October 15 and 17, 2002 and January 28, 2003
Hanson: This is an interview with Mr. Raymond O. Powers at his home in San Bernardino. Mr. Powers is a lifelong resident of San Bernardino. He was born here on November 12, 1909. This is October 15, 2002, and this interview is being conducted by Joyce Hanson. Good morning, Mr. Powers. Today you wanted to talk about your family.
POWERS: Well, I'd like to bring you up to date on some of the family because my granddad was very active in the settlement of some of this area out here and in the mountains.
My father was born in the Oklahoma Territory before it became a state, and he was born in Boggy Depot or Boggy Creek they used to call it, but then later it became a depot in Oklahoma. And my mother was born in Waco, Texas. My granddad was a water well digger. He drilled water, not oil at that time, but the water. My father as a young man went down to Texas and worked for my granddad. That's where he met my mother. Then later my granddad moved to Redlands, California, and he bought Forest Home. He used to own all of Forest Home. He became sort of a ranger there and he and his brother, Will Dobbs-it was John Dobbs and Will Dobbs was his brother-they decided that they were going to put in a power station. So, they built a cabin up on the top in the mountains, up half way up into the mountains toward Grayback, or Mt. San Gorgonio. It's called Dobbs Cabin, it's still on the map, and part of the old cabin is still there. They decided that they would--Have you ever been to Fallsvale above Forest Home?
POWERS: There's a big falls there. A creek-Fallsvale Creek that runs in a big, quite a big falls. They decided that they would dig a tunnel from this creek over through the mountain, and then run a pin stock down and put a powerhouse down at the bottom of it, and then have electricity and all. Well, they dug part of the tunnel and the government found out about it, they came up and checked on it, and they shut it down. They said no they couldn't, they couldn't stop that falls. That was a natural falls and that would stop the falls from falling. It's a big falls. It's still there. You can take a real nice trip to go up and see it. Now it's historical. So, they stopped it and then later, Edison and their people put a powerhouse down at the bottom of the canyon as you drive up toward Forest Home. There's a powerhouse there.
My uncle John Dobbs and another man used to go up there by mule and stay up there and help dig the tunnel. Well, one time when they were going up there, lightening struck. A big storm came, and lightening struck and killed the man that was with my uncle, and it also burned my uncle's shoes where the nails were in the heel. It made holes up in his feet and it knocked him out. It killed one of the mules and the other mule was still all right. He put the man on, strapped him on the other mule, and he started wandering. They found him almost over by Yucaipa-way over that direction. But my uncle came out of it- my uncle, John Dobbs. They buried the other fellow, and they had quite a story about it. It's been in the papers about it. That stopped the production of a powerhouse.
Well, then my granddad, as long as he couldn't have the powerhouse, he moved then down to Lugonia Street in Redlands and bought a home. My mother (she died when she was 86), who was born there in Texas, she went to Lugonia School. It's the old school on the corner of Lugonia and Orange Street in Redlands now. She went to school there. They then later moved to Pomona, and that's where my dad and my mother got married. Then a year later I was born at 5th and D Street here in San Bernardino. They moved back to San Bernardino and I was born here in town.
And then after the first year, why, we moved to Highland. Highland was a very active orange area. It had five packinghouses, and Highland and Redlands were very active with oranges. My folks both worked in the orange packing business. My mother packed oranges and my dad loaded all the freight cars with the orange boxes to go back east. I lived there in Highland at 52 E. Main Street, which is on the first street in the town there. I went through all eight grades there, and then in the ninth grade, they built a junior high school for the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Well, that meant when I got out of the eighth grade then I had to stay there in Highland the next year to go the ninth grade, and I couldn't go to San Bernardino High School for four years. I could only go for three. Of course, I didn't like that, but that's part of the way life is. Of course, after that first year I rode the streetcar. They had a Pacific Electric streetcar that ran from Highland into San Bernardino, and then up to Arrowhead Springs Hotel. I used to ride the streetcar back and forth to high school. I went to all the eight grades out there, and then the ninth grade, and then I went three years to San Bernardino High School. I graduated in the class of 1928 in San Bernardino High School.
Then, that year they had the junior college but they didn't have any place for it, so they had it at the high school the first year. So, I went to college there the first year. The second year, they built it down on South Mt. Vernon Avenue. I went for a little while, and then I had a chance to get a job. I went to work for the Smart & Final Company, which is still at this present time a grocery wholesale deal. I used to stack milk and unload boxcars. I did that for two years.
Then I had a chance to become manager of a candy and tobacco company there, and I got $25 a week for doing it. I was in the basement because all of the candy and tobacco had to be down where it was cool. They had a brick floor, and every day I would wet the brick floor a little bit and sweep it out and all. Of course, back in those days-this was back when smoking was quite popular-they had all types of cigarettes for ladies. They had little miniature cigarettes that were only an inch-and-a-half or two inches long, purple, pink, and all different colors. They had long ones, and they had holders for the ladies to put the cigarettes in. We also had the cigars. And we had the candy boxes of candy that I would put on the trucks to deliver to the grocery stores and all. I stayed there for two years.
Then a friend of mine was helping one of the linen supplies-Valley Linen Supply Company at 971 3rd Street, near the old Santa Fe Depot-and he fell and broke his leg. So they needed help and they offered me a job upstairs at $25-the same pay--$25 a week if I could run this linen supply for the man. It was the old Southern Service Laundry Company. I said, "Sure, I'd be glad to take it and get out of that basement and all."
So I worked there for about five years and I delivered to all the nurses, all the barber shops, all the beauty shops, all the grocery stores-the aprons, and all of those things. As a matter of fact, it was very interesting because the beauty shops had what they called "Hoover" aprons. They were the kind that you wrap around you one way, and when you got the front dirty you would wrap it around you the other way. Of course, the barbershops, and the doctors, all wore a short white jacket. Well, the barber shops would get hair in the pocket and all, and so I had a bad time to be sure that the doctors never got one of those jackets with the hair in them. Because if they did, boy, they would call me up, "Raymond Powers? Get back up here and bring me some clean jackets. You left me some jackets that have hair in them." And I would do it and change them. So, I got to be known throughout the whole city as the linen supply man. It was a small town at that time. I also had all of the old-fashioned roller towels in all of the restrooms. They were the kind you pull down and they catch every time. I had those roller towels, and I was making still $25 a week. It was good money in those days. So, I worked there for five years.
In the meantime, why, my dad and my grandfather bought property up in the mountains. My granddad bought all the land that Arrowbear Lake belongs to, and then my dad bought 52 acres called Deer Lick Springs. He put in a resort and the buses would all stop there. My mother was there, and we had a little restaurant. My aunt was the pie baker there. They had all come from Oklahoma.
I'm actually getting ahead of myself a little bit, because while I was living in Highland, my relations all came from Oklahoma. First came the Hathaway family with a mother and dad, and five girls. They came to Highland, but they didn't have any place to live. We had a two-bedroom house there, so they lived there for three months with us. Of course, as they finished taking their baths-and I was just a young man-after they got through with their baths, my mother would clean all of that out, and the bath tub was my bed for almost three months until they bought a house of their own. Then the next year, my cousin Cecil Phelps and his mother and dad moved out here from Oklahoma, and they came and stayed with us for three months until they bought a house in Highland. I still had the bathtub as my bed. Then later my five cousins, one at a time, became the telephone girl for the punchboard. That was the old-fashioned telephone where you'd push the button in and then you could ring that-it was all a ring deal. Each one of them as they grew up older-they all went to school in Highland-they all took their share of running the telephone switchboard for many, many years. My two uncles, they took care of the orange orchards.
In the meantime, of course, my folks worked at the packinghouse. I would go over and get ice out of the reefers, or the big boxcars. I had a cellar at my house, and I had tubs. I would put the ice in there and put sawdust over it. I would buy soda pop for two-and-a-half cents a bottle, and I would take it every afternoon after school over to the packinghouses. They would allow me to go in and sell it to the packers or the box makers and the people at work. I ran a credit union sort of deal. I'd keep track of it, then as their payday came, I would go and collect five cents a bottle for it, and I would take the empty bottles back. So, I made money that way.
I also had a hundred gopher traps, and I knew the orange orchard people. So you understand, when they irrigate an orange orchard, they dig five rows down between each row of trees. Then they turn the water on up at the top, and they run it down each line. Well, if a gopher gets in the line and fills up one of these trenches, then the water will all go over into the one-two will go down one-and it will go too fast. So, I trapped gophers-every day. I had a hundred traps and I cut the tails off. I got ten cents apiece for each one of those tails from the owner of the orchard. They'd ask me, "Well, how many gophers did you trap this month?" I'd tell them and they'd pay me ten cents apiece. So, I was making money every way I could. That's how I lived there in Highland and, of course, went to school there and all.
Also, I had four of the Indian kids that live up at the reservation, and I knew them real well. On Saturday or Sunday, I would go up there with them and play with them. I had a little .22 gun and I would go up and kill two rabbits and bring them down at noon. There were four children: Alfred Marcus, he was the oldest and he played football at San Bernardino High; and then Martha, Daniel, and I can't think of the name of the youngest one. But anyway, they were in the first grade with me in Highland School. I had a picture of all of the whole school-the teacher and all that. Here, last year I had it made up big and I presented it to the Indians because I know them real well. They used to have just a shack and a dirt floor. They would water that every day, take a brush broom, brush it out, and clean it. Martha's mother used to fry those rabbits for our dinner at lunch, and we'd play and all. Martha called me the other day and told me she had a new home up there. She said, "Remember the old home where you used to come up and play with me?" I said, "Yes, Martha." She said, "Well, I want you to come up and see my house now. I have a $350,000 home." And she said, "I didn't like the bathroom, and so they spent $20,000 more changing my bathroom for me." She said, "Raymond, come up and see me some time because you're 93, too, same as me." I'm 92 now, but she's 93 now. I haven't gone up yet.
So, that's part of our early history of the Powers and the Dobbs and the family living in San Bernardino and then living in Highland. Of course, my grandfather, after he sold his mountain property and the bank finally--well, we had a real good business there because the buses would stop. My mother served a half-chicken dinner with a half-loaf of bread for a dollar-and-a-half to the people that would stop and want lunch. It was my job to kill the chickens, clean them, and get them ready for the lunch up there.
Then later up there, Jack Benny and his wife, and the cowboy-I'm trying to think of his name right now. Not Tom Mix, but after that. They had a home right over there near Running Springs. I took care of their horses. Whenever they wanted to ride the horses, they'd let me know. I would saddle them and take them over there. I got $5 a week to take care of the horses, saddle them, take them to them, take them back, clean them, and take care of them. Bebe Daniels was always there a lot. There were three homes over there. I used to take care of them when I was a kid. This when I was young-I was going to school at that time. So, during the summer that was my job-helping to take care of Hoot Gibson. It was Hoot Gibson who had a home there. He had part of his horses that I took care of too.
Hanson: What grade were you in when you did that? How old were you? Do you remember?
POWERS: Oh, I was in the first grade of high school so I was about 14 or 15 because I graduated when I was 18. I used to live there during the summer, and that was part of my job. When we'd come back down here, I went to school on the streetcar. Later on, I had a chance to go to work for the Baseline Laundry. It was called a wet wash laundry. It was on Baseline and there were all artesian wells out there. They were all flowing hot artesian wells. My granddad had just bought all of the land by what is now called Victoria Street. It used to be called Pepper. He bought all of the land from Victoria over to Olive Street, and he developed that whole area and had a big swimming pool-indoors and outdoors. It was a resort. They had a baseball diamond there, and they had a merry-go-round. The first plane I ever saw-it flew out there. He had a dance floor up on the second floor of the resort, and they had dances there-square dances and all that. Of course, since my granddad owned it, it didn't cost me anything to go swimming or anything else.
I was living on the corner of Pepper and Baseline. There were three houses. There was the Powers family, and the Cull family-Al Cull was a mechanic who later moved to San Bernardino at 7th and E Street and had a garage there-and then the Hambly family. They had two girls and a boy, and he fumigated all the orange trees. They put big poles and canvas over, and shoot stuff in to kill the bugs and all that around the orchards.
The streetcar would stop as they came from San Bernardino to go to Highland. They always stopped at Baseline. Women had the men put a box-an orange box-there with a flag, and they covered it with oilcloth. There was no such thing as plastic. They covered it with oilcloth, and whenever they wanted something in San Bernardino or in Highland, they would put up the flag and put the money in the jar with a note of what they wanted-needles or thread or any different things. The conductor and the motorman would stop and would get the stuff out of the box and cover it over again. When they would come back, they would put it there. There was always a sandwich or a pie or cake all covered over for the conductor. They would then have their lunches and things like that. That was always an interesting thing for me to see that streetcar stop there. And they always called it Harlem Beach. I don't know why, but Harlem Springs was the name of it. It was there for years. Then, my dad later lost to the bank the property up there at Deer Lick Springs, and my granddad sold his property-the Arrowbear Lake property to a fellow named M.P. Carlock. Carlock built a lake and- in on the table is a book. It will be a folder with pictures in it that I want to show you.
Hanson: Okay. (Retrieves book/folder)
Tape 1, Side 2
Hanson: Okay, we're all set.
POWERS: All right. Here is a copy that you can temporarily take. I'd like to have it back later. That has the picture of our resort, Deer Lick Springs, and this is my dad on skis. These were our cabins. If you'll notice on the next page, over here it gives the rates for the cabins-two people for $3 a day. There's the picture of our place, and the tallest tree in the forest. That was 176 feet high and 18 feet around. That was the biggest tree in our forest. Over on this page, you'll see me holding a big trout that a guy caught down in Deep Creek. That was only a quarter-mile from where we lived, and there's that big tree that I told you was the biggest tree. Someone had carved initials in it. Then they built a lake at Arrowbear Lake, and that's me and my friend-he got killed later-and we won the canoe race and they gave us lifetime permits to ride in canoes. But later it didn't mean anything. Also, here are the old buses that used to come from San Bernardino and go to Big Bear, and they would stop to eat.
Hanson: They don't look like buses. They look like touring cars.
POWERS: Well, they were motor transit buses. One came by Lake Arrowhead, and the other was on the shoreline of City Creek. Here is a picture-you'll have to see this. That's our resort. Originally, it was short-see, it was only three windows. And then they built it bigger. That's that same tree. We lived there for quite a few years. There are different stories in here about-- maybe I can get a couple of pages here.
This was a deal when they crossed the creek going up the mountains, my dad had all these made up and had me stand down there and hand each car as it forded the creek one of these.
Hanson: That's beautiful.
POWERS: I used to hand these to cars as they were going to Big Bear Lake, to stop at our place.
Hanson: Can I make a copy?
POWERS: Yes, you can have one of those if you want it. I think that's about all there is of it (the folder). But that's our place-that was our resort. My granddad, he sold--this M.P. Carlock bought the whole land and then he made a deal. He divided it all up into 25-foot lots, he went down to the National Orange Show, and everybody won a lot. But they were so small that they weren't allowed by the county law to build a house on the 25-foot lot, so they had to buy the lot next to them or two of them. So that's the way he made his money. That's what happened. He was a promoter and he put in pipelines and advertised water to or by every lot. But they followed the roads and he had put in old pipelines that he had bought down at Long Beach that had oil in them. The water was no good. The district attorney made him put in a complete new deal. They took him to court and they made him dig it all up. It cost him a lot of money.
Then later, I came back down here and that's when I had started with the Baseline Laundry as a wet wash. I also had the business of all the auto courts. They were all auto courts in those days-they weren't called motels. I had all the hotels, and we also had a big red light district in San Bernardino. There were 300 girls here. I had a friend that had the other laundry-the San Bernardino Laundry-which was on Court Street. I talked with him-his name was George Webster. He later built a big market at the corner of Marshall Boulevard and E Street. Between the two of us, we divided up all of the prostitutes and the madams. We were straight shooters, both of us, because we never fooled with them. We had laundry bags that had metal tags on them. Each laundry would wash all the towels, the sacks, and the whole deal. Then we would fold those sacks up and we knew which sack and the towels went to which house. They always gave us even money-never any change. If the bill was $8.80, they gave us $9. If the bill was $8.40, they gave us only the $8. It was always even money. The madam would always pay us, and they would always motion to us if it was time for us to come in to bring the laundry into the front door. We never went in the back. We'd always go to the front door, and the madam would pay us. Pay us cash-always cash. Of course, the girls were all in the back.
The first man across the threshold of a prostitute house has to put money under the rug. That's their superstition-they're all alike. They're very, very superstitious women, but they were very polite. I never had them cuss me, I never had them offer for me to come in and see them or be with them or spend any time there with them, or anything else. We used to always give them string and they, in their little reception room where they would sit behind the curtain and talk to the men as they would walk up and down the street, every so often they had nails all the way across. They would take the string, go up over the top, and then go down and then they would hang halfway down, and then they would take and make it over again. Then they would light that string, and as it burned up to the end, when it would get to the nail, it would drop down, and then it would burn up again. That was part of their superstition-they would burn string all day long.
Hanson: I've never heard of that.
POWERS: I would buy balls of string from Barnum & Flagg that was special real hard string because it burns real slow-like a wick that they use on firecrackers. So, these girls were always very superstitious. If a man would come in and not go in with them, then as he went out the door they would always wet their finger and slap him on the back and say, "Get out of here, get out of here." Always. That was one thing that they always did.
When my wife and I would be uptown-they spent a tremendous amount of money on clothes and Harris Company was a big store, or we'd see them in the restaurants. They would never speak to me until I spoke to them. But my wife knew, because she used to ride with me in the evening when I'd deliver. She'd sit on those sacks and ride with me in the truck, and also George Webster's wife used to ride with him. Because we'd go back in the evening to deliver-earlier in the evening, and if they were busy they would motion "Go on," and we'd go on the next place or wherever we would be accepted to get the money.
George Webster and I--well, first of all, I have to explain that my mother worked for Harris Company for years. When they built the new store-it was there at 3rd and E Street-she opened the Café Madrid. She was a cook by trade. She was the manager of the Café Madrid, which is upstairs there. Then my wife was a clerk or cashier at the fountain-downstairs they had a big fountain and a sandwich shop. She worked there. My dad died when he was 52 years old, so my mother lived with my wife and I for a while.
George Webster and I used to make-this was during hard times, too-a hundred dollars a week each one of us. We went to the American National Bank that was run by J.B. Shepardson, McCooks, and Jimmy Jamieson. We both had safe deposit boxes next to each other, and we both had keys to each other's box. We would put a hundred dollar bill every week in our-we didn't trust the bank or nothing-and we'd put a hundred dollar bill away in that safe deposit box-one in his and one in mine. He took the money that he made, after the years, and made that big market up there. I took my money and later bought the house down in San Clemente. The guy wanted $20,000 for the house and lot-an extra lot. I didn't have that-I came back, counted my money, and I didn't have enough money-I only had $15,000 in one hundred bills. Two weeks later, the guy called me up, and said, "Mr. Powers, do you still have that money?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, can you come down on a Thursday afternoon and meet me" at this business-what are they called that handle loans or estates? I said, "Sure, I could be there." He said, "Bring the money with you, will you?" I said, "Okay," and I had two cigar boxes full of hundred dollar bills. We counted it out there and he gave me the deed to lot and the extra lot and house for $15,000. That's how I bought it. And I've still got it! I've been offered over a million dollars for it now.
Hanson: I'll bet you have.
POWERS: It's not for sale! I've got it under a living trust for the kids-this house, and my car, and the one down there. It's right above the pier on the bluff-nice, real nice. It's a two-bedroom red tile, made in 1925. Each of the tiles were made by Mexicans, and they scratched "1925" in the bottom of the tile, upside down. Tile, you know, is made like that. They make them over there. Some are big, and some are little. Anyway, I still own the house, and I still have it. I'm going to deed it-it's all going to go to a living trust to my children. There's a picture over there of my kids. And by the way, right here is a picture that my son just took. This is he-he's in the Sheriff's Reserve, too. There's a picture here.
Hanson: He's very handsome.
POWERS: Here. Here's a picture of me the other day, down at his place in Ramona-and the two grandkids.
Hanson: Those are your two grandkids. What are your grandkids' names?
POWERS: Timothy, Jr. and Sheila, and the wife's name is Beverly. We bought this house in 1961. We lived over on Pershing Avenue. The girl married Dr. R. Peake. He was a doctor here in town, and they had this house and the wanted to move to Redlands. She was my senior girl in the office. Out of the seven girls, she was in charge. Her name was Margaret Bradshaw at that time, and then she married Dr. Peake. She told me, "Raymond, you know, you've got a boy." He was born in '49, and he went to school over at Marshall School. Later, he would go on to San Bernardino High in time. She said, "You know, you only have one bathroom and your boy's getting older now. We've got a house we'd like to sell, but we want someone with money." I said, "Well, what do you mean?" She said, "Well, I know you've got some money. I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll sell you that house for $60,000 and we'll buy a house over in Redlands. I said, "I don't think so." She said, "Why don't you come out and meet my husband, Dr. Peake, and look at it." We did, and my wife said, "It has two bathrooms. It has a bathroom back here and has one in there, and three bedrooms-or a den and two bedrooms. You know, I think that'll be a real good idea because that way Tim would have his own room, he'd have his own bathroom, and I could have mine with yours or you could have yours with him. Why don't we buy it?" I said, "Well, I've got the money because I saved money." We never bought anything unless we had the cash-never. No credit. As a matter of fact, we didn't even have credit at any of the stores because we paid cash. And we bought this house on December 16, 1961, and I've still got it. So that is how this all came about.
Now, I want to go back a-ways and talk about when I was in this laundry business with the Baseline Laundry, and had the old auto courts. They were on Highway 66, which was Mt. Vernon Avenue. Also, I had all of the hotels downtown-the old Stewart Hotel, and I had also the hotel called the Southern Hotel right across from where our library was. Back in the early days, Death Valley Scotty stayed there at the Stewart Hotel on the second floor. I'd have his laundry, he would come there and stay, and he used to go down to the bank and get rolls of nickels, dimes, and half dollars, open them up, and open the window up. The streetcar ran along there-the one that came from Highland. He would yell out, "Hey, gang, hey!" Everybody would say, "There's Scotty up there!" He would open up those windows, and he would take handfuls of dollars, quarters, nickels, everything, and throw them all over the street. It would stop all the traffic, and people would run out and pick up that money. Of course, the best way was in the streetcar track because the streetcar track has a high deal. That's where most of the people would go. But he would do that and he would completely stop the traffic. Yep. And I knew him real well because I was his laundry man. Death Valley Scotty was an old friend of mine. He would come in and that's where he always stayed. He had that one room up above. Later, over at the Southern Hotel, which is now the Sun Company, at one time Lily Langtree, who was famous singer, stayed there. I had a book that I gave to Redlands; I think they have it, that had their names signed in it. Also, Mark Twain stayed there and his name's in the book. They've got that over there-I gave them all that.
Then there was-I don't know the president's name now-but it was the one before Wilson. Wilson was during WWI.
Hanson: So you're talking about - Taft?
POWERS: That could be right. Also, while I was a laundry man, President Johnson was the elevator man in the Pratt Building when I was going into all the lawyers and all that. And I knew him.
Hanson: Lyndon Johnson?
POWERS: I knew President Johnson before he-when he ran the elevator. That's hard for a lot of people to believe, but I go way back. See, I go clear back to 1909. And Johnson ran that elevator.
Hanson: I didn't know that.
POWERS: Oh yes, I knew him real well. I would take the towels and the soap and all that I would take to all the different lawyers up there in the building. Later, I was on the Orange Show Committee for all governmental agencies for 25 years. My wife and I would go every year to the National Orange Show seats that sat two rows behind the queens at the Rose Bowl. We were privileged-we had old friends who would always see to it. Dave Davis was one of them-he was the president of the Orange Show. They would always see that we got those two seats. One time I sat next to a famous coach-Knute Rockney-right next to him. Different coaches would sit right along in that area. It was a special deal.
Hanson: I guess so!
POWERS: My wife and I would get there early so we could see the people come in and all that. We were very friendly with all the different ones. I felt so bad Gene Autry didn't get to live to see this World Series deal. He was an old friend of mine. He belonged to the Elks Lodge down at Burbank. The man that lived next to me down at San Clemente in an apartment went into the Elks Lodge the same night that Gene Autry went in. I went down with this man and met Gene Autry. Later, every time we'd go down to Palm Springs when they had the spring training there, we'd see Gene Autry and he would invite Bernie-my wife.
I always called her Bernie. Her name was Bernadine-Bernadine May Powers. Hunt was her original name. She was from Riverside. I was from here. We met at the National Orange Show because they had a cafeteria there. At nine o'clock at night, they would move the tables away and they would have a dance from nine to eleven. That's where I met her, and that's how we got married here in town-San Bernardino.
Hanson: What year did you get married?
POWERS: 1934. March the 24th of 1934. As a matter of fact, the one that owned the Sun Paper lived right across the street from me. We had a home wedding and they all came over to our wedding. Also, right next to the old hotel, the Southern Hotel, was a place called the Opera House. All of the famous people came there. There was a lady named Mrs. Kipler who ran it-a widow lady. She was an old lady and, boy, she was ornery. But she would always let my wife and I sit in the box seat-they had box seats on each side of the show. She would always give one box seat to my wife and I because she liked me real well. I was always a local around town, the laundry man, and different things like that.
See, I've always served the public. I never had my own business. That's the way it's always been, and I know an awfully lot of these different people because of being a past Grand Exalted Ruler [of San Bernardino Elk's Lodge #836]. Then when I was with the city, I was there at the city hall and I had all of the refuse trucks, and the street sweepers, and the dump grounds. We had a cut-and-cover there. As a matter of fact, I have a picture right at the bottom. It's on the bottom page here. Well, I thought I had it.
Hanson: Is it this? You have these big pictures here.
POWERS: Oh, there it is. There's one more. I don't see the dragline. But we had a big dragline that dug the lake. You know where the lake is on 5th Street?
POWERS: We dug that out. The way we dug that out was with this big dragline. The Santa Fe Railroad loaned us ties-big long ties that go between switch stations. We'd put the ties all down, and then we'd walk this big dragline out on it. Then he'd reach over and get the bucket-it was a big bucket of dirt, and put it over on the sides. And he dug that lake. Because up on the corner of 7th and Waterman Avenue was an artesian well that flowed all the time-heavily. A lot of water ran down there. After they filled the lake, they wanted to cap that so he brought his dragline up there. The big pipe was flowing water-real big. He went over to the Sante Fe and got a big round staub. He chopped it down round to match that big pipe. He said, "Now, we'll put two poles for guys to hold that over that water, and when I say 'when' we'll drop the big drag line on top of that." It was a 3-ton dragline. "We'll drop that on and drive that staub right down in that well, and that will seal it off." That's the way we sealed that lake. Now, they turned that later into a Little League ballpark, but it's part of the cemetery deal now. Across the street from it, there's nothing in there except a eating place and a wash car deal way down. But that is the old city dump back-away back. We found, as we were working there, three bodies there. They were Indians-well, they thought they were. Anyway, the city closed it down right away and covered it all over. That was original old city dump. (End of tape #1, side 2)
Tape #2, Side 1: October 15, 2002
Hanson: Okay, Mr. Powers.
POWERS: All right. I had two federal men-one from Washington, DC, and one from Denver-come out here. They called me first and then came to see me. They said, "Mr. Powers, you used to be in charge of all the refuse." I said, "That's right." He said, "Do you know anything about the valley?" I said, "Sure, I was born here." He said, "We want to find out where the old dumps were." I said, "Well, I know where all of them were." They came out here for two days and took me all around. I told them where all the original dumps were. One used to be out on the corner of 3rd Street and Palm Avenue-there's a cement deal on it now.
That was the first city dump that the city had out there. The county did too, but they did not charge. We also took care of all of Loma Linda free of charge. We talked them into letting Loma Linda come there and dump free of charge because they were giving a lot of people help. I helped a lot on that. And the same way with the circuses-we used to clean up every time a circus would come to town. We'd clean it up for free. Well, then I finally talked to the Mayor and Council and said, "Look, they ought to pay. These advance men that come ahead of time should pay us to clean that lot up-the manure and all that stuff." And we did from then on. But we always gave all of the Catholic people-the churches, the schools, everything that was having free carnivals-the white painted barrels, and give them free service. The Council did that.
Later, when we took in the Orange Show-it used to be in the county-I bought metal white bins. We put all the metal white bins around there and kept that Orange Show nice and clean. We would empty those every night after the show was over. We'd have trucks go in and empty them all. I did that for, well, I was there for 25 years with the Orange Show. I used to help also as an assistant on the Rodeo. So I've been busy on things like that.
When the grocery store put in the first one on Baseline and E Street.
Hanson: Stater Brothers?
POWERS: He had one out here on Del Rosa and Baseline. I can't recall his name right this second. I know it, too.
Hanson: It will come to you.
POWERS: I know. It will come. I furnished the old green aprons, and they used straw hats. They washed every potato. I finally had to tell him, "You're going to have to cut out wiping those potatoes with those aprons. I'll sell you a whole gunny sack full of old barber towels that are cleaned to do that with." I can't think of the big markets. He had one over at Redlands and all around.
Hanson: Was it Stater Brothers?
POWERS: No. I knew the boys-Staters-real well. Anyway, that was there. Then when McDonald's went in, the first, the two McDonald Brothers went in, I put the linen supply in. I knew them real well. I put their aprons on them and all that, and started there at 14th and E Street when they went there. So, I was the first one that started on that deal there. Of course, I used to know the [inaudible] and everything that happened around town. I can't think of his name that had all the big markets. Eddie Dunn was the vegetable guy. He took care of all the vegetables because the one I got after about wiping the--they washed every potato before they put it up in the rack.
Hanson: That's amazing.
POWERS: Yes. Then I retired. In 1975 I retired and I told my wife, "You know, I'm going to retire." She worked for the city schools. She was in the offices of the different schools as an office helper. She would go to different schools and help them. I told her, "Bernadine, if you're going to work another year, I'm going to travel. And if I'm going to travel, you're going to be here alone." She said, "What do you mean? When are you going to retire?" I said, "I'm going to retire July 1st, 1975. I'll be old enough and I'm going to retire." She said, "In that case, I'm going to retire the same day. Then we can travel." We've been in every state in the Union. We've been in all of Canada. We've been in Alaska twice. We've been to Puerto Rico and all down there. I get seasick. I was in the Navy three years, but I can't go on a ship. But I have been up to Alaska twice. We went to Kotsabu. We went to Nome. We went to Point Barrow. We saw where they were digging the oil wells up there. We've been to Fiji and Tahiti, New Zealand for a month. We've been all over Mexico, and we've been down to Cancun and spent a month there. We've done a lot of traveling. I've sold eight of my Mercury Marquis-I've got one out there now-to different guys up at the Elks Club. Every year I'd buy one-a new one over in Redlands-and sell it at the end of the year and buy a new one for eight times. We've had a wonderful life together.
There is one thing that I will say. When I was going with my wife, I happened to mention that my mother was running the Café Madrid and she also made a wonderful lemon pie. My girlfriend then-her name was Bernadine Hunt-said, "Oh, I make lemon pies and I'm living with the grandmother of Rex Mays." Now, Rex Mays was a race track driver that won the Indianapolis Race. She lived with the grandmother in Riverside. She said, "You know, if you come over next Sunday, I'll make you a lemon pie." I said, "All right." I had a brand new Ford that I had bought. So I drove over there. She gave me a piece of pie out on the porch. We sat on the porch. I said, "You know, this is the best pie. It's awfully good. It's so firm and yet it's not liquidy like lemon pies are. I bet I can tell you how you made this pie." She said, "Why do you know that?" I said, "Because my mother makes pies and I've watched her and I know. I bet you put a little bit of cornstarch in that." She looked at me and grabbed that piece of pie-took it away from me. And she said, "I did not put any cornstarch in it, and you can go home back to San Bernardino." I said, "Bernardine, I'm only telling you that's the way my mother makes it, and I thought you made it the same way." She said, "No, you're making fun of my pie." And she took it in the kitchen. So, I said, "Well, if that's the way you feel, I'll go home." I got in my car and I came back to San Bernardino.
Well, then the following week I met her at the Eagle's Hall. They had a dance there. I met her and she apologized to me. She said, "I found out later people do put a little cornstarch in it to make it stiff." I said, "Well, okay. But from now on if I'm going to be around you, and you're going to be around me, we're not going to argue. She said, "All right, that's a deal," and we shook hands. And do you know, up to this time, when she died, I had never argued with her. And she never argued with me. We agreed one way or the other. So, I would tell people if they got married, "Don't argue. Don't argue. Talk it out."
Hanson: Right. I think you're absolutely right.
POWERS: And we spent one day less than 62 years.
Hanson: And you have wonderful memories.
POWERS: She was a wonderful girl. But, well, that's about all I can tell you right this minute. I can tell you a lot of things about San Bernardino because I know all of the judges. They were my old friends. They used to always go over to a Chinese place at the old Antlers Hotel and eat there every noon. I'd go there most of the time and eat with them.
There is one thing. When my boys were driving the garbage trucks, they would on payday-originally the wife used to get the checks. They used to give the wives the checks. Then I found a couple of wives that would go in the old Star Bar and say, "Get rid of that beer. Set up fresh beer. I've got a check here. Give everybody fresh beer." Well, I stopped that in a hurry. I said, "Look, payday is going to be at the end of the day, and I'm going to give the checks to the men. I can't speak Spanish, so my foreman will call out their names and see that they get their checks." And I did. From then on, they used to go down to Meadowbrook Park and get a case of beer. The day before, they would go over to Colton and get a goat. They would have one of the guys barbeque the goat. They would bring that goat there and cut it up. They had a table and they would have beer and goat meat after payday. Well, that was all right. But once and awhile they'd get drinking pretty heavy. I always had the policy that anytime a man would have any trouble with his family or anything, come to my office. My office door was open, or I would talk with them. I'd always talk with them. So, I got to the point where the boys would, if they got to drinking too heavy at night, they would call me. "Mr. Powers?" "Yes?" "I've been drinking quite heavy and I don't think I should drive the city truck tomorrow morning. I don't think I'll be able to get to driving." I'd say, "All right. You make it up later, but don't you drive. Now let me get a hold of Sydney Serape my foreman so he can get another man out at two o'clock in the morning to go on the route." He'd say, "Okay, I'll be good and I'll guarantee you I'll make up the day. I'll work extra days for you to make up the day even." I'd say, "Okay, fine." Do you know my guys would-at that time I had a driver and a man on the back of each truck-this truck right here. They would go down the middle of the street, and they'd run over and get the garbage cans and empty them. That was in the old days. A lot of people would ask me, "Mr. Powers, how do you get those guys to run and work like they do?" I'd say, "I'll tell you why. When they get through with their route--they can do 450 on average--they get to go home." I didn't care. They put the truck in. They washed it-cleaned it-like they did there. Then put it away or take it over to the garage to be worked on, and they would go home. They got the full days pay. That's the way I worked them all the time.
Do you know, I had 18 boys during the summer who first had to prove to me they were going to go to college. Then I would hire them as an extra man on board to work on the back of the trucks on their days. I'd give them a full day's pay. I had Dr. Colver's boy, and Russell Olsen who was a jeweler-his boy. I had 18 of them all together that worked for me, but they all had to go to college.
Here's a story I have to tell you-it's interesting. My son got out of high school, and came to me and said, "Dad, I can't get a job." I said, "Well, Tim, what you do is go to the very top man of any organization and try to talk with him. If you go to Harris' Company, go to Les Harris and go in and try to see him. Make an appointment with him. Talk with him, and tell him what you want to do. The same way with Sage-Milt Sage." That's the one that owned all the grocery stores. I was trying to think of his name-Milt Sage. I said, "Go to Milt Sage and talk to him, or go to Mr. Webster-George Webster." He is not with the prostitutes any more. He's running a big market up here. I said, "You might be able to get a job cleaning vegetables or working for him. Go to him. He's the boss. Always go to the boss." Well, it happened to be about a week later, I had to go upstairs to the mayor's office. As I started to go in to the mayor's office, here came Tim Powers out. I said, "Tim! What are you doing are you doing here?" He said, "Well, you told me to go to the top man so I just went in and saw the mayor." I said, "What do you mean you talked to the mayor? You know I can't hire you. It wouldn't look right. The councilmen won't go for that." Bob Henley was the one especially. He said, "Boy, don't you hire your son." He was a councilman. And sure enough, here came Al Ballard out. Al Ballard said, "Ray, how come you haven't put your son on the back of a garbage truck this summer?" I said, "No, mayor, I can't do that. I won't hire him." He said, "Well, I'll tell you what. I just hired him, and next Monday he's going to go on the back of your trucks." I said, "No, no. I can't do that." He said, "Oh, yes. I'm the mayor. Am I your boss?" I said, "Yes, sir. You're my boss and you're over all of the department heads." He said, "Okay, that's the way it's going to be." Okay, the next Monday morning I put him on and in the afternoon I got a call in my office. "Mr. Powers," the girl came in and told me, "you're wanted down at the council chambers right now." I said, "All right, I'll go down." I went down and the minute I walked in Bob Henley spoke up. He said, "Mr. Powers, I ask for the floor. Can I have the floor, Mayor?" The mayor said, "Yes." He said, "Mr. Powers, go up to the podium." I did. He said, "I want to ask you a question. Did you put your son on the back of the garbage truck? Is he out there today working on the back of the garbage truck?" I said, "Yes, sir, he is." He said, "Well, you know better than that. You know that you cannot do that. That's completely against all of our rules." I said, "Sir, I'm sorry but that's where he's at." Al Ballard banged the gavel loud and said, "Bob Henley, sit down." He did. He said, "I want to tell you something. Mr. Powers would not hire Tim Powers. He refused to hire him. I'm the mayor. He came to me and I hired him, and I told him where he was going to work. And that's the way it's going to be. If you don't like it, then you take it before the rest of the council, but that man is going to go to college. He's already promised he's going to go to college, and that's all Mr. Powers is hiring-boys that are guaranteed they are going to college-18 of them." That happened to me. Every man I had working had nicknames. I had one called "Cheese Box," I had one that had spots like I have here who they called "Two-Tone." Another one they called "Gorilla." They called my boy "Sweet Pea." So, that happened. I had to tell you the story about how my son got the job. Later he went over to Pomona, and it became a university. He went all the way through there. His son is now a senior up at Santa Cruz, and they won't let them have a car in town or on the job. They won't them have roller skates. They can't have a bicycle, they can't have a motorcycle. That's all because of that boy killing those kids at Santa Barbara. Nope, they won't let them. They fired two of the kids up there. I found out later they transferred down to Riverside. But, they had cars hidden in town. They let them go, but they did transfer them because in Riverside they can have automobiles. They transferred both. My son knows them.
There are a lot of stories, you know, of the town that happened over the years. This used to be a solid olive grove here-clear up, the whole thing. We had a cannery here-an olive cannery.
Hanson: Oh, I didn't know that. When was that?
POWERS: That was back in--oh. Hi, Hilda! (Tape stopped briefly for interruption.)
POWERS: I used to have two guys come here and pick. One picked the olives Sunday. He picked all the olives from here. He's going to take them and cure them and all. This used to be a big olive grove, the whole thing. These houses were built here in 1957. I bought it from the girl that worked for me, and Dr. Peake, in 1961-December 16, 1961. So, you can take any of the pictures you want or anything else as long as someday I get them back. I would like for you to read my dad's letter that he wrote to me.
Hanson: I will do that. I'm going to make a copy.
POWERS: She [the reporter] thought it was so good that she filled it in for Father's Day. I bet you I had 15 or 20 phone calls from people in Highland. Old-timers that I knew that said, "Oh, I remember your dad and you." I don't know what the other part's about.
Hanson: She has a little history about Flag Day and Father's Day.
POWERS: Yes. Flag Day is June 14.
Hanson: I'll have this reproduced and then I'll return it to you.
POWERS: I hope I haven't been talking too much about everything
Hanson: You've been wonderful!
POWERS: Someday, when you've got time, I'll tell you of some of my history of where I have been in trouble. I've got metal hips. I've had both of them replaced. I also fell when I was bowling with the Elks. I broke my knee there, and Dr. Ballard fixed it. He said, "Ray, if you play golf or tennis anymore, don't ever come to me because that's going to break again or go bad on you someday. Dr. Ballard was one who helped on this hospital so much. Of course, I knew all of the various doctors real well. They were all good friends of mine, and they still are. A lot of them--As a matter of fact, it's a strange deal. I had a lawyer come from Needles. He became judge-Judge Fogg. The boy lived just behind McDonald's, and he still lives there. He's now a waiter out here at IHOP [International House of Pancakes]. He came to me the other day and said, "Ray Powers, you don't remember me, do you?" I said, "No, I don't." He said, "Well, my name is Fred." I said, "Fred what?" He said, "Well, my dad was a judge and he used to talk to you a lot about San Bernardino. He used to ask you a lot of questions about all of San Bernardino. When I got out of high school, I came down to City Hall and I asked you for a job because I was going to go to college and I understood you wouldn't hire anybody unless they'd be in college." I said, "Fred, I don't remember you." He said, "Well, I remember you because you said, 'Okay, you can have the job. Now what is your address?' When I gave you my address, I was living in the county. You said, 'Oh, I'm sorry I can't hire you. You've got to live in the city.'" That was the law then. He said, "You offered me a job and then you cancelled it that same day." I said, "You're kidding." He said, "No, I'll never forget you because you gave me my first job and then you turned around and took it away from me." He said, "My dad thought you were one of the nicest men because you always gave him a lot of history about people." I would go to these judges and ask them, "Judge, can I let this man drive only the city truck during the day? If I find that they're breaking the law or driving their own car or driving at night, I'll fire them." And do you know that Judge Fogg went before the Union at the City Hall. I had fired one of the guys. The Union fought me on it. They said, "You had no right to fire him like that." This judge went before the Union and said, "Now wait a minute, I am the judge and I gave that man permission to drive that city truck only. If he was seen driving any other vehicle, he was to be fired. And Mr. Powers fired him." The Union said, "We've heard enough." And that ended it.
Tape 2, Side 2:
POWERS: Fred, I see him out there when I go to IHOP.
Tape 3, Side 1:
Hanson: This is an interview with Mr. Raymond Powers at his home in San Bernardino. This is October 17, 2002, and this is Joyce Hanson doing the interview. Okay, Mr. Powers, today we wanted to talk about whatever you like. You choose.
POWERS: I would like to explain to you at least part of the organizations that I belong to and how they help the public and help various things. I'm a 60-year member-I will be 61-year member next month-of the Elks #836, San Bernardino Lodge. I'm a past Exalted Ruler-I'm the oldest past Exalted Ruler-of the Lodge. I go to the Lodge all the time. I help out up there a lot. They do a tremendous amount of help for all of the city people around here that are disabled and helpless, and the homeless. On Thanksgiving they always give out about 300 Thanksgiving dinners down at the various homes that are established here in San Bernardino. They do the whole cooking, and then they deliver. We have our various members deliver these dinners to the various places so they can all have a good Thanksgiving dinner. They also, every month, they give four different bonds to the school kids-both grammar school or high school. To give them these bonds, the teacher and the principal have to decide who is worthy to win the bond. When they do this, then once a month the Elks invite them up on a Monday night for dinner. They give the family, and the teacher, and the principal, and the mother and father and their children all a free dinner. Just as Lodge starts, the organ plays and we have all of our members in the Lodge ahead of time. They all rise and they march them in. As they stand in a big semi-circle-we have a loudspeaker system-the Exalted Ruler introduces each of the students and has the student introduce their family, their brothers and sisters, their teacher, and the principal, and then also what they plan on doing-where are they going to go to college. This is one of the things that we insist on trying to find out-that they are not going to just quit school, but they are going to continue on. We have one girl that was there the other night who has won two $50 bonds already-once in grammar school. Now she's in high school and she's going to become a doctor. We change schools each time. It can be a high school or a grade school, but this is one thing that we do every month. It's a monthly deal. The members all enjoy it, and we feel that it's great. Of course, our Grand Lodge, which is all of the Lodges throughout the United States of America, do the same thing. Also our Grand Lodge has, the last I heard, over $20 million that they have donated by past members that have past on. They keep that in a fund and that fund is never used. It's only the interest off of the fund. They give away somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three million dollars worth of bonds throughout the nation to high school students that are going on to college. They do this every year. This fund builds up because, back when I was Exalted Ruler in 1962-63, we only had a few thousand dollars then, I think. Now it's up in the millions. Someday I'll probably give a couple of thousand dollars toward that fund, as I will be 93 soon. This is the way we help our nation.
I belong to the Elks and then I also am a 64-year member of the Native Sons of the Golden West, which you had to have been born in California. I'm a past president of it twice. We have a fund that we give to the children that have trouble with their mouth-cleft palate. They give away a great amount a year. I can't tell you how much they give now, but I know that it's up in the thousands of dollars that they help the various people. We also, at the Native Sons of the Golden West and at the Elks Club, have machines and nurses that go out and help people throughout the state that are hard of hearing or they can't talk and all. These nurses go and help them. They go down to Imperial and up north-they're all over the state. They do that and we supply the free gas and their wages and all.
Then, of course, I'm a 32nd Degree Mason, and belong to the Scottish Rite bodies. They do the same thing. They give away a tremendous amount of money. They have three hospitals in the United States that are burn hospitals. One is here in Los Angeles. Children, or people, that get burned and can't afford to be taken care of, we take care of them free-gratis. We all help toward that. I have one nephew that, when he was born, his feet were completely twisted around backwards and his legs were. He was sent to the hospital at Los Angeles for a good many years. They treated him completely and got his legs straight and his feet straight. He can now walk just as good as you and I. He is now a teacher over in Rialto school district.
Hanson: So there's a lot of education work, a lot of health work that these groups do. So they're really helping a lot of people.
POWERS: That's right. Well, that's our main goal, to try to assist and help people that need assistance. That's why we donate every month and every week. I go to Lodge every week. Last week I know I gave $10 toward the various things. Many of them, the people that have money, donate checks-doctors, lawyers, people that have a lot of money-they donate sometimes every month to the organization. But we do not let anybody know what we're doing. The leading Knight, who will be the next Exalted Ruler of the Lodge the following year, has the privilege of helping any family that comes into our town, maybe needing money to go on up north. They're fruit pickers, or a whole family and they're out of gas, or the YMCA will call our lodge. They'll say, "I've got a family here of three children and a man and a woman. They've got a car, they're out of gas, they have no place to stay. We're going to put them up tonight. Can you help?" We naturally help and give them money, or give them money enough to get clear up to Fresno or down to Imperial Valley if they're working the fruit-or whatever they do. This is up to the leading Knight, who'll be the Exalted Ruler the next year. It's up to him to give away this money. We never ask and we never talk about it. So all of these organizations-you can say what you want to about them-but all the various organizations in San Bernardino, I know, do a great deal of charity work that is never explained to anybody.
Hanson: I didn't know they did all those things.
POWERS: They do all of this. I know because I belong to all these different organizations including the United Commercial Travelers. I've been in the American Legion since 1943. When I went in the Navy I joined. I still belong and I still pay all my dues. I'm still active with them, although I don't attend their meetings as often as I could, but I'm in a walker right now. It's not real easy to get around, but I drive yet. My license is good until 2004, so I'm doing fine, I think. I live alone. Of course, I lost my wife three years ago. We were married one day less than 62 years. So that's the main thing to me-is still San Bernardino, although I own this beach home down in San Clemente. The first one that was built there-I think I told you about it. I still have it. I have the extra lot. I have living will for my grandchildren and my son, and everything will be given to them. I feel very fortunate to be active at this age.
Hanson: You're very active. Most people at your age aren't this active.
POWERS: Well, I get around good and I can walk around the house without the walker.
Hanson: And your memory is wonderful!
POWERS: But I don't want to fall because if I fall down it's hard for me to get up.
This flag that I showed you was given to my mother who was chosen as a Navy mother for the United States by President Kennedy.
Hanson: That's quite an honor.
POWERS: Our mayor of San Bernardino, Bud Malden at that time, and my mother were flown back to Washington, DC. The only trouble was that President Kennedy was having a big meeting with the deal that was happening at Cuba. They were having a real bad time on that Cuban deal, and so Rose Kennedy represented the President of the United States, and met the mayor and presented my mother with an American flag and her card and everything. That's what I showed you there that I have. I'm going to go ahead and give it to my son who is very important. He's a senior engineer with this big company in San Diego that are making these drone planes that are flying over in the war now. He graduated from Pomona College-University of Pomona. He is now senior engineer. He called me and told me the other day that they had a new contract with the government and he had just gotten a $22,000 a year raise, which is a lot of money.
Hanson: It sure is!
POWERS: A lot of money, because when I started out after a laundry man and being down at the City Hall-I started out there only just to give them a survey of three months-my wages were $350 a month. I stayed there 25 years in charge of all the garbage and rubbish trucks and the street sweepers and all that. I kept the city clean. I gave service to all the public. It didn't matter if it was the mayor, my mother, or a policeman, or a fireman, there was no differential against anybody that I served. I served everyone the same as I would-there was no difference. I was always proud of that because I was looked upon as giving a wonderful service to the public and the schools and to all our different free institutions that had carnivals and all that. Later, the Orange Show became part of the city, and we furnished the first metal bins this side of the Mississippi River. The first ones they ever had, and the machines-the big automatic machines that lift the container.
Hanson: Those are things we take for granted today.
POWERS: Because, see, back when I started in the old days it was a taboo deal--nobody talked to-well, they'd talk to the lawyers and the bankers and the judges and everybody that was an official. But I wasn't an official. I was just a garbage and rubbish man. Then later, we finally became known as officials in taking care of very important things.
POWERS: Like I told you, I had a chance to go to Guam for three months, all expenses paid, to teach them about the refuse and the handling and taking care of all the garbage and rubbish. I taught every year, three times a year, I taught all the students at Loma Linda that were going to be nurses or doctors, down at the refuse disposal ground which is down at the Santa Ana River bridge. As you cross it there's a land there that we made a big cut and cover system and covered all of our garbage and rubbish there. It now is a very important part of San Bernardino as our "restaurant row."
Hanson: Let's go back a little bit. Tell me about how your mother got chosen for the Navy Mother of the Year.
POWERS: I can't tell you except that the American Legion Post 14-she was a president of the Legion Auxiliary. Her name was submitted to back east somewhere-I don't know who. Then the mayor, I guess, was involved in it, too, because he went and the government flew them back there, and right back. I didn't get in on it.
Hanson: You didn't get to go.
POWERS: I had forgotten all about her being chosen as the Navy Mother of the Year for the whole United States. I'd forgotten about it because my business was teaching ground control [inaudible] radar and being an instructor in Gainesville, Georgia, for three years. I had my wife with me back there. We lived right there, and we had 900 students that we were teaching. Then we sent those crews-18 people were in a crew-and we sent them all over the world. We sent three up into the Aleutian Islands where they would talk down planes that would get lost in the fog and bad weather. But that was the idea to locate a plane that was in trouble. Then we would tell them what heading to take and where to find a landing, and then tell them when they were about to land. We sent crews over into the South Pacific. At the end of the war, 18 of us were called to go to March Field and put on captains uniforms, and go over into the South Pacific and run a whole unit. I was a lot older and I refused. I said, "No, no, my business is here. I'm going to stay here and serve the public." I didn't go. So they had a fellow named Webb from Texas-Seagrave, Texas. He was my assistant and he got a chance to come to California and put on a captain's uniform. They gave them all captain's uniforms and made them, temporarily, army. Then they shipped them all over to run a machine-one of these talk-down machines-over there on one of the islands. I didn't get in on it. I've got a picture of all of them yet in there somewhere. It was very good. They all got paid well-good money for it, and then they were brought back, shipped back, to their family after one year. They had to spend one over on the island.
Hanson: That's a long time.
POWERS: I don't know what island they were on. It was one of the big islands. I think they bombed it later at the end of the war with the Japanese.
Hanson: Let's talk about San Bernardino again. You have great stories about San Bernardino.
POWERS: All right. Of course, back in my early days Highland, Redlands and all that was all citrus. Highland was only a small little village at the corner of Palm Avenue and Pacific Street. There were two grocery stores there-Patterson's grocery story and Eichenberg's grocery store across the street.
Tape 3, side 1
POWERS: -and then a garage and a dry goods store run by Mr. Hambly. He was also the Boy Scout chairman. I was a Boy Scout. The Boy Scouts started in 1912. When I got to be 12 years old, I joined the Boy Scouts there. I was a Boy Scout in Highland. They had a drug store on the corner fellow named Ed Tepler had it. That's where the streetcar stopped. They also had-the streetcar had-a big engine that was made with electric engine, and they brought boxcars in on the south side of all the five packing houses that they had in Highland.
Now, the Santa Fe Railroad had a loop train that went around from San Bernardino to over by Loma Linda to Redlands, Mentone, come to East Highlands, then to Highland. The old depot cement area is right there on the corner of Pacific and Palm Avenue yet. The steps are there because I know I ruined a bicycle by trying to ride up those steps. I broke the front wheels and my dad gave me a lickin' for it. I had to buy my own bicycle later.
Anyway, they had a depot there and a man that was running the depot. Mr. Trussler ran the depot. Then they had another station at Patton State Hospital, which is where the Indians just bought the other day-that round brick building that's there. That's the Patton depot. People would get on the train. They had an engine and three cars, and they used to call it the "loop train." It would come in and come down where the freeway is now here along on 40th Street-or 32nd Street then-Marshall Boulevard. It also went on to the end of the depot. You could ride the train from Highland or East Highland or any of that into San Bernardino or back. That ran for long years.
It also had a freight train every evening. When they didn't run the regular train, they would run a freight train and they would haul the packing oranges there on the opposite side of the various orange groves-packing houses-the five packing houses. They had the Pacific Electric on one side serving them, and the Santa Fe Railroad served them on the other side. That ran for years.
Later, after they stopped using that a lot, then they had a little single car that had a diesel engine in it. You could hear that thing. They ran it around for three years. They ran it to haul passengers around. They finally discontinued it, too. Then the freeway took out the railway and they put in the freeway.
But, all during my early years, we used to ride the streetcar, or the train, or the Pacific Electric train went every hour from Highland. It would stop next to the drug store right there on the corner of Pacific and Palm Avenue, and come down through Harlem Springs, which my granddad owned. That was a resort-swimming pool and all that. Then it would go along Sixth Street and go into San Bernardino and go into the P.E. depot. The P.E. depot was on Third Street in San Bernardino between E and F Street on the south side of the street. It went in there, and there'd also be the big red cars. They would hook them up together at least two at a time. They would go in from there-San Bernardino-to Los Angeles. They could go in one hour. They had the old P.E. line and they also would hook up to another car that came from Riverside at Rialto Avenue. So then they'd have three cars all the way in and it would go to Pomona and Covina and on right in to the downtown Sixth and Main Street in L.A. That's where the P.E. depot-the big P.E. depot-was. That's where all the Pacific Electric trains went.
From there, they had one line that went up to Pasadena, and another line that went down to Santa Monica, and then it went along the ocean and went to Seal Beach and all that. Then they had another line that went down to Newport Beach. They had a service line down there. So you could ride streetcars and then about every three months they would give you a pass. You paid $3.50, and you could ride all the streetcars all day long all you wanted to.
Hanson: For a whole month?
POWERS: For the whole-all that time. They had a cable car that went up Mt. Lowell which- (end of side 1)
Tape 3, Side 2
Hanson: Okay, we're ready.
POWERS: All right. This cable car used to haul people up there. They had a hotel up on top. Then you would get on a streetcar up there on the mountain and it would go over to the hotel and all. That old cable car used to go up and down Mt. Lowell, it was called. At one time, when they were building Lake Arrowhead, there was a cable car that went up the side of the mountain right here near Arrowhead Springs Hotel. The old cable line is still there. They used to haul cement and gravel up that cable car. Then they also had a switchback road that you even had to back up to make the turns, they were so sharp. City Creek had the same thing-that was called a short line. They had the bus lines that went up. One went up around the-called Rim of the World Road, and that went all through Lake Arrowhead and clear to Big Bear. The other line was a short line, and it went up City Creek. That was the old lumber-that's those pictures that I showed you where they're stopped at our place up there in the mountains. That's where they would stop and have dinner and eat. They'd go every day-up and back and forth. It was a very steep road.
I wish I had the big book that I gave the Redlands Library because it had the picture of the old Brookings Lumber Company. It had the steam trains on the track up in the mountains that hauled the logs over to the mill at Fort Elba. They called it later Smiley Park, but it was called Fort Elba. A great many of the people that lived in Highland had little homes up there. They would go up there in the summer to get out of the heat here in the valley. Some of those old houses are still there. They also had, right there, a pine needle slide. We had wood sleds, and we used to go down that long pine needle slide. Then we'd carry, drag, our sleds back up, and get on them and-wonderful slides-during the summer.
Hanson: Oh, during the summer?
POWERS: During the summer. Oh yes. Then in the winter time, of course, we'd take our toboggan sleds. Back in those early days, we used to ride the toboggan sleds-we had six-foot toboggan sleds-and we'd hold on to the handle of them and stand up on them and ride them clear down the hill. That was long before they ever thought about having all these skis and all those boards that they're riding now. We rode skis and all we had was one strap across for it. We didn't have boots to put on and all. That's what those pictures are of my dad and me in those old skis. I gave those skis to my cousin who has a home up at Running Springs. He's still got them up on his wall up there.
Hanson: I know there were two big floods here-I've heard. One in 1916 and a flood in 1938.
POWERS: Yes. 1938 was the big flood that I remember. I don't remember the one in '16. But the big flood that we had here-for three days it was raining night and day. I was with the Baseline Laundry and the water started coming through the laundry, coming down the creek there. I took all the clean linens that I could get in my truck and I tried to come along on Baseline. I couldn't get across the creeks down there. So I came up here to Highland Avenue, and right down here by the hospital there's a ditch there. Well, the water was coming so big, it would make waves over across, but then every so often it would smooth out. That's the only time you could drive across. Well, I drove my truck-I had it clear full of clean linen-and I drove it up on 3280 Pershing, where I lived and put it away in the garage and locked it up. I knew that there was no chance because our laundry was getting all washed out. They were opening all the doors so the water would go right on through. It was washing all the washtubs and the dryers and everything like that.
My dad was living by himself down on the corner of Fourth and Waterman Avenue. City Creek was down through there so bad that my dad tied a rope onto his body and tied it on to a tree because they had already lost two men. They had washed down toward the Orange Show, and they dug them up later in the sand. They found them both dead. This one man was coming down, and my dad had the rope around him, and he jumped into the creek and grabbed the guy, and then swung around. He got his name in the paper later because he saved the man's life by getting him on the bank, and then untying him and taking him in. But two of the men-they found the bodies later in the sand.
All of the water that washed down through our town came out of Lytle Creek, and it came down by Third and east of Mill Street and E Street where the National Orange Show is. The big oil tanks-it washed them right out into the middle of the intersection even. Then there were two motels-auto courts they called them in those days.
There was Gate City Auto Court and then the next one to it was- I can't think of the name of it right now, but anyway, all of those filled up with sand clear up above the beds. Two days later, I got in my truck and I took the linens around to all the hotels that were short because I still had clean linens. I gave it all to them, and then I went down to these motels. We had men in there digging out those beds and all that, and taking the sheets. We later took them out to the laundry and hung them up on lines and washed the sand off of them to try to save them if we could. But we couldn't save very many of them.
It was very horrible because we lost a lot of people. A lot of people we never did find. They were washed down into the river, into the Santa Ana River. The Santa Ana River was water from one bank clear over to the other bank. I saw that. The water was four or five feet deep. It went on down into Anaheim and Santa Ana. Down there around Placentia-especially Placentia and Orange-all of the water was four or five feet deep up on the orange trees down there.
There used to be a lot of orange trees down in the Placentia and Orange and Anaheim area. That used to be all Valencia. They didn't have Navels. They had Valencia oranges. I went down there later and saw all that sand and all that. They finally cleaned it all up. People can't believe how much water was going down. Later, I went down to San Clemente and Newport Beach, and even the ocean was all black or brown with logs laying all over, and lumber or wood, even parts of houses and everything.
Hanson: So it washed right out to sea.
POWERS: Washed out to sea. It carried houses right down the river. So I've seen Santa Ana River when it was really clear full. I mean way up-not just 8-10 feet deep, but 10-20 feet deep. I've never seen anything like that afterwards. Thank goodness every one of these streets here had water down them-main streets. Because, see, there was no-the railroad was there, but that didn't stop the water from running down. It would run over along the railroad. The railroad was washed out, too, by the way. Yes, that railroad was washed out.
Hanson: So San Bernardino was just cut off then.
POWERS: Oh yes. There was no gas. There was no water. There was no electricity or anything. Where I lived, I had camping gear that I had always taken-Coleman stoves, and Coleman lights. I've got a Coleman light in there on the bench right now that I've still got there. We invited our neighbors to come over and eat with us and fry eggs and things like that on the Coleman stove. Because I still had the cans of Coleman gas. That was the only fire we had. We had it in the backyard.
Hanson: How long did it take them to get things back-to get electricity running again.
POWERS: It was over a week and a half before-and the only way you could to Rialto was to drive across the railroad track, across the creeks. You had to drive down the railroad track on the ties to get there.
Hanson: So you had to drive your car on the ties.
POWERS: Yes. Yes. The police controlled that. They would let so many cars drive through to get over there. Then they'd stop it and then they'd let the cars come back this way. Yes. That's the only way you could get to Rialto or Fontana was to drive on the railroad tracks. People don't know that-don't remember that-at all. But that was the only way you could go. I know I drove my truck-the first time that I went by I hauled my truck with the laundry and all across it. That's kind of scary, too, because you have to drive on the ties. People don't know-they can't visualize. Of course, now we're lucky because our roadway is high. The only water that can come down is down Golden Avenue or down the ditch over there. The same way-when I lived at 3280 Pershing-all of the water was coming down Devil's Canyon, coming around Pershing Avenue and Arrowhead Avenue. The whole area between-and if you don't know the area very well, if you ever go up E Street you'll look over on the west side and there's a whole area in there. That was all nothing but a lake. All those houses-there were no houses there then. It was all a lake because the water had run over into that whole big area. Then it ran on out down through the town. See, we have a creek in town called Town Creek. Most people don't know it's here even.
Hanson: I've never heard of it.
POWERS: Well, it is. It comes out-if you go down by Third Street where Court Street is. Do you know the courthouse is?
POWERS: All right, right there at Warm Creek, there's a creek that runs through and it goes all the way up through. It crosses E Street at Ninth, and there used to be an automobile agency that had an agency right there. Then it goes on up toward G Street and Baseline. It's called Town Creek. It still flows. It still flows. The water comes out into Warm Creek down there now.
Hanson: I'll have to go look at that. I'll have to go see that.
POWERS: Well, it comes out right behind the old courthouse-right behind the courthouse. See, back in the early days, Meadow Brook Park was called Squaw Valley. I don't know if you've ever heard of the name or not, but that was called Squaw Valley. All the Indian women camped there, and so did the Indian men. But then they would come uptown and be uptown, but the women weren't allowed-they were there.
Right there on E Street, from Arrowhead Avenue clear down to Sierra Way was Chinatown. All the Chinese businesses were all along that whole thing. They played lottery there. That was all there. Then the red light district was all between D and Arrowhead Avenue below Third Street. That went down to the end of the street where Rialto Avenue-if you go down Rialto Avenue, you drop down the hill. That was the end of it. But that was all the red light district in through there. Then all of this park-Meadow Brook Park-was called Squaw Valley. That's where all the Indians would camp there. The men would come up and be uptown. Of course, originally, the courthouse and all used to be the old Mormon fort. I think you've heard about that.
Hanson: Yes, I've heard about that.
POWERS: All right. That's where the fort was-the same way with Harlem Springs. Now, my granddad owned Harlem Springs out there. Every year, all during the winter, he built a big platform that was as big as this house, up high, and all the gypsies would come there and camp. They would stay there. He allowed them to stay there and camp, and then they had this big platform and that's where they would dance. As a kid, I used to watch them dance and all. Of course, the parents would always say, "Now watch out, now Raymond, don't you go down there and play with those gypsies because you know they steal all of our chickens. And they'll steal you if you don't watch out." They had big cars-Packards or Cadillacs and things-old cars. But they camped there and my granddad allowed them to camp there and he got money for it. They paid him, but they would go around, come to town, and tell fortunes and things like that to make money. And they'd also steal a lot of things.
Patton State Hospital had a big cornfield on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Central Avenue in through there. They raised lots of corn. Then there was a big apricot grove. The Indians had a lot of apricot groves at one time up right below their place. They used to dry the apricots for the winter. They'd cut them and dry them on boards. Each Indian group-each family-had a part of the orchard. Most people didn't know that, but they had so many trees that belonged to each of the families of the various groups there. There was only maybe a hundred Indians up there then, or a little over-not many.
I knew them real well, and the chief was Alfred Marcus' dad. He was the chief. Then Martha was the younger daughter, and then Daniel was younger than that, and then there was another one. Martha is the one that's the matriarch up there that called me the other day and told me, "Raymond, come up and see my new house." I haven't done it, but I should because she's an old friend of mine. I've got to hand- She thanked me for the big picture that I gave them of the Highland School with the Indian kids sitting in the front row, and Alfred Marcus standing up in the back. He played football over at San Bernardino. He played wonderful football. He was a good football player. I knew them real well.
Of course, I was raised there in Highland and I always made money. I was always a worker-ten cents a tail for every one of those gophers that I caught for those different owners. They knew I was honest, and they knew that I would also go up and down their orchards and take a hoe and make the water go right, so that they wouldn't have to do it-many, many years of that.
Like I say, I used to make three dollars a barrel for every barrel-those little barrels were only about that tall and about that big around-of those nails that they make the boxes with. I'd sort those. Mr. Sewell ran the garage and he had a lot of those old Ford cars. He had those-I don't know if you've ever seen them or not, but they're made about like that, and they're a magnet. You can take and pick up all the nails, and then sort out the crooked ones and throw them away, and put all the straight ones in the barrel. They'd give me three dollars every time I'd get a barrel full of nails back. I don't know what they cost, but I used to make three dollars.
And I got two-and-a-half cents for every bottle of soda pop that I delivered to all the different-all five-packinghouses. I had them all. No kids ever tried to move in on my neither. They'd help me once in awhile. Yes, I had another-Carl Nichols. As a matter of fact, that's a picture of him on the skis there that time up in the mountains, and my cousin, Cecil Phelps. He later owned the last packinghouse that was in Highland. It was called the Cherokee Packinghouse. He married the daughter of Mr. Lucian, Fred Lucian, who was the boss over my folks. My dad trucked the oranges into the boxcars, and they would stack them. Then they would fill them full of ice down here at the icehouse in San Bernardino. We had a big icehouse. It's still there. One of them burned just the other day, awhile back-right there on I Street as you cross Third.
Hanson: Yes, I know where you mean.
POWERS: Well, that's where the icehouse was. They would put those blocks of ice down in the reefers at the end of each boxcar, and that would keep the oranges cold until they got them back east. Then as they'd fill that boxcar clear full of oranges, they had a way to lock the doors. They didn't lock them, but they didn't steal the oranges either. The oranges were all packed in the boxcars. We called those reefers. That's what they call them. That's where the ice went-in the reefers at the ends.
Hanson: Do you know why they called them that?
POWERS: No, I don't. I would go over there and get down in there and get buckets of ice and bring it up to my friend. Then he'd bring it over in my little wagons and I'd put it in the tubs, and then cover it with sawdust so that it would keep the-because we used canvas, too. There was no such thing as plastic in those days. It was all canvas.
We always-all the kids played around the yards. A couple of them burned, so we used to have orange fights with the old, rotten oranges and things like that. It was a lot of fun. Our fire truck out there was just a two-wheel deal with a hose on it. You had a handle on it, and whenever the bell rang, we'd run over to get the fire truck and haul it. I think it might be out at that fire truck, at that fire engine on the corner of Highland and Orange Street, I think it is. There's a fire truck, and I think it might be still in there. They might still have it there.
Well, they did have it and it used to be down there just up from the drugstore just one-half block before you get to the orange packinghouses. But that was our fire truck. I remember one time on Halloween when our mean kids, and they were mean-they were older than I was, but they would go up and steal dynamite up at City Creek out of the powerhouse of the power plant. They would put a fuse in it and then tie it on to an orange tree and light it and blow the darn trees up. Then they took the orange packinghouse fire truck down and hooked it up to the fire station. Took it up on the roof and-I can't think of Tony's last name now-he had the bakery. He was a Frenchman. He'd heat, with gas, the bricks. After they'd get so hot, he'd take it out. Then they'd take a wood paddle and shove the bread in. Then he'd bake them in on the warm bricks.
Well, this Halloween they took the hose up on top and he had put the fire in there to heat the bricks that night. He left and they put the hose down the vent and turned it on. It blew the whole bakery open. Mr. Garner was our constable. He lived on Central Avenue at Fourteenth Street where the streetcar made the turn. He lived right there. He caught the two kids, the boys, and they made them pay and put them in jail.
Also, they used to haul coal-boxcars of coal. They had a streetcar line up to Patton State Hospital right to Highland Avenue on Central Avenue. It's gone now, but it used to be there. Someone turned a coal car loose-undid the brake-and it went down to were Johnny Cleghorn and our constable who lived on the other corner. Where that coal car was supposed to make the turn, it couldn't do it and dumped over, and dumped a whole load of coal out on the street. Boy, those guys had coal packed in their garages and people were hauling it away, and everything else. Because P. E. Depot, they didn't want it and they couldn't use it, and there was a wreck. So, boy, everybody had coal for a long time. They were using that coal. But that whole big carload of coal dumped. I never will forget that because this Johnny Cleghorn owned the packinghouse where my folks lived, and I know he had a garage clear full of big chunks of coal.
Ray Powers Tape 4, Side 1
POWERS: We'd had a couple of fires that burned out the orange, orange groves- packing houses so we'd have fights in the orange grove and Bill Hilyer, his dad was a lawyer in Highland and Bill and I and his sister, Betty, we were old friends and when I was in the ninth grade out in Highland, that was the first year that they had the seventh, eighth and ninth grades together. And I was in the ninth grade being the older kid I had to still stay there. I couldn't go to Highland. Well, Bill Hilyer was in the seventh grade, or eighth grade it was; a year behind me. And we'd have orange fights and he always used to tell all the people. He said, 'Now that Raymond Powers was the darndest guy because he could take and throw a curve and you could be hid behind a telephone pole and boy, when you'd stick your head out, he could hit you with an orange a lot of times.'
And he started this organization. [San Bernardino High School Old Timer's Club] Here's our picture. He's dead now and his dad died. They were lawyers here in San Bernardino, and Betty didn't die. I think she's back east, but Bill Hilyer was a lawyer and we have this meeting. Now the last time I went to it was in June and we didn't have any during the summer. And we have it up at the Elks Club and there was seventy members from San Bernardino High still go there. And they charge twelve dollars for lunch. And anybody can go though...but anyway, they all got name tags. And I'm of course one of the oldest. I'm class of '28, so I'm one of the old timers up there, but I think I'm one of the oldest, but most of the people that go there graduated in the thirties and forties and all that. But they had 42 last time up there. I didn't get to go. I had a doctor's appointment. Now there's the new one. You can have that one if you want.
Hanson: Thank you.
POWERS: And this fellow, this fellow that you'll see that prints that up. [Notice for the meetings] He lives up here on Arrowhead Avenue. He prints those cards for us and is his name there? Did you find it?
Hanson: Is it Blair?
POWERS: Yes, Blair. Malcolm Blair. Oh, oh no, he's the fifth one below me and, and, yes, it's in the Navy Sons Bulletin and he lives up on Arrowhead Avenue and he prints all of those free for us. And he owned the toy store and the store that had the Western Auto on Highland Avenue between D and E Street for years. And his dad was half owner with the Shaw's Mortuary- the one that's here in town. That's his dad and he's still alive. He knows all about San Bernardino, too, by the way.
Hanson: I'll have to give him a call.
POWERS: Yes, call him and tell him you were talking to Ray Powers and all, and tell him, you can show him the card or talk with him, and I'll tell you, he knows a lot about here in San Bernardino.
Hanson: I'll call him and talk to him.
POWERS: He's a very, he's a very well versed man and very active. He's as active as I am or more, he really is. He's a wonderful man. And you can call him or tell him you, tell him I gave you that card and he really knows, because he had business. He was a businessman. I was always a server. I always served the public. But he run, and then his dad was a part owner of the Mark B. Shaw Company that still has the mortuary and all and maybe he does. I don't know. He might.
But he's an old friend; a real good one and he's about as high up- I don't, I don't know where that Navy Sons Bulletin is here. It's here somewhere; I got, but his, he's I think about the third or fourth one down. I can, I can maybe find it. It might be right here. I don't, I don't know. I got a bunch of- I got to clean this all out. I had, I had that, I had that Navy Sons Bulletin just- I just got a new one. Maybe, look in there and I'll look in this. But if I don't have it, he'll have one and he can, it will have all the...but it has in the back page, all of the members and the year that they were exalted ruler or- I might have thrown it away. I don't see it here. I thought for sure I had it here. No, I don't find it, but anyway, when you call him, when you call him you tell him that Ray Powers recommended and you get a hold of him or talk with him and tell him that I gave you the card and, and we will have a meeting again up on the, the last Wednesday of the month at the Elks. Now, if you come up there at noon, at eleven thirty, I'll be up there and I'll be glad to take you to dinner if you'll go.
Hanson: I would love to. I'll be there. I'll meet you up there.
POWERS: All right. Let me put it down though right now because if I don't, I forget things.
Hanson: I don't know. You have a pretty good memory as far as I can tell.
POWERS: That will be the 30th. At the Elks, eleven thirty. I'll meet you at the door there and get you in and then I'll introduce you. Malcolm will be there because he handles helps deal some of it. And then the following, I got to call, I called, I called today on this and I called this lady and I haven't had an answer back, but I got a letter and I showed you the letter of that, did I? Or did- is that the letter?
Yes, you can read the letter and that. This is just Southern California. Now, Northern California and Central California's got the same whole deal and, and I'm in the original six that started this whole thing so I called her and I said, I want to know for sure do I need a ticket or do- how do- I want to be sure and be there early enough to, to know about it.
Hanson: Now this is the Solid Waste Association of North America.
POWERS: Yes, and they're just Southern California and then there's a Central California and then there's a Northern California and then each state has got all the members too.
Hanson: You're one of the founding fathers of this thing.
POWERS: Yes, if you look up Powers there you'll see. I and five others started that. We were garbage and rubbish men and we had a luncheon and we started it and it, they associated and it grew up. Look under Powers there, you'll find it.
Hanson: There's a lot of people in here now.
POWERS: Oh yes, they're all over and-
Hanson: There you are-
POWERS: Retired. Well, that's all...Ray Powers and that address on it. That's what you'll find, just Ray Powers. I don't go by Raymond O. Powers. I always, always did officially. I gave you some of those cards, didn't I?
But I got a call working on her, her answer machine and I told her, I says, 'would you call me sometime today or tomorrow or tonight and let me know for sure because I don't know where,' because I was going to call this hotel and find out actually where it's at in Long Beach. But I want to go down. I want to get dressed up because I have to get my neighbor next door to help me button shirts and all. I can't, I can't, and you see I can't handle the change much anymore. I don't know. I'm not very good at it, so I'll have him tie my tie and then I'll get dressed and I'll drive down there but I want to know where to park and if I'm to go to a certain place in the hotel because it's probably a big. It's probably a big hotel, and the way it says there, they're going to have a special table for the old timers and I'm the old timer. I'm the oldest. I'm the whole oldest one of all of them- all the rest. I looked up all my friends that I used to be with and not a one of them are listed in there. I found one young man that used to be a salesman for trucks and I found him in there, and he's going to be- Roy Barbetti.
Well, he's the only one that I could find that I know. I know him because he calls me once and a while. 'Ray, how are you doing?' 'Oh, fine.' 'Good. How are you doing, Roy?' 'Fine.' And so I'm going to- I sure that that's the only one that I can remember. I looked real close and the rest of them were all quit, died or something.
Hanson: Left with all those young whipper-snappers.
POWERS: Yes, but we're nationwide. We've got Japanese and German and now Russians. We're all over the world now. And it original six- it started with just the six of us and all we were doing was trying to find out how to- trying to save our men from falling off the trucks and taking care of garbage trucks and street sweepers. Funny how, and they called it GRCDA and then they changed it now to this, and it, they invited the wife and I up to Vancouver, British Columbia and they paid all the deal and they had us in the- I can't think of the name of it- the big hotel up there now. But they had, they piped us in and they had all of the Canada- Canadian flags for each of the countries- oh, the, what do they call them?
POWERS: Provinces, and then they had all of the United States flags and then they had the pipes and they piped...and I in and up to the stand and then they had, they introduced us both and then they wanted me to get up and talk and I told them, I said, 'Well, you know, first of all, I'd like to tell you this, probably most of you have come up the hard way. You've learned...we've learned the hard way. We came up as garbage men, rubbish men, scavengers, all kinds of things. Nobody, nobody had anything to do with us because we were taboo and we weren't salvaging all the metals and cardboards and all that, and I did most of that in my lifetime.' I started most of that- a great many things because I always had ideas. I always, and I said, 'we had the first metal bins this side of the Mississippi River because the old Dempster Dumpster, the military had them and why couldn't we do it like we did, only make smaller?' and I said, 'Now, I am sure that all of you wives have gone with your husbands and if you've gone on trips the first thing you do is when you get into some town that you have never been in and you happen to see a garbage truck or a rubbish truck or a street sweeper, you start following or start talking about it.' And sure enough, they all stood up and clapped and they said, 'You have told the truth to all of us, because we've all gone through the very thing that you've talking about.' And I thought that was really pretty good because here they, the whole six hundred people and they paid sixty dollars a head for their dinner.
Sixty dollars a head for their dinner that night. Boy it was a beautiful dinner though. They had all kinds of desserts and everything but, of course, the company's all paid for, cities and, and we had them from all over. We had them from all over and I had friends come up later as we walked out through. Boy, I, I'm telling you I run into more old friends that I hadn't seen, some of them, I says, 'I can't remember you.' 'Oh, don't you remember me? I'm a, I was back in Oklahoma City and you were there and...' Oh, things like that, you know.
So, in my lifetime and my wife's, because she enjoyed it, and she enjoyed it just as much as I did, and of course over the early years I didn't say anything about our life, my life, but Bernie and I, Bernadine and I, we used to go to the Balboa Dance Hall every Saturday night when... and Harris were down there at the old Rendezvous Ballroom at Balboa. Phil Harris was a, he was the orchestra leader and Laughner was the other one and we used to go there every night and then every time we had the chance to go to a big named band, whether it be at San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Monica, San Diego, wherever it was, we would go. We danced to all the big named bands. Every one of them. We went to-I don't know of any- you name a band and I'm sure that Bernie and I, we'd been there and danced. Either danced or stood right in front listening to the music. Benny Goodman, oh, yes, because Benny Goodman, he played around here quite a lot and as a matter of fact, he and then another fellow that we used to know all the time because I bought trucks from his company and they had a box right next to Jimmy Durante down at Del Mar and so our box was right next to his that they had loaned me and Jimmy Durante called my wife cutie. 'Hey cutie, how are you doing?' and then later we were at Las Vegas and he was on the back stage. They used to not have the big stand for the big bands, the big night club deals, they had, like we saw, a the one that played on New York back east-
Hanson: Guy Lombardo.
POWERS: Guy Lombardo. He had his orchestra all right behind the bar and we saw him there and Jimmy Durante would perform behind the bar. Always, the bar would shut down and they had the little orchestra there and they'd play and he'd tell jokes and all that. One evening and we were down in the last two seats in the front and as we walked down, why, he was telling jokes and he says, 'wait a minute, wait a minute, I want you people to know here, there sits cutie and her husband.' He said, 'as soon as this is over, cutie, don't you dare walk with your husband and leave. I want to meet you.' And he did. He came down and he wanted to buy us drinks and we said no, because one drink was all we'd drink. But he always called her cutie. And then he a lot of times he'd say, 'Ray, have you and cutie had anything to eat yet or do you want something to eat?' 'No, no, thanks Mr. no.' 'Oh Yes, hey waiter, come here, they want this that and that sandwiches and drinks and this is on my tab.' And he said, 'Now, they're not dressed up,' because see we were just outside the main showroom- if you went into the main part where he was you had to have a coat and tie on, But we weren't. I always had on sport clothes and so did she because we lived right there in San Clemente and all and he used to really be an old friend of ours.
Of course, then our boy knew Arnez, Jim Arnez, he skied, I mean water skied with a board all the time. He'd take him down because he always had a private stall in the marine base. He used to be a marine, I didn't know this, but he had a trailer and a special place on the marine base, and then he'd invite Tim to come down there and all and he'd come up to our house for dinner. Oh yes, we used to serve dinner. I used to broil steaks out in back. Boy he loved a big T-bone. I'd get those porterhouse steaks and put them on for him and my wife would fry potatoes. She always liked fried potatoes. And that's what she'd fry. She had one of those iron skillets and she'd fry those potatoes up and that's what he would love; fried potatoes and a porterhouse steak. I'd broil it over a wood fire. I'd get wood- oak wood from up here in the mountains, put it in the back of the car and carry it down, clear down to San Clemente and keep that oak wood down there and use it in the fire place. We had a big round fireplace with a grill and we'd build a fire and let the coals get down right and then cook those steaks on it and she'd fry those potatoes up. He liked them not crisp, but he liked them well done.
He used to come many times and then of course, see, the people that started San Clemente, they lived in the house we owned, that I owned. The one that you've seen a picture of, I own it yet and she used to come once and a while with her daughter and her daughter, well, she was 61, she's older than that now because we bought it, let me see, we bought it in '51 so she- a little more than 60 now, but she was born there but she had her up in L.A. She had to go up to Los Angeles to the hospital to have her but her home is actually- she calls that her home. But the mother is dead now. She died. But they used to- she used to come and visit at the house because we were friendly and we knew them and you know, the first time I ever met her, why, I invited her to come in. I said, 'come on it and see your old house,' and all of that and then I introduced her to my wife and all that. And then Bernie asked her to come back for dinner and she says, 'you're kidding!' She said, 'No, no, I want you to come for dinner.' And she did and brought her daughter and then we had dinner and then from then on we were old friends. Yes, so we've had a lot of, a lot of real good, very, very good luck because the man next door to me, I think I told you about that, about Gene Autry?
The man next door and I went to a reunion at Burbank. I took him up there and that's when I met Gene and then from then on when we'd go down to Palm Springs to their spring training, boy, he'd always invite Bernie and I up to his little cupola he had a little deal up on the top. You crawl up a ladder and sit up there. Yes. One time we sat with him down at Anaheim. Only once because we were always busy with traveling and going places and doing things, so we just, we just...well, I didn't want to be pushy anyway. You know, it was nice of them, but I, we had a wonderful life.
Hanson: This is an interview with Mr. Ray Powers at his home in San Bernardino and this is January 28, 2003. Mr. Powers, we're going to start.
POWERS: Well, I have always served the public. I have never had business of my own so I've always, all my life, I'm 93 years old now and I've always worked to serve the public and, well, an interesting thing that happened back in...1951. [in sanitation] We always used a metal drum, fifty gallon drums and we'd cut the top off it and put the rubbish in it and pass it up in the box trucks. We had a big music store there in San Bernardino on E Street and they had a big rubbish bin right by, near a window and it caught fire one night and Gene Lear, Lear Music Store it was called, and it burnt completely up and we knew it started from the rubbish bin outside. I had talked to the mayor and all about what I had seen in New Orleans one time when the wife and I was on a trip. I had seen the Dempster Dumpsters and the government had those. They're a big metal bin that you put all your rubbish in and the big trucks would pick it up and haul it out to the dump. So, I told him I had seen this and I talked to the mayor and sure enough, the mayor was interested in it. He insisted that we fly, and that was before the jets were flying, so we flew in a DC-3 back to New Orleans. And this was one of the councilmen...and the mayor and all, and we talked to the department head for the city of New Orleans and they told us that yes, they had bought these big metal bins from the government. And I said, well why don't they have a new type of truck that would just pick up a metal bin, dump it and set it back down? It could have wheels on it if they needed it. And I said we need metal bins, and they thought it was a good idea and so we went back there and they showed us all around and that's when this picture was taken. Then I came back here, well I talked with these people, the truck people that would decide if they could make a truck that had forks on the front and could lift it. And I said, well we can get a company in L.A. to make us a metal bin and so I talked then to the school system because they had the old fashioned incinerators that were the dome type, the kids had to put the trash and then they let it and then they had to clean it out and then they'd have to haul that stuff down to the dump and all that. And I talked to the school system, and I said, 'Look, the city of San Bernardino will buy two trucks and they'll make these forks on it and they'll let it go over the top and empty it. And we can do away with your old incinerators that stink and smell up,' and the neighborhood was fussing about them because they were out in each yard of the city schools. So the city schools said, 'well, how much do you think these bins would cost and all?' and I said, 'well, it would be around $130 to $150 probably a piece, but if you will take them, one for each school, then we will make a gate so we can drive into the yard and we'll walk the truck in to be sure so that no children will get in the way and all, and the city will haul away all of your old incinerators, the cement incinerators and we can take them down to the Santa Ana River and place them all along the curve of the bank so it wouldn't flood where it is now; that whole area there was a flooded area. There was another river that comes out through Loma Linda-
Hanson: Down on Hospitality Lane-
POWERS: Yes, Hospitality Lane. So I said, 'we can use all those cement deals and lay them along and keep that wash out if you people can buy the bins. We haven't got the money to buy the bins but we got the money to buy two trucks and they will make them for us with the special fork system.' And sure enough, they did buy them and the Dempster Dumpster people brought out two trucks for us and then we went to each of the schools and put the bins in and the principal of each school wanted them way out away from the school, and so we started putting the bins in and servicing them, and each day, we'd have men walk the truck in and then empty that bin and then we hauled away the old incinerators. It's the coal incinerator is what it was, made out of cement.
Hanson: Weren't those dangerous with the fire hazards in the area?
POWERS: Oh, sure, they're small and they stink and all, and they'd smell all night long you know, and the neighbors would fuss about it. So that was the first metal bins this side of the Mississippi River, first ones. That was in 1951, and we got started then. Then later I said, why don't we take and get some of those bins and get some more trucks and we'll rent them. So what we did, we rented them for eight dollars a month and then a dollar and a half every time we emptied it. And we made a lot of money.
As a matter of fact, they've now gone all over the United- all over. We were the first ones to have anything like that. Before, we were just passing the fifty-gallon drums with trash in them and dumping them in a box truck then hauling to the dump. So I was very, of course, proud of that deal because the way it became, and then also, we later took one of my box trucks and the government gave us a forklift that we mounted on the truck itself, on the back of this box truck and used it to pick up the bin and then drive back down to the city yards. That picture that you got of the wash rack, we'd take that and go in there and wash them out there. We'd park out there and we'd clean them all out and wash them and repaint them if necessary...they were white and that became really a big business but I didn't take out a license- what do you call it- a permit, to build this truck. Now they make them, and my friend in Pasadena got the patent on it and he's a millionaire now. Yes, he's a millionaire. But, and he always laughs about it. He says, boy, you were so suckered, suckered to do it because you should have taken out a patent on that.
He's been an old friend, and I saw him, I saw him at this convention center because he makes trucks and makes these little dumpsters they call them to haul that. So that was part of the deal. That was the we did in serving the public and for 25 years I run all the street sweepers, all the refuse trucks and all that.
Hanson: So you were, you were head of sanitation then?
POWERS: Yes, and then I also found out that we could take cardboard boxes and dampen them and put them in a hay bailer and bail them and then haul them up to San Francisco to a paper company and they would re-make them. I made about forty thousand dollars a year off of that, because I went out to Lancaster where they used to make hay a lot out there and I bought two old hay bailers and we brought them in to our city yard. I got the city, they had their own police department there and their own jail, so I got the police department to loan me four of the trustees and they would come down. I'd go up to the city jail and get them out and they would come down to my city yards and they would run the bailers. Two would run the bailer and then two would rest, and then two would run the bailer and two would rest. And then most of them were Spanish boys, and I would allow the families to come in to the outside yard part and bring them their meal and they loved it because they would get tamales and all the Spanish foods and they wouldn't have to go back up to the jail to eat. And that went over real good. That went over for five years and then finally the sheriff took over the prisoners, and then they wanted to charge five dollars a day for each man that I borrowed so we were on our own after that because it was too much money. And that was, that's about the end. We always gave a twice a week service to each house and what happened was after that, we had this mayor. His name is Mike...Mike Kramer, and the streetcars used to run all around our town, up to the high school and all over and then we had a big electric engine that pulled three tank cars up to Arrowhead Springs Hotel and load up with Arrowhead water each day. Then they would come back down through the town and then take it to Los Angeles. When they quit running the streetcars and buses all took over, they still run this old water train every day. And this mayor says, this has got to stop. The truck companies wanted to put in trucks to haul the water anyway, so Mike Kramer told the Pacific Electric Railroad that they were going to cut out using this local line that went up there to the Arrowhead Springs Hotel to haul that three tank cars of water right down through our main town and block. It would block intersections trying to turn and then it turned and went into the depot and then it would go on to L.A. So, sure enough, one day, Mike called all of the department heads, the fire chief, the police chief, everyone, and he told a police car to let him know when this train was coming back down for the water and making the turn on 3rd Street, which is our main street; on D and 3rd. And sure enough, down the street it came and he got all of us, all the department heads; police chief, street...myself, the fire chief, all the policemen and they walked right out to the middle of the intersection and stopped and there we stood- right in the middle of the tracks. The train came down and stopped a little ways away, and even a lot of the policemen had guns and the mayor went to the engineer and says, 'Look, this is the last time your train is coming through our town and using this railroad, because we're not using it for passengers anymore.' And they said, 'Well, you can't do that. We got a right away,' and this, that and the other. And he said, 'Well, all right, tomorrow morning, I'm going to have three city trucks full of black top and if you come out on to 3rd Street off from the depot- you own that property there, but if you come out on our street, our city streets, our three trucks are going to go ahead of you and dump that black top and cover the rails and you're not going to be able to run the train when there's no rails.' And they said he couldn't do it, but sure enough, the next morning, sure enough, he had three trucks full of the black top and he had all of us out there, too and the police chief, the fire chief, the whole bit, and he says, 'Nope, you're not coming on the streets.' And they called the main office, I guess, or whatever it was, anyway, they finally backed the train back down on to their own property, and then they took it back into L.A. and that was the last time that we run electric train in our town at all.
Hanson: He put his foot down.
POWERS: He wasn't bluffing- he meant it. And then they finally took the whole line out. Well, it's what happened with this mayor and it's very unusual that a mayor will take things by, but these two had guns. They had guns and everything else and they stopped the people from coming out of L.A. when they had the big riot and then he stopped the PE from coming, or using that line, and all. Now they haul Arrowhead Springs Water in tank trucks and they get it not only from Arrowhead Springs Hotel, but they go up, even up to Oak Glen now, and Yucaipa and they bring mountain water from all over and take it to Los Angeles and sell it. It don't all just come from the one big spring up there. So that is the story of those two. And I thought I would tell you that because that's something about the trucks there and it reminded me off the date there.
But then comes the part that I wanted to tell you about today, [SWANA] and I'll take this off, and here is the- they mailed me, I'm a permanent list - there's the article. We have 80 thousand people belong to this organization now. Originally there was six of us. And these are all superintendents from the town, and then we had these meetings. I'm the last one of the six. The rest are all passed away.
But here is the SWANA that is national and here is my book of just Southern California and all that. You'll find if you look under Powers, you'll see it's retired there and all, but anyway, we had this down at Long Beach, this was it, and they invited me to come down. They paid $175 a night for a room for me at this Western Hotel and it had all down feather bed and down covers, and everything; eight pillows on the bed in that room. And so they invited me to be there and they had two big dinners and then this was the schedule of it and it was in the big auditorium at Long Beach. They had huge equipment; brand new equipment. See, originally it was only the superintendents from each city and then they accepted all the people that make the equipment and all so they can all belong to it just the same. You'll find even a county- a San Bernardino County deal there, and if you look under Powers, you'll see it says 'Retired'.'
This was part of the program that they had and they had a little electric cart, a girl for me that would come up to my room, get me, take me down, she took me down across the streets there and they even had police that blocked the streets while my electric cart went across and all, and this is the magazine that shows they're all over the countries and it goes to even Russia and Japan and all, and it's in their language. But this one is the one that they sent me the other day. I tried to get another but I haven't. Now this was while I was there for three days.
Then this Red Davis was head over at Redlands. He's now with a company that represents big equipment. He and I, they took a picture of us there, and then they had dancing girls and had a show and two dances.
Hanson: Now, how did you get in the middle of all those dancing girls?
POWERS: I don't know. But anyway, they did, and here, they sent me this and I looked at it and the story, I think the story goes on about how they did a part of it there.
Hanson: Yes, here, they talk about you here.
POWERS: Yes, they had the electric cart and all that. Now, on the back page, here is the whole story and this is the editor for this magazine and he wanted a picture with me and then he wrote the whole thing. You can take it any time and read it when you want and all.
Hanson: Yes, I'd like to make a copy of it.
POWERS: You can take it.
Hanson: And I'll get it back to you.
POWERS: As far as these go, I'd like to have this back to give to my son one day and this one.
Hanson: Yes, I'll make sure I get copies and get these back to you.
POWERS: But I thought maybe you'd like to have it and they had three or four thousand people at this convention.
Hanson: I saw that.
POWERS: It tells there about it.
Hanson: Yes, I saw it, it said four thousand people.
POWERS: I think it's four thousand they had it.
Hanson: Yes, four thousand.
POWERS: And it was a beautiful, they had that hotel, oh it was gorgeous and that. Of course, that big huge convention center at Long Beach, they had that clear full of all the different trucks and all the different things and this picture here had a pictures of my old equipment in the background.
Hanson: Yes, I see that, that's the one picture you have.
POWERS: Yes, that's one of those- they have it, but they, see about eight years ago, I think I told you about the time the wife and I was invited up to Vancouver, British Columbia and they all carried the flags from each state and then all of Canada. They piped us in, set us at the table, the head table and my wife and I both talked and of course, I told them the story about how every time I travel I always look up the rubbish trucks in the cities and meet the people and all that. But that's what I wanted to give and that's why I thought maybe you'd like to have this stuff to go over.
Because, this was really a big convention. Now the next one is going to be next year in St. Louis and I've already been invited to be there and they said, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of the airfare and the hotel, the whole thing.' And I said, 'Well, I'm 93 now. I don't know about it.' And I'm still having to use a walker because I'm scared- I can walk but I'm afraid I'll fall. If I fall, I can't get up, and so I thought that you'd like to have a little of this and talk about it. And I mentioned to you a long time ago about the old city dump being at 7th and Waterman Avenue, I think, where they found the skeletons.
And we think they were the Indians, but anyway, the Indians now, I knew them as a kid in old times. Martha, I used to go up and play with her when she was little and her brother, and I saw her the other day and she called me and said, 'Raymond, I want you to come up and see my house. I've got a $350,000 home.' And she said, 'Remember how we used to have the rush house and I'd have to take the rush room and wet the dirt and then sweep it out before we could go play and all,' and she said, 'I'd like for you to come up and see me.' She said, 'I didn't like my bathroom so they spent $20,000 more redoing it.' I haven't gone up yet, but I'm an old friend of the Indians and they're doing a wonderful thing. They want to buy this Elks Lodge up here on this hill.
Hanson: Yes, I heard about that.
POWERS: They want to buy that whole thing and put the parking lot down below and have buses running and the whole thing. So, I don't know whether that will happen or not. I'm the oldest Past Exalted Ruler and on the eighth of March we celebrate our hundredth anniversary and so now, I'll show you the Elks bulletin. It just came. Back in the early days, 1962, '63, I was Exalted Ruler and I started this Elk of the Year. We had torn down the old building on 4th Street and put up a new one and I was the first Exalted Ruler in the new building, and I tried to figure out something to do that would be exciting and all. So, I decided that we should give a presentation to someone that helps; a member that helps all the time. Mr. Ralph Banger helped do a lot of things so I had the Grand Exalted Ruler from the East come out and visit me and visit our lodge. I told him that I had an idea of having a big dance and a dinner and giving an award to one person for doing so much for the club, our organization. And he thought it was a good idea. Two weeks after he had gone back east, he called me and he said, 'Ray, I got an idea. You mentioned you were going to call that award the Golden Antler Award.' But he said, 'If you do that, you could give maybe ten of those during the year and that really wouldn't mean much.' But he said, 'If we would change, would you be willing to change the name Elk of the Year, and that way, that one year, it would be his year from then on, always, no one could take it away from him.' I said, 'You know, you got a good idea. That's great.' He said, 'Okay, you're willing.' I said, 'Oh sure.' He said, 'All right, I'm the Grand Exalted Ruler, at the next grand meeting- grand officers meeting of the lodge, I'm going to recommend that I represent San Bernardino Lodge number 836 and you as Exalted Ruler, and present it that all lodges throughout the world choose an Elk of the Year.' We got them [lodges] over in the Philippines and Tahiti, and we got a lot of them in different places. They all are Elk members, but he said, 'I'm going to recommend that this become a permanent yearly deal for each Exalted Ruler of each lodge will appoint one person as Elk of the Year and that will be their year.' And then I found out too that most Elks of the Year attend lodge more often than the Past Exalted Rulers, which is the highest position you can have. He did it and it passed unanimously and now all lodges throughout the world- I mean the one in the Philippines, the one in Hawaii, of course Hawaii at that time wasn't even a state, and all the different places and this Exalted Ruler- if you'll read right along there it says, on our hundredth anniversary, they're going to have me- (end side 1)
And this is worldwide now. I mean, the Philippines, the Hawaii and all and we have, we have lodges, now this does not include Canada because Canada is a different lodge. I can go there and visit but I can't go to the lodge. The Elks Lodge in Canada is a different organization, but I am active in this and then I am a president of the Native Sons of Golden West, two times and I belong to the UCT and, and I was in charge of the National Orange Show on the governmental agencies committee for twenty-five years. And they always gave my wife and I two seats, two rows back of the Queen. So if you ever seen when the queens walk into the Rose Bowl game, and they always come to the fifty yard line and go up and walk in and they all sit together? I had two rows back, so the wife and I went for all those years. We sat with many people - Jack Benny and his wife sat next to us, so did all the different coaches. I am trying to think of that one coach, Knute Rockney- Knute Rockney sat right next us one time and oh there's been a lot of them. I sat right there. Each football game, I even saw that wrong way run one time when they had that guy- he got mixed up and run the wrong way.
But I always served the town and then, I've never been political. I never- I don't talk politics, never. I don't believe in it. I treat the mayor the same as I would my mother or the same as I would you. And I always had a policy- two policies. One is we go to a customer that would call in and complain about things. We would go out within thirty minutes after the call. We'd try to get there and we'd say we understand you're recommending, or you have something wrong with our service. What can we do about it? We never used the word complain because the minute you say complain, boy, they come right back at you. So I taught that to the mayor and council. Cut out the word complaint; service request, and it always worked with me because I used to be a laundry man for seventeen years and of course I had all the prostitutes in town- the whole bit, and I had half of them, and, but I didn't handle the material. But we had metal tags on it and I knew exactly who and what was what.
But I've always served the public. I never had a business about it at all.
POWERS: I still go to the lodge every Monday night and I'm, like I say, I'm the oldest Past Exalted Ruler up there; a 61 year member. I just got my new card and I get lots of calls from people yet, asking me what can I do to get this or that done in the city, especially pot holes.
Yes, and I had a call the other day and I told the fellow, I said, 'Well, I'll see what I can do.' And two days later he called me back and he said, 'Boy you really got something because you had it in one day they were there and they filled that up with black top and covered it and rolled it and everything.' He said, 'I don't know how you could do it.' And I said, 'Well, I just happened to know one of the girls down at the office.' And, you know, they're old friends, and so that's about all. I couldn't think of anything else right now that is important.
Hanson: Let me ask you a question. I want to ask you this. When you were in the city, you worked with a lot of mayors.
POWERS: Oh yes, many.
Hanson: Who was your favorite mayor to work with?
POWERS: Well, I think George Blair, George Blair, I think was the best. Ray Bradbury was an old friend of mine in school and I went down to visit him the other day. He's in a wheelchair down in Vista, and I took the electrician, Jess Ross. Now he was 94, he just passed away. We buried him a month ago, Jess Ross. But anytime that I would see a light at night time, even a street light that was out, I'd take down the number of where that light was at, and tell him the next day, and generally the next day, that light would be fixed. That was the way of the department heads in those days, that's the way we worked. We served the public, always. And when I started with the city, my men were working six days a week and they were getting nine dollars a day and the police were making nine dollars a day but they only worked five days a week and they got mad. They got mad because my men were making more money than they were. And, and they fussed about it and then the mayor changed it to where they could work the six days a week if they wanted to. They didn't have to but they could. And then later the police and fire passed a resolution and got the people to sign it that all these cities, like...Riverside, Corona, Fontana, Redlands, San Bernardino, if this police department gets a raise, this one gets it, this one gets it because that one got it. And it goes, it's a spiral, and they're still doing that but when they voted on it, they had two motions. One was to give the police a raise according to the six towns, but they didn't vote the money. They didn't do it, so the administrative officer said, 'Well, I don't know what we're going to do. We don't have the money to pay these police this difference that they're going to make between now and next year.' And he says, 'You know what, Ray, you got three new trucks in your budget. Sixty thousand dollars each, and I'm going to have to take them away from you. You're going to have to use the old trucks and get by with them someway. I need that sixty thousand for each truck to pay the police and fire.' I said, 'Well, I'm not running the city. That's what has to be.' But I said, 'Now, if I can ask you, can I go to the budget committee next year before we buy the new trucks and can I add these three trucks in there, more?' And he said, 'Sure. You might not get them but we'll add them.' And they did.
Hanson: Did you get them?
POWERS: No, I got them because I was making $40,000 a year just bailing that cardboard. We would save all the cardboard boxes, bail them and sell them and so they turned around and gave them to me. I made money for the city. They still, now they got these new trucks and that you know, lift up everything and it's all automatic.
But, oh that was one thing I wanted to tell you about, too. The reason that we started this first one here [SWANA], you know the one about the six of us, was I lost two men on the back of the truck. What we used to do is go down the middle of the street and we had a driver on the truck- you'll see that white picture of the one- the light one, you'll see that they have a driver on the truck and a man on the back of each truck. There's one that shows the back end of it, maybe that one. Anyway, what was happening was there was a man on each, on the back of the truck, and the driver.
Now, it's right here. Back here there was just, just a one pole and as they'd go around the corner, they'd slide off and I lost two of them. They had to go to the hospital; two of them. So, I called Grant Flint who was on that list there in the city [Los Angeles]. I called him and I said, 'Grant, how do you keep from losing your men off the back of the truck because two of them ride the back and they're on a steel plate and there's a hole, a handle for them.' And he says, 'Yes, I'll tell you how we do it.' He said, ' I had put extra bars the other way and they hold on like that.' And he said, 'Also the diamond plate that they step on, I had them take an electric torch and just make little dots all on the bottom of that steel plate and it makes little pimples stick up.' And he says, 'That tears the hell out of their shoes, but at least they don't slip and they can brace two ways.' And he says, 'What you should do is to get these companies to put those bars on when you buy the truck. Don't buy the truck unless they'll do that.' And I said, 'Well, I don't understand how we're going to do that.' I says, 'I've got friends over at Redlands and over at Long Beach having the same trouble because I talk with them about it.' He says, 'Well, why don't we have a meeting of all of these six of us and have a luncheon and talk about this and start thinking about the safety of the men because we're getting too many injuries.' And that's how, well, I think in this letter, that that man wrote, I think he mentions that I was interested in the safety of people and all that and that's how we started. Then we invited other city superintendents to come in and join with us and the next thing you know, why they wanted to add the truck companies in and get them in on the deal too.
So that's really what started it all, was I lost two men on the curves down here, they went around and turned the curve. They slipped and let go because they were using gloves. And they were holding on to that pole and swinging, and now all the trucks have grab bars, they call them grab bars, on all the trucks so that they must be safe. Same way as I insisted that all of my men, if they had long hair, and very few of them had it then in those days, if they had long hair, they had to wear a hair net and a bump hat, plastic. They had just come out with the plastic bump hat and they had to wear a bump hat and a hair net and the Mexican boys didn't like that one bit. When I said, all right, you know, if you don't do it or if I catch you on the truck without it, I'm going to lay you off for a day.
It's for their own safety because see, if they start to go to put that rubbish in the back they can get chicken wire or a lot of people throw away chicken wire and stuff like that. Anyways, they throw that in there and they pull the lever and that big thing pushes all the rubbish in. It would take them right on in with it. I got my safety department of the city to agree with me and we passed the ordinance, we passed the ordinance on the council. I present it with the council and they voted yes, so all men had to do that. So, I was always trying to think of things, you know, the safety of the men.
Hanson: Well, this is wonderful stuff. Thank you.
POWERS: Any of those, any of this stuff you want to take, you're sure welcome to do it.
Hanson: I'm going to make copies and I'll return these.
POWERS: If you want this is our [Elks] bulletin. Oh by the way, one other thing, when I started as Exalted Ruler in '62, '63, we had the new building and I invited Mike Burke who had a print shop on E Street to put out the bulletin for the Elks. This San Bernardino Elks Lodge for that whole year and we won the best bulletin of the whole Elks Lodge. We got number one- best bulletin of all. You can have that. I got last months too, but he tells the story that we're going to have on that first page and one of our Grand Exalted Rulers; Past Exalted Ruler, is Moore over in Corona. His name is Moore, and he'll be there and they're going to have me tell the story. I'm just going to tell it as a story and thank the audience. When they get through, I'll say that it is my belief that the Elks of the Year paid more attention, attend lodge more and help out more and do more work in the lodge. They come to lodge more. I've got three that I initiated in 1962, and I got three of them that still come to lodge every Monday night. One of them sits right behind me, every time. Yes. You've heard a lot about me, but, I'm bragging but I like you.
Hanson: No, I want you to.
POWERS: Well, I appreciate it very much and if there's anything about the city that I can think of or that you want to know about, why just ask me and I'll find out from some of my old friends because I'm 93 and I know a lot about a lot of the old timers. I told you , I told you about...with Scotty didn't I?
Hanson: Yes you did.
POWERS: Because he threw the money out there in the railroad track. That's our tracks and the mayor was going to put blacktop right down the whole deal. Scotty would open those windows up and yell at the people and they'd all come out there in the street and he'd throw whole hands full of quarters, dimes, nickels, out in the street.
Hanson: Let me ask you this. There were some CCC camps; Civilian Conservation Corps camps up behind where the university is now during the depression. Do you know anything about that?
POWERS: Yes, they had the one there and they had the one up in Forest Home. They had the big one up there.
Hanson: Now, did they work in the forest?
POWERS: Yes, they made trails and they also made, if you can look right over here in our park [Perris Hill park], look down below there, you'll see cement tables, big round tables, and they made those. Yes, and see originally, right there at Cajon Pass, right there where the weigh station is, there used to be a park there, and then it flooded out, it washed out, but those cement tables used to be there was about eight of them up there.
Hanson: So they brought them down here.
POWERS: And they brought them down, and put them in parks, and there's some of them I think right here on Valencia, just below Highland Avenue, over in the park itself.
Hanson: In Perris Hill Park.
POWERS: Perris Hill Park- cement and they were made by the WPA.
Hanson: Do you know anybody who is still alive that worked in those camps?
POWERS: No, I don't know of anybody at all and they had the one camp as you go up towards Forest Home just before you get to a place where it used to be called- there was a fish hatchery right up there that had Dolly Parton Trout. It's got a - oh a big round...have red dots on them. You don't see many of them around. They use rainbow trout and then, but Dolly Parton has got big red dots on her, probably as big as those stars. There's one creek called Iron Springs Creek, just beyond Green Valley Lake that the old people that own and run Green Valley. Dad Tilith was his name, we called him Dad Tilith, he run the grocery store and the little service station and all that out at Green Valley. He came down here and got a whole big tub of those Dolly Parton trout and let them out in that creek and that creek has still got them but most people don't know that. I've been up there and fished and caught them and they're beautiful fish. He put them in that creek. Very few people know that. I do.
Yes, and I, of course, I used to take care of horses and Hoot Gibson. I even took, I can't even think of his name, quail hunting up there. We only went one time and my mother cooked the dinner for him. We had ten quail- big mountain quail that we got that day. The one that played that-
Hanson: Well, it will come to you.
POWERS: No, it don't matter. It don't matter. But he borrowed my dad's shotgun and I had my shotgun and my mother made us a lunch and we went out hunting that day. He played that that movie a long time ago of the big house where he took his girl, or his wife up the stairway and all, and I'm thinking of what he said, he made some remark-
Hanson: Clark Gable?
POWERS: Clark Gable- I should know it. I only went one time, I was with him all day. We had lunch together and we hunted and he had dinner that night with us. Yes, he came over to my resort. I've got a picture of the resort there and my mother cooked quail. Yes and Bebe Daniels was there that night too. Bebe Daniels and boy she got loaded drinking. But I used to get five dollars a month to take care of the horse, saddle them up and then keep them in my, I had a big pasture up there, and I kept all their horses and their saddles and everything and then they'd let me know when they wanted me to bring them all over to their place. It's just out from Running Springs. It's called Hunsucker Flat. It's all big pine trees. Brookings never did cut that. He kept that whole area.
Hanson: A lot of Hollywood people then used that area?
POWERS: Yes, they used it for a long time. I can't think of the one manager, I mean, he was a director. He was real active too, but Hoot Gibson had a place there and so did Jack Benny. Yes, and I remember Bebe Daniels because I was just a young guy to me, that was a real treat. Well, that's it.
Hanson: We're done for today. Thank you.
POWERS: I wish I could think of something else important around San Bernardino.
Hanson: That's okay. Well, if I have questions, I'll call you.
POWERS: Oh, I did have one thing that was interesting. The girl that worked for me for 25 years is living in Susanville and she's in a walker now, but anyways, she used to belong to a Catholic Church, but now she's joined the Mormons. She's a Mormon and she called me the other day; Margaret Peake- I bought this house from Dr. Peake and her. And she called me and says, 'Raymond, would you do me a favor?' and I said, 'What's that?' and she said, 'Well, I'd like, we have a,' - what do you call those boys that go out for a year-
POWERS: Yes, missionaries. She says, 'I'd like to have you talk to a couple of missionaries. I know that you are a Methodist, I know you were baptized and everything else in Highland.' I said, 'Yes, that's right, that's true, I lived there for a little while and went to church there and the whole bit.' And she says, 'Well, I'd like for you to invite and let those boys come in and talk with you for a little while, if you don't mind. You knew a lot about San Bernardino and the early history of the Mormons,' and I said, 'Oh Yes, I got friends that owned the [inaudible] all over Colton there originally. Most of them are Catholic, but I know about the Mormons and knew where their camp was and I know all about down there. Then Meadow Brook Park was called Squaw Valley because the Indians would all go there and camp and the Squaws would stay in the camp and the Indians would come up into town. Then across the street from that is a hill, and that's where their courthouse is and that's where the Mormons originally had a fort, right there,' and I said, 'I remember all of that and then that also was Chinatown right there.' And I said, 'My dad was a collector for the gas company and he knew the [inaudible] side of town and anytime they would get into trouble or he couldn't collect, he'd go get the king and boy they'd come right away and pay.' And she says, 'I remember that you knew all of that, so I'd like to have them come by sometime and visit you.' Well, sure enough about two weeks ago, these two boys come to the door, and I couldn't that day. I had to go to the doctor. I said I can't do it. I got to go to the doctor today, and he said, 'Well, we'd like to come and talk with you. We understand you're a friend of Mrs. Peake up in Susanville.' And I said,' Yes, and another girl that worked for me for years, she's over in Greenville.' And he says, 'Yes, can we come back on Thursday at 4 o clock and visit?' I said, 'Sure, I'd be glad to.' He says, 'Well, we'd like to know a little more history about the Mormons here in San Bernardino. We've been to the library and we picked up a lot of it but I understand that you're an old timer and you know things about it that maybe we don't know.' So they did come. Then they want to come back again and want to talk about the Mormons, when they come across. I said, 'Well, yes, I got a friend who lives over here in Yucaipa right now. She's 94 years old and her great grandmother was Melissa Bennet,' and I says, 'There's a well out in Death Valley called Bennet Wells,' and I said, 'She came across with the Mormons. When they had the big dunes out there, years ago, they had a big celebration, they asked Doris to bring her grandmother, great-grandmother who was still alive. There was five allowed, five of their family, counting the great-grandma, still alive. My wife drove them out there in our car, and they stayed there at the big inn and - I can't think of the governor's name at that time -he was there. And they went out there and the Mormons recognized her as one of the ones that came across and they got stuck there in Death Valley and the men went over to Bishop- over towards Bishop. Independence, that's where they went and then they came back with help. And they dug that well at that time. Bennet Well, it's still there and I told the boys about this and they said, 'Well you mean that lady is still alive?' and I said, 'Yes, she's 94 years old. I know her real well because we used to go around together all the time. And she has the same birthday as my wife.' My wife's been gone now, next month, March 24th will be four years. You saw pictures over there. She was a great gal. So these boys are going to come back here one of these days. They ride a bicycle. They live right here on Highland Avenue with a family. My wife and I used to go over to Hawaii. We were there fifteen times all together, but we used to go over to the Mormon church over on the far side of Oahu and had dinners and things like that with them because they were very nice people, very hospitable. Well, okay. That's it, honey.
Hanson: Thank you.