June 20, 2003
Hanson: This is an interview with Mrs. Roselyn Carter at her home in San Bernardino on June 20, 2003 for the San Bernardino Oral History Project. Good afternoon Mrs. Carter.
CARTER: And good afternoon to you.
Hanson: You were just telling me before we put the tape on about your grandparents coming here in covered wagons, so let's start there.
CARTER: My grandparents came from Missouri and Arkansas in covered wagons when they were babies. They met when still quite young, however my grandmother had been married by that time but lost her husband in the war, however, she had 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl. Then she married my grandfather and they had three girls, one which was my mother. They built a nice house on Waterman Ave. and gave each of the girls an acre of ground to build their own houses. That didn't happen until about 6 or 7 years later. In the mean time, I was born on "H" street between 3rd and 4th which is now an on ramp to the freeway. I knew this town like the back of my hand but now I get lost. As long as I knew my grandfather, Hirum Stone, I don't know what he did for a living. He never seemed to work except on his property. His wife died when I was 2 so I don't remember her, but Hirum did all his own cooking and put up fruit for the winter and did it all on an old wrought iron stove.
This was modern life 70 or 80 years ago. I and my folks lived on "H" street for 7 years and were close enough to town that we walked. My grandfather didn't have a car, only a horse and buggy that he came to town in quite often. When I would see him, of course I would want to ride in the buggy and so would beg mother to let me go home with him. He let me hold the reins and so I thought I was driving the horse. It took about an hour because the horse just trotted leisurely along on the sandy part of the road (to save his hoofs). Waterman Ave. was just a two-lane road, no sidewalks and hardly any traffic. Then mother would drive the old 1917 Studebaker out to get me. The car was open and when it rained, we snapped on side curtains with isinglass windows. And of course, there was no air conditioning either in the car or the house. I can't even remembering of having a fan.
We finally built a house on mom's acre in 1921. It was a comfortable bungalow and I finally had my own bedroom. We hadn't been there long before we were jolted by quite a strong earthquake, which knocked the clock off the old stone courthouse in town. While we were building the house, which took quite a while, we lived with my grandfather. He had NO electricity, only coal oil lamps. No inside bathroom, just the privy out by the barn or a pot under the bed, NO running water in the house, just a bucket on the kitchen table with a dipper, which everyone drank out of. Of course he had a windmill and pump outside. And to take a bath, we hauled the big tin bathtub in the kitchen and heated water on the old wood-burning stove. Fun, huh? There was a fireplace in the dining or living room and we sat around that in the evening, sometimes playing cards or telling wild tales. There were animal heads on the wall all around as my uncles were hunters. And they would cast shadows at night so I stayed pretty close to mom.
Hanson: A little scary when you're a little kid
CARTER: Yes, it sure was. So, what did we kids do for fun? I had six cousins nearby and we seemed busy at something all the time. We would ride our bicycles up and down Waterman, hardly any traffic like I said, play tag, hide and seek anti over the roof with a tennis ball, cowboys and Indians. We even had a jailhouse with bars on the window. It was used to keep tools in. We had plenty of trees to climb, water in the irrigation ditches to wade in, fruit to pick and eat, hay stacks to slide down. Our recreation was almost always outside as there was no T.V. to watch. (Didn't even know what that was.) I often think back to those days, which were so care free, while I'm running around now with the cordless phone in one hand and the remote control in the other. My, we've come a long way. And I'm blown away by the computer. I can send e-mail and receive an answer in just a few minutes. We didn't even have a refrigerator, just a little icebox, which the iceman would fill every few days with a big chunk of ice. And while he was in the house doing that, we kids were in the back of his truck finding slivers of ice to suck on. (One way to keep cool.)
I attended Lincoln school from the 2nd through the 6th. The 2nd grade I walked 2 miles each way. And when it rained, we had to walk a plank across Sierra Way, as it wasn't paved at the time. Later when they paved it, there was a portable walk bridge. The water made quite a river down that street. Sometimes on the way home I would see the cowboys herding cattle down Waterman and I would run up on someone's front porch. Those cattle looked mighty big to a 7 year old.
We went to the mountains a lot. They called what is now the "high gear road" the switchbacks. It was a zigzag road, all dirt, and steep in places. I've seen Catalina from the top of the mountain on a clear day. Now, that's a rarity.
Hanson: I've heard that from other people.
CARTER: From the 3rd to the 6th grade, I rode a bike to school. We could coast from our house all the way to Baseline, sometimes with our feet on the handlebars. It wasn't dangerous as there were very few cars. Before I had my bike, there was a little freckled faced boy that sometimes rode with me on the handlebars but he would make me get off about a block from the school. Didn't want to be teased, I guess.
Growing up then, we were laid back without today's pressures (I'm still laid back, so they tell me). I don't remember having homework much in grade school. And in Junior High and High School, we had lockers, so we didn't have to cart all that junk around. You get stooped over soon enough without the backpacks helping.
I remember the band concerts in Pioneer Park and the huge Municipal Auditorium where the class of 1932 graduated. The Santa Fe held many dances there also. They were always gala affairs and sometimes very formal with long dresses, punch bowls, etc. by that time I was a teenager and enjoyed dancing with all the young apprentices.
We went to town almost every Saturday night to window shop and meet our friends and relatives. I think I was related to most of the town. My mother had one uncle, Daley that was always giving parties on his anniversary and inviting all the kin, near and far.
Hanson: Yes, was that at the Municipal Auditorium?
CARTER: Yes, The Auditorium was used for lots of social gatherings. Among them, the Mikado Operetta (which my dad sang in), Lawrence Welk's band, the Sons of the Pioneers with Roy Rodgers and many more. I later played there for Marguarita,'s Cotillion dance classes. I was sorry to see the building tom down. The library now stands on that spot. I also remember the Santa Fe whistle that sounded 3 times a day, morning, noon and quitting time. I missed it when they dismantled it.
Hanson: I know they have saved it but haven't put in back yet. I think they are working on it.
CARTER: Having a dad working for the Santa Fe meant that he and his family could ride the trains free and were given passes. So, we traveled quite a bit, going to Chicago for the World's Fair where they demonstrated the beginning of T.V. The trains then were the old steam engines and the whistle was rather romantic. They had one small engine, painted black and white stripes that traveled to L.A. and mother and I rode that a lot to visit her sister and family and ride the street cars. We also had a streetcar in San Bernardino that traveled from Highland Ave. and Mt. View over Highland to "D" Street and down to 3rd and over 3rd to Mt. Vernon and down to the Valley College. I rode this for 2 years. The big trolley station was on 3rd between "E" and "F" and I rode this for several weeks to work in Riverside. It was sort of relaxing. You could ride inside or out depending on the weather. I did my homework on the streetcar.
The County library was in the basement of the old stone courthouse and the city library was on the comer of 4th and D. Living in the County, I habituated the basement of the old courthouse. San Bernardino High School was another landmark and the only high school in town. Students came from Rialto and Highland to school. I still visit with friends made from these towns. The world is going so fast that things are passé before they are invented. The computer being one. I enjoy sending e-mail and pictures but I haven't perfected it yet but when I do something right, I'm so proud of myself. I have 9 great grandchildren and probably won't live to see them grow up but someday they'll write about "the good old days" but I don't think it will be as colorful as mine.
You asked what we did for fun while growing up in San Bernardino. We didn't have much money so we did things that were free or cost very little. My father liked to swim so he became acquainted with most everyone who had a reservoir. These were sometimes filled with moss and slimy stuff and were not heated but we had fun. Also, there was a canal that ran near Grand Terrace and through a walnut grove of a friend. This was a lot of fun to glide down with the current. When we could scare up a few cents, we habituated Colton Plunge, Urbita Springs plunge and De Siena plunge, which were mineral water and a little smelly. Also, there was Harlem Springs in Highland with a big slide.
We went to lots of dances, another of my father's favorite things to do. He taught me to dance when I was about waist high to him. There was a very nice ballroom at Urbita Springs (where the Orange Show is now) and lots of small private dances around town and in Waterman Canyon.
I've also done a lot of camping from the time I was a toddler to the time my 3 sons grew up. We camped at the Lumber Mill in Big Bear a lot as the Talmadge Bros. were my Mother's uncles. As I got older, my father and I would hike down Deep Creek and fish. This was an all day journey.
We went to the beach quite a lot and met relatives from Seal Beach and Long Beach and picnicked all day at Anaheim Landing (which is now a navy base). Sometimes we had the whole beach to ourselves. And coming home, it was a long ride through Santa Ana Canyon as it was just a two lane road (no freeway) and riding in the back seat, burnt to a crisp and hurting, I wished I had obeyed my father when he told me to get out of the ocean. There was another beach that was a favorite down the coast below Laguna called Three Arches. We hiked down the hill and carried all of our equipment and picnicked all day there. One night just as we were leaving, the grunion started to run, a fantastic sight. They wash in from the ocean and flop around on the sand, their silver sides sparkling in the moonlight. And speaking of fish, I still won't eat crab or lobster as I think of those crawling over the rocks that we also crawled over.
Hanson: Not appetizing at all.
CARTER: No, not to me. But we would gather Kelp with the long tails on it and drape it around for hula skirts. They didn't have Little League baseball, but we played on vacant lots near our homes. And at school, only the boys and girls were not allowed to play together but we would go beyond the school behind another building and put someone on watch at the corner of the building to watch for teachers who would stop our game. This was in grammar school. Even in Jr. High, the boys and girls were in separate classes.
Hanson: Yes, things have changed. Let's go back to high school. If you went out on a date, where did you go?
CARTER: Well, there were several shows in town, The Temple, the Rialto, the Isis, the Strand (later the Crest or Ritz) the West Coast on 5th and E, the California on 4th, and later the Fox where the Sun Co. now is located. I can't remember when the Opera House was torn down, but I also went there in my pre-teen days. When we had a real nice date, we went to Riverside to the Auditorium and danced to the big bands, Duke Ellington etc. And then there were lots of school dances, some in the afternoon and some in the evening and of course the Junior and Senior Proms. The evening dances and proms were special as the girl nearly always received a corsage, usually gardenias which turned brown if you touched them. Being a musician, I organized a small band in my junior year and we (4 boys and myself) played for quite a few afternoon dances. The dances were free and the music was free and fun was had by all. We were called "The Five Cardinals" since the cardinal was San Bernardino's emblem. It was the only High School around and served San Bernardino, Rialto and Highlands.
Hanson: What about movie theaters? What were your favorite movie theaters?
CARTER: I've mentioned several theaters. I think I liked them all, especially when my escort was a favorite boy friend. I wound up dating one boy (with a few exceptions) during my junior and senior year. He played in my band. The West Coast on 5th St. was where I saw my first "talkie" as all the movies before that were silent with a caption at the bottom of the picture. My grandmother liked these as she was deaf but she could read.
Hanson: What was your favorite movie?
CARTER: Oh, I like all the old movies, especially with stars like Clark Gable, William Holden, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and many more. I especially liked the musicals with Gene Kelly (he was a great dancer). He and Frank Sinatra made some very good musicals. The movies now jump from one scene to another with no connection it seems and it's mostly bank, crash, and violence and I don't like that.
Hanson: Did any of those movie stars ever come here for any reason, or did you ever see them in San Bernardino for any reason?
CARTER: I've seen Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers at the Municipal Auditorium. Also Lawrence Welk when he first started. In fact, I still like to listen to Welk on T.V. I don't think there's any better music. In fact, the Welk band still plays and I've been to Riverside several times and Fontana to hear them. Myron Floran is in charge now but some of the same musicians perform.
Back to High School and dating. We usually double dated. It was more fun that way. We had one night a year called "Hi Tri" and girls could ask the boys out. So, I had this crush (since 2nd grade) on a cute boy with long eyelashes and a dimple in his chin and he dropped out of sight after that and when he turned up in high school, I got up enough nerve to ask him out on Hi Tri night. And my cousin, who also went to high school here and was sweet on this little Italian boy with the prettiest black wavy hair and me and my heartthrob went to the show and Mape's Cafeteria afterward for a sundae. We were soooooo bashful and I think they were too but that was the end of that although we remained good friends all through school.
Yes, I had a lot of friends but I went with this one steady all through high school and two years of Valley College. While there we both were engaged in music, football games and kept going to dances and shows. Our school put on "The Desert Song" at the California Theater. He was in the orchestra and I sat in at the piano for all the dance numbers.
Hanson: What are some of the stores you used to do business with?
CARTER: Well, Penny's was always a good store. Harris Co. located first on 3rd between E and D and later on 3rd and E Street. Woolworth's and Kresses were dime stores where you could really get something for a dime. Sears had a nice store on 3rd Street. Fooshee's furniture store on 3rd. Incidentally, I won a nice cedar chest from them by writing an article about what I would do with a cedar chest. I still have it and it is filled with memories. Almost every big store had a yardage department and Mother and I made most of our clothes. I really never cared what other people wore, I liked to make my own designs and I went to just as many parties and had just as much fun as those who paid big prices. I still have a trunk full of yardage and someday, if I live so long, I'm going to get to it. If you are through listening to me, I'll show you something. These are picture albums, some before my birth, and they go back to the 1800's. This is my grandfather's house and the horses he had. And this is a gun rack nailed to a tree; they were hunters and sometimes hung deer there also. And all down the driveway and up Waterman Ave. were Eucalyptus trees. They used them for windbreaks.
Hanson: I was wondering why there were so many trees.
CARTER: The trees on Waterman were finally cut and when we moved in our new house in 1921, my father and his brother dynamited the stumps out. I was ordered in the house so I wouldn't get hurt. Now here's another one of a picnic gathering and look, even tablecloths, they didn't have a lot of paper goods them.
Hanson: Yes, these are big family gatherings in looks like in parks.
CARTER: Their back yards looked like parks because land was plentiful and there were lots or trees. They took lots or pictures.
Hanson: They sure did. I didn't think families took that many pictures back then.
CARTER: Well, I guess they did because I have plenty or pictures.
Hanson: Everyone has antlers here.
CARTER: Well, we ate a lot or venison (deer meat). These are some or the horse and buggies. Here's my mother on a horse. This is Perris Hill in the background and there is nothing in between except grain fields, artesian wells, and a row or walnut trees along Waterman. There was a big peach orchard where St. Bernadine's Hospital now stands. There were groves or olive trees and orange orchards between here and Redlands. Mother and I used to go to the packinghouse to purchase a large box or oranges for maybe 50 cents or $1. Times have changed and while in some ways it would be nice to go back, there are some conveniences we are used to which are too good to give up so I'll just sit back in my recliner with the remote in one hand and the cordless phone and dream about the old days.
Hanson: When did you start playing the piano?
CARTER: When I was nine years old. My teacher lived across the street from Lincoln School and I would go there once a week for a lesson. I would wait for my dad to come by on his motorcycle and he would take my hand and tow me up Waterman, which was a bit uphill. We'd get a ticket for that now, wouldn't we?
Hanson: I think you would. So were you always musically inclined? You told me you used to play for square dances.
CARTER: I did that and round dances, ballet, and accompanying most anything pertaining to music. My dad loved to sing and always had some kind or music in our home (quartets, trios, steel guitar players, fiddles) you name it. My dad, his trio and this family or guitar players played over the radio (KFXM) in a small building in the middle or a field near where the Orange Show is. We were on the air about every two weeks. If there was any place dad could go to sing, he would do it, and if he had an engagement to sing and I had a date, guess who had to break the date and sometimes I was a little grumpy about that. I still play for a couple or Rotary Clubs, Church and sometimes special occasions Music is what keeps me going and without it, life would be a mistake.