January 14, 2003
Hanson: This is an interview with Richard Molony, January 14, 2003 with Joyce Hanson for the San Bernardino Oral History Project. Thank you for coming in. Let's talk about your grandparents and how they got to San Bernardino.
MOLONY: Well of course I'm not sure about my grandparents, we go back a generation before that. My great grandparents came from Iowa in a covered wagon in 1864 and settled in San Bernardino. They came basically for her health; he was a physician and a surveyor, a little bit of everything. But she had what apparently was rheumatoid arthritis and the weather in Iowa was such that-, and she was, she had married children by that time so I really don't know how old she was (I can go back and find it because I have her birth date)[Molony later verified her birth date was 1814], but they did come and settle here. Apparently first kind of up more in the Redlands area and then ended up in San Bernardino. My father was born in San Bernardino, and I don't know about-, I would assume, although I haven't checked the records that his mother, my grandmother, was also probably born in San Bernardino because the family was there. [Molony later added his grandmother was born in San Bernardino.] I was born in San Bernardino, but the hospital is no longer there, the Sequoia Hospital was down on the corner of Fifth and Arrowhead across from the post office. That post office was the main one at one time, it's no longer the main post office, but there's still a post office there. But I was raised more in Colton than I was in San Bernardino because my dad worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, so we lived in Colton until the time of the depression when he was laid off for a while and we moved back to San Bernardino to live with my grandparents on my mother's side down on Mountain View between Fourth and Fifth. Then we moved back to Colton when I was in about the sixth grade, but always basically in this area.
Apparently the great grandparents who came, he was involved-, as a matter of fact I think he was County Superintendent of Schools at one time. He was also involved in Masonic work here, Rousseau was their name, R-o-u-s-s-e-a-u I think it is. And as far as I know there are no other direct descendents in this area. My father was one of two, and his brother never had any children, and we had the three boys, my two brothers and myself.
There's another Rousseau that lives up in the Bay area who I correspond with every now and then. We've never really met, but I've written back and forth with her and that sort of thing, but I never had a chance to meet her. She is more interested in the family and has traced it. Apparently the Rousseau's were active in Alaska with the territorial government and all that sort of thing. One of them I think was territorial governor at one time, but I don't' know that much about that side of the family. On my mother's side I don't know what the background is other than the state of Wisconsin has come up every now and then, so I'd assume that is the basic area, but when or where or under what circumstances her family came I don't know. It was mentioned once her grandfather on her mother's side was kind of an itinerant, I remember running across a box of large, about 3-1/4, 4-1/4 glass lantern slides and being told that he used to put on shows using them. My grandparents on that side, my grandfather on my mother's side was born again I think someplace back in Wisconsin in that area and for most of his life, oh half and half I guess, he was a barber here in San Bernardino, then later went into the Sheriff's Department back when you didn't quite need as much police academy training and that sort of thing; and was a deputy sheriff for a good long time up until the time he left the department and later died.
My grandmother had worked as a masseuse I think or something, but most of the time I knew her she was just a housewife.
Hanson: So your family then is really one of the founding families of San Bernardino.
MOLONY: Well, yes in a way.
Hanson: You were one of the earliest settlers.
MOLONY: Well yes, yes. There's that early group that came in I guess in the 1850's and really got things settled. They came in the 1860's and so really we were not part of the founding fathers, but certainly early pioneers in the area. But I've never-, unfortunately my great grandmother who came out, who was the lady who had the arthritis, she kept a diary of her trip and I have a copy of that. Because also, on that same wagon trip the wagon master was Nicholas Earp, the father of the notorious Earps. As a matter of fact a couple of them were still young enough to be traveling with them. I don't remember right off hand which. I want to say Wyatt and Virgil, but I'm not positive on that. Apparently Nicholas Earp had been to California once before and he, therefore took over leadership as wagon master. He also, from what I've been able to find and my father was able to find out, he had been in the Union Army at one time, Nicholas Earp had, and was doing fine until Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. He was willing to fight to keep the union together, but not to free the slaves and resigned his commission and left. I don't have historical chapter and verse of that, but that's what I've been told. They were from the town of Pella, which is near the town of Knoxville in Iowa where my grandparents came from. But anyway there were the Earps and there were also the Curtis's who went on to become rather well know in the state judicial. There was, I don't think he was ever on the State Supreme Court, but Jessie Curtis who was high up on the state courts and then another one who was locally important in the state courts. As a matter of fact, he was the one, my dad had the original copy of the diary and Judge Curtis borrowed it and had ditto copies made of it. I still have the original, but I also have a ditto copy because about, I don't remember how many years ago it's been now, it's before I retired my wife and I went back to Iowa and retraced in our motor home the route of the diary coming out as best we could. I'm sure several times we were right in their path, but it was a very interesting trip to go back to Knoxville and to see the town there. We talked to some people back there who knew of them. There was one daughter who stayed back there.
Hanson: That's the diary you read from at the Historical Society?
Hanson: That was interesting, I loved that. So, okay well tell me about your life here in San Bernardino. I mean I know you came and went from Colton.
MOLONY: Yes, I mean my first recollections really are living in Colton until we came back over here. Colton was a small town at that time, even smaller than it is now. San Bernardino wasn't too large, and you could tell when you left San Bernardino and went into Colton, which you can't really do anymore, but you could at that time. In fact there were still streetcars running at that time because I know when I was-, well I suppose it was after we moved back to Colton when I got a little older when I was in junior high, sixth grade around in there I went to the orthodontist; they weren't quite as common in those days either and there were only a couple in San Bernardino, to Dr. Bedford whose office was here. So I would ride the streetcar back and forth to go to my dental appointments or to come visit my grandmother who still lived down on Mountain View. Then later, of course, the streetcar was replaced by the bus. Of course I lived also in the days of the Big Red Cars where you could travel from San Bernardino clear to Los Angeles. My father, worked for Southern Pacific. They had some kind of an arrangement with the boat line that went to Catalina. They would honor one another's passes, and at that time railroad men did not get vacations. They worked so long and then they had to take so many hours off because of their-, they had gone so many miles and that for safety rules, that sort of thing. So we never really had what you would call a two week vacation in the summer as most people seemed to have had. So, we would take shorter trips when dad's miles were up or whatever. One of them used to be to go to Catalina, and we could leave here and take the Red Car from San Bernardino into downtown Los Angeles. Sixth and Main I think was where the depot was. And then we'd swap over there to the car that went down to Wilmington, and it came right up to the dock where the boat left; the Big White Steamer it was called then. We'd get off and get on the boat to Catalina, spend the day and come back and all on the Red Cars without having to drive. Of course, you can't do that anymore. I wish we still had the Big Red Cars around.
Hanson: You said that it was easy to tell when you left San Bernardino and got in into Colton. Explain that a little bit to me, since I'm not from here.
MOLONY: Well our way to go, my grandmother lived on Mountain View so we would head towards Third Street, go out Third Street 'til we went by the Santa Fe Depot and then get onto Mt. Vernon and go south, and down around Mt. Vernon as you were beginning to approach Valley College, that area, you begin to run out of that many houses. You're getting into some empty lots and that sort of thing until you got to the college. And even there, when you swung onto La Cadena, which kind of diagonals off Mt. Vernon right where the college is, again there were a couple houses out in there, but not many. And you could see then as you went on out La Cadena which I guess is now La Cadena all the way; they changed the names. It used to be La Cadena until it reached Eighth Street in Colton and then went south down into the main part of Colton. But as you cross that stretch of La Cadena where-, well it's no longer there, yet another change. L.J. Snow had his automobile dealership in there. One time it was empty lots, but there were still curbs, even though there were no streets. There were light fixtures because during-, prior to the depression I think it had been developed, or the beginning of development as a residential area that collapsed during the depression and all that was left was say the curbs and some of the sidewalks and light fixtures here and there. So, as I say, you could definitely tell when you got-, then there really wasn't much of Colton until you got almost to Eighth or Ninth Street there.
Same way going to Redlands. You go out I guess it's Redlands Boulevard, Old Highway 99, and you're pretty well in built up areas with either houses or places of business or strip malls or that sort of thing all the way to Redlands. Back then you definitely went through groves. Our back way to go, because we had relatives that lived in Redlands, was to go out what was Highway 99 until we got into the Bryn Mawr area and then cut over and go up, what is it, Cottonwood Road or something like that, ultimately come along Barton Road where the Assistencia is, but I remember as we went along Cottonwood Road, there was a monument where I guess Chama or whatever it was, one of the early Indian settlements had been along in there. So it was a trip to go there. It wasn't just somewhere you dashed over to as you do now.
Hanson: Right, couldn't hop on the freeway and get there.
MOLONY: No, no, that's for sure, that's for sure.
Hanson: Let me ask you something. Your dad worked for the Southern Pacific. What about the rivalry between the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe?
MOLONY: Well I guess it was back earlier, but really there was not that much at that time because they really didn't compete that much. They crossed in Colton, as a matter of fact they even shared track somewhat. I think it was Union Pacific used Santa Fe tracks in places, and there seemed to be more cooperation. But as I say, they weren't directly, because the Santa Fe went on up through Cajon Pass where the Southern Pacific went on up through the Beaumont Pass that way. And I don't remember my dad ever feeling a sense of rivalry between-, I guess earlier there had been, because if I remember correctly my history, when the Southern Pacific came through they at first approached the City of San Bernardino and it either wanted too much or one thing or another so they came through Colton. Then, of course, there is the classic story of when the Santa Fe, which built up from San Diego wanted to cross the Southern Pacific tracks, I think one of the Earps got involved with that, I think Warren or one of them was later Marshall of Colton about that time and he supposedly got the two sides to relax and go down and have a meeting in the bar or something. In the meantime they laid the frog track interchange and drove the train through.
Hanson: Yes, I'd heard that story before. You were quite young during the depression, but is there anything that you remember about that time?
MOLONY: Well I remember it really wasn't that traumatic, but the fact is we did uproot from where we lived in Colton and moved to San Bernardino. I do remember that my father was out of work, but he kind of worked off and on still at the railroad, but it was just a lot further in-between. But other than say moving in there, and that didn't seem like it was that hard. We had to add a room onto the back of the house so we'd have more sleeping facilities, and my first brother was born about that time. We didn't really seem to have to give up-, I don't remember considering ourselves like poor or not being able to go to the show and buy clothes and you know get along in our normal life. That was by, well that was in the 30's, I'd say we moved up there I guess in '33 I want to say is when my brother was born. I really don't remember having the feeling of you know; things are ever "it's a rough time." I mean we certainly didn't-, we had an old car, we drove a Model A Ford for a good long time until we went back to Colton and we got a newer car, it was still a used car, a '38 Pontiac. But no, I really don't remember having a-, I think more now my sense of maybe turning off the lights when I leave a room or doing things like that are more an effect than anything that I was really aware of happening at that time. I'm a little bit maybe conservative, I mean when I even go to buy a pair of shoes or see the price of a shirt now it's hard for me to accept that idea because they're not supposed to be that expensive; because when I was young they weren't.
Hanson: Well I think that's a trickle down effect because my mother grew up during the depression; she was younger than you, but it was during that time when my grandparents were struggling and for us we always learned to turn off the lights and make do, don't throw anything away, that kind of stuff.
MOLONY: Well as I say, we were never-, my grandfather was a barber and it was about that time that he left, basically I think (at least as I remember) for health reasons. Being indoors and on his feet all the time because he was a hunter and a fisherman and so on and I really don't know how he came to-, what the contact was to get him into the Sheriff's Department, so he was working all the time.
On my other side, my dad's father was also a railroad man. He wasn't an engineman, but he worked as far as I know all the time. So as I say, I really don't remember the unemployment part of it being as much of it, except for the fact that dad was cut back really more than laid off.
Hanson: And after you graduated from high school you went into the Navy?
MOLONY: Yes. Well I had a short period of time, I was fascinated with the idea, but of course that was before television, that I wanted to be a radio announcer. I had even applied to a couple of places for schools, the Pasadena Playhouse and Stanford had a summer workshop, which they didn't accept me because I didn't realize I was still a little young and green at the time. But anyway, I went into L.A., my uncle (my dad's brother) worked for Max Factor, the makeup company. He was more in the publicity part; he'd been a newspaperman and this sort of thing. Anyway, I went and lived with him for a while and tried to put in contacts. I finally got a job ushering at CBS, the KNX outlet, because back in those days radio shows had audiences like television shows do today. And the story was that this was the way you started; you started as an usher and you moved your way up (which was true), but about that time I turned of age and Uncle Sam was breathing down my neck so I did work in there for about a year and then went into the Navy. I was going to make the Navy a career and I was in the Navy for, well let's see I enlisted in '43, was called to active duty in '44 and it wasn't until '49 when I got out. Again there was the cutback after the war and then I went through flight training. I was a Naval Aviator and they just didn't have the need for them until Korea came along and I kind of sweat that out because by that time I was married and had a child and had gone back to school. But, that's really been about the only time out of the San Bernardino area when I left in '43. I got married and went to school in Santa Barbara. And I don't know, it just seemed natural to come back to San Bernardino. I didn't want to come back to Colton and apply for a job there. I knew the principal. His son and I, well one of his sons and I were the same age, Mr. McIntosh. But there were still too many teachers at Colton High School that had been there when I was there. And I felt like am I really going to be accepted that way and so on. So Mr. McIntosh even told me who to contact here in San Bernardino, Dr. Gibbs who was Director of Secondary Education at that time. So I never really thought that much about going back to Colton. That was about the time that the baby boom was reaching the secondary schools and they were greatly in need of teachers so I was hired without too many problems. I went to work at Arrowview Junior High School in the fall of 1953 and retired from there in 1986; all at the same school. Some people used to say, "Oh you ought to change schools every now and then." But really I did, because when I started that was the north end upper social economic junior high school in San Bernardino. And by the time I retired I'd worked for six or so different principals and then gone from 7th, 8th, 9th to just 7th and 8th and they built new buildings and changed around. It had become an inner city school by this time, really as they built around it. So I did change schools, but I just did it all in the same place. But I think it was a good school; I enjoyed it.
Hanson: What did you teach?
MOLONY: I taught U.S. History, well first of all I wanted to teach high school, I hadn't thought of junior high school. When I came in Dr. Gibbs, who was the Director of Secondary Education said, "Well we don't have any openings." And I said, "They just opened Pacific High School" for the first original time. She said, "We've just got openings in the junior high, but people do move up," which is a term I've later come to dislike because I don't figure it's a moving up, it's a change in location. But anyway so I figured well people do change and that sort of thing so I thought I'll teach junior high school for a couple of years and then I'll apply for the high school. I got into junior high and I liked it. I found that 7th and 8th graders were fun; they weren't quite so pseudo-sophisticated as sometimes 9th graders and high school kids were and, I just never really had another thought about leaving the junior high school and teaching anywhere.
I taught, back in those days they still had general secondary credentials so I started out teaching 7th grade social living, which was a three period class which covered world history and basic English literature and spelling and all that sort of stuff. And then after teaching that for a few years, my major was United States history, I got into the 8th grade, which is U.S. History and taught that. I had a minor in speech so I taught speech as well. The man who taught photography and was the audiovisual coordinator moved to a new school and they found out that I had had somewhat of a hobby of it, so I became the photography teacher and the audiovisual coordinator. Then, needing a few more units to reach the top of the salary schedule, I took a few classes and I happened to take one in the use of the tachistoscope. I had run across that in the service because they taught recognition. They would flash silhouettes of airplanes and ships and you were to learn to recognize them so you wouldn't shoot your own people down. And that kind of fascinated me, it was a little mechanical. So I thought well I'll take this course, so I took it. When I came back I was suddenly the teacher of reading also. And then there was a struggle to find-, because in those days there weren't really that many reading courses available on the secondary level. I took some courses, but they were all basically oriented towards elementary, so I'm not sure I was that good of a reading teacher, but at least that's how I got into that field. And then the last few years I pretty much ended up just teaching 8th grade social studies, which was U.S. History.
Hanson: Let's go back to the Navy. When you were in the Navy what was your job?
MOLONY: Well ultimately it was to fly an airplane. The Navy had a program called V12, which was an officer training program. Actually the Navy, the Navy Air Corp. part of it was called V5, so I went into V5, it was a fluke. My life has been a story, I mean-, no I was working in L.A. and when I was still in high school they gave a series of tests, Army/Navy tests and so they were general tests. And when you took it you checked whether you were interested in the Army or the Navy or no preference. Well I checked no preference at that time and I didn't pass it high enough to be immediately taken. I wasn't old enough; I was still only 17 when I graduated from high school. So all of a sudden they started sending me all this literature on the Army. Well by that time I'd begun to form ideas maybe I wasn't quite as interested in the Army as I thought, or I wasn't quite so non-preference as I thought I was. So I was working in Los Angeles at the time at CBS, so I went down to the main office in downtown Los Angeles and started talking to them and asked what can I do? He said, "Well, the only thing I can do is suggest you take the test again, we give it each year, and this time check Navy." Well I didn't know whether I wanted to wait that close to draft date, so he says, "Well V5 is still processing," they had a different office, they weren't in the same office. So I went up there, so I got into the flying, and I'd always been interested in aviation so it wasn't like I was completely out of-, as a matter of fact to go back a minute to schooling here, when I was in the 5th grade down at Jefferson, which is no longer there, it's now the Y.M. or Y.W. or something right there on the corner of Sixth and Mountain View. The teacher we had there, her name was Louise Corcoron, just by coincidence she had gone to high school with my mother; but she was interested in aviation things too, so she had an aviation project. She was probably way ahead of her time as far as the class, but we actually made an airplane with a ten-foot wingspan that a person could sit in and crank and turn the propeller. Her husband-to-be, they weren't married at that time, worked for one of the bigger dairies, not local there, but like an ice cream bar - that sort of dairy that serviced stores. Anyway, he had things that he helped her with. We'd go up there and she had an apartment there on "E" Street just north of Church Street, we'd go up there and meet sometimes. We built this airplane, we built great big scenery drops and we flew around the world on this. We studied our world geography, she bought everyone in the class, out of her own pocket I'm sure, a model kit that we could build and then she photographed; we made this movie of the whole thing. Well anyway when I came back to teach here she was still around. She was now Dr. Louise Brown instead of Louise Corcoron. So I went down to visit with her and she still had the film and so I borrowed it. I wish I taken it because I'm sure it's just ended up on somebody's shelf and being thrown out and I would have liked to have had it, but we made this movie. So, as I say, my aviation background had some beginning; and that was the romantic thing to do; I bought the aviation magazines and so on. So, going into V5 was not unusual. In the V5 program you went in what they called V12, the idea was to get some college so I went to what was then Arizona State Teachers College in Flagstaff, which is now Northern Arizona University. I went there for two quarters, and it was basically science and math. It was just a Navy unit, and I don't know how many girls were there, but just a rather abbreviated civilian school. As a matter of fact the professor that I remember taking some of my geometry class from, we used to joke; his wife was a math teacher in high school and he was being forced to go into courses that he really didn't have the background in, geometry or something like that. So anyway, they didn't have the faculty so for the third semester, trimester as they called it then, I went to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and finished up there. During that process, because the attrition rate had not been as high, they transferred us all into straight V12 and then later opened it up again and I got back into the V5 and from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth I went into what the Navy called tarmac. It was kind of a time absorbing gap because the colleges let out every trimester, which was roughly every four months. Preflight school started every month, that was the next step in the process, so it kind of absorbed that big bunch coming out of the schools. You went to a Naval station someplace and actually worked on the tarmac, which was the parking area pushing airplanes around, pumping bilges, doing that sort of thing. I was in Patuxent River , Maryland where they had a seaplane squadron and so I pumped many a bilge. But gradually then as things opened up they gave me orders so I went to Athens, Georgia, the University of Georgia for preflight; that was about the time the war came to an end, or began to cool down at least because they closed Georgia. I went to the University of Iowa and I finished up preflight. It was about that time that they came out with the options; people had an option to get out if they wanted to and I decided at that time I didn't have anything else to do at that time. I still wanted to learn how to fly so I stayed on in the program and went to Glenview, Illinois for primary and then to Corpus Christi and Pensacola and got my wings in 1947. By that time they had started another program, what was called the Holloway Plan, which we're getting way, way far from San Bernardino.
Hanson: That's okay.
MOLONY: But the Holloway Plan was the idea of-, Admiral Holloway was the superintendent of the Naval Academy in Annapolis and he had an idea to try to make all Naval Officers on the same educational level. So to get into his so-called Holloway Plan you had to have at least the equivalent or pass a test or two years of college to get into the program. You would become a midshipman instead of an aviation cadet. Then when you got your wings you would stay a midshipman for another year as you went into active duty in the fleet and then you would get your commission and it would be a U.S.N. commission rather than U.S.N.R. And then at the end of that year, which is now two years after you got your wings, you would be sent back to school for two more years to get your four years of college in. But you had to apply for retention at that time which everybody assumed hey that's kind of automatic you know. Well it wasn't automatic because at the end of that second year I was up in Alaska at the time in Kodiak and all of a sudden a letter came out that said, "We're sorry, we're not going to retain you." Well the Admiral that was Commander of the Alaskan Sea Frontier was Admiral Wagner who had been Chief of Naval Aviation training when this whole thing started, so there was another midshipman and myself in the squadron and we were in a patrol squadron that flew ice patrol for the oil exploration up on the north coast of Alaska. We went over to-, and you could see this poor Admiral was almost in tears. He was seeing everything being ripped out, the things that he-, and he said "If I could do anything for you I would." He said, "My son-in-law is in the same situation and if I could do anything for him I would." So he said, "About the best I could do would be to maybe get you an extension for another year." But he said you're going to be fighting the battle all over again and so on, so he said I really kind of advise you against-, well another year was Korea, so if we had taken that offer I would not be here talking today, I'd be in the Navy someplace, or retired from the Navy. So, the Good Lord works in strange ways, but things seemed to work out for the best after all. I'm glad it happened now, but at the time I was pretty shook up because when I got the letter I was engaged to be married, I had made a down payment, not a down payment, but first month's rent on a house that we were going to move into, but it's worked out.
Hanson: I'm going to flip the tape because we're almost finished here.
MOLONY: Okay. [End of side 1]
Hanson: [Beginning of side 2] Let's talk a little bit about your experiences as a teacher in San Bernardino. How did the students change over time? I know you said that it went from being the upper class students to the inner city. What about the quality of the students, the education?
MOLONY: Well, there was a change that way obviously, there's going to be, but there were still real good students. I think the change that I noticed the most, and it began to accelerate more as I neared maybe made me decide to retire when I was eligible then. A change to a kind of "I don't care attitude" with the kids. And I don't think it was just Arrowview students because I talked to other people. And I'm not saying that you should be you know, worship grades and so on, but I had the feeling through most of my teaching that grades were important and if a kid got an "A" or a "B" or if they were getting a failing grade their parents were concerned and they were concerned, and there was an effort to try to do well and get good grades and that sort of thing. But towards the end I didn't get that feeling at all, well I shouldn't say at all, but I felt a decline in that approach. I know one year I thought well I'm going to try something new and completely different. I'm not going to really grade; well it was about the time the pass/fail idea began to come up and this sort of thing. My older son was at LaVerne and I can't think of his name now, but the fella who kind of approached that was the president there. Anyway, I'm going to come up with a system by which as the kids take their tests, if they take a test and if they pass it that's fine. We'll have a big graph chart up on the board and if they don't pass it they can retake it as many times as they want until they could pass. So really all they're aiming for is to get the credit for it, and the same way with their homework; they would hand it in and it's not going to be handed back with an "A", "B", or "C" it's acceptable or not acceptable and that sort of thing so they aren't under this gun of saying, "Well I can't get an 'A' so I'm not going to;" you know there were possibilities, and it didn't work. They weren't interested. The last week there was a sudden mad dash to try to make it up, but really it didn't achieve what I had hoped it would achieve. To let the kids be able to see their progress and move right along, it just didn't work. But that I think was the biggest thing that I noticed. There was a lessening in, well just the, one of my, I used to always require a family history of them when they would come in and the first quarter project was a family history. I used to try to communicate to them that I'm not doing this to try to make historians out of you, but I'm trying to do it for your own benefit to make you aware of what history is and I said I'm going to read them and I'll grade them, but when I hand them back to you don't just throw them away. I said take them home and put them up on a shelf someplace because I know from my own experience someday you're going to have a question and the person you want to ask the question of is no longer here and maybe this will make you more aware that way. But as time went on there wasn't the interest. I had some kids who were just really, really into that, and later you almost had to drag it out of them and I finally ended up giving them an outline of basically these are the questions you ought to ask people. And what I got back was just kind of a list of answers; there was not that feeling of the interest in that sort of thing.
Obviously the reading scores were different than they had been, influenced I think mainly with television and other things like that. But even towards the end, as a matter of fact I think probably it was the last year I taught or the next to the last year I taught; the one student that really (I have a few that stand out), but this little girl stands out, a little Black girl, and she was my-, every time I would say anything that she didn't understand she would raise her hand. Mr. Molony you used this word, I don't know what that word means. I mean she was just that way; she ended up, and I don't know whether she took it up or what happened to her, I wish I had been able to follow her further. She had a full scholarship to Stanford the last time I heard. She came back and invited me to her high school graduation, which really made me feel good because I feel that the junior high, or middle school I guess they call it now, intermediate or whatever, is kind of the lost area of teaching. I used to tell people that if you are teaching elementary school you can see one day they can't read and all of a sudden the light dawns and you can see the progress. Then you get them in high school and you see them come in as kids and you see them go out as young adults and so on. I said they come in to junior high school as neither fish nor fowl and they go out the same way, and unless you can somehow have contact with them you really don't get to see the benefit of what you've done. This gets back to this moving up sort of thing. Too many high schools look down on the junior high schools and don't seem to have this realization that it's, to me it's one of the most crucial ages of a kid's life because they're changing. This is why I was very happy when they got the 9th graders out of the junior high school because I felt you had too wide a spread between the 7th graders and the 9th graders to be in one school because now you had to put limits on the 9th graders because they were there in the same school as the 7th and 8th graders, but then you had 7th and 8th graders who were trying to act a little bigger than they should.
I enjoyed teaching; I had fun doing it. I thought about administration, but I never really, well part of it I suppose was the fact that I was lucky. When I went to Santa Barbara they did not have a graduate school at that time. I could not get my secondary credential there so I came down to UCLA to do it. When I got down to UCLA they said, well we're sorry, you can't get a secondary credential with just a history major, you have to have social studies, therefore you have to have I think it was something like six upper division units in economics or sociology, geography and that sort of thing. Well I was pretty discouraged at that particular time because again, I was ready to go to work and earn a living. I was married and had a family. So I took my upper division units and did all that. When I got out here to start teaching, lo and behold all those units were beyond my B.A., plus the fact that they didn't have, the education school, all my education courses were also beyond a B.A. because they didn't have them at Santa Barbara. So when I started teaching I was within that close of being on the top of the salary schedule because at that time you didn't need a Masters to reach that top step, just B.A. and 70 units or something like that. So I think maybe that was another incentive why I didn't take any-, but then I never really had a desire to go into administration. I don't know whether it was because I always saw administrators more as the, well they had to be kind of the villains in a way. I mean they have to enforce the things, although a teacher has to enforce discipline, but it's a little different level and I just think I'm probably happier as a teacher, I enjoyed it.
Hanson: How did you get involved in Boy Scouts?
MOLONY: Well because my kids got into it, my older son turned time to go into it-, he had a little bit in Cub Scouts, which of course is more mother oriented than it is dad. But he went on into scouting, and the troop he joined, which was sponsored by the church we attend, Calvary Baptist, they had an automatic kind of a rule that every parent of the troop was a member of the committee. So you know I got involved in it and one thing led to another and I just figured hey if you're going to get involved in it you should go all the way. And through other friends we just sort of got involved in above just the troop level. I was never going to become a Scoutmaster because I was with junior high school kids all day long and I didn't want to-, well that changed. I got into one thing and then another and pretty soon the troop needed a Scoutmaster so I became Scoutmaster and was Scoutmaster for several years. But, as I say, I was more than just in the Boy-, well that's the important thing, but I met other people in it. I've often kind of thought that that was my Masons or Kiwanis or something like that. The men that I met there were good men whose company I enjoyed and I liked working with them and that sort of thing. And so I continued on and I'm happy to say my older son became an Eagle Scout and the other son became Life, which is one step below Eagle, and my older son is still involved in scouting. As a matter of fact I just got a phone call from him. He's going to be awarded the Silver Beaver, which is the highest award that a volunteer scouter can receive. But I just always found that it was a good organization. I enjoyed working in it; it was fun.
Hanson: How long have you been with the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society?
MOLONY: Well really not actively until I retired, because I just didn't have the time to get involved. I guess it really became more active about the time of the Bicentennial, which of course was ten years before I retired. But it wasn't really until I retired that I felt like I had the time to get involved with it. It's kind of struggled through the years of not getting much local newspaper support and that sort of thing, but it's still worthwhile. The other big thing in our community is our church. Actually when we came back, because again it was more through my wife with her family, we went to church in Colton for quite a while, Colton Community Church, just kind of a little church there, non-denominational. And we attended that for quite a while and were involved in it. My wife and I taught Sunday school and were officers in the church. But then as our boys got older we came to the realization that we wanted them to get involved in youth work and this sort of thing, we're not going to want to drive clear to Colton two or three times a week to get them involved and that we needed to start looking around for a church here in San Bernardino. We visited several churches and found some we liked and some we didn't necessarily, but we ended up going to Calvary Baptist and a friend there invited us to one thing and another and we got involved with a group of people and then found out that one of the elderly ladies in the church had gone to high school with my mother. That kind of tied us in to and we've been there since close to 40 years at least now I guess and the church has grown. I've seen it go through its rises and it's falls and all of these things that happen in a church; the church changes in its activities and growth and we're going through another one. As a matter of fact we're about to reach what I hope will be a milestone. We're dedicating a sanctuary the second of February. We're the church who burned on Parkdale and Sierra Way.
Hanson: Oh yes.
MOLONY: We've gone through literally hell with that. Although maybe the Lord had a reason for it because certainly if the insurance company had come through and paid everything we wouldn't appreciate it, but we do because not only was the church burned, but about the time the insurance company was beginning to come to resolve the differences and so on 911 came along and they went bankrupt. So, consequently, we had our struggles there, but we're reaching a point at least where we can move back into a situation that we're proud of, it's been about three years now.
Hanson: I drive by there a lot and I live up on West 59th so I drive by there quite a bit and I've been watching it progress over the...
MOLONY: I've been taking pictures of it about once a week to record the progress, so as I say on February 2nd is our dedication Sunday. We still don't have the landscaping done outside yet, but it will be done later.
Hanson: They've done a wonderful job.
MOLONY: Yes, it's been a-, it's really changed because the offices are moved and it's kind of an interesting situation because we'll be able to move back into one service and not have to have two or three. We thank goodness we've had the social hall where we've had facilities in which we could meet during all this time, but it will be much nicer to be back as one large group again.
Hanson: What caused that fire?
Hanson: Was it arson?
MOLONY: Yes. They caught the fella. He's in jail right now. Yes, he apparently had started a fire in somebody's boat who lived in one of the apartments north of us on Sierra Way. The feeling is, and I don't know, that he went there to get the gasoline and what his connection was-, he apparently had come to church there a few times a long time ago. As a matter of fact when the alarm people called one of the members that the alarm had gone off he went up and the fella was running away from the church and they got him. A firedog identified him and he went to trial. It's been a year or so ago and he's in jail now so far as I know, but that was arson. And then part of the problem of rebuilding was not just the fire damage which was done, but also the fact that earthquake codes and things like that had changed over the years and then we've run into, whenever you do a rebuild-, we would have been really not better off, but it would have been a lot simpler to tear the whole thing down and start all over. But we tried to maintain what we could, but it required more than we thought. Some of the beams had rotted and this and that so it's been a long haul.
Hanson: So what other major changes have you seen in San Bernardino? Anything I haven't talked about that you want to add?
MOLONY: Well I remember when I was in scouting I was a merit badge counselor for Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge. And one of the requirements of that was that the young man identify where the various spots are in town. And the thing I noticed they had difficulty doing that, and I suddenly realized when I was being raised, when I lived on Mountain View, I would go to the California Theater, which was still a motion picture theater at the time and I would walk, no problem, Mountain View that's not that far away. But on the way home I would stop where the old library was down there and the children's department was in the basement and I'd spend a while in the library. The fire department was on the way; I'd wander in and out of the fire department. But even more than that I would wander back in the alleys behind the theaters where they were throwing away their playbills and this sort of thing. I wish I had them now because I could have been retired a long time ago you know?
MOLONY: But there was a freedom and a knowledge. I mean I could walk anywhere downtown. I worked at Kresses at one time when we were still living in Colton and then I worked at Penny's at one time and it still had that "small town atmosphere." But it no longer has that, and I wouldn't know whether I would have told those kids they should go wander around down the alleys of downtown. And I don't suppose that's a change just in San Bernardino, that's occurred everywhere, but that's the thing I've noticed that way. Well downtown used to be the center of town.
MOLONY: And with the growth of shopping centers and the mistakes I think San Bernardino made in putting one here and one there and trying to compete they've kind of ruined the downtown, which hopefully they are going to rebuild and they're working at it. But this is the thing that I think I've noticed mostly, was the feeling that you were part of-, everything was downtown, that's where you went. You went to the show you went downtown. All of the theaters were essentially within a fairly close block or two of one another in the downtown area. Woolworth's was on one street, Kresses was on the other. The Harris' company was there; Penny's was there. This was the center of things and our life has not that center anymore. It's moved into the outer shopping centers and malls and strip malls and that sort of thing. And I think we've from my point of view lost something in that change, but it was bound to come. But I think that's the thing that I've noticed the most. And the, well again, it's not really a major change, but where we lived on Mountain View, Town Creek was still above ground at that time. I'm not quite sure where it started, up in this area someplace came a spring out of the mountains I suppose and ended up flowing into I guess it's Warm Creek or Mill Creek comes in, whichever one, it comes down through Meadow Brook Park. And at that time it was open above ground and we played along it. Then during the depression one of the projects, the WPA came along and built an enclosure over it and it was all covered up and you don't even know it's there. As a matter of fact that used to be one of the-, it was underground when it came by the streets and coming home from Jefferson, although we were only a couple blocks away; as I say, we lived down between Fourth and Fifth and Jefferson's on Sixth, was to go down into the gully you might say, and walk down the little creek bed until you came to Fifth Street and then you went down through the damp, spooky tunnel you know and then came out on the other side. You could catch crawdads and do that sort of thing. As a matter of fact we used to go swimming in Meadow Brook Park. There was water flowing pretty much, I don't remember anytime it would be dry. As a matter of fact even Sierra Way I want to say ended there. It didn't go clear through. There wasn't the dip that you go down through now. Sierra way pretty much ended right at Third Street there. So did Mountain View, which I guess Mountain View maybe still does. But there was an area there a little bit upstream, closer to where there is a youth center (I can't think of the name of it now), with basketball courts and so on and then into the park. But they had dammed it up. I'm sure it wasn't done officially; it was a homemade sort of dam where the water was probably five or six feet deep behind that dam and it wasn't waterproof because it still continued to flow. But I remember I was too young to go up and swim in that area; that was more for the older kids. But we could wade, it was probably, it's hard to say, two or three feet deep maybe down there in the area where we would go right down near Sierra Way. And of course, Sierra Way was still part of the flood control, or at least the drainage system at that time. And not having been built with the normal curve streets have, it flooded all the time. They used to have the bridges that came out over it. But one of my memories is my dad and I in our old Model A when it would rain, getting in and roaring up and down Sierra Way like a speedboat throwing water all over the place until the engine would begin to sputter and we turn on a cross-street until we heated it up enough to clear the plugs again and then go back and do it some more. But again, that was more the-, I think Perris Hill was built I guess during the depression. I don't remember ever swimming there as a youngster myself. Colton had the large plunge; we called it the Colton Plunge. You don't hear that word anymore, there on Colton Avenue, and that used to be the place to swim. It's changed over the years too. At first, when we were living in Colton, it was a big plunge, a big pool. I don't know if it was Olympic, but it was huge as far as pools go even today. But it had lockers, men's on one side, I say lockers, they were actually changing rooms. They were, well about the size of an outdoor toilet, which people wouldn't remember anyway. Because I remember I worked as a locker boy there. You got a pass if you worked as a locker boy. You had the master key around your neck and they would come out of the water ready to go and they would holler their number and you would go open their locker for them. Then later they tore that all out and they went to basket lockers and one big men's and women's changing room down there. And I truthfully don't know what they have over there now because I haven't been there for a long time, but it's still a pool of some kind. But that certainly, it was the nice one because it had naturally warm spring water coming up there. We used to swim there then out at Harlan Springs was another, and I can remember swimming there. I guess it was at the end of the streetcar tracks at one time. I remember a bus line that ran out there because it went in front of our-, part of it's route was to go up Mountain View for a ways before it went on out. But I can remember going there, a kind of a big barnish building, yet it was hot, warm water naturally. And the thing I remember, they had a slide and they had like an upper balcony around it and they had rings and all that sort of thing. I remember going there a few times with my folks, but Colton was the plunge at that time, or say go to Meadow Brook to swim in the creek there. But Town Creek was across the way as I say; it was just a slower type of life.
Hanson: Everywhere I think.
MOLONY: Nostalgic, yes. As I say, I just have good memories of growing up in San Bernardino because there wasn't the pressure. I could leave home and wander. The thing I do regret that I didn't realize that I was passing by history because there was a two-story kind of apartment house at the corner of Mountain View and Fourth Street on the southwest corner, which I later found out had been a mill at one time. And then of course the old adobe there on Fourth Street between Mountain View and Arrowhead right where until fairly recently the library was. I think the name was Lytle; it was one of the Lytle Mormon settlers. And I remember the house sitting there just as a stucco house, but it had been an adobe, it had been right at the edge of the huge flood back in the 1800's sometime I guess where the water actually almost came up to that part of where the town begins to rise a little bit there. But anyway, it was torn down later. But I walked by it all the time and it wasn't until they came out and decided to tear it down on a Sunday morning when nobody could get there and stand in front of the bulldozers that I realized what it was. And as I say, as I was going down Sierra Way the other day I used to-, it was more vacant lots I think maybe is the thing. Because even in Colton, although we lived in a-, there was a vacant lot across the street from where we lived, the first time in Colton. And then even when we moved back the second time, that area that I referred to before beyond Tenth Street where the curbs were, but it was still, they were vacant lots out there; they hadn't been filled in. And here in San Bernardino I don't remember quite as many, but as I remember on Fourth and Mountain View, where the big parking lot is and the Courthouse is now, it was kind of a big empty lot. Later I think Fourth Street Rock Crusher came in and did some building in there. But there was just more space then, more room. Because as I would walk up Fourth Street at that time the old Ramona Hospital was still there on the corner, which later I guess became the Community Hospital; my little brother was born there, no it was my second brother who was born there. But anyway, you came up to Arrowhead as you kind of climbed up the hill, then there was a service station, Goodyear Tire Service Station across-, then there was kind of an empty space as I remember, then the main fire station was along there. The Elks Lodge had a great big building with a big lawn out front and that sort of thing. And then as you went on up towards the California Theater there were businesses in there, but there just seemed a little bit more space than there is today. The courthouse was built because I think my dad said it was built in 1926, the year I was born I think. Because I think I remember he says he registered my birth there one of the first times he was in that newer building. But as I remember, even along Court Street between "E" Street and "D" and Arrowhead there was even some empty space in there as I remember where the old Fox Theater used to be, right across the street from there. There just used to be more space around.
Hanson: I know the Andreson Building is still there, and Harris building is still there, but Carousel mall is in there now. What was there before that mall came in? When did that mall come in and when...
MOLONY: Well let's see, it was after we came back. It probably was in the late 50's early 60's, I'm not quite sure exactly the date it was built. Well along there on the four corners of Third and "E" was the Andreson Building which had a bank in the downstairs; I'm not sure which bank it was. Diagonally across the street where the Stewart Hotel had been, there was another bank there. The Harris Company was there and across the other side was a Rexall Drug Store, on the down floor. There was an office building above it. I don't remember what name it was, but there were offices above it. Then as you went further east on Third Street, Barnum and Flagg was along there and Picks Bookstore was there at one time. And I guess at one time the City Hall was down there. I kind of vaguely remember that. And then I think there was another drugstore on the corner when you got to "D" Street. Across on the other side, I don't remember that; it seemed like there were more oh what I would classify army/navy stores. Not surplus stores, but less expensive clothing and that sort of thing until you got down to the big hardware store. Cooley's Hardware store was down in that area. Then further down there was a theater, The Rialto Theater. I've often thought of writing a paper on theaters in San Bernardino, but I'm trying to find time. But it was the Mexican theater, but not like the Azteca over on Mount Vernon. It didn't show Spanish language films, but it catered largely to the Mexican audience because it showed largely westerns. I remember going to the theater there, but it was more of the shoot 'em up western type. There was that theater, then as you came up the other way on Third Street from Third and "E" there was the National Dollar Store, which was a chain. It seemed like more Oriental run. I don't know what the background was. Then there was Woolworth's where my mother worked when she was in high school. Penny's was along there at that time where I bought all of my school clothes. And then next to Penny's, there was a drugstore along in there and a hotel and then on the other side was the Harris' Company and a smaller men's store I want to say. And then the Pacific Electric Depot was right in the middle of the block there, because that's where the busses and the Big Red Cars came in and out there. And then next to them on the other side, because there was a little passageway where the tracks actually came out and joined the streetcar tracks that ran along Third Street. And next to that there was an optometrist along there and there was a restaurant of some kind in there on the corner. And then as you went further west you just kind of well petering out of big stores. There were furniture stores and second hand stores until you got up to get to "G" and to "H" and "I" and I really don't remember there being that much up there as you approached the depot area. The same way, as you went down the other way, because when you got beyond "D" Street I don't remember that much, well let's see, the Rialto Theater and Cooley's Hardware were on the south side of the street and on the north side of the street you were getting into the foundry. Hanford's was still along there at that time. Then you'd get to the courthouse, and of course then you get in to the old Chinatown.
Hanson: I was going to ask you if Chinatown was still there.
MOLONY: Which ran along, as Third Street went down the hill, that little slope there between Arrowhead and Mountain View. Because I remember when we would come over before we moved over here to visit my grandmother we always seemed to go down Third Street to turn up Mountain View. Sitting out in front, all the men sitting out in front with their chairs leaning up against-, sitting in the sun. As I remember usually well dressed in suits, but not with a jacket on, just a vest, but with a hat on; a straw hat or a hat of some kind sitting out in front there. And across there from it was the Department of Motor Vehicles. That's where I took my driving test because I remember trying to parallel park on that slope gave me a hard time. Then you got into Meadow Brook Park and other things down a little further down there. So downtown, again it was a small town comfortable downtown for me, but probably today this generation wouldn't like it, but it was centralized.
MOLONY: You could get everything you wanted either at Kresses or Woolworth's or Montgomery Ward was next to Kresses there on "E" Street, on the corner of "E" and Court. There was a Thrifty's along in there somewhere.
Hanson: Thrifty's for ice cream.
Hanson: Thrifty ice cream.
MOLONY: No, it was a drugstore, a Thrifty Drug Store I think, but they did have ice cream counters because I remember that was one of our juvenile delinquent things was to leave Jefferson (we had a long time for lunch) and dash down to Thrifty's way down there, which was quite a ways for lunchtime break from Jefferson, to buy an eight cent banana split, and make it back in time for school. So, it was a nice time.
Hanson: Well, we're just about out of tape, so any last words before we end up?
MOLONY: No, like I say I've grown nostalgic, I miss it, but I realize you've got to have progress, but it still was kind of nice. Well, there was another area I meant to mention when I got started talking about vacant lots because my grandmother lived at 439 Mountain View, about the middle of the block and there was another house which she later lived in as a housekeeper for an old gentleman. But then there was an alley that ran down. Alleys are something we don't have anymore either.
MOLONY: We had alleys in those days because this alley ran from Mountain View clear down to Sierra Way. There was a big field out in there with big I guess, I don't know, they weren't Eucalyptus trees. But we used to be able to climb and build tree houses up in them and really, at that time, there were very steep high cliffs that ran along the edge of there, but now they've kind of eroded and they aren't as big as they seemed to be when I was there and so on. But there just seemed to be more space to move around in. And that's really about all. Something will come to me in the middle of the night that I didn't think of.
Hanson: Well you can call me and we can redo it.
Hanson: Thank you so much.
[End of interview]