The end of WW II in 1945 brought many changes to the home front.
Robert LaRue b. 1937
Germany surrendered in May. In August, the worlds first atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan gave up. Living in the farmlands of the Sacramento Valley, I do not remember a lot about the celebrations that took place. I do remember that shortly thereafter, we were loaded up and on off on a new adventure.
Migration from farm to city marked the American experience from the beginning of the Industrial Age. That movement accelerated during WWII. Although he would not have thought of it in exactly those terms, my dad determined to do the exact opposite. He decided get as far away from city life as he could, own his piece of land, and farm full time. With the war over and the government’s control of his movements ended, Dad set about to fulfill his dream.
In short order, he sold our little farm in Chico, California and quit his job at the air base. He loaded our belongings into the back of a 1937 Chevrolet pickup truck, loaded Mom and we three kids into the cab, and headed north. The young hobo of the depression had traded his knapsack in for a truckload of family and possessions. But he was determined to live by his own rules nonetheless.
Dad drove, Mom sat on the right side holding baby sister Deanne, I sat in the middle straddling the gear shift lever, and little brother Wes variously stood and lay down at Mom’s feet. Our route over the Sierras remains unknown to me. I do remember stopping at a wayside, perhaps around Lake Almanor, for lunch. A cool breeze wafted through towering Ponderosa Pines, a welcome relief from the summer heat of the Sacramento Valley. The scent of the pines combined with the delicious pan-fried pheasant Aunt Marie had packed in our lunch hamper remain with me to this day.
We pressed on to Alturas, a small ranching center in the northeast corner of California. We arrived in late afternoon. The town was in a festive mood with banners stretched across the main street announcing its annual fair and rodeo. Cowboys and cowgirls, afoot and horseback, lined the streets and sidewalks. We found this all very exciting until we discovered that there was no lodging available. The war was over and it was time to celebrate. People coming out of the hills and valleys surrounding the town had taken every room available.
Lakeview, Oregon is about 55 miles north of Alturas. It was dark by the time we got there. It too was full up with the overflow crowd from its neighbor.
With the aid of a flashlight, Dad found a dot on the map about 85 miles north of Lakeview called Wagontire. We passed through the dark starry night until a small sign and darkened buildings announced our destination. A gas pump, a café, and living quarters for the owners made up the entire town. A lighted window in the living quarters indicated that someone was still awake. Dad knocked on the door with the intention of asking if we could camp in their parking lot.
The people of Wagontire, Oregon showed us kindness. Perhaps it was learned behavior from his hobo days, or perhaps it was just in his makeup, but my dad always exuded an air of quiet confidence and honesty. I like to think it was the latter. Anyway, he explained our plight to the man of the house. The man looked us over, invited us in, and they put us up for the night. Who knows how often the Wagontire proprietors were called upon to tender such an act of charity along that lonely stretch of highway? I can only attest to this one event. And I have no way of knowing if any money changed hands. I am sure that we patronized their café before we departed.
That’s just the way things were done out in the country, on the home front, in 1945.