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Bonita Hinds

April 24, 2003

Hanson: This is an interview for the San Bernardino Oral History Project and this is Joyce Hanson interviewing Mrs. Bonnie Hinds and we are at her home in Colton. Good Morning, Mrs. Hinds.

HINDS: Good morning. I wanted to ask you something before we started. I was born in 1929, and I was born in Riverside. So my first memories are going to school in Riverside right close to where I lived. And then my mother and father got divorced and so we got the cabin in the mountains from the divorce settlement and we moved up there. Which was a lot of fun, but going to school, tramp up the hill to the top of Crestline in the snow and coming down on the bus, it was fun. We had so much more freedom then. My brother is four years younger than me. We are the only two in the family. We roamed everywhere. Now you wouldn't let your children do that.

Hanson: No, not anymore.

HINDS: But we went all over the place up there in the mountains, just hiked and my mother had a special bird call whistle that penetrated everything so we'd know she wanted us to come home. Okay. One thing I do remember is the Panorama fire. I think it was in '38 or something like that, and my brother and I were up in the mountains. My aunt, who was visiting my mother's, and my mother came down here to go shopping. They couldn't get back up there because of the fire. They had to go clear around and up the back roads to Crestline. And they were worried about us, and we were worried about them but everything turned out just fine.

Mother decided that was too much up in the mountains, we moved down to San Bernardino, across the street from Roosevelt School, I think it was, or something like that, on Mountain View. We lived right across the street from the school and we would look forward to every year at Christmas time to go down to see the Harris' windows display, Christmas display. They would have all covered up with cloth or something, sheeting or something, and then a certain day they would open those up and there would be these magnificent automated displays of Christmas scenes. It was just gorgeous.

Hanson: Do you remember any of those in particular?

HINDS: No, there were just moving figurines, I can't remember exactly.

Hanson: Winter scenes and Christmas kinds of things.

HINDS: Well, dad drove the first trolleys in Riverside, and after the divorce he drove a bus, and I would find out what time he would be in San Bernardino at the bus depot, which was then on E Street, Third Street. So I would go down and beg some money off of him. And I'd go shopping. I was about 14, 15 years old then. (Pause) It's hard to remember what you want.

Hanson: Well, just generally. You were up in the mountains in '38 and the flood was down here in '38.

HINDS: Maybe it was before then. Because I do remember the flood. We drove over to Riverside. Do you know where the Santa Ana river goes underneath the bridge, we wanted to go out and see if some friends of ours were okay out in West Riverside. We couldn't get across. The flood was at the top of the bridge there. Oh yes, one time, I don't remember what year it was, my brother and I and my mother took the bus, at Easter time over to Riverside, took a couple of blankets with us, went to the last show. We hiked up to the top of Mt. Rubidoux. It was an Easter sunrise service. was just beautiful. That was one of the fun things we did.

Oh, let's see. I remember all the shops on E street.

Hanson: Tell me about them.

HINDS: There was Woolworth's, drug stores, Lerners. [Written note: Bank on 3rd and E Street, Harris', drug store with balcony, show store with x-ray, Newbury 5 & 10, Hershey's, barber shops, Fox Theater, McDonald's, Sage's Market, San Bernardino High School, flower shop, drug store, roller skating at Orange Show & E rink, Mimi's Drive-In at Waterman, downtown Goodman's Jewelry.) Okay, go back, back, back. I was about 9, 10-11, I suppose, we were desperate for money. Very, very desperate. It was during the depression. So my brother and I got up early in the morning, went down to a certain place where they put us on a truck and we went out and picked raisins, grapes, thank you. We picked them. You'd get so much per bag or per box. It was a lot of work.

And too, then, my brother and I delivered the papers. We each had a route. I had a morning route because I was older and better able to get up and go in the morning. I had about 100 customers all over the north end of town. My brother had the Evening Telegram - the Sun and the Evening Telegram so he had customers below us. Where our house was is now where the freeway is, Cal Trans bought our house. So when my brother talked my mother into moving up to the north end of town, which I didn't like, because we lived in Colton, we wanted her nearer to us. My brother decided this was perfect so that was it. Oh, the Orange Show.

Hanson: Tell me about the Orange Show.

HINDS: It was beautiful. The Oranges had the big orange displays in the central building, I've forgotten which one it was called, and they were gorgeous. All the different, what's the word I'm trying to think of - displays, I guess describes it, all in this one building. You'd walk around and walk around and walk around and they were pretty. It smelt so good, Orange blossoms. They had a stage, but not like it is now.

HINDS: My husband worked at Mimi's drive-in up at the north end of San Bernardino.

Hanson: Oh he did?

HINDS: Yes. Oh, I'll have to tell you about my husband and I. My mother, brother, and I moved. This guy about my age (he was 11 months younger than me) would come down with his ice cream and we'd be selling anything to the builders that we could think of. He kept taking our people away from us. I hated him. This was about Junior High. Later on, when we were in Junior High to get our free meal we had to work in the kitchen. This man, by the way is Warren, would wash those dishes so fast and stack them all up and then would swat us all with the towel.

Hanson: For fun?

HINDS: He was just showing off. He just loved to tease. That was junior high I went to, Arrowview Jr. High. And then when I got in high school - I was a very lonely person, I didn't make friends easily. And so I was. one time I was crying out by the auditorium and this man came along and said "Do you play an instrument?" and I said "No." And my mother played the guitar, I haven't gone into that yet. And he said "Well, would you like to be in the band?" And I said "Yes." He said "Do you know how to play the bass fiddle?" I said "No." "Well, I'll teach you." I went down in the basement and he gave me a bass fiddle and I learned how to play. He chose me because I was tall. I never did learn how to read music.

Hanson: So you did it by ear.

HINDS: Yes, Yes. And I was in band there at high school and in high school I carried the flag because we couldn't see how we could get the bass fiddle so mobile. (Laughter)

Hanson: That could be a problem.

HINDS: So I carried the flag at all the parades, all over, down in Long Beach, and much more than they do now. I was also in the parades they had down E street?

Hanson: What kind of parades were they?

HINDS: For one thing, the Covered Wagon Days Parade, which is a celebration of San Bernardino's bi-centennial or something like that. I've got pictures of that over there. And just different parades, down to the Orange Show when the Orange Show opened. (Pause)

I was pigeon-toed so my mother looked around and tried to find a teacher who would teach me to tap dance to straighten my feet out. So she met Eleanor St. John and (distracting noise covers voices) -shared expenses and she taught me how to dance, with a bunch of other people too. She had a group up at the school up there. And certain ones out of us went over to San Jacinto, and you know, in those days they would have a pause in between the pictures, about 15 minutes while they changed reels, and we would get to dance out on the stage in between those pictures.

Hanson: I didn't know anyone did that. I've never heard that. That must have been really exciting for you.

HINDS: Yes, it was. Gave me a lot of stage presence, but I still felt lonesome, I don't know why, just my inner feelings.

Oh, yes, California Hotel. We were called the Rancho Roundup and we were on the radio, KFXM, which was at the California Hotel, and we met Tennessee Ernie Ford and we would play - sing - for about half an hour, I don't remember how long. My brother played the guitar - and mother and Eleanor, all three played the guitar. And there's different people in the, friends from our neighborhood that were in the show-dozen of us, or maybe less, eight of us maybe. And we did that one whole summer for about half an hour or so.

Hanson: You had your own radio show!


Hanson: That's wonderful. I've heard about Tennessee Ernie Ford starting out there.

HINDS: Yes. Yes. He was real nice. And the man who was in charge of those, we called him "Uncle Bernie." I've got a picture of us up there too. I'll show you later. So that was one summer.

Oh yes, they would have concerts at the California Theater downtown on, where it still is, on 4th and E. Oh, Marilyn Harmon Fitzgerald was the star in most of them. My mother was a great dressmaker. She made all of her costumes for her, and her folks. They always bought season tickets and every so often they couldn't use them, so my mother and I would get them, so we got to see all the productions down there. It was just one of my best memories. Marilyn was in - Oh gosh, I can't even think of the names of the different musicals she was in. But she had a beautiful voice, and we all thought she would go on into Hollywood, but she tried it and didn't like it. You probably never heard of the Harmon Motor Company.

Hanson: No, I haven't.

HINDS: That was her parents, and they lived up in the north end of town and we would go up there, we were invited to their parties. I had my first sip of champagne, caviar. (Laughing)

So anyway, gosh I don't know how many different concerts I went to, maybe five or six or seven. I took Joanne (sister-in-law)to see one, she had never been one.

Warren (husband) and I didn't start going out until we were both at Valley College. I was eleven months older than him, so that put me in a different grade level that he was, so we were in Valley College over here. I didn't like school. For one thing, I cannot add and I have dyslexia and it was very hard. So I went about four months and he was there too. We were both in the same history class. And I'd make his maps for him and he would do other things for me.

I lived down about six blocks from where Warren lived up at the north end of town, they lived on Bussey, and they were best pals with these guys over there. I would tease them and everything. So eventually we started going out together. His mother -- he was just 20 so she had to go down to the Hall of Justice with him to get his wedding certificate. I could go by myself because I was 21. She got even with me. Do you know what that woman did? She found out where we were going to have our honeymoon and brought this big bag of Warren's shirts that had to be ironed and had it sitting in the front room for me. Yes, she expected me to do ironing on your honeymoon. Yes! I never did forgive her. I told Warren, what in the world! I don't even know how they got there. How she found out where we were. We snuck away. My mother had the reception at her house and we snuck away. The train tracks ran behind our house, and it would go by about two or three times a day and we ducked across there and to the next street and took off. My brother, I think it was, and Warren's brother was decorating our car. It was just real pretty. I really liked a certain boy in high school. He played the piano. Now since I was very musical, he was musical. I just really, really liked him and he would pick me up in the evening and we would go out into one of the Orange Groves where they was a lake, up there where new houses are now, and we'd sit there and listen to the radio and listen to the frogs. Lots of frogs up there. Come to find out he was - how do you say it in polite terms - homosexual. I was broken hearted. So, he said, Why don't you marry Warren. I said maybe I will. We hardly ever saw each other again. We had seen each other a lot. He'd come to the concerts and I'd go to the concerts. All of a sudden he was gone. I don't know where he is nowadays, whether he continued with his music, because he was an excellent pianist. I'd go over to his house and we'd lay there on the rug and listen to different symphonies. I've got all those records down there, which I understand are worth nothing now. Let's see. Downtown San Bernardino. My dad, where his bus terminal was, had a pool table in there. I couldn't go in there.

Hanson: No girls allowed?

HINDS: Right. So I'd just stand there and wait and he would eventually look at me. We continued being friends after my children were born, they lived over in Riverside, he married someone else, much to my mother's disgust. We'd go over to Riverside and visit him. The woman he married had three or four children of her own, so I hardly ever saw him. So anyway, all that is gone now. There's nothing on East Third Street, nothing even to say it was there.

Hanson: Was Urbita Springs still there? Were you ever out there?

HINDS: Yes, I went out there a couple of times. So anyway, Urbita Springs was there. I really didn't go down there too much. It was when we just had the bus. I didn't learn to drive until I was 25. So Warren was working up at Mimi's drive in on E street and so I'd go up there. He'd take me, I guess. Great courtship.

Hanson: Isn't that the way most of them go?

HINDS: Yes, yes. He asked me, we'd been out to somewhere, doing something, what would I say if he asked me to marry him? I said, 'Yes, I guess so!" But he had to ask Mother.

Hanson: Because he was only 20.

HINDS: Right. Oh dear. I had four children. The oldest was 51 and he passed away from cancer, the very same kind Warren had. Warren had cancer, all around in here. Then it spread all over. First he had a stroke that affected the nerves over here, and he got that straightened out. He kept an eye on this side and it seemed to be all ok. Then he had this one stroke, a very, very bad stroke. It affected his whole left side, he was paralyzed. He'd try to get up and go to the bathroom in the morning and couldn't get out of bed. I said just stay there, stay right there. I'll go call the paramedics. I'd called the paramedics, went back there to see if he was okay and he was all right and I came in here, I sat in that other chair there and I waited for them to come. My son and daughter-in-law live out there in the trailer. I didn't even let them know; I just was too traumatized, because we'd been married 51 years. We'd had our 50th wedding anniversary. So anyway I had four children - boy, girl, boy, girl - and eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

So anyway, we were married in June, June 24th, in San Bernardino at the Christian Church. Warren was Episcopalian, and I'd never been there so we went to the Christian Church. And what made me mad about it, two or three weeks after we had been married we went back to visit and "Are you new members? I don't remember seeing you before." Okay. That was the end of that. So we started going to the Episcopal Church and I ended up being converted and I'm still Episcopalian.

Warren was a real hard worker. He started work out here at Crane Pacific, you probably don't remember Crane Pacific, they made toilets. It was over here, on over that way. And they were building houses right there, across the street, so every day after work he would go over there and he'd hang from the rafters, making sure they were putting enough nails in. (Laughter). He knew how to do things like that. All three of my men do carpentry and so forth. And so we ended up moving in there when it was ready. We had to borrow $100 from my dad. That doesn't seem like much now, does it? Then, 1950, we got married the day before the Korean War broke out.

Hanson: Did he have to go into the War?

HINDS: No, because he was in the Reserves, Navy Reserves, and he had quit going. Okay. Ever heard of smudge pots?

Hanson: Yes I have. I heard they were really bad.

HINDS: Yes, when there would be really heavy frost. They would light the smudge pots all over the east part of the valley here. We'd walk to school. By the time we got to school our noses, nose was all black. They smelt terrible but they didn't know what else to do. They'd sprinkle them, the orange trees, and it didn't help too much. Both Warren and I walked to high school, which was about a mile, I guess, from where we lived. I never walked with him. We didn't know each other in high school. Here's just this tall, good-looking man - and he was - red hair, curly, curly, curly. None of my children had curly red hair. None of them. And none of my grandchildren. Well, I'll take that back. Adam had curly hair, but it wasn't red. It was blond, like my son Dayle. He had curly blond hair.

Hanson: You showed me your pictures. There is a picture of you, and you were in a costume. Tell me about that, what was that all about.

HINDS: Which one?

Hanson: The one from the college. You were the person carrying the flag.

HINDS: Because I was in the band there at the college, Valley College. I was in the San Bernardino Civic Light Opera band - orchestra. I've got a picture of that somewhere. I was going through albums trying to find pictures.

Hanson: How long were you in the Light Opera band?

HINDS: A year. Until I got married, and I got pregnant within two months, got big, never lost it. I gained 50 pounds and never lost it. That was with Dayle. I had an awful time getting him through school. I had to coach him in high school because he had dyslexia.

NOTE: Mrs. Hinds adds the following in a handwritten note.

My father was in the first world war. The only way I know this is I have a picture of him with his group and by himself. Other than this I don't know anything.

When the first world war broke out, my mother and aunt got a job working at a fire lookout tower above Cajon Pass. She took the place of a man who was drafted. It was quite exciting. We (aunt Eleanor, mother, my brother, and I) all lived at the tower. It had a wide catwalk around it and that is where my brother and I slept. The tower itself was all glass so we could see all around and we could see if any fires broke out. I was the one who spotted the most fires. Also, my brother and I sat on the catwalk and counted the cars on the track as the went up and down the pass.

One time we had a thunder and lightening storm and since everything in the tower was metal, we couldn't touch anything. All we could do was keep track of the lightening strikes and mark on a big map where they were. We were on the edge of the forest where there was no trees. Down below the tower was a big tub that we could take a bath out in the open with airplanes going over.

One day toward the end of summer, a big fire broke out on the western edge of the forest. We were ordered to evacuate. We left going to Cedar Pine Park on a narrow forest service dirt road. The wild animals were trying to get away from the fire. I think it was 10 miles we had to drive with fire all around us. We made it and about a week later we went back to the tower.

Next Thanksgiving my mother and aunt went down the hill to town to get groceries. We (my brother and I) stayed in the cabin and we saw smoke and the Panorama fire of 1938 broke out. My mother and aunt weren't allowed up the mountain and had to go around the mountain and up to Crestline the back way.