Folks who lived in the Porterville area and went through the great depression and participated in WWII – now called the Great War - had a few “Back in the Day” stories that many of us baby boomers heard and appreciate. They told us how they made it through those hard times and how they pulled together. They told us about the shops where they met on week ends, such as the coffee shops, the auto shops, and the barber and beauty shops. They told us what it was like during the lean years and what it was like during the good years.
And most of these stories, in one way or another, are tied to a gallon of gas. Why ? Because if they didn’t have enough, they had to rely on their neighbor for a lift or they’d have to walk to town for a pound of beans or a loaf of bread. And they knew they’d have to walk home when they got into town. But that was ok, because everyone did what they had to do to get by.
Initially the Post set out to do a single story about those hard times and how the families pulled together, but a single story just won’t tell the whole story. We want to tell as many “Back in the Day” stories as we can. Our goal is to reassure this generation that hard times are coming but if you learn to pull together and work together, you will have a greater sense of who you are and who your neighbors are.
So in the coming weeks the Post will be adding many short “Back in the Day” stories and will add a new section to our on-line news service. We plan to record all those important stories that helped America overcome and helped Porterville grow. Enjoy …
AUGUST 2008 INTERVIEWS
Mr. Nick Encinas (86 yrs) was one of the first that I had a chance to talk with and back in his day, he said, “gas was about 15 and 16 cents a gallon and at some places where you needed ethyl – really high octane gas – you hard to dig a little deeper. Ethyl was also called premium at some stations, but for the most part it was the same.”
“When I got out of the Army in 1945 gas was about 17 and 18 cents a gallon. It only went up a few cents and I remember that because I worked for a little refinery just south of Lindsay after the war and they paid me a buck an hour. And in those days that was what you called making “Good Money”. When I wasn’t working for the refinery I was driving truck for some of the locals here and they also paid good money … about a buck an hour.”
Interviewing Mr. Encinas one got the feeling of pride, for what he did to support his family and what he did to support his country. Mr. Encinas is still very active in the community and the veterans association on the reservation. He says he believes in hard work and when hard time comes, this will either make the community grow together or it will make it grow apart. The Post Agrees …
Mr. Ruben Flores (67 yrs) came to California in 1959 from Texas and he remembers gas at 25 cents a gallon. Wages, like Mr. Encinas was about a buck an hour. But family and good neighbors were the key during the hard times. “Everyone cooked fresh food and fresh vegetables, said Mrs. Flores. And everyone shared the extra food that they had available. And if you had a new recipe for a new dish, you brought it over to your neighbors’ home. Everyone did this back then because everyone knew this is what you did. And if we were lucky, continues Mrs. Flores, my husband would stop by the local slaughter house and pick up a cow or pig head that they were going to throw away anyway and we cooked it and made it into many things. And yes, when I look back on those days I guess you could say they were hard, but those hard times kept our families together and they kept us close to GOD.”
Mr. Patrick Garfield (68) said he has lived in Porterville all of his life. He told the Post he remembers gas around 23 cents a gallon and that was when he got out of the Navy in 1957. Sitting on a stool on the corner of main and Olive, Mr. Garfield told the Post how he and a group of his friends were heading back one day from Bakersfield and didn’t have enough money to buy enough gas to make it back to Porterville. He said they were able to get folks in the Bakersfield area to help them with a penny here and a nickel there and in a matter of hours; they had enough gas to make it home.
Even though Mr. Garfield and his friends knew gas was still cheep, they also knew that the folks were friendly and most of the time helped out. What was he driving back then, a Studebaker.
Mr. John Fleming (56 yrs) who’s lived in Porterville most of his life told the Post back when he was about 9 years old he remembers the old Mohawk gas station that was on the corner of Olive and G Street. Continuing with the Post Mr. Fleming said, “Mr. Ramsey who ran the station used to sell gas to him for about 27 cents a gallon. I remember because my mom used to make us kids go down to the store and buy a quart of milk and she always gave me a quarter and I always came back with some change.”
“At that time, everything was about 25 cents. For a quarter you could go to Murry Park and go swimming all day on Saturday or go to the show at the Porter and catch three features. Life was simple and life was good.”
The Post wants to thank the above who took the time to share – one more time – what it was like back in the day. And we want to encourage your stories as well. Thanks and be sure to come back soon. Who knows … maybe the Post will write a little about you.
A. L. "LUCKY" Lucketta - Post Editor.