Ruth Taylor Walker Oral History

Dublin Core

Title

Ruth Taylor Walker Oral History

Description

Ruth Taylor Walker Oral History

Creator

Churchill County Museum Association

Publisher

Churchill County Museum Association

Date

February 27, 1997 and June 23, 1997

Format

Analog Cassette Tape, .Docx File, MP3 Audio

Language

English

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Anita Erquiaga

Interviewee

Ruth Taylor Walker

Location

395 West Stillwater Avenue, Fallon, NV

Transcription

Churchill County Oral History Project

an interview with RUTH TAYLOR WALKER

Fallon, Nevada

RESEARCH COPY

conducted by ANITA ERQUIAGA

on February 27, 1997 and June 23, 1997

This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Pat Boden; indexed by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of 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.

Preface

Ruth was interviewed at her home at 395 West Stillwater Avenue in her very neat, tidy house surrounded by a yard which is equally neat and tidy. She has a very large wisteria vine in the back yard, the only one I know of in Fallon.

As she talked about her years in Wonder she laughed a lot about everything. It was obvious that she was very close to her brother, Forrest Taylor, and that they really enjoyed themselves growing up together in Wonder and Dixie Valley.

She retired from her job at the sheriff's office in 1972. She said she bought a green Ford pickup with a camper shell, and along with her friend, Rae Ascargorta, took many trips to different places around Fallon. They would go to Wonder for the day, or to Rawhide and have their lunch, continuing on to Mina from there and back home by a different route. If she had a flat tire, which she sometimes did, it was no big deal. She just got out and changed it. She still sews beautifully, and she still drives to Reno for doctor appointments for herself and for friends.

It was a joy to spend an afternoon with a lady who is eighty-six and still thinking happy thoughts, not only about the past, but also about the present.

 

 

Interview with Ruth Taylor Walker

This is Anita Erquiaga of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program. Today is February 27, 1997, and I am interviewing Ruth Taylor Walker at her home at 395 West Stillwater Avenue.

 

 

ERQUIAGA: Ruth, I want to thank you for taking the time this afternoon to do this interview, and I'd like to start off by asking you to give me your full name, date of birth, and your place of birth.

WALKER: I'm Ruth A. Walker, and I was born in Lafayette, Colorado, December 7, 1910.

ERQUIAGA: And Walker is your married name? What was your maiden name?

WALKER: Right. My maiden name was Ruth Taylor.  

ERQUIAGA: How about your parents? Where were they born?

WALKER: My mother was Elizabeth Hackward, and she was born in Weirdale, England, the northern part of England, and came to the United States in 1882, just prior to the beginning of Ellis Island. That wasn't established till a couple of years later. Then they migrated west to some friends they knew in Missouri, and my grandfather worked in a coal mine. But they left England because my grandfather was a chronic asthmatic, and the doctors told him he had to leave that climate. So the family sailed to the United States, and they landed in Newfoundland and then trained down to New York City and then came to Missouri by train.

ERQUIAGA: Did you know your grandparents?

WALKER: No, they lived in Missouri. I never knew any of them at all. Mother came to Colorado because she was asthmatic, too, and she and her brother lived in Colorado Springs, oh, I don't know how long. Then she met my father who had come from the same place in Missouri that she was, but they didn't know one another back there, and they were married in Denver in 1907.

ERQUIAGA: When did they come to Nevada?

WALKER: 1915.

ERQUIAGA: And did they come right to Fallon, or were they someplace else?

WALKER: We came to Fallon in a Model-T Ford, and my uncle and my brother was in another 1907 Model Ford. The first night we were on our way, my uncle's car broke an axle and they had to stop and repair his car, and they had to stop in the middle of a field where cattle were being grazed. There was a siege of anthrax going on, and they had carcasses burning all over the plain, and it was a horrible stench. I don’t remember…we stayed there…had to stay there all night until he got his car fixed and then came on to Winnemucca and then came to Fallon where we saw Lahontan Dam. It was being patrolled by a military sentry.

ERQUIAGA: And what was the reason for that?

WALKER: To avoid…prohibit sabotage.

ERQUIAGA: It was during…?

WALKER: World War I.

ERQUIAGA: Well then, what kind of work did your father do when he first came to Fallon?

WALKER: He worked in a garage as an automobile mechanic, and they worked in the Benadum Garage which sits on the corner across from where the post office now sits, and the Benadum home was on that corner where the post office is. [120 North Maine] We lived in the house next to the waterworks.

ERQUIAGA: To the north of the post office?

WALKER: To the north of the post office, and that's where the whole family of us that were at home got the World War I flu epidemic that was going on. Dad was out the other end at Wonder. He was driving the mail stage out to Wonder, and he got the flu out there, and people were dying like flies in Wonder, too. He had to drive his mail stage back home, and he was ill with the flu at the time, but he made it. And they uh…we children were in the school going to…My sister, Erma, and I were going to the old high school where the Cottage School now sit [255 East Stillwater], and my brother was going to West End which was a building identical to the old high school. My dad found that he was spending more of his time at Wonder instead of at Fallon, so he moved the family out to Wonder during the winter months. We got up past Frenchman Station headed up back of Chalk Mountain through the canyon, and the snow was so deep the car was plowing its way through. There was a band of sheep and a sheepherder with his sheep up there, and he helped Dad shovel the road out so we could get to Wonder to get in under cover from the snowstorm. Then after we were there for a couple of days, Dad bought one of the houses that was vacated from the owner.

ERQUIAGA: Did you say you bought one of the houses?

WALKER: Yeah. Yes and uh…our next-door neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Scott. Another neighbor was the Tannehills, and Mr. MacGregor was the watchman at the mine up in the side of the hill there. He had a boy and a girl. Eunice MacGregor and Allison MacGregor. My brother, was Forrest, and I and the two MacGregor children got to be very good friends and went to school together. During out-of-school hours and during the summer vacations we rode donkeys all over the valley and all over the hills. The prospectors each had their bunch of donkeys. Burros, we called them, and they turned them loose. We kids would catch one and ride it until it decided it didn't want to go any farther, and it would sit down. There wasn't anything you could do to bribe it to move. (laughing) We went all over the hills up in Wonder.

ERQUIAGA: The prospectors didn't mind that you . .

WALKER: No, they didn't mind at all. They weren't using them, so we kids rode them when they were free.

ERQUIAGA: Bare back, no doubt?

WALKER: Oh, of course. We tied a rope around their neck up by the back of their heads and down under their chin and made a half hitch along the side of their nose and had a little stick about three feet long and we'd bat it alongside of the jaw to go this way and bat it on the other side to go the other way, and they did it. We had a lot of fun doing that.

ERQUIAGA: Well, that does sound like a lot of fun.

WALKER: And Mom would give us a little can of pork and beans and a piece of bread and maybe some canned corned beef, and we'd have a sandwich out in the hills somewhere. We had a lot of fun up there during the summer months when it was clear and warm. There was a cyanide pond down below the school quite a little distance going down the canyon towards Dixie Valley, and there was a little ditch that run from the mine down to the cyanide pond. They used cyanide solutions to smelt the metal, and the path that the men went back and forth to work ran alongside the ditch somewhere.

ERQUIAGA: Where they walked from the town up to the mill?

WALKER: Up to the mill to go to work. During the wintertime when the snow was so bad and it was deep, we kids could ride Forrest's sleigh from the house clear to the cyanide pond.

ERQUIAGA: You said Forrest's sleigh?

WALKER: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: That was your brother, Forrest Taylor?

WALKER: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: Did he build this sleigh?

WALKER: It was a home-built sleigh, and I'm not sure whether my dad built it or my uncle did, but, at any rate, he had this sleigh. We guided it by dragging our toes in the snow alongside the trail. One time, in the wintertime, my brother and I were on the sled, and we went clear down to the cyanide pond during the school recess. We were about halfway back up the hill going back to school when the school bell rang, and Forrest says to me, gave me a big wink, and he says, "Let's go back down the rest of the way." So we got on the sled and went back down the rest of the way to the cyanide pond. Then, of course, we had to come back late. Well, the teacher saw us get on the sled when we were about halfway up, and when we came through the door, we had to stop and brush snow off of us with the broom at the door. When we got in the room, she says, "Forrest, you stand in that corner with your face to the wall, and, Ruth, you stand in that corner with your face to the wall." So, that was our punishment for going back down and coming back late.

ERQUIAGA: Do you remember the name of your teacher?

WALKER: I can't remember whether it was Miss Hines or Mrs. Stapleton, but I had two different ones. They were real nice ladies, but they didn't tolerate us being late for school.

ERQUIAGA: Did the one teacher teach all the grades?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: How many children were there at that time?

WALKER: There must have been, oh, ten or fourteen of us. There were quite a few Indian children, and the Byers lived up there at the same time we did. The Indian Byers'  family. One of the Byers men was the bookkeeper and timekeeper at the mine.

ERQUIAGA: Oh.

WALKER: And um… Gradually, little by little, all the people moved out, and Dad bought another house because he had gotten a contract with the government to haul mail to Dixie Valley and were discontinuing the mail service to Wonder because there wasn't anybody living back up there anymore.

ERQUIAGA: Oh and what year was that?

WALKER: I can't remember, but it must have been somewhere in 1920 to 1922 sometime. Dad bought these two houses and he tore them down board by board except for one room in one of the houses. The people had taken black powder boxes that were wood, and the ends of the boxes were heavy wood, and they had used the inside of the box for the outside of the room's wainscoting. They had varnished it and lacquered it, and it was beautiful, so Dad took that all in one piece on a trailer. I don't know how he ever did it, but he moved it down to Dixie Valley. So we moved from Wonder to Dixie Valley, and I think the MacGregors were the only people left because he was the watchman at the mine then.

ERQUIAGA: I see.

WALKER: I don't know what happened to the MacGregors, but I heard they went to Virginia City, but I wouldn't know for sure. I've often wished that I could get in touch with either Allison or Eunice MacGregor, but I don't know whether they're still around or not.

ERQUIAGA: Well…Then when your dad moved these things to Dixie Valley, did he rebuild the house?

WALKER: He rebuilt the house. One house. A two-story house.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. And what was he doing in Dixie Valley? He was carrying the mail?

WALKER: Um-hum. Then in 19 . . . I can't remember. My brother graduated from the eighth grade there. Leonard and Dorothy and Roy Mackedon lived in Dixie Valley, and they went to school with us.

ERQUIAGA: Were there very many people living there in Dixie Valley?

WALKER: Yes, there were quite a few.

ERQUIAGA: What did they do for a living?

WALKER: Most of them were trying to farm. We all had artesian wells that ran all the time. Dorothy wound up living in Stockton, and, of course, Mr. Mackedon is in the cement business here, and the other Mr. Mackedon is down in Hawthorne. I don't know what he does.

ERQUIAGA: That's Leonard's brother?

WALKER: Yeah. That's right.

ERQUIAGA: How did your mother get supplies when she lived in Wonder and in Dixie Valley? Did they come into Fallon very often?

WALKER: Never came in…Mom never came in at all. Dad brought out what we couldn't buy at the store in Wonder. They had two stores in Wonder. What they couldn't buy there, Dad would bring out when he brought the mail out. Tedford had truck line…or uh mule teams, and he would cart freight into Wonder. I don't know how many teams of mules, and I don't know how many strings of wagons they had hooked together. They would go to Frenchman Station and then part way up the hill towards Wonder going towards the canyon. They had a campground there. They would turn the mules into this big fenced-in area, and they had feed for them and everything right there just before you go into the canyon.

ERQUIAGA: And that was a stopover, and then they, what?

WALKER: And then the next day they would go on up into Wonder.

ERQUIAGA: They could go that far from Fallon in one day?

WALKER: I think so. And all of this was long before Highway 50 was across the flats. And uh,  Dad drove the truck, and the road up through uh…what's the name of the canyon just beyond the last flat?

ERQUIAGA: Fairview?

WALKER: No. The road before that. At any rate, if you went across the first big alkali flat, then you might have crossed the small flat, and then you started up this canyon. It was a two-rut road. Just a dirt road.

ERQUIAGA: Well, when your dad was carrying the mail, did he use the car all the time?

WALKER: Yeah. he drove truck all the time.

ERQUIAGA: Let's backtrack a little. I didn't get a date of when he started carrying the mail to Wonder. When did leave the garage and start carrying the mail?

WALKER: 1917 or 1918. He's the one that discovered those little graves out there on the flat. The weather mostly uncovered it, and he took care of that for before anybody else ever knew they were there.          

ERQUIAGA: That was where the road was at that time.

WALKER: Yeah. In the good weather you could go across there.

ERQUIAGA: Then in the winter, how did he go?

WALKER: Along the hills.

ERQUIAGA: To the north?

WALKER: To the north of the flats 'cause it was usually so bogged down that you couldn't get across.

ERQUIAGA: Did he know who those graves belonged to?

WALKER: Not at that time, but we've heard since.

ERQUIAGA: I guess now they aren't quite certain that it's the La Beau children.

WALKER: Right.

ERQUIAGA: But he took care of it.

WALKER: He took care of it all those years. And he would go as far as Frenchman's Station, and he knew Mr. …what was the Frenchman’s name… Mr. Le Beau…

ERQUIAGA: Was that the name of the…

WALKER: The Mr. Frenchman that owned the Frenchman station. He was a Frenchman, he could talk French better than he could talk English, but he played the concertina, and Dad would go that far and spend the night with him and then go on up to Wonder the next day. Dad would sing a lot. Dad would sing English, and he'd [Mr. Bermond] sing French.

ERQUIAGA: And was he the father of the children that were buried? Or someway related.

WALKER: No, no, no.

ERQUIAGA: But it was the same name?

WALKER: Yeah. Well I’m not sure about the name.

ERQUIAGA: I can’t help ya I don’t know.

WALKER: I can’t think of his name.

ERQUIAGA: How about pets? Did you have pets when you were in Wonder?

WALKER: Oh, sure. We had a cat. She was so wild you couldn't catch her for anything. She made her nest in a shed we had, and she had three kittens. When we moved to Dixie Valley from Wonder, we couldn't catch her and the kittens weren't weaned, so we took the three kittens with us and left her up there. I guess the MacGregors fed her, but we took the kittens with us to Dixie Valley and raised them on a bottle.

ERQUIAGA: How about rattlesnakes? Did you run into them?

WALKER: I've been amazed ever since that we didn't run across rattlesnakes.

ERQUIAGA: You didn't?

WALKER: Not a one. Not a one. But, before we moved from Colorado, we ran across them every once in a while 'cause we had a mile and a half to walk to school in Colorado. We were running like crazy to get home away from the snakes, and we'd tell Dad that they were there. He'd come back down the path and kill them.

ERQUIAGA: But, you didn't have problems with them in Wonder!

WALKER: No, not at all. It's amazing.

ERQUIAGA: It is.

WALKER: But, one day, for some reason or other, well, I guess went to the bathroom, only it was an outhouse. In those days you didn't have bathrooms. You just had the outdoor toilets. I went out the back one day, and there was a coyote at that water drop, and I came tearing back in, and I told the schoolteacher there was a coyote out there. She didn't believe me, but she went out and looked and saw it. But, they come wandering around in there all the time.

ERQUIAGA: Tell me about this water drop. We didn't get that on the tape. We were talking about that before.

WALKER: The water supply came over the hill from I don't remember whether it was Cherry Creek or Bench Creek, and it was piped to this drop back of the schoolhouse, and it was like the ones that the railroads used with a big pipe standing up about eight, ten feet and then another pipe that came out from that about four feet with a hose that came down on it. People in the vicinity of there come up and got water.

ERQUIAGA: It was there for everybody?

WALKER: Everybody that needed water went there to get it.

ERQUIAGA: And that was everybody in Wonder.

WALKER: In Wonder, yeah. It was about as far as from here across the street from the schoolhouse.

ERQUIAGA: And there was a steady supply all the time?

WALKER: Uh-huh.

ERQUIAGA: How about in Dixie Valley, what did you do for water?

WALKER: Had an artesian well.

ERQUIAGA: And that's what you used for the house, also?

WALKER: Yeah. Carried it by bucketsful.

ERQUIAGA: Well, did you have any land that you were farming there besides…?

WALKER: Yeah, a section.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, besides being the mail carrier?

WALKER: That's right. Well, he was going to, but he didn't have much luck farming. I don't think Dad was farmer at heart. (laughing) He was strictly a mechanic.

ERQUIAGA: How about your home there in Dixie Valley or in Wonder? Did your mother make breads and do a lot of cooking?

WALKER: Oh, my, yes. She made wonderful bread. She was a marvelous cook. They say English cooks are very bland cookers, but Mother was a good cook, and her bread was really, really super.

ERQUIAGA: She had a coal and wood burning stove?

WALKER: Right. And when we first moved to Dixie Valley, we didn't have any supplies of wood to burn in the stove, so Forrest and I went out and cut sagebrush and grease wood and rabbit brush and used the stems of those for Mom to burn in the stove. And we had a mustang horse. He was part mustang and part some other breed of a domestic horse, but he was a little bigger than the regular mustang, but he had the mustang tactics.

ERQUIAGA: And what were those?

WALKER: Well, in those days the jack rabbits and the cottontail rabbits didn't have this rabbit disease and were perfectly good to eat, so we went out and shot rabbits, and the horse objected strenuously for anybody to get aboard if they had a dead animal in their hands. So, Forrest would boost me onto the horse, then he would hand the rabbit up to me and then he would jump on board and away we would go. When you came to a ditch, you weren't too sure. He’d…Forrest would say to me, "Hang on, Sis, he's going to jump, or he's going to wade. We don't which." (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: He’s going to jump or he’s going to…?

WALKER: Wade.

ERQUIAGA: Wade.

WALKER: We didn't know whether he was going to do one or the other, and if you weren't prepared for anything, you landed on the ground.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, golly.

WALKER: And if a lizard ran under a brush, he would shy, and you had to hang on for dear life 'cause we rode him most of the time without any saddle.

ERQUIAGA: Was this the mustang that your dad had captured out there?

WALKER: No, we bought him from some other people that had him. They didn't have any children, and they didn't want to keep feeding him, so Dad bought him for us children. We had a grand old time, but you couldn't get him to go into a building out of the storm. He'd rather stand in the weather rather than go into the building. That was against his temperament. And if you wanted him to ride him. We just turned him loose when we got through riding him, and he grazed all around everywhere. And we'd want to ride him, we'd see a horse off in the distance, we'd say, "That must be Snip." That was his name. So we'd walk a mile to catch the cotton-pickin' horse, and we…

ERQUIAGA: When the tape ran out you were telling me about trying to catch the horse.

WALKER: Yes, we’d had to have a pan of grain handy. And we had an old wash basin, and we had some chicken feed in the basin. He knew that was going to be a treat, so we'd shake it. Then as soon as we got up near enough so he would start nibbling the grain, Forrest would grab him by the neck and put the rope on him. When we had him cornered we'd put the bridle on him.

ERQUIAGA: By the time you caught the horse, did you have time left to do whatever you were going to do? (laughing)

WALKER: Yeah, we went rabbit hunting or whatever we were going to do. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Did you shoot the rabbits?

WALKER: Oh, sure, he had a .22.

ERQUIAGA: How about you? Did you shoot?

WALKER: Oh, I carried them.

ERQUIAGA: You carried them.    (laughing)

WALKER: (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: There was no place to fish out there, I guess.

WALKER: No. No, but there were a couple of canyons up along the Alpine Range. That was east of Dixie Valley, and I can't remember. There was Cow Canyon and Bernice Canyon. I think we went up Cow Canyon, and the gooseberry bushes were higher than your head and had beautiful big gooseberries. You had to walk about three miles up in the canyon, and we would pick gooseberries. Bring them down, and Mom would can them. Make jelly and pies, and they were just wild gooseberries. I don't know how they ever got started. Birds, I suppose. But uh, Forrest graduated from the eighth grade there, and Grandmother Taylor lived with us. When he graduated from grammar school in Dixie, he and Grandmother came into Fallon and lived in a house over on Ferguson Street that Dad rented until he finished his contract with the mail. Then he moved the rest of the family in.

ERQUIAGA: What year was that?

WALKER: I don't remember. Forrest graduated from high school in 1927. It must have been 1924 'cause he got out of high school in three years.

ERQUIAGA: So, how did you feel about moving into town then? That was quite different from Dixie Valley, I imagine.

WALKER: Oh, yes! It was. I went to school over at the Oats Park School.

ERQUIAGA: Who was your teacher there?

WALKER: Adah Gerjets.

ERQUIAGA: At Oats Park?

WALKER: Yes, and Laura Mills and Miss Breeze who was later married to one of the Oar boys.

ERQUIAGA: And what kind of a house did you have when you moved into Fallon?

WALKER: It was just a little wooden frame house. Then Dad bought the house over on A Street near the dentist's office.

ERQUIAGA: Where the dentist's office is now?

WALKER: Yeah. There was nothing but a patch of weeds there then.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have electricity when you came into Fallon?

WALKER: Oh, yes.

ERQUIAGA: But not out in Dixie?

WALKER: Oh, no. Nor Wonder. We had kerosene lamps and gas lamps. Like Coleman lamps and lanterns. And, believe it or not, when we first came to Fallon, there was no sewer system in part of the town, and they had those frost-free toilets out in the outhouse.

ERQUIAGA: Do you want to explain that? (laughing)

WALKER: Yeah, they had regular outside toilets, and they had big metal containers and the garbage truck would come along and empty those every week. Then, finally, they got frost-free toilets and had sewers dug, and they transferred the old outhouses into frost-free toilets. They were still out in those old buildings.

ERQUIAGA: What do you mean by "frost-free?"

WALKER: Did you ever see the round toilets that the lids pushed down on them, and the water kept flushing while they were pushed down?

ERQUIAGA: Oh, no, I haven't seen those.

WALKER: That's what they were.

ERQUIAGA: Oh.

WALKER: That's what they called them. There was no water running into a tank to flush like the modern tanks, and they called them frost-free toilets 'cause the water turned off completely. Then when the lids were pushed down when they were being used, the water started running, and it would stay on.

ERQUIAGA: I see. Was the whole town that way?

WALKER: I don't know how much of the town, but the southeast part of the town was like that.

ERQUIAGA: So, what did you do for entertainment in the evenings at Wonder and Dixie, as well as in Fallon?

WALKER: Mother read to us. She read all of the Tarzan of the Apes books to us, and we did our homework and studying. That was about it.

ERQUIAGA: Did you go to bed pretty early?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: And get up real early?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: And then in Fallon, was it any different?

WALKER: Not too much till after we'd been here a while.

ERQUIAGA: Did you and your brother have any fun like you did at Wonder? Anything like that that you did in Fallon?

WALKER: Yes. During duck season my brother would say during duck season he would say, "Come on, Sis, let's go duck hunting." He had boots, rubber boots, and we'd walk out in the country where we knew there were some sloughs or ponds, and we'd hunt ducks. He'd shoot the ducks and I'd carry them.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, you still did it that way. (laughing) You did the carrying.

WALKER: I did the carrying. When we came across a ditch that was too wide for me to jump, he'd piggyback me, and he'd wade across, then dump me on the other side, and away we'd go.

ERQUIAGA: You were very close to your brother.

WALKER: Very, very much so.

ERQUIAGA: Now, you mentioned that you had a sister, but she must have died early?

WALKER: No, no. She's dead now, but she was alive, and she was quite a bit younger. She was two years younger than me, and she was too small to go on these jaunts that we went on.

ERQUIAGA: I see. You didn't mention her, so I wondered where she was. Well, she missed all the fun.

WALKER: Yeah. More or less. She and a couple of other school girls that went to school with us had their own fun. We used to go--or they went more than I did--magpie hunting 'cause there was a bounty on magpies, so she did that for spending money, and some of the other girls did that, too. I'd go with them once in a while.

ERQUIAGA: How about when you had sick children, your mother had sick children? Was there a doctor in Wonder?

WALKER: I've forgotten, but, I think, yes, I think there was. I can't tell you now who it was. I don't remember that, but I know the law enforcement was a Marshal.

ERQUIAGA: Out at Wonder?

WALKER: Out at Wonder. Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: A state marshal or…?

WALKER: I don't know whether he was state or county. I think his name was MacPherson, I'm not sure. But I think if anybody was quite ill, Dad brought them in in truck. And they saw doctors here.                

ERQUIAGA: How often did he come into town?

WALKER: Twice a week.

ERQUIAGA: Did your family own a car other than his mail truck?

WALKER: No.

ERQUIAGA: So, did your mother ever drive?

WALKER: Oh, no. No.

ERQUIAGA: When did you learn to drive?

WALKER: When I lived in California.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, you didn't learn when…How about Forrest? Did he learn to drive?

WALKER: Oh, yes. He built a--they called them bugs those days-a little Ford, and he had a Chevrolet transmission in it. He and I, after we got big enough, ran around in that, and I had to keep a hold of the gear shift to hold it in gear because if it flew out of gear, you didn't have any brakes. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) Was there a train to Wonder?

WALKER: Oh, no. They started at one time, I think, to build a railroad track out to Sand Mountain. Some glass company was going to haul it in, but they gave up the ship. I think you can see part of the grade yet out there where they started grading it to put tracks in. But uh…

ERQUIAGA: And when you moved into Fallon, did your father still work for the post office?

WALKER: Uh, no. He sold Watkins products out of his truck. He had a cab put on the back of the truck. He'd go up to Lovelock and Winnemucca and down to Yerington. He went across Parran Flat because the road from here to Lovelock was just a rut road, and he got out there part way and got stuck in some of those mires. Had a terrible time getting back.

ERQUIAGA: How did you get to school when you were here in town? You just walked over?

WALKER: Oh, yes.

ERQUIAGA: You never bicycled or anything?

WALKER: No. Forrest had a bicycle, but he didn't either. He walked.

ERQUIAGA: Did you take a lunch?

WALKER: Yeah. We took lunches. When I was in high school, I took glee club on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the cafeteria they had going in the high school was open, and the students that took cooking class cooked the food for the cafeteria.

ERQUIAGA: Every day?

WALKER: Every day, and I don't remember what they charged, but you could get a meal in the cafeteria.

ERQUIAGA: What kind of food? Did they have hot meals?

WALKER: Yes. They had hot meals, and I don't know what they charged, but they didn't last very long. By the time I got out of glee club, the food was all gone, so I didn't have any lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Was there any particular teacher that you remember that influenced your life in any way?

WALKER: Yes, out in Dixie Valley. Mrs. Morgan, she was a school teacher, and she did a lot of good. I mean, she was a real excellent teacher, and she taught us children just like we were her children. She didn't have any of her own, but we children were her family. It sure did me a lot of good 'cause I didn't like school.

ERQUIAGA: It was more fun to ride the burros.

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: This is backtracking quite a bit here back to when you were talking about the influenza epidemic.

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: Do you remember much about that?

WALKER: Yes, I do. Well, not many of the details, but I knew that they had a terrible time getting enough caskets shipped in. Not only for Fallon, but shipped them by freight tr… mule team up to Wonder for the ones that were passing on up there, and they were having a terrible time keeping enough caskets on hand to bury people.

ERQUIAGA: And where were they buried out there?

WALKER: There's a cemetery up at Wonder.

ERQUIAGA: At Wonder.

WALKER: Mm-hm.

ERQUIAGA: And then the other thing that happened back about that time was the rabies epidemic. Do you remember anything about that?

WALKER: The only thing I remember is that they were worried about the coyotes, and when I went out of the school up in Wonder to go to the outhouse there, and that coyote came down, I went very rapidly back in the school and told the teacher he was there, and so she kept me in. But we were all afraid of the rabies at that time.

ERQUIAGA: The animals would bite the people?

WALKER: Well, they never did bite anybody that I knew, but we were afraid of it.

ERQUIAGA: They might, huh?

WALKER: Um-hum.

ERQUIAGA: I guess they did in some places.

WALKER: Oh, yes. I'm sure they did.

ERQUIAGA: Well, we can come back to where we were. What time…What year did you finish high school?

WALKER: 1930. In 1931, I married Fred Walker in April, and in June of 1931, we went back to New York to help build a post office, and they moved us on over to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. There was one there. My husband was a steel worker, and they needed a worker to build this framework over in Woonsocket, so we went on over to Woonsocket. When that was done, came back to Newburg and did the work there.

ERQUIAGA: What was he doing in Fallon? How did you happen to meet him here?

WALKER: He built the red brick post office.

ERQUIAGA: I see.

WALKER: Or helped build it. He did the steel work, and then when it was past the construction, he did the painting inside.

ERQUIAGA: How long did you live back there?

WALKER: Five years and a half.

ERQUIAGA: Five years. And then where did you go from there?

WALKER: To Vallejo, California.

ERQUIAGA: Was he doing the same kind of work?

WALKER: No, he was working for the government at that time. He quit the construction work when they were building some ammunition magazines back on Iona Island in New York. He worked there for two years. He went into the office and asked if there was a chance of being transferred to Mare Island, California. They said they would check and he got a transfer to Mare Island in 1936, and we both worked on Mare Island during World War II.

ERQUIAGA: When did you come back to Fallon?

WALKER: 1957, on New Year's Day.

ERQUIAGA: And had you retired? Had both of you retired?

WALKER: He had to retire on account of disability. He had a heart condition, and he lived one year. He died out on Alcorn Road in a house we lived in there.

ERQUIAGA: What kind of differences did you see in Fallon after all those years?

WALKER: After all those years, it was tremendously different. It was a real change.

ERQUIAGA: Paved streets and roads and all that?

WALKER: Right.

ERQUIAGA: How about the schools? Were they different?

WALKER: Well, I think so. I don't remember what year they tore down the old high school and the West End School and built the present ones. At any rate, I know Forrest went to the West End one when he was in the third grade, I think. My sister and I went to the old high. She started school in the old high school, and I was in the first grade or second grade.

ERQUIAGA: At that time, was…where did West End come…was West End in town? Was there anything beyond West End?

WALKER: Oh, there was a house or two around, but all of this area was in alfalfa field. Verplank's. Where I live now.

ERQUIAGA: Everything was farm around West End School, I suppose.

WALKER: Yeah.

ERQUIAGA: But it wasn't like that when you came back.

WALKER: No. (laughing) No, it wasn't. The old hospital up here on Taylor Street when I lived over on A Street, that was all alfalfa fields. There was a row of houses along Williams Avenue and back of them everything was alfalfa from Taylor Street on over was alfalfa field. From Taylor Street over east about two blocks was weeds.

ERQUIAGA:  Is Taylor Street named after your family by any chance?

WALKER: No, but Taylor Place out by Raley's is named after my brother. But, this Taylor Street is named after the other Taylor family that lived here.

ERQUIAGA: Were they related to you?

WALKER: No. No.

ERQUIAGA: After you came back to Fallon, after your husband had died, what did you do? Did you go to work here?

WALKER: I went to work at the sheriff's office.

ERQUIAGA: And how long were you there?

WALKER: Fourteen years.

ERQUIAGA: Were you a dispatcher, or what did you do?

WALKER: No, I went in as a deputy sheriff, and I retired as sergeant.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. Did you do anything interesting as a deputy sheriff?

WALKER: Yes, I did. I ran the teletype and I dispatched and I wrote all the sheriff's letters and made all the reports to the county, business licenses, gaming licenses. Did all that.

ERQUIAGA: You were very busy.

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: Did you like it?

WALKER: Yes, I liked it very much. Transported prisoners.

ERQUIAGA: Did you carry a gun?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: You didn't have to just carry the rabbits. This time you carried a gun. (laughing)

WALKER: No, I carried the gun. I had a .38 special.

ERQUIAGA: When did you retire from that job?

WALKER: 72.

ERQUIAGA: Have you been living here in this house most of that time?

WALKER: I bought this in 1959, and I've lived here ever since.

ERQUIAGA: Do you still drive?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: Do you still drive to Reno?

WALKER: Yes. Yes.

ERQUIAGA: What are your memories of the Depression? Do you have recollections?

WALKER: Real bad ones. I was married during the Depression, and we went to New York and Rhode Island, and they had bread and soup lines. People that were not working, and my husband made supposedly good wages at that time working as a steel man, and the wages were awfully low. No social security or anything, but we did real good. Came out here in 1936 and went to California. We sold our car and our house…err our household furnishings before we left back there. Wound back up with two suitcases which we had before.      (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Are there any other things you'd like to tell us about here, um?

WALKER: I was pretty young when we lived up in Wonder, so most of the things I could tell you about Wonder are things that kids did.

ERQUIAGA: That was quite interesting what the kids did up there. Well maybe we’ll…If you can't think of something else you'd like to tell me about, I'll conclude our interview, and I want you to know that I appreciate it. It was very nice of you.

WALKER: Well, it's rather disjointed. You might be able to put it in some kind of order.

ERQUIAGA: Well, we have transcribers that do things like that, so if that's all, we will conclude the interview, and thank you very much.

WALKER: You're welcome.

 

This is Anita Erquiaga of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program, and I am meeting with Ruth Walker to include an addendum to her interview of February 27, 1997. Today is June 23, 1997, and we are meeting at her home on West Stillwater Avenue.

 

ERQUIAGA: Well, Ruth, I want to thank you for letting me come over again, and we'll get some more of your memories. Hopefully, this time we can get your recollections of the years when you worked at the sheriff's office.

WALKER: Well, I think I should give you a little bit of a prelude to that.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, definitely, yes. That'd be fine. Okay, let's start in with what you have in mind for a prelude.

WALKER: I told you on this other interview we had that I had come out from…or graduated from high school here in Fallon, Churchill County High with a commercial course diploma, and I didn't use it again until after Pearl Harbor. In March after Pearl Harbor, I went to the supply office on Mare Island and applied for a job in the office. I did ten years in the office, first six weeks as a Typist I and then a Typist II and then in six months I became a property supply clerk. Then I was real happy to have had my commercial diploma because I needed the bookkeeping and the typing and that sort of thing.

ERQUIAGA: How many years had gone by in between there from the time you finished high school?

WALKER: Thirteen years, and I never touched a typewriter in all that time.

ERQUIAGA: Well, that speaks well for you and Churchill County High School, wouldn't you say?

WALKER: I had an excellent background on typing and that business course. But when I went to work on Mare Island I worked in there for ten years in the office… supply office. Then when my husband had to retire because of a heart condition, I had to quit. I had that ten years in, and I just left my retirement in. After he died in February of 1958, I went in the sheriff's office to see what I could do about a couple of cars that my dad had had so I could get rid of them. Mom didn't need them. When I went in the sheriff's office, one of Dad's and Mom's neighbors was a deputy sitting at the desk in there, and he said, "Hi, Ruth, have you found a job yet?" I says, "I haven't looked." Sheriff Wilkins was sitting there, and he says, "What kind of work do you do?" and I told him. He says, "Why don't you come to work here?" So, that's what I did, and I hadn't even gone in looking for a job. I went in looking in for some information on getting titles to these old cars of Dad's.

ERQUIAGA: Your parents were both still living at that time?

WALKER: Well, mom was in the hospital from which she never got out. That was the first of June and she died in September. I went to work in the sheriff's office the first of June of 1958, and I was living out at Mom's house. When I told her where I was going to work, she about had a fit. (laughing) She says, "You'll see the seamy side of life." I says, "Well, you aren't wrong there. I'm sure I will." And she was very right because I did see a lot of seamy things. But, at any rate, I enjoyed working there very much. I dispatched on the police radio band.

ERQUIAGA: Was that your official title? You were the dispatcher?

WALKER: No, I never was a dispatcher.

ERQUIAGA: Oh, but you did that.

WALKER: I went in as a deputy sheriff because I had to do...besides I was the only woman in the office. I had to dispatch, and I had to do financial reports for the county on all the business licenses, and I had to serve legal papers from attorneys all over the state. Serve legal papers to get people on lawsuits and file papers on those.

ERQUIAGA: What do you mean when you say you had to serve?

WALKER: Serve the people that were cited in these papers.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have to go to their homes?

WALKER: Yes. I had to personally contact them.

ERQUIAGA: I see.

WALKER: I drove a patrol car and went to their homes and served the papers on them and that charged the attorneys so much. At the end of the month, of course, I had to account for every one of these papers I had served on a report to the county commissioners and how much money I had charged. Then when the county started the ordinances, besides counting the money for all these legal papers, I had to keep track of all the licenses for the slot machines and the gaming tables and all that. Then at the end of the month wrote a check, which the sheriff signed, and turned it over with the report which balanced. So I guess you know my bookkeeping came in quite handy.

ERQUIAGA: It's a good thing you had learned that.

WALKER: Right.

ERQUIAGA: Well, when you charged the attorneys for…

WALKER: Serving the papers.

ERQUIAGA: Serving the papers, did that money go to the county?

WALKER: Oh, yes. Yes, yes. It was all on the report and how much I'd charged them, and it was in the ledger in the sheriff's office, and then on the report there was about… I can’t remember now it’s been quite a while, I guess there must have been six or eight reports. One was the business or legal papers. One report was the gaming licenses and that sort of thing, so there were quite a few that had to go in to the commissioners' meeting. Besides that I had…uh…let’s see…oh when they brought a prisoner in for booking, I had to book them in, they got an arrest report on them, and fingerprint them. If it was a woman I'd take her in and give her a strip search.

ERQUIAGA: You had to do that with all the women?

WALKER: I was the matron as well, and then the men deputies took care of the men prisoners. I was on call all the time, and if the night crew brought in a woman in the night, I had to go down and take a quick look to see she didn't have anything illegal on her.

ERQUIAGA: It had to be done immediately?

WALKER: It had to be done before she was locked up. I fingerprinted them and sent the fingerprints into FBI in Washington, and they came back with a record of all their previous crimes, if any.

ERQUIAGA: Did you ever have any trouble with any of them? Any drunks or anything like that?

WALKER: Oh, you bet. Not any fun taking care of inebriated people. One of them when I took the food in to her tried to stab me, but, of course, she just had a spoon to eat with so it wasn't very powerful.

ERQUIAGA: Gosh! Did it scare you sometimes to work there?

WALKER: A little bit. I got kind of used to it. One couple we booked for something--I don't remember what it was now-but they were both under suspicion. We had to go over to Lovelock, Pershing County courthouse and jail to pick them up. So Leo Lewis, the undersheriff, and I went over in the patrol car, and he drove back in the patrol car with the man, and I drove back with the woman in their car. She was about to deliver because she was pregnant, and it had me kind of worried because you know who was going to have to deliver the baby.

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) Out in the middle of the desert.

WALKER: (laughing) In the middle of nowhere, or in the jail down here. But, at any rate, we got them all put in the jail. I was getting newspapers and things prepared for delivery, but I didn't have to. The JP was the judge, and he came over and read the complaints to them. I don't know now what he did with them, but, at any rate, they took care of it that next morning. They were in overnight, and the next day the judge took care of the case, so I didn't have to deliver a baby which was real good for me.

ERQUIAGA: Yes. I'm sure you were not waiting to have that happen.

WALKER: No. Then a couple of times we had people that had gone a little bit off their rocker. We had that two-twice. Once was a woman and once was a man. I locked her in the woman's compartment. We didn't have anybody else in at the time, so I just locked her in the woman's cell, and we made arrangements right quick like, and the sheriff and I took her to Sparks to the institution. Then another time we had a man come in and the Sheriff and one of the men deputies took him to Sparks.

ERQUIAGA: To the State Hospital?

WALKER: To the State Hospital. Those were kind of unpleasant circumstances. Some of the most unpleasant things that happened was when we'd have men in the men's cells, some women would come in to visit their husbands or to get information from them. They'd bring their children in, and I think that's the last place a person should bring a child is in the jail. I didn't like that one bit.

ERQUIAGA: I see.

WALKER: And then sometimes some of the people that would come in would be so drunk and they would use terrible language. The sheriff would go to all kinds of discussions with them to shut them up, but usually those cases, they would frisk them to see they didn't have any guns or any knives on them, and they'd lock them up. When they were sobered up, then they would see the judge and take care of that. Then we got a teletype system in.

ERQUIAGA: Let me ask you something before that. This was in the old jail?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: Can you describe what that was like? How many cells did you have?

WALKER: We had one room at the front of the jail on the courthouse side looking out on Williams Avenue that was the woman's cell.

ERQUIAGA: Just one for women?

WALKER: Just one for women, and they had six bunks. I think there was three double deckers like bunk beds.

ERQUIAGA: I see.

WALKER:  And the furnace to heat the place was in the corner of that. It had heavy wire and an iron door on it so they couldn't get in there. Then, of course, there was the heavy iron door on the outside to go into the hallway into the main part of the jail. The man's part, the whole back of the jail, there was one big cage. Oh I don’t know how to tell ya, may have been ten feet square or something of that nature and about that high. A big cube, and it was all bars, and it sat in the middle of the jail. There were rock walls around the outside. When the main door to this cube was unlocked, you could walk all the way around it, and you went up one step from the cement floor to get into it. It was a steel floor and the steel bars all the way around, and that was divided into one cell. One compartment was the toilet and shower. Two or three more cells on the one side and three or four cells on the other side that were each separately locked. You could lock each prisoner up separately or leave the doors open, and they would be inside this one cage. The main door to that cage was locked at all times.

ERQUIAGA: Did you ever any trouble of prisoners fighting among themselves?

WALKER: Oh, yeah, but you have to stop that.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have to do that?

WALKER: No, no, I never had anything to do with the male prisoners after I booked them and fingerprinted them. But, if they wanted to make a statement or make a confession or anything of that kind, I copied it by hand and typed it, and then they could sign it.

ERQUIAGA: Do you have any idea how old that jail was when it was built?

WALKER: 1903, I believe. I'm not exactly sure, but it's on the rock in front there by the front steps.

ERQUIAGA: Did you ever work in the new law enforcement building?

WALKER: No, I retired.

ERQUIAGA: You retired before that.

WALKER: A month or two before they moved into it. But I uh…I had to go over to the district attorney's office when a felon was making a confession or a statement. If it was after hours I would have to write it up and type it and have them sign it.

ERQUIAGA: I was going to ask you if it was unusual to have a woman doing that job, but I suppose they had to to take care of the women prisoners.

WALKER: That's right. A matron.

ERQUIAGA: So, they always had a woman in there.

WALKER: That's right. And one woman that came in to see her boyfriend…I don’t believe they were…I think it was her boyfriend, she had a poofy hairdo, and I took her upstairs because we had a woman in the ladies' cell. I took her upstairs to the little room we had there where the men could load their ammunition. We had a restroom up there for the officers. I patted her hair, and I stripped her to the skin to see that she didn't have any weapons. 'Cause he was in there for murder, and there wasn't any chance in the world we could take a chance on having her giving a piece of .

ERQUIAGA: And you even checked her hair.

WALKER: You bet I did. They had one prisoner--they picked him up some place else--and he had stolen a machine gun, and he took shots at the patrol car when they went out to get him. They finally got him subdued and brought him in, and we were darn careful about him, too. But, they tried and modernized the place a number of times and finally put in the teletype. And uh…they sent Don and I to a class in Reno. Don Mills the chief of police, sent him to Reno with me and we had training on teletype operation. That was kind of a complicated thing at first. They don't even use it anymore. They have other things. I sent all the teletypes for the county, and once in a while he'd come over, he'd want to send one for the city. We'd get our heads together and see what he could remember and what I could remember for awhile until we got things kind of half way going properly. Then they decided that I had too much of a job. They started putting in the county ordinances then. I was busy working with the commissioners on the ordinances and I was busy doing the reports and all this other work and they finally decided to hire dispatchers. So they had a day dispatcher and a night dispatcher.

ERQUIAGA: What was the duties of the dispatcher?

WALKER: Just man the radio, and they had a log the size of a sheet of typing paper. It was all lined off with the time and everything and the station where it was coming from. They would make a notation on that log of the message that was coming in.

ERQUIAGA: The message that was coming in on the teletype?

WALKER: On the radio. No, we had paper copies on the teletype. When we had them send a message on the radio, they would log it.

ERQUIAGA: A lot of paper work.

WALKER: Oh, you bet.

ERQUIAGA: Must be even more so now.

WALKER: Oh, yes. Now they have one person that does the serving of legal papers. That person doesn't do anything else. Then they have another person that does the reports and collects money like that. Then the dispatchers are over in the main building, and they man the police radios.

ERQUIAGA: It must be quite an interesting place to work.

WALKER: It was interesting, but it was rather sordid at times and comical at times.

ERQUIAGA: Did you ever have the jail full and no place to put any more prisoners?

WALKER: Once in a while we had to take some over to city jail, and Don'd lock them up in the city jail. Or if we had to separate two for some reason or another.

ERQUIAGA: Who was the sheriff when you started working there?

WALKER: George Wilkins.

ERQUIAGA: George Wilkins.

WALKER: Then when he was…when Fister won the election, I worked for him for two years--I don't remember. I think I worked for George three terms and Fister almost one. How would that be? Fourteen years in there. 'Cause see, Sheriff Wilkins was in for part of his first term when I went in, and then I worked all during the time he was there, and then for Fister when he was there. I was out before Banovich got in.

ERQUIAGA: How many deputies did they have at that time?

WALKER: When I first started, I think there were five. Now there's a lot more. Then, of course, during the time I worked there they changed frequently.

ERQUIAGA: I see. What kind of training did they have to have to be a deputy?

WALKER: The sheriff would train them.

ERQUIAGA: He trained them. They didn't have to go to school?

WALKER: No. When Fister got in I think he took in a lot of the boys that had been in the service, like the Navy, and they'd been military police or had had some military training in police work.

ERQUIAGA: I see. Did you wear a uniform?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: And carry a gun?

WALKER: Yes.

ERQUIAGA: You weren't just a deputy in name. You were real.

WALKER: Yeah. I was the real McCoy.

ERQUIAGA: Did you work with the DA when you served these papers?

WALKER: Not unless it was his papers, but the other papers didn't mean a thing to him. They came directly to the sheriff's office. I served them and filled the form on the back of the paper that went in, signed it, and notarized whoever served it.

ERQUIAGA: Whoever attorney served it, you mean?

WALKER: Whenever the attorney sent a paper, there was an original copy and then the copy that you gave to the person that was being served. When you got the paper served, on the back of the original was a form or blank which you filled out and signed it. Then I had to have it notarized. I would take it over to the court house, and usually there was a notary public in the clerk's office or the recorder's office or one of the offices that would notarize my signature that I had served it.

ERQUIAGA: How many attorneys did we have at that time, and who were they?

WALKER: Here?

ERQUIAGA: Yes.

WALKER: There was [Jack] Diehl, [Mario] Recanzone, and [Mike] Evans. Jim Sloan came in before I left. I can't remember any others. There have been a lot of them that have come in since.

ERQUIAGA: Did you get to know them very well?

WALKER: Yes. They'd bring papers in that they wanted to have served.

ERQUIAGA: And who was the DA at that time?

WALKER: Jack Diehl. He was an excellent district attorney. Just the best they ever had. And then when Ray Free got in--he came here. He was an attorney. He was the DA for a term.

ERQUIAGA: He ran against . .

WALKER: Jack Diehl and won. I don't know whether he had one term or two. One, I think.

ERQUIAGA: One I believe.

WALKER: I think so. And then Mike Evans ran and took over. The first time I went up to court as bailiff--I had that to do, too. I was sure I'd serve as the bailiff when there were women involved.

ERQUIAGA: I see. What are the bailiff's duties?

WALKER: The bailiff instructs the onlookers and everybody that's in the courtroom to rise when the judge comes in and that sort of thing. And if it's just a regular civil trial of some kind, I didn't need to go up there. But on a criminal case, and they had a jury, I had to be the female bailiff because when the jury goes out to deliberate, they had to have a male and female bailiff. The bailiff and I would sit with the jury until they reached a verdict. Then we would go out and notify the judge that they had reached a verdict, and then we would bring them. The usual procedure for a court case. If they were being sequestered, then, of course, we had to take them to a motel.

ERQUIAGA: That's what I was wondering. Did they very often have to sequester the jury?

WALKER: I think in all the fourteen years I worked there, there was only two times that we had to take them to a motel and sit with them until morning and then take them back up to court, and then stay with them until they reached a verdict. I said take them back up to court take them back up to the court room and into the jury room til they reached a decision.

ERQUIAGA: When you stayed with them at night, did you have to stay awake?

WALKER: You bet your life!

ERQUIAGA: Oh, you did!

WALKER: Oh, you bet.

ERQUIAGA: I see. To make sure they didn't wake up and read the paper or anything.

WALKER: Or talk to anybody, or anybody get to them.

ERQUIAGA: I see. And you said once that you had to do that?

WALKER: Twice, I believe. And most every time they had a trial, we had to take them to lunch. That was another of the procedures. And you asked about the judges. We had Judge Gregory and Judge Waters.

ERQUIAGA: They were District Judges?

WALKER: Yes. I believe they were both residents of Carson City. Now, they have District Judges.

ERQUIAGA: How about a court stenographer?

WALKER: They had stenotype machines, and the judges brought their . . .

ERQUIAGA: Oh, they brought their own...

WALKER: Secretary.

ERQUIAGA: Okay. One of the things we were wondering about was the old safe. Do you know anything about the old safe?

WALKER: Sits down in the museum.

ERQUIAGA: It's down there now. Was it in the jail when you were working at the sheriff's office?

WALKER: Yeah, they took it down after they moved everything from the old jail to the new. I don't know what they have now.

ERQUIAGA: They got something new.

WALKER: But the old jail safe is down there.

ERQUIAGA: Is there anything else from the old jail that's at the museum. That's all?

WALKER: Not that I know of.

ERQUIAGA: Were there any noticeable changes in the procedure of the sheriff's office or the procedure of the court room during the years that you worked? Did you notice anything?

WALKER: No. Just the usual. I think it's the same procedure in all courts. They have a certain routine.

ERQUIAGA: We’re going to get that siren on the tape here.

WALKER: That’s an ambulance. There must be a wreck outside.

ERQUIAGA: Well, is there anything else you can think of that we would like to hear? It's all been very interesting so far.

WALKER: (laughing) I'd lose my cool once in a while, of course, like everybody does. When I said to Sheriff Fister, "I'm going to retire," he said, "Whatcha mad about?" "I'm not mad. I'm just tired of working." (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) Just tired of working every day.

WALKER: Right. So they had a big party for me. And then they had a nice big one for Carmen [Bell] when she retired, and she said, "I came to yours, and you came to mine." (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: You did go back for that?

WALKER: Oh, you bet.

ERQUIAGA: Well, that was good. Did you finish everything you wanted to tell us about your schooling? There was a story Myrl [Nygren] said about you and your sister getting lost

WALKER: Oh ho. (laughing) When we were in…My sister first started the first grade over here at the old high school across from the Methodist Church. It’s in here about uh… us starting school at the old hut and the little neighbor boy…We had just been to Fallon a short time, and Mom told the little neighbor boy to be sure and walk to school with us and come home show us how to get home. He forgot us, so we were sitting on the corner of the sidewalk crying. Some woman in a car came along, and she said, "What's the matter, girls?" We says, "We're lost. We don't know how to get home." Imagine being lost in the big city of Fallon 'cause it wasn't very big then. She says, "Where do you live?" We says, "We don't know, but our daddy works at Benadum's Garage, and we live right across the street from it." She says, "Oh, I know where you live," so she took us home.

ERQUIAGA: Those were the days when people could do things like that in Fallon.

WALKER: That's right.

ERQUIAGA: Now, did anybody from the sheriff's office ever have to go out and find lost children? Or anything of that sort?

WALKER: Oh, yes. Quite often. One time, in particular, I remember one of the deputies chasing a guy that had--I don't remember whether he'd held up somebody or was involved in a burglary--and this deputy and another deputy that worked in the office with him were chasing him. He was running down the back alley and down back of houses, and this deputy that was with the other one that was chasing him first ran across and a clothes line caught him right across the neck and sat him down real quick like. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Was he able to get the man he was chasing?

WALKER: Oh, you bet they did. My nephew, Bill Taylor, was the one deputy, and he was young and spry, and the other deputy was older, and he couldn't go quite so fast, so my nephew ran the guy down. So, that took care of that.

ERQUIAGA: Well, are there any other things that come to mind?

WALKER: Well, it was kind of comical the guys that broke in . . don't remember what they called it. Roadside Inn, I think. It was near where the Chinese restaurant is. You remember that?

ERQUIAGA: Yes.

WALKER: They sure traced them down in a peculiar way. They had used one of the rocks from the red rock cliffs there going to Reno along the Truckee. (laughing) They sure figured out where they came from.

ERQUIAGA: What did they use the rock for?

WALKER: Break the glass in the door.

ERQUIAGA: Did they leave it there then?

WALKER: Yes. And then they had more in the car when they ran them down finally. One of them got up in the attic, and one of the officers was climbing up to get in there, the sheriff says, "Watch yourself, he's apt to take your head off." (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: That was called the Roadside Inn part of the time, and then it was Mom's Place at other times.

WALKER: I believe so.

ERQUIAGA: We're talking about the same place, anyway. How did the earthquake of 1954 affect the jail?

WALKER: I wasn't here when they had it, but it really wrecked it. I mean, the mortar between the rocks was all crumbly, and a lot of it fell out and they had put that big band of steel around the outside of the building all the way around just under the eaves of the building.

ERQUIAGA: After the earthquake they did that?

WALKER: After the earthquake, to hold it together. And then there was bars from that front one clear to the back through the inside of the jail to the back, and they were fastened together.

ERQUIAGA: So that was all in place when you came?

WALKER: That was all in place. And then they had an earthquake afterwards, and the San Francisco paper called the sheriff's office to see how bad it was, and, of course, he wasn't there and I answered. They said, "Did you feel it?" and I says, "Yes. I couldn't tell whether I was afloat or afoot. The mortar from between the rocks and this building is clattering down behind the safe." I could hear the rocks, and there was a couple of places where you could see out. Daylight out through between the rocks, out from the office, and then the front cell, the woman's cell, once in a while when we didn't have any prisoners in, we'd put juveniles in there. One bunch of juveniles--we had four or five boys in there, and they were going to escape. They were picking the mortar out from between the rocks and then they were flushing it down the toilet.

ERQUIAGA: Oh. It was an ongoing job.

WALKER: Yeah. Watching them.

ERQUIAGA: Well, I mean, they were doing it over a period of time.

WALKER: Yeah. Right. And the flush of the toilet plugged up. So then there was a cleanout thing outside the building. We made them go out, or the sheriff did, and clean out the darn toilet line. That wasn't very good. They didn't like that one bit.

ERQUIAGA: Maybe they learned a lesson, do you suppose?

WALKER: Let's hope. One time when there was nobody in the front cell, and there was very few people in the back cell for some reason or another. It was kind of slack, I believe. They had some young kids in the back, and the big duct work for the furnace ran from the furnace in the front cell to the back cell. I could hear these two kids up in that duct work crawling along. I got underneath it at the door to the front cell, and I said, "Get yourself back in there, or I'm going to start shooting holes through this duct work." Of course, I wouldn't do it, but they didn't know that. (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: So, did they go back?

WALKER: They went back in, but I could hear them giggling.

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) Oh, dear. So, you had a few light moments, too.

WALKER: That was kind of funny.

ERQUIAGA: Did you have anybody that actually escaped?

WALKER: No.

ERQUIAGA: That's good.

WALKER: We took real darn good care that when we had somebody in there that was suspicious like, we had the big cage locked.

ERQUIAGA: Did you ever have anybody that killed themselves while they were in your jail?

WALKER: No, they didn't kill themselves while I was there, but I think they have since. We had two different occasions when guys had epileptic seizures, and we had to get them out. If you think that wasn't a job getting them out. We had to call the ambulance and take them out and take them to the hospital.

ERQUIAGA: Quite a variety of activities. Did you have any idea what it would be like when you took that job?

WALKER: Not at all. But mom was in the hospital and I had thought of going out and working at the Navy yard, and I'd been offered a job out there, but Mom was in the hospital, and I could go down at noon and at night to see her after I got off work, so I took it, and I thought, "Well, at least, it'll tide me over." You know. So, that's what I did, and then I just stayed there.

ERQUIAGA: Did you feel that you were being helpful to people in general and to the prisoners, too?

WALKER: Very much so. You'd be surprised at how many people come in that have nothing whatsoever to do with criminals. Questions or any various things. It was a case of people wanted to know about this, that, or another thing about the community or looking for someone or how to locate such and such a place. I had one couple come in and they said, "How big of a town is this?" I said, "Oh, about such and such." They said, "What do you need such a big sewage disposal plant for?" I says, "What do you mean?" "Well," they said, "out here east of town just beyond the city limits is a big disposal plant, isn't it." I said, "No, that's the E.C. Best School."

ERQUIAGA: Oh my goodness. (Laughing) Oh dear. Hear all sorts of things.

WALKER: That kind of shocked me. Something else kind of funny happened. They asked if we could have a deputy at one of the meetings of the VFW hall. They were having a dinner or something, and they thought maybe they'd like to have a representative of the sheriff's office there in uniform. None of the deputies would volunteer to go, so Sheriff Wilkins asked me if I would go, and I said, "Sure." After we got there, there were quite a few people that I didn't know and somebody that I did know introduced me to a couple of them. Another woman came up, and she says, "Well, who is this lady? I don't believe I've ever met her." I thought, "That's a laugh," 'cause I'd booked her a couple of weeks before for drunk.

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) Well, maybe she didn't remember you.

WALKER: She didn't! (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: (laughing) You didn't remind her, though.

WALKER: No, I didn't. I was being a lady. (laughing) It hurt.

ERQUIAGA: Well, when you went to something like that, did you have any problems?

WALKER: It was just getting used to that sort of work 'cause I'd never done anything of that kind before. All I'd done before was just regular business work.

ERQUIAGA: Well, if that’s all of the information that I can.

WALKER: Nothing else

ERQUIAGA: What was your rank when you retired?

WALKER: I was a sergeant, and I had been about three years, would say. Two or three years before I retired.

ERQUIAGA: And did you say you were the first sergeant in the state?

WALKER: That's what I had heard, but I'm not sure about it. But, the woman in the sheriff's office in Reno was made sergeant shortly after.

ERQUIAGA: I see. And so the total number years that you worked there was fourteen?

WALKER: Fourteen.

ERQUIAGA: And then you retired. Did you go on to any other kind of work?

WALKER: I had a few more quarters to finish out my Social Security quarters, so I went to work as a bookkeeper, and I did bookkeeping work for the Vallejo or the excuse me… the Valley what is it they call… the  Lahontan Valley News.

ERQUIAGA: Oh I see.

WALKER: I worked in there for a while, and then after my sister came from Alaska and she passed away, I went to work for Don Rogers' garage as the bookkeeper out at his garage till I finished out my quarters on Social Security.

ERQUIAGA: So, your commercial training at high school came in very, very handy for you.

WALKER: It surely did. I disliked school immensely when I was in it, and I thought, "Holy smokes, will I be happy when I get out of here!" Not knowing that I would really use it. When I worked on Mare Island they had an extension course from the University of Berkeley, and a supervisor, one of the main bosses, sent me as a junior supervisor over to that extension course. I took three courses from the University of Berkeley at that extension class. When I left to go to one of the classes, one of the other bosses that I worked close to, he says, "Ruth, when you go over to that class and take that test, be sure you get a good grade 'cause so far I'm the only one on the island that has gotten a hundred on that test." I says, "Okay, I'll do the best I can." So, when I came back, he said, "How'd you do?" I says, "I got a hundred." (laughing)

ERQUIAGA: Well, he was probably happy that you did it.

WALKER: He was real pleased.

ERQUIAGA: Well, I think then we will conclude our interview. I want to thank you on behalf of the museum for all of your information.

WALKER: I hope it isn't too mixed up. That it’s…

ERQUIAGA: Oh it'll be fine. I do thank you very much.

WALKER: You're sure welcome.

Original Format

Audio Cassette

Duration

58:12, 55:21

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Files

Walker, Ruth Taylor (FINAL).docx
Walker, Ruth Taylor (tape 1 of 2).mp3
Walker, Ruth Taylor (tape 2 of 2).mp3

Citation

Churchill County Museum Association , “Ruth Taylor Walker Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed September 28, 2022, https://ccmuseum.omeka.net/items/show/702.