Moses Lake Oral History

Narrator: Dick Deane
Interviewer: Bill Wilson
Date: January 25, 1996
Moses Lake, Washington

Tape 1 of 2

[The following is not a verbatim transcription]

 Tape 1, Side A

Mom grew up in Dalles—married there—Dad served in WWI in France—mom 18 and dad 30 when married. Mom and Dad living in Hiawatha V.—owned a 160 acre orchard there—"C & O"—packed and shipped apples. Sister born in Hiawatha V. Cherie Davis Bikeman—b. 1935—chairperson Grant County Community Action Council for 15-18 years. Mom and dad lived in Hiawatha V. and raised sheep—names different friends and neighbors. Had dances in the old warehouse . . . 

WWP (Washington Water Power) charging so much for electricity that people lost their farms, so founding farmers established Grant County PUD and "kicked WWP in the seat of the pants" and sent them packing. Parents moved to OR to survive.

 Mom and Dad left Neppel, WA to go to OR. Dick born in Wilhemina, OR—no running water, electricity, phone—had wood heat and kerosene lamps. Went to one-room school for a year. Then started going to town—Wilhemina—

 Talks about his dad’s injuries in WWI-gassed—mustard gas, gave him fibroid lung—always starving for oxygen . . .got top of head blown off—talks about repairing his injuries . . .

 Dad worked in a lumber yard there in Wilhemina—couldn’t take glue—so moved back to ML when Dick 9. Dad sold 160 acres in OR for $10,000, and the guy who bought it sold it later for quite a profit.

 Mom and Dad came to ML 1945—war ended—started raising potatoes in May V.—1946 started raising potatoes—"bought in busloads of Hispanic men, called them "nationalists"—they came in school bus loads. They brought ‘em up, they worked picking potatoes in gunny sacks, they’d load ‘em back up, and they’d all go home. They had no interest in staying in ML—it was just like they came to work and then went home. We had actually some of the first nationalists came and worked on our farm picking potatoes by hand. Well the first year the price of spuds was horrible, and the second year it even got worse, and we lost all of our . . . they took ‘em out on the runway of the old ML airport—deactivated—and they took road graders and bull dozers and mashed those potatoes into the ground—dried em out on the runway out there, and turned them into starch. Well, of course the Mennonites came to town and started the starch company, and they kind of pursued and followed the original development of starch out there . . . . Called the Mennon Starch Factory. So we raised potatoes, and lost everything we had, and Mom and Dad were absolutely broke, there was no money—so neighbors up the road gave us 75 sheep—Allen Oliver Disha—Matt Disha the dad—{talks about the Dishas} and so they let us have the property- and we didn’t have any money but dad was able to scavenge up some 2 x 4’s . . . thick and wide . . . so we had enough to build three sides of the house, no paneling inside—put celotex on the fourth side of the house—our windows were celotex for about three years. Light would come through them but you couldn’t see out of ‘em. And they’d rattle in the wind and flash back and forth. So, we didn’t have any water so we boiled water out of the lake. You could boil it for twenty minutes and it was purified. So now us boys are getting to be about ten years old and we’re wondering why we don’t have water like everybody else. So my dad said, "boys, if you want water you have to dig a well . . ." {this excerpt is already in the Website}.

 Story of digging well at 11 years old. Dimensions, etc.

 Brother Dan and him flunked the third grade—twins—

 Tells story of jumping on the back of a wild horse and running with a pack of them into the desert. Being saved by a friend in a truck—1947 truck--

 Talks about May Valley—May, WA—being the post office address for ML—not ML.

 His mom bought twelve of the lake lots eventually. Worked at the old Neppel school, which became Central School. Describes food at school—hot lunches. Mom got a job doing that but dad worked at the Grange supply.

 Mom bought twelve lake lots in 1948, cost her $200 apiece. She bought ‘em, and dad said "my god, woman, how damn foolish can you be; get rid of them." So Mom sold back—for $400—that was the most money they’d had in their lives. He and his sister still own three of those lots, now worth $70-80 thousand apiece. "I remember living out there . . . the lady we owned the farm we lived on—had rented the place in previous years to Mr. and Mrs. Rogers—and that was the first swimming hole in ML, called Roger’s Corner."

 Dad bought them twenty acres of land, that they had to clear. Describes location—three miles due west of the lake. Dad bought the land for like $800 dollars. Doesn’t know where he got the money. "That twenty acres to this day still not part of the Bureau of Rec. because of a class action suit against govt in 1949 that anybody who had water on their land could pay $25 to get involved in this class action suit and so that land has never been assessed by Bureau of Rec. He’s been asked to verify that a number of times and it’s right."

1949 his dad bought a thousand head of sheep, brought them from Montana to ML—trucked them in—for some ungodly reason they wouldn’t take ‘em out into May V.—unloaded them in town. Dad paid $1 a head for them—they were mangy—"I led those sheep right down through the center of ML. Right down . . .they had board sidewalks . . . State Dept allowed them to walk them down Hi. 10—"

An old guy named Jack Murphy—85 years old or so when I was a kid—he’s the guy who owned the land that they built the first dam on ML. The dam down at the end of ML. They put Jack Murphy—the state of WA wanted to put a damn down there at the end of Crab Creek-M. Lake was 20 feet lower then--. Jack Murphy wouldn’t let ‘em come in there—he held them off for weeks with a shotgun and rifles. Finally they sneaked in in the middle of the night after they’d kept him up for days and they grabbed him and put him in jail over in Ephrata for something like three months while they built that dam down there on his property. Talk about adult kangaroo court! When I grew up they had these great big turnstiles that would lift these big gates. When I was a kid . . . we’d go down there, and if we wanted to have moving water so we could swim in moving water there weren’t any locks on those gates so you could just crank those gates open and go swimming. So one day I cranked the gate open and forgot where my glasses were and the water raised about 4 feet above my glasses so we had to crank the gate down and stop the water so I could go find my glasses. But there was a trolley that ran across about a half a mile due west of where the dam was. Darned if we didn’t find the engine, the old one-horse cylinder engine that they used to generate and do their power work down there . . . we found that darned thing . . bolted onto an old piece of oak—it had a travel beam that ran across and we’d ride that beam across . . . parents allowed you to do that stuff, I guess, didn’t seem like you were going to get hurt . . . . " "now they’ve put in another dam . . . Jack lost everything—never compensated . . . that was just part of the deal . . . "sorry Charlie!."

Talks about using his dad’s tractor as a dune buggy.

Stories about Ed Robbins—who lived in an old cowboy shack—the guy that they could get a cow from for 4-H.

Back to sheep . . . . "We led them through town, down by all the stores downtown, but couldn’t take them across the bridge so it was January and so we took the sheep across the ice—thousand head of sheep, led them about a half mile east of the bridge crossing. Ended up clear up in May V., ice was about three and a half feet thick. "I skated the full length of ML—the ice would rumble, and when it did you knew you could skate anywhere on the lake. We were the first ones to bring the Suffolks (sheep) into the basin. Herded the sheep using shotguns to ward off the wild horses. We had beautiful sheep dogs—‘everyone of ‘em we’d call Lassie."

"John Carter owned a labor camp just north of my dad’s twenty acres, and it was Hispanic guys, came back later on and started calling this home, you know. And they found that the sugar beets came in . . .and when I was in sixth grade, the first kid, his name was Arturo—nobody could pronounce his last name—but he was the first Mexican kid ever to attend a ML school, and he was in my sixth grade class. And the teacher was Al Miller, in the 6th grade—around ‘49--. In the 7th and 8th grade I spent part of my day out of the old LAFB in barracks . . . in fact in the 7th grade I didn’t have any PE because they turned the old gym there into four classrooms, because the community was growing so fast." "But old John Carter had these labor camps, and these guys would work out there—but they also had their own house of ill repute, that was just a standard thing. They worked hard and played hard."

"Where we built our house there were Indian graves on both sides of us. In fact, our second and third base, when we played baseball along the lake there, were Indian graves. That’s a fact. We never dug ‘em up—we were afraid to. There were Indian graves all along just north of the May V. west shore Road. That was a burial site." I have downstairs a big tin . . . of flint that I found on the top of the hill on the May V. road—I have ten or fifteen arrowheads that I found—when I was a little kid I’d go up there and dig . . . "

There’s about another hour to this interview (including the rest of this tape and Tape 2)


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