were English people. They both had been born in England, and Echo and I, as I say, went back and forth to school together.
SA: Did you drive?
MP: Drove a horse. Sometimes we rode horseback, but mostly. . . . We had to take our lunches, and I had papers and things that had to be taken home and taken care of at night, so we needed the buggy, really. We took the buggy mostly.
SA: Now, when you were living there, did you have some privacy, or were you part of the family, or what would you do in your after-school time?
MP: I had my own room, but I ate three meals a day with them when I was there. Mrs. Morgan had a brother who was younger than she, who showed me a real nice time. We got very close, really. He was quite a bit older than I, but he was very pleasant. It made things very pleasant for me.
SA: And when did you go home? Weekends?
MP: No, not even weekends, because the weather was so bad that we couldn't even get back and forth. It was about seventeen or eighteen miles.
SA: Oh my! So how long did you teach there?
MP: Just one year.
SA: And then what?
MP: And then the superintendent of schools came to visit me, and the second time in the spring when he came, and he got the school over and sat down to talk to me, he said to me he was delighted with what I was doing. He was very impressed with my attitude toward my pupils, and did I want to teach in town?
SA: Oh! (laughter)
MP: And I said, “I certainly would love that."
SA: And that's in Fallon?
MP: That's in Fallon.
SA: Then what did you do?
MP: That was what I did! I moved into a second grade in the fall.
SA: What school?
MP: The old West End School.
SA: Did you live at home?
MP: Yes, I lived at home, all the time. That way I could help my mother.
SA: Uh-huh, and it saved money.
MP: Oh sure! Never paid a dime in my life at home!
SA: So tell me what changes there were in Fallon by then, to the town itself. What kind of changes in town?
MP: Well, the schools had consolidated--all of them, by that time.
SA: What year is this by now?
MP: It would have to be 1921, I started teaching in Fallon.
SA: In the town, were there more trees, more houses? Was it getting busy?
MP: Yes, it was beginning to grow up, and we had this nice big school.
SA: Were there any new stores and buildings on the main street?
MP: Yes, it was beginning to build up. I can remember when we first began to get two-story buildings, and the buildings didn't look like they'd had their heads chopped off.
SA: [Laughs] Now, I don't know what time period, but I learned that the Stockade in Fallon was the only big auction place in all of Nevada. Do you remember when they first started that auction?
MP: That was all after I left Fallon, but there's two things that I can remember, that I don't know if you want to talk about: The socialist colony was formed, and the consolidated schools.
SA: Oh yes, definitely. Let's go to the socialist colony now. What can you tell me about that?
MP: Well, first, I know there has been a book written about it. A university professor wrote a book about it, and he called me and asked me what I knew. My parents were never much interested. My father had been for years the president of the socialist local down there. He was very active in that. A very active man, in fact, in a lot of ways. But when it came to joining the colony, we didn't. But the cousins' family did—
SA: When you say cousins’ family…
MP: the aunt and uncle who were here before us.
SA: They joined. Did they come here because of it?
MP: No, it was years afterward. The first organization meeting my family went to, I was taken along. My father took me with him, and we met in the school building. A fellow named Eggleston was selling it.
SA: Was selling what?
MP: The colony, the idea of a socialist colony.
SA: What year was this, about? How old were you?
MP: I probably was sixteen or seventeen, I don't know for sure. But it was a complete failure. Those people who joined lost their properties and their homes and took back the old remaining, what was left of their neglected properties afterward. It was a very sad venture.
SA: Take me through the steps, because when you say they lost. . . He was selling it. What was the concept? What did people do? Take me through the steps of this failure.
MP: Well, of course the steps were, like any community group that forms and moves together, purposely for the benefit of everybody else, they were to join their labor and their money and their property. And I can't tell you how big the place was, but it was one of those big ranches southeast of Fallon.
SA: Now who owned that land?
MP: I have no idea. I wasn't that familiar with it. It was a sad story, because after about two years, my uncle and his family moved back onto their deserted place, and had to practically start over again, to plant the alfalfa and to clean the irrigating ditches and start over again.
SA: I want to go back again. There was a man that met with you who was selling the idea. Did he own that land?
MP: He had nothing, as far as I know. I have an idea it was rented, leased. It was ranches down in the Harmon School District.
SA: So what were people doing? For instance, let's take your cousins. What did they do?
MP: They just picked up everything, their clothes and furniture, and moved down there. They were building houses. They were small, they didn't amount to anything. This big family, I'm sure, had kind of a bad time.
SA: Did they have to put in money?
MP: I don't know how much money. Maybe I shouldn't try to talk about it. But there is a book written about it.
SA: I want it from your own experience.
MP: Well, it was just the sadness of my uncle and his family.
SA: How long a period were they involved with all this?
MP: Two or three years.
SA: Do you know about how many other people did this? Did you ever ride down there and see what it was like?
MP: No, I was never there.
SA: No firsthand view of it?
MP: But apparently there were hundreds of people.
SA: Oh, hundreds. Because I know that the colony sent out promotionals all over the country, and people came.
MP: Yes, they did.
SA: So your cousins: did it devastate, did it kind of ruin them? They had to start over?
MP: Uh-huh. So apparently the people who came from out of state had to put in money.
SA: That's too bad. How many years did you teach in Fallon?
MP: I taught two years in the public schools of Fallon, and the one year in Northam--just three years in Churchill County.
SA: Okay, and then where did your life take you?
MP: l went back to college. (laughs)
SA: To the University of Nevada Reno?
MP: Yes, back to the University of Nevada.
SA: You saved your money?
MP: I bought an automobile (laughter) while I was teaching, and when I decided I was going back to college, I sold the automobile and took the money and put it in my pocket and went back to school. I worked my way all the way. I never went to the University of Nevada one day that I didn't work.
SA: What kind of work?
MP: I worked in the dining hall, university dining hall. The most beautiful people, the most beautiful friends I've ever made, worked with me. None of us had any money, but we had our backs. I only completed one full year, again, then. When the year was out, I was broke.
SA: What did you take that year?
MP: I took home economics. I was registered in home economics first, so I went back and continued one more whole year with my home economics.
SA: Did you live on campus in a dorm?
MP: I lived in Manzanita Hall. I had a boyfriend, and he came every day. Every night we went out together. He was not going to college any more. He had been going.
SA: Where did you meet him?
MP: That's a long story. He came down to Fallon on a Thanksgiving break with my sister and her boyfriend, and stayed in Fallon, never left. (laughs)
SA: So you met him when she. . .
MP: Uh-huh, I met [him when] the kids crawled off of the bus, and he said, "When I saw that red hair. . ." (laughter)
SA: Oh! I want to see a picture of you.
MP: I went to meet the bus and picked them up to take them home, and they stayed over Thanksgiving, but he kept coming back.
SA: Is this the man you married?
MP: This is the man I married. I was married for sixty-three years to him! (laughs)
SA: We'll get into that later! Let's get you back to college. You finished that year, and then?
MP: Then I kept house for eighteen years.
SA: You got married?
MP: Yeah, and had two children.
SA: Wait a minute, back up. Okay, you met this fellah. How old was he when you first met him?
MP: He was not twenty-one years old yet. I had just had my twenty-first birthday.
SA: Okay, two young kids. Where did he come from?
MP: He was a Yerington boy.
SA: Oh, near! You had never seen him before?
MP: I saw him play basketball when I was in high school. He was on the Dayton High School basketball team, and I was on the Fallon--but I didn't remember him, and he didn't remember me.
SA: Okay, it wasn't time yet.
MP: I know he was playing, however.
SA: So then when he met you here, did he move to Reno while you finished college?
MP: He was in Reno, going to college, and so he came down. He was going to college then. I had been out teaching. In the meantime, he had gone to college.
SA: So you saw each other every day when you were going to college?
MP: Oh no. I wasn't going to college, I was teaching at Fallon, and my sister brought him with her for Thanksgiving vacation. And I was teaching. I figured I was an old maid schoolteacher, I wouldn't be interested at all. I would be taking care of these people, helping my mother cook, cook, cook.
SA: Oh, you were going to be a martyr! (laughs)
MP: Wash dishes, whatever they needed. We had a dance, I played the piano, so I didn't even get to dance with him! (laughs)
SA: But then you said you went for a year to Reno to college, and then I thought you said this boy came to see you every night. Where did he come to see you?
MP: I had met him before while I was teaching at Fallon, and he was living in Reno, but not going to college.
SA: Okay, so then when you went to college...
MP: He came up to Manzanita Hall every night.
SA: In other words, when you met him in Fallon, and you went to college, you were both already…
MP: We'd already gone together.
SA: Already going together. Okay, that's the little link I missed.
MP: Yeah, and the funny part of it was, that every time that the kids went to do something, they went to Rattlesnake Hill, they went to Soda Lake, they went to Lahontan--he was always in the kitchen with my mother instead of going with the kids!
SA: You're kidding! Oh, she liked him then? She always liked him?
MP: No, the point was that I didn't go on these trips, I was home. My sister got kind of mad at him, because he wouldn't go any place with her--he was staying where I was.
SA: Was it her boyfriend?!
MP: No, he was not. She had her boyfriend with her too.
SA: Okay. So how long did this romance go on before you married?
MP: Oh, let's see, it was two years and a half or so, before we married.
SA: You knew you were going to get married, you both were getting serious?
MP: Yeah, that's why I went back to take home economics. I wanted to take childcare and whatever.
SA: As if you didn't take care of enough children! (laughter) [End of tape 2]
SA: Margaret, I want to bring you back to Fallon from Reno, because I know there are some more questions I have, and some things we probably haven't covered in your life here in Fallon. Are there some things that you want to tell us about?
MP: Well, first, I wanted to tell you about my little Ford that I paid three hundred dollars for! (laughter) It was brand-spanking new and shiny. I bought it the second year I was teaching school. The roads were poor--in fact, they were just barely roads. The tires were poor. We had flat tires all the time. The little old Ford had to be cranked. It was even light enough, two men could just lift it out of a mud hole. I bought it in my first year of teaching. I got one hundred dollars a month salary for nine months.
SA: You mean they didn't pay you for your summer off?
MP: No, indeed.
SA: What color was your car?
MP: It was black. All automobiles were black in those days, I think.
SA: Did you feel pretty prosperous, buying a brand new car?
MP: (laughs) Well, it was very important, because I was driving ten miles to teach school.
SA: Were you one of the only young women your age with a brand new car like that?
MP: As far as I know, I was the only person. (laughs)
SA: Were your parents proud of you?
MP: I hope they were.
SA: How long did you keep that car?
MP: Just the two years that I was teaching in Fallon. I sold it and took the money and went back to college.
SA: What did you get for it when you sold it?
MP: I think only two hundred dollars. But it didn't cost much to go to college in those days either! (laughter)
SA: What else did we forget to cover in your life in Fallon?
MP: I thought you might be interested in how important the duck hunting was in the family. My father was an excellent hunter, and he used to hitch up his team to the big spring wagon, and drive clear down to the Lahontan Sink, which was miles--acres and acres covered with water in those days. Then he would come home with fifty or more ducks.
SA: Did he go by himself?
MP: He'd go all by himself, because the boys were still young. And when he got home, we had to draw and take care of all those ducks, and hang them in the smokehouse so they wouldn't spoil, so we could eat them later. But it had to be cold weather before he could go. My mother cooked them beautifully, and we ate hundreds of them.
SA: Now, who cleaned them?
MP: The whole family who were able. We used to have contests to see how quickly we could clean a duck of every feather.
SA: That was a smart way to get you to all do that! As the big girl in the family, what were some of the other chores that you had to do?
MP: I remember particularly one that was very difficult. I was the gal who cleaned the old coal oil lamps. Every Saturday, it had to be cleaned, the same as we had to have a bath. I used to clean the chimneys, fill the lamps with kerosene, and get them ready to light again at night. The best thing was that we discovered mantle lamps. The mantles were very delicate, and broke very easily, but they gave beautiful white lights. We then had mantle lamps. They had to even be more carefully taken care of.
SA: Do you have any left that we could get a picture of? Did you keep any?
MP: Not one.
SA: How many did you have in the house?
MP: We only had the two. One was taken upstairs so it wouldn't have to be hauled up and down stairs, because it was dangerous to the mantles. And the other one was downstairs, and we could move it from room to room.
SA: Anything else before we leave your childhood?
MP: Oh, at one point in my high school freshman year, along the middle of the second semester, I got very unhappy with school. I didn't think the teachers were giving me a break, and I wanted to quit. I knew it was going to be a very touchy subject, and I thought it over very carefully. But that night at dinnertime, I decided it was time to tell my parents the news. I waited for a very quiet moment, and finally said, "I'm going to quit school," and my father very quietly looked up and said, "Yeah, on the toe of my old boot!" (laughter) It never was mentioned again. I kept right on going to school.
SA: Oh my! (laughter) You were talking about this serious man that you were going with. So did you finish that year at college?
MP: I didn't graduate then--and I never did get a degree. I taught school thirty years without a degree. But I kept going to summer school, because I lived right here. And so summer after summer, I went and took six or eight hours. So I have too many credits, but I was too lazy to stop and get the requireds. I wanted to be a better schoolteacher, and I didn't care too much about the degree, so I didn't bother.
SA: That's fine. But now, did you get married?
MP: We got married.
SA: What was your husband-to-be's name?
MP: His name was Harold Pilkington.
SA: Where did you get married?
MP: We got married right here in Reno. We went down to the courthouse and told them we wanted to get married.
SA: Just the two of you?
MP: Just the two of us, And they scared up a couple of young people there to be our best couple. And so we went back and rented a shack to live, and started our married life.
SA: What date was that?
MP: June 2, 1925,
SA: Was there a reason you didn't tell your families?
MP: Well, my mother was in Oklahoma, and we'd been going together for years, so he finally said to me, ''When are we going to get married?" and I said, "Right now!" (laughter)
SA: What was your mother doing in Oklahoma?
MP: She went back to see her parents. Her mother and cousins and family that were still living in Oklahoma.
SA: Where were all the little kids?
MP: Yes, there were still small children. I went down and stayed part of the time with them. I didn't stay here in Reno while they were gone. I had to go back down to Fallon, of course, because that was where I belonged.
SA: What did your dad say when you married? Was that okay with him?
MP: He was with my mother in Oklahoma--they were together. So he didn't even know. I think they were a little shocked when they came home, but they knew that it was going to happen.
SA: So your life then centered in Reno?
MP: From then on, I lived in Reno, right.
SA: How often would you go back to the Fallon area?
MP: Often. We went often.
SA: The questions I want to ask you, you may be able to tell me about, since you did go visiting. First, do you remember when the cottonwood trees were planted on Williams Street?
SA: Were you aware between 1935 and 1941 when the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] came into Fallon to do all the work on the ditches?
MP: Yes, I was. My husband had a half-brother who worked with the CCC here in Reno. I know there's some very nice work they did down at Fallon.
SA: Did you ever observe them, or see where they stayed, or see them in action?
MP: Here in Reno.
SA: But not in Fallon?
MP: Not in Fallon.
SA: Did you ever see the results of their work in Fallon?
MP: Here in Washoe County.
SA: But not in Churchill County?
SA: Okay. Let's move to World War II. Again, were you going up and back to Fallon, or were you mainly....
MP: We were still going back and forth to Fallon to visit.
SA: And through either your observations or your conversations with your family, did it affect--you have many brothers, did any of your brothers have to go into World War II?
MP: My baby brother and my oldest brother were both in the Army. The oldest brother went in as an airplane mechanic--never saw action. And my baby brother was all over. He was in the Oriental area during the war--was not on the Bataan Wars, that kind of thing--but he was in for about four years.
SA: Did you observe or hear from your family what effect it had on Rena, that war? Did it affect the economy, the work on the ranches, the shortage of anything? Were your parents suffering because of it in any way?
MP: I don't think my parents did any suffering over it at all, except, of course, they had their two boys in. But I don't know first-hand about what was going on in Churchill County.
SA: When you went, did you just go to your family ranch, not into Fallon?
MP: Yeah, that's all. Almost entirely, yes.
SA: One other thing that you may or may not be able to tell us: In 1942, when they started to build the big airfield there, did you hear your family talk about how they felt about a big airfield coming into Fallon? Was there any discussion?
MP: I had the oldest brother who had been in the service was also an airplane man. He owned the airport at Fallon for a long time. He flew back and forth, and he was an instructor. He hired a couple of other men, and they were instructors. But that's about all I was affected.
SA: Now, how long did your parents live on the ranch? Did they die on the ranch?
MP: Absolutely. My father dropped dead taking a shovel out to some hired men who were doing hay work, but they needed a shovel to do some ditch work. And he started to walk out, to take the shovel to his hired men out across the field, and fell down, didn't make it to the men. The men had to go to him and carry him in. He was gone.
SA: How old was he?
MP: He was seventy-two years old.
SA: What about your mother?
MP: Of course my mother was all by herself. The boys came carrying my poor father, and of course it was a horrible shock to her. But my mother lived nineteen years afterward, more.
SA: Did your father have a history of a problem?
MP: Yes, we knew that he was having heart problems.
SA: So how did your mother manage without him? What was her life like?
MP: My mother didn't want to live on the ranch by herself. She tried. My older brother was single, and he came and went, but she finally just decided. . . She said to me one day, "I can't live alone." And I suppose it was so hard. She'd had so many... So she said, "I have enough children, I'll just visit around," and that's what she did.
SA: Oh, she didn't keep a home?
MR No, she didn't stay on the ranch.
SA: She spent a little time with each one?
MP: Wherever she wanted to be. We used to joke each other, "Well, has Grandma called you lately and said, 'Come and get me, I want to come!?" (laughter)
SA: Well, where was her base?
MP: She had no base, she lived out of a suitcase. We were going to take her. We were going to quit this business. I hated to see her doing this. And so I said to my two children, 'You're the big people. We can take care of Grandma fine." I was teaching and my husband was still working, but our children were big, and so they got very enthusiastic. We straightened up and fixed a room for her, even put new wallpaper on the room. When she came home, we said, ''Now, you're going to stay. You're not going to bum around." But we never got her out of her suitcase! She never put her clothes in the drawers.
SA: She just wanted to be footloose and fancy free?
MP: She wanted to do that. And she managed to be. I think she lived with every single one of us at times.
SA: How old was she when she died, and where was that?
MP: She was eighty-three, and she was back at Fallon. Of course she was in the Fallon Hospital. She had been living with a brother, my second brother, John, and his wife, at that point. She hadn't left Fallon for a while. I think she'd been there for a couple of years. She'd gotten kind of elderly and couldn't travel so well.
SA: Now did she sell the ranch, or did the boys keep it?
MP: She sold it to brother Jim.
SA: So he ran it. So just tell me very briefly how your life continued. You said you taught most of your life. When did you start teaching again after you married?
MP: I didn't hurry. My husband made the living for nineteen years.
SA: What did he do?
MP: He was a mailman—letter carrier, I believe they call him.
SA: Was he a letter carrier when you married him?
MP: No, he was twenty-nine years old when he started carrying mail. He worked for Union Ice for years, and carried both ice and fuel. And let's see, he worked in a garage for three whole years before. But he finally decided he wanted to do something permanent, so he went working for the government. Then after eighteen, nineteen years of marriage, I decided I'd like to go teaching again.
SA: You had your children?
MP: Yes, my daughter was not quite eighteen, and our son was not quite twelve when I went back teaching school. And I taught then for. . . I finished thirty years. I taught twenty-seven years.
SA: Oh my! Where?
MP: Right here in Washoe County! (chuckles)
SA: What school?
MP: I taught first twenty-three years at the Anderson School, and I substituted for a year under short contracts. And then I did three years at the Catholic schools, both the St. Thomas and St. Albert's.
SA: Wonderful! So you had a late career.
SA: But then your children were big enough you could give it. . . And probably thrilled to get back into a career?
MP: I loved it! I loved every minute of it.
SA: So you were able to retire and get a teacher's retirement, I hope?
MP: Oh sure. I had twenty-seven years with the public school, toward retirement.
SA: Wonderful, wonderful.
MP: And then because I taught three years in the Catholic School, I was under Social Security, so I even have a Social Security check. (chuckles)
SA: Wonderful! And then where did you live before you lived in this beautiful house?
MP: We lived mostly on Mill Street in a great big old house that has since been torn down, and there are two tremendous apartment houses there. One of them is a motel.
SA: Did you sell that house?
SA: When did you move here?
MP: It's been over forty years now since we've been here.
SA: Oh, a long time! It's a beautiful, beautiful home. Is there anything more about your life--particularly with reference to Churchill County--that you want to share before we end the interview?
MP: I've pretty well covered this. I did this with that in mind. I think I've pretty well covered it. We went back often--I'm still in touch with my brothers. I talk to them on the phone. Three of them are gone. My sister is still living in California. That's about it.
SA: Well, you're an amazing woman! I'm just delighted to meet you. I thank you so much for this excellent interview.
MP: It's been fun. You want to see some pictures?
MP: I don’t think I have many you’re interested-- [Tape cuts]
SA: On behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project, I want to thank you for sharing your life with us, and this is the end of the interview.