June 20 and 27, 2003
Hanson: This is an interview with Mr. Howard Bates at his home in San Bernardino. Today is June 20, 2003, and this is Joyce Hanson for the San Bernardino Oral History Project. Good morning Mr. Bates.
BATES: Good morning.
Hanson: We're here to talk about your life in San Bernardino, so why don't you tell me what things stand out in your mind growing up in San Bernardino.
BATES: Well, there's so many things that I really don't know where to begin, but I was born in 1912, August the 14th in Sequoia Hospital, which doesn't exist now, but it used to be right across from the post office at 5th and "D" Street. According to my birth certificate, I think I had the first female doctor to bring me into this world. Her name was Dr. Johnson; that's what I've been told and it's on my birth certificate. I went to school in San Bernardino. I started in grammar grade school at age six down on Mountain View, a little place that later turned out to be Amy Semple McPherson's church. And in the third grade the first Lincoln Grammar School/Elementary School was built up on Baseline between Mountain View and Arrowhead. It faced Baseline. The Lincoln School that's in existence now faces 13th or Wabash I think. I went to Sturges Junior High School. At the time I became eligible for the 7th grade it was still under construction, but we went there anyway. I went there through the 7th, 8th and 9th grades. I remember we had to go to various little buildings throughout San Bernardino to different classes because, as I say, the school was still under construction. Then I went to San Bernardino High School as a sophomore through senior and graduated. I should have graduated in 1930, but apparently the U.S. History teacher and myself didn't agree and I had a half a year to go and I quit school. Well, my parents talked me into going back to school and I did graduate in the mid class of 1932, which I have a Tyro that shows that I was a graduate of the class. Then, of course this is a time in the depression days. The depression period was between '29 through '33, '34, '35 and I worked for the Sun Company as a paper carrier from the time I was in junior high school up until the time I went and joined the C.C.C. This was on May 4, 1933. The recruiting was done over at March Field, California and we were the first company, the 907 Company. I didn't think I'd get to go because my father was a lawyer and I wasn't on relief and I had a job so I didn't think they'd take me, but they did. I enjoyed it. I went up to Camp Radford, that's up by Seven Oaks, California and we were very fortunate to be in the first company. We got to go into a lodge with lots of cabins around it. Then these cabins were separated eight to a cabin and two to each section. We had a swimming pool and a nice lodge, mess hall across the creek, and I enjoyed it. Of course always, in the back of my mind I thought I wanted to be a forest ranger; I always liked the mountains. I worked out on the roads and helped them build firebreaks during '33 and 1934. March Field was looking for typists. Well I was an excellent typist in high school. One time my dad suggested that I be a court reporter because I was such a good typist, if I'd take shorthand. They made $50 a day at that time. He wanted me to give it some thought. So I did join a shorthand class, but it was all girls and myself and that wasn't for me so I dropped out, so forget that.
Hanson: But the odds were in your favor.
BATES: I was slow at developing. I wasn't a woman chaser. I'll explain that a little later. As a matter of fact, when I finally graduated in 1932 I was only 5'10" and I grew 5" after I graduated to 6'3". But anyway, they wanted typists down there so I won every typist speed test at Underwood, Remington, L.C. Smith and everybody put out. I could far exceed anyone, and I was good. So I went down there and of course they gave me a clerical typist job and were happy to see me. I got the typing job at March Field and learned quite a bit about the military. This was the beginning of my military career, which was different than what I thought it was going to be. There was no military in my family whatsoever during World War I. It fascinated me; I liked it. I had a good officer to train me and I enjoyed it and learned all the rules and regulations. This was in personnel work. Finally they came along and they had some civilian job with the C.C.C.'s, so they offered me one as a CAF II Clerk Typist at $120 a month, and I was one of the few fortunate ones that got one. There were only about six or seven of them down there at the time. I might add that Hap Arnold, Henry H. Arnold, who was a Five Star General during World War II, at that time was only a Lieutenant Colonel when I was at March Field; he was the commander. General Tinker, who was a Four Star General, he was only a Captain at that time.
Hanson: You said C.A.F. What does C.A.F. mean?
BATES: Clerical Administrative Fiscal. I do remember that. It changed later on to G.S., General Services.
So anyway, March Field was headquarters for the C.C.C. camps in this district. All the rest of the companies after 907, like 908, was at Lytle Creek. They built barracks up there. They were 200 man companies, enrollees they were called, and they were run by an officer who was in charge a captain, a lieutenant that was an assistant and a medical doctor, and an educational advisor. They built these barracks; like Lytle Creek was 908, ours was 907; 909 was City Creek and it went on 910, 911, and 912 comes later. So anyway, on May 1, 1936, the military decided that they would consolidate the Rockwell Field, that was down in San Diego C.C.C. District; the March Field C.C.C. District and the Fort McArthur, California C.C.C. District. They consolidated them and moved them to 6001 Van Nuys Boulevard, Van Nuys, California on May 1, 1936. They would take over all these C.C.C. companies that were underneath them, those three consolidated districts, which they did, and that was known as the Los Angeles C.C.C. District, all these companies. And we had about, that comprised about 30 companies, 200 man companies from the Mexican border up beyond Lompoc, California. We had two camps at Lompoc, California, and they were called the Twin Camps. We had two in Death Valley. They were named Cow Creek and Funeral Range. I remember the names of them. Well they were there during the winter months and then in the summer, when it got too hot, they closed and went to one camp up on so-called Hill Trona, California, which is not exactly getting away from the heat, but it's getting away from 130-140 I guess. They were under the Los Angeles C.C.C. District. Now we also inherited companies with the 500 numbers. They came from the Chicago, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and around in there, and they carried numbers like 521 and 536 and what have you. Well we had those in Nevada. There were two at Boulder City. They were called twin companies, 400 men over at Boulder City, Colorado. We had one up at Charleston Mountain, which was a forestry service; and another one which was Department of Interior out north on an Indian Reservation. It was under the Department of the Interior. I remember Muddy River used to come through there; but that wasn't the name of the camp. So anyway, I continued my job as Chief of the Personnel Division over there in Van Nuys as a promotion to a III. There was only one IV, that was the Chief Clerk, and we had what you called an adjunct section, a quartermaster section where the clothing and the subsistence and the motor pool and everything was under the quartermaster; all the administration and personnel work was under the administration section. Well the one C.A.F. IV administration job, the guy fell over dead one day [laughing], and I got promoted to that job. So I was then the Chief Clerk of the Administration Section, Los Angeles C.C.C. District. So in 1940, the military is beginning to build up quite a bit and the C.C.C. is beginning to phase down. Our officers were leaving us, being called to active duty and we had a Major Taylor. He was executive officer of our C.C.C. District. He got the appointment of Quartermaster at the new camp at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas. And so he had the job of setting up all the transportation, the quartermaster and everything like that; commercial transportation and the motor pool too came under him. So having known us back in his job at the C.C.C. he made an offer to three or four of us and so we took advantage of it. It was a promotion, so I went up there as a C.A.F. V. Transportation. I had a Lieutenant Hoover as my boss up there. He didn't know much about the military and nothing much about commercial transportation, but he came from the Union Pacific Railroad in Kansas City. Just a young Second Lieutenant; so between the two of us we set up transportation. While we were there, that was the time that Carol Lombard the actress flew into the mountain and was killed. I remember we had something to do with the remains of the people and disposing of them. But to bring it up now to what the mission of the Las Vegas Gunnery School up there at that time; now it's Nellis Air Force Base. It was a flexible gunnery school. Six weeks training for these men who come from all over the United States for the six weeks training by air, railroad, bus, what have you. They rotated as they came in; gave them six weeks of training and sent them back to their regular bases. My job was to keep track of them and see that their transportation got them back to their home base by various means. When we went up to Las Vegas, I might add, we had to go down in the basement of the post office. That was our office because they didn't have any buildings. They were under construction at Nellis. Yes, there weren't any buildings, just warehouses were being built and what have you and we didn't get out there for about a month or two I guess. Well anyway, that went on until - let's see, in the meantime I got married for the first time back in Van Nuys, I was still back in Van Nuys. I got married to a schoolteacher down in Mecca, California. I met her in Crestline at a dance. Her sister's husband had a cabin up there; that's how they were up there. So I married her and of course she taught school in Mecca, California and I'm in Las Vegas, after a very short honeymoon. Let's see, we're talking about '41-'42. So in '42 I decided well that's enough of this. In the meantime Norton was under construction, so was Victorville Air Base and I knew by then that I could get a job. I made applications and sure enough I had an offer from Victorville and Santa Ana. My old boss was down there; this Lieutenant was now up to about a Major or Lieutenant Colonel by then. When I came home to San Bernardino, I stopped at my folks and by chance I told my dad that I had these offers for jobs and I was going to take one. He said you should talk to Captain Wyckoff; he lives right next door to us here. I understand he's the transportation officer out at Norton; it wasn't Norton then.
It was San Bernardino Air Base. So I met him and he was looking for a transportation man. So, that's where I stopped. Well, Norton was still under construction, but his offices were set up down at the Orange Show and I took the job, and came on in. I got into strictly the passenger end of it because he had a freight man there from a truck line company he had hired that handled all the freight and so I was an expert on military traffic. That's all that could travel anyway; no civilians could travel at that time. We didn't get out to Norton Air Force Base… in the meantime, all this military property was pouring into San Bernardino, Redlands as far as Ontario. Any warehouse that was available or any open lot. Vehicles, lumber and everything was unloaded in there. We were trying to keep track of it. Most of the operation was done out of the Orange Show and from these warehouses.
Hanson: Mr. Bates, I'm going to have to pause for a minute [pause]. You're a C.A.F. V and they're building Norton and you were in charge of moving personnel, that's where we were.
BATES: Oh yes, and I was still at the Orange Show. The Orange Show burnt down except for the front part of the office buildings. They were concrete and steel I guess and so the let the offices, the rest of it all burn down in a big fire.
Hanson: What year was that? Do you remember?
BATES: That would be around 1940. Pearl Harbor, December 7th I was at Las Vegas. I came in in April 1942, so they must have burned down before that.
I started at Norton in April 1942. I wasn't actually physically out there, but I was working for what was later called Norton Air Force Base. We moved out there and I was in charge of passenger traffic transportation. I was a transportation man from then on. That was the beginning of it. They hired from Pacific Freight Lines, Mr. Mansfield, he gave me a good history on truck transportation. I had the military background, which he didn't have, and he had the commercial transportation background. He was older than I was. So we made a good team, and we went to Norton and we worked together out there up until… well all through the war.
Daughter: How old were you when you started out there, 20?
BATES: Oh no, I was older than that. I got married in 1940 and my first wife died on my dad's birthday, August 1, 1943. In the meantime, she was teaching school down there and she developed appendicitis. I brought her up here and she was operated on at Saint Bernardine's for an appendectomy and everything was copasetic as they say and finally she went back to teaching. I'm in Las Vegas and she's back teaching. Meantime she's been promoted, she's the principal of this little elementary school at Mecca, California in the Riverside School District. The next thing I knew, when I'm at Vegas, I got a call she was in the hospital, an Indio hospital. Well when I got there she was unconscious and never did regain consciousness and died there on August 1, 1943 of acute intestinal obstruction due to adhesions. It would never happen today under any circumstances.
Well, in the meantime, history will tell you, that General Patton's army was training all through that valley and later in came General Patch and his big army. I met General Patton at the Indio Hotel. My wife and I did.
Daughter: You never told me that.
BATES: I can't remember everything. That was before your time, before I got you.
I was in the hospital, she never regained consciousness and passed away and the diagnosis was such. So at that time I was over at Van Nuys. No, I already left Van Nuys. I married her in Van Nuys; she died when I'm in Las Vegas. So then I came in here after she passed away and I gave her sister a job. The war was still on now. World War II was going strong. I buried her over in Inglewood, I remember that. So then I came back to Norton; I'm still at Norton working there. I'm cleared for top secret, I've been deferred. Oh, to go way back, I would have been, when I was in Van Nuys, I would have been one of the real early draftees. I was pulled out of there and I was classified 4F because I had irregular heartbeat and I was too skinny and I wore glasses and they were very particular then. So I was classified 4F and I stayed that classification all the time during the war and when I was at Norton as the war went on I'm being promoted up and up and up to 9's to 11's during the war. And I'm cleared for top secret, so nobody touches me. I'm one job, in the transportation field. I belonged to two clubs, the National Defense Transportation Association; I was charter member of the Inland Chapter, and I was a charter member of the Valley Traffic Club which met at Fontana once very month; which comprised many people out of Los Angeles in the transportation business. Well, about a year later, I used to go with a girl, who was my second wife, when I was in Van Nuys. Somebody told me she was still single and she was Rosie the Riveter over at Lockheed. I'm kidding. She worked at the drug store at Van Nuys. But that's where she was working. That's where I knew her. In a pharmacy in a drug store, a first class drug store on Van Nuys Boulevard. So somebody said she was still single so I thought well I don't know I'll go see if she's still around. So we got together, to make a long story short. And we got married at Lake Arrowhead at the Catholic Church up there; the original one, not the one that's there now. Lady of the Lake, which I have the marriage certificate somewhere in my files. When was that?
Daughter: September 23rd.
Hanson: And that was Stella.
BATES: Stella Maria. She was a real German girl. Her parents were born in Germany, which Russia took over the part where her parents were born and her older brothers and sisters were born in that part of the country. Stella and her later brothers and sisters were born in various places in the United States. Her parents, when they arrived in Colorado finally, I think they went to Nebraska and then to Washington and with the few kids that they had and ended up on Silt, Colorado and he had one penny. He took it down and he put it on the railroad tracks. So they were farmers there with their additional children until the date of their death. Stella came out to California at the invitation of her older sister, Pauline, who was already in California with her husband and a couple of children. I think they were looking for a babysitter so they brought her out here. Anyway, they got one.
Daughter: So you got married, and then did you move to San Bernardino? Where did you live?
BATES: We lived in Cedar Pines Park in a cabin up there for a while and I commuted for about a year from Cedar Pines down to Norton. Then at the tail end of World War II we bought a little house over on Larkman Park in Colton and we purchased our first home for $5,000. I got a good deal on it, I bought it for $5,000.
Daughter: Was that a development?
BATES: Yes, it was a development off Colton Avenue. They must have had about oh, 100 or maybe 200 little two bedroom homes there. I guess it was about the first ones Colton had during the war. It was primarily to take care of the military. There were a lot of G.I.'s there now that I think of it. That's why this captain… most of them were enlisted men, but this captain lived there. We went and got you girls in Colorado.
Daughter: What year was that? Let's see, I was two so that had to have been 1951 or 1952, so you must have been there what? Five or six years before you came and got us. Does that sound right to you?
BATES: No, we weren't there that long. Anyway, my wife's oldest sister, Pauline, called us and said that her youngest sister wasn't taking care of the youngest girl. So I said well, we have never had any children of our own and I'm not going back there for one, let's go for all of them. So we went back and got all three of them. They were one, two and three at that time and brought them out here.
Daughter: Imagine being 35 years old and never having children and going back and getting three babies?
BATES: Yes, that was kind of… now that I think back. Boy I must have really sold my wife on a bill of goods there. But she worked out there too at Norton. In fact she worked up from a C.A.F. II to C.A.F V as supervisor of distribution of all publications and forms that the military uses, and that's plenty.
Not only for that, but for other installations around too. So she got to be quite an authority. And then after we got the girls she quit and I continued on. Oh, well naturally with the three girls and a two bedroom home we didn't have a big enough place so we had to get a bigger home. We bought a place up on 26th Street between Davidson and Mount Vernon. They went to Davidson School. We bought a three-bedroom place. Well that wasn't too bad, except later on, well that was after we came back from Japan. So anyway while I'm working out there through the Korean war, and it passed and they were shutting down and we had, a very good friend of mine that worked at Norton who was a top civilian over there at Tatchikawa, Japan at this big air depot; they were setting up one in Philippines and a big one in Tatchikowa known as the Northern Air Material, Japan, and the other one is down at Clark Air Base in the Philippines (which was smaller), which didn't have anything to do with me really. But we did support all these Air Force bases in Japan at the different islands there and I was offered this top civilian job over there through my friend who was top civilian in director of supply. And the biggest job then was the Korean War was over but we had all this property in Japan that never got to Korea. They never used it; they didn't need it to beat them. The war had already stopped, signed a truce, and we were operating as an air depot support primarily. We had Inchon and Puchon over in Korea and we had a big detachment down in Yokohama and it was under my direction indirectly. Talked to them on the telephone, been there a couple of times, knew who they were. Boy I jumped from 26th Street way over there to Japan. I guess I better go back to 26th Street, or is it necessary? Anyway, to make a long story short he offered me this job, a promotion as GS13 - yes, because I was a 12 out here. So we had three little girls, how old were they?
Daughter: I was 4, Cindy was 3 and Candy was 5 or 6.
BATES: About a year apart. But we were offered concurrent travel, and no civilians had been offered that, and they wanted us right away. So we all got our shots and headed for San Francisco and sailed out of San Francisco port on January 1, 1956? We were the only civilians on the S.S. Anderson. It was a military troop ship and we had the troops in the bottom. And I, having officer category, fortunately we were up in the officer's top deck. So, anyway, we started out on the S.S. Anderson. We were the first ones to go concurrently with our families overseas and we were 14 days getting to Yokohama and, although we went up on top everyday, we never saw the sun in those 14 days. Nothing but rain. And oh was it rough. I forgot to tell you, everybody was sick. All the troops were sick, the girls were deathly sick, Stella and I was fine.
We were the only ones. Neither one of us had ever been on a… well I'd been out deep sea fishing a couple of times in a small boat. I went out one time when I was young with my grandfather out of Long Beach, and I never was so sick in my life. Like I say, the first hour I thought I was going to die and the second hour I was afraid I wasn't. Boy the fish - they were just reeling them in. That's when I was young. But anyway, when we arrived in Yokohama there was six inches of snow on the ground and they hadn't had snow there for 20 years. So this was a nice greeting, and my friend was there to meet us and took us up to Tachikawa and we got into visiting quarters; we had arrived in Japan. So this was a two-year contract. Well, things went so well and we liked it so much we stayed three and a half. Or at least everybody said they liked it. I don't know, I did. But we were able to save money because the government paid for everything. So, of course when I took the job I had the assurance that I would get my job back at Norton. Whoever was in it I had bumping rights, which I did, I came back and bumped him. In the meantime, the missile program was started in the Air Force. They had what the called the - let's see, the Thor missile was the first one; we had them in England, and the Atlas I and II were scattered throughout the United States and the Titan was just beginning. We had just two or three sites. But I didn't get into missiles at that time, I got my old job back and by that time the girls had grown to where they had to have their own rooms. Two bedrooms, three bedrooms was not enough, so we went house hunting and bought a new home in Rialto at what address:
Daughter: 323 East Virginia Street, Rialto, California.
BATES: In 1961, and stayed there all the time while those children grew up and I continued to work at Norton. They all graduated from Eisenhower. They all got married.
Daughter: You retired before that.
BATES: Did I?
Daughter: Yes, you were only 55 weren't you when you retired?
BATES: Fifty-three. The first time. So, shall we get back to that?
Daughter: He had some other jobs after that.
BATES: When I came back from Japan they had also started what they had a pre-categorizing system - or they were developing it, trying to develop it. The flow of all this freight to determine what mode of transportation would be used before it ever hit the packs and what have you. They were in the process of developing this and I remember when I got back low and behold, the transportation officer was an officer I knew at Fuchu over at Japan. He was to be my new boss (who I didn't like very much, by they way). But I guess he liked me. He talked me up to the bosses. Anyway between him and I we made this pre-planning of shipments. The mode of transportation that all these items would be used. Now it's used nationwide, worldwide, whatever commodity it is I think. But in those days, for the military, that was pre-thinking. You usually took a little item this big and wrapped those things around it you know and it weighed 100 pounds before -- make sure it doesn't break you know. So anyway, as a result of that, between him and I - oh I got credit for making the systems work and a $250 cash award. (phone rings-pause)
Where was I. Oh yes, so we're back from Japan now and we bought the house in Rialto and the children are going to school there; grammar grades and junior high school. Frisbee wasn't built then.
Daughter: No, Eisenhower was a 9th to 12th grade school. Frisbee was 8th to 12th. No 7th - because we went to Morgan school right down the street from the house. Then 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th.
BATES: Well Morgan was the grammar school.
Daughter: Morgan, that's what it was. I went to Morgan until 6th and then 7th I went to Eisenhower. But Eisenhower just had… but that didn't start until Cindy because she went to Frisbee.
BATES: That officer was transferred to Dayton, Ohio and that's the last time I ever saw him. I never did like him. I'm still going on my career. In the meantime I go to different conferences. I went to Washington, D.C. and Dayton, Ohio and I had the privilege of attending the inauguration of Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon, which I have the brochure. I was going to American University back there, taking a transportation seminar or conference of some type. And then another time I went to a six-week transportation school back to Fort Eustes, Virginia. This was for all the services; the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard had both military and civilian representatives there. We took this advanced traffic management course and then wrote a thesis on it; what we learned after we were there. The thesis was, "Should the Hudson River be Developed or Not for Regular Sea Shipments."
Hanson: And what did you decide?
BATES: Yes, it exists today. That happened after that time. It was feasible. There were a lot of other things we didn't think were possible.
My parents had 3-1/2 acres at 39th and Newmark up in that cove and it was tiered off and had grape vineyards there. My dad got it I guess through an Italian man that owed him money and he got this house and this three-acre place and that's where they lived up there. Eventually, I don't know whether it's still there today or not, after I had left home he built a little swimming pool up on the top of it there shaped like a boat with a fountain up there. I went swimming in it.
Hanson: Oh, I didn't know that.
BATES: It's right at that row of eucalyptus trees at 39th and Newmark. In the meantime they built four or five houses in this cove where my parents lived. Of course that's long gone and that's happened since I'd been away. But I drive by there every so often just to look at it. My older sister went into training immediately after high school as an R.N. down at Long Beach Seaside Hospital because my dad's sister was a superintendent of the nurses down there and that was her career. So we left home, but the other four were still there at 39th and Newmark and I had left home. I just came to visit. However, my dad did talk me into taking out a life insurance policy with New York Life in 1933, which I still have yet. But I drew dividends on it. I should have left them there. But you know, we didn't have that much money in those days. You know like a C.A.F. II was $120 a month; III was $135 and when I was chief clerk then it was $150 a month. Of course it was all ours. Arrow shirts were $1.95 and things like that so that's pretty good. My friend and I, when we went to Van Nuys, we got a penthouse up on Contour Drive in the Santa Monica Mountains for $25 a month.
This beautiful home, this penthouse was built above their garage and it had a stairway and we had a kitchen down below and we had a bedroom and a bath and living room up above circular -- $25 a month for the two of us. So we could afford -- $150 a month went quite a ways you know.
BATES: My first wife had two sisters. It was pretty rough. Four to one there, but I wasn't around them much, the war was on. As far as her and I, we got along fine, but her family, that was something else. Up in Lytle Creek Canyon, dad was up there fishing and mom was with a couple ladies on a stagecoach; they came up there to Glen Ranch.
Daughter: That was a place for recreation, right?
BATES: Irvingdale was where my folks always stayed and they built a cabin there. My aunt and uncle from Long Beach, the one that was a pharmacist, which was my dad's only sister - they had a cabin up there. The '38 flood which they had here wiped that whole thing out; all the buildings and everything. But every year we used to go up to our cabin. Oh I never told you about the time I rode the jackass up there.
Hanson: No you didn't.
BATES: A guy gave me a donkey out on West 9th Street in Lytle Creek (I've got a picture of it here), with my youngest brother and younger sister sister sitting on it. I got it at 9th and Lytle Creek Wash. Well it's 18 miles up there to where it is, and as you go up Riverside Avenue off of Highland Avenue by El Rancho Verde, where she used to live - the eucalyptus trees run out up there a little ways and it's all rocks, gravel and sunshine. It was summertime. I hadn't got up to the first bend, it was about five miles, but my legs were so sore. I was riding that donkey bareback. Towed the thing all the way up Lytle Creek Canyon. I got on a couple of times, but they were just so sore I couldn't sit.
Daughter: Maybe you should finish up your, the work. I'm curious about what you did after you retired because you worked some other…
BATES: Anna was her name, they called her Rosie. She had a millinery shop in Colton and she worked for the Harris Company. So when the Harris Company moved and started a store on Third Street between "D" and "E" (a little store), Rosie closed her store and invited her sisters out from Ohio (which was my mother) and Clara was the younger sister and Florence who was a chiropractor by profession, brought them all out here and they worked at that store at Harris Company. They worked for Harris Company in their original store. And then my mother met my dad up in Lytle Creek and they got married. And then the rest of them migrated to L.A., Aunt Rosie and set up her own store down on South Broadway and had it there for years and years. Oh, they had their mother with them too. I forgot they brought their mother out. She never got married; she was an old maid. The youngest one was Clara; she married a L.A. police cop. He was a motor cop and later was captain of detectives in L.A. He died shortly after he retired. They lived in Eagle Rock and Florence was the chiropractor and she married a chiropractor. They were "Shields and Shields." They had their profession down there on South Broadway, L.A., pretty close to where Rosie had her millinery shop. I was riding a motorcycle in those days. I would go down and visit them. I hadn't gone into the C.C.C. yet. I'd kind of freelance around. Oh I rode motor dome at the Orange Show and hill climbed and raced. Hill climbed over Crystal Springs out of Redlands. The freeway eliminated most of it. But if you look out up there that steep hill, that was where we used to climb down on the old road up there, which is the access road. Between here and San Diego there were two or three places. We used to go to Pismo Beach and Huntington Beach. We had races in sidecars down there. I don't know why I'm alive today. I've had some close calls. One time I was going right down South "E" Street, just following a lady, behind her car about 25-35 miles per hour. All of a sudden she gets out in the middle of the street and I don't know what she's going to do; is she really going straight ahead or is she going to go to the left. I don't know what. So I'm going to go this way to the right. She decides to go into her driveway from the center. It just took a little quick action on my part. So I quick like laid the motorcycle back over there, but I just barely caught the end of her bumper and I went tumbling down "E" Street. I had strawberries all over [laughing]. Another time I cut my leg; I can't even see the scar anymore. I was on a motorcycle just sitting still and there was a steel rod that the throttle works on and the guy forgot to tighten the thing up and I turned the gas on like that and the thing cut my leg, it just sliced. Dr. Savage put black iodine on it. That burnt for 50 years.
Daughter: Okay dad, tell her why you quit high school. His father was the First District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney.
BATES: Yes, he was… No, but I quit - did I skip around?
Hanson: You told me you quit high school because you didn't see eye to eye with your history teacher. What was it that you didn't see eye to eye about?
BATES: Well this Radcliff was the only schoolteacher that had a man's haircut. She definitely had an all man's haircut in those days and never smiled and gave tons of homework. My oldest sister was in the same class and got one's or A's because she'd do her homework. This old gal just gave homework like this and that and I hated homework so I got zero. She didn't like me and I didn't like her. So I came back, to school, make a long story short, Gideon Knopp, I don't know whether you ever heard of him or not. He had a goatee. He was a U.S. History teacher. He gave me an "A" for U.S. History.
Daughter: But you didn't turn in your homework because you didn't like her because of why?
BATES: Well, she gave all this homework and I didn't do it.
Daughter: But you did your homework in every other class.
BATES: When I went to school I majored in agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and science economics. I wanted to be a forest ranger. I wanted to go to Davis. I went one-half year at Valley College and that was the end of my formal education. I still like the mountains better than the desert or the beach.
BATES: When I went to school I majored in agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and science economics. I wanted to be a forest ranger. I wanted to go to Davis. I went one-half year at Valley College and that was the end of my formal education. I still like the mountains better than the desert or the beach.
Daughter: Did you tell her about going up to Lytle Creek and setting your barn on fire over there in Rialto?
BATES: Oh yes. I probably started it.
[End of Tape 1, Side B]
Hanson: This is an interview with Mr. Howard Bates at his home in San Bernardino. Today is June 27, 2003 and this is Joyce Hanson for the San Bernardino Oral History Project. Good morning Mr. Bates.
BATES: Good morning.
Hanson: We were talking last week about your work experiences and all the things that you had done as far as being with the C.C.C. and the military. This week I want to talk about growing up in San Bernardino, about life here in town. So, let's start out by talking about the schools you went to.
BATES: Okay. I started at grammar grade school down on Mountain View Avenue. It was a little school between 8th and 9th Street. I went to that school until the third grade. At that time Lincoln School up on Baseline between Mountain View and Arrowhead opened up a new Lincoln Elementary School, so I transferred to that school. After that I finished the sixth grade at that school and I went to Sturges Junior High School. It was still under construction when I entered the 7th grade, so we went to school around in various buildings and other schools that were open. At that time they had the 7th, 8th and 9th grades there so I didn't go to San Bernardino High School until the 10th grade. At that time I went there and I would have graduated in the class of 1930, but I discontinued school with half a year to go. This was primarily caused by my differences with the U.S. History teacher that I had there. But after being out of school for a year, a year and a half, my parents convinced me that I should complete my high school education, which I went back and graduated with high honors in the mid term of 1932. I think that was the last class of mid term classes. I think they discontinued them after that. From '32, it would have been 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was president of the United States at that time, decided to come up with a program of a national civilian conservation corps, which was 200 man companies located throughout the United States. They would be run by the military during the daytime and then we would be turned over to the forest services for our work, which was an 8-hour workday. Then we would resume back under military jurisdiction. The C.C.C. at that time was under control of the military and we had all military instructions and military uniforms, with the exception of guns. We had no guns. So I had been working quite a bit at a newspaper at nighttime and, as I said, I wanted to get out into the forest service so I thought well this is a nice time, so I joined the C.C.C. We were the first company over at March Field 907 Company. We had two weeks training there then went up to Camp Radford, which was up by Seven Oaks, California. We worked to build firebreaks and worked on fire roads and whatever. Finally the district headquarters of March Field put in a request for typists. They wanted typists. Well I was a good typist so I went down to March Field and worked at the headquarters detachment of the C.C.C. there. Well, I was there from 1934 until 1936 when they offered me a civil service job as a C.A.F.2, $120 a month as a clerk typist, which I took. Then on May 1, 1936 they were beginning to consolidate the headquarters in Southern California, and there was one located at Rockwell Field in San Diego, one at March Field, California and one at Fort McArthur, California. They consolidated those and moved their headquarters over to an old piano factory at 6001 Van Nuys Boulevard, Van Nuys. Now with the consolidation, that resulted in that district accepting approximately 200 man companies from the San Diego border to the Nevada border up as far as Lompoc, California. We had twin camps located there, which is now where Vandenberg Air Force Base is stationed. So I moved over to Van Nuys and worked there. I got a couple of promotions up through 1940, at which time the C.C.C. was beginning to shut down and the military was beginning to build up. This was now, as we know, preparation for World War II, so all the military officers were being called to active duty into the military forces. We had the army, air force and coast guard over there at Van Nuys, so they all soon disappeared. Well Major Taylor, who was an executive officer at our C.C.C. headquarters got assigned to Las Vegas Flexible Gunnery School. And as a result of it, he was looking for nucleus personnel to help him set up his various organizations in activation of the Las Vegas Flexible Gunnery School, which is now known as Nellis Air Force Base. So I transferred up there, which was a promotion in August of 1941, because I was there when Pearl Harbor hit, I remember that. Waking up one morning and found out that Pearl Harbor had been bombed December 7, 1941. So in April '42 my wife and I, which I believe I had previously mentioned, was down in Palm Springs in the desert area, decided we were too far apart and so I decided to come back into California looking for employment because there were several openings at several different bases, which I did. To make a long story short, I ended up at Norton Air Force Base.
Hanson: Let me ask you a question here. Did many of the young men, who went into the C.C.C. end up in the military?
BATES: Oh yes, because they were of that eligible age. So a lot of them were. Yes, definitely there was a lot of them.
Hanson: When Norton opened in '43, how did that change San Bernardino? What was it like here before?
BATES: Well what changed is San Bernardino, in that it was to be a large air depot to support our air forces both continental and overseas, of which there were seven of them located in the United States; two were in California. One was in San Bernardino; the other was in Sacramento. Of course starting up a big air depot meant a big recruitment problem in San Bernardino, which were taken (both men and women) from all the cities and around in the locale of San Bernardino, both voluntarily and involuntarily [laughs]. Naturally, the nucleus were more or less the educated type, some from the universities and around here. Anyway, it ended up where we had around 12 to 15 thousand civilians out there supporting the air force.
Hanson: That's a lot of people.
BATES: Yes, it was a lot of people. Very busy 24 hours a day, all three shifts. The big nucleus was the maintenance repair of the aircraft and the supply. So the two biggest organizations were maintenance and supply. You had your other support agencies around too.
Hanson: Let's talk about downtown San Bernardino. All these people have come in to work here and that must have changed how downtown operated.
BATES: Yes, well it created a big housing problem for one thing. Because there was a very definite shortage of housing. We were able to (my wife and I), we were able to find a little house on Arrowhead Avenue behind a big house on 7th and Arrowhead I remember. Then later on, well I can't say how it created, because I'm so busy being out there all the time that I really didn't have too much to do with Downtown San Bernardino all during the war.
Hanson: Let's go back to when you were a kid.
BATES: Let's go back there.
Hanson: Let's talk about going downtown and what was down there.
BATES: Okay. Downtown San Bernardino, in the early days, while growing up and later on too, Third and "E" Street was the main intersection of San Bernardino. Third Street primarily ran from Mountain View out to Mount Vernon where the Santa Fe Depot was. There were stores on both sides of the street and theaters all the way out. We had four theaters at that time. The Rialto Theater was located between Arrowhead and "D" Street, the Isis Theater, was between "D" and "E" Street on the north side, and out further was the Strand Theater between "F" and "G" Street. When I was working for the Newspaper I used to go to the movies there; they were ten cents. They had a lot of cowboy serials in those days. As a matter of fact, I've gone to the movies at one o'clock in the afternoon and cover four of them by 11 o'clock that night.
Daughter: You'd do movies all day?
BATES: Yes. Well it was easy. Right outside there was a hot dog and hamburger stand. Hot dogs and hamburgers were ten cents and soft drinks were a nickel if I remember right. Now at downtown San Bernardino, of course the courthouse was located on Court and "E" Street. It was a big two, three story building with the jail on top of the courthouse. In the back was a circular slide that you'd come down for emergency purposes. Of course we kids used to play on that slide quite a bit. Also, back in those days, before the Sturges Junior High School was built, the old Sturges High School was on 8th and "E" Street. It had a circular slide we used to play on too.
Daughter: They let you run around the courthouse like that?
BATES: Well the courthouse faced "E" Street, this was in the back, and
in through the back was an alleyway that you go through to Third Street
and there was a pool hall there, Shaffer's Poor Hall. You could play pool
for a nickel or a dime a game, and Mr. Shaffer played the piano; he was
a pretty good entertainer. He played everything, no music, but he knew
all the pieces and he could play them. In the front was a big bar called
the Vendone Bar. I remember when they used to serve near beer, I remember
when they repealed the, what do you call it?
BATES: Prohibition, yes. What a big celebration it was when they had the real stuff there. I finally got my first taste of real beer I believe there.
Hanson: Now I bet there were places in town where you could get real alcohol before prohibition ended.
BATES: Well that's another episode.
Hanson: Tell me about that episode.
BATES: Okay. Well we had three or four bootleggers in town. As a matter of fact, my dad was a lawyer and he also drank, but he knew a bootlegger who delivered in gallon jugs to the house. Nothing was said; we didn't know anything about it. He'd drive up, bring it to the door, my mother would put it in where it was supposed to be and he would go on his way. I guess my dad would pay him sometime later. Anyway, of course later on when I got into high school my oldest sister and I tapped it a couple of times and then refilled it with water and he didn't, you know we didn't think he'd know. He told me later in life, he says, 'I knew you guys were tapping my booze a little bit.' But the rest of them, my other four never participated in it, just my older sister and I. She passed a grade, so she was in the same grade with me in high school. She did graduate in 1930, but because she was an "A" student. So getting back to San Bernardino, the Harris Company was on Third Street originally between "D" and "E" Street. It was a small department store there in which my mother and her sisters worked there a short time. Then later they built the big one, which was on the southwest corner of Third and "E" Street, which still stands there now, but it has been abandoned. It's in the shopping center, you know where it is. The Pacific Electric Railroad came in to serve San Bernardino from Los Angeles. It came down Rialto Avenue from the west there and it came right up through the back yard from Rialto right up to the back of Third Street between "E" and "F". That was the station of Pacific Electric Railroad. That's where the big cars terminated. Now we had streetcars in San Bernardino that served San Bernardino between Colton to San Bernardino, right down Third Street to "D", north on "D" Street to Highland Avenue, over Highland Avenue to Mountain View and up Mountain View to Arrowhead Springs. The passenger service only went as far as Highland Avenue, but the Arrowhead Water Company, which distilled water, used to run water tanks straight up there to refill periodically. And then they would bring them right back down through town and everywhere and they'd go into L.A. I guess. I'm digressing, but…
Hanson: No, you're doing fine.
BATES: Casey Jones, incidentally, was a superintendent of this division all the time it existed. The Pacific Electric was a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Company. Now in addition to the train, the car service that Colton and San Bernardino enjoyed, there was a small narrow gauge service that went out to Harlem Springs, went out 6th Street and up to Harlem Springs to Highland.
Hanson: Was that what they called the loop train?
BATES: No, the Santa Fe had a loop train, it had a different route.
Now the Santa Fe had the loop train around to Redlands to Highland to Redlands. This was a kind of a pleasure deal. Harlem Springs was a recreation and had a swimming pool, and indoor swimming pool. I don't remember, I think it was sulfur water, I'm not sure. Because a lot of people had little cottages out there and I think it was for health purposes. But I know I used to, later on in life, we used to go out to Harlem Springs every Sunday because we had sandlot baseball game out there for entertainment. All the people would come out and bring their lunches and what have you; the families and I would have a good Sunday afternoon. Then, getting back to downtown San Bernardino, right across from the P.E. depot was J.C. Penney's and right next door to it was Sears. And of course we had our share of restaurants. There must have been two or three restaurants in every block on Third Street. Most of them run by the Greeks.
Hanson: I didn't know there was that large a Greek population here.
BATES: Yes, there was. If you went to the Greek Theater, I mean down on the hill on Colton Avenue, there's a big shrine out there and that's where the Greeks have all their services now. It's on the top. That originally was a Catholic retreat. The Greeks bought the whole property. It's quite a deal they have out there now. Yes, when we lived in Colton dear…
Daughter: That big domed building.
BATES: Yes, that big domed building. Well, at that time I don't know whether - that was right at the end of the war, so that would be in 1945-46. When did you come out here?
BATES: Fifty-two, yes, the Greeks had taken it over from the Catholics by then, and they gradually improved it and made a nice place. I haven't been up there, but I understand they have a very nice place up there.
Hanson: So what was the best restaurant if you were going to go somewhere to eat?
BATES: Well the most popular one was the Orange Belt Café on Third and "F" Street. It seemed like Nick the Greek, Nick - I forget his last name. He had the best looking waitresses and the best run Greek restaurant.
Hanson: So the food didn't count.
BATES: The food really didn't count. Even when I took the motorcycle in, all the motorcycle guys used to go to that one. As long as I was in San Bernardino, let's see, well the nicest one I guess would have been the Chocolate Palace. On the northwest corner was the Bank of America. On the southeast corner was the Citizen's Bank. The Harris' Company had the south and then there was a cigar stand there. Well no, that was before Harris' was built. And Towne Allison Drug Store; they had four drug stores - one on Third and "D", one on Third and "E", one on Third and "F" and one on Fourth and "E". So we were well covered with drug stores. Later on we had one Mack & Puthoff on Baseline and "E". We had another one on Highland and "E".
Hanson: So people were sick a lot or there were just a lot of drug stores?
BATES: It must have been a good business to be in. Profitable I guess. Everybody bought patent medicines maybe or something.
BATES: I don't know. Of course those days the doctors came to the houses too you know.
Hanson: Who was the doctor that came out the most. The most popular doctor?
BATES: Dr. Phil and Will Savage. There are some Doctor Savages now, but that's three generations back.
Hanson: Oh okay. So they've lived here a long time.
BATES: Dr. Forsythe and Dr. Garnett had offices on Fourth Street right across from the California Theater, which is the only one left now - between "E" and "F". You've probably been to some showings there. Well that was a two-story building. There was a car dealer on the bottom there; I forget what cars. Upstairs were the doctor's offices. And on Fourth and "F" Street, Fourth and "E" was - what was the name of that building? It was a real nice brick building. I remember the Woolworth's eventually was on the other corner, which is really a part of the mall now I guess. The Sun Company was on Court Street between "D" and "E" Street at that time. Now it's over on Fourth and "D", the southeast corner, yes.
Hanson: Tell me about the Chocolate Palace.
BATES: Oh the Chocolate Palace was a real nice restaurant. It was right on Third Street next to, west of the bank. People who could afford it went there for nice dinners as I remember. Of course later on, when the Harris' Company built, they had a restaurant up there on the mezzanine floor of their building, which was a nice little sort of a tea garden or tea shop or something.
Hanson: Yes, I heard they had a tearoom.
Daughter: It was beautiful.
BATES: Yes, it was very nice. But we really never had any fancy restaurants outside of these. Most of them were run by Greeks up on Highland and Arrowhead was a big restaurant right there on the north side of Highland run by George the Greek, who caught all of the mountain trade. Everybody going to the mountain - it was a good eating-place.
Hanson: No pretty waitresses?
BATES: Oh yes, you know the Greeks; they had to have pretty good-looking waitresses. This George, he was something else though. If people didn't eat their food he'd come around the aisle to look at them and he'd pick it up in his hand and he'd say, "Why you no eat?" "You see I cook, that's good food, why you no eat?" And he'd throw it down and walk off mad. People would get up and walk out. They're not used to that. They come from L.A. or somewhere, 'who's this guy?'
Hanson: Customer relations.
BATES: That was George the Greek. He later converted a house that exists today on the north side of Highland between Arrowhead and "D". He converted that into a restaurant and a cocktail lounge, which had a big basement in it. We used to go there once in a while for lunch with a Jewish friend of mine. He and I used to go in there because he knew George real well, so we got a really special prime rib just the way we wanted it, no matter what it was for lunch. He had it for us. I don't know why, but he did.
Hanson: We'll have to pause a minute. [End of Tape 2, Side A]
Hanson: Okay, we're back.
BATES: Okay, shall we go back down on Third Street again?
BATES: And on Third and "F" Street was always a little popcorn stand there where you could buy popcorn for a nickel a bag and those so-called little colonels that didn't pop, you'd get those for a penny a bag. We used to buy those and chew them. They were pretty good.
Daughter: Uncooked popcorn?
BATES: Yes, it was unpopped popcorn. I had good teeth then.
Daughter: I guess you must have.
BATES: That's probably why I don't have mine today.
Hanson: I never heard of that.
BATES: Didn't you?
Hanson: No, no one's every told me that.
BATES: Sure, they put salt on them.
Hanson: Someone told me there was a cigar stand where there was a man in the window who made cigars.
BATES: Oh yes, Arthur's Cigar Stand was right on the corner of Third and "E" Street right where Harris Company exists today, before that building was built. And right across was another cigar stand in front of Towne Allison Drug Stores. There was one there too.
Daughter: Did he make cigars in the window?
BATES: Yes, they had smoking advertisements of different types for cigars and cigarettes. A lot of people smoked I guess. I didn't get started until later. I think when I finally got started was when my sister and I were getting one of those drinks we had taken from our dad, she showed me how to blow smoke out our ears.
Hanson: Your ears?
BATES: I don't know if she did it or not, but anyway I tried smoking. But I never - so anyways I guess I was starting then, but I didn't smoke during school or anything. Then when I started riding a motorcycle then I smoked a pipe.
Hanson: When did you start riding a motorcycle?
BATES: I started riding a motorcycle in 1929. I bought a single Cleveland Motorcycle first, then I got rid of it and bought a single Harley Davidson and I got rid of it. I turned it in and I bought a brand new 1929 Harley Davidson 45. It was the first one they made, and I rode that for several years. I used to participate in hill climbs and races around locally. Then, when I finally went to March Field - oh I got me a girlfriend then. Well I had a girlfriend riding my motorcycle, but I don't know, it didn't work out too good. So along came the Model A Ford with the love seat in the back. What did they call that? The turtle back or whatever they called it.
Daughter: Rumble seats.