April 22, 2003
Hanson: This is Joyce Hanson for the San Bernardino Oral History Project, and this is an interview with Miss Madeline Switzer at her home here in Laguna Woods. Today is April 22, 2003. Good afternoon Ms. Switzer.
SWITZER: And good afternoon Doctor. And I understand that you're trying to find out all about San Bernardino.
Hanson: Yes I am.
SWITZER: From the early days.
SWITZER: Now I don't know how early I can make it, but I moved there in 1910. We came a couple of three times before we came to live there. We came out for the winters and then my grandmother decided that that was the thing to do, to move there. So we did it. I can't say it was much of a place at the time. Moving to San Bernardino, the train was side tracked. In the heat of summer the furniture came unglued. The grandfather clock never ran perfectly again.
Let's see, the first thing I remember vividly is that Lake Arrowhead was not Lake Arrowhead, which you undoubtedly know was Little Bear. We had Little Bear and Big Bear, and... I can get very mixed up about it.
Hanson: Take your time.
SWITZER: And our schools, well Barstow didn't have one, or if they had it, it wasn't worth sending a child there, so there were a couple of young men that came there to stay with cousins of theirs in San Bernardino and go to school during the week and then they'd go home for the weekend and come back the following week. One of them finally wound up here in Leisure World. I have a picture, but I don't know which one he is.
But the young lady that he was very much enamored of was this one. She was the first one of our friends in school to die. She died of, what was it? It was something that if you ever had it, you died of it in those days. These days they think nothing of it.
Hanson: Do you remember her name?
SWITZER: Yes, her name was Audrey Drown. And her mother lived in Los Angeles, so she lived with an uncle and an aunt. And there I am.
Hanson: Oh, look at you.
SWITZER: And our teacher is here. She was one of the homeliest women I've ever seen, but she was self-taught, never went beyond the 8th grade. She was a crackerjack teacher.
Hanson: Do you remember her name?
SWITZER: Yes, her name was Isabelle Moore.
Hanson: That's fantastic.
SWITZER: Oh, and we were accused of being teacher's pets. Because we had fantastic memories, and she mentions it on a card to my mother, saying she never saw such memories. And I wish to goodness I didn't have it these days.
Hanson: Oh no, this is wonderful.
SWITZER: Well sometimes it gets in my way.
Hanson: Well yes, sometimes.
SWITZER: Yes, and I can't tell you, I don't know now-, this young man down here, Donovan Brownfield.
Hanson: Okay, he's way on the right.
SWITZER: I think he wound up murdering one of his girlfriends. It was in our paper; oh it was after we came down here.
Hanson: Well, I'll have to look that up. Oh my.
SWITZER: I believe it was on a baseball field. I don't know what they were doing out there at night, but they were there, and he wound up-, I can't remember whether he killed her or not, but he tried to murder her. Maybe he made it, I couldn't say. Now I don't know who these other people are, but this was taken at Riley School on the corner of "H" and Baseline.
Hanson: There were quite a few children there.
SWITZER: Well there really were.
Hanson: I thought the class size would be much smaller back then, but apparently there were a lot of children in school.
SWITZER: Oh yes. This must have been probably-, well there were at least two grades in a room. But Ms. Moore was really a crack teacher. I owe her a great deal. But I remember I played hooky, and I wasn't very bright because I went to the teacher's house and got her sister to put up a lunch.
SWITZER: And she and I went up the creek and had a lovely lunch, but I got back to class in time to come out with the children.
SWITZER: That's one of my fondest memories.
Hanson: You said that she was a great teacher and you owe a lot to her. Did she influence you in any way?
SWITZER: Did she what?
Hanson: Did she influence you in any way?
SWITZER: Oh in many ways, because she didn't put up with any nonsense. That was it, what she said was law and you didn't question it.
SWITZER: And I know our mother always said to her that if we needed punishing to do it there and not send us home to mother to do it; do it right now. Which she did! If we did it we were kept after school, we were kept there. But I can't remember too much about her.
Hanson: Okay, well I think you're doing a great job remembering these things.
SWITZER: Well, she'd have put up with none of this. I think she influenced my sister perhaps more than she did me. My sister became a teacher. And I think she carried out many of her ideas.
SWITZER: So, I guess that takes care of the school system except that as other places didn't have good school systems, they came by train all the way from Cabazon.
Hanson: That's a long distance.
SWITZER: And Cabazon couldn't stop there because they couldn't get started again. The trains couldn't get started again, so the people that lived there, at least one man and his children, but he had one daughter that came into San Bernardino and they'd slow up, the train slowed up, and as they were still going slowly along he'd boost her aboard. And then when they came back they would blow the whistle to show they were on time or whatever time they were going to get there. They didn't throw her off, but they practically did. Because the only way to get her was just to put her over the side and let her father catch her on the way out.
Hanson: That's amazing! That's some way to get off a train.
SWITZER: And of course, in that area, they had nothing but sand. Let's see, what was there?
Hanson: Now did you graduate from San Bernardino High School?
SWITZER: No I did not. No, I went to San Bernardino and left there in 1919 and went to Los Angeles. So I graduated from L.A. High. By the skin of my teeth I made it. My sister did very well, but I was no student, but she loved it. And let me see, what else is there? Perhaps, now this is the original house that we had; it was built in 1910.
Hanson: Oh, it's beautiful.
SWITZER: And finished in 1911.
Hanson: And where was this?
SWITZER: At the corner of 11th and "D" Street, San Bernardino.
Hanson: That is a beautiful house.
SWITZER: And it's right there now.
Hanson: It's still there?
SWITZER: And this is what it looks like today.
Hanson: Oh my! That's some change, huh?
SWITZER: It was, well let's see-, now in this one, the top was my grandmother's bedroom two windows on this end. And the next two windows were guest rooms. And then there was a Porte cochere so you could get the car through there and go to the garage. Now the garage was the only one I know of that had a pit built in the garage so the chauffeur could go under the car.
Hanson: I see, to do car work, auto work.
SWITZER: Yes. I have pages of taxes and other expenses from 1913 to 1916 from mother.
Hanson: You actually can still see a lot of this house here, if you look here, you see the same thing over here.
Hanson: And you can see the windows here remained the same.
SWITZER: And they have enclosed the porte cochere here.
Hanson: Right. So maybe it's not so different. Actually there are a lot of similarities. It looks like they built on over here on the left.
SWITZER: Now this was their opening. I was invited to it. The only living mortal ever lived in it. No, we moved in when it was brand new. No one else had ever lived in it. My grandmother, this is E.J. Pierce, that would be me-, what the heck did I-, sorry I don't have it today. It was elegant.
Hanson: Oh it certainly was.
SWITZER: Yes, because we always had, my grandmother saw to it that we had nice clothes, and mother did too, but mother made most of our things. We were some of the very few people that used to go to the opera. We had an opera. What did they call it?
Well anyway, backing up a little bit, San Bernardino was the only place that had a roundhouse for their trains. That was west-, it was the only roundhouse west of Omaha. That was where they did most of their repair work, and we had a viaduct to get over the tracks.
My mother and the man next door used to love to fish, so they'd go up to Little Bear and go up those switchbacks and do their fishing. Well, we were having the President of the United States come through. I can't remember, I think it was about 1914, whether it was...it was right after Roosevelt I believe, Teddy Roosevelt. So it would have been Wilson, and they went up to Little Bear and they got fish and they were the first ones I ever knew of that they brought down, took them to the ice house and had them frozen in ice and presented them to him when he went through. Let's see, what else should I tell you about?
Hanson: Well let's see. Who else is in this picture? Are these your parents?
SWITZER: No, this is my grandmother. I don't know who that is, but that's my sister and my mother. I don't know who the other people are.
Hanson: These are very elegant clothes, very, very beautiful.
SWITZER: Well, that was 1911. We'd only lived in the house about a year before we took the trip to Grand Canyon. My grandmother wasn't one to ever stay home, not if she could help it (and she could usually help it). And so this, she had made up her mind to go to Oregon, and they drove to Oregon in that car. She usually had Cadillacs and we had to have a chauffeur, because women didn't drive. So the first woman ever to drive in San Bernardino was Myrtle Shea. Her brother was the Sheriff of the town, and she learned to drive and they had a fire in the mountains and they wanted somebody to take the men up to fight it, and she was the one who did it. That was Myrtle Shea.
Hanson: What year was that, do you know, do you remember?
SWITZER: No I don't know. It couldn't have been very-, oh I would say it would probably be 1912 or 1914. I just don't know.
Hanson: These are wonderful pictures. Who are these children here on the mules?
SWITZER: We used to-, this was our pleasure, we could hire these donkeys for 50 cents a day and they delivered them and they picked them up. And you could ride it all day long for 50 cents. Fifty cents was an awful lot of money.
Hanson: Yes it was back then.
SWITZER: Yes it was. And the house that that is in front of, you probably have heard of Bondurant, who has-, well these were the Bondurant's that had that house. I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling that the Bondurant that has that driving school for police, and I don't know what else they do, but they're excellent drivers and their courses are wonderful. I have a friend who's been through it, and he always said he was going to take me to ride shotgun for him.
SWITZER: But I never got the chance, darn it. And this was mother and her car. Here's the porte cochere. Now this was all vacant property. It was owned by-, oh I'll have to think of that one. I should have written it down when I thought of it, but I didn't. Now Bob Holcomb is mentioned in this. This is not the same Bob Holcomb, of course, but it's the same family. They lived right around the corner from us. They lived on Baseline and we lived on 11th, a block off of Baseline. There was a big family of Holcomb's and I think the one that I remember best was Howard Holcomb. I don't remember just exactly what he wound up doing, but the whole Holcomb family is still in San Bernardino as far as I know.
Hanson: Yes, they are.
SWITZER: There are an awful lot of them. Mr. McAllister was one of the mayors at the time. Oh and there was an article in the Sunday paper a week ago about the Soboba Indians and the son of the head of the Indians. He wasn't himself, but he was a government official, the head of the Soboba Indians; and he was called Pussyfoot Johnson. And the reason he was called Pussyfoot was the Indians said he walked more quietly than an Indian; and his son lived across the street from us. Well, who else lived there?
Hanson: Well who else, let's see-, tell me-, oh look at all these pictures. Now who are these people?
SWITZER: The Orange Show.
Hanson: Okay, tell me about the Orange Show.
SWITZER: Oh yes, and we-, let's see.
Hanson: This is you and your sister.
SWITZER: We were taken into Los Angeles and measured for the suits and they made the suits for us. I was head of the, well I guess Helene was the admiral or something rather with the epaulettes on her shoulders. And I probably was head of the army, and we rode on the running board of the cars and I just loved that. I'd much rather be on the outside looking. Our family could only afford one lady and I wasn't it.
Hanson: [Laughing] Somehow I doubt that.
SWITZER: No, I'd never be accused of that. I thought of everything I could think of I could get in trouble over. One of the young men that I thought was quite delightful was Everett Swing, and Senator Swing was his uncle. They, of course, lived here in San Bernardino. I can't think of anybody that-, oh yes, made a name for himself. I don't know how much you know about-, oh what is it? Newport Beach. But down at Laguna there is a lovely shop and it is owned by a man that lived in San Bernardino. He lived on 10th Street when I lived on 11th, but I think he's in his 90's. But he will never admit he ever lived in San Bernardino. So I make sure that whenever I see him I mention it.
Hanson: What is his name?
SWITZER: Now isn't that ridiculous, I know it as well as I know my own. It'll come to me.
Hanson: It'll come, it'll come.
SWITZER: Oh yes, it'll come. There's very little I've forgotten.
Hanson: This is you sister in another costume?
SWITZER: That's my sister at the Orange Show again.
Hanson: Oh, look at the wings.
SWITZER: This is the two of us. And every time we'd come home and say to my grandmother and mother, oh we have to have a certain thing for school for a play or something. My grandmother would say, 'Tell them to pay for it.' We always got it, but I can just hear her say, no matter what it was, 'Tell them to pay for it.'
Hanson: A wise woman.
SWITZER: Oh she was. Now this was when we came out before we lived here. Oh this must have been a year before we moved here. My grandmother had us come out-, this girl died of tuberculosis because there was so much tuberculosis here. Now let's see, I can't tell who's who.
Hanson: I think you're the one on the right here.
SWITZER: That's me.
Hanson: That's you, the little one.
SWITZER: That's me and my sister. And this was...
Hanson: It says Blanche on the bottom.
SWITZER: She's down here.
SWITZER: Blanche. They owned the house that we had rented for the season. Now it was on 4th Street; and down at the end of 4th Street, way down at the, oh it was a cemetery down there.
Hanson: Is that Pioneer Cemetery?
SWITZER: I beg your pardon.
Hanson: Pioneer Cemetery at the end there?
SWITZER: No. But anyway, that was the only, oh what do they call it? Dairy that I ever knew San Bernardino to have because it was the only one I knew. I'm sure there were others, but it was Ben Sheen. Mrs. Ben Sheen lived there. I guess there wasn't anything particular about it except that they lived at the very end of the street at the time. I know that the McAllister's lived down there. I knew who they were.
Now my mother always dressed well. I just loved that; I thought she looked very elegant.
Hanson: Yes, very elegant!
SWITZER: And that's taken out in front of 1104 "E" Street. Now it's no longer 1104, they knocked the 04 off of there. I remember our telephone number was 1230.
SWITZER: Isn't that something to remember.
Hanson: It's amazing what things you remember, isn't it? Let's see what this says here. This says Jessie McKinney and Aunt Phoebe.
SWITZER: Oh yes. We were robbed so many times, and they decided that was because they were smart, because we had no men in the family. So my grandmother rented the room out and I believe this is Mr. McKinney that she rented a room to, and my Aunt Phoebe must have come along and had a picture taken. I think he worked for Cooley, and that was a hardware company, Cooley's Hardware. The only stores were the Harris' Company, and we also had Cohen's, but they were in Redlands. You had to go to either one or the other. We had long black silk stockings, and you had to go to Redlands to get them. Of course, it was just more of our lives, not more of the surrounding area.
Hanson: Tell me about your life. I'm interested in that. You lived in a fascinating time. Everything was changing as you were growing up.
SWITZER: Well, we were involved in most things there. And we used to love to go to the opera, because we had to dress properly. There was a Mrs. Barton, who owned everything, and she would come in and sit in a box over on that side, and she always wore an old gray sweater with the elbows out. My grandmother would look at her (my grandmother dressed beautifully), and we had to have long blue silk gloves for me and pink ones for my sister, and little feather fans. Anyway, we had to be properly dressed, but my grandmother would look at Mrs. Barton and say I can't afford to dress like that. But she owned the whole of San Bernardino practically. So that's about all I know.
Hanson: Oh you know more. We're going to stop the tape and then we're going to take a break for a little bit.
SWITZER: And do what?
Hanson: We're going to take a short break. We're going to just relax a little bit.
SWITZER: ...that wind, and when you had one of those north winds, they were not Santa Ana's, they're north winds. And when you had one of those you opened the window, put Turkish towels down, slammed the window down and hoped it would hold the sand out, but it never did. We had sand everywhere, terrible. And we always had water. Now San Bernardino is built on a lake and I think our house was built right in the middle of it.
SWITZER: We had to have a sump pump put in the cellar, and even that didn't keep the water out. But I guess San Bernardino has quite a problem with it.
Hanson: Yes, there's lots of ground water.
SWITZER: And we never did any cooking on Sunday. You did your cooking on Saturday and then you went for a picnic on Sunday. I loathed the picnic. I just hated it. I think I got a spanking every time before we went. Ruined the day for everybody, but I never let up. So, we go to Meadow Brook Park, if you know where that was or Urbita Springs, either one of those two places we would go for a holiday that day. But that's about the only things we did.
There was one place in San Bernardino that you could have a party, and that was the Chocolate Palace. Most people never heard of the Chocolate Palace. It was on 3rd Street. I guess it was about the middle of the block. There was also a Chinese laundry. I was scared to death of that place. I knew the Chinaman was going to run off and take me to China. My grandmother would see to it that we knew all about these places so that she'd offer to leave us there. She'd have been very happy to have left me there. My sister was, I don't think she was every punished. Well, they didn't have time.
Hanson: [Laughing] You sound like quite the scamp.
SWITZER: Well I did have a good time, I will say. Well I can't think of anything very startling that happened.
Hanson: Let me ask you a question. Do you remember the flood in 1916?
SWITZER: The what?
Hanson: The flood.
SWITZER: Oh yes.
Hanson: Tell me about the flood. What happened?
SWITZER: Well I remember that mother had gone to Redlands and when she went to go home the streets were flooded everything-, the river was all flooded and they said, 'no you can't go through.' She said, 'I have to go through, my children are there.' She was driving and there was a man there who said I have a pair of horses here; if you want to try it, you try it and I will get you out. So she did it, and she went through that river, the Santa Ana. And when she came out she was way down the river. It had flooded and carried her way down, but she made it.
Of course, Riverside had had it terribly. The river there had overflowed. They expected the dam to break, but fortunately it didn't. But they thought it would wipe San Bernardino out. It didn't.
Well, that really is all I can remember about it.
SWITZER: But I do remember the waters very clearly. Probably our cellar was flooded again. It always was.
Oh, and one time the circus came and the lots across the street were all vacant. So the man next door to us, they had finally built a house there, John Walter Roberts was his name, and I believe he was with the bank. He had a little boy and he wanted to take his little boy to see the circus pull in. So he said to mother if she'd let us go that he would take the two of us with his son and we'd go up, is it "G" Street where the train comes down? Is it "G" or "H"? It's up there somewhere. And we went in the wee small hours of the morning and watched the train come in.
[Interruption] I guess she lost the tray. Nothing is where I ever had it before, because I have three girls looking after me. How long that's going to last I wouldn't know.
But I can't think of anything particular.
Hanson: Your father was a veterinarian, right?
SWITZER: Yes, he was, but he was killed when I was 1-1/2 years old.
Hanson: Oh, okay.
SWITZER: My sister was 2-1/2. That's why we came out here. My grandmother said with no men in the family to stoke a furnace, we better go somewhere.
My only claim to fame, as a very little girl back there, was I got drunk. I didn't do it on purpose, but mother and my grandmother went out one night and when they came back I was seeing things, oh lovely things going by. So it scared the daylights out of them. They thought I'd lost my mind completely (what I had of it). So they called for the doctor, and the doctor came in and he check me and he said this child is drunk. Well my mother about had a fit. So they got the maid up and they said, 'what did you give her for dinner?' She said exactly what you told me Miss Switzer. Then she said, 'well she begged me for a little of my tea.' Well in those days they had the girls from Ireland and they had tea and they kept it on the stove all day and it boiled all day and when they'd use it they'd put a little more tea and a little more water in it and heat it up again. So my only claim to fame is because I was drunk at a year and a half. I might add that's the only time I've ever been drunk. Maybe I'll wind up that way at 101-1/2.
Hanson: You could have an anniversary every 100 years; you can get drunk.
SWITZER: I'm hoping not to last through until then.
Hanson: Oh now, now.
SWITZER: Well, people think I'm crazy, but it's not true, I'm looking forward to it, because I've had it! And so has everybody else.
Hanson: One of the people I work with said I should ask you if you knew Elizabeth Schofield.
SWITZER: No. No, the name doesn't ring any bell at all.
Hanson: I told him I was coming to talk to you and he said he thinks your name is very familiar for some reason. He remembers the name.
SWITZER: No. My uncle and aunt came out here after we did, and they lived out here for some time. So, I guess you're not going to get any sugar.
Hanson: Oh I have, it's in there.
SWITZER: Did you put it in there?
SWITZER: Well that's new.
Hanson: I'll just get my bag here.
SWITZER: Well, her family lived in, oh my lord, where was it? Right above San Bernardino. Where's Patton? Highland. They lived in Highland years ago, probably before I did, so she's heard a great deal about it.
Now at Gibson House, they have a picture of the house when it was brand new, right when it was finished, and I think I gave them that picture, so they probably have it.
Hanson: Gibson House, that's, you showed me here. It's an alcoholic recovery center?
Hanson: And that's where your original house was.
SWITZER: That's the original house, yes.
Hanson: That's the one that you built.
SWITZER: And this was the way it looked.
Hanson: Where do we have that picture? Yep, there it is.
SWITZER: That's the original house. And they have a picture that's bigger than this one.
Hanson: Oh, okay.
SWITZER: And when I went there they said, 'Would you like to have one of the men show you around?' And I said, 'Well I don't know where I am in this house, this is not my house.'
Hanson: And they gave you the grand tour.
SWITZER: So we got to my grandmother's room and I said, 'Well I want to know where the closet was, because they had made two rooms out of her room, and so the closet of course had been demolished. She had a chest of drawers built in, and if you took the bottom drawer out and took the sub flooring out, she had a box in there where she could keep things, because we were robbed every few minutes. We got sick and tired of it, so one of the men said, 'Tell us where the box was.' I said, 'You don't need to bother to look, because I can assure you if my grandmother had anything in there she got it out long before she moved.' And, it's been remodeled so many times, it's nowhere. But we had a chest of drawers built in in the bathroom, right between the two windows, and they had-, of course that was the medicine chest. As a child I was given Castoria, and I loved Castoria, so I used to pull the drawers out in front of it and climb up and get the Castoria bottle. I was busy.
Hanson: [Laughing] Now, if I remember correctly, Castoria was used for stomach problems and...
SWITZER: Oh it was, and it was cathartic, believe me. A very good one.
Hanson: I remember getting that when I was a child.
SWITZER: Oh, I loved it. I thought it was as good as any candy.
Hanson: It did have a unique taste.
SWITZER: Well we used to go to a dancing class, and Helene and I were going to the dancing school one day. And, of course, I had to run between every block. And I never had brains enough to stop at the curb. If I didn't see anybody coming or if I did, I just bolted out in the street. Well, I did it one day and I hit a car. I remember the man who did it, who was driving. I scared the daylights out of him, because I went down and I popped right up again. He wanted me to go to the doctor, and I said don't you ever tell my mother this happened to me. And I didn't tell mother, so I warned my sister. I probably was going to cut her head off or something if she told; so she never told, but I went home (we went home) and I went all around the house to see what would dig a hole in my side. I had to stuff my handkerchief in there. I had a real hole in there, but I was so ashamed to think that I had run out in the street and hit a car that I wasn't going to admit it. So, I finally found out that one of the Newell posts on the stairway was just the right height and I never did tell my mother that's what happened to it. But it worked.
So you're not hearing much about San Bernardino.
Hanson: Oh, I'm hearing great things here. Great.
SWITZER: Oh I wish I could think of people. What in thunder is that man, he has a house of Oriental furnishings that are gorgeous.
And there was a little store on the corner of Baseline and "B" Street, and I've always thought that it was part of his family. But I've said enough about San Bernardino. Now isn't that ridiculous! Because I need to go down there because I would like to sew some things. I don't know why, but I know I have a few things he'd like to have. And I want to know where things are going to go before I leave them. And I'll be buried in San Bernardino, no, in Massachusetts.
But I guess one of our friends; one of mother's friends, my grandmother's friends was run over by his own train. He was an engineer. He came in and he thought he had set all the brakes on, Ted Bell was his name, and there are any number of Bells that live there. When he set the brakes, either they slipped or he hadn't really set them tightly, and he walked around in front of the train and it ran over him. I remember that very well. It was before 1915.
Sometime later, well that family was always in trouble. His son-in-law was a motorcycle officer and he was killed one New Years Eve. Then some years later, his granddaughter was murdered by somebody in the family. They said they never knew who it was, but they know. They know who it was. So I guess there just wasn't anything going on.
The sump pump blew up. Mother went down in the cellar to start it and I don't know what she did, but something wrong, and the thing blew back and burned off all her eyebrows, her eyelashes. She came out of there looking like she'd been burned to a crisp, but fortunately nothing was serious at all.
Hanson: That's luck, very lucky.
SWITZER: Yes, she was lucky.
Hanson: So, you went to Wolfe School of Design?
SWITZER: Yes. I could never have made it in college. Helene did, she went to Occidental College. My father went to any number of them. He graduated from Toronto Veterinarian College and Columbia University, and he was planning to go back to school to become a physician surgeon because he had so much background for that. He said he had to be smarter than a horse. But I can't really remember anything more about San Bernardino.
Hanson: Okay. When you were a seamstress, where did you work?
Hanson: Where did you work as a seamstress?
SWITZER: Where did I work?
Hanson: Uh huh.
SWITZER: I worked for myself, unfortunately.
Hanson: Oh, okay.
SWITZER: So you don't have any pension, you don't have anything. But the first thing we were ever given when we were born was shares of stock, and you were taught to take care of it. So, and without that, I'd be helpless today. I may come to the end of it, but I 'm hoping we'll come out even. What else did we do?
Hanson: What about during the years of the depression?
SWITZER: The what?
Hanson: During the depression.
SWITZER: Oh depression.
Hanson: You were working for yourself?
SWITZER: The depression, oh! I remember that very well.
Hanson: Tell me about it.
SWITZER: Mother sold $25,000 worth of stock the day before, but she turned right around and bought stock with it, so it went up the flue. But her father had been the president of Holyoke Card and Paper Company in Brightwood, Massachusetts and, unfortunately, he had said to her, don't ever sell the stock. Well that's fine, but then he died, oh about 1910 I would say. So then when it came to the depression we had a terrible time. Mother lost everything she had. So my sister was teaching in two schools. She taught a half-day in one school and a half-day in another. And they were quite a ways apart. One was in Venice, California and the other was in... oh it was probably 10 miles away. So she had to make it from one place to another and the pay was kind of iffy.
Oh, and just before she died, not knowing there was any problem at all, she said would you like to have me take my pension and leave you the same amount, and leave it so that you would get the same amount that I do. And I said I've never asked you for anything, I'm not going to start now; you do what you want to with it, I don't care. Well if I had it today I'd be a pretty well to do woman. But as it is, I get along.
When we were given stock and we would get a dividend, it might be .20 cents, it might be $2.00. Oh, $2.00 was a lot of money. So mother would take us to the bank and she would hand us a pen, hold us up to the window and put a pen in our hands or a pencil or whatever, and we'd scribble on the back of the check because we couldn't write. Then she would take it over and endorse it for us, but this is how you learn to do it. And you never, ever spent a dividend check. That money was put in a certain drawer. And you know today it's very hard for me if I get one by mistake, but that's how we made it. And I had never worked.
I used to go to the Hawaiian Islands and enjoy myself and just all of a sudden there wasn't any money. So, Helene kept us going on the money that she made, and she was very good at it. So, she'd say this has it's hat on and this much has it's hat on, this is it's hat on for a new car. She never financed a car but once, and she kept that for one payment and she paid it off. She said oh no, this is no way to live. She couldn't do it.
She kept diaries and I never touched them until many years after she was gone. She lived here just a year and a half and we only, well, anyway so she said whatever there was left anyway. There was very little left, but anyway, so now I'm going to die broke and I don't care. Most of these people around here have been saving money for their children. They claim to be broke, but they're not broke. They turn the money over to their children and I hope some of them get stuck with it. Because what they don't realize, and they will not understand that if their child gets in an accident and is sued for more than he has, there goes their property. It serves them right.
Hanson: [Laughing] I like you so much.
SWITZER: Well that's what's going to happen. I wish I could think of something exciting to tell you, but nothing exciting ever happened to me.
Hanson: Oh you told me exciting things. These are things that no one else can ever tell me. Remember that. No one else can ever tell me the things you told me.
SWITZER: Oh really?
Hanson: No. There aren't very many people your age left.
SWITZER: Well this place is going to go up in smoke one of these days. These people today that are buying in here are paying horrendous prices. We paid $30,000 for this place, and today this would be about $150,000.
One of the best investments we ever made. And the man next door just brought me a lot of oranges. Because people steal so, that they steal all his fruit and he doesn't live there; he lives in Seattle of all places on God's green earth. And he drives back and forth. Now he's just decided that maybe it's better to take a plane, not that he's older, we understand that... he's not older at all. He says it's sort of nice to have a young man in the neighborhood. He's seventy-something. I happen to know he was born on mother's day.
[End of Tape]