William A. Powell Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project an interview with WILLIAM A. POWELL
conducted by Sylvia Arden
September 14, 1994 and September 15, 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.
William Charles Powell, a semi-pro baseball player, came to Nevada from Oklahoma with his bride Lola LaFon Ludwick, to play baseball for the Betty O'Neal Mine in Lander County. Their first son, William Allen, Jr., [Al] was born in Battle Mountain in 1910. News about the Newland Irrigation Project enticed Mr. Powell to move to Fallon where he got a job with the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District working on a dragline. He soon left TC1D to work in Hammond's pool hall, which he later purchased, changing the name to Sagebrush Cafe and Bar. As kids, Al and his brother racked pool balls and cleaned spittoons.
Al's maternal grandparents soon left Oklahoma to join them in Fallon where they bought a ranch. Eventually other family members followed in their footsteps and settled in Churchill County.
Al was nine years old when his father bought him a gun, taught him how to use it and took him hunting and fishing. That started a lifetime of his deep interest in hunting and fishing. During his high school years, Al spent the summers working in the hayfields at the Wingfield ranch.
He recalls his dad playing baseball in the town's ball club. He played in the Cubs baseball team for the younger guys. Travelling to the games in surrounding towns was their main entertainment. They also enjoyed ice skating on the canals in the winter, and swimming in the summer.
Al's first job when he finished high school was driving a truck hauling gravel for road construction, living at construction camps. He enjoyed becoming independent. Al married his high school sweetheart, Roberta [Birdie] Baker, worked briefly for the Safeway store, then joined his father in The Sagebrush Cafe and Bar. When his dad retired, he ran the operation and really made it a focal point of community activities: sold hunting and fishing licenses; ran a bus depot; created a large room downstairs for organization meetings and events and headquarters for the rodeo.
Al worked such long hours, that Birdie was mainly responsible for the kids and the house. She also handled irrigation of land they purchased across from their home which they rented as pasture for animals.
Al joined the Fallon Volunteer Fire Department in 1939 until 1973. He describes in detail their responsibilities, duties and activities. When the Fire Department took on the ambulance service, he served as ambulance chief for twelve years.
Al describes the deep water duck hunting at Stillwater and The Greenhead Club's role in maintaining the roads, ditches, bridge, gates etc. for TCID. He tells how he and two friends introduced frogs to the area, purchasing three throusand frogs from a hatchery in California, planting them in all the canals in the Stillwater area and Lahontan Dam. In 1940 he brought thousands of bluegill and bass, part of California's fisheries recovery program, planting them primarily in the Stillwater area and Lahontan Dam.
Appointed by the governor to the Fish and Game Commission in 1939, he served for twelve years. Al describes the Commissioners' responsibilities and activities in detail.
A capable, independent man, Al now lives alone, takes care of his attractive home and does all the cooking. He is surrounded by loving children, grandchildren, friends and mementos of his colorful active life.
This is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History Program, interviewing William Powell, Jr. at his home, at 1303 Harrigan Road, Fallon, Nevada, September 14, 1994.
SYLVIA ARDEN: I'm so pleased that you're allowing us to interview you for the Churchill County Oral History Project. Would you please give us your full name?
WILLIAM POWELL: William Allen Powell.
SA: How do you spell the Allen?
WP: “A” double “L” “EN”.
SA: Alright and where and when were you born?
WP: I was born April 28, 1910, in Battle Mountain, Nevada.
SA: I want to ask you first about your father. What was his name?
WP: William Charles Powell.
SA: Same name, but different middle names. And do you know where he was born?
WP: He was born in Kansas. What town, I don't know.
SA: Do you know when?
WP: He was born in 1883 and died in 1959.
SA: Uh huh. And what was your mother's name before she married? Her maiden name.
WP: Lola LaFon Ludwick.
SA: And where was she born?
WP: She was born in Oklahoma. What town, I don't know.
SA: And do you know when she was born?
WP: She was born in 1888 and died in 1967.
SA: Now, first I want to find out from you where did your parents meet? Do you know?
WP: They met in Oklahoma.
SA: Okay, uh huh. Did they tell you how they met, or what your father was doing in Oklahoma?
WP: He was on a thrashing crew and met my mother traveling through the area that she lived in.
SA: Did they…Did he tell you much about that meeting or anything?
SA: Do you know…Did they marry before they came out West?
SA: Uh huh. Can you tell me how long they lived in the west before they came to Nevada? Did they came pretty quickly?
WP: They come right from Oklahoma to Nevada.
SA: Okay. Do you know what brought your father to Nevada?
WP: Yes. My dad played semi-pro baseball.
WP: He come to Nevada to play baseball for the Betty O'Neal Mine . . .
SA: The Betty O'Neal Mine, that's in Lander County.
WP: In Battle Mountain.
SA: Right near Battle Mountain. Now, was this a professional team? Did he get paid?
SA: Semi. How was he able to make a living?
WP: He was paid so much per game, and then he worked for the mine.
SA: Oh, how interesting! Had he ever mined before?
SA: No! So he must have been a really good baseball player.
WP: He was.
SA: And did your mother say how she felt about coming out to the Betty O'Neal Mine?
WP: She didn’t…She never said how she felt about it, but she liked Nevada.
SA: Oh, good. Good. And so um how long after they came here…Oh! How many children in the family…in your family? How many oh um you and did you have any brothers or sister?
WP: Yes. I had two brothers.
SA: And where were you in that lineup of three?
WP: The oldest.
SA: Oh, so you were the first one born.
WP: Um hm.
SA: And uh…So tell me where and wh…Okay. Were you born when they lived at the Betty O'Neal Mine?
WP: Yes, I was born in Battle Mountain.
SA: And because they were at the mine.
SA: How long did they stay at the Betty O'Neal Mine? Do you know? How old were you when they left the mine?
WP: Two years old.
SA: Oh, so you wouldn't have any recollections.
SA: And what did he do after he left the mine?
WP: He went to work…In Battle Mountain or here?
SA: No right from Beatty O’Neal. What did he do from there?
WP: Oh he went to work for a fella in a saloon as a bartender.
WP: In Battle Mountain.
SA: Okay. How long did you live in Battle Mountain? How long did he do that?
WP: I don't know.
SA: You were too young.
WP: He lived there for a little while before I was born, but I don't know how long.
SA: Then…How long did your family stay in that area? What did he do next?
WP: He moved to Fallon.
SA: Okay. Why? Do you know? Did he tell you?
WP: Well, that irrigation project was in the process of being started here, and he was looking for a means of making a living.
SA: So, he heard about the Newlands Project.
WP: Yeah, uh-huh.
SA: And do you know what year they came to Fallon? Was your brother, Paul, born here?
WP: No, my brother, Paul, was born in Elko?
SA: Where were you living when he was born in Elko? Were you living in Elko?
WP: I was with my parents, but we didn't stay there very long.
SA: So, it was after he was born that they came to Fallon.
SA: And did they homestead?
WP: In Fallon? No, they moved into a rental, and not too long after they were here my father built a house.
SA: Did he buy some ranch property?
SA: Where did he build the house?
WP: He built it on 150 West Park Street in Fallon.
SA: Right in Fallon?
SA: What kind of work was he doing?
WP: At the time he was working for the T.C.I.D. [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District]
SA: Oh. What was his job with them?
WP: He was working on a shovel, a dragline.
SA: Did he tell you later what it was like, what the work was like?
WP: Well, he wasn't used to that type of dirty, greasy work and didn't particularly like it. In the wintertime it was colder than . . .
WP: And, of course, the clothing they had then wasn't like it is now.
WP: They worked twelve hours a day then. He subsequently got out of that type of job and went to work for a fellow that owned a pool hall here.
SA: Oh! Do you know who the fellow was?
WP: Yeah. His name was Hammond.
SA: H-A-M-M-O-N-D? Hammond?
WP: Hammond, yeah.
SP: And it was a pool hall?
SA: And how long did he do that? Do you know?
WP: Oh, my dad worked for Lon Hammond about five years, and then he bought the pool hall from Lon.
SA: Now in Lon L-O-N?
WP: Yeah, L-O-N.
SA: What are your very, very earliest memories in Fallon when you were old enough to be aware of your house and where your father worked? What’s your earliest memories?
WP: Well, after I got old enough, I remember one thing in particular when I was about seven or eight years old, I guess, the sheriffs wife and a friend of hers--now this happened in the summertime when it was hot. I went over to her house every afternoon and got a pail and went uptown and got her a ten-pound pail of beer.
WP: Her and this lady had a pail of beer every afternoon.
SA: And they allowed a child to do that then.
SA: You'd be arrested today. (laughing)
WP: Well, they wouldn't even let me in, probably, today, but they knew that I was coming to get beer for the sheriffs wife.
SA: And you never drank any?
WP: Oh, no. (laughing) No. (laughing)
WP: That really never entered my mind.
SA: Isn't that funny. When do you first remember what the house was like that you lived in? What your family's life was like.
WP: Oh, I guess when I was about six or seven because my brother and I slept out on the porch.
SA: Oh, when it was hot?
WP: There was a uh…oh I can’t think of the name of the trees now.
SA: The uh…
WP: The tree was a catalpa tree.
SA: Can you spell that?
WP: Catalpa and during the summer it has large clusters of white fragrant flowers on it.
WP: And between the catalpa tree and the honeysuckle and the black locust, the aroma around the Powell house was very choice.
SA: Oh, it was intoxicating. Just you and your brother slept out on the porch?
WP: Yeah. I had two brothers, but my younger brother was twelve years younger than I.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
WP: So he didn't come along till quite a bit later.
SA: So that you didn't grow up together with him.
SA: Now, when you were young, and your father had this, was it a saloon kind of a place?
WP: No, a pool hall.
SA: Oh, a pool hall. Okay.
WP: There was twelve pool tables, a snooker table.
SA: What kind? A snooker? Is that a game?
WP: Yeah. It's just a different type of pool, and a billiard table. And a… he….
SA: Did he sell alcohol?
WP: Later in life he did. Yeah, he sold it and bought the [place], later called the Sagebrush.
SA: Oh, that's the same place!
SA: Let's go back to the early period. He was working for the man and later bought it. Is that right?
SA: And so describe if you had tables so that he had food there?
WP: Yes, and he changed the name that Lon used to the Sagebrush name.
SA: I see. Do you know about when that was, or right after he bought it?
WP: Let's see. It must have been probably around 1925.
SA: Oh okay. And did you and your brother go down and help him in the place?
WP: In which place?
SA: In the pool hall.
WP: Oh, yeah. We racked pool balls, and we cleaned spittoons, (laughing)
WP: And we done quite a bit of the janitor work.
SA: Oh, my.
WP: And so far as good remuneration where the card game goes, the fella in there was Frank Osborn.
SA: Can you spell his last name?
WP: He had an accident in his early life, and he had a crooked neck. They called him Crooked Neck Frank.
SA: Oh, I see.
WP: But, at any rate, during our cleansing of the spittoons, if we found a dollar chip or a two-bit chip or a five-dollar chip, or whatever, Frank always give us kids whatever the remuneration of that chip was.
SA: Oh, how nice.
WP: Usually, we had a little pocket money.
SA: That's good. That’s good.
WP: Besides what my dad paid us for doing the job.
SA: And how old were you when you were doing that?
WP: Probably thirteen or fourteen.
SA: Uh huh, uh huh. And about how many people would be in there, and what kind of people? What was the atmosphere like?
WP: Well, the people that played the card games were just all local people.
SA: Were they all men, or did some women come?
WP: No, no women never…
SA: No women allowed.
WP: No. Well, I suppose they would have been allowed, but they just didn't come. It just wasn't the thing to do.
SA: The thing in those days.
WP: There was three. There was a stud poker game, a draw poker game, and one other game that was dealer's choice.
SA: About how many men would there be at the tables?
WP: About seven per table.
SA: And there were three tables.
SA: And was there a bar to sit at?
SA: No bar. It wasn't like a saloon.
WP: But the bar was out….this gaming deal was behind closed doors.
WP: Due to the fact that it wasn't strictly legal.
SA: (laughing) Okay. (laughing)
WP: Like I say, the sheriff was . . .
SA: So, that was behind the door. What was in front of the door? The tables to eat?
WP: Well, the area that the poker games was in the back of the pool hall, and then just .
SA: Now, pool was legitimate. The pool tables was legitimate?
WP: Oh, yeah. The restaurant was the next thing, and then the pool tables, and then the soda fountain.
SA: Oh, a soda fountain, too!
WP: Yeah. Uh-huh.
SA: Oh, isn't that interesting?
SA: Would that be a gathering place for the kids?
WP: Yeah. The kids could come into a soda fountain, see.
SA: And that was all the same name. All under the same ownership?
SA: I see, and so then about how many years later did your father own it? He saved up his money?
WP: Well, the fellow that owned it thought a lot of my dad, and he held the paper for…
SA: Oh, until it was paid off.
WP: And he paid it off as years went by, and then I joined him and helped him pay for it.
SA: Well, we don't want to move that far ahead, so your dad, was he making enough to take care of your family?
SA: Now, let's go back into your house. How big was the house? Do you remember how many rooms, or what kind of a house?
WP: It was a cement block house.
SA: Oh, that's nice!
WP: Yeah. It's still there. There's people living in it now.
WP: We had coal and wood stove and there was a dining room and a front room and a kitchen and two bedrooms.
SA: Oh, nice big house.
WP: And later on my dad built a bedroom upstairs.
SA: Did you have indoor plumbing?
SA: You did!
WP: Oh, yes.
SA: And did you have electricity?
SA: You did! So, that was pretty advanced.
WP: You bet!
SA: And what year did you move into the house? Probably in the early 20's?
SA: And I know because of the Lahontan Dam, electricity came early to Fallon.
WP: Yes, it did. Although, a lot of the outlying homes didn't have electricity.
SA: No, I understand that from interviews.
WP: My wife's folks didn't have electricity till after she and I were married.
SA: Where did your wife's folks live?
WP: About two hundred yards from here right down at this next . . . my dad owned all of this forty acres. This was part of his ranch.
SA: Oh, I see. Did he buy the ranch or homestead it?
WP: He bought the ranch when he moved here from [Oklahoma].
SA: He bought a forty-acre ranch.
WP: Yeah, um hm.
SA: Okay. And when did your grandparents come out?
WP: My grandparents come out here not too long after my mother and father come here.
SA: I see. I see.
WP: My mother wrote to them. That is, the grandparents on her side of the family. Now the grandparents on my dad's side of the family, I didn't see any of them until I was over twenty 'cause the first one I met, I was tending bar after the Volstead Act was done away with.
SA: Which Act?
WP: The Volstead Act. That was the one that done away with liquor.
SA: Do you want to spell that?
SA: Oh, okay.
WP: His brother come out here from Oklahoma, and I recognized him just as sure as he . . . 'cause he looked very much like my dad. My dad was baldheaded same as I am and so was his brother. (laughing)
WP: And then later, a couple of his sisters come out.
SA: I see. But not his parents.
WP: No. I never met his parents.
SA: Okay. But, let's get back to your mother's parents. They came very early.
SA: Did any of her sisters or brothers come, too?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: The whole family come?
WP: Yeah, the whole family.
SA: Did they all live here?
WP: They lived here for awhile and then they moved to Yerington.
SA: Okay, but they're all in the area?
SA: Did any of them do any ranching?
WP: Well, my grandfather was a teamster.
WP: He owned a team of horses. When I say a team, I mean probably twelve head of horses, and done freight line work, and my mother's brother, he was always going to discover a mine that was worth a million dollars.
SA: He was prospecting all the time. Never found anything?
WP: My grandfather's brother, Uncle El was his name.
SA: Spell that.
WP: Just E-L.
SA: Oh. Just that.
WP: Uncle El Ludwick,
SA: Ludwick. L-U-D-W-I-C-K
WP: Yeah uh-huh. That was my grandfathers brother.
SA: I see.
WP: He was a miner, and he done fairly well. Well, he made a living out of it.
SA: Oh, good. And, so that you had quite a nice extended family all around you which made it nice.
WP: Oh, yeah. I was especially fond of my grandmother.
SA: Ah-h-h. Isn't that nice. Did she…how many…When she came how many were in her household? Just the two of them, just your grandmother and grandfather by then? Were they older?
WP: No. There was Pauline.
SA: Is that your aunt? Your mother's sister?
WP: Yeah. Aunt Eda.
SA: Another sister.
WP: And Guy, the brother. My mother's brother.
SA: Oh! Were they all younger than your mother?
WP: My mother was the oldest.
SA: She was the oldest, so they were all younger.
SA: So, your mother must have been pretty happy having all her family here.
WP: Oh, yeah. My mother was happy all of her life except the period when she and my father divorced.
SA: Oh, did they?
WP: Yeah. I was about fourteen, I guess, when they got a divorce.
SA: Oh, so then how did that split the family? Who lived where?
WP: Well, my mother lived in the old house that my father built when he come to Fallon.
SA: Yeah. With the kids?
SA: Okay, and then where did he live?
WP: He lived in another house in town. He bought a house in town.
SA: Did either of them remarry?
WP: Yeah. My mother didn't, but my father did.
SA: Okay, he remarried.
SA: Was that soon after?
WP: No, it was quite awhile.
SA: But, you were still close with your father and your mother.
WP: Yeah. Very close to both of them. I thought a lot of both of them.
SA: That's good. It didn't split the family, the kids.
WP: I didn't know. I wasn't young enough…I mean old enough to know what was going on. I never did. I wasn't nosy about what was going on.
SA: Sure. Sure. Now, you were helping in the pool hall-restaurant. Now, tell me about school. Do you remember your elementary school?
WP: Yeah. I first started to school in what they called West End School then. It was a school that was subsequently torn down. No inside plumbing there.
SA: (laughing) Oh, gee. What did you do in winter?
WP: We went out to the boys' john and the girls had one, too. When I left there and moved from West End to Oats Park, they still didn't have indoor plumbing, but they did in Oats Park. Oats Park was a much larger school.
SA: What do you remember most about your elementary school?
WP: Oats Park, you mean?
SA: Yes. Get you to Oats Park.
WP: Well, it was a pleasant time of life, and I remember the school teachers now. I was, in comparison, I was a small kid, but there was kids going to school when I was going to grammar school that were fifteen and sixteen years old. In order to illustrate how old they were, the principal at one time--his name was Beatty, and he was about five foot six inches tall, seven maybe, five seven, a tough little guy. There was no fighting allowed on the school grounds.
SA: No guns like today.
WP: No. But, anyway, there was two boys and a fight under a big cottonwood tree on the school ground, and he owned a Chevrolet Touring car, and he drove up to where the whole school was watching this fight, and he said, "You boys know that there's no fighting on the school ground, but if you gotta fight, why I'll fight with you."
SA: (gasp) Oh! really?
WP: You bet. He took his coat off and told the two of the boys, he said, "I'll fight you one at a time or both at once."
SA: Oh, gee!
WP: Well, one of them was a fairly large boy, quite a bit larger than the principal.
WP: He said, yeah, he'd fight him, but the fight didn't last very long. The principal knew more about fighting than this kid did.
SA: Oh, he was tougher than they thought. My goodness.
WP: Five or six blows and the fight was all over. Of course, something like that now would cause a terrific repercussion, but nobody thought too much of it then.
SA: About how many kids were in your classroom?
WP: About twenty.
SA: Oh, that's not too big. That's good.
WP: No. Eighteen or twenty.
SA: Is this elementary school?
SA: But the older kids were there because they didn't attend all the time and had to catch up?
WP: Well, they just didn't start to school early.
SA: I see. As you then…Did you go to high school?
WP: Oh, yes. I graduated from Churchill County High.
SA: Now, when you started high school, did you begin to develop areas of realizing what you liked and what your strengths were and what you might want to do?
WP: Well, I really didn't know what I was going to do. I knew that due to the fact that my father was so interested in sports that I liked all sports, especially hunting and fishing.
SA: Oh we’ll have to go into that.
WP: And uh…During my period in high school it was a lot different, I think, than the kids now because once in awhile we had a fight and went out back of the grandstand there at the high school and settled things and that was it. I wasn’t uh…There was a lot of kids that were better students than I. I had a tendency to horse around a little. I could have been a better student than I was, but my period in high school was an enjoyable one, and I had a lot of friends.
SA: Oh, good. Now…
WP: Not this one.
SA:When did you first start fishing and hunting, and was it with your father?
WP: Yeah, my dad took me sage hen hunting. The particular one that I remember mostly was when I was nine years old.
SA: Oh, did he teach you how to use a gun then?
WP: Yeah. He bought me a single barreled 20-gauge gun, and I went hunting with five older people counting my dad. There was six of us, and this fella, Beatty, the school principal's one of them. We went to a place called Gilbert Creek which is in Churchill County, almost in Lander County. It was right practically on the line. But, anyway, I can remember in particular the first morning that we hunted when the season opened there were hundreds and hundreds of those sage hen.
SA: Really! Really!
WP: The limit then was ten birds.
SA: Ten each?
WP: Ten each, yeah. The limit now is two.
SA: Oh, because they're disappearing.
WP: Oh, yeah.
- Now, how did it feel the first time you went and the first time that you shot one of these sage hens?
WP: Well, I was overjoyed to think . . . of course, there was a fellow along that had the reputation of saying when a bird dropped, if he was anywhere near, he hollered, "I got it."
WP: Finally, the Professor Beatty told me, we come in for lunch, and he told me, he says, "Al, you're gonna to have to get away from that fellow because you're not gonna get any birds. He's gonna claim them all!"
SA: You mean, even if you shot it, he'd claim it?
WP: Oh, yeah. He'd claim the bird, so in the afternoon I went with Professor Beatty, and I think he went just the other way.
SA: (laughing) He let you take his.
WP: I think so, (laughing) because I didn't get quite ten birds, but I got more than I think I really should have had.
SA: (laughing) Was that kind of a thrill?
WP: Oh, yeah, it was a real thrill, and those birds were real good eating We had a fellow with us by the name of Wilson that was a cook.
WP: I remember the coffee that he made, and when he was putting this coffee in the pot I begin to wonder. I said, "How come you put so much coffee in there?" "Well," he said, "I put coffee in there and when I think I got enough, I put a rock in it, and if the rock don't float, I put in some more coffee."
SA: Oh, gee. (laughing)
WP: 'Course that's somethin' that he told a kid, you know.
SA: You don't know. Now, do you mean they cooked right wherever you were hunting you would stop and . . .
WP: Yeah, on an open fire.
SA: And who would clean the hen and prepare it?
WP: Each guy’d cleaned his own. After he got through he went over to the creek and with sand and gravel you cleaned your plate?
SA: Did you have to kill a hen to cook it?
WP: Did I have to what?
SA: Did you have to kill…I mean it was killed. Did you have to clean a hen to get it ready?
WP: Oh, yeah. The first thing when you kill a sage hen is take his guts out.
SA: So, they taught you how to do that?
WP: Yeah. My dad told me, he says, "When you pick that bird up to take his insides out, otherwise . ."
WP: The season was early in the year then, much later than it is now. And it got warm, and if you didn't take those insides out, it'd make the bird taste bad.
SA: And it could harm you health wise, probably.
WP: Yeah. Well, I suppose it would, although we didn't carry them very long before we dressed them and cleaned them.
SA: Did you mind doing that?
SA: No. So you fit right in there.
SA: And what other things did your father teach you to hunt? Did you ever hunt a deer?
WP: Oh, yeah. We went deer hunting, duck hunting, quail hunting, pheasant hunting. One thing I remember in particular was going fishing to Walker Lake.
SA: When did you start going fishing? Just a little kid?
WP: Yeah. My dad took my mother and my brother and I to Walker Lake, and it took him probably six or seven hours from here to Walker Lake.
WP: If he didn't have couple, three flat tires, then it took a little longer.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
WP: 'Cause there was no paved roads then, and one of the areas was through a sand area. Usually we got stuck a time or two before we got through there.
SA: That doesn't sound like much fun. (laughing)
WP: Well, course to us kids it didn't make any difference, and I can always remember the old store that was in . . . our first stop was in Schurz.
SA: Spell that.
WP: S-C-H-U-R-Z. We stopped there. My dad and the owner of the store were acquainted, and they talked things over, and us kids got a soda pop, and then from there we went over until we got to Walker Lake.
SA: What kind of fish did you catch?
WP: They were called crappies, and there was thousands of them.
SA: Was there a limit of what you could catch?
WP: No. You could take . . . There was a few trout in the Lake then, but not many, and, subsequently, as the water went down, the water become more salty, and the crappies disappeared, and then they planted the same strain of trout that comes out of Pyramid [Lake] into the Lake which was still in there, but if they don't get some water in Walker Lake pretty soon, there's not going to be any fish at all.
SA: Oh. So, all through the years, starting as a little boy, you fished and hunted.
SA: And did you go later with friends or always with your family?
WP: Well, I took my kids out quite a bit, and when they didn't go, especially duck hunting, I had friends that were in business at the same time that I was. I, later, was appointed to the Fish and Game Commission and had an interest in the laws that were passed.
SA: Oh, wonderful! So, you had a very serious interest. Well, we're going to go back now--we'll get to that later. I want to go back now to your high school years, and I want to know because I'm also interested in changes in Fallon due to the Newlands Project and the water over the years from a young kid until you were aware. Did you see new people coming in, new ranches being developed out in the ranch areas where it used to be barren, did you see farm lands developing? Did you see any of that happening?
WP: Well, much later in my life, yeah, but when I first went into business with my dad, I knew everybody in town, and everybody in town knew me. I can always remember I would go to the bank each day to, at that time we used a lot of silver. Now they use paper mostly, but always on that trip to the bank I met four or five people that I knew, and I knew all of the people in the bank. Bill Bowman was started his career in banking in the bank then, and he's now retired and lives on down Harrigan Road from me.
SA: Is that B-O-W-M-A-N?
SA: Uh huh. So, you didn't see many new people in town? Not then.
WP: Not until later.
SA: Like what's later? About what time period is later?
WP: Probably around 1960.
SA: Oh, very late. We don't want to move that far forward. So, when you lived in town did you go out much to those outer areas where ranches were developing, or was that not something that you did?
WP: Oh, yeah, I went out to them during sage hen season… oh…not sage hen but pheasant season. During my lifetime we had a lot of pheasants in this valley, and pheasant season was a time to look forward to.
WP: And I knew all the ranchers.
SA: Uh huh. But what I want to find out, when you would go out to those ranches, did you see from the ditches and the people who had come in the ranches thriving as far as crops and increasing in the development of them because of the water they were getting?
SA: Or was it something you didn't pay much attention to?
WP: No. During my early high school days, the fellow who later became my brother-in-law--we married sisters and lived right next door to each other.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
WP: And his uncle was the foreman for the ranch called The Section which was owned by George Wingfield, and us kids, Willy and I and five or six more went out to the Section Ranch and stayed there all summer during the hay period.
SA: Oh, and you’d work there.
WP: We worked there during the hay and harvest period, and we usually didn't quit until oh, about two weeks before school started, and we quit early enough so we could go fishing.
SA: Uh-huh. So there was enough crops corning up. You could see that.
WP: Yeah. The difference between gathering the crops then and now was really different.
SA: What did you use?
WP: Well, they used horses.
SA: While you were doing it? With horses and hand labor?
WP: Yeah. I think the second or third year I was there they bought two iron wheeled tractors, Ford tractors. That was the first tractors that were used in the valley, and they used nets to stack the hay. They cut the hay with horse-drawn mowers, and they raked the hay with horse-drawn rakes, and then they shocked the hay by hand and then they loaded it on the wagons by hand, and then they lifted it off of the wagon in this big net and piled it in stacks.
SA: Kind of in stacks. So very labor intensive.
WP: Yeah. Much more than it is now. Now two guys can do all that with the machinery that's available.
SA: So how many of you would be working that summer?
WP: About thirty.
SA: That many! So you were an industrious young man always earning your living.
WP: Well, we got three dollars a day for working nine hours in the hayfield, and
'course that gave us a chance to get ahold of a little pocket money. Willie Zant was the cook.
SA: Willie Zant was the cook at your restaurant?
WP: No, at the ranch.
SA: Oh, I see. In other words, she would cook there, and you all got your meals there?
WP: Yeah, and, of course, she was real good to us kids. It was an enjoyable time.
SA: No laziness in the summer.
WP: No, During that period there was an influx of people that come into this area during the haying time.
SA: I see. Workers coming in.
WP: They called them bindle stiffs.
SA: Okay. I've heard that. Yes, yes.
WP: And that's the only time they come here was to work in the hay.
SA: I see. Did Indians come and help on the ranches from the reservations?
WP: No. There was a few Mexicans one time, but I think there was five of us younger guys, and they didn't stay too long. We made it a little tough on the Mexicans and that. 'Course they didn't speak our language, and they didn't want to have much to do with us.
SA: That didn't last very long.
WP: No, that didn't last very long. Yeah.
SA: You told me when you first started high school and first started getting about that you used horses, horses and wagons. Is that what you used?
SA: Tell us about the transportation and the roads. What was it like when you were young and when it developed?
WP: Well, the dirt roads were all dirt. I was about fifteen I guess when they first paved the main street of Fallon. It was dirt up until that time. None of the kids at high school had a car until Wayne Van Voorhis…
SA: Now tell us who that is.
WP: Who was a brother of Bruce Van Voorhis who the local air station [Fallon Naval Air Station] is named after.
SA: Oh! and that was a friend of yours? Neighbor?
WP: They both were West Point graduates, and both died during the War.
SA: World War II?
WP: Yeah. But, I can remember the old Model T that Wayne had. Didn't have any top on it. No windshield, and sometimes we couldn't use it because we didn't have tires enough, and there was another fellow here whose father was a mining engineer, and his dad bought him a car. It wasn't too long that he didn't have any tires at all, and he run it around without any tires (laughing) on the bare wheels for awhile. That was the only two cars that were at the high school.
SA: Uh-huh. Did your father have a car by then?
WP: Yeah. I think his first car was a Chevy Baby Grand.
SA: Never heard of that. What is that? Describe it.
WP: It was just like a Ford. . . well, whatever there. They got so many names now, you know. When Ford come out they had the Model T and the Model B and the Model A and that was it. Now they got ten or twelve different . . . well, one of the first names that they come out with was the Baby Grand.
SA: Oh. Now, did your father teach you to drive and let you drive it?
WP: Not until I was sixteen I guess. He had an Essex car, and he give this car to us kids with the promise that we wouldn't use the cutout on it. A cutout is a diversion of the exhaust before it goes through the muffler and it made a terrific racket.
SA: Oh, oh, oh. So kids would do it to show off?
WP: Yeah. This was a four-cylinder car, and it was real noisy. We owned the car about two weeks I guess and somebody told him about us kids using this car with the muffler open, so he took the car away from us.
SA: Did you do it with the muffler open?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Oh, you didn't listen to him? (laughing)
WP: Well, we thought we were out of hearing distance. (laughing)
SA: So that was the end of that.
WP: This guy whoever he was, I never did find out, he's the one that told on us, but he took the car away from us and sold it, and later he obtained a Model T Ford roadster and give it to us kids.
SA: Oh, well that was generous.
WP: And we had it for several years. No self starter and the lights were functional and that’s about all. And part of the time we started with a crank, see, but in the wintertime it kicked so bad that we'd jack up the back axle and start it by turning the wheel. [ED THIS IS NOT IN THE AUDIO BUT WAS IN TRANSCRIPT: Electricity for the lights was furnished by a coil, not a battery. The coil's output was determined by the slow and high speed of the engine rpm, thus slow speed, dim lights; more speed, brighter lights. And that's about all.]
SA: Now, would your brother and you fight over who was going to drive?
SA: How you'd work that?
WP: Well, he drove for a while, and I drove for a while.
SA: You both were reasonable and cooperative.
WP: Yeah. We got along good. Of course, like any two kids, every once in a while we got in a slap around. My mother believed that if you had something to fight about, you oughta fight and get it over with and get it out of your system. She was the neighbor referee for any fight. Like I said before you couldn't fight on the school ground but you could come to the Powell's backyard and Lola would take care of you.
SA: Oh, my goodness. Now I wanna know…Tell me a little about your mother as a person so I have a feeling what kind of a woman she was. Was she strict? Did she have a fun side? Did she have interests of her own?
WP: She had a real fun side.
SA: Did she? Did she have any interests of her own?
WP: Mostly homemaking, and she liked kids. Like I said, any kid, didn't make any difference who it was, I remember one incidence one time we all had bicycles then, and this one kid by the name of Mike Smith showed up at our house with a pistol, and, of course, my mother didn't know anything about it at that time. We went out in the country and this kid had the pistol in his hand and was pedaling this bicycle. It went off and he shot himself in the toe. Well, of course, we had to drive for home. 'Cause anytime anything happened out of the ordinary we always went to Mom. Well, this kid and the rest of us--there was five of us--we told her that he stepped on a nail.
SA: Oh, oh, you didn't want to tell.
WP: Mom said, "Yeah, where's the gun?"
SA: She knew. (laughing)
WP: Oh, yeah. She knew what had happened. But, at any rate, fortunately, it didn't break the bone in the big toe. It went alongside, and she doctored him up. She used iodine.
SA: Whoosh. Ooh-h-h-h. (laughing)
WP: This kid squalled.
SA: How old was he at that time?
WP: Probably twelve.
SA: Oh, my goodness. (laughing)
WP: And she sent him home and in a little bit his mother called up and give my mother a talking to for using iodine. She didn't think iodine was the thing to do, but the kid never had any problems. He healed up all right.
SA: Instead of being grateful that your mom gave him first aid.
WP: She just liked all kids.
SA: Oh, that's wonderful. Liked people probably.
WP: Yeah. And she had a lot of friends in Fallon.
SA: Now when you kids got bigger… there were three of you? Three kids? As the kids started to get bigger, did she get into any kind of work or activity? What did she do?
WP: She worked in a drugstore which has been closed a long time. She worked in that drugstore for quite a long time. In fact, until they closed it.
SA: Do you know the name of it.
WP: Olds drugstore.
SA: Was that the name of the person that owned it?
WP: Yeah. Doc Olds I called him. And she done small minor jobs around town. None that I remember about now that amounted to anything, except that one job that she had in the drugstore.
SA: She kept the home fires burning for everybody. Did she take care of her mother and dad too as they were getting older.
WP: No, as I say, they moved to Yerington. Two of her daughters moved over there with them.
SA: Ah. So, would your mom go over there and see them?
WP: Oh, yeah. Occasionally, especially after we got a little older and had a car, why we'd take her over there.
SA: As you were growing up with all the family around what were holidays like? What were the holidays that you would all celebrate, and how would you celebrate?
WP: Fourth of July was always quite an event in Fallon. They had a big parade and a big baseball game and a lot of food, and everybody showed up, hashed goings on, and now different from then, about the only time I meet any people now that I know is at a funeral.
SA: Oh, my goodness. It's getting so big now, isn't it?
WP: Yeah. I met a fellow that I went to school with when Dale Hansen died, and we both remarked that it was a sad thing… that you had to wait till you buried one of your friends in order to get together.
SA: Well, let's go back. Did your immediate family celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas together? Did you have holidays together?
WP: Well, somewhat. Not a great deal. I can remember our Christmas holidays when my dad and mother were still living together, but after that we didn't, my mother always had Christmas, but my dad didn't have much for Christmas. He was too busy trying to pay for the business that he was in.
SA: Did your father continue to play baseball?
WP: Yeah. Yeah, up until he got to be about forty-five years old.
SA: Now, I want to go back to the baseball era because he came out because of baseball, but then he had to earn a living. Who did he play with? Did he still belong to a ball club, or . . .?
WP: Well, the town formed a ball club. I have a picture of most of the players, I think, somewhere in my collection. There was a fella that worked up at the [Lahontan] Dam after it first opened, was a catcher. An Indian boy was one of the main pitchers, and a fella who later owned a garage here was a pitcher. My dad played first base and second base. There was a fellow by the name of [Leo] Schottsneider was a third baseman.
SA: You have to spell that.
SA: See you have a good mind that you remember that.
WP: They called him Schottsee.
SA: Oh, my goodness. Now, did they go to other towns to play?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Did you go along?
WP: Nearly all of them from the time my dad started we were interested in baseball, and, of course, one of the things that I remember, especially about my dad, during the process of playing baseball there was always several arguments over whether it was safe or not or whether this was that or whether it was right or whether it was wrong, and some of those arguments lasted quite a while and my dad's means of breaking those arguments up was to turn flip flops.
SA: OH, he could do that?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Oh, my goodness! (laughing)
WP: And he'd run from home base to first on his hands.
SA: (laughing) So, he was a comedian, too.
WP: Well, he was just trying to break up these arguments, and, of course, immediately upon finding out that the people weren't paying attention to this argument, it broke up pretty quickly,
SA: (laughing) I see. Where were some of the places the team would go to play?
WP: Lovelock, Carson [City], Yerington, Austin. All of those surrounding towns. And they all had a baseball team.
SA: Oh, how interesting. So that was a big thing.
WP: Yeah. It was one of the main things of entertainment then.
SA: Did you play?
WP: Later I played. They didn't have a baseball team at the high school. We formed a baseball team, and we called it the Cubs, and the younger guys played. Then after I got married I didn't have time to play baseball.
SA: We're not going to get you married yet. We're going to stay in your single years. Did they have dances? Did you go to dances?
WP: That's something that I was never interested in, and they had a big dance hall here called the Maples. It had a maple floor in it.
SA: Oh Maples. Okay. What were some…Okay…So you did the fishing and the hunting and the baseball and you were working and you had a bike. What else did you guys do for fun? What'd you do in the winter? Did you sleigh ride?
SA: Skated… Ice skate.
WP: I remember one time we had a storm here that put a glaze of ice on the roadways and we skated from Maine Street to the red bridge on the river which was about a mile, and, of course, the river was all frozen.
SA: Oh, my. Some people told me, did you skate on any of the canals?
WP: Oh, yeah. On all the canals. There was always enough water left in the ditches then to provide a good basis for skating.
SA: Did you swim in the ditches and canals the way some of the kids did?
WP: Yeah. We swam at a place called Lone Tree.
SA: Lone Tree?
WP: Yeah. There was a big cottonwood tree grew right there and we climbed up in those trees and dived off into the water.
SA: (laughing) So sounds like you had a lot of fun.
WP: My mother didn't want us to swim in the [Carson] river because she thought it was dirty and full of trash.
SA: Was there ever any problem with health care? Any emergency accident or anything? Did they always have doctors and clinics?
WP: I remember one doctor in particular was Dr. Dempsey.
WP: Dempsey. D-E-M-P-S-E-Y. The reason I remember him, I stepped on a bottle one time and cut my foot, and my mother called my dad and Dr. Dempsey and they both showed up about the same time, and a fellow by the name of Fred Saunders was living right next door to us.
SA: Is that S-A-U-N-D-E-R-S?
WP: Um-hm. In order to hold me while he sewed this, (laughing) my dad held one side of my legs and Fred Saunders was holding the front end and during the process my leg got loose and I kicked him and broke his nose. (laughing)
SA: Oh, my gosh! Wasn't very funny then. (laughing) Oh, gee. Did he ever forgive you?
WP: Oh, yeah. I was just a kid. I was what seven or eight years old.
SA: Oh, a little kid. Oh-h-h. That must have been painful.
WP: Maybe nine. Somewhere in there.
SA: Anything in those early years before we move you out of high school that you want to tell me. Did we cover the roads and transportation? Did we finish that?
WP: No, I don't think so. The roads were all dirt, and, of course, the automobiles at that time were all high-pressured hard-tired so the roads were all rough to ride on, and if there was any rain at all you ended up in the mud hole.
SA: Did many people have automobiles?
WP: Quite a few. There was quite a few automobiles. Like my future father-in-law, he owned an old Studebaker. My dad owned a Chevrolet first, then he bought a Rickenbacker, and he owned a Buick.
SA: I turned the tape. We were getting back to transportation and roads. So let’s continue with that. Um, now, you were saying that a lot of people in town had cars. Is that right?
WP: Not a lot, but there were numerous ones.
SA: Were there auto distributors in town? Were they starting to open new businesses to sell cars?
WP: Yes, the Ford and Chevrolet were the two principal cars then, and then later the Buick and other types come. This fella that I talked about that pitched on the baseball team subsequently opened his own garage and sold General Motors cars.
SA: So, a whole new industry came to town because you had to have gas stations.
WP: Oh, yes.
SA: Repair shops?
SA: Supply stores?
WP: Yes. I have one of my first remembrances of automobiles was two brothers owned a gas station where before it was a livery stable. In fact it was still a livery stable when they opened the gas station. There was enough cars around then to warrant having a gas station, and there was still a big water trough out in front of the livery stable. An event happened there that I'll always remember. We had a fella lived in town and worked part time for my dad by the name of Harell. H-A-R-E-L-L.
SA: Hm. That’s unusual.
WP: He had big floppy ears, and they called him Loppy.
SA: Oh, dear. (laughing)
WP: He was a great admirer of kids. He was a bachelor himself and had never married, but he liked kids, and he had a real stiff beard, and he played with the kids, and then every once in a while he'd grab a kid and rub that beard on him.
SA: Oh, gee. (laughing)
WP: Well, all us kids got together, about ten or twelve of us, and we were going to put Loppy in that watering trough in front of the livery stable, and during the process we broke his leg.
SA: Oh, you devils. Oh, goodness.
WP: This watering trough was suspended on wooden legs, and we got his leg around one of those.
SA: Oh, what did he do?
WP: Well, he just quit wrastling, and we knew something happened, but he was on crutches for quite a while.
SA: Oh-h-h-h. Did he forgive you?
WP: Oh, sure.
SA: Oh, gee. Good natured. Oh, my.
WP: Yeah, he was real fond of kids. He took me and my brother and four or five other kids to a neighboring ranch one time that raised pigs.
SA: Oh, my goodness. (laughing)
WP: He went out and cased this place, I guess, first, and he said, "Now when I open this door, you guys go in there and herd those pigs out, and when the one comes out that I want, I'll get him." So, he had a ball-peen hammer, and when this pig came out that looked good to him, he hit him right between the eyes.
SA: He took it?
WP: Oh, yeah.
WP: He killed the pig.
WP: So we took the pig down off of Williams Avenue here in town. There was an old warehouse there that was made out of dobe [adobe], and he built a fire and haired that pig off and cooked it for us kids.
SA: Oh, my gosh! Oh, my. Did the owner ever find out?
WP: No. I don't think he would have cared anyway.
SA: Oh. (laughing) Now anything more on the automobiles and roads? Did we pretty much…?
WP: Well, my dad was real interested in automobiles. The first one, like I say, was that Chevrolet, and then he bought an Oakland, and the next one that came after the Oakland was a Buick…a Buick coupe, and then the Rickenbacker. Of course, the Rickenbacker didn't stay in business too darn long, and later in life, he uh…I can't remember now what car he had.
SA: Sounds like he was making a pretty good living to be able to get these cars as they came along.
SA: He did good.
WP: Yeah. Of course an automobile then, the first car I bought was a 1929 Model A Ford and I paid less than a thousand dollars for it.
SA: But, a thousand dollars then took a long time to save.
WP: Oh, yeah. Of course, I had to pay for it a little bit at a time.
SA: Yes, but I mean your father was moving into bigger cars.
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Must have been doing good.
WP: Yeah. That Rickenbacker was one of the better cars.
SA: Yes. I want to…Now, before I get you married, you graduated high school. What did you do then?
WP: After I got out of high school?
SA: Yeah, what did you do then?
WP: I went to work for Andy [Andrew] Drumm who was a local road contractor.
SA: Oh. Was that with two “m’s”? Drumm?
WP: Yeah Andy…well Andrew is his first name and his last name was Drumm. D-R-U-M-M.
SA: Is that what the lane, Drumm Lane, named after him?
WP: Yeah. His father lived out there on Drumm Lane.
SA: What did you do with that company? You were just about eighteen?
WP: Yeah, I drove truck. Andy hired mostly young guys that could take that ten and twelve hours shifts.
SA: Where would you be driving, and what would you be hauling?
WP: We were hauling gravel.
SA: From where?
WP: From a gravel pit.
WP: To the roadbed.
SA: Okay. So, for road construction, and where were some of the places where you would take this?
WP: Well, the first place that we went to was back to my home town, Battle Mountain.
SA: Really! Really!
WP: Yeah. Yeah.
SA: What'd the place look like then?
WP: Well, it looked a whole lot like it does now. Well, now, I shouldn't say that 'cause Battle Mountain has got quite a bit bigger now.
SA: Yes. Yes.
WP: But, it was a small country town.
SA: Was it kind of fun to go back where you were born?
WP: Well, I didn't know any of the people.
SA: No. But just to see where you were born.
WP: Yeah. Uh-huh. it was interesting all right. We were there almost a year. I wasn't married yet.
SA: You lived up there?
WP: Yeah. Lived in the camp.
SA: Oh. Construction camp?
SA: And where was that camp?
WP: About thirty-five miles out of Battle Mountain to a place called Dunphy.
SA: Oh, yeah. Okay.
WP: He had a big camp there which was tents with board floors, and they had cooks that done all the cooking,
SA: Oh! So you didn't have to spend any of your pay.
SA: You were able to save.
WP: You worked for so much a day. I think I got six dollars a day and food.
SA: And lodging. Did you take to that?
WP: Oh, yeah. I thought it was great because it give me the chance to become independent.
SA: Yeah. That was great. Good.
WP: Yeah. And my wife and I were going together at that time.
SA: Where did you meet her?
WP: I met her on a hayride.
SA: Did she go to your school?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: So you knew her?
WP: Oh, yeah. I don't know how the hayride come about, but we met on this hayride. I was a sophomore in high school when we met, and we went together . . .
SA: The rest of high school?
SA: Was she in the same grade? Or, was she the same age?
SA: So, then when you went off for that year, you didn't see her.
WP: Oh yes I did.
SA: How'd you see her?
WP: I come home.
SA: Weekends? You'd hurry home and see her? (laughing)
SA: So, how long did you work on this road construction?
WP: Oh, I think it was a little over a year, and we finally decided to get married.
SA: So, you came back. You were real young.
WP: Yeah, let's see, I was twenty-two by then.
SA: Oh, twenty-two by then. Okay, so you were working several years out of high school. Were you always working on the road construction those few years?
SA: So then you came home.
WP: Well, not always. I'd done some other odd jobs before.
SA: Yeah sure. Sure. What was she doing?
WP: She was working for J.C. Penney Company, and later on for Jake Bible who owned the Mercantile Store.
SA: Spell his last name.
SA: Oh just like bible. Okay.
WP: Well, he was the Senator's [Alan Bible] father, and she was a very proficient bookkeeper.
SA: Oh, that's good. So then you came back. Where'd you get married?
WP: We got married in the Baptist Church here in town.
SA: Was it a small wedding?
WP: Very small.
SA: Just the two of you?
WP: (laughing) In fact, my mother and her mother both got a little perturbed because we went off and got married and didn't tell them anything about it.
SA: Oh, you kind of eloped?
WP: No. I got my brother and a girlfriend of my wife's as witnesses and got ahold of the preacher.
SA: Oh, you didn't want to bother with a big wedding?
WP: Well, we were both working, and we got married and went to Reno and stayed one night in the Golden Hotel and come back and went to work.
SA: Okay, so you didn't want some big fuss and all that.
WP: Well, in the first place, her parents didn't know, and my mother didn't know. My dad knew because I borrowed his car to go to Reno.
SA: Why didn't you tell your mom? Why didn't you want to tell?
WP: I don't know.
SA: You just wanted to be independent.
WP: Yeah. There was really no reason for not telling them.
SA: Did they disapprove?
WP: No, no, no. Her folks might have disapproved of me just a little bit because of the business my father was in and the business that I was in, going into.
SA: Was that when you were going to go into that business?
SA: Okay, so we'll move forward on that. So they might not have been happy about it.
WP: Yeah, and there was a reason for it. There was four brothers in her family, and they all drank a little too much. Her mother thought maybe I was going to be another one, but later on she and I become real close.
SA: Now when you were marrying, where did you both live?
WP: We rented a house.
SA: Did you rent it before you married so you'd come back to it?
WP: No. She was working for Jake Bible, and he owned this house, and we rented the house from him. Planted a lawn.
SA: Oh, good. So, now, when you married, were you now ready to go in with your dad into that business?
WP: Not yet.
SA: So, what did you do?
WP: I went to work for Safeway.
SA: Oh okay.
WP: At that time the Safeway store in town was right on Maine Street, and there was just two people. The manager of the store—his name was Starr.
WP: R. Two Rs. A Saturday boy and myself. We had a boy come in on Saturday to help.
SA: And you worked all week?
WP: Yeah. Everyday except Sunday, and I stayed with him until our brother was killed in an automobile accident, and my dad wanted me to come and go into business with him, and I did.
SA: Was your brother working with your father?
SA: How long after you married did you then go into business with your father? How long were you at Safeway?
WP: I was in Safeway about three years.
SA: Okay, okay. Did you have any children together yet, you and your wife?
WP: We didn't, no. We ah…let’s see now uh…
SA: What year did you marry?
WP: We were married November 7, 1931.
SA: And what was your wife's name before you married her?
WP: Roberta Baker.
SA: Baker? Okay. Had she always been in Fallon?
WP: No, she was born in Missouri and moved out here when she was just a baby.
SA: Oh, with her family.
SA: And so…when you uh…went into business with your father, did you have children yet?
SA: Oh, that was good. So, after about three years after you married, you went in with your dad?
SA: Okay. So we will start talking about that business.
SA: Now, you were working with Drumm on the road construction, and you came back to get married. Tell me how you made those arrangements with your boss. Did you go back to work there, or how did you leave that to come home and marry?
WP: No, l didn't go back to work for Drumm. I come home and I asked Bertie to marry me, and she said, "Yes, but not until we get a couple hundred dollars in the bank."
SA: Sure, sure, sure.
WP: So, she was working at the time, and when we got a couple hundred dollars in the bank, we got the witnesses together and went to the Baptist Church.
SA: What did you tell your boss on the road construction?
WP: I told him I was going to marry Roberta Baker.
SA: Yeah, and?
WP: He said, "Fine." When I told Drumm that I wanted to go to Fallon and the reason I wanted to go was to get married, and he asked me who. When he found out, he said, "I'll take you to Battle Mountain." When we got to Battle Mountain he went in and questioned the powers that be about when the train was going to show up and so forth.
SA: Which train? Do you know what train that was?
WP: Well, it was Southern Pacific. They told him that it didn't stop in Battle Mountain.
SA: Oh, gee.
WP: The next one didn't anyway. Drumm says, "I'll stop it."
SA: Oh! (laughing) How did he do that?
WP: He did. He got out in front and waved it down. (laughing)
SA: He could have been killed. (laughing)
WP: (laughing) He stopped the train, and we got on and went as far as Hazen. We're sixteen miles from Hazen to Fallon.
SA: Was that the railroad stop then? Hazen?
WP: Yeah. And my brother-in-law and my wife's sister, who were married at the time, met us at Hazen and brought us on into Fallon.
SA: Now what year was that? That was ’31.
SA: Yes. Okay, okay. So then he was a good boss because he didn't reprimand you for leaving.
WP: Oh, no. Of course, he knew Bertie. He knew my wife.
SA: They called her Bertie? B-E-R-T-I?
WP: Yeah. BER-TEE. Not BIRDIE.
SA: Okay. So, then you went to work for the Safeway.
SA: And now we came to the point where you were going to go into business with your father. This is a couple of years after you married?
WP: Yeah. My brother lost his life in a car accident, and my dad wanted me to come and go into business, which I did. I quit Safeway and went into business with my dad.
SA: Alright now. Tell me, at that point, and this is about 1933, 1934, tell me what the business was like at that time when you first went in to join your dad.
WP: Well, it was strictly non-alcoholic. We had a soda fountain.
SA: What was the name of it then?
WP: The Sagebrush.
SA: It was the Sagebrush Cafe and Bar?
WP: Yeah. We had a big soda fountain and a restaurant. There was four booths and twenty-five stools and uh… no liquor at the time. When we first…when my dad first started business at the Sagebrush, there wasn't any gambling except the back room. Later on there was gambling and we had a twenty-one game and a wheel and a crap table in the Sagebrush. I never did become very much interested in gambling. I didn't care about gambling myself, and after my dad got out of the business, the gambling disappeared.
SA: Okay. Well we’re going to stay when you first joined in. So, when you first joined with your dad, were the pool tables all there?
WP: No, we had moved then from the old place to the new place.
SA: So, when you say the old place, where was the new place?
WP: The new place was on the corner of First Street and Maine.
SA: Is it still there?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Is it still running?
SA: It's still going?
SA: Is it yours?
WP: No, I sold it in 1955.
SA: Alright so let’s go back again then to… So when you were with your dad, it was already moved to the new place when you started to work with your dad?
WP: No, I had worked for him when I was going to school.
SA: No, I mean when you went in with him full time.
SA: You left Safeway.
WP: Yeah, he'd moved into the new place.
SA: It was already First and Maine. What else was in it?
WP: There was a barber shop and the restaurant and a soda fountain.
SA: Did he own the barber shop?
WP: No. A fellow by the name of Corn.
SA: He leased it to him?
WP: Yeah. He leased the area. I think there was three chairs. And later on we moved the barber shop out completely and utilized the room ourselves.
SA: So, business was picking up?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Because the town…was the town…
SA: What else can you describe about it? I hope you have pictures of the interior.
WP: Well, the Sagebrush, if there was a question ever come up between two people and had anything to do with sports or about anybody that lived in Fallon, one of the ways to find out was to call the Sagebrush.
SA: (laughing) So it was the popular, well-known, knowledgeable place.
WP: Uh-huh. It was just what we called it. It was sportsman's headquarters.
SA: Oh, I see. Between your dad and you. When you went in with him and left Safeway, what were your hours then?
WP: (laughing) In the Sagebrush you mean?
WP: All hours.
SA: 'Cause it's open at night. It's open weekends. How did that… Did you take turns?
WP: My dad worked twelve hours. I worked twelve hours. That is, that was what you worked besides what didn't count.
SA: Now, was it open all the time? Twenty-four hours?
WP: Later on it was open twenty-four hours. When we first started it wasn't.
SA: But you had a lot of work.
WP: It closed about one or two o'clock in the morning.
SA: How did that affect your marriage?
WP: Well, due to the fact, that my wife was as understanding as she was… didn't make much difference. She raised my family because I was working at night.
SA: Sure. Well, you were working to support them.
WP: Mostly at night.
SA: How many kids did you have?
WP: Three. Two boys and a girl.
SA: And uh…Were they close in age?
WP: The two boys are very close. Eighteen months apart,
SA: Oh my!
WP: But the girl was a little older. She [Lola] was born first and then Bud and then Jim was born. They were just eighteen months apart.
SA: So they were like real close. Okay, let's go to the Sagebrush because that's a part of Fallon's history. I did read some articles about it, and I read that when you came in. I mean when you later, after your father died, you really made it a place to remember, that you had a big impact on it. We'll stick with your father for a while. Tell me what a…uh… First of all, wasn't it Depression time then? So didn't that hurt your business?
WP: Yeah, the banks all closed. The banks then were principally run by one man…
SA: I see.
WP: And the Churchill County Bank was owned by him, [George] Wingfield. When it closed, of course, we didn't have much money in it, but most of what we had, we lost. Well, I'll show you a certificate later that we got in lieu of money, and they paid part of that back later on.
SA: Oh good.
WP: But it uh…Yeah, if my dad's credit hadn't been as good as it was, 'cause most of the articles that we bought were bought out of Reno, and they treated us very well.
SA: Oh, good. So you were able to carry on.
SA: But what about business of people coming in. People didn't have much money. Did your business hurt?
WP: No. We noticed for a while, but not really. Our business continued to get better.
SA: Good. When you started, what was the…tell me the flavor of it and the people who would come in. Were they regulars? Were you getting new people in? Were there miners coming in or ranchers? Because running a place like that, you'd have the flavor of the changes in the town.
WP: There was some mining out east of town. I knew most of the miners. And uh…what was that other question now.
SA: Uh um. Were there regulars that came in all the time?
WP: Yeah. I always knew about what time this fella, or this gang, would show up, have a beer. One thing one dad drummed into my head when I started in business with him was to not in any way force a man to drink, and if you thought that he was getting too much to drink, tell him that he couldn't have anymore.
SA: So you had an ethical dad. He wasn't there just to make as much money by hurting people.
WP: My dad had the reputation of wanting to be fair, and he kind of drummed that into me. I know there was one of the local bars in town at one time told me I was crazy. He said as long he felt a man had a quarter in his pocket that he'd get ahold of him and sell him whatever he wanted.
SA: Oh, my goodness. Now, in the restaurant part, was that in the same room as the other activities?
SA: Would families come in to eat? Would women come in with husbands to eat?
SA: Or mainly men?
WP: Well, no. Occasionally there was women that we knew and that weren't . . . of course there was a lot of people in town then that the fact that you had a bar in the place . . .
SA: I see. Not like today where it doesn't make any difference.
WP: No, it don't make no difference.
SA: Was it also a place where probably a lot of single men came to work up here, would they be the kind of ones who would come in and eat?
WP: Oh, yeah. Have a drink and then eat.
SA: And then gamble a little bit. Did you ever get the gambling machines in that they have now?
WP: Oh, always had a lot of slot machines.
SA: Oh, you had the slot machines? Yeah, yeah. So people would come in.
WP: Of course, it wasn't near as prevalent as it is now. One fellow in Reno owned most of the slot machines, and he put them in on our place on a split basis. We split it down the middle.
SA: Tell me, in an evening about how many people would there be in your Sagebrush?
WP: Well, it all depended on what was going on. Our bar was thirty-five feet six inches long, and a lot of times it was full. Of course, like any other business, a lot of times it wasn't full, too.
SA: Was it busier on weekends?
WP: Oh, yes! Saturday was a big day in Fallon.
SA: Was there music?
WP: Just a juke box.
SA: People would put dimes in and play music.
WP: Quarters. Up to a quarter.
SA: So it'd be nice and lively.
WP: Couldn't dance, though.
SA: No. Well, there was only men in there anyway. Right?
WP: Well, no there was a lot of women come in our place because they knew that if they came in and sat down on a barstool in the Sagebrush, nobody’d bother them.
SA: Oh. They had two good guys there that were going to protect them.
SA: Was it kind of an atmosphere where it was fun to be there?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Did you like to go to work everyday?
WP: Most of the time, yeah. It was no problem for me because I like people and I enjoyed the work all right. I often wonder now how I was able to contend with some of the people that I had to contend with because every once in a while even though we didn't want anybody to get drunk to a point where he was a problem.
SA: Yeah, yeah.
WP: We'd try to get him to go home before that happened, but occasionally one would wander in that was already loaded,
SA: Oh I was going to say already loaded!
WP: Then the problems sometimes arose, and it got around that we didn't go for any fighting. If they wanted to fight, they had to go outside. A time or two to get them out, I had to…my dad had to use force to do it, but we did.
SA: Was your dad strong?
WP: Yeah. He was a little bit taller than I am. 'Course I was always in real good shape. I could put one hand on the bar and jump over it.
SA: (laughing) That's a picture. Did you have special areas that you would work on and your dad had special areas in the restaurant and bar? Did you have areas where one liked it or was better than the other? Tell me about it.
WP: I took more interest in the bar and its operation. My dad took a lot more interest than I did in the restaurant. He liked to cook…
WP: And during the duck hunting and the pheasant hunting and the quail hunting, my dad always opened the cafe himself. The first couple of hours he done the cooking.
SA: Wow. Would he cook the game? And serve?
WP: No, breakfast. For instance, there's two fellas that live in Reno now (laughing) that always remember the fact that they could show up real early--'course they were young men then. Didn't have too much money, and they'd come down here to go duck hunting. They always knew my dad was going to be in that kitchen.
SA: Oh, 'cause they'd be up at five or something.
WP: And he'd give them all the breakfast they wanted for about half of what it would cost them if they went out to the counter in the front.
[ED THIS IS NOT IN THE AUDIO BUT WAS IN TRANSCRIPT: WP: Dad always mixed the hot cake batter and brought the stove up to the correct heat before the waitresses come to work. He cooked for the university students and let them eat in the kitchen. If they had waited until the counter opened it would have cost them more money, at that time thirty-five cent difference for a meal made quite a difference. Today a student probably wouldn't come in the kitchen. Dad didn't charge the university students anything for their breakfast.]
SA: Oh, what a good guy. What a good guy.
WP: And those two people are still living in Reno.
SA: So he would come in real early, and you'd come in a little later because you'd run the bar?
SA: And did he take more interest in the gambling than you did?
WP: No, we didn't neither one of us. We er…we just leased.
SA: Oh, you leased the gambling.
WP: Yeah uh-huh.
SA: You just got a percentage?
SA: Uh-huh okay. So mainly, it was the bar and the restaurant.
SA: Describe the interior of this place.
WP: Well, it was a large area. Comparatively large, and the bar was on the one side of the area, and the booths and what gambling subsequently was in there was on the other side, and the slot machines were scattered in appropriate places, and the restaurant was a U-shaped counter in the back past the bar area.
SA: Now describe the bar area. What was it? Was it wood?
WP: Yeah. The bar was oak. It was thirty-two feet six inches long. We had a little area partitioned office at the head of it. We had a big iron safe in there, and we sold cigarettes and had an area where the cigarettes and the tobacco was in, and at that time we used lots of punch boards. You know what a punch board is?
SA: No. What is a punch board?
WP: (laughing) Mostly for candy. There was a board eight or ten inches long and about eight inches wide, and you took a metal gadget, punched out this number, and if the number happened to be one that said whatever you got on the top, most of it was candy, why you won a box of candy for two bits or fifteen cents.
SA: Okay, so you'd pay something for chance on this board. No, I'd never heard of that. Would you fix the drinks? Were you behind the bar? Were you the bartender?
SA: And what was the most popular drink?
WP: Beer, I think. Especially in the summertime. In the wintertime . . .
SA: Did they like mixed drinks?
WP: Yeah. We served lots of mixed drinks.
SA: And you knew how to do that?
WP: Most of them. And if I didn't know, I asked the guy.
SA: Oh, good for you. What do you want?
WP: And most of them would tell me, and then I'd go ahead and mix it.
SA: In those days what would a drink cost? What would beer cost and what would a mixed drink cost in those days?
WP: Usually fifty cents.
SA: That's all?
WP: A beer was fifteen cents.
SA: Oh, my (laughing)
WP: That is, draft beer.
SA: Would you have nibbles to serve?
WP: Yeah, we had peanuts and popcorn.
SA: Oh okay. Get them thirsty.
WP: Yeah. And occasionally we'd come up with something real nice. I remember one time a fella brought in, oh he must have had three or four smoked fish and asked me, he said, "Would you like to have these fish?" and I said, "Sure. Put them on the bar," and they gobbled them up in a hurry.
SA: Now, what were on your walls?
WP: We had pictures mostly of sporting events, dogs, horses, and people, and then I had ducks mounted. One in particular we called Churchill County Splatter Ass.
WP: He derived his name from the fact that in taking off from the water he had to help himself with both feet and he created a terrific splattering in getting off the water. And, of course, we had the ducks all named. They had a name tag on each one. We had a bus stop there. The Las Vegas-Tonopah West Lines stopped there, and everybody heard about the Churchill County Splatter Ass. People wanted to come and see what that duck looked like. We had mountings of most of the ducks that are killed in the area along with the geese.
SA: Oh my. Now who would stuff them for you? Who would do the taxidermy?
WP: I had different people.
SA: Mainly what you caught yourselves?
WP: Yeah. I killed most of the ducks myself, and my dad.
SA: Okay. So, it would be your trophies that you hunted?
WP: Yeah. And most of the deer and the antelope.
SA: Oh my goodness.
WP: Oh, I had a moose that Senator Getchell give me.
WP: Have you been in Nevada long enough?
SA: Oh, I've studied enough of this in my work.
WP: He was on the Fish and Game Commission when I went on it, and he give me a moose head.
SA: Oh my goodness.
WP: During Christmas time we put a red light bulb on the moose's nose. (laughing)
SA: (laughing) You made it a fun place, a unique kind of place.
WP: Yeah. It really was a fun place. My dad used to get a little perturbed at me because the guys my age, we scuffled a little, you know, and he said, "You know, one of these days you're going to hurt yourself or get hurt," and he was right. One of my best friends and I were scuffling back toward the, we had a walk-in ice box, and they had a big handle on there, and in the process of scuffling I rammed him up against that, and it didn't seriously hurt him, but it could have.
SA: How long did your dad work there at the bar?
WP: I can't remember how old he was, but he finally just give it all to me or sold it to me. He didn't give it to me. I bought him out…
SA: Yeah when he retired got to old to work.
WP: And he retired. He retired before he got so old that he couldn't do anything. He still continued to hunt.
SA: How old about was he when he left the bar? Sixties?
WP: Yeah in his early…
SA: Early sixties…?
WP: No. In his late fifties.
SA: So, he was young enough. Did he still live in Fallon?
WP: Yeah. He built a house himself.
SA: Oh, he remarried, you said. So did they go traveling?
WP: Not much. A little, not a heck of a lot.
SA: So, now you had the full responsibility, and tell me, what did you do when you were alone. Did you have to hire someone to take the place of your father? How did you handle it?
WP: Well, when my dad retired from the business, I had one in particular friend that I hired to tend bar and later hired another one, and as time went on, I hired subsequently different people. Some of them stayed with me a long time, some of them didn't stay too long, but we got by all right and continued to run it as my dad and I had run it before.
SA: Well, I read that when you took it over…in a newspaper article that when you took it over that you were the one who made it a place to remember, so tell me what some of the things were that you initiated.
WP: Well, one of them like I say, was the fact that we let it be known if there was any question about anything, all you had to do was call the Sagebrush to find out, and at that time we had two policemen in town, one in the daytime and one at night. That was before they had any radio. If somebody called for police, they called the local telephone office, and the girls there turned on a red light that was above the Courthouse…or uh above the City Hall, and the Sagebrush was usually where they called to find the policeman. (laughing)
SA: Okay. (laughing)
WP: Well, they'd step out the door to look over to see if the red light was on. They'd come back in to call on the phone to see what was going on, where they were wanted, and so forth.
SA: Did you have to work longer hours now?
WP: Oh, I worked a regular shift and then probably six or eight more hours on top of that. Sometimes more.
SA: You probably lived there.
WP: During rodeo time I did. I only come home to change my shirt and take a bath.
SA: 'Cause everyone would come to you at rodeo time from all over?
WP: We had a lot of people in there during rodeo time and if there wasn't somebody around to kind of take care of things and see that everything went all right, why--between the bartenders that you had to hire extra and the cooks and the waitresses.
SA: How did you handle all of that?
WP: Well, you just got by the best way you could, and I got along with people real well. Occasionally I would have a tussle with a cook. Mostly there was a drunken cook.
SA: Ah, gee, oh. Did the restaurant continue the way it had been? Were there any changes?
WP: No, not much. We had a specified area in which--we couldn't enlarge the restaurant because we didn't have any room for it.
SA: When Prohibition ended you must have gotten real busy with the bar.
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Things picked up a whole lot.
WP: Yeah, things did. They picked up both in the bar and in the restaurant. One of the reasons that the restaurant was as successful as it was because I was able to hire a cook who was a woman.
SA: Oh, good! She worked out good. She didn't get drunk or anything.
WP: She was honest.
SA: Uh-huh. Where'd you find her?
WP: I knew her. She was a local girl, and she worked in cafes around town, and I finally hired her to more or less run the Sagebrush.
SA: What was her name? Give her some credit.
WP: Oh uh…
SA: Well when you remember it we can add it so that she can get some credit here.
WP: Uh…[Josephine "Jo" McCormick.] Her mother and father lived on a ranch where her brother still lives and owns the ranch. She was a real good cook and cooked food that people liked.
SA: Oh that’s important we’ll make sure to get that on. Did you add any more animals, or you had stopped hunting by then apparently?
SA: No, you kept hunting?
WP: I still hunt.
SA: Really! Good for you.
WP: I don't get around very well on account is this knee problem that I have. I've had arthritis. I'm going to have to have both knees replaced.
SA: Oh, dear. Oh, dear.
WP: But anyway…
SP: Any other changes in the Sagebrush?
WP: We continued to make changes in the equipment and tried to better things. 'Course, like I say, we were limited to the area that we had.
SA: Did it take away from your business when some of these other big casinos and restaurants came to town like the Nugget and the uh… Stockman's?
WP: Well, of course, maybe it did, but our business there wasn't fantastic but we had a nice business and tried to serve good food all the time, and we served it early and late.
SA: How did it change when the War started? How did your business change during that period?
WP: Well, I lost a lot of my friends. Younger ones especially including my brother, and it just made things different all around.
SA: Did it in one way increase business with the military base here?
WP: The fact that the base was here and I made friends with a lot of the sailors, yes, it improved our business all right.
SA: Let's talk a little bit about the base when it was coming in. When they started bringing that base into Fallon, there was probably different kinds of reactions, but what was the general reaction?
WP: Well, most of the people thought that it would improve things all right, which it did. The base I don't think affected Fallon in any ill manner at all except for occasionally a drunken sailor which didn't amount to anything, but a lot of the local people got to work out there, both men and women. During that period…Due to the problem I had with my legs, I was sent and had a physical examination even though I had kids, I took that examination.
SA: Oh, I see, but they didn't take you into the service.
WP: No. They rated me 4-F, but they thought that I should get out of the saloon business?
SA: Who's they?
WP: Well, you know, "they".
WP: People that I knew and probably the board. One of the guys on the board was a real good friend of mine.
SA: Well, what'd they want you to do? You had to earn your living.
WP: I become a state policeman.
SA: You did leave the bar?
WP: Yeah. I was gone two years.
SA: Oh, in other words, you took a leave of absence during the War? And who ran the bar? Couple women?
WP: No, my dad.
SA: Oh, he came back? So, when you say state policeman, because they were losing policemen to the military and needed replacements?
WP: Well, they just formed a Nevada State Police force here, and the guy that run it was a Fallon man who was a local policeman before he become the head of the state police. He wanted me to join the police force and I did.
SA: As your contribution because they couldn't find many fellas to join, right? During the war?
WP: Well, I don't know what it was.
SA: So, what did you do? Tell me what you did. Did you stay in Fallon?
SA: Okay. What did you do?
WP: Traveled all over the state. There was only five of us.
SA: What were some of the things you had to do?
WP: We done everything except interfere with the local police, which is like the highway patrol. I went from here to Ely to Hawthorne to Tonopah.
SA: Did they train you?
WP: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we went through quite a rigorous training program.
SA: You had to wear uniforms.
WP: Yeah, we wore uniforms except caps. We didn't wear any caps. I don't why. 'Course I had a lot of hair then.
WP: Going bareheaded didn't mean anything.
SA: So they gave you a car.
SA: Did you have to stay overnight places?
WP: Yeah. I stayed overnight in Tonopah, and, of course, there was a big air base over there, and I stayed overnight in Goldfield.
SA: Oh! Was there trouble with any of the military people?
SA: What was the most trouble?
SA: Oh, my goodness. What about traffic? Did you have to stop and see if they were drunk? Did you have to stop cars?
WP: Oh, yeah. We stopped a lot of cars, and, 'course, the Nevada State license law demands that upon entering a gainful occupation you shall get a Nevada license on your car.
WP: And, of course, Tonopah, Goldfield, Hawthorne were just flooded with transient workers, you know, coming in here with foreign licenses on their car, and we were real busy seeing that they bought a Nevada license.
SA: Did you have to have two in a car so that you were never alone?
SA: Anyone ever hurt you?
SA: Try to hurt you? Never did?
WP: No. No. I carried a gun full time.
SA: Did you ever have to shoot anyone?
WP: No, the closest I ever come to using a firearm, another patrolman and I, on information, stopped a car with a Negro in it that was wanted by the FBI, and I poked a 12-gauge shotgun out the window (laughing) and immediately stopped him.
SA: Anything memorable about those two years?
WP: One of the most memorable things, I think, was the Japanese balloons that come into this area.
WP: Yeah. Those balloons were made out of paper.
SA: What'd they look like? I never saw them.
WP: They were about fifty or sixty feet long, I guess.
SA: What were they doing coming here?
WP: They had incendiary bombs on them.
WP: Not only incendiary, but shrapnel and that sort of stuff.
SA: Where'd they come from?
SA: I didn't know that.
WP: Yeah, they launched them in the uh…what do they call it…currents when that current was running.
SA: Really! And you saw them?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Oh, my goodness.
WP: We took one. We were having a uh…My wife had cooked a dinner for all the patrol. We were all there, and we got a call that there was a Jap balloon on the river just above Pyramid Lake, so we went up there and the balloon was in a tree.
SA: Oh! Was there a bomb in it?
WP: No. The bombs had come loose. The Japanese had designed a release mechanism that was made out of wood, and in crossing the area that they did, that wood got wet and dried and then got wet.
SA: Oh, so it didn't work.
WP: It didn't work properly.
SA: Oh, good. Oh, gee. (laughing) I never had heard that.
WP: (laughing) Anyway, we asked after that balloon, and we found it. A guy on horseback had it on a horse.
SA: Oh, my gosh!
WP: We took the bombs to the other side of Reno where that military layout is there. The heck is the name of that? During the war it was very active, the other side of Reno. I can’t think of the name of it. [Stead Air Force Base]
SA: Oh my. So, did you stay in that until the war ended?
WP: No. I didn't like it.
SA: So, did they let you leave?
WP: Oh, yeah. I resigned.
SA: Oh, good.
WP: The thing I didn't like about it was telling somebody what they had to do. There was a lot of that that had to be done. And…I just hated to stop a woman. Of course, there was a lot of women that you stopped. They act differently than men. They put up more of a sob story than--most of them had a pretty good one.
SA: (laughing) And you felt sorry.
WP: Sure I felt sorry for them, but I never would have been a policeman all my life because I just didn't like it.
SA: So, did you go back to the bar?
WP: Yeah. My dad had leased the business to an outfit, and their lease was up, and I took over.
SA: What condition was it in when you took it over? Had it deteriorated?
WP: Not too bad. I made a few changes.
SA: I bet people were happy you came back.
WP: I guess. I don't know. I got along good with everybody.
SA: 'Cause you made it such a special place. Now, I want to get to your family a little bit because here you are so busy, and in the interim you had three children, and so your wife, while you were busy, she mainly took care of the kids and the house.
SA: Did you have time from your busy schedule to have time with her or the family?
WP: Yeah, whenever the opportunity arose. I can remember I took my daughter…my wife and I took my daughter fishing out to a place north of Austin. She couldn't walk yet.
SA: The Kingston area?
WP: No, it was the other way. North of Austin. Anyway, she fell in the creek (laughing) and I grabbed her. I was right there. We started her out that young.
SA: (laughing) Oh, how cute.
WP: And, later, as the boys come along, why, we always took them whenever we got a chance to go.
SA: Did you take your boys for their first hunting trip?
SA: Like your dad?
WP: Yeah. (laughing) 'Course a lot of things happened. I taught those kids. We hunted a lot down to Stillwater and used a boat to hunt out of and had decoys, you know, and all that sort of thing. I had a good time with my kids. The only thing, I didn't have enough time.
SA: Yeah, yeah. Time goes so fast.
WP: As far as school was concerned, my wife took care of the kids and their schools. She took care of most everything else.
SA: Was she ever wanting you not to spend as much time at work so that she could see you more? Never complained?
WP: Never complained. She knew that I had to work to make a living, and she just done everything she could to make it as easy for me as possible.
SA: When I changed the tape I had asked you if your wife complained that you work too much and you said no. Do you want to say anything more?
WP: No. She knew that I had to work to make a livin and she’s just done everything she could to make it as easy for me as possible.
SA: She was really special. Now while we were changing the tape you mentioned in some of your writing that she handled irrigation of a field, and since one of the things we are dealing with in Fallon that has created the oasis is the irrigation project, tell me about the little bit of land you had and where you got the water for it and what your wife did with that land.
WP: A friend of mine owned a piece of ground directly across the highway from me, and he and his father leveled it and put in a pasture in about half of it. The other half is still in sagebrush, and they called him up--he was single--and they called him up for World War II, and he come to me and wanted to know if I didn't want to buy this land, or if I would buy it. I didn't have the money to buy at the time, but I borrowed the money from the bank after talking it over with my dad. I bought the land in order to keep people that I didn't want from living across from me. At that time there was a lot of people moving in that were without money and just junkies I called them. (laughing) But, anyway, when it come time to irrigate you had to be there or have somebody else there, and occasionally things would happen that I couldn't be there so Bertie'd irrigate.
SA: What did you plant there?
SA: Pasture? Did you have animals?
WP: I rented the pasture to people that did have animals.
SA: Oh! I see. So, in other words, you let it get into the natural pasture?
SA: From watering.
WP: Well, we planted different pasture grass.
SA: Okay, okay. And then you rented it to people to bring their animals there?
SA: Oh, how smart! Did you think of that?
WP: Well, that was the reason that the fella that originally owned it had. He raised chickens over there. He raised three thousand chickens.
SA: Oh, my gosh! (laughing)
WP: And he had planted this area in pasture, and I just continued and still do.
SA: Oh, you still do. So, is there a ditch there with water that comes in from the [Newlands] Project?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: And do you have to pay for that water?
WP: Oh, yeah. You pay so much per acre foot, and, of course, they allocate you so much water now.
SA: Uh-huh. Is it getting short now?
WP: Last year it got real short.
SA: Because of the drought.
WP: I think less than half of what we ordinarily got.
SA: Is the pasture still growing okay?
WP: Yeah, not okay.
SA: Not all the way. No, no. So Bertie took care of all that? The irrigation of the field?
WP: Not all together, but if I got hung up on something and couldn't be there myself, she done it, and, of course, the kids were going to school. They couldn't do it.
SA: I see. So, you've had that for a long time?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: And has it continued in the same way with the pasture and then you lease it?
SA: Do you lease it to the same person?
WP: Well, I leased it a good many years to one person and he died. Had a heart attack. Or he didn't have a heart attack.
SA: Brain tumor?
WP: Yeah. Where a vein breaks in your brain.
SA: Oh, a cerebral hemorrhage or something.
WP: Yeah, and when they found him he was laying on his back. Oh, man.
SA: Oh, gee.
WP: But any rate, then I got another fellow and he rented it until he finally rented his ranch himself and retired and now I've rented it to another guy.
SA: Now, has the rental of it over the years paid off for you of what you had to invest in buying it?
WP: Yeah. Up to the time when water got so short that it can't be properly taken care of now because of the shortage of the water. I only irrigate about a third of what we did before.
SA: But you can still lease it? There is still enough for animals?
WP: Yeah, I still have. Someday my kids will get a lot of good out it because that town just keeps movin' out, and the houses keep . .
SA: Oh, of course. Especially with the military coming.
WP: I talked to a friend of mine--he lives down the road here, and he bought a vacant area of about thirty acres, and he's getting about twenty-five thousand dollars an acre for that land now.
SA: Someone's buying it for houses?
WP: For homes.
SA: Yes. It's growing fast. Now, we haven't touched on something that's been major in your life, I believe, and that is your work as a volunteer fireman. So we have a nice fresh new tape on, so I want you to start from the beginning where you got your interest and kind of take me through it, describing some of the fires and where they would be. Just start first what got you into it. How old were you?
WP: Uh…give me a little. I become interested in joining the Fallon Fire Department because the city of Fallon depends on that department and if people don't participate they're not going to have a fire department.
SA: Was it all volunteers?
WP: Yeah, it's all volunteer. Has been and continues to be, but the Sagebrush was the meeting place for the firemen after a fire and a lot of them before the fire.
SA: Is that right?
WP: After a fire was over they usually showed up and hashed it all over, and I knew every member and had known them for a long time, and one of them in particular kept nudging me. "Why don't you join the fire department?" I said, "Hell fire, what am I going to do? I'm here alone. Nobody, and the whistle blows, what'll . . .?" Well, we took care of that. When the whistle blew I just left, and uh..
SA: Whoever was there….
WP: Yeah, whoever was there took care of it. (laughing)
WP: It was real interesting to me and the guys all took a great interest in it as they do yet, I think, and when we first started, of course, the equipment we had didn't amount to anything like it is now. We had one old truck that they had bought from back east. They called her "Old Betsy", and they still got it. She's out at the [Churchill County] Museum. And then we went from strictly a city fire department, then we started a county end of it, too, so that we answered fire calls into the county.
SA: Oh, my gosh. Now, is there a paid staff person who's in charge of all you. WP: There is now.
SA: But not in the beginning?
WP: No. He really isn't in charge. I don't know what his title is, but he belonged to the fire department before he took on this job, but the fire chief himself is a volunteer. The sheriff here, Bill Lawry, is the department chief now, and he started just as a young guy out of high school.
SA: Now, in those early years because I read where you started in 1939, I want you to think back as to what kinds of fires there were then.
WP: Well, most of the local fires were caused from older homes that had biopad wiring and oil stoves. The old pot-type oil stove caused a lot of fires in the wintertime, and people's carelessness caused fires. Burning around their homes and cigarettes caused fires.
SA: On the ranches did they try to burn dry grass and it would get away?
WP: In the country especially. That was one of the main reasons far fires in the country. The farmers would light a fire, and the wind would come up and get out of control. We found one farmer that was doing it on purpose.
WP: To burn off his field. He'd let it burn up so far, and they'd call the fire department to put it out.
SA: Oh, my gosh.
WP: They took care of that.
SA: Were there ever any fires that you couldn't contain? That got dangerous that you .
WP: Well, one of them in particular was the fire down at the Richfield Oil plant. A fellow drove in at the plant
SA: Where was that plant?
WP: The Richfield bulk plant is just off of Maine Street a little ways, and a fellow drove in there to dump gasoline, and it was in the wintertime, and he built a fire under one of the trucks to thaw out a valve, and, subsequently, caught things afire. When we got the call it was really burning, and it looked like for awhile that it might be disastrous, but due to the fact that the Navy was here and give us a hand with some equipment we finally put it out.
SA: Wow! Do they have their own fire equipment?
WP: Oh, they got a terrific department out at the Navy. I've forgotten how many trucks they sent in, but they sent either two or three trucks in, and they… they had a uh… There was one magnesium door that I remember that caught fire down there, and, of course, water won't put it out, but the Navy had some foam in one of their rigs, and they put this (laughing), so it all worked out for the better, and it caused a good feeling between the . .
SA: Oh, the community appreciated the Navy being there.
WP: You bet.
SA: Now, about how many fires would there be in a period of time? Did it change over time from the early period?
WP: There wasn't too many city fires. Maybe four or five a year.
SA: Oh, that's not too bad at all,
WP: No. But country fires is a different thing.
SA: Like how many?
WP: Oh, sometimes we get two, three in a day.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
WP: And then it'd go along without end, and then we'd have a . . it depended on what time of year it was. Usually the worst period was in the spring when they were burning off these different areas.
SA: Now let me ask this was there a signal beca… First of all, how many volunteers were there in the beginning, and how did it grow?
WP: The number was thirty-one, and it's still the same, I think.
SA: Stays about thirty-one.
WP: And they take, I don't how many, whether they've changed it now since I've left, but they take so many out of that thirty- one to answer county calls.
SA: Okay, that’s what I wanted to find out. Yeah.
WP: Those guys are on for thirty or sixty or ninety days on the county and the city, and then they get off of the county. They stay on the city all right, but they get off of the county and another bunch moves in and takes over the county duties.
SA: Now, I don't understand and probably others won't either, how do you know when there's a fire? Is that that loud, loud whistle?
SA: Is there anything more than that in case you're not near it? Radio?
WP: Now each guy's got a radio.
SA: A pager kind of?
WP: Yeah. It's a one-way deal. He can't talk back, but he gets the information about where the fire is and so forth on the pager.
SA: But not the early days.
WP: No, no. The only thing that we had then was a whistle.
SA: From down here at City Hall.
WP: It's right there by the City Hall on a big pole.
SA: Yeah, I hear it because I'm at the Western Motel every day at noon, and the Museum wanted me to ask you if you knew when they started to use the noontime whistle when there wasn't a fire. 'Cause it's everyday at noon.
WP: Well, since the advent of the whistle itself, they used it for a noontime signal, and the whistle was put in there on October 25, 1916. "A motion is duly made and seconded that the siren was adopted as the official fire alarm signal. The following rules were also established: The general alarm for fire was one long blast followed by short blast to designate the Ward number. The entire alarm to be repeated twice making three complete alarms."
SA: So that there were wards.
SA: And were there volunteers in different wards?
WP: Yeah. Of course, in order to belong to the fire department you had to live in town. I think the first exception they made was when I moved from the Fallon area to where I am presently which is a mile out of town, they made it an exception, and since then they've made several. I'm not the only one, but you can't be too far out of town. You gotta be close enough so you can hear the whistle.
SA: Oh, I get it. I get it.
WP: Because, first, we didn't have any radios.
SA: And, also, you have to be close enough to get to the fire engines.
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: I see. Now, this is the other question 1 have. Let's say there's thirty-one men. Are they all going to answer the fire alarm?
WP: They're supposed to.
SA: All of them. You mean, thirty-one people.
WP: Yeah. Because you either get a credit or a demerit. You get a credit if you answer it, and you get a demerit if you don't.
SA: What happens when you get a lot of demerits? Kick you out.
WP: (whistles) Out the door.
SA: Ah, so in town, does everyone, every boss, everyone people work for understand that they're allowed to leave to go to a fire?
WP: Yeah. I think so.
SA: And they all respect that?
WP: In the past as far as I know they've never been a problem, because I think before the fellow joins the fire department he finds out whether it's going to be okay or not.
SA: So, you can't be a teacher or a mailman or a policeman. Can ya?
WP: Yeah. 'Cause we've had several teachers and we've had several policemen. George Wood, in fact, he was the chief of police here in town. He was a fireman for a long time.
SA: So, as the town grew and it's so huge now, how does the volunteer fire department handle all of that?
WP: Presently with more equipment and better equipment. We started out… This fire department started in 1915, and their principal equipment then, aside from the hydrants, was a hand-drawn cart loaded with soda acid.
SA: Oh, gee. (laughing)
WP: And the fire station then was an older type wooden building, and they had a bell in the belfry to call the fire department.
SA: The other thing I don't understand is why they blow that loud, loud, loud noon whistle everyday downtown when the town is getting bigger, and it's awfully loud.
WP: (laughing) I don't know.
SA: You don't know that?
WP: (laughing) That's something that I don't.
SA: Because I thought it was a fire when I heard because that is a very, very loud noise, and downtown there's a lot of businesses now and people. Amazing.
WP: I don't why they do it, but it started right off of the bat from the time they got it.
SA: Always. So it's part of the ritual of the town. You were in a long time, and I see you became quite high, so they must have an organization that meets. How did you get appointed to this?
WP: Yeah, we met every other Wednesday,
SA: At lunch, or what?
WP: No, in the evening.
SA: At the Sagebrush?
WP: No, at the fire station.
WP: And, then, of course, in the older fire station that was adjacent and part of the City Hall--we didn't have much room, but with the newer fire station over where it is now we had a nice club room and a kitchen and everything.
SA: Is it all men? No women?
WP: No women, yet.
SA: Does the organization foresee a time with the town growing so much where they can tax the people and have a paid fire department?
WP: I think so. I think it's coming.
SA: Because it's asking too much of a volunteer.
WP: Well, even in my time, like those country fires. Someday they're going to have to have a paid department in order to do a proficient job.
SA: Sure, and since everyone's being protected if each paid a certain tax and you could still have some volunteers, but it seems to have all of it volunteered. The city is growing so fast.
WP: They're talking about a paid department now. I don't know. As long as the fellows are as efficient as they are and as willing as they are, they'll continue to have a volunteer department because they like it that way.
SA: When you started to get all of these positions, what did they entail? Second assistant chief and the ambulance chief. What did that mean?
WP: We took on the ambulance service later on in the department mainly because there wasn't any. We had an accident or somebody got sick they depended on their neighbor or somebody with a station wagon or something to haul them in. Then a fella that was uh… he had a business in town of fixing small equipment in the bars and so forth, he drove a van and he put a gurney in it to help the town out, and it got too much for him so the fire department took on this ambulance. We bought a Cadillac ambulance.
SA: Where'd you get the money?
WP: Through donations and the county and the city both put up money for it, and I went back to Ohio two different times and got a new ambulance. Flew back there and picked up the ambulance and drove it back here, and they appointed so many fellas out of the department to man this ambulance over a twenty-four hour period, and I was amongst others that was appointed as an ambulance chief. I served, I think, twelve years.
SA: This has nothing to do with fires?
SA: And you would have to drive. Where would you take people in the ambulance?
WP: Mostly to the Reno hospital.
SA: So that's asking an awful lot to have someone to drive to Reno and back.
WP: You bet. That's what changed the fact that the ambulance was in the fire department. Finally got so bad and took so much time a lot of the fellows they just couldn't do it, so they let the ambulance out to a private individual.
SA: That's the way, of course.
WP: Which is the way it is now.
SA: Okay, because I couldn't imagine how they could cope with all that. The fires are enough. What are the changes while you were a volunteer fireman? First, when did you leave the fire department? Your volunteer work. How many years ago about?
WP: About twenty years.
SA: About twenty years ago. About 1974, 1975. So, in the period before you left it, what kind of changes did you see, and were there any unusual fires besides that terrible oil one?
WP: Yeah. We had what we called the Dodge fire.
SA: What is that?
WP: That was down at the Dodge Construction Company.
SA: Oh. Carl Dodge. I interviewed him.
WP: It caught fire, and it was quite a blaze. We didn't save much, but we saved the town from catching on fire. (laughing)
SA: (laughing) What started the fire?
WP: I don't think they ever knew. We all talked about. It was probably started by a transient that was in there.
SA: Oh, keeping warm. Oh, my.
WP: They had several open sheds there, and I'm afraid that's probably what happened. There's no proof of it.
SA: Anything else about it that you want to share?
WP: Well, one of the things that I particularly remember was the equipment we had when I first joined the fire department. We had one truck which is out at the Museum now called Betsy.
SA: Oh I will have to go see Betsy.
WP: Then we got a Ford V-8 with a V-8 engine and a five hundred gallon per minute pumper, and we used Betsy mostly to carry hose then because the water tank on her--it didn't have a water tank. It had a soda water tank on it capable of about three hundred gallons, I think. We depended mostly upon the hydrants and the city water. This soda acid was all right to put out a few curtains or something, but it wasn't proficient enough to handle a big fire, and as time went on we bought another truck and another truck and another truck and finally we went into the diesel trucks.
SA: Did you all have to learn how to drive these?
WP: Oh, yeah. Of course, you were a designated driver. The chief picked out who he wanted to drive and who was ladder man and who was so forth.
SA: According to your experience so big truck drivers could drive. Was it a pretty good cohesive group?
WP: Very much so. Hardly any dissension. We met, as I said before, every other Wednesday, and we had a meal and they appointed five guys to cook that meal.
SA: Oh, my goodness! (laughing)
WP: And to serve it, and it was a really an enjoyable time. And then we had a business meeting and time to eat.
SA: Well, that sounds like a great contribution to the community, too. Was it a certain time of why you finally left in 1975?
WP: I left mainly because there's a lot of young guys in there that could do a better job than I could. (laughing)
SA: Your legs were starting to hurt probably. You started early with that. Was that from some of the accidents that happened in your childhood, do you think?
WP: I think it was mainly from the fact that I got arthritis. Then I jumped off of a truck in the department once and it fouled up one leg, and I was always too active anyway.
SA: So, you probably damaged something in your legs. So that was a reason to quit. Is there anything else about the Sagebrush Cafe and Bar that you want to tell me before we move on and get you out of the bar?
WP: Well, we sold hunting and fishing licenses there. I sold more hunting and fishing licenses in the Sagebrush than all the rest of the places put together, and we also sold permits to hunt in the pasture which the Greenhead Club was the prime mover of.
SA: Do you want to tell me what the Greenhead Club is?
WP: The Greenhead Club is a group of men that got together in the early 1920's, I think, or was it earlier than that? They become a hunting club due to the fact that TCID [Truckee-Carson Irrigation District] at that time couldn't control the cattle or the hunting down at the what we call the Pasture. It's an area south of Fallon comprised of several thousand acres, and TCID uses it mainly as a pasture land for cattle. There was so much duck food that grew down there that it was a great place to hunt ducks.
SA: Oh. There was water there?
WP: Yeah. There was lots of water there then. Lots of water.
SA: Where'd that water come from?
WP: From the Truckee Canal.
SA: From the Newlands Project. Okay, that’s important.
WP: Yeah. You bet.
SA: That's important.
WP: I had been told numerous times from fellows that lived away from Fallon that had written to me at the Sagebrush to find out about the duck hunting, and, of course, I answered all of those because it was good for my business, and they later told me that they never seen so much good duck hunting in their life as we had here at that time.
WP: Not only there, but at Stillwater, too. Stillwater was deep water duck hunting, and this was shallow water duck hunting. All you needed down here was a pair of waders whereas down at Stillwater you had to have a boat.
SA: Was there a limit, or did TCID want to get rid of the ducks?
WP: No. The TCID then was mainly concerned due to the fact that they were having problems of people of coming and going without permission, and the area wasn't fenced properly and didn't have cattle guards, and there was no supervision, so they asked the Greenhead Club to take that over in order to supervise it, and it kept getting to be a better thing as time went on. 1 sold thousands of dollars worth of permits in the Sagebrush for hunting down there, and, of course, the members of the Greenhead Club hunted for nothing.
SA: What was their responsibility down there? I'm not quite sure what TCID wanted you to do.
WP: They wanted us to take care of the roads, the ditches, the bridges, the gates, and see to it that only people with the proper credentials got into it. That is, we were supposed to check those people in and check them back out, and if somebody got hurt down there we were supposed to take care of it.
SA: You mean when they were hunting?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: I see. Kind of oversee the hunting there, but also take care of the roads and the ditches . . .
WP: And we collected all the fees. And paid the fees.
SA: For the people who lived there?
WP: That hunted there.
SA: That hunted there. I see.
WP: Now they've got what they call well it’s a li…a little short or a small area there of trailers and tents that people during the duck season move right in there and stay there.
SA: Were they allowed to do that?
WP: They weren't until the Greenhead Club took over, and they established that situation.
SA: Okay, and then collected fees for that.
WP: Collected fees for it.
SA: Okay. So you did all that free.
WP: Well, I didn't have anything to do with that. The gatekeeper down there took care of that. We hired a gatekeeper, usually a man and a wife. She furnished food that she sold. I sold most of the permits at the Sagebrush, but you could buy one down there, too.
SA: Did you start selling the licenses when the TCID asked your group to monitor there, or were you selling them before?
WP: Well, we sold hunting licenses at the Sagebrush from its opening
SA: Oh, okay, so that you always did. So that was a major thing here, the duck hunting?
SA: Was that duck hunting here before the Newlands Project?
WP: Yeah, but not as great an extent. It just kept getting bigger and bigger until the water started to fail. Of course, when Stillwater started to dry up . . .
SA: With the droughts?
WP: It was pitiful. Just like the bass fishing. We had, probably, one of the best bass fisheries that there is in the country.
WP: We caught bass around ten, twelve pounds which is a pretty good-sized fish for a bass and a lot of them. Then the water started to dry up. They're all gone now.
SA: From the drought?
WP: Yeah. We put in boat landings and it was all done by people like myself and other people that were interested in hunting. The County loaned us some trucks one time, and we hauled dirt and put in a wharf down there.
SA: Down where?
WP: In the Stillwater area. That was all open ground. Anybody could go to hunt down there.
SA: That's near where the Wildlife Refuge is?
WP: Yeah. It's the deep water area.
SA: So what else with the Sagebrush? What else was unique about it?
WP: Well, we had a bus depot there. The bus from Las Vegas to Reno stopped there twice a day.
SA: Oh. Now, when you say a depot, did you sell tickets?
WP: Yeah, I sold tickets, and during the War I sold lots of tickets.
SA: Really! You sold tickets! And did they use your restrooms?
SA: Come in and use the restrooms?
WP: (laughing) That was one of the principal ideas, and they had food.
SA: Had something to eat. So that brought business.
WP: Yeah. I have a story to tell about that if you'd like to hear it.
SA: Yeah. Sure (laughing)
WP: A local preacher come to me and said, "I don't think this bus depot should be in the Sagebrush because it's got a bar in it," and I said, "Well, why do you think that?" "Why?" he said, "Well, people swear in a saloon and say things that people don't want to hear, or shouldn't hear." And it went on a day. Now he was a preacher of the same church that I was married in, but, anyway, I also knew a fellow here that was a preacher, and what finally ended the whole thing was that this fellow that I knew that was a preacher entered into this deal that was going on, and he told this other preacher, he said, "There's only one thing wrong with you and what's going on." and the fellow asked him why, and he said, "Well, you haven't got enough to do. If you had a little more to do, you wouldn't have time enough to be bothering Powell. (laughing) I've known him for years, and he's running a clean business. As far as language is concerned, I was in the post office the other day and heard some fellow mouthing off in language that he shouldn't have been using in the post office, but that's no reason that he shouldn't be able to go into the post office," and suddenly everything quieted down.
SA: (laughing) That's wonderful.
WP: I didn't hear anything more from this other preacher.
SA: (laughing) No more. (laughing) That's wonderful. (laughing) And what else was unique about your Sagebrush? Any groups meet there?
WP: Yeah, the Lions Club met there. The 20-30 Club met there, and any other organization that wanted to use the facilities, and several of them did. Not on a regular basis, but . . this is downstairs at the Sagebrush.
SA: Uh-huh, and you're showing me a picture that we're going to copy. So, you had a downstairs meeting room.
WP: This is the Rotary Club here.
SA: Okay, and you had a downstairs room where people could meet.
WP: There's quite a story connected with that. When my dad bought the building originally, the basement was just big enough to house two machines that took care of the refrigeration, and between myself and my dad and two or three others and my kids--the boys that is--we moved all that dirt from out under the Sagebrush. Now, originally the Sagebrush was a bank.
SA: Is that right!
WP: Yeah, and it had a vault area in it with a solid chunk of cement way down in, and we hired a guy that my dad knew. It was a man that really knew powder, and he put dynamite in that chunk of cement a piece at a time and while business is going on upstairs, he never bothered. He took this thing apart so my kids and myself and my dad, we hauled it out. A lot of it a bucket at a time.
SA: Oh, my! You cleared a whole room down there.
WP: Yeah, and made a whole room.
SA: Oh, how wonderful. So that they could have organization meetings.
WP: We had the Greenhead banquets down there, and the Greenhead Smoker.
SA: Oh, my. Did the rodeo . . .
WP: Oh, the rodeo used the upstairs facilities, my office as headquarters, and the riders all registered there and come there to get their money.
SA: So, you were like a focal point for the whole community. Really. Sounds like.
WP: Well, I suppose.
SA: So, how long did you continue with the Sagebrush before . . Did you close it down or sell it? What finally happened?
WP: I sold it.
SA: And do you remember when?
WP: (laughing) I don't recall the date.
SA: Well, maybe you can get that to me or see if we can find it at the Museum or something. And then what did you do? Did you sell it?
SA: And do you remember who you sold it to?
WP: I sold it to two different people. I sold it to a Chinaman first. He come to me and wanted to buy the Sagebrush.
SA: Was he local, or traveling?
WP: He lived in Reno, and I turned him down cold the first time, and then I had people that I knew come to me and tell me what a man this Chinaman was and what an upright man of his words that he was, so eventually I sold it to him.
SA: Oh, you did. Uh-huh. Urn-hum.
WP: The transaction went through without any problems, and he abided to what our agreement was. All we did was shake hands.
SA: Oh, for goodness sakes. (laughing)
WP: Yeah. He was one of a few.
SA: Did he run it the way it was?
SA: Did he change the food to Chinese food?
WP: Yes, to a certain extent, and he made several renovations in the building himself. I had four apartments upstairs, and he redone all of those.
SA: Really! You had four apartments?
SA: You rented them?
SA: Oh, how smart!
WP: Originally, when the bank was in there, they had a lawyer's office, two lawyers' offices, I guess, and a dentist's office up there, and later on when my dad bought it, we changed it to apartments.
SA: And, so then what did you do after you sold it? Did you retire?
WP: For a little bit, then that's when I went to work for the fire department.
SA: Tell us what you did.
WP: Well, I took care of all the equipment and kept the building clean, and I was also an ambulance driver.
SA: Oh, okay. You're an ambitious man, and how long did you stay with them?
WP: Maybe…not sure about the date of my final leaving the fire department. [1939 to 1973.]
SA: You can get that to me.
WP: Yeah, okay.
SA: I want to get back to your family before we finish this interview, and I want to follow through on your three children, so just briefly tell me about your daughter and sons, what they're doing, and where they live.
WP: My daughter, the oldest of the three, is living in Reno. She's retired and comes to visit me very regularly.
SA: What did she retire from?
WP: She retired from a stenographic job with the uh… God I can’t think of the name of it.
SA: Does she have a family of her own?
WP: No, Jay doesn't have any children. She was married twice, but no children.
And she lives in Reno?
WP: Yes, she lives in Reno. Has a real nice house, keeps it in wonderful shape.
SA: That's not too far away.
WP: No, she visits regularly, and we get along real good.
SA: Oh, good. And now tell me about William Paul Powell. What do you call him?
WP: Call him Bud.
SA: Tell us about Bud.
WP: Bud is a long, tall, and where the height comes from I don't know. He's six foot, five inches tall.
SA: OH, my goodness!
WP: And he went to the local high school and went one year at the University of Nevada and then went to Stanford and graduated from Stanford.
SA: In what field?
WP: Engineering, and he finally retired from… he didn’t retire he quit the company that he was working for due to the lack of understanding on his part, and at present time works for the World Bank in Nigeria, Africa.
SA: In Nigeria, Africa! What made him go there? (laughing)
WP: Well, he was offered a job by the organization that looked into his capabilities, and there's forty-some odd countries represented in this organization that is active there, and they're trying to find a means to feed those people in Africa, and they've established an area there in Nigeria where these farming people all live, and they have an area large enough to plant this and plant that and see if it's going to work.
SA: Do they loan them money? Is that what they do?
WP: The World Bank loans them money.
SA: So he's contributing to the world. Does he have wife with him?
WP: No, he's divorced.
SA: He's alone there, and does he have children?
WP: Yes, he has a boy and a girl. The girl is fifteen, I guess, and he's a year older.
SA: They live with the mother?
WP: The kids live with their mother except the period of time that they go and stay with their dad in Nigeria.
SA: Oh, do they go there?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: What an experience! A wonderful experience. Is it safe there?
WP: So far. They live in the area that they've had no problems in.
SA: They have schools for them there?
WP: A real good school. Most of the schooling is done, though, in France, and they go to an American school in France.
SA: Oh. What an education.
WP: They're trilingual.
SA: Now, how long has Bud been in Nigeria?
WP: Six years, I think.
SA: Oh, a long time! And what about your youngest son, James Allen? What do you call him?
SA: Tell me about Jim.
WP: Well, Jim is a graduate of the University of Nevada, also, and so is my daughter. They all graduated from the University except Bud, and due his uh…well in short due to the fact that he's smarter and was able to with the aid of a friend of mine to go to Stanford.
SA: Fabulous. Wonderful.
WP: He graduated from Stanford.
SA: You must be proud of him. And so where is Jim? What does Jim do?
WP: Jim at present, he's divorced, and he lived in Portland for awhile and when he gets through here, and that's another story. My brother-in-law died and left me a house.
WP: Right next door to my own.
SA: Right here?
WP: And my granddaughter, Susie, wants to live in it, and when we got to looking to see what had to be done before she could move in, we found out that there was a lot to be done because Willie's wife had died six or seven years ago, no, longer than that.
SA: Oh, and he lived alone.
WP: Yeah, he lived alone, and he let the house go to pot, and he's about to get it done now.
SA: Jim is working on it? He's getting it ready . . is it his daughter who wants to live there?
SA: And how old is his daughter that wants to live there?
WP: I think she's twenty-five.
SA: And what does she do?
WP: She works for the sheriff's office as a . .
SA: Here in Fallon?
WP: Urn-hum. The girls that take all the incoming calls and talk to the guys out in the field. There's a name for it.
SA: So, that's nice 'cause then you'll have her right there near you, and then where will Jim go?
WP: He's going back to Oregon, I guess. He hasn't said, but I guess he's going back to Oregon.
SA: So you have the family ..
WP: There's three other girls. One of them lives in Salt Lake City. She's married to a doctor.
SA: These are granddaughters? Are they daughters of Jim?
WP: Yeah. He had four girls.
SA: Oh, my goodness. Alright, alright.
WP: (laughing) There's the one in Salt Lake City. There's one in Reno working in two different places in Reno, and there's one in Los Angeles who went and graduated from the University of Nevada with a law degree of some kind.
SA: (laughing) All these brilliant women.
WP: She's working for the City of Los Angeles in some capacity. Has to do with law and underage children. She's very interested in kids.
SA: Is she married?
WP: No. There's only one of them that's married.
SA: So you have a nice big family.
WP: Wonderful. Those girls are . . .
SA: So you have your blessings.
WP: I can't understand how four kids can get along so well together as they do. (laughing)
SA: That's wonderful. That's wonderful.
WP: It has a lot to do with their mother. Jim's divorced wife. She has really done a remarkable job.
SA: Now, do you live alone here?
SA: Who helps you keep such a nice home?
WP: Just me.
SA: You're a very good homemaker. (laughing) You're a very capable man.
WP: I never had any interest toward furthering my married life.
SA: So you are a good homemaker. You take care of yourself?
SA: Good for you.
WP: Along with my daughter. She's real good to me. And my sons.
SA: But I mean, basically, everyday you're alone? Do you go to Senior Center to eat meals or do you eat your own meals here?
WP: Oh, I do all the cooking. This guy that's with me, man, he eats anything. As long as there's plenty of it, why . . .
SA: Well, we're coming to the end of the third tape. I never thought we would have that much, and I'm sure you didn't either, and on behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Project we want to thank you for sharing your varied and long life and all of your contributions to Fallon, and so we thank you. And this is the end of the interview.
WP: Thank you.
When we finished the interview, we realized there were a few topics we didn't cover, so this is a second session, and the date is September 15, 1994.
SA: We're going to move into some new areas today. First, let's move to the Fish and Game Commission and the fowl that you brought into Nevada. Do you want to tell us about that?
WP: It wasn’t the fowl, it was the frogs.
SA: Oh the frogs! Alright.
WP: I drove down to California into an area where bullfrogs were very popular.
SA: Tell us the date if you can. Approximate.
WP: The date that I went down to California to buy the frogs was between 1939 and 1941.
SA: What made you go down to buy frogs?
WP: We didn't have any frogs in this area, and frogs are sport to catch and very good eating. George Likes, who at that time was the County Clerk . . . He was an older person, but very interested in sports, and he knew I was interested so the two of us got together, and the County paid the expenses for me to go. I drove my car down there and we bought three thousand frogs.
SA: Who did you buy them from?
WP: We bought them from a hatchery down in California that raised frogs for sale.
SA: Oh. And did you have a site picked here where you were going to put them?
WP: Yes, we knew we'd put them in the river… the Carson River, Lahontan Dam, down in the Stillwater area, and in all the canals.
SA: I never heard anyone tell this before you. Never. Now, how many did you say you brought back?
WP: Three thousand.
SA: Oh, my gosh. That is amazing. Were you part of the Fish and Game Commission?
WP: I belonged to the Fish and Game Commission then, but this was apart from any . . .
SA: I see. Just your own idea?
WP: Well, George Likes and I formulated this and I had some help from two fellows primarily, Ray Alcorn and Vernon Mills, and between the three of us we obtained those frogs from California by express.
SA: How did they pack them? (laughing)
WP: They packed them in wooden peach crates, alive, covered with wet gunny sacks.
SA: Could they breathe?
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: 'Cause they're underwater.
WP: No, there was no water. Just the empty peach box covered with a wet gunny sack.
SA: And that was okay?
WP: Oh, yeah. We didn't experience any dead ones at all.
SA: That's amazing.
WP: So we just took them out and turned them loose, and they done very well.
SA: Oh, my. How young are these when you bring them?
WP: They were mature frogs.
SA: Mature frogs? My goodness. Never heard that before.
WP: These are not the common leopard frog. They're the big bullfrogs, the edible type.
SA: Are there any pictures anywhere of any of them? That would be wonderful.
WP: I don't know.
SA: We changed the tape and you were telling us about the frogs. So you want to continue with that.
WP: We planted the frogs in all of the canals in the Stillwater area and Lahontan Dam and anywhere that we thought that they'd reproduce which entailed the whole area of Fallon. They turned out to be real successful. Since the shortage of water and the dry periods we have experienced, I don't know whether there's too many of them left or not.
SA: Did you say that people caught them?
WP: They used…As a means of catching them, they used fish lines with a bug on the end of the line and they used frog spears and they used bow and arrows. Anyway, those frogs were big enough that it was a prime target, and they hunted them mostly at night with a flashlight because the eyes at night shined really bright.
SA: Urn-m-m. How long did this go on?
WP: Well, it went on from the time we had the first prime frogs that were big enough to eat until now. I suppose there's still a few of them left.
SA: Is that right?
SA: Oh, my goodness. Was there a limit to how many they could catch?
WP: Five. The limit was five.
SA: Okay, there was a limit. So they didn't deplete them by catching them.
WP: No. No.
SA: And would you cook them?
WP: Yeah. You cooked primarily the hind legs which was the most meaty part and an area across the back.
SA: Oh, that's gourmet. Did the restaurants catch them and serve them?
WP: Well, probably some people had them cooked for them. Of course, most people cooked them at home. Some of the ladies didn't like to cook them too well because usually when you put them in the frying pan they jumped around a little bit.
SA: Oh-h-h, I wouldn't want to do that. (laughing)
SA: Well, this is the first person that told me about that. Isn't that something? I hope we can find pictures. That would be wonderful. We'll get word around. Maybe the [Churchill County] Museum has it.
WP: And we talk about the fish now. I made a trip down to Clear Lake, California.
SA: Where is that? What part of California? It’s a big state.
WP: It’s down by um…
SA: Is it north, south…? Northern?
WP: I went over the summit and turned off to the right, down through Redding and, ultimately, into the Clear Lake area.
SA: Okay, so that's in northern California.
WP: Yeah. I knew a fellow down there that was living there, and he invited me to come down, and another fellow and I, by the name of Ralph Fortune, went down the first time. This fellow that I knew took us out on a boat, and we were fishing mainly for forked-tail catfish.
SA: For what?
WP: Forked-tail catfish.
SA: Forked-tail catfish.
WP: Uh-huh. They grew from two or three pounds up to eight or ten, and we weren't too fortunate the first time, but we brought back all that I could get in the car, and we brought them back, not in water, but just on wet gunny sacks. A catfish retains its life even if it isn't in water as long as it remains damp and can breathe.
SA: Do they wiggle around and all?
WP: Oh, yeah. They wiggle. We stopped at every service station on the way home and wet them down.
SA: Who was with you?
WP: A fellow by the name of Ralph Fortune.
SA: Okay. So you had someone with you. About how many did you bring back?
WP: We brought back probably a hundred and fifty the first time. Then I made arrangements…
SA: Where did you put them?
WP: We put them in all the water areas that we thought was deep enough for them.
SA: Was this on your own again, or was this part of the Fish and Game?
WP: No, this was between I and George Likes.
SA: But who did you have to get permission from to do this, to put them in the water?
WP: Well, I got that from the Fish and Game Commission.
SA: So they knew what you were doing? We want to get that on record.
WP: Oh, yes. They knew. They knew. And later I communicated with the California Fish and Game Commission and they made it possible for me to go down and get two or three more loads of fish of a greater quantity.
SA: Oh, my goodness. So you really did a lot of the uh…
WP: We had quite a number of fish to plant.
SA: It must be written up in the papers. Surely. We’ll find out from the museum so that we can add that. Fascinating.
WP: And I think people enjoyed later catching those fish. Later on they planted another type of catfish in there that I didn't have anything to do with.
SA: So, when was this catfish? Was that about the same time as the frogs?
WP: A little later than the frogs.
SA: Just a little later. So maybe the late 1930's? Something like that?
SA: Oh, that's fascinating. So, now tell me about the Fish and Game Commission.
WP: Well, at that time the Fish and Game Commission was comprised of just five people.
SA: Was that a county or regional? How much area did that cover?
WP: The governor appointed the commissioners mainly from counties that were primarily interested in fish and game.
SA: So it was a state commission?
WP: Yeah. The governor of the state appointed the commissioners. They appointed me from here to take Bob Douglas's place.
SA: You must have been very well known. Was that after you brought in the frogs and the fish?
SA: After that?
WP: No. It was before that.
SA: So you had built a reputation.
WP: Well, everybody knew that I was interested in sports and especially fishing, and I was interested in furthering the number of fish and species that we could get into Churchill County.
SA: So, tell me, when were you appointed?
WP: I was appointed to the Nevada State Fish and Game Commission by Governor E.P. Carville on January 4, 1939, and I served for twelve years.
SA: Twelve years?
WP: Yeah. We were appointed not for a regular session, but at the pleasure of the Governor. I resigned at the end of the twelfth year.
SA: Was he still governor when you resigned?
SA: Who was governor then?
SA: That’s okay. In other words, when there was a new governor, did they have to reappoint you?
SA: But if they wanted to change, they could let you go.
WP: Now, I'm not sure whether there was a new governor or not. It could have been Carville yet.
SA: Why did you leave?
WP: Well, I thought somebody else oughta have a chance, and things were changing, and I was short of time, and I thought I'd served a long enough period and give somebody a chance.
SA: Let's go back to January of 1939 when you were appointed. Now, I want you to tell me some of the things that you do when you're on the commission. How often do you meet? What decisions do you make? Tell me a little about what a Fish and Game Commissioner does.
WP: They arrange all of the opening and closing dates of the fish and game other than the ducks, and the ducks and the geese were made by a treaty of the United States government and Mexico.
SA: Because they're birds that fly from one place to another?
WP: Not only Mexico but Canada. The ducks usually migrated from Canada into the United States then into Mexico, and so those three countries had a treaty as to when the season would open, when it would close, and how many you could shoot of each specie.
SA: How did they determine all of that?
WP: How the ducks were doing. How many they figured would be in the flyway each year. It was just a compilation of the numbers. When I first started to hunt ducks, the limit was twenty-five. Now I think it's three or four.
SA: Oh, oh. How often would the comissioners meet and where did you meet?
WP: We met once a month and met in the Fish and Game office in Reno.
SA: So, you were the only one in Fallon?
SA: Did you travel alone then?
SA: The other four were from four other counties?
WP: No, there was one from White Pine County, one from Washoe County, one from . . .
SA: Was there one from Lander County?
WP: Yeah, one from Lander County and one more. At any rate there was five of us. They were appointed from areas that had lots of game, and at that time we were the primary area for duck hunters in the whole United States.
SA: Oh, my goodness. Would it be a whole day meeting?
WP: We usually met from about ten o'clock until four or five in the afternoon.
SA: That's a whole day. Who drew up the agenda? The governor?
WP: No. The governor didn't participate other than he made an inquiry once in a while. The secretary through suggestions from whomever wanted to present one made up the agenda.
SA: You would call her?
SA: And was there a rotating head of the commission to run the meetings?
SA: And was that through vote of the five?
WP: Yes. The five members chose the chairman.
SA: Would it rotate every year?
WP: No. As long as I was in there, I held the same office and a fellow by the name of E.J. Phillips from Gardnerville was the chairman.
SA: Was he the chairman the whole time?
WP: No, he resigned and another one of the fellows took his place.
SA: So tell me some of the things that were decided by this Fish and Game Commission and some of the things that you felt most pleased about.
WP: Well, we decided on all the limits of fish and game and the dates that you could hunt and fish and anything pertaining to the laws on fish and game in the state of Nevada. At that time the seasons were not only controlled by the Fish and Game, but the counties at that time had considerable control also which they don't have now.
SA: I see. Was there ever any controversy between these… among the five commissioners because of the different circumstances in the counties?
WP: Not with the members themselves, but there was considerable controversy between the Fish and Game Commission and the different county commissioners due to the fact that they had the right to express themselves, and they didn't demand, but they asked for certain periods for opening dates and closing dates and limits.
SA: Would they come personally?
WP: Usually they presented themselves personally or by letter.
SA: Was it easily resolved?
SA: Would you sometimes have to tell them, "Sorry?"
WP: We didn't have too much of a problem although, just like in any proposition, occasionally arguments arose, but I can't remember of ever having had a real bad argument.
SA: Did you ever have any particular assignment that was unusual? Would they give different people from different counties because of the different situations, did you ever have an assignment to bring back a report or anything on the results of the opening date or results of the tourists hunting or anything like that? Or was it just at those meetings that you resolved issues?
WP: Yeah. Occasionally I went to another town, away from town to express an opinion on fish and game. I also made one trip to San Francisco. They had a joint meeting of all the states in San Francisco, and they asked me to present a paper on uh…to tell you the truth I have forgotten… it was about ducks.
SA: Uh-huh. Now was this someone from all the western states?
WP: From all the states that had any interest whatsoever in the migration of ducks.
SA: Oh, how interesting. It must have been interesting to meet a lot of people and travel a little bit.
WP: Yeah. I think I was down there for three days.
SA: That's prestigious to represent your region, and what else do you want to tell me about? Twelve years is a long time. How did the fish and game in this region change over those twelve years?
WP: Well, when I first joined the commission there was only five members. Now, they've changed it to what they call State Control, and it's strictly under the State Control now, and I think now there's several more commissioners than there was then at that time. Put it that way. I don't how many members there are, but there were several more. They've got more representation from the state as a whole than they had then.
SA: Would they pay your expenses? Did you get any honorarium for all the work?
WP: We got ten cents a mile for gasoline and a dispensation for one meal.
WP: And that's all.
SA: You were contributing your time, and it was prestigious. Now, did the Fish and Game Commission have anything to do with the wildlife preserve that you have here out in Stillwater?
WP: Not really. That was mostly government. Of course they were interested, but Uncle Sam had all there was to say about that.
SA: Okay. It was under anything but the state. Anything else? Well, when you brought in the frogs, was that discussed?
WP: Oh, yeah. It was discussed by the Fish and Game Commission, and they were happy that we were able to promote something different.
SA: Was the Fish and Game Commission connected at all with tourism to bring in people to enjoy the fish and game in the state?
WP: The Fish and Game themselves wasn't connected, but I had quite a little to do with the fact that we had such excellent duck hunting in this area. I received inquiries and letters from probably ten or twelve different states.
SA: Was that because of the Sagebrush publicity because of your promoting fishing and hunting?
WP: That and the fact that I can remember one person was a high-ranking officer in the Navy, and he wrote me a letter and asked me about the duck hunting here and later come here, and I took him down to the pasture hunting. After that he come every year until after he retired.
SA: Oh, my goodness? Were the ducks as plentiful in the earlier period before the Newlands Project? Did the Newlands Project water have anything at all to do with the fish and game?
WP: Oh, yes. My father took me hunting down at the pasture the first time when was nine years old. He bought me a 20-gauge single-barrelled shotgun, and he and a friend of his and myself went down there. The limit for the ducks then was twenty-five, and, of course, there was a fence around the pasture at that time and cattle guards but they weren't very well taken care of and, as I mentioned once before, that that's the reason the Greenhead Club finally obtained the care of the pasture down there. We were in the irrigation process at that same time and a lot more water went into the pasture into Stillwater at that time than it does now. Much more.
SA: Did that bring in the possibility for more fish and ducks?
WP: Oh, yes. The larger area of water that we were able to sustain just meant more ducks and more geese. Especially down at the, well, not only the Carson pasture, but there was a nut grass at the Stillwater area and there was a nut grass area at the Carson Lake area.
SA: What is nut grass?
WP: It’s a prime duck food.
SA: I see. So that would grow because of the water and the weather and the soil.
WP: It had to have lots of water for the nut grass, and it was a prime place to hunt. I always liked to hunt in the nut grass because you could squat down in the nut grass, and you always got to shoot mostly mallards in the nut grass.
SA: Do you think that before 1904, before the [Newlands] Project, that there weren't as many ducks?
WP: Oh, I don't think so.
SA: Before the Project?
WP: Oh, no.
SA: So, this is another benefit of the Project.
WP: Until they started to store water, there wasn't much irrigation in this area at all.
SA: So, that's another benefit of the Project.
WP: Oh, yeah.
SA: Tell me more about that fish and game period when you were active. Do you remember anything else that the commissioners decided that you felt really good about? Any progress over those twelve years, or was it declining?
WP: Things started to decline all right. Not while I was on the commission because we were still having wet enough winters that their runoff in the spring was big enough to take care of our needs. Of course, Pyramid Lake has suffered, according to them, lack of water and for a long, long time.
SA: Were you allowed you to fish at Pyramid Lake? Or was that just for the Native Americans?
WP: Yes. No. When I first started to fish at Pyramid Lake, you couldn't put your own boat on the water. You had to hire a boat from the Indians, and they rented that boat out for a dollar an hour, and it was a big boat. It had a big live…When you caught a fish you put it in this area in the boat, and they kept it alive.
SA: So they did let you fish there.
WP: Oh, yeah, but you had to do whatever they said. Of course, their restrictions then weren't near what they are now. I fished it ever since I was old enough to drive a car over there, and I think at that time we caught fish--the biggest one I ever caught weighed 24 1/2 pounds which is considerably bigger than the ones they catch now.
SA: Did the Indians from Pyramid Lake ever come to do duck hunting or hunting over here? Was there a mingling? Or was that too far for them to get here?
WP: No, they didn't come over here to do any hunting, but they come over here with horse and buggy with a load of those big trout. They snagged them. They didn't fish for them. They snagged them with a cane pole with a big fishhook on the end of it, and when those fish come out of the Lake into the shallow water area to go up to spawn, then they snagged them with these long poles with the fishhook on the end, and they loaded those on a buckboard primarily and brought them into Fallon. They sold those fish for, oh, a dollar or a dollar and a half.
SA: Oh, so they would just park it on Maine Street and sell it?
WP: Well, they went all over town.
SA: Oh, they drove around.
SA: Did they call out or have a bell or . . ?
WP: No. Usually the people in the area would know that the Indians were coming, and they'd stop and knock on the door.
SA: Oh, good. I've never heard that from anyone either.
WP: It was an event that everybody kind of looked forward to because the fish were fresh. They left over there early enough.
SA: Oh, good, and it helped them with some income that they probably needed. That's the first time anyone told me that, too, so that is new.
WP: And, of course, at that time the Indians ate and used the cui-ui fish that they're talking so much about.
SA: That there's a shortage now.
WP: Now they don't eat any of them I don't think.
SA: Because of the shortage?
WP: I can remember in the cleaning process, those fish when the spawning period was on would get up ten or twelve feet high and stink to high heaven.
SA: Dooh. (laughing) So, anything more? What else can you share both on the fish and game and on the hunting and fishing scene?
WP: Well, other than what I've already said, I think it was pretty well covered, and it's just too bad that, due primarily to the water shortage, that we don't have it the way it was because we had something that would of helped the area.
SA: But, do you think that surely soon you'll have years of heavy rains and snow that it might pick up again? I mean, that seems to be a pattern of different places like where I live, too, where there's a period of drought, then there's a period of heavier rains.
WP: Well, during my lifetime, most of it at any rate, we had a considerable amount of water, but the last ten or twelve years it's started to dry up, and as time goes on it seems to get drier and drier, so I don't know whether it'll change or not.
SA: Yeah, there's no way to know that.
WP: If it doesn't, we're in bad trouble.
SA: You gave us details that I haven't heard before on the fish and game, so we're thankful for that. Now I want to learn about the organizations that you were active in and belonged to. So you start with whichever organization you want to start with.
WP: Aside from the Greenhead Club which I joined when I was twelve years old.
SA: Now you might want to tell us a little more about it. I don't think we got much about it.
WP: And I eventually was given a lifetime recognition and was acclaimed a lifetime member in the Greenhead Club.
SA: Were you one of the youngest to join?
SA: Oh, isn't that interesting!
WP: I joined as soon as I was old enough to shoot a gun.
SA: Oh, good. (laughing) Sounds like you were mature for your age going into a grownup world.
WP: Well, and I had a father that was real interested in it. I know at the time my brother, we were eighteen months apart, and he had wait a little while before he could . . . (laughing)
SA: (laughing) Why did he have to wait and not you?
WP: Until he become old enough to buy a license.
SA: Uh-huh, but why did they let you in?
WP: Because 1 was old enough to get a license.
SA: Oh, 'cause I thought you were twelve.
SA: Oh, you could be twelve to get a license, and he was younger.
SA: Okay, okay. Would you go with your father?
SA: So tell us a little bit about that organization. We really didn't cover it too well.
WP: It was an organization that was comprised of the locals here that were interested in duck hunting, and it was made possible by the fact that the Carson Lake pasture which is located south of Fallon had a great deal of water, a great deal of ducks and geese and snipe, and later on we used to shoot a pheasant or two down there, so it was a prime game area.
SA: A prime game area?
WP: Yeah. After the TCID made it possible for us to take over the pasture down there, we put in wood bridges and roads and made it possible to get into areas that you had to walk to before.
SA: Who would pay for the materials? Who would do this?
WP: The Greenhead Club. Its membership paid for it.
SA: Through what they raised as membership dues?
SA: You just contributed your labor?
WP: Yeah. Most of the labor was done by the members, or…in later years they hired a contractor to do . . . I know we changed some of the ditches down there years ago, and we hired a fellow with a dragline to go down and do that work.
SA: Oh, good. So you saw that it was well taken care of.
WP: Yeah. We fixed the fences and made gates that we were able to lock, and, of course, later on we allowed people to buy, not only memberships, we allowed them to buy daily hunting permits.
SA: Oh. Like people coming in, visitors from out of the area.
WP: Yeah, they come from California. They come from all over. And, as I said before, I sold permits amounting to thousands of dollars from the Sagebrush at the time for those daily and weekly hunting permits.
SA: Now, in order to sell the license, did the higher authority have to approve where the licenses were sold?
WP: Well, they were primarily interested in somebody selling the licenses that would make sure that they turned in all the money.
SA: That's right. Were you the only one downtown?
WP: No, I think I.H. Kent Company and two or three others in town.
SA: Where probably you were members of the Greenhead so they knew you.
WP: Yeah. Well, then at that time I was in the Sagebrush and we were open a long time and everybody knew they could get a permit. They could get something to eat. They could buy shotgun shells.
SA: Oh, you sold shotgun shells. You didn't say that. (laughing)
WP: Oh, yeah. And several times I loaned them my own boots so that they could . . .
SA: (laughing) I wish I could have visited that Sagebrush at that period.
WP: It was interesting.
SA: Anything more on that.
WP: Well, I think that about covers it.
SA: Oh, let's move on to other organizations.
WP: Other than the Greenhead Club I belonged to the 20-30 Club.
SA: What is the 20-30 Club?
WP: Amounted to people between the ages of 20 and 30 years.
SA: Okay, so we know they had to be between 20 and 30 years old. How did they determine that? They wanted a group for young people or . . ?
WP: Yeah. They wanted the young people's opinions, I guess.
SA: Who formed that club?
WP: It was an organization that was prevalent in many states then.
SA: 20-30 clubs?
WP: Yeah. I don't know who formed it originally.
SA: Was it a social? Was it a political? What kind of a club was it?
WP: We met once a week, and for a long time met at the Sagebrush downstairs.
SA: Was there a head of it that organized it here?
WP: Yeah. I think the head that organized it for here at the time come from California.
SA: What kind of an organization? Was it political, religious?
WP: No, there was nothing political or religious. It was just an organization just to further the relationship between younger people and could do public service.
SA: Was it connected with an older aged organization?
WP: No. As an example the 20-30 Club originated and made it possible for the local high school to have a track area, and the track area that is at present at the local high school was originated and started by the local 20-30 Club. At that time I was president of the club and the WPA was prevalent then, and most of the help that we got to do that was furnished by WPA.
SA: So it sounds like it came as an idea from the government just as now Clinton's trying to formulate young people volunteering and doing service for the government. Was it that kind of a thing?
WP: No, not really, because the WPA, you know, was comprised of people that were out of work.
SA: Yeah, but it was a government-run agency.
SA: So was 20-30 connected with the government so that the person that came out to form it came out because the government wanted to promote this kind of good work by you?
WP: Well, I suppose. But in order to get those people to do the work that they did I just made application, and I had to tell what we wanted and how we wanted it and they okayed it and told us what they were able to help with.
SA: Okay, so they helped with some funds.
SA: So it sounds like it was part of a government program.
WP: Oh, yeah. They had considerable to do with it.
SA: And you think 1920's and 1930's was Depression time when there wasn't a lot of work for young people and so to promote good work?
WP: And something for those people to do.
SA: The young people. That's wonderful. I had never heard of it till now. So tell us as much as you can about it. What were some of the other projects besides the school track?
WP: I think WPA under the supervision of a fellow that lives here at the present time named Louis Moiola, he was one of the prime movers. They done a lot of work on the irrigation canals and the irrigation ditches.
SA: Is that the CCC?
WP: Yeah. And the boxes. They put in cement structures of all kinds.
SA: Was that the same period that the 20-30 was starting?
SA: So it sounds like a connection, doesn't it?
WP: Well, no, there was really no connection. It was a little later, but not much. It was in that same period when things were in dire need of help.
SA: What were some of the other things that the 20-30 Club did? Was it mainly with education and schools?
SA: What else did they do?
WP: Every year we looked for a prime object to obtain and further. Usually each year it was a different one and we were helping somebody and we had a program at Christmas where we gathered the food together.
SA: Wonderful! So it was good deeds.
SA: And you had fun while you were doing that?
WP: Oh, yeah. We had a lot of fun.
SA: How often did you meet?
WP: Once a week.
SA: And what kind of activities did the group do? Was it young men and women?
WP: No, no girls. It was strictly boys.
SA: Only young men? No women? (laughing)
SA: (laughing) That's no fun.
WP: (laughing) No, no. At that time there wasn't any women.
SA: Maybe because women didn't have to work then and men did.
WP: I guess. I don't know.
SA: So tell me what you did.
WP: Well, we done whatever a service club would do. That's what we were was a service club, and we were trying to give whoever needed service our help.
SA: Back to your community. And they probably figured the 20-30 fellows were into some work and some activity. Women were in the home then.
WP: Whatever it was if it was presented to us, and there was a lot of projects that was presented to us for help, and we were glad to do it.
SA: That sounds wonderful. If you can ever find anything in writing about it, I would greatly appreciate it.
WP: And then after I become 30 . .
SA: They kicked you out? (laughing)
WP: Well, I joined the Lions' Club then.
SA: Okay. Was this kind of a stepping stone to other organizations like the Lions Club?
WP: I suppose. Because the Lions Club was an organization that was a service organization also. One of their primary service problems was eye glasses for people.
SA: Yes, I've heard that. I think that's wonderful.
WP: And it's still prevalent, I guess.
SA: Do you think maybe one of the leaders once his family or someone he knew could never afford glasses.
SA: You know, where children desperately . . .
WP: Yeah. Probably. It was mostly children that we . . . we took up contributions every year and tried to furnish glasses for the local children that couldn't afford it.
SA: And did you have fund-raisers to raise funds?
SA: And how long were you in the Lions Club, and did you ever reach a leadership role?
WP: No, I got too busy taking care of my family . . .
SA: And running the Sagebrush. (laughing)
WP: Yeah. (laughing) And then I joined the fire department.
SA: Oh, that's right. You were a volunteer. You gave so much to the community through that.
WP: That was a real interesting part of my life.
SA: That was a dominant thing. Any other organizations that you were in long enough to talk about?
WP: Well, other than the bow hunting club and we had a rifle club and we had a baseball organization. None of those lasted too long, but we were always promoting something.
SA: (laughing) Well, sounds like you were very involved. Now, you mentioned you started another business.
WP: Yes, in 1958, I bought the Toggery.
SA: What's the Toggery?
WP: A men's furnishing store.
SA: And where was that?
WP: That was right on the corner of Maine and First Streets right on Maine Street.
SA: Now, were you out of the Sagebrush by then?
SA: This was a second . . ?
WP: My brother-in-law and his wife and my wife run the store, and I still stayed in the Sagebrush.
SA: So now tell me about the Toggery.
WP: Well, we had men's clothing, Stetson hats, Levi overalls, all of the main types of clothing that were on the market at that time.
SA: Now, was that already in the store when you bought it?
WP: Yeah. I bought it from a fellow that had run the store for a good many years.
SA: And he was ready to leave it to retire?
SA: You said your wife, your brother-in-law and his wife. Did they change it in any way?
WP: Well, we changed all of the furnishings and all of the fixtures and renovated the store completely, and we added considerably to the stock.
SA: Was it successful?
WP: Yes, it was successful.
SA: Did your wife enjoy that?
WP: Yes, she did. I don't think her sister enjoyed it too much, but my wife did. She enjoyed it and the fact that they didn't sell women's--well, we did sell a few women's things.
SA: But mainly men's?
WP: Mainly men, and we sold Florsheim shoes.
SA: Oh, wow, that's pretty fancy.
WP: Yeah, and Stetson hats and Pendleton shirts.
SA: Wowl Good quality.
WP: Good quality.
SA: So did your wife and brother-in-law and your wife's sister, did they take turns in the hours? Did they divide the responsibilities?
SA: And then who would do the ordering?
WP: My brother-in-law mostly done the ordering We'd get together and decided.
SA: You, too?
SA: And where would he order these? How and where would he order the clothing?
WP: From wherever they were manufactured. Well, the salesmen come around periodically to establish an account 'cause at that time like Florsheim and Pendleton and those major brands, they only sold it to one store in town.
SA: Oh, is that right? Oh, so that was quite a good store if you got that. So that was pretty good. What were the hours? When were you open?
WP: Opened 8:00 in the morning and closed at 5:30 at night.
SA: Awfully early to open then. Now you never find a store opening before ten. WP: Well, this is a farming community, you know.
SA: Oh, and they were up early. Did they have young boys' clothes? WP: Yes. High-school kids.
SA: Do you have any pictures of the Toggery? If you can, if you can find any pictures or advertising or anything on it, that would be good to add to it.
SA: Anything to tell about it that is of interest that might add to it? During that period of 1958-1967, I imagine the town was growing. ^id your business increase?
WP: Yes, it kept increasing until we decided that we'd had the store long enough, and we just offered everything for sale and sold it out to the bare wall.
SA: Was it an easy agreement among the four people since you had it with your brother-in-law and his wife?
WP: We had no problem there. I put up most of the money, and he had opened a little shoe store just before that off in another part of town, and it wasn't doing too well, and he was agreeable. We got along fine.
SA: So when you sold it you just didn't want to have so much responsibility for all of this.
WP: Yeah. I thought there was chance for a…My kids were going to school then…college, and it was a chance to help pay for their way into college which it did.
SA: That's very good. And so who did you sell it to? Did you sell it easily?
WP: Yeah, we had no problem. We hired a person who done just that sort of thing, and they done a good job, and we sold it right down to…I think the only thing we had left and I still got 'em and would like to give them to somebody is underwear. Duofold underwear, and it's a woolen underwear with a cotton lining so it don't itch.
SA: Gee you'd think that some hunters might want those.
WP: They gotta be big. The only underwear that we had left was sizes up to about 48.
SA: Oh, my goodness! (laughing) Give it to the Museum, some of them.
WP: If there's somebody in the area that's big and heavy I'd be glad to furnish them with a suit of underwear.
SA: Oh, isn't that interesting. That is really funny. We forgot that you told me you were going to share in the interview about bringing in the bluegill and bass, so what about telling us about that?
WP: At one period, November 1940, I brought in forty thousand bluegill and ten thousand six hundred bass that were planted primarily in the Stillwater area.
SA: Where did you get them from?
WP: We got part of them in the state of California and part of them from the state of Nevada.
SA: Well, where in the state of California? Do you remember?
WP: The state of California at that time had a fisheries recovery program. We obtained most of these fish that were planted from the state of California and they have a holding area where they collect these fish from distressed areas near ponds and streams and I contacted the state of California and asked them if it was possible to get some of those fish which they provided. All we had to pay for was the cost of their transportation.
SA: Now, what fish was that?
WP: That was the bluegill and the bass.
SA: And was that right across the border at the state line?
WP: Yeah. Not very far. They didn't have to haul them too far.
SA: When was that?
WP: Well, one of the periods of times was November 30, 1940, when we planted forty thousand bluegill and ten thousand six hundred bass.
WP: Primarily in the Stillwater area and Lahontan Dam.
SA: Is that right! So fishing was really terrific in those years when you brought in all those fish.
WP: Later on the bass fishing and the bluegill fishing become very popular and we were beginning to catch fish that weighed up to nine and ten pounds, that is for the bass. The bluegills were also of a large fish for that breed, but the shortage of water ultimately fouled up the fishing for the Stillwater area.
SA: About how many years did you have that good fishing?
WP: We must have had that good fishing for ten years, I guess.
SA: Did that draw a lot more fishermen who would hear about it?
WP: Yeah. Especially the bass fishing because to catch a bluegill isn't much fun. They're real good eating but they don't provide much sport, but the bass really are a sport fish. They do a lot of jumping and diving.
SA: Where would you go fishing for them? In Lahontan Lake?
WP: Well, they caught a few, and they still catch a few bass in Lahontan Lake, but not many. The best fishing was down in Stillwater in the sloughs down…Dutch Bill Lake and where there was a lake called Bass Lake, a Swan Lake, and all of the lakes down there finally were populated with bass.
SA: I see, and now they're drying.
WP: Yeah. It's all bone dry now.
SA: Was part of that what is now the Wildlife preserve? There's some water there.
WP: Yeah. This bass fishing all started before the Wildlife took over.
SA: But was it in that water there at the Wildlife preserve? There's kind of a lake there.
WP: Well, we never did have very much fishing in the lake that the Wildlife has. Mainly because of the lack of cover I think.
SA: Well, you certainly contributed a great deal to this state and the Fish and Game Commission was lucky to have you on it, and Fallon was lucky to have you here. Anything more before we do end the interview?
WP: Well, I could go on and on. I spent considerable time with State Senator Pat McCarren trying to further the interests of fishermen and sportsmen that had to do with Pyramid Lake.
SA: Oh, tell about that.
WP: World War II come along about the time we got started and put a stop to that.
SA: I see. Do you know much about the water issue now that, of course, includes the Indians and Pyramid Lake? Do you know much about that controversy?
WP: I know a little about it, and I'd rather not express my opinion.
SA: (laughing) All right. I will respect that. (laughing) So then I think that this will be the end of the interview, and you have photos to share with us, and once again I thank you so much for your very valuable contribution to the Churchill County Oral History Project.
WP: You're entirely welcome. Thank you.
SA: This is really the end.
Roberta Rose Powell
No public funeral services will be held for long-time Fallon resident Roberta Rose Powell, 76, who died March 1987 in her Fallon home of natural causes.
A native of Missouri, she was born Jan. 3, 1911 to Alfred and Hattie Rose Baker. She came to Fallon when she was 3 years old.
She had worked for many years as a bookkeeper for J .C. Penny Co.
Survivors include her widower, William (Al) Powell of Fallon; daughter Jay Powell Moss of Reno; sons William Paul Powell of Paris, France and James Allen Powell of Portland, Oregon; and six grandchildren.
In her memory the family suggests contributions to the Churchill County Museum, 1050 S. Main St., Fallon, Nev. 89406.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Austin, Matson and Smith Funeral Home.