Ford I. Gano History – Tape 1 Side 1
F: Well, as I remember back, trying to remember back to my childhood days, I liked chocolate pudding and pumpkin pie. And I liked bread and gravy, because we had a lot of it, I guess. But I also liked bread pudding, because that was a dessert that we could afford to have, and we did have now and then.
L: Were eggs easily available? Did you have chickens?
F: Well, we had chickens, and we did have a few eggs. And we had eggs for breakfast every morning, and we also had a lot of hotcakes, that my mother, and biscuits, and honey, and very little syrup. I don’t remember ever using commercial syrup on hot cakes or biscuits while I was growing up. But my mother or my dad, either one, could make delicious biscuits, and we did have them and we did have butter, from our cow, which we churned. Milk or the cream from the cow, at least we churned.
L: I remember you telling me a story at least about oatmeal and the sugar on the oatmeal. Remember that story?
F: Well, during the war years, sugar was pretty scarce. And mother would try to feed us oatmeal without, or cream of wheat, which is about the major breakfast food that we used, without any sugar on it. And we children , we kids, never would eat it very much. We didn’t like it, and we didn’t make any pretense about it. We just didn’t like it. But you know, she’d wait patiently for us to eat it, and I suppose that we would do something with it, feed it to the dog or the cat, get rid of it somewhere or another. But we were amused at, was that mother wouldn’t eat unsugared food either, so she would sneak off into the kitchen, and put just a little sugar on hers, and then say, "look it, see how good it is? Eat yours."
L: Good psychology, if it worked. Ok, so how did you celebrate Christmas?
F: Well, you know, Christmas was a once a year thing with us, and we didn’t have very big Christmases. As I remember, or I do remember, my dad taking us kids out each year to find a tree out, we had to use cedar trees, of course...
L: Best kind, they smell delicious...
F: To find the cedar tree the right size and the right shape to bring in for Christmas. We would cut it down and put it on the wagon and carry it in and then set it up in the living room, and then we the children had the privilege of decorating it. Of course, the girls liked to do that more than the boys did. They would string popcorn over it, and sometimes they had some icicle, some kind of icicles that they’d put on it, and it would really look, and also a few candles, but our dad, he warned us very seriously about using candles around those cedar trees. He said they burnt very easily and we shouldn’t use them, so they were kind of a scarce item, at least when they were lit. We might have put them on just for decorations, but we didn’t light the candles.
L: OK, how about birthdays? Did you celebrate birthdays?
F: I should say about Christmas that we had very few presents. Ever, that I remember. Now and then, my mother would try to order something from Sears and Roebuck catalog or Montgomery Ward and sneak it in the closet and then bring it out at Christmas time, to surprise us with. But you know, Lynn and I got the habit of looking in the cupboards before Christmas to see if we could find anything, sometimes of course we always found the little dolls and the little trinkets that she had bought for the girls, but one time we found two popguns, which you cocked and put a cork in and then pulled a trigger and then the cork pops out. It was held by a string of course and didn’t go very far, but those, as I remember, those were the two finest Christmas presents that we ever got. Sometimes, we did get a few made over clothes, or handmade clothes that my mother would make for us, which we were very glad to have.
L: What about candy, did you get any candy?
F: I don’t ever remember getting any candy. One time, we had some, oh, that candy that you make from cactus, cactus candy, and we kind of liked it. They don’t make it very much any more, but it tasted pretty good to us. And I don’t know how they made it either. I’m not going to try to explain that, but they did make it somewhere or another. It did taste pretty good.
L: How about birthdays? Did you celebrate birthdays?
F: Well, at different times, yes. We usually celebrated birthdays. My mother always made a cake for whatever child was celebrating their birthday. And the one birthday that I can remember, is the year, I think I was 12 years old, and I was out living out on Oak Creek with my dad. Of course my birthday came along when I was 12 years old, the 8th of July, and I was living there with my dad, by ourselves, and very seldom seeing any company.
Well in this particular year, on my birthday, my mother arranged to load in all the friends that she could load up in the old Model A Ford that she had back at home and bring them out to Oak Creek for my Birthday. I guess maybe that what was the funniest thing about that birthday was that while I was there, I had made a canoe. A canoe was just a delight to have, because we had several ponds on the place, and I had made one out of strips of lumber that my dad had provided for me, and put canvas around it, which cost money, and it took a long time to get enough money to get canvas to go around that canoe I made. But we finally got it made. And then I fashioned me a paddle out of a board, and I used to paddle it around a pond that was very close to our living quarters there, on Oak Creek farm, and really had a great time with it. It was a flat-bottomed canoe, of course, and did tend to leak, just a little, the seams where I had tried to seal up, but didn’t quite get done. And we had to bail the water out of it now and then, which I kept a tin can handy to do that. But I also had a sheet in it that you could sit on, and grab the oar or the paddle and you could paddle yourself around the ponds in very good shape. And I had learned to do it very handily.
But when the kids all got there that day for my birthday, one of the girls, who by the way thought she was my girlfriend, but she wasn’t, she just thought that, but anyway, she saw that canoe down there on that pond, and squealed and ran just as hard as she could down to the pond. She pushed the canoe off into the pond and jumped into it, and it was a flat bottomed canoe which if you don’t steady yourself just right, it turned over. And boy, this turned over! And she had got just far enough out into the water to where she got a very good dunking out of her canoe ride! She came out looking very, very dejected, and not squealing anymore at all.
L: Which tickled you?
F: Yes it tickled me. I was a meanie.
L: So what church did your family go to, and how often?
F: Well, when we were growing up, we always tried to go to Sunday school at the little church Sundays school that we were having, which was about a mile from our home place there.
L: On the Verde?
F: On the Verde River. And we, us kids always went, my mother saw to that. She’d dress us up, and we’d get in our stockings and shoes, which Lynn and I hated with a distinct venom, and march off to Sunday school. And sometimes we had pants that came just a little below our knees which had to show off our stockings, which was the style, I guess for those days, but we sure didn’t like it, because we liked going barefooted much better.
But anyway, we would march off to Sunday school, and we did that every Sunday. Later on, my mother would bring my two sisters, also to Sunday School. We only had two teachers, one of them was the minister, that lived there. He was a Christian, you might say one of those Holy Rollers, and he had an egg farm, on the road going to town, and big sign up in the front of his house which said "Look to God" or "Do you trust in God?" something of that nature. I forgot for sure just what it is, but it was sign of that nature, printed in big block and white letters very boldly right out there on the road in front of his place. So that everybody knew that he was a Christian.
Well, the reason that I mention this, is because lots of times at night, he was a chicken man, and he had chicken houses there that he raised chickens in, had hens in and he’d gather the eggs from, and sold them up in Cottonwood and Clemenceau to the stores. And he would do that once or twice a week, but that was beside the point, as far as my story is concerned here, because sometimes late at night, we thought we could hear the chickens crowing. But we finally, one of the neighborhood boys, I never did do it but one of the neighborhood boys sneaked over there at night to find out what that noise was. Well, it was old, I hate to mention his name because I don’t know if any of his relatives would ever hear of this or not, but it was old Chris Saylor was out there in that barn or chicken house, talking to his chickens in his Christian Language, or in his holy roller language, which was entirely different from what we spoke as far as English was concerned. But he would yodel that out loud and clear to those chickens. I think maybe, or at least we surmised, that he did it to make them lay eggs. Because it wasn’t very long after that that the lights would come on in the chicken house, and the chickens would start crowing and cackling, and start in their business of producing eggs for their good chicken man.
L: If you ate his eggs, maybe you’d get religion!
F: Well, anyway, to get back to my story, he was a Sunday school principal and teacher, and his wife was the teacher, one of the teachers. They were very serious folks, and very good, and just loved us kids, and tried their best to make us good Christian kids. I don’t know how well they did, but I did get a lot of good ideas from him, and we learned very distinctly, John 3:16, and I can recite it to this day.
L: Well let me hear you.
F: Want me to list it. Oh, I’ll have to think for just a little. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in him, should have everlasting life." [sings:] John 3:16. We used to sing that over and over and over again.
L: Did your dad ever go to church with you?
F: No, my dad never went to church with us. Now and then we had an evening revival meeting, and he very seldom would go to those. But in one particular case, my mother did persuade him to come, and we all went, the kids and all of us went to the revival meeting. It was supposed to have a special minister down there I guess, which we wanted, my mother wanted everybody to hear. Well, at the end of all sermons, the minister always had their altar call, and they always tried to get people to come up and accept Jesus as their Savior. Well all of us kids went up, which included me, I’d been up several other meetings, so it was no novel to me, so the minister just shoved us back kind of out of the way, and looked at the grown folks standing or sitting down there in the audience, tried to get them to come up, and a few of them did, of course, but my dad was standing back there at the back end of the building, and he wouldn’t come.
Well, I guess the minister had been notified by my mother or something, that she would surely like to have my dad answer an altar call, so the minister seemed to be working on him that night, and he turned around to me, and he says, "Sonny, would you go back there and get your dad, and bring him up here for this altar call?" And so I marched back there and got my dad by his hand, and said "Dad, come on up, this is good. This is good. Accept Jesus as your Savior." I pleaded with him, but no, he just stood there, never cracked a smile, stood there very sternly against that call. And I think all the neighbor people standing there had kind of a good smile on their face, smirking at this of course. Well, you never could have got my dad up there after that. Well, I went back up there without my dad, and I don’t think the minister got anybody else to come up that night. That was our revival meetings, and that one I remember vividly because of that situation.
F: I still have a hard time trying to learn how to use this hand held tape recorder, so I’m always kind of lost when I pick it up.
This was such a delightful time. I remember back to when we were kids there on the old Verde Valley farm, and even though we didn’t have very much money, we never had very many new clothes, we never did go to see many motion pictures. I think we went to see one once, and I do remember that, it was the, if I can remember the name of it, it was The Birth of Christ. I thought it was wonderful. My mother and all of us kids thought it was wonderful. We never did get a comment out of our Dad. He was the one of course that paid for our tickets which by the way I think the whole family went for less than $2.00 at the old motion picture cinema that we had there in Cottonwood Arizona.
Of course we had to have a way to get in there, which was usually by some kind of vehicle, whatever we had on hand to drive. And I was really enraptured by that picture show that we saw. Later on I saw one or two more pictures, at a later stage in my life, while still living there in the Verde Valley. But suffice it to say now that that first picture was about the one and only one that I saw when we were children. And I really enjoyed it. It was a 3 hour picture, it took a long time from start to finish. Of course back in those days, the old pictures were all described by words to describe what they were, and what was going on, and everything. Well, we never see them any more. Or at least if we do, they are much different than they were then.
But we did have a good time, there on the Verde Valley Ranch. Us kids, we’d play games together, and I think our favorite game was roll the hoops, in which each one of us had a little round, usually a metal, hoop that we pushed with a stick, which was in the form of a handle with a cross on the end of it. Which made it so we could push it along, try to keep it upright, and out run our other, each other, and go the fastest, and etcetera. I can remember that, playing with those hoops more than I can anything else. Of course, some of the other games that we played were interesting too. Mumblety-peg, which was simply we took a paddle and took a stick of wood and whittled it into the shape of, you might say, a cigar, with both ends smaller than the other and only about 6 inches long, and we’d lay that on the ground flat, and then hit it sharply with the paddle on one end, which would toss it up into the air. And then we’d try to swat it with our paddle, toward the direction we wanted to go with it, which was usually a goal. And when we got it across the goal, that meant we had won that particular game.
I wouldn’t want to fail to mention that marbles was an important factor in our lives then. My brother Lynn was the marble champion of the whole school. He could play marbles better than any of the big boys; he won sacks of them. Played for keeps, you know, and he would come home with a sack full of marbles, and when I say sack, it would be about the size of an ordinary lunch sack, that he had won from other kids. That of course was beyond, took us up into our Junior High School age, when we were going to school in Clemenceau.
Well, there at the old Willard School, where we spent our first four years, the general games were the ordinary ones that kids at that age played: Blind-Man-Bluff, and hide-and-seek, Annie-Over. Our old school house was just made to play Annie-Over. We would choose up sides, and using a ball much like a tennis ball, ah, I suppose they were tennis balls, but sometimes just rubber balls that we had, we’d throw the ball up on one side of the roof over to the team on the other side of the roof, and if they caught it, they could run around the school just as silently as they could, and try to hit us, the opposing team with the ball. Now, any time you were hit by the ball, you had to drop out, so that, of course the object of the game was that one side win, eliminate all the other side. Well, that was one of the favorite games that we played, there at the schoolhouse yard. We couldn’t play it at our home, because our old home just wasn’t made for Annie-Over. It think we did try it over the kitchen now and then, just Lynn and I, or the girls maybe. The girls were younger, and didn’t enter in to those type of games very much.
I do want to kind of remember to describe the yard we had there in front of our house, which was between the ditch that carried the water from our pump, our bucket pump, that was, oh, maybe a 100 yards from the house, down next to the river, and pumped the water out of the river up into a flume which carried it down to where it would run by gravity in a ditch that was homemade, or manmade, down towards our fields, which were off to the south, as part of our farm there. And in order to grow anything in that part of the area, we had to have water. We just didn’t have enough rainfall to make anything develop very good as far as crops were concerned. We had an alfalfa field, which was the main object of the watering, most of the time.
A little beyond the alfalfa field, we had some row crops, that we tried to get our water to, and irrigate them, so that we could have sweet corn and other garden crops, down there. That’s where we had our garden. We did have watermelons down there. We grew some of the finest watermelons in the valley. People would come down from as far away as Jerome, to try to get watermelons from us in season. Sometimes, we had people come down in the nighttime, try to get watermelons from us, from out of the patch. My dad used to take his shotgun and go down there in the field. He never did try to shoot anybody, but if he found somebody out there swiping watermelons, he would shoot over their head, and boy, as I remember him, as he used to tell the story about it, "How they did fly for fence!" Some of them would get caught up in the barbed wire fence that was strung around that watermelon patch. Probably went home with some really ripped clothes!
Well, that was all part of our old Verde Valley home down there. Describing the premise just a little, I mentioned the bucket pump. It was perhaps the most interesting thing, as far as us boys were concerned, because it was a chain driven lift, that carried two chains carrying buckets in-between them. They were oblong buckets about four or five feet long, made so that when they came up to the top, they would dump the water off into a head box up there, which was then shunted towards the flume that carried it down to the ditch which would carry it off down to our field. Well, in order to get water to that pump, the pump had to be set down to about the same level, so it was down in a kind of a cavern that was homemade, down almost level with the river, but it in order to keep it protected from high water, there was a piece of land between the river and the pump. It was a bucket pump, chains ran around a sprocket at the bottom, in the well down there, where the water came in from the river. In order to get water in from the river, we had to dig a ditch from the river over to the ground, and it used, there went through a cave where every time that we had high water, filled up full of silt, and we always had to dig that out after every time we had a flood, so we could get water back into our pump. It was always quite a job. My dad used to work with his boots on in there, and Lynn and I would be called in help carry the mud out in buckets, which we never enjoyed, but we did it anyway. The water then went back into a kind of a well-like cistern, where the buckets dipped themselves into the bottom of the cistern there that was dug, catch a hold of the water, and carried it up to the top which was about 15, 16 feet high above the ground. And of course there had to be a standard made to hold the sprockets that carried the chain and the buckets that dipped down into the well. Well we had a little old, I guess it was an 8 horsepower, Fairbanks-Morse single cylinder engine that run the belt that we run down to the sprockets on the bottom where there was another wheel, another pulley. That was about a distance of about 20 feet from the buckets up to the motor. That belt now and then would break in two, and we had to splice it, my dad usually always did that. Later on, they came out with a special kind of a sprocket, which if you cut the ends off square, you could take some metal, well they’re just metal claws that you put over the end of the belt, and pounded them into the end of the belt, and bent them over so they’d hold firmly, to mend your belt so it would work again. And whenever those mended places went around over the pulleys that were operating the apparatus, they would go click-click-click. So we could always tell whether the pump was running from the sound of the belt running over those, because it always had plenty of broken places in it. It was about a 6 inch or an 8 inch belt, that fastened onto the pulley at top, run by the little motor. It didn’t look like a little motor to us. It was big enough so I couldn’t hardly start it. You had to put your foot on the spoke of the flywheel which was on one side of the motor and run it around ‘til you got compression, then by the use of a magneto, which had to be cleaned every now and then, you run it right up to that compression point, then with a quick jerk, you gave it a pull, and started over. And whenever you did that, there was a spark caused by the magneto that would start the motor up. Well...
L: You’re taking too much time with the pump. Get a moving...
F: Grandma says I’m taking too much on the pump, but it was really interesting to me, and I always enjoyed...
My dad finally let me go down and put oil in the oil cup that stood on over the top of the pump. I used to just love doing that. I always just had to stand clear of the flywheel, and stand clear of the belt. It was a very touchy job. He’s always afraid I might get caught up in that. Well, so much for the pump.
L: Is that where the goat fell in that time?
F: No, goodness no, the goat fell into a well down on the Woodruff place, several years later!
F: That was Grandma, trying to find out stories that she had heard me tell of some of things that happened down on the Woodruff place.
Well, what I wanted to bring out here, was that the ditch that run from the pump down into the fields, run in front of the house maybe about 50 feet, or maybe about 70 feet in front of the house. We had a yard, in front of our house there, of about 50 feet in width and as long as the house was, and the house was I think maybe altogether, maybe 50, 60 feet long. The old house was built of course when we first went there and started to live there. It consisted of, and I wish to goodness that we had a good picture of it, but we only have a picture of the kitchen part of it on the back side, where mother was standing with Grandma Willard one time when she was over there to visit. We have that picture, and I think we do have one other picture of one of us kids taking a bath in a old bathtub, which were just simply a round galvanized tub, that we’d bathe in during the summertime. But when the ditch was running, when the pump was running, kids usually managed to bathe out there in that ditch. We’d back up the water enough to get a little pond there. We do have one picture I think of Mary Jo, perhaps it was Paula, sitting there in the ditch, taking her summer bath. Or getting her summer bath. Anyway that ditch carried the water down I guess it was maybe a quarter mile down to the irrigated part of the farm. And it had to be kept clean, and although my dad did most of that, Frank, my brother Francis, used to have to help out on that, and I think that’s one of the reasons he liked to go visit his brother in Los Angeles, was it was hard work. I said Los Angeles, it was actually Ventura, California. And he did go out there to visit every now and then.
This particular summer he was living there with us, there at the farm, and well, I’m kinda getting ahead of my story here.
While we were still in grade school, that age in there, now I told about the games we played, we were off down in the field one time, to the gardens, in a wagon. The whole family had gone down there. Team pulling the wagon, and harvested some of the crop. We were bring that load of produce back up to the farm, or to our farmhouse, and just as we got into the farmyard, up where the buildings were, my brother Lynn, who had been sitting on the edge of the farm wagon, you know how wagons are built, with a kind of a board, sideboard along the side of them. He was sitting up on the siding, that sideboard, and some way or another, he managed to fall off. He got in between the wheel and the wagon, and it really scraped his leg up pretty good, and then he finally fell down, and the wagon went right straight over the top of him. Now besides us kids in the wagon, it had quite a bit of produce. Oh, were we all scared!
We heard him squall when he went down, cry out, and then when we got back there he was laying on the ground without saying anything. In other words, he was unconscious, with the breath squeezed completely out of him. And were we all scared! My dad picked him up, hurried into the house with him, and there he kind of give him artificial respiration. Lynn soon came to. He just had the breath squealed completely out of him when that wagon wheel run over him. So that was scary, but it wasn’t as bad as the scrape he got along the side of his leg from the wagon wheel when he fell down. We had to have a doctor come down and kind of bandage that up, although my mother did a good job putting Vaseline on it, and putting homemade bandages over it, before the doctor came, because the doctor was never available with out coming from either the Verde Smelter or from up at Jerome where they had a big hospital with a Doctor in that.
Well those were the conditions of our childhood. And I thought it a good time to put them in here, though the house seemed to be lengthy conversation on my part, and probably everybody has got completely bored with listening to it by this time.
But one of the other things that happened as we were growing up a little, later on we went to school up in Clemenceau, and high school in Clarkdale. Lynn and I were going to the Junior High School in Clemenceau, and Frank was going to High School in Clarkdale. Well, in order to catch a bus, which took us, we had to walk a quarter of a mile to where the bus came. The bus never picked us up at the farm. But we would walk up there, and there, a private bus, wasn’t a school bus or anything, just a private man operated a school bus sort of, just simply his own vehicle which he made into a school bus. And there he’d load the kids that came up there to the corner and haul them to their various schools. Which is also an interesting part of our growing up.
Lynn and I, as I said, were going to the Clemenceau school during our junior high school years, and Frank was going to the High School up in Clarkdale. Now he made friends up there, and he also made friends out in Los Angeles, when he went out there to visit with his brother. Now I say Los Angeles, because his older brother, Lewis, would take him in to Los Angeles there to the Olympic Club gymnasium. There he really learned to box and to do all kinds of exercises, and he would make friends of all kinds, and he really enjoyed that part of his life, growing up. The reason I mentioned all that, is that one time...
Time out while Lucille checks the tape, to see whether we’ve run out of tape yet.
One of the friends that he’d met out there in the Olympic Club, who was from back East, and he’d been good friends with Francis, and he came out to the old Verde Valley Ranch, Frank had invited him to come any time he could.
But this one summer he happened to show up. Well, he was a very interesting young chap, his name was Fritz, Fritz Heltstern, and he was from New Jersey, which is a long way off as far as us kids were concerned. He would help around the farm in any way, in whatever we might be doing. He wasn’t completely ignorant of what farms were like, or what livestock was like, because on one particular occasion on this particular summer, one of our livestock, which was a heifer, about a year old, got loaded in the alfalfa field. And we got it out of the field and the usual procedure we tried to cure bloat with, was to just walk them until we walked that bloat off. But this heifer had got so far gone that she couldn’t be walked. She was just staggering around, and her belly was swelled up on one side so much, and none of us knew what to do about it. Fritz was there with Frank, trying walk that heifer out, and he said, "Here, I know what to do about it." And he found a ... (Tape ends)