April 24, 2003
Hanson: This is Joyce Hanson for the San Bernardino Oral History Project, and this is an interview with Mr. Joel Martin at his home in San Bernardino. Today is April 24, 2003. Good afternoon Mr. Martin.
Hanson: Tell me about your earliest memories of San Bernardino.
MARTIN: Well, when I lived here originally I was too young to remember much about it [laughing].
MARTIN: But, we had so many relatives here that we were continually here. I left when I was three-years-old. So, we came back; I had relatives like my grandmother and several great aunts and uncles and well, even an uncle and his family and we would have family outings and so forth down here. Meadow Brook Park was a place, and in those days you could get in the stream and utilize it for getting wet. And there was a bandstand there and it was a good place to hold family get-togethers. But, we did that a lot. My one great aunt and uncle had a store on Third Street, and it's where the freeway is now.
MARTIN: It was one of those little holes in the wall mom and pop situations.
Hanson: What was the name of the store?
MARTIN: It was Leslie Maloney was his name, but my grandmother died at a fairly young age because she had a double mastoid. They didn't realize that it was double and got one, not the other. But she was the assistant to the Chief Probation Officer of the County. And my great aunt was the first matron of the jail there at the courthouse when they built it in 1916, and my mother used to tell about going to visit her, and the inmates even made doll clothes for my mother when she was a little girl. So, it was kind of a family affair there; and later, of course I worked for the County for 18 years and then this youngest daughter that is now in Seattle, she worked there for one summer and while she was going to college.
Hanna Radcliff, my great aunt, was the matron of the jail and I've made a couple of notes here. Joel Wolf, my great grandfather, worked for the City of Colton for 42 years, and he has quite a history because he was the last man out at the tunnel they were making from England to France when they sealed it off, got scared of an invasion from Europe.
MARTIN: And I have magazine articles or newspaper articles that were about him; he appeared on T.V. and everything. He was a character. A little wired together, he only had one eye left from construction work, but he attended my high school graduation. And to give you an idea, my family is full of characters. You know most people congratulate you when you graduate. He walks up and says, "Well son if you're doing as good as I am when you get to this age you'll do alright," and he turned around and walked off. Typical.
Hanson: (Laugh) So much for congratulations.
MARTIN: One of the things I remember, my parents told about... there was a picture recently you may have seen in the paper of the courthouse, no the opera house down Court Street there. Well my dad would, having the candy store there on Third and "D" would make peanut brittle on cold winter nights so that it was ready just as people came out of the opera and they'd smell that and they couldn't resist. Sometimes it wasn't cool enough really to sell right, but they wanted it. Well a few years ago I was over on business there at the north end of the kind of a circular drive that goes to the City Hall; there's a bank there and that's where dad's store was and we lived upstairs. Well I was there on business and the young lady that was waiting on me, I was telling her that I used to live there and she says, "Well you know that's a coincidence. There was a lady in here last week and she said that her mother was coming up the street from the opera one evening to get some peanut brittle and she came due to have the baby." And this was the baby, this woman that was in there.
Hanson: She was the child.
MARTIN: I would love to have talked to her.
Hanson: Oh yes, that's an interesting story.
MARTIN: Yes. But also I have, in the other room in there, I have the flag of Oklahoma from 1907 when Oklahoma became a state. Dad had that over his original store, which was over here in Colton. So I have that, I have it framed because it's rather delicate now.
MARTIN: And one of the things that I remember (well two of them), but one: walking along Third Street in San Bernardino on the North Side, J.C. Penney used to be along there then, across from Harris' and everything and there was a drug store. And then next door was a pool hall. There was a little hole in the wall thing at the front of that and next to the doorway there was a glassed in place that was a cigar store. And the man would sit there in the window; and it was fascinating to me to watch that man wrap cigars. He made cigars right there while you watched him.
Hanson: Right in the window?
MARTIN: Right, so it was one of the things. Another thing, my mother tells me that she used to sit me in a high chair up on the second floor there and could watch the streetcars; because they turned the corner there. They also entertained you because what they called the trolley, the part that made the electricity, that picked up the... would jump periodically and flash and bang and make a lot of entertainment. But, she entertained me that way, by sitting me in the high chair to watch all the proceedings.
Another one dad told me, was about a policeman named Pinky Reese. He was an Indian man and he became quite famous there with people, because a man had shot his girlfriend and was walking up the street right across from my dad's store with the gun still smoking. And Pinky walked to him, never drew a gun on the man or anything, just kept talking to him and walked up and took the gun out of the man's hand.
Hanson: That's amazing.
MARTIN: Later dad and I went out to visit Pinky because he retired and had a store out the other side of Oro Grande, California and he had a meat market and everything and we visited him out there. Because, you know, dad was quite impressed with him the man.
Hanson: Oh absolutely! To walk up to someone that just murdered someone, that's amazing.
MARTIN: But I think that's most of what I have made notes about. Oh, the one thing is why we left in 1924 was an earthquake came and they said that our quarters up above the store were not habitable, so we moved out. We moved out to the bean fields on Highland Avenue to my grandmothers and we stayed there until dad sold the store and then we moved to Victorville.
Hanson: When did you come back to San Bernardino?
MARTIN: 1963, because the job came open, and it's one of those things, it took about three months of eliminating, and I got the job to become the head of the grounds for the courthouse. They called it Grounds Foreman at that time; and since then I went up to Elevations until I became in charge of it for the whole county. About 100 building sites from the Colorado River to the L.A. County line. Not all of it with my crew, some of it was crews and some was with contracts.
MARTIN: But I still had to go see about them.
MARTIN: But it was quite an interesting job.
Hanson: That's quite a large area you're covering.
MARTIN: Yes, and when you figure from the mountains down to this level, we had just a little of everything. I even was breaking in a foreman, because I had three of them; and I was breaking him in how to drain the water lines up in the mountains, which you have to do so they won't freeze.
MARTIN: And we ended up having a snowstorm and had to stand on our heads practically to get down in a hole to take care of these things and get the lines drained. We had some interesting experiences altogether working with the County I'll tell you with escapes and everything. Being little, they were always teasing me that they were going to use me in hard situations with the Sheriff's office, but.
Hanson: Tell me about some of them.
MARTIN: Well we had people, we had a woman escape one day, but I don't know why but she ran and they caught her. The firemen were alerted and they tackled her as she came by, and she was two blocks away from the Courthouse. Another time there were two inmates that were handcuffed together and they, of all things, they were being transported in from the bus and they broke loose. There was a black man that was the guardian of them with the Sheriff's office, he's hollering and he starts shooting in the air just to try to make them stop. Well, one of my gardeners had a wheelbarrow and his tools and they go running past him. Well he couldn't make up his mind whether he's going to get shot or what to do. By the time he made up his mind it's too late. They ran on over to Meadow Brook and got down in the storm drain. Well the police just poured out of there and they caught them. But they had them down in the storm drain pipe like; and the fellas told me that when those two black men came out of there they were white. Because they had guns pointed at them.
Hanson: Oh, yes, I'll bet.
MARTIN: Another time we had, course we tilled up the things and twice a year we (it's altogether different than it is now), originally we had our own nursery and we raised our flowers from seed, the biggest share of them. And we had worked the ground up and it was all soak and wet from planting and a man broke loose from upstairs in the courtroom. He came running down, I didn't know what was going on, but all I knew was he ran across this newly worked up ground that we'd worked so hard on and I'm bellowing at him. About that time here comes the deputies pouring out; two of them followed him across, but the rest of them went around. They caught him a block away. But, we had a lot of just weird ones like that and of course you had the usual with the bomb scares with people calling in that they had it. One man they found out later was across the street and getting his jollies by just watching everybody; but I was called on then to help guard the door and keep people from getting in there.
Hanson: They didn't give you extra pay for that I'll bet.
MARTIN: No. And because I could do things because of my job, I'm wandering around all the time. They didn't realize and at times they had me shadow people and listen to them, and if some of those people knew that I triggered them getting caught they would not be happy.
Hanson: No, I'll bet not.
MARTIN: Two different ones that were passing contraband into the jail I triggered them. And then there's a man that's going to go get, he was going to go get a shotgun and get the D.A. because the D.A. wouldn't talk to him he said. Well the D.A. wasn't there; but this man he was irate over he and his neighbor having an argument; and his wife's trying to talk him out of it and I just got friendly with him and found out what he planned to do and where and everything. There was just things like that. It was just part of the job.
Hanson: Well I think it's more than part of your job.
MARTIN: Makes life so it doesn't get so dull that way.
Hanson: That's true. Okay, when you came back you were teaching.
MARTIN: I taught.
Hanson: Where did you teach?
MARTIN: At Valley College for seven years.
Hanson: What did you teach, horticulture?
MARTIN: Horticulture, yes.
MARTIN: And I wrote a column, let's see I taught 13 years at Valley College and I wrote a column for the San Bernardino Sun for 7 years.
Hanson: Oh really?
MARTIN: No pay.
Hanson: From what year to what year?
MARTIN: Golly. I retired 23 years ago, so it was prior to that.
MARTIN: You know, but this thing of being retired keeps you awful busy.
Hanson: It does, doesn't it?
MARTIN: I was doing volunteer work, that's how I met Barbara. I was head of the museum for a while; I was very active in my church for quite for a while. I was head of the board that ran the church, the Presbyterian Church, and then I'm on my third year of being the President of the County Retirees, which is an organization of over 1,300 people. And only about 300 active in the area, but we get a newsletter out once a month, which I have to do next week as far as assembling, and then I always take it to the bulk mail when we get it ready. But, I have to write a column for that and then I still do a lot of gardening. As you see right on the table, this little rose.
Hanson: Ah huh.
MARTIN: My first experiment of growing miniature roses from seed.
Hanson: Oh, that's from seed?
MARTIN: And I had no idea how long it would take. I figured maybe a year or two. Five months to the day I got my first blossom, and that one's outside. The plant was only that high, two inches high. But it's fun seeing that. I've got yellow ones, pink ones, two-tone and two white ones now.
Hanson: That's terrific.
MARTIN: And then, of course, I have probably 40 orchids out back and my vegetable garden and I raised a bunch of carnations from seed, they're out there.
Hanson: My husband would be so jealous.
MARTIN: People always talk about green thumb, I said, "No, I have the dirty thumb. That means you worked for it."
Hanson: That's true.
MARTIN: That's how I always started out my column, "Greetings to fellow dirty thumbers."
Hanson: I'm going to look for those columns.
MARTIN: No, I've quit a long time ago. But, I might tell you too, I have written a book for my kids. It's in three sections; the first section is about the characters in our family, of which I've said there is plenty of them. And then the second section was people and events in Victorville in the 20's and 30's; and the third was the kids were always asking me about my four years in the military during World War II, so I wrote that up. Since then I've had to add to it twice because they requested things that they say, "You didn't cover this."
Well then I've made I don't know how many copies because other relatives learned about it and wanted it. And now, the thing about the people in Victorville, Route 66 Museum is going to get a copy of that because I talked to them about it; it happened to be a girl that's the granddaughter of a girl I went to school with that is now working there; and I asked if I had a number of historical things would they like to have them? And, oh my goodness yes! So I told her I had that and oh Yes, that they wanted that too!
Hanson: Yes, I don't blame them. Well see I was going to ask you about your time in the military.
MARTIN: Oh, well it started when Pearl Harbor happened I was in my third year of college, so I attended class for about a week and I was the only third year student there. The rest of the fellas were older than I was and they were in the Reserve. So boom, I was attending class all by myself and so the professor said, "This isn't good." So we had to be in with the younger fellas, and in the meantime I was talking to the various recruiting places. I wasn't quite 21 and my folks didn't want to sign me in. Everybody wanted to make a pilot out of me. My folks said no. Three fellas from home had been killed in training about that time and they didn't like that. They thought I was throwing away my education. Anyway I volunteered and spent my first 18 months at Las Vegas, Nevada. Battle of the barracks. Lived in nine barracks and I finally found out how to get out of there. Mind you I was a Corporal and every gun on that base was in my name. When I left there they gave it to a lieutenant, my job.
So I left there and it took me another six months to get overseas, because we were forming a unit and then they'd break that up and start another one. And, finally, I was in what they call a casual outfit. In other words we were replacements. And there were 2,000 of us. Got on a freighter, 700 of us in a hole they just made a place to put us in there like sardines and, fortunately, I was on gun duty. Because you had to supplement what few Navy people they had put on that ship, this freighter, and when we were attacked it was a much better place to be-up on that gun than it was sealed down in the hole; because those fellas, they'd hear things hitting the ship and they didn't know how bad we were hurt or what.
And we ran off, the first time we ran off submarines with depth charges. We figure that they shot up the convoy ahead of us and the one behind us and we figure that they were reloading their torpedoes is why we easily ran them off with our depth charges. Then we got into the, off Iran, and the torpedo planes hit us one evening and sank three ships in the convoy. It was a big 4th of July, our first real taste of combat. And then I spent two years in Africa and Italy. I ran gun shop the whole time.
Hanson: Where in Africa?
MARTIN: I was in Moran most of the time. I don't mean that. Excuse me, I ended up in Moran. I was in Udna, which is about 15 miles out of Tunis.
MARTIN: That's where I spent oh, probably about two months. The planes that were bringing the fellas over to combat from the states, B17s and B24s, we had to inspect all their armament before they actually went into combat to see that they were ready. Then we had practice bombs for them, 100 pound practice bombs. We'd load them up with that. You could put in a shift all day long repairing guns and everything and then come in and eat and then be sent to the depot to get a load of bombs and bring them over.
I used to sit up on top with a load the bombs. These great big trucks you know, four-ton truck with a four- ton trailer behind it. And the fellas would say, "Don't you think you ought to sit in the cab?" "Why." "You could get blown up." I said, "You think you got a better chance of not being blown up in the cab?" And I sat up there and I could look over the walls into the Arab quarters and things as we went by. I wanted to see things, and it was much more pleasant up on top of there than it was on the cab as far as I was concerned.
But then, when the war ended I was up in a place called Fanno in the north part of Italy; and at that time they broke us up. I was always attached to the Air Force, but I was in the Army. I wore both insignias. So then they sent me back down to Southern Italy and put in charge of a big group of fellas dismantling the armament off of B17's and B24's and making transports out of them to ship stuff back to the states. Well they kept calling me in and told me they would like me to be a teacher in the Army of Occupation to keep the guys busy on their off hours. And I said I'd just as soon stay doing what I'm doing. They called me in again, this Major, and he called another fella in with me and he said, "I'll tell you what, I'll give you 24 hours to make up your mind on this." And he says, "If you'll agree to be a teacher in the Army of Occupation, we'll send you up to Florence to go to the university up there and study the courses we'd like you to teach." So we talked it over and we thought that sounds like a good deal. So I spent the rest of my time overseas at Florence. I never had to teach in the Army of Occupation because one day they just called up and said, "Hey, get on a plane, you're heading back down to Naples to get processed to go home." So I didn't argue, four years was enough.
But, it was a good experience because I didn't smoke, well I'll take it back; I smoked a pipe. I never did smoke a cigarette in my life; I didn't like the smell. But, I would take my ration and I could rent a bicycle for a day with a pack of cigarettes. So I went to castles and I went to museums. Of course I got to see Michelangelo's David and the Seven Moods he was carving when he died. Then I went to Rome twice on leave. I went to the Vatican; I went to all the historical things that there was to see there, so I got some good duty that way.
When I stayed there, the place where I stayed was in the Olympic Stadium. It was actually the facilities they made for the athletes for the Olympics they were going to hold and then didn't get to because of the war. But here's the track and everything right outside and we stayed in this, just like a big hotel. It was a big facility with everything imaginable there, barbershops and everything. And of course the places to feed you, but it belonged to the Fifth Army and they let the rest of us come in there too, so it was a good place to stay.
Hanson: Well at least you got to see a lot of Italy.
MARTIN: Oh definitely.
Hanson: It's a heck of a way to get there, but you know, at least you made something...
MARTIN: I've wanted to go back, but one of my friends, the only one I have left that was over there with me, he has been back twice and he says that things have changed so he can't find the landmarks and things that he remembered where we were.
MARTIN: We were in a place most of the time, until the front started moving rapidly - we were bogged down for nine months you know with the mud and everything. You could see the Germans, they're flashing their cannon over here and ours are over here and we had this valley with satellites; they called them the twelve satellites that Germany built in there (all these little airfields). Our boys said that if they would have known that they were going to use them they wouldn't have bombed them so bad. But we had to fix them up and we bulldozed the German planes off to the side that were that way and we utilized it.
I spent about nine months in that area, a place called San Severo was the town, and then when the front started moving the Captain called me in and he says I want to send you up North, and he gave me all papers and they called in two QM (Quarter Master) fellas with their trucks; loaded them up with tents and stuff. We're under British command up the east coast and I had to go up and deal with the British people up there and get assigned a BIVWAC area. Then I hired Italians to fill in the bomb craters so we could set up tents and get ready for my outfit to come up when they moved up those 200 miles. So it was another good experience.
I had learned by this time to speak enough Italian that I could do this; I did interpreting. The Italians in our outfit didn't like to for some reason. They were New York Italians and they didn't want to, but they utilized me. I could get the laundry done or get the sewing done or different things for the fellas. Then the Italians appreciated it and they would... eggs were worth 25 cents apiece, and they would slip me eggs and things which were really, the Germans had stripped them of so much stuff that they, it was a prize. But they appreciated me getting the business lined up for them, so they would donate eggs and things to me.
Hanson: That's great.
MARTIN: In the tent where I was, I was the lowest ranking of the four of us; I was a sergeant then. About 9:00 o'clock at night we would have eggs and the one guy got a hold of toast, or bread and we toasted it. So, we ate eggs and toast in the evening.
We did a lot of things. Just like we stripped the earphones and things out of airplanes that were shot up and we had strung wires, we had one radio, but we ran wires from it. All you had was one station, our American one, but we listened to Access Sally and different things on there from time to time, but we all had an earphone so we could listen to that in our tent.
Then, when I went down south to strip the planes, before I actually went up to Florence, they told us, "You know you've put a bad winter in here before, you're going to be here for another winter -- build houses." So another sergeant and I scrounged wood and we built us a two-bedroom house. Then some of the officers, they hired the Italians and they got toofa block and built more substantial houses. But we had a pretty nice house I'll tell you. It had a mud room and walk in closets.
Hanson: You could bring it back and sell it.
MARTIN: It was kind of fun. But, like they say, as long as it was there to do I'm glad I did it. It's something you don't want to do again.
And then my son, he spent a year in Vietnam. Then I have other relatives that never even put a day in because they paid to stay in school or something you know. They said, "Oh, we're exempt." And I wouldn't trade places with them. No way.
Hanson: You do a lot of growing up and that's not negative, that's the positive you can bring out of it.
MARTIN: You sure do, that's right. And learning to deal with people and you know it's hard to understand some of the attitude of people in other countries. I mean people here now with what's going on, they don't realize. Those people don't have the same attitude we do. It's greatly different, and you learn a lot of that dealing with them.
This probably won't, you may want to edit this out, but one day the captain came and there were some of us working this one area and they said, "There are two nuns going through here and they've been stealing from us." So we stopped them, and this time we got a captain that wouldn't take no for an answer. He got one of those New York Italians that happened to be a cook in our outfit and he says, "Tell them we know that they were stealing." Because they come around with a card you know, wanting you to donate. This was typical, but they were stealing blankets from our tents and so the captain told them and they said, "Oh no, no."
He says we know you were and he says you tell them that I'm going to give them three minutes to produce those blankets or we're going to strip them and search them. So the fella told them and boy they starting shaking their clothes and blankets started dropping. So then he told them, he said, "Don't ever set foot in this BIVWAC area again." Well we had others that we had to tell not to set foot, we had to watch it constantly.
Well, for one thing, the young people, now there was a fascist group of young people that had it in for us and then the boys didn't like us because the girls, if they got a chance, would want to go with an American, because Americans could spend money on them and they couldn't. So they had it even to the point of at the last they were shooting into our camps at night you know. They had packed up everything but our guard guns. One of the lieutenants got mad about that and so he took a jeep and had a driver and he unpacked a machine gun, loaded it up, and he just went around the perimeter; and when they started firing in he just fired it all the way around the perimeter and there wasn't any more of that for a while.
But we lost 14 fellas that one summer there with them enticing them out and killing them and robbing them for their clothing. But even to the point where they had a lot of off limit areas. I found out the hard way because I had made friends with the chief of police in one mountain place. His son worked for us, and I would go and visit them and I enjoyed it. There was a priest up there that had retired to come back there to die. He was an Italian from Boston. And he wanted anything I could bring him from the States you know. He wanted any magazines or anything I could get my hands on. So I used to take them to him. Then one day here came the MPs and told me I was off limits and to get the heck out of there or be run in. I said, "Off limits, what?" They said, "Don't you read your bulletin board." Well I don't think it was ever on our bulletin board, but anyway I didn't go back there anymore. But, one of the reasons for this is they couldn't cover them that well, and these Italians in like one little village to another would, they don't trust each other. And they made homemade bombs and if they saw somebody from the other one they'd roll these bombs down the hill and just stuff like that. So, you had to be careful where you went. This was after the war.
MARTIN: After the war ended, right at the last of it. There was quite a shoot up south of us between two towns just before I went north. Yes, this kind of stuff doesn't hit the newspapers.
Hanson: Oh, no it doesn't. That's why it's so important to get the stories, because they don't ever put those things in the newspapers. That's amazing.
MARTIN: Yes. As I say, a different attitude over there. And yet, the biggest share of the people, especially when they found out that I was not making fun of them or anything; that I learned their language and wanted to converse with them, they tried helping me with it and were very cooperative.
When I went north, I started talking to those people up there; like when I went up to fix the place for the rest of the outfit, and those fellas I hired, "Ah napa ladon." That meant that I learned to speak my Italian in the Naples area. And then they had dialects that they could switch to. If they didn't want you to understand, they'd switch over and, as I say, they didn't trust from one town to the next. And then of course too, a lot of those people had never ever gone but a few miles from their house in their life. And then, during the war, they had to have a permit to go from one area to another, and they could get in trouble.
We were coming back from Rome and it's cold weather and riding in what they called a deuce and a half, a two and a half ton truck, and I'm sitting at the back of the truck and it's so cold there I've got my big overcoat on and I had put a towel up over my head. We went through a checkpoint and they told us, "Okay, go on." And we just get past and they started hollering, "halt, halt" to us. The guy comes around and he saw that thing over my head and he thought that we were transporting a woman in there. So they had to identify that I wasn't.
You were not to transport civilians. Now when I first went over there, when I first hit Italy, well I came in to Tunis for three days and then dropped out of the convoy we had been in. Another convoy came along and we headed for Naples in a storm (and it was a good one). We got snow all over the ship and Vesuvius was beautiful; covered with snow and belching some fire with a cloud of smoke overhead, so it all reflected so it even looked like the snow was on fire you know. It was a beautiful sight, but it was about three weeks later that Vesuvius blew, and I had just gone back to Africa. I just missed it. It's just as well in some ways.
When we pulled in there was a German three stack troop ship that had been sunk right there at the docks. It's at an angle and they put planks across from our ship and we walked across that and made a human chain down to the far side to the trucks and handed all of our duffle bags over. Then as soon as they get us loaded up, all the trucks went up to a little place called Bagnoli (a suburb of Naples). We hardly got there and the Germans came in to lay bombs into the harbor, you know after the ship. Well, the antiaircraft just cut loose everywhere and the Germans didn't like that, so they just what we call dropping their eggs; they dropped their bombs out in the water and took off. They didn't really do any harm that day at all, but they sure gave us a little thrill.
We were there just about four days and they put us on a 40 and 8 train and it took 24 hours to go 200 miles. Where bridges had been blown, we had the ones that our engineers put in. They were a little bit scary, they wobbled and you couldn't see anything but down when you're on them. As we started across, the Italians wanted to get away from the front. Now it would be just about like these mountains we have here, we could see the artillery firing back and forth; we were that close to it, and we're parallel. Well those people wanted to get out of there, so they're wanting to get on the train. Well, at first we felt sorry for them and we let them. Then word came, put guards on the doors, because these people were getting in and lying down in there. It was nothing to find women, kids, everybody lying down with us on the floor to sleep, and they were robbing us (some of them). A few of them, just enough to make it... so then we had to put, I sat with a .45 in my hand on the door the rest of the trip because they didn't want them getting on the cars anymore. When we got into Barry, I needed a hair cut and some things you know. I was in getting a haircut and this officer says, "You know, I didn't mind them stealing my clothes and everything, I can replace them, but he says they stole my fifth of good whiskey."
Hanson: (Laughs) Priorities.
MARTIN: Right, exactly. And Barry was, we were out in an almond orchard. It rained practically the whole time, you're in mud, you just can't get out of it, and you get your mess kit and you get up to get some food and it rains in it; you try to get under a tree or something and that doesn't help. So you had diluted food. The tents actually had the sides up for ventilation, although it was cold. So we scrounged any newspaper or anything we could get to put down on the cots and then we had two blankets issued to us and you slept with that and your clothes on and you still were pretty cool.
When I was going to be flown back to Africa from there, they put us on an airplane (a C47) and we'd make a run down there and he couldn't get up enough speed to get off, the mud was too bad. At the end of the runway were two-story Italian houses and to the side were all these German planes they'd bulldozed out of the way. Well, finally he says I'm going to get off one way or the other, he says really hang on. He got that thing and revved it up and revved it up with the brakes on. When he let go of the brakes we shot down the runway and he just cleared those houses. Well we went by Vesuvius and we went out over the ocean and after a bit I told the fella next to me I said, "Look, is there another volcano like Vesuvius? Look out there." Next thing you know we're back in Barry.
We landed and they said we only had one engine working. We came back on one engine, one quit. They said, "We'll try it again tomorrow morning." Well, we went down the next morning and I asked the crew chief, "What'd you find out, what's the matter?" Some idiot left a rag in the intake and cut the engine off. But this time we made it. Then we landed in Africa in a sandstorm and had to circle for quite a ways before we could land there. Have you ever heard about the phone systems that we had in the Army?
MARTIN: Well it was my first experience. I went in to ask them, I said, "Here I am, there's nobody here after me?" Oh you got to call to the outfit and tell them. "Well how do you do that?" So they told me, you got a crank phone, you crank and you get a person on there. This is so and so and I'm trying to reach Udna. Well they patch it through. You get one phone line to the next, and I did it for about four different people before I finally got to the outfit that I'm after. They just kept hooking it up 'til we finally got that. Then I had to wait 'til they got a truck those 15 miles to come out and get me. And I spent the next day, the whole day, the ground was so hard there, clay and everything, I had to dig me a foxhole and it took me a whole day to get me a foxhole big enough to get in.
MARTIN: I'm glad I wasn't in a hurry that something was shooting at me.
Hanson: Good thing you weren't 6'4".
MARTIN: That's right. No, and I'm shrinking now. The other day at the meeting, they told me I need to get a stool to stand on or grow. I said, "No, I'm shrinking."
Hanson: I had spoken to someone at the County Retirees Group, it was a woman, I forget her name. It was a long time ago. But she had asked me about doing interviews with all the County Retirees.
MARTIN: Oh is that right?
Hanson: Yes, the members who were active.
MARTIN: Do you ever go out and give talks about it?
Hanson: Yes, I do.
MARTIN: Oh, because we will be getting together to line up next years programs starting in September.
Hanson: Oh, okay if you'd like me to come out and talk about it I would love to.
MARTIN: Sure. Okay, do you charge?
Hanson: No, of course not.
MARTIN: Well we have people that do charge.
Hanson: Oh I know, but no, I don't.
MARTIN: What we try to do, we'll have somebody that talks and we'll intersperse with music, you know different months. Like right now, this past Monday, we had a man who grew up in Hawaii, he was born and raised there, he's Hawaiian. He told the history of Hawaii and then he'd sing and he ended up with a goofy song. They really liked it. It was nearly an hour program. We usually try to go about a half hour. People get restless.
Hanson: Oh sure.
MARTIN: Especially the older people, and the seats don't get any softer.
Hanson: I know.
MARTIN: Anyway, then next month Greg Patton that writes for the San Bernardino Sun will give us a talk the next coming month. We had him a year ago. And then, for June we have our luncheon and we will have another musical for that. Then we have two months off and we start again in September.
Hanson: Sure, I'd love to come.
MARTIN: Good. Before you leave, well I've got it on there how to get in touch you. I'll tell the woman that's in charge of that, but I have to sit on it. She always says you've got ideas and I don't. But I've ended up with several and I've got a couple others, there are two fellas that are firemen in San Bernardino and they have antique fire equipment.
Hanson: Oh yes, they belong to the Historical Society.
MARTIN: And I've given talks to the Historical Society two or three times now. One is with the equipment my dad had. See I have a lot of the equipment for making by hand, and so I give a talk on that and show it. You know that's a lot of heavy stuff, some of it. Because of the big cutters and things. Then I've got the copper kettles and I have a slab out here that I don't take. It takes four men to lift it. It's about that thick marble for making candy on.
Hanson: Okay. I've seen people when they do taffy and things.
MARTIN: Now the taffy...
Hanson: That's the pulling.
MARTIN: We did it with a hook on the wall, you pull it back and pop it and then you go up and you pop it. That's how you get the air in it.
Hanson: Yes, I've seen people with the slabs making things.
MARTIN: Oh Yes, well I even have the molds because we made molded stuff; but dad wanted he and I to go in the business together when he retired. Well, his health was such that he didn't get to. He died at the age of 83. My mother lived to be 98.
MARTIN: That's the title of my book that I wrote for my kids. It's Not Wanted Anyplace Else, because my dad said our family lived to old age because they weren't wanted anyplace else. So I put the fly on the thing about that. But, I give programs on that and then my woodcarving. Incidentally, see my horses up there?
Hanson: Oh they're beautiful. You did those?
MARTIN: Oh yea.
Hanson: Oh they're beautiful.
MARTIN: I've got about 20. I was going to make, I belong to three national carousel groups, and I was going to make a carousel with this scale, but it would have been 80" across. And I was traveling in my motor home to conventions in New York, and the last one I went to for miniatures, was in Michigan. I had the shower in there packed with boxes of my horses, and you figure what it would take if I would have completed that thing. So then I decided I better do like the others; they make the little ones in about a 36" across, that's what the other people had in theirs. But, since then I've got a lot of horses started and I use them when I give talks, but I haven't gone too far because I got started in doing caricatures. I belong to the California Carvers Guild and the California Caricature Carvers Chapter of the guild and we get assignments, plus the ones I do for fun. And they are taken on the fairs and things and they tour when we get these assignment ones and they take a whole display of what all of us contribute. Caricatures are a lot of fun to do.
Hanson: So who have you done in caricature?
MARTIN: Well, one of our assignments was for a picnic and I did a man and he's got his knife and fork in his hand and he's got a map in his pocket and he's got a plate I the other hand, he's in shorts and hairy legged and he's about this high.
Then, for my second carving for that (because they asked for more of them), I did two fellas, one is sitting on a stump whittling and the things are going into the campfire. The other fella is on his knees blowing at the campfire to make it go good, and they've got a first aid kit there by the stump and just different things like this. Both of my carvings for that they put right up very prominent. When they sent me the picture of what they did, why it was right up prominent anyway.
Hanson: That's terrific.
MARTIN: Because we get a newsletter from that four times a year, and they put pictures in and everything. So it's a lot of fun.
I've got one out there; well I've got the Cowboy Saturday Night. He's taking a bath in the horse trough. The horse is standing there watching, his clothes are hanging on the fence post and everything you know.
I've got one of a bear looking over a log at a turtle going by. I've got another one I call Duck Walk and it's about five ducks; some are carrying umbrellas or different things and they're all strutting down the line. I've got another one of a bunch of pelicans that are on posts, and that one is "I Called This Meeting." Just stuff like that.
Hanson: That sounds great.
MARTIN: The latest one is we had to do, I wasn't as thrilled with it, but we had to do little people, they couldn't be over 3" high. So I sent that in. That's going to be this year's tour.
The year before, we had wooden eggs and we had to carve things out of wooden eggs. I'll bring one in and show you.
In high school it was odd; for my senior project I designed and built a house just like you would build one. I made it all to scale, the wood, stuccoed the thing, insulated it, had little tiny wiring to the little lamps and the whole bit. It took me six months, but that was my senior project. Well it ended up I always said that was when I was a cover girl because they put my picture on the cover of the State Teacher's Magazine with that. Well, the man that came down from up at Sacramento was all excited about my exhibit because I had my wood carvings there and I had that, and he wanted to know if I would like to get a scholarship to go to art school or could maybe go to work for Disney doing carvings. Okay, and I went on about my business and forgot all about it really. Well then the principal called me in a couple of months later. He said Joel I hate to tell you this, but he says you aren't eligible for anything like that. He says you have to be an art major and you've never had an art class.
Hanson: Well that's just silly, you obviously have artistic ability.
MARTIN: There were, at that time, only 200 of us in the school, the whole school. I graduated with 32 people. I sent out a newsletter for that for a number of years. We could only find 19 of us. Now it's dwindled down to I only know where one is. Well, I think I know where another one is. But there's only one that corresponds with me. I had to quit for lack of material. I'd get these things from their relatives saying sorry to inform you this person just died you know, or something. Barbara says all my friends are gone. She gives me a bad time about my age because she's 13 years younger than me.
Hanson: Age is all relative.
MARTIN: I'll tell you more about it when this is off.
MARTING: Now those knives have to be real sharp, and I once saw a girl slip and the chisel went in here and came out right the other side through that part. They're that sharp. I have a professional electric carving sharpener out there, three wheels that you use to keep them sharp. Then of course you've got to have your strops and things along with you when you... in fact on the other side of my chair sits my, when I taught I had a briefcase. It now has my traveling carving outfit because, for one thing, my mother had nine majors over the years. She had some unusual things; adhesions started it out. And then, a drunk hit them from behind head on into an 18-wheeler. My mother, my sister and my brother-in-law were all just horribly torn up. The Highway Patrol just kept telling me they didn't understand how any of them survived. But then again, mom had to have surgery because she was torn up from head to foot. And the horrible thing was they were coming down from Oregon bringing mom home and to celebrate my birthday the next day. It was the third time this fella had done that to people.
Hanson: And he was still on the road?
MARTIN: They gave him the maximum, but it wasn't enough. After that the law changed and they could have given him more. But oh boy, I was going to go to court and listen to it and see what... they said don't, we'll keep you informed of everything and they furnished me with pictures and the whole bit. But, they said no use of you losing time from work or anything, we'll take care of it, and they gave him the maximum. This happened out at Four Corners. I don't know if you know where that is or not, out on the desert.
Hanson: No, I don't think so.
MARTIN: Beyond Adelanto.
MARTIN: Okay, and it took an hour to get an ambulance out to them. Fortunately, a woman from San Diego, I wish I could have gotten her name, was a nurse with the fire department. She administered to them and I think they wouldn't have lived otherwise. Then, the man took off after hitting them. He had two passengers with him, but a Cal Trans crew working down the road intercepted them and held them until the police got there. But they came back and helped too, some of them, to put shelter over them because the car was totaled. For instance, the engine was torn off clear up to the firewall; you know right where the windshield is.
MARTIN: And mom went out through the back window over the trunk of the car. She had undone her seatbelt to lean forward to make some plans with them for my birthday. So she was not belted up, but even then belted, my brother-in-law had to have the socket around his eye rebuilt and everything down at Scripps. My sister had a big chunk taken out of here and they were really torn up. But when I got there they called me out at the hospital in Victorville and I got up there and stayed with my mother until she went right in to surgery. But she was cut down like this and when she would talk her head opened up so I was looking down in. But she's giving me instructions because it's the first of the month and I'm on her accounts and everything. In fact, she wouldn't pay a bill unless I told her it was all right. So she's giving me instructions about all I had to do to get all the bills paid and everything for the first of the month. Right out 'til she went in the door to surgery.
But because mom had a tumor in her ear, which is like a worm that goes in, they had to take her ear loose and lay it back and go in there and take this tumor out. This is an eight-hour surgery. I sat there and used my kit and carved, and my sister knitted, because waiting is all you can do.
Well then my first wife, I've been married three times; my first wife had cancer and I would go sit while she went through all the chemo and all those things, so again I carved. Well then my mother had to have eye surgery, a cataract thing. I'm sitting there carving and these nurses are all from time to time coming through and they were all interested in what I was carving, asking questions, they'd tell the others and they'd come. Next thing I know one of the doctors that does this delicate eye surgery came out, sat down and watched me a few minutes and he says I'd like to do something like that but I don't know that I'd have the patience. I though my gosh, if you do that kind of surgery, it boggles your mind.
Over the years I used that to carry that with me and it's worked out good.
Hanson: Well I think for you it's kind of like a therapy. It gives you something to do so your mind isn't...
MARTIN: That's why it sits by my chair. I like to watch TV with one eye; we watch a lot of the travel programs and things like that and so I'll watch with one eye and carve with the other. Lately I've done more and it's terrible, I come in, I work in the yard as much as I can. I'll come in and I sit down in that chair and I swear it attacks me and I go to sleep trying to watch the news or something.
Of course the fact that I'm going to be 82 right away makes a difference I guess.
Hanson: I wouldn't have every known that by looking at you. You don't look anywhere near 82.
MARTIN: Don't act my age?
Hanson: You don't look your age.
MARTIN: I tell them I'm in my second childhood.
Hanson: That's okay, there's nothing wrong with that.
MARTIN: Refuse to grow up. But you know my doctor has told me, he says just keep being active like you are and everything. But here recently he told me he says, "You know sometimes I think you overdo it." I've had a couple doctors I really liked, the first one had a heart attack and died and he was my age. We had worked together a lot because I was volunteer fireman right after the war. I had a business in Victorville at the time, a nursery and flower shop, and I always worked for that doctor and we were real good friends and he was my personal doctor too. But, he and his son went to a convention up at Mammoth and were skiing and the son realized that his dad had dropped behind and wasn't with him. He looks back and he's lying there on the snow dead, had a heart attack. He was so much in demand though. He put in horrible hours and he had a beautiful singing voice and they wanted him for weddings and funerals and everything.
One time I went in for the job, I had to have a physical once a year and he closed the door and he said "Joe, let's just socialize a while. I've got a bunch of hypochondriacs out there, they don't need to see me, they just want to be seen," and he says "I delivered babies all night, I'm just worn out." So we sat and talked comparing notes. He wanted to know some things about gardening. He had a beautiful yard and everything, but he tried to do what he could himself because he needed it.
Hanson: Well it's good exercise and it's good therapy.
MARTIN: Oh Yes.
Hanson: It's a stress reliever.
MARTIN: You know even to the point that I met a man one time that had a terrible problem public speaking. He was just having trouble trying to do it. Somebody told him to get him a little, in those days we had wooden cigar boxes. He said you get that and put some dirt in it and put it up on the podium and when you're going to talk, put your fingers down in that dirt. He says he did and he just calmed down and never had any problem.
Hanson: I do weekend gardening just to calm down and forget about grading papers and things like that for a while.
MARTIN: Well it's too bad it's the end of the season, you could have seen our (maybe you can see it next year), I had over 700 blossoms on my Cymbidium Orchids.
MARTIN: They're pretty sad looking now. There's two orchids over there you can see after. I just bought those. They were colors and things I didn't have. But that's the trouble, that's an expensive hobby. But oh I went to the big show up at Santa Barbara; I could have spent a fortune up there. The things that you just can't associate as being orchids. And I've got some unusual ones, but still. And some of those really run into money. Up there they don't have the problems. I'm having trouble because I have a shade house and then at the end I have a...
[End of Tape]