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Yoneko Dobashi IwatsuruInterviewed by Milan Pavlovich, April 30, 1970
This is a slightly edited transcription of an interview conducted for the Oral History Program, sponsored by California State University, Fullerton. The reader should be aware that an oral history document portrays information as recalled by the interviewee. Because of the spontaneous nature of this kind of document, it may contain statements and impressions which are not factual.
Scholars are welcome to utilize short excerpts from any of the transcriptions without obtaining permission as long as proper credit is given to the interviewee, the interviewer, and the University. Scholars must, however, obtain permission from California State University, Fullerton before making more extensive use of the transcription and related materials. None of these materials may be duplicated or reproduced by any party without permission from the Oral History Program, California State University, Fullerton, California, 92634.
Copyright (c) 1977
The Oral History Program
California State University, Fullerton [Intro]
CALIFORNIA STATE COLLEGE, FULLERTCN ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Richard M. Nixon Project
Early School Days in Yorba Linda, California
YONEKO DOBASHI IWATSURU
Interviewed by Milan Pavlovich
On April 30, 1970
FOR REFERENCE USE ONLY [Title]
CALIFORNIA STATE COLLEGE, FULLERTCN
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Richard M. Nixon Project
INTERVIEWEE: YONEKO DOBASHI IWATSURU
INTERVIEWER: Milan Pavlovich
SUBJECT: Early School Days in Yorba Linda, California
DATE: April 30, 1970
P:This is an interview for the California State College, Fullerton, Richard M. Nixon Oral History Project. The interviewee is Mrs. Yoneko Dobashi Iwatsuru, formerly Miss Yoneko Dobashi. She was a classmate of Richard Nixon's in the second and third grade at Yorba Linda Elementary School. The interviewer is Milan Pavlovich. The interview was held in Mrs. Iwatsuru's living room at 17151 East Bastanchury Road, Yorba Linda, at 4:30 p.m., April 30, 1970.
Mrs. Iwatsuru, could you tell me a little about yourself and how you came to Yorba Linda and when?
I:I was born here in 1912. My father came here in 1910 and settled. He bought twenty acres of bare land and put it all in oranges and lemons. Actually, this was all bare land here, but to get started he rented ground from other people and planted peas, tomatoes, and things like that between the trees until they were old enough to bear. You can't plant anything in between after that because there isn't enough room. That's how he got started here in Yorba Linda, and got on his feet. Gradually he expanded to other areas, as far as fanning is concerned. Our biggest project was where the golf course is now in Yorba Linda. That was four hundred acres of peas, and that was where we grew most of our tomatoes. At the very beginning it was all dry farming. In those days we had more rain than what we have now. Then we gradually put in irrigation systems and went into other types of vegetables: cabbages, beans, you know, smaller vegetables that are easier than tomatoes.
P:Did you get your water from the Santa Ana River during this time, before the irrigation? 
I:No, we had a pump drilled. We put the pump in and that's the water that they are using up there now. We put all of our water and irrigation system in ourselves.
P:I understand your father was called the "Tomato King of Yorba Linda." How did he get this title?
I:Well, I don't know. We lived here a long time and we raised nothing but tomatoes year after year. That was our main truck farm.
P:I understand that your father used to drive a wagon between Yorba Linda and Los Angeles.
I:Right. That was our only transportation in those days until we were able to get a truck. But, yes, we took our vegetables into Los Angeles by mule.
P:Did you ever accompany him on any of these trips?
I:No, I wasn't old enough yet, but when he began to transport by truck, I remember going in once in a while.
P:The school that you went to in Yorba Linda, was that the Yorba Linda Elementary School?
P:And where was this located?
I:It was located where the Yorba Linda Forestry is now.
P:Would that be on School Street?
I:School Street and—is that Lemon?
P:I believe it is. Could you describe your school to me?
I:There was one big building with four large rooms which was the main building. There were other smaller buildings in the back. I think there are one or two still remaining that I think people are occupying. Then there was one building across the street from school, opposite, east of the fire station on Fourth Street, that Mrs. Cochhran lived in. That's where our first grade was in the picture that I showed you. It's not there now.
P:Mrs. Cochran, of course, was your teacher.
I:She lived there for a while. Then that was turned into our first grade room. 
P:Was there a reason for converting her place into the first grade room?
I:I don't remember that detail, but then I think she married Dr. Cochran and moved into another quarter.
P:So she may have donated the building, then?
I:I don't know.
P:Could you describe your classroom to me?
I:You mean my first grade?
I:Oh, I don't remember that well, but I remember it was just a small building, a one-room affair. It was just like a small home converted into a room to serve as a classroom. Of course, we didn't have any heating system there, in those days. I think we burned wood. I'm not sure.
P:Was it a cheerful room? Were there a lot of pictures and so forth on the walls?
I:Oh, I can't remember all those little details, but I know it was much different than the present day. We were able to walk home and enjoy our walk home, instead of getting on the bus and being transported home. And we were permitted to be barefooted and all of those little things that we can't do nowadays.
P:Was the classroom just for the first grade, or were the first and second grade in the same room?
I:Well, this was first grade. Then when I went up to the second grade, it was a combination second and third grade. That is where Richard, at the middle of the school semester, was promoted to the third grade.
P:Right in the middle of the second grade?
I:Right, I think so.
P:His teacher said that she thought that she promoted him because the second grade was too easy for him. Did you notice that?
I:I don't know. I don't remember the second grade too well. But when I was in the first grade. We didn't have kindergarten in those days, and so I started right off in the first grade. I remember when we had sharing periods, and I remember that when Richard was  allowed to have his time to say something, he had a lot to say. I was a little shy, I guess, and so I didn't have much to say, but I remember he did have lots to say and it was interesting.
P:He was very outspoken then, at his early age. Did he like any particular topic to discuss in front of the group or article or anything?
I:I don't remember if there was any special topic, but when I see him now I can just remember way back. Well, that proves that he was an intelligent fellow, you know, because he had so much to say.
P:Did he show any leadership qualities in the class? I understand that you had a pledge of allegiance to the flag. Did you each take a turn leading the class?
I:I don't remember if we did in the first and second grade. I know we had to later, in the upper grades, but not in the first and second grades. I don't remember how we led the class.
P:Is there any way that you feel that Richard Nixon was different from any of your other classmates in his dress or speech or anything like this?
I:I couldn't say. I only know that he was interesting, having so much to say. If I started on a subject it would just be real short, but then he had so much to say.
P:He had the ability to speak to a group.
P:Did he hold the attention of the classmates also?
P:I understand that he wore a white shirt all the time to school. Did the other classmates?
I:Yes, I don't know if that picture shows it, but the boys of those days seemed real neat and kept their collars buttoned. (Shows the first grade picture). Now when you say that he was very neat, yes, that proves it.
P:Is this a picture from your second grade?
I:That is my first grade.
P:He is sitting there with a white shirt, and it looks like he has a little tie on. I notice that the boys are barefooted. Was this  because the school let them do it, or were some of them that poor that they couldn't afford shoes?
I:We were permitted to. I don't know if it was for a relaxed living in those days or what it was, but most of them were barefooted.
P:I noticed that all the girls have their little ribbons in their hair in these pictures, and some boys do have shoes on. It has been said that the Nixon family was very poor when they lived here in Yorba Linda, and I was just wondering if maybe he went shoeless because they couldn't buy him any.
I:Well, in those days I don't think any of us in Yorba Linda were that wealthy.
P:Was it a farming community?
I:Yes, and we were all just beginning to get on our feet. It could be that we all didn't have that much money to put into our clothing. I wouldn't say that we had that much money, because we were all trying to get on our feet.
P:So it would be a normal situation.
I:And we were allowed to go barefoot.
P:I understand that Mrs. Cochran had her class with the mischievous children in the front of the room and the quieter children in the back. Now, was Richard very quiet?
I:Yes, I would say he was quiet.
P:In the sense of being a studious person?
P:Did he like to read a lot?
I:I don't know. I don't remember that much, but I do know that later, when he got into high school, it must have been forensics or oration, or whatever it was that he went into. He was a class or two ahead of me when we got into high school. He didn't live here in Yorba Linda. I think he was nearer to Whittier or La Habra. He was coming to Fullerton High School, then.
P:So you were in Fullerton High School when he was, except two grades down from him?
I:He must have been a class ahead of me, then. I didn't know him too well 
P:In class, did you ever notice if he was attentive to what the teacher was trying to tell the class?
I:Yes, he was. He wasn't one of those mischievous ones.
P:He just sat quietly in his seat and did his work. Were you close to his seat? I understand that you had individual desks.
P:Were you close enough to his desk to see how neat he was at his desk?
I:I don't remember that well. But then I always remember that he was quiet and neat, like you said, and that he had a white shirt. But I didn't notice that detail until you mentioned it now. But I remember that he always seemed to be on the neat side.
P:Were the subjects that you had in school during this time the regular subjects such as math, spelling, reading, and so forth?
P:Did he excel in any one of these?
I:I don't remember in any particular one, but he must have been a real good student to be sent ahead.
P:I presume that you all played out on your playground at the school. Can you remember any type of games that he might have played or excelled in?
I:I don't remember. In those days, in the first or second grade, we didn't have that much facility except for swings and the little things like that that they have for the lower grades here. To me, marbles sort of stands out because we didn't have a smooth ground to do too much playing, I remember. You see, the back of that fire station is on a slope. We got a little older, fourth and fifth grade, I remember playing baseball and so forth quite a bit. We all played together, the boys and girls.
P:Did you ever notice if he was ever reprimanded for misbehavior in school?
I:No, I don't
P:Did he get along with all of his classmates?
I:Yes, very much so. Of course, I remember he was a shy boy, so he had friends that were all together. The same ones were together,  three or four of them.
P:Would you remember any of his real close friends' names?
I:Well, I don't remember their last names. There is a couple of then that I remember the last names of: Donald Bridge and Lawrence Kendricks. I believe Lawrence Kendricks is still close, out toward Oceanside, but I don't know where Donald Bridge is. There are other boys, but I don't remember the real close ones that he was together with that much.
P:How about girls?
I:I don't know.
P:No special valentine for a girl in the class or anything?
I:I don't remember that much.
P:Did he ever get into any fights with the other boys on the playground?
I:Well, I don't remember his getting into anything like that in particular. You know, being so young, I just don't remember that much in detail.
P:Now, you say he was timid. Was this in the sense that he wasn't very active with the other children?
I:Oh, he was active, but I think it was more or less his bringing up. He was politely timid, you know what I mean? You sometimes find children are real aggressive and will do things whenever they are not supposed to, but he knew when to quit. Probably it was the bringing up.
P:So, he did a lot of thinking before he would make a move?
I:Yes, he was that type.
P:Now, you were telling me that you walked home from school. Did you ever walk home with him after school?
I:No, he lived opposite from me. You have visited his home, haven't you? Well, you see, he lived over there and I walked home this other way, north of town.
P:Did you ever get to go over to his house to play in his yard or do anything with him?
I:I really don't remember, but I had girl friends that I chummed with  in the same class. I think we got near enough his home but not exactly to his yard, because there was a canal close to his place, and there was a buggy road that we often walked along the canal to get home.
P:This was that irrigation ditch right in front of his home?
I:Yes, the irrigation canal that's on the north side of his home.
P:Was Yorba Linda Boulevard, at that time, a buggy road?
I:Yes, it wasn't paved like it is now.
P:Did you ever have any contact with ham outside of school like at a fair or any church doings or anything like this in the town?
I:No, I don't remember that far back.
P:Did you know his mother and father at the time?
I:Well, I must have been in contact, but I don't remember that far back. I remember that after Mr. Nixon became active, when he became vice-president, he came to Yorba Linda and his mother was there. She told me that she knew me and my family. That's the only time I knew that their family and our family knew each other, but I didn't know them.
P:So it was your mother and father that would have had the contact with Frank and Hannah?
P:Could you remember any boyhood characteristics that might have been carried over to his later years, now that he is president? Are there things that you would pick out that you could look back on in your second grade and see that he might have done?
I:You mean his activity?
P:Activity, speech, his way of speaking or thinking, or anything that you would see in him.
I:I would think his speaking would be the one thing that would stand out in my mind.
P:This is from his presentations to the class?
P:I see. Could you suggest any other names of people that we might  get in contact with?
I:Let's see. I lost track of my first grade teacher. I know she's in Pomona somewhere.
P:This is Mrs. [Mary George] Skidmore?
I:I wish I knew her address. She looked for me down at the convention center, but they wanted to drive us back to the Disney Hotel that evening, so I didn't get to talk to her very much. I just had a chance to say, "Hi" to her. But she would be the best one to get in contact with. I don't know how to get her address.
P:You think she lives in Pomona?
I:I think it's Pomona.
P:Would you happen to know any of his neighbors that lived around him?
I:Do you know Mrs. Pickering? She's an elderly person now. She's in Fountain Valley, I think.
P:She was one of the neighbors at the time?
I:Yes, she lived across the canal.
I:She might be able to tell you more of his little characteristics, because she claims she had spanked him at one time. So she, being older and then having him in the yard to play with her daughters, she may be able to tell you more about his childhood.
P:Thank you very much for your information and cooperation.
END OF INTERVIEW 
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