Robert "Bob" Walker Oral History

Dublin Core


Robert "Bob" Walker Oral History


Robert "Bob" Walker Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


April 22, 1999


Analog Cassette Tape, .Docx File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Hanifan




Fallon, NV


Churchill County Oral History Project

an interview with


Fallon, Nevada

conducted by


April 22, 1999

This interview was transcribed by Patricia Boden; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Patricia Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of the Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.

Interview with Robert Walker

HANIFAN: My name is John Hanifan, it is April 22, 1999, at one o'clock in the afternoon. With me is Bob Walker and we are going to talk about his life story here in the West. Hi, Bob, I'll start out with a few questions on your grandparents. What were the names of your mother's parents?

WALKER: My mother's parents were named Pettit. I never knew my grandfather, but my grandmother, I was pretty to close to her.

HANIFAN: Oh, yes, that's pretty interesting, where did they live, Bob?

WALKER: In Denver.

HANIFAN: And did you know what the Pettits did for a living?

WALKER: I really don't know that much going back that far on my family history. One of my uncles worked for Homo Meat Company and another one worked for the city of Denver, and my granddad, I really don't know what he did. He died quite early in my grandmother's life.

HANIFAN: Sure that's understandable, that's getting back there a ways. How about your father's parents, what were their names?

WALKER: Walker.

HANIFAN: And do you recall where they were born?

WALKER: The grandparents, I don't know. Again, I didn't know them at all, not even my grandmother. But, my dad was born in Denver and I can't tell you much about his early life either.

HANIFAN: Well, your summary there lets us know a lot about your parents already, so we do not need to go over that again [father, John Walker, mother Mary Pettit]. Your childhood memories, what type of house did you live in when you were growing up, Bob?

WALKER: Well, when we were in Ely, that's where I was born actually, we had a nice little brick house close to the court house there in Ely. And it was close to that little pond that they have there in their park. That's about all I can remember of the place.

HANIFAN: When in the Ely area were you or any of your family involved with the mining at that particular time?

WALKER: No, no. The story on all this is that my dad was a photographer and he came to Ely because of the boom, that was pretty well broadcasted throughout the country, that Ely was a town where there was a lot of activities and lots of jobs. So he saw the opportunity to open up a photographer shop there and he prospered quite well actually.

HANIFAN: Oh, yes, the photography dates on your dad's side and then followed up a little later on on your mom's side, didn't it.

WALKER: If you'd like me to go a bit further on that---


WALKER: When I was age four my dad died and my mother had us three children, me and my two sisters. [Robert, 5/27/24, Nevada Walker Lambert 8/31/26, Evelyn Walker Locke 9/6/28] The one thing that he did to his credit was to take my mother in and teach her the photography business. Back in those days, it was really tough for a widow. There wasn't much you could do, take in laundry or sewing or something like that. But she was fortunate enough to be trained well enough in the photography business and had excellent equipment. And consequently, she took right over and the people in Ely were very generous of their time, coming in and giving her business probably that they weren't ready for a photograph but went ahead and had it done anyhow in order to try and help out the situation.

HANIFAN: Gosh, that was an awful young age to- - -

WALKER: She was twenty-three.

HANIFAN: She was twenty-three years old and she was responsible for the family. And then you moved from Ely to somewhere else.

WALKER: Well, from Ely, after my dad died, I'll continue on with the story here. Bill Foster came into Ely from Kansas and he came to get a divorce. While he was there he met my mother and eventually they did get married. He was from Kansas, kind of a farm boy there in Kansas and the mining operations didn't appeal to him at all, plus the fact that Ely was high enough [6000 feet] that he was bothered by that, so he saw Fallon as a possibility, and so we moved to Fallon when I was about, I guess about seven, around there some place.

HANIFAN: So you were just first or second grade then when you first started school here?

WALKER: First Grade and I went through all the grades at school here in Fallon.

HANIFAN: And when you moved to Fallon did you move into a traditional home or did you move into a --

WALKER:              We moved into a house, it was kind of difficult to find a location for her shop and the first was not too far from Oats Park School. Obviously a very poor location for a business. So from there, after scouting around they found a place on Carson Street, across the street from the City Hall. And that's where she opened a shop, it was almost on the corner of First and Carson Street, that gives you an idea.

HANIFAN: So you were just about raised right there on the main drag of Fallon, more or less?

WALKER: That was the first place. I can remember the City Hall had just recently been built, they hadn't put the lawn in yet. The lawn was a place for a play ground for us actually and we just crossed the street and that's where we'd play. We stayed there probably three years, I can't remember the ages exactly. Anyhow, after awhile it was determined that was not really the best location for a shop either. We did, the house was big enough to accommodate the family plus the business was in the shop. So the next step was to look on Maine Street itself and see if there was a place for a business. And there was, eventually, where the old Fraternal Hall building is?

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah.

WALKER: There was three shops underneath that building, one of them was the library, one of them was, I think, was the Federated Store probably and then my mother's shop in there in that area too. I think the second one, she was sandwiched between those two. Bill Foster was a pretty fair carpenter and he made an apartment in the back of the shop so, again, we were living in the shop, and we were on Maine Street. If you read my sister's--publication that she put in the last issue of the In Focus or maybe it has been two years now, so you kind of get a picture of what life was like.

HANIFAN: That was a very good article, I enjoyed Nevada's article quite a lot.

WALKER: We had plenty of time on our hands, my mother was working and lots of times she just wanted us to get out of the house so she could, you know, not be bothered with us. So Maine Street became our playground, the alley in back became our playground. The Five and Dime is right close there the old Sprouse-Reitz Store, and Walter Richards was the manager of the store.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah.

WALKER: And we got along quite well. And he'd have some excess toys or whatever, he'd put them in the garbage can and let us know they were there if we wanted them. He's advise us, "Don't take the candy, its got worms in it." [laughing] So we didn't eat that.

HANIFAN: [laughing]

WALKER: We stayed in that place for quite awhile, it was quite comfortable. The only disturbance in our sleeping at night was on Saturday night when they had a dance upstairs in the Fraternal Hall.

HANIFAN: Oh, I'll bet that was a little noisy at that particular time.

WALKER: Yeah. But it ended at two o'clock normally so then we'd go to sleep. It was, I just mentioned that, as a thing that happened.

HANIFAN: Well, that's interesting. I don't think there's anyone else that I'm aware of that has had that much familiarization with Maine Street, Fallon, at that time.


WALKER: Well, I don't know of anybody that actually lived right on Maine Street. The business part of Maine Street.

HANIFAN: I'm sure you were on city plumbing and water and all that stuff, so you didn't have to worry about that.

WALKER: We didn't have to worry anything about that and even heat. The building was the Fraternal Hall Building and they had their own boiler in the back that provided hot water and heat for the businesses over there. That was included in the rent.

HANIFAN: And the City Hall beings as it was built, was already incorporated and all that stuff, I guess.

WALKER: Right, right. It was there when we first came into town.

HANIFAN: Of the three in your family what was your position, the oldest?

WALKER: I'm the oldest, yes.

HANIFAN: I'm sure between Bill Foster and your mom you had a lot of duties to perform as you were a small child, could you share any of those with me?

WALKER: Well, surprisingly there wasn't that much because we didn't have to bring in the wood and the coal, we didn't have to milk the cows like that farm boys did. There was certain things, I guess the biggest thing we did was helping with the shop, when she was busy in the darkroom or some place. Customers would come in and we would take over and take care of that.


WALKER: After portrait negatives were developed, proofs were made for the customer by placing light sensitive paper under the negative and placing it in the sun for a few minutes.

HANIFAN: What about the cooking, who did the cooking and that, did you share your family meals or, with your parents working . . .

WALKER: Well, they hired a cook most of the time. When we were quite young we had to have some supervision and so there was a cook that would come in and she would do the ironing also and the normal household things, so my mother wouldn't have to be too busy with that type of thing. We also ate out frequently.

HANIFAN: Was your family plagued with any of the childhood diseases and things?

WALKER: Oh, yes, we all had whooping cough, measles and various childhood diseases. When I was ten I had a very severe case of pneumonia and I guess I was kind of lucky I pulled through on that. But other than that we never escaped anything that was out. [laughing]

HANIFAN: What type of schedule did you have as far as when you had to go to bed, or how did you spend the evenings growing up?

WALKER: We saw a lot of movies. We were right there and it was ten or fifteen cents and every time there was a change of movies, that's where I would go. You know, about nine o'clock approximately and at that time it was time to go to bed, so that was our early recreation. And also we spent a lot of time in the library, which was close by.

HANIFAN: So in order to go to the movie you had to have ten or fifteen cents. Were you on an allowance?

WALKER: No allowance but whenever there was a need for something. Of course that was right in the middle of the Depression too, but we never felt that.

HANIFAN: How did you feel the Depression as far as standard of living or livelihood or anything, did it affect you very much?

WALKER: Well, one thing that happened, of course, when we came from Ely from a very bustling community, got into Fallon just about the time the Depression was starting, and there was not that much need to spend money on pictures in a photo studio. When your money is tight, groceries are more important than having your picture taken. [laughing] And consequently things were pretty slow although we never had a type of public assistance or anything like that. We always had enough to provide for meals.

HANIFAN: Were your neighbors subject to losing their property and things like that, or . . .?

WALKER: Well, we didn't have very close neighbors actually, so--the one thing I remember is the hopeless feeling that came from seeing the older kids not being able to find anything to do. There wasn't any work or anything available, and finally the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] boys came into town and they were, generally speaking, pretty good kids. But I was looking at them and said, "I guess that's what I have to look forward to, there's nothing to do here." And it turned out that the war came along quick enough to put that behind us, but the Depression, although we never suffered any, it very definitely had a bearing on my life because I knew that I could see a lot of people that were just getting by the best they could and the public assistance, the WPA [Works Progress Administration] and all that. I didn't have any background or experiences when I got old enough to work. I guess I thought that's what I was going to do.

HANIFAN: Now you mentioned the CCC's during that time, were they nearby, they were older than you probably?

WALKER: Oh, yeah, they were quite a bit older than I was.

HANIFAN: And so you were not that age at all.

WALKER: No, they had a camp out around Laverne Street out north about where the railroad is.

HANIFAN: Right there in Fallon, right close to Maine Street.

WALKER: There was that camp and there was another one out on the highway, let's see, what is a close place there? Kind of lose perspective after everything else has grown up around there, but it was out just west of the city limits. We had two camps here. And we saw, their recreation was going to the movies too. So they would come in all in a group you know. [laughing] We got to know them. Not really know them, but we saw them a lot. There were all pretty good kids and did a lot of good work in this valley.

HANIFAN: What kind of work did they do primarily?

WALKER: Well, a lot of the irrigation gates were built by them. They did a lot of clean up around the forested areas. They built that little park up there at the dam.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah. A lot of good, huh?

WALKER: Yeah, they did a lot of good.

HANIFAN: And a lot of effects in Fallon at that.

WALKER: You can still see gates around, concrete irrigation gates with the letters CCC on them.

HANIFAN: What about Saturday nights when you were growing up, when you got a little older was Saturday night a pretty different time?

WALKER: Yeah, we went to the dances. And then there was the Sugar Bowl [S. Maine Street.] where we'd go and gather and socialize as a kid, it was kind of nice.

HANIFAN: How about on Sunday, did you participate in any of the churches or things like that?

WALKER: My two sisters were pretty good church going, I never did go too often, and my parents didn't insist on it or they didn't go either, so it was a day of rest for everybody, they'd sleep in. It was sleep while the church service was going on.

HANIFAN: Oh, sure. How about things like birthdays, were they celebrated?

WALKER: Oh, yeah, we all had a birthday and have kids come in that were our age.

HANIFAN: Was there any camping for the young people when you were growing up, like 4-H or things like that? If you were in town you probably would have been, if they did have it, it would be different wouldn't it?

WALKER: I never belonged to any organized group. I joined the Boy Scouts once and went to the Tenderfoot stage and, I'm really not interested in this. A Boy Scout group is excellent in a city where the kids don't have an opportunity to be out. There wasn't much that they taught or got involved in that you weren't involved in anyhow, in a small town.

HANIFAN: How about the weather, in the winter was it pretty cold, or was there any particular years that you remember specifically?

WALKER: Yeah, well, I think it was about 1933 or 1934 it got really cold here, and this place on Carson Street where we were living, the little house was not insulated, they had one stove and my room was very chilly. I had a lot of blankets but it didn't have any other heat in there. So, the rest of the family was in a relatively warm place, there's just one stove, when she built the fire up and it died down by four o'clock in the morning, everybody was cold. [laughing]

HANIFAN: Wood and coal, huh?

WALKER:Wood and coal.

HANIFAN: Who did you get your coal from?

WALKER:I think we got it from Kents.

HANIFAN: Oh yeah.

WALKER: I believe so, I think there was another dealer up here but I don't remember.

HANIFAN: And your wood probably came from the same place.

WALKER:The same place.

HANIFAN: Oh yeah.

WALKER:We got coal and I forget what they call that, big chunks, as opposed to nut coal.

HANIFAN: Oh yeah.

WALKER: Nut coal was the small stuff, but we had the big chunks because it was cheaper and I'd be out in the shed with a little ax breaking that coal up so it would fit in the stove. [laughing] That was one of the chores I did have.

HANIFAN: You didn't get away with doing nothing it doesn't sound like.

WALKER: Oh, no.

HANIFAN: Breaking coal is quite a lot of work.

WALKER: Oh, yeah, cutting wood--

HANIFAN: Cutting wood, hauling out the ashes.

WALKER: I still have a scar on here which everybody my age has got, I think.

HANIFAN: [laughing] Oh, yeah, definitely, you missed and hit your hand.


HANIFAN: I think we've all got a few of those. Did you participate in any organized games like baseball or something like that or swimming?

WALKER: Well, there was no Little League at that time in baseball. Fallon had what they called the Fallon Merchants baseball team, maybe you recall that.

HANIFAN: Yeah, I do.

WALKER: And they called it a semi-pro league, the players on it would be getting maybe fifteen dollars for playing a game or whatever it might be. And so our baseball, our equipment consisted of a broken bat and a ball that they weren't going to use anymore.

HANIFAN: [laughing]

WALKER: And we put tape on the bats and get 'em up. We played baseball but it was strictly a pick-up type thing, we never had any organized--Fallon just didn't have it at that time. And swimming, when the swimming pool was built that was probably the outstanding thing as far as a kid was concerned.

HANIFAN: And who built the swimming pool?

WALKER: Well, the WPA had a lot to do with that, and I think the city paid, did the materials and it was a cooperation between the two. And a lot of it was done by the WPA people.

HANIFAN: It was a big attraction then for a ---

WALKER: Oh, yeah. Up to that time this canal up here at the end of this road--[at the intersection of S. Maine St. and Wildes Road.] We called that Stoney Beach, that was before they put all those rocks in there.

HANIFAN: Is that right? Stoney Beach.

WALKER: And the sand was built up along that way. Actually a little beach on each side of the where the water was dropping down, it kind of gouged it out I guess, I don't know. And so, that and also a place we called Lone Tree, not the Lone Tree south of Fallon, but a lone tree out on another canal.

HANIFAN: Off the Coleman Road area.

WALKER: Off the Coleman Road area, there was tree sitting there by itself and somebody had put a tire and a rope, you could swing out on, no I guess there wasn't a tire on it, but the rope--you could just swing out there and just drop into the water and swim back again. [laughing]

HANIFAN: Well, that sound likes some pretty good times.

WALKER: Yeah, we did have a lot--that was fun. It really was fun.

HANIFAN: Did they have any dances going on around the community at that time?

WALKER: Yeah. There was a dance almost every Saturday night.

HANIFAN: I'll be darned. Now when it comes to school, you started right here in Fallon and probably went all the way through? Did you have one teacher for each grade or did you have--

WALKER: Matter of fact there was, in a sense, two teachers for each grade `cause we had the A and B. The first grade for example, 1 A and 1B. And the next one was 2A and 2B. So, each class had its own teachers, and the old high school [255 East Stillwater Avenue] was where the cottage schools are now. That was where the original grammar school was for the first and second grades.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah. Did they have a high school there at first?

WALKER: It was called the old high school. When they built the new high school [650 South Maine Street] here, they converted it to -- [a grammar school].

HANIFAN: Did you go to the old high school at all? You went to the old high school for your lower grades?

WALKER: Right. The cottage schools weren’t built yet.

HANIFAN: So it was primarily the cottage schools and then the old High School that-

Walker: There were three schools in town, that was the first and second grades. The third and fourth grades were at West End School [280 S. Russell St.] Oats Park had classes 5 through 8. Do you remember the big brick building that they had for the--?

HANIFAN: I don't remember that.

WALKER: Don't you? Okay. It was --I can show you pictures of it--they were identical, I shouldn't say identical but very close [End of tape 1 Side A] to the old high school which was on East and Stillwater, and the other school was the West End School. And where the current West End School is now they tore the other one down, and that was the city limits also. There was a fence that separated the playground and the farmer's field right next to it. No houses beyond that.

HANIFAN: Pretty small community, about what size was the town at that time, would you think?

WALKER: I think it was about two thousand people probably. That's just a guess, I really don't know for sure.

HANIFAN: Could be less or more. Was all of your shopping done in the local area, or your business had to go on into Reno maybe, huh?

WALKER: Well, I don't recall going to Reno too much for that. J. C. Penneys had pretty good line for most kids clothes. There was a tailor in town for men who wanted a suit, a man by the name of Joe Tarzyn, he had a tailor shop. And then there was another store across the street for readymade stores, what did they call it--the Toggery?

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah, yeah.

WALKER: And so that took care of the clothes and the grocery stores, Kents was the big one of course, and there was a Safeway Store and a Sewell's Store.

HANIFAN: So the town was pretty self-sufficient with those stores.

WALKER: I don't remember us going out--

HANIFAN: Had everything didn't it?

WALKER: Yeah, even , you know, big things even going to cars there were dealers in town. I just don't recall going to Reno for very much. Course it was quite a jaunt to go to Reno in the early part.

HANIFAN: Roads probably weren't too good.

WALKER: The roads weren't very good and forty-five mile speed limit on cars, [laughing] it took a while to get up there.

HANIFAN:  [laughing] Might not get there.

WALKER: As a matter of fact, I remember that early on that it was almost a two day trip and we'd stop going up in Wadsworth and spend an hour there to rest and have a lunch and then get in the car again and go on into Reno and--

HANIFAN: What year was the car, do you recall? Or the Make?

WALKER: Oh, it was about a 1930 Model A Ford.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah. [laughing] Took some bailing wire with you, I hope.

WALKER: Yeah, it wasn't quite like the Model T it was a pretty reliable little automobile.

HANIFAN: Model As were pretty good little cars.

WALKER: Yeah, they were pretty good little cars.

HANIFAN: Did your family ever go on any trips or away from Fallon while you were growing up?

WALKER: Not too much, my mother would go back to Denver and see her siblings and her mother. But I don't remember Bill ever going any place, and we didn't do much traveling either.

HANIFAN: Do your remember your first airplane ride? An airplane that you saw in Fallon?

WALKER: Matter of fact, the first airplane I saw was in Ely. Mother wanted to see that I had an airplane ride and took me out. I got a pilot, an old World War I vintage aircraft, went up and flew around for about a half hour, maybe.

HANIFAN: You must have been pretty young then.

WALKER: I was just a kid. I was in Ely so I was only about six, maybe, or seven.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah, that's great. Who did you most admire when you were young, any acquaintance or individual? Within the family, or anything else?

WALKER: It's a hard question, John.

HANIFAN: Yeah, it's a boilerplate [laughing] directing me a little bit.

WALKER: Bill Foster was a good man. And, you know, taking on a family with three kids in there, in retrospect I really admire what he did and he made a gallant effort to be a good father.

HANIFAN: That's wonderful.

WALKER: Yeah, he got a membership in the Greenhead Club for me, and we'd go fishing quite a bit and if, when he was selling cars, and he had a customer maybe a hundred miles from here I'd go with him. So really he was, I never sat down and thought that much about it, it was something I guess I kind of expected, but, when I think about it, he did a lot of things he didn't have to do for me, you know, he just liked the kids. He was a good man.

HANIFAN: That was wonderful for your entire family. When you had a man like Bill around.


HANIFAN: Did you ever choose someone to pattern your life after, and if so who might that be? Or you went on your own?

WALKER: I just kinda on my own, I never had any, I never really--

HANIFAN: After you finished high school did you try any schools after that?

WALKER: After I got out of high school, well, I'll go back before that. The war had been declared before I got out. And Grace Paul was in charge of the draft board, and like so many of the guys I thought it my duty to go in.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah.

WALKER: And so I went down and she talked me into staying until I got out of school, which was the next year. And so it was a good thing that she did. So I didn't get in until, I think it was 1943 actually. But there was nothing--that was what I knew was coming and there was no sense preparing yourself for anything else.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah. Well, let's sort of elaborate on that. Did you go into the Army?

WALKER:  Navy.

HANIFAN: Went into the Navy, so you joined, huh?

WALKER:I joined the Navy. Well, at that time, the draftees and the enlistees were all lumped together, as a matter of fact, you couldn't hardly tell the difference. If a person enlisted he went through his physical just like we all did. Once a month there was a group that went to Salt Lake to have their physical and whether they had elected to join as an enlisted person or otherwise, you never could tell the difference. The only thing that would have been different is that, if a person really was sold on being a Navy man he could join the regular Navy, otherwise we all were USNR which was United States Navy Reserve. And we were in for the duration plus six months.

HANIFAN: How did they take you to Salt Lake, did you have to board a bus?

WALKER: We bussed to Reno- No, to Hazen and then we went over there by train.

HANIFAN: And so once they tapped you on the shoulder where did you go from there for your training?

WALKER: I went down to San Diego for my boot camp training. Up to that time everybody was going to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and I wasn't overly impressed with Coeur d'Alene. I got all these reports on how cold it was up there. But we lucked out and went to San Diego, and that's nice country down there. Enjoyed that. When I say enjoyed, I enjoyed the country.

HANIFAN: And once you finished your basic, then they probably assigned you to a--

WALKER: I was assigned as a medical corpsman so I went for further training in that field and immediately after the training I had a three day leave and I got back to Fallon for about a day, I guess, and had to go on back. On New Year's Day in 1943 I was on a ship going to Hawaii. I never came back until three and a half – No, two and a half years later.

HANIFAN: Spent the time out in the Pacific in Various locations?

WALKER: I wasn't ever in any danger, no one ever shot at me in anger, but we could always tell when a big push was coming because where we stationed was at the hospital there. It was called Hayatt [?] Heights in Hawaii. It was only about three miles down to Pearl Harbor, and we could see these ships starting to congregate down there and we could say, "Well, there's a big push coming someplace." And about three weeks or so after that, an island was invaded, and then the casualties start coming in and that's when we were busy.

HANIFAN: Oh yeah, three and a half years was a long time.

WALKER: It was two and a half.

HANIFAN: Two and a half. That’s quite a stretch of time. Do you recall when Japan surrendered? Where were you?

WALKER: Oh, yeah, we were all listening to the radio, we were in Hawaii at the time. Then all the restrictions and the discipline dissipated for a while [laughing] and enlisted men and the nurses who are the officers, you know, was probably no more segregated group in the world than the enlisted man and the officers in the Navy. But it didn't make any difference that time, boy, we were all [laughing] done and we all went to Honolulu and we all celebrated. We had a great time!

HANIFAN: You probably also recall when it all started?

WALKER: Yeah I remember when it started. I was on Maine Street as a matter of fact, there was a man by the name of Bev Waller, or boy, he was my age.

HANIFAN: Didn't he become a police chief or something?

WALKER: Police chief, right. In Reno. He lived in Ada Street at that time and we were pretty good friends and I was there. One of the family members had the radio on and they came out and told us the war had started. It was Pearl Harbor. "Where's Pearl Harbor?" We didn't know. I can definitely remember that.

HANIFAN: Yeah, most people remember these dramatic moments in their life. When and where did you meet your wife? [Shirley Greene]

WALKER: I met her in Gerlach. And after I got out the service, I guess I should back up a little bit on that. When I got out I went to the University of Nevada and graduated in 1950.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah. What did you take at the UNR?

WALKER: Business administration. And I did a little work in Reno, but I wasn't doing anything that you want to make a career out of. So eventually I went out to Empire and talked to Don Mustard. Do you know Don Mustard?

HANIFAN: No, I don't. His name rings a bell for some reason but--

WALKER: He's a Fallon man too. And he was in a position to hire, if there was any opening, and there was an opening in the personnel department. So I went to work there as a personnel, well, it's called in Employment Supervisor.

HANIFAN: So at UNR you probably were able to avail yourself of the GI Bill.

WALKER: Yes, I did, that's the only reason I went. I had no idea, the thought didn't even occur to me about going to school.

HANIFAN: And then you probably followed the business for your entire career because I recall when you and I would talk once in a while.

WALKER: On the phone.

HANIFAN: Applications or something.

WALKER: Right. First at Empire, the U. S. Gypsum Company, and then at Gabbs.

HANIFAN: Empire was gypsum?


HANIFAN: And what is it used for?

WALKER: Wallboard.

HANIFAN: Primarily the wallboard.

WALKER: Well, yeah. There's several things they use it for but wallboard is the big item. They also use it for plaster, but you don't see too much plaster any more, and they had different grades of plaster. Plaster of Paris is one of them. Without any fibers in it, which is used for casting. And there is a big use in agriculture for it. Sweetens alkaline soils.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah, sure.

WALKER: You might have used some of that on your own home.

HANIFAN: Loosen up some of that clay, huh?

WALKER: Yeah, so there is a big demand for it that way. It was a seasonal demand for that, but the wallboard was constant and that was their big product.

HANIFAN: So then, how long how did you stay with U. S. Gypsum?

WALKER: I was there for twelve years.

HANIFAN: Twelve years, that's getting a big chunk.


HANIFAN: And then from there you have some interim jobs probably and then someplace else?

WALKER: No, there was no other job. Gabbs was looking for a personnel manager. And I found out about it and I called them up to see what it was. Strictly for the money more than anything else. They were paying quite a bit more for a manager, and I wasn't a full manager there in Gerlach when I was working in the personnel department. So, after the interview I accepted the job or they accepted me, however you want to look at it. And I was there until I retired twenty-two years later.

HANIFAN: So you did a lot of interviewing yourself then?

WALKER: [laughing] Yes, I did.

HANIFAN: So you were involved in probably placing people to work at both of your locations?

WALKER: Right. Of course, a lot of people realize this, I don't know, you have a plant like that, about 320 people, they try to get by without hiring for each individual sections, like safety and out there they had housing. And a lot of the government agencies have somebody come in to deal with the unions, and then all of this sort of thing. And so, being the personnel manager was just one of the "have-tos", and do all those things I just mentioned to you. So I kept pretty busy and I got involved in lots of different activities.

HANIFAN: Oh, I'll bet you did. Probably more so in Gabbs than in Gerlach, huh?

WALKER: Yeah, I think I did. It was a bigger plant.

HANIFAN: How about the political aspects of Gabbs, did you participate in any of their planning and things like that?

WALKER: Well, no. One of the things I found different between Empire and Gabbs is that there was a pretty good rapport between the supervisors and the salaried people and the employees. I mean, everybody knew they had to do what the supervisor told them to do but on the other hand when it was all over they could go to the bar and have a beer and sit around there and nobody would know anything the difference. And Gabbs, on the other hand, I think it's probably because of the union status, that you didn't do that. And so most of the local politics was done by the salaried people or rather the hourly people there. There were a few exceptions, one J. P. [Justice of the Peace] there was a manager in the mine. But they wanted to run their own affairs in the town.

HANIFAN: Sounds like to me you had a very interesting career, but if you had to do it again would you pursue this type of career or would you try to go another way?

WALKER: Oh, probably not. I think I would, when we retired and came to Fallon we realized that we missed quite a bit. Fallon is a good town, because it's just about got everything you'd want or you'd need. Gabbs did not have an awful lot, so I don't know, I think I would have probably gone in a different direction if I had it to do over again.

HANIFAN: Would you choose a different type of work or just the location?

WALKER: Well, the job--I liked the work all right. Probably that kind of activity.

HANIFAN: I was hoping, because it would be a heck of a note to spend thirty-three years [laughing] hating to go to work. But I know that that's common in this day and age for some people.


HANIFAN: But I can understand why you might want to live in a little bigger fish bowl. We were just starting to jump off a little too soon into your meeting your wife here.

WALKER: I met her in Gerlach.

HANIFAN: So then a family followed I'm sure.

WALKER: Well, she had two children. Sheryl and Debbie. Sheryl currently lives in Elko and Debbie lives in Fernley. They're doing quite well there. My youngest daughter, Deseree, she was twenty years old when she was killed in an automobile wreck.

HANIFAN: Oh, that's awful. I recall reading about that and you have a scholarship set up here for Fallon, don't you?

WALKER: Yeah. It was started in Gabbs first and when we came here we changed the wording a little bit on it so that it wasn't strictly for Gabbs. At the time it was $1,500.00 per year for a graduating student from the Gabbs High School. But we have since broadened the scope a little bit there, where it doesn't necessarily have to be a scholarship anymore, it can be a --where a person might need some training. One of the things I remember is that, a woman here in town that wanted to be an EMT [Emergency Medical Technician], I thinks that's what you call it, and she was coming along pretty good on it, but she was running out of money and she put in a request for it and she got it. And she continued her training.         

HANIFAN: That's wonderful.

WALKER: Just going to the hospital, for some reason I don't even remember what it was now, she was there--and it makes you feel pretty good to know that you helped somebody.

HANIFAN: Oh, yeah. Is the scholarship still on going for and is it administered through the family and the school system or how does that work?

WALKER: No, what happened, we early on felt it was best not to be too involved in it so actually, in Fallon right now, Trina Moretto, the County Recorder, is kind of in charge of the thing. She and Desiree were classmates and so we don't want to be in a position where we favored people. So we just turned it over that way.

HANIFAN: Yes, that's traumatic, I lost a brother at that exact same age. He was the oldest in our family. I know that it's--you have to cope with some tough things some time. It's wonderful that people are still benefitting from you people setting that up.

WALKER: Its been twenty years now. So I guess about twenty thousand dollars. It was never big. Sometimes a person needs a little something but extra to take you over the top.

HANIFAN: Did your wife work quite a bit when you were?

WALKER: She was the postmaster for awhile in Empire and then she was a housewife strictly for quite awhile and then when the kids got to the age where the need for being home was gone for the most part, she started as a secretary in a school out at Gabbs and she was there for several years.

HANIFAN: And she's continuing to work here in Fallon, I guess?

WALKER: Yes, she's got a good job. Churchill Economic Development Authority. She thoroughly enjoys it and she's got too much energy to- - -

HANIFAN: A lot of great comments on her, what she does for the community. How has your health been through the years, any broken bones or diseases that run in the family or things like that?

WALKER: Very healthy family. Very healthy family, the thing that I --I had pneumonia which I talked to you about once, and then in 1990 I had a heart attack about the same time you did. And I recovered from that I think pretty well. Outside of that, not very much.

HANIFAN: That's wonderful. Do you have any--what's your philosophy of life, favorite teacher or writer or anything like that?

WALKER: [laughing] My philosophy, huh?

HANIFAN: [laughing] I'm just following the script. I could have skipped that one but I didn't.

WALKER: Well, I tell you I think I've changed my attitude about things a little bit, things that were black and white and had to be black and white. I've changed to where I accept the fact that sometimes there has to be some gray involved in things. I try not to be too critical of things that I don't approve of particularly, but just keep my mouth shut and let it happen. If it doesn't affect me personally well, then I'm not going to . . .

HANIFAN: Well, that's certainly a philosophy and a good one I think. It's certainly one that's outstanding. In your opinion is what has given you the most pleasure here? Family, your career or hobbies?

WALKER:  Oh, I think my family. A few things I enjoyed in the past, was in Gabbs, I got one of these little dirt motorcycles and I explored that country from one end to the other. There was a group of us, about five, six that go out on a full day of runs on a dirt bike, exploring some mountain top or something.

HANIFAN: Did you ever do any prospecting while you were on that bike or looking for metals or anything like that?

WALKER: No, we never. We would find a map, or rather a town that was listed in Stan Paher's book, an old mining camp--ghost town, and we'd try to find it and sometimes we did find it, and many a times we've come on an area that had been mined at one time and in a couple of instances, the houses were still there. You go around and try to imagine who lived there or what was happening--you see a kid's toy, you know there had to be a family there. And here in others nothing but tin cans and maybe a lot of whiskey bottles. [End of tape 1]

HANIFAN: Your motorcycle trips and what you have, uh, explored and you explored a lot of ghost towns, huh?

WALKER: Yeah, one example of one of our better trips was, we went from Gabbs into the Reese River and over that mountain --it's called Ophir Summit and down into where Smoky Valley is. I certainly had the biggest surprise I ever saw. When we got half way down we spread out and here was a complete abandoned town. It was the old town of Ophir.


WALKER: Ophir, yeah, and I was fascinated by the thing. It had flowers all over and trees, there was so much vegetation you didn't see it until you was right on it. And we spent several hours around there trying to figure out what was going on.

HANIFAN: That was where you saw the old bottle of Old Crow Tea or something? Or was that a different?

WALKER: Well, I don’t remember seeing anything like that.

HANIFAN: Oh, okay.

WALKER: But there was-  We figured out where the mine manager's house should have been. He had a circle, you know, a drive in and a drive out type of area in front of his house. And so I went back when we got done with the trip and we went down that way and into Smoky Valley and up north over Kingston Summit and back into Gabbs.

HANIFAN: What do you think it looks like now, has it been--?

WALKER: Torn down? Well, there's been some mining in there I heard later. Anyhow, I got the book out to find Ophir and it turned out that at one time it was the richest mine, for a short period of time, in the state of Nevada.

HANIFAN: Is that right?

WALKER: And it had a lot of gold, and it still does I think, but the problem was that it was so hard that they never figured out a way to drill it. The ordinary mine like that you might be able to get down a foot a day or something like that, this you'd just get inches. They finally had to give it up, just too expensive to mine. Not because the ore wasn't there but it was just too expensive.

HANIFAN: Isn't that something, probably not many people know about it now. It's probably pretty well- Well, unless they're in there gold mining again.

WALKER: Yeah, they could be there's nothing secret about it. It was just a surprise to me. But I'm sure a lot of people know that, as far as that goes. Well, anyhow, that was the kind of activity that we spent lots of time doing that. We thoroughly investigated everything there was to investigate in that place.

HANIFAN: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts of what the future holds for our community and any thoughts of inherent dangers of the future or anything like that, that you'd like to mention?

WALKER: Well, I hope, I shouldn't say hope, but -- Fallon at the present time is about right. Might be just a little bigger than just right. I'd hate to see it get to the size of Reno or something like that. Cause right now it's still a place where normally you can go downtown and you can meet somebody you know. Almost always you can walk down the street and talk to somebody that you know. A lot of things around town that are traditional like the morning coffee that all these guys go to, I think that's great camaraderie that they have. So I think the bigger you get the more you're inclined to lose that type of thing.

HANIFAN: I sure agree with you. That was the reason why I came back to Fallon, is I did like to stroll in and know somebody when I went in for a cup of coffee. I lived in Reno for about one year, and that was it. Is there anything that you'd like to share that we haven't already covered or elaborate on some specifics that I missed over?

WALKER: Well, I guess I can just conclude by saying that I have no regrets on my life, it was pretty, it was interesting. I did some traveling in behalf of the company so I got to see some of the world at company expense [laughing], and we always lived pretty well, never had any problems anyway.

HANIFAN: Well, I think you've lived an exemplary life from what I know about it, and the entire family, and so forth, but I'll tell you one thing the biggest privilege is getting the opportunity to share with you your life's highlights and stories.

WALKER: Well, thank you, John, I guess that one thing, I don't know if it came out too well. But I have to say that my mother had a terrific influence on my life and on my family life. You know, sometimes they don't they get so involved in other things, but, she was a strong-minded gal.

HANIFAN: Wonderful gal! Anyone who's been in Fallon long knows that she influenced far beyond her family and I'm happy that she had such an influence on her children.

WALKER: I think we're going to wind it up here with just an hour, huh?

Original Format

Audio Cassette


1:03:16, 07:11

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Walker, Bob recording 1 of 2.mp3
Walker, Bob recording 2 of 2.mp3
Robert (Bob) Walker ORal History Transcript.docx


Churchill County Museum Association, “Robert "Bob" Walker Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed August 17, 2022,