Doris Beuerer Whalen Oral History

Dublin Core


Doris Beuerer Whalen Oral History


Doris Beuerer Whalen Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


October 11, 1990, April 11, 1994


Analog Cassette Tape, .Docx File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Eleanor Ahern, Sylvia Arden


Doris Evelyn Buerer Whalen


146 [West] Center Street, Fallon, Nevada


an interview with
October 11, 1990
This interview was conducted by Eleanor Ahern; transcribed by Pat Boden; edited by Marian LaVoy; first draft typed by Pat Boden; final typed by Glenda Price; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator 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.
Doris Evelyn Buerer Whalen has always led a busy life from early childhood and still continues to do so at age eighty. She had refreshed her memory from a hardbound family genealogical book that was compiled by an aunt who had completed the family history when she was in her eighties.
Doris' father, Henry Franklin Buerer worked with the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District as a dragline operator.

Interview with Doris E. Buerer Whalen

This is Eleanor Ahern of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project interviewing Doris Whalen at her home at 146 [West] Center Street, Fallon, Nevada. The date is Thursday, October 11, 1990. This is tape 1 side 1

AHERN: Good afternoon, Mrs. Whalen. It's ten after one, would you please give me your full name?
WHALEN: Doris Evelyn Buerer Whalen.
AHERN: When and where were you born?
WHALEN: In Harmon District in Fallon, Nevada.
AHERN: Could you tell me something about your parents? Where was your father from?
WHALEN: They were born back in the Midwest, my mother was born in Illinois and I think my father was- well, born in Germany, he came over here… his family came over when he was six years old, and he was the only one in the family that ever learned to speak German.
AHERN: When they came from Germany, what state did they come to from Germany when they came to the United States?
WHALEN: I’m not even sure -- whether it was directly to Nebraska or in that vicinity.
AHERN: Now, you say he was the only in his family to speak German. Why is that?
WHALEN: Well, when they came here, he of course went to school and they were speaking English so he learned English very rapidly. When he'd go home after school he'd only speak English and his parents were a little unhappy about that because they wanted all the children to learn to speak German. But he's the only one in the family that learned to speak German because he was born in Germany.
AHERN: How did he meet your mother?
WHALEN: Well, I think- [Tape cuts twice]
AHERN: You were telling me about how your parents met?
WHALEN: You know, I haven't the faintest idea (laughing). They lived in the same town, of course, and I know they used to do a lot of ice skating and that's about all I can tell you.
AHERN: Can you tell me when did they move to Fallon?
WHALEN: Yes, about. Well, I don't know whether it was the first part of 1910 or not, because I was born after they came to Fallon, and I was born on the 31st of December.
AHERN: Have they ever talked about why they came to Fallon?
WHALEN: Yes, they had been living in Oregon and my mother's health wasn't very well. She just didn't do well up there because it was so wet. They decided to come to a drier climate. My father came down first because they were homesteading and found a place for them to live which was in the ditchrider house in Harmon District. My father had to build a little house. I don't remember just what time the family came down but it must have been the early part of 1910.
AHERN: Do you remember why he chose Fallon over the other areas?
WHALEN: Well because they were…this land had opened up as homesteads and it wasn't long after that, I don't know when they built Lahontan Dam, but he worked on Lahontan Dam with horses and scraper and things. I can remember going up there and he had a little tent house, a platform with the sides up and the top covered with a tent. My mother and I and my younger sister went up there and we would spend maybe several days before we'd come home. Of course, when you're little like that you don't remember very much about it. I can just remember that tent (laughing).
AHERN: What kind of job was your father doing with the Dam?
WHALEN: Oh, I think that was when Truckee-Carson Irrigation was building it, or the Reclamation Service, I guess.
AHERN: And what were his duties, what was he doing?
WHALEN: Well, he was just one of the workers there that had a team of horses and they were using them to move a lot of the dirt. They didn't have drag lines, you know, right at first.
AHERN: In other words then he was like leveling the area?
WHALEN: Helping, yes, I imagine.
AHERN: And did he work, say from Monday through Friday, or what were his working hours, can you remember?
WHALEN: I hadn't ever thought of that. You know they really didn't have working hours like we do now. They probably might even worked seven days a week for all I know.
AHERN: Do you remember him coming home from work?
WHALEN: Well, no, because he stayed up there and we stayed at the homestead. I can remember my mother telling me that the Indians were around quite a bit and they came around begging for food and my mother was scared to death.
AHERN: How did you feel about them, the Indians?
WHALEN: I wasn't born 'til 1910, you know (laughing).
AHERN: They weren't coming around then?
WHALEN: Well, I don't remember any, seeing any, except that when I got older we finally had an Indian--they called them squaws, and she used to come and do the washing and things for my mother. Her name was Maggie, I think it was Maggie Whitefeather. When you're little like that you don't pay much attention to them. She used to live out, I mean she stayed out in our garage, and if she decided she was going to go she went, and didn't say a word (laughing). I can remember the Indians coming around with wagons full of those big trout from Pyramid Lake, and my mother always bought some. I don't know if it was one or not, and they were so good.
AHERN: How did your mother fix the trout?
WHALEN: That's a question that I don't know much about, I don't know if she baked it, or fried it. We just ate it (laughing).
AHERN: Let's go back a bit about your parents, could you give me your father's full name and your mother's full name, please?
WHALEN: Henry Franklin Buerer and my mother's name was Clara Geneva Matheny.
AHERN: When your father was busy working, your mother stayed at home with the children. How did her day begin?
WHALEN: Well, somebody got up and lit the fires first thing in the morning, (laughing) and especially if it was winter time. That was usually my dad's chore if he was home, but sometimes like when he was working on the Dam he wouldn't be there, so it was left up to somebody else to do it. I don't know, I had an older brother and he probably took over part of my dad's chores.
AHERN: Now, when you say you lit the fire where was the fire lit?
AHERN: Where was the fire lit?
WHALEN: Oh, we had a stove, an iron stove and a cook stove in the kitchen.
AHERN: It was a wood stove?
WHALEN Yes. Good heavens, nothing else. Wood and coal.
AHERN: You used mainly wood or coal?
WHALEN: Well, wood and coal both.
AHERN: What about uh…After warming the house up, what were some of the chores that had to be done around the house or on the homestead?
WHALEN: Well, you ask me that and because my father had five children and only one boy, the girls worked outside almost as much as the boy did. I can remember milking cows, in fact I won state championship for a cow milker when I was about twelve years old! My father had made me a stool, which was just used for milking.
AHERN: Was the homestead more or less self-sufficient, you grew your own food?
WHALEN: To a certain extent. They bought some supplies you know mostly dried food, nothing very fresh that I can remember, unless you raised it yourself. I know my father was very self-sufficient, he had a vineyard and he planted a lot of apple trees, and cherry trees, and apricot trees, and we certainly enjoyed those. And we had fresh asparagus in the spring, which a lot of people didn't even bother to plant. His family was very, what would you say, progressive. He had gone to Napierville College in Illinois, so he taught school before he came to Fallon, and he even taught me when I was about in the sixth or seventh grade. Oh, I hated that.
AHERN: Why did you hate that?
WHALEN: I don't know, he was just my father and you don't know what (laughing) really to expect as a teacher.
AHERN: Now, when you had an orchard, whore did all those trees come from did he have seeds with him?
WHALEN: I suppose he sent for them.
AHERN: Did he do anything special in raising the orchard, any special method?
WHALEN: Raising what?
AHERN: In caring for the orchards.
WHALEN: Oh, yes. You have to keep them clean from weeds and things and he did a lot of that. He fertilized them, of course, I remember he always got on a cultivator and I was usually on the horse ahead. I had to drive the horse and ride and he put us to work.
AHERN: When you mean work, it was anything and everything that, had to be done?
WHALEN: I mowed hay, I pitched hay, I stacked hay, and I plowed in the fields.
AHERN: When you plowed, what kind of implement did you use?
WHALEN: Well, we had two... I don't know what you'd call it - anyway, it had two plows on the plow and I think had three or four horses that I drove. Of course, he was very careful to show you exactly what to do. I can remember him telling me when I mowed hay, "If that gets stuck--the cutter blade--you stop the team and you turn off the lever that will keep it going, because if you clean it out and they [horses] pull ahead just a little bit, you might get your fingers chopped off" (laughing).
AHERN: That's true. When you say in plowing you drove the horses were you walking behind?
WHALEN: No. It was a riding plow.
AHERN: Do you remember how many acres that you had plowed in the fields that were under cultivation?
WHALEN: Oh, at different times, maybe ten acres. I haven't a very good sense of measurement like that (laughing).
AHERN: Do you remember when your father started working for the irrigation ditches?
WHALEN: Not really the year. I know when they brought those enormous big drag lines in. After they got the irrigation system going from the Dam, they found out that they had to do something about the surface water you'd irrigate and it would raise the water table, so they had to dig some drainage ditches, and that's when they got those, I think it was Bucyrus Drag-line. It was an enormous thing. Scared you to look at it.
AHERN: Was just one person operating it?
WHALEN: Well, he operated it but he had an oiler so there were always two people there. And I can remember… don't know whether my mother would take us over to where the drag line was, he'd let us get up in the thing but he was very careful and he says, "When I get ready to move, you get out of the way."
AHERN: Could you describe the drag line?
AHERN: Describe the drag line, was it the size of a huge tractor or...
WHALEN: Oh, how many times-bigger than that? Have you seen these big drain ditches around here?
AHERN: Uh huh.
WHALEN: Some of them are real deep.
WHALEN: That thing had a bucket on it that was [hands outstretched].
AHERN: Six feet across or something?
WHALEN: Yeah, I would say so.
AHERN: Six feet across?
WHALEN: It moved a lot of dirt. He dug most all those drain ditches in the county.
AHERN: The purpose of a drag line was to...?
WHALEN: Give them a drainage system. . . to lower the water table, to get rid of that ground water that they were putting out… otherwise everything got kind of water logged. I guess.
AHERN: When your father started working with a drag line, was he able to come home?
WHALEN: Yes. He came home every day.
AHERN: I imagine your mother had to pack his lunch for him?
WHALEN: Oh, yes.
AHERN: What Kind of a lunch did she pack for him?
WHALEN: Anything she cooked, I guess. Probably something like a cake or cookies or sandwiches and something hot to drink, I don't even know if they had Thermos bottles then, you know, for a hot drink.
AHERN: What did' he use to carry his lunch?
WHALEN: Oh, a bucket. I think he had a regular lunch bucket.
AHERN: You mentioned that you were born at home.
AHERN: Do you remember your mother talking about the birth?
WHALEN: Not really, I can remember one of the neighbors, a Mrs. Ayres had come over…
AHERN: Mrs. Ayres?
WHALEN: Mrs. Ayres.
AHERN: Would the spelling be a-y.
WHALEN: A-Y-R-E-S. Doctor Warden, I think was the name of the doctor and he lived in Harmon District, not more than about two miles from the house if it's that far.
AHERN: Do you recall a midwife?
WHALEN: Well, I guess Mrs. Ayres was the midwife I think that was the only one that was there.
AHERN: Do you remember if your brother and sisters were born at home also?
WHALEN: Well, I know Glenna was, the rest of the family--Ruby was born in Oregon and I think my older sister was born in Illinois and I don't remember whether my brother was born back there or not.
AHERN: Here in the Harmon District were you . . .?
WHALEN: Glenna and I. My younger sister and I were the only ones born in Nevada.
AHERN: Do you remember anything about your sister Glenna's birth, were you old enough to remember?
WHALEN:. Heavens no, I was maybe two years old. She was born in 1913 and I was born the last day of 1910, so I couldn't have been very big, maybe about two years old. You don't remember very much when you're that old. Then you begin to not remember very much when you get older (laughing).
AHERN: Were there a lot of families living in the Harmon District when you lived there?
WHALEN: Well, I could remember our neighbors, I think Wade Scott lived down on the corner, and Ayres, and the Sears family, some of the Freeman family. There were quite a few settlers there.
AHERN: How close were they to you?
WHALEN: Well, a couple of miles.
AHERN: They were all spaced out about that?
AHERN; And what school did you attend?
AHERN: What school did you attend?
WHALEN: 1915… they just had that Harmon School reunion... it was built in 1915 and that's the school that I went to. My father helped build that, in fact, he was one of the instigators of the whole thing. Of course, he was pretty well educated himself and he'd gone to Napierville College so he knew that learning was very important.
AHERN: Was it a large school, how many rooms were there?
WHALEN: There were two school rooms, there was a basement, and there was a big, we called it an assembly hall, you ought to go take a look at it.
AHERN: I will. How many children were there at one time?
WHALEN: Oh, heavens, let's see, I'm trying to think, maybe thirty in each room. .
AHERN: And there are just two rooms?
WHALEN: And just two teachers, one teacher for each room. In the meantime my family had, for a short time, moved to Fallon, and I don't really remember why, but I went for a short time to a school in Fallon.
AHERN: When you attended the schools in Fallon, do you remember what grade it was?
WHALEN: In Fallon?
AHERN: Um hum.
WHALEN: I haven't thought of that for so long, I'd say maybe the third or second grade.
AHERN: And did you continue your school back in the Harmon District?
WHALEN: Yes. In 1915 they had built that school and it opened that year. Of course I went through the eighth grade there. And then they didn't have buses to send you to high school so there was other families that had children going, so they…usually one person took a car and picked up the rest of us that had to go. I remember my sister, Geneva, saying that she rode horse back to school, to go to high school in town.
AHERN: When your father worked with the Irrigation District, was it an all year-round job or…?
WHALEN: Oh, yes. He'd get up real early in the morning and do chores at home and come home at night after work and work and work and work. That's the way they did in those days.
AHERN: When they weren’t… the farmers weren't irrigating, what was his job with the District…the Irrigation District?
WHALEN: When they weren’t…?
AHERN: Irrigating?
WHALEN: Well, I think that started shortly after, as soon as they got the Dam done, they had built the Irrigation District and that's the way they raised their crops, you couldn't depend on any rain, they had water to irrigate with.
AHERN: After the growing season was over, what were your father's duties, with the ditches?
WHALEN: With the District?
AHERN: With the ditches? With the irrigation ditch?
WHALEN: Oh, well you mean… he dug ditches all year long because it took a long time to get all those drain ditches dug and finally, they did get it finished, and he worked for several different companies, different places, running a drag line. I know he worked over on that Rye Patch Dam over by Lovelock, and another dam down by Schurz running a drag line, but that wasn't the Irrigation District.
AHERN: So. After he was through with the Truckee Irrigation District, then he went on to other places?
WHALEN: Other jobs. Uh huh.
AHERN: How long did he continue doing that?
WHALEN: Oh heavens, I guess until he retired. Retired from the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. He worked for them for years and years.
AHERN: Going back to when you were in the Harmon District and you had to do your work on the homestead, when work was done, what did you do for recreation? What type of recreation was available to the children?
WHALEN: I don't know, by the time we got done with the chores we probably came in and went to bed, you know, after supper.
AHERN: Do you recall any family outings?
WHALEN: Oh, yes, we used to go fishing down well, we called it Dutch Bill's -- which is down in Stillwater. Go cat fishing... the whole family. I can remember one time we went up into the hills after pine nuts in the fall. We did a lot of things, you know, and if you were going somewhere you rode on horseback. I can remember going out to. . . what do they call them, the caves out here?
AHERN: The Hidden Caves?
WHALEN: We used to call them the bat caves, we'd ride the horses out there. That was the way of transportation then, we had cars but I wasn't old enough to drive. I can remember the first car that my mother bought from selling turkeys she raised, and it was a Ford limousine. It had glass in it, and she said when she got home, "Let's go for a ride." So she took the children, and I was in the front seat. I remember turning out of the yard and I tried to stick my head out the door, the window you know, and bumped my head on the glass (laughing). And I can remember going. . . we used to go to picture shows too, occasionally. They had two show houses in town. I remember…I think we had some rabbits, and one night we were going to the picture show and the rabbits got out and we had to catch them before we could go to the show. And I was chasing one and I stepped on a board with a nail in it and we went on to the show and my foot began to hurt, I took my shoe off and when we got ready to get out of the show I couldn't put my shoe on (laughing).
AHERN: Tape 1, side 2. You were always busy?
WHALEN: On the ranch, and I never had much time to do a lot of playing around. I remember we used to go swimming in the canals in the summer time. But, we were busy, especially when it was harvest time, or mowing alfalfa, or planting fields. We had a lot to do on a farm, but of course, with my father working out we had to take up the slack a little bit. He always set out a chore for us, we were kept pretty busy and especially in the mornings. You got up and went down to the barn and milked cows, and when you got done with that you hurried and got ready for school and then when you'd get home, you'd have the same things to do again. You had to milk cows and so we were kept pretty busy.
AHERN: If you had to get up in the morning to milk the cows, what time in the morning did you have to get up?
WHALEN: Early (laughing). I really can't tell you because time really didn't mean a lot to you when you're young like that.
AHERN: Was it still dark?
WHALEN: It was still dark a lot of times especially in the winter time. In the summer it was light. We were always busy and then haying would come by. I think I was my father's right-hand man, 'cause I mowed hay, and I raked hay, and shocked hay, and pitched hay, and run one of the wagons at different times.
AHERN: When you say you shocked hay, what does that mean?
WHALEN: Well, you know, when you rake hay you rake it in rows, and to shock hay, you have to go down the row and separate it and make it into a shock so you can be able to pitch it on to the wagon. I remember my father had me take the rake and go down and keep dumping the rake, you'd turn over a little bit and dump the rake and it'd shock the hay, so that when you got ready to pitch it onto the wagon it would be in a…
AHERN: Pile?
WHALEN: A pile.
AHERN: I see. And all this time while the children are busy working, was your mother working in the house.
WHALEN: Mostly in the house, uh huh.
AHERN: What were her chores?
WHALEN: Well, she raised turkeys. Of course, that's quite a chore. . . and chickens.
AHERN: How many turkeys were there?
WHALEN: Oh, she raised seventy-five or eighty, close to a hundred. And that was a chore when we got ready to help pick the turkeys!
AHERN: When your mother sold the turkeys, were they sold live or dressed?
WHALEN: Dressed. That's what we had to do.
AHERN: Who were her customers for the turkeys?
WHALEN: Well, (laughing), I suppose different stores in town 'cause that's where they went.
AHERN: Do you remember to stores that bought them? Who were they?
WHALEN: Well, I suppose, I. H. Kent and there was the Mercantile and mostly you know the bigger places, I don't remember when it was, but she had sold the turkeys and bought the Ford car. She bought it from the Fallon Garage. That was when the Coverston's had it, the two brothers, Lynn and George I think were.
AHERN: Your mother had raised turkeys, she was also the homemaker.
WHALEN: Oh, yes, uh huh.
AHERN: Did she make the clothes for the children also?
WHALEN: Oh, yes. I'll say, and that's how we all learned to sew or embroidery, or anything else. . . she taught us. I can remember, I had pneumonia one winter and was quite ill and they didn't really expect me to live, but while I was still not able to go back to school I learned to crochet, just to give me something to do, I guess.
AHERN: Do you remember how old you were then?
WHALEN: Well, between ten and twelve years old. We were always busy, busier than the kids are now I tell you. If they had to put up with what we did they wouldn't have time to smoke grass and drink beer and what not.
AHERN: Now, when you were going to school what were some of the subjects taught?
WHALEN: Well, we had geography, arithmetic and history, just like they do now only I think we learned a lot more. I can remember them having a little thing hung on the wall for us to do our phonics with pages to pronounce whatever it was that was on the board. . . and they'd turn the thing over and I can remember that pretty well,
AHERN: Did they teach any home economics in school?
WHALEN: Well, not in grammar schools, that I ever heard of, but they did in high school. I took a couple of years of home economics and sewing and I won a prize at the University of Nevada for clothing construction, and I got a cook book and it was the nicest, thing. I just really treasured that (laughing) and, when my little girl was about two years old she always loved to get into drawers and cupboards and play with dishes and I came in one time and she had my cook book, tearing the pages out. I've still got the cook book with a lot of good recipes in it (laughing).
AHERN: Now, as a child, during holidays, say like this month is Halloween, did you go to the neighbors trick or treating?
WHALEN: No. I could remember though one time a bunch of us went out horseback riding and the girls that were in the one bunch were pretty well behaved, but the boys, I remember, took the clapper out of the bell at the Harmon School and I don't know what they did with it. I think they finally got it back. But just…not really malicious things just pesky.
AHERN: So you really didn't do any trick or treating at all?
WHALEN: Oh, no.
AHERN: Did you even' observe Halloween?
WHALEN: Well, not like they do now. I don't think we had a pumpkin with a… you know, how they put faces on them or things like that. . . but, when we were a little older we knew what Halloween was all about. Sometimes I'm wondering now if I know how it ever got started. I can remember in those days people didn't have a lot of money and there was no way to get a Christmas tree. My mother took some branches of a tree, small branches of a tree and covered them with green paper and made some little decorations. She was very happy, she was an artist and she was clever. I remember her folding up paper and cutting out some little girls that danced and their hands were all fastened together in a ring. I never can remember much about dolls, but I know that I did have a doll, but it wasn't a big fancy one. But when you don't have a lot of money you get by with what you have.
AHERN: Now, at Christmas, what types of gifts were exchanged?
WHALEN: (Laughing) I don’t hardly remember there being- My mother probably had bought candy and she probably cooked a turkey or something for dinner, but as far as gifts there wasn't any, that I can remember. As we got older, of course, there was but…
AHERN: Well, when you were older what type of gifts did you receive?
WHALEN: Oh, something to wear probably, or some dress material to make a dress, you know, it was very simple, you didn't have fancy things like you do now (laughing).
AHERN: Well, when you were older since you didn't have much money for gifts, what did you give as gifts?
WHALEN: The children? I can't remember. I can't remember making a thing, but it was probably something that was homemade. That's the way they lived then because when you're starting on a homestead you don't have a lot of "do-re-me," and my father had a sawmill in Oregon and the darn thing caught on fire. He was in partnership with his brother and his mother at the time and that was another reason that they moved because they no longer had the business there, but it was mostly for my mother's health that they moved-to Nevada because it was a dry climate. And it's certainly dry now.
AHERN: Can you recall growing up in the Harmon District, do you recall something that you remember the most, something that still stays in your mind to this day?
WHALEN: I don’t know…Well, we lived oh, I would say maybe a mile away from the school and so we always rode horseback. I had this one horse and his name was Billy and he was a very vivacious sort of a horse. I remember we were on our way home one afternoon and I usually rode with three or four other kids and they started to race of course Billy took off right then, too, and I thought, "Oh, my gosh." When we came to the corner there were weeds, tall weeds along the side of the road and I just knew that he wasn't going to make the corner. His front feet caught in those weeds and he turned a somersault, right along with me. When I got up I wasn't hurt -- I don't know how come. He was hurt worse than I was, he skinned his…his skin was torn above his eye, I can remember he just stood there. [phone rings, tape cuts]
WHALEN: Well, he turned a somersault. We came out of it all right but I scared him as bad as he scared me. I couldn't hold him and he just took a somersault and I thought, "Oh, we're both going to get killed." The neighbor that lived on the corner, at the intersection there, came runnin' out -- I guess they saw us -- said, "Are you all right?" (Laughing) Well, I was all right. I didn't have any broken bones, in fact, I've never had a broken bone. In all the trials and tribulations you get when you work on a ranch, you know, you have a lot of things happen. My brother had a broken bone, I don't remember just what happened, I think he was driving a team, the doubletree flew up and hit him in the leg. He had it in a cast for quite awhile..
AHERN: When you lived in the Harmon District did you come to town often to shop for your staples? How often did you come to town?
WHALEN: Well, I don't think they made many trips. I can remember going to church more than I can remember going in to do any shopping. (Laughing) One of the things they tell me. . .they belonged to the Methodist Church and they had gone to church and I guess at home in the summertime you didn't wear shoes, you went barefooted, and I guess this time we had to wear shoes to church. We got to church and I took my shoes off. They got quite a kick out of that, but that's what happens when you're little. I can't remember doing it, but that's what they tell me I did.
AHERN: When you did come to town to shop, as you got older, did you buy any store-bought clothes or was your mother still making everything?
WHALEN: I don't think I had a store-bought dress until I was earning money, after I graduated from High School and was earning my own money. All the clothes was hand made. We had a sewing machine. Yes, when I got old enough I made my own clothes, with my mother's help.
AHERN: Did your family ever take any trips outside of Fallon to or visit other relatives?
WHALEN: I don't believe anyone did, unless it was my father. My second sister, Ruby, when she was little she fell off of a hay wagon and it dislocated her hip and they didn't seem to be able to do anything here in Nevada. Of course they didn't have X-rays and things like that then, so he took my sister down into California and she stayed with my grandmother and my aunt, Pearl, and I hardly knew that I had a sister Ruby until she was old enough to come home and she was about ready to go to high school. She was down there quite a few years, but I remember, one time we went down there to the World's Fair in San Francisco…
AHERN: How did you go down there?
WHALEN: Well, my father had an old EMF and we went down there in that. I remember something happened to the car and we had to park alongside the road. I don't remember whether we had to stay there overnight, if we did we just had blankets and stuff and camped alongside the road. And my father went to get some parts for the car. We finally got there. One thing about the…that I can remember at the Fair was, I was just fascinated by a…well they had a table that had grass and a two story little doll house, and a little girl out in the front of that running a lawn mower. She'd go up and down and mow and I think I stood there for ever and ever watching that. And I can remember on the way home when we were going to- you didn't stay in motels then you know
AHERN: Where did you stay?
WHALEN: You camped out. We had…we were…I don't know whether we were on our way home or, whether we were down to visit the relatives at the same time as we were at the Fair, but they had a intersection and I guess it was a train or a cable car or something and they had those big semaphore things that came down. You weren't supposed to go if they were down. Well, we got almost through the intersection and one of them came down and caught the top of the car. It was open, the thing folded back, but it caught the top of the car. Didn't damage the thing but it scared me. But I can't remember much of that trip, 'cause I think the Fair was about 1915 and I was only four years old.
AHERN: Then that is the only time you remember leaving the state?
WHALEN: Well, when I was real small I remember my sister and my father and I went down to one of his… I think it was his uncle that was having his sixtieth wedding anniversary down by San Jose, and we went down to that. It seemed like it took him forever to go anywhere and to come back because they didn't have roads that were like they do now. And of course, when I was in High School I remember when Lindberg flew into Reno and my mother and I and my sister, Glenna, and probably some of the neighbors' girls went up to Reno to see Lindberg, but there were just gravel roads and you didn't go to Reno in and hour like you can now.
AHERN: Tell me, what do you remember most about your father?
WHALEN: Well, my father and I were very close. It seems like I was his right-hand-man, whenever he wanted something done it was Doris that had to do it (laughing). I didn't have much to do in the house and I can remember when I was about in the first year of High School we were haying, and of course, you learn a few things in the kitchen even though you don't actually do it, my mother got sick and had to go to the hospital and I was the only one home, you know, to cook for the hay men. Well, when you have ten hay men you got to feed 'em, and that's quite a chore. My father got my girlfriend that lived in town, and she came out and we cooked for those hay men. I guess we did a fairly good job because I heard 'em brag about it afterwards (laughing). I can remember I made an apple pie and I think that was the first apple pie that I ever, ever had made. We had apples and we had vegetables in the garden, like tomatoes and beans, and peas, but you had to go pick 'em, and I tell you from breakfast to – it wasn't lunch -- it was dinner and supper and you cooked big meals. Nothing like a sandwich or something like that. I can't remember us having a lot of salads with lettuce unless it was in the summertime when you had your own lettuce. I can remember they used to buy little boxes of raisins. I think I got sick on raisins and I couldn't eat a thing in raisins after I grew up (laughing). If they had raisins in cinnamon rolls I picked them out. But I finally managed to be able to eat raisins but I sure didn't like 'em.
AHERN: Describe your father to me?
AHERN: What kind of person, describe your father, what kind of person was he?
WHALEN: Well, he was a tall man, I would say six feet or maybe a little taller. He wasn't heavy set, but he was well-built, you know, not frail. And he had blonde hair and blue eyes and his hair was a little wavy on the top. I very seldom saw him dressed up unless he was teaching school or something. He usually wore just overalls and shirts, you know, because that's what they wore. He knew exactly what he wanted you to do and he told you, too (laughing).
AHERN: Was he a strict father?
WHALEN: I don't think so, I don't think so. But, you know, this is one of the funny things, in those days people didn't drink like they do now. I don't think I can ever remember my father even taking a drink. and he never smoked a cigarette or chewed tobacco or anything like that. I just supposed we were raised that way. When I first went to a party when I was grown or maybe even married, and they had wine possibly, I thought, "Oh, my gosh, I don't think I want any of that." (Laughing.) And you know you kind of have to develop a taste for something like that, you can't just start off and drink. I don't think any of us ever smoked or drank; I remember my husband did, I remember trying a cigarette one time (laughing) and I had never, ever done that and I said, "How do you make the smoke come out of your nose?" And they said, "You swallow it." Well, I swallowed it and I darn near passed out. Oh, I never had another cigarette (laughing).
AHERN: Was your father musically inclined?
AHERN: Did he play?
WHALEN: He used to sing us Christmas carols in German.
AHERN: Did he play any musical instrument?
WHALEN: Yes, he played the piano.
AHERN: In the evenings did he entertain the family quite a bit?
WHALEN: Yes, a lot of times, it was an organ at first that you had to pump with your feet and he had an organ and he could play it. Of course, he wasn't that proficient, but sounded pretty good to me. Then I remember my mother finally bought a nice piano and we enjoyed that, he'd play and we'd stand around and sing. I never learned to speak German but I remember him singing Silent Night in German and I could pronounce a few of the words, I don't know if it was correct or not (laughing). I can remember one time we went hunting and about three miles from home there was what they called the Harmon pasture. . . it was a kind of a slough were the water ran in from the drain ditches. . . he had gone hunting and he came home with a swan and that was the biggest thing I ever saw. He could stand and put that over his shoulder, and the swan would touch the floor. So it had a big long neck, well of course, swans do. I can't remember what it tasted like, but it was good. He used to hunt a little bit not a lot though. But he was very adaptable to a lot of things. He could do most anything, he was a carpenter and he could build and he had a forge and he could mold iron if he needed something.
[End of tape 1]
AHERN: When did you leave the Harmon District, when you graduated from High School or ...?
WHALEN: Not until I got married, I was married at home, but I worked in town at the Fallon Mercantile right after I graduated and even after I was married, but when I was married I moved to town.
AHERN: Now, you've seen a lot of changes from living in the Harmon District and seeing Fallon develop, what did you like best as the changes occurred?
WHALEN: Well, you know at first you had just coal oil lamps and my father finally built the big house, in front of the original building and, of course, if there was something new he always tried to get it. They had this gas plant -- I guess they called it -- I know we had to dig a big hole in the ground in the back yard and they put lye and lime and stuff in it that created this gas, and so we had a gas stove and had gas light and even had a gas iron until the gas ran out and then we had to go through the process of filling it up with the other stuff and it'd make this gas. I don't really know how long it lasted but finally they started that Rural Electrification thing and that was really something. We had the gas plant but my father said, "We're going to get electricity." So we did. That was a God send for people on a ranch you know, 'cause you could have an electric water pump and pump water into the house - - otherwise you didn't have water and so everybody enjoyed that.
AHERN: Then going on the other side of the changes that were improving the town, which didn't you like?
WHALEN: Which didn't I like? Gee, I liked 'em all. I can't think of anything I didn't like. This was, of course, a one horse town right at first, the streets in the wintertime were full of mud, you couldn't hardly get up and down the streets. I can remember them talking about it, I can't really remember it myself but I tell you it was, it was real nice to get things where you could half way live instead of just exist it seemed like.
AHERN: Well, Mrs. Whalen, on behalf of the Churchill County Museum I would like to thank you for granting me this interview.
WHALEN: You're welcome.
AHERN: This is the end of the interview.


Churchill County Oral History Project
an interview with DORIS WHALEN
Fallon, Nevada
conducted by Sylvia Arden
April 11, 1994
This interview is part of the socioeconomic studies for Churchill County's Yucca Mountain Planning and Oversight Program.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
© 1994

This is Sylvia Arden, interviewer for the Churchill County Oral History Project, interviewing Doris Whalen at her home at 146 West Center Street, Fallon, Nevada. The date is April 11, 1994. Doris was interviewed by Eleanor Ahern for the Churchill County Museum. This is a second interview to concentrate more in depth on the Newlands Project and the results of that irrigation project in Churchill County.

SYLVIA ARDEN: Good afternoon, Doris. I wonder if you would tell us your name and where and when you were born.
DORIS WHALEN: I'm Doris Evelyn Buerer Whalen. I was born December 31, 1910, in Fallon, Nevada.
SA: Doris, would you tell us your earliest childhood recollections--you were born here, so you're a native. What did your family homestead look like? Let's start first with the house you lived in.
DW: Well, it was a house that my father had built. I think he brought some lumber down with him. They had a lumber mill in Oregon, and he brought quite a bit of lumber down by train, and he built the house from that. He may have bought some other lumber too, but I think that's where most of it came from.
SA: Can you describe how many rooms, what the inside was like?
DW: Well, let's see, I know we had a porch on the east side and a living room, and we had two bedrooms and a pretty good-sized kitchen. There was a back porch and a little indented part. I wouldn't say it was a porch, but it was covered.
SA: How many were living in that household?
DW: Well, let's see. . . . Of course I was there, because I was a baby in 1910, the very last day. And then I had a younger sister. My older sister had been injured in an accident and had dislocated her hip, and she was living in California with relatives. Geneva was my oldest sister, and then I had a brother that was living there. So there was four of us there at the time.
SA: No grandparents?
DW: No grandparents. (chuckles)
SA: Was there, from your earliest memories not from when you were born, inside plumbing yet?
WHALEN: Oh, heavens no!
ARDEN: Did you have an outhouse?
DW: Oh, of course! (laughs)
SA: Describe it.
DW: It was a two-holer! (laughter) Or three, I can't remember for sure.
SA: For people in this generation, especially schoolkids, describe it.
DW: Well, it was just built out of lumber, like a little outhouse. (laughs)
SA: How far from the house? How far did you have to go?
DW: Quite a little ways. Oh, as far as from here across the street.
SA: Oh, quite a distance.
DW: I don't know how far that is.
SA: What did you do in snow?
DW: We wandered through the snow! (laughter)
SA: Did you have chambers inside so at night, little chamber pots for the kids?
DW: Oh yes, under the bed.
SA: Did your mom do the cooking?
DW: Yes.
SA: What did she use for fuel? What was the kitchen stove like?
DW: Well, it was like those oldtime cooking stoves, you know. I think it had about four holes on it, you know, at the top, and an oven. And of course it collected ashes and you had to dump those and clean it out every so often.
ARDEN: Now, taking you outside of your house, because this is what we're really interested in, from the time you were I don’t know nine or ten that you can remember. Describe what your homestead looked like to you.
WHALEN: Well, my father was very, well I don’t know how to say it, he was very interested in having a lot of different kinds of products, other than alfalfa. And I remember he had a big uh…
SA: What were the other crops that he grew?
DW: He grew a big patch of asparagus, and I remember having to cut it. (laughter) And he planted grapes. Before we…And then he got big grape vines.
SA: Where did he get them from, do you know?
DW: No, I don't have the faintest idea. But he planted different kinds of apples.
SA: Now, I know from your first interview that he planted a lot of fruit trees. Can you give me an idea about how many fruit trees? Was it five or ten?
DW: Oh, he had maybe . . . ten, at first. And then he planted another orchard out in what used to be an alfalfa field, and I would say he had maybe twenty-five or thirty.
SA: When they were first planted, about how high were they? Can you remember? Or were they already planted when you were real little?
DW: They were planted when I was pretty little. (chuckles)
SA: And did he continue each year to plant trees? Was he a tree planter?
DW: No, after he got what he wanted planted, that was it. But there was trees all along the irrigation ditch leading into the property.
SA: Who planted those trees?
DW: I think my father did. And a lot of them around the house.
SA: Were they the cottonwood trees? Do you know what kind?
WHALEN: No. He had black walnut trees. We had a willow tree. I don't think we had any cottonwood trees, unless they were out in the field, because we didn't have any trouble with them, you know, with cotton blowing all over.
ARDEN: About how many acres was the homestead, do you know?
DW: About eighty.
SA: That big? That was the homestead, the eighty acres?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: When you were small, and as you grew through your junior high years, did your homestead become to look greener? Was there ever a time that it was barren?
DW: No. My mother planted a lawn, and we had lawn even before I could even remember it, we had a lawn. And trees that were planted in the lawn. She raised all kinds of flowers.
SA: Oh my! So that reflects that there was not at that time a shortage of water.
DW: Oh no.
SA: How did they irrigate all that, the lawn and the flowers and the crops?
DW: Well, the lawn was level so that they could get water on it. And it came through irrigation ditches, you know, that he had built.
SA: Who's "he"?
DW: My father.
SA: He built the ditches?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: And how did the water get to the ditches? Did you ever learn that?
WHALEN: Well, they came out of the canal. They had built canals and the take-out was about, oh, maybe a mile from our home. It had to go through another person's property.
ARDEN: Did he have to call when he wanted water?
DW: Oh yes. Right at the corner of our property was the ditch house. And if you wanted to get water, you had to call the ditch rider and tell him when you wanted it, and he was to turn it on.
SA: Was there a limit to the amount that you could get?
DW: Oh no. They just turned it on, and when he was done irrigating, he told him to turn it off.
SA: Was there ever a time when there was a shortage of that water, where they couldn't. . . .
DW: Not that I can remember.
SA: Not in your time.
DW: Not in my time, uh-uh.
SA: Any other crops that you can think of, besides the asparagus and. . .
DW: Oh, they had a little wheat. And then he planted like a meadow. He had sheep and they pastured them. And even the cows that we milked and the sheep.
SA: Now I want to get to the animals. First you said sheep. About how many sheep?
DW: Well, if he got 'em just to fatten, he maybe had a hundred or a hundred and fifty.
SA: Oh, a lot! Now, you said "got to fatten." Who did he sell them to? Did he sell them, or did he sell the wool?
DW: He sold the live sheep.
ARDEN: The live sheep. And do you know who would come to buy them? Were they people in the area, or out of state?
WHALEN: Well, I think it was people in the area.
SA: Okay, so you had sheep. Now, let's get to the cattle. Did he have dairy cows?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: And about how many?
DW: Oh, maybe fifteen.
SA: Oh. Was that for family consumption, or did he sell the products to dairies?
DW: He sold cream at that time. They had a creamery and the people separated their milk at home, you know, at the ranch, and sold it.
SA: Who did that on your ranch? Who would separate the milk?
DW: Oh, lots of times us kids did it. (laughs)
SA: Did you do that?
DW: We never had hired workers--it was kid workers! (laughs)
SA: Really?!
DW: Oh yes.
SA: I'll get to that when we finish how many animals. Did you have a lot of chickens?
DW: Oh yes, chickens for the eggs, and to eat.
SA: About how many?
DW: Oh, maybe two dozen or more. My mother raised turkeys too--a lot of 'em--and we had to pick 'em! (laughs) or help.
ARDEN: I was going to ask you for descriptions of that. Well, let's do that first. Tell me how many of you cleaned and picked and prepared and dressed these turkeys. Who would do that? Give me a kind of visual picture.
WHALEN: All of us. Oh, well, we may have had a couple of people helping, but my dad and mother and…
SA: Where would you do this?
DW: Well, we had trees around the house, you know, and Dad would put up a bar. You'd put some little things to hang each foot. You know, you hung both feet of the turkey, and you had to know how to kill the turkey, because if you did it a certain way, it'd loosen the feathers.
SA: Now who would kill them?
DW: My father. (laughs)
SA: Would you be around when he did it?
DW: Oh yes! but we weren't watchin'! (laughter)
SA: Did they make a lot of noise?
DW: No. Well, they did when they were just struttin' around the ranch, you know.
SA: What was underneath the turkeys to catch all the stuff when you were cleaning them and taking feathers off?
DW: The ground.
SA: Then you'd have to clean up the ground?
DW: Yes.
SA: Would there be blood on the ground too?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: So they didn't put paper or anything?
WHALEN: Oh heavens, no.
ARDEN: Just right on the ground? Fertilized the ground?
DW: (laughs) I don't know whether it fertilized it or not, but then they'd have to clean up the feathers afterwards.
SA: So if they were up on a line, was it a low enough line for you to reach?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: It was low enough?
DW: It was made that way so we could reach. (laughter)
SA: So there would be the whole family, and maybe a couple of helpers?
DW: Yeah, possibly. I know Glenna and I and. . . Well, I can't remember Geneva and Wayne doing it too much, because they were older. Glenna and I were the little ones. (laughter)
SA: You couldn't say no!
DW: No! (laughter)
SA: And then what would they do with these turkeys? When you say "dress," does that mean they're all cleaned?
DW: No, just the feathers and the feet were still on 'em, and the head was on 'em and they covered it with a kind of a cone thing. I don't know, part of the wing feathers, maybe was on 'em. I can't remember that. But then you had to kind of clean out pin feathers and so forth afterwards. They were sold to I.H. Kent Company.
SA: Oh, I'll be interviewing Mr. Kent, and I interviewed Ethel [Kent] McNeely yesterday in Reno.
DW: Oh, in Reno?
SA: Yes. Now, how did they package them to send them to Kent? Or did Kent come and get them?
WHALEN: No, they took 'em up there to Kent's.
ARDEN: In boxes, or how? Cases?
DW: Well, just in the car, I guess.
SA: Did they have boxes or bags?
DW: No.
SA: Just put the turkeys in the car and brought them over? (laughs)
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: How old were you when you had to start cleaning the turkeys? About how old were you?
DW: Oh, maybe ten.
SA: Okay, and now to the dairy cows. How old were you when you first were taught to milk a cow?
DW: Oh heavens, I think I learned how to milk a cow from the time I was born! (laughter)
SA: Just a little kid?
DW: In fact, I won the prize for a milking contest at the fair one year. I was the best milker they had. And my father made me a milk stool because I was going to be in the contest. (laughs)
SA: Oh! Do you still have it?
DW: No, That's been a long time ago.
SA: How old were you when you won that?
DW: Thirteen.
SA: Oh so you had years… 10 years of experience probably. Now, about how many cows were milked, and how often?
DW: Well, morning and night.
ARDEN: And about how many?
WHALEN: Well, I would say between ten and fifteen.
SA: Oh my! And when you milked, where did the milk go? What kind of container?
DW: Well, they had a ten-gallon can, I guess.
SA: You knew how to milk them to get the milk in the right place?
DW: (laughter) You had a bucket that you milked into.
SA: Okay, and then they poured that into, . . .
DW: They poured that into a five-gallon or ten-gallon can and if they got too much, somebody had to start running the separator so that we'd have room. You know, there was just a little bowl sort of a thing to pour the milk in, to run into the separator.
SA: Oh. Now who separated? Who did that work?
DW: Well, all of us. My father, and I know I turned the handle a good many times.
SA: You didn't have paid help come in?
DW: Oh no.
SA: Did you have Indian help?
DW: Not really. My mother had Indian help to help her come in and wash clothes.
SA: Do laundry?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: Now, where did the water for the house come from?
DW: Well, my father had dug a well in front of the house, and that's where we got it.
ARDEN: Did that also come from the irrigation project? Or did that come from underground?
WHALEN: Underground.
SA: And there was enough underground for well water?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: And how did you take baths?
DW: In a washtub. (laughs)
SA: You'd carry in buckets from the well?
DW: Right, and we had warmed the water over the stove. It was a big iron stove.
SA: And the same with the clothes, to wash the clothes?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: Did you have hogs or pigs on your ranch too?
DW: Oh yes, quite a few.
SA: About how many of those?
DW: Oh, maybe twenty, twenty-five.
SA: Was that just for your own use?
DW: No, my dad would sell 'em if he had more than we could use. But he often killed 'em and salted the quarters, you know. We didn't do that in any time but the winter, because you had to have something that was going to freeze the meat.
SA: Right, okay so it wouldn't spoil.
DW: So in summertime, you couldn't do that.
ARDEN: When did you finally… I know when the generators at Lahontan Dam were constructed, electricity came pretty early to Fallon. Were you one of the early ones to get electricity? Or were you out of that area?
WHALEN: No, we were out of that area for quite a long time, because my father had put in a gas sort of thing. We had an iron and part of a stove that was added onto the regular stove for cooking. It didn't work an oven though.
SA: And so what would she use? Wood or. . . .
DW: Wood or coal.
SA: Wood or coal for the oven.
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: Did you help with the cooking?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: Yes? You did everything!
DW: (laughter) Yeah, everything on a ranch that's done, I've done it.
SA: Now, did you kids swim in the ditches?
DW: Yeah, in the canals.
SA: Was it dangerous? Because I've often read--not necessarily here-how some little kids drown in the canals.
DW: Uh-huh. They did then, too--not often.
SA: Did the parents all warn you about that? Was it something they. . . .
OW: Oh, they always told us that before we went.
SA: Uh-huh, to be real careful. Another thing I learned is that a lot of people ice skated. Did you ice skate on any of the ditches, canals, or sloughs?
WHALEN: Oh my goodness, yes.
ARDEN: Did you?
DW: Right in the back of our ranch was a big, deep drain ditch. There was water in it in the wintertime, it froze, and I can remember my younger sister Glenna and I going out there and skating all day long.
SA: Oh, do you have pictures of that?
DW: I don't think so.
SA: I'm dying to find pictures of that.
DW: I don't think so.
SA: That sounds like so much fun.
DW: I don't think we even had a camera then.
SA: Oh, probably not, that's true. Now as the homesteading increased, I mean when you were little you wouldn’t realize it…As you would be getting a little bit bigger and the homesteading increased, where was your closest neighbor? Real early.
DW: Well, he wasn't far away. Wainscott was maybe half a mile.
SA: Who was that?
DW: Mr. Wainscott.
SA: How do you spell that?
DW: W-A-I-N-S-C-O-double T
SA: As homesteading increased, did you begin to get more neighbors?
DW: Oh yes!
SA: Tell me about…What was it like after they started coming in? How many neighbors did you finally have near you?
DW: Oh my goodness, the Sears was just beyond the Wainscotts, and the Freemans was just across the street from them, and there was some Waberslohs and Ayers.
SA: I’ll have to get those spellings later.
DW: And the L.C. Ayers family was just beyond the Waberslohs.
ARDEN: What time period? How old were you when some of these started to come in? So we can figure the time.
WHALEN: Oh, between 1915 and 1920.
SA: Uh-huh. That's when they were advertising for homesteaders to develop the area?
DW: Well, they were advertising for homesteaders in 1910. That's how my father happened to come to Nevada. So I know that was the beginning of it.
SA: So was it kind of fun to have more and more neighbors?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: More kids to play with?
DW: We were usually pretty busy and never had a lot of time to play. I can remember riding horseback to school, and that was about the only time that you met the kids, really, except when they were in school.
SA: How old were you when you first rode a horse?
DW: Oh maybe six or seven or eight.
SA: Really?! So young!
DW: Oh yes!
SA: That's amazing!
DW: You learned things young then.
SA: Yes! So how far was your school?
DW: Oh, it was about a mile-and-a-half away. When I…
SA: Did all the kids go by horseback? Or a lot of them?
DW: Well, some of them had to walk, but a lot of them, they had a big long rail that they tied their horses to during the day, and they stayed there, except we watered them at noon, you know. (laughter)
ARDEN: That's quite a difference from life today, isn't it?
WHALEN: Oh yes.
SA: Did your family ever go to the recreation area at the Lahontan Dam and Lake to picnic? It was a popular place later.
DW: Not that I remember.
SA: You didn't do that?
DW: Uh-uh.
SA: When they developed it as a recreation area? No. You were too busy working. . . . w
DW: At home. (chuckles)
SA: Now, as you were getting to be a teenager, did you come into Fallon to go to school? Did you drive? Did they let you drive early?
DW: Well, I rode with one of the others that were driving and taking passengers to school.
SA: Cause you didn’t have a car?
DW: Not then.
SA: No.
DW: After I started to work in the office in Fallon.
SA: Well were not going to get out of school yet.
DW: Oh.
SA: When you first started to come into Fallon, how old were you? Did you start…was it in junior high or high school? Was it after eight grade when you started to come into Fallon to school? Was it ninth grade, high school?
DW: After I graduated from eighth grade, I started high school.
SA: Before that did you come into Fallon often? Before you went to high school?
DW: Well, my folks probably did, but I don't remember a lot of trips to Fallon myself.
SA: What I want to ask is, your first time, let's say when you started high school and you were a little bit older, no longer a tiny kid, what did Fallon look like, compared to now? What did it look like?
WHALEN: Oh heavens! The buildings that are here…you mean up to date now?
SA: No, no, no. I want you to tell me what it was like thinking…you know what it looks like now then go back to when you first saw it and what did it look like then? What was different about it then than it is now?
DW: Well, you know, this part that's south of Center Street, which I live on, was those willow bushes.
ARDEN: On Williams? The cottonwood trees, or willow trees?
DW: No, no, no, just kind of willow trees that have. . . Not real high willow trees. I don't know what they were. They had a pink sort of a blossom on 'em in the spring. You wouldn't believe it, they used to play hide-and-go-seek out there.
SA: (laughs) Really?
DW: Yes.
SA: Were there a lot of trees in Fallon? Or did they stand out because there weren't a lot of trees?
DW: Well, I don't think right at first I can remember a lot of trees. But they gradually got more and more until there's quite a few trees in town now.
SA: Do you remember when they planted the cottonwood trees on Williams and then cut them down for Highway 50? Do you have any recollection of that?
DW: In a way, I can remember. And I was thankful of that. That cotton is terrible.
SA: Oh is it? What happens with it?
DW: Well, it comes in little balls at first, on a little green stem. And when those balls ripen, they get just like cotton, and blows all over town, terrible.
SA: Oh, so people were not happy when it came down.
DW: No, and if somebody threw a match in it, it caught on fire like lightening. I tell ya', it just would burn like nothing.
SA: Oh my gosh! I never heard of that. Now, you mentioned that you won an award at the Nevada State Fair. Did you go there regularly? Was it part of the school program?
WHALEN: No, just the family took ya'.
ARDEN: And I understand there was a big Hay Palace?
DW: Well, yes, but that was later on--quite a bit later on. (laughs)
SA: I see. When you were going, where were you going? When went…when you won, where was it located?
DW: You know where the depot is now?
SA: Uh-huh.
DW: Alright, the fairgrounds was across the street from there.
SA: Oh, right here in Fallon?
DW: Uh-huh. It's all been torn down since then. And of course they built it out south of town.
SA: So that was the local state fair?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: Now, did you belong to 4-H when you were young?
DW: Yes.
SA: What was that like?
DW: I can't remember belonging to 4-H so much as being a 4-H teacher.
SA: You were a 4-H teacher?
DW: Oh yes! for quite a while--sewing especially.
SA: Ah, oh. Now, did you do crocheting or knitting?
DW: Yes, crocheting. My mother taught me how to crochet. And I don't know when I learned to knit, but I did learn to knit.
SA: When you were sewing for 4-H, did you enjoy that? the accomplishment of learning that?
WHALEN: Oh yes.
ARDEN: So about how long did you belong to the 4-H? All through school?
DW: All through high…well even when I was in high school I was taking clothing construction. You know?
SA: Oh! Uh-huh.
DW: And I well like I say I went to the univers… What they gave each…
SA: So you stayed here in Fallon?
DW: yes.
DW: OF course there would have to be. To dig these big deep drain ditches and we used to go over there and watch him work with all those wheels and whatnot going hither and yon you know. And he was very careful with us we had to mind out P’s and Q’s
SA: It could be dangerous
DW: Oh yes.
SA: Uh-huh and how many years did he do that?
DW: Oh heavens. I would say 10, 15, 20 years.
SA: So they kept very busy expanding the irrigation through that period obviously.
DW: Oh yes.
SA: Did they do that as new homesteads opened up?
DW: Well I think as they opened up it brought the water table up so they had to dig the drain ditches to lower the water table then.
SA: Oh I see.
DW: And it all went down to the Stillwater and that was…Stillwater Wildlife Area.
SW: I see when they developed that.
DW: That’s where it was going.
SA: Did you ever go duck hunting? I hear from other interviews, people love to go duck hunting.
DW: Heavens, I went duck hunting.
SA: You did?!
DW: Yes but not there. They had what they called the Harmon Pasture, and that's where I went duck hunting.
SA: Who'd you go duck hunting with?
DW: Oh, my husband.
SA: That was after when you were married?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: When you were kids, did your family go fishing or duck hunting?
DW: No.
SA: Too busy?
DW: We went fishing occasionally, and I remember going down to Dutch Bill's--that's what they called the slough part. I had caught a fish and raised my hand up here and the catfish stuck his fin right in my hand. And that was the sorest thing for a long time.
SA: Oh! He probably said, "If you're going to hook me, I'm going to hook you!" (laughter) Oh, my goodness. But you don't remember then the Depression? There wasn't a time when your family was affected.
DW: I don't think the Depression affected people on a ranch, because a lot of it was provided. You know, the food.
SA: Your own food.
DW: Uh-huh.
ARDEN: And there was never a drought time that affected them so they had to sell off any animals or anything?
WHALEN: No, I don't think so.
SA: During World War II, did that affect it? Because I've interviewed people here where they said it affected people who hired workmen who were called to the war. Did World War II affect your family's farm?
DW: Well, you know, when you get married and move away. . . .you don’t…
SA: What year did you marry?
DW: In 1930.
SA: And where did you move to?
DW: Into town.
SA: You were here?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: Was your family affected by the war? Or did you observe how it affected the Fallon area?
DW: No.
SA: Life just went on?
DW: Just about the same.
SA: No real hardships?
DW: No.
SA: Did you go out to the ranch very much to visit your folks?
DW: Oh yes.
SA: Were there any changes in crops or in animals or in the way he was running the ranch?
WHALEN: No, I don't think so.
ARDEN: Did the building of the military air base, which started in 1942, did that affect your family? Because I understand they took away range land and bought out places to expand the air field. Did that affect your family?
DW: No, because I don't think the range land that they got was really used for anything. They used Dixie Valley and out towards the west there was another range. But there wasn't anything there but sagebrush. And I can't see how it was going to affect anything.
SA: Well some of the interviews that I did they were affected because it was range land that their animals used.
DW: Where?
SA: Oh I don’t know off hand. You know but in Churchill County.
DW: Well…
SA: When the air field was starting and they confiscated some of the land for the air field. There was cattle there…ranging.
DW: They didn’t confiscate it they bought the ranches.
SA: Well no the government land where they were able to send their cattle to graze. You know you didn’t own it but it would go on to government graze lands.
DW: Oh, oh well that must…that wasn’t really close in. It was way out in the hills or something.
SA: So it didn't affect your family's ranch at all?
DW: No.
SA: It didn’t affect them. And I understand after the war there was the economic boom, with a lot of construction going on. Did you notice a rise in the economy here after the war? Or did life just go the same for you?
DW: For me it went along just about the same, (laughs)
SA: No big ups. . . .
DW: And no big downs.
SA: How long was your family--your father in particular--able to keep up with the ranching?
DW: Well, for a while, my husband and I took it over. But he was working at the time for the County.
SA: Your husband or your father?
DW: My husband. My father and mother had moved to town, and they were living with my sister.
SA: So who was running the ranch?
DW: My husband and I, for a little while--not very long.
SA: Where was the rest of the family, the rest of the kids grown up? Did they leave?
WHALEN: My brother Wayne went to the University [of Nevada] and he graduated and became a teacher and moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma, eventually. However, he did teach in Reno at the University [of Nevada] before he left.
ARDEN: Isn't that funny?! The same name, Stillwater, in another state. He went there?
DW: Yes, Stillwater, Oklahoma. (laughs)
SA: Isn't that interesting? Did any of the other kids leave the area?
DW: No, Geneva, my oldest sister is still here, and she's still alive. She was born in 1902.
SA: Oh, my goodness!
DW: She isn't very well.
SA: Is she alert?
DW: Oh yes, pretty much.
SA: Is she alert for an interview?
DW: No.
SA: No. So then did the family sell the homestead?
DW: Yes.
SA: Who has it now? Is it still a functioning ranch?
DW: One of the Nygren boys has it. Not Earl, the other one.
SA: Ray?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: I see. I didn't realize that, that wasn’t in the interview. So then that ended the ranching in your family.
DW: Uh-huh.
ARDEN: So where did you get your eggs and vegetables after that?
WHALEN: (laughter) After Ray got it, he tore out the apple orchard that was way out there. I suppose he didn't want to be bothered with it. And the grape vines, he took those out and I guess the asparagus disappeared.
SA: (laughs) Oh gee! Have they ever gone out to see what it looked like?
DW: Oh, I've driven by there, and he's leveled it all up. You know, they have those big levelers to do things with, that they never had then.
SA: Is that to raise more alfalfa or something, probably?
DW: That's what he raises, uh-huh.
SA: So when your folks lived in Fallon, how old were they when they left the ranch to move into Fallon?
DW: I don't know. My father had retired, and he wasn't very active doing anything, and my mother finally had a stroke, and she never got over it. She had a stroke while they were living out at the ranch with my husband and I. That's how they happened to move into town, because they weren't able to do anything on the ranch.
SA: Sure, sure. And how long did they live? How old were they when they passed away?
DW: My father was about seventy-two. My mother was younger than that.
SA: So then that ended the ranch…the homestead and the ranch days?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: Did you bring home any artifacts, or did you ever have anything left to remind you of the ranch that you owned? (Whalen laughs.) Do you have anything? Sometimes someone will take, you know, a wagon wheel or something from the ranch as a remembrance. Do you have anything?
DW: Well, I've got… (phone ringing) Where were we?
SA: Well um. I was asking you if you saved any artifacts or any…uh…anything from the ranch as a remembrance. Do you have anything?
DW: Well, I’ve got some…what do you call it that you stamp on the cows
SA: Oh the brands?
DW: Yes.
SA: Oh!
DW: Isn’t it funny when you can’t think of what you want to say.
SA: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
DW: Branding irons.
SA: Branding Irons. What else. Anything else? (pause) Nothing else. When…I know that…Well I don’t know I've just learned that you are very artistic. Did you ever paint your ranch, or anything on the ranch, or the ranch house?
WHALEN: I didn't paint then. I never painted. My mother painted.
SA: Really?!
DW: Uh-huh. And my daughter painted. But I didn't start painting, 'cause I never had time 'til I retired from my office job. And then I started painting.
SA: I see something on the wall. Is that something from your ranch, or just typical of it?
DW: No.
SA: Just typical of it. Do you have any later photographs? I know you didn't have any camera early, but are there any photographs of the ranch in your family? Do you have any photographs?
DW: I've got a photograph. And I don't even know whether it shows the house.
SA: After the interview, I'd like to see what you have that we can add to the interview. I have one other question I forgot or maybe I asked. Did you raise sugar beets or melon on your ranch?
DW: Yes. I can remember my father raising sugar beets for the sugar beet factory. But that didn't last long. I guess it didn't make any money.
SA: Well, I heard that there was some bug or mite or something that might have affected the crops.
DW: I don't know about that.
SA: And did you have the Hearts 0' Gold melons? Did you raise those?
DW: Oh yes, I helped pack those.
SA: About how many would your dad plant?
WHALEN: Oh, maybe ten acres.
ARDEN: Wow! Were they good?
DW: Well, of course! (laughter)
SA: And where did he sell them?
DW: Well, I think they had a melon something-or-other that was going on, that they delivered them to a building, and then sent them out to Reno, I suppose, and various other places. They got to be well known, and they were good too.
SA: Yes, all over. Was there a period at all, as the years were going on, and before your father got too old to work on the ranch, where it was not productive any more? Or was it always productive because he worked so hard?
DW: It was always productive.
SA: And he diversified?
DW: Uh-huh.
SA: Now, before we end this to look at any pictures you might have, did I forget to ask you anything dealing with the topic that we're trying to cover today, and that is the results of the irrigation in the ranching and in the agriculture?
DW: Well, if it wasn't for the irrigation, we wouldn't have a town like we have now. And so it really has been a good thing. If they don't cut off all the water for the irrigation, . . .
SA: That's a worry now.
DW: Which is a worry. But hopefully, we'll be able to continue.
SA: So you lived practically your entire life here in Fallon?
DW: Of course.
SA: (chuckles) And with enthusiasm, it seems.
WHALEN: Oh yes.
ARDEN: What do you foresee in the next decade for Fallon, with the growth of the air field? Now, Miramar, where I come from, is moving Top Gun here.
DW: My goodness, yes.
SA: Is that mixed emotions?
DW: If they don't take all the water away. We've got to have water if they're going to have the farmers. And I think the farmers are the heart of the valley.
SA: Absolutely, because this, compared to the rest of Nevada, is the main agricultural center of the whole state.
DW: Yeah.
SA: well, I want to thank you on behalf of the Churchill County Oral History Program, for continuing your interview, and enriching the history that we will pass on to others. And so I thank you.
DW: Well, you're welcome.
SA: This is the end of the interview.

Paintings in photograph by Doris Whalen
DORIS WHALEN, April 11, 1994
(photographs by Sylvia Arden) Doris holding family brand
Doris E. Whalen
Funeral services for Fallon native Doris Evelyn Whalen, 87, will be conducted Wednesday, 1 p.m., at Smith Family Funeral Home, officiated by officers of Myrtle Chapter of Eastern Star. Interment will follow at the Fallon Cemetery.
Mrs. Whalen died Dec. 12, 1998 at the Fallon Convalescent Center of natural causes..
Born Dec. 31, 1910 in Fallon to Henry Franklin and Clara Geneva Mathney Buerer, she lived in Fallon all her life. A retired bookkeeper for several businesses, including the Nevada Milk Producers 'Assn., Par-Gas and Shell Oil Distributorship, she was a member of the Methodist Church and Myrtle Chapter of Eastern Star.
Mrs. Whalen was preceded in death. by husband, Lloyd Alfred. Whalen, Sr., and son, Lloyd Alfred Whalen, Jr.
Survivors include son, John Whalen, daughter, Joan Whalen, both of Fallon; three-grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and sister-in-law,. Jewel Frey.

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Whalen, Doris Buerer Interview 1 (1990)--EDITING.docx
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Churchill County Museum Association, “Doris Beuerer Whalen Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed September 22, 2021,