An Interview with
An Oral History produced by
Robert D. McCracken
Nye County Town History
Nye County, Nevada
Nye County Town History Project
Nye County Commissioners
Laraine Bowman Crowther
Laraine and her baby brother Mark Eldon Bowman
Pahrump Valley circa 1954
From left, Laraine Bowman Crowther, Jennifer Crowther
(being held), Perry L.
Bowman, Elizabeth Bowman, Elmer S. Bowman,
Easter Sunday 1970 and Elmer's 77th birthday.
Laraine discusses her parents and the Bowman family's move from Moapa to Pahrump; she discusses her parents and other family members; her aunt Loretta's marriage; the Bowmans settle on the Manse Ranch; memories of living on the ranch as a child; how the Manse property was divided among the Bowman children; a discussion of some of the ranches in Pahrump; the Manse Ranch springs; remembering workers and their families on the Manse Ranch.
Atomic testing on the Nevada Test Site; memories of grade school days in Pahrump and in Logandale, with upper grades in Las Vegas and Shoshone; college years, then working as a teacher and starting a family; returning to the Pahrump Valley and teaching there in various grades; being a science teacher.
Comments on education in Nevada and Nye County; memories of teaching science.
Memories of various people in Pahrump, further recollections of the Manse Ranch: horseback riding as a youngster; various childhood friends; the role cotton played in Pahrump Valley in the late 1960s; the Bowman family's role in the development of the LDS community in Pahrump Valley.
Thoughts on Elmer Bowman and some contrasts with his son, Perry, Laraine's father; remembering Norma, Laraine's mother; further thoughts on some
Pahrump Valley residents; comments on subdivisions and the future of Pahrump.
The Nye County Town History Project (NCTHP) engages in interviewing people who can provide firsthand descriptions of the individuals, events, and places that give history its substance. The products of this research are the tapes of the interviews and their transcriptions.
In themselves, oral history interviews are not history. However, they often contain valuable primary source material, as useful in the process of historiography as the written sources to which historians have customarily turned. Verifying the accuracy of all of the statements made in the course of an interview would require more time and money than the NCTHP's operating budget permits. The program can vouch that the statements were made, but it cannot attest that they are free of error. Accordingly, oral histories should be read with the same prudence that the reader exercises when consulting government records, newspaper accounts, diaries, and other sources of historical information.
It is the policy of the NCTHP to produce transcripts that are as close to verbatim as possible, but some alteration of the text is generally both unavoidable and desirable. When human speech is captured in print the result can be a morass of tangled syntax, false starts, and incomplete sentences, sometimes verging on incoherence. The type font contains no symbols for the physical gestures and the diverse vocal modulations that are integral parts of communication through speech. Experience shows that totally verbatim transcripts are often largely unreadable and therefore a waste of the resources expended in their production. While keeping alterations to a minimum the NCTHP will in preparing a text:
a. generally delete false starts, redundancies and the uhs, ahs and other noises with which speech is often sprinkled;
b. occasionally compress language that would be confusing to the reader in unaltered form;
c. rarely shift a portion of a transcript to place it in its proper context;
d. enclose in [brackets] explanatory information or words that were not uttered but have been added to render the text intelligible; and
e. make every effort to correctly spell the names of all individuals and places, recognizing that an occasional word may be misspelled because no authoritative source on its correct spelling was found.
As project director, I would like to express my deep appreciation to those who participated in the Nye County Town History Project (NCTHP). It was an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to obtain oral histories from so many wonderful individuals. I was welcomed into many homes—in many cases as a stranger—and was allowed to share in the recollection of local history. In a number of cases I had the opportunity to interview Nye County residents whom I have long known and admired; these experiences were especially gratifying. I thank the residents throughout Nye County and Nevada—too numerous to mention by name—who provided assistance, information, and photographs. They helped make the successful completion of this project possible.
Appreciation goes to Chairman Joe S. Garcia, Jr., Robert N. "Bobby" Revert, and Patricia S. Mankins, the Nye County commissioners who initiated this project in 1987. Subsequently, Commissioners Richard L. Carver, Dave Hannigan, and Barbara J. Raper provided support. In this current round of interviews, Nye County Commissioners Andrew Borasky, Roberta "Midge" Carver, Joni Eastley, Gary Hollis, and Peter Liakopoulos provided unyielding support. Stephen T. Bradhurst, Jr., planning consultant for Nye County, gave unwavering support and advocacy of the program within Nye County in its first years. More recently, Darrell Lacy, Director. Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Project Office, gave his unwavering support. The United States Department of Energy, through Mr. Lacy's office, provided funds for this round of interviews. Thanks are extended to Commissioner Eastley, Gary Hollis, and Mr. Lacy for their input regarding the conduct of this research and for serving as a sounding board when methodological problems were worked out. These interviews would never have become a reality without the enthusiastic support of the Nye County commissioners and Mr. Lacy.
Jean Charney served as editor and administrative assistant throughout the project; her services have been indispensable Kimberley Dickey provided considerable assistance in transcribing many of the oral histories; Jean Charney, Julie Lancaster, and Darlene Morse also transcribed a number of interviews. Proofreading, editing, and indexing were provided at various times by Marilyn Anderson, Joni Eastley, Julie Lancaster, Teri Jurgens Lefever, and Darlene Morse. Joni Eastley proofed all the manuscripts and often double-checked, as best as possible, the spelling of people's names and the names of their children and other relatives. Jeanne Sharp Howerton provided digital services and consultation. Long-time Pahrump resident Harry Ford, founder and director of the Pahrump Valley Museum, served as a consultant throughout the project; his participation was essential. Much deserved thanks are extended to all these persons.
All material for the NCTHP was prepared with the support of the Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Office, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. However, any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author and the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nye County or the U.S. DOE.
—Robert D. McCracken
Historians generally consider the year 1890 as the close of the American frontier. By then, most of the western United States had been settled, ranches and farms developed, communities established, and roads and railroads constructed. The mining boomtowns, based on the lure of overnight riches from newly developed lodes, were but a memory.
Although Nevada was granted statehood in 1864, examination of any map of the state from the late 1800s shows that while most of the state was mapped and its geographical features named, a vast region—stretching from Belmont south to the Las Vegas meadows, comprising most of Nye County—remained largely unsettled and unmapped. In 1890, most of southcentral Nevada remained very much a frontier, and it continued to be so for at least another twenty years.
The spectacular mining booms at Tonopah (1900), Goldfield (1902), Rhyolite (1904), Manhattan (1905), and Round Mountain (1906) represent the last major flowering of what might be called the Old West in the United States. Consequently, southcentral Nevada, notably Nye County, remains close to the American frontier; closer, perhaps, than any other region of the American West. In a real sense, a significant part of the frontier can still be found in southcentral Nevada. It exists in the attitudes, values, lifestyles, and memories of area residents. The frontier-like character of the area also is visible in the relatively undisturbed quality of the natural environment, much of it essentially untouched by humans.
A survey of written sources on southcentral Nevada's history reveals some material from the boomtown period from 1900 to about 1915, but very little on the area after around 1920. The volume of available sources varies from town to town: A fair amount of literature, for instance can be found covering Tonopah's first two decades of existence, and the town has had a newspaper continuously since its first year. In contrast, relatively little is known about the early days of Gabbs, Round Mountain, Manhattan, Beatty, Amargosa Valley, and Pahrump. Gabbs's only newspaper was published intermittently between 1974 and 1976. Round Mountain's only newspaper, the Round Mountain Nugget, was published between 1906 and 1910. Manhattan had newspaper coverage for most of the years between 1906 and 1922. The Rhyolite Herald, longest surviving of Rhyolite/Bullfrog's three newspapers, lasted from 1905 to 1912. The Beatty Bullfrog Miner was in business from 1905 to 1906. Amargosa Valley has never had a newspaper. Pahrump's first newspaper did not appear until 1971. All these communities received only spotty coverage in the newspapers of other communities once their own newspapers folded, although Beatty was served by the Beatty Bulletin, published as part of the Goldfield News between 1947 and 1956. Consequently, most information on the history of southcentral Nevada after 1920 resides in the memories of individuals who are still living.
Aware of Nye County's close ties to our nation's frontier past, and recognizing that few written sources on local history are available, especially after about 1920, the Nye County Commissioners initiated the Nye County Town History Project (NCTHP) in 1987. The NCTHP represents an effort to systematically collect and preserve information on the history of Nye County. The centerpiece of the NCTHP is a large set of interviews conducted with individuals who had knowledge of local history. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, and then edited lightly to preserve the language and speech patterns of those interviewed. All oral history interviews have been printed on acid-free paper and bound and archived in Nye County libraries, Special Collections in the Lied Library at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. and at other archival sites located throughout Nevada. The interviews vary in length and detail, but together they form a never-before-available composite picture of each community's life and development. The collection of interviews for each community can be compared to a bouquet: Each flower in the bouquet is unique—some are large, others are small—yet each adds to the total image. In sum, the interviews provide a composite view of community and county history, revealing the flow of life and events for a part of Nevada that has heretofore been largely neglected by historians.
Collection of the oral histories has been accompanied by the assembling of a set of photographs depicting each community's history. These pictures have been obtained from participants in the oral history interviews and other present and past Nye County residents. In all, more than 700 photos have been collected and carefully identified. Complete sets of the photographs have been archived along with the oral histories.
On the basis of the oral histories as well as existing written sources, histories have been prepared for the major communities in Nye County. These histories have also been archived.
The town history project is one component of a Nye County program to determine the socioeconomic impact of a federal proposal to build and operate a nuclear waste repository in southcentral Nye County. The repository, which would be located inside a mountain (Yucca Mountain), would be the nation's first, and possibly only, permanent disposal site for high-level radioactive waste. The Nye County Board of County Commissioners initiated the NCTHP in 1987 in order to collect information on the origin, history, traditions and quality of life of Nye County communities that may be impacted by the repository. If the repository is constructed, it will remain a source of interest for a long time and future generations will likely want to know more about the people who once resided at the site. And in the event that government policy changes and a high-level nuclear waste repository is not constructed in Nye County. material compiled by the NCTHP will remain for the use and enjoyment of all.
Interview with Laraine Crowther and Robert McCracken at Ms. Crowther's home in Pahrump. Nevada, December 2, 2008.
RM: Laraine, tell me your name as it reads on your birth certificate.
LC: It is Laraine Bowman.
RM: And when and where were you born?
LC: I was born May 18, 1944, in Overton, Nevada.
RM: And what was your father's name?
LC: My father's name was Perry Lorraine Bowman. He was born in 1917, I think in Mesquite, Nevada.
RM: What was your mother's name on her birth certificate?
LC: Her name was Norma Frehner. She was born June 14, 1922, in St. Thomas, Nevada.
RM: Which doesn't exist anymore.
RM: And your father grew up in the Moapa area? What did he do for a living before he moved here?
LC: He and my mother owned a small dairy in Logandale, Nevada.
RM: Do you know about how many cows there were?
LC: I am going around 20. It wasn't very big.
RM: And then your grandfather Elmer Bowman bought the old Manse Ranch? Describe your understanding of how that happened.
LC: For some reason they decided to move from the Logandale area and come to Pahrump. He convinced his married children to bring their families and come with him. At the time he had two sons, Melvin and Murton. who were younger; I'm going to say Melvin may have been 14 and Murton may have been 12. They came into the north end of Pahrump Valley and they were there between six months and a year. They didn't quite like it at that ranch and the Manse Ranch became available and Grandpa Bowman made a deal on it and we all moved down here.
RM: Where was the property at the north end of the valley, do you know?
LC: I don't recall the name of it.
RM: Was it an operating ranch, or farm?
LC: It was. It was nothing like the beauty of the Manse Ranch, though. It was quite plain.
RM: How did your grandfather try to make a go of it at the north end?
LC: I'm not really sure. I was two-and-a-half when we moved out here and I just don't remember.
RM: I wonder if he had a dairy.
LC: No, he didn't. He had one later down here on the Manse Ranch. He always had cows.
RM: I've been told that he heard about the Manse Ranch being for sale from a banker in Vegas. Is that right?
LC: I could say that that is very possible.
RM: And before that, he had been hauling out of here. He was a very enterprising man, wasn't he?
LC: Oh, he had a vision.
RM: He was hauling, so he had occasion to come into Pahrump to see its potential. So he moved out here with his two younger sons. and he had grown sons as well, didn't he?
LC: He did have grown sons. His eldest son, Elmo, was killed in a horse accident and never moved here. I think he was in his early teens when that happened, and that was in the Logandale area. And my dad was married and I had been born.
RM: Were you their only child?
LC: Gary was born in Mesquite so he may have actually been a very tiny baby when we moved here.
RM: And your family moved to the north end, too? So your grandfather and his married son and the younger kids moved here all to the north end?
LC: Dad was his oldest surviving son and then he had Melvin, who is quite a bit younger; and Murton, who was the baby of the family; they called him Cookie. Two of his daughters did not come out. One was Loretta Bowman, who was the Clark County Clerk for years. She lived in Las Vegas in a home down on Third Street and Bonanza. She celebrates her ninetieth birthday in February. Another daughter who didn't come out was Lola Stiborek; she had married my uncle John from Texas and they lived in Texas. So they didn't have the opportunity to come. They never did live here but they moved to Las Vegas later.
RM: I heard a wonderful story about your aunt who was the county clerk. It seems she was in love but didn't marry the man.
LC: No, Grandpa wouldn't let her marry Charlie. [Laughs]
LC: He wasn't good enough for her.
RM: And he went on to marry and she didn't. Then when they were elderly . . . you tell the story.
LC: Charlie's wife had already passed on. He and Dad were very best friends growing up so he attended Dad's funeral and there was Loretta, and she acted very nervous that day. She would walk here and then she would walk over there and she just wasn't acting herself. He pursued her and within two months they were married.
RM: And he was 85 or so?
LC: Yes, and she was in her 80s.
RM: That's one of the great love stories, I think. She carried the torch for him all those years.
LC: She did. And his children said they got so tired of hearing about Loretta Bowman. I think he passed away about a year and a half ago.
RM: How long did he live after their marriage?
LC: Let's see, Dad died in '99 and they were married in 2000. They may have been together five or six years.
RM: I love that story; true love wins out. How long did your family live at the north end, then?
LC: I would say six months or less; I am not really sure about that. But when the Manse Ranch became available, it was truly beautiful.
RM: And what were the accommodations for your family at the Manse Ranch?
LC: We lived in a house across from the shop.
RM: Were the houses on the ranch pretty run down?
LC: Not really. I think they were in pretty good repair, considering. They were wood and stucco—some of them were stucco, not all of them.
RM: Who else was living on the property?
LC: There was my aunt Imogene and her husband, Digger Andersen, and another of Dad's sisters, Mary, and her husband, Lyle Christensen.
RM: And did those aunts have children then?
LC: Imogene and Digger had a daughter. Linda, who was the same age as my brother Gary, a baby. Gary and Linda both got ill from whooping cough and Linda died. It was a really sad time, a really hard time; the medical facilities were in Las Vegas and the travel over dirt roads made it hours and hours away. That was a very rough time for the family. I don't think the Christensens had children at that time; they were newly married.
RM: How awful. Was the Manse Ranch very developed at that time?
LC: The Manse Ranch was a beautiful ranch. It had a vineyard; it had rows and rows of wonderful ladyfingers, muscats, green seedless, the big red ruby grapes. And it had a cellar that was maybe more than half-buried—the roof was visible—and that was a wonderful place for children to go. The ranch had probably five huge, huge walnut trees. They were beautiful.
RM: And they produced?
LC: They produced a lot. As I kid I remember picking those and eating them. Now, this is kind of a hard little story, but Grandma would pay us a penny a bird. She didn't like the sparrows that lived there because they ate the grapes; they did a lot of damage. If we would bring her a baby bird she'd give us a penny.
RM: You'd get them out of the nest?
LC: We climbed the trees and got them.
RM: It must have been dangerous.
LC: Well, the limbs were really big; these were big trees. Of course, I was a little kid so maybe they weren't as big as I thought, but they seemed to be just huge trees.
RM: What else was here when the family got here?
LC: There was a ramp made out of big. huge timber that they could drive Caterpillars or trucks or cars or whatever onto so they could get under them to service them. There was a gas bowser, a gasoline structure that you would pump gasoline out of. It was maybe eight feet tall, I am guessing. The top part of it was probably two or three feet high and it was a cylinder maybe two feet across and it had the gallons marked on it. You pumped this handle and it would pump it up out of the ground and you could see how many gallons it was by the one, two, three, and up to ten, and you put that in your car and weighed it.
RM: And they had a gas tank in the ground?
LC: Right. And they had gas—I am going to say Flamo or Petrolane or whatever. Those tanks were used for different purposes.
RM: Including the houses?
LC: Probably. I know Grandma Bowman had a wood stove. I remember one day several of us cousins rode a gentle horse named Dolly and went out with her, and she had these big traps that she trapped quail in. We came upon this one that was stuffed full of quail and she dispensed with them and she showed us how to clean them. We helped clean and rinse them and she put them on a big skillet on the stove and cooked them. They were delicious.
RM: Did she trap or get other kinds of wild game as well?
LC: I remember the quail. I'm sure there were rabbits and things like that. She had her own turkeys. She'd get at least a dozen little chicks a year and raise them, and she had a quite a chicken coop and lots of eggs; I remember gathering the eggs. And she had a big garden.
RM: What other agricultural things were there?
LC: Fruit trees, apricot and nut trees. Besides the walnut trees there was one black walnut tree.
RM: Did it produce?
LC: It did. It was right next to the house. And what else did she have? She had a wonderful big yard that had lilac bushes. probably four or five, across one end that were beautiful, and she had the sweet peas that went trailing up the wire fence.
RM: Were those things there when she got there, you think?
LC: I think she brought some of them in. I'm not really sure, but as a child I remember appreciating the beauty of her yard and the care that she took of it.
RM: Do lilacs do well here?
LC: They do; and roses, of course, do, too. The house had a wraparound porch that went all the way around it.
RM: Screened in?
LC: No, it was open. And there were some vines and I don't recall what kind they were. Then she had a pit that she made a fire in to make her own soap when it was butchering time.
RM: How did she make soap?
LC: She would make it in a big tub with lye and rendered fat. That was the soap she used to wash clothes with and to bathe with.
RM: Was she raised on a farm?
LC: I am sure she was. Life was hard back then and they worked really hard. When my grandparents were first married I understand they lived down on the Muddy River in a tent right next to the water so they would have a water supply. I remember hearing that they were really, really poor and they had to make ends meet the best way they could.
RM: And was your grandmother's maiden name?
LC: Elizabeth Leavitt.
RM: Were they from the Moapa area?
LC: I think so.
RM: And they were LDS?
LC: They were.
RM: What other things did your grandmother do on the Manse Ranch to make things work?
LC: Well, she fed us a lot. [Laughs] And she was a real lady. She had a piano and she wore nice earrings and necklaces when she dressed up. Her mother was also named Mary Elizabeth and she lived with them in her last years. My grandmother we called Big Grandma, and Mary Elizabeth we called Little Grandma.
RM: Do you remember her?
LC: Oh yes. She liked to dress up but her memory was fading and she would chase us with sticks. [Laughs] Those walnuts on the ground were hers and we weren't allowed to get them. She had her own little bedroom and it was very small; she would get very cold and she wanted blanket after blanket to keep her warm, but I think it was a circulation problem. We had to watch out for her because she would get us.
RM: How old was she during this period, would you guess?
LC: That's hard to say. I am guessing she might have been in her 70s.
RM: Could you describe her?
LC: Little Grandma was probably about 5'2" and maybe weighed 110 pounds. Fragile, gray hair. I don't know what they're called, but she had little knots that grew on her head, little bumps—she had two or three of those around the back of her head. She wore glasses, but she liked to dress up. She had it in her mind how things should be. I think she was a fairly strict lady.
RM: And describe your grandmother.
LC: Big Grandma was a larger woman; I thought she was a really pretty lady. She wore glasses. She was very good to us grandchildren. She liked to dress up, too. She liked to put on her earrings and necklace and new shoes.
RM: What were the occasions when she would dress up?
LC: Party times, church times.
RM: And that would be church here in the valley?
LC: Church would be right in her house. The piano was there and so on Sunday we would go to her house and have a church meeting.
RM: How many people would typically attend that?
LC: The family—Mary, her youngest daughter, would play the piano, or Imogene. I don't know, maybe 10, 11 people including kids.
RM: Did somebody speak then at the services or read from the Bible or the Book of Mormon?
LC: Yes, and people from the stake in Las Vegas would drive out here to conduct services at least once a month.
RM: How long did your grandmother live?
LC: Grandpa died in 1970 and she lived for at least five years after that—'75, '76.
RM: And did she live here on the ranch after he died?
LC: No, the deal was this: If his daughters and sons would come to Pahrump and work on the ranch, he would provide them a living and give them a bit of money, not a lot, and buy them a new car whenever it was needed. And he did that. He bought new Buicks for them; they were wonderful. Each one of those families had a new car.
RM: Buick was a very classy car in those days.
LC: Yes, those 1955s. Then when he retired, he would divide the ranch up equally and they would owe him nothing. So he did that. In 1960, I think, he retired and he and Grandma Bowman moved to St. George, Utah. and stayed there for a few years; I am going to say maybe three. Then they came back to Las Vegas and lived with Aunt Loretta for a number of years until they both passed.
RM: And the ranch had been divided up among the children?
LC: Right. Murton was a grown man by then, and so was Melvin—they had both married. And there was Lyle Christensen and Mary and Digger and Imogene Andersen. Shortly after moving on to the Manse Ranch, my dad and mom approached Grandpa and asked him if he would sell them some property and he agreed; he sold them 640 acres. Another of his daughters, Kenna, and her husband, Arlan Frehner, wanted the same so he sold them 640 acres as well.
RM: Do you remember how much he sold it to them for?
LC: No. I remember that we lived on the Manse Ranch until our house was finished. It was made of railroad ties with cement mortar. It was a small house consisting of two bedrooms, one bath, a kitchen, and a living room. It has been moved to the Pahrump Museum.
RM: About how long after Perry got here did he go off on his own, would you say?
LC: I would say within a year or less.
RM: Was he more of an individualist?
LC: He was. I think he was on his own before he came out here and it just didn't fit for him.
RM: To be part of almost a communal thing, whereas the others were comfortable with that?
LC: They may have been younger. Kenna and Arlan moved into a big tent, one of those really big ones with the wooden floor that went partway up. They lived in that when they moved their family there.
RM: Down on their portion?
LC: Right. I remember going down and it seemed so far away from the ranch; it was probably two miles at the most. But it was uncultivated so it had to be leveled and a well drilled. They had one of those divining rods and that's how they found the well.
RM: Did it work?
LC: It worked beautifully; it's an artesian well that flows today. I think Stan Ford did that.
RM: He witched it? Do you think if he would have just picked another spot they would have got water or is there something to water witching?
LC: It was used so often, I believe in it. I watched it. That stick went right down; it was a forked stick and the point of it went right down. He'd walk from north to south and then from east to west and then he got the triangulation thing going on and said this is it, right here. So that was cool.
RM: How did they decide how to divide it up? Because probably some portions were better than others in terms of development. How did they decide that?
LC: I wasn't in on that; I don't know how they did that. I know that Mary and Lyle's farm right now is Mountain Falls and the golf course. And the next section was Digger's and Imogene's and that is also part of Mountain Falls. Then the third one north, which includes the spring and some of Mountain Falls, was Murton's. And Melvin's was the most north part and he sold that years ago to Calvada, who took the water from it and made their development. Now that land has never been farmed since and nobody wants to buy it because they'd have to put water on it to develop it so it's sitting barren.
RM: So the Manse Ranch extended to the north of where your home is now, which is what—Highway 160 and . . . what is this street out here?
LC: This is Caas right out here, but on past the Manse Ranch is Gamebird. It goes almost up to Gamebird and then it went south down past Artesia.
RM: So the ranch did not go north of your home here on Caas, or close to Caas? It did go south.
LC: It did go south, yes. It went south to Kellogg.
RM: Did Elmer buy the land all at once or did he add to it?
LC: I believe he bought it all at once. That was all his, and the south portion had the granaries on it. In 1951 Max Hafen from Mesquite came over and helped his son Tim acquire that from Grandpa so they had the granaries on their farm.
RM: And that had originally been Lois Kellogg's? Were you old enough to have any memories of Lois Kellogg?
LC: I don't remember her at all; she died in 1943 or '44, before Grandpa moved here. I remember going to her home. It was one story, small, with a flat roof line; maybe four rooms.
RM: And was that where the granary was?
LC: No, actually the granaries are on Tim Hafen's first ranch, the one he bought from Grandpa Bowman, probably three miles north of her home.
RM: Okay. I believe there was something on her place besides the house, some big buildings or something.
LC: Not when I was a kid, there wasn't. There was some trees and there was a high hill that we loved to play on that we called the Mound.
RM: When you were a young kid, back when Lois Kellogg might have been discussed, what did people remember about her—what was her image in people's minds?
LC: That she was a determined woman. She had a lot of spunk. She had these dogs and of course one of them bit her, is what I remember being told—that it got infected and she died from that. Otherwise, I think she would have lived a much longer life. That was basically all I know.
RM: What is your earliest memory of the Manse?
LC: I had on a new dress—it was white with kind of a blue-green stripe on it and I thought it was the prettiest thing. I remember walking along in that dress down the path to Grandpa Bowman's house.
RM: Did your mother make it?
LC: No, it was store bought.
RM: What other early recollections do you have?
LC: I recall the pond, which would be the springs. There were two of those. The first one was much smaller and there was heavy growth, heavy tree and vine growth, around it. That one didn't get much attention. There was a little ditch that took the water from that spring to the second spring, and it was much larger and we would swim in it.
RM: How big was the hole of the first one?
LC: The first one may have been about as big as this room, about 10 x 10.
RM: How much space was there between the two springs?
LC: Maybe 50 yards.
RM: And how big was the second hole?
LC: As a kid, it was big to me. It was kind of a mystery because the water would bubble up out of the earth, but over the top of it, it appeared to be solid. If you'd stick your foot or a stick or something in it, it would go right through it. It appeared to be a solid bottom, but it wasn't.
RM: Oh, the bottom was soft? Did it move?
LC: It moved just a little bit.
RM: And how far below the surface of the water would that have been?
LC: I am going to say it might have been six or seven feet deep.
RM: But then if you stepped in that you would just go on down?
LC: Right, you'd have to dive down to get to it.
RM: And how big around was it?
LC: It was kind of tear-shaped and there was a weir, or a place where the water would run out—there were two of those.
RM: Would a lot of water come out?
LC: It seemed so. And there were the little fish in there, the little killifish or whatever they are. (Note: "killifish" is one word)
RM: They weren't pupfish?
LC: No, I don't think they were. I think the government tried to come in and see what they were.
RM: But they were called killi?
LC: That's what we called them.
RM: How big were they?
LC: They were maybe an inch long.
RM: We'd call them minnows.
LC: Yes, we called them that, too.
RM: Was it a great joy, that spring?
LC: It was. We had swimming parties and of course, there were bees there and plants that grew around it. I remember one time I disturbed the bee population there and I ended up running and screaming into the house because they attacked my hair—they got my head really good. They had to get me down and pick the bees out of my hair.
RM: Oh my lord. Maybe it was your shampoo?
LC: Maybe the soap. [Laughs] People would come from around the valley and swim there.
RM: Did they get permission or did they just drop in?
LC: Oh, I think they got permission. One of the things that I want to mention is the workers on the ranch. I know that Dad depended on them so much and they were wonderful people who worked hard, and he worked just as hard as they did.
And there were some families. like the Pearl Ward family. Pearl was a homesteader down on the southwest part of the Valley: he had 160 acres and his wife became postmistress and drove the school bus here. He had five children and he rode a horse to work every morning and home every night. He had built his house by himself. And there were some Mexican families—the Porfirio Avena family were wonderful, great people. Louie Sharp was an Indian man—to this day I recall he said blue eyes are the sign of a weak mind.
RM: Why would he tell a kid that? (Because you have blue eyes.)
LC: I don't know, he just did. He had blue eyes. He was a half-Indian, so he was poking fun at himself more than anybody else. He was a real gentleman and a hard worker and he and his family all lived farther south on the ranch. Those people didn't ever miss work. They were like rocks—steady, hard-working people. Many of the people who worked on the Manse Ranch are up in the Pahrump Cemetery. A lot of those were Indian people, like the Weed family. They provided the success of these farms. We couldn't have made it without them.
RM: The Weeds were Indians?
LC: They were. There were brothers, Mutt Weed and Tom Weed.
RM: Were they employed year round or just seasonally?
LC: They were employed year round. There were seasonal workers also. They were irrigators, they were hayers, they took care of the livestock; they did everything along with our fathers and grandfathers and uncles.
RM: Were a lot of the employees Indians?
LC: A lot of them were. At the beginning most of them were Indians. They already lived here—not on the ranch but in Indian camps.
RM: Where were the Indian camps?
LC: The biggest one that I recall is up here on Highway 160 right across from the Manse Ranch.
RM: Just as a guess, how many people do you think were living there?
LC: When I say big, I am talking about really small numbers, actually. But to me at the time it seemed big; it was maybe 15 people. I recall that for some of the Indians out here right by Caas, the women were the hunters. They would go up to the mountains. This lady was on her horse with her rifle in her scabbard and she took off and went right up to the mountain, and in a day or two she came down with her deer. They harvested the venison and the pine nuts.
RM: The women did that work and the men were employed on the ranch, or did they just stay home?
LC: I think maybe they stayed home until the work became available to them and then they went to work.
RM: Did the kids go to school?
LC: They did. I am not sure how many of them went to school before we came here.
LC: I rode to school with one of the teachers, Blanche Wright-Murphy, who lived down on Kenna and Arlan's ranch. She came from Wisconsin, I think. She was a divorced lady and she had a little daughter, Billie Rae. who was my age and we got to be very good friends. Gary and I would ride to school in one of those old Studebakers with the pointy front that looks like it is coming and going.
RM: I don't remember the name of that model but I always wanted one.
LC: We would ride to school and on one or two occasion we saw the bombs being detonated above ground.
RM: Did you see the clouds often, or the flash, from the Test Site?
LC: You could see the flash and then you could hear and you could see the mushroom. One time the cloud came right over on these mountains right out here, the Nopah Range.
RM: What did you think of the testing as a child? You would have been what, six, eight, ten years old?
LC: I probably would have been around eight to ten. We were told there was no problem with it; it was safe, it was okay. We'd all stand and look at it and then go on with what we were doing.
RM: We lived north of the Test Site up by Warm Springs and we would watch them and it was a big thrill for us.
LC: It was for us, too. But I can't help but think that of the kids in school—there were less than 20—a number of them are sterile and several of them died before they were 20 from cancer.
RM: And you would attribute that to fallout?
LC: You know, it just seems like those numbers are really high for the small number of children. I went to school in my second grade year here in Pahrump in the little red schoolhouse. I think the next year they brought the barracks over from the Test Site and one of those buildings is still there.
RM: Tell about your year in the little red schoolhouse.
LC: I can't tell you much about the education I received, but I remember recess real well. [Laughter] We played a lot of games. There was one teacher for grades one through eight. I can't remember her name, but I know at noontime we would walk over to Pop Buol's store and buy candy.
RM: How far away was Pop Buol's store?
LC: It was probably half a mile at least.
RM: How many kids were in the school, would you say?
LC: Maybe 12.
RM: And you were from the second grade to what grade?
LC: I went to school here in Pahrump in the little schoolhouse for second grade, and then third and then fourth and half of the fifth year. For the other half of that year, Gary and I went to Dry Lake and went to school taught by our Grandma Frehner. Then in the sixth and seventh grades we were back here in Pahrump.
RM: What was the thinking in sending you to Logandale?
LC: That I would get a better education in Logandale, a better start. Do you remember Dry Lake? It's north of Las Vegas. north of Apex, and there was a dry lake out there and a train stop. There was a school and she was teaching there.
RM: And what was her name?
LC: Mary Frehner. Then for some reason in the eighth grade, I went Las Vegas to live with Grandma Frehner again. She had moved to Las Vegas and I lived with her and went to JD Smith Junior High School.
The next year, as a freshman. I was back in Pahrump and we had a Ford station wagon that they painted bright yellow and there might have been six to seven kids. We rode in that station wagon to Mountain Springs and we'd pick up one or two kids there, then we went over to Blue Diamond and picked up a couple of kids and went to Arden and picked up a couple of kids and then we went through the old Strip down to Rancho High School. Las Vegas High School wouldn't let us in but Rancho was brand new. At one point the station wagon wasn't big enough so at one point we got one of those big buses to drive us because there were just too many people between Mountain Springs and so forth.
RM: At what time did you have to leave here?
LC: Oh 5:15, something like that.
RM: And then school started at what, 9:00?
LC: 8:00 or 9:00, whatever it was.
RM: How did you survive that?
LC: I remember being sick one year; really, I just didn't feel good. Other than that it was fine.
RM: Because of exhaustion or stress or. . . ?
LC: I don't know, I just remember being sick to my stomach for quite a while. But we did fine, we had a lot of fun. There were days where we couldn't get over the mountain because of snow. We'd go up there and play in the snow and turn around and come home. We ran out of gas once so we had to push the bus. And one year Gwen Hughes, Leon's wife, drove the bus. It depended on the number of kids as to whether we used the station wagon or the bus. I don't remember where that big bus came from but that was a luxury.
RM: What year did the station wagon start?
LC: Well, I started high school in 1959 and I graduated in '62. In '61, Nevada made a deal with California that the kids in Pahrump could go to Death Valley High School in Shoshone. But since I already had three years at Rancho under my belt I didn't want to do that so I lived with Grandma Frehner. Pearl Ward's daughter Sherry and I were best friends and she and I both lived with my grandmother and we could walk to school.
We came home for Christmas break and the Pahrump kids had to attend school a day or two earlier than the Rancho kids had to report back to school. I was standing in my mom's house looking out the window seeing the little bus come around and pick up all the kids in Pahrump except for me and Sherry. I said right there, "You know, I don't like this. I want to go to school with everybody else."
So we checked out of Rancho and checked into Death Valley and one of the greatest times I've ever had in my life was going to that school. There were small numbers and lots of concentrated teaching; my chemistry class was so much easier to understand. I loved to get up in the morning and go off to school; it was the funniest thing. And I didn't have to struggle with a time issue or a distance issue because it was just a ride from here over to Shoshone. I think from probably uptown it was 29 miles to Shoshone.
RM: So it wasn't anything like going on that long ride to Vegas.
LC: At the time I didn't think it was bad, but you look at it now and it was pretty amazing.
RM: What was it like as kind of a country girl, going to what was a city?
LC: Well, luckily enough I had gone to JD Smith the year before, which is a couple of blocks from Rancho, so I kind of acclimatized to city life then. But yes, we were all pretty hillbilly kind of people. They were polished: they were athletes. We couldn't stay after school because we had to get on the bus and come back home so there was very little sports. We seemed to do okay in school.
RM: Did the other kids discriminate against you for being outsiders?
LC: I don't think so. Gary had a whole bunch of friends; I met a lot of people. We mixed well. There was really no discrimination. That was a different time in the United States than it is now. I think now it would be really tough to do that. People were kinder and gentler and I got a good education there.
RM: Talk a little more about your career at Shoshone High.
LC: When we got there, there was one senior, so Sherry and I, of course, made three girls in the senior class. Sherry became the valedictorian and I was the salutatorian. It was a lot of fun.
RM: Did you participate in after-school activities more there?
RM: And did they have dances and things like that?
LC: They did. They had dances and back then we had cars and we could drive. On Friday night we'd drive 50 miles or so one way to go to somebody's house in Shoshone or whatever. And we would go to Las Vegas and make a day out of Saturday—go to the movies and go bowling and go out to eat; we just had a big time.
RM: And Las Vegas was much more civilized in those days, wasn't it?
LC: It was civilized. And it was much smaller and I learned how to drive early and it was fine.
RM: And then where did you go to college?
LC: I ended up at BYU (Brigham Young University). I sent my resume around and was accepted at a few places and I couldn't make up my mind and one day I was driving down the road and it just kind of snapped and I went there for four years.
RM: Did you like that?
LC: I did. If there was a time I felt like a hick it was then because kids came from all over and they were really much more Mormonish than I was, meaning they had studied, they'd gone to seminary, they'd done a lot of things that I hadn't had any experience in. So I was like the country girl coming in. But I had a good experience there and I got a good education.
RM: And what did you major in?
RM: And what did you do after you graduated?
LC: I went to Salt Lake City and taught second and third grade for two years.
RM: Was teaching there a good experience?
LC: It was a really good experience. I was finishing my growing-up years. And I met my husband there. He got out of the Navy at the time I graduated.
RM: And his name is?
LC: His name is Brent Arthur Crowther.
RM: And what is his occupation?
LC: He has had a number of occupations. In the early days, he worked with Styrofoam and fiberglass.
RM: Installing and building with those materials?
LC: Yes, boats and bathrooms, things like that.
RM: When did you come back to Pahrump?
LC: Well, we married in 1967 and we moved to Denver; our first daughter was born in Lutheran Hospital. We lived in Arvada.
RM: Is that right? We lived in Denver in the center of town at that time and our daughter was born in St. Joseph's Hospital. How long did you stay there?
LC: We were there probably five months. He got a better job and we went back to Salt Lake. We were there for maybe six months and then we moved to Pahrump in 1969. RM: So you'd been gone about five years or so? How had Pahrump changed, if any? LC: Well, we had telephones [laughter] and we had electricity. At that time, you only had to dial four numbers on the telephone system. Oftentimes you were sharing a line so your ring would indicate whether you should pick up or let it ring. If it rang twice that was for your neighbor and if it rang three times then you could pick it up. Or if you wanted to listen to your neighbor's conversation you could pick it up whenever. [Laughter]
RM: What happened after you moved back? Where did you live?
LC: We lived with my mom and dad for a year.
RM: And you had one child?
LC: We had Jennifer, yes. She was about nine months old. I went right to work teaching Head Start. The reason we came back is I had signed a contract in Salt Lake with Nye County to teach in Pahrump. I taught Head Start for that summer and then in September I started work for Nye County Schools as a sixth and seventh grade teacher. I had two grades that year; it was a combined class.
And Brent started the very same day for Valley Electric. Dad was on the board and Brent also worked for Dad on the farm. He had his own horse, which wasn't that comfortable for him. He was a city boy from Salt Lake.
RM: Describe the school that you began teaching in here.
LC: That was really unusual because I also went to school in it. I had memories of being a student there in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and I thought, "I went to school in this room that is my classroom now. That was really cool.
RM: Was it the barracks or the new school?
LC: They had built the new elementary school.
RM: Do you know when they built that?
LC: I don't. I know we went to the little red schoolhouse and then the barracks for a number of years and then they built this string of rooms with an office somewhere in the first third of it. That's on Highway 160: if s next to the Wal-Mart now.
RM: Was it a good building? Good working conditions?
RM: Were your students the children of people you knew from growing up around here?
LC: Right. I remembered growing up with their fathers and mothers and I was teaching their kids.
RM: Did you fit into it pretty well or was it an adjustment for you?
LC: I'd already had two years of teaching kids. I hadn't taught the older kids before and I started out with the sixth grade and I guess they thought I was doing such a bang-up job I could take seventh grade too. [Laughs] So about the fourth week of teaching that year, I took the seventh grade as well. I am just kidding here, but in all seriousness I think I can remember every one of those kids' names. They were great kids. And a number of them still live here and they've gone on to be responsible adults; I taught them and I taught their kids.
RM: That is really neat. Does that help the learning situation when you have that connection?
LC: It probably does—"You taught my mom," you know. I also had the opportunity to teach both of our daughters. Jennifer went through school here; well, both of them did. Of course, Jennifer being the oldest was my student first, and she was in with a wonderful group of kids. They were just smart as whips and they went on to be doctors and lawyers and teachers and everything else. They were great. Sometimes you have these classes that have people in them that are outstanding. and that was the group she was in. They were just intelligent human beings and it was a real pleasure to teach them.
RM: Do you remember some names?
LC: Sure. Harry Tataka, Susan Patchin. Judy Wulfenstein. . . . I said I could name them and now I'm having a hard time thinking of them.
RM: Sometimes there are political considerations for teachers. Did you have those kinds of problems?
LC: I don't think we had very many problems at all. We didn't have behavior problems.
RM: And did you keep on teaching sixth and seventh?
LC: After that one year I went down to fourth and third and fourth and hung around in fifth for a number of years. Then a new building was built and I moved over into it and started teaching sixth and then seventh. Then I kind of specialized in science in the early '80s—'80, '81, '82—and I became the science teacher for the rest of my career.
RM: And you taught how many years?
LC: I taught 30 years here; I retired in July of '99.
RM: How do you look back on your teaching career in Pahrump?
LC: Like it went in a flash; it went by very quickly. I see the problems that they have now that we didn't have then, like behavior problems, gang-related problems, and the drug problems. There were a few problems back then but not like I understand it is now. Back then there were the acting-out problems.
RM: By acting out, do you mean the student has problems at home and then acts out in anger at school?
LC: It could be. Our biggest problem back then was chewing gum or goofy stuff; we didn't have that many problems.
RM: Why do you think they didn't have problems then and now they do?
LC: I think we had to work a lot harder and I don't think there was all that entertainment going on. We didn't have TV when I was a kid growing up. Now kids are able to have all of the video games and all that kind of a thing that I really think takes a toll on their personalities.
RM: I agree. Are there other forces in the community that are causing this?
LC: I don't know; I've seen the population here change. We went from rural farming. . . . For a long time, we had retirees that would come in and I don't know that they brought any problems with them. We had a spurt where there was a lot of building and that brought in families from Southern California, builders and those types of people, who brought with them some of the characteristics from Southern California schools. In '95 or so there was a kid in my classroom with a gun that he had had on his person for two weeks. I look back on that and think, had I known that. . . . He got into a little tiff with a kid outside and fell down and his gun bounced out of his pocket. They were just getting on the bus. He was protecting himself; he had carried the gun because he was worried. He was a new kid in school and he had come from the L.A. area and he'd been threatened and he responded in that way.
RM: How do you look at education compared to when you were going to school in Pahrump, particularly because Nevada ranks so low among the states on the support of education?
LC: I think it's shameful. Voters are just not supportive of schools and I guess one of the reasons is that kids in Southern Nevada. or in Nevada, can get a job parking cars and make more money than any teacher ever could. So they feel they don't need an education. Maybe that's why. The gaming industry is not supportive of it. Nevada unto itself is this unique place that allows everything. The rural communities have prostitution . . . it's just a different state.
RM: Nevada doesn't seem to want to cultivate to higher things, in particular, education, does it?
LC: Right. Why would a family from a state that does support education want to move here to Nevada with their kids? If they do, then as soon as they get here and the kids are old enough, they'll send them out of state to school. They tried to keep those kids in Nevada with scholarship funding for them and that was a great thing to do. I think it kept a few of them.
RM: How do you look back on your teaching career? What were your joys and disappointments, if any?
LC: I think my earliest recognition of anybody interested in Pahrump schools was someone from the Nevada State Department of Education. Roxie Copenhaver would come with our superintendent, Ray Tennant. to visit the Pahrump school. She always wore a suit, always talked very nicely to us, and brought things for our school, which I thought was a wonderful thing. That was my first recollection of somebody who was positive about our schools—and that somebody liked us well enough to visit and bring things.
Some of the disappointments? I was disappointed when I had to go in on the last day of my career and shake hands with the principal at that time, who was later found to have burglarized student council funds.
RM: And you knew he was doing it at the time?
LC: There was gossip around. but I thought. You know what? This is your last day. Now, get in there and shake hands with this guy and end it the way you're supposed to instead of walking out in a huff." I just thought that that was how it should have been done and that's how I was going to do it.
RM: What are you most proud of as a 30-year teacher?
LC: I think being able to help kids in their challenges in life when they get out of school. I think that is what it was all about, to be a small part in helping them cope with whatever problems they come up against.
RM: And you had a lot of successes, it sounds like, with doctors and lawyers?
LC: Yes, they went on to good things. Now, not all of them did, but you can't say that that didn't happen here. And I worked with some really good people.
RM: My daughter Bambi went to junior high and high school in Tonopah and I am always amazed at how successful many of her classmates have been. You would think, coming from these little schools out in the middle of nowhere, that they wouldn't be, but they are.
LC: But they are. And that little jewel, Beatty, kicks everybody's pants with their educational excellence. The last few years they have just been dynamite. They win all kinds of awards for their scholastic abilities.
RM: My brother's daughter is the same age as my daughter and she went to school in L.A. I think in terms of pure academics she might have gotten a little better education than Bambi did in Tonopah, but in terms of decency and wholesomeness, it was like night and day. Drugs were rampant down there. There may have been a few drugs in Tonopah, but as far as I know it wasn't a problem and it was a clean and decent environment. But sometimes I am sort of amazed because Nevada doesn't put that much money into education relative to other states.
LC: I put my own bucks into it. too. I was teaching science and that caught on and my principal would say things like. "You like that." and "That was good, what you did today was really good." He encouraged me on that but there were things that I needed that I just would go buy, like the art stuff that would accompany science. I liked to teach science, but they needed to draw it and they needed to look at it and they needed to get the feel of what really was going on. So sometimes we didn't have paper. What else did we buy? A little bit of glassware, not much of that. And I would buy some books to do experiments and enrichment kind of things.
RM: I am profoundly interested in science and the teaching of it. What do you think are the principles that are at the core of teaching science and, probably more importantly, developing a love for science?
LC: That's really a question. I guess the easiest answer right off the top is that there are some kids who have a propensity for science and there are some kids who come in and they go, "I don't like this." Some didn't like it but a lot of them did, too.
To develop a love for science? It has to be fun. And the method where you explore and gather your data and come up with an idea, the discovery method. I went to school at NAU, Northern Arizona University, and I had a great time down there with a number of science classes. It was fun for me because I aced them, for one, but I came back from there with a whole bunch of really good things to stir those kids up. One of them was called "Sewer Lice," or "reclaiming water. You did it with soda pop and raisins.
RM: Tell me about it.
LC: You start out with Pepsi or Coca-Cola and you put a few raisins in it and you hold it up and you say, "Can anybody see what is happening?" The CO2 clings onto the raisins and then the raisins go up and let off CO2 and they appear to be living things diving up and down. Two days later, you bring out some raisins in Squirt or Mountain Dew and tell them, "This is the same experiment, only it's two days older, and you can really see what these animals have done here—they've really cleaned the water up because there is such a color difference" between the Coca-Cola and the Mountain Dew color.
RM: And do they go up and down too?
LC: They go up and down too and they appear to be doing some cleaning. Then a few days later, you put raisins in something like 7-Up, that's clear, and say, "These animals have been in here for a week and you can see that they have taken out all of the solids and all of the material in this water and have cleaned it up and it's drinkable now."
RM: And the raisins continue to go up and down?
LC: Yes, and you tell them that these animals have just been discovered and they can clean sewer water and all kinds of water. You tell the students that these raisins are sewer lice and they make this sewer water here (the Coca-Cola) cleaner, and then you show the Mountain Dew and say, "These sewer lice have been in here two days." And for the 7-Up you say, "These sewer lice have been in here for a week and they've really done a good job. And not only can you drink the water. but the sewer lice are edible because they are full of protein."
RM: And the kids really get turned on?
LC: Oh, they really believe that And you bait them by saying, "Anybody want to taste one of these sewer lice? Or drink any of this clean water?"
Well, the trick is, as you can guess. they'll say, "No, but you do it."
"Okay, I will."
And I reach in and grab one of the sewer lice" and eat it and they all go "Oh, I can't believe she did that!" Little tricks like that that can turn kids on to science. They leave your classroom and go into another classroom and say, "You won't believe what Mrs. Crowther did. She ate a sewer lice." I had another teacher come knock on my door in the middle of class and say, "Laraine, I can't believe what a good teacher you are."
I said, "Why?"
"I can't believe you ate those sewer lice."
I said "Oh my gosh. I have to talk to you at lunch." [Laughs] The next day, I told the students what it really was.
RM: What grade level is this?
LC: Seventh. Often, you've got a kid in class and he is a little misbehaver. But when he comes to science he is captured by it. Also, I taught after school-school. When kids got kicked out of school they weren't allowed to come to regular day school, but they could come to night school. I'd sit there with those kids and explain to them one on one and they'd say, "Wow, I didn't realize this, I didn't know this was that interesting." They are so easily distracted, but with small groups they love it. I wonder what the drug culture has done to the children of these families; they might be 2 percent or something less able because their parents were using drugs at the time of conception or whatever. There are lots of reasons why, but they don't seem to have that ability to concentrate just a little bit harder.
RM: I've talked to Darrell Lacy. who is the director of Nye County's Nuclear Waste Repository Policy Office here. and we've talked about doing a program with the schools to try to help within the county and to get the kids more interested in science.
LC: Our oldest daughter is a science teacher. She is in her seventeenth year in Las Vegas. She puts together a four-day field trip and they go down to the beach in California and camp out. Then she has some connections in Monterey—there is a school there that has a sea camp and she went to that when she was in school. She still has connections there and she takes them to the aquarium. They go on up to San Francisco and end up over in Reno, touring the University.
RM: That's the way to get students turned on. My grandson is in the ninth grade in Long Beach in an accelerated science class. I've been helping him on the phone with his chemistry and biology and I swear they're doing everything they can to make it as awful for him as possible. I can hardly understand the text myself.
LC: It's not just science, either. I have a second grade granddaughter who loves art and has been drawing for who knows how long. Do you know, she absolutely hates art this year? And she is a wonderful reader, but she is just destroyed in school this year. She reads Robert Louis Stevenson poetry. She is a bright young lady, but the pressure that they put on these kids begins so early, to meet all of these requirements.
RM: It's so sad. The level he's being taught at is, I think, above the first year of college. I believe that if you get them interested, the other will follow. If you kill their interest, they're going to go into something else. I think that's part of why America does so badly in science compared to other countries.
RM: Let's talk about some of the people that you knew. Talk about what you remember about Pop Buol.
LC: He was an old man when I was a young person. Again, that from a child's perspective; he was maybe 60. [Laughter] I remember his store. He had a vegetable section; not always were those vegetables like we find in the groceries today. They were maybe a little bit soft, didn't look real pretty. He had a big candy display. The post office was in the back of his store.
RM: Was he the postmaster?
LC: Mrs. Spencer was.
RM: How big was his store?
LC: It wasn't very big but to a kid, it seemed like it was huge. And one half of it was a bar and grill.
RM: So you could go in there and get sandwiches?
LC: Hamburgers and cheeseburgers.
RM: So he was back there flipping burgers, too?
LC: Right. He also opened up his living quarters, which was part of that building, to the dentist; that's where I had my first dental work done.
RM: And there was a regular dentist's chair?
LC: Yes, kind of a portable thing It was one of those old drills that made a lot of noise and scared me half to death. That was not a fun thing.
RM: Did he carry a lot of different kinds of grocery items?
LC: I remember he had vegetables and ice cream and candy. He had potatoes, carrots, things that would save—root vegetables. mostly. It was a treat to go there.
RM: If he had ice cream, he would probably have had a Servel.
LC: Maybe it was Katy and Frank that had ice cream. The Burketts had that after Buol.
RM: When did Pop Buol move out, do you think?
LC: In the middle to late '50s.
RM: Describe him.
LC: It seemed like he had kind of a bald head and white hair and he wasn't very tall.
RM: Was he jovial or reserved or. . . ?
LC: I don't recall that. I recall going in there and ordering a cheeseburger, which was a rare, rare occasion, and thinking what a treat it was. I guess I didn't pay much attention or it wasn't part of my nature to look at people.
RM: Where did he go after he sold, do you know?
LC: I don't know.
RM: Tell me about Frank and Katy Burkett.
LC: They had two children, Richard and Jerry. They might have had another one but those are the two I remember. They were a good addition to our community. They allowed everybody to have a tab; that happened even after we got here in '69. Brent and I had a tab.
RM: They would write it down?
LC: Right, and at the end of the month you would go in there and pay it off.
RM: Did Pop carry credit?
LC: I believe he did; that was very common back in those days.
RM: And how long were the Burketts there?
LC: They were there for what seemed like a long time. And then a lady named Helen Harris Garland took it over.
RM: When the Burketts took it over, did it change? I mean, was the dentist still there and were they still serving burgers and so on?
LC: My dental work had advanced to the point where I needed braces so I was going to Las Vegas for that. I don't recall if there was any dental work when the Burketts had it but I didn't go there. That's where I went for my first dental work and my two front teeth stuck pretty much straight out from my mouth so I needed braces.
RM: And then, who was Helen Harris Garland?
LC: Her husband, Willis Garland, owned a farm.
RM: Were they still growing a lot of things on the Pop Buol spread there? He had fruit trees and everything. Didn't he have grapes and make wine, too?
LC: I think he made some wine. And then Doby Doc may have bought Pop Buol's vineyards.
RM: And when did the store close?
LC: I think it had to be in the early '70s. The school district bought it and . . . did they redo the inside and outside of it and tried to put the Nye County Southern District there? And then Dodges came in and they had Dodge's Market. They built a new building and the store was moved into a new building. The school district bought both of those properties from them after the Dodge Market closed.
RM: How did Dodge's Market differ from Pop's place?
LC: It was three or four times bigger. and it had a lot more to offer. It had two checkout stands.
RM: And when did they come in?
LC: I believe Mr. Dodge was one of Helen Garland's sons; she had been married before. I think it passed from mother to son, and he built a new building.
RM: And is that building still there. the new one?
LC: Yes, it's the Southern Nye County School District building.
RM: And is Pop Buol's building still there?
LC: I haven't looked.
RM: You said the Manse Ranch was a beautiful place.
LC: It was. I like trees and I like green and it was well thought out and well developed. There was a huge shop that had all of the tools and all of the equipment was parked around, and there were horse corrals, the tack shed, the cow corrals—it just went on and on. The houses were in a circular sort of pattern. They were well spaced and they all had yards. For the most part they were around a center area. And the main house had walls that were maybe ten inches thick. It was a really nice structure; it was white.
RM: And there were a lot of trees?
LC: A lot of wonderful trees. And they were in good shape. They'd had a lot of care; whoever laid that place out just did a fabulous job.
RM: That was probably the Younts. Joseph and Margaret Yount are kind of heroes of mine because they were true pioneers.
LC: They were special people because of how they laid that out. They made a community.
RM: And do you think that the main house there was the original Yount house?
LC: I do.
RM: Can you describe the main house?
LC: There was the main house and then there were one, two, three, four . . . and a fifth house and a sixth house were brought that both came from the Hoover Dam area. My grandfather brought those in. He even brought a seventh house in. He moved out of the big house and let Imogene and Digger Andersen move into it because they had the largest family. He and Elizabeth moved into the smaller home that they had renovated, the seventh house he brought in.
RM: Tell me what else was beautiful about it.
LC: The springs were beautiful and they had ditches and down these ditches were beautiful cottonwood trees. From a distance you could just see the whole layout—it was a lovely view. It grew down toward the west and there were numbers of them.
RM: Did the ditches lead to irrigation projects?
LC: They watered alfalfa fields and grain fields and they'd have the combines come in the fall.
RM: This was Elmer?
LC: Yes, and Dad, too.
RM: And how many acres were under cultivation?
LC: It was lot of grain and a lot of alfalfa: they raised their own silage. The cows love silage. He had, I think, 200 head of dairy cattle.
RM: He was milking 200 head?
LC: That's my guess; it seemed like he had a lot of cows. He had electric milkers and he brought a dairyman in from Utah who ran it for him. The milk truck came in a couple of times a week.
RM: When you came here, there was no public power. Did you have a light plant on the property?
LC: Yes, we did.
RM: So you had electric lights and everything when you got here?
LC: We used kerosene for a long time.
RM: When did he start the dairy?
LC: It was one of the later things he did.
RM: And he was raising beef cattle, too?
LC: Yes, he had a bunch of range cattle; in fact, he had the range rights right out here on this mountain.
RM: Right on the slopes of Mount Charleston? Was it BLM?
LC: It was.
RM: Was it a big allotment?
LC: It was good. And he put in pipelines all over that mountain to bring in water to where his cows were.
RM: You said that you went on trail rides up there—talk about that.
LC: Right. Growing up, every kid had their own horse. We took care of them and we all had to ride first without a saddle because of Elmo's accident, when he was dragged.
RM: He got his foot caught in the stirrups?
LC: That's right. We weren't allowed to have saddles at first, but when we got good enough, we were allowed to have them. Every year we would let the cows out in the springtime. Some of those cows had been around for a long time and they knew right where to go and you wouldn't have to do anything.
RM: I think I've been told that there was a gate up there and you just took them up to the gate and said, "See you in the fall.
LC: Right. And they would come down to the gate. When it got cold, they knew the way home.
RM: So you didn't have to go up there and round up each one of them.
LC: I think Gary did that once or twice each year because not all of them had the good sense to come out of the cold.
RM: And that was just a day thing? You didn't take a chuck wagon or that kind of thing?
LC: No, it was a day thing. It's not too far up there.
RM: Tell me about your horsemanship.
LC: That was our recreation. We'd get together on Saturdays—kids would ride from all directions and we'd get together and have our sack lunches and spend the day playing cowboys or something. [Chuckles]
RM: That sounds like a carefree, wonderful thing.
LC: Yes, it was.
RM: Were you a pretty good horsewoman?
LC: I was pretty good, as good as any of the rest of them.
RM: Did you ever ride down to the store?
LC: Sure. And on the last day of school, we were allowed to bring our horse. We could ride to school and tether our horse up and get our report cards and spend a bit of time and then ride home.
RM: So riding was a big part of your childhood. Discuss some more of your childhood. Like what was it like for a kid to live here?
LC: We got to know our cousins real well. They included Imogene and Digger's children—Carol Jean, Phyllis, Merna, Connie, and Maureen. And then Kenna's kids—their oldest, Kenny, was one of those who didn't make it past 21. He died of cancer in the L.A. area before he was 21. And there was Trisha, Susan, Ronnie, Denny, and Jimmy. We were all neighbors and we also had Indian friends; we were all friends.
RM: Who were some of your Indian friends?
LC: Imogene Sharp, her brother Ray; sisters Laverne and Ruth, Polly Mike and Leroy Mike. These were Paiute Indians and there were also some Shoshone Indians who lived here. There are Shoshone on the other side of the Nopah Mountains in Shoshone, California, so they were close.
RM: Who were some of them?
LC: Long Jim was one. He had three daughters; I'm not sure how many of them are still living. I think he worked only for the Pahrump Ranch. He may have worked for a little while for Grandpa, but I don't recall that. The Long Jim girls were elegant. They had been taken to L.A. and schooled and they always dressed in brand new jeans and beautiful boots and great Western shirts and they were very classy.
RM: How did they afford it? Most people were poor, weren't they?
LC: Yes, all of us were. I remember my mom working in the fields helping Dad load hay and things like that. I remember playing in the haystack and hollowing it out and balancing the bales and making a house out of the haystack so we could crawl back in there. We'd light a fire and cook an egg in a can; goofy stuff that could have ended in disaster. My youngest brother, Mark, actually did set the haystack on fire and he went running past us as fast as he could go with a determined look not to look either way but straight ahead. Pretty soon we found out why—the fire was burning down the haystack. Things like that. Riding my horse over to a girlfriend's house and spending the afternoon there.
RM: There were Indian camps up in the hills, weren't there? Did Indians live up there at all?
LC: Yes they did, but they lived here. too. Over on the Manse Ranch there were some sand dunes and we used to go down there as kids and find arrowheads. We would find some really big, long spearheads and little ones too. little arrowheads. The wonderful thing about all of that is that their fires were still there and those rocks were so damaged by heat that it didn't take a lot to break them right in two. Of course as kids, we had no idea what we were interrupting. They had been there for all those years, who knows how long. We also discovered that that was their burial ground; they buried their dead in the dunes.
RM: Are those dunes still there?
LC: No, they have been leveled. The University of Nevada at Las Vegas came out and found a number of graves and took the skeletal remains to the university in the late '80s or early '90s.
RM: Did you know Walt Williams at all?
LC: I didn't really know him personally. You probably have already talked with DeAnna Brown. Her family was right there on the Williams place, and the Woners were there, Carol and Frank Woner.
RM: You are old enough to remember when cotton came in. Talk about that transition and what it meant to you and your family.
LC: It meant money to our family. The very first little cotton that our dad planted brought in $1,700 that year and he and Mom were ecstatic. That was a lot of money. In a few years they were able build this house next door and they paid that right off using cotton money. I mean, I don't think they owed anything on it for years.
RM: Do you recall what year they had their first cotton crop?
LC: The only thing I can reference it off of is when Brent and I got married in '67, it was right at the beginning of the cotton season and it was very inconvenient for them to come to our wedding. [Laugher] We were married in Salt Lake and they came up there and they had to get right home because Dad was a firm believer in dates for things. He was a great farmer. He knew when to put the water on. he knew when to take it off. He raised a big old melon patch and watered it only twice. He could grow the biggest Crenshaws, the sweetest watermelons. And our wedding was not a good time for him to be away from his ranch. He had a real instinct.
RM: What was it in his character that he was such an enterprising person?
LC: He loved what he did. I mean, it was what he lived for. He loved his land, he loved his plants, he lived and died for farming. I wish Mom could have been a little happier here in Pahrump.
RM: What didn't she like about it?
LC: The ruralness of it. She wanted to live in the Moapa area, I think.
RM: Did she complain?
LC: Yes, she did. [Laughs]
RM: But he never considered leaving?
LC: They did consider leaving and they went to the stake presidency, the LDS church, and asked whether they should leave or not and they were to stay.
RM: Did the church have an interest in them staying here?
LC: Yes, just to develop the area.
RM: So it was part of a pioneering spirit of the LDS church?
LC: I would say so. You know a lot of people here in Pahrump developed different things, like the restaurant business. As things came around, they got in there and that was their business to develop. My dad and mom developed the LDS church and didn't do that much with the community development other than that part.
RM: Were your dad and mother the spark plugs behind the development of LDS here?
LC: I would think Grandpa Bowman was.
RM: Was he pretty devoted?
LC: I think he was very devoted to the church and getting it going out here. And then Dad was the president. There was no stake here and Grandpa Bowman wasn't the bishop or anything like that.
RM: But he was kind of the central figure in holding it together?
LC: Yes, and then the other people came in and they took it.
RM: And that was Perry?
RM: So you would have to look at your grandfather as kind of at the root of the Mormon community here, but Perry was kind of the one who really drove it forward?
LC: I think that's true. Then other people came in and they took a lot of the responsibility, but the Las Vegas stake encouraged my parents to stay here. His brothers left and went to Las Vegas to live—they wanted to take their kids and get them educated in the Las Vegas schools. Those kids were quite a bit younger than either Gary or I.
RM: Is there a pretty good-sized Mormon community in Pahrump now?
LC: Yes. I am not active in it but I believe there are three wards here and I think there are quite a number of church members.
RM: I said to Tim Hafen one time that I think that Elmer Bowman is the founding father of modern Pahrump and he said, "I would agree with that."
LC: I would agree with that, too. He was really active here for about 15 years and that was all—because he was around 50 years old when he moved here.
RM: It is all the more remarkable for a man of that age to head out on a pioneering adventure like this. By the same token, Joseph Yount was no spring chicken when he came here. I am interested in the pioneering spirit because that's what made the West, those people who go out in the middle of nowhere and carve out civilization.
LC: Right. And 100 years ago people's average age was 47 years. And here we are at 80 at least.
LC: Hopefully, I've got my fingers crossed. [Laughter]
RM: From everything that I've heard about Elmer, he was a remarkable man and it sounds like your father was, too. He picked up the ball from your grandfather, didn't he?
LC: Yes; they were very different men, though.
RM: How did they differ?
LC: In their personalities. My grandfather was much bolder and my father was much more timid. But my dad had good ideas. He had really good feelings for things. They came from two different places but they accomplished a lot.
RM: What would be examples of your grandfather's boldness?
LC: Oh, he would take on the BLM he would take on whoever and whatever it was he was trying to accomplish. He was aggressive e in that manner—if he wanted to get something accomplished, they needed to give him this and provide that. He would get his share and he could get it done.
RM: And what would be examples of your dad's ideas?
LC: Well, he had a good idea when he built his house up here, not down on the ranch. It had a great view and he appreciated that. Actually, he wanted his farm to be perfect—he'd do whatever that took. I guess most good farmers get up in the middle of the night and go change the water, do whatever needed to be done.
And my dad believed in me going to school, which at the time was kind of a step ahead of my grandfather, who thought it should be the boys who received the education.
RM: Was Elmer different in that sense?
LC: I think he was different in the sense that he thought that the boys should receive the education and maybe the girls should make a real comfortable home for the family. As you know, the modern thing is that we women can do that and have both.
RM: So your dad was progressive in that sense. Was he generally pretty progressive in other things, too?
LC: I would say so. He embraced the cotton idea and when that was over, he knew there wasn't any money to be made from it and that was bye-bye. He was always looking for new ways to do things, better ways to do things, particularly in the farming part of it all.
RM: So he was kind of an innovator?
LC: Well, yes. He would think things through. It would take him a long time to come to a decision, but he would have thought it through in every way, frontward and backwards, before he'd arrive at a decision. I know you're going to ask me, what decision. [Laughter]
RM: And you can't think of one?
LC: Well, just in everyday life.
RM: I feel a little guilty because we are focusing on your dad and your grandfather and your grandmother and your mother were part of these teams. Talk about where they fit into this whole thing. What kind of a woman was your grandmother Bowman?
LC: Well, my grandfather could get upset; and she was the quiet one. She went about her business and made things work. She was an outstanding woman. She truly loved her children and her grandchildren. I always felt like she really appreciated us as individuals. She smoothed things over, she made things nice. She was a very hard worker.
RM: She was probably working as hard as your grandfather only in sometimes different duties.
LC: Right. He's taking the business of making a living, he's doing that and she's taking the business of making a living comfortable.
RM: And how was your mother a part of your parents' team?
LC: They took care of each other. Mom always had dinner ready and waiting and he would come home after a really hard day and he'd have to rest first. Then after a shower or a few minutes to chill out, dinner was ready. She worked in the fields with him. I don't know that Grandma Bowman did that with Grandpa Bowman but I know Mom did, just by the fact that she was a younger woman.
RM: Your mother kept a big garden?
LC: She did. She loved flowers. She kept a flower garden. Dad kept the vegetable garden and we kids learned how to chop cotton. I chopped a lot of cotton in the fields every summer and my brothers and sisters did, too.
RM: I talked to Tim's daughter. Sandy Frehner. She talked about this big peer group that would play at the spring down there. Were you guys part of that group or is this a different group?
LC: It's a different group because she's a bit younger than me.
RM: Who are some other people in the valley that we should mention that stand out in your mind?
LC: You probably know the Dorothy Dorothy story.
RM: I don't really know much about that.
LC: She was a gal who came up here and her name was really Dorothy Dorothy. She was quite a vivacious personality and she did a lot in the early Pahrump.
RM: Was this back in the '50s?
LC: Yes. I don't know that she is alive anymore, though. Ted and Marie Blosser's children are around. One is still here in the valley; her name is Janet and I am not sure what her last name is. She worked at the DMV. Then the Hughes were big time. I mentioned the Pearl Wards.
RM: Did you know the Fords?
LC: Yes. And Dutch and Bill Turner.
RM: It was really a close face-to-face community,
LC: It was. I don't know if you've talked to Doug Garland. His dad married Helen; she's the one that had the store for a while. He must be 60; 63, maybe. He just retired from the Nye County School District.
RM: Any other people that you can think of?
LC: The Pallans. They were a Mexican family, wonderful people. We grew up with their kids and they're active in Pahrump. Larry Pallan would be a good one to interview, and his sister. They were one of those support families. His mom went to Las Vegas and worked for Southern Nevada Memorial hospital. She was a surgery nurse for years and years and her husband worked for Tim; he ran his ranch.
RM: I wanted to ask you about when Preferred Equities came in. What's your recollection on that and how that changed the valley?
LC: It did change the valley a lot. I recall being very excited, thinking some big things were going to happen and I guess in a way, they did. I think there were some downsides to it in that lots were sold and taxes were gathered and no improvements happened with that money. But we had a good market that came in at the time because of them, and a nice golf course; I learned how to golf there. I think the school system benefited from that. There were some good golf teams that came out of Pahrump and they were very helpful with that. They allowed our kids to play for nothing.
RM: How important was Preferred Equities in terms of what the valley has become? If they hadn't come in, what would the valley be like now?
LC: I don't know.
RM: Would it have happened anyway? I know Tim and other people were subdividing.
LC: I think it would have happened anyway. I think it's going to come back again just because of the proximity to Las Vegas. People love to come out here and sit in their back yards and have a cool drink and look at the stars.
RM: What do you think when you see Pahrump now from the perspective of the little two-year old who moved in here years ago?
LC: I'm proud of it. One of the things that happened is that the State Board of Education sent down a team years ago and we worked together. I don't recall the project, but I remember I mentioned something to the lady who was in charge about how I thought Pahrump was really going to do well and she said, "Oh, it never will." I took that as a challenge; it hurt my feelings to think that they didn't think much of Pahrump. It has its history and it has its whatever it has been, but I think in the next century it's really going to pop. With the economic turndown right now, of course, it's stalled and out of it, but I think. .
There is a lot of politics here. Everybody's trying to grab for themselves and develop this and sell that and get this and get that. That was one of the things that my parents were not in on. They didn't like that kind of behavior, they didn't approve of it, and they didn't think very highly of people who did.
RM: Do you mean those who subdivided?
LC: I think there were some things that were done in poor quality, shoddy construction. There were some things that were not done right because the restrictions or codes weren't in place; that kind of thing. That hurt Pahrump. But my parents were not political people. They did sell to a subdivider, Al Collins, but they didn't do it themselves.
RM: They had a section? And did they sell the whole thing off?
LC: They eventually did, in pieces, once they didn't know who was buying until the week before. I think Pahrump has a lot to offer and I am really excited for what is going to happen in the future.
RM: The only limiting factor is water and I think it's just a matter of time before they start bringing desalinated water from the coast or trade on the Colorado River to bring a straw over from the Colorado River.
LC: What about that water line they're talking about bringing down from Alamo, from the north?
RM: I'm very opposed to it. I don't believe in raping the groundwater of Nevada, particularly when you can desalinate the ocean and bring the water up. It will be expensive. People are going to have to get it in their heads they're going to have to pay $500, maybe more, a year for water and you're going to have to conserve. But water is the ultimate limiting factor here right now and they'll bring it in if we can ever get some decent leadership. We need people like your grandfather, people with some vision. Walt Williams is another person you'd want to build a statue to. We need heroes.
LC: It's true.
RM: And most of the people we select for heroes don't deserve it, to put it mildly. [Laughs]
LC: I don't think these people ask to be called heroes.
RM: No, but they're our founders—in your case genetically, but also in terms of the community. Are there any other people who stand out in your mind in the community from when you were growing up?
LC: I'm probably leaving out someone. I wanted today to make mention of those people who, without their help, their dedication, their lives, these farms wouldn't have been successful. Oftentimes those people go unnoticed and unappreciated. I think the Indian community that was here way before any of the rest of us needs some kind of flagging. They're an unusual people because of their belief system—they don't want recognition.
RM: There is a move on to do some more histories with them and maybe even a book.
LC: I know that their belief system might hinder some of that, but hopefully someone will come forth and feel comfortable doing it.
RM: They probably can't go into much detail about their religion but they probably can give information about their overall way of life.
LC: They were a big part of our lives.
RM: Who would be other kind of unsung heroes?
LC: Ted Blosser might be one.
RM: I interviewed him years ago.
LC: Did you? His son has passed away and I think his three daughters are still living. I think the Brady brothers are gone.
RM: I never did interview either one of them; I really regret that.
LC: Doug Garland would be a good guy. The Pallans added a lot to our community.
RM: Is there anything else you want to say?
LC: I can't think of anything. It's been a good life here. I've enjoyed it. It was a great place to raise our kids and darn, I wish we could raise our grandkids here too.
RM: And you're going to be able to?
LC: Probably not, but they live in Las Vegas. They come over here and the oldest one doesn't want to go back. She has the ability to walk out in the desert and see a jackrabbit.
RM: I envy you the connectedness you've had.
LC: Since our retirement we've built another home in Washington state on the coast and we can go there in the summer and we don't have an air conditioner in it; it stays 50, 60 degrees and a really hot day is 80. That's unbearable.
RM: So you go up there in the summers? How nice. Well, thanks so much for talking with me.
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