Norma Conrad Stark Oral History

Dublin Core


Norma Conrad Stark Oral History


Norma Conrad Stark Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


June 8, 1992


Analog Cassette Tape, .Doc File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Eleanor Ahern


Norma Conrad Stark


630 Nadine Drive, Fallon, Nevada




an interview with


June 8, 1992

This interview was conducted by Eleanor Ahern; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final typed by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum and Sylvia Arden, Consultant.

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.


Norma Conrad Stark was one of the few women of her time who lived for awhile like her pioneer ancestors. She lived in a fairly remote valley from Fallon. This was Dixie Valley. There was no running water nor an electric stove in the house. She had become adept at cooking on a woodstove baking bread and cooking the family meals. This was no comfortable chore, especially during the summer months. Norma was no stranger to hard work. She had worked alongside her husband farming in Dixie Valley, then taking care of her family and cooking for the ranch hands, and finally becoming a single parent to handle both the responsibilities of a mother and father. Now, at seventy-five years of age, Norma is finding some time to relax and enjoy her grandchildren.

Interview with Norma Conrad Stark

AHERN: This is Eleanor Ahern of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project interviewing Norma Conrad Stark at her home at 630 Nadine Drive, Fallon, Nevada. The date is Monday, June 8, 1992. It is five after nine Monday morning. We are sitting in the kitchen of Mrs. Stark's home. Good morning, Mrs. Stark. How are you?

STARK:  Morning. I'm fine, thank you.

AHERN: Would you please give me your full name?

STARK:  Norma Conrad Stark.

AHERN: And your birth date, please.

STARK:  March 4, 1917.

AHERN: Where were you born?

STARK:  I was born in Stillwater, Nevada.

AHERN: Do you have any recollections of your childhood in- Let me rephrase that, Where exactly in Stillwater, Nevada?

STARK:  I was born on my folks' home ranch.

AHERN: If someone were to try and find the place today…

STARK:  It's now the old Taylor place.      

AHERN: The address?

STARK: It's where Mrs. Sally Taylor now lives.

AHERN: As a newcomer to Nevada I don't know exactly where that is.

STARK:  On the Stillwater Road. There is no address as far as I know.

AHERN: Even to this day, there's no address?

STARK:  Well, there probably is, but I don't know what it is. [10150 Stillwater Road.]

AHERN: The old Stillwater Road. In reference to downtown Fallon is it north, south, east, west?

STARK:  Pretty much east.

AHERN: Do you recall if your parents had been there for a long time prior to your being born there?

STARK:  My father came here to work on the Truckee Canal as a young man. My mother came to teach in the Stillwater Indian school and to be with her mother who was homesteading a ranch next to the ranch my father was homesteading.

AHERN: What was your mother's name?

STARK:  Hazel West.

AHERN: And you said she came here to be with her mother? What was her mother's name?

STARK:  Norma West.

AHERN: Where did your parents come from?

STARK:  My father was born in Hollister, California. My mother was born in Felton, California.

AHERN: Was she educated in California?

STARK:  Yes, she went to San Jose State.

AHERN: And your father. Was he also educated in California?

STARK:  What education he had, yes.

AHERN: And how much of an education did he have?

STARK:  Probably eighth grade.

AHERN: Why did they come out to Nevada?

STARK: My father came out to work on the Truckee Canal, which was a project going on at that time. My mother’s mother was homesteading here, and she made an application at the Indian school and received a job there, taught at the Indian School. 

AHERN: Do you recall how old your parents were when they moved to Nevada?

STARK:  They were in their early twenties. My mother was probably twenty three when she got married and my father was probably twenty eight.

AHERN: Did they meet and marry in California before coming up to Fallon?

STARK: I don’t think so. They met and married here in Fallon.

AHERN: How did they meet?

STARK:  I've haven't the vaguest idea. In those days everybody was friendly and went to dances. I suppose that's how they met. They lived on adjoining ranches.

AHERN: Do you recall who had previously owned the ranches they were on?

STARK:  They homesteaded it. Nobody had owned them.

AHERN: When your parents homesteaded it, what did they have to do to prove homesteading?

STARK:  They had to live so many months of the year on each piece of property.

AHERN: And did they have to do any type of improvements?

STARK:  Oh, sure. That was the general idea. They were to make a ranch out of it.

AHERN: At the time, was water plentiful for irrigation?

STARK:  The dam had been built. Yes, there were canals and the water was fairly plentiful. Yes.

AHERN: Did your father start off by just farming it or were there any livestock?

STARK:  It was just a general ranch. They had a few cows and chickens and hay like everybody else.

AHERN: What kind of job did your father do on the Truckee?

STARK:  I think he was a Fresno man that did hard manual labor.

AHERN: Did they have to dig the ditches?

STARK:  You bet. That was the object. They dug the ditch, period.

AHERN: And that's what he spent his whole time doing, working on that project?

STARK:  Along with a lot of other people. That was a big project.

AHERN: Did your mother ever talk about her days as a school teacher?

STARK:  Well, she didn't teach very long. She was married shortly after she taught in the Indian school and then, later, she taught for a short while in the Stillwater School. But, she enjoyed the little Indian kids. They had a school there for the Indian children.

AHERN: She taught at two different schools?

STARK:  Well, she taught for a very short while at the Stillwater School. The Indian school was separate from the other school.

AHERN: Where was the Indian school?

STARK:  It's where the community center is now on the reservation.

AHERN: Did she kind of divide her time between both schools or just one at a time?

STARK:  No. No, she just taught like all teachers did. They taught all grades.

AHERN: Do you recall what the years were that she was teaching?

STARK:  That would have to have been about 1913 or 1912.

AHERN: And when you say she taught for a short time, how short a time? Was it for five years?

STARK:  Oh, no. I mean months. She probably only assisted somebody. I don’t know

AHERN: How many children were there in your family?

STARK:  I have two brothers and myself. Just three of us.

AHERN: Who's the oldest and youngest?

STARK:  My oldest brother was Max Conrad and my second brother was Wayne Conrad.

AHERN: You were the youngest?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: Being the youngest child, a girl, did you find that your brothers were protective of you?

STARK:  Well, back in those days everybody was protective of families. Families were very family oriented.

AHERN: After the children were born, was that when your mother stopped teaching?

STARK:  She stopped teaching when she got married.

AHERN: Do you recall what year that was when they got married?

STARK:  Probably 1912.

AHERN: Tell me about your childhood.

STARK:  I went to school in Stillwater. I loved it. We rode a horse to get there. It was three miles. We didn't have all of the things that kids have nowadays. We enjoyed making our own games and we played wonderful games in the Stillwater School yard. We had all eight grades. There were two rooms. You were in the little room or the big room. My brothers and I, all of us, graduated from the eighth grade in Stillwater.

AHERN: The Stillwater School taught from, was it kindergarten or first grade?

STARK:  There was no such thing as kindergarten. From one through eight.

AHERN: And when you graduated, where did you go on?

STARK:  Went to high school here in town.

AHERN: This is the Churchill County High School?

STARK:  Yes. And we didn't have a bus, either. We had to provide our own transportation for a few years. Then they finally got a bus so that the kids from Stillwater could be bussed into high school.

AHERN: What was the means of transportation prior to the bus?

STARK:  We went with some other kids. We paid them to pick us up every day.

AHERN: Was it by car then?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: When you say you loved going to Stillwater, what about it did you love going there?

STARK:  Oh, the kids and the teachers. I was always very fond of all of my teachers. We only had one teacher for four grades and there weren't that many children. It was a good education.

AHERN: What would have been the most children in the classroom at one time?

STARK:  I doubt that there were more than twenty to each classroom.

AHERN: What were some of the courses that were taught to you?

STARK:  Reading, writing, and 'rithmetic.

AHERN: And as you got to the higher grades, up to the eighth grade, did they add anything new? Any other subjects?

STARK:  They had math and geography and history. All the usual things. We had art on Fridays and we thought it was great. We learned how to read and we learned to write.

AHERN: Did they teach the girls any domestic skills?

STARK:  Not in those grades. No.

AHERN: Did you like high school any better?

STARK:  Well, I liked high school.                Yeah. Sure. I was a mediocre student. I didn't use my full potential. I liked everything I did there. I loved home ec, took that. Loved to sew. Learned to sew there and learned to type which was, later, my life work.

AHERN: After graduating from high school, what did your brothers do? What did you do, too?

STARK:  My brothers farmed and I got married.

AHERN: So, directly after graduating from high school, your two brothers went into farming with your father?

STARK:  Yes. By that time we lived in Harmon District.

AHERN: When did you move to the Harmon District from Stillwater? What year?

STARK:  I was fourteen years old when we moved there. That would have been about 1932. It was during the Depression.

AHERN: Why did your family move to the Harmon District?

STARK:  My father bought a ranch there and we moved there to live. They raised chickens at that time. Lots of them.

AHERN: Did they raise them commercially?

STARK:  Sure did. For eggs.

AHERN: Who bought the eggs? Was it just the neighbors or was it to the grocery store?

STARK:  They were sold commercially.

AHERN: Who were they sold to?

STARK:  I have no idea. They went out in great big crates. I know that. We worked hard on eggs. Two thousand hens lay an awful lot of eggs.

AHERN: Was it for Fallon or outside of Fallon?

STARK:  Oh, outside of Fallon. Fallon didn't use that many eggs. There were a lot of other people that raised chickens, too.

AHERN: When you say the Harmon District, again, today where would it be located?

STARK:  Starts just outside of the city limits of Fallon on the Stillwater Road.

AHERN: It's still out there, the Stillwater Road?

STARK:  Sure.

AHERN: Do you recall why it got its name the Harmon District?

STARK:  I think it was named after Mr. Bill Harmon who was an old-timer. The Harmon ranch is still a prominent place in Churchill County.

AHERN: You said you got married right after high school.

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: Were you dating in high school and this is who you married?

STARK:  You might say that. Yes. I guess so.

AHERN: And what was your husband's name?

STARK:  Clyde Stark. They lived adjoining our ranch in Stillwater and we spent many good Sundays having picnics and whatnot between our families.

AHERN: Where did you picnic at? Did you stay on the ranch?

STARK:  No, we'd go to Lahontan Dam or Fort Churchill or Sand Mountain. Those were great events.

AHERN: After you married Mr. Stark, did you move onto their place?

STARK:  We moved out to Dixie Valley to live. They had a ranch out there.

AHERN: Did they homestead the ranch in Dixie Valley?

STARK:  They did, yes.

AHERN: How far is Dixie Valley from Fallon?

STARK:  Seventy five miles.

AHERN: And that's going . .

STARK:  That's going east and north.

AHERN: Was it Mr. Stark's property or the family's property out in Dixie Valley?

STARK:  It was a family property.

AHERN: Did anybody live there prior to your marriage?

STARK:  Yes, they had lived there. Mrs. Stark had taught in Dixie Valley and Mr. Stark worked at--besides trying to make a farm—he worked out in the mines.

AHERN: Would this be the mine in Dixie Valley or just before you got to Dixie Valley?

STARK:  Before you got to Dixie Valley.

AHERN: Is it on the Dixie Valley road?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: Is it the Wonder mine?

STARK:  Wonder. Their youngest boy was born in Wonder.

AHERN: How long had Mr. and Mrs. Stark lived in Dixie Valley prior to your marriage?

STARK:  Probably twenty years.

AHERN: You said that the Stark family had their ranch adjoining yours. Did they divide their time between town and Dixie Valley?

STARK:  Yes, they did. When the boys got old enough and they had moved to Fallon, why, one of the boys would run the Dixie Valley ranch. That was why when Bane and I got married we moved out there to be there all the time.

AHERN: What were Mr. and Mrs. Stark's first names?

STARK:  Clyde and Lily.

AHERN: So you married Clyde, Junior?

STARK:  Yes, but they called him Bane.

AHERN: Was that his given middle name?

STARK:  Yes, it was.

AHERN: How many acres did they have in Dixie Valley?

STARK:  Well, I think that they had the usual 160 acres and we had forty acres of it in alfalfa hay.

AHERN: Besides hay, did they have…?

STARK:  They had cattle. They were starting a cattle operation. They had range rights in the Alpine Mountain Range.

AHERN: You've mentioned Mrs. Stark teaching school in Dixie Valley. Was she the first teacher in Dixie Valley?

STARK:  I couldn't tell that. I don't think so, but she was one of the early teachers there.

AHERN: And how long did she teach a school?

STARK:  I have no idea. She taught here in Fallon for many, many, many years. She taught a total of over thirty years.

AHERN: When you and Mr. Stark moved out to Dixie Valley, were you then the permanent resident there? Did any of the other Stark members come out then?


AHERN: So, it was up to you to stay there and develop the land?

STARK:  Right. Our two oldest daughters were born while we were there. They grew up and rode their little old horse around and went to school in Dixie Valley until the Navy moved us out in 1944.

AHERN: How many children did you have?

STARK:  I have four.

AHERN: Would you tell me their names, please?

STARK:  My oldest daughter is Jackie Stark Gladwill. My next daughter is Pattie Stark Getto. My third daughter is Lillie O'Toole and my son is William Stark.

AHERN: Are they all currently living in Nevada?

STARK:  My three daughters live in Nevada. My son lives in Phoenix [Arizona].

AHERN: When you first moved out to Dixie Valley, what was your first impression?

STARK:  Well, it was a little lonely and a little isolated. We didn't have an automobile. Our main operation was to get alfalfa started and our only modus operandi was a horse which I rode pretty well and the kids rode a horse to school.

AHERN: When you moved out to Dixie Valley, how did you move all your belongings out there?

STARK:  In one little tiny suitcase and a trunk in the back of a pickup.

AHERN: Were there a lot of people settled in Dixie Valley when you moved out there?

STARK:  No, there weren't. If there were ten families, that was a lot. And they were mostly older people who went there because it was a cheap way to live. It was during the Depression and there just wasn't any money and they were all older people. We were by far the youngest. We enjoyed being the little kids of everybody.

AHERN: Do you recall some of your neighbors? Some of the people that lived in Dixie Valley the same time you were there?

STARK:  I sure do. Most of them are not living anymore. There were the Landises who I was very fond of. Mrs. Landis just passed away recently.

AHERN: Do you recall their first names?

STARK:  Charlie and Sally Landis. And there was the Leon Ellis family and I was very fond of them. They had children in school at that time. There was a Morgan family. Mrs. Morgan taught school there when I went out there. There was the Smith family who were the farthest out and they were quite elderly. I was very fond of them. There was Mr. and Mrs. [Walter and Martha] Parker who lived on the east side of Dixie Valley and I was very fond of them.

AHERN: Do you recall the Smiths' first names?

STARK:  I always called them Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I couldn't tell you what their names were. And there were the Spencers who were there and Spencer's grandparents and their names were Bill and . . . oh, goodness, been so many years I haven't even given it a thought. They were quite elderly. There was Mr. and Mrs. Bill and Augusta Curtis and they lived on the west side of the Valley. They were from Maine. Wonderful people.

AHERN: Were most of the people who moved out to Dixie Valley from the Fallon area or Nevada?

STARK:  I don't think so. The Parkers came from the dust bowl in Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Curtis came from Maine and there was also the [Jack and Myrtle] Pilsons. She had lived in Alaska and Mr. and Mrs. Morgan had been longtime residents. I don't know where they came from.

AHERN: Living in an area like that you would consider all of them neighbors. But, how far? I'm sure that none of them lived right next to you.

STARK:  No, I suppose the nearest one was two miles away. I used to walk over to Mary Ellis' and when I got too depressed and too homebound, we would go and visit and visit and visit. I visited with everybody but I had to ride a horse to go visit them. Had to leave my husband home with the kids. When he recognized that I was cabin-bound why he would (laughing) ship me out.

AHERN: Other than visiting your neighbors, what else did you do to occupy yourselves?

STARK:  We worked like maniacs. We had a dance once a month. It was wonderful. Everybody came and we had a potluck and that was great.

AHERN: Where was the dance held?

STARK:  In the old schoolhouse.

AHERN: From your house to the old schoolhouse, how far would that be?

STARK:  Two and a half miles.

AHERN: Who would be the neighbor that came farthest to attend these functions?

STARK:  Probably Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or Mr. and Mrs. Curtis. They both lived equally distant, I think. And none of us had cars so we all went. Well, Smiths had a car.

AHERN: This was a planned thing where it was once a month?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: Was it on the same time of the month?

STARK:  Whatever somebody decided on. We were not organized. We just liked to get together and if there was a birthday or anniversary, why we had a party. I remember we celebrated Mr. and Mrs. Morgan's fiftieth wedding anniversary and also Mr. and Mrs. Smith's fiftieth wedding anniversary. Oh, we had a real bang out party for each of them.

AHERN: How were the people notified of the impromptu get-together?

STARK:  We had the mail carrier. The people all met at a central place to get their mail on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

AHERN: The mail came twice a week. Do you recall who the mail carrier was then?

STARK:  My father-in-law was the mail carrier. He had been for many years.

AHERN: Being as your father-in-law was the mail carrier--the fact that you were related--did he bring supplies from Fallon to you?

STARK:  He sure did. He brought them for a lot of other people, too.

AHERN: What sort of things, besides mail, did he bring to the Valley?

STARK:  Good old groceries. Whatever we ordered. We didn't go to town very often. I recall that Sally Landis didn't go to town for an entire year once.

AHERN: How often did you go to town?

STARK:  About once every two months.

AHERN: Since you had no car what were your means of transportation?

STARK:  Good old horseback or feet.

AHERN: You walked to town?

STARK:  Oh, no, no, no.  I went with the mailman.

AHERN: Oh, you went with your father-In-law,

STARK:  Seventy-five miles is a little far to walk.

AHERN: What was he driving? A car or a pickup?

STARK:  A pickup.

AHERN: If your father-in-law just delivered mail on Tuesdays and Saturdays, that means he didn't come back into the Valley until he made his next run?

STARK:  That's right. He lived here in Fallon.

AHERN: Was it you and your children that went to town or it was just you by yourself?

STARK:  I always took my kids with me.

AHERN: All of them?

STARK:  All two of them. I only had two when I lived out there.

AHERN: Oh. I'm sorry. I thought all your children were born out in Dixie Valley. Where were the other two born?

STARK:  Here in Fallon. [End of tape 1 side A]

AHERN: You spent most of your time in Dixie Valley planting?

STARK:  Planting?

AHERN: Planting your crops? The alfalfa.

STARK:  You had to harvest it. We raised a large garden and I canned five hundred quarts of fruits and vegetables and meat every year.

AHERN: What kind of meat did you can?

STARK:  Beef or venison, chicken that we raised.

AHERN: Where did you store your canned goods?

STARK:  We had a lovely cellar and I stored it all there down there. In the wintertime when it was bitter, bitter cold we hung a lantern in there and kept it warm.

AHERN: Did you have any fruit trees?

STARK:  We had planted a small orchard but it never bore before we left there.

AHERN: So it was mainly the vegetable gardens.

STARK:  Right. Yeah, we raised corn, tomatoes, peas and string beans mostly and lots of strawberries. Mrs. Parker and I had a system whereby we canned together and we managed to put down a good many jars of fruit. My goal was five hundred quarts a year and I ordered peaches and fruit like that from Fallon to can.

AHERN: When you canned together, was it all for you or for both families?

STARK:  We shared. That was hard work.

AHERN: Did you have the proper equipment to harvest your alfalfa?

STARK:  We had what everybody else had--horses and a mower and rake and derrick to put it up with.

AHERN: How did you irrigate your fields?

STARK:  With a shovel and a ditch.

AHERN: Did you have to pump your water?

STARK:  We had artesian wells out there. We had little ditches going through and we irrigated from the ditches.

AHERN: Did you have the running water in the house?

STARK:  We didn't have running water. We didn't have electricity. We did not have bathroom. We had nothing as far as people have nowadays. We lived a simple life.

AHERN: Were all the wells artesian?

STARK:  Yes, they were.

AHERN: Did you have one specifically near the house for your household water?

STARK:  Yes. We had several wells, yes. One of them was right close to the house. Had a little pond around it.

AHERN: So, if you wanted water for the household how would you obtain it?

STARK:  In a bucket.

AHERN: When you took a bath, did you just have to heat the water and pour it…

STARK:  Yes, right on the old wood stove and in the wash tub. I did have a sink and I used to bathe my kids in the sink when they were little but the old tub went on the stove occasionally and we bathed in that tub. Really primitive and I washed clothes the same way, with a scrub board.

AHERN: How many rooms did your house consist of?

STARK:  Well, the first house we lived in--it was kind of a two piece affair. One room had come from Wonder and . . .

AHERN: When you say, was this one of the old mining cabins or something?

STARK:  Yeah, guess it was. It was quite large. At least, I thought it was large. We had a bed and a table, stove and two cribs in it and so it must have been fairly large and then we had an anteway and we'd had a kitchen on the other side of that and there was a little dining thing-of-a-bob. I used to call it a two-piece dump.

AHERN: Now, you mentioned that this was your first house.

STARK:  Well, then we moved a house out from Fallon out there. Oh, it was huge. It had four rooms. They must have been eight by ten each.

AHERN: What did you with the existing house?

STARK:  It was still there.

AHERN: When you moved the house from Fallon, did you set it right next to it?

STARK:  It was close.

AHERN: So, you no longer lived in the first house?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: What was that turned into?

STARK:  Oh, a shop and sometimes we had a hired fellow who stayed with us and we used the larger room for a bunkhouse.

AHERN: Were the summers pleasant out there?

STARK:  Well, I was very fond of Dixie Valley. Yes, they were pleasant. We had a lot of trees. The artesian well was nice. We always kept a few fish in the pond. I thought it was nice. The trees were always cool. We didn't expect a lot of things in those days.

AHERN: So, you managed to stay comfortably cool in the summer and in the winter comfortably warm?

STARK:  Yes, we hauled a lot of wood for our good little old wood stove.

AHERN: Where did you haul your wood from?

STARK:  From the mountains on the west side of Dixie Valley, from the Stillwater Range. Everybody used wood in those days. We spent a lot of time hauling wood and a lot of time splitting wood. We took care of ourselves. We had a cow and we had bread--I made bread and butter and we had milk and all the good things from the garden. The garden was really good.

AHERN: Where did you store your butter and milk?

STARK:  Oh, we used to make things called coolers. It was a frame with wire over it and burlap over that and then you poured water over it and it kept cool. They were called desert coolers and they were pretty efficient.

AHERN: Was it kept in the kitchen?

STARK:  No. They were always outside so that the wind would blow through them. It's kind of like your air coolers are.

AHERN: But I imagine you would have kept it, perhaps, on the north side of the house?

STARK:  Ours was in the pond.

AHERN: Oh, it was in the pond?

STARK:  Every time anybody went by they'd fill the pan with water and it had cloths in it that hung down that dripped and kept cool.

AHERN: Did you mention that your husband was the one who worked in Wonder?

STARK:  No. My father-in-law.

AHERN: What did he do at the Wonder Mine?

STARK:  I guess he mucked out the mine like everybody else did.

AHERN: When he worked there, was that when the mine was in full swing?

STARK:  Right.    It was. That was in about 1917.

AHERN: Was it a fairly large operation?

STARK:  Why, I think it was considered a large operation. It took out several million dollars worth of ore from there.

AHERN: Do you recall when the mine finally closed?

STARK:  It was closed when I lived in Dixie Valley. Probably closed around 1920.

AHERN: You mentioned you had to leave Dixie Valley because of the Navy. What was the reason then?

STARK:  The Navy was using it for target practice. They would fly down through the Valley with a target behind them and they would shoot at those targets so they wanted to expand that so they just moved everybody out.

AHERN: And this was in 1945?

STARK:  Yeah, about. I moved out in 1944 because that was when my third daughter was born, but they moved everybody out about 1945.

AHERN: When they moved you out, how did the Navy go about removing everybody from the Valley? Did they approach you individually?

STARK:  They sure did. They said, "Get out!"

AHERN: Did they make any type of reparation, compensation?

STARK:  They paid to move those people out, but I couldn't tell you. I don't really know how that worked.

AHERN: With your family, you and your husband, did they say, "We will give you this much for a relocation."?

STARK:  Not that I know of. We came in here to live on a family farm. As far as I know there wasn't any reparation made for that. Probably was, but my husband and I were not the owners. His parents were the owners of that.

AHERN: So they probably approached his parents.

STARK:  I would imagine.

AHERN: Were you sad to leave Dixie Valley?

STARK:  Well, I was not happy about the way that it came about. You don't like to just be moved out, but it had come to a point where we had to move out anyway because our kids' schools no longer had enough children to keep the school open so we had to bring the children in here to go to school anyway.

AHERN: Have you ever been back to Dixie Valley since you moved out the first time?

STARK:  Not very much.

AHERN: When you left in 1944, was that permanently?

STARK:  That was permanently. Right. Yes, we moved into the Fallon ranch and lived there.

AHERN: This was still in the Harmon District?

STARK: Yes. Right.

AHERN: How old were your children then when you moved to town?

STARK:  One of them was just starting the first and the other was in the second grade, I guess, and they rode a bicycle and a horse to school. They rode five miles or whatever it was to Harmon School.

AHERN: What did your children think of the move to town?

STARK:  Well, they were too little to really pay much attention to that. They had friends here. There were no other children in Dixie Valley. Except the Landises had a family. They had three children. We visited, but not that often and Ellises had children. So they really didn't have a lot of friends. They made their own games and played with their dog. They were pretty self-sufficient. So it was quite new to come to town and have a lot of people around. I enjoyed it because, though I missed Dixie Valley, my husband was involved in too many things and he and I soon disagreed about the whole thing and I moved to Fallon to live. Eventually I went to work at the courthouse and worked there for fifteen years.

AHERN: When you say that you moved to Fallon, was this when you're talking about when you were in Dixie Valley?

STARK:  No, after we had moved to Harmon District.

AHERN: I see. You mentioned he was involved in too many things.

STARK:  We had six hundred acres, and we were putting in new land all the time and we had the Navy breathing down our necks again. The ranch was right next to the Navy and things got quite involved. We were divorced eventually and I moved to town to live and the Navy took the ranch over. They had a declaration of taking at that time.

AHERN: Was this almost similar to what happened in Dixie Valley?

STARK:  Well, the Navy bought a lot of outlying land around the Navy base. They increased their flight pattern so the planes flew directly over our house.

AHERN: Did the Navy end up buying the property?

STARK:  Yes, they did. They had a declaration of taking and they bought the property and they re-settled everybody that had the land purchased from them and my ex-husband moved to Idaho to live.

AHERN: And you remained in Fallon?

STARK:  Yes, I was here with the kids.

AHERN: How old were you when you divorced your husband?

STARK:  I was thirty-five years old.

AHERN: This is when you had the four kids?

STARK:  Yes, I did. My son was about two years old.

AHERN: So, you were a single parent.

STARK:  Right, I was a single parent.

AHERN: What year was that?

STARK:  1952.

AHERN: Did you find it very hard being a single parent?

STARK:  Yes, I found it very difficult to get a job because I was not educated. I had four kids. I had bluffed my way into the world. I went to work for the telephone company as an operator on the old magneto line and I worked there a short while. Then I had an opportunity to go to work as a typist at the court house for Mrs. Dalbey who had been the recorder and auditor for many years and I worked there for fifteen years.

AHERN: What was Mrs. Dalbey's first name?

STARK:  Gladys. She was a fine lady.

AHERN: What do you mean when you say, "you bluffed your way into the world"?

STARK:  Well, I didn't have an education. I knew how to type, sorta. All I knew how to do was cook and take care of kids and scrub floors and I decided that I did not want to do that the rest of my life so I walked the streets. One day Mrs. Dalbey saw my name on a list of applicants for a job--I knew the lady--and she asked me if I would like to come and try out 'cause she had a vacancy in her office and I said, "Sure," and I rushed over there. I was a pretty slow typist but I learned to be a pretty fast typist.

AHERN: You learned it on the job?

STARK:  I learned it on the job and it was most interesting. I learned a lot.

AHERN: You mentioned you didn't have any education. You graduated from high school.

STARK:  I graduated from high school but I did not have a college education.

AHERN: And that was still desirable back then, too?

STARK:  Well, sure. Everybody that had a college education had an edge, though, not necessarily. But I'd been out of school for seventeen years and I really didn't know how to do anything except take care of kids and cook. I cooked for lots of men. I did cook out for the Austin family in Lone Tree District for a short while,

AHERN: Who were the Austin family? What were their names?

STARK:  Vernon and Irene Austin.

AHERN: Was that a ranch?

STARK:  Yes, that's in Lone Tree District.

AHERN: Where's the Lone Tree District?

STARK:  That's south of here.

AHERN: About how many miles south of Fallon?

STARK:  Ten.

AHERN: This happened all after you were divorced?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: Where were you living? Did you have your own place or did you stay at the ranch?

STARK:  When I was divorced? No, I moved in with my mother. I lived with my mother for awhile until--part of our divorce settlement was that I was to have a house. My ex-husband bought me a house on Bailey Street here in Fallon and the children and I lived there for fifteen years.

AHERN: But prior to your job in the office, you were cooking for ranch hands?

STARK:  We had ranch hands, yes.

AHERN: Did they pay you?

STARK:  No, no. That went with the job. No, no housewife ever got paid.

AHERN: I meant when you worked for the Austins.

STARK:  Yes, I got paid when I worked for the Austins.

AHERN: What were the wages then?

STARK:  Oh, gosh. I have no idea. When I went to work for the courthouse I think that I made two hundred dollars a month and that was before they took out six per cent for a retirement system. I don’t remember, that was too long ago.

AHERN: Did you find that was adequate to raise your family?

STARK:  Not very. My husband paid child support and I made two hundred dollars.

AHERN: He paid child support and the amount of?

STARK:  I had four kids and he paid child support. There wasn't a great amount either. (laughing) It was never my intent to get everything I could get, or whatever you want to call it. But I decided that when I went to work that I would give whoever I worked for everything that I could give them. I thoroughly enjoyed my job at the courthouse and I learned as much as I could learn. In your museum down here there's about fifteen books that I typed on deeds and mortgages and whatnot.

AHERN: Now, you started out as a clerk-typist at the courthouse?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: Did you graduate to a higher position?

STARK:  I was deputy recorder.

AHERN: You finally became a deputy recorder?

STARK:  Yes, I did. It was pretty difficult at first, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mrs. Dalbey was a wonderful teacher and she was a very patient soul. In those days we didn't have as much work as when I quit. I quit to remarry my ex-husband. Then I went to live in Idaho and I lived there for ten years before I came back here to Fallon. He passed away and I moved back to Fallon. I always said when I lived in Idaho--I worked in a courthouse there--I told the girls that if anything happened to him I would move the next day and I practically did.

AHERN: So, when you quit your job here in Fallon and moved to Idaho, you, again, obtained a job in the courthouse.

STARK:  I worked part-time in the courthouse and for awhile I worked for the District Court there. The courts in Idaho has changed from justices of the peace to magistrates and I was the magistrate's office girl.

AHERN: When you finally moved into your own house, did you feel that you were somewhat ostracized because you were a single person?

STARK:  Not really. It was embarrassing to me to be a divorced person but I don't think that it was that important because when I went to work at the courthouse there were various single mothers there. I just thought I was a better single mother than most of them were because I knew where my kids were every moment.

AHERN: Why did you feel embarrassed about your status?

STARK:  Oh, I don't know. Divorce wasn't common. Nowadays, divorce is nothing. No, there weren't a lot of divorces in my family and I was embarrassed.

AHERN: During that time, did you date?

STARK:  I didn't have time to date. I was a busy person. I had a batch of kids and I tried to keep a house and a yard and I was a mother and a father both to my kids.

AHERN: When you were working, who took care of the kids?

STARK:  Well, the oldest ones took care of the little ones.

AHERN: When you started working, how old was the oldest?

STARK:  Fifteen years old.

AHERN: Did they help you because you were a working parent?

STARK:  Oh, I browbeat them. (laughing)

AHERN: (laughing) Did they help you around the house?

STARK:  They sure did. Yes, every kid had his own chore. When each kid was fifteen they went to work at some sort of a job. My oldest daughter drove bus--they allowed kids to drive the school buses then. She must have been older than fifteen. You had to be sixteen, but she did eventually get a bus job. My second daughter worked as a cashier in the local movie house and my third daughter worked in a little hash place over by the high school. It's no longer an eating place. My son worked out at Scheelite Mines. And they all got a job when they were fifteen.

AHERN: The Scheelite Mine is outside of Fallon?

STARK:  Right.

AHERN: How far outside?

STARK:  Oh, that's way out there by Frenchman's Station. Thirty-two miles, I think. When my son went to work there, he stayed there. He got a job as the lifeguard at their swimming-pool. He worked hard to become a lifeguard. He loved to swim and so the first job that he got was as a lifeguard out there. He taught all the kids out there how to swim.

AHERN: Did he have to stay there and come home on weekends?

STARK:  Yes, he did. He stayed there during the week. The Caldwells were very kind to him and they used to bring him back and forth.

AHERN: Is that when the families were out at the mine?

STARK:  Yes. Then later, when he was seventeen years old, he went to work as a flunky out there. He cleaned vats and whatnot after the swimming pool. I don't know what they did with the swimming pool. At that time it was mandatory that every swimming pool have a lifeguard. There had been some sort of an accident at one of the mines where a child had drowned so it was a law that there had to be a lifeguard on duty.

AHERN: When the children started working at fifteen, were all their earnings theirs to keep or did you take some?

STARK:  I never took any money from the kids. Their money went towards their clothes. We all sewed. We sat up nights and sewed clothes for each other and the money that they earned was their own. No, I never took any of their money. They didn't make a lot of money, but they made enough to be interesting and kept them in clothes and school supplies. When my son was working he made more than the rest of them. He was required to put some of it away for a college education.

AHERN: Did you take time out from your busy schedule as a single parent to have family picnics with the children or just recreational things?

STARK:  Whatever my kids wanted to do. Everybody that had a birthday was allowed to ask for something special to eat or a special place to go so they might call me up at work and say, "Mother, we want to go to Lake Tahoe tonight and have a picnic," and so I'd rush home from work and we would go to Lake Tahoe and have a picnic and come home. Lake Lahontan was one of our favorite spots and we often went there after work and had ourselves a little family party.

AHERN: During this time, did the children go to visit their father, or sometimes would he come down to visit them from Idaho?

STARK:  Well, he lived here most of the time and they did go out to visit him, yes. When he moved to Idaho, they were pretty much grown by that time. That was after the Navy took over. Had the declaration of taking and [End of tape 1]

AHERN: When you moved back to Fallon from Dixie Valley, did you notice extreme changes?

STARK:  Not really, no. There was a change for me because we lived on a much larger ranch. We hired a lot of people and I did the cooking for those people. At one time during the war, we hired Mexican nationals. We had four of those young Mexican fellows who worked for us and that was kind of interesting, too.

AHERN: Which war would this be?

STARK:  World War II. From 1944 to 1949.

AHERN: When you had come back to Fallon, did you notice whether or not the town had expanded? More people, more buildings?

STARK:  Well, towns always grew, but it hadn't grown very much. The Navy was just new then. There wasn't a lot to draw people to Fallon. It was still a ranching community. We had six hundred acres out there and part of that we were re-planting to alfalfa. We also had a cattle feed lot and raised beef which were sold in Manteca, California. They were pretty good looking animals.

AHERN: That was the main production of the farm?

STARK:  Yes, cattle and alfalfa. Right. We also had a large garden there, too, and I still canned and fed the people that we had. In those days, when you had a hay crew, you had quite a hay crew and you'd have ten, twelve people for meals.

AHERN: Were these three meals a day?

STARK:  They were three meals a day.

AHERN: Did you vary the menu? What did you cook for them?

STARK:  Oh, gosh! Biscuits! I can remember getting up with my eyes closed and make biscuits in the morning. Biscuits and gravy and eggs and bacon. Hearty. Real hearty breakfasts. We always had our largest meal at lunchtime. We called it dinner and I always had meat and potatoes and vegetables. We had lots of vegetables 'cause we raised corn and string beans. The Mexican fellows loved watermelon and we had lots of watermelon. The lighter meal would be the supper time meal and I usually made something from the leftovers. If I had a large pot roast I would make hash for supper or something like that. I did a lot of cooking. I remember when they rationed sugar my Mexican boys used to pour sugar into their cups. When you poured out their coffee in the morning, there'd be an inch of sugar in the bottom so I devised a rule where I rationed their sugar into little jars and I stuck it in front of each plate so they could use as much sugar as they wanted in their coffee. But when it was gone, it was gone. So I told them if they had sugar left over at the end of the week, whenever the ration stamps came due, that I would make a dessert and they loved sweet things so, boy! they got real careful with the sugar and we'd have cake at the end of the week. (laughing)

AHERN: These Mexican helpers, were they there just during the haying season?

STARK:  Well, we raised corn, too. We had ensilage and they hauled the ensilage from the fields, too. Yes, they helped during the haying season, too.

AHERN: They weren't on the ranch all year round.

STARK:  Well, we had three of them for awhile, but we got them through the Mexican government. They were called Mexican nationals and you reckoned with the Mexican government for these nationals to be sent in. In fact, part of their wages were sent back to their families in Mexico.

AHERN: Did you send their wages for them? Or did they do it on their own?

STARK:  I think the wages were sent automatically to their families in Mexico. They couldn't have their full wage. Portions of it had to be sent to Mexico.

AHERN: How did you request these workers? Did you contact anybody here in the States or did you contact the people of Mexico directly?

STARK:  We borrowed ours from another rancher. How they got them I don't know. There was some sort of a treaty where the Mexicans were allowed in at that time to work specifically for ranches over here.

AHERN: What were their wages?

STARK:  Oh, gosh! Probably five dollars a day. I don't really know.

AHERN: Is that what your family paid them?

STARK:  I have no idea. I was not the bookkeeper. I didn't get a wage. No farm wife ever did. She was just needed.

AHERN: During this time, did your daughters help you with the meals and all that help?

STARK:  They helped their father out in the field. Every time I needed help they had to help out in the field, I think. I did have a… I hired a person to help for awhile. If you shut that off, I’ll tell you something. [Tape cuts]

AHERN: Why did the ranchers hire the Mexican nationals? Weren't there any other people around town to be hired?

STARK:  This was during the war and a lot of the guys had gone off to war so there weren't people to be had unless you had your own family.

AHERN: What about the Indians on the reservation?

STARK:  Well, my father always hired an Indian and a lot of the farmers did have an Indian or two but a lot of the Indians had their own farms, too. They weren't hired that plentifully.

AHERN: Was there a large tribe in Fallon when you were little?

STARK:  There was the reservation. I thought it was large. Yeah. We always lived on the edge of the reservation. When I was born our place adjoined the reservation. My mother always had Indian lady friends and I recall an old photograph where one of the Indian ladies had made my mother a papoose basket and they took pictures of their children side by each. Was kind of cute.

AHERN: You mentioned earlier that there was the regular school in Stillwater, then the Indian school. Were they always separate?

STARK:  Right. Yes, they were.

AHERN: Why was that?

STARK: What do you call it nowadays? Well, they just weren't integrated with the white kids.

AHERN: And so, therefore, in your time, from the time you had gone to school and through high school, they were always separate?

STARK: No, not always. That ended while I was in high school and the Indian kids were bused into Fallon along with everybody else and went to the same schools that we did. They used to have a running feud with the Indian school bus and the Stillwater bus. They throwed rocks at us and we throwed rocks at them and it was a real jolly good time. We got into lots of trouble in that school. (laughing) But that ended and the kids were integrated into school. In fact, when I was a senior in high school my chemistry partner was an Indian girl and she was brilliant. Some of them were… they were inclined to be a bit lazy and almost always dropped out of school before they graduated. I think nowadays there are many, many more Indian boys and girls, who graduate from school, and do much better' than they used to.

AHERN: But in your time when you were in high school, it seemed like just a few of them did go through high school?

STARK: I remember that this girl told me that if she graduated she would be the first Indian who had ever graduated from the high school here.

AHERN: And what year was this?

STARK:  1934.

AHERN: Do you remember her graduating with the class?

STARK:  She didn't graduate. She dropped out just before graduation time. I thought that was too bad. And I don’t know why.

AHERN: Is there anything that I may have forgotten to ask you that you'd like to talk about?

STARK:  Oh, I don't think so. I think I've talked a lot.

AHERN: Well, Mrs. Stark, on behalf of the Churchill County [Museum] Oral History Program, I would like to thank you for letting me come and interview you.

STARK:  Well, it's been most enjoyable. I hope that I've said something that was interesting. My daughters keep telling me I should write some sort of a history because they thought our lives in Dixie Valley were very interesting and I did thoroughly enjoy the ten years that I lived in Dixie Valley but I also enjoyed the years that I lived in Fallon. I enjoyed the ten years that I was in Idaho.

Original Format

Audio Cassette


1:02:09, 12:13

Social Bookmarking



Norma Conrad Stark Oral History Transcript.docx
Stark, Norma Conrad recording 1 of 2.mp3
Stark, Norma Conrad recording 2 of 2.mp3


Churchill County Museum Association, “Norma Conrad Stark Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed October 20, 2021,