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Sig Sanchez

Sig Sanchez Presentation Poster, by Ricardo Alvarado II
Oral History By: Ricardo Alvarado
Submitted December 2013

Print Version (pdf)

Sig Sanchez was born on November 11th 1920 in Hollister California. To a family with ten siblings, four whom were boys, the other six were girls. He grew up working on his family farm, and graduated from San Benito High School. After he graduated he stayed in Agriculture his whole life up to a few years ago. He had farms in Gilroy, Hollister, Merced, Imperial Valley, and Sacramento.
In 1953 Sig was told about an opening in the Gilroy City Council. That was when he started his political career. He stayed for nine years on the Gilroy City Council. He served two terms. He then ran for mayor and was elected in 1958 where he stayed for two terms, until 1963. In 1963 he ran for Santa Clara County Supervisors. He stayed for four terms, from 1963-1978. In 1980 Sig was appointed to the Santa Clara Water District board, where he stayed for thirty years. Sig had a very successful career in both politics and agriculture.

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Ricardo Alvarado


History 3

Leah Halper

Sig Sanchez

Over the years Santa Clara County has been home to many successful political and historical figures. For my oral history report I have chosen to interview Segundo Sanchez, better known as Sig Sanchez. Sig himself happens to be both a figure of importance in local politics and history. I choose Sig Sanchez because of his accomplishments for Santa Clara County.

Sig’s parents were both of Spanish decent, and both were born in Spain. His parents traveled secretly to the Hawaiian Islands to gain US citizenship. His mother moved when she was 8 years old and father when he was 12. They worked on farms picking pineapples and sugar cane. On both sides, their families ended up moving to the mainland before they meet, for better opportunities. His mother moved to Hayward area, where she lived while she worked in a cigarette factory in San Francisco. From there she got a job house cleaning in Oakland. His father moved to Hollister where he worked on farms. Sig said the Spanish immigrants back then all stayed together in certain neighborhoods. His parents meet because the groups from different cities would meet up every once in a while. Shortly after they meet, they got married in Fairfield. Sig’s parents decided to settle on a ranch in San Felipe, where they grew peaches, garlic, and tomatoes, which they sold to canneries.

Sig was born in the settlement San Felipe near Pacheco Pass outside of Hollister, California on November 11, 1920, making him ninety-three years old today. Sig had ten siblings, four of whom were boys: Petter, Joseph, Marion, and Tommy, the other six were girls: Lucial, Juanita, Anastasia, Meircelus, Julia, and Mary. He had a very happy childhood. He loved the farm and enjoyed working on it a lot. He attended San Benito High School and graduated in 1939. In high school he tried playing baseball but it was hard because he had to walk home ten miles and then finish his chores around the farm. He maintained the cows and milked them. He had a lot of love for the farm so it didn’t bother him too much that he couldn’t play baseball or other sports.

It was a no-brainer as to why Sig stayed in agriculture. He grew up doing it his whole life and as Cosby says, “From the earliest days of California’s development, Santa Clara Valley have been considered an excellent agricultural district”(603). He and two of his brothers stayed in the farming industry. In 1942 they got the chance to take care of a farm in Gilroy whose owner was sent into the Japanese-American internment camp because of WWII. The name of the man who owned it was Harry Fugikawa. It was 275 acres and was located where the Gilroy Outlets are now. The Fugikawa family grew tomatoes and in that day, Sig said the Japanese were the best at growing them. Cosby says, “The tomatoes were an important crop with an annual income of $100,000 [and they were] all grown on Japanese leased land”(606) Unfortunately, the family did not get the farm back after the war, because the land was sold to other people. They did reestablish themselves in Gilroy with a different farm.

“According to the census of the 1920[9], Gilroy had a population of 2,862 persons; Morgan Hill, 646; San Martin, 400.” Says Cosby. This shows the much higher population in Gilroy then the surrounding towns. This is why it was perfect for farming. Cosby says, “It is estimated that 2,750 people live on farms.” It shows how all of Gilroy was involved with agriculture. According to Cosby the weather helped also, as “the average date of the earliest frost in the fall is December 5 and the average date of the latest in the spring is February 25, giving a normal growing season of more than nine months.” This made Gilroy great for agriculture.

Sig has owned farms in many places including Sacramento, Merced, and the Imperial Valley. He grew sugar beets and tomatoes in Gilroy. In the Imperial Valley he grew just sugar beets. In Merced he grew cotton and cantaloupe. As a farmer his biggest struggle was labor. It was hard work back then to farm without all the machines they have today. Everything had to be handpicked. He says he was one of the first to bring migrant workers from Mexico to work. For him he never had any problems with the United Farm Works or better known as the UFW. Sig really treated his workers well with lots of housing, which had kitchens and bathrooms in all of them. He never had any trouble with the workers he hired.

The only scary time for him was the dry seasons. Since farming relied on wells he sometimes had to dig deeper then ever before. It never became so dry that his crops died. Also pesticides were never a problem for him. “In 1954, there were 73.1 million hectares of irrigated croplands in the Untitled States. By 1986, this had increased to 11.05 million hectares” (589). According to Cosby “the frost of winter is only from December 5 to February 25, leaving us with nine months of normal growing seasons.”(601) The water in Gilroy hasn’t been a problem yet, Sig says. Cosby documents that “in 1928 the average rainfall was 20 inches”(601) while the average this year, 2013, was still 20 inches. “So if it worked the last 90 years I don’t see a problem coming anytime soon. Every year some pesticides would get banned and he would just have to use a different one. The problem is that we are polluting our land.

“The seriousness of these problems can be illustrated by data showing that one-third of the topsoil of U.S. agricultural land has been lost over the past 200 years, “according to Cosby (251). The land values at the time were $250 an acre to buy or to rent was $17.50 an acre per year. The crop value was only $10 a ton depending on what you grew. “During 1922 the crop value was between $4 to $4.50 a ton”(604) and now its about $400 a ton, according to Sig. Farming  has long been an important part of Gilroy’s economy.

According to Cosby “1920 Gilroy had a population of 2862 people, and of that 2,750 people lived on farms.” This meant that nearly everyone was farm-related. Cosby says the area grew “apples, pears, peaches, plums, berries, and grapes.”

Sig met his wife in 1941 at a farm he was purchasing. Two years later on November 7, 1943 they got married. They had five children: four of them are boys David, Christopher, Nicholas, and John and one daughter named Donna who was born visually handicapped. His four boys attended Palma High School in Salinas and from there all went to Gavilan College. David went to Santa Clara University, Christopher went to San Francisco State, John attended San Diego State, and Nicholas didn’t go on beyond Gavilan. His daughter Donna, however, attended a school for the blind. Donna now works for the Santa Clara County Department of Education; David, is a developer in Salt Lake City; Chris, owns his own tree trimming business in Delta Colorado; Nick, works for Del Monte Corp in Phoenix; and John is the Athletic Director at St. Mary’s School in Gilroy.

Sig’s political start was really unexpected. One day in1953, he recalls that he went into town to have his tractor fixed. A mechanic named Courtland Rush, who was on the Gilroy City Council, told him he should run for an open spot. He got the spot in 1954 and stayed for nine years on the Gilroy City Council. He served two terms. He then ran for mayor and was elected in 1958 where he stayed for two terms, until 1963. When in office one of his main goals was to serve the people. He says he didn’t want to benefit himself; he wanted to benefit the people. He always expected city employees to treat the citizens with all the respect in the world.

As the mayor he didn’t have in major problems that were playing out in some of the big cities because at the time Gilroy only had 3,500 people. He decided to run for the Santa Clara County Supervisor Seat in 1963. He stayed for four terms; from 1963 to 1978 he accomplished many things. A big on was to prevent flooding. He “advocated for the merger of the Santa Clara County Flood Control and Water District with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to better address flood management and water importation,” (Ducker A9). He did this because at the time the flood control program was really being over looked because the county supervisors had so many other things to do. So he really thought that flood control fit well with the Water District anyway.

Sig is, however, most famous for his twelve-year struggle to get the 101 Highway system built. He wanted this built for a very long time because Monterey Road was called “Blood Alley,” due to the extreme numbers of accidents and deaths. The reason it took so long to build was all the road money was being put into the Eisenhower Interstate System. Original plans called for four lanes on both sides of the freeway all the way through. But he learned that the plan wouldn’t get accepted until it was cut down to two lanes. Eventually an additional two lanes were added to relieve all the traffic coming through San Jose.

After his fourth term he decided that it was his last term. Instead of retiring, he was appointed director of the Santa Clara County Water District board in 1980, where he served for thirty years. According to Ducker “Sig is one of the two only appointed, rather then elected, members of the board.” He helped the valley survive the 1987-1992 droughts. He feels he did great things for the county; Ducker particularly cites the “1987 merger of the Gavilan Water District in South County with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, allowing for full integration of all the county’s reservoirs and groundwater facilities.

Sig also played an “instrumental role in the 1992 development of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, a joint organization of 32 water and irrigation agencies that contract with the United States Bureau of Reclamation for water from the Central Valley Project,” according to Ducker.

Sig has served as a board member of HOPE Rehabilitation, Wheeler Hospital Foundation, and the Gilroy Elks Club. As a advocate for water and flood control issues, he has been an active member of national, state, and local water resource organizations, including the Agricultural Water Advisory Committee, Central valley Project Authority, Pajaro River Watershed Flood Prevention Authority, San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority Board and Finance Committee, Uvas/Llagas Flood Control and Watershed Advisory Committee, Santa Clara Valley Water Commission, Santa Clara Valley Water District Board And Hoc Audit Committee, and the South County Regional Wastewater Authority. Sig has done so many things for the city of Gilroy a South County that he was inducted into the Gilroy Hall of Fame in 1991.

Now Sig is retired man who spends his days at home relaxing. But, seems to me he still follows local politics. Every Thursday he likes to play poker with his friends and watch football on Sundays. Sig truly is a remarkable man, and he has done show much to prove it. He will forever be remembered here in Gilroy and as well in California.


Rito Nunez

Rito Nunez Presentation Poster, by Marissa Nunez
Oral History By: Marissa Nunez
Submitted December 2013

Print Version (pdf)

Rito Nunez is a Mexican-American male born in 1946 to a big family that would later consist of 16 children. he was very family oriented, even though before his childhood was up he departed from his mother and some of his siblings, they reunited later on in his teen years. Rito lived all over the Bay Area during his early life, living with his Uncle and Aunt in Hayward, then finding his mother and living with her in Oakland for a while, where he met his soon-to-be wife Patricia Ramirez. With Patricia, Rito had four children who subsequently gave him eleven grandchildren who look up to him as a role model, and six great-grandchildren. Rito held many different jobs in an effort to make a better life for himself and his family. he worked as a mechanic, he was a field worker, and he joined the Marines in his mid-20’s. During his time in the Marines he was involved in the Vietnam War. his job was an Amphibious Tractor operator. he was not only stationed in Vietnam, but also in Japan, the Philippines ,and San Diego. His time working in the fields coincides with the start of the United Farm Workers Union. During the latter part of his life, after his time in the Marines was up and he got injured while working as a mechanic he moved to Gilroy, California and has resided here for close to twenty years with his wife. This paper will examine his early life, the jobs that he held in pursuit of a better life, more specifically his involvement in the Vietnam War.

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Marissa Nunez
History 3
Leah Halper
December 11, 2013
Rito Nunez

The Life and Times of Rito Nunez

Rito Nunez has lived in California his entire life, with the exception of when he joined The Marines and went Vietnam and Asian Countries. The Bay Area was where he was born and raised and where he raised his children. Rito has held many jobs throughout his lifetime, all in the interest of supporting his family.

Rito Nunez was born July 8, 1946 in Oakland, California, to his mother, Lucy Ponce, and his father, Ignacio Nunez. His father was born in Mexico and moved to California. Once he got to California he worked as a miner and a farm manager, as a miner he worked for the Quicksilver Mining Company. He was a hard worker who was trying to make money to support his family, but he left them in or around 1956. His mother was born in Hollywood, California, of Hispanic and Portuguese descent. She worked in canneries and she also did field work throughout her life to support her family. Lucy Ponce was not only Rito’s mother but the mother of 15 other children, yes you read that right she had a total of 16 children throughout her lifetime. Lucy’s 16 children were, Bobby, Theresa, Nelly, Marie, Rito, Ignacio Jr., Johnny, Ray, Manuel, Irene, Inez, Flora, Mary Rose, Rosalie, and Julian.

Rito lived all over the Bay Area, including Oakland, Hayward, Union City, San Jose, and Gilroy. He was also in the Marines and was stationed in San Diego, Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines. During his childhood he lived with his Aunt Helen and Uncle Pete, in the East Bay. He didn’t live with his mother until the early 60’s, because him and his siblings were adopted out to other members of his family. Even though he didn’t live with his mother until later he describes his childhood as a happy one, he didn’t have his parent but he had parent-like figures in his uncle and aunt, because as previously stated he and his siblings were adopted out to other family members that took care of them.

Rito spent his educational years attending elementary school, junior high school, and high school in Hayward, California; he believed that education was a really important aspect to his life. He also believed that he needed his education so that later on in life he could help his family survive, or to rephrase he believed that education would help him make money to support his family.

Rito held several different jobs throughout his life. He did field work, was a Marine, and worked as a mechanic. The first job that he had was a s a field worker, I think that he became a field worker because a lot of people in his family including his mother were field workers .The second job that he held was as a mechanic, he attributes his Uncle Pete as the influence in becoming a mechanic. He then went on to become an operator of tractors and loaders, and then he was a machinist at mills, and also a welder. Then one of the final big careers he had was joining the Marines as a heavy equipment operator. The final career that he had in life was as a mechanic; unfortunately he got injured on the job, and the injury that would ended his ability to work any longer.

Rito married Patricia Ramirez when he was 19 and she was 15 on November 16, 1965. They first met when Rito reunited with his mother, because Patricia lived right next door. Together they had four children, Vince Nunez on December 27, 1965, Frank Nunez on May 29, 1968, Rick Nunez on June 5, 1969, and Lori Johnston né Nunez on January 26, 1971. From his the four of his children he received eleven grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.

Rito became involved with the United Farm Workers Union early in his life as evident by the fact that field work was the first job that he had held; his mother could have possibly been involved with the UFW as well. Before the creation of the UFW, and before Cesar Chavez began his journey for organizing labor unions withing the farming community, efforts were made to organize union as early as 1900, these efforts included organizations, such as “ethnic labor associations, radical networks and the American Federation of Labor” (Ganz 23). Ganz relays to us that although there have been many efforts they were all ultimately failures until the 1960’s and with the development of the UFW (Ganz 23). The UFW came about through the efforts of Cesar Chavez, who on March 32, 1962 “resigns from the Community Service Organization after the group refuses to commit to organizing farm workers…. Dedicates himself full-time to organizing farm workers” (UFW). The United Farm Workers website also tells us that from 1962 to 1965 “Chavez drives to dozens of farm worker towns throughout California, painstakingly building up the membership of his infant organization” (UFW). For Rito all of this was happening in his early twenties around the time that he met Patricia and started to have children. The United Farm Workers website relates to us what Cesar Chavez went through from February 1968 to March of 1968, and the support that he received from many people.

Responding to growing talk by mostly male strikers about resorting to the use of violence, Chavez fasts for 25 days in Delano during the hungry winter of 1968 to rededicate his movement to the principals of nonviolence practiced by M.K. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Just a month before he is assassinated Dr. King sends a warm message expressing solidarity. Senator Robert Kennedy joins 8,000 farm workers and supporters at a Catholic Mass where Chavez breaks his fast, calling the weakened farm labor leader ‘one of the heroic figures of out time.’ There is no more talk of violence by the strikers (UFW).
Chavez was dedicated to peaceful protest, so much that he fasted until the strikers stopped talking about resorting to violence that is a really inspiring choice that he made to stem any possible violence of strikers. From January to October of 1979, the UFW tried to better wages and benefits of workers who worked for some of the major lettuce and vegetable growers all over California, but in their striking efforts one of the foremen shot a 27 year old striker in a lettuce field (UFW). This shows me that even though the protesters and strikers made have been peaceful, the people that are being protested against were not as peaceful they resorted to extreme measures. By the time that all of the major protesting started Rito had already joined the Marines and was out the field working lifestyle.

Rito Nunez volunteered to join the Marines during the Vietnam War, leaving behind his children and wife. His job in the Marines was as an amphibious tractor operator, which was a troop carrier. The United States joined the war siding with the government of South Vietnam against the Communist Government of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Simmons tells us that one of problems in South Vietnam was that the government was inadequate, adamant, and corrupt (Simmons). One of the reasons we sided with the government of South Vietnam because it was the big, bad communists against a weak government in the south . Simmons talks about the types of actions that were taken by President Kennedy, and recommendations that were made to help solve the conflict in South Vietnam.

As the situation continued to deteriorate, Kennedy set two key advisers, economist Walt W. Rostow and former army chief of staff Maxwell Taylor, to Vietnam in the fall of 1961 to assess conditions. The two concluded that the South Vietnamese government was losing the war with the Viet Cong and had neither the will nor the ability to turn the tide on its own. They recommended a greatly expanded program of military assistance, including such items as helicopter and armored personnel carriers, and an ambitious plan to place American advisers and technical experts at all levels and in all agencies of the Vietnamese government and military. They also recommended the introduction of a limited number of U.S. Combat troops, a measure the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been urging as well (Simmons).

Although Rito volunteered to join the Marines in wartime, there was also a draft that happened, and with the end of the draft and the negative feelings for the Vietnam War that a lot of Americans had during this time led to a major problem when it came to recruiting in new soldiers (Simmons, 324). It makes me think of all the men that came before that willingly signed up to become a Marine and fight in a war, and how they feel about how people negatively viewed joining the Marines.

As previously stated he got injured on the job, this lead to surgeries on his back that were ultimately unsuccessful, even causing more pain and health problems. He still spends as much time with his family as he can, being the patriarch of his family, his children and grandchildren visit him as often as they can.

I learned a lot when I interviewed Rito Nunez. He is a family man through and through, he would do anything for his family, but at the same time he is loyal to his country, as seen by his volunteering to go into the Marines during the Vietnam War. He taught me that family is there for you no matter what, and they give you unconditional love. Another thing that I learn from him is that not only can you be fiercely loyal to your family and do anything to protect them, you can also be fiercely loyal to your country and the idea of freedom.

Work Cited
Ganz, Marshall. Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organizations, and Strategy in California Farm Worker Movement. Oxford University Press. 2010, Print. 7 Dec. 2013.
Simmons, Edwin H. ed., et al. The Marines. Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, 2012. Print.
“UFW Chronology.” United Farm Workers. United Farm Workers Union. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.


Alfred Bonturi

Alfred Bonturi Presentation Poster, by Ismael Torres
Oral History by: Ismael Torres
Submitted December 2013

Print Version (pdf)

Alfred Bonturi was born on August 16 1925. He was born and raised in Hollister, California. Alfred Bonturi’s father Fausto Bonturi, was born in Tuscany, Italy, His mother Amelia Bonturi, was born in La Honda, California. He grew up with a large family of six girls and four boys. Alfred Bonturi went to school for twelve years and finished High School at San Benito High School. He started Junior College but only finished one year. Alfred Bonturi started farming at the age of fourteen after his father passed away. Alfred being the oldest son took over his father’s farm. He has been farming for over 70 years now. He has been part of many agriculture businesses including Sun-sweet growers, Cal-Can, and California Walnut among others. He has worked in the San Benito County Farm Bureau, and with the University of California. Alfred Bonturi has grown apricots, prune, grapes, and walnuts. He now only cultivates walnuts in his farm. Alfred Bonturi married Corinne Bonturi in 1950. They had two children; a son named Greg (53 years old) and a daughter named Brenda (50).

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Ismael Torres
History 3
Leah Halper

Alfred Bonturi

Alfred Bonturi was born on August 16 1925, in Hollister, California. Alfred Bonturi’s father, Fausto Bonturi, was born in Tuscany, Italy, His mother, Amelia Bonturi, was born in La Honda, California. He grew up with a large family of six girls and four boys. Alfred Bonturi went to school for twelve years and finished High School at San Benito high school. He started junior college but only finished one year. Alfred Bonturi started farming at the age of fourteen after his father passed away. Alfred being the oldest son took over his father’s farm. He has been farming for over 70 years now. He has been part of many agriculture businesses including Sun-Sweet growers, Cal-Can, and California Walnut, among others. He has worked in the San Benito County Farm Bureau, and with the University of California. Alfred Bonturi has grown apricots, prune, grapes, and walnuts. He now only cultivates walnuts in his farm. Alfred Bonturi married Corinne Bonturi in 1950. They had two children; a son named Greg (53 years old) and a daughter named Brenda (50). This paper will talk about the history of agriculture in California and about Mexican (Braceros) labor in California. Also, it will show how both themes affect Alfred Bonturi’s life.

“On August 4 1942 the governments of the United States and Mexico signed a treaty to temporarily recruit and employ Mexican citizens to reduce the shortages of manual labor in the agricultural fields and to help maintain the American railways” (Marentes). Both governments set laws and made agreements about bringing Mexican workers to the United States. These series of laws were known as the Bracero Program. According to Mitchell, some of the regulations both the Mexican and American governments agreed on were that: Imported workers would be guaranteed work at least 75 percent of the time (exclusive of Sundays), and provided a three dollar per day subsistence when there was a shortfall; wages were to be paid on “the same basis” and at the same rate as those of domestic workers. Growers were to provide food at the cost to workers of $1.50 per day, but bracero’s could elect to keep that sum and provide for themselves or eat in town, provide “adequate housing, health, and sanitary provisions” as determined by the FSA. Ten percent of wages were to be withheld from the workers and deposited in Mexico to be paid upon the workers’ return. Finally, workers could elect their own representatives, but they could not strike; neither could they be locked out. (30)

All the braceros who were recruited had to be examined and registered, “they were interviewed by representatives of the Mexican government and various Americans, they were given health examinations by Mexican and American officers, including lung X-rays (and, often, a spraying with DDT or other insecticides for lice), posed for identification photographs, and placed into groups of twenty- five or thirty to have the contract read and explained to them.”(Mitchell, 30)

Alfred Bonturi was one of the U.S inspectors who would inspect Mexican labor workers for any diseases or disabilities that would prevent them from working in the United States. In 1953 Alfred Bonturi went to Hermosillo, Sonora, in Mexico to recruit over six hundred braceros for agricultural labor in his farm. All the recruited workers were brought to California. Some came to San Benito County where they would stay in recruitment camps in Hollister, California. Recruitment camps were made up of small houses where the braceros would stay to sleep. Alfred said he had to inspect every single worker for any disabilities. Many workers that he inspected didn’t have a leg or didn’t have an arm, but Alfred believed that no Mexican worker was inferior for having a disability, so he would recruit every single worker. When they were brought here to work Alfred would assign every worker to do a specific job. Those who had disabilities were put into different jobs. For example, a worker who didn’t have a leg would be put in a job that required the use of his hands.

Carlos Marentes claims that the bracero program began because the United States needed workers to continue growing crops and farming the land after many Americans were being deployed to fight WWII. In the book They Saved the Crops, by Don Mitchell, Mitchell writes;”For many farmers across the United States the growing war economy portended labor shortages, or more accurately, a shrinking of the large surplus to which they had grown accustomed.” (22) According to Mitchell, over one million farm workers left agriculture in the first week (22). The bracero program caused independent farmer associations and the Farm Bureau to recruit over three million Mexican braceros (Marentes). Mexican braceros were very experienced laborers, and they made California agriculture grow.

Braceros would do much back-breaking labor, for example: picking cucumbers, tomatoes, cotton, thinning sugar beets, and weeding. One of the tools the bracero’s used was the short-handled hoe (Marentes). This tool was used for beet picking; it was very inefficient and made farm work very difficult. Despite contributing to Americas Agriculture, many braceros were harassed and oppressed by racist groups (Marentes).

Alfred Bonturi was a different kind of recruiter. He would get along with the Mexican workers very well. Alfred even learned Spanish from the braceros. In order for the farm to be productive Alfred and the workers had to be able to communicate with each other, so some braceros had to learn English and Alfred had to learn Spanish. During Apricot season Alfred would show the braceros what a good apricot and a bad apricot had to look like. He would go up to a bracero and show him a green apricot; the bracero would say “Verde.” Alfred learned the colors in Spanish first. Later on he would learn how to tell the workers not to pick the green apricots. He would show the braceros the green apricot and say, “Este no” (which means, “Not this one”). By 1950 many braceros were entering the United States illegally (Marentes). Illegal Mexican workers were called by many Americans; “Wetbacks”. In 1950 there were about 500,000 illegal immigrants in the United States in 1953 this rose to over 900,000 immigrants, by 1954 there were over 1,000,000 (Mitchell 239). Many Mexican workers moved back to Mexico but many stayed. Operation Wetback started in 1954. “The police swarmed through Mexican American barrios throughout the southeastern states. Some Mexicans, fearful of the potential violence of this militarization, fled back south across the border” (Operation). In 1954, the agents discovered over 1 million illegal immigrants. According to the article “Operation Wetback”, this was a violent immigration law enforcement.

In some cases, illegal immigrants were deported along with their American-born children, who were by law U.S. citizens. The agents used a wide brush in their criteria for interrogating potential aliens. They adopted the practice of stopping “Mexican-looking” citizens on the street and asking for identification. This practice incited and angered many U.S. citizens who were of Mexican American descent. Opponents in both the United States and Mexico complained of “police-state” methods, and Operation Wetback was abandoned. (Operation)

During Operation Wetback there would be border patrol searches around farms and bracero camps. Alfred remembers that during farming season’s border patrols would come in to his farm and arrest many illegal braceros. Even though braceros would be returned back to Mexico they would sometimes cross the border back into the United States to find jobs and earn money.

Agriculture in San Benito County has been a big part of Alfred Bonturi’s life. Alfred had to face many struggles in farming. In 1959 Central Coast, California suffered one of its worst droughts in its history (Summary). These droughts caused Alfred Bonturi’s farm to be scarce in water. Alfred Bonturi had to dig up another well to find water to grow his crops. Alfred has been farming for many years and he has overcome most of the problems nature has thrown at him. Over the years Alfred has harvested many different fruits including Walnuts. One of the fruits Alfred has grown is the Apricot. The Apricot originated in China, but was brought into California by the Spanish missionaries in the 1700’s (Apricots). California leads the Apricot production in the U.S. It accounts for over 95% of all U.S production. In San Benito county Apricots are grown for fresh market distribution. Alfred said that Apricots are harvested from May to August. Apricots can grow in colder winter weather he said.

Another fruit that Alfred has grown is the Grape. Grapes are one of the most grown fruits in the world. In the U.S, California grows 99% of all grapes. There are over 700,000 acres of grape vineyards in California. Grapes are picked between May and January all throughout California (Grapes).

Another fruit Alfred Bonturi has grown is the prune. According to Norton, “California produces 99 percent of the nation’s prunes and 70 percent of the world’s prune crop. Other major prune-producing countries are France, Chile, and Argentina. Almost all of California’s prune acreage is located in the Central Valley” (1). Prunes, like apricots, need colder winter weather to grown ripe. During the winter season prunes require special care to prevent frost. Frost is just one of the challenges Alfred has had to face with growing fruits. The final plant Alfred has grown and harvested is the walnut. Walnuts are the only plant Alfred is still currently harvesting. Walnuts flower between April and May. Cold winter weather can damage Walnut trees. To prevent frost from damaging the tree many farmers stir the soil around the trees to prevent the roots from freezing (Walnuts). Many types of Walnuts have also been produced that can withstand viruses and plagues (NZ). Alfred Bonturi has also been involved in producing these types of walnuts with his knowledge of farming he has worked together with different walnut producers to make these types of walnuts. He now grows these walnuts himself.

Alfred Bonturi has been farming for over 70 years now and is part of the history of Agriculture in San Benito County. He has been in the board of directors for many important local agriculture businesses and has given advice to many important farm owners. He enjoys farming and to this day he still goes out to his farm to take care of his orchards.

Works Cited
“Apricots in California.” UC Davis. University of California, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.
Bonturi, Alfred, Interview
“Grapes Home.” Grapes from California. California Table Grape Commision, 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2013.
Marentes, Carlos. “The Bracero Program.” The Farmworkers Website. The Farmworkers Website, December 1999. Web. Nov. 8 3013.
Mitchell, Don. They Saved the Crops: Labor, Landscape, and the Struggle over Industrial Farming in Bracero-era California. University of Georgia Press, 2012. Print.
Norton, Maxwell, and William Krueger. “Growing Prunes (Dried Plums) in California: An Overview.” Growing Prunes (Dried Plums) in California: An Overview (2007): 1-7.Print.
“NZ Walnut Industry Group Inc.: Frost 1.” NZ Walnut Industry Group Inc.: Frost 1. NZ Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Information, 2008. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.
“Operation Wetback.” PBS. PBS, Web. 24 Nov. 2013.
“Summary of Floods and Droughts in the Southwestern States.” Summary of Floods and Droughts in the Southwestern States. US Geological Survey, Web. 08 Dec. 2013.
“Walnuts in California.” UC Davis. University of California, 8 Oct.2013. Web. 2 Dec. 2013

Edward Delgado

Edward Delgado Presentation Poster, by Jessica Gonzalez
Oral History by: Jessica Gonzalez
Submitted December 2013

Print Version (pdf)

Edward Delgado worked most of his life to protect and serve carpenters, and to make sure they were treated the way they are supposed to in a time when that was a rare experience. Edward Delgado was born in Meoqui, Chihuahua, Mexico. He was born to Nacha Delgado who was a single parent. They both moved to California right after the Mexican Revolution when Nacha thought it was a good time to start a new life in the United States. To help provide for her family, Nacha worked at Stokley Van Camp Cannery. Later, when Edward was ten years old, he joined his mother and worked in the frozen foods department. Edward Delgado went to Santa Clara High School where he met and married his high school sweetheart, Mary Delgado. After graduating from high school, Edward attempted to join the Air Force but was rejected because of his citizenship. He continued to look for an organization to be a part of that would give him work to help him provide for his family. The Carpenters Union was that place, a place of refuge for him. Edward worked his way up from apprententice to a labor representative. Later, he becomes a representative for the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This paper tells the struggle against racism of a young Mexican American in the work force and how the Carpenters Union provided help for this Mexican American men in his time of need.

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Jessica Gonzalez
History 3
Leah Halper
November 24, 2013
Edward Delgado

Jesus Eduardo Naverette Delgado would consider himself, like many other Mexican- Americans here in California, blessed. His rough times in Santa Clara and in Gilroy are minor in comparison to the many blessings that he feels has been showered upon him. He has had many opportunities here in California and would consider himself to be living a more than comfortable life style.

Jesus now goes by the name of Edward Delgado; he has lived in Gilroy, California for thirty-five years. He originally came from Meoqui, Chuayaya in Mexico where he lived with his mother Nacha Delgado. Edward’s family dynamic was unlike most families, as his mother raised him alone and his father was never a part of his upbringing in Mexico. Edward and his mother Nacha lived in Meoqui until nineteen-fifty when Nacha’s two eldest brothers sent for them to come live with them in Santa Clara, California. The two brothers had moved to California in hope of jobs and success right after the Mexican Revolution in the 1930’s. ”As early as 1960 the Santa Clara County Planning department estimated that each industrial job brought eight new residents into the county while providing another 1.5 non-manufacturing jobs.” (Payne, 175) After securing themselves jobs, one as a janitor at Santa Clara University and one at a Cannery, they thought it wise to bring over their younger sister Nacha and her son Edward. When in California, Nacha secured a job at the Stokley Van Camp Cannery with her brother in Santa Clara. Meanwhile, Edward stayed with his cousins until he was old enough to go to school. When Edward was ten years old, he obtained his first job at the cannery doing what his mother was doing. At the cannery there were multiple tasks to be done such as, freezing foods and packaging them, canning pork, and canning beans. Having this job made him feel important and happy to help contribute to his mother’s efforts of being a single parent.

Edward Delgado continued his education at Santa Clara High School and graduated in 1968. He wasn’t really sure what he was interested in doing after school or what he was good at. He enjoyed mathematics and history. Edward had the talent of being bilingual and used that ability to his advantage in school and later at the workplace. The demographic of Santa Clara in this time was mostly Hispanic. He did not feel much different from his peers in school, they all were taking the same classes. His high school had plenty of electives that pushed many of the minority students to pursue trades. Wood shop was his favorite and the most popular among all of his friends and the other electives. In high school, he met and married his high school sweetheart, Mary Garcia.

As soon as Edward graduated from high school, he attempted to join the Air Force like the rest of his buddies but was denied because he was not officially a citizen of the United States. He never felt more alienated and disconnected from where he thought he belonged. This was his first real awakening that he was not like the rest of his friends and that he was not accepted everywhere. After his rejection from the Air Force, he got a summertime job at the cannery near his house, Stokley Van Camp Cannery, where he got paid two dollars and sixty-five cents an hour. He did very well in this job and was highly favored because he could speak English and Spanish, which helped the workers and managers communicate. He found that he had a lot more advantages because of his ability to speak bilingually.

After getting married, Edward and his wife Mary decided it was time to move to a different location and start a family of their own. They were attracted to the city of Gilroy because it was a quiet and inexpensive town which offered them just what they needed. In Gilroy, Mary bore and they raised their two children, Nicole and Christopher. As part of this transition, Edward thought it was a good time for a new job. Edward’s Godfather suggested that he should put his woodshop classes to good use and start by making cabinets. That one suggestion lit the flame, and Edward began applying to every carpenters union in San Jose. The unions were racially segregated and had their own ideas of who they wanted in their unions. “Many of these unions had more of a homogeneous membership than a country club, churches, or trade associations. Even though these members differ in age, skill levels, job classifications, and sex” (Bok and Dunlop, 111). After applying everywhere he tried a few more options, until he came to the Carpenters Union #405 and a man of the name Bill Tracy hired him right on the spot. This seemed to be just a job at the moment, but later Edward would realize that Bill’s confidence in him would set up his whole career in the union.

Preparing for his first day at the carpenters union, he did not know what to expect. He did not know if he should bring tools, what to wear, or even if he was supposed to know what to do, because he didn’t. He went to his first day full of doubt and grateful that he got the job in the first place. On his first day he did labor for other carpenters. He continued with the job as an apprentice for the next four years there. Slowly he built himself up in the office. He became a labor representative who went to job sites to make sure that the owners were paying their employees what they should be. After his promotion, he also started to work in the office in charge of the Carpenter’s Trust Fund. He helped distribute pension money to the retired carpenters and help them with retirement needs. In 1997, Edward became a representative for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This organization was founded in 1929; it was created to defend the rights of Hispanics when they were denied basic civil and human rights. According to the LULAC information website, “LULAC has fought for full access to the political process and equal educational opportunity for all Hispanics. LULAC councils across the United States hold voter registration drives, citizenship awareness sessions, sponsor health fairs, tutorial programs, and raise scholarship money.” (“LULAC History”)This organization inspired and drove Edward to help other young Hispanics who may have been in the same place he was at one point. From his first job as an apprentice at carpenters union, he was able to create a stable job for forty five years until he retired from the Carpenters Union.

Edward accomplished all of this during turbulent times for Mexican American workers. “The relatively small Latino immigrant population in Northern California had a greater need to propagate higher education, occupational focus and increased income potential for first and second generation Mexican immigrants living in the Bay Area hoping to earn a fair wage”(Milkman,17). The union acted like a hub for many minorities desiring to make a decent living in the Bay area. Many minorities sought representation from the union to keep well financed employers from exploitation. According to Derick Bok and John Dunlop, “A union has greater power over individuals and minoriti9es than most other private associates, since the contract it negotiates bind all of the employees to the union. (Bok and Dunlop, 93)
Being of Mexican descent, Edward struggled speaking only broken Spanish with an American accent. Many Mexicans from Mexico labeled him as Americanized, and many Americans had fought stereo types depicting Mexican Americans as un-educated and less capable. When Edward first became a labor representative, he had a lot of trouble going to Santa Cruz and Marina County where there was primarily white employers to deal with. Most of the time he would experience harsh words and threats of violence because they did not like having a young Hispanic man telling them what to do. With stereo typing by both cultures made Edward even more determined to secure a position with in his career that would show him to be as educated and well informed as he was. The Carpenters Union afforded him the ability to provide for his family and gave him a sense of security that was unprecedented in that era. For Edward, discriminatory practices only fueled his passion to be a voice for those who could speak for themselves, and to advocate for Mexican Americans who were struggling.

Researching deeper into Edward Delgado’s life here in California has truly opened my eyes into what one can accomplish with hard work and by fighting the odds that are against you. I am privileged and honored to be able to say this man a part of my history. As my grandfather, he shows that hard work really does pay off and he has passed that life lesson to his children, and they to their children. I am full Mexican American and never held the knowledge of what it was really like to be someone wholooked like me fifty years ago. Now, I have the pride and knowledge to see what my ancestors went through and their fight to have what they wanted here in California. I now, aspire to be even half of what my Great grandmother Nacha and Papa Edward were in their own California dream. I hope to continue into my dream of graduating from college and becoming a children psychologist and a living testament of what a Mexican American is capable of now in two thousand and thirteen in California.

Works Cited

Bok, Derek C. and Dunlop, John T. Labor and the American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1970. Print.
“LULAC History- All for One and One for All.” History (2013): page 34. LULAC. Web. 4 Dec 2013.
Payne, Stephen M. Santa Clara County: Harvest of Change. Northridge, Ca: Windsor Publications, 1987. Print.
Milkman, Ruth. Organizing Immigrants: The Challenge for Unions in Contemporary California. New York: Cornell University Press, 2000. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Betty Kelly

Betty Kelly Presentation Poster, by Cassandra Caldwell
Oral history by: Cassandra Caldwell
Submitted December 2013

Print Version (pdf)

Betty Kelly came to Gilroy at age three from Manteca, California. She went to Elliot Elementary School then moved up to Jordan Middle School and finally graduated from Gilroy High School. After high school, she was hired by the Gilroy Telephone Company. Betty tells stories and shares her knowledge of her grandparent’s ranch, the Johnson Ranch, which they had owned and operated until her grandfather’s death. She also shares her knowledge of how Gilroy used to be like. Her grandmother’s ranch and the history of Gilroy are the focus of this oral history interview.

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Cassandra Caldwell
History 3

Betty Kelly

Betty Kelly was born on August 27, 1929 in Manteca, California. She is the second child of Bessie Johnson Bowen and George Russell Bowen. Her maternal grandparents were Albert and Kate Johnson. Her paternal grandparents were George and Mary Bowen. She has an older brother named Gordon Russell Bowen. Betty was three years old when she first came to Gilroy. She went to school at Elliot Elementary School for kindergarten through third grade then to Jordan Middle School for fourth to ninth grade. After that she went to Gilroy High School until she graduated in 1947. As a child, Betty loved to go to Moo Cow with her brother and buy a ten cent milkshake that filled up two and half glasses with thick, frothy and creamy milkshake. She also loved to go fishing at a spot just past Carmel called Garrapatas. Betty started driving when she was eighteen years old and her first car was a 1950 Chevy. The Gilroy Telephone Company hired Betty to be their operator right after she graduated from high school and she worked with them for forty years. She retired after forty years and didn’t hold another job but she does volunteer at the museum when she can.

Betty’s grandmother from her mother’s side came from Sydney, Australia while her grandfather from her mother’s side came from Missouri. They met somewhere on the way to California and that led to marriage. Betty’s grandparents worked hard until they were able to afford a ranch. They bought a ranch on Pacheco Pass. They married in 1887 and had fifteen children. Albert died on July, 1912 from a heart attack. After he died, his wife couldn’t manage the ranch so she sold it and moved into a beautiful house on Rosanna Street in Gilroy. Their children would marry and live somewhere else after their dad died, except for a couple of the boys who moved in with their mother to help with chores and also held jobs in town.

On the ranch, they raised cattle, sheep, goats and chickens and kept a garden of their own. Their cattle was most likely branded since that is an common practice according to Roosevelt, The cattle are usually branded on the hip, shoulder, and side with different types of brands (17). Ranching was very heavily based on weather, unusually cold winters usually destroyed crops and made it harder to maintain livestock. According to Roosevelt, unusual storms and droughts can really harm cattle if they aren’t sheltered (78). One of the most important minerals that livestock needed was salt and a woman that Schackel interviewed confirms it, “One of the very important parts of raising livestock is packing salt. (Schackel 25) Farmers often grew their own food and rarely ever needed to go to the store except for toiletries” (Schackel 25). According to Terra, “It’s actually important just like minerals and vitamins [are] for you to have. And the salt’s important for the cattle to have” (Schackel 21).

The girls would wake up way before dawn to get breakfast started. The boys would wake up shortly after and eat breakfast with their whole family. Their breakfast was usually huge because they needed a big meal to start their long day at the ranch. According to Roosevelt, “We breakfast early—before dawn when the nights have grown long, and rarely later than sunrise even in midsummer. Perhaps before this meal, certainly the instant it is over, the man whose duty it is rides off to hunt up and drive in the saddle band” (27).

After breakfast, the boys would go out and start working in the fields and take care of livestock, while the girls would start on cleaning and maintaining a household as well as the barn. A woman that Schackel interviewed, Blunt, complains about the common roles of women back then. “Sons most often inherited management of the land, went into partnership with their fathers, or received the father’s financial support in starting their own farming operations. These opportunities were not available to most women, as Judy Blunt painfully discovered” (29). Betty also confirmed that women did not have many choices to choose from back then. She also mentioned that women was treated unfairly which Betz , a woman that Schackel interviewed confirmed, “I became more aware as we were in college and thought about some of those things because it was in the forefront about women and about how unfairly we had been treated. I really felt this and I could see it more and more all the time” (33). Betz did not like the restrictions that women had to endure because they were made out to be inferior to men “I had always felt that it was unfair when I was growing up that all got to do was sew for 4-H and cook. And I hated sewing; cooking was OK, but I couldn’t have an animal, like all the boys had animals” (33). However, Betty didn’t really seem to mind since she found the job she loved to do and no one really had problems with her doing the job she was doing but she probably would have had problems with it if people didn’t like her doing jobs that were traditionally considered as a man.

Betty mentions that the farm is a great way to raise children due to the amount of work that was shared by family members which instilled work ethic in their children. So farmers raised hard working children and all of the women that Schackel interviewed confirms what Betty said, “All of the women I spoke with had children or stepchildren and uniformly declared that a farm is a great place to raise children. Doing things together is a way of life for agriculture families. No one “sleeps in” in these households.” Betty talked about how her family split up chores between their fifteen children so did the other women as well, “Children rise early to milk cows or do other chores before heading off to school and face more work when they return in the afternoon. Wives get breakfast for the family; put dinner in the Crockpot and head out for the barn or the fields” (11). The Johnson family worked until sunset and they didn’t take any breaks other than lunch and dinner to help them maintain the energy they needed to keep working and once they couldn’t do anymore for the day they all went to bed to rest up for the next day.

Betty’s parents married in Gilroy and had a child, Gordon Russell Bowen, who is Betty’s older brother. Betty’s father then got transferred over to Manteca, where Betty was born. They lived there for a few years until he died. Then Betty’s mother moved back to Gilroy when Betty was only three years old. Betty’s family on her mother’s side were all living in or near Gilroy so her mother moved back to Gilroy after Betty’s feather died. Betty was only three years old when they moved back and her mother had lots of support from her family. Betty talks fondly about her uncle who was always keeping an eye on her and she grew up here and never lived anywhere else after moving back to Gilroy with her mother.

When Betty was a little girl, Gilroy only had roughly four thousand people. So Gilroy was a lot smaller. The boundaries were Sixth Street, Monterey Street, Rosanna Street, and the rail road tracks. When they expanded Gilroy they would not listen to the old timers so the areas past Sixth Street always got flooded until they put in a drain ditch. In the nineteen hundreds most people didn’t have cars; they either walked or rode horses. So there were some businesses that sold saddles, harnesses and other necessities for horse owners (Woollacott 6). Monterey road was paved in 1913 a little before Betty was born, so she wouldn’t remember how Monterey road used to look like (Woollacoot 31). Also before Monterey road was completely paved, the city council required the Gilroy Telephone Company to remove all of the telephone poles from Monterey road so they could add in some sidewalks. The Gilroy Telephone Company ended up putting the wires either underground or they moved it elsewhere (Woollacott 32). The Gilroy historical society formed on April 29th 1966. They were formed so they could preserve Gilroy and the history of Gilroy (Woollacott 63). The Historical society was going to work to preserve the library and the old City Hall by turning the library into a museum and the City Hall into something else (Woollacott 71). But the Historical society never paid the rent for the old city hall so the city ended up restoring the city hall with the help of the local people who raised enough money to meet the condition the city council set forth (Woollacott 74). Betty now volunteers at the Historical Museum to keep the history of Gilroy alive and in turn works with the Historical Society to gather and organize information about Gilroy as well as surrounding local towns. Some of the history that were gathered up and organized was what happened to the old City Hall. The old City Hall turned into a restaurant that was decorated with antique historical artifacts that they agreed to maintain and conserve (Woollacott 79). Unfortunately shortly afterwards, history decided to repeat itself and another major earthquake occurred in 1989, just like it did in 1906 (Woollacott 95). The city then decided to shut down the restaurant in the old city hall indefinitely (Woollacott 95). Gilroy is proud to say that its old city hall is very unique because its structure cannot be matched since there are not any buildings like it anywhere, so it is being appreciated and preserved for its physical merits alone (Woollacott 99). There was a strong outcry and hue to save the building when it was under threat in the 1960s (Woollacott 99). Some people even said that they would scream if anyone talked of demolishing it because it is so unique, they haven’t seen anything else like it anywhere else (Woollacott 99). Betty loves her city so much that she probably was a member of the group who did not want to see the old city hall torn down.

Works Cited
Roosevelt, Theodore. Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, Inc, 1966. Print.
Schackel, Sandra K.. Working the Land. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001. Print.
Angela Woollacoot, Carroll Pursell and Chuck Myer. Cupertino: California History Center and Foundation, De Anza College, 1991. Print.

Janet Burback

Oral history by: Robert Ellison
Submitted December 4, 2012

Listen to Robert Ellison’s Interview of Janet Burback

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TILTON RANCH, 1917: Madrone, CA

The Janet Burbacks of this state are a dying breed. A fourth generation cattle rancher, she is one of a handful who are still family owned in Santa Clara County. She vows to continue as long as it is financially feasible and physically attainable. So how did Tilton Ranch get its beginning?

In 1917 Janet’s great grandparents were running cattle on 30,000 acres in Gilroy and decided to retire. Retired they did not stay and they purchased 3200 acres in the township of Madrone, just north of Morgan Hill. In the late 1920’s the ranch was passed to their daughter Lillie Tilton and her husband Jere Sheldon. They continued to operate the ranch until 1960 when Jere passed away. Lillie with the help of her daughter Barbera Sheldon and her husband Harold Baird ran the ranch till 1993 when Lillie passed away one month shy of her 100th birthday. Harold, Janet’s father, passed away in 2005 with Janet and her husband Greg Burback taking over the daily affairs with help from her sister Barbera.[dropdown_box expand_text=”Information” show_more=”Show More” show_less=”Show Less” start=”hide”]

Janet Burback was born on June 5, 1962 along with her twin brother at Wheeler Hospital in Gilroy. They had the honor of being the first babies born there. Since Morgan Hill didn’t have a hospital, the nearest one was in Gilroy. This is still true today. There were a total of 5 kids in Janet’s family and all of them pursued jobs in the Ag business at one time with a sister who is a brand inspector for the State of Ca. and a brother who is still ranching.

Married with two kids, Janet hopes to one day pass the torch to the next generation. She has a daughter attending Montana State in Boseman , Montana who majors in ranch management along with a son at Sobrato High here in Morgan Hill. It is in their teens where the kids are bitten with the 4H or more often the FFA bug, which teaches the young students responsibilities required in caring for livestock as well as being future spokesmen for the Ag business. Janet has approximately 13 students from 2 High schools who are raising steers at Tilton Ranch who will sell them at the summer fairs. These are good kids who spend 7 days a week with their animals. Being that she was in FFA has given Janet an appreciation for the program and it shows with the passion she shares with the kids. I now would like to share some of Janet’s early recollections of school and how it was being a ranch girl at school.

Janet shared that when she went to school there were plenty of Ag kids so no one really messed with them. Sure there were a few fights or two with the city kids but we had strength in numbers. Remember Janet said, ” Morgan Hill was a one stop light town of 6,ooo residents and you didn’t need radios for communication because everybody knew each other and if you got in trouble your parents knew before you got home.” She misses the times when you could walk to your neighbor’s house and that you could trust everybody. Times were changing, as one summer Janet recalls they built 42 custom homes on 5-acre parcels so with the push in population also came the need for more schools. ” At Live Oak we had split shifts as in my sophomore year I went in the afternoon, my junior year I went in the mornings, and my senior year we went all day with the completion of the new Live Oak High School.”

Fast forward today, you have 38,000 residents of M.H. where the city dwellers have overrun the Ag kids as you might have 10 out of 60 on the school bus who still live in the country. “My kids had it much tougher than I did as they got picked on,” Janet remembers as the power in numbers shifted to the city kids.

After graduating from high school, Janet moved out of the house and was independent at the young age of 18. To support herself she worked her way up to supervisor at Burger King working a swing/graveyard shift. Other jobs she has held, she has worked at Nob Hill Foods and has worked on a ranch in Canada where she operated heavy machinery. It was there that she figured if she could drive big equipment she could certainly drive a school bus and got a job with Morgan Hill Unified and drove for eighteen years leaving to run Tilton Ranch upon her fathers passing.

Tilton Ranch is a cow/calf operation established in 1917 which today produces Herefords, Shorthorns, and a Angus Cross calves. All replacement cows are taken from Janet’s own stock refusing to buy outside which assures the quality of her calves. The goal is to produce 140 calves but like many aspects of ranching it is up to Mother Nature. Janet puts her bulls out in early December and after do their business all that is left for the bulls to do is fight and determine who is top bull. This pecking order is done often which leads to the high mortality rates of bulls. Calves are born in Sept./Oct. in which Janet shoots for less than 10% “open cows” where there is no calf to be born. She does preg test her cows and has been able to meet her goals of less than 10% and has been blessed with several twin births.

The spring is the busiest time for the cattle rancher where the new calves get their shots and are branded. As you can imagine, this is very labor intensified as family and friends are all solicited to help out. Janet actually prefers the city folks who don’t know anything who are very teachable compared to the local rancher who is set in his or her ways. The day begins with a hearty breakfast cooked by a hired chef who will serve lunch and dinner as well. First off is the roundup of the new calves. At Tilton Ranch this is done with the women on horseback and the men on the ATV’S, or all terrain vehicles. The cattle are gathered and the calves are separated from their mothers. Everybody has a specific job assignment and you are expected to not deviate from that position. This allows an assembly line production.

Once in the chute, the calf is led to a table where its head is secured and the calf is flipped over and given the 3 shot vaccine which will protect them from black leg, shipping fever, and pink eye. It is here while the animal is upside down where the castration takes place if needed. Janet still brands her animals, as do 17 of the Western States. Branding consists of the traditional mark in the right hindquarter but also includes the ear mark where a notch is cut out in the ear, which is usually similar to your brand. Since hair grows over your brand on the hindquarter it is important to have other identification. Tilton Ranch also uses a ear tag button which has a 10-digit number attached which identifies it as Tilton Ranch stock. When the calves are sold, a wand is run over the ear identifying the owner. This method of identification has reduced thefts and increased the ranchers tracking methods.

I asked Janet about cattle being extremely harmful to the land and she told me as long as you don’t overgraze and you give the land time to rest and grow more grass the cattle can be used to keep the grasses low and the fire risk as well. She commented that when you have too many animals on piece of land and they are not moved, it is then when you have destructive ranching practices, which she is totally against, Water on the ranch comes from springs that change in location as the earth moves. On one location on the ranch the water comes out of a tree stump. There are three ponds as well as a couple troughs that make up the watering holes for the cattle.

So what does the future hold for Tilton Ranch? Janet hopes that her daughter or son will take over when she and her husband are ready to hang it up. The regulations are making it very hard to continue. California is the toughest state to do business in with tractor equipment required to have 3 tier engines to deal with emissions when your car is polluting much more just in sheer numbers. The Bay Area is not friendly to ranchers, but Santa Clara County is a bit more friendlier. “Without the Williamson Act we could not continue,” said Janet. The Williamson Act allows tax breaks to ranchers with more than 40 acres who have made more than $2000 for the year from their property. “We are land rich and cash poor,” Janet says. To subsidize their income they lease to Coyote Valley Sporting Clays which is a skeet-shooting club on the ranch. They also manage other properties growing hay, where they get the hay and the rancher keeps his land in compliance with the fire dangers. It’s a win-win proposition. You don’t get into ranching to get rich; it’s in your blood. I hope that Tilton Ranch becomes a 5th generation, family owned ranch, which preserves some of the landscape of Santa Clara County.

I really enjoyed my visits to Tilton Ranch and talking to Janet and know that if I gave her a call and wanted to visit that she would welcome me. I really learned quite a bit about the operations in running a cattle ranch.

Robert Ellison [/dropdown_box]

Eugene Victor Routen

Oral history by: Justin Brager
Date submitted: December 4, 2012

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I interviewed my great-grandfather Eugene Victor Routen. He is a survivor of the Dust Bowl and a WWII veteran. He went on to make the military his career.

Eugene was born at home in Seminole, Oklahoma, on April 17, 1919. It was Easter Sunday that year. He had two older brothers, Jesse and William. There were two little girls but they died as babies. Two years after Eugene’s birth, Raymond was born. His papa was a share-cropper. He had to give part of whatever they grew to the landowner every harvest-time. Times were always hard. He remembers having only one pair of overalls to wear–nothing else, no shoes, nothing. They were so very poor. The families picked cotton, all of them, to make a little extra money to get by. He recalled that when he was six, he had to drag a big long sack, picking cotton and crying, but not willing to quit. The boys finally got shoes when the weather got very cold and frosty. Eugene started to go to school in the second grade but quickly caught up, borrowing books so he could do his homework. He looked up to his teachers as people with knowledge of a wider world, and he wanted that.
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The family struggled along, living hand-to-mouth. His papa managed to keep everyone fed from year to year. Then in 1931, when Eugene was 12 years old, a drought hit his farm. The drought started killing off the crops. There was no rain. His papa would plant corn in the fields and by the time it was three feet tall, it was drooping and wilting. He was smarter than some folks, though. Eugene’s papa cut it all down and made hay out of it to feed the animals. The family had a mule or two and a cow, along with some chickens. The heat was so bad in Oklahoma by this time, Eugene and his family could see the dust clouds north of their farm. Where they lived in central Oklahoma they didn’t get much of the dust. But the problem for them was without water there was no way to make a living. So his papa decided that they were going to California like a lot of other people were doing. On August 28th, 1931, they packed up a Chevy his papa had bought for $ 70. His Papa had sold the mules, the wagon, the plow, the cow and the chickens. All of the money went into buying that car.

When they finally got driving they took Route 66 out to California. Eugene says they called it a highway but it really wasn’t. It might be paved going through a town, but the rest of the time it was dirt. Sometimes it was washboard rough. Eugene said it was, “rough enough to shake your teeth out.” Their car averaged 20 miles an hour. It took the family 11 days to get from
Seminole, Oklahoma to California. Along the way, they slept wrapped in blankets on the ground. They ate what they brought. Eugene’s mother made pancakes or biscuits and they would have that with syrup.

When they got to California in early September, they went to Santa Rosa because they had relatives there. They cut grapes and picked cotton. Then, they went down to Chowchilla and Fresno, following some of the Bramletts, Eugene’s mama’s people. Then they went to Phoenix, Arizona because they heard there was cotton to be picked there. After Phoenix, everyone moved right back to Oklahoma by January. When they arrived back in Oklahoma, they found they had nothing there. Eugene said, “It was the worst decision because there was nothing left.” When they arrived at what had been their farm they found no buildings at all. There was just evidence of a fire. After asking around Eugene’s papa found out that the wife of someone he had once had a disagreement with had decided to go out to their farm and burn everything down after they left. The sad thing was that his papa and the man had solved there disagreement unknown to the wife. So they had to live with friends. His papa’s health began to fail. He had cancer in his intestines. Eugene’s father couldn’t work anymore, so he did the only thing he could do which was to become a bootlegger. Eugene’s oldest brother Jesse helped in this. Eugene decided it was not the life for him because he saw no future in it. It was illegal and he believed that education was his only way to better himself. His papa passed away in 1933.

Eugene learned all he could in high school in Oklahoma and told his mama that after he graduated he was going back to California no matter what. In 1937 he graduated as valedictorian. He wanted to go back because he remembered how green and lush it was. He also hoped to find a college there. In that same year, Eugene, along with his mother, his three brothers, and a cousin, packed up what they had. They bought a 1928 four-door Pontiac for $25 and headed out to California again.

This time, they went to Visalia, a small town in a large agricultural area. They decided to go here not only because there was family there but also there was a junior college. Eugene picked tomatoes, apricots, and peaches. His brothers were picking too. In time, they were able to rent a small house. They became financially stable enough to buy a decent car to get around in. The $25 dollar Pontiac they initially purchased had barely made it to their destination. However, the older two boys wouldn’t let Eugene and Raymond drive that car they helped purchase. So Eugene and Raymond studied up on their driving skills and bought a $15 Pontiac and went to the DMV to obtain their own licenses. Then, Eugene and Raymond demanded to drive the other car, but their brothers still wouldn’t let them drive. Eugene didn’t want to spend his life picking fruit and cotton. One day, he went into town to the grocery store and applied for a job. He was hired. In the fields and orchards he worked 10 hours a day for 22 ½ cents per hour. On that day, he got his very first 9 to 5 job.

One day in 1939 he was listening to the radio and he heard that Germany had invaded Poland. He knew that war was coming. There was no way around it. The United States would get into it. After Eugene heard this, he went to his mama and told her he was going to enlist in the National Guard. In October of 1940, he joined the California National Guard. In March of 1941, the regiments were mobilized as part of the 40th Division, which meant the National Guard became the Army. Eugene was part of the 185th Infantry Regiment. After all this he went down to San Luis Obispo to train. He found that the military was, and still is, very structured. It operates on a system of chain of command. This structure especially goes down to how soldier’s day is planned. For the first time in Eugene’s life he lived within a structured system. He got regular pay. It wasn’t a lot, but it was regular. Eugene got medical and dental care. He had a purpose. He would serve Uncle Sam. There was a certain security in that. He knew where he fit. He liked that.

Then the Army gave him orders to go a base in Los Angeles. One day when he was on leave visiting at his mother’s house, he and his brother were listening to the radio and his brother asked him where Pearl Harbor was located. Eugene said he knew of the place but never been there and asked what happened, and that’s when he found out that the naval base known as Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. Eugene said, “I sensed that there was going to be a war because of the actions of the American government.” Then, in 1942, Eugene got orders to move to Hawaii for further training.

Form there, Eugene went to Ft. Benning, Georgia, where he became an instructor in tactics and strategy. Then in 1944, his regiment was deployed to the Philippines. This is where he found out that war is a horrible thing. He said, “If someone that was in a war says they were not scared, they were lying.” Since this war was in a jungle it was very difficult because the enemy could be right in front of you, out of sight or in a tree. This made it hard on Eugene and all of the soldiers. When he was there he received a battlefield commission moving his rank to lieutenant. He was an enlisted man and moved up to lieutenant which is an officer due to the officers getting killed. One story Eugene told me was about when company before them said they captured an airport. The commander told Eugene to go to the airport and set up a guard. Obeying his commanding officer, Eugene and his platoon set up guard at the airport. It was nearly night and everyone was digging foxholes. Eugene and his radio man had dug a hole big enough for the both of them to fit in. Once the hole was almost done, Eugene told his radio man to get in the hole and that he would be back. Eugene told him that he had to go talk to someone a little ways away. Once Eugene got there and was talking to them, a shell flew through the air and landed in the hole he was supposed to be in and instantly exploded, killing his radio man.

Another story he told me was when they were in Mindanao in the Philippines. He said they were doing a patrol alongside a river when they saw a boat with six men in it rowing toward them. Worried, he sent his troops into cover. He continued to watch the boat and said he was going to get them out to talk to them and if they try anything funny to shoot them. When the boat got close, Eugene ordered the natives to come out of the boat. They did as they were told and got out. Eugene noticed that one man was carrying a bag. Eugene asked them what was in the bag and the native dumped the bag at his feet and three Japanese heads plopped out. The native headhunters said that he had brought the heads for Eugene. He asked them how they got their heads and the native said that they were sleeping and they just chopped their heads off. Eugene had many close calls but fortunately was never wounded. Then, one day he got news through the radio daily and found out that the Japanese surrendered.

He finally returned to California in 1946. Once out of the service, Eugene did not know what to do and immediately wanted to reenlist. He got a job digging post holes for the Edison Company in the valley. He didn’t like this and rejoined the Army. It was easy to do this because the Army had released too many officers and since he was an officer they welcomed him back. After getting back in the Army he was stationed at Ft. Lewis Washington as a member of the 23rd infantry. During that time period he was sent to Ladd Field Air Base Alaska for six months as company commander in 1948. Then in 1950, he was stationed at Ladd Field Air Base until getting orders for Saginaw, Michigan in 1953. There he served as a National Guard Advisor and Army Reserves Organizer. In 1954 after taking a brief class in chemical warfare, Eugene received orders for Iceland and was there for one year. After returning to Iceland he went to Georgia and then to Ft. Ord in California, where he served as staff training officer for two years. In 1959 through 1961, he was head of the ROTC in the Long Beach High Schools in Southern California. In part of 1961 and 1962 he was the Professor of Military Science at Brown Military academy in Glendora, California. In 1963 Eugene he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

After his military career, he decided to sell real estate in 1964. He did this for years doing very well for himself until the market cooled down. After this, he worked in the mortuary in Pacific Grove doing all kinds of necessary jobs.

My great-grandfather went from being a very poor share-cropper’s son to having an honorable career in the U.S. Army and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was a Dust Bowl refugee when he was very young. He and his family came to California with little more than the clothes on their backs. I am inspired by him and how he always wanted the better for himself and his family. As a boy, he knew there was a better life out there for him. He believed education was the key. Once WWII started, and he found himself in the U.S. Army, he planned how to become an officer. Though not in his original plans, the U.S. Army was a good fit for him and he made it his career. I learned from him that it is important to have goals and remain motivated to achieve those goals, but if things change, one has to be flexible and see what opportunities there is in another direction. [/dropdown_box]

Bonnie and Dave Robeson

Oral history by: Yvonne Yurek
Date submitted: December 4, 2012

Listen to Yvonne Yurek’s Interview of Bonnie and Dave Robeson

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Bonnie Robeson was born in Minot, North Dakota and has six siblings (3 boys and 3 girls). Her Mother is originally from Puerto Rico and when her father was stationed in San Juan, he met Bonnie’s mother, married her and brought her back to the United States. The family would move from state to state due to her father being in the service, but finally they settled in San Jose, California. Bonnie remembers when South San Jose was all orchards and recalled how homes started to be rapidly built resulting in most of the orchards being torn down. Bonnie attended Andrew Hill High School and participated in a lot of extracurricular activities such as: swim club, synchronized swimming, getting her Red Cross certification and even cheerleading. She also recalled doing some fun things with her family like piling into a station wagon to go on camping trips or up to Lake Tahoe. After high school, Bonnie took a lot of business classes in hopes of being a secretary. Bonnie met her future husband Dave when she was in high school and he was in College. Dave happened to be a good friend of Bonnie’s best friend’s boyfriend and so they were set up on a blind date, got to know each other and started to date. One of the things they would do together in Morgan Hill was go to the Circle Drive-In or the A&W where care hops came out to the car to get your order. [dropdown_box expand_text=”Information” show_more=”Show More” show_less=”Show Less” start=”hide”]

Dave was born in Oklahoma, but moved to California when he was 9 months old in 1942. Dave’s mother was of Irish decent, while his father was a mix of Cherokee Indian, Irish, German and a few other ethnicities as well. Dave’s family made the decision to move to California because of the negative effects of the Dust Bowl. Their plan was to come to California where there was more abundant agricultural work and eventually travel back to Oklahoma for good. Unfortunately, the house Dave’s family owned in Oklahoma burned down and a lot of their belongings were stolen, so they made the decision to permanently reside in San Martin, California. Dave attended San Martin Grammar School until the 8th grade, Live Oak High School until the 12th grade and attended San Benito College in Hollister. Throughout high school, Dave excelled in sports; he even clenched a scholarship for college on baseball and basketball. One of the things Dave loved to do for fun was race cars on the raceway in Fremont. After Bonnie graduated high school, Dave went into the National Guard where he traveled to Kentucky for basic training and then served for 6 months. When he got out, he married Bonnie and still was in the reserves for three years where he would have to travel to camp for two weeks. After he got out of the National Guard, Dave went to work in the grocery business. First, he worked at a market that the Bonfante’s used to own, but when business started getting slow he went to work for Nob Hill for five years. Back then, Nob Hill was a general store where you could buy groceries, clothes etc. Suddenly, Alpha Beta was opening up in Morgan Hill, so Dave moved their and became a manager, worked there for thirty five years and then retired. Along with her husband, Bonnie worked for Alpha Beta for twenty nine years starting out part time at first so that she could be with her children. Later, Bonnie eased into full time at Alpha Beta as her children were all in school full time as well.

Bonnie resided in San Jose until she married Dave and that’s when the couple decided to reside in San Martin. They married in 1964, had their first child in 1965 and rented a house until they were ready to buy one in 1969. Eventually when their third child was born, Bonnie and Dave bought another home in Morgan Hill off of Watsonville Road because their current house was too small. They lived there for fourteen years until Dave decided he wanted a house and property with more land so that he could grow crops and farm. They found a house for sale on Murphy Avenue in Morgan Hill and bought it in 1984. Right away they started growing crops and attaining animals such as cows, pigs and chickens on their property. They raise the pigs and cows and butcher them for meat and share/distribute it with their family and friends. They would also use the chickens as a source of fresh farm eggs. Finally, Dave and Bonnie got rid of the animals on the farm so that Dave was free to grow an abundant amount of tomatoes. The strong love for tomatoes was ingrained in the family through generation and generation.

Dave started growing tomatoes with no thought in mind to sell them; he just wanted to grow in order to provide for his family and friends. Dave was extremely knowledgeable about tomatoes, but never went to school to learn about agriculture. Instead, Dave took what he learned from his parents, magazines, reading and researching and put it all into his work with tomatoes. He did not use pesticides or any other unnatural chemicals in producing his crops and this made a huge difference in their quality and taste. Dave started off experimenting with different seeds and kinds of tomatoes and got a feel for what worked for him and the environment and what did not. Each year, whatever type of tomato did well during the season, Dave would save the seeds and plant them the next season. He even built a hot house where he would plant the seeds and watch them grow until they were ready to be transferred into the ground. After some time, people would ask Dave if he was planning on selling his tomatoes but wasn’t ready; he would let people come, pick and take what they wanted. Later, Dave got the idea to grow more crops and start making a tiny business out of it and start selling. A few hundred crops turned into a thousand, which turned into fifteen- hundred, which eventually turned into over two- thousand.

By 1996 Dave made a business out of his tomatoes. He had held jobs simultaneously, but was really dedicated to his work on the farm. The main crop and showstopper were Dave’s tomatoes, but he grew and sold other things as well like: eggplant, squash and peppers. Dave worked extremely hard and did majority of the work himself, but when it became “picking time”, he hired help which usually consisted of his family, children and grandchildren. Dave advertised his tomatoes on the streets of Morgan Hill and even strategically placed a sign for people driving on the freeway to see. The tomatoes started attracting a lot of attention and word of “Dave’s Famous Tomatoes” spread like wildfire. People from all over the bay area and travelers from out of state would make their way to get tomatoes and most customers came back year after year after year. Modern technology (such as Facebook) also sparked interest and attained more customers for Dave. In 2010, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle visited Dave and Bonnie’s home to talk about the tomatoes and write an article about them. She followed Dave, took pictures and asked questions about the tomatoes and even revealed that she heard about how good the tomatoes were from her mother-in-law who stopped by the stand to purchase some.

Unfortunately, this year is the last year that “Dave’s Famous Old Tomatoes” stand will be selling tomatoes. Growing tomatoes takes a lot of hard work and dedication and there just simply isn’t enough time for anyone to be as persistent and involved with the crop as Dave was. It’s amazing how one man working the land could produce something so remarkable that it touched the lives of people from all over; but that’s exactly what Dave did and it will not be forgotten. [/dropdown_box]

Frances Palmtag

Oral history by: Deborah McDonald
Date submitted: December 10, 2012

Listen to Deborah McDonald’s Interview of Frances Palmtag

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Frances Palmtag was born in Hollister, California on December 5, 1921. Her parents were Carl and Myrtle (O’Conner) Palmtag. She had two sisters, Hazel born (June 2, 1923) and Charlsie born (July 10, 1931). Her maternal grandparents were Benjamin and Mary (Niggle) O’Connor. Benjamin was of Irish descent from Offaly Ireland and Mary was of Swiss-German descent. Her paternal grandparents were Charles and Amelia (Krayer) Palmtag. Charles and Amelia were both born in Germany and came to America separately. Charles was from Emmendigen and Amelia was from Alsace-Lorraine. They were married in San Francisco. They settled in Hollister and had three children, Marie, Carl, and Muriel. They had a butcher shop in Los Banos. Frances believes her grandfather knew Henry Miller. They moved to Quien Sabe Ranch in Tres Pinos where Charles worked as a foreman. He saved his money and bought a ranch in Hollister and grew prunes, apricots and walnuts. He worked at both ranches for a while and when his son Carl came home from WWI he began working at the family ranch with his father. Carl was born on August 12, 1894 and married Myrtle O’Connor in February 1921. Myrtle was a California girl and was born in Hollister on August 4, 1891. Myrtle had a sister Ruby (Nyland) and a brother Benjamin. [dropdown_box expand_text=”Information” show_more=”Show More” show_less=”Show Less” start=”hide”]

Frances Palmtag never married nor had children and she still lives in Hollister, California. Hazel married Ed Medaugh but had no children. She lived in San Mateo, California. Charlsie married Dick Ross and had three children, Ron, Nancy (Joynt) and Andrew. She lived in New Jersey. Frances’ grandfather, Charles Freidrick Palmtag died in 1936 at UCSF hospital in San Francisco. Frances told me her grandfather could see the Golden Gate Bridge being built from his hospital room. Her father, Carl Palmtag died on September 10, 1976. Her mother, Myrtle (O’Connor) Palmtag died when she was about sixty years old (1951).

Frances lived with her family at 972 Monterey Street, not far from her grandparent’s ranch. Her grandmother had a large separate private garden for growing lots of fruits and vegetables for their family to enjoy. Frances remembers being about five years old and picking buckets of prunes for 5 cents. She and her sisters, when they were old enough, all worked on the ranch. Some of her cousins did as well. During the years of the Great Depression many families didn’t have much and Frances’ family struggled too but she remembers always having food on the table in large part due to her grandmother’s garden. They didn’t have many toys but did play jacks, kick-the-can, and hide-n-seek. They also had roller skates and her sister Hazel won a bicycle for selling subscriptions to the Evening Freelance Newspaper in Hollister. Frances didn’t have her own bike but would borrow her fathers and she and Hazel would ride around. Frances fell off the bike one day and broke many of her teeth.

Her best friends were Evelyn Litten and Katherine Frejulia. Frances went to Fremont grammar school in Hollister from first thru fifth grade. She started school when she was less than five years old. There was no kindergarten class so she went right into first grade. Her teacher’s name was Welcome Berry. Miss Berry was her teacher for first and second grade. Frances would walk to and from school every day and her favorite memory about elementary school was saluting the flag. She liked to dream about going somewhere exciting. A few summers, for one week, her mother, sisters, aunt and cousins stayed at a rented beach house in Capitola and got to play and have a wonderful vacation. Her father would drive them over and back while he continued to work at the ranch.

At harvest time her grandfather and father hired many families to work on the ranch. These families came year after year from the Central Valley but were originally from Arkansas and Oklahoma and had lost everything in the Dust Bowl. They would live in tents and in the barn. They enjoyed coming to Hollister because it was cooler than the Central Valley. Frances enjoyed playing with the children of the workers and would join them after work for campfires, playing kick-the-can, hide-and-seek and singing songs. Frances looks back and remembers them all as good people, and she had lots of fun! On days when there was no work to do the workers would go to the beach. This was a very special outing and the ocean was something they never saw in the South. Frances worked most of the summer doing her outside chores on the ranch but her inside chores were doing the dishes and setting the table.

Frances attended Hollister Grammar School from sixth thru eighth grade and remembers playing soccer. Frances then went on to Hollister High from ninth thru twelfth grade and graduated in 1939. She attended Hollister Junior College which is now Gavilan College and went on to graduate in 1943 from San Jose State University with a degree in education. While she was in college she lived at the YWCA with two roommates, Lois Braniard and another girl named Reatha. Two days after her twentieth birthday, Pearl Harbor was bombed and our country was at war during her college years. She remembers it being a somber time. She attended USO dances in Hollister and at Fort Ord. Occasionally, her mother Myrtle played the piano for the USO dance at the Veterans Building in Hollister.

After college Frances began teaching at Santa Rita School and then she left to work at the Navy Base in Hollister which was a supply station for the fighter and bomber units. Pilots would come in to the base for training or to relax during some off time. She worked in the office and met many people there and remembers it as a very busy place. She had two cousins who died in WWII, Robert Nyland and Everett (Jimmy) O’Conner. It was a sad time and she remembers back to her father talking about WWI. He was a proud member of the 2nd Infantry Division, Indianhead. He was a corporal and an acting Sergeant at Fort Lewis, Washington.

After the war ended the base closed down and Frances resumed teaching. She taught second grade on and off for many years in the Salinas, Monterey and Hollister School Districts. She took breaks from teaching and liked to branch out and try other types of jobs. She worked in an office and did accounting work for a few years and really enjoyed it.

Every spring in the 1960’s and 70’s Frances and her father Carl attended the cattle branding at the Melendy Ranch in Paicines. It was a big event and many friends and families from the area came to help.

Frances and her two sisters were all diagnosed with cancer in 1973; only Frances survived. She retired from teaching in 1977.

Sometime in the late 1970’s or early 80’s Frances was attending a night class at Gavilan College in Gilroy to learn Conversational German. The instructor had everyone in the class introduce themselves and when Frances said her name a lady in the class yelled out, “I know who you are! Your sister Hazel, who worked at Bay Meadows Race Track, told me she had a sister in the area.” Mary Kelly was the lady’s name and she owned Monterey Farm, a horse breeding farm in Hollister. She and Frances became friends and one day Mary asked Frances if she would like to work at the ranch. Frances accepted. She was in charge of naming the race horses and registering them and making sure they were not named something that was not authorized. She enjoyed it there and loved the horses. It was there that she began, for the first and only time in her life, using a computer.

Over the years, Frances enjoyed traveling with friends. She visited her grandfathers’ native Emmendigen, Germany a couple of times and had a really wonderful trip to Mexico, which she thought was so beautiful. She said that she would even like to back to Mexico.
The family property was lost to eminent domain in the 1950’s to make way for the addition to Hollister High School on Nash and Monterey. The family does still own about 20 acres.

I learned how the events of the “times” can really shape your life and experiences. Frances seems very resilient and takes life in stride. She is not sad or bitter and continues to enjoy her life. She has always pursued her interest and took chances more or less following her heart. She is so pleasant and inspiring and it has been wonderful getting to know her and to hear about what her life was like growing up in Hollister. I also learned about the role Hollister played during the war and its effect on the community; additionally, that there were many families like hers who were important in the agricultural development of San Benito County and in California.

Ted Minoru Kubota

Oral history by: Brett Jackson

Date submitted: December, 2011

While I was growing up my grandfather seemed to be a quiet, funny, hardworking man. As it came to be, he lived a very stressful life that was rich in experience, and discrimination, that helped make him the man he is today. Throughout the struggles he endured, he was still able to nurture the loving family he has now and still works hard every day. [dropdown_box expand_text=”Information” show_more=”Show More” show_less=”Show Less” start=”hide”]

Born on July 15th, 1925, in the beautiful town of Redwood City in California, he was the youngest of a family of six children. He was a normal boy with normal clothes, just jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of old shoes. At two years of age, my grandfather moved with his family to a little old wooden house in San Martin (which still exists on the Harvey Bear Historical site), with future prospects to sharecrop strawberries. Sharecropping is a technique used by farmers to successfully control a farm, by sharing the profit of a farm between the owner and a partner. San Martin is located between the low foothills of the valley, north of Gilroy. His mother did most of the cooking , while his father and mother worked hard every day on the farm. The children also helped work on the farm while they were not at school. They ate an assortment of stir fries with meat and many vegetables. He attended San Martin School, which was the local one room grammar school, located just down the street. The school still exists. No uniform was needed. The children brought their own lunches and attended class. He ate a jam sandwich just about every day during the week. The jam was homemade by his mother. The children looked forward to recess, where they were able to go out and play sports. In my grandfather’s case, he loved playing catch and tossing the pigskin around with his friends. There were many other Japanese children who attended the school, but that didn’t stop the other children from treating them differently. My grandfather encountered some discrimination during his first years of school. For example, children of other backgrounds would make fun of his Japanese accent. As time went on, about two years later, the ridicule had stopped. He had made many friends and other children began to treat him and other Japanese children with the same respect as the white children. Outside of school Ted did nothing but work, as he helped with the sharecropping business that was run on the farm he lived on. He worked hard everyday on the farm where they grew vegetables such as squash and broccoli; still, their main crop was strawberries. At the age of ten, Ted lost his father to cancer. Times were especially hard once his father was gone and could not support the family. With money made from the children working they were able to stay out of poverty.

After grammar school he attended Live Oak High School. During his junior year, World War Two interupted his studies. The U.S declared war on Japan, the day after the attacks on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Then, February 19th, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued the Executive Order 9066, which declared the exclusion of people of Japanese ancestry, from the west coast into internment camps. My grandfather and his family chose to move to Sanger, a nonrestricted area, located in the central valley of California. While in Sanger, my grandfather worked, helping maintain the vineyards, orchards, and fruit farm that was on a site that grew crops for the local farmers market. After two months at Sanger, he was sent to a relocation camp located in Arizona, near the Gila River, named Gila River Relocation Camp. At the camp they slept in barrack-like rooms and ate stew made from outside products such as different types of meat and vegetables, raised or grown elsewhere. He met many new friends. It was very hot in Arizona. While in Gila, he was required to answer a questionaire asking about his loyalty to the United States or Japan.The results of his answer sent him to another relocation camp, Tule Lake, California, away from his family. In Tule Lake, the internees were segregated into a special camp and considered potential enemies of this country. The name given them was the “No-No Boys”. The “No-No Boys”, answered no and no, to two specific questions about their loyalty to the United States. In result being forced to relocate to Tule Lake. The remainder of his family stayed in Gila, Arizona.

In a Supreme Court case in December 1944, the court decided that the exclusion order was unconstitutional. Just prior to the decisions, The War Relocation Authority had decided to begin closing camps, a process that lasted until 1946, after World War II had ended. At the end of his stay at Tule Lake, he decided to go to Japan. At the time, he had not realized that his mother in Gila asked him not to leave in a letter. Her letter was censored and parts marked out in black when he recieved it, so he had no idea what the letter really said. After the war my grandfather went to Japan to work. When he arrived in Japan, he went to the countryside where his relatives lived. Life was very hard for the people of Japan after the war. With limited food and lack of jobs in the country, he moved to the city to find work. Later he found work on an U.S Air Force base in Yokohama, Japan. He worked as a supervisor over the Japanese workers who cleaned and maintained the base. He worked as a supervisor because he was fluent in both Japanese and English. At this base is where he met my grandmother’s sister who later took him to her home to meet my grandmother. Ted married Tamako Suzuki in March 25, 1946. Tamako was a Japanese woman from Yokohama, Japan. In 1947, they had their first child and another soon after in 1950. In 1953, they moved back to California with their two children, to his mother and brother’s house in Reedley, to start farming once again. Once they moved back, they quickly settled and began farming again. Agriculture hadn’t changed much since he was gone, so he remembered many techniques for growing a variety of plants. He had to acquire new farming machines because their family was forced to sell their old machines when they were relocated. After living in Reedley for two years, Ted and Tamako decided to move to San Martin, to sharecrop with an Italian farmer, in the area now known as Tennant Station. The landowner was in charge of paying for maintenance, such as fixing the machinery and stocking supplies they needed. My grandfather was in charge of the labor force. Two years later in 1955, they had another child and in 1956 another one. In 1960 my grandmother and grandfather had their youngest of their five children.

After six years of sharecropping, my grandfather decided to go to the bank and get a loan so he could purchase his own land in San Martin, off Llagas Avenue. With his new land, that he now owned, he planned to row crop; vegetables, strawberries, and peppers were the crop of choice. Ted and his family maintained the rowcrops when the kids were not at school. He also had a side job every fall and winter at the Valley View dried fruit processing plant, in San Jose. He would work the night shift, when it was too dark to work on the farm to make extra money for his family. In 1977, his first son Ted Jr, convinced him that the flower buisness would provide him year round crops, and would make more profit. Sharecropping had its good and bad years, which sometimes left them in the red. Soon after, he decided to open a wholesale flower business named TK Farms. The business was quite successful until the rise of growing cost and competition around the world. After about fifteen years in the business, my grandparents decided to retire.

My grandfather still works in his own garden that provides food for his home. He continues to grow an assortment of row crops and fruit trees, which only takes up about a tenth of the land that he farmed years before. The land now consists of many greenhouses and fields, which he leases out to a local flower grower. My grandfather now has ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren to fill his life with joy and excitement. It is always my grandparents’ house, where we meet and have family get-togethers. My family strives to maintain tradition my grandfather all taught us.

The main challenge my grandfather faced was the fact that he had to endure internment due to racial prejudice. 110,000 Japanese-Americans had been in internment. These people were betrayed upon by their own country. Just, because you are of Japanese descent doesn’t mean you should be discriminated against in a way that took hundreds of lives from starvation or sicknesses. Ted realized, even at a young age that his Japanese ancestry made him standout from the kids of other descent. At a young age, in grammar school, he had been harassed because of his Japanese accent. Even as he grew older he had to face being discriminated against. Most of the difficulties he had been through in his life was due to racial prejudice. A big portion of his life he was in relocation camps when he could have been doing successful work elsewhere. One terror, he didn’t have to endure was the bombing by the United States Air Force on Japanese towns unlike his wife. The United States air raided towns throughout the war in the Pacific, including Yokohama, where his wife was raised. Despite all the struggles he went through, he still raised a family of many successes.

During the time I spent with my grandfather I learned how my family had struggled and survived through the betrayal by their own people. If my Grandfather had not worked hard and stayed committed to his family through these hard times, I wouldn’t be here now. I feel stronger now as a person knowing that I’m related to him. He is the reason I work hard every day to help my family and friends. I am very glad I did a report on my grandfather. It has taught me how strong my family is and what they went through to get here today.