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Oral History Intervews

Mr. Gibson entered the U.S. Border Patrol as a member of the 85th Academy Session in January 1966. He furnished this oral history to the National Border Patrol Museum via e-mail on May 17 2009.

Q – Growing up: Date & place of birth parents’ occupation etc.

A – I was born 10/10/1935 in Scranton PA to Alexander and Dorothy Gibson. My father was a butcher but went to work in about 1939 for Crown Can Company as a mechanic. He repaired Closing Machines (put tops on cans) in canning plants. My mother was a housewife except for a brief period during WWII when she worked for Glen L. Martin aircraft company in Essex MD.

Q – Where did you grow up schools attended.

A – From age 6 I grew up in Dundalk MD. The first few years we were bussed to several different schools till arriving in Dundalk Jr. Sr. High School. I was there from 7th through 12th grades.

Q – Why did you decide to apply for a position in the Border Patrol when? Where?

A – I was a police officer and I shot in local competitions including a league in Baltimore that included many state and federal agencies. I was bored with my job and looking for something else when I met two guys on the federal team. Sheldon Coon was with Immigration and the other fellow was with Customs. I applied for both and Immigration called first. This was in 1965 in Baltimore Md.

Q – What was your starting salary?

A – I have no idea what my starting salary was.

Q – Where did you attend the Border Patrol Academy?

A – Class number 85 at Port Isabel TX.

Q – Where were you stationed and what positions did you hold?

A – McAllen Texas Patrol Inspector: Sould Ste Marie PI and BPA; Miami FL. BPA Detroit MI. Investigator; Miami Fl BPA; West Palm Beach Fl. Patrol Agent in Charge; Miami Fl. Anti Smuggling Agent.

Q – What significant details did you participate in?

A – The poor peoples campaign in Washington DC; Operation Intercept Calexico CA.

Q – During your career were you detailed to activities outside the Border Patrol?

A – Designated US marshal for the Poor Peoples Campaign.

Q – Please describe your favorite activities or special expertise in the Border Patrol.

A – I had no special Expertise I was a slogger. I guess my best trait was I didn’t let go.

Q – Identify some of the other Border Patrolmen you worked with. Which ones impressed you the most?

A – I thought Kerry Jacobson was the smartest agent I ever came across. He had the whole case detail by detail layed out in his head and could instantly retrieve and part of the puzzle.

Q – How many Sectors did you work in? If you wish please name the Sector Chiefs.

A – I worked in the Detroit Sector under Warren Long and the Miami Sector under Eugene Chaput and Carl Reidenger There was another chief at Miami but I will not name him because he was crook and a disgrace to our uniform.

Q – What supervisory positions did you hold? Which was your favorite?

A – I was the PAIC at West Palm Beach Fl. That’s the only one so I guess its my favorite.

Q – An example of your most frightening and/or funniest situation?

A – I have used up all of my war stories.

Q – Did you remain in the Patrol until retirement or did you pursue other Service activities?

A – I stayed till the end of my career.

Q – What changes would you have recommended during your career?

A – Take the guy who made the decisions about the weapons we could carry and put him in charge of a pre school nursery.

Q – What did you do after leaving the Border Patrol?

A – After retiring I bought a Subway franchise and built it in Charlotte NC. I enjoyed building the store (I was prime contractor) but once I opened I discovered the joys of supervising low pay employees. I spent most of my days and night in the store because the employees just didn’t show up for work so I had to. After selling the store I did insurance investigations for American International. The pay was good and they treated me fine but I found I was in a hotel room somewhere four nights a week.

Q – Then what did you do?

A – I found a job as a criminal Investigator with the common wealth of Virginia. I investigated odometer rollbacks counterfeit titles false drivers license applications and fuels tax evasion. I finally found something I was genuinely good at. They left me alone and I put a lot of bad guys in jail. It was fun. I retired after 9 years and came to Florida. Since 2001 I have been doing background investigations under contracts with the department of defense Treasury and Homeland Security. My cup runneth over. End of Oral History Statement.

Mr. Blackwell entered the U.S. Border Patrol with the 26th Training Session on March 20 1944. He was one of the first generation of Officers who established the Border Patrol as one of the elite enforcement agencies in the United States. I believe readers would be interested to know that some of this same generation included: Charles Beechie Bob Stewart Herman Moore Bill Toney Harlan Carter Jim Kelly Bill Jordan Tom Maddrey Elmo Rainbolt Ed Cupp Robin Clack Jim Greene Jeff Fell Bill Sabin Tom Ball & Don Coppock. They and many others in this generation well understood the motto “Honor First” One has only to contemplate the last paragraph of Mr. Blackwell’s oral history to understand.

Today is May 16 1987. My name is David Van Blackwell I was born on October 9 1922 in Altoona Iowa. Dorothy Gohman and I were married in Edinburg Texas on June 20 1942. We have two daughters. The older is Carolyn Jean now Mrs. Raymond Kretz who was born June 14 1944 at Weslaco Texas and Barbara Ann now Mrs. Alan Weikel born September 24 1946 at McAllen Texas.

I entered on duty in the Border Patrol at McAllen Texas on March 20 1944. During the years I was in the Service I was stationed at Edinburg Falfurrias McAllen and Hebbronville Texas. I then went to Houlton Maine and Burlington Vermont. Returning to Texas I was stationed in Brownsville Port Isabel and El Paso Texas where I retired on December 31 1976. The positions I held included Patrol Inspector Patrol Inspector-in-charge Senior Patrol Inspector Intelligence Officer Regional Air Detail Officer Deputy Chief Patrol Inspector and Chief Patrol Agent.

At the time I entered the Service the key personnel in the McAllen Sector were: Fletcher L. Rawls Chief Patrol Inspector; John R. Peavey Assistant Chief Patrol Inspector; W. Gregory Hale Senior Patrol Inspector (he was assigned to headquarters to do the administrative work); and Autogiro Pilot Ned Henderson. There were two clerk stenos: Winifred Whitten and Earlene Kiefer. Radio Operators that I recall were Glenn Gerhardt Kenneth Lombard and Marcella Cikanek.

I can’t remember if there was a fourth operator. The garage was under the direction of Johnny Griffin and the other mechanic out there was Rodolfo Alvarado. The Seniors for the various stations included: James P. Cottingham and Walter Swain both at McAllen; Charlie Wallis Brownsville; Ireneus E. Snavel at San Benito; Bill Holt at Harlingen; Dlaso Kite at La Feria; Clifton D. Brown at Mercedes; and Charles R. Wroten Westlaco. I believe Thomas E. Phillips was a Senior at Mission. Jesse Perez was a Senior at Rio Grande City but he died soon after and Delbert A. Valentine was the Senior there. Oscar Stetson was Senior at Roma Earnest A “Cap” Kilborn at Raymondville William M. Davis at Falfurrias and I don’t recall who was Senior at Kingsville at that time.

The San Antonio District was the parent organization to the sector and was under the direction of William A. Whalen District Director. I think John Holland was the Deputy D.D. but I am not positive of that. Hubert P. Brady was the District Chief Enforcement Officer. Mr. Walter Mehlhause was the District Administrative Officer. The Chief of the Laredo Sector was Elmer DeBrail and his Assistant Chief was Charles R. Kirk. The Chief at Del Rio was Buck West and his Assistant Chief was Charlie McBee. The sectors were called sub-districts also and each one had a number but I don’t remember what they were. I rather think McAllen was Sub-district #3.

The policy of the service at the time I entered on duty was for trainees to work three or four months at each of three different stations and this gave them an opportunity to be exposed to the various types of patrol operations and also to receive on the job training and evaluation by a variety of experienced officers. The school which I think was called the Border Patrol Training School was of six weeks duration and was held at the old El Paso Sector Headquarters. It was called Camp Chigas. The trainees were divided into northern and southern border trainees. The northern border men were required to learn C. W. (morse code) for radio transmissions but the southern border P.I.’s were not required to take that course and instead were required to study Spanish. Prior to our class I think everyone had to learn C.W. I know all the older officers I worked with could send Morse code messages.

When I was at the training school they didn’t have any particular housing or living accommodations for us. They had arranged with an old hotel downtown and a lot of individual home owners to rent rooms to trainees. The homes were scattered all over town. We all either walked or rode street cars between Headquarters where we took our classes everyday and wherever we were staying.

My first station was Edinburg where Oscar D. Kelly was the Senior. He was from Indiana and had been a stone-mason prior to entering the Border Patrol. He and a brother owned really good farmland in Indiana and he would go home annually and visit relatives and also see about his property up there. He was a bachelor. He told me that when he came in the Border Patrol (I think he entered on duty in 1934) that he had had several suits. He saw no sense in having any civilian clothes so he had never bought another suit and the only civilian clothes he owned were a few pairs of “wash” pants and work shirts that he could wear when he was working in the yard at the house where he was living. Other than that he wore a uniform at all times never out of uniform and he insisted that all of us at the station dress as he did. He said that when he came in he was the last man hired for two years which put him low man on the totem pole for a long time and he was assigned all the menial tasks like washing cars and just other flunky jobs until another officer was hired and entered on duty. Then the new man inherited those jobs. Kelly lived with the Frank E. Berrys; he roomed and boarded with them in Edinburg. Their son known as “Buster” was Frank E. Berry Jr. later joined the Border Patrol and ultimately was an investigator in Pittsburgh. Also their daughter Audry married a man who had a career in the Immigration Service Francis Dawson. Kelly had a 1935 Chevrolet Coach that was just slick as a button. It was in mint condition and so far as I knew he never drove that car except when he went on vacation back to Indiana. Transportation was in pretty short supply during and for some time after the war years. One of the P.I.’s needed a car real bad so Kelly sold his car to him and never owned another. After that when was in the local area he was always on duty and always in a government car but when he went on vacation still in dress uniform armed and all he rode the bus.

The other man at that station when I arrived was Russell K. Golden. He was a P.I. and the two of them made up the force. Two or three weeks after I entered on duty two more trainees Pete Stogner and Hollis Mitchel entered on duty.

The work at that station was primarily apprehending farm workers whether on farms or on the highways en route to work or in town. Kelly’s standing order was to report for work at 6:00 AM unless it was raining in which case you would go in at 8:00AM and report to the office. Many mornings we’d be out at 6:00 AM waiting for daybreak on some canal bank or remote road so we could start checking camps where wets were suspected of living. Golden on the other hand liked to work evening shifts so when Kelly went on leave Golden had us work the evening shift and then when Kelly came back they didn’t break back to his system right away. It took a while so we were working mornings and evenings for several weeks.

My next station was Falflurrias. I transferred up there in September 1944 and stayed until July 1945. The Senior was William M. Davis. Not too many months after I transferred to Falfurrias Davis left the Service to go into the Navy and Bob Dayton acted as Senior the remainder of the time I was stationed there. The work at Falfurrias was mainly traffic check and train check and initially there was very little ranch check. As time went on we had a loss of personnel and were no longer able to maintain anything like a continuous highway check se we began doing more ranch check. While I was at Falfurrias I think pretty early on I hadn’t been there too long they decided that we could not use the Brooks County jail to house aliens overnight and that any we apprehended would have to be transported either to Hidalgo for voluntary departure to Mexico or to McAllen to be put in with their group of aliens or placed in the Hidalgo County jail at Edinburg. It was 65 miles down to Edinburg and another eleven over to McAllen so I don’t know of anyone who used the Edinburg jail. It just wasn’t very practical to drive all the way down there with the certain knowledge that the next day would have to go back and get them and take them on to either Hidalgo or Mcallen.

We did some traffic check at La Gloria which is a little ranch community about halfway between Rio Grande City and Falfurrias. A road leads up from the river into the ranch country and at that point it forks. One fork leads on to Falfurrrias and the other to Hebronville They had the Rio Grande City unit checking that road twelve hours a day and then we held it the other twelve hours each day for several weeks. It was not very productive. I remember sitting out there from seven at night through to seven the next morning and only check two vehicles all night long.

A little about some of the other officers at Falfurras when I was there. Bob Dayton who I have already mentioned resigned not too much later to become a gate keeper at the Lasater Ranch and to work at the new cracking plant northwest of Falfurrias. Another man was Gerald D. Madden. He too resigned a year or two later to go into the grocery business in the Valley. He had been a grocer at Waxahachie before joining the patrol. Dempsey L. King who was later stationed at McAllen and much later than that transferred to the Department of Labor in connection with the enforcement of contact labor laws. Hansford Niles who was another trainee was also there at the time. Niles was later stationed at McAllen and finally retired as Senior Patrol Inspector at Brownsville. Another man there was Oswald Brassell who resigned just a few months after I arrived at Falfurrias to return to Carthage where he was going to seek his fortune in the oil boom. Charles Hinesley was also there. He was really Bill Davis’s Segundo. During the first few months of my time at Falfurrias the officer strength was pretty good so assignments to traffic check work didn’t include either Bill Davis or Charlie Hinesley. As the on-duty force dwindled Charlie started having to pull shifts on the highway too but he was really in a bad way with rheumatoid arthritis. He was a good officer spoke good Spanish did a good job at work but he just couldn’t walk he couldn’t get up and move around. He tried mightily to hold up his end of everything that had to be done. Finally though he just got so bad that he couldn’t continue. His last day of duty he asked me to drive him to McAllen so he could turn in his gear see Mr. Rawls and say good-by to other people there that he was interested. in. When we got to McAllen he asked me to pull into a filling station in town so he could get out and walk around a little bit. I’m positive it took between five and ten minutes for him to get out of the car get to his feet and move his joints enough to be able to walk a little. He was a proud man and just didn’t want anybody at headquarters to see how difficult it was for him to move. He always whistled and carried on as if there were no pain but you knew the pain was excruciating. Anyhow when we got to the office he got out and was able to walk with a little more confidence and dignity than he had displayed when we arrived in McAllen.

Bill Davis came back from the Navy and was reassigned as the second Senior under Charlie Wallis at Brownsville. From there he went on to Laredo as Assistant Chief and from there to Chula Vista as Chief Patrol Inspector. After two or three years in Chula Vista (I’ve forgotten just how long) he went to Newark and finally to Miami as an Investigator. Bill was just a super person; he was a good man but his Spanish and his ability to communicate and deal successfully with Mexican people was outstanding. His father had been an engineer working the silver mines in Mexico. Bill lived in Mexico until he was 12 and was just completely bilingual. Even after he was out of the Patrol he was used to accompany groups of Mexican officials that the Service was transporting up and down the border and around the country in an effort to develop cooperation friendship and an exchange of views. Because Bill was so superior in dealing with them he continued to be used in that capacity though he was no longer a Border Patrolman.

My next station was McAllen. I moved there in July of 1945. The principal activity there was farm and ranch check. There was some patrolling of towns and an occasional traffic check for short periods and there was line and river watch. The illegal aliens who both we and the aliens themselves referred to as “wets” were here in just huge numbers you couldn’t imagine how many there must have been. At various times through the ensuing years the Sector was beefed up and they would push the population of the aliens down a little bit temporarily and then something would happen and it would bounce right back up and there would be more aliens than before. The valley economy was largely agriculture and for that matter is still pretty much that way. The farmers welcomed the plentiful and cheap labor and the aliens who did virtually all the work on the farms in packing sheds and other agricultural product related fields did some of the more menial tasks for as little as a dollar a day. Skilled workers or the ones who had a little more on the ball like tractor drivers and irrigators and some of the other skills got up to about $5 per day. A lot of those days were 12 hours long. Wages for farm workers were really low. So low in fact that the local labor force just didn’t have any choice but to board up their homes and follow the harvest north every year. About the only ones who could really afford to stay here year round were the crew bosses employed by many farmers and nearly all packing sheds and the harvest contractors who furnished crews of aliens to harvest the crops. These people had their trucks and every able-bodied person they could find to cram on those trucks would be part of their crew. They kept books for them (the farmers) and took their cut off the top and paid the aliens on a piece meal basis because that’s the way they were being paid by the farmers. Employers (again the farmers) liked the set-up because they were paying low wages and had no medical or unemployment insurance responsibilities and almost no responsibility to the alien other than to pay him whatever scale was agreed upon for the work actually produced. Yet they were able to sell their produce on markets away from this area where they were competing with prices based on different and a lot higher labor rates. When minimum was laws were talked of particularly for farm workers the idea wasn’t popular at all in the Valley. The farmers were always opposed and they’d have two or three fallback positions in their arguments each time. They claimed that having to pay minimum wage even though low would put them out of business; and that the marginal quality of labor just wouldn’t support that kind of expense. They always went through this same type of routine each time the government or whoever made the decision would talk of raising the rates. I think it started out around 15 cents and hour and gradually bumped up. First they didn’t want minimum wages applied to domestic help or farmers or others who hired less than five employees. Now I see that they have even had written into the current law that the Border Patrol no longer has the authority to enter on open fields to check farm labor to see whether or not they are in the country illegally. They always made some sort of effort to salvage as much as they could of their presumed right or continued ability to employ illegal aliens.

As more and more Valley people began benefiting from the illegal alien labor they resorted to ever increasing efforts to shield the aliens from apprehension. Wets were housed in every conceivable kind of shelter; ram shackled abandoned old houses barns sheds chicken coops abandoned automobile bodies caves dug into canal banks and tents. There were some farmers who built little one room houses for their laborers. The larger operators and some really not-so-large also provided a sort of commissary service. It was not unusual when we took aliens to collect their wages and belongings that they had little or no money coming. The wages would be tallied and also the provisions they had used would be tallied and the alien would get whatever the difference might be. Some times the difference wasn’t very much particularly if we’d had inclement weather and they hadn’t worked every day. Then too there was a mark-up on the items they were buying from the farmers. Prices were usually a little higher than regular retail prices in town. There were always a few employers though usually not farmers who would try to completely beat the aliens out of their wages.

Valley farmers had a system well not just the farmers everybody who had a wet whether it was a wet maid wet yardman or farm worker no matter what. Many employers kept these people in line by threatening to report them to La Patrulla or La Migra and back through the years the Mexicans particularly the less educated peon type person from deep in the interior was really frightened by the thought of the Border Patrol and being apprehended by them. One constable in Hidalgo County had a large crew of wets that he farmed out to work on various farms around the area. They were his employees they were his people and he had them in tents way back in deep brush concealed from view by some big canals. You just wouldn’t notice them driving by on the road. Someone reported them and when the P.I.’s raided the place and caught the wets the wets told us of having been forced to stay there and to work even though they had been abused and underpaid and wanted to go home wanted to quit wanted to leave and were not allowed to. This constable was charged and convicted of some sate statute relating slavery. I don’t remember just what it was.

There were several times when the Service mounted operations that really appeared to have everything going for them. We were just right on the brink of gaining control of the illegal alien problem and each time we started to make significant headway the Farm Bureau and some of the more powerful local figures prevailed upon their Congressmen or Senators to dry up the money. Our efforts were curtailed and the wets immediately returned in numbers even greater than before. The Valley newspapers editorialized against immigration enforcement and made big sensational events and wrote long diatribes relating to any incident or alleged impropriety by any of our officers. Attitudes of many in the Valley was illustrated by a couple of the restaurants. One of these restaurants had a sign up over the mirror behind the counter that said “Border Patrol not welcome” Another had a sign too but it said “coffee 10 cents for Border Patrolman  50 cents”. Some of the officers’ children were not treated well by the local citizenry. Some were belittled ridiculed and ostracized by other kids at school and even at Sunday school a few times. These actions reflected their parents’ adamant views against everything Border Patrol or Immigration enforcement.

Among the methods employed to discourage illegal entries was an air-lift to the interior of Mexico. The Service contracted with Flying Tigers to fly on transport planes loads of aliens to Leon Gto. And Guadalajara Jal. Every day. The planes were based at the Brownsville airport and all of the Stations in the Sector when they made their apprehensions each day would screen the males to determine if they were; first from the interior second if they had families either in Texas or in the border area. Male aliens from the interior whose families were in the interior were taken to the Hidalgo County jail and the Edinburg Border Patrol unit would manifest them and do whatever else had to be done in the way of documentation. The aliens were then hauled to the Brownsville airport and loaded aboard Flying Tigers planes. Seems to me they made a couple of trips a day to each destination. The effect of this or the result of this operation really was noticeable. The frequency with which you encountered wets really took a nose dive; and you just didn’t see anything like the numbers of wets we were accustomed to seeing after this operation had been in effect a few weeks. However, the operation was soon ended by termination of our funds.

Another time arrangements were made with Mexican Officials to remove the aliens from the border town by train. You must realize that the Mexican border town officials didn’t want these people any more than the Border Patrol did. The usual procedure was to send the aliens back to Mexico at the Ports of Entry. The numbers were so great that they simply overwhelmed the facilities of border towns like Matamores Reynosa and Rio Bravo. The local officials didn’t want them there and I’m sure that had some bearing on the Mexican government’s decision to allow their citizens to be transported inland from the border. That kind of removal benefited us too because it got the aliens back to the interior where some would stay and not r-enter illegally and it at least delayed those determined to come right back. Mexicans were moved literally by the hundreds and mostly in railway boxcars. The trains were loaded in Reynosa and every two or three cars there was a soldier. It was the soldier’s job to keep the people being returned to the interior from getting off the train and walking right back to the border. Since it didn’t take long for them to figure out their little mordida system and apply it to that the trains soon began reaching their destination all but empty. To try to encourage them to be a little more diligent some of our officers were assigned to ride the train and just observe. They didn’t have any authority but were to observe and as a result the number of passengers aboard the trains when they reached their destinations in the interior increased dramatically.

Years later after we had out detention camp at McAllen we had a fleet of small school buses built on Ford truck chassis. The procurement officer for the department at that time was a man named Anthony. He’d purchased these little buses which were dubbed “Anthony Ants” by Mr. Rawls. They kind of looked like a bunch of ants as all loaded with aliens they would file out of the camp in convoy en route to Zapata. The purpose of their going to Zapata was to VR aliens across the river at that point which was real isolated on both sides of the river. The little village on the Mexican side was a good many miles seems like it was bout 15 or maybe 20 miles north of the highway between Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. There was no public transportation there so the aliens had to walk at least to that road and maybe farther to get away from that village. There was no incentive for them to return en masse at Zapata because there were no jobs on the American side in that area. It was tough traveling too to get back to the Valley from Zapata.

It seems like an inhumane way of dealing with these people but it was not nearly as bad as it would appear. Back at that time most of the aliens we were catching (farm workers) were from interior towns ranches and farms and they had walked all the way from their homes to the border and from the border to wherever they were going in the Valley. For that matter they would go on north always just walking. They walked long distances and really they did it pretty fast and without ever appearing to hurry. They traveled single file and walked along the edge of highways or roads along railroads trails or even across open country and they just kept moving. It was surprising how far they would go in a day. To illustrate their ability to travel I will relate a story of my dealings with a young wet at Edinburg. I caught him early one morning along with some others; in fact we had a pretty good group before to late in the morning. It was our practice at Edinburg to go out early each day as I mentioned and catch all the aliens we could or a least as many as we could handle then take them into the office which at that time was a room next to the JP court in the basement of the old courthouse. Once we got them in there we would process them and then haul them on to Mexico or take them wherever they had to be disposed of. Except on rare occasions when the court was in session we would use that little courtroom to hold all of the aliens and we would just type the required apprehension reports right there in the courtroom.

As soon as we had a couple of carloads ready some of us started taking loads to Hidalgo for VR while other officers continued processing the aliens we had apprehended. Trips were made as long as we still had aliens to return to Mexico. There was no lunch break; no nothing. Mr. Kelly did not want anybody to stop until all the aliens were disposed of. He quit at noon and went home to eat and did not come back unless it would be that night sometimes but he did not come back for the rest of the afternoon’s processing. This particular wet I mentioned was in the load I took to Hidalgo the first load that day. Then a little later I was taking another oa load and I saw that same wet on this side in Hidalgo so I stopped and picked him up again and brought him on back to Edinburg and put him in the bunch to be processed. Later he was taken to Mexico again. Well a third time that day I encountered him again on this side in Hidalgo and processed and VR’d him again. That evening about 6 or 7 I was going to a dairy that is on the edge of Edinburg to buy some milk and I saw this same wet walking up the road into town. I was in my personal car then and I pulled up to him and stopped. He started over to the car I know expecting to be offered a job or a ride and when he looked in and recognized me he just kind of hung his head looked dejected opened the door and got in. That time I did not take him back; I just put him in jail overnight and figured we both had seen enough of the other for one day. That case is not typical of the number of times you catch a particular alien in a day but it is typical of their determination to immediately return after being sent back to Mexico. They were determined to come over here and be here and simple VR to Mexico and the long walk back was absolutely no deterrent. Neither was Federal Court much of a deterrent.

We did not send anyone to court except smugglers or those who were aggravated repeater cases where they had probably been deported a time or two and been prosecuted previously. Just those with long and bad records. I have been in Federal Court at Brownsville where I saw Judge Hannay turn his chair half around away from the bench rear back and appear to go to sleep when he was told the next cases to be presented were Immigration cases. His obvious disinterest carried over into sentencing. He gave almost all defendants in our cases suspended sentences and really short ones at that. He did not act that way in all cases. When a marijuana case came up for example he sat upright leaned forward and paid close attention. Another Federal Judge James V. Allred a former Governor of Texas heard an alien transporting case one time and at the end of it he said “this is a two-bit case” and then he fined the defendant two-bits. Needless to say Valley employers had no fear of standing in judgment before a panel of their peers on charges of Immigration law violations.

The pressure that was applied just incessant pressure to not enforce the Immigration always laws all but unimaginable. One year Willard Kelly the Associate Commissioner for Enforcement at the Central Office in Washington was down here and he was holding news conferences and trying to develop a little support or a least acceptance from the local citizenry when I guess he kind of lost his cool. They of course objected to every effort to reason with them so at some point he indicated he might just let them have their way. He could just pull the Border Patrol back and form a line above the border like from Kingsville to Falfurrias and on across that way and the Valley could have its wets. That was not what they wanted. They just wanted to have all the wets they could use but they wanted us to control them. The story goes that when Mr. Kelly got back to Washington the work of his threat preceded him and he was criticized severely for what he had done and was told the nobody has the authority to give up any part of the United States. I think his job was whittled down a little bit as a result of that trip to south Texas at least that was the story that was floating around.

When I came into the Border Patrol everyone was being entered on duty on Temporary War-Service appointments. They did not have Civil Service Status. In fact everyone who entered from sometime early in 1942 until well after the war had the same king of appointment. I didn’t happen to take an examination. By the time I applied they were just giving oral and of course a physical but some of the men had taken and passed the written examination and were appointed in the regular manner yet they too had temporary appointments. The decision to change their appointments and the arbitrary date they set killed their permanent status. When we were told several years later – after the war that everyone would have to take the written examination and be appointed to permanent positions or be separated all of us were a little concerned. Those of us who were going to be affected certainly were. We had to take the written exam and then we had to go through the oral and physical exams all over again. The oral exam was cut and dried ahead of time. The Board members who were Chiefs from within the District all knew us and knew how they were going to handle each of us, and I think the Board members just played with us just enjoyed hassling us a little bit that day. Those of us in the Valley went to San Benito to the Post Office building and took our written test there. Then we waited several weeks to find out what scores we had made, then waited some more for the orals to be scheduled. After all the tests our names went on a register according to our written test grade. Appointments were made from that register over a period of two or three months maybe longer. Finally, the Service told us that if we were not reached on the register for appointment and we were down to within thirty days of being separated they would add ten points to our score. It that put a name within reach the man was converted to Permanent appointment. Most of us managed to be retained and get permanent status but there were several who just did not make it; they were dropped and some of them were real good men. That was an unnerving period for those who had that kind of appointment.

Another period in the history of the Service which I think was much worse much more unnerving because it affected everyone occurred back in the early 30’s I think. It was then the Border Patrol was under the Department of Labor. The old timers I encountered when I joined all talked about the Benzene Board. This board it seems was formed by Madam Perkins, they called her that but her first name was Frances. She was the Secretary of Labor under Franklin Roosevelt.

The oral history for Mr. Donald F. Johnston was conducted at his home at Colville Washington in December 1988. It represents a record of his activities and memories from his birth in 1913 to his retirement in 1972.

I was born on July 8 1913 in Lowell Massachusetts. My mother was born in Scotland and my father was born in Canada. They both became naturalized citizens of the United States in 1909. I grew up in a little town of North Tewksbury a town that celebrated its 250th anniversary in 1983. Our house was about 500 yards from field where Captain Trull organized a company of men to march to the Battle of Concord and Lexington. There’s a lot of history in that little area there but that’s not subject of this discussion. I attended Lowell High School from 1926 to 1931. I attended Washington State College now known as Washington State University at Pullman Washington from 1931 to 1935. I enrolled as a forestry major but I changed the major sometime the first or second year and became a mining/geology major.

When I got out of school in 1935 jobs were pretty scarce but I managed to find one working in a mine up in Elk City Idaho. Elk City is about 50 miles due east of Grangeville. It’s an interesting old town. At that time it had a population of about 200 people. It’s an old gold mining town. Gold was discovered there in 1851 and in 1935 there were still some very interesting characters left in that town; one of the most interesting characters was a fellow by the name of Dr. Boyd or Doc Boyd as he was known in the country. He’s the only man in the state of Idaho who legally practiced medicine without a license. He was an old mining engineer with some background in medicine. Where he got it I don’t know but he did have some background. The State gave him a certificate to practice a limited general medicine. Anything complicated he sent his patients to Grangeville to the hospital there. But he delivered babies set bones pulled teeth took care of colds corns and bunions medicine for horses cattle anything that came in he took care of it. He wasn’t too proud to be doing a little veterinary work along with his general medicine because a buck in those days went a long way. His office on the main street was an old style false-front building. The front room was his office the middle room was the state liquor store and the back room was his operating room. He said he planned it that way because anesthetics were in short supply and if he had someone with a broken bone to set he took them back to the operating room and they had to pass through the state liquor store so he grabbed a bottle of whiskey to help the patient out as he went. It was a pretty practical down-to-earth medicine practiced by him. I remember one time I was in his office and old miner came in with a sty on his eye. The doc lanced it and dressed it took care of it and as the old fellow was standing there at his desk paying his bill to go out old Doc says “That’s going to stop hurting when the pain goes out of it.” The old miner looked him right straight in the eye and said “Doc any damn fool knows that.”

Another interesting character in the town was an old fellow by the name of Dick Greckwell He was a mine boss and he had what’s known as a golden smile. He had false uppers and false lowers and they were solid gold teeth. Every tooth in his head was gold and when he opened his mouth to speak or smile it was pure gold. I was just a young kid just out of school and I had a great time in that town. I found out that if I got a pint of whiskey on Saturday night and sat down on one of those benches outside of the saloon there I could get to talk to some of those old timers. Of course they thought they were tamping a load in a young fellow So I’d listen to their stories and egg them on give them the bottle they’d pass it back to me and I’d stick my tongue in the mouth of it and not take a drink and give it back to them and pretty soon they got to feeling pretty good. They told me lots of wild tales of that town. It was a real education for a young fella.

The mine I got to work in was called the Black Lady mine. Actually it was more of a prospect hole than a mine. It was a miserable wet hole with ground water dripping from the ceiling and you came out at the end of a shift cold and wet. After being there for a little while working a few shifts I was moved over to the midnight shift and the miner on that shift that night was an old time miner who had not worked at mining in many years. This was his first time back in a long time. and the miner who was doing the mucking along with me was brand new and had never worked underground before in his life so he was a little apprehensive and nervous.

All in all it was a catastrophe waiting to happen and it did. The miner couldn’t handle his buzzie or air drill his steel kept sticking all the time so I spent most of my’ time helping him and breaking in the new mucker and trying do my own work. We finally got all the holes drilled and started to load them. Now there’s a system to the sequence in loading and lighting each hole. You light the cut holes then you light the breast holes then you light the back holes and then you light the lifters. The sequence puts the load right where the mucker on the steel plates can handle it with ease. Well when it came time to light the holes I knew that the new mucker would be nervous as the dickens with all that powder going off with dynamite in there being loaded and handled so I sent him out for a piece of steel or something that we didn’t need but I got him out of there so he wouldn’t be so nervous. So then the miner and I proceeded to light all the holes and light them in the proper sequence. He and I were bent over lighting the lifters; those are the last holes you light when all of a sudden one of the back holes blew prematurely. Well it knocked me down in the muck pile and I got to my knees and I hollered over to the miner and I asked him if he was OK and he said “Yeah I’m alright.” So I said “I’m getting the hell out of here.” So I started to crawl out using the ore car rails as my guide on my hands and knees as the lights were blown out. As I crawled out I counted the shots going off behind me. You could hear them “WHOOM” and a big gust of air would go blowing by you. As I counted them I found that three didn’t go. I knew that we didn’t have all the lifters lit. Finally I got out to where I could see the portal and the daylight outside, and I got to my feet and I started walking out of the hole. Just as I got to the portal here came this young mucker starting to come back in with the tool I sent him for. He took one look at me and he turned white as a sheet and that was the last shift he ever worked in that mine. He quit that day. I can’t say that I blame him.

The miner and his wife were living in a tent just off the portal and we were overdue on the shift and she knew it. She knew enough about where he should be and the time so she was up at the portal waiting for her husband to come out. She took one look at me and I was pretty much a mess. My scalp was torn and you know how the scalp bleeds it was running down the side of my face. My clothes were torn half off me and I was pretty much of a mess. She took one look at me and she started screaming “Where’s my husband? Why doesn’t someone get my husband? Why don’t you do something?” and it went on and on and on and finally I said “Lady I’ll go get your husband.” So I went back into the shop and got me another light and started in to look for him. Just about that time he came staggering out. I said “What the hell happened to you? You told me you were OK and I figured you were right behind me.” He says “Kid when that thing blew it knocked me down and it dumped some rocks on my feet.” He had on rubber hip boots. He says “I got up and I went to pull my foot loose and my foot came out of the boot. I stood there and I put that boot back on before I started out.” Now that’s what shock does to a man. There were 81 more sticks of dynamite in that place to go anytime and he stayed there to put his boot back on.

One of the pieces of rock that blew out of that bootleg hole hit me on the right hip and pinched the sciatic nerve. I was lucky I had a tobacco can in that right hip pocket and the rock hit that. If it hadn’t been for that it would have torn half the flesh off my hip. But that sciatic nerve gave me a lot trouble for well over a month. I couldn’t walk. The leg would hold me up but I had no control over where it was going to go when I shoved it to step out. It might go to the right and it might go straight ahead and it might go to the left. The only treatment I got for that sciatic nerve hip from old Doc Boyd was hot towels and horse liniment. That’s all he had. He sewed me up – he came out to the mine they called him and he came out to the mine and he sewed up my scalp while I was sitting there in the mess hall but he didn’t have any anesthetic and I didn’t even get the benefit of that bottle of whiskey either. Finally I healed enough that I could maneuver pretty good although I limped for two to three years after that before I got rid of the limp. But I got well enough to get around so I decided there were better ways of making a living than underground so I headed back east. I went back home and stayed awhile there. Finally I got a job in January 1936 with the Wilson Packing Company in Haverhill Massachusetts as a student salesman. Then in August of 1936 they transferred me to Burlington Vermont for -more training and more experience. I worked there for awhile and then I moved out in April of 1937 to Concord New Hampshire. I worked there for a very short while and then in May of 1937 my father died. I had had enough of the east and I wanted to get back west so I came back west and stayed in the fraternity house down in Pullman until July of 1937 I got a job as a rodman with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the Grand Coulee Dam job. The Grand Coulee Dam was being built at that time.

I got the job as rodman down in Ephrata Washington at $1320 a year. That was good money in those years back in 1937. We worked at what is called topographic mapping of the area that was going to be irrigated by the water from the Grand Coulee Dam. In July 1938 I was transferred up to Coulee Dam right on the dam itself as a chainman. As a chainman we set points for the forms. When the carpenters put the forms up for the cement to be poured they had to be controlled by point setting and that was what the survey crew I was on did set the points.

Younger people have probably never heard of it but at the time the dam was built there were all kinds of rumors about people being buried in the dam falling into the cement and dying in there and being buried in that dam. I can just about assure you that that never happened. It’s practically impossible for a person to fall into that cement and be buried in it.

The dam was built in sections and blocks. Each section rose in a 50x50x5 foot deep block in other words 50 feet square and five feet deep. When that block was being poured with cement the hammerheads would come over with their buckets and drop them down and dump the cement into the block. There were 9 to 10 men working in that block at all times. The vibrator men the bell boy all those workers were spreading that cement around. It was poured in 11 yard buckets only 11 yards each time that bucket came down one at a time. It was impossible to tell if one of that crew had fallen in there or someone else had fallen in there. There was always somebody working in there. It was impossible; they were rumors that came out of that dam that should be buried once and for all.

The building of that dam was an amazing feat. I’m very glad that I got to work on it because I saw things happen there that are almost impossible to believe. So much of it was unknown when they built it. That dam was so big. Many of the engineering practices that they formulated had never been tried and it was just an amazing thing to watch it go up. I was there when the last piece of bedrock was covered up on the dam. When the clean-up men came in to clean up the bedrock I got down in there and I found some cracks in the bedrock. I got my jack knife out and scraped out a whole bunch of that gravel that was down in those rocks and took it home and panned it out. I found gold in it and some of that gold is in my wife’s wedding ring right now.

One item that always amazed me about that dam and something I don’t think many people know about is how many tons of cold cream went into that dam. You see when the workmen went onto the dam they had to go on catwalks that went across the J block section. At the entrance to each one of those bridges or catwalks that went across there was a bucket of cold cream sitting there with an open lid on it. Every man that went on the dam scooped up a handful of that cold cream and smeared it all over his hands and any exposed skin because cold cream was an excellent preventative for cement burn. But that’s a little item that never showed up in any of statistics on the building of the Grand Coulee dam.

As the Coulee dam went up it was a boom town area. There were people from all over the United States Canada. Every cross section of the United States was there. Every occupation, gamblers engineers doctors you name it, was there. The real action the boom town activity of Coulee Dam was back in the coulees. There were several coulees that lead into the Columbia River gorge there in that area. Each one had its own little settlement. There was one called “The Hidden City” and it was where all the shady activity of the area took place. There were I don’t know how many maybe twenty or thirty buildings there. They were either cat houses or gambling dens and that’s where all the activity took place – lots of fights lots of brawls but nobody was ever killed that I ever heard of. Many people died the dam during the building of the dam but not in fights in “The Hidden City”. In “The Hidden City” I remember there was one gambling house where they had a pan guinea game and that pan guinea game ran uninterrupted for four straight years. It never stopped. They changed dealers every so many hours. There were three shifts working on the dam men coming on would play a little before going on the job coming off they would play before they went home.

Then in March 1939 I was transferred to Colville Washington on a survey crew. Our job was relocating all the railroads bridges highways towns cemeteries anything that had to be moved up out of the backwater of the Coulee Darn. As the Columbia backed up it flooded out all that area and everything had to be moved up. Our job was to survey what was there and relocate it on higher ground. We built some bridges one that goes across Kettle Falls on the Columbia the railroad bridge and the highway bridge we surveyed those and I worked on them. That was an interesting part of it.

Another young fellow and I were the only ones who could work up on the steel out of our survey crew. There were lots of steel workers around there and they were used to it but only two of us that height didn’t bother. So every time they had to check anything at a high elevation we got the job of going up on the top. I was pretty young then pretty foolish pretty daredevil and I have actually walked across the Columbia River on the steel of that bridge top girders and I think they were about 16” wide. Not too long ago when driving by there I looked up and I thought what a damned fool I was how lucky I was to come out of it.

Of course this area up in here along the Columbia River was an old gold mining area too. It was worked pretty heavily in early days by the Chinese etc. I couldn’t get the gold mining out of my system so I got out on the river on my days off and I panned gold all the way from Hunters Washington and north to the Canadian line. I found gold. As a matter of fact my wife’s wedding ring has gold that I panned on the Columbia and her ring contains gold that I panned from Washington Montana Idaho Alaska and Arizona.

Now all of this hasn’t been relevant to my career in the Border Patrol but it is a lead up to getting into the Border Patrol. I never had heard of the Border Patrol didn’t even know it existed. But in our surveying work raising all these things out of the back water of the Coulee Dam and out of the Columbia River valley the gorge we had to relocate a railroad. The railroad came up at water grade all the way up to within about ten or twelve miles of the Canadian border and then it came up out of the river and up onto a bench. So we had to relocate everything below that bench all the way back to what is now called Kettle Falls but in those days it was Meyers Falls. So we started the railroad out from Meyers Falls and relocated it on a bench and through the hills and cut through rocks all the way up and tied it in up there close to the Canadian border.

It was the relocation of that particular piece of railroad that got me into the Border Patrol. One day we were working up right close to the Canadian border and there was a crew of about five or six men and we were walking up and down that railroad along the tracks on the ties and the bed walking back and forth doing our work. We finished our work and went on home. The next day we were doing some other work in another area and while we were working a car drove up a man stepped out of the car in a green uniform with a gun on his hip and a badge on his chest and he wanted to know if we had been working up in that area and we said that we were up there yesterday. He introduced himself and he was the Senior Patrol Inspector at Marcus and his name was Oner Evans. He said “I thought it might be you people. I have a sand trap up on the railroad.” We asked what a sand trap was. He explained to us that he had sanded the ties of the railroad bed so that anyone coming down he could cut sign. He checked it every day. And that was my first introduction to the Border Patrol. He interested me so on one of my days off I went to talk to him and got to know him pretty well and he suggested that I take the Border Patrol exam. I asked him to tell me about the Border Patrol what is it what do they do. He explained the whole thing to me.

It so happened that at that time the Coulee Dam was set in two contracts. The low dam went up to a certain elevation and that was one contract. The high dam was the next contract. They were separate from each other. At the time that I met this Oner Evans the low dam contract was just about running out and nobody knew if President Roosevelt was going to get enough money to build the high dam. So some of us were looking for jobs. I had a little engineering training but I wasn’t a civil engineer and I knew I wouldn’t get very far as a civil engineer if I kept on so I was looking for another job. When he said they were hiring the Border Patrol was giving the exam I got interested. So I went down to Spokane and took the written exam passed it with a pretty good grade 86 I think it was. Then I got a notice to report down -to Walla Walla for the physical exam and the oral exam. I went down there and there were fourteen of us who took that exam and two of us made it. Two of us got jobs out of it. The other one who got a job was Chuck Feary who ended up as Deputy Chief I think down at Laredo or McAllen.

I came close to not passing that exam because I was pretty nervous while it was all going on. The physical was given by an old army doctor I think and he took my blood pressure and it was way up high. He kind of hemmed and hawed and finally he asked me how badly I wanted this job. I told the doctor I sure as hell wanted this job. He told me to go sit on that bench and he left the cuff and all the apparatus on my arm and I sat over there for awhile. He went on doing some paper work and all of a sudden he got up and walked over and pumped the thing up and read the pressure and he said it was okay and I passed. So that’s how close I came to not making the physical.

Then on the oral exam I was doing fine I thought and then they asked me a question about a smuggler that was bringing some Chinese down out of Canada and there were two people: a man and his wife. The question revolved around this woman and the man the smuggler. He claimed that this woman was his wife. So they asked me what I would do and I said that I would separate them put one in one room and the other in another room and start questioning them. Then they asked me what questions I would ask. At that point I got a mental block. I couldn’t think of any questions to ask to break that case. I hemmed and hawed and I finally told them I just had a mental block I can’t think I know what I want to say but I can’t think of the questions I want to ask. So they told me to go out. So little while later they called me back in and as I walked in’ I told them if it was all right I could answer the question. I told them I had lost my mental block. They asked me if I had been talking with anyone and I said no I just got over my nervousness and my mental block. They asked me a couple of questions and that’s how close I came to not making the orals.

About a month after the examination I got a letter telling me to report to Chula Vista California for duty as a probationer. I got in my car and a two-wheeled trailer and I headed off for Chula Vista. I reported in to Headquarters on a Monday morning and the Assistant Chief Clem Hensler wanted me to take the oath of office right there that day. I begged off and told him I would rather not I would rather take it tomorrow. Clem Hensler got a little bit upset about that because here I was a probationer telling the Assistant Chief when I would take the oath of office and when I wouldn’t take the oath of office. But I explained to him that when I left the Bureau of Reclamation I already had civil service status and I was told that if I left on a Friday and checked in on a Monday that I would have a break in my service and that I couldn’t carry over all of the benefits of my civil service into the new job. So I explained to him that I would rather do it on Tuesday and that would give me Monday still with the Bureau of Reclamation. Clem saw the point and agreed with me. I took the oath of office on Tuesday February 13 1941 in Chula Vista California. The day that I took the oath of office I had to sign some papers and Clem Hensler had a bottle of ink and a dip pen that he used for writing. When I reached for a paper I hit that dip pen and I tipped the bottle of ink over right on the Assistant Chief’s desk. That was a real good start! Between the two incidents I got a real good start in the Border Patrol.

My starting salary with the Border Patrol was $2000 a year. Today in 1989, that’s not a good salary but it was a jump from $1700, I quit the Bureau of Reclamation at $1700 and went to $2000 and a $300 a year jump in those days was a big jump.

The Chief Patrol Inspector was Lou Curtis. After I left the Sector and came up north Lou Curtis got into some kind of trouble I don’t know what it was but he quit the service. It was an oddity that when I was transferred to Sacramento, we had an office in Sacramento up in the Federal Building and there were three of us standing at the elevator one day waiting to go up and a young lady came up she saw us in uniform and she said that her dad used to be in our outfit. I asked who he was and she said he was Lou Curtis. I said he was the first Chief Patrol Inspector I ever had in the Border Patrol. It was kind of an odd coincidence.

The work at Chula Vista was mainly line watch traffic check farm and ranch check and horse patrol. They had two horses there and I was lucky enough to get on the horse patrol for a while and worked with Iler Jensen and Len Gilman Larry Elsworth and a P1 by the name of Mettie. I think Mettoe went into the Service during& World War II and didn’t come back into the patrol but he ended up a General. There were several others but I can’t remember their names now. But I do remember they had a horse there by the name of Sing Lee and he was a pleasure to ride he had a jog that made you think you were in a rocking chair. All the time that horse would be jogging he would be singing to himself. I think that is where he got the name of Sing Lee he had a funny little song that he would just sing to himself when he would jog. That horse is now buried under the parking lot back of the Arizona Bank at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixteenth in Yuma Arizona. That used to be the headquarters office of the Yuma patrol. They had the corral out back and poor old Sing Lee he is buried under all that pavement of the parking lot.

Then in June they sent me down to the training school in El Paso. I got through that all right and on the way back I had a little interruption in the route I was supposed to take home but I ended up going down through Tombstone and got to meet Jeff Milton down there the only time I ever saw the man. At the end of school I got back to Chula Vista and then I made my first apprehension. On the night shift I apprehended the first alien I ever caught and I was working with Ben Taylor. The Senior, his name was D’spain, paired up everybody on the night shift and it ended up that Ben and I both probationers ended up in the same vehicle. Well the Senior asked if we young punks could keep our noses clean and that sort of irritated me a little bit so we went out and twenty minutes later we were back with the first wet we had ever caught. The Senior was still at headquarters and I have to admit I got a lot of pleasure out of that apprehension — I’ve never forgotten it. Also one of the pleasures was that we fingerprinted him – in those days you did your own fingerprinting and you had learned fingerprint classification down at the school and you could classify the prints and in those days they had a Deportation book and every alien who had been deported up until that time they had a record on them in that book of the fingerprint classification. So we got double pleasure out of it. We fingerprinted the man classified the prints and found him in the Deportation Book so we had a good deportation case.

Of course like all young probationers we were always listening to the tales of the old timers and the stories of the things they had done around there and I remember one they were telling about. Down at the Port of Entry every so often a priest would come through a young priest on a bicycle. He would ride through and they never checked him very carefully and one day I don’t know why one of the Inspectors decided he would check him. He always carried a bible in his bag– when he was pedaling up so they checked him and checked the bible and they found out the bible was hollowed out and he was packing drugs and he wasn’t a priest at all. He was just dressing up as a priest.

Some of the P1’s probationers~ stationed there in Chula Vista at the time were Chuck Feary, Len Gilman, a fellow by the name of Sorenson, Ben Taylor, this fellow Mettie, another man by the name of Grant Bitsy Grant they called him; and Spainour Docksteder Tex Curtis and McKay. And then there was John O’shea. He was our first Spanish instructor1 and I think if I remember rightly ended up as DD in Hawaii. Tex Curtis one of the Seniors there at Chula Vista had an interesting apprehension one time. One night he was checking traffic up on the Quimada Grade and this car with a young driver came down to the traffic check and in questioning him Tex noticed he was very very nervous. Tex figured something was wrong he kept questioning him and he couldn’t get any story out of him couldn’t make any headway with him but he knew something was wrong because the fellow was so nervous. So he finally let him go and he went on down the road and Tex in his frustration and anger decided he was going to shake down the next vehicle that came around the bend. Here pulled up a big truck a truck loaded with furniture so Tex climbed up on the top of that truck and started unloading the furniture pitching it left and right working his way down to the bottom and when he got to the bottom here was a big box. In the box were three smuggled Chinese. Now that’s how some of the best smuggling cases are made just pure luck and orneriness.

An interesting story that the old timers told when I came in there relating to the Chinese – it seems that some time in the 30’sMexico changed their laws governing property ownership in Mexico. They confiscated all the property of non-citizens in Mexico. This was real hard on those Chinese who had settled in Mexico and they were losing all of their property and they didn’t know just what they were going to do but the word got around that if they were picked up in the United States they would be sent back to their homeland and be deported to China so they packed up their suitcases and started to invade the United States they were just coming across they would wander across the line and just sit down and wait to be picked up. They said they used to run a vehicle down the line every morning and just pick them up sitting there just across the fence just waiting to be picked up. Then they tell the story of one fellow that somehow was missed he came in and I guess maybe he didn’t sit down he just kept coming and nobody saw him1 and he got all the way into San Diego. When he got to San Diego he wandered around there and he found I think it was the post office and he sat up on the steps and the poor son of a gun sat there for about a day before anyone checked him out and found out he was an illegal Chinese and shipped him back to China.

Then there was the story of PI McKay I guess his name was. He was a nice gentleman very quiet and sort of shy and the fellows told the story that he was checking traffic. Now in those days you didn’t have all the set up that you have now for traffic check. You just stood out in the middle of the road on the dividing line one man on each side and one man in the middle and you just checked the cars as they came down the line. Well in those days those early days some of those vehicles  the doors opened differently than they do now the front doors instead of opening from the back toward the front they opened from the front toward the back and as a consequence the handles on the door were pointed forward and they were kind of a hook so there was a slight protuberance with a hook on it coming out from the door. Well McKay was standing in the middle of the road one afternoon checking traffic and two little old ladies come down the road from the opposite direction and as they got up to the point where McKay was checking traffic he could see the nervous woman was getting too close to him and he was checking a car so he couldn’t get out of there so what he did was he sucked his stomach up against the car he was checking and the two little ladies in the car went by and this door handle hooked McKay in the britches and tore the seat out of his uniform. Well the two little ladies stopped got down the road a little-ways and stopped and they came running back to see if they had hurt the officer. Well here in the middle of the road was McKay covering up the tear in his britches dancing around and the two little old ladies trying to get around to see what damage they had done to him and they said that was quite a sight to see that going on for quite a while before he finally convinced the ladies that he wasn’t hurt.

When I came in 1941 there was no uniform allowance no rough duty uniform we did all our work in dress uniform traffic check ranch check horse patrol all of it was all done in full dress uniform but the Chiefs in the different Sectors were allowed a certain lee-way in designing some types of uniform

Border Patrol Agents George I. Hendricks and Paul Marbry were jointly interviewed on April 8 1987 at the National Border patrol Museum by Ms. Terrie Cornell. Mr. Marbry was a member of the 17th Border Patrol Session and Mr. Hendricks was a member of the 16th Session both at Camp Chigas El Paso Texas.

TC – Would you state your name please?

GH – George W. Hendricks.

TC – And yours?

PM – Marbry: Paul Marbry.

TC – Mr. Hendricks when did you enter the Border Patrol?

GH – In December of 1941 from Roswell New Mexico.

TC – Why?

GH – I was paid $25 more than where I was working.

TC – Where were you working before?

GH – For the Southwestern Public Service Company.

TC – A utility service?

GH – Yes.

TC – In Roswell?

GH – Yes in the electrical department.

TC – You heard about the Border Patrol hiring?

GH – I think a Border Patrolman there I can’t remember his name
— asked me why I didn’t put an application in as they were accepting Border Patrolmen. I took the examination and was called not too long after that for an interview. And not too long after that I was notified to report in El Paso.

TC – Where did you take your interview?

GH – In Albuquerque. The examination and physical and interview was given in Albuquerque New Mexico.

TC – When did you go to the Academy?

GH – I cannot tell you. I really don’t know because I was sent on detail as soon as I came in and bought a uniform and it was several months before I got to go to school.

TC – You bought the uniform right away?

GH – Yes the first week I was there because I thought it was pretty! (Actually I had some extra money from my former job.)

TC – (To Mrs. Hendricks) Tell the story that you told me – that they sent him on detail right away because he had the uniform.

Jean Hendricks: That’s what he always said he was one of the first ones that had a full-dress uniform and he got sent on these details because he did have it.

TC – Where was your first detail?

GH – I believe it was to California to pick up a bunch of aliens to transport to a detention camp in Texas all Japanese.

TC – This was after Pearl Harbor?

GH – Yes.

TC – Where were you on Pearl Harbor day?

GH – On the river on the bridge working the river in El Paso. There were barrels across the river there for fire guides and everybody was so scared that we could see Japs running back and forth between those barrels. We thought we could, that was our imagination. It was real scary.

TC – So immediately you were sent to California?

GH – It was oh I don’t know two or three weeks something like that. They came out and asked who had a full-dress uniform and I had one so that is why I was sent on a detail to pick up aliens. At that time they were beginning to intern Japanese.

TC – Did you take them to Crystal City Texas?

GH – I believe that was the name of it.

PM – Yes it was Crystal City. Then we made another trip back later on and picked up everybody at Crystal City closed the camp and took them to New York and put them on the Gripsholm.

TC – Were they all Japanese at Crystal City?

GH – Yes.

PM – They were all Japanese.

GH – They picked these people up. The Japanese I think had sent the United States a list of the people they wanted so we had a lot of doctors lawyers engineers scientists that Japan wanted back. I don’t remember exactly – that was a long time ago – when we got to New York City I think we had 1500 all told in the Pennsylvania Hotel and we were there for several days processing them separating what they were supposed to take with them and what they couldn’t take with them. And then we were sent back to El Paso.

TC – So these educated professional Japanese that they wanted right away they were the first ones traded for our prisoners?

GH – That’s right.

TC – They were all traded?

GH – Yes they were exchanged.

PM – He went around over the country hunting them.

GH – Oh yes. One of the first places was Clovis New Mexico. There were, I don’t remember how many, about twenty-five or thirty something like that – that were afraid to get out of their homes. we were sent over to pick them up and bring them to a little ranch close to Fort Stanton New Mexico. That’s where they were not exactly interned but they were put up there for their own protection. They landscaped and raised vegetables and garden flowers and made a beautiful spot out of it.

PM – Did you tell them how cold it was up there?

GH – It was pretty cold. They would bring in beautiful loads of vegetables and the people I think the first load they bought but they found they were raised by Japanese and then they wouldn’t buy them then. That was all of it.

PM – But it was also in that same encampment there up in the mountains from Fort Stanton. We had several from California.

TC – Several Japanese?

PM – Yes.

GH – In which camp?

PM – The old CC Camp.

GH – That was all Germans wasn’t it?

PM – No no there were two camps George.

GH – O.K.

PM – The German camp and then we had the Jap camp about 15 miles up in the mountains. It had been the girls CC Camp.

GH – That’s the one where we placed the Japanese from Clovis.

TC – That’s where they grew the vegetables?

PM – Yes. I was up there in September. It got so cold that I had to sleep under six blankets. It was very high altitude.

GH – I was never at that camp except to help deliver the Japanese there. I was never stationed there.

PM – I was up there two weeks by myself.

JH –Was the other camp where the German’s got trichinosis?

GH – That’s right. As I remember it they wanted blood sausage. Pork and barrels of blood clots were purchased from Peyton Packing Company in El Paso. The German~ mixed it. It wasn’t well cooked. I tasted some and thought it tasted like it had been roasted in a hot blanket. All of them came down with trichinosis. Our government brought in doctors from all over the country to treat them. There were about 500 Germans there. It got to the point where we just counted heads. We had pictures and names but we couldn’t even identify them from their picture.

TC – They were so sick?

PM – That’s right. They were so sick. They were so swollen and everything else. They were a very sick bunch. As I recall only one died. I was in the hospital room – the hospital was so crowded – I was in the room with two of them. One had the worm that causes trichinosis (or whatever it is) right on his top lip and every once in a while you could see it jerk.

We had a cook who was a sorry dish washer. You could pick up one of the coffee mugs and it was so slimy that if you didn’t grip it real hard it could slip out of your hand. I got dysentery and it took them three days to get me out of there.

TC – Sounds like you were lucky to only get dysentery.

PM – They treated me for 24 hours with a saline solution in the arm just to get some liquid back in me.

TC – This was before antibiotics too.

PM – Yes.

Those two poor guys! We would sit and talk about Germany you know. They would tell me how fine it was. One of them had been trained as a maitre d’. This is how I found out about how involved the training is for a maitre d’. I guess it should be for the money they make. He was from Austria and had trained in two or three foreign countries.

Then they told me they had a machine gun at that time that would shoot more than 600 rounds a minute. I think they said it was air cooled and about like shooting a water hose. I had never heard of anything like it. All we ever had was the old Browning and it was water cooled.

TC – How long were you there at Fort Stanton?

PM – Let’s see I think I had to pull extra time because I also went to the Jap camp. They had a man up there I don’t know where he was from or anything but he couldn’t get along with the young woman who was more-or-less in charge. She had a habit of telling you what you could and what you couldn’t do. Since he couldn’t get along with her they shipped him down here and shipped me up there.

* (Explanation: The Germans were aliens-in-distress who had been picked up after scuttling a luxury liner somewhere off the coast of Mexico or South America. The ship had been scuttled to prevent the US from seizing it. We brought them from California to New Mexico. Most spoke several languages were highly skilled workers musicians or entertainers.)

TC – Mr. Marbry when did you go into the Border Patrol?

PM – March of 1942

TC – From where?

PM – Southern Illinois.

TC – How did you find out about the Border Patrol?

PM – In the fall of 1941 I was the assistant farm boss at the Illinois State Penal Farm. One of the guards there had heard about it and we got to talking. We were standing in front of headquarters and he told me that he had gotten an application and was going to try to join the Border Patrol. Usually we worked 7 days a week so he asked me why I didn’t try so I went to Vandalia and got an application.

The reason he talked me into taking the exam was that I had a car and he didn’t. We had to take the examination in Centralia so I took him with me. In those days I think the exam had 120 questions. Wasn’t that it George?

GH – There were a bunch of them

PM – I’m sure it was 120 questions on the examination, and you had a time limit to answer them. The instructor who was giving the examination said that whatever we did we should not waste time. He told us to skip a question we couldn’t answer try to finish them all then go back to ones we had skipped. Anyway, I passed the examination and the guy I took with me flunked. In about January I received a notice to go to East St. Louis to take a physical. There were about 8 of us who took it and only 2 passed. Why they didn’t pass it I don’t know. Then I was told to report to El Paso on March second. That’s how I got out here.

GH – Well I took the exam in 1939 when I was going to Texas A&M. There must have been 600 taking exams. I had my interview in Albuquerque and about eleven of us were accepted.

TC – Mr. Marbry did you go to the Academy here?

PM – I went to the Academy in May of 1942. I worked the line part of the time and part of the time I was on one or two day details up or down the valley. Then in November of 1942 they transferred me to Lordsburg.

GH – We went on one or two details together after you were in Lordsburg.

PM – Yes.

LH – When did you come to Lordsburg George?

GH: 1943.

LH – I know that we had been there awhile.

TC – You were all married when you came into the Border Patrol?

GH – No.

LM – Yes, we had a little boy who the inmates were raising.

TC – Not a very good influence?

LM: Yes, they were. They all loved him because he was the only little boy around.

TC – How long were you in Lordsburg?

PM – Two and a half years.

TC – But you were sent on detail the whole time?

PM – It seemed like it. We were in and out of there quite a bit. George at that time wasn’t married. In those days when you went on a detail you furnished your own money. Eventually your per diem caught up with you.

TC – Tough.

PM – Wicked. If you were careful it covered your expenses.

TC – Real careful.

PM – You didn’t get anything extra. You had to eat out you had your laundry your room rent and everything else. Now as I understand it they go down and draw money to take with them. Then if they run short of money they can draw more. Sometimes I had to go to the bank and borrow the money you know.

JH –George didn’t you say that you spent 19 days on a train one time?

GH – Yes, I think from the time I left El Paso until I returned I had been across the US twice. The only thing we had to take a bath in was a wash basin in one of the pullman cars.

GH – We also spent ten days on the train when we left Carrizozo. We went all over the southeastern part of the US picking up Japanese citizens to deport. There were eleven sections of this detail, eleven trains. The other trip was to pick up and deport German citizens.

TC – Eleven trains or eleven cars?

PM – Eleven trains. We had ten or eleven cars on the section we were guarding–all Germans.

TC – You were picking them up around the country?

GH – It was Sharp Park just above San Francisco where we hooked up the first train. That’s where we caught the train first then we came back across and wound up at Crystal City Texas.

PM – I never was on so many railroads. After all those railroads down in South Texas I knew where they got the expression “the streak of rust.” On those trains you were doing about ten miles an hour because of the tracks. We ran all over that flat country and after about ten hours it would drive you nuts.

* GH – I remember that we stopped at one station, everybody was hungry. There was a guy selling candy Clark bars a good piece of candy. I asked him to let me have a box and
ended up with a case or 12 boxes holding 24 bars of candy each. To get my money back I had to sell candy-even some of the prisoners bought boxes.

* (Explanation: Food staples were rationed other items hard to find and some just non-existent. Good candy was in the almost impossible to find category.)

JH –They were both in the Santa Fe riot too.

GH – I was stationed in Columbus NM and went to Santa Fe
from there.

TC – You were in Lordsburg?

PM – Yes they told me to report to Santa Fe as soon as possible.

GH – Well my partner and I were in Columbus when the order came. We just loaded up and left immediately.

TC – Who was your partner?

GH – Moore Clayton Moore. When we got there, there were something like 1500 Japanese in one camp. They had put the rising sun flag in the middle of the camp. Most had shaved their heads and put on white shirts with a rising sun painted on the front. They had notified the guards that they were going to take over the camp.

Well I can’t remember how many of us got there not too many. The brass took our guns away from us and gave us billy clubs or saps then they told us to go in and push the Japanese back where they belonged and take down the flag. So the gates were opened and we waded in which turned out to be a little bit rough. Finally we got the flag and backed them all up.

TC – How many of you do you suppose there were there?

GH – We were outnumbered about fifteen to one or something like that. About 300 Japanese were out in the yard. I know that Brackeen was the man next to me when we went through the gate. The Japs taunted us saying that they were going to show us what karate and ju-jitsu was like. Brackeen said “Well I don’t know much about that but when I come through this gate you are going to find out about West Texas bulldogging.” The next thing I saw was this little Jap up in the air. From then on we didn’t have many threats. Anyway we had had some training in karate.

TC – You had had training?

PM – Oh yes when we went through school. We had self-defense not a lot but enough to take care of ourselves.

TC – Were these Japanese real nationalistic and militant?

PM – Oh yes very much so. It’s not like you read in the paper now that they weren’t any of that. The fact is I never saw anything else did you?

GH – Not many.

PM – It was quite a hassle but there were some funny things about it. Do you remember Harry Brackeen? Not Harry that was his cousin the pitcher for St. Louis. Brackeen was a good-sized boy–larger than George. When these Japs would start chattering the camp commander would tell us to go in and get them. Two or three of us would go in and bring them out. It’s the only way we could control them. This one guy a ring leader started chattering. Brackeen and somebody went in after him. We had a dump truck we were putting them in. Brackeen reached down and picked up that guy after he hit him with a billy club. He picked him up threw him in the truck and said “Stay there you son-of-a-bitch.”

GH – I think when it was over there were 15 of them taken to the hospital. Not any of them hurt real bad.

PM – Did you go down there in the camp with us that evening to pick up the leader?

GH – No I don’t think so Paul.

PM: Let’s see I drove the car. There was J. Eldon Taylor and the camp commander and I don’t know who the other guy was. Anyway they were in barracks and I think there were about six barracks buildings.

GH – Yes

PM – They were clear down at the end. We went in the side gate and we were all carrying machine guns. This was the only time I was ever told that if they start anything to shoot—— doesn’t make any difference where——shoot. Well we had to because we were in the back end of the camp. Let’s see there was one guy in one window in the middle. I got out of the car and went to the back double doors. The camp commander and Taylor walked around to the front double doors. The camp commander told him “Come on out you are leaving here or we are taking you out.” He started crying. Someone said “Do you want us to take him.” The Jap answered “No if you do you will kill every one of us.” We had the doors open and I was standing there with a riot gun. Someone shoved this guy through the window so we just picked the old boy up and put him in the car and took him out. Then they shipped him out and that ended all the trouble.

TC – He was the ring leader?

PM – Yes

TC – An old Japanese guy?

PM – No he was young. There were not too many old ones.

GH – They were between 20 and 30 on the average. Not old or not really young either.

PM – The thing that teed me off most was that after that all happened we had to do our own cooking. That hurt more than going in after that guy.

GH – When that camp was first put in I was sent up there on detail to wire the kitchen and laundry. The laundry equipment was old and I had to rebuild it first.

TC – As an electrician?

JH –You went to several different ones. Wasn’t there one in
Montana too.

GH – Yes

TC – You wired which camp?

GH – Well Lincoln Nebraska

TC – Let’s go on to that one in a minute. Did you wire
Fort Stanton or the garden camp?

GH – No I wired the one at Santa Fe. It was originally
full of Japanese and Italians.

PM – I didn’t know that.

GH – Yes they couldn’t get along and had to be separated.

TC – What happened to the Italians?

GH – They put them in another camp. I think they took them to Lordsburg.

PM – They had Italians in Lordsburg at that army camp. That’s the only ones I knew about.

GH – In Lordsburg yes.

PM – That’s all I knew about. I was in and out of there so much I really didn’t know. I do know this I had been back from California for three days from a three month’s detail and wound up in Santa Fe.

TC – And then you wired a camp in Nebraska.

GH – Well I went up to help on that camp.

TC – Which camp was that?

GH – Fort Lincoln Nebraska

PM – You left as soon as it was completed?

GH – Oh yes I left before it was completed but it was already in operation when I was sent up there. I helped to do some wiring then I came back to El Paso.

JH –Back during those days I guess they had Patrolmen doing everything. George even spent what three months working on cars and jeeps in the garage.

TC – Here?

GH – In El Paso yes. I also got assigned to load ammunition. Tommy Box and Bob Sparks found out that I had shot a lot and had loaded ammunition. I ended up loading ammunition for every­body to practice with.

Charlie Vail and I also built the first pistol range out on the Carlsbad highway. Neither of us had ever used heavy equipment nor done much rock work. We were having to learn as we went. Chief McBee came out to check on us and said that between the two of us we had done about a dollar fifty worth of work. (Wages at that time were about ~ dollar a day.)

I spent a lot of time on these kinds of details.

PM – Well didn’t you make the trip when we took Fritz Kuhn
to New York?

GH – Yes I did. We put him on the Gripsholm in New York City. Fritz had a guy who carried his suitcases. When you got off the train and walked to the top of the Jersey pier it was thirty-three steps a long way up. This guy had been loaded down with Fritz’ belongings so before we started up the stairs we took the suitcases away from him and made Fritz carry them up the steps.

When we got to the top he was handcuffed to me and someone else. I don’t remember who it was on the other side. It was Pat Callahan who came over and handcuffed him to us. Fritz’ didn’t want to appear to be a prisoner so this patrolman and I walked far enough apart to stretch out his arms so that it could be seen he was handcuffed when he walked up the gang plank to go on board the boat.

You know Keith McDonald almost had to kill him in Fort Stanton.

PM – Well yes that was when we were gathering him up to take him out.

JH –Fritz Kuhn was a German Bund leader. The Bund was considered subversive during the war.

PM – He was raising hell one night in the barracks.

TC – In Fort Stanton?

PM – Yes. Keith and J. Eldon Taylor were there. Keith had a tommy gun. He raked out the window glass and started to let him have it. J. Eldon grabbed the gun and pulled it up. Finally they kicked the door down to get him out. He didn’t want to come out and be put on a train to be sent back to Germany.

GH – We had several who didn’t want to go back to Germany. We had several prisoners who were wanted there for murder kidnapping and everything else.

TC – Their fate would be a lot worse over there?

PM – Right they knew that they wouldn’t have a chance. We had one guy on the train who acted more or less insane. The story was that he had been brought here from South America and if he wasn’t returned Hitler wouldn’t take the rest. Whatever he had done we never knew but he was Hitler’s personal choice to get back.

TC – Poor man.

GH – One of the oddest things happened to me; A German named Rickeplus was in that camp. How he got out and got to stay in the US I never could find out but he was let stay here for some reason. Anyway he came through Lordsburg looking for me. When he found me he asked to borrow $20 to get to California. I told him that I didn’t just have $20 to give him so he asked if I would loan it to him on his watch. I said sure and kept his watch. About a month later he sent me $20 and I mailed him his watch.

PM – He made it to California.

GH – Yes. He was one of the prisoners from the scuttled liner. After he showed up here we did a little checking but we never found out anything.

JH –What group did you pick up where you were ordered to show up with that number anyway you could?

GH – They were in prison out in California. On that detail I didn’t know where I was going. Pat Callahan was the officer in charge and he didn’t know until we got on the train. I think we picked up I don’t remember exactly about 30. The order was to get them to New York dead or alive.

TC – Japanese or Germans?

GH – Germans

PM – Let’s see I think it was a Chicago detail where we took all the prisoners off the train and took them to the county jail in Chicago. We were riding down Michigan Boulevard on a Sunday morning. I was with this guy driving a van load of German prisoners. All at once he decided we were going the wrong way so he pulled a U-turn on a red light and started back. He said he had passed the jail. He made a U-turn on Michigan Boulevard and went back. I sat there and cussed for ten minutes at him and said that I didn’t need to come to Chicago to get kill.

Mr. Frakes entered the Border Patrol on October 18 1954 as a member of the 56th session. He was interviewed on October 11 1978 by Mr. Oscar J. Martinez a member of the Institute of Oral History University of Texas at El Paso. Interview includes incidents involved with apprehensions work with Hungarian Refugees in 1956 and as a U.S. Marshall in 1962 during the James Meredith era and the University of Mississippi.

M: Mr. Frakes could we start off with some basic biogra­phical information? When and where were you born?

F: In Hennessey Oklahoma. September the 26th 1928.

M: Did you grow up in Oklahoma?

F: In Oklahoma yes. I Went to college at Oklahoma State University.

M: Oh. we’d play Oklahoma State sometimes. We’d always get wiped out in football. How did you happen to join the Border Patrol?

F: Well it’s kind of a funny story really. I was working for the Boeing Airplane company at Wichita. Kansas and there was a fellow named Roy Johnson that was working with me and he was about 65 years old. And he decided he’d retire and they gave him a gold watch for his re­tirement and a handshake and I didn’t see how you could survive too long on that. So I saw this ad in the Wichita Kansas paper for Border Patrol agents and so I went down and took the written exam and passed it; and took the oral and the physical and was on my way.

M: When was that?

F: I entered on duty in October 18 1954.

M: And where did you for your training?

F: Well initially I went to El Paso to the Border Patrol School at Fort Bliss. And then from there I was assigned to Mercedes Texas.

M: Do you remember having any preconceptions about what you would find in a place like El Paso- what the duty would be like or what the town would be like?

F: Not really. The only thing I had seen was in the American Rifleman that Bill Toney had written some articles about pistol shooting and competition shooting and he showed some border patrolmen and they were wearing khaki uniforms because in that time well they wore khaki like the military. And I saw that and I always did like competition shooting and I thought well. that’d be an opportunity to do something I like and make a living at the same time. But as far as El Paso it was kind of a mystery to me and I thought I would really enjoy It. getting away to Mexico and to Mexico I travel in Mexico extensively. Even today. I just got back from Guadalajara and Michoacan.

M: Vacation trip?

F: Yeah. But I take ‘em all the time. I have an airplane and I fly down there all the time.

M: Was El Paso and Ciudad Juarez the way you imagined the place?

F: Well really you know from Marty Robbins’ records and such as that possibly. And I don’t know when he wrote that record “El Paso.” As far as the climate was concerned it was a lot drier than I was used to and that was a sur­prise to me. And then it was a lot colder at times. But I enjoyed that because it was refreshing as far as the climate was concerned. And as far as the town itself of El Paso I didn’t ever work in El Paso. I got to go down to the Border Patrol office one time. The rest of my time was spent at Fort Bliss at the Border Patrol school because we went to school five days a week and then on Saturday they had us painting buildings painting barracks and stuff and we didn’t get off the base. So really I didn’t get off the base. And then they warned us about staying out of Ciudad Juarez because they said there’d be a good opportunity for us to get over there and get in trouble. And so those of us who heeded the warning didn’t get over there very much. So I really didn’t get much exposure to El Paso or Juarez.

M: I was wondering when the first time you went to Juarez was and what experiences you had. Juarez was quite wide open at that time.

F: Yeah. I was afraid to drive my car so I think we rode over on a…! I think they have a streetcar or trolley or something there that you can ride.

M: They used to.

F: And then we got off and walked around. And I guess the impression I got of Juarez was that everybody was trying to sell you something. And It seemed like the morals of the area at least seemed to be that there was a lot of prostitutes and things that were readily available and nobody had any reluctance to solicit right on the street.
And that’s kind of what I remember about it but that’s been a long time 24 years.

M: Was there any culture shack crossing into Ciudad Juarez?

F: Well it was kind of a mystery. I mean I felt very sorry for the poor people. I saw the poor people and then of course I saw some of the places that the rich people had. It didn’t seem to be much of an in-between. It looked to me like there were some in Mexico that had things had everything and the ones that didn’t have anything were just destitute. That’s the Impression that I got that there wasn’t any middle class as we have here in this country. That was the impression. I think that through the years that I’ve maintained this impression except that I notice that the middle class Is coming up in Mexico. And I think it’s gonna be the salvation of Mexico when they get a middle class developed to where everybody has a little something.

M: Yeah the middle class is growing in Mexico. It’s still small but they’re growing. How was your training there at Fort Bliss?

F: Well if I remember it was about six weeks Is all that we stayed. And we had physical education. I remember that there was a lot of sand burrs there. I got sand burrs in my tennis shoes and I remember that. We had to do a lot of running and the air was so dry that it made it really difficult to run.

M: It was your job to apprehend as many illegal aliens as we could. Did you have a lot of help?

F: We had a lot of people here from the Northern border investigators and from Florida and different places. And it was our job to apprehend as many people as possible and try to clear ‘em out. And we in that year of 54 which I just got in the end of it but the statis­tics show they apprehended over a million aliens.

M: I’ve seen the figures. It’s amazing.

F: And the thing I remember about this and the reason I felt that we were doing good for the Mexicans as well as for everybody I mean the Mexican nationals Is because at that time every little pool of water where they had enough water where you could dip water out well they had a Mexican family-the mother the wife and the children. And the children were often sick and the wife was sick because they were drinking this stagnant water. And they were living in little houses called jacales which are made out of sticks that are interwoven and then with the palm leaves on top. And this was not a good thing. And then the Bracero Program came along and then they had to bring just the workers and leave the families at home and they paid them better wages and they had to provide medical attention for them and they had to give ‘em housing and if they got sick they went to the hospital. And it was better it really was better because these people were dying like flies out there living in just appalling conditions that they imposed upon them­selves by coming over here. And I still feel that way I still feel that we were doing them a service.

M: These were makeshift camps?

F: Yes just everywhere.

M: Everywhere?

F: Yeah just along the edge of the river. I remember that they were along the edge of the river and they were around just every where. Now I can’t confirm this because I don’t have this personal knowledge but it was my understanding that during World War II that there was a laxity of enforcement to provide the man­power to harvest the crop because our people were in war and so they let these people in the 40s and they didn’t really make too much enforcement effort. And therefore this is why they had all this build-up of people in the border area is because there hadn’t really been a strict enforcement. I’ve heard old-timers that were old-timers when I came in talking about a Mexican passport. And I says. “What do you mean?” They says “Well if he’s got a shovel over his shoulder or a hoe you don’t talk to him. He’s employed. You leave him alone. Or if he’s in a field you can’t talk to him because he’s in a field and you have to only talk to him if he’s walking down the road and looks like he’s transient or just came in.” But that was before my time. I have no personal experience on that. But that sounds reasonable because we did have a big build­up and there has to be a reason for that because we didn’t have the restrictions on enforcement that we have now. I mean there were very few aliens that ever had an attorney or anything like that. They’d just load ‘em up and they’d go back. It seems like most everybody I remember is from Guanajuato or someplace like that.

M: Jalisco Michoacan.

F: Yeah. It’s a…and I don’t understand this but I have yet to personally talk to an alien who1s from the Yucatan area. They don’t seem to come here. They’re Mayan and they don’t seem to have any interest in coming over here. I’ve been traveling down there quite a bit and I was kind of interested. I’m very much interested in the Mayan people. They’re entirely different than anybody and they’re lovely people. They’re small and they’re very nice I really enjoy the Mayan people. Very much.

M: Do you recall any interesting incidents during that time the wetback drive or Operation Wetback?

F: Well I don’t know that this would be particularly Interesting but this is one little incident that happened over at San Benito and I was working with a fellow named Harry F. Clayburgh. And I was a trainee new on the job. And we went to this dance that they had out in the little dance hail out there in the country. We came driving up in our jeep and we were in uni­form of course. And said “Are we gonna go in and check these people?” And he says “No just wait a minute.” And so we stood around outside and pretty soon I heard somebody fall down and knock the breath out of ‘em. You know you could hear the breath kind of uh like that you know He said. “Okay that’s what I was waiting for.” And I said “What do you mean?” He says “Well” he said “come on I’ll show you.” And we went around behind the dance ball where the back door was and there was a plowed field. And these girls had started running to get away these prostitutes that were over here from Mexico. And when they hit that plowed field in those high heel shoes they fell down and we just went around gathering em up loading ‘em. (Chuckles) I don’t know that that’s too inter­esting but…

M: Well it is yeah.

F: It shows that if you know your area you know what you’re doing you can kind of you don’t have to… And that saved us going in there and chasing everybody because they all ran out the back way.

M: Where were these prostitutes from?

F: Just the border areas. They’d just come across the river just immediately adjacent to it. And we’d take them right back down to the bridge write ‘em up and take them down to the bridge and send them back.

M: Is those pretty common prostitutes crossing the river and coming over?

F: Oh yes. Yes It’s very common. I mean I don’t see that it’s changed that much. Today that’s what I was thinking about because they come over now. They didn’t have any papers then but now they have the local cards or tarjeta local and they come over they’re a little more sophisticated. But the same thing. It’s difficult to stop this kind of thing because they have these local cards. And a prostitute’s supposed to be excludable not come in but then in order to prove that a person’s a prosti­tute you’ve got to have records from the Mexicans to show that she’s a registered prostitute. And they’ve had decisions down through the years that If you catch even If you see a man pay a woman for prostitu­tion they have a ruling that says that one time does not constitute a professional prostitute and it’s very difficult to establish this. And so they still come in with the local cards. And some of ’em still come across in boats. Right down here at Peñitas they still come in boats and we still pick them up.

But we had a thing called the Emancipacion which was a boat that went out of Brownsville to Tampico and I think I don’t know if they ever got down to Veracruz. But they would haul aliens down. Maybe they went all the way to Veracruz I can1t remember. It was an old Canadian mine sweeper and they had converted it over to haul people. And of course a farmer well I would be the same way I’d get seasick especially If the water was a little rough. because I’m not a seaman. And the fact that these people got seasick caused them to stay home. That’s pro­bably one of the biggest preventive measures that we ever had was running that boat and hauling those people back down to the interior of Mexico. But they did away with that. But that well mostly everybody that we would send would be from the inte­rior that’s been the Service’s policy ever since I can remember. If you can catch an illegal alien and send this alien as nearly to his home as close to his home as possible well then that person will stay home. If you take a person from Guanajuato and you put him across at Reynosa well there’s very little Incentive for him not to come right back. But If you send him to Leon Guanajuato and he’s from within 20 miles from there he’ll go home. Now how long he’ll stay I don’t know. But after about two times like that it gets kind of frustrating and they stay home. Well the policy has varied in accordance with the amount of money that they’ve had to spend because it does cost money to send people.

M: Right now the policy is to just take ‘em across the river?

F: Well no. We have a line on a map out there that if they live far from the border area-which actually the border area now starts at Tampico and runs up to Monterrey and the line and over to Big Bend country for this area-they’ll be granted what they call a local voluntary departure which is across the bridge at Reynosa or Progreso or Brownsville Rio Grande City where ever they happen to be caught. But if they’re from the interior well then we have what they call a bus lift. And they’re put on a bus at Port Isabel or they’re sent to the center now it used to be called deten­tion camp. It’s like a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

M: Like an undocumented alien.

F: Yeah. But then they get I think a Mexican bus and this bus takes them to the interior.

M: How far?

F: Well I don’t know. I guess it would be in accordance with where the people are from but I don’t know where the terminus is I’ve never had anything to do with it. But I think they go as nearly.. .you know try to put the people in according to where the bus is going so that they can get them as near home as possible so they’ll stay home. That’s what they want to do they want them to stay home. But then…

M: They don’t.

F: Well a lot do a lot do. I don’t know if you’ve traveled In Mexico or not but if you go down in there you’ll see there’s an awful lot of Mexicans down there and they’re not all up here. It may look like they’re all up here but they’re not. There’s a lot of people down there. And things are getting better in Mexico. In fact I just got back from Nicaragua and you talk about cul­ture shock. I flew from here to Tap Chula and cleared customs and left Mexico there went to Nicaragua and I was down there about a week. And when I came back to Tap Chula Mexico from Nicara­gua I felt that the standards for the average person were much higher for Mexico and I felt so much better getting back Into Mexico as I feel when I come from Mexico into the United States. So to me I mean that’s my personal feeling but I’d say that Mexico is coming up. They’re coming up in their well finan­cial. That’s the only thing that can…if you’ve got a dollar you can buy beans you know. And it’s still the best bargain in the world for us to travel and yet it’s…well I like Mexico I like to travel in Mexico and like the people. I never have any trouble with the people down there. Never. I never have. With anybody. Because I treat them like I’d like to be treated and that’s all you have to do to anybody.

M: And you speak Spanish?

F: Oh yes. My wife is well your partner’s name was Sanchez. Her maiden name was Sanchez.

M: Where’s she from?

F: She’s from here she’s from McSherryland which Is over by Mission just about five miles from here.

M: Well how did you meet her? That’s Interesting.

F: Well I’m on the credit committee at the local credit union and she’s assistant manager there. And I worked there for many years and now I’m on the Board of Directors. And we just got married. And she’s very she’s very nice to me. She and I have a little game when we go to Mexico that often she doesn’t understand what they’re saying. I mean sometimes. She speaks her parents are “mestizo.” Are you familiar with that term?

M: Yes.

F: So on her passport they’re resident aliens and they have been in the United States since before I was born I believe as legal resident aliens. They live near here and her father Is from that town where they have the soda popTehuantepec or whatever it is down there. And then her mother is from Veracruz. And neither one of her parents speak English so she speaks Spanish fluently. But she has well of course she speaks Spanish ten times better than I do but she still gets confused a little bit on dialects. They kind of throw her. Since I don’t know enough to recognize a dialect.
I just got through talking to some Indians in Michoacan and they’re different. Now that’s another group of people entirely. I’m a photographer by hobby and I do a lot of photography for the Border Patrol. And I had my cameras with me as I always do and this woman had a purse that she had woven on the loom. you could see it back in the background. We’d stopped there. And I asked her if she’d sell it. “Yes it was 50 pesos and I had no use for it at all.” I said “Well I’ll tell you what I’ll give you 50 pesos for the purse if you’ll let me take your picture” and she said “The purse is 50 pesos and you cannot take my picture.” And that was It. And the Indians are that way. I think it’s a supersti­tion or something. They do not want their picture made. And I honor them I don’t ever take their picture unless they give me permission. I bought a blanket and a sweater from an Indian family in Chapala Jalisco. I spent about 650 pesos and I said “Now that I’ve bought these things I’d like for you to hold them and I’ll take your picture.” And he said “You can take our picture for 50 pesos.” And I says “Well no thanks I don’t think its worth that much for me to have your picture.” But well they’re business people I guess. But I couldn’t go around giving two dollars every time I want to take a picture of a Mexican. I’d go broke pretty fast.

M: When you first came down here how long did you stay down here?

F: Well I didn’t stay very long. I stayed possibly a year. Maybe a little over a year. Then I had an opportunity to go to Detroit. Michigan in the Border Patrol. So I transferred to Detroit and worked in Detroit.

M: What did you do up there? It’s the Canadian border.

F: Yes. Well you still have the Mexicans up there and a lot of illegals. And since I had just come from the Mexican border why I was able to more or less detect the illegal ones by well just by being ac­quainted with then. I worked in that area and then we worked the Canadians who they cane over and work without permits or you know without immigrating. And then surprisingly there was quite a few blacks that came from Canada.

M: Blacks from Canada?

F: Yes. And they’re really hard to dig out because they get in with the black element in Detroit. And they won’t even answer the door when you knock on the door you know. They’re probably the hardest ones of all at least for me. And then there was another aspect that they had that I enjoyed. They had a speed boat that they checked smuggling across the Detroit River. I got to work on that a little bit. I enjoyed that.

M: Any interesting incidents?

F: No. Really as far as shoot-outs or…

M: Or just situations like the ones that you have des­cribed that illustrate some human interest element in them.

F: Very little happened In Detroit because that’s a very inhuman town.

M: It sure is.

F: But I transferred from there to Sault Ste. Marie Michigan which is up at the top of Michigan at the very top in the upper peninsula and that was more interesting. It required a lot more driving because we had the whole upper peninsula which is 320 miles long. And we had worked that area. And I met a lot of interesting people but we had very little…well I worked snowshoes up there. I went on Sugar Island and I walked with snowshoes. First time I ever had to do that in my life that was kind of different.

M: You were looking for aliens in the snow?

F: Yeah. You see Sugar Island was across the river from Sault Ste. Marie but it belongs to the United States. The river forks there I guess and goes around both sides of it. So they had summer homes there. Well then these people we got word that they were
coming across and breaking into the summer homes and robbing. Well not robbing but what would you call it? They were just pilfering and doing damage and so we went to investigate. I never did find any evidence that that was going on. We caught…well see about that time they had the Hungarian program. I did get involved in that too. While I was still at Detroit before I went to Sault Ste. Marie I went to New Jersey-New
Brunswick New Jersey–when they brought all the Hungarians.

M: 1956.

F: Yeah.

M: For processing?

F: Oh yeah. That was quite a thing. I learned a little Hungarian. I can say “Show me your identi­fication” in Hungarian which is a little different in Spanish. And I had to work on the gates and as cars were coming they wouldn’t pay any attention and I had to learn “be careful” in Hungarian I had a lot of human interest things there as far as the people. I voluntarily went into an area where they had tuberculosis and worked with them And the Catholic Church and different ones were trying to help. And with so many people sometimes things would get mixed up as far as who was gonna go where and what. Well there were two wives and two young men and the young men had tuberculosis and they needed to go to a center for treatment which they sent them And then the wives were still at the camp and these guys were several hundred miles upstate somewhere. Well they ran away from their tuberculosis deal and came back to the camp. I think its Camp Kilmer New Jersey where we were. And then the time that everybody got through yelling at each other well. then everybody got mad and so they signed an agreement to return to Austria. And I asked the doctor and I asked several agreements “What does this mean?” They said “Well it’s just the same as them signing their death warrant because they’ll die over there. Cause they need treatment.” And I says “Well is it all right if I talk to these people and try to explain this to them and then get them to stay in the United States?” They said “Well yeah but we’ve tried and we can’t do a thing with them.”

So I found an army personnel I don’t know what rank he was corporal or something. He spoke Hungarian. And I said. “Would you come over and interpret for me” cause I couldn’t speak Hungarian. And so I explained the options to them and how it was a mix-up that they had been separated and not gotten back together when they were promised to be and that the Catholic Church didn’t intentionally do anything wrong it was just a
matter of so many people and they weren’t used to handling this volume. And I finally convinced them to remain in the United States. Well I was really elated over that but I ended up getting reprimanded for sticking my nose into some business that was already settled. But I told the guy that jumped on me he was my supervisor I says “Well whenever I have to take my choice between saving two people’s lives or being reprimanded by you I’m gonna take the lives every time. And you can just reprimand me all you want and I don’t care.”

M: What’d he say?

F: Well he got mad and walked off. See some of those people they felt might be Communists that were infil­trating and we had to take interviews from them through interpreters. And I don’t know how it happened but I got the word later when I got back to Michigan that they had put out the word that I was a Communist sympathizer as a result of that action.

M: That you were?

F: Yeah because I had talked these two people into staying you know. And things get twisted around. But I thought “Well I still feel like I did the right thing cause there’s two people still alive because of what I did.” But I don’t know I still don’t feel too good about it because the people that knew better which was the chief who was the one I cleared everything with and he called me after it was all over and he says “Well you did the right thing and you had cleared it with me.” And I said “Well why don’t you tell the rest of these people?” And he said “Well let’s just let it drop. It’s all over.” You know and that left me hanging. It didn’t really affect me in my career or anything but a lot of people felt that I was somewhat less than a patriot which I wasn’t. It’s just things that happen like that but you just have to make your choice-what you’re gonna do. That was when I was still at Detroit. They flew us in a C-46 I think it was. The Border Patrol flew us up there to Maguire.

M: That was just a temporary duty?

F: Yeah about a month or so. And then we landed at Maguire Air Base there and then we went on out by bus I guess It was. Then Sault Ste. Marie I made some acquaintances there but there really wasn’t that much work to do there. It’s just more of a just being there. You know it’s kind of like carrying a gun. They say “Well have you ever had a shoot-out?”, and I say “Well no I haven’t had a shoot-out but how many times would have been shot if I hadn’t had the gun?” You know, cause it’s a preventive measure and that’s what more or less Sault Ste. Marie is. If they didn’t have the Border Patrol there well they’d have half of Canada over there working and knocking everybody out of their job I would imagine. So it’s a pre­ventive measure. And I would rather prevent people than to arrest them after they’ve done something wrong. That’s my feeling I’ve always felt that way. I’d rather have the Mexicans stay in Mexico than to have ‘em come over here and pick them up and put them back. I’d much rather have them stay. On paper it doesn’t look as good because you’re not making the number of apprehensions and everything. But still all In all it’s better for them and better for us if they don’t come over here in the first place as far as our country Is concerned. See that’s why we don’t have that much trouble with Canada be­cause their standard of living is very similar to ours. In fact it’s difficult to see the difference really.

M: It must’ve been hard to detect Canadians who were illegal aliens.

F: Well I set up a system over the time there and I talked to a lot of Canadians and I wrote a little pam­phlet and sent it in as a suggestion which was summarily rejected….


Mr. Miller entered the U.S. Border Patrol on September 8 1953 at McAllen Texas as a member of Class #50. Some of his classmates not mentioned in his interview include: Lee Calderhead James O’Keefe Raymond Rebsaman and Richard Staley.

Interview was conducted by Ms. Terrie Cornell at the Border Patrol Museum on October 31 1986. This document has historical significance since it contains previously unrecorded information on the California Grape Strike which involved Cesar Chavez the AFL-CIO and employees of the Border Patrol and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.

TC – You entered on duty in 1953?

HM – September 8 1953 at McAllen Texas. I’m from Indiana. I was born in Windfall outside of Tipton about 50 miles north of Indianapolis. I moved to Danville Indiana about 20 miles west of Indianapolis and I came into the Border Patrol from there.

TC – How did you find out about the Border Patrol?

HM – I was working in a post office. I was going to college and working part-time in the Post Office when the announcements came out. It was one of those things where you take the written and you took the oral. There were a couple of guys from Minnesota came down to give me the oral. They said I couldn’t hack it because I wasn’t from Oklahoma or Texas or some place like that. But I went in anyway. TC – Did you finish college first?

HM – No. I still lack some time. We EOD’d down in Mcallen because that’s where the school was at the time. I was in the 50th session. We had a six week school at that time. And then from McAllen I was transferred to El Centro California. At that time we had the choice of Calexico or El Centro or Brawly when we got out there. So I took El Centro which was alright.

TC – Was that around the time of Operation Wetback?

HM – It was before the Operation Wetback – that was in 1955.

TC – Can you tell me about that?

HM – Well around the fourth of July we had several what they call semi trucks they were military trucks in El Centro I think they got them from back east some place and we had a bunch of them out there and had been hauling aliens in these open-bed trailers from cotton fields up in Westmoreland and up in there. I could drive a semi anyway so I was driving them. That was in 1954 and when this Operation Wetback started there were four trucks. We had a detention facility there in El Centro and they loaded them with mattresses and said “You’re going to McAllen.” So we drove. There were four drivers in each semi. We drove straight through. There were two in the back sleeping. They were those big military open
5-ton International tractors. They were open and canvas tops with the windshields. You’ve seen them around here.

TC – Oh yes. With the slatted sides.

HM – They had open sides. So we drove straight through from El Centro to McAllen. I was down there two months. They had these different units made up of investigators Border Patrol people from all over. I worked mostly down around Brownsvillle. But see we had only been there about three days working and had all the aliens we could handle couldn’t hold any more in McAllen. We had them out on the levee 5 0r 6 thousand down below there in Brownsvillle. You would just run them across the river. The weather was bad raining. I was in that area the whole time that I was down there.

TC – Two months

HM – Yes. And then they would send us out here and they sent people from here or the valley out to Chula Vista El Centro and Yuma. At that time Yuma was a station under El Centro. And then we had a lot of people from New York who were investigators who had never been in the Border Patrol. They had been on a Treasury Department list there in the 1940s and they drew them off of that. So they had a great time. They were out in the wild West and all that. We kind of enjoyed them because the were different. Another guy named Warren Wright and me he’s dead now we drove only one of the semis back from McAllen to El Centro. I think it took us eight days because McBee said “just take your time.” You guys came out in 50 hours. Just take your time going back. So we hit every Sector headquarters between McAllen and El Centro on the way back. It took us seven or eight days to go back out there. Then we got back out there when there were still people left over. We had a bus left and I drove buses from Tucson for about a year. That was a six days a week job.

TC – A bus from where to where?

HM – El Centro detention over to Tucson and then the Tucson people would deliver aliens down to Nogales Mexico. We had some new Greyhound-type buses. There were several of us that spent a year or more driving those buses down there. You would go to Tucson one day stay there leave about 4:00 in the morning like at midnight leaving El Centro and get down there in daylight in Tucson and Tucson people would take it to Nogales. Bring it back and service the bus and you would get up and go back to El Centro and they would load it with another crew would . .
Just kept going like that. I was about a year on that. And then for some reason I got on the airlift not as a pilot but as a stewardess we called it at the time. I don’t know whether you’ve got anything on the airlift or not.

TC – We just got some things from Paul Green.

HM – I figured you would. I have several pictures.

TC – I have some pictures I’ll show you when we’re finished. You were what the called a stewardess?

HM – I was like a guard. Because I had been Air Force in WW II in B29s and I was a flight engineer on B-29s. So we had these C-46s which I think Paul was on. He got a grade out of it for being on the DC-4 for being a flight engineer. He was on them a long time.

TC – How long were you on it?

HM – Probably a year until we had an engine failure on takeoff and that’s the pictures I’ve got. I think it’s the only accident they ever had on that airlift. Well we’ had a guy named Bill Graham.

TC – He was a pilot?

HM – Yes but he was a co-pilot on that one particular trip and I’m trying to think of the pilot’s name. I’m getting mixed up with Hendersen. But anyway we had a lot of trouble on two trips with those particular airplanes. We had a forced landing up in Las Cruces when the engine quit. We were lucky. The magneto gear sheared off and got out of what’s called a bell housing that if it had locked right it would have
Thrown the propeller off the airplane but it didn’t. They got that fixed and we flew it back to El Centro. Then he next day we were supposed to fly between El Centro and Brownsville with these aliens. We wanted to get the aliens out there down there and then we were hauling aliens back this way too.

TC – You were strictly in the United States then?

HM – Yes there wasn’t anything in Mexico. They were trying to confuse them. If the guys were from Michoacan Jalisco and over in here they would fly them clear down east and put them across down by Reynoso. And the ones from down there they would put them across from Mexicali or Nogales or places like that to get them all away from where they supposed to be. We took off and got up to about 300’ and one engine quit. It was heavy and it was hot in the morning. Don Harrison was the pilot. If you could ever get Harrison cornered some place he could tell you more tales than anybody about the airlift. He was in it from the start.

TC – Where does he live now?

HM – He lives in Prescott. He was editor of that Retired Border Patrol paper for a while and he has heart trouble and he gave it up and Hugh Williams down in Del Rio is running it now. But he’s quite a character and he can really tell the tales. So you had two choices. You could either go on out and try to get out with one engine and then make a turn and come back. It was an instantaneous decision and nobody felt good about taking off that morning anyway. So the wheels were still up and full flaps and just slid her down this . . . It’s a Naval Air Station out there in El Centro and it’s a 10500’ runway. They slid this thing almost to the end of the runway and there’ new river. All the garbage out of Mexicali runs north there. Slid it up to the end of that and I never got in and airplane for a long time after that. The guy that kept his head well it happened so quick that the aliens didn’t know what happened. The batteries were down in the bottom of the airplane and they were shorting out the battery cables. The maintenance was all done at Brownsville by Pan American and there was a mechanic from there that was up there and they’d flown him into Las Cruces when we had the trouble and then he went to El Centro and then we were going to take him back to Brownsville. He got down there and unhooked the battery cables right away because they were sparking and smoking and all that good stuff. It all came out all right. I have some pictures of the airplane. That was May 2955. Then I took the seniors exam at the time made that and got transferred to Calexico in 1955. I was there for about a year and I transferred up to Indio in 1958.

TC – at that time what sector was that in?

HM – El Centro. I was in Indio until 1965. We had details going up to the Bakersfield area for years and I always seemed to go up there and so I opened a station up there in 1965. We were doing alright. We were a long ways from any place up there and nobody bothered us and then we got involved right in middle of the grape strike. That was our biggest claim to fame.

TC – What happened then? I haven’t heard about that.

HM – You never heard about the grape strike? Cesar Chavez. I know Mr. Chavez real good..

TC – What was the Border Patrol’s part in that?

HM – The Border Patrol’s part there were a lot of people out there that didn’t really understand all this. Well I didn’t either and I was there. But we had Chavez up there he was in Delano. He tried to set up just a little union a local union without help from AFL-CIO or UAW or anything like that. The packing shed workers have their own union but he was after the ones in the field the pickers. In this particular area at the time they were all table grapes Thompson seedless and things like that. And so he would tell us where the illegal aliens worked all the time because he was trying to get his own people in there which weren’t illegal aliens most of them. They were a lot a Filipinos a lot of immigrant aliens.

So all at once in 1968 he got the United Farm Workers organization which he was head of and got $5000000 from the AFL-CIO and they sent organizers in there and all of this good stuff. Ramsey Clark was the Attorney General. It ended up that Ramsey Clark said that we were going to unionize the whole central valley of California which he didn’t know what was talking about to start with. We got people from the Labor Department out there. We had Mario Noto from our Central Office who was an infamous type of individual. They detailed investigators Border Patrolmen. We’d have several hundred of them at a time in there all working out of Bakersfield. We would go out in every one of these fields where there were pickers. We’d have a little 3×5 card and copy down the man’s name his immigration status if he was an I-151 put his A number on residence all that good stuff. And then for about ten days we would bring all that in and we would turn that over to the Union. Now those were our instructions from the Attorney General. So the organizers the people from the union would go down in front of these people’s homes at night and raise hell. Threaten them with bodily harm and all that. So there was A District Director in Los Angeles I’ll remember his name in a minute one of the most knowledgeable men I ever ran into in the Immigration Service.

TC – Is he still living?

HM – Yes he is still living. He never did have a lot to do with the Border Patrol. He was a District Director and he could have been anything he wanted in the Immigration Service. He said “we’re not going to do that.” This was intimidation at its worst. We were under the Justice Department and Central office kept insisting that we do this. The Region and District finally put a stop to that.

TC – Giving cards to the union?

HM – Yes giving that information to the union. It could have been real bad because you were going on property out there and in many cases you didn’t have any reason or right to go on. The growers kinda got together and we had a Mr. Giamara in Bakersfield who was probably the biggest grower and there were nationalities s = a lot of Yugoslavians and some Italians not too popular with Giamara I guess there were a lot of Yugoslavians but they did not try to cause any trouble over that. We talked to them. If they hadn’t have wanted us to go on the property I don’t know what we’d have done. But anyway I was right in the middle of this because it was our area all the time. I figured that in three years it took ten year off my live. Just a burnout thing. I worked for over two years and didn’t have a day off.

TC – It lasted two years?

HM – It lasted about 2 and half years. It was from 1968 until about the first part of 1971. And they had these records files on all these people by the tens of thousands. I have no idea how much money that operation cost but you had a lot of individuals that wouldn’t come out. They said “I’m not going to do that” and you can’t blame them if they were told to do it. So a lot of them we sent home.

TC – Border Patrol?

HM – Yes. We just turned around and sent them home. But we had enough problems without having problems with them doing it or not doing it.

TC – How many Border Patrolmen did you have there most of the time?

HM – I’d say at the big time in 1969 which was the heaviest time it started in 1968 we started with 4 officers in the station and we got it up to 22 and then we get people in there by the 50s. Thirty or forty investigators and 50 or 60 Border Patrol for 30 days and they’d change that. Sometimes we’d have over two hundred people detailed out there. It was kind of a slapstick-type deal but you didn’t really have control. They knew what they had to do and most of them didn’t like what they were doing so we can understand that. They were sent out there to do something and I got a little hostile. A lot of us got hostile and I probably was lucky I didn’t get transferred out of there before it was all over with. We had all this information left over which was just sitting there . . . and so we asked the Region to ask Central Office what to do with it and they said to destroy it. About that time I kinda got turned off on lot things after that. So I stayed up there until 1971 then I transferred to Calexico for three years, 1971 to 1975, and then I transferred here to EPIC in 1975.

TC – Was it new then?

HM – Yes it opened up in 1975. It had been here I think M. O’
Connor and two or three of the DEA guys had been there for about six months when hey were trying to get it set up. The Immigration people were Brandemuehl me and John Sorg. I think John was there a week before Buck and I got there.

TC – You were the three from the Border Patrol?

HM – Yes plus Jerry O’Connor. He’d been there from the start of things. He and a man from the DEA. They had a little hole in the wall some cars and a desk.

TC – When did you retire?

HM – At the end of 1978.

TC – You retired from EPIC?

HM – Yes. I was with EPIC when I retired. It didn’t look like I was going to get out of there so I retired.

TC – And went back to California?

HM – Yes we were around here for about six months and since we still have three children in California we went up to Dixon which is about 20 miles west of Sacramento. We moved out there to stay a couple of years to see what we were going to do and we’re still there. Our oldest son is there.

TC – How many children do you have?

HM – Five

TC – They were all born in California?

HM – No. Three of them were born in Indiana before I came in the Border Patrol. I went to college after WW II. I was in Indiana and I was going to school working part-time at the post office and I was a projectionist at the Loma Theater at the night and all that good stuff trying to keep it all together. I didn’t do it so I joined Border Patrol and left town. Just to be truthful I guess the first 15 years were really enjoyable. I really liked it. Then after that we had so many things working against us sometimes. You’re out there in the desert running around in a jeep there’s not really much bothering you out there so that was OK. I met a lot of nice people. Then some not so nice. But that’s all backwards. It’ll be eight years I left a little early. I’ve always been one that wanted to know what I was supposed to be doing and what the plan was and I got to the place where there wasn’t any plan and I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. I can’t handle that.

TC – How many people were at Bakersfield when you left?

HM – They say there were a certain number that were assigned there permanently twenty-two when I left. All these others were detailed in there for 30-day details from all over the United States.

TC – Do you know how big it is today?

HM – What the station? It’s only 10 or 12 people out there.

TC – And they do mostly farm and ranch checks?

HM – Yes. During the operation on the grape strike we tried checking traffic on the highways. It’s impossible but they did a good job and we didn’t have any accidents. Some of the guys got a lot of tongue lashings and a few things like that from these union people the organizers. But they brought organizers in from all over. They’ had a lot of people who had been in the Peace Corps there.

TC – Training?

HM – No. They’d been in the Peace Corps and come back and we had a lot of the attorneys. In California every country had the volunteer attorneys there. They jumped on the farm bandwagon for the union and you always had them on your neck. A couple of them I got to be good friends with. In fact my son-in-laws father was a part owner of a 24-hour Mexican radio station in Bakersfield. The union got to put ads on the radio station. I would listen and I would tell him “That is not right what they’re saying.” So they sent the ads down to us to check and make sure they were right. So then they sued the radio station. They went to the FCC and tried to get their license revoked. And the guy that was part owner of the radio station said “Who’s causing all this trouble?” I told him Jerry and the attorney. He said they went to college together at Amherst and this Jerry had gone on to Columbia Law School and his dad was a big junk dealer in New York City. He did all this on purpose and after he got through the grape strike he goes back to New York and now he’s a big labor lawyer. He was getting background. He was living like the rest of those guys with money. Of course he always had money. But it was just an everyday deal.

For instance they would call me at home I had an unlisted phone number – to tell me what they were going to do me. “You can’t do this and we got a promise from the Attorney General and they are going to move us out of here” and all that stuff. It was a bad time it really was. So I kind of lost a lot of respect for a lot of people in our organization too about that time. There were some great people that retired and resigned because of all this. So there are probably still Border Patrolmen that remember being out there and thought I was on the union’s side and I wasn’t really trying to be on anybody’s side. I was just trying to stay alive. As I said we sent a lot home who said “I’m not going to do that.” The guys that were out there thought I was with Mr. Noto and the Labor Department and all that.

In fact right before I left I was talking to Cesar Chavez and he apologized to me for all the problems. He said It did not come out like we wanted anyway. The whole thing got out of hand because we were promised this by the union and we were promised this by the Attorney General’s office and we did not know it was going to cause all this trouble like it did. Because they brought in everybody and he lost control of it there for a while. They were using his name and he had noting to do with anything. And it really failed because we had a big thing with Schemley’s which was owned by the Kennedys. They went for five years out there on this vineyard and they watered it but never pruned it like it should have been and they never picked any grapes because the couldn’t get union people in there. See you would call down the day before you needed 400 pickers from the union hall and they could not promise you 400 pickers. If they sent you 100 and you got your other 300 you could only work them for three days or they had to join the union. This is what they set up. If they didn’t join the union after three days that guy had to fire them and go out and find 300 more people because they could never guarantee that you were going to have the people when you needed them.

TC – How is it now? Is it all unionized?

HM – No Some of them joined and signed five-year contracts and just went along and paid lip service and paid their nickel a box for grapes to the union fund and that’s all that ever come out of it. But they got it extended to ten days before the people had to join the union. They all signed. There were 33 of them and what the Labor Department did started out and said that there was a labor dispute in progress on this land. Some of those people sold out during this three or four ear period and the labor dispute was still left on that land by the Labor Department. They certified that there was a labor dispute. That meant that there were supposed to be union people working on that property but they all just kinda gave up. There were 33 of them gave up at the same time signed her off. None of them wanted to but they did.

Yes to get all of those people out of their hair. Because they knew that the union wasn’t going to be able to deliver what they promised so that did not make any difference. They had that from1968 to the first part of 1971. It was a continual hassle. You know like they say a table grape is not needed. The country can get along without table gapes. The union had the boycotts in Boston New York and Chicago which worked because the people back there did not really understand what was going on out here. And some of them were in good financial shape and some of them were not. Some of them had oil wells on their property and some didn’t. It was interesting. I ran into a lot of good people at that time

The growers were just kinda letting us do our thing or there would have been a lot of trouble. And we had very few problems out in the field or on the properties. When a new bunch would come in we would get them all out there like I said before explain what we were trying to do why we were going to do it how they were going to do it. We just didn’t drive down the field wide open in your trucks or cars or whatever. We did not apologize to the people we were taking the information on but we did it without the least bother. So really I got burned out up there and maybe I didn’t do things I should have afterwards but that’s alright.


Mr. Gwaltney entered the United States Border Patrol in September 1952 and was a member of the 47th Academy class at McAllen Texas. The following oral history of his Border Patrol career was given on April 8 1988 in response to a list of questions which had been furnished to him in advance by the National Border Patrol Museum.

I was born on 3/3/23 at Poseyville Indiana. Father was farmer and County Agriculture Agent. Mother was a housewife with 9 children.

I grew up at various locations in Indiana.

I did not attend college.

I became a Border Patrolman in furtherance of my desire for a career with the government and outdoor employment.

When I entered the Border Patrol my salary was $3795 per annum.

I am unable to determine the exact number of my Trainee Class from personal records now available. Officers who EOD on or about 6/23/52 were divided into two classes. One started training at Las Cruces N.M. shortly after entering on duty. The other of which I was a member worked in the field until about 10/01/52 at which time we attended the first training session held at McAllen TX graduating on 11/15/52.

I also attended the following training courses: Officers Training School (CO) 1956 Senior Patrol Inspector Refresher Course (El Paso) 1958 Senior Patrol Inspector (Special Detail) Course (El Paso) 1959 Negotiating & Implementing Agreements (Civil Service Comm. – Chicago) 1968 Supervisory Development Conference Series (Port Isabel) 1969 Appeals and Grievance Examiner Training Course (Civil Service Commission – Los Angeles) 1971 and Executive Development Seminar (University of Texas Port Isabel) 1972.

I entered the U.S. Navy 01/06/42 and was discharged on 11/12/45. I was living at Alhambra CA on 12/7/41.

I was stationed at El Centro CA (P1 GS’ 6&7) Laredo TX (SPI GS’ 8&9); Detroit MI (SPI GS’ 9) (Special Detail) and General Investigator (GS’ 11); Grand Forks N.D. (ACPI GS’ 11); Yuma AZ (ACPI GS’ 11); Chula Vista CA (ACPI GS’11); Detroit MI (CPI GS’ 12) San Pedro CA (GS’ 13) and SWRO Deputy Regional Chief B/P.

I was detailed to the Hungarian Refugee Program Camp Kilmer N.J. 1957 and Operation Intercept (Coordinating Office) Houston TX

No details relating to Civil Rights marches

I was not involved in El Paso hijacking.

I was not a Sky Marshal

I was not involved in Operation Skyward.

I really don’t know that I had an area of expertise. However I participated in all phases of B/P operations except those involving horses.

This would require a book in itself.

I worked under 11 Chiefs – Edward Parker Donald Coppock .J. Eldon Taylor Jefferson Fell Henry Stallings Bruce Long Dale Norris Edwin Dorn Elmo Rainbolt Allen Gerhart and Gordon Pettingill.

Supervisory positions occupied – Senior Patrol Inspector Assistant Chief Patrol Inspector and Chief Patrol Inspector.

I considered any night operation to be one that required officers to be extremely alert. This was particularly true in traffic checks and stops conducted on roads without the benefits now found in permanent check stations i.e. flood lighting usually two or more officers on duty good radio communications etc. Officers conducting traffic check operations encountered just about every type of law violator.

I consider the following as a comedy of errors. Several snowballs were lobbed over a car on which I was changing a tire in the parking lot at the Detroit Headquarters and station building in 1959. Peering over the top I saw the Station Senior standing on the rear porch with a big grin on his face. I crouched behind the car again made a good hard snowball stepped out and let loose. My target moved aside and my “missile” went through one of the panes of glass in the door. The Chief appeared in the door within seconds but before he could say anything I said “Chief I’ll have a new glass in that door within 30 minutes.” I obtained a replacement at a nearby hardware store and had it installed with a few minutes to spare. Needless to say I never asked the Chief where he was when that pane of glass “exploded”.

I spent my career in the Border Patrol. The SPI (special Detail) position I occupied at Detroit was reclassified and upgraded to General Investigator
(GS-11). Although the position was carried on the Detroit District Office roster I was detailed to the Sector.

I enjoyed every day of my Border Patrol career even though there Were times when I thought our enforcement efforts were? hampered and/or misdirected for political reasons — a condition probably experienced in any government agency.

A high level of camaraderie existed among Border Patrol officers even though Service policies for years appeared to reflect that pay grade levels equipment needs operating funds and position sensitivity etc. in the other branches of the Service were more significant than those of the Border Patrol. Such policies ignored that B/P officers were required to work under more hazardous conditions enforce the same laws and regulations render comparable decisions and conduct operations in accordance with the same Operating Instructions.

It took a special type of a woman to be the wife of a dedicated Border Patrol officer especially during the early years of a career. Due to the long and varied hours of duty isolated locations of many duty stations and transfers the major portion of responsibility for the rearing children management of family income and needs plus maintaining a cohesive family unit usually fell on her shoulders.

I retired on 6/29/73 to my 1/3 acre “UCR Ranch” at Yuma AZ. Hobbies such as silver-smithing plaque making fishing helping neighbors and friends have occupied my time.

Leo Dunnigan entered the U.S. Border Patrol at McAllen Texas on July 5 1949. He is one of the very few Border Patrolmen who was successful in passing his probationary period without the benefit of formal Academy training. According to his own account, the Academy only had one class in 1949 and that was before he entered the Service. Leo was a Naval Aviator before becoming a Border Patrolman. Interview was conducted at the National Border Patrol Museum El Paso Texas on May 16 1989 by Ms. Terrie Cornell

LD – I was raised in Waihalla North Dakota.

TC – And there was a Border Patrol Station there?

LD – During the time I was going to school yes. It was terminated right at the beginning of the war 1942 or ‘43  41 or 42 I guess.

TC – Do you remember any of the men who were there?

LD – Yes. Red Hodson. He was there when I was going to high school and then he was a Border Patrolman out of Casa Grande when I was out there.

TC – So that’s were you became acquainted with the Border Patrol?

LD – Right.

TC – And then the war broke out?

LD – The war broke out and I went into the military and came back.
When I took the test for the Border Patrol I was working for the
Prison Service in Englewood Colorado. Then I guess it was almost a year later when I went in the Service at McAllen.

TC – And what was the date of your EOD?

LD – July 5 1949.

TC – And you had learned to fly in the

LD – In the military right.

TC – Where?

LD – I was a naval aviator. I came through the aviation cadet program. I started out at Iowa City Iowa in the pre-f light school at the University. And then I went to Hutchinson and Corpus Christi graduated at Corpus.

TC – So you entered on duty at McAllen and you came up here for school?

LD – No there was no school at that time.

TC – Is that the one –

LD – That’s what they called the 49’ers yes. There was one school during the year and it was in January of ‘49 here at Camp Chigas.

TC – And the rest of the year?

LD – Everybody that came in during the rest of the year didn’t go to school.

TC – Because?

LD – I don’t really know why they didn’t go to school. They didn’t run the school.

TC – So you never had to learn Spanish?

LD – Oh yes yes. There was no relaxation of the requirements. You still had to learn Spanish.

TC – But on your own.

LD – Right. In fact we didn’t even have in service instructors like they had later on.

TC – How did you do it?

LD – I don’t really know how we did it I guess working together with the rest of them and the older Border Patrolmen helped me. There were a tremendous number of people that didn’t make it. You know I don’t suppose over fifteen percent of the people that took the test ended up Border Patrolmen at that time.

TC – Who else was in your group at that tine?

LD – Other 49’ers? Well John Bailey was one of the people that
Was with me. Claud Hicks Jim Blockinger Ed Mcclure.

TC – So you stayed right there in McAllen and

LD – No after about two or three weeks I was transferred up to
Kingsville and I stayed at Kingsville for four years.

TC – Who was the Chief then at McAllen?

LD – Fletcher Rawls.

TC – And who were the Seniors?

LD: The Seniors at McAllen? Mr. Jim Cottingham and Sam McKone.

TC – And at Kingsville who was in charge there?

LD – Let’s see Arthur Swain came just after I got there. T.E.
Phillips was a senior he and Bill Toney. And right after I got
there – actually they were in the process of changing at the tine Arthur Swain came from McAllen.

TC – And he was in charge of the Kingsville Station?

LD – He was in charge of the Kingsville Station all the time I was there.

TC – Who else did you work with there? You didn’t do any flying there?

LD – No. I started flying in -‘53 when I transferred back to McAllen.

TC: And who was chief there in ‘53?

LD – Fletcher Rawls. And Phil Pring – that’s when they put the second pilot in. I was the second pilot in McAllen. There were only two sectors had two pilots. There were two pilots here in El Paso and then McAllen got two pilots.

TC – Phil Pring and you.

LD – Phil Pring and I yes. And Bill Turner and Hayfield were here.

TC – And what did you fly a Super cub?

LD – No we were flying Cessna 170’s down there. They had a Super Cub and a Bonanza here.

TC – And you had two Cessnas down there.

LD – Yes.

TC – And what did you do? Up and down the border?

LD –No mostly we worked with the ground units there in McAllen. That was the start of the Task Forces actually the way you used the Task Force down there.

TC –That was right at the beginning of Operation Wetback.

LD –Well it was before that but that’s where all the technique came from. Working the units on the ground where you work fifteen or twenty units from the airplane directing them here and there and everywhere.

TC – And you guys kind of devised that system.

LD –Well I think that’s where it was pioneered yes. Because it went on to be used. As I understood their operation here in El Paso it was mostly sign-cutting. But ours was not sign-cutting it was strictly with the units.

TC –You said twenty units under you at one time?

LD –Oh sometimes you would have twenty yeah. But normally you would have maybe six seven eight to ten. But we used that same technique in other places after that. They may have been using it out in El Centro too. They had a situation that was similar to ours in McAllen. Large huge numbers of aliens — three four five hundred working in a field. I remember one morning there at Donna Road and 495 in the valley we had three thousand aliens on the ground by ten o’clock in one place.

TC –And what happened to them?

LD –Oh it took us the rest of the day to haul them off.

TC –That was before Operation Wetback?

LD –Right.

TC –And how did it change during Operation Wetback?

LD –Well the same thing occurred except we had so many men and so many people you know. I don’t remember but the apprehension numbers were like five and six thousand a day. That three thousand that happened to be kind of a special deal that we ran. But it was rather remarkable with something like fifteen or twenty men I guess.

TC –How long were you there in McAllen the second time?

LD –Until February of ‘55 when I was transferred to Tucson.

TC –And you were in Tucson eight years?

LD –Until mid—1965. I don’t remember what month it was August or something like that. About ten years.

TC –Tell me about Tucson were you the first pilot there?

LD –No Bob Brewster was the first pilot there. No he might not have been. I think maybe Greg Hathaway was actually the first pilot there. The three pioneers so to speak: Hathaway and Parker and Henderson.

TC –He wasn’t killed in the autogiro?

LD –No Ned Henderson was killed in the autogiro.

TC –But Hathaway was one of the pilots?

LD –Yes. And later quit and became head of the Arizona Highway
Patrol and stayed there until he retired.

TC –He’s not still living is he?
LD – No. Parker died recently and he was the last of the

TC –I got him on tape. So you went out there with Brewster in Tucson?

LD –No Brewster had left. That’s how I happened to go there I took his place.

TC –Who else was flying out there?

LD –I was the only one for almost the entire time. The last couple of years I had another pilot.

TC –Who was that?

LD –Jack Ewing came there and then Darryl Carrico was transferred in from Florida after the Florida operation. They started phasing it out.

TC –What did you fly in Tucson?

TM: I got the first Cessna 180 in the Border Patrol. I had a
Super Cub for a little while and then it went to Marfa. The Cessna 180 had been ordered for the Tucson Sector.

TC –You never got another Super Cub?

LD –We got a Super Cub later after the second pilot came but I flew a 180 or 182 all the time I was out there.

TC –You don’t happen to remember the number of that Super Cub that you got?

LD –The Super Cub no I sure don’t. I may have a picture of it though.

TC –What did you do flying in Tucson?

TM: Well Tucson was quite a bit different than it was down in McAllen although we did some of the same work with the farm crews up in the Phoenix area and Casa Grande and the Gila Bend Area.

But we worked over the sign cutting units. Not sign cutting per se from the airplane — only a very few places you could do that in the Tucson Sector along the border. But we used to use it more or less to pin the alien down so that the ground units could get to him. If I stayed over the top of the country ahead of them I could keep the alien down until they could get there. Or quite frequently I’d find them out there somewhere. But there is no question that in most of the Tucson country that they can conceal themselves.

TC –Did you do many search and rescue type things?

LD –Hunted for a lot of escaped prisoners out of Florence. The State or Federal penitentiary always seemed to have somebody getting loose from time to time. And they always asked for our help. And I spent sixty hours hunting for Ed Parker’s abscondee at ten thousand feet out there – the alien that jumped out of the airplane.

TC –You were involved in that?

LD –Yes.

TC –They never did find him.

LD –No they never did find him. But I flew for a week and a half or two weeks – I think I flew nearly sixty hours looking for him something like that.

TC –They chalked that up as a suicide finally didn’t they?

LD –I don’t know.

TC –Ed was flying the plane when he jumped?

LD –Yes.

TC –That’s quite a story. But you didn’t find many aliens dead or half—dead in the desert.

LD –No. In fact I don’t remember having any at that time. They did over in the Yuma Sector but not the Tucson Sector. There is enough water in most of that country that they can get to water once in a while. Except maybe over at Ajo in the Gila Bend area — that’s pretty desolate. But we didn’t have a lot of aliens moving through the Gila Bend country at that time. Later I understand they did but we didn’t at that time. Most of it was through Nogales or Douglas.

TC –And you were stationed in Tucson itself?

LD –Yes.

TC –Who was the Chief then?

LD –I had seven while I was there. I started out with Bill Yeager.

TC –Tell me about Walter Miller. You said you interviewed him for the Sector history.

LD –I wish I could remember everything he said you know.

TC –What kind of a man was he? He was retired then?

LD –Right he was retired but he had a memory that I wish I had now. He could remember every person who had been employed at that time and why each station was placed where it was and the complement, he could tell you how many automobiles the station had and how many horses. For the history I wasn’t interested in personal histories at the time but I wish I had been because I should have put down some of the things he told me.

TC –He was retired there in Tucson?

LD –He was retired there in Tucson.

TC –Was he old at the time you –

LD –Right. He was probably in his 70’s.

TC –And he died when?

LD –That I can’t tell you I don’t know.

TC –He had been Chief at Tucson.

LD –He was the first Chief at Tucson.

TC –Had he been a river rider or border rider?

LD –He had been a Chinese Inspector. He told me stories about these Chinese smuggling cases that they made back before the formation of the Border Patrol.

TC –Was he a tall man a handsome man?

LD –He was a good-looking man. As I recall he stood about five foot probably nine or ten inches tall. Of course now he might have been taller than that at an earlier age too.

TC –And he had clear recall?

LD –Tremendous it really amazed me the memory that he had. He had a better memory at his age than I had and I was a young man and I didn’t have that kind of memory.

TC –Who were some of the characters you worked with?

LD –Characters? Ooph. Sam McKone. I would have to put him up
there. H.K.Nettle.

TC –Tell me about Nettle.

LD –Well I didn’t know Nettle until I became Assistant Chief at Port Isabel.

TC –Oh that was after Tucson?

LD –Well I quit flying at Tucson. I went chasing around sitting in one of these dentist chairs. But I was Assistant Chief at Port Isabel and Nettle was Senior at Galveston. And that’s how I got to know him. I had known him by reputation only until that time.

TC –What did you do at Port Isabel? You were Assistant Chief?

LD –I was Assistant Chief. Dave Blackwell was the Chief.

TC –Is that when that was the Sector?

LD –Yes.

TC –Or was it the Academy?

LD –The Academy was there also. So was the District the Port Isabel District.

TC –So you were Assistant Chief under Dave Blackwell?

LD –Yes.

TC –Did you teach at the Academy?

LD –No. I think I probably lectured a couple of times but that was it.

TC –From Tucson you went to Port Isabel?

LD –Yes

TC –Who was Chief there then?

LD – Jim Kelly was first and then he transferred to Tucson and Speedy Williams was the Chief.

TC –How long were you there?

LD –Six years.

TC –And then you went to Port Isabel. Did you retire from Port Isabel?

LD –No I was Deputy at McAllen when I retired.

TC –Deputy under who?

LD –Tommy Ball.

TC –So your career made a great big geographical circle.

LD –I started at McAllen and ended there.

TC –When did you retire?

LD –I think it was the 17th of December of 1977.

TC –So you were in almost thirty years.

LD –Right.

TC –Can you remember any funny stories or stories about these characters?

LD –There were a lot of characters. The NcAllen station when I was there was a bunch of characters. We had one there, I can’t remember his name right at the moment, that was constantly in trouble you know. He was a living legend. I’m sure his file was a foot thick. Just right now I can’t think of any.

TC -We have a memo out there from Nettle about a cabbage smuggling case. I forget where it came from but it’s hilarious.

LD –You know I wonder if somebody filched that off me because I haven’t been able to find that. I had a number of them. One of them was an investigation he conducted on an automobile accident up in Houston where Tex Lorphing was involved in some accident. It was probably as fine a letter as I ever saw.

TC -: He had a sense of humor.

LD –: He did.

TC –When did he die? He got to retire?

LD – Right. He was a northern Minnesota individual you know and he went back up to the piney woods of northern Minnesota when he retired. He wasn’t in the best of health when he retired. But what he died of I don’t know. Nobody ever saw him after he got up there except Balentine I guess. There’s one you ought to interview sometime.

TC –Balentine?

LD –Yes. Jim Balentine. He commutes between south Texas and northern Michigan. He’s the one that will remember all the humorous stories. McKone would too. Have you ever interviewed McKone?

TC –He interviewed himself kind of. But he writes me the funniest letters.

LD –I know he sent me a copy of what he sent you.


Transcribed by Roberta Shasteen on March 8 1990.
Edited by Terrie Cornell March 20 1990.

Mr. Maffeo entered the U.S. Border Patrol in February 15 1941 and was a member of the 8th Training Session at El Paso Texas . Some of his classmates were James Bunner Albert Conway Bill Davis Lenord Gilman and Gordon Pettingill. In his interview Mr. Maffeo only mentioned in passing his experience as an Instructor at the various Border Patrol Academies. His pears however and all of his students would acknowledge his outstanding abilities as a Spanish language instructor and his contribution to many successful careers. Interview was conducted at the Border Patrol Museum on September 4 1986 by Ms. Terrie Cornell.

MM – I came into the Border Patrol in February 1941 and worked on the river for two months before I went to the Academy. I went to the eighth training session of the Academy.

TC – Do you have your picture?

MM – Yes I do have a class picture. You don’t have the eighth one? I’ll send you a copy.

TC – Oh great. What day in 1941?

MM – February 15 1941 and I went to the Academy in March of that same year. After that I just worked on the river you know line watch until that summer. We had a camp at Ft. Stanton where we kept all the sailors off the steamship Columbus that they scuttled of the coast of South America.

TC – I thought the Brits got the Germans off the ship?

MM – I don’t know who got them off. We eventually got custody of them here via San Francisco. I think they came from San Francisco to Ft. Stanton. We rode herd on them up there for quite a little while. I think that Jake Longan was going to leave the pictures we used to use for ID up there.

TC – We have he whole box.

MM – It is great that you have the pictures for the museum. We used them twice daily to check each detainee in camp. The pictures were arranged in the order that each subject sat at the dinner table. It was easy to check each able at dinner and breakfast. If a seat were vacant we would have to check the sick bay or the hospital. If the man was not sick we would then check the various details where he might be working. We had a horse patrol every morning and evening to sign-cut and check the fence. The horse patrol covered about twelve miles around the perimeter of the camp. We also patrolled all the highways near there both night and day.

TC – Then you must have known Ben Powell. He lives down in Fabens and he came in and brought a bunch of his own personal snapshots.

MM – Yes I knew Ben. He’ still here?

TC – Oh yes he’ still here. How long were you there?

MM – We would stay a month at a time there. We went up in three month intervals. We stayed in barracks and ate in our own mess hall. We had a pretty good cowboy cook whose specialty was stew. He also made good biscuits. My first detail to the camp started on June 15 1941. My second detail started on November 1 1941. Senior Patrol Inspectors in Charge were Tom Linnenkohl and Shelley Barnes.

And then of course came Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and we immediately went to White Sulphur Springs West Virginia.

TC – I must have a picture of you then. I’ll get the pictures out that Ben gave us. He took a lot of pictures. You went there?

MM – To White Sulphur Springs. We left El Paso on December 19 1941 en route to White Sulphur Springs WV. We arrived there on the 23rd. All of the alien enemy diplomats and their staffs were being kept there awaiting their return to their home countries. Each time that the exchange ship the Gripsholm came to New York we would take a train load up there so they could be put on the ship for its return to Europe. The ship was painted white and it sailed with its lights on for assured recognition. At the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs we had sentry boxes located at strategic points so that all entries and departures could be checked. At the less strategic points we had sentry boxes manned by local guards that were hired there.

TC – And it took fourteen months to do that?

MM – Fourteen months to do all that. And then we were not through because we moved some of them down to Asheville North Carolina. We kept some there for quite a little while in the Grove Park Inn.

TC – Did you go down there?

MM – Yes. I went down there for a couple of months.

TC – Was that as swanky a hotel as the White Sulphur Springs?

MM – Just as swanky yes it was a great big place. It had a fireplace as big as that wall there. They used to have a little donkey come in and they would harness him to pull the logs up on a pulley arrangement so that they could be swung into the fireplace.

TC – Were you married at that time?

MM – No.

TC – Gee what fun.

MM – Oh it was a great detail. You know when I came into the Border Patrol I was just an old country boy and I didn’t know there was such a thing as a coffee break. I worked in the mines in Bisbee and then I taught school over there for a while but I never knew anybody took a coffee break. I joined the Border Patrol here and the Assistant Chief one day said “lets go uptown for a cup of coffee.” I said “We’re supposed to be working.” He said “You’re supposed to drink coffee twice a day once in the morning and once in the afternoon.” I didn’t know that.

TC – Where were you born and raised?

MM – Morenci Arizona.

TC – When did your parents go out here?

MM – My dad came from Italy in 1884 to Bisbee.

TC – To the mines?

MM – His father did. My father was just a baby when he came.

TC – How interesting.

MM – My parents were married in Bisbee AZ. They spent about twenty-five years in Morenci. That is where I grew up and finished high school. I have the distinction of having been born in the Territory of Arizona. It was admitted to Statehood eleven days after my birthday.

TC – And then you taught school for awhile?

MM – After I graduated from school there were no jobs.

TC – Did you go to college?

MM – Yes. Arizona University. That’s how come I came into the Border Patrol. So when I finished college I couldn’t get a job and I went to work in the mines in Ajo. Then I came to Bisbee and worked in the mines. I went underground there and I didn’t like that underground work. So this job came up as a school teacher so I went to work as a school teacher in a little country school in Pearce Arizona. It’s like Wilcox the largest town close to it. The pay was $1100 a year for ten months of teaching. And the Border Patrol came out with an ad for $2000 a year so I thought that’s for me. I had taken a lot of exams so I thought well I’ll go down and take that one. They asked me if I would take an appointment before I knew what I had made on the examination. I said sure. You know I jumped from $1100 to $2000 that was sure a big jump. That’s how come I got in the Border Patrol.

TC – And you were a single man then that was really riches.

MM – Yes I didn’t want to be anything else but a Border Patrolman after a couple of months on the job. Oh it was terrific.

TC – It paid so well.

MM – Yes it paid so well and the work was so interesting. We worked with a great bunch of guys whose morale and esprit de corps was always tops. Some days the work was easy and we would have our coffee breaks but the night shifts on the river and line watch were something else. We would wear warm clothing and carry heavy blankets to sit on and wrap up in. There was a lot of liquor smuggling in those days. There was always a lot of activity around what was then known as Cordova Island. At that time Cordova Island was the part of Mexico that was on this side of the Rio Grande. If Darbeyshire Steel Mfg. Co. is still in El Paso the northwest corner of Cordova Island would be just across the road from their shops.

TC – And then you got these cushy assignments.

MM – Cushy assignments yes. They called me “Per Diem Maffeo” for quite awhile because I was gone so much. O.K. then after that detail in Grove Park Inn.

TC – How many aliens did you move down there would you guess?

MM – It would just be a guess I would say four hundred.

TC – Four hundred!

MM – Yes we had that Greenbriar Hotel full. I don’t know how may we had in there at the time.

TC – And these were people that had been in the Greenbriar for fourteen months?

MM – Some of them were and some you see they had the Grove Park Inn the Greenbriar Hotel and Hot Springs West Virginia. The spa there. That hotel over there was full for a time too.

TC – This is the whole household of these families right. Their nannies cooks and whatever?

MM – Everybody The staffs all went there too.

TC – Did they bring more people in during the was?

MM – Yes they picked them up in South America and brought them up here.

TC – Who picked them up in South America? Other Countries?

MM – No I think our State Department picked them up and made arrangements to bring them up here to make the exchange because see they were our allies in South America.

TC – So you were constantly getting new prisoners?

MM – Yes.

TC – Moving them down to North Carolina must have been exiting. Guarding them?

MM – Oh you put them on the train and man each end of the Pullman car. You know first class. They were all used to first class treatment.

TC – Did any of them try to bribe you to stay here?

MM – No not me personally. But they did some of the officers. I never had any contact with any of them who came up and offered.

On another detail they attached us to an army group let’s see a National Guard outfit – somewhere back there that was still in the country. They had the submarine scare on the coast at that time and the army wanted some Immigration Officers to work with their patrols in case they picked up somebody to help find out if they were aliens. So we got to ride the beaches out there with the army for a couple or three months and I asked to get back to El Paso since it was my official station.

TC – Did you enjoy the beach patrol?

MM – Well yes but we had to live in army tents.

TC – What time of year was It?

MM – Let’s see I returned to El Paso in January so it must have been in December of 1942.

TC – Was there a submarine or just a scare?

MM – Well it was just a scare. They thought the submarines had come in where the water was shallow and dropped people off – spies and so forth and they waded in.

TC – But they had not done that?

MM – But during the war they picked up the Japanese you know and picked up their staffs and put them in internment camps. There was an internment camp out here at Lordsburg.

TC – At Lordsburg? Did you get out there?

MM – I was stationed at Lordsburg. When I came back from this detail they sent me out to Lordsburg. That was ‘43 then when I came back. See ‘42 had gone by and I came back here and went to Lordsburg.

TC – I haven’t heard anybody talk about that camp.

MM – Yes the camp was about six miles southeast of Lordsburg. We used to do a lot of fingerprinting out there.

TC – And there were only Japanese in that camp? How many would you guess were there?

MM – Two or three hundred. I stayed there until June. I thought the way the war was going over in Europe I thought it was almost over and I wanted to have a veteran status when the war was over. So I didn’t ask for our blanket deferment – the blanket determent we would get every time we would get a call from the draft board. We would just call the Chief and of course he had a blanket deferment for us. It came out of Washington. But I didn’t take my deferment that time and the war was not over and I ended up with three years in the infantry.

TC— You were drafted?

MM – Yes.

TC – And when did you go in the army?

MM – In June of 1943 until the war was over until January of ‘46. See I was in ‘43 a half year and then ‘44 and all of ‘45. Two and a half years in the Service.
TC – Where were you stationed then

MM – They sent us to New Zealand as replacements in the 25thd Division. Then we came to New Caledonia and we trained there for another nine months. We made a practice landing on Guadalcanal and made the real landing on Luzon. But we had dress rehearsal on Guadalcanal and then we had opening night on Luzon. We fought on Luzon for six months then went to Japan for occupation for three months and then came home.

TC – And you still weren’t married?

MM – No not until I came back to the States.

TC – I’m jumping ahead of you – how interesting. So you had both the Border Patrol and the army during World War II. The best of both worlds.

MM – You might say.

TC – O.K. then pick up after the war.

MM – After the war? I came back and the Chief said where do you want to go? I said I want to go back to Lordsburg. I loved it there it was so close to my home and dad was a contractor and of course on my two days off I could always moonlight with him for the income. So I stayed in Lordsburg for six months after the war. They called me into El Paso one day. They said send Mike in to talk about a possible transfer so they sent me in here and the Chief said “We want to send you up to Albuquerque.” I said “I don’t want to go to Albuquerque.” He said “you know Mike a single man who would rather live in Lordsburg than Albuquerque I couldn’t recommend him for promotion.” So I told him as long as he had explained the benefits to me I’d go to Albuquerque. So I went up to Albuquerque and that is where I met my wife. We were married in ‘47 in Albuquerque and honeymooned upstairs in this hotel.

TC – What did you do in Albuquerque?

MM – In the Border Patrol. We checked freight trains and checked the beet fields in Colorado. We had a road block in Trinidad. Of course all those freight trains went through Belen which is 25 miles this side of Albuquerque.

At Belen that reminds me when I first came into the Border Patrol I put truck driver down as one of my occupations before I came into the Border Patrol and they sent me to Belen to move a man back to El Paso for transferring back to El Paso. I went up in the truck and stayed in the hotel that night and the next morning I went over to his house and told him I was there to move him and that was the first indication he had that he was going to be transferred when I showed up.

TC – Oh this is a Border Patrolman you were moving?

MM – Yes.

TC – He didn’t know he was being transferred until the moving van showed up at his door?

MM – Yes. He was excited and he called on the telephone and finally he said yes I guess I am transferred.

TC – Do you know who that was?

MM – His name is Dennis Wolstenholme. Dennis and I had breakfast a couple of weeks ago and he reminded me of that incident. The man Parks was transferring in to be an Immigrant Inspector so the move was no surprise to him. Dennis later became a Chief and was stationed in Tucson. If you ever have the opportunity to interview him you will get some truly interesting stories.

TC – You only did that one time?

MM – No I did it another time. I went to Fabens down here to move a man named Dayton Tuck in this old flat rack Chevrolet truck you know. His wife said “you know my refrigerator is brand new and I don’t want anything to happen to that. Are you sure you can move it out?” I said “well your husband can help. We can wrap it up in quilts and so forth and we will tie it up in the truck and nothing should happen to it.” O.K. so we were tooling off down the road to Ft. Hancock (he was going to be moved to Ft. Hancock) and the road was kind of rough. He was following the truck and the car started to honk and I looked back. The truck had been bouncing and the top of that refrigerator bounced off and fell off on the pavement. By the time I got back there it was one of those old enamel jobs and the enamel was still crinkling off of that refrigerator. He said “Oh I’ve got to tell my wife what happened. She sure is going to be mad at me.”

TC – How long were you stationed in Albuquerque?

MM – Two years. And then I came down here to El Paso transferred to El Paso. That’s when they asked me if I wanted to be an instructor in the Academy. And I didn’t want to. But it was a two-grade jump and a promotion and I was married then and settled down.

TC – You didn’t want to though.

MM – Not really. You know I really enjoyed patrol work even in spite of the fact that it was shift work. But anyway the Academy was straight days and had its advantages.

TC – But you missed the line watch being outside?

MM – Oh I missed it yes.

TC – So you taught from what ‘49?

MM – Let’s see from ‘49 to 55.

TC – Can you give me the locations of the Academy in those years?

MM – In ‘49 it was down here at Camp Chigas. Then in 1950 we were on detail down to McAllen Texas and had it down there two sessions I think and then we came back here.

TC – A session would have been how long?

MM – A session was six weeks. And they ran two classes at a time. Two Spanish classes and two law classes. There were about a hundred in each session.

TC – About a hundred in the two classes together.

MM – Yes. At that time. Then we went to McAllen in ‘50 and again in ‘52. In between we had it here at Camp Chigas.

TC – O.K. Do you know why they moved down to McAllen?

MM – They had such a big class down there and they were putting so many on down there they didn’t want to pay them per diem to send them up here on detail to go to school.

TC – So they took the school to them.

MM – They took the school to them you see. In ‘52 we went to Las Cruces for a couple of sessions. Wait let me take that back. We went out here to the Radford School for girls for one session. We ran a school once out there.

TC – This would have been about 1952? Would that have been in the summer?

MM – Yes.

TC – And then Las Cruces.

MM – And then Las Cruces. We had two sessions up at Las Cruces at the New Mexico Agricultural College.

TC – Do you have pictures of all this?

MM – I don’t think so. There are some – there were class pictures. From NMSU then we came back to Ft. Bliss. We had an old WAC quarters out there, so we had a nice area out there. We kind of changed it around a bit to make class rooms out of some of the parts of it. I taught the two sessions there. And that’s when I left the Academy in ‘56.

TC – So you were seven years altogether in the Academy? You taught Spanish?

MM – Yes Spanish and some Nationality law but mostly Spanish.

TC – And then what did you do?

MM – I transferred to Tucson and was an Anti-Smuggling officer at that time.

TC – And that’s why you retired there? You spent the rest of your career there?

MM – Yes in Tucson

TC – When did you retire?

MM – In 1972 July 15.

TC – Goodness you were there a long time.

MM – Yes half of my Border Patrol career was in Tucson. Thirty-two years credit I had for pension computation including military.

TC – Who did you work under at Tucson?

MM – Let’ see the first Chief I worked under there was Wolstenholme and Henry Stallings was Assistant Chief. Then Wolstenholme was replaced by Hensley. Then Hensley was replaced by Bruce Long. And then after Bruce Long was Jim Kelley. Jim Kelley was Chief when I retired. But during that hitch in Tucson I transferred to Investigations for two years. I was an Investigator in Tucson.

TC – Do you have any good stories from that?

MM – No not really. It was one of those deals where we were all upgraded the Anti-smuggling officers were all upgraded and took charge of prosecutions. That was Investigations territory and they didn’t like it when we were upgraded because some of their Investigators were waiting for promotions. It wasn’t a great two years as far as I’m concerned because when the opportunity came to go back to the Patrol I did right quick. My partner was shot one night.

TC – Killed?

MM – Yes.

TC – Who was that?

MM – Bill Phillips an Investigator.

TC – How did that happen?

MM – He had a warrant for this guy’s arrest and the guy was living with a family in south Tucson and we went down there early one morning to see if we could catch him. He was just leaving the house and we had to chase him in the car and we chased him all over south Tucson and he finally ended up going right back to the house again. He jumped out of the car and ran in the house and slammed the door and Bill was chasing him and then Bill went around to one of the windows to see if he could see him and he shot him through the window. Bill couldn’t shoot back because there were kids in the house.

TC – And he was killed right there? How sad.

MM – Yes. And Bill was a Border Patrolman before he went to Investigations so I don’t know if he is listed with Border Patrol casualties or not.

TC – Did you get the guy who killed him?

MM – Eventually yes. We had to go to Mexico City. They caught him in Mexico City and so we went to Mexico City and testified against him. The Mexicans wanted the gun and we were bringing the gun to Mexico City and not let any of their Customs people en route know that we had the gun. Naturally by this time the FBI was deeply involved in the investigation and were very helpful in arranging our passage to Mexico City because one of their Agents was going with us. The subject Jesus Leon-Reynaga was sentenced to prison. It was a Military type prison. Later in an escape attempt he was shot and killed.

TC – Your exciting details happened early in your career and then after that you settled down.

MM – Yes. Those were nice details. We didn’t fly in those days we went on the train every place. When we went from here to White Sulphur Springs they had sent me to Arizona on detail and called me back from Arizona and I did have time to come back here and store my car and get on the train and there were five of us went back on this detail. They detailed us out so fast we had a private car all the way to St. Louis. –

TC – To go to White Sulphur Springs. Do you remember who the five were?

MM – Let’s see Jimmy Smith Leighton St. Clair Thomason Ben Powell and me is that five of us?

TC – And you had a private car.

MM – After I retired I went to work for Pima County State of Arizona as a property appraiser. I worked mainly with ranches and their properties. After that I substituted in the school system in Tucson for a couple of sessions as a school teacher and then quit altogether.

TC – Are you traveling around now?

MM – Not a whole lot. We take a couple of trips a year but I spend most of my time hiking in the mountains. I keep in pretty good shape. So that’s it. I can’t think of anything else.

Original transcription by Roberta N. Shasteen on February 1 1990

Interview of Mrs. N. Franklin (Sarah) Davidson by her son Chandler Davidson Professor of Sociology at Rice University Houston Texas July 16 1988 at Mrs. Davidsons home in Houston Texas.

This interview is about the life of Mrs. Sarah Davidson as the wife of N. Franklin Davidson especially during his years in the U.S. Immigration Service.

Mr. Davidson entered the U.S. Border Patrol in October 1942 as a member of the 19th session at El Paso Texas.

CD: Where and when did dad first join the Service? And what were the events leading up to that?

SD: He joined the Service in St. Louis. He took the exam for Border Patrolman when he was working for the Department of Agriculture as a Meat Inspector. That was so definitely a step up that he was delighted to get the opportunity to take the test. He had wanted to be in the Border Patrol for a long time and hadn’t had the opportunity to take the examination so when he saw an ad in a post office saying they were giving the test at a certain place at a certain time he made arrangements to be there. When he took the test he thought he has surely failed because he didn’t even answer two thirds of the questions but it turned out –

CD: Why did he not answer two-thirds of the questions?

SD: He ran out of time. He was violently ill and had to leave the room to be ill because he was so excited about getting to take the test. And when he got back and was preparing to go ahead with answering the questions the person in charge said “That’s all.” He said that he couldn’t possibly have passed. Actually, the very opposite happened; he made something in the 90’s – 96 I think. Undoubtedly, they graded it on the curve and he didn’t have to count those that he didn’t even answer. But he made an extremely good grade and that was just the beginning of it though of course. It had to go through channels and get him from St. Louis to El Paso which took almost a whole year. CD: When did he get to El Paso? SD: In October of ‘42.

CD: What did he do when he was in El Paso?

SD: He went to the first Border Patrol School after his entry there. I think the date of his entry was October 12th. I can’t remember whether the next school was before Christmas or shortly thereafter but he went to the first school after that and was registered with the Patrol there in El Paso all this time. After he had finished the school and been in El Paso a few months he was transferred to Lordsburg New Mexico where he stayed for the next ten years almost.

CD: I see. Wasn’t there a period where he went into the Marines after he had joined the Immigration Service?

SD: Yes there surely was. After he had been in Lordsburg several months he received notice that he had been drafted. When he went to present himself the Marines chose him so he was a Marine for a little over a year. Never did he go overseas but he was always in school in the Marines and was finally discharged with bad legs.

CD: And then he came back to Lordsburg?

SD: Came back to Lordsburg and resumed his job there where we stayed as I said for a good many years.

CD: and then from Lordsburg he went to –

SD: He went to Ysleta and were there a few years during which time he taught sometimes at the Border Patrol Academy sometimes Spanish and sometimes Law. After that we were in Fort Hancock for the two years that you were duty bound to go to a hardship station which that was because they had bad water you had to haul in water. He was Senior over there though and we had a very happy time in Fort Hancock.

CD: And then where did you go?

SD: He was transferred back to El Paso so we have always been in the Southwest. After he had been there several years he had two heart attacks and that was the cause of his early retirement. He had been in 25 years.

CD: So he retired what year do you remember?

SD: It was ‘67 on his birthday November 23rd.

CD: And from there where did you go?

SD: That was the end of his Border Patrol career which is of interest.

CD: And after that?

SD: After that we went to the Hill Country and bought ourselves the most beautiful little home and had the most fun on the lakes. We were there for almost 20 years and he died there in ‘85 after many happy years there. We had a good life.

CD: Well let me talk a little bit about your life as the wife of a Border Patrolman and let’s begin by going back to those early days. Your first duty station was Lordsburg. Tell me a little about your family and about your experiences there in Lordsburg.

SD: We had two boys when we went to Lordsburg three when we left
and the two boys were Chandler and Phillip. Chandler was in – I guess the first grade but school was almost out that first year. And of course, Phil was just a little toddler. We enjoyed being out in that kind of station because that’s the kind of life I had always led a country girl.

CD: Where did you originally grow up?

SD: Oh I grew up in Mitchell County near Colorado City Texas which is really prime West Texas territory.

CD: So it wasn’t all that much different in terms of climate.

SD: No even the climate absolutely. It was very similar to what I had been accustomed to all my life.

CD: So tell us a little about the climate out there the weather and the kinds of situations that you found yourself in.

SD: Alright I loved the desert. It was dry of course a lot of the time but we did have an occasional rain and sometimes gully washers but I liked it all. The temperature was nice because in the evenings it would always get cool in the summer. The altitude was high.

CD: How about the dust storms?

SD: Oh we had those too and I had been used to them in Texas so I knew where they came from and where they were going. But they were bad. It was cold in the winter in Lordsburg but not terribly cold because it is southern New Mexico of course. There was snow sometimes most every year it snowed somewhere around there.

CD: Who were some of the people in Dad’s duty station there and their wives? Who were your early friends there in Lordsburg?

SD: Oh yes. The first person in Lordsburg that we came to know was E. Keith McDonald the Senior the Station Senior as they called him. But he was soon replaced by Eldon Taylor who was the Station Senior almost all the time we were there. And there were the Marbrys – Lucille and Paul; and Mike Maffeo and of course Eldon and Sally Taylor the ones in charge. And then different people came and went. There were the Wolstenholmes and that’s all I recall right at this minute although I know there were two or three more.

CD: Were the people in the Border Patrol a fairly close-knit group of people?

SD: Yes they were and they were accepted very readily even though the farmers sometimes were at odds with the Patrolmen. But everyone just accepted us girls just as though we were top-grade stuff and we were in the Border Patrol because our husbands were smarter than average we thought.

CD: What were the usual duty routines of the husbands and how did that affect your life?

SD: They were usually on eight-hour shifts but sometimes they had to be on call for any time during the twenty-four hours if they were needed and they were supposed to be ready to go. Many times they were called up at night but not often. They inspected the trains as they came through for alien riders. Then they would ride out in the Patrol cars in the day time and try to apprehend aliens who were working in the countryside on ranches or farms or whatever and of course the hunting of aliens was so good in those days that hardly a day passed that they did not go into El Paso to transport aliens to Headquarters. For several years they were going into El Paso all the time to take aliens. They sure had a lot to contend with.

CD: How far was that trip from Lordsburg to El Paso?

SD: It seems to me that it was about 165 miles. I may be wrong but it was a long way.

CD: That was highway 80 back in those days wasn’t it? A two-lane highway?

SD: Yes, and there were more accidents on that straight uncluttered road than you ever saw. But the boys never were involved that I know of in anything serious anyway. But how did it affect us? Why we accepted it as part of life and that was just all there was to it. There was nothing to worry about and lots of times it was interesting and exciting you know. But they never did tell us very much about their business. They knew better I guess.

CD: Well did they consider it to be a dangerous occupation?

SD: If they did it didn’t seem to matter in any way except jumping around on the trains that was the worst thing. There was an accident or two I don’t believe any Border Patrolman but a railroad detective or someone had an accident either falling from a train or a train hitting him and so they had to be very careful of that. I think that did give them a little bit of worry. But no nobody was very much worried about the law part of it the part in which guns were shot and people were killed I don’t think that ever happened in our area.

CD: How was life for you and the children so far as this small-town life and the kinds of things that went on back in those days?

SD: It was interesting. It was nice because I had grown up in the
church and I immediately began going to church and taking the little boys. We just fitted right in wherever we went. The kids were popular in school and smart and did everything that was expected of them. But of course Dad would always be sent out of town on a detail just when they were getting ready to participate in a band concert or a track meet or something so he hardly ever got to be there.

CD: What did these details involve?

SD: They were more or less I think “sweeps” where they would go to maybe the lower Rio Grande Valley and every available Patrolman would get out and scour the countryside and try to apprehend the aliens. And they were very successful. And once Frank had to go to California and I am not sure but I think he almost missed our oldest son’s graduation. Now this was after we moved but something always happened. Do you remember if Dad did get special dispensation to go to your graduation?

CD: No I don’t remember.

SD: Well I think he did get to attend but he had to have a special permit because then he went and joined the detail that was involved in swinging around and sweeping up aliens.

CD: Didn’t he at one time also take part in the Japanese relocation camps?

SD: Yes that was a part of his duty in I believe that was ‘46.

CD: After the war?

SD: Yes. There were several Border Patrolmen assigned to the Tule Lake camp for those Japanese citizens. Actually they were citizens of the United States but they were under surveillance all this time. He had a pretty good time up there. They were nice to him and I don’t think they were cruel to the prisoners but they were prisoners which wasn’t really right I don’t think.

CD: And so how long was he up there?

SD: Oh I don’t know just a matter of weeks or months. I can’t even guess but it wasn’t very long not anything like a year or six months.

CD: So it was expected that every once in a while he would have to be gone from home a few weeks and the wife would be on her own.

SD: Yes she would be on her own and invariably one of the kids would have a sickness of some kind that Mama was pretty apprehensive about but nothing too serious ever happened. I guess if anything very serious had happened we could have called him back. We were used to that; it was something that we accepted kids as well as I.

CD: And you say that the wives were fairly close. They socialized with each other and helped each other out?

SD: Yes we all visited compared notes and enjoyed each others presence. They were all pretty similar in their upbringing because one requirement for the Border Patrol in those days was that you had been involved in something that kept you outdoors for the past two years or I don’t know for what period of time. But people who worked outside were going to be Border Patrolmen. Of course Frank was a rancher his father was a rancher and that’s what he was putting as his background because he had been a cowboy for a good many years on his father’s ranch. So they all were outdoors men and many of them had been in I suppose police departments some sort of law enforcement so we all had a fairly common background.

CD: How did the Border Patrol get along with the other law enforcement agencies in the little towns where they worked?

SD: Just fine in both the places that I was very familiar with. In Lordsburg they were just buddy-buddy with the Highway Patrol the New Mexico Highway Patrol and –

CD: Who was that do you remember who that was the Patrolman who was there when you were there?

SD: Yes everybody knew Johnny Bradford and he was later to become head man of that organization.

CD: The Chief of Police of the State of New Mexico?

SD: Yes absolutely and we were all good friend with him and his wife Margaret.

CD: You mentioned Eldon Taylor’s name a few minutes ago. What was his wife’s name?

SD: Sally and Sally is still one of my good friends. Incidentally she’s working here for the Museum.

CD: And who are some of the other wives that you knew back in those days?

SD: I failed to mention the Steeles a while ago – Margaret and Chuck Steele and Pat Wolstenholme and –

CD: How about the Wischkaempers?

SD: I forgot to mention the Wischkaempers because for about a year
they were out of Lordsburg and I guess I was trying to remember who was there at that time. But yes Tony Wischkaemper and Wisch Richard were very good friends of ours. The whole business — we were just as friendly as could be.

CD: What were Dad’s duties when you were transferred to El Paso in 1952?

SD: Well he was still just apprehending aliens. He was a Border Patrolman. But sometime I don’t know when it would have been he was involved with the Border Patrol Academy as I said in different capacities. This was in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s.

CD: You had said that he had taught Spanish there and that he had also taught Law there. How did he learn Spanish and Law?

SD: He had to learn those two subjects and take a test on them before he ever got into the Border Patrol. That was his probationary year he had a year to learn Border Patrol Law and also Spanish. Of course I was a pretty good Spanish speaker myself and I helped him.

CD: You already spoke Spanish?

SD: Well not fluently but I had had three years in high school and one in college so I knew a little bit about basic grammar.

CD: So the two of you worked together at home?

SD: Yes and he also had help from his Border Patrol friends some of whom had lived in Mexico. The first man who was his senior there Keith McDonald (they were Mormons and they had lived in Mexico) spoke Spanish wonderfully well. So I don’t know whether Keith helped Dad much or not because I don’t believe, no that was before he got in but there were a lot of Border Patrolmen who knew Spanish from their childhood.

CD: And how about Law?

SD: Law was hard.

CD: Did you help him with that too?

SD: Well I read out the questions and listened to his answers and looked them up. But yes I helped him in a way I suppose. But he had also attended lectures on it.

CD: Who were some of the people then that you were friendly with in El Paso?

SD: I am trying to think. Some of the ones I remember lived near us and those were named: Skid and Penny Rogers and Dale Morris and
his wife. I can’t remember very many people because in a big station like El Paso you do not get to know intimately so many of your husband’s associates’ wives as you did in a small place like Lordsburg. So I never did know too many people with whom he worked in El Paso. But after all we were there I guess ten years so I should have known more than I did perhaps.

CD: You knew the Turners didn’t you?

SD: Oh Bill and Sue Turner our very best friends of course. And I can find in my mind a lot of names if I were prepared.

CD: What were some of the duties there in El Paso were they
pretty much the same as in Lordsburg – just on a larger scale?

SD: Yes they would inspect busses to find where the aliens were coming in or if they were coming in. Also they rode around out in the hinterlands and apprehended aliens who were working illegally. Just the same duties as anywhere except the milieu was a little bit different. Also there were specialized duties as I said about the school. You could sometimes get just a short shift of teaching out there which Dad did two or three times.

CD: You said you lived where when you were in El Paso?

SD: We lived down in Miller’s Lakeside which was right on the river and boy that was a place where the men had to patrol because the river was so accessible. They could just walk across it in many places or they might have to wade across it but it was easy to get in down there so there was always somebody on the border there.

CD: And you had had a third son while you were in Lordsburg.

SD: Yes we surely had. He was born in 1949 and I don’t suppose he remembers much about New Mexico not nearly as much as he does El Paso.

CD: This is Tony?

SD: That’s Tony our youngest and he was the last one of the family to graduate from Ysleta High School. All three boys graduated there.

CD: At some point you said you had gone to Fort Hancock. When was that?

SD: That was after well let’s see it was about 1958 or 1959 I guess 1958.

CD: How long did you live there?

SD: Two years.

CD: How was living in Fort Hancock?

SD: It was nice. We had a nice house to live in and a pretty desert-like area. But the water was bad and it had to be hauled in to drink and we also had to do our laundry somewhere else because the water wasn’t any good to do even your clothes in. But we enjoyed it there. That was Frank’s first and only station where he was the Senior so he enjoyed it too. And there were I believe five people among whom were the Adamzcks and the Reeves Harold Reeves and his wife Phyllis. Off hand I can’t just say who the other three were but I’ll think of them. Penter Nat and Lois.

CD: After your two years there you moved back to El Paso?

SD: Yes he was transferred back to El Paso and did essentially the same work as before. Of course this all entailed making detailed records of everybody you apprehended and the paper work was rather cumbersome or troublesome but that is some part of police work that always bugs people who participate in it.

CD: Well looking back on your life as a Border Patrolman’s wife would you recommend it to other wives whose husbands are thinking about going into the Service?

SD: It would be very hard for me to make any kind of a statement as to that because things have changed so much in the Patrol. At least this is what I understand. I thought that everything was great then and I don’t think that everything is quite so great now as far as the duties of the men and their abilities and so forth. So I wouldn’t make much judgment. Although I think any wife would be happy to go wherever her husband had work. Now that’s another thing – it might be a lot easier to find work like this than it was back in the days when I was a Border Patrol wife because you were really among the few.

CD: That was just shortly after the depression when you all went into it.

SD: Yes absolutely we had hardly gotten out of the depression. I believe that Dad’s first salary for the whole year was $2000 when we went in.

CD: And that was considered a princely sum wasn’t it?

SD: Oh my we had been living on $1625 so it was fine.

CD: And one other thing I wanted you to talk a little about – when you were in Lordsburg you also did some work of your own didn’t you?

SD: Yes I taught school as a substitute for a couple of years before our last child was born. And also I was elected to the School Board. And Dad was selected as a member of the Draft Board so the ones that we didn’t get in school we got in the draft. No I’m joking there was nothing personal about it. But it was an interesting life.

CD: Well thank you very much.
SD: I’ve enjoyed it.

Transcribed by Bernice Maggio and edited by Terrie Cornell May 1990 Re-edited by Mrs. Davidson and T. Cornell July 1990.

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