Skip to main content
University of California Berkeley
University of California Bancroft Library / Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office
Walter E. Packard
LAND AND POWER DEVELOPMENT IN CALIFORNIA,
GREECE, AND LATIN AMERICA
With an introduction by
An Interview Conducted by
Willa Klug Baum
1970 by The University of California at Berkeley
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal
agreement between the Regents of the University of California
and Walter E. Packard, dated 26 October, 1966. The manuscript
is thereby made available for research purposes. All literary
rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are
reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University of California
at Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for
publication without the written permission of the Director of
the Bancroft Library of the University of California at
Requests for permission to quote for publication should
be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library,
and should include identification of the specific passages to
be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification
of the user.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION by Alan Temko i
PERSONAL REMINISCENCE OF WALTER PACKARD by Carey McWilliams ix
LETTER FROM MICHAEL W. STRAUS, APRIL 26, 1962 x
INTERVIEW HISTORY xii
FAMILY, CHILDHOOD, AND EDUCATION 1
Packard Forebears 1
Parents: Samuel W. Packard and Clara Fish Packard; Brother and
Iowa State College, 1903-1907, Ames, Iowa
England - 1905 30
Extra-curricular Activities at Ames
On a Surveying Crew in Idaho - Summer, 1906 34
Y.M.C.A. Secretary at Stanford University, 1907-1908 35
Back to Idaho to Prove a Land Claim, Summer, 1908 36
Berkeley: Graduate Work in Soils and Irrigation Engineering,
Irrigation Investigation - 1909 43
Marriage to Emma Lou Leonard, December 20, 1909 45
IMPERIAL VALLEY, 1909-1917 48
Living Conditions in El Centre 48
Early Local Politics 52
Social Life 59
Mrs. Packard: A Stay at Dr. Pottenger s Tuberculosis Sanatorium 64
Farming Conditions 69
Establishing the Imperial Valley Agricultural Experiment Station
of the University of California 73
Experimental Work and Farmer Education 78
Experimental Work 78
Farm Institutes 82
Work with Frank Veihmeyer 83
A Russian Soil Scientist Visits the Experiment Farm 86
Water Distribution: The Imperial Valley Irrigation District and
the Ail-American Canal 88
Meloland School 91
Broadening Ideas 94
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE 98
IN FRANCE WITH THE ARMY EDUCATION PROGRAM, 1918-1919 107
Army Education Corps Lectures 107
Plan to Rehabilitate Armenia 115
Brief Statement of Plans for Agricultural Work in Armenia during
the Fall of the Present Year, 1919 119
Sightseeing in France 123
STUDYING AND TEACHING ECONOMICS: HARVARD AND M.I.T., 1919-1920 130
SUPERINTENDENT OF DELHI IAND SETTLEMENT PROJECT, 1920-1924 140
Beginnings of the State Land Settlement Board and the Durham and
Delhi Land Settlement Projects 140
Selection of the Delhi Site 144
Improving the Land 147
Planning the Town of Delhi 150
Two-Acre Laborers Allotments 151
Low Cost Housing; Architect Max Cook 152
Costs to the Settlers 155
Environmental Problems: Wind, Rabbits, and Pests 158
Human Problems and Community Projects 164
Decreasing Demand for Land; Inexperienced Settlers 173
Veterans Administration Trainees 176
Settlers Organize to Demand More Aid from the State 183
Packard Resigns as Superintendent of Delhi 193
A PERIOD OF BASIC ADJUSTMENT, July 1924 - June 1926 201
A Try at Banking and Loan Work 201
Owens Valley, Consultant for the Los Angeles Department of Water
and Power 204
MEXICO, 1926-1929 209
Soils Survey Assignments in Guatimape, Western Chihuahua, Rio
Salado, and Other Projects 209
Western Chihuahua 213
Rio Salado Project 215
Chief of the Department of Agronomy of the National Irrigation
Problems of Land Holding 217
Mexican Co-Workers 222
Personal Experiences, Violence, and Anti-Government Forces 225
Social Life in Mexico; Influence of Ambassador and Mrs. Dwight Morrow 242
Daughter Emmy Lou Packard and Diego Rivera 247
Two Mistakes and a Lesson 261
INTERIM WORK, 1930-1933 268
Soil Survey in the Upper San Joaquin Valley 268
Feasibility of the Central Valley Project 269
Study of Underground Water for P.G. & E. 270
Feasibility of the Columbia River Basin Project 273
Study of the Effect of Cement Dust on Crops 276
Testimony in a Land Fraud Case for the U.S. Post Office 279
Water Studies in Owens Valley for the City of Los Angeles 281
Investigation of Irrigation Districts for the Land Bank 283
Peninsula School; Palo Alto Community Activities; Family 286
AGRICULTURAL ADJUSTMENT ADMINISTRATION, 1933-1934 295
Marketing Agreement Program for the Pacific Coast 295
San Francisco General Strike, Summer 1934 300
RURAL RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR,
Director of Region 9 302
Purposes of Rural Resettlement Administration 302
Setting up Region 9
Migratory Farm Laborers and Labor Camps
Son-in-law Burton Cairns, Architect; Daughter Emmy Lou; and
Arizona and Utah
National Director of the Rural Resettlement Division 325
Subsistence vs. Middle-Income Farms
Greer, South Carolina - A Mill Village
Types of Resettlement Projects
Casa Grande, Arizona 334
Southern Projects *36
An Urban Project, New Jersey
Work of the Washington Office 339
Life in Washington 341
Closing Out of the Resettlement Administration 346
CONSULTING WORK, 1939-1944 350
Irrigation Projects Near Yuma 350
Study of Baja California for Jewish Settlement 353
Work With the National Youth Administration 355
Consultant for the Farm Security Administration in Oregon 357
Consultant for the U.S. Indian Service 359
Work With the Commonwealth Club of California 361
California State Land Classification Commission 361
Work on the Central Valley Project 366
War Related Activities 374
California Housing and Planning Association 375
PUERTO RICO - ADVISOR TO REXFORD TUGWELL, 1945-1947 378
Getting Settled in Puerto Rico 378
Reforms Under the Popular Party and Governor Tugwell 383
The Land Authority; Problems of Large Land Ownership 388
Later Developments in the Land Authority Program 395
Efforts at Birth Control Programs 398
Appointment of Governor Jesus Pinero 401
A Preview of the Communist Take-Over in Cuba 403
Advisor to Governor Pinero 406
VENEZUELA, 1947 408
GREECE, 1948-1954 419
First Assignment, Irrigation Specialist for American Mission for
Aid to Greece (AMAG) 419
War Conditions in Greece 421
Problems of Financial and Political Support for Reclamation Work 435
Greek Technical Assistants 440
Life in Greece 443
Mrs. Packard Comes to Greece 443
Living Arrangements for Americans 446
American Women s Activities in Greece - AWOG 449
Public vs. Private Development of Hydroelectric Power 455
FAO Memorandum 455
The Scharff Report 456
The Gilmore Memorandum 457
John Nuveen, New Chief of the Mission 459
A Defeat for Public Power 462
Return to Washington for a Security Hearing, 1949 464
Failure to Get a Security Clearance 464
Side Trip to Israel 465
Packard Cleared and Sent Back to Greece 471
Development of Public Power Corporation 474
Rebuilding War-Damaged Structures 482
Relationship Between the Mission and the Greek Government Ministries 484
The Mechanical Cultivation Service 485
River Development for Flood Control and Irrigation - Master Plans
by Foreign Companies 489
Knappen-Tippetts Corporation of New York 489
The Harza Engineering Company of Chicago 492
Grontmij Company of Holland 495
Boot Company of London 496
Forest and Range Land Rehabilitation 497
Rice Growing and Alkali Reclamation Program 505
Working with the Villagers 512
Home Visit, Trips, and Family 515
Home Leave, 1951 515
Trip to Germany 517
Celebrations and Honors from the People of Greece 522
Farewell to Greece and Final Trip Home, July 1954 528
JAMAICA, 1955 532
Consultant for the Kaiser Company 532
RETURN TO GREECE FOR ED MURROW S SEE IT NOW 536
Invitation to Return in 1966 540
EFFORTS IN BEHALF OF PUBLIC POWER 543
Opposition to the State Water Plan, November 1960 543
National Planning Association Meeting at Aspen, Colorado 544
Power from the Northwest for the Central Valley Project 545
Efforts to Convert Berkeley to Public Power, and to Join in an
Atomic-Powered Steam Plant 547
California Power Users Association 550
Packard s Book on Economic Philosophy 555
BY ALAN TEMKO
I first met Walter Packard in the late Nineteen Forties through his
daughter Emmy Lou, who was my friend, and I was delighted to find at the
time -- when I was relatively young and most of the artists and intellectuals
in North Beach considered themselves dashingly radical -- that her father
was more radical than any of us. He seemed to have pierced to the heart
of all the problems that later preoccupied me, long before I was fully
aware of their complexity; and these ranged from the cleansing and conserving
of the national environment to social justice at home, to international
justice and peace, plus the conservation of world resources. I had never
met anyone who had so comprehensive a grasp of interacting social and
economic and physical forces. In this sense he s one of the great fathers
of modern planning.
Walter Packard was one of the first Americans to think on the
appropriate physical scale -- that is, a continental scale -- of develop
ment. I m not speaking in any simplistic sense of manifest destiny, but
rather in terms of the full national future and the true fulfillment of the
American people which he saw not only in terms of the land and water and
energy, but also in terms of global order: a new sort of global order. In
this he wasn t too different from many visionary nineteenth-century American
radicals. He was in a great tradition, and it s a tradition we ve lost
to some extent.
There are, I think, among the present generation of young people many
who are trying to revive the high principles and tremendous social commit
ment of people of Walter Packard s generation. But in my own generation
I feel that it is rare, partly because of the mood in the world, but also
partly because of upbringing. So, I ve always been very happy for my own
children to have known Walter and Emma Packard as well as Lewis and
Sophia Mumford ; people like that. People whose like I don t think we ll
ever see again in America, because they knew what their responsibility
was to the Republic and also saw it in terms of the larger world. While
they were not fanatics, they didn t compromise and they were also remarkably
free from the wrong kind of egotism.
Walter Packard had magnificant self confidence, but he was free
from what the young people today call an "ego trip." He saw certain issues
far before his time, although they were of course recognized by others,
too. The conservation movement, like democratic land legislation in this
country, is, after all, more than one hundred years old. The great
Reclamation Act was passed in 1902. The Merrill Land Grant Act, which
provided sites for the great public universities, was passed in Lincoln s
We ve had good land legislation (although it has been weakly enforced),
but what Walter tried to do was put together the mosaic of seemingly disparate
elements in a profit-motive economy which is not a laissez-faire economy,
as he realized, but a mixed economy which -- to borrow a phrase from
Charles Abrams -- works as socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor.
That is, government intervention almost always subsidizes the rich and the
powerful, especially the great landowners, and abandons the weak and the
landless to go it alone in our economy.
Maybe I should go back. I first met him when I was quite young in San
Francisco in the 40 s, just after the war. I guess in 48, when I was a
cub reporter on the Chronicle and Emmy Lou, his daughter, was my friend. She
was then living in a wonderful studio in San Francisco. She is a remarkable
person in her own right, an extraordinary person and gifted artist, and I
knew she must have come from remarkable stock.
What delighted me, when I met both of her parents, was their wonderfully
upright posture before a world that seemed in grave difficulties and Walter s
boundless optimism and confidence in human reason at the same time that he
was dismayed at the human folly he saw about him.
He had long experience which proved to him that even a modicum of ration
ality would yield tremendous dividends to people everywhere. This started
in his first experiments in the Central Valley, at Delhi in the early
Twenties. Although they did not work out altogether well, these now seemingly
Utopian experiments, in fact, were motivated by the highest kind of realism.
Because he realized that what was necessary was to set into motion processes
which eventually could transform the whole of our environment. In other words,
you wouldn t want a Moses to lead the people out of the wilderness at a
single stroke because some false Moses could lead them back. What you wanted
were processes that transcended individuals because they were based on
principles of social and economic justice which regarded land and water as
commonwealth. Furthermore, these principles were not anti-urban or anti-
technological. Now, this is one of the things that distinguishes Walter
Packard from the Jef fersonians . There are many people in the older gener
ation who might be described as Jeffersonian idealists who believe in the
family farm and small units of settlement. Mumf ord , to some extent,
thinks in these terms. Walter Packard was one of the first, however, who
pointed out that a hundred and sixty acres, or three hundred and twenty acres
in the Central Valley of California, which might be worthless without water
but are worth a minimum of a thousand dollars an acre with water (sometimes
two, three thousand dollars an acre). Thus, thanks to publicly subsidized
water, a husband and wife might have three hundred and twenty thousand
dollars worth of land. That s not a "family farm," and to work such a farm
you d need another hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of mechanical
equipment, raising the total capital investment of three hundred and twenty
irrigated acres to half a million dollars.
Well, if you could combine such units in a still larger marketing unit,
as indeed agri-business does, you would have substantial dividends. The
trouble with Delhi, in retrospect, would seem that it was under-funded;
it was probably not big enough; and they also ran into some hard luck. I
think they got enough results to show that the experiment was worthwhile.
Whenever Walter was able to implement his programs on a proper scale, and his
supreme triumph was, of course, in Greece, the rewards were astounding
to everyone except Walter who foresaw that they would pay off in this way.
This has long been one of the canons in the bible of socialism, but
Walter s socialism was not at all reverential. Still less, of course,
was it fanatical or totalitarian. It was a deeply personalized concept of
socialism. . .well, at one level you could say it was to turn the world into a
gigantic Berkeley Co-op.
But why was that? Because he believed that the consumer, rather than
the producer, was the unit for planning. Now, in Marxist theory there should
be an identity of interest between producer and consumer. The fact is,
however, that if the producer decides to produce heavy steel girders rather
than light steel for a toaster or some other convenience for a housewife --
suppose, for instance, that a socialist government is more interested in
making locomotives than washing machines -- the consumer may not feel that
his interests are being represented in the short run. There s not necessarily
an identity of interests.
This gets very complex in agriculture and Walter formulated a complete
system to overcome its theoretical difficulties. In his last years he tried
to write it again and again in a rather unwritable book because it would
have taken the equivalent of the French Philosophes , the encyclopedists of
the 18th century, writing continuously on many fronts, to deal with the full
complexity. But it was all in his head. By his theory, as I understood it,
you would reorganize the world economy on a truly third world basis which
followed neither the American nor the Soviet model, still less the muddling,
the losing-through of countries like India. Not "winning-through" but the
"losing-through." What you would have was a socialist organization of the
economy based on consumer needs. You would plan for the needs of the people.
This would mean that you would not only plan to feed them but to feed them
in such a way that the land, water, and other resources would be husbanded
at the same time.
In principle such planning would be no different, say, from good public
education. You would do everything in behalf of people, or rather the people
would do things in their own behalf, and then the system of production would
somehow fall into line.
He had not the slightest question that this was the most rational
organization of society. Unfortunately, not too many people even were at this
conceptual plane. Very few planners really grasp the dichotomy between the
consumer-oriented economy and the producer-oriented economy.
What made this so significant to me was his bringing in the quality of
environment into the dry science of economics. Now, other people, such as
Galbraith, have done this very brilliantly, but Galbraith has done this as
a pragraatist, a Keynesian. Walter was not a Keynsian economist. He was a
logical theoretician who had a complete socialism of his own. He argued that
even if you could apply parts of his system, for example in Greece where he
thought primarily of the people as consumers -- very deprived consumers --
human happiness would be greatly incresed. He thought the same way in
Mexico and Puerto Rico, wherever he worked. I should add that beyond being a
brilliant theoretical economist, he was an excellent agricultural scientist.
He knew the land. This paid off tremendously in Greece where he understood
the soil. He was a first-rate agronomist, and his competence in other
technical and scientific fields was really impressive.
For example he was deeply interested in metals which are relatively
scarce, such as manganese, and that the United States with less than a tenth
of the people in the world (really only seven percent of the people in the world)
was consuming ninety-eight percent of some of these metals. We probably consume
ninety percent of the world manganese supply. Certainly far out of proportion
to the American population.
He saw imperialism in its most naked aspect as the seizure of resources
by force and as soon as the countries whose resources were being seized were
no longer supine, or at least no longer ignorant, they would seek to recover
these resources or at least resist being bled. Walter could see an area like
the Congo very accurately and understood why Katanga was made a separate province,
He was quite aware of the Rockerfeller interests, the Belgian mining consortium.
For a man who in personal manner belonged to the nineteenth century with its
warmth and goodness and charm -- its almost rural charm, the charm of an lowan
from that generation -- he was certainly well-informed about the corporate
intricacies of the twentieth ".entury.
He was educated at Ames, and if you ve ever been to Ames, you know what
a gracious place it is. Iowa is a great civilization, and both in Iowa and
New England the Packard family had wonderful ancestors. One Mrs. Elizabeth W.
Packard, Walter Packard s grandmother, the woman who was the great reformer for
mental illness. She was for women s liberation and she was of the same genera
tion as Margaret Fuller, Buckminster Fuller s aunt.
And you know, there s a great similarity between Bucky Fuller and Walter
Packard -- these fearless American intellectuals who are willing to tackle
everything on a global basis and who have tremendous faith in science as well
as in properly applied technology. Walter was much more sophisticated than
Buckminster Fuller about politics, but they both had this rare personal kindness
as well as profound conviction. They came out from the same Protestant liberal
tradition or radical tradition. I think it s correct to call it radical. If
I recall rightly, her husband tried to commit Walter s grandmother to a mental
institution, and she was among the first to insist on proper legal safeguards
for the mentally ill against being wrongly confined to institutions against
their will, especially if sometimes they just had radical ideas rather than any
great trouble with their brain.
To appreciate this heritage one must go to Iowa and see these old Protes
tant communities with their liberal arts colleges. Beneath the dome of the Iowa
state capitol, the rotunda, the balustrades and pavements and walls of the great
space, are inscribed with the names of the Iowa dead in the Civil War and you
are staggered to see the carnage which this little agricultural state endured.
It is poignant even now to see all these names. And then you look up and in
the dome there s a great eagle carrying in its talons a ribbon which says,
"Union and Liberty, Now and Forever." That an agricultural society did this
for union and liberty -- made such a conspicuous sacrifice -- not for the indus
trial north but for the agrarian west -- is very moving to me. Iowa with its
rich farms is outwardly a conservative state, but there has always been much
healthy ferment in Iowa and the Packards represent its finest nineteenth cen
tury values .
Then, too, they knew California when it was still largely unspoiled.
I remember Walter telling me of riding, on horseback of course, from Pasadena
to Orange County. This must have been the 1890 s when he was a young man.
The splendid valley below the San Gabriel Mountains, the great valley that goes
past Riverside out towards San Bernardino, was then totally unspoiled and he
told me of sleeping beneath the stars and he had this feeling for the land
wherever he went. He could go to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Greece, or any place in
the United States, and feel the veracity of the earth. He knew that men could
violate the dictates of the earth at their gravest peril. That is, you could
modify the earth as he did in Greece. You could heal the earth where it had
been wounded; you could restore it. You could work with the earth, but you
could not plunder the earth. You had to farm it rather than mine it, and I
think if he had had a chance to do so in Puerto Rico he would have had a grand
coup. Probably the present Supreme Court would not have declared his programs
unconsitutional , but Walter and Rex Tugwell had to contend with the "Nine Old
Men" of the Thirties.
Another significant contribution was his work for the Farm Security
Administration. No one felt more deeply the tragedy of the Oakies and Arkies
than Walter Packard. He understood the entire process that had driven these
unfortunates from their farms and across the continent to California where they
worked not as independent farmers but as migrant pickers or laborers. The mal
treatment of the land during and after the World War I wheat boom, the almost
institutionalized greed in farming for a boom market of this sort -- literally
ruined the land, and nature struck back as it will when it s wounded, as we re
finding out it does all over the world now. Walter, moved by civilized compas
sion for these people, acted powerfully to help them.
One of the things he did was put them in the best low-cost rural housing
in the history of modern architecture. At this time his daughter Emmy Lou was
married to a brilliant young architect named Burton Cairns, who was to die in
a tragic automobile accident. Cairns was the partner of Vernon DeMars, who has
since designed the student center at the University of California, and who has
considerable importance as a social architect.
DeMars, Cairns, and other excellent young architects and planners who
either had been Walter s students or were Emmy Lou s friends, joined his staff,
and some who did not actually work for him participated conceptually in the
problems confronting him. It was characteristic of Walter that gifted young
men were always clustered about him, and many of them are ornaments of the design
professors and of the faculty of the University of California today. They are
now in their fifties. Garrett Eckbo, Vernon DeMars , Francis Violich, Jack
Kent (T.J. Kent, Jr.) and others formed a group called Telesis. Today the word
"futurism" is very common, but it was not in the Thirties when these men were
young and Walter was in his prime, and they thought of the whole future of man s
habitat. It was the first movement of its kind that elevated California environ
mental theory to the highest international level. Elsewhere there had been
groups such as CIAM -- the International Congress of Modern Architects -- which
issued its charter of Athens in 1933. There was the MARS Group in London --
they all had initials or trick names. But never before in California had there
been environmental thought at this level. Although there had been some planning,
there was not school of planning at the University. Jack Kent started the De
partment of City and Regional Planning after the war. He was a friend of Emmy
Lou s, of course, and of the Packards. They didn t live too far away from one
another on the north side.
But, Walter Packard was the soul of this Telesis Group. He got his son-
in-law (I don t know if he was then already his son-in-law, but he was soon to
be) and DeMars and other young architects, all from the Bay Area pretty much, to
do the Farm Security structures which to this day in our country remain unsur
passed for dignity and economy in housing for poor, rural people.
These buildings of uncompromising modern architecture gained international
renown. They made Vernon DeMars reputation. People like J.M. Richards put
them in his History of Modern Architecture. There are still some of those housing
complexes left and they look very good thirty years after, considering how little
money they cost, which was less than war housing a few years later. What a bar-
gin the public got!
These buildings were just like Walter Packard himself. They were straight
forward, they were at home in nature, they were as cordial as they could be
within the budget allowed and they did not design down to poor people. They demon
strated that poor people should have the best of design within the resources
available. This was Walter s spirit.
Walter had a way of communicating his enthusiasms. I was a member of his
group that was going to try to free Berkeley from its servitude to P.G. and E.,
and persuade the city to establish its own public power system in cooperation
with several other Bay Area communities. This was when he was in his later sev
enties. To his last day, of course, he was the staunchest advocate of public
power. He believed it should belong to the people. And of course, Palo Alto
and other cities have gone far to do this even without public ownership. Palo
Alto buys power wholesale from P.G. and E. and then retails it at low rates to
consumers. Berkeley, lacking such intelligent policy, allows P.G. and E. to
What Walter wanted to do was liberate several Bay Area communities, in
cluding Santa Clara and Palo Alto from any connection with P.G. and E. Together
they could build their own nuclear reactor. Now, it was typical of Walter that
he was very early receptive to the idea of a nuclear reactor In the Delta. He
had not the slighest doubt that technical difficulties could be overcome, and
I was a member of that group and I remember how exhilarating his enthusiasm was.
He was, of course, deeply critical of any private manipulation of public invest
ment in water or power. He rightly saw that energy, together with water and the
land itself, is the key to the wealth of any community.
For this reason he was irreconcilably opposed to the unwise State Water
Plan, which will enrich large landowners at the expense of the poor. The
Washington Post published his strong views on the subject in an article that
should be reprinted because of its relevance today. I was involved because I
asked the editors of the Post to give prominence to Walter s views and they
suggested a dialogue or debate between him and some worthy opponent, and they
found Senator Kuchel. The Senator s views occupied one half of the pages and
Walter s the other with a map of California dividing the two articles, but an
entire philosophy of life separated the two. Kuchel was not a bad senator.
But he was very bad on water policy as were leading men in both political parties
in California, and the state is now regretting it. Walter foresaw in 1962 or
63 all of the difficulties that we are in today. He also clearly discerned the
unconscionable enrichment of the large private land owners through the circum
vention of the 1902 law. What the State Plan proposed is illegal. If the
Reclamation Act were enforced properly, as Walter said it should be, there could
be no violation of the 160-acre limitation by a separate state stystem whose
waters intermingled with Federal waters. Paul Taylor, who was Walter s student,
keeps on with that fight, and he has succeeded Walter as the great man of land
and water conservation in California. Between men of Paul Taylor s age and the
present generation of young people who are just starting to learn that this is
their fight, too, there are relatively few people who have shared in this strug
gle, and they belong to organizations whose names we have almost forgotten,
like the Grange. But the new generation, I m sure, will not give up the fight.
One of my happiest thoughts is that my children have known Walter and
Emma Packard. I remember a beautiful incident that occurred when Walter was
quite old. It s interesting that both he and Lewis Mumford were rather grieved
that my children did not know much about gardening and farming. We were all to
have dinner at my house, and we wondered where Walter and the children were,
and we found him out in the garden on his knees teaching them how to plant pota
toes. They were planting potatoes together. It was very, very beautiful. He
said, "Don t stop now that they know how to plant potatoes." It made a deep
impression on the children and they loved his spirit. I remember his indomitable
spirit after his automobile crash. You know, he had this little sports car with
bucket seats, my cousin Henry Brean was one of the doctors who patched him to
gether after the accident and my cousin said, "Everything he could break, he
broke." Walter was about eighty, but his courage and vigor led him to an astound
ing recovery. I remember he had a triangle above his bed he was supposed to
work out on, and he also had a bar, a metal bar, on which he was to exercise and
recover the movement of his limbs. He had a nurse whom he didn t think came
quickly enough, and he d BANG on this great triangle to the delight of my child
ren. He also experimented with the remote control of the TV -- then a novelty --
and just delighted them.
But he was always filled with the most marvelous irreverent humor, and,
although he was a man of remarkable personal fastidiousness and refinement, he
had a heartiness to him that was most winning. He once told me that as a born
troublemaker himself, one of his favorite quotations in all history was Luther s
remark, "When I break wind in Vienna they smell me in Rome."
Walter was a great reformer in the highest sense, in the Protestant
sense. Protestantism that is worthy of our own age and which is out of fashion
now among the people running our country. But it s now out of fashion among
the young people and I think that the great march for People s Park last spring,
with the students carrying green banners, and flying green kites, and defying
everything that was ugly and repressive, in a sense vindicated the gay spirit of
Walter. How he would have liked that green paper helicopter that was such a
wonderful satire of the Army helicopters, bedecked with flowers and flying the
kites that fouled the rotors of the military helicopters. How that would have
appealed to his sense of merriment. But, as all these young people marched,
Walter was marching with them. He was a very great man.
The greatest teachers are not professional teachers. Although Walter
did teach, I think at Stanford and Harvard, he was primarily a man of action
who understood the real world from a solid intellectual base. He had something
to say, and he quickened to any subject. His range was so wide and his confi
dence was so deep that he had this extraordinary power of elucidating the most
knotty problems of our time, and young people warmed to this particularly when
they saw he shared a radical position.
Lecturer in Social Science
2 February 1970
650 Barrows Hall
University of California at Berkeley
A PERSONAL REMINISCENCE OF WALTER PACKARD
by Carey McWilliaras, Editor, The Nation
Without checking through files and records, many of which are in
California, I would be unable to say when I first met Walter Packard. But
I knew him for many years in an on-and-off manner, with infrequent but
always memorable meetings, and occasionally we exchanged letters. But
we had other modes of communication, as when I read something he had written
or heard of him and about him from mutual friends. As a matter of fact
I knew of him long before we met.
There was a Walter Packard legend in his lifetime. The qualities
that the legend stressed were real enough but he was an even finer human
being when you got to know him than the legendary Walter Packard. My
impressions can be summed up simply. He was a good man. Goodness pervaded
every aspect of his life. He radiated goodness. There was no malice in
him -- none that I could ever detect -- and no pettiness. He was a very
wise man too. Sometimes he kept his wisdom in check, that is you felt --
I felt -- that he could have said more about some person or some situation
if he could have done so without appearing to be unkind.
I feel sure that his great qualities -- his remarkable qualities as a
human being -- were a prime factor in his social achievements in Greece.
The villagers with whom he worked knew that this was a good man -- a
person they could trust. He won their cooperation because he had their
confidence and also because what he wanted -- and they knew this -- was
their cooperation, not their compliance with directives.
His goodness was infectious; so was his optimism, his good cheer,
his sense that this could be a better world for everyone. For all that we
say we are "democrats" and believe in democracy, it is remarkable that
one meets so few Americans who really understand democratic principles
and try to apply them and who have confidence that, if tried, they will
work. Walter Packard was such a person. He was one of the few individuals
I have known who had thought deeply, steadily, and acutely about what
democracy means and what it does not mean. His social philosophy was
We were not intimate friends -- we exchanged no confidences. But I
shall always cherish my memories of this great and good man.
August 25, 1969
LETTER FROM MICHAEL W. STRAUS, COMMISSIONER
OF RECLAMATION, TRUMAN ADMINISTRATION
April 26, 1962
Dear Walter Packard:
With this report on my Hellenic Hegira are transmitted officially
the greetings of a considerable section of the Greek Walter Packard public.
In fact, I am beginning to feel as if through you I am in on the birth
of a new saga of Greek Mythology, whereby 2000 years from now Walter
Packard will have moved into the legends of the gods along with Achilles,
Hector, Theseus and the children will no longer hear of the Labors of
Herakles but of the Work of Walter.
Anyway, after landing at Patras , motoring to Olympia, Delphi, and
Athens, joining up with my shipmates for a week of charter-boat sailing
among the Aegean Islands (most successful despite very rough seas) Mary
and I got rid of most of our companions and started down the Packard
trail in Athens. I called on and identified myself to Professor Pezopolous
of the Public Power Authority, John Paleologue, head of Greek Reclamation,
George Papadoupoulos , head of Greek Reclamation and Frixos Letsas. In
each case, long and interesting conversations followed but only after they
demanded (and I happily supplied) a report on your present welfare, health
I should judge your Greek National Power System is the outstanding
success of the American-Greek program. I saw new transmission lines all
over the country and the Greeks are wasting kilowatts all over the country
with illuminated advertising signs and similar manifestations of progress
as well as power into remote rural settlements such as the Rural Electri
fication Administration would have passed up at home. This month the
Greek Public Power System finished the take-over of the Athens-Piraeus
old British concession corporation system (at what I suspect was too high
a price) and the program for which you fought and bled has most definitely
won out. In fact, I know no other spot on the globe where by American
activity such a public power program has become so firmly established
with such success. Congratulations!
At the Reclamation service office of John Paleologue there immediately
appeared George Papadoupoulos and Frixos Letsas and we held old home
week. Papadoupoulos in particular, knew all about me as he was a former
U.S. Reclamation trainee from Greece. In addition to Walter Packard s
introduction the others there were naturally familiar with U.S. Reclamation.
First came the inquiries about and the report on Walter Packard followed
by a long and very interesting session on water development in which they
asked me more questions than I asked them. Also, I told them my life would
not be complete until I saw the Anthili project and the graven image of
Walter Packard in the town square.
Which to the best of my knowledge is the only one to an American
engineer in any aid program overseas, as most other American engineers were
eventually told "Yankee, Go Home" instead of having local statues in their
The next day in one car supplied by myself and one by Paleologue
with a fine young English speaking Reclamation official Vasilios G.
Karavias as escort (he is an ex-Bureau trainee) we made the long and
fascinating trip to Anthili all in one day instead of stopping the night
at Delphi as you suggested as we had earlier visited Delphi and we took
with us my Chicago Surgeon brother and his doctor wife. It took us about
14 hours including stops and visits to two Reclamation regional head
quarters en-route. It was worth while as we got into Greek territory and
activity never found on the archeological and nautical circuits.
At Anthili as per directions, Mary greatly enjoyed distributing
a bushel of candy in the plaza in front of your statue to a mob of
children and in her best Greek proclaiming it came from you who had not
forgotten the kids. They got the idea O.K. -- and the linguistic feat was
made easier by first pointing at the marble bust, then the candy, and then
I went all over the rice project -- an obvious success -- and the
Greeks roasted a lamb for us, we had dinner and we all made we-love-you
speeches to each other. Among the other things I told them that if they
did not clear the heavy weeds out of their deep drains you would be back
to haunt them --an idea that only drew unsolicited and unexpected
Last night Mr. and Mrs. Letsas, Mr. and Mrs. John Paleologue and
Mr. and Mrs. George Papdoupoulos threw a dinner for the Dr. Strauses,
Mary and myself in an Athens taverna that was strictly social and a
howling success. A message to you, a testimonial and signatures are
enclosed. Pictures will follow in a few months when we get them developed.
Thank you, Walter for the Greek introduction that was so fruitful.
I can understand why you look back with such justifiable pride on your
Shortly we leave Greece for Jugoslavia, Austria, Central Europe, then
Scandinavia and home -- or at least an island off Maine for we rented our
Washington house until September which we took care of our own instead
of everybody else s business. I feel like a deserter from the CVP fight
but will re-enlist again on my return.
Michael W. Straus
Commissioner of Reclamation in the
Walter E. Packard was interviewed for the Regional Oral History Office
as a part of series on agriculture, land, and resources development for
which Paul S. Taylor, Professor of Economics, served as faculty advisor.
Start of Interview
Because of his long and illustrious career in California, the United
States, Greece, and Latin America as a pioneer in combining land, people,
and the available natural resources into a productive unit, Walter Packard
was asked in 1962 to participate in the interviewing program of the Regional
Oral History Office. At that time Mr. Packard was busily engaged in pre
paring a manuscript on the economic theories he had evolved from his
experiences and the interviewing was postponed.
In February of 1962 Mr. Packard was hospitalized because of an
automobile accident. Although almost no funds were then available, it
was decided to go ahead with interviewing as soon as Mr. Packard was
able, using his papers as the major source of background material. The
interviewer visited Mr. Packard in a convelescent home where the outlines
of the interviews were established, and subsequently spent many hours with
Mrs. Packard going over papers and getting the Packard chronology from
Upon Mr. Packard s return home, the weekly interviewing began. At
the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Packard devoted much time to sorting and
arranging their papers preparatory to depositing them in The Bancroft Library.
Mr. Packard worked at these two tasks with increasing vigor as he recovered
from his accident.
Time and Setting of Interviews
Eight interview sessions were held in April and May 1964; one final
recording session was held August 15, 1966, two months before Mr.
Packard s death. Present were Walter E. Packard, Mrs. Emma Packard, and
the interviewer, Mrs. Willa Baum.
The interviews were held one afternoon a week, at the Packard home at
773 Cragmont Avenue, Berkeley. The tape recorder was set up at the dining
table, next to a large window overlooking the Bay. On one side of the
table, with notes, was the interviewer; on the other side, Mr. Packard with
a large pile of illustrative papers, and Mrs Packard next to him to aid
him in reading the materials his eyes could no longer cope with. Mr.
Packard always started with a prepared text, sometimes handwritten in full,
sometimes only minutely planned by means of copious notes, with materials
to be read at the proper points. He confessed to mic fright" often and
his remarks were always more formal during the interview than in the times
when he and the interviewer were rummaging around in the papers he had
in his garden study.
Mrs. Packard was more apt to speak informally and to add the personal
dimension to the narrative, and her remarks have been retained throughout.
Midway through each interview session, there was always a break when
Mrs. Packard would serve the weekly bake of oatmeal cookies with coffee.
Then the interviewer would take a few minutes to admire the mementoes of
Greece and Mexico on the shelves, the paintings and prints on the walls,
many by daughter Emmy Lou Packard , or to note the new blooms in the terraced
garden in the back.
There was a delay of about a year in transcribing, due to lack of funds.
During this period Mr. Packard worked on sorting his papers for deposit in
Bancroft Library, and on rewriting his economic philosophy book. As his strength
returned, he devoted more and more time to work for public power, and was
instrumental in organizing the California Power Users Association. In January
1965, UC Extension held a showing of Ed Murrow s movie of Mr. Packard s work
in Greece, which was attended by many faculty members in the agricultural
fields and by friends of the Packard family.
The transcripts of the interviews were returned one by one in June and
July of 1965. Mr. and Mrs. Packard each went over every interview carefully
and did considerable revising and adding of material. Some sample documents
were added to the transcript -- all the other documents were placed in The
Bancroft Library where they may be consulted by researchers. Editing work
by the Packards continued through the summer of 1966.
At that time Mr. Packard became ill and had to withdraw from his public
power work. He wished to record that phase of his work which had taken place
after the close of the interviewing, and that brief interview was recorded
on August 15, 1966, but Mr. Packard was not well enough to relate his work
in as much detail as he would have liked. He was able to complete the
corrections on that brief interview just a week before his death in October
It had been Mr. Packard s intention to review the manuscript in its
entirety one more time. Mrs. Packard took on that job after his death and
reread and checked the whole thing, but made no changes except to correcc
name s .
Final Typing and Completion
Again the work was halted through lack of funds. The faculty members
whom Mr. Packard had worked with in the early days of the Resettlement
Administration -- "Walter s boys" as Mrs. Packard called them Garret
Eckbo, Francis Violich, Vernon DeMars, and especially a younger admirer,
architectural critic Alan Temko, were eager to see the Packard manuscript
completed for research use. Through their efforts, funding was obtained
from the Department of Landscape Architecture for final typing, and a check
from the Western History Research Center of the University of Wyoming made
possible the final photocopying. Alan Temko prepared an introduction.
Willa Klug Baum, Head
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
2 April 1970
FAMILY, CHILDHOOD, AND EDUCATION
[First Interview - April 13, 1964. Subsequent interviews
are not dated because Mr. Packard rearranged and revised
the material substantially from the original interviews.]
Packard: It seems to me that, in recording my life story, I should
begin by mentioning what we in the family call "the Packard
conscience". I don t know what the psychologists would
name it. But, in any case, it was very real. It appeared
first as a dedication to religious beliefs, which dominated
the personal character and social behavior of my forebears.
Their beliefs were not always consistent or rational, but
they were held with a tenacity which gives meaning to the
"Packard conscience". In my own case, this inner impulse
has, over the years, led me to choose employment on public
enterprises designed to serve the general welfare rather
than being dedicated to individual profit making. This
does not mean that I was a "do gooder" or that I lacked
an inner urge to make money. It means, rather, that my
controlling impulse was conditioned by the "Packard
conscience". My story, therefore, is not the story of
one who started out with a well-established philosophy
of life, but rather the story of a neophyte or "innocent
Packard: abroad", who, through experiencesgood and bad-- and through
continuing study, has developed a democratic philosophy-
economic, social, and politicalwhich to him seems to make
The Packards were originally the PiccSrds in France;
they were French Huguenots who moved first to Holland and
then to England and in the moving their name was changed
to Packard. Samuel Packard of Windham, Norfolk County,
England, was the father of the Packard family in the
United States. He moved from England in 1638 with his wife
and family and settled in Plymouth colony eighteen years
after the landing of the colonists at Plymouth Rock. He
moved to Bridgewater in 1664, and became an officer there.
He and his sons were engaged in the great Indian wars
of that period. He was more interested in political liberties
than he was in religious liberties; he was primarily inter
ested in freedom of expression.
My great-grandfather, Theophilus Packard, D.D.,
this was four generations later was born in North Bridgeport,
Massachusetts in 1765. He graduated from Dartmouth College
in 1796. (Reading from a genealogy of the Packard family)*
"He was ordained in Shelbourne, Massachusetts,
February 20, 1799. He was on the Board of Trustees
of Williams College from 1810 to 1825 and was on the
Board of Overseers of the Fund or Trustees of Amherst
College from 1821 to 1854. He represented Shelbourne
in the state legislature from 1829, 1830, and 1839.
He received a doctorate from Dartmouth College in 1824."
^Genealogies of Samuel Packard and of Abel Packard , by
Rev. Theophilus Packard, Jr., 1871~T~G. W. Wheat & Co., 1871.
Packard: His son, Theophilus Packard, Jr., was my grandfather,
"Reverend Theophilus Packard, Jr., was born in
Shelbourne, Massachusetts, February 1, 1802; died
December 19, 1885, at Manteno, Illinois, and married
Elizabeth Parsons Ware, May 21, 1839, daughter of
Reverend Samuel Ware, who was born in Ware, Massachusetts,
They had six children."
The astonishing character of my grandfather s religious
beliefs is expressed in various quotes from his diary.
Here is what he wrote about his first son. (Reading from
diary of grandfather, Rev. Theophilus Packard, Jr.)
"Seventeenth of March, 1842. My first child was
born Thursday, about the middle of the forenoon. We
called his name Theophilus after his father and grand
father. On the day of his birth I retired to a private
chamber and with deep solemn emotion of heart I con
secrated him to God by prayer, earnestly beseeching
God to recreate and renew him by the Holy Spirit and
make him a Christian. On the first of May, 1842,
Theophilus was baptized in church by my father, and
on the evening of that day my father and mother gave
me $2 to be given to him to secure some good book
for his benefit with the charge that he should in
time to come, look on their graves and remember them
and this, their gift to them and prepare to meet
them in heaven. About twenty-five years afterwards
I sent Theophilus the money, then $10, and gave him
the instructions and charge of his grandparents,
and may God use the same for the eternal welfare of
my first-born son. Oh, what painful anxiety I felt
for the soul of this dear son. From early childhood
he has been prayed for day by day and has been interested
in the matter of personal piety and has been taught
to pray himself, but all this will not save his soul.
Oh God, make him a Christian. "...
"My third son [my father - W.P.] was born November
29, 1847, whom we called Samuel Ware after his grand
father Ware and the ancestor of all the Packards
in this country, who came over from England in 1630.
My son Samuel was baptized by the Rev. Samuel Day,
who preached for me on that Sabbath. My heart s
desire and prayer to God is that this son Samuel
may become a Bible-Christian and serve God faithfully. "
Baum: You must have had quite an illustrious family to have a
whole book of genealogy about them.
Packard: Well, the Packard family is rather proud of its heritage.
My grandfather occupied the pulpit in Shelbourne for
a number of years and then due to ill health resigned over
the protest of his parishioners, and moved first to Ohio
where he remained for a year, and then to Mt . Pleasant,
Iowa, where he was pastor for two years. He then moved
back to Illinois and settled first in Manteno, but lived
in Chicago part of the time.
His wife had a very different personality from my
grandfather. She was reported to have been a very beau
tiful woman and very popular in the neighborhood. It was
said that Henry Ward Beecher was one of her suitors. She
had a very active mind and was not inclined to accept the
complete orthodoxy of her husband.. She was influenced
by the Unitarian doctrine and soon became quite active in
the Unitarian Church. This difference of opinion increased
the separation between the two, and it culminated in Manteno,
where she became so active in propagandizing her own ideas
against the teachings of her husband in the church that
the parishioners petitioned that she be sent to a mental
hospital in Jacksonville , Illinois.
Over her violent protests, and the protests of some
others who took her side in the controversy, she was taken
forcibly to the state hospital where she remained for
Packard: three years. She was finally released as an incurable
patient, according to the testimony of the director of the
institution. While there she was well taken care of, but
she created quite a lot of disturbance because she was
still a propagandist. She resisted being in the sanitarium.
When she was finally released she was sent to an insane
asylum in Kankakee , again over her protests. She had
to be carried out of the train and forcibly carried into
the institution. She was placed in common wards with people
of various degrees of insanity.
Finally, by getting letters out, she got the attention
of some leaders on the outside which led to her final release,
Upon her release she became a very active propagandist for
laws that would protect a person from being sent to an
asylum without a legal hearing. The extent of her influ
ence is shown by the following quote from research made
by Dr. Francis J. Gerty:
(This is from a clipping from the newspaper, the
New Mexican, in 1958, and it s headed, "Plight of
Mentally 111 Aided by Three Nineteenth Century
Women". This is from a report to a big conference,
and we wrote to Dr. Gerty after a niece sent this
"Ever think to yourself, Boy, what would I give
to get rid of my wife for a year or so. Well, you re
living a hundred years too late. Back in the 1850 s
it was easy. All you had do in some states was to
report that your wife was acting crazy, sign com
mitment papers, and have her whisked away to the state
insane asylum. But things are different now, and
behind the legislation to protect the distaff side, at
the expense of adding considerably to domestic battles,
was the wife of a long-suffering Presbyterian minister.
Packard: In the words of Dr. Francis J. Gerty, the new president
of the American Psychiatric Association, she was,
"a crackpot who could look awfully good fighting for a
cause." Dr. Gerty, head of psychiatry at University
of Illinois Medical School, has made a scholarly
study of legislation concerning the mentally ill.
According to him, three women played major roles in
this area. They were: Dorothea Lynn Dix, a strong-
willed social worker who brought about the establishment
of many state hospitals for the insane in the 1840 s;
Mrs. Elizabeth W. Packard, who was put away by her
minister husband in 1860 and following her release
battled successfully for personal liberty laws which
gave everyone a right to trial by jury before being
committed; Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the
sixteenth President of the United States. Because
of Mrs. Packard s crusade, Mrs. Lincoln was forced
to undergo humiliating public trial before commitment.
Her case helped bring about legislation by which
people could be committed more quietly."
In carrying on her campaign, Mrs. Packard moved to
Chicago where she purchased a house and kept two of her
children for a while and all of them later on. She
supported herself and her family by the writing and
publication of books, eight or ten books, dealing with
various facets of the same problem.* There is one in the
University of California library. Many of them were on
her own experiences. She took in nearly $50,000 [Theophilus
Packard s Diary says $10,000 - E. L. P.] from the sale
Packard: of these books and financed a campaign whereby she success
fully established legislation governing the commitment
of people to insane asylums in seven [or twelve - E. L. P.]
different states. On two occasions she was invited to the
White House to interview President Grant in connection
with getting his support, which she did.
Baum: How did her husband feel about all this? I suppose they
were separated after that.
Packard: He was, of course, greatly disturbed. He moved back to
Massachusetts for a while, then returned to Manteno,
where he lived with a sister until he died in 1885. My
grandmother secured a divorce and supported the family.
Parents, Samuel Ware Packard and Clara Fish Packard; Brother & Sisters
Packard: My father, who was born in Shelbourne moved west with the
family- Now Emmy, will you read from that sketch about
my father? [See copy of article.] After establishing a
profitable practice in Chicago, my father s office was
destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871, so he took time
off for a trip to Denver, Colorado. On his way the train
to Denver was stopped on several occasions by herds of buffalo
crossing the tracks on their trek south. He spent most
of his time in Colorado in hunting buffalo. The stories
of the Chicago fire and of his exploits with Mudeater and
Prairie Dog Dave of buffalo hunting days, used to thrill us
children as often as they were told. If my father had not
been so deeply religious he would have been quite a gay
Packard: character. He disguised his speculation on the stock
market as investments, rather than gambling.
The influence of my grandfather s religious teaching
is evident in some of these stories because he made attempts
to convert both of these buffalo hunting characters.
During his time in the West his father was writing to
him about becoming a minister instead of going into the
law. My father considered this very seriously and I think
all during the rest of his life felt rather guilty for
not having taken up the ministry as his father and grand
father and great-grandfather had done. But he went back
to Chicago and resumed his law practice there.
In a letter to his mother three years later he said,
"Fortune seems to smile on us. (the partnership) Our
business is wonderful -- I hope to have at least $100,000
salted down-- so that I can move to a better climate and
there devote myself to carrying on some great or noble
reformation, as you do." In the same letter, he said,
"I hope to get married to a young lady of nineteen that I
met about nine months ago. She is a good Christian girl,
sensible, true, refined, and I love her with all my heart."
The following account of the wedding appeared in the
Chicago Legal News .
"On Tuesday, the 23rd instant (1874) at Lombard, 111.,
Samuel W. Packard Esq. of the law firm of Cooper,
Garnett and Packard of this city was married to Miss
Clara A. Fish, a most esteemed and popular young
lady of the former place. The ceremony was performed
in the Congregational Church of Lombard. The Rev.
Packard: Charles Canano, the pastor, assisted by the Rev.
Theophilus Packard, Jr., father of the groom, offi
ciated at the services which took place in the presence
of a large group of the friends of the bride and groom
from Lombard, as well as many members of the Chicago
bar and their ladies, for whose accomodation a special
train was provided."
After a brief honeymoon on a lake trip, the newly-
weds settled in a large two-story house on Holly Court,
in Oak Park, 111., where I was born. In a letter to his
mother, my father describes the place as follows, "The
house I have rented is a very fine, large square house
with two bay windows, two sides, and is heated by a
Although my mother was a professed Christian and a
member of the Congregational Church, she never accepted
my father s fundamentalism. The conflict of beliefs between
my grandfather and his wife was reflected in a somewhat
similar conflict between my father and mother. My father
served as deacon in the Oak Park Congregational Church
for many years, while my mother s interest was centered
in social service work of various kinds. Among other
things, she organized a reading room for use by servant
girls on their days off. The going rate of pay for a
servant girl at that time was $3.00 per week. My mother
was the first president of the 19th Century Club in Oak
Park, Illinois, and was a very active supporter of woman s
suffrage and of Jane Addams work at Hull House in Chicago.
She became interested in the labor movement and served on
Packard: a State Commission to investigate the causes of a mine
disaster where many miners were killed.
Baum: What was her maiden name again?
Packard: Her name was Clara Adelaide Fish. I remember her mother
well, as a gentle, white-haired grandmother who lived
with us for a while... I never knew my maternal grand
father, who was a postal employee, and whose forebears
went back to pre-Revolutionary days. My mother was
eligible to membership in the Daughters of the American
Revolution, but never chose to join because she was out
of sympathy with their activities. She had two sisters,
whom we knew as Aunt Ida and Aunty Ellen.
Mrs. : One reason, I imagine, why your mother worked for woman s
suffrage was that Aunty Ellen bucked the prejudice against
women in politics. She had a broken marriage. She
married a much older man who was a doctor, which got her
interested in the medical field. After the breakup of
the marriage she decided to become a doctor and was the
first woman graduate from a medical school in Chicago.
She told stories about the early days when young doctors
couldn t afford to buy all of the things they were supposed
to have, so they made sugar pills and used a good deal of
( Laughter )
Packard: After the death of her first husband, Mrs. Pierce, my
maternal grandmother, moved to Lombard, Illinois, where
Packard: my father met my mother.
Baum: What did your father feel about the conflict between his
father and mother? It sounds like he was loyal to both.
Packard: Well, he was greatly disturbed by the conflict. He admired
his mother s work for women s rights, but he adopted his
father s religion and became a complete fundamentalist,
which was strange because in his law practice he was a
very practical man. His arguments were governed by logic
but in his religious life, he was completely conditioned
to an acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God. He
said "blessings" before every meal and the family knelt
for morning prayers after breakfast without fail. We
children would take turns reading extracts from the Bible
and each would offer a prayer.
Baum: How many were there of you?
Packard: I had three sisters and a brother. I was in the middle.
My oldest sister, Stella, bore the brunt of my father s
religious training with its emphasis on hell-fire and heaven.
Although she was a very attractive young lady, she never
married. She had my mother s interest in social work.
After taking some courses in domestic science at the Armour
Institute in Chicago, she went to Smith College. She
worked with Jane Addams in Hull House (Chicago) for some
time. After graduation she went into social work in New
York and remained in that field until she died of cancer
Packard: My next oldest sister, Laura, was a completely dedicated
person, possessing some of the intensity of her grandmother.
She started her college career at Oberlin, but graduated
from Vassar. While there, she became a socialist, which
interestingly enough, disturbed my mother until some years
later, when she herself became a strong supporter and friend
of Upton Sinclair. Laura married Edward Redman, a Phi
Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth. They had
three girls, Esther, Elizabeth, and Barbara, all of whom
are filling important, but divergent roles in life.
My youngest sister Esther graduated from Smith College
and became a very successful social worker in New York
State, appearing before the state legislature in Albany
on various occasions in support of social legislation.
During the early part of the First World War, she married
Philip Chadbourn, soon after he had returned from an
assignment with Herbert Hoover in Belgium. He brought
presents from the Belgium children to President Wilson
and presented them to him at a formal ceremony. Through
Esther s associations in New York, she secured an appoint
ment for Phil as a special representative of the State
Department in Russia. His assignment was to represent
German and Austrian interests in Russia until we got into
the war, when, of course, they had to return. They came
back through Finland and went to California to live,
temporarily, in the family home in Pasadena. The stories
Packard: they had to tell were exciting in the extreme. More about
that later on. They have three children, Philip born in
Petrograd, during the first week of the Russian Revolution,
Jane, born in Pasadena, and Alfred, born in Symrna, at the
very height of the Greeks exodus from Turkey during the
John, my brother, graduated from the University of
Southern California and followed Father into the practice
of law. I remember two episodes when he was a youngster
which have always stayed with me. He would sing When I m
big I ll be a soldier, that s what I will be. Mother
would pretend to cry and he would laugh. At another time
when he had done something particularly bad, Mother told
him to go out in the yard and bring her a switch. He came
back crying and dragging a baseball bat as long as he was
tall. Mother just burst out laughing and it was all over.
John and I were very close, as brothers, throughout his life.
Although he followed Father into the law he became a socialist,
in part because of me and in part because of Mother s
interest. He married Rose Marie Hutcheson, whose friendship
with the Upton Sinclairs helped John politically in his
work both as a member of the National Committee of the
Socialist Party and as an active member of the Democratic
Party during the New Deal days. In 1936, John was Roosevelt s
campaign manager in Southern California. John helped
organize the Civil Liberties Union in Southern California
Packard: and was very active in the work of the organization throughout
his life. On two occasions when he had gone to Imperial
Valley to defend arrested agricultural workers who had
been on strike, he had to be escorted out of the valley
by motorcycle police for fear of attack by vigilante
groups. John and Rose Marie had two children, John Jr.,
and Virginia, each of whom is filling an important role
Packard: This brings me to my own role as the first son.
Although I recall living in the Holly Court house, most
of my memories are associated with our home on Lake Street,
in Oak Park, Illinois, across the street from the Congre
gational Church, where the Oak Park Post Office now stands.
I was born on February 22nd, 1884. Oak Park at that time
was a rural village with dirt streets. We had outside
privies and kerosene lamps and later substituted elec
tricity for gas. And I can remember, also, very clearly
when we had the first telephone installed, and when our
furnace was replaced by a community heating system which
piped hot-water into our radiators.
As I remember it, I enjoyed school as a youngster. But
I was inclined to break the rules. My first memorable
offense occurred when I was in the second grade. John
Tope, my closest friend as a boy, had a seat at one end
of the front row in school while I sat at the other end.
Packard: One time when the teacher announced that we would have
five minutes recess but could not leave our seats I leaned
forward and called out, "Hello there, jackass." I was
sent home with a note telling Mother what I had done. On
another occasion I took a mouse to school with a string
tied to its tail. When the teacher was not looking I would
let the mouse run on the floor to frighten the girls in
the class. Again I was sent home. Kindly Mr. Hatch,
the principal of the grammar school, whom I remember with
affection, told my mother that I had given him more
trouble than any other child, a fact which I can hardly
understand because I never had any malicious feeling
and never did anything that I thought was really harmful.
Or, on reflection, did I? I recall the time when a police
man appeared at our door charging me with breaking the
windows in a neighbor s barn. I had to admit that I
had done it with a slingshot which I had learned to use
quite accurately. My only memory of a real good spanking
though, was when the family for some reason was sitting
on the front row of the balcony in church. I insisted
on putting my feet on the rail in front with complete
disregard of my father s orders to put them down. I
figured, I suppose, that I had him at a disadvantage.
But I was mistaken. My father picked me up and carried
me all the way home, where I was vigorously convinced that
he was boss.
Packard: When I got old enough I was given responsibility
for taking care of the furnace which included the very
dirty job of taking out the ashes. I also learned to care
for my father s very spirited team of black geldings.
We had a large lawn which I had to mow and water. Both
of my parents were very understanding people. I always
had a dog sometimes three or four at a time. I taught
a St. Bernard to drive, I had a dog cart for summer and
a sled with wooden shafts for winter; and also a four-
wheeled wagon with a large box attached which I built for
peddling sweet corn which I raised on a vacant lot belong
ing to Father on the edge of town.
I was taught how to handle a gun and, in addition
to having a 22 -rifle, I was free to use my father s
10-gauge shotgun when I wanted to hunt ducks on the North
prairie or rabbits and squirrels in the woods. My hunting
trips provided little food, but that fact never lessened
the fun of tramping over the prairies and through the woods,
which were the main rewards. The prairie swamps provided
good skating in the winter and yielded pussy willows for
my mother in the spring. These areas are now covered by
high-rise apartments. I learned to swim in the skunk hole
in the Des Plaines River, graduating in due time to the
dangerous sand pit with its deep water and steep sides.
One time when the spring flood had topped the riverbanks,
I swam across and back on a dare which in retrospect was
Packard: very foolhardy.
On two succeeding summers, following my eighth grade
year, I organized camping trips to the lake country in
northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Four boys made
up the first group and six the next. Each time we built
a two-wheeled cart using bicycle wheels and a large box
in which we packed our blankets, tent, cooking utensils,
and food. We took turns pulling the cart and took two
days to make the final camping spot on a lake where we
fished, swam, hunted, and played "fox and hounds".
The following summer I bought a horse for $50.00, out
of money I had earned peddling papers and went on a
600-mile trip through northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and
into the pine woods of northern Michigan. My companion
on this trip was Irving Updike, who rode a beautiful gaited
Kentucky riding horse given to him by his father, a wealthy
member of the Chicago Grain Exchange. We camped out
every night and cooked most of our meals.
My father s association with us children was enriched
by two practices which remain in my memory as valued
experiences. One was the Sunday afternoon walks into the
north prairie where we would collect pussy willows, pick
wild flowers, or just sit on the grass while my father
told us Bible stories. He was a wonderful story teller,
always interpreting Bible stories in words and plots which
kept us keenly interested. The second practice included
Packard: the occasional Saturday drive to Salt Creek, Lombard, or
to Lincoln Park to see the animals. Some summers we would
take the longer two-day drive to Manteno to visit our
Dole cousins who lived on a farm. I think the pleasant
memories of those visits had something to do with my want
ing to be a farmer.
On one of these trips we stopped overnight in Joliet,
where we visited the state prison and got a view of a
man who had robbed our house one winter when we were in
California. We children believed that the man would want
to shoot my father when he got out. At any rate a year
or two later a strange looking man appeared at the door
wanting to see Father. Laura and I were the only ones at
home. We said that Father would be home about six o clock.
Instead of leaving he wanted to stay. So we invited him
into the parlor where he proceeded to tell us that he was
the man who robbed our house. He had just been released
from prison and wanted to make a courtesy call.
I went to my room, put shells in a 22-pistol, put
it in my pocket and went to the station to meet Father.
I told him what had happened but said nothing about the
pistol^ which I held in my pocket all cocked and ready for
action. Our guest explained that he had become a Christian
in prison and wanted to make restitution for his sins as
best he could. This, of course, pleased my father, who
invited him to stay for supper, where he entertained us
Packard: with stories of his life in prison. And then for three
years after that every time it snowed he d come around
to the barn and get a snow shovel and shovel off all our
walks, put the shovel back in the barn, and walk off and
never say anything. In the summertime he d sweep the side
walks occasionally, and then he disappeared and we never
knew what happened to him. But during that time he was
back at his old job of washing windows and he would give
Mother as a reference.
When I was a child we spent two winters in California
staying with Uncle Ira in San Diego part of the time and
with the Wares (my father s cousin) who lived on Orange
Grove Avenue in Pasadena. I was only a year old on the
first trip but have very vivid memories of the second trip,
when I was nine. I loved to accompany my Uncle Ira over
the dry, brush covered hills of San Diego County, where I
would look for trapdoor spider nests, while he hunted
quail. We drove by horse and buggy to La Jolla, Point
Loma , and Old Town, always carrying a lunch along to be
eaten at some secluded spot on some beach. The Ware lot
in Pasadena ran down to the Arroyo Seco where my sister
Laura and I, with two Ware dogs, built sand dams and waded
in the water. I once drove from Pasadena to Santa Ana
in a one horse buckboard with my father and his brother
Theophilus. It took us two days each way. We camped
out along a river at night where we heard coyotes barking.
Packard: The whole stretch of country was completely undeveloped. My
father s cousin, Edward Ware in Garden Grove, was a pioneer
walnut grower in Orange County.
Another winter we spent in Biloxi, Mississippi. There
I had an experience that affected me for years. The family
was living in a hotel and I was. down at the beach one day,
I came back to the hotel and nobody was there the family
was gone. They had gone out on an afternoon ride in a
buggy. And I suddenly felt that I was left alone, they d
left me, abandoned me. And I just made a terrific scene.
The guests at the hotel tried to comfort me and say my
parents were coming back, but I didn t believe them. I
just thought I was abandoned. And when they came back it
didn t made a parcel of difference. It still had a terrific
influence on me. And it lasted, oh, for a long time. I
remember after we got back to Oak Park one day, Father
said he was going to drive Mother out to Lombard, and so
I skipped school, came back and hid in the barn. When
he started out I ran out and caught hold of the back axle
of the buggy. I was going to hang on there all the way
to Lombard because I thought they were going to run away
from me again.
Baum: How old were you?
Packard: Well, I was in the first grade in school. I must have
Baum: Did your father usually go somewhere in the winter?
Packard: Well, yes... he always tried to, yes.
Baum: To get away from the cold, is that the idea?
Packard: Yes, yes. But these three big trips are the only ones I
remember. In the summertime we d always go on vacations, in
Wisconsin or Michigan at some lake resort.
Baum: Does this indicate you were fairly well-to-do?
Packard: Yes, we were fairly well-to-do. My father was a successful
lawyer. He had the second largest private law library in
Chicago. He was considered to be an exceptionally good trial
lawyer. He never took divorce or criminal cases, only civil
suits. But we were never rich. Our yard in Oak Park must
have covered an acre and a half or two acres. We had fruit
trees of all kinds and a large garden. It was a wonderful
place for us children. The memory of sitting in the branches
of an apple tree in full bloom and of following the plow to
pick up angle worms when the hired man was preparing the garden
for spring planting is still vivid. Father had some carpenters
build a toboggan slide in the side yard at the beginning of
winter a thing we enjoyed until we were old enough to go
I was ten years old when the Chicago World s Fair was
staged. I was taken to the fair several times. Seeing Sitting
Bull in person was one of the thrills I remember. But my
sharpest recollection concerns the loss of the half dollar I
had been given to spend during the day. I watched a man in
a diving suit walk around the bottom of a tank of water. He
Packard: would pick things up from the tank to demonstrate his skill.
So I threw in my half dollar, fully expecting him to return it.
But he didn t. And my day was spoiled.
Although my parents were very free and understanding with
anything relating to my love for the out of doors, we children
were not allowed to dance, play cards, or go to the theater and
the Sabbath Day was observed with strict obedience to the mores
of the time. There was one exception to these restrictions.
Whenever Buffalo Bill s show came to Chicago, Father took us
all and would regale us again with stories of his buffalo
hunting days. Restrictions were sometimes tempered by reason.
The prohibition on smoking, for example, was restricted. So
long as I promised not to smoke tobacco I could smoke cornsilk,
rattan, or what have you. My first lesson in plant breeding
resulted, unexpectedly, from my first summer s experience in
smoking cornsilk cigarettes. That summer I harvested all of
the cornsilk from my father s prize plot of sweet corn just as
soon as it appeared. I had it all laid out on newspapers
on the barn floor to dry when my father came home from the
office. What I learned in the barn that night I have never
( Laughter )
Baum: You ruined the year s crop?
Packard: I sure did.
As a boy I was never much of a reader. J. Fenimore
Cooper s Indian stories, the Henty novels, Tom Sawyer and
Packard: Huck Finn, Peck s Bad Boy, the Life of Buffalo Bill, comprised
my range of books. But not entirely. John Tope and I read
dime novels, frowned upon by our parents. We read them by the
light of a candle, in a room we had dug out under the barn which
we reached through a tunnel. It might be well to add that the
barn never caught on fire.
Three incidents relating to gun powder might be worth
recording. The first resulted from my desire to have small
shot to throw in the schoolroom. I had unloaded a shotgun
shell and didn t know what to do with the powder. So I loaded
a toy cannon, took it to a sand lot, and set it off. We never
found the cannon, but my eyelashes were burned shut and my face
was burned and covered with black powder marks. The other
two experiences were associated with the Fourth of July, which
was always the big day of the year. One year I poured some
powder into a large bottle into which I had inserted a string
to serve as a fuse. The bottle blew up before I could get
away and a piece of glass was shot into the calf of my leg.
When I got home I pushed a needle into the hole to see if I
could locate the glass. I kept mum about this and nothing
happened. The third episode occurred early on Fourth of July
morning. In order to waken John Tope, I loaded a cannon I
had made out of a piece of pipe nailed to a six by six wooden
block. I put the cannon halfway between the Tope s barn and
house and after lighting the fuse I ran to the barn. The
following day we found part of the cannon on the other side of
the Presbyterian church which was located on the adjoining lot.
Packard: In view of the present concern over juvenile delinquency
and the ideological conflict of the Cold War, the contrasting
character of some of my high school companions is perhaps worth
recording. Irvine Updike--my companion on the horseback trip,
ended up in the penitentiary for having conspired with his
younger brother to murder their parents in order to get their
anticipated inheritance sooner. Henry Arnold, my closest high
school friend, became a very successful Congregational minister.
After graduating from the Yale Divinity School he became pastor
of an important New England church.
Another contrast was presented by Bruce Barton and Anna
Louise Strong. Bruce was the son of the pastor of the First
Congregational Church where my father was deacon. Anna Louise
Strong was the daughter of the pastor of the Second Congreg
ational Church, which my father helped establish. Years later,
Bruce s advertising agency, with forty acres of floor space
on Madison Avenue, epitomizes the Far Right. While Anna Louise,
as a devoted supporter of both Russia and China, now living in
Peking, epitomizes the Far Left. My first memory of Bruce
Barton goes back to the time when three of us, John Tope,
Henry Arnold and I , as I remember it, planned to initiate Bruce
into the community shortly after he first arrived as a young
boy. My two companions hid behind the front fence while I
rang the front doorbell to invite Bruce out. His mother answered
the door and said that Bruce was not in. This indeed was a
Tom Sawyer inspired incident. Later on, when in high school,
Packard: Bruce and I belonged to the Bachelors club, which he organized.
Our pledge, as I remember it, was never to have anything
to do with women. The club members rented box seats at a
high school graduation exercises and appeared in top silk hats
borrowed from my father--a fact which made it necessary for
us to sneak out early to save the hats. Anna Louise was a close
friend of my sister Laura. She was a thorn in my flesh because
she was usually head of her class while I was near the foot.
I, as the deacon s son, occupy a position somewhat left of center
which I define as total democracya position which will be
explained in some detail later on.
Baum: There was a lot of intellectual ferment in that little city.
Packard: Yes, there was. But Oak Park has gone completely conservative,
as evidenced by its overwhelming support of Goldwater in the
My love of the country coupled with my disinterest in any
profession or urban business led me to take a job as a farm
hand during the summer vacation following my junior year in
high school. I rode my bicycle the 120 miles to Tonica,
Illinois, where I slopped hogs, milked cows, plowed corn, made
hay, shocked oats and helped in the threshing on a 100-acre
farm belonging to the Thompsons. It took me a day and a half
to make the trip and I was completely exhausted. My best per
formance on the farm was at the threshing dinners where each
farmer s wife tried to outdo the other. After one of these
dinners I had to take time off and lie in the shade of a tree
Packard: before I could go back to work. I enjoyed everything I did
except helping Mrs. Thompson do the washing on Monday mornings
and occasionally churning the butter.
Fourth of July was a great day in Tonica, as it was every
where when I was a boy. I had a thirty-eight caliber pistol
and two boxes of blank shells, which made me the noisiest
thing in town, much to the disgust of many. I contended in
the greased pole climb, the obstacle race, and the greased
pig contest. But the big event was the 100-yard dash on the
main street of town in the evening. The main street had been
harrowed to fill up the ruts and about twenty runners, including
two baseball players, lined up for the race. Since I was a
star runner in the Oak Park High School, I was able to win the
race and the $10.00 prizean incident which was used to
disqualify me temporarily for competition in the Big Ten Meet
at Chicago University when I was a freshman at college.
The farm work apparently did me some good because I rode
my bicycle back in one day without too much effort. When I
got home my sister Stella was home from Smith College, and said
that there was an agricultural college at Amherst where I
could learn to be a scientific farmer. What that meant none
of us knew exactly, but the idea took hold and I decided to
become a farmer with the understanding with my father that he
would buy me a farm when I got ready. I wrote to the agric
ultural colleges in various states and decided that the Iowa
State College at Ames suited me best. The following summer I
Walter Packard, Graduation - Ames College
Packard: spent another vacation on an Illinois farm owned by a Swedish
couple who believed in making the hired hand earn his way.
One thing that used to gripe me was that I had to use the
walking plow even when the riding cultivator was not in use.
After pitching manure on and off a wagon, making hay, and
cutting weeds with a scythe in the pig pen and along the
fences, I started pitching bundles at threshing time. Each of
these operations used my back muscles and one morning my back
began to pain me so much that I had to stop work and go to bed.
It was some days before I could get up to take the train
home. My back bothered me for months but not until many years
later did an osteopath find that a vertebrate was out of place,
not because of the farm work, but because of a practice we had in
high school of coming up behind some one and pounding him
as hard as possible between the shoulders as an expression
Iowa State College, Ames - 1903-1907
On graduating from high school in 1903, I went to Ames.
I had the idea that it would be a good thing to work my way
through college, so I got a job tending furnace for my room
in Music Hall and started to accumulate cash by working in
the experimental seed beds on the college farm. The pay of
ten cents an hour soon discouraged me. I then concentrated
Packard: on military drill. Because I had been a cadet in high school,
I entered the Ames training as a sergeant, although I did not
know just what a sergeant was supposed to do or where he should
stand in the line. On special days, when we had sham battles,
I found that I could get wounded behind some tree and sneak
home until General Lincoln had roll called at the beginning
and end of all drills. In spite of my rather bad behavior,
I became a second lieutenant at the end of my first semester.
But the track season started in the spring and much to the
disgust of the brusque but kindly General Lincoln I made the
track team and was excused from anymore drill for the rest
of my stay in college.
For some reason or other I was selected as one of several
students to remain at college during the Christmas vacation
to teach corn judging to Iowa farmers attending the winter
short course. I am now quite ashamed of one thing I did
that winter but I think I should confess. There was one
young farmer who did a great deal of bragging about how
tough he was. He boasted of having ten scars on his body.
So one evening, when he was on his way to a meeting, a group
of six regular students kidnapped him. We took him to the
old "pest house" off the campus, built a fire in the stove,
pretended to be heating a branding iron, and later had him
undress to show his scars. In due time, he was laid forcibly
on his back on the bed by three members of the Ames football
squad and a large A was harmlessly tattooed on his stomach
Packard: with an icicle. He screamed with pain but when it was all over,
he wanted to join in other similar escapades which were not
^hen the short course was over and the prize of $1,000
was presented to Asa Turner as the man who had raised the best
ten ears of corn in Iowa, I was up on the platform asking
him for a job as a hired hand. I was taken on, so spent my
first summer vacation from college, feeding pigs, milking
cows, plowing corn, and doing odd chores about the place.
He specialized in Reed s yellow dent corn, Duroc Jersey hogs
and short horn cattle. My salary was $25.00 per month plus
board and room. \sa Turner was a grand old man, a Civil War
veteran who had become "sanctified" and therefore could not
sin. We drove to town (Maxwell) in a buggy on Sundays to
attend Sunday school and church and to meet the neighbors.
Before returning to college I attended the St. Louis
Fair where I spent so much that I had to walk the last twelve
miles. I considered the conductor to be unnecessarily harsh
in putting me off, but I enjoyed the walk.
At the beginning of my sophomore year I joined a small
group of my 07 classmates intent on preventing the freshman
from painting 08 "s on various likely places. One night,
finding a large 08 on the Northwestern Railway bridge going
into Ames, we quietly entered the rooming house of the president
of the freshman class, got him out of bed and into some
clothes and then made him walk to the bridge with a brush and a
bucket of paint to daub out the "08.
England - 1905
Baum: I ve got a note here, a little note from Who s vtfho, "Special
Agent, Packard and Neice, attorneys, London 1905."
Packard: Yes, yes. That was when I was a sophomore at college. I had
heard of some students who had worked their way to Europe for
a summer vacation by tending cattle on a cattle boat. So I
pursued the matter and had a tentative arrangement to go over
to England with cattle and to return from Normandy with horses,
when I got a letter from my father saying that I could go to
London for a Catholic priest on a rather strange mission.
I was to carry the manuscript of a book which was an expose"
of the parochial school system in Chicago, written by Father
Crowley, to London to have it copyrighted in England, Scotland,
Ireland, and Wales. Father Crowley wanted a non-Catholic
messenger that he could trust. So, instead of doing what I
had planned to do, I served as my father s legal agent in carry
ing out the assignment.
Baum: This was an anti-Catholic document?
Packard: Yes, it certainly was. Father Crowley, incidentally, was
excommunicated for his sincere effort to stamp out evils which
he saw in the Chicago set-up. After getting the manuscript
properly registered at the British Museum, I tried to find a
publisher. None of the prominent publishers would take the book.
One of them told me that his employees would strike if he took
the contract. I finally got a small operator who set his own
Packard: type to agree to publish it. But the contract was never signed
because Father Crowley was able to get the book published in
the United States. It was widely advertised but never made
much of an impression. Father Crowley, however, suffered
severely. After his excommunication he married and tried to
lead a normal life. But whenever he got a job, he would be
followed by the Church. He finally went to California where
my close friend Richard Perkin?,then secretary of the Y.M.C.A.
in San Francisco, helped him get started.
Baum: So you did have a little experience in Europe?
Packard: Yes, indeed. I had a very interesting time. On the way over,
on the White Star liner Olympic, the ship went through a
"hurricane with mountainous seas", as recorded by the log.
It was impossible to go anywhere on shipboard without hanging
onto a rope. Three people were killed in accidents during
the storm. Their bodies were buried at sea early one morning
as we sailed along the coast of Ireland. One notable event
was the fact that the ship carried one of the first radios which
permitted the purser to publish a newspaper each morning,
carrying news from the Russian -Japanese War. The ship lay
at anchor for two days in the Liverpool harbor swinging back
and forth with the tide in a fog that was so dense you could
hardly see across the deck. I had read some of Dickens on
the way over and was well prepared for the fog that engulfed
London all the time I was there. I visited a farmers market
in London where stall-holders, with horse or donkey drawn
Packard: carts brought their produce for sale. I spent considerable time
in visiting the Tate Gallery and the National Art Gallery
and, of course, visited the British Museum. I saw London, through
the fog, from the top of double-decker, horse-drawn busses
which I would take to the end of the line and back again.
Extra-Curricular Activities at Ames
Packard: Now to get back to my college days. Although I had devel
oped a dislike for fraternities, due to the fact that a frat
ernity in high school was made up of students that I did not
like- -they were just not my kind--I joined the Beta Theta Pi
fraternity during my sophomore year because Emma Leonard, a
classmate who later became my wife had joined the Pi Phis, and
I felt that I had to succumb to maintain my competitive position.
From then on "she wore my Beta pin". I later became a member
of Alpha Xeta, an honorary Agricultural fraternity.
I was not what you would call an athlete but I did pretty
well as a runner. I won my letter as a freshman and was the
fastest quartermiler on the relay team that broke the state
record and competed in the Big Ten meet in Chicago. During
my junior and senior years I ran the mile and the two mile,
again winning my college letter. I served as the manager of
the football team during my junior and senior year. I was
also on the college debating team and won my gold A watch fob
in a debate with Grinnell in which Grinnell won by a unanimous
Packard: decision! During my senior year I was chosen to be a member
of what was called the "Cardinal Guild" which got its name
from the fact that the college colors were cardinal and gold.
It was an honorary group whose rather moral duty was to promote
adult behavior. It had an aura of righteousness about it, that
somehow did not appeal to me, but I felt highly honored in
I became interested in the Y.M.C.A. when I was a freshman.
I can still remember how important I felt when I got a letter
from Jack Prall, the employed secretary of the college Y.M.C.A.,
asking me to teach a Bible study class the following year. I
accepted and, by the end of my sohpomore year I was elected
President of the college Y which was credited, rightly or
wrongly, with having more Bible study classes than any other
college. It was quite logical, therefore, for me to attend the
Y.M.C.A. summer school at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Baum: This was the summer after the one you spent on Turner s ranch?
Packard: Yes. This was after my sophomore year. I came under the in
fluence of men like John R. Mott, Robert Spear, and other
inspirational leaders who were promoting what was called the
"Student Volunteer Movement." Today it might be called the
Peace Corps. "Why," they said to me, "can t you become an
agricultural missionary? You are a Christian and as such you
must believe that spreading the Gospel is the greatest of
callings." I could not counter this logic so I became a
"student volunteer" at the end of my sophomore year.
On a Surveying Crew in Idaho - Summer, 1906
Packard: I spent the summer following my junior year as rod man
on a survey crew in Idaho. A good deal of excitement had been
developed over the opportunities for apple production on newly
established irrigation projects in the Northwest. My father
was attorney for a Chicago bonding firm that was financing
the Canyon Canal Project on the Payette River, which explains
my job. I first weftt to the big exposition in Portland, Oregon,
where all the wonders of the Pacific Northwest were displayed.
I returned to Boise where I met my father who was staying at
a swank hotel. For some reason, he must have felt that staying
at a cheap hotel would improve my character. At any rate, we
secured a room in a little hotel in the lower part of town.
Two things happened that had nothing to do with character
building. I had to change rooms three times the first night
because of bed bugs, which were new to me. And chamber maids
were so solicitous that I had a hard time keeping them out of
my room. Some weeks later I picked up a Boise paper and saw
a headline "Millions of Lives Lost". It was an account of the
burning of my hotel.
I spent the rest of the summer in survey camps along the
Payette River--an experience which ended with a case of dysentery
from drinking unboiled water. A construction crew with mules
and servers occupied the same camp. A mule skinner offered me
$5.00 if I would lean over at a distance of about ten feet
Packard: and let him take one crack at my behind with his black snake
( a whip for mules ). I wasn t that badly in need of money.
The project involved the construction of a dam and miles of
wooden flume, in addition to open ditch work, so I got a good
start in the field of irrigation engineering. I took an
interest in the land too. I filed on a -,40-acre piece of
rather rough land near the lower end of the project with the
idea that I might at some time plant an apple orchard. How
this fitted into my plans for becoming an agricultural missionary
is a mystery. Perhaps it was because I was completely fascinated
with the sagebrush country.
Y. M. C. A. Secretary at Stanford University - 1907-1908
Packard: Back in college in the Fall, I made a very wise decision
which had much to do with my future career. I accepted a
job as the part-time secretary of the college Y.M.C.A. at
Stanford University. It would give me a chance to get more
work in the social sciences than I had been able to get at
Ames. But before going to Stanford I attended a Y.M.C.A.
summer school at Lake Geneva, where I had a first course in
psychology. What I learned threw me for a loop. It explained
what I had thought of as conversion in terms of psychology
rather than a deep religious experience.
So when I began my work at Stanford I was thoroughly
confused. My confusion, moreover, was compounded by the fact
that I, as the paid secretary, had to conduct a Bible study
Packard: class in a club house in Mayfield because the group was consid
ered to be too tough for any of the students... I found them
all to be socialists. Why they had asked for a Bible study
class is a question I can t answer. At any rate, we had
Bible study for about fifteen minutes and then discussed
socialism til midnight. By Christmas I was a socialist and
none of them was a Christian. ( Laughter ) So I sent in my
resignation to take effect at the close of the year.
It was necessary for me to attend the winter Y.M.C.A.
meeting at Pacific Grove. My back-sliding had become a general
concern. One kindly ond gentle old Methodist minister asked
me to go to his room for a personal conference, which I did.
But what a session! The dear fellow prayed for my lost soul
and explained in the prayer how his message was being carried
by the Holy Ghost, through Christ to God. By that time, however,
I was quite immune. I got through the year without collecting
all of my salary of $800.00.
Back to Idaho to Prove a Land Claim - Summer 1908
Packard: When school was out I went to Idaho to prove up on the 40
acre Carey claim I had filed on when I spent the summer of
my junior year at Ames in surveying on an irrigation project.
Baum: I believe your father had some experience in irrigation districts?
Packard: Yes, my father was the attorney for one of the bonding companies
in Chicago that handled irrigation bonds during the early period
Packard: of irrigation development at the beginning of the twentieth
Baum: Do you remember the name of the company?
Packard: Trowbridge and Niver. They financed irrigation development in
Idaho and Colorado. Little was known then about the problems
of irrigation, particularly about the problem of financing.
As a result, before many years, every major bonding house in
the United States that handled irrigation bonds went into
bankruptcy because the settlers were not able to meet the
payments that were required. Settlers going onto raw desert
land had to clear it, level it, and prepare the surface for
irrigation. All this took time, hard work, and money. Very
few of the first generation settlers were able to meet their own
personal costs, to say nothing of paying for water. Usually
in the West at that time it took from two to four succeeding
families, each contributing something, before the final family
could succeed. This was true of the projects the Trowbridge
and Niver Company was financing. It was because of these
facts that the Bureau of Reclamation had been established by
Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. The Bureau was empowered to grant
long term payments with no interest charge.
Baum: Were these ones that went bankrupt privately settled ones,
not irrigation districts?
Packard: Yes, they were private irrigation companies that tried to
develop water for sale at a profit. Developing irrigation
projects was a very popular thing at that time.
Packard: The Trowbridge and Niver firm put on a terrific exhibit
in Chicago, in one of the big show places, having exhibits
of carloads of apples and other products from small irrigation
projects that had already been developed. There was a lot of
excitement about it at that time.
Baum: Oh, I ve read some of the pamphlets. They have a lot of them
in Bancroft Library.
Packard: Yes. A lot of excitement about the possibilities of devel
oping land in the West. But they found there was not enough
money in it, not enough profit. The farmers went broke without
Baum: Did your father have any opinions about the validity of any
of these enterprises?
Packard: To my father s credit, he turned down the bonds in the first
project he investigated in Idaho, a project on the Payette
River, called the Canyon Canal project. And, as a result of
that, he was dismissed by the company and within three or four
years after that the company went into bankruptcy.
My brother, John, then in high school in Oak Park, joined
me in Idaho and remained with me for a year. He and my father
never understood each other. John rejected parental discipline
and it seemed best all around that he should be with me for a
while, a decision in which I heartily agreed. John, of course,
looked upon me as a Y.M.C.A. man and was, therefore, on his
guard. John landed at Payette with an old Springfield forty-
five caliber rifle which seemed appropriate for anyone entering
Packard: the great wild West. His vision of our Association was shocked,
first, by the fact that I suggested we play a game of pool at
the hotel while we waited for a train to Emtnett, which was
to be our headquarters. The second shock came the first Sunday
morning when I suggested that we go for a swim. On seeing
John s surprise, I helped the situation by saying we would take
a morning bath which he had been accustomed to at home. At
any rate, we hit it off in great shape. We built a one room
board and bat shack, (without the bats) bought two chairs,
built a rough board table in one corner, made our two beds on
the floor and cooked our meals on a kerosene stove and spent
our days grubbing sagebrush. I hired a neighbor with horses
and a Fresno scraper to level enough land to conform to the
government requirement for proving up on a Carey Act claim.
We soon arranged to get two meals a day at our neighbors.
Mr. Hull was a tall bearded man who had come West in a covered
wagon. He could hit a target with his frontiersman s pistol
much more accurately than we could with John s Springfield
The Hulls had a daughter named Millie who was about
John s age, who took quite a liking to him--a feeling which
was not reciprocated by John. One evening at a party at the
school house a game was started where the couple would stand
up facing each other. When the man in charge named something
that the individual liked, that individual was supposed to take
a step forward. If the item mentioned was disliked the individual
Packard: was supposed to step back. The climax would come when the
couple were near enough to kiss. John was caught in this game
with Millie. The first item mentioned was sugar. Millie
immediately took a demure step forward while John turned around
and took as long a step as he could in the opposite direction.
The two never met and John had to pay a penalty.
We all went to Emmett for the Fourth of July celebration.
The cattle men from the surrounding country put on a wild rodeo.
The lumbermen, who had just reached town with a log drive down
the river, put on log sawing contests and log rolling in the
mill pond, while the miners from the Thunder Mountain gold
fields had rock drilling contests. Nothing could have been
more exciting for John and me.
Our means of transportation was a donkey which we bought
for $10.00 in Emmett... The front position was the favorite
because in going uphill the front rider could slide back and
push the hind rider off the end. ( Laughter ) Unfortunately,
the day we bought the burro and were riding him out of town
two members of the Trowbridge Bonding firm were in town and
recognized us . One of the men was a deacon in the Oak Park
church. He wore a Prince Albert coat and top hat at home and
had a full set of whiskers patterned after Charles Evans Hughes.
It seemed quite proper for us to invite them out to dinner on
our Carey Act claim. I had no idea they would accept. But
the next day, just before noon, when John and I were grubbing
sagebrush I saw some dust down the road and a team of horses
Packard: approaching. I sent John to the shack to put it in order and
went out to meet our guests. They were first impressed by the
rattlesnake and badger skins that were nailed to the outside
of the shack. John was pushing a ring of dust and dirt down
a knot hole in the floor with a whisk broom when they entered.
Thinking that the occasion called for something special I
decided on French fried potatoes and flapjacks. I had never
cooked French fries and, therefore, made the mistake of putting
the potatoes in the pan before the bacon juice was hot enough.
Result total failure. But I was an expert with flapjacks
and cooked a pile about a foot high and invited our guests
to help themselves. Everything was all right until the log
cabin maple syrup can was passed. To our astonishment out
came a flood of drowned red ants. The sad part of this incident
was the wild stories our guests carried back to Oak Park.
Berkeley: Graduate Work in Soils & Irrigation Engineering
Packard: John and I returned to Berkeley where I went to college and
John went to high school. I had the same ideas that I had
when I entered college at Ames. I wanted to earn my way if
I could, although it was not necessary. John and I waited
table at a college boarding house for our room and board and
I worked for the Geological Survey in running alkali tests
on water samples, for cash money.
I registered as a graduate student specializing in soils
Packard: and irrigation engineering. I was fortunate, indeed, to have
my soil work under Dr. Eugene Hilgard, the dean of soil scientists
and a very wonderful character. I was equally fortunate in
having my irrigation engineering under Prof. B. A. Etcheverry
and my irrigation law under Prof. A. E. Chandler. All of these
professors remained as my personal friends and mentors during
I recall an incident involving Dr. Hilgard which I thought
was the height of absurdity. He was to be initiated into the
Alpha Zeta fraternity as an honored member. rfhen the under
graduate student in charge of the ceremony went through the
ritual he read in solemn tones "Now that you have entered our
wonderful fraternal brotherhood, your future will be bright,"
or something like that. Dr. Hilgard never batted an eye
although I came near laughing.
When I entered Cal, I was acutely conscious of the serious
ness of my work. I realized that my living would depend upon
what I knew- -a viewpoint which had not impressed me when I
was a student volunteer. As a result I applied myself as I
never had before. As a result I got top grades which I had
never done before. I represented what I have come to know
as slow starters. I had had no compelling thirst for knowledge
during my school and college days. Another factor was, I
think, that questions of science, economics, and philosophy
were never raised in conversation at home. This slowness
in becoming aware of reality applied to my work at Stanford
where my marks in the social sciences were abominable. But
Packard: eleven years later when I was taking graduate work in economics
at Harvard, I received top grades and an invitation to join
The point I want to make is that slow starters who have
a hard time getting into college these days are not necessarily
low I.Q. s who must be relegated to inferior positions. They
may have qualities which are not accurately measured by academic
standards at the high school age.
I was graduated from Cal in 1909 with the degree of
Master of Science.
Irrigation Investigation - 1909
Packard: My first job out of college was with the Irrigation Investig
ation office of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, gathering
irrigation data in the Upper San Joaquin Valley for the 1910
Irrigation Census. The territory I covered included Kings and
Tulare counties and part of Kern County. I had to get as
complete a record as possible from every irrigation project
in the area. Large operators were just beginning to build
levees in the Tulare Lake area. Artesian wells were running
freely on many of the large cattle raising properties, with
no thought of any possible shortage of water. On one trip
I remember driving two miles or more through a lake of water
where I kept to the center of the road by keeping halfway between
the tops of the fence posts on either side... On one occasion
Packard: I went with the county engineer of Tulare county when I measured
the division of water between the Kawea and St. Johns Rivers--
a division set by the courts after a suit which cost $500,000.00.
As I recall, the court order divided the water down to half
a second foot. But when the county engineer made the actual
division he determined the flow by throwing a stick into the
stream and recorded the time it took to go 100 feet which had
been paced off on the river bank. The cross section was made
by wading across the stream with a wooden yard stick, recording
the depth of water at ten foot intervals. Watching from the
bank I was quite certain that a mistake of a foot was made
in two readings. But the result appeared to be satisfactory,
because I heard of no complaints from farmers.
Years later, in various capacities, I was involved in the
efforts to conserve water and to get a new supply from the
Baum: Frank Adams worked on that census, didn t he?
Packard: I worked with Frank all the way through, over the years, but
in that particular case I was working for Cohen, who was in
charge of the census survey. I want to pay tribute to Frank
Adams whose sincerity of purpose and loyalty I have always
greatly admired. Although my brand of democracy often irritated
him, he never failed to come to my defense when I needed a friend.
Marriage to Emma Lou Leonard, December 20, 1909
Packard: After completing my irrigation census work, I returned
to Iowa for my marriage to Emma Leonard, a classmate at Ames.
It was love at first sight with me. Emmy Lou, as she was called
at college, was very active in class activities and always
ready to take part in college doings. She was born on a farm
near Waukee , Iowa, and had come to Ames to take a domestic
science course. We hit it off as good friends from the start.
Her father, Henry Lee Leonard, (known affectionately in his
home town in Vermont as Hell Let Loose) was a pioneer settler
who led the farmers in the area in tile draining the land,
selecting seed corn, and in feeding cattle from the range
country for shipment to the Chicago market. Once when he was
asked to submit a paper at a farmers meeting at Ames he began
by saying, "If you want good corn you don t plant popcorn, and
if you want good cattle you don t use popcorn bulls." He
was an early subscriber to Wallace s Farmer and the Rural New
Yorker. He took the Chicago Tribune to keep abreast of the
livestock market. He was a member of the Populist party, which
was the radical party of his time. In order to get better
credit terms for farmers he established a bank in Waukee,
where he served as president until his death in 1912. Emma s
mother was one of the kindliest persons I have known. She had
been a student at Knox College, Illinois, and wanted all of
her children to have an education. She raised eight children,
all of whom followed her example by joining the local Christian
Emma was not only active in college life, but was a top
student. She played on the college women s basketball team
and played the piano at all Y.M. and Y.W.C.A. meetings. When
I went to Stanford she remained at Ames, serving as assistant
college librarian. The following year she served as a Y.W.C.A.
social worker in the South Carolina mill village of Greer,
where she was known as "Miss Emmer" . The Y work was financed
by Anne Morgan, who was keenly interested in efforts to improve
the living standard of the mill workers. The psychology which
Emma encountered was dominated by the idea that work and going
to church were the two rightful activities of any worker.
Play was somehow associated with sin and indolence. The twelve
hour day was in force and although child labor was prohibited
by law, children would be allowed to help their parents in the
mill work. I had my first contact with the red soil hills
of the Piedmont country when I visited Emma during the Christmas
vacation in 1908, going from Berkeley to Greer, by train, of
We were married in Waukee , Iowa, on December 20, 1909.
My mother and brother came to the wedding which was conducted
by Dr. Orange Howard Cessna, professor of psychology and the
college chaplain at Ames. Immediately following the wedding
Emma and I took the train for Des Moines, where we transfered
to a pullman car for the trip to Kansas City, where we connected
Packard: with the through Santa Fe train for the Grand Canyon, Los
Angeles, and our new home in El Centre, the county seat of
Imperial Valley where I was to serve as a representative of the
College of Agriculture of the University of California for
seven interesting years.
Walter Packard family
Berkeley - 1917.
Walter Packard and Carl McQuiston
Palm Springs - 1916.
Packard s and the Veihmeyers
Berkeley - 1917.
IMPERIAL VALLEY, 1909 - 1917
Living Conditions in El Centro
Baum: Would you explain, now, what you were doing in Imperial Valley?
Packard: I went to Imperial Valley, as a representative of the University
of California, to gather facts on which the College of Agric
ulture could decide whether or not they should establish an
experiment farm in the Valley. The Valley people had made
a request for such farm through the State Legislature, which
had appropriated $6,000.00 to cover the cost of an investigation
of the need. I was selected for the job by Edward J. Wickson,
then Dean of the College of Agriculture and editor of the
Pacific Rural Press , the leading agricultural journal of the
state. Dr. J. Eliot Coit, a University of California horti-
culturalist with wide experience in the Southwest, was my
Emma and I arrived in El Centro after spending Christmas
day on a honeymoon trip to the Grand Canyon, arriving in
El Centro just in time to make us eligible for membership
in the Imperial Valley Pioneers. I was receiving the munifi
cent salary of $100.00 per month with no allowance for living
Baum: You only had $100.00 per month to start with there?
Packard: Yes. But that was not as bad as it now sounds. We could get
a four course dinner at the Oregon hotel the best hotel in
Packard: the Valley--for fifty cents. After such a splurge we could
spend a pleasant evening at an outdoor movie for 15 cents.
I can remember the thrill we had when we moved into the new
house on the Experiment Farm two years later, where we paid
no rent and my salary was raised to $1,800.00." We started
housekeeping in one room which formed the front half of a wooden
shack for which we paid $15.00 per month. After a month of
very primitive living we moved to a house across the street
which we got for $25.00 per month. It had a bath, kitchen,
very small living room, a dining porch, and two bedrooms,
one of which we rented to a real estate agent. The yard
was bare but was given a strange character by the fact that
the gravel walk leading to the front sidewalk was lined, on
both sides, with beer bottles stuck into the ground upside
down. The house had no insulation and became an oven when
the hot weather started. On particularly hot days Emma would
run water into the bath tub, put a pillow in to lean on, and
spend the afternoon reading.
The heat, at times, seemed unbearable. Hanging wet
burlap over open doors and windows helped some by cooling
the air a bit, but the practice also increased the humidity
which tended to make the heat more unbearable. Soaking sheets
and placing them on the bed with an electric fan blowing on
the bed helped to cool the mattress.
This practice reminds me of an incident which happened
when Foster Campbell, an Ames classmate, and his wife spent
Packard: a day with us in Tent City on the Coronado sand strip in San
Diego. Foster had a very sensitive skin, but paid no attention
to the danger of sunburn. He would go in and out of the water,
lying in the bright sun between dips. He and I drove back to
the Valley that night. The next morning he began to develop
water blisters as he perspired in the heat. I had him lie
naked on a wet sheet with a wet sheet over him and let the
fan cool him off. In retrospect, I don t know why he didn t
die of pneumonia.
Because of the heat many of the wives would leave the
Valley with the children when school closed in June, and would
stay out of the heat until school opened in the fall. I
remember attending a party during the first winter I was there
when all of the women vowed they would not abandon the men
during the next summer. A small cyclone occurred about the
middle of June and the electric current was cut off all over
the Valley. Emma had already left, so I had dinner that night
in a cafe lighted by a lamp and with no fans running. Later
on I saw the evening train pulling out for Los Angeles with every
reservation taken by the women who had vowed to stay. ( Laughter )
Many farm families lived in tent houses with screened
open sides and covered by a second roof, often a thatched roof
made of arrow weeds supported by a light frame. The space
between the roof created an air current while the top roof
prevented the sun from shining directly on the tent. The
tents were usually placed on top of a wooden frame, three or
Packard: four feet high with board floors. Some of these tent houses
were quite elaborate affairs. The general plan permitted
many modified designs.
Baum: But you didn t ever have to live quite that primitively, did
Packard: No, we never had to live in a tent house. But for three or
four months while the house was being built on the Experiment
Farm, we lived in a one room shack next to a ditch bank with
no running water or inside toilet facilities and, of course,
no electric lights and consequently no fans. The personally
disturbing character of this environment was demonstrated when
a fly flew into a lemon pie which Emma had just made and was
carrying to the table. The pie ended on the ditch bank and
frustrated tears flowed for quite a while.
Since we could find no good houses for rent in El Centre,
we decided to build a house of our own. It was a two bedroom
redwood house modeled after the design of a house we had seen
in Pasadena. It cost $1,800.000, and was located on a lot
costing $100.00, at the corner of Sixth and Holt. I managed
to supervise construction while Emma was spending the summer
and fall with my father and mother in Pasadena. When Emma
returned with Clara, who was born in the Pasadena hospital on
November 2, 1910, we moved into the new home and celebrated
Christmas with a greasewood shrub for a Christmas tree and with
my gifted artist cousin, Bertha Heise, as our guest.
Emmy Lou, our second daughter, joined us three and a
Packard: half years later. She was born on the Experiment Farm on
April 15, 1914.
The dust storms in those early days were almost as bad as
the heat. They would blow for three or four days at a time
during the spring and would not only cover everything with
dust, but would create an electric force that would put everyone
Mrs. : I remember in one of these storms I had some of my scalloped
wedding doilies on the dining room table. When I picked them
up after the storm, the pattern of the doilies with all the
scallops remained as a dust pattern on the table. I still have
the picture I took of that work of art. The dust sifted into
linen closets and drawers. After a storm I d have to shake,
dust or wash everything in the house. The dust was like flour,
you just couldn t keep it out.
Packard: Dust remained a source of irritation during our seven years
in the Valley.
Early Local Politics
Packard: On arriving in El Centre, I was given office space by
Mr. Medhurst who was editor of the Free Lance, a newspaper
which I assumed was owned by the Southern Pacific. Medhurst
was an old employee of the Southern Pacific and a very colorful
character. The Free Lance was in competition with the Imperial
Valley Press, whose editor, Captain Kelley was one of the first
State Foresters in California. He was an interesting character
Packard: who always wore a fancy vest about which Medhurst often edit-
oralized. Captain Kelley, among other things, was a famous
pistol shot. He was famous also for having won a bet with the
original William Randolph Hearst by capturing a grizzly bear
alive in a trap he devised in the Sierras. The bear occupied
a cage in the San Francisco zoo for many years.
My association with Medhurst gave me a chance to get some
interesting facts regarding the earlier history of the Valley.
There was a lively contest between the towns of Imperial and
El Centre for the county seat of Imperial County. Mr. W. F. Holt,
who established Holtville, on the east side of the Valley,
wanted to build a branch line from Holtville to the main track
of the Southern Pacific. He first asked to have a right of
way into the city of Imperial, which had already been established,
but those who were in charge of the development of the city
of Imperial either refused or were charging too much. So
Mr. Holt established a new town of his own, which was called
El Centre. This, of course, led to a very active fight between
the two towns .
A crucial decision affecting this fight was made when
Imperial County was created by separating it from San Diego
County. There was a meeting of the supervisors in San Diego
and representatives from Imperial Valley had to attend this
meeting to put up their claims regarding the boundaries of the
supervisorial districts. It happened that the line that had
been drawn by the Imperial people was just halfway between
Packard: El Centro and Imperial. But Mr. Holt found that the supervisor
of San Diego County, who would carry over and be the only
already elected supervisor of the new county, owned a farm
just on the Imperial side of this division line. So at the
meeting in San Diego, Mr. Holt said that he was very much inter
ested in getting land north of Holtville, because Holtville
was his town and he wanted to extend its influence. He would
be willing, he said, to give them half a mile of land between
El Centro and Imperial in exchange for the land north of Holtville.
So, they all agreed and that was fine. It was not until they
got halfway back to Imperial that the Imperial people realized
that Holt had taken over their supervisor. ( Laughter ).
Holt, thus, controlled the only already elected supervisor,
who was a Holt man, and who from then on represented the Imperial
supervisorial district. Mr. Holt, who was a devout church man,
said to me one time he had always told his men never to do
anything that was dishonest. "But," he added, "they certainly
used a lot of money."
Baum: Did you say that Holt was a Southern Pacific employee and so
Packard: Medhurst had been a station agent with the Southern Pacific.
But Holt was a capitalist and a banker living in Redlands.
He was working with rather than for, the Southern Pacific.
His standing was indicated by the fact that he had a private
pullman car which often stood for days on the El Centro or
Baum: I suppose the Southern Pacific was trying to build up farming
there to. . .
Packard: Oh yes. The Southern Pacific was involved very deeply in
Valley affairs, politically and otherwise. When the Colorado
River broke through in 1906 and cut two new river channels
through the Valley and into the Salton Sea, the Southern
Pacific Company had to relocate their main line to keep above
the rising water. The break was finally closed by a titanic
engineering effort in which the Southern Pacific Company
played an important role, by running trains of flat cars loaded
with large rocks into the new channel when the water began
to recede. This directed the water down the old channel to
the Gulf of California.
I am indebted to Medhurst for my first contact with the
Colorado River problem. He asked me to report on what was
happening below the border during an unusually high flood
stage of the river. There was constant fear in the Valley
that the river would again leave its banks and establish a
new channel leading north into the Salton Sea. A group of
about fifteen people made the trip. We were the guests of the
California Mexican Ranch, whose manager Mr. Walter Bowker
directed the investigation. We went by car across open desert
country to a point where we could be transferred to a flat
bottomed gasoline launch which cruised over much of the flooded
area. We camped that night on high ground near the mud volcanoes
where I nearly lost my life. I foolishly left a prescribed
Packard: path through the area in order to get a better view of the
boiling mud in one of the larger craters. The crust began to
break and I narrowly missed falling head first into the crater.
After a breakfast of sausage and fried eggs cooked over the
camp fire, we continued the cruise among the mesquite trees
scattered over the flooded area. No significant cutting was
noticed and no new channels were being formed, so we returned
to the cars for the drive home, where I prepared an account
of the trip for the Free Lance.
Baum: Did you have any other contact with Mexico then? I know you
spent some years in Mexico later on.
Packard: Yes, I did. I remember two personal incidents, both related
to the Madera Revolution which started in 1910. Since one
objective of the land reform program was to take over the
California-Mexico ranch belonging to Harry Chandler of the Los
Angeles Times, considerable fighting between the regular
Mexican army stationed in Mexicali and the Madera forces occurred
below the line.
On the morning of a day when a determined attack on Mexicali
by the advancing revolutionary forces was expected } I managed
to get a bird s eye view from a roost on top of the Calexico
water tower located on the International border. I could look
into the trenches of the defending garrison below me and could
get occasional glimpses of what I assumed to be the attacking
forces across New River. The planned attack was not made, so my
anticipated rendezvous with destiny brought no results.
Packard: The other incident to which I referred concerned tny brother
John who was spending his high school vacation with us in El
Centro. As I recorded earlier, John had become a socialist
after hearing Eugene Debs make one of his impassioned talks
in the Greek Theater at the University of California in his
1908 campaign for the Presidency. On a visit to the Mexican
border he became intensely interested in the cause of the
Revolution, and wanted to take my shotgun and 22 -rifle and join
the Madera Forces. His revolutionary zeal was whetted and, in
a sense, diluted by the promise of 160 acres of land after
victory had been obtained. I managed to avert the crisis by
getting him a job on the State Game Farm near Hayward--in which
he was very much interested. I might add that some years later
John returned to the Valley as a civil liberties lawyer to
defend the rights of striking farm workers who had been arrested
and held in jail as a strike breaking technique. On two occasions
the vigilante farmer group became so threatening that John
had to be escorted out of the Valley by motorcycle police.
Another incident, shedding light on the politics of the
time, occurred during an election in July. It was hot and
everyone who could get away had moved out of the Valley.
So just before election day Medhurst went to Yuma and picked
up all the bums he could find that would come to El Centro.
( Laughter ) He gave them the names of the people whom he
knew had moved out of the Valley for the summertime. They were
all lined up for the election. But the first man to appear
Packard: was an Irishman who had forgotten the name that Medhurst gave
him. So he got out the paper. The election judge said,
"What s that?" And he said, "This is my name." Medhurst,
informed of what he did, said, "Well, I had to just tell
my forty men to turn around and march out," but he said, "I
was in no danger because the other side had the same number."
( Laughter ) But that s the way politics went down there
at that time.
There was another incident involving Medhurst which
further illustrates the character of the times. The city of
Imperial voted wet and became a rundown saloon town. All
other towns in the Valley were dry. But bootlegging was
widespread. Medhurst used the Free Lance in leading an anti-
bootlegging campaign in El Centro, although he was a heavy
drinker. Mr. Davis, who owned one of the main drugstores, was
supposed to be the principal offender. I went to the final
town meeting when Medhurst was going to discuss the issue.
He won and as a result Davis had to stop selling liquor for
awhile. When I was walking home from the meeting with Medhurst,
he stopped at a restaurant and said, "Just a minute. I have
to go get something." He came out with a bottle of whiskey,
and said, "Davis has been charging me too much. I simply
would not stand for it." And that was the whole reason ( Laughter)
for his campaign.
During the Prohibition era there was a speaker from Los
Angeles who was addressing a group in El Centro on the dangers
Packard: of alcohol. He had a demonstration showing how alcohol would
kill germs. And I remember quite distinctly when a farmer s
wife sitting in front of me, leaned over to her husband and
said, "I m never going to drink any more of this Colorado
muddy water without a little whiskey in it." ( Laughter )
Baum: He sold her on the whiskey, huh.
Baum: It sounds like there wasn t much family life there in Imperial
Valley, if the conditions were so terrible.
Packard: Oh no, there was a camaraderie about living in the Valley
during those pioneer days that made everybody neighbors.
There were many young college graduates both on farms and in
all of the towns. Some were young professional peopledoctors ,
lawyers, and real estate agentsgetting a start in a pioneer
area. A country club was organized in El Centro which became
quite a center for social life. The Ten Thousand Club was
a women s Chamber of Commerce. The objective was to increase
the population of El Centro, then about 3,000 to 10,000.
The Ten Thousand Club finally became a part of the Federated
Women s Clubs of the state. Emma was active in this organ
ization and also in organizing the first P.T.A. in El Centro.
And then there were occasional trips to the desert and the
mountains, which always thrilled us. For example, we celebrated
my first birthday in the Valley on a two day trip to Signal
Packard: Mountain and back. We drove with a farmer friend and his family
in a buckboard wagon drawn by a team of horses. We camped out
at the foot of the mountain and climbed to the top before it
got too hot in the morning. When we moved onto the Experiment
Farm our frequent means of relaxation was to drive to El Centro,
park Clara in her baby buggy in the prescription department of
Duniway s drugstore which joined the Open House, where we
went to the movies.
The Holtville fiesta typified the spirit of the time.
It was organized by Phil Brooks, Dave Williams, and other
kindred characters who owned farms on the east side of the
Valley, or were in the real estate business in Holtville.
Their enthusiasm and energy got everyone excited about the
big New Year s celebration. The program was planned well in
advance. Farmers were induced to donate turkeys, chickens,
and farm products. Farmer s wives and women in town baked
pies and cakes. Ten to twelve thousand attended from all over
the Valley. Some brought picnic dinners but nearly everyone
got all they could eat from the Fiesta food supply, which
included barbecued beef and lamb, cooked by Vaughn Azhderian,
an Armenian farmer who was our neighbor at Meloland. For
some days before the Fiesta each year we would see "blanket
stiffs" making their way past the Experiment Farm to Holtville
where they could cache enough food to last for days. A very
lively rodeo followed the dinner. Dave Williams officiated.
He had a beautiful Palomino horse and silver-mounted saddle
Packard: which, with his big sombrero, made quite a picture. Texas
cowboys rode bucking horses, roped cattle, and put on a great
Another event of a somewhat similar character was the annual
barbecue given by the California-Mexican Ranch in connection
with their sale of horses and mules. Walter Bowker, manager
of the ranch, was a colorful character. He and his family
lived in a large ranch house on the American side of the
border, where the auctions took place.
Baum: This was an affair all the Valley people would come to?
Packard: Yes. People would come whether they wanted to buy or not.
There was a glamour associated with the big Mexican ranch and
the barbecue that was hard to ignore.
There were a good many interesting characters in the
Valley at that time. Harold Bell Wright was one of them.
He lived about a mile east of us. He had quite a large ranch,
producing horses and cotton. And he had a very practical
ranch type home. There was a long driveway leading to the house,
which was set back about a quarter of a mile from the main
road. The driveway was lined on both sides with red Ragged
Robin roses, which were very beautiful during most of the
season. He would never buy an automobile but he had two
very beautiful driving horses and a very fancy buggy--a phaeton.
He and his wife would drive into town in great style with
liveried coachmen in the seat.
Baum: Was Howard Bell Wright primarily a rancher or a writer?
Packard: He was both, but primarily an author. He was a good rancher, too.
He raised purebred saddle horses and specialized on cotton
Baum: It seems curious for someone who was already established as
a writer to live in such a hot, difficult climate.
Packard: He came to the Valley because he had T. B. and thought the dry
climate might help. He finally moved to Arizona, which was
just as hot and dry, but where he avoided the annoyance of the
fine silt dust which was a major trial for Valley people.
The last time we saw the Harold Bell Wright farm was in
1956. The Ragged Robin roses were dead and the ranch house
was occupied as sleeping quarters by Mexican ranch hands working
for an absentee owner.
The Winning of Barbara Worth was the popular novel at the
time, at least in the Valley which provided the setting. The
Barbara Worth hotelby far the best hotel in the Valley until
it burned down in 1958--was built at that time.
And then there was Fritz Kloke and his remarkable wife.
He had been a miner in Alaska, where they met, and where he
had accumulated a small fortune. Mrs. Kloke, whose first
husband was Captain Dawson of Alaskan fame, was the first woman
to go down the White Horse Rapids on the Yukon. A group of
men were going down the river on a raft and they were not taking
any women. But Mrs. Kloke jumped from the pier onto the raft
after it had started and had to stay on the rest of the way if
she could. ( Laughter ) She was a terrific characterhomely
Packard: as they come. She had lost one eye and never had the empty
socket covered. She was noted for wearing large "Merry Widow"
hats decorated with large ostrich plumes. The Kloke house was
a veritable Alaskan museum with a magnificent white polar
bear rug in the living room.
Mr. Kloke opened a bank in Calexico and planted pear
trees on his farm a short distance out of town. Mrs. Kloke
was a great gardener. Her flower beds were by far the best
in the Valley. She was very community minded and was very
active as a civic leader.
Baum: Was the pear farm successful? I didn t know pears would do
well in such a hot valLey.
Packard: You are right, the pear orchard was not a success. But the
bank was a success, and the Kloke s 1 played an important role
in Valley affairs as long as they lived.
With no air conditioning, the summer heat in the Valley
was too much for Emma and our two little girls. So, as was
the custom, Emma would take the children to the Coronado
beach near San Diego during the summer while I would remain
on the farm, driving over the mountains to San Diego over
the weekends when I could.
On one of the trips out of the Valley, our Model T Ford
was loaded to capacity. The baby bed was strapped on the roof
and both running boards were loaded with a variety of things.
We camped out that night near Campo at the cr^st of the coast
range and when we drove into San Diego the ru-.<^ morning we
Packard: were mistaken for refugees who were escaping the severe earth
quake that had done considerable damage in the Valley that night,
Of course, unknown to us. When I got back to the farm a day
or so later, two dozen glass cans of apricots which Emma had
put up just before leaving were in a messy pile on the kitchen
It was that summer, as I recall it, when Emma was able to
get Clara, then five years old, into Madame Montessori s class
in San Diego. She had come over from Italy to promote her
particular type of child training. Clara was not impressed
by the opportunity. She much preferred staying on the beach
playing in the sand. Various means of training were used. In
one class designed to develop poise, Dr. Montessori walked in
a dignified way along a straight chalk line and Clara followed
just as close as she could get without stepping on Madame
Montessori s heels.
Mrs. Packard: A Stay at Dr. Pottenger s Tuberculosis Sanatorium
It was that summer, too, when we found that Emma had
tuberculosis, which made it necessary for her to spend a year
and a half at Dr. Pottenger s sanatorium in the hills above
Monrovia. Here I will let Emma take over.
How did you manage to leave the children when you went to the
That was our biggest problem, of course. We had a school girl
from the Meloland school who lived with us and helped with the
children and housework. In addition, Walter hired a housekeeper
and somehow managed to "keep the home fires burning" when he
took the children back after the summer heat had let up. I
give him enormous credit for the way he met this emergency.
How did you happen to go to Monrovia?
I had suffered severely from hay fever in the dust of Imperial
Valley. While at Coronado Beach for the summer, I went to a
Dr. Frances Allen in San Diego to get help for that. She had
had T. B. herself, so she recognized the symptoms and recom
mended Dr. Pottenger and his sanatorium as the best help that
I could get. I had inherited a sum of money from my father,
which made the expense possible. So Walter took me up to
Monrovia in September, 1915, leaving me there, while he took
the two children back home to Imperial Valley.
What was the method of treatment at that time? I understand
that the sanatorium method has largely been discontinued with
the discovery of streptomycin.
At that time, rest in bed was the first treatment. Here, I
think a few words about Dr. Francis Pottenger, himself, are in
order. He was something of a pioneer in T. B. treatment. His
first wife had died of it during the period when it was thought
that high altitude and exercise was a good thing. Many went to
the Southwest for the dry air and mild climate, or to Colorado
for the altitude. Dr. Pottenger specialized in the study of
T. B. after his wife s death and his sanatorium was one of
three in the U.S. that rated as tops one of these was run by
Mrs . :
the famous Dr. Trudeau, whose sanatorium was at Saranac Lake,
New York. In being a pioneer, Dr. Pottenger was often at odds
with the A.M. A. and was something of an experimenter and in
novator in his treatment. Rest in bed until most of the fever
subsided was the first treatment. In addition to caring for
the general health of the patient, he used tuberculin vaccine
which was supposed to help gain immunity to fight the disease.
How did he keep people contented, with so much time on their
It was said that Dr. Pottenger s ability to keep people happy
for the minimum six months of rest was the main secret of his
success. In the first place, he immediately became "Father"
to all patients and always called himself that. He bantered
and joked one out of a morning grouch. The daily routine
actually was designed to keep the patient busy--and interrupted
from dull thoughts.
This sounds like an expensive place to stay.
In relation to salaries, I suppose it was above regular medical
services of the period. But I paid $35.00 a week, and that
included absolutely everything- -room, board, two visits from
the doctor every day, a nurse always on call by bell, all medicines
and X-raysnothing was "extra" unless you needed a special
nurse which most people did not.
Again, Dr. Pottenger had a way of finding out the interests
of patients and stimulating their mental activities--Freud
was being talked of a great deal about that time. Among the
books in the sanatorium library I found one called The Law
of Psychic Phenomenon by Thomas Jay Hudsonwhich seemed too
old and out of datebut no, "Father" said it was rather a basic
history of the development of psychology and worth reading
which I did and enjoyed, and have always followed up in a
general way as new ideas along the lines of psychology have
It looks as though sanatorium life was made as pleasant as
a summer resort.
Yes, it really was once you accepted the routine, and much
entertainment was provided for patients who were able to be
up many hours of a day. Every holiday was noted on the menu
with appropriate foods. Visitors were allowed after 4 p.m.,
but there was no strict rule about this, except for Rest Hours,
which must not be interrupted! On the whole, patients adjusted
happily and if not, they usually left, on advice of Dr. Pottenger.
"Father" became a lifelong friend of the family and we often
consulted him by letter. However, the subjects of the letters
became wide and varied as he was intensely interested in the
same social and economic problems with which Walter was working.
Did you stay at the sanatorium all the time until "cured"?
They did not call it a "cure" at that periodalways the word
used was "arrested" case. I stayed for fifteen months the first
time and was allowed to go home in time for Christmas of 1916
where I spent two months or more. About April, I went back
Mrs. : to the sanatorium for a couple of months additional "booster
shots" of tuberculin. By that time, my husband had accepted
the job of Assistant State Leader of Farm Advisors with the
University of California, and we moved to Berkeley during the
summer of 1917, to a house at 2817 Piedmont Avenue.
I should also state before leaving this subject, that
Dr. Pottenger examined all our family and gave the usual
tuberculin tests. Clara spent a few weeks in my room and was
given tuberculin as a cautionary preventive to help establish
more resistance to the "bug". She has not had any trouble
since. Emmy Lou, being younger, had some infection and did
not thrive, but she never had an "open" case. When she was
eight years old--the year we went to Delhi--"Father" was
worried about her and thought it best for her to take the
rest cure at the sanatorium. So we left her there for six months
and she came back looking plump and rosy. As can be seen, this
was an important period in the lives and health of all of the
family. It was the first major crisis we had to meet and we
all give Dr. Pottenger full credit for his help in meeting it.
We saw him many times during the yearsat home with his wife }
for lunch>or on visits to the sanatorium- -maybe for a check-up
after a number of years. He died in 1961 at the age of 91.
He was the author of several medical books on T. B. and in
1952 he published his autobiography.
Packard: To get back to Imperial Valley, I might say something
about the character of the farming and the transitions which
took place. In the beginning it was a period of small family-
type farms. Many of the farmers were original homesteaders and
most of them grew grain, alfalfa, and raised livestock. But
the climate was especially adapted to the production of early
vegetables and specialty crops. A few skilled and well fin
anced farmers were beginning to produce and ship cantaloupes,
onions, and cabbage in carload lots. It was not long before
whole train loads of melons left the Valley for Eastern markets.
But even on these specialized farms mules and horses provided
the motive power. There were no tractors.
Two very contrasting records were made by two farmers
in the Heber area which I think are worth recording. Mr.
vJill Fawcett was the largest cantaloupe grower in the early
days. He had a 320-acre farm which was beautifully cared for.
The Fawcetts lived on the farm in a very delightful and commodious
tent house designed to minimize the discomfort from the heat.
He used mules for motive power and employed seasonal labor
during planting and harvest. He was a very successful family
farm operator. As a result of his success in farming he became
a director in the El Centre branch of the Bank of America and
later on, a director in Transamerica which led to dire cir
cumstances during the great depression. When talking to
Packard: Mr. Fawcett in Los Angeles just prior to the 1929 stock market
crash, he told me he was borrowing all he could from the bank
to buy Transamerica stock which he knew was going to recover
from a temporary drop in value. As I recall it the stock was
then selling for about $20.00 per share. It finally reached
a low of $2.00 per share and during the decline the bank took
everything that Mr. Fawcett owned, including his home and
The other of these two family farm operators was Mr. Brock,
who ran what was known as the Date Farm. As I recall it, the
farm did not contain more than forty acres, only a portion of
which was planted to dates. He stuck to farming, gradually
expanding his operations in various places in the Valley.
He was one of the first to use tractors. I remember offering
him a job in the Resettlement Administration in 1936. But
he was entirely content with his lot as a farmer. His son
now owns and operates the most highly mechanized commercial
farms in the Valley, and is one of the largest users of Mexican
braceros in the state.
Baum: So the small family farm went right out?
Packard: Yes, as a controlling factor. Many small farms remain but the
big commercial operators dominate the Valley now.
Baum: I wanted to ask you about the labor on the farms in the early
days. Where did they get their labor? You say the farms were
mostly family farms at that time.
Packard: Most of the family farms, as I recall, were self-sufficient
Packard: so far as labor was concerned. There were a good many "blanket
stiffs" who found work during harvest time. The main employment
was associated with grape, melon, asparagus, and other specialty
crop production. Hundreds of experienced packing-house workers
called fruit tramps would appear at the beginning of the harvest
season and stay till the harvest work ended. Many Japanese
workers were employed at that time.
Wasn t that about the time when the I.W.W. s were riding high?
Yes. There was an I. WiW. camp along the river near Holtville
but I never had any contact with them.
The "blanket stiffs" would often stop in for something to eat
on their way between El Centre and Holtville. We were told
they had our front gate-post marked as a good place to stop
for breakfast, if they asked for work. When they came I would
give them some odd job and then cook some eggs and bacon for
them. This type of labor has practically disappeared now.
Most of the workers in the Valley were itinerants, you know.
Baum: Yes. That s what I wondered. I supposed that all the farmers
needed an extra man now and then.
Packard: Yes. But when it came to cantaloupes or grapes or harvesting
specialty crops, thousands of workers would come in from Los
Angeles. Many Mexican families lived in El Centre and Calexico.
Baum Transient American. . .
Packard: They were fruit tramps who followed the harvest season every
Baum: And always enough of those showed up at the time you needed
Baum: I suppose they knew the route when they were needed.
Packard: Yes. They never had much labor shortage. People would come
down even from the San Joaquin Valley to get jobs during the
seasonal period of peak demand.
Baum: What kind of labor did you use on the Experiment Farm?
Packard: We had one steady farm hand to do the farm work and occasionally
employed other workers on special jobs. The regular man lived
in a small house built for the purpose. We frequently used a
Mexican neighbor for odd jobs. He lived on a small farm about
half a mile down the road.
The big change in employment came after the All American
canal was completed. The assurance of an ample supply of rel
atively clear water provided the conditions under which large
mechanized farms could be successfully organized.
Another factor which influenced the character of agriculture
in the Valley was a letter by Ray Lyman Wilbur, Secretary of
Interior, under President Hoover, which exempted Imperial
Valley from the restrictions of the acreage limitation provision
of the Reclamation Act. This permitted shippers and other
commercial operators to own and operate any amount of land.
Big mechanized operations grew apace. And with it came the
demand for itinerant farm workers and the growth of the Bracero
program under which thousands of Mexican workers would be
Packard: brought in, usually under the guidance and control of labor
The transition period from family farms to corporate farming
came during the beginning of the great depression when thousands
of families from the Dust Bowl came to California looking
for work. They camped on ditch banks and in slum areas bordering
the town. Imperial Valley was often the first stop. As un
organized, propertyless , and disfranchised workers, they were
exploited by the large farm operators, and considerable
antagonism developed between the two groups.
Later on I got a touch of the intensity of feeling on
both sides. On one occasion, when I was National Director
of the Rural Resettlement Division, I had stopped in the
Valley on my way from Washington to Berkeley to find out
what I could about the difficulty which the Berkeley office
was having in getting a labor camp established in Brawley.
I met with the secretary of the Valley-wide Chamber of Commerce,
whom I knew. He told me that every Chamber of Commerce in
the Valley had gone on record against the camp program. vlhen
I asked him whether or not he had taken a vote among the farm
workers who would benefit by the program, he could hardly
understand what I was talking about. I explained that I was
there in the interests of the workers and was not so much
concerned about what the Chamber of Commerce thought. The camp
was established but not until after one of the County officials
had threatened to burn the camp down if we went ahead. The
Packard: camps improved conditions by providing clean camping places,
hot and cold running water, toilet facilities, shower baths,
facilities for washing clothes, and places to keep children
under proper supervision and care when the parents were in the
fields. But in spite of these improvements the camps were
far from adequate. But this is getting ahead of my story.
Establishing the Imperial Valley Agricultural Experiment Station
University of California
Baum: Now, Mr. Packard, your job was to determine whether an experi
ment station would be a feasible thing there, is that right?
Or a good idea?
Packard: Well, yes. My job was, first, to determine what the Conditions
were relating to climate, water, soils, and so on. And to find
out whether or not an experimental station would be desirable
and useful to the settlers who were just coming in. The leg
islature had made an appropriation of $6,000 to finance a two-
year study of this kind.
I had to get around the Valley by horse and buggy the first
year. Then the University bought a motorcycle for my use.
I remember riding out to the asparagus farm belonging to an
attorney in Imperial. I met the manager at the watering
trough. He dipped out a bucket of water and poured it over
himself from head to foot, then refilled the bucket and handed
it to me. I followed his example. I was completely dry riding
through the sun, before I reached town. When we moved
Packard: to the Experiment Farm I was given my first Model T Ford. I
drove it back from Berkeley, making Los Angeles by the valley
route in three days. None of the Imperial Valley roads were
paved. Levees were built in the middle and on both sides of
the dirt roads. While one side was being flooded traffic would
drive on the other dry side, which helped to keep down the
Baum: Did you put out any plots yourself or did you just go around
and check what people were doing?
Packard: We planted a few hundred date seeds of superior varieties
which Dr. Coit had gathered when he was working in Arizona.
When the date palms were two years old we distributed them to
farmers who expressed interest in growing dates. I helped
organize a date growers association but date growing never
took hold in Imperial Valley as it did in Coachella Valley.
My principal activity was in getting acquainted with
conditions, interviewing farmers, testing soils, observing
results of various farm practices and the like. In making
these studies I worked with various professors of the
University who would come down on special jobs, but mostly
with J. Eliot Coit who was a man who had lived in Arizona
and was familiar with the climatic conditions in the Imperial
Valley. We prepared a "Settlers Crop Manual" together, giving
advice to settlers, discussing the water problems and the soil
problems, the problems of climate, then listing the crops that
could be grown, when the time was to plant and the time to
harvesteverything that would be of use to settlers, including
Packard: a discussion of their financial problems and all that.
Baum: This was a State of California publication? Or was it the
University of California?
Packard: It was published in 1911 by the College of Agriculture of the
University of California. I handled the parts dealing with
soils, water, and economics, while Dr. Coit handled every
thing dealing with crops, climate, planting and harvestime,
This report was followed, six years later, by a bulletin
entitled "Agriculture in Imperial Valley--a Manual for Farmers"
in which I brought the earlier report up to date.
Baum: Before you even turned in your investigation, it sounds like
you thought they d build an experiment station.
Packard: Yes, it seemed desirable. My main job during the end of the
two year period was to select a good location for the pro
posed experiment farm because it seemed perfectly obvious to
everyone that a station should be established. I examined
several locations--determing the salt content, the character
of the surface and subsoils--and , in general, trying to select
land that was as representative as possible.
A forty acre piece of land was finally decided on. It
was located near the center of the Valley at a railroad stop
called Meloland, about halfway between El Centre and Holtville.
Baum: Would you have stayed in El Centre if they had decided against
an experiment station? If they cancelled, would you have stayed
there as a settler?
Packard: Oh, no.
Baum: You didn t intend to be a farmer? You were a research man.
Packard: I was with the University and I did not intend to farm, although
I, very foolishly, was caught up in the pioneer spirit of the
place and after moving to the Experiment Farm I traded our
house in El Centre for an undeveloped piece of desert land some
miles south of Holtville in an area which I thought would be pros
perous because of the fine character of the soil. The University
should never have allowed me to do this, but it did give me
a first hand knowledge of the financial problems a settler
faced in trying to put desert land under cultivation.
Baum: Maybe it made you a better man to represent the settler.
Packard: Perhaps so. But it was a sad experience. But to get back to
the Experiment Farm. Since it was difficult for me to super
vise the building and to get things started on the farm while
living in El Centre, Emma and I, with little Clara, moved out
to the Phil Brooks ranch which was just across the road and
ditch from the Experiment Farm. It was an alfalfa ranch where
hay and pasture were sold to Texas cattle feeders during the
winter. The house was quite spacious with the kitchen and
dining room joined in one big room ruled over by Albert the
cook. He was a colorful character who claimed to be the son
of a judge. He said that alcohol had been his downfall and
that he had accepted the job on the ranch in the hope that
he could avoid temptation. He had been a drummer in a Salvation
Army band at one time. Beside Albert, there was Herman the
Packard: Dutchman, and Johnny the Greek who were mule skinners on the
Brooks ranch. Vaughn Azhderian, the Armenian, was a frequent
visitor while Louis the Frenchman, who worked for me on the
Experiment Farm, was also a member of the Brooks ranch family.
He went to France one month to marry a boyhood sweetheart
he knew in Tahiti_ where they were born.
Baum: It sounds like a little international house.
Packard: It seemed so to us. I shall never forget the sight of Herman,
Johnny and Louis carrying a bucket of hot water and other
equipment out to Albert s shack when he was sick and needed
a bath. Louis carried the washtub which he used as a drum
while they all sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" on their way
to Albert s shack. Albert survived. But he couldn t take
the humiliation he felt one time when Dean Wickson and his very
British secretary, Mr. Henderson, a man of very proper manners,
came for lunch. Albert had been looking forward to this oc
casion with some excitement. But to our surprise and his
disgust, two Texans rode in that noon to tend to their cattle,
then on the ranch. vie, of course, invited them to dinner.
This was just too much for Albert, whose one chicken would not
go around and who would not be able to sit at the table as he
was used to doing. tfhat was more, Herman the Dutchman had very
bad table manners which embarrassed both Albert and Louis the
Frenchman. Dean Wickson and Mr. Henderson took it all in the
best of humor.
Baum: And what did Albert do?
Packard: Right in the middle of the meal Albert went to the phone at
one end of the room where everyone could hear and hollered
at the operator saying, "Get me Taggert s Pool Hall." When
he got the connection he said, "I want you to send another cook
out to the Brooks ranch--! can t stand this job any longer."
( Laughter ) This was the end of Albert.
Johnny Zenos (the Greek) ended up as one : of the larger
grower-shippers of carrots and made a comfortable fortune.
Louis was killed in the First World War fighting for France.
Vaughn Azhderian became an important melon and grape grower-
shipper in the Turlock district. I do not know what happened
Experimental Work and Farmer Education
Baum: What sort of projects did you work on at the Experiment Station?
Packard: The work on the Experiment Farm was really directed by
the heads of the various departments at the University.
Professor Frederic Bioletti was in charge of viticultural work.
Professor Charles Shaw, who was head of the Agronomy Division,
was in charge of all field crops. Dr. J. Eliot Coit,*with
whom I had worked before, directed everything dealing with
the growing of deciduous fruits. Dr. Charles W. Woodworth,
the bearded chief of the Entomology Department, was a frequent
visitor because insects of various sorts caused lots of damage.
* See Coit, John Eliot, "Some Recollections of California Ag
riculture," 1962, p. 46. Typescript of interview conducted for
Oral History Office, University of California at Los Angeles.
Packard: He was the only one who would not bow to the Valley climate.
He always wore a black suit and his long underwear while I
sweltered in the meagerest outfit I could get.
There was a U.S. Government Date Experiment Farm at
Indio at that time.
Baum: The Indio Experiment Farm was already established long before
the California one.
Packard: Yes. We got our date offshoots from the Indio Experiment
Station. But my principal service in the Valley was not on
the Experiment Farm itself; it was very largely in dealing
with farmers and trying to meet the problems that they had.
For example, there was a big infestation of yellow butterflies
on alfalfa. They laid eggs which presently became caterpillars
which caused great damage to very large areas of alfalfa.
An entymologist , Bridwell, sent to the Valley by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture worked with me in developing means
of control, under the direction of Professor Woodworth.
Another time grasshoppers were a great menace. In that case
we prepared a large quantity of poisoned bran which was dis
tributed to farmers for scattering in the fields to kill the
He also developed a mechanical trap that could be dragged
through the fields and catch grasshoppers by the barrel full.
They d fly up, hit the smooth tin surface of the trap, and fall
into the heavy oil at the bottom. We would load this trap on
a wagon and take it to farms where the problem was bad and
Packard: use our horses in dragging it through the alfalfa fields.
Hogs were an important product in the Valley at that time.
And hog cholera was one of the things that caused a great deal
of loss. And as a result, the University employed Dr. Walter
J. Taylor, a veterinarian, to come to the Experiment Farm
and to work with farmers in vaccinating against cholera. And
we had a supply of serum on the farm and the farmers would come
to the Experiment Station and get the serum and then, where
necessary, Dr. Taylor would go out to the farm and show them
how to do the innoculation. Occasionally I would go out and
do it myself. Of course, at all the farm institutes we always
demonstrated things of that kind, as well.
Baum: I suppose alfalfa was the big feed crop.
Packard: Oh, yes. Dairy and cattle fattening for beef...
Baum: Oh, they had dairy, too.
Packard: Oh, yes, they had dairy cows.
Baum: I thought dairy cows didn t do so well in hot weather.
Packard: They don t do too well in the hot weather but they did have
dairy farms. And they were rather successful. And they had
a number of cooperative dairies, creameries that were organized.
But times have changed, today the Valley supplies much of the
alfalfa hay used on commercial dairy farms in Los Angeles County.
In 1917 I prepared a report on "Irrigation of Alfalfa in
Imperial Valley" based on a study of root development of
alfalfa on different soil types and varying water conditions.
It was published as Bulletin 294.
Packard: Cotton was introduced as a commercial crop soon after
my arrival. There were many settlers from Texas who were
experienced cotton growers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture
introduced a variety of cotton from Durango, Mexico, which,
fQr a time seemed to have wonderful possibilities. A cotton
seed mill was established in El Centre and cotton gins began
to appear wherever cotton became an important crop. I was
sent, by the University, on a trip through the cotton growing
regions of Mississippi, to study the techniques of cotton
growing in the rich Delta areas. Later on I addressed the annual
meeting of the National Association of Cotton Manufacturers
in Boston. My paper on "The New Cotton Fields of the Southwest"
was published by the Association.
One phase of my work involved a study of ground water
conditions in different parts of the Valley. One incident
stands out in my memory. I found very salty ground water
standing about fifteen feet below the surface in a very sandy
area north of Holtville. At a meeting of the Farm Bureau center
that night I warned of the danger of a rise of the water table
and the concentration of salts on the ground surface. I was
told later that the farmers had a good laugh at what I said
after I left. After all, didn t everyone know that the soils
of the Valley were hundreds of feet deep. But three years
later one of the farmers in the area stopped by to say good
bye. He had all of his belongings piled on his hay rack and
was headed out. With tears in his eyes he said that he had
* "The New Cotton Fields of the Southwest," published by
Boston Cotton Growers Association.
Packard: come into the Valley with $45,000.00 and was leaving with his
family and no capital at all. A rising water table and salt
had ruined his farm.
Packard: Prior to the organization of the present Agricultural
Extension Service, Farm Institutes were held each year. Mr.
J. B. Neff, a walnut grower near Anaheim, directed the Farm
Institute in Southern California. He would come down to Imperial
Valley once a year and we would organize meetings in El Centre,
Imperial, Brawley and other towns. And we d have discussions
of problems that concerned the farmers in the area.
Professor Warren Clark was the State Director of the
Farmer Institute work at that time. He was a very devoted and
effective representative of the College of Agriculture. Besides
running the Farmer s Institute program, Professor Clark carried
the University specialists to the farmers by means of the
Demonstration Train which covered the state from the Oregon
line to the Mexican border. The train carried several cars
containing exhibits arranged and supervised by department
representatives who lived together in a Pullman car and were
overfed in a regular diner attached to the train.
Emma and I were invited to go on a number of trips--!
representing the Irrigation Engineering Division of the Univer-
sity.and Emma helping Mrs. Clark in demonstrating the use of
Packard: a fireless cooker which were quite the rage in the hot Valley
areas. The fireless cooker was particularly popular on Imperial
Valley farms. The train schedule was well advertised in advance.
It would stop at towns long enough to let everyone get a good
view of the exhibits and to discuss problems with the specialists.
Work with Frank Veihmeyer
Packard: Frank Veihmeyer, now an honored retired Professor at
Davis, came to the Valley with his wife about 1913 to work
on the technical relationships of soil and water, a field in
which much work was needed and in which he now has become a
recognized world leader. He came as an employee of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, but transfered to the University of
California after receiving his doctor s degree. Some of his
research work was carried out on the Experiment Farm, but most
of it involved soil examinations on farms in various parts of
At one time Veihmeyer and I were authorized to make a trip
over the desert area lying between the west side highline
canal and the mountains in an effort to locate various wells
that were supposed to exist in the area and to test the water.
We enlisted the help of Mr. Richards, a neighbor of ours at
Meloland. We loaded his wagon with blankets, grub, utensils
and barrels of water, and hay for the four horses. We were
gone several days and were able to locate most of the wells
Packard: we were looking for. All but one were in uninhabited dry
desert areas. There was a shack at one well. When we drove
up no one appeared. When we knocked at the door a gruff voice
said, "What do you want?" Opening the door a crack, he said
the well was about 100 yards farther on. We conjectured
that the character in the shack may have been a fugitive from
justice. We replenished our water supply and drove on.
Baum: These were wells that were built for some farm but were no
longer in use?
Packard: No. They had no use. They may have been dug by the government,
during some early survey.
Baum: It sounds like you and Frank Veihmeyer had a lot of adventures
Packard: We did. We had a lot of interesting times together, including
pleasure trips with the two families into both the desert
and the mountainsas well as at least one summer vacation
at Coronado Beach.
On another occasion Frank and I carried out a mission for
Frank Adams which may be worth recording. The river was at
flood stage and had broken through the levees on both sides
of the river above Yuma. Our job was to get a sample of water
as near the center of the river as possible, in an effort to
determine the quantity of silt being carried by the river
during floods. Frank and I, with Surieh, an Egyptian assistant
of mine on the Experiment Farm, started out one afternoon
expecting to reach Yuma before dark. But a wind storm was
Packard: on and the two plank roads over the sand hills were completely
covered at frequent intervals with drifting sand. We bucked
our way through drift after drift, taking turns driving the
Model T Ford. We found a two-by-twelve-by-twelve foot plank
which we used as a pry, putting it crossways on the car each
time we reached clear going on the two plank roads. We were
nearing the end of the sand dune country about 2 a.m. when
we got stuck again. I was driving and Frank and Surieh were
pushing on either side of the car. When the wheels finally
took hold. Veihmeyer forgot to jump back on the running board
so was hit on the back of his head by the plank. Not knowing
that anything had happened I drove ahead a little ways before
I missed Veihmeyer. Surieh and I walked back and found
Veihmeyer coming along holding his head. When he reached us^
his head was aching and we were all too exhausted to proceed
so we camped out for the rest of the night.
When we reached the flood plain of the river we found
that the railway embankment was washed out at two places,
leaving the rails, with ties attached, the only passage over
the open cuts with brown water swirling through. So we parked
the car, took our water containers and other equipment, walked
across the ties and got our water samples from the Yuma bridge,
returning as we had come. The lower part of Yuma was flooded.
The walls of adobe buildings were being softened by the
water and gradually sinking into a pile of mud, mixed with
what the occupants could not get out in time.
A Russian Soil Scientist Visits the Experiment Farm
Packard: We had a number of interesting visitors. Notable among
them was a Russian soil scientist who came to the Valley to
collect soil samples to take back to Russia as permanent exhibits
He was very thorough in his work. He had five foot holes dug
in different soil types and then proceeded to carve out a
sample about ten inches wide and six inches deep. He then
built heavy boxes to fit the samples perfectly, cut the sample
loose, and put on a cover for shipment to Moscow. Charles
Shaw, then head of the Soils Department in Berkeley, told me
years later that he had seen the samples in Russia.
He proved to be a very interesting character. He insisted
on staying with us on the farm. We had no room for him and
suggested that he stay in the hotel in El Centre. But he
was adamant , so we put a cot on the porch and had him for
Baum: It doesn t sound like your house was large enough to offer
hospitality very easily.
Packard: We managed quite all right. He regaled us with stories of
his experiences as a revolutionary in Russia. He had spent
long terms in prison and had been sent to Siberia at one time.
He would get up from his chair excitedly and crouch behind it
pretending that the rungs were prison bars and then act out
a part. He explained how they exchanged tapped out messages
Packard: by tapping on the bars. He was very sure that a violent revol
ution would break out soon. But he was in a terrible fix.
He had taken the motor car on the railroad from El Centre and
walked over to the farm without paying any attention to his
baggage. When we asked him where his luggage was he suddenly
woke up and ran out to the tracks where he had seen the conductor
dump his stuff. But there was no sign of it anywhere. We
phoned the sheriff and the railroad office but without results.
Everything the poor fellow had was in that luggagehis passport,
money, notes of his trip and the like. Finally when he had
finished his work, he got some help from his embassy in
Washington, and departed. Meanwhile the Russian Revolution had
broken out and our friend was frantic. Not more than two or
three days later we were visiting the Harold Bell Wrights
and found the Russian s luggage in the barn. Wright had
expected a guest and had sent his man to the station to pick him
up. The guest was not on the train but there was his luggage,
supposedly. So he took it and for some reason the Wrights
were never disturbed by the fact that they had no idea who
owned the stuff. I reached our Russian friend at some point
in the south and sent the baggage to him.
Baum: Don t you remember his name?
Packard: No I don t, and I don t know how I could find out. I certainly
wish I knew.
Water Distribution: The Imperial Valley Irrigation District
and the All American Canal
Packard: Water was, of course, the lifeblood. of the valley. The
disastrous break in the course of the river in 1906 had hastened
the bankruptcy of the original development company, which
went into receivership. Col. Holabird, the court appointed
receiver, operated the system until the present Imperial
Irrigation District was organized.
Baum: So the irrigation district took over.
Packard: Yes. The district was organized. I was quite active in sup
porting this move, which transferred control from the receiver
ship to the farmers and townspeople of the Valley. The new
district faced the same serious water problem that had caused
trouble from the beginning. Getting rid of the silt in the
canals was expensive and was constantly raising the ditch banks.
Danger of another breakthrough still existed and besides there
was always danger of a water shortage because the flow of the
Colorado river was not controlled. Damaging floods would be
followed by low flow not adequate to the irrigation needs.
The irrigation district had two sources of income from
the use of water. One was a charge on land value to meet
the bond debt. The other was a charge for the water used.
Baum: Well, that was the Henry George idea.
Packard: Oh yes, sure. And it worked well. Under these conditions
it was not profitable to hold land out of use because the
Packard: land tax would pile up with no income to meet it. I found
this out myself by buying undeveloped land in the hope of making
something on the rise in land values. Development costs and
no income to pay the land tax soon ate up any possible profits.
It was a sad but effective lesson.
Baum: It got rid of your absentee landholding.
Packard: Yes. But I got my lesson early in that.
Baum: Did the irrigation district work well? Did the farmers get
along with each other?
Packard: Oh yes. It worked very well. They hired a very good engineer
and a very good manager and elected the best farmers for
directors of the irrigation district. So the election of
directors of the irrigation District was a serious political
issue in the Valley.
Baum: I wanted to ask about the irrigation system. You had the water
from the Colorado River. Was there adequate water and was it
Packard: The answer at that time was no. That whole problem interested
me more than any other. I became chairman of the Imperial
Valley Water Committee, which arranged for a detailed study
of the All American canal which had been proposed as a means
of avoiding complications with Mexico and of desilting the
water. ElK)wood Mead, then with the University, made a report
to the Committee disapproving the proposal but later changed
his mind and came out as a strong advocate.
Since it would be necessary to get the U.S. Bureau of
Packard: Reclamation interested if the All American canal was to be
built, I and two other members of the Committee went to El
Paso to meet with the Reclamation Commission then holding a
session there. We succeeded in getting the key men in the
Commission, including A. P. Davis, the Reclamation head, to
come to El Centre and Yuma to discuss the problem and the
possibilities at mass meetings in both towns. Two years
after I had moved to Berkeley I was sent to Washington by
the Board of Supervisors of Imperial County to promote the
program. To make a long story short the All American canal
project was approved and surveys were begun on the Boulder
Dam canyon project to determine the feasibility of building
a dam to store water and reduce the flood damage.
An interesting incident occurred in connection with the
first reconnaissance survey of the All American route. I
accompanied the group on horseback. The heavy wagon full of
equipment was pulled by four horses. We planned to camp at
a county well but were caught in a Valley dust storm and had
to make a dry camp that night. When the air cleared in the
morning we found that we were about a mile below the line in
Mexico. Sand had blown down my back during the night and my
hair was full of it. We had run out of water and drank juice
from canned fruit, but the horses were suffering. They had
had a hard day and needed water. So two of us rode horseback,
leading the other horses in search for the county well, which
we found in due time. During the first day we ran across the
Packard: skeleton of a desert victim who had died lying under a greasewood
shrub. He had tied his bandana to a twig in the hope, I
suppose, that he would be found in time.
Packard: There was no school in Meloland when we moved on to the
Experiment Farm, so I set about organizing a school district
and building a rather modern country school.
Baum: Was this a one room country school?
Packard: No, it had two rooms, a common entrance way, and an office.
I became Chairman of the school board which used to meet in
my office. Mr. Richardson, an elderly farmer-philosopher
from Illinois who lived down the road a half a mile, and
John Waterman--a successful family farm operator and Phil
Brooks, an Amherst College graduate, were the other members
of the board.
Baum: I suppose you didn t have too many applications.
Packard: No, we didn t have too many. But we were fortunate in getting
teachers who selected the Meloland School because they thought
the Meloland school board might let them try out new ideas
in education which we were glad to do.
The circumstances proved to be just what Lura Sawyer*was
looking for--a rural school with a board which might support
her progressive ideas. Frances Adams, who was also interested
in progressive education and in rural schools, joined Lura
* Dr. Lura (Sawyer) Oak was on the Education Committee for General
MacArthur during the reorganization of Japan. Now (1968) she has
a consulting office in Palo Alto where she takes children who have
Packard: the second year. They both lived in a little shack which we
moved onto the Experiment Farm where running water was available.
Incidentally, both teachers were selected to pose as the women
characters in the mural which surrounded the upper wall in
the lobby of the Barbara Worth Hotel, depicting the settlement
of the Valley.
The philosophical discussion which took place during the
evenings on the farm covered the field. Each of these two
Meloland teachers have made an enviable record. Lura Sawyer
secured a Ph.D. degree from Yale University, specializing
in child psychology. She taught at both Yale and Smith
Colleges and during the occupation of Japan following World
War II, she served as an honorary Colonel on General MacArthur s
The story of Frances Adams, who is a direct descendant
of President John Adams, is much more personal so far as her
relationship to our family is concerned. She remained as a
teacher after Lura Sawyer left. Her vision of the world was
greatly enlarged when Albert Rh)B Williams was a guest of ours
on the farm. He had become quite a famous character through
his book, In the Claws o>f the German Eagle. I had met him
through my mother and invited him down to be the speaker at
the graduating exercises in the Holtville high school. He
had been to Russia and was full of exciting revolutionary
ideas and as I had feared, proved to be quite a shocker at
the Holtville meeting. He and Frances struck up a lifelong
* (continued from page 91) trouble learning to read (dyslexia).
Packard: friendship. She joined his brother s church social service
group in Cleveland for a while and then moved to New York
where she was organizing a speakers bureau for the International
Forum Association. She later became editor of the Forum s
Bulletin which served as a news sheet for forums throughout
the country. It was an exercise in free speech at a difficult
time in our history.
She married Alex Gumberg, a very knowledgeable Russian who
later became a member of AMTORG, the Russian trading corporation.
This, of course, brought her into close contact with Russian
affairs. She made several trips to Russia and for years served
on the Russian American Institute in New York. Alex served
as a special advisor to Ambassador Morrow in Mexico and later
became an advisor for Mr. Floyd Odium, head of the Atlas
Corporation. The Gumbergs lived in an apartment at No. 1 Fifth
Avenue and had a charming country place in Connecticut, where
on various occasions Emma and I had a chance to meet people
whom we would otherwise not have known. I remember especially
one weekend with John Dewey. Alex died of heart failure in
1940, after which Frances remained in New York where she has
maintained an active interest in city, national, and inter
national affairs. Our paths have crossed many times in
New York, California, Puerto Rico, and Greece.
Packard: Due in part to the pressures of World War I and, in part
to normal evolutionary developments in agriculture, new elements
were introduced into the agriculture of the Valley and new
forces impinged on my own outlook and altered the subsequent
course of events, so far as I was concerned. A new system
of farm credit had become a vital need. Hearings were held
in various parts of the Valley and I took what part I could.
The result was the creation of the Federal Land Bank.
Eltowood Mead, head of a newly established Department of Rural
Institutions at the University, became a director in the new
The Agriculture Extension Service was another outgrowth
of the times. I helped to organize the Farm Bureau in Imperial
County and became its second president. Paul Dougherty, a
lifelong friend, became the first Farm Advisor. One of the
first Farm Bureau projects was the organization of a 4-H boys
Club. The special project was hog raising. When the time
for judging came, I had a large tent erected on the Experiment
Farm to accomodate an all day meeting. It was attended by
about a hundred farmers and their hog-raising sons.
My horizon was widened by events associated with the
blowing up of the Los Angeles Times. I had come up to Los
Angeles from the Valley the night of the incident and was
shocked by the reports in the morning papers. A series of
Packard: events followed. Lincoln Steffens appeared on the scene with
a novel proposal for settling the matter. He thought the
Los Angeles Times was in the wrong with its virulent anti-
labor activity and suggested forgiveness on the part of Mr.
Chandler on the basis of the Golden Rule. Clarence Darrow
came out from Chicago to defend the labor group and to back
Steffens. Clarence Darrow had his office in the same building
in which my father had his office in Chicago. Their view
points on religious issues were about as opposite as they
could be. But Barrow s social viewpoint, especially his attitude
toward labor, had my mother s complete support. Upton Sinclair
got into the act and so did my mother. She befriended
Katherine Schmidt, sister of the dynamiter. "Schmidty" was
sent to San Quentin but was later released and married Beth
Livermore, a member of the influential Livermore family of
San Francisco. Through my mother s activity in this famous
labor dispute I was introduced to a side of the labor movement
that I had known little about.
At about the same time and for somewhat the same reasons,
I became aware of the political influence that could be exerted
by powerful corporate interests. It involved a fight between
the Los Angeles Times and Job Harriman, the socialist candidate
for mayor of Los Angeles. It had become evident that Los
Angeles needed more water and the engineers had developed a
plan for bringing water down from Owens Valley. The plan
was imaginative and costly. Opposition developed, not because
Packard: of any engineering issue, but because the Harry Chandler
interests had quietly bought up the dry desert land of the
San Fernando Valley and planned to use Owens River water to
irrigate the whole San Fernando Valley, a plan which, quite
obviously, would raise land values in the San Fernando Valley
by many millions of dollars. Job Harriman opposed the plan
and ran for mayor in order to be in position to protect the
public interest. The ensuing campaign was of top interest
at that time. My mother was a staunch supporter of Harriman
and my brother John later became his law partner. Harriman
lost and the Chandler interests got the water and millions
of dollars in increments in land value, created by the fact
that the citizens of Los Angeles bonded themselves to pay
for the project.
Baum: Your socialist ideas were apparently being fortified by these
Los Angeles contacts.
Packard: Yes, that s right. But I was still very much of a neophyte.
To get back to the story, the need for expanding farm production
as part of the war effort emphasized the need for expanding
the Agricultural Extension program. So in July, 1917, I was
transferred from the Experiment Station staff, to the Extension
Service, as Assistant State Leader of Farm Advisors, in charge
of the work in all of the area lying south of San Francisco
and Stockton to the Mexican border. I moved the family to
Berkeley to begin a new phase of my life. We shared a two
story house with the Veihmeyers during out two years stay
Packard: in Berkeley.
In retrospect, I realize that ray bent was not in the
painstaking work of an agricultural scientist. I was more
interested in the social and economic problems of the farm
family. When serving as superintendent of the Imperial Valley
Experiment Farm, my main interest was in working with farmers
so the Extension Service seemed to me to be a field in which
I would feel completely at home.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
So, in July 1917, you and the family left Imperial Valley and
settled in Berkeley where you took over your new duties as
Assistant State Leader of Farm Advisors. What was the Extension
Service s responsibilities and what were your duties?
The Extension Service took the place of the old Farmer s
Institutes. It was characterized by two definite features.
The first of these was the establishment of a Farm Advisor
in each agricultural county where office space, auto, and
other local expenses were to be paid for by the county.
The Farm Advisor was to bring facts from the subject matter
departments of the College of Agriculture and the U.S. Depart
ment of Agriculture to the farm. The second feature was the
organization of Farm Bureaus in each county through which
Farm Bureau Centers would be organized to provide an organized
means for permitting the Farm Advisor to contact farmers and
to learn something of their problems which the University
might help solve.
The plan was based on the then domination of the family
farm. Horses and mules at that time provided the principal
motive power. The areas of the state where large corporate
farms now dominate had no adequate water supply. This fact
applied to Imperial Valley, where the lack of adequate diversion
works and storage, created serious water shortages at critical
Packard: periods of the year. This has all changed now. The large
farm operators dominate the Farm Bureau and highly mechanized
corporate farms dominate the cotton, truck, and to a degree,
the fruit producing areas of the state.
The United States had entered the First World War and the
work of the Extension Service was geared to the need for
food production. Many of the controlling directives came
from Washington and not all of them were applicable. For
example, there was a drive to produce more wheat but most of
the counties in my territory were not adapted to wheat prod
Dean Thomas Forsythe Hunt had become dean of the College
of Agriculture and had brought certain key men to the College.
B.H. Crocheron, came from New York to organize and lead the
Extension Service. Charles Shaw became head of the Soils
Department and Elwood Mead was established as head of the new
Department of Rural Institutions. Dr. J. Eliot Coit, who had
been associated with me in Imperial Valley, became the Farm
Advisor in Los Angeles County which, at that time, was the
highest producing county of the United States in terms of
money value .
My job was to help organize Farm Bureaus which involved
getting county boards of supervisors to appropriate the money
needed to support the county Farm Advisor s office and traveling
expenses. When this was done I had to help install the
Farm Advisor and supervise his work. One of my responsibilities
Packard: was to keep the Farm Advisors in touch with the subject matter
departments of the College. Chester Rubel, who had graduated
from the Iowa State College in 1904, was the Assistant State
Leader in charge of the work in Northern California.
Baum: In the Extension Service you were supposed to be concerned
mainly with the physical aspects of raising crops.
Packard: Yes, that was our principal function. This, of course,
included all sorts of subjects, from soil management and
irrigation practice to pruning, spraying, and fertilization.
No one man could be expert in all of these fields. So one
of my functions was to get answers from the experts in the
University to questions which farmers asked Farm Advisors
and which the Farm Advisors were unable to answer.
The work of the Farm Advisors was not always wholly
confined to the task of promoting agricultural production.
At a meeting of a Farm Bureau Center in the mountain area
of Madera County the Farm Advisor asked the ranchers what he
or the University could do for them. The first answer, which
was seconded by several others was, "We need wives. Most of
us are living alone and if there is anything you can do to
help meet this need, it will be appreciated." ( Laughter )
On returning to Berkeley, Crocheron told the story to some
newspaper men and the call for wives went out over the United
Press lines. Several answers were received but only one
wedding resulted. It proved to be a very happy affair. This
was one of the extra-curricular activities of the Extension
Service. ( Laughter )
Packard: My own technical field was soils and irrigation which
quite necessarily involved problems of land settlement, credit,
and tenure. There was considerable concern in the state over
the problem of growing tenancy. Due to my prior interest in
the All American Canal in Imperial County I became involved
in a prolonged controversy over plans for developing the
Eastside Mesa and the Coachella Valley which would become
irrigable from the new canal. I opposed opening the Mesa
to settlement on the traditional pattern because of the
extremely porous character of the soil which would, I thought
create a serious drainage problem, not only for Mesa land,
but for all of the area of the Valley adjacent to the Mesa.
As a result of these unfavorable conditions, the Mesa has
never been developed and is now used by the armed services
for purposes requiring wide open and unoccupied space.
George Kreutzer, who had worked with Elwood Mead in
Australia, was the first Farm Advisor in Kern County and
later became the superintendent of the first State Land
Settlement at Durham in the Sacramento Valley. One of
Kreutzer "s projects was the introduction of an auction system
of marketing hogs locally. Instead of shipping hogs to
Los Angeles or other markets, farmers would bring their
hogs to central points where buyers from competing concerns
would bid against each other. The hogs were classified
into marketing groups as a means of getting the best prices.
The system became very popular.
Packard: Paul Dougherty, the first Farm Advisor in Imperial
Valley, is another associate whose path I have crossed since
those early days. Paul, along with Knowles Ryerson, resigned
from the Extension Service and enlisted in the army for service
overseas in World War I. I sought Ryerson s help in Paris
when I was trying to organize an aid program for Armenia
during the Armistice period following World War I and Paul
became a settler on the Delhi project while I was superintendent
of that project.
Harriet Eddy,*who had been State Librarian in California
was the State Leader of the Home Economics Division of the
Extension Service. She was a very liberal minded and forth
right person whose interests extended into the economic and
political fields, as mine did. She was very much interested
in the Russian Revolution and was employed, as a consultant,
by the Russian government on two occasions to help in estab
lishing the library system for all of Russia. Although
as a neophyte socialist I shared her sympathy for the revolution,
I never accepted the communist philosophy for reasons which
will become clear as I proceed with this account of my life.
I should mention here that Harriet Eddy gave me a letter of
introduction to her cousin Lincoln Steffens, which I delivered
to him in Paris, which led to many interesting experiences.
Baum: Well, maybe she s unsold now.
Packard: No, I don t think so. I haven t seen her for years. I under
stand that she is completely deaf now but retains an unquenchable
* Miss Eddy wrote and published a story of her work in Home Econ
omics for U.C. Extension, entitled "County Free Library Organizing
in California-1909-1918: Personal Recollections".
Packard: enthusiasm for the Russian cause. She recently celebrated
her 90th birthday. 2 -
My own interest in the Russian Revolution was not wholly
impersonal. My youngest sister Esther and her husband, Phil
Chadbourn, had returned from their assignment with the State
Department in Russia and were of course the center of great
interest. They were living temporarily with our family in
Pasadena. Phil s new assignment was to be a free-lance
political agent for the State Department in Irkutsk, Siberia,
where he was to report on any things pertaining to the war.
He decided to come to Berkeley and stay with Emma and me
while he was gathering the clothes and other things he would
need in Irkutsk. We were all startled, not to say dismayed,
by a telegram from Secretary of State Lansing saying, "Your
appointment Irkutsk cancelled." Nothing else.
There was nothing for Phil to do but to return to Washington
to find out what had happened. So he and I went to Los
Angeles where he could confer with Esther. The Los Angeles
paper, the morning we arrived carried big headlines saying
that Rhys Williams, who was on his way back from Russia
through Vladivostok, was to be arrested the minute he landed.
The next thing we knew came from a telephone call to my mother
from Los Angeles. No names were mentioned but the voice was
2. Miss Eddy died since this was writtenMemorial Services
were held on the U.C. campus in February 1967.
Packard: familiar. It was the same Rhys Williams who had spoken to
the farmers meeting on the Experiment Farm. After hasty con
versation, it was arranged that I would drive Phil into Los
Angeles where we would pick Rhys up and I would then put
them both on the train for Washington from Riverside. This
I did with no untoward incidents.
On arriving in Washington, Phil found that he was every
thing a person should not be in those days. He could get
no official charge or information of any kind as to why he
had been dismissed. So he enlisted in the army. And when
it was found that he knew some Russian and had been in Russia,
he was given the Russian Desk in the War Department which was
located in the same building which housed the State Department
which had just dismissed him. The first day in office he
found a folder marked "Phil Chadbourn" . He told his commanding
officer what had happened and was given freedom to open the
file and examine the contents. He found that the State
Department had employed a society matron to go to Hollywood,
rent a house, and get what information she could through
elaborate entertainment. Phil had been her guest on one or
more occasion and everything he said was recorded. The most
damning statement was in answer to her question, "What can
I do for the Revolution?" The reply was, "I think you would
make a wonderful queen of the mint- juleps. " Phil remained
at the Russian Desk for the rest of the war.
After some months in the Extension Service I began to
Packard: realize that the underlying problems facing farmers are
economic rather than technical. Markets, credit, mortgage
debt, and tenure problems were keeping many farmers from
doing what they knew they ought to do on the farm but couldn t
because of lack of capital. Settlers coming into the state
had been having a hard time for years, in part because of
inflated land values and badly planned, sometimes dishonest,
promotion schemes. I became greatly enamored with Dr. Mead s
land settlement proposals. It seemed to me that he was
dealing with basic issues. His land settlement plans were
being widely discussed in national magazines and were the
subject of months of study by the Commonwealth Club. The
Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane, was ready to
adopt the Mead plan in handling the anticipated demand for
land by returned soldiers following the war.
So, when the Army Educational Corps was organized and
farms for soldiers became one of the accepted subjects for
educational meetings to be organized among the soldiers in
France while they were waiting for shipment home, I was selected
as the one to join the Corps. At the end of the annual
week s trip of Farm Bureau members from all over the state,
which ended in Los Angeles, I was presented with a very
attractive gold watch chain and attached pen knife at the
final banquet, as a farewell present.
My change in plans did not end with the special assign
ment. When I returned I was to become a member of Dr. Mead s
Packard: Division of Rural Institutions. But, in preparation for
this new work I was given a sabbatical leave for a year s
work in economics at Harvard University. So ended my Extension
IN FRANCE WITH THE ARMY EDUCATION PROGRAM, 1918 - 1919
Army Education Corps Lectures
Baum: Well, we re all set to begin with when you went into the
Army Educational Program.
Packard: Yes. You know, after the Armistice in November, 1918, the
pressure on the Agricultural Extension Service for increasing
production for the war effort was slowed down, of course.
There was no need for increasing production any more. But
there was a great deal of attention being paid to the veterans
who would appear on the labor market in a little while-
looking for jobs and opportunities for making a living. Since
giving land to soldiers was a great thing after the Revolutionary
War (Where the Crown lands and lands of some of the
Tory estates were broken up and distributed to veterans of
the war) and since the Homestead Act was signed in 1861 to
give farms to soldiers after the Civil War, it seemed logical
to a great many people that there would be another demand
for farms after the First World War. Since all the good
homestead land was gone there wasn t any more of the free
open West to settle it was necessary to think of reclamation
projectsdrainage , flood control, cut-over land reclamation,
and irrigation. So the Interior Department decided that since
it was responsible for the Bureau of Reclamation, it was quite
important that they do something for the soldiers who might
Packard: Elwood Mead, an early pioneer in the reclamation field
in the United States, had just returned from several years
of land settlement work in Australia and had become head of
a new Department of Rural Institutions of the College of Agric
ulture of the University of California. He was giving wide
publicity to a new plan of land settlement which he had pro
moted in Australia. The outstanding features of the plan
were long term payments, (34 years on land debt and 20 years
on improvements); low rates of interest (57 at that time
seemed low) ; subdivision of the land into farms of various
sizes, dependent upon the character of the soil and crops
to be raised; free technical assistance in planning farm
operations, building problems, controlling insect pests and
plant diseases; and providing other services needed by new
settlers on reclamation projects. It was assumed that these
services would be especially needed in the case of veterans
who wanted land but had had no practical experience and
possessed little capital.
Franklin K. Lane, a Californian, was the Secretary of
Interior and favored the idea of having the Bureau of
Reclamation expand its functions by taking on responsibility
for providing farms for soldiers. The Mead plan was to be
the pattern to be followed. An Educational Corps had been
established as part of the A.E.F. to give lectures and to
organize classes in the camps in France where thousands of
soldiers were waiting for ships to transport them home. This
Packard: seemed to be a good chance to present the back-to-the-farm
program which Secretary Lane, Mead, and others had planned.
Since 1 was interested in land and water development and
believed in the Mead land settlement program, I was selected
to go to France to present the plan to the soldiers. Frank
Adams and Professor Ernest Babcock were also selected for
other special missions in the Educational Corps.
This change in assignment ushered in a completely new
program for me. I was given a special leave of absence to
be followed by a sabbatical leave to be used in taking a year s
work in economics at Harvard to prepare me for a position
in Mead s Department of Rural Institutions.
My contract with the Educational Corps called for a
monthly payment of $250 .iOO to Mrs. Packard and a $4.00 per
day spending allowance for me in addition to room and board
in army camps. So, after getting the family settled in
Pasadena for the duration, I left for New York. I stopped
in Washington to talk with Bureau of Reclamation officials
and to pick up slides and three movie reels showing reclamation
projects. I met Secretary Lane, who gave me further information
regarding his soldier settlement plans. I was inducted into
the Educational Corps through the National Y.M.C.A. in New
York as an extension of the war work the Y had been doing.
I was given an overseas uniform and was briefed on what to
expect and how to act.
I took time out to go to Cambridge to arrange for matric-
Packard: ulation at Harvard when I returned. My spare time was spent
in visiting my sisters, Stella and Laura, who were living in
New York, and I was introduced into some of the life of
Greenwich Village through Frances Adams who was then engaged
to Alex Gumberg.
One incident comes to mind which I thought quite amusing.
A preacher from upstate New York was in a fix. He had been
recruited by the Y.M.C.A. to talk on national parks but the
Army people told him that he would have to get a more vital
subject to qualify. They suggested that he might give some
lectures on Russia. He told me that the only things he knew
about Russia concerned the much talked about plan for the
nationalization of women. I told him what I knew about Russia,
which was very little of the type of thing the Army would want
him to discuss. At any rate he was on shipboard when we
left New York two days later. I was told by Frances Adams
that Rhys Williams brother was to be on the ship. I took
pains to look him up and he reciprocated by avoiding me
because he did not want to be associated with his brother
in the minds of his supervisors in the Educational Corps.
( Laughter )
We crossed on the Great Northern, an 18,000 ton liner
formerly belonging to a Canadian Pacific line. The passenger
list consisted almost wholly of personnel of the Army Educational
Corps. The trip was uneventful except for interest created
by having mine sweeps attached to the prow of the boat a day
or so before reaching Brest. They consisted of steel cables
Packard: attached to devices which held the end of the cable well
outside of the ship s course.
We landed at Brest and went directly to Paris where
I reported for duty. A few excerpts from my first letter
home may be worth recording:
It took me an hour and a half to get through
the red tape at the railroad station at iSrest.
Everyone had to look after his own baggage and
that was quite a job for me since I have boxes
of slides and three movie reels given to me by
the Bureau of Reclamation in Washington. We
rented blankets and pillows at two francs
apiece from a woman at the station. Two cars
were reserved for Americans but we had a hard
time getting seats. Those who could not get
seats had to stand in the aisle all night.
I had a compartment with three other men, one
from the Department of Agriculture and two
Red Cross officials. We took some sandwiches
and a bottle of wine along because if you
left your seat someone else would grab it. We
tried to make ourselves comfortable with our
feet all entangled in each other s seats with
the blankets covering the bunch.
We passed through a most beautiful
country. The hills are all green and the trees
are just sending out their leaves. The houses
are all of stone and are surrounded by vines,
gardens and trees. The trees are all stumped
off about twenty-five feet from the ground every
two years in order to get kindling wood and
brush. Some of the brush is used in making
crude brooms and some for faggots. The quaint
little towns nestled down in the valleys are
most picturesque. The houses all have slate
roofs and are usually two or three stories high
with no porches and with all the windows covered
. . .We passed trainloads of soldiers going
home. They were all packed in those funny little
stubby French freight cars that you have heard
about .. .with "eight horses or forty men written
on the sides. They all seemed mighty cheerful...
When we got to Paris we checked in at the hotel
de la Grande Bretagne on fourteen rue Carumartin
where we got rooms for twelve francs apiece.
The breakfast of bread (no butter) , coffee
(that was atrocious), and two eggs cost us
six francs or about one dollar. The taxis
cost thirteen francs but four of us divided
it and one of the men, who could speak
French, knocked the price down from eighteen
When I reported at headquarters I was transferred
from YMCA jurisdiction to the A.E.F. and given a Sam Brown
belt to signify that I had officer rank. I never quite
got used to the saluting and all that, but I did enjoy
eating at the officers mess and having a cot in the
One evening in Paris I was having supper alone at a sidewalk
cafe where I was joined by an American in civilian clothes. I
had spotted him as an American when I saw him coming but he never
said a word. He sat opposite me at the table and began ordering
his meal in French. The waiter failed to understand so my new
friend laid the menu down and looked at me and said in a disgusted
tone, "The son of a can t understand his own language. "[Laughter]
He must have recognized you as an American, too.
Yes, of course, I was in uniform.
Oh,how were you addressed? Were you just mister or something else?
Just mister. The amenities thus met, conversation with my
dining companion began and continued till midnight. I found
that he was a reporter for the Paris edition of the Chicago
Tribune. We went to his room after dinner where I gave him
my story which appeared on the front page of the paper the
Packard: next day. This was quite a break because the paper was widely
read in the camps. I agreed to answer all letters which might
come in as a result of the advertising. Later on similar
articles appeared in Stars and Stripes . But I soon found out
the sentiment expressed by the song, "How are you going to get
them back on the farm after they ve seen Paree", was very real.
I was sent to the Army Educational Corps headquarters
at Beaune , France, where I was assigned to the Citizenship
Division under the direction of Dr. John Kingsbury who was the
commanding major of the American Red Cross Corps in the A.E.F.
in France. His early training and experience were in the
educational field, but his interest in people led him into
social service work. He eventually became Commissioner of
Public Charities in New York City. I found that he had been
a socialist all his life and was very much interested in what
was going on in Russia. My assignment to Dr. Kingsbury s
division caused some jurisdictional trouble because Dr. Kenyon
L. Butterfield, president of the Massachusetts Agricultural
College, wanted me in his Vocational Education Division. In
a letter home I had this to say,
Yesterday I had a wonderful ride through the French
countryside. The party consisted of Butterfield, Mr.
Mason S. Stibem, Lt . Governor of Vermont, Mr. Dougherty,
of New York City, and me. We started out with a good
French road map, and an army Cadillac and a soldier to
drive it. We drove from Beaune to Molay for dinner,
then to Autun, on to Etang and back to Chagny for supper,
getting back to Beaune about nine-thirty that night.
I have never seen country quite like this although it
resembles some of the prettier parts of California. The
country is all rolling, with little towns nestled in the
Packard: trough of valleys or perhaps perched up under some rocky
palisades. The hills look like checkerboards with the
very small fields all planted to different crops. The
houses all have red tile roofs which make a wonderful
picture with the contrasting green background."
Dr. Kingsbury won out in the controversy on the theory
that he could contact more people in his broad citizenship
program than Butterfield could in his restricted agricultural
I went from camp to camp, usually by auto or a motor
cycle with a side car. After giving my talk I would ask for
questions and invariably the first question would be "When
do we go home?" ( Laughter ) It was very evident that few
soldiers wanted to go onto reclamation projects. Jobs in
industry were more attractive. The record showed, however,
that I spoke to a total of 4,859 soldiers and secured the
names and addresses of 498 who wanted more information.
Baum: Was all this delay in getting the boys home simply due to the
lack of shipping space?
Packard: Yes. In spite of efforts to crowd as many men onto a ship
as possible there were not enough ships to take everyone
home at once. I, for example, returned on the Emperator
with 12,000 aboard. The war was over and the soldiers, quite
understandably, wanted to get home as soon as possible.
Baum: They didn t want to spend another couple of months in Europe
sight-seeing, on the Army?
Packard: No. They had seen enough and just wanted to go home.
I was often accompanied on these trips by other lecturers
Packard: who usually made good company. But one time I was stuck with
a professor of history from Harvard who wanted to see every
historical place in France. I was with him in Blois where
we rented a horse and buggy and drove to every point in town
mentioned in his Baedecker. As soon as he was sure of the
place he would mark it off and go on to the next stop. We
never went inside. All he wanted was to be able to say truth
fully that he had seen each place. ( Laughter )
I missed the train out of Blois and had to stay overnight.
In a letter to Mrs. Packard, I had this to say,
I enjoyed seeing this French town wake up. First the
street sweeper appearedan old man with a broom made of
tree twigs tied to a long handle. A few shopkeepers
opened up and people began to open the shutters to the
windows to air out. (They all sleep with windows and
shutters closed.) Refuse from the kitchens was dumped in
piles in the street where dogs and "beachcombers" had a
chance to pick up a few morsels of food. The garbage
collector came last with his wagon and shovel. By 8:30
the town was in fair working order.
The Educational Corps work was stopped within a month
after my arrival, for reasons which I never understood. Tons
of textbooks and the like were in the warehouses unopened and
hundreds of people like myself were given a vacation of thirty
days on pay before being sent home.
Plan to Rehabilitate Armenia
Packard: I took a train for Paris with an idea of finding something
else to do. When I arrived at the Paris station, who should
I meet but Dr. Kingsbury. He told me he was going to Russia
for the Near East Foundation. What was I going to do? I said
Packard: "I m going to Russia, too." On being asked who I was going with,
I said, "You." ( Laughter )
I had quickly conjured up a plan of action after I found
that Russia, in this case, meant Armenia. I outlined a plan
for using army tractors and farm equipment, then in France,
in preparing land for planting in Armenia where the workstock
had been killed or taken away by the Turks. I told Dr. Kingsbury
that I thought production programs could be organized in
villages where the work would be supervised by American soldiers
experienced in handling tractors who might like such an assign
ment. We discussed the plan during dinner at a sidewalk
cafe. Dr. Kingsbury was sufficiently impressed both with the
plan and with the need for quick action that he proposed that
we have a conference with Henry Morggnthau, head of the Near
East Foundation, who was then staying at the Ritz. He secured
an appointment that same evening. Mr. Morgenthau saw merit
in the proposal but said that nothing could be done without
Herbert Hoover s approval, since he was in charge of the Food
Administration, then engaged in feeding starving people in
Russia. He arranged for a conference the following morning
when I outlined the plan to Mr. Hoover, who immediately approved
the idea but said that it would be necessary to get President
Wilson s approval before going ahead.
The nature of the plan, including my employment as director
of the work, is best presented by the following letter to Mr.
Morgenthau and the proposed plan of procedure.
1 Rue de Grammont
June 26, 1919
Mr. Henry Morgenthau
My dear Mr. Morgenthau:
In accordance with your request I have prepared a brief state
ment of the possible agricultural program for Armenia for 1919.
The immediate agricultural problem is, of course, one of
production. I feel, however, that a most important work lies ahead in
the establishment of a sound agricultural policy for the future. A pros
perous and contented rural population forms a strong basis on which to
build a permanent government. Armenians appear to make industrious,
capable, farmers and certainly offer an excellent basis for a successful
Remarkable transformations have occured in rural Ireland, in
Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Australia and New Zealand during the
past few years, as a direct result of a wise use of agricultural lands.
The United States is just beginning on a program of land settlement which
will mean much for country life. If, in the organization of a new Republic
in Armenia a proper foundation for rural development can be laid in the
next few years, an important step toward stable government will have been
Mr. rf. Llew Williams in writing of the economic situation in
Armenia in his book on "Armenia Past and Present" says "The economic dev
elopment is perhaps the biggest task but it is not the most difficult.
It is to secure for this population an opportunity for developing their
industrial capacities and the economic possibilities of their land its
vast mineral wealth, its agricultural possibilities, etc. Here experienced
advisors and the financial aid of the Powers will be necessary for an
indefinite period. --At the same time it will be the duty of the Powers
or of the new Government to save wealth of the land from greedy exploiters
who aim at their immediate enrichment at the cost of permanent economic
injury to the people as a whole." This expresses my feeling exactly.
I would like to have an opportunity of directing the initial
stages of this work. I feel that my work in California has been an ex
cellent preparation for such an undertaking. Owing to my home circumstances
I could not accept the position, however, for less that $5,000.00 a year
- 2 -
and all expenses and would expect whatever insurance you are accustomed
to grant against the unusual risks incident to the work in that section.
I would hope to complete the preliminary study and work by January 1920.
My further connection with the work could be determined at that time.
At present I would hope to return to my work in California on the completion
of the task, leaving the work in Armenia to be carried on by whatever
power receives the mandate for that section.
BRIEF STATEMENT OF PLANS FOR AGRICULTURAL tfORK IN ARMENIA DURING THE FALL
OF THE PRESENT YEAR, 1919 *
Reports indicate that seed, power and tools are seriously
lacking in Armenia at the present time, and that unless the situation is
handled vigorously in the near future, another planting season will pass
with but a portion of the land seeded. As ninety percent of the cultivated
land, both irrigated and non-irrigated, is devoted to wheat and barley,
the main task for the immediate future is to prepare as much land as possible
for fall planting. Plowing usually begins in the early fall or late summer,
after the first rains and continues until winter sets in, which in the
lower and more favored valleys, is not until December. With the late start
and facing the existing condition of the workers in Armenia, it would
probably be impossible to seed the normal fall planted acreage, although
by spring the operations could perhaps be so organized as to permit normal
The present relief organization in Armenia is attempting the
purchase of seed wheat, which seems to be available both north and south
of Russian Armenia. This work would have to be continued until a sufficient
supply has been secured. A small supply of garden seed for late summer
planting should be purchased as there would be a possible opportunity of
securing a certain production from small community gardens on irrigated
tracts during the fall. Crops such as carrots, beets, early maturing
beans, and grain sorghums, cabbage, lettuce and potatoes could be success
fully planted if the work is not delayed. The advisability of attempting
fall planting of truck crops depends upon the ability to act quickly.
In case the seed was purchased and was not used , it could of course be
saved for spring planting.
The agricultural problems involved in the planting of the
grains and vegetables should be in the hands of an experienced American.
Many of the- methods .now so successfully used in the Farm Bureau work in the
United States could be profitably adapted to the organization of this work.
Producers and leaders in the various localities should be organized in
their own interests and the work done should be done with their voluntary
As horses and oxen are now scarce in Armenia, work animals
should be purchased from neighboring countries and brought into Armenia
for sale. This work should be under the direction of an experienced
American who could work through native helpers in the regions entered.
The extent of this work could not be estimated until a study of the sit
uation has been made on the ground. The introduction of poultry, rabbits,
dairy stock, cattle and sheep should also be undertaken and should be under
the direction of the livestock specialist.
* Report prepared for Henry Morgenthau
In order to get quick action it would be advisable to purchase
twenty- five or more tractors and a supply of farm machinery for immediate
use. Both tractors and farm machinery, including plows, harrows, discs,
and seeders can be secured in France. The harvesting machinery could be
purchased later if conditions seemed to warrant. A large supply of hand
tools, shovels, hoes and racks, should be purchased for immediate use.
The Army has a very large supply of shovels on hand and the other material
could be easily secured in Paris.
Reports indicate that the irrigations systems in Russian Armenia
have been badly damaged and in some cases quite wholly destroyed. An
irrigation engineer should be employed to attempt a reconstruction of
those ditches, where the task is not too great, and he should also make a
very general survey of the country to ascertain the possibilities of thorough
reconstruction and extension of irrigation and something of the need and
possibilities for drainage.
In order to carry out the production program satisfactorily
some system of rural credits would be necessary. The small and large
farmer alike will probably have to receive some aid in the purchase of
stock and equipment. For temporary purposes the stock and implements
purchased by the committee could be rented to those who could not buy,
a crop mortgage being taken as a guarantee of payment. This problem
would be one for the new government to work out, but a preliminary study
of and contact with the situation would be valuable.
As the work is being carried out data could be secured regarding
the present size of holdings, the system of land tenure, tenantry problems,
standards of living, standards of production both per acre and per man
power, systems of rotation practiced, livestock methods and so on. This
data could be assembled and compiled so as to serve as an indicator for
immediate recommendations and as a basis for further study.
Probably $150,000 would be necessary to carry the work along
for six months, outside of the revolving fund necessary for the purchase
of seed, animals and machinery. It would be impossible to tell in advance
just how much of this money would be needed or how much of the money spent
would be returned out of the crops produced. In undertaking the work it
would be advisable to have at least that amount set aside for the agricul
tural work in addition to the money needed for seed.
The men needed in the work can be secured from the Army, thus
saving the time necessary to recruit workers from the States. A good
executive, who is well acquainted with tractors and farm machinery, should
be employed at once to get the tractor work started. Both the Army and the
International Harvester Company are ready to furnish bids on materials
needed and no time should be lost in getting the material moving. An
experienced agronomist should be sent to Armenia immediately to rush the
purchase of seed and to lay our plans for fall work. A livestock man should
be employed to direct the livestock work and should leave for Armenia just
as soon as plans can be settled. An irrigation engineer should also be sent
as soon as possible. These four lines of work must be begun at once if the
fall work is to be successful.
Packard: Mr. Morgenthau then asked me if I would be willing to
make a quick trip through Armenia to get a firsthand picture
of the problem. He said that he would arrange to send me to
a western port on the Black Sea where a British navy boat
would pick me up and take me across the Black Sea where I
would take a train for Tbilisi. There I would be picked up
by British motor car for a quick trip through the depressed
farming areas of Armenia with occasional conferences with
villagers and officials. I was to be back in Paris in two
weeks or so.
Baum: Who was financing this?
Packard: Mr. Morgenthau.
Packard: No. The money would come from the Near East Relief fund.
Baum: Well, did you make the trip?
Packard: No. There was one delay after another which stretched out into
weeks. President Wilson ruled that nothing could be done in
Armenia until a mandate had been secured which was expected
anytime. While I waited I remained in Paris, where I met
with delegations from Armenia , the Georgian Republic, and
Azerbaidzhan; all of whom wanted American aid.
On one of the conferences with the Armenian group, Dr.
Main, president of Grinnell College in Iowa, who had just
returned from Armenia as President Wilson s personal represent
ative, came to the conference to report on what he had seen.
The first question asked concerned President Wilson s attitude
toward a U.S. mandate. The second question and answer were
Packard: something like this. "Are the British troops still in Armenia
to protect us from the Turks?" "Yes, they are. They are
looking for oil and if they find it they will always be there."
( Laughter )
I met Knowles Ryerson during this period and got him inter
ested in the Armenian program. Several others became inter
ested and were ready to join in the venture. Nothing came
of it though. Kingsbury went back to New York on some Red
Cross work. I saw Mr. Morgenthau late in June at his request
and found him in a great rush getting ready to leave for
Poland where he was to serve as Special Commissioner. He
told me that Kingsbury was definitely out of the picture and
that there was no one in Paris on whom I could depend. So
I gave up the plan and devoted the rest of my time to seeing
what I could of the battlefields.
Baum: Mr. Ryerson had gone over before you, hadn t he?
Packard: Yes. He was one of two from the Extension Service who had
enlisted when the United States got into the war. Paul
Dougherty was the other. Knowles went over as a forester, with
a commission as second lieutenant.
Baum: Wasn t Professor Ernest Babcock there?
Packard: Oh yes, Babcock was there. Frank Adams, Babcock, and I were
the three from the University sent over in the Educational
Corps. Frank Adams and I were together several times.
Sightseeing in France
Packard: One evening we were on a walk some distance from the camp
where we were staying to see one of the many cemeteries in
France where American young men who had died in the war "to
make the world safe for democracy", were buried. As we stood
there, hats in hand, we heard the camp bugler play taps a
mile or so away.
I spent some of my "vacation" as a tourist. I saw Paris
via the various tours organized by the Y.M.C.A. I visited
a country estate with Frank Adams, and went on a wine-tasting
tour through the Burgundy district with Kingsbury and two
others, again in an Army Cadillac. I think it may be inter
esting to read into the record some excerpts from letters I
wrote at that time.
I left Paris for Reims at 7:30 a.m. We went through
Chateau Thierry and got to Reims about noon. We followed
up the valley of the Marne for miles on the train and, of
course, could see the shell holes and the wire entanglements,
trenches and the remains of destroyed towns, torn trees
and all the rest. It seemed strange that the grass should
be so green and the flowers so bright in those fields
where men were dying only six months ago. The brilliant
red French poppies lined the trenches and covered the
barbwire--as if they had been placed there on purpose by
some divine providence. As we neared Reims the country
was more torn but was nothing compared to Reims itself.
I did not see a single house in that place of 120,000
inhabitants that was not destroyed. Most of the buildings
were entirely gutted by fire and explosions while many
buildings were simply piles of stone and brick. It
reminded me of the worst part of San Francisco after the
fire--I never before realized how awful it must have been
there during those days. When you see it, it is beyond
I started for the Hindenburg line when we got as far
Packard: as the cars would take us. I hadn t gone 200 yards before
I was startled by an explosion in the field. A young
Frenchman had picked up a hand grenade which blew him to
bits. I saw hundreds of unexploded shells, hand grenades
and aerial bombs, one fully fifteen inches in diameter,
half -buried in the ground. It was hard to find a trail
through the barbwire and required much climbing, jumping,
When I reached the fortified Hindenburg lane I could
hardly believe my eyes. There were miles of great stone
walls, cement and stone cellars, sleeping quarters,
kitchens, piles of shells, hundreds of yards of machine
gun bullets all neatly placed in the canvas belts. Wires
connected all of the places so that phones and electric
lights could be placed where needed. I walked for a
quarter of a mile through a tunnel, stone-walled and lighted
by shafts every fifty feet or so. The tunnel was twenty-
five feet underground and from it, on both sides, stretched
great rooms, from twenty to sixty feet long and from twenty
to thirty feet wide. The effect of Allied fire was, of
course, evident and much of the work was rubble.
The following exerpts from another letter tell of another
trip to the trenches this time to the Soissons area where,
"I saw the ground that had been taken by the First, Second
and Thirty-fifth Divisions. It was all so terrible that
I hate to think of it as it was. wfe started out from a
little town called Anizy, just beyond Soissons in the valley
of the La Vesle river. Chinese workers and German prisoners
were busy in the neighborhood. The Y guide took us on
a narrow gauge railroad, built by the Germans, to a
point across the valley where we separated, each man going
for the particular dugout he preferred. The forest was
a total wreck. Most of the trees were dead although
brush was growing up fast. Clogged-up water holes,
fallen logs, barbwire and great shell craters, half-filled
with water made going bad. German helmets were everywhere.
The second one I saw still had the head in it. French
and German rifles, clothing, shells, hand grenades and
mortars, were there. The trenches followed just below the
crest of the hill where the dugouts were protected from
direct shell fire. We had candles to use in going through the
long, low rooms of the dugouts. The old beds, much
clothing, tin dishes, tables and all were there. I explored
a dozen or so dugouts. Out of the hundreds of thousands
of relics I could have taken, I carried away one French
rifle, three German helmets, one American and one French
helmet, three different kinds of bayonets, an empty revolver
Packard: case, a half -filled cartridge case, two trench shovels
still in their leather cases, an empty hand grenade, a
German gas mask, and a mess kit.
I was in Versailles the day that peace was signed and had
better read another exerpt from a letter home.
"Four of usProfessor Hamilton of the University of
South Carolina (History), Professor Newens of Dartmouth,
Mr. Johnson of New York (child specialist), and I went
on a Y.M.C.A. conducted tour of Versailles. Although
many special trains were running and the Y had a special
train of its own, the cars were crowded to the limit. The
compartment we were in usually holds eight but today there
were twenty in it. The mob at the front gate of the
palace prevented anything but a distant view of the lines
of soldiers, the cavalry with pennants fluttering in the
wind, with the airplanes buzzing or roaring overhead. We
therefore went to the palace gardens in the back of the
palace, passing on the way the building where the treaty
of 1?83 was signed giving us our independence from England.
I managed to get a ringside seat where I got a good
view of the crowd, the garden, the fountains and the
airplanes that circled overhead. There was nothing else
to see until 3:30 when the bugles blew, the cannons roared,
the fountains were turned on for the first time since the
war. The crowd cheered and tried to sing the Marseillaise
in tune with the snatches of music we could get from the
band, above the general roar. President Wilson, with the
other heads of state came out on the terrace for all to
see. I got back to Paris about 6 p.m. and was interested
in seeing the decorations in the station in honor of
President Wilson and Lloyd George, who leave tonight. A
rich red carpet was spread the length of the station and
platform. Palms, flags, flowers and pennants made the
place look like a garden. It s a great day for the people
here, but I m afraid the treaty won t accomplish its high
objectives. Tonight s papers say the British Labor Party
denounces the treaty as too harsh on the Germans."
Two days later I had the following to say about the
celebration in Paris the night that the peace treaty was signed.
"The celebration in Paris was terrific. Cannons boomed,
the people flocked to the Place de la Concorde and then to
the Avenue de 1 Opera, back and forth. It was just a moving
mass of humanity. The Americans and Australians made most
of the noise, but the British, French, and Italians did
Packard: their part. Tipping up taxis seemed to be the main amuse
ment. At one point a British diplomat was trying to get
through the crowd in a taxi. Some Australians picked up
the back end, letting the wheels spin. The occupant, who
was wearing a top hat, stuck his head out the window and
waved a little British flag. The Aussies reacted by tipping
the taxi on its side which brought cheers from the crowd.
More cheers followed when the diplomat emerged with many
helping hands. ( Laughter ) Throwing confetti, kissing
the girls and vice-versa, milling back and forth in columns
of four or racing through the crowd in single file,
Y girls, Red Cross girls, and girls of the street, gobs
and doughboys, officers and privates all joined in the
carnival. At exactly twelve o clock the orchestra from
the opera house appeared on the steps and with the accom
paniment of thousands of voices played the Marsiellgise, the
Star Spangled Banner, God Save the King, and the Italian
national anthem. A young private came up to me and said
in a hoarse voice, "I landed in France in October, 1917,
and this is the happiest day of my life." He expressed
the feeling of everyone.
I stood on one of those little islands in the middle
of the street and caught the currents going both ways.
There were many amusing incidents. One well dressed and
rather pretty French girl climbed the electric light pole
in the middle of the street and stood on a Y.H.C.A. sign
about twelve feet above the crowd and sang, "Hail, Hail,
The gang s all here, etc." A doughboy climbed up to join
her. They both stood there, one arm around the pole and
the other around each other and continued to sing, until
the sign began to give way. The girl jumped into the
arms of her officer companion while the doughboy slid
down the pole. It was a great night.
During this time I presented the letter of introduction
to Lincoln Steffens which Harriet Eddy gave me in Berkeley.
He was just back from Moscow and was full of stories about
the Russian Revolution. I heard some of his accounts while
sitting in his hotel room while he had breakfast in bed. I
accompanied him, my brother-in-law, Phil Chadbourn, who happened
to be in Paris, and two or three others to a radical party
held in a tavern along the banks of the Seine. Every nation
in the world seemed to be represented. Heavy drinking--bottoms
Packard: up sort of thingwas a cementing influence. I managed to
find a corner where I could stand and watch. Although I had
become accustomed to drinking red wine with my meals and eating
horse meat at French restaurants I was not up to the standard
set by this crowd. ( Laughter )
Baum: Was there a lot of pro-Russia and anti-Russia feeling? Was
that the excitement? Or was...
Packard: The feeling of the group at the tavern was all pro-Russian.
Among others whom I met in France the feeling was divided,
some favored the Revolution, others opposed it. There were
few neutral among them. My sister Esther was in Tsarist
Russia long enough to recognize the need for revolutionary
change. Conditions under the Tsar she thought were intolerable.
Baum: You were in France quite a while, then, after the war.
Packard: Yes, I was there about five months.
Baum: Were Americans popular at that time?
Packard: Oh yes, they were that is with most people. The railroad
officials were not exactly happy over the habit of American
soldiers buying a ticket to the first station out of Paris
and then riding all day, pretending they could not understand
French. I encountered one or two of those horribly officious
tourist types who galled me as much as they did the French.
They were men who had come over after the war but acted as
though they personally had saved the "frogs" from disaster.
I left Paris late in July going to Brest to wait for ac
commodations on a transport going to New York. I was one
Packard: of twelve thousand who returned on the Emperator--an eighty
thousand ton former German liner that had been commandeered
by the United States. The passengers included eight hundred
Red Cross nurses and scores of French G.I. brides.
On my way home I was with a very interesting group, all
returning members of the Educational Corps. We all went to
the Brevoort Hotel for a celebration and had quite a party.
After gathering my civilian clothes and saying hello to
my sisters and others I went back to California, first to
arrange for my Sabbatical leave, including the payment of
$150.00 a month allowance I was to receive, and second, to
get the family ready to move to Cambridge. It was tentatively
agreed that I would return to the University of California as
a member of Dr. Mead s Department of Rural Institutions.
Baum: So you hadn t sold any soldiers on the land but you had sold
Packard: Well, yes. I had been selling the idea and I thought it was
a good one.
Baum: But it was your impression that most of the soldiers were not
in the least interested in settling the land.
Packard: Not in the least. They wanted jobs. They wanted something more
interesting than going back onto the farm. As it turned out,
their instincts, or maybe, judgements, were better than the
reasoning of the theoreticians. Millions of family farm operators
have moved off the land since that time and have been added
to the industrial working force. As I look back on that
Packard: period I realize that the whole world was on the threshold
of a gigantic social revolution created by the new circumstances
of an advancing industrial era.
Baum: Had a lot of the soldiers been farmers?
Packard: Oh yes, of course. Many of them had come from farms but they
were usually sons of farmers and did not have to look for new
land, and those from urban areas had no interest in becoming
STUDYING AND TEACHING ECONOMICS: HARVARD AND M.I.T., 1919 - 1920
Baum: So following a trip to Berkeley, you and the family moved to
Boston so you could prepare yourself to work with Dr. Mead
at the University in the Department of Rural Institutions.
As I recall, that was a pretty hectic period in Massachusetts,
one which gave us our next President of the United States.
Packard: Yes. When we got to Boston, the famous police strike was
on in full force. The station was full of soldiers ordered in
by Governor Coolidge. The whole city was under martial law
which created quite a dramatic entrance for us.
We took a streetcar to Cambridge and soon located a house
that seemed to meet our needs. But it was coal heated and when
the cold weather set in we found that it would heat only the
kitchen adequately regardless of the tons of coal we fed into
the furnace. ( Laughter ) After four months of this we moved
to an upstairs apartment in a 300-year-old colonial-type house
in remarkably good condition. We lived there for the balance
of our stay in Cambridge.
An Irish family had bought this house and had reconditioned
it with two upstairs apartments. One thing we liked was that
a "For Rent" sign outside said, "Children are Welcome." A
young couple occupied the other upstairs apartment. He was an
English major, who was both teaching and studying under Dr.
Kittredge, a famous professor of English at Harvard.
Packard: Emmy Lou started first grade at the Agassiz school at
Cambridge. It was a favorite school for many of the children
of Harvard professors. It was presided over by a wonderful
Negro woman principal. She was a good administrator and had
a wonderful understanding of children. When she died of cancer
a few years later, a monument to her was erected in the school
yard paid for by contributions from the hundreds who knew and
Baum: When you went to Harvard you were a student?
Packard: Yes, I was a graduate student in economics. I was officially
under the direction of Dr. Thomas Nixon Carver, because he
was an agricultural economist and that was to be my field.
But in practice, I was far more influenced by Dr. Frank Taussig,
under whom I took my first real course in economic theory.
I took a course in statistics under Dr. Day whom I admired
very much although I had more difficulty in his classes than
in others because I had to brush up on mathematics which was
not my forte. I also began a course in marketing in the
Harvard School of Business Administration but dropped it
when I became a tutor which required more time than I had ,
if I were to keep up in my other courses.
I was fascinated with everything I was learning.
Baum: Maybe you d always been interested in economics rather than in
Packard: Yes and no. I think I developed a comprehension of economics
as a science that I had never had before. I can repeat what
Packard: I said previously that I was a slow developer. I was aware
of many social problems but the courses I had had in economics
and philosophy at Ames and Stanford left me cold. I said
previously, too, that I had become a socialist at Stanford
but I realize now that it was more an emotional reaction to
social injustice and political corruption of which I had
become aware than a comprehension of a new social order. Terms
which I had used began to be defined in my mind and I developed
a sense of security in knowledge that I had never had before.
This may have been rooted in some psychological reaction based
on the fact that the religious beliefs and dogma that had been
so much a part of my up-bringing had evolved and changed.
Perhaps it was like this: I had retained the emotional reaction
to problems affecting man s relationship to man that I had
developed as a result of my early training and was beginning
to understand something of the science of behavior.
I have gone through a somewhat similar metamorphosis in
my interest in agriculture. I was originally attracted by
the life on a farm. When I was serving as superintendent of
the Imperial Valley Experiment Farm I found that I was far
more interested in the production end than in doing the pain
staking work required in basic research and experimentation.
After two years in Extension work I began to realize that the
principal problems facing the farmer were economic rather than
technical. After gaining more knowledge in the economic field
and after trying to apply that knowledge in land settlement
Packard: work, I began to realize that economics are but a means to an
end and that the end is in the realm of philosophy.
But to get back to Harvard. The first day in my course
in the principles of economics, Dr. Taussig discussed single
tax. I had had a feeling that there was something subversive
about the idea, and was surprised to hear Dr. Taussig say that
the greatest objection to single tax was that it had not
been adopted in the beginning. Because it had not been adopted,
vast vested interests had been established which offered difficult
barriers to overcome. This gave me a certain feeling of confidence
in the value of basic economic analysis. Some days later, when
the question of our invasion of Russia was raised, Dr. Taussig
said that what was going on in Russia was an extremely interesting
social experiment which we should watch with interest, while
being glad that the experiment was being tried in Russia rather
than here. Ever since that time I have adopted Dr. Taussig s
viewpoint toward communism. A third statement made by both
Professors Taussig and Carver which deeply affected my thinking
was that the next big field in economics would concern the
In retrospect, I consider my year under Dr. Hilgard and
Professor Etcheverry at the University of California and the
year under Doctors Taussig and Carver at Harvard University
to be the most formative periods of my life.
I was very much impressed with Dr. Taussig s technique
in making students think. He would lead the class through
Packard: a series of what appeared to be obvious truths and would get
everyone to agree that a seemingly obvious conclusion was
correct. When no one objected he would raise some simple point
which instantly showed that the reasoning was wrong and the
conclusions unfounded. He employed this technique several times
during the year and would end each time by saying, "I want
you to think. I don t want you to go out of here without
the ability to question conclusions and to analyze the facts.
You will get just as high a grade here whether you agree with
me or not provided you back your statements by properly reasoned
analysis . "
Within two weeks or so after entering Harvard I was employed
as a tutor at $50.00 per month, an assignment which I could
carry without interfering with my main purpose. I was to
meet with a small group of students once a week for general
discussions and assignment of reading. The purpose was to
enlarge the students horizon.
Baum: Did you meet with them individually or was this like a teaching
Packard: I met with the group but was to give individual assignments.
Baum: We have teaching assistants here at Cal.
Packard: Yes, I know, but the two systems are not alike. The respon
sibilities of the teaching assistants and the tutor are not
the same. The tutors had no responsibility concerning class
work, correcting papers and the like.
Baum: A little more personal attention than you get here at Cal.
Packard: Yes, much more. The tutor, in a sense, served as the students
advisor. The responsibility was new to me but I must have
done well enough because Dr. Taussig recommended me for a
job as instructor in economic theory at Massachusetts Institute
of Technology for the spring semester, an assignment which
I thoroughly enjoyed. I had one hundred and twenty-five
sophomore engineers. I assumed this responsibility in addition
to remaining as tutor at Harvard.
I might say that these two jobs helped me financially.
The tutorial job made me a member of the faculty which saved
me $600.00 in tuition, while the pay I was getting from Harvard
and M.I.T., when added to my sabbatical pay, brought my
income way above any salary that I had received before.
Dr. Taussig must have thought he had a budding economic
genius in me, because on three occasions when he was in
Washington on some Commission business, he asked me to take
his class which included some Rhodes scholars and several
economists who had returned to college to catch up on current
thinking. I must have passed the test because I was urged
several times to consider an offer to remain at Harvard as an
instructor while getting a Ph.D. degree.
I have often wondered what would have happened to me if
I had accepted that offer. I am inclined to believe that I
made the right decision in turning the offer down. Just as in
the case of the Experiment Station job where I was more inter
ested in the farmer s problems and in production, rather than
in research; I was more interested in getting into an action
field than in teaching. I had been offered the job as super
intendent of the second State Land Settlement project in Delhi,
California, which, in a sense, combined my interest in economics
and agriculture. So I accepted. I have had a lot of hard
knocks as a result of this decision but I have gained some
knowledge and experience regarding human behavior which I feel
has been very valuable to me.
The winter we spent in Cambridge was unusually cold and
there was an unusually heavy snowfall. This, of course, delighted
the two girls who had never seen snow before. We made family
trips to places like Plymouth Rock, Salem and Concord, and
tried to find traces of the ancestry of the Packard and Leonard
families, both of which came from New England.
Did you find many relatives there?
No living relatives but some interesting tomb stones. ( Laughter )
Because Walter was on the faculty and was a visiting professor
I became a member of the Harvard Dames, the wives of professors,
and another faculty group made up of wives of visiting professors.
I remember going to one of these Harvard Dames meetings
where the advertised speaker wasn t able to come, so they
got one of the members of the club who was from an old, old
family and she gave a talk about her family. Well, to me,
coming from the Middle West, it struck me as a very egotistical
thing to do because nobody would dream about standing and
entertaining a crowd about their own family. And her tale
was that she went to this cemetery and that cemetery, and she
found the family names there. And it was of great interest to
the local group.
Well, it can be very fascinating. Of course you had your
Packard genealogy by that time, didn t you?
I guess you could stand up with all of them if they wanted to
talk about genealogy. ( Laughter )
I think Emma and I had more standing because we came from
the University of California than because of ancestry. But
the fact that both of our families were connected in signif
icant ways with the history of the colonial period didn t
hurt. The University of California had a high rating at
It would be a mistake to end this chapter without saying
more about the rather exciting atmosphere during the time we
were in Cambridge. The Palmer raids were on and Emma was able
to attend some of the "red" trials in Boston.
At the trial they brought up those young people who had been
arrested in that raid the police went into homes early one
morning and rounded up hundreds of them. And I remember going
to a meeting where Felix Frankfurter, a young man then in
Harvard, was one of the men who conducted the hearing. The
only one I remember was a big, fine looking young man with
a long full beard and they kept after him. He spoke broken
English and they kept asking him about his connections. He
had on a red necktie and they said, "Do you wear a red necktie
because of the Revolution?" And his reply was, "I do not
understand revolutions by necktie." ( Laughter )
What were these raids about?
It was an hysterical period. There was a general fear of a
Marxist red plot to overthrow the government. The police
strike in Boston added a sense of reality which frightened
many. The Allied armies were attacking Russia and Wilson
was fighting for his League of Nations. "Back to Normalcy"
became the general slogan. Probably the most exciting meeting
I have ever attended was held in Faneuil Hall when Raymond
Robins, who had just returned from a Red Cross assignment in
Russia, told of his experiences.
In a letter to my mother dated November 20, 1919, I wrote
the following account:
"Last week on Armistice night we attended a meeting
in Faneuil Hall protesting against intervention in Russia.
We knew it would be largely attended so we went about
6:30 p.m. and arrived at the doors an hour before the
meeting was to begin. We couldn t get within twenty feet
of the doors which weren t open yet. So we got as near
as we could and waited half an hour more. By that time the
crowd had gathered another twenty feet behind us and when the
doors opened they began to push! I never was in such a jam
in my life and hope I never will be again. Luckily I was
tall enough not to have all the breath squeezed out of me
as some of the small women did. They screamed and begged
the crowd not to push, but no one stopped. I went only
about an inch a minute but I was puffing and blowing from
the squeezing I got when I finally got into the doors. My
arm was so pinched in that it went to sleep. The papers
said thousands were turned away and I don t doubt it. My
umbrella was smashed from the pulling and hauling but I m
thankful that it wasn t my ribs which got broken.
Mrs. : Raymond Robins, head of the Red Cross in Russia was
Packard the principal speaker and it was the most thrilling address
that I have ever heard. About seventy-five per cent of
the audience were Russians and the rest in sympathy, judging
from the applause. He spoke for an hour and a half and
told things that should make every American ashamed of the
part we have played in Russia. Harvard Crimson, the
daily college paper, has protested to President Wilson
asking him to take troops out of Russia at once. To hear
a man begging for human rights in the old hall that saw
such stirring times in our own Revolution was quite strange.
STATE LAND SETTLEMENT
Left to right: Walter E. Packard, Superintendent of Delhi Land Settlement; Dr. Elwood Mead,
chief of Division of Land Settlement; George C. Kreutzer, Superintendent of Durham Land
Settlement. July, 1921
SUPERINTENDENT OF DELHI LAND SETTLEMENT PROJECT, 1920 - 1924
Beginnings of the State Land Settlement Board and the Durham
and Delhi Land Settlement Projects *
Packard: Although I had expected to return to the University of
California as an Associate Professor in the Department of
Rural Institutions when I finished my work at Harvard, I was
offered instead the position as superintendent of the Delhi
Land Settlement Projectan appointment which I readily accepted
because I wanted to be in an action program. I was in fact
quite intrigued by the opportunity I felt the job presented.
Baum: Now you got there in...?
Packard: July, 1920.
Baum: That was a very bad economic year, as I remember. The bottom
fell out of the rice market and the sugar market.
Packard: Yes, it was a bad year, but what is still more important is
that it was the beginning of the great agricultural depression
which continued until World War II brought back the demand
for farm products. This fact illustrates one of the weaknesses
of the whole approach to the farm problem. There was no adequate
statistical background on which to base the sort of planning
that was needed. The Mead plan was being written up in national
magazines as the answer to an assumed demand of people for
farms in the West.
Baum: Was this designed primarily, do you think, as an answer to
* See ROHO interview, "A Life in Water Development", Sidney
T. Harding, 1967, pp. 186-204.
Baum: settlement in California or was it primarily to help veterans?
Packard: It was primarily settlement in California, although the Delhi
Project was used in part to provide farms for veterans.
Baum: Veterans were secondary?
Packard: Yes, the veterans were a secondary consideration. Ever since
the days of Henry George, land speculation had played a bad
role in the state. Poor land and land without adequate water
had been sold to unsuspecting settlers at exorbitant prices.
It was thought by those who favored the Mead plan that the
mistakes and swindles of the past could be avoided by having
the State Land Settlement Board establish a series of land
settlement projects where the interests of both the public and
the settlers would be protected. It was thought also that
these demonstrations of how things should be done would
affect future private development.
The nature of the circumstances which led to the estab
lishment of the State Land Settlement Board and the nature
of the planning which preceeded the selection of land settlement
sites are interesting in retrospect. In 1915 the State Legis
lature passed an Act providing for the establishment of a
Land Settlement and Rural Credits Board to make a report to
the legislature regarding the situation existing in the state
at that time. Elwood Mead, who was then in Australia, was
called back by the University of California and was appointed
Chairman of this Board which included, among others, Harris
Weinstock a business partner of David Lubin, and an internationally
Packard: known leader in agricultural thought, and Mortimer Fleishhacker ,
a prominent banker in San Francisco.
Baum: I notice that Arthur M. Breed was the man who sponsored the
Land Settlement Act. Do you know what his interest was in
Packard: Mr. Breed was an outstanding State Senator from Oakland. He
was sincerely interested in the land problem and remained a
staunch supporter of the program during my period as superin
tendent at Delhi.
Baum: Was Mead an Australian?
Packard: No. He had gone there as a leading reclamation engineer with
wide experience in the Western States.
Baum: I know he d done a lot of work in Australia.
Packard: It was in Australia where he developed his land settlement
plan. When Thomas F. Hunt became head of the College of
Agriculture of the University of California, he immediately
took an interest in the land problem and invited Dr. Mead to
come to California to head the new Department of Rural Instit
A commission held hearings in various parts of the state
and presented a report to the Legislature which resulted in
the establishment of the State Marketing Director s office and
the passage of the Land Settlement Act, which authorized the
creation of the State Land Settlement Board, with an initial
appropriation of $250,000.00 to purchase land for a demonstration
project. The Board advertised for tracts of land and had
Packard: eighty offers. Professor Charles Shaw, head of the Soils
Department of the University was asked to examine and report
on the soil conditions in each tract. Professor Frank Adams
was asked to examine the water supply and legal rights to water,
and Dean Thomas F. Hunt and R. L. Adams, Head of the Farm
Management Department of the University were asked to work
with the Board in the final selection of sites. The Delhi
tract was included in this first list.
The first demonstration settlement was located at Durham
because it was relatively small and could be financed under
the initial appropriation of $250,000.00. The price of farm
products was high at that time and there was sufficient demand
for land to enable the Board to fill the colony with an experien
ced class of settlers with sufficient money of their own to
meet their obligation with minimum help from the state.
Baum: Was the Durham settlement started before or after the war?
Did they have a majority of veterans, is what I am trying to
Packard: No. The Durham colony was started before the end of the war
and before the drop in farm prices. No veterans were involved.
The Durham settlement was immediately successful under George
Kreutzer s good management, which included a rare ability to
understand the settlers problems and inner feelings. There
seemed to be no good reason for not starting the second project
as soon as possible.
*Mrs . George Kreutzer is planning to write a biography of her
husband, especially his work in California agriculture, and it
is planned to deposit this in the Bancroft Library. Letter
from Dorothy Kreutzer to Mrs. Baum, July 22, 1969.
Selection of the Delhi Site
Packard: The initial success at Durham together with the anticipated
demand for land by returned soldiers seemed to justify the
establishment of a second colony. An appropriation of
$1,000,000.00 was made to carry out the idea. The Board
again advertised for land and the Delhi property was one of
ten offerings which possessed good soil and a good water supply.
Being located in the Turlock Irrigation District with an
excellent water supply and being crossed by the state highway
and both the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe tracks, it was
obviously well located. In order to determine the value of
the land, a survey was made of three hundred farms in the area.
The price of land ranged from $200.00 to $2,000.00 per acre
with an average of $600.00
On the basis of these facts the Delhi land was purchased
and development began in the spring of 1920. The 7,000 acre
tract was owned by Mr. Edgar Wilson of San Francisco and certain
associates, including Mr. Seagraves who was in charge of land
development for the Santa Fe railroad. The average price
paid for the land was $92.50 per acre. It was producing
practically no revenue. Some of the land was planted to barley
and rye by tenants but the yields were very low without irrig
ation. The land not in grains was rented for sheep pasture.
Charles Shaw, head of the Soils Department of the College of
Agriculture and in charge of the soil survery work in the
Packard: state, made a careful study of the soils to determine their
productive value under irrigation. Results, over the years,
have proved his judgement to be sound.
Baum: $92.50 an acre for undeveloped land? Wasn t that at developed
Packard: No. The price was high for undeveloped land, but Professor
R. L. Adams, head of the Farm Management Division of the
University, made a study of land prices in the area previously
referred to, and found the price of developed land to be
comparable to the cost of Delhi land when all costs were included.
When you add to the $92.50 cost per acre for the raw land, the
cost of the pipe line that had to be developed to deliver
water on to this sandy land and another thirty or forty dollars
an acre to level the land, another twenty to fifty or sixty
dollars an acre for essential, but minimum, buildings the
total investment came to over $400.00 per acre, without
including the cost of planting trees, and vines, or buying
a dairy herd, or meeting the costs of family living during the
development period. But when all of these costs are added
together they were not above the market price of developed land
in the area. Even if the land had been secured at a lower
price it would have made no difference in the final outcome.
Baum: I suppose both the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific were
interested in this development. I think they are always inter
ested in settlement along their lines, aren t they?
Packard: Oh yes. The Southern Pacific showed its confidence by building
Packard: a station at Delhi and by installing side tracks for freight
Some of the land was already included in the Turlock
Irrigation District but the land was so rolling that it was
impossible to irrigate all of it by gravity water. The area
not originally in the district was brought in later. All of
this new land was above the gravity ditch of the Turlock District
and had to be reached by pumping. As a result of the rolling
character of the topography, a cement pipe system was developed
for the entire area. The pipes ranged from thirty inches in
diameter to as little as six inches. Some of the system was
under high pressure which required the installation of some
rather high surge chambers to prevent damage from what is known
Baum: Was this gravity flow for most of the project?
Packard: Yes, for most of it.
Baum: Was this land bought because it was the only block of land
that was large enough?
Packard: No. Size was not the only factor. The tract was purchased
only after a state-wide search for a suitable, undeveloped
area. The Board decided that the Wilson property was the best
that had been offered.
Baum: You don t think there was any collusion between the Board and
Packard: No, I am sure there was not. I feel quite sure however that
the Wilson group thought they had put something over on the
Packard: Board, because of a statement made to me by Seagrave s nephew
at a chance meeting in Yosemite Valley. He said, "They sure
put it over on the old man (Mead) didn t they?" It seemed quite
evident that he was reflecting the attitude his uncle had
toward the deal.
But, in retrospect, you go back to the fact that the Board,
after looking over all the available locations they could find
in the state didn t find anything better than the Delhi property
for price, water supply, location, and soil. One fact is
evident however. The state was not able to buy land without
paying for increments in value, which from a basic social
standpoint should have gone to the state rather than to Wilson,
et al, as land speculators.
In retrospect, again, the error made by the Board was not
in the selection of the land. The area, in 1965, is one of
the most prosperous agricultural areas of the state. The
error was in judging the nature of the times. The trend
in both the state and the nation had been away from small farms
and toward larger mechanized units and toward a planned control
of production. The whole agricultural philosophy seems to me
to be confused. A new philosophy will, I believe, emerge,
based upon new ideas of some kind, an idea that I will expand
toward the end of this biography.
Improving the Land
Packard: The engineering on the project was competently carried out.
Packard: The many miles of pipe that had to be used were made on the
project in a large pipe shed built for the purpose. Milo
Williams, a college friend of mine at Ames, was chief engineer.
Ernest Fortier, son of Dr. Samuel Fortier, the first Chief
of the Irrigation Investigation Office of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, was in charge of the pipe making and installation.
He had been active in this field for some years and was a
recognized expert. Detailed topographical maps were made of
the entire area and each settler was given a topographical map
of his allotment to serve as a guide in laying out the irrig
We used settlers on the work wherever possible in order
to give them much needed employment during the non-income
development period. They were used in digging trenches for
the pipe, in hauling pipe to the field, and in leveling land
which was still done with the use of four-horse Fresno Scrapers.
Baum: Who did the work of making the pipe?
Packard: A group of Yugoslavs were employed as individual workers.
But most of the people who were actually working in the pipes
Baum: Were they settlers?
Packard: No. Quite a number of settlers were employed in the pipe
shed too. But the technical work was mostly done by these
Yugoslavs who were experienced in handling the pipe machines
and that sort of thing.
Baum: Were they local people?
Baum: Just cement workers that went around the country doing that
kind of work.
Packard: As superintendent I backed the engineers in the interest of
efficiency and low costs. As a result, the pipe system was
installed at a cost appreciably below the cost in any private
project in the state at that time. John Jahn was in charge of all
land surveys and in making subdivisions according to plans
made by the engineers and approved by me and Kreutzer.
Baum: Is this the lowest for pipe or the lowest for irrigation?
Packard: The lowest cost per acre in the irrigated area.
Baum: Because isn t a pipe system much more expensive than a ditch
Packard: Oh, yes. But I meant the lowest pipe system. There was no
other pipe system in the state at that time that was put in
at as low a per acre cost as the system at Delhi.
Baum: And why was the pipe selected? Was it necessary to put in
Packard: The pipe system was used for two reasons. So much of the land
was rolling that it was necessary to use pipes to get water
to isolated high areas. In the second place the sandy soil
was so porous that open earth ditches could not be used because
of drainage problems. Even as it was, seepage from the main
Turlock District ditch and over-irrigation raised the ground
water level in several low places to a point where water stood
on the surface in limited areas. This problem was met by
Packard: installing large pumps in the wet areas to pump the excess
water into the pipe lines.
Planning the Town of Delhi
Packard: The Delhi townsite was planned by Professor John William
Gregg, then head of the Landscape Division of the College of
Agriculture. The planning followed the latest ideas of the
time. The town was zoned into residential, business, and
industrial sections. Land was set aside for a town park ad
joining the schoolyard. The park area was to be located
across the S.P. tracks to avoid a ribbon development of garages
and the like along the highway. But, as the old saying goes,
there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. The town
plans were poorly executed. Now, as you drive down the highway,
Delhi presents a very bad impression. One factor not anticip
ated in the plan has been the influx of migrants from Oklahoma
and Texas whose shacks present a look of poverty in sharp
contrast to the prosperity of the farming community.
Baum: So the town was planned as a center for a larger rural group
than just the community of Delhi.
Packard: Yes, that is true. It was to be a model residential town.
Mr. Wilson donated $10,000.00 to build a community hall which
was named after him. Professor Gregg used the Delhi plan
in his classes to illustrate the principle of town planning.
If the plan had been properly executed, Delhi could have been
a delightful rural village.
Packard: The roads throughout the colony were graveled by the
County Board of Supervisors. The cost of this work was not
charged against the settlers but was paid for by the County
taxes. The graveling was necessary because of the sandy
character of the soil.
Two-Acre Laborer s Allotments
Packard: A special feature of the Delhi plan called for the establish
ment of two-acre laborer s allotments. This was an introduction
from Mead s experience in Australia. The allotments were de
signed to provide good housing, community services, and room
for subsistence gardens, orchard, and chicken pens. Although
the plan seemed to be a good one it never worked out in practice.
During the development period the settlers on the labor allot
ments were kept reasonably busy but when employment on farms
provided the main support many of the allotments were taken
over by others or abandoned. Again, the farm labor problem
has not been worked out .
Baum: This two-acre settler was to be a laborer on the other farms?
Packard: He was to supply labor on the colony or on the outside,
Wherever he could get labor.
Baum: Was there any industry around there, anything that would use
Packard: The opportunities for employment were very limited. During
the canning season many farm laborers and other settlers secured
jobs in the Turlock canning industry. But this work was
Packard: seasonal and so, of course, was the need for work on the farms.
Low Cost Housing: Architect Max Cook
Packard: A special service, which began on the Durham project, was
continued at the Delhi colony with great success. Max Cook,
an architect who had specialized on low cost housing, was
employed to advise settlers on their building program. No
service rendered by the Board was more intimately connected
with the settlers problems. The routine was as follows.
When a settler would appear he would be ushered into my office
where I would find out as much as possible about his plans,
his financial resources and experience, and would go over his
farm plans with him. Each settler was supposed to have at
least $1,500.00 in cash or equivalent in useful equipment.
With very few exceptions the settlers had ideas far beyond
what they could do with their resources, even though the
state Land Settlement law provided for loans up to $3,000.00
for improvements. The first obstacle would be building. The
settlers would say, for example, they planned on a two-bedroom
house to begin with. I would go over a budget program covering
the first two or three years which, with few exceptions,
knocked out any possibility of having the kind of a house
This is where Max Cook came in. I would take the settler
and his wife into Cook s office where he would show what could
be done to cut costs. It often resulted in the building of
Packard: the lean-to which would be part of an ultimate barn to serve
a& living quarters until the farm income would permit expansion.
In other cases, the first unit of a chicken house would serve
as temporary housing units pending the time when the chickens
would bring in enough profit to justify further investments.
By the time they got through with Max Cook and came back to me
they were very different people. ( Laughter ) They began to
realize their money would not carry them through.
Baum: They were realizing this was a pioneering venture. ( Laughter )
Packard: Yes, definitely. Some settlers were able to finance the devel
opment work quite satisfactorialy , but such settlers had far
more than the $1,500.00 minimum capital.
After conferences with Cook and with me, many of the
applicants decided against applying for allotments. In any
case the final decision was made by Dr. Mead, representing the
Land Settlement Board. The following excerpt from a newspaper
account illustrates the procedure and presents some of the
On December 15, 1920, officers of the settlement,
including Dr. Elwood Mead, Chief of the Division of Land
Settlement, and Walter E. Packard, Superintendent of the
Settlement, will meet at Delhi to consider applications
of those desiring to avail themselves of the opportunity
to get on the land. This is the second hearing of applications.
The first, held earlier in the month, received applications
of forty candidates, of which twenty one were approved for
farms, six applications were similarly acted on for farm
laborer s allotments. About ten laborers allotments
remain open to application. These farms have the backing
of the state of California and may be had on terms and under
conditions unequalled. Deferred payments extending over
a period of thirty-six and a half years may be had if desired.
In addition to this, the settlement has at its disposal
Packard: the best agricultural supervision the state can provide.
Among the applicants already approved, more than half are
from California, several are graduates of the University
of California or the farm school at Davis. In addition
to these there are settlers from Illinois, Kansas;, and
Indiana. The total capital of the approved applicants is
After an application was approved Max Cook would prepare
detailed plans and specifications which would provide the
basis for competitive bidding. The service was unique and
very helpful. The settlers saved many thousands of dollars
as a result of Cook s careful work.
A fact which impressed me in the competitive bidding was
that a Swedish contractor from Turlock was consistently the
lowest bidder whenever he chose to put in a bid. He was able
to do this because he had a crew of skilled men who worked as
a trained team. They were paid higher than going union wages
but were able to cut final cost by their efficiency in getting
the job done.
As a result of the building program, the Turlock lumber
company established a branch yard in Delhi at a location
determined by the basic town plan.
Baum: What did Mr. Cook do when he finished his work at Delhi?
Packard: When the colony was finished he became an architect for the
Redwood Association. He later moved to Walnut Creek, where
he passed away some years ago.
Baum: It sounds like his services could be used all over the world,
in helping marginal people start to get established.
Packard: Yes. Max Cook was a pioneer in this field. The essential
Packard: principles which he developed were later adopted by the
Resettlement Administration which employed a group of young
and imaginative architects to direct the building program,
including the construction of farm laborers camps to provide
at least a minimum standard of camp facilities.
Costs to the Settlers
Baum: How did costs and payments work out for the settlers?
Packard: The settlers were given thirty-six and a half years in
which to pay for the land which included the cost of the pipe
line, engineering and other costs. The graveling of the road
on the colony was done by Merced County and not charged to the
colony. Improvement loans covered a period of twenty years.
The interest rate was 5% for all indebtedness. This was a low
rate as compared to the going rate on farm loans at that time,
not including the loans made by the Land Bank which, as pre
viously mentioned, was established as a result of the same
factor which led to the approval of the State Land Settlement
The settlers were, of course, able to use the services of
the County Farm Advisor and the Home Demonstration agent.
Meetings with Extension specialists were frequent.
Baum: Did the settlers pay for any of these services?
Baum: It didn t come into the cost for their land or anything?
Packard: No. The Extension Service was all free to the farmers.
Baum: Well, the superintendent s pay and all that, who paid for
Packard : My salary you mean?
Baum: Yes, or your secretary or...
Packard: Well, that all went into the cost of the land.
An additional cost saving was by cooperative purchasing.
Prior to the construction of the community hall, Mrs. Packard
and I used our house as a meeting place. We helped organize
a cooperative association which served the settlers in various
ways. It was the center of the social life of the community.
As I recall it, the association was responsible for twenty
distinct activities, including the occasional showing of
commercial movies and the organization of community dances.
In the neighborhood of $40,000.00 worth of materials, including
equipment needed by settlers, were purchased cooperatively
at an estimated saving of from ten to twenty percent.
Baum: How did Delhi compare in costs to the settler with Bureau
of Reclamation projects?
Packard: These special features of the Land Settlement Program were a
marked advance over the settlement plan established by the
U.S. Reclamation Service. Settlers on Reclamation projects
had to rely on their own resources entirely. They got long
term payment for water costs with no interest charge, but the
Reclamation Act made no provision for loans and special services.
As a result, it- of ten required a succession of failures by
three or four prospective settlers before a going farm enterprise
was established. The Bureau of Reclamation simply provided
the water and the settler went out and fought his own battle
completely. If he didn t have money he moved off and somebody
else moved in. But at Delhi it was assumed that by having
an opportunity to borrow up to $3,000.00, a settler would be
able to develop his land, put up necessary buildings, buy
livestock, and get the thing into operation without losing
out. That was the theory.
Gee, $3,000.00 doesn t sound like much to work on.
$3,000.00 at that time was more helpful then it would be now.
But they had their water system in.
Oh, yes. The irrigation system went with the land. After the
settler had signed the contract of purchase, all he had to do
was move onto the allotment, level the land, plant whatever
he intended to grow, build acceptable living quarters, provide
for his living expenses pending the time when crops, or live
stock could be sold. An appreciable proportion of the settlers
had to secure outside work to survive the initial period.
The agricultural depression, and the time required to get any
returns from vines or trees, and the unsuitability of the land
for quick growing cash crops were factors which contributed
to the inability of a large number of settlers to meet the
payments to the state. But this is getting ahead of the story.
How much of this planning had been done before you arrived?
Was the plan all finished before you came or did you have any
part in planning it?
Packard: That portion of the land lying along the Southern Pacific rail
road had been subdivided into small allotments and offered for
sale. As I recall it, there were about twenty-five settlers
on the land when I arrived . But nothing had been done toward
developing the irrigation system. Some alfalfa, and a few
small vineyards had been planted. Water was supplied by tem
porary pumping plants located along the Turlock Irrigation
Environmental Problems: Wind, Rabbits, and Pests
Packard: But no one had considered the damage that could be done
by the strong spring wind storms. So when I arrived nearly
all of the vine cuttings and alfalfa that had been planted
were either killed or so badly damaged that replanting was
necessary. I therefore encountered a spirit of gloom among
the settlers, many of whom were unable to make their payments
to the state.
As a result of this initial record of damage by winds,
everyone was wondering what would happen when the spring winds
started again. These winds came from the north and blew for
three or four days.
When the first wind began to blow I got up at daybreak
and drove to the nearest allotment down the highway. There
I found the owner, Mr. Aguierre , and his neighbor, Rex Mocker,
sitting on the lee side of Aguierre s barn. I said, "How is
the alfalfa? 1 They both replied in unison, "It s all shot
Packard: to hell." I suggested that we walk across the field to see
what was happening. We found that the sand was not moving
wherever there was a covering of weeds which Aguicrre had
cut the preceding day. On the basis of this evidence, I got
the two men busy spreading weeds, wherever the sand was beginning
to move. Within an hour or so the whole colony was out with
wagons collecting weeds and straw to scatter on any alfalfa
field where the wind was apt to cause damage. At the same time
we started the irrigation system going to lay the dust and con
centrated the flow on all of the young vineyards. Both of
these measures proved effective. As a result, no really
serious damage was done by the first wind. On the basis of
this experience we bought all the straw stacks in the neighbor
hood to be ready for the remaining winds. Later we adopted
a plan of disking loose straw into the ground in preparing
alfalfa land for planting.
Jack rabbits were a great menace at that time. There
were hundreds of them. They would eat the young alfalfa and
eat the young grape vines. So we organized rabbit drives.
People would come in from as far away as Merced and Turlock.
The men would line up about fifty feet apart, starting on the
highway, and would then march as a line across the colony,
shooting rabbits which would be picked up by boys and thrown
in the wagons following behind the line. We d kill as many as
six or seven hundred rabbits in a single morning s drive.
We d have a big lunch prepared by the women at the old Ballico
Packard: Hotel on the eastern end of the colony. We had a number
of rabbit drives and greatly lessened the damage done by the
Baum: It seems to me I read in Life Jttegazine about a drive like that
that aroused a great deal of opposition from the S.P.C.A.
Maybe that was after your time that people got so humane about
Packard: I don t recall any protests. It was a life or death struggle
between settlers and rabbits. The dead rabbits were not
thrown away. Some men were hired to skin and dress them for
shipment to San Francisco where they were used in making
chicken tamales. ( Laughter )
Baum: So you didn t waste them.
Packard: No. We sold them to dealers and put the returns into the
community fund. ( Laughter )
Baum: But chicken tamales. How did they get away with that?
Packard: Rabbit and chicken meat are much alike. I suppose the tamales
were prepared for the Mexican market in San Francisco. This
enterprise did not last long because the rabbits developed
a disease which made them unmarketable.
Other pests appeared from time to time to bother and
discourage the settlers. There was an infestation of army
worms that would move across a field, taking everything with
them unless stopped. The control method used was to plow
a furrow across the field which served to concentrate the
worms where they could be burned by gasoline torches made
Packard: from knapsack sprays. Nematodes appeared on the roots of
peach trees throughout the colony. No one knew what to do
until, after I left the colony, the University developed a
method of sterilizing the soil which killed the nematodes without
injuring the trees.
Baum: There s a whole department now at Cal which is devoted to this
problem. They must be a terrible pest.
Packard: Yes, they sure are. I was afraid for a while, that they would
end peach growing at Delhi because of the sandy soil which
favored nematode development.
Another discouraging factor developed soon after the
first planting of alfalfa. We found that the yields were
very low, much below a paying yield. On the advice of the
University I tried out the use of sulphur as a fertilizer.
The suggestion was based upon an observation that alfalfa
planted between trees which were sprayed with a sulphur spray
did much better than alfalfa in adjoining fields. The experi
mental results were very encouraging so I purchased a car load
of sulphur and distributed it free to all alfalfa growers.
The results were astonishing. Yields grew from two or three
tons per acre to as much as ten to twelve tons.
In part because of the problem presented by the Delhi
soils, the Irrigation Division of the University of California
under the leadership of Frank Veihmeyer established an experi
ment station of forty acres on which to work out methods of
irrigation and care and to try out various varieties of fruit
Packard: trees. There was a close cooperation between all departments
of the College of Agriculture and the colony.
A series of events involving the University, the Delhi
colony, and the over-all problem of planning can well be
inserted at this point. It concerns peaches. The settlers
were advised to plant cling peaches for canning. I, of course,
supported this advice. As a result, practically all of the
peach orchards at Delhi were clings. Almost exactly ten years
later I was head of the Marketing Agreement Program of the
Agricultural Adjustment Administration on the Pacific coast.
Dr. Harry Wellman and Howard Tolley, both of the University,
were the directors of the Adjustment program. In 1932 the
peach growers in California had secured less than one million
dollars for their entire crop and were facing disaster. We
destroyed over 240,000 tons of peaches by letting them rot
on the ground. As a result of this curtailment of supply the
price of cling peaches rose to a point which brought a total
of more than $6,000,000.00 to the peach growers of the state.
Baum: Well, that was an extraordinary demonstration of an attempt
to balance supply and demand. What happened next?
Packard: That story can best be told later on when we reach that point
in this account.
If, in the beginning, we had paid attention to a natural
demonstration of the adaptability of almonds we might have
saved money and made faster progress. There was an old almond
tree growing near an old abandoned barn which produced a crop
Packard: of almonds every year. But we were not advised to plant
almonds and went ahead with peaches and grapes. But at
present Delhi is getting to be quite a center for almond
production. Dallas Bache , one of the first settlers and
a man who knew what he wanted from the beginning, is
now a leading almond grower and dealer. He purchased
the old State warehouse in Delhi which he uses for storing
almonds. He was a very practical man who never lost
faith in the colony. (See letter following)
Baum: A better market for almonds than for peaches?
Packard: Perhaps, but the main factor seems to be that the Delhi
soil is particularly suited for almonds.
Human Problems and Community Projects
Packard: In view of the discouragement among the settlers
as a result of winds, rabbits, and delinquencies, it
was necessary that I meet any rumors regarding the adminis
tration which might affect confidence. I say this because
an incident arose soon after I arrived which had to be
handled quickly. I found that the auditor in charge of
the finance was using project money to level the land on
a ten-acre tract that he had purchased in the neighbor
hood and that he had used project funds to buy lumber
for a house he was building in Santa Rosa. I called him
and his assistant, Oscar Shattuck--a settler--into my
office. I fired the auditor and put Shattuck in charge
October 26, 1967
Dear Mrs. Packard:
Oscar asked me to write you in reply to your request for names, etc.
The family was the "Beatty" family - Mrs. B s name was Matilda but she
passed away several years ago - a real fine woman. John B is a realtor
in Turlock, telephone Turlock 634 - 6281 and James (Jimmy) is Vice-
President in Kaiser Co. , Oakland. We are not familiar with the location
of the other boys (I should say men) of the family.
Oscar is very frail. He is at present in Mercy Hospital in Merced as
he fell one night and fractured his pelvis bone, but is healing rapidly
and should be back home soon. He still has his almond orchard and is quite
happy to live alone. Dallas keeps quite close touch with him.
And by the way, the Delhi Women s Club (an offspring of the old
Koinvor Club) has established a file of all the available old Delhi Records
(in the early 1920 s, etc. pictures, etc.) and they are filed in the Delhi
Water Company s office in Delhi. Mrs. J. Michalec is in charge of this of
fice. If any of your U.C. people might be interested for research, I m
sure they could peruse said papers. This office is open on Wednesdays at
this time. Several Stanislaus College students have written papers on
Delhi getting their material from this source.
With best wishes, I am
Naomi Brown Bache
P.S. I forgot to mention that Oscar said to tell you he had made adjustments
for Mrs. Beatty before he left the State Land Settlement years ago and every
thing was acceptable and in good order.
Mrs. Bache s address is Mrs. Dallas Bache
14527 W. El Capitan Way
Delhi, California 95315
Packard: with instruction not to let the auditor back in the office.
I then drove to Turlock to interview our banker and to
stop payment on all checks, pending a solution of the
problem. I then drove to Merced, the county seat, to
file suit and to place an attachment on the ten acres.
The sheriff was cooperative, and he put an attachment
sign on the property that same afternoon, which was just
in time because the auditor transferred title to his wife
the next morning.
Baum: What happened after that?
Packard: I, of course, reported the incident to Dr. Mead who
took the matter up with the attorney general. I was
very insistent that the suit be carried through but,
for reasons I never understood, nothing was done. My
action and the Board s failure to act were, of course,
known by the settlers.
Shattuck remained as auditor from then on and I cannot
say enough in his favor. He was efficient, loyal, and
took an active part in community life, becoming among
other things, the leader of the Boy Scouts. Years later
he was honored by the community. He is now living on
his 30-acre allotment which is planted to almonds and
yielding a satisfactory income.
At another time, also soon after I had taken charge,
Max Cook, the architect, was charged by one of the settlers
with having made a deal with a big lumber company in San
Packard: Francisco which, the settler said would give Max Cook a bonus
of some kind. I didn t believe it. I went to Cook and
asked him, frankly, if he made such a deal. He had not,
he said. So I phoned the man in San Francisco who had sold
the lumber. And I got the settler and Max Cook in the
car and drove to San Francisco to find the accused lumber
company man. I made Jake Larang, the settler, tell his
story. He found that there was nothing to it at all. Jake
was convinced and so were the settlers who knew about that
charge, as they knew about the difficulty with the auditor.
Baum: This must have gained confidence in you among the settlers.
Packard: Yes, it did. Whenever anything came up that might affect
the confidence of the settlers, I went to any length to
get the facts.
When the third payment to the state became due and the
number of delinquents had increased, I called a special
meeting of all settlers in the old Delhi schoolhouse. I
said that I knew they were worried on account of the growing
delinquencies and that no one who was going ahead with the
development of his allotment would be foreclosed. I had
no authority from the Board to make such a statement, but
I felt it was necessary and was sure that I would be supported,
The following day the whole atmosphere among the settlers
was markedly improved.
That I was not considered to be soft on the settlers
was indicated when the Turlock paper offered a prize for the
Packard: best limerick. One of the contestants wrote the following:
There was a young dictator named Walter,
who came to Delhi to alter.
He sold some sand and said it was land.
To the state I am now a defaulter.
In the early fall of the second year, the colony staged
a big celebration. The Governor of the state and the members
of the Land Settlement Board were invited and came. About
1,500 people were fed at long tables erected in the pipe
shed. The wives of the settlers provided pumpkin pie for all
made from pumpkins grown on the project land. Vaughn Azhderian,
our neighbor in Imperial Valley days, then living in Turlock,
managed the barbeque; one steer and two lambs were used
as I recall it. Vaughn cut the meat up into hunks about the
size of cantaloupe, seasoned the meat thoroughly, then sewed
each piece up in cheese cloth and then put the whole lot
on top of gravel which covered the coals of an oak fire.
The hole was covered with planks and gravel piled on top
of the planks. When the cover was removed, after several
hours of cooking, the meat was tender and delicious. Other
attractions were exhibits by individual settlers of flower
and garden products, including pumpkins and watermelons.
After some speeches a tour of the colony was made by the officials.
Baum: Were the settlers making a living aside from the money they
weren t paying on their payments? Could they make a living?
Packard: No, not yet. A good many of them were working for the colony.
If they had a truck they were trucking pipe, or they were
Packard: digging ditches. Most of the ditches for the laying of pipe
were dug by hand. Some were working in the pipe shed. And
we had three or four working in the office. Quite a number
were being carried in that way. And they, of course, were
paying up. They were not delinquent.
Another factor which helped build morale was the issuance
of the Delhi News , a little mimeographed paper that went
out every week for several months and gave news of the
settlement. It created a lot of fun because it was very
personal, reciting incidents, funny and otherwise, which had
occured in the community.
Another community activity involved the planting of trees
on both sides of the state highway for a distance of about
six miles. The State Department of Forestry supplied the
trees and staked out the location. Delhi settlers and
business men from Turlock, Livingston, and Merced dug the
holes with equipment supplied by the colony. The State
Forester supervised the planting. All of the towns involved
had declared a holiday for the occasion and the women of the
colony supplied a lunch for everyone. The trees were black
locust which grew to a height of twenty-five feet or more
and made a fine showing especially during the flowering
period until the widening of the highway in recent years
into a four-lane freeway eliminated most of them.
Baum: Well, that country can certainly stand a few trees.
Packard: Yes. But for years, before the old highway was broadened
Packard: the trees provided quite a sight. It was a very successful
enterprise from that standpoint.
One of the important features of the Delhi colony was
the decision of the settlers to have but one breed of dairy
cattle and to insist on T.B. tested cows. After weeks of
discussion ,Holsteins were selected and all of those who
were going into the dairy business agreed not to buy any
other breed. Delhi was to be known as a Holstein community.
Since there were to be no large herds and since artificial
insemination was not yet developed, it seemed wise to have
a community bull to be owned cooperatively. As in most
situations of this kind, I, as superintendent, was appointed
to serve on the bull committee. After some correspondence
we found a bull on a Modesto dairy farm that seemed to fill
the bill. He was, understandably, rather reluctant to leave
when the committee appeared with a rather small truck. The
transfer was managed without any serious incident, but the
man who had promised to have a strong corral ready to receive
the bull had done nothing. However, there was a large iron
wheel, perhaps seven feet in diameter, which had been part
of an old threshing machine lying on the ground. It was
decided very foolishly, of course, to tie the bull to the
wheel with a very heavy rope and to build the corral the
next day. I was not personally accustomed to bulls so took
the advice of our livestock settler who claimed to be experienc
Packard: The next morning, a little after daybreak, I was called
on by some irate settlers. The bull, I found had walked
with the wheel until the rope broke and then he was loose.
During the night he had knocked down the tent in which a
settler--a graduate from Stanfordwas sleeping. He managed
to get out from under and ran bare-footed to widow Lee s house,
about a quarter of a mile away. By the time the children
were to go to school the whole settlement was aroused. And
again, as was the custom the superintendent had to do something
about it. I secured the cooperation of a would-be cowboy
who was working in the pipe shed. He had a trick pony and
said he was an expert with a rope. I borrowed a cow pony
and a lasso from one of the settlers and the two of us started
out in search of the bull. My cowboy friend managed to
get his rope around the bull s neck but he had made the mistake
of having the other end tied to the horn of his saddle.
The inevitable happened. The bull pulled the saddle off and
started for Mrs. Lee s garden. The saddle finally caught
in a fence and the rope broke. So there I was in an open
field with a thoroughly roused bull. I had been a very good
rider as a boy and had used a lasso, so I managed to get the
rope around the bull s neck and then rode with the bull
when he was not coming my way and kept ahead of him when
he changed directions. ( Laughter ) Being unused to such
vigorous exercise, the bull finally settled down and I was
able to wind the rope around a tree which held the bull while
Packard: an experienced dairyman put a ring in his nose with a stout
stick attached. All that was left to do was to lead the bull
down El Capitan, the main road through the colony, to a dairy
man s place where a proper corral had been built.
Baum: Was this bull enterprise successful then?
Packard: Yes it worked quite well, at least I don t recall any trouble.
But the T.B. testing hit a serious snag. Paul Dougherty,
of whom I have spoken before, was a leader in the dairy
project. He had a forty-five acre allotment and planned to
go into the dairy business. But for some reason which I
have never fully understood, Paul purchased a T.B. infested
herd, unknowingly, of course. According to the rules which
he had supported he was obligated to sell the infected cows.
But such a move would be disastrous. So what to do? That
was the question. Paul did get rid of the cows and I took
him on as assistant superintendent.
Baum: So whenever they got down and out, you hired them. ( Laughter )
Packard: Yes, I did just that on several occasions but in most cases
I couldn t have gotten better people. Paul Dougherty, for
example, was thoroughly well-informed, was a very hard worker,
and was completely loyal to the administration and the colony.
I couldn t have had a better assistant.
Baum: You couldn t have let him keep his T.B. herd. It would have
ruined your whole dairy program.
Packard: Yes, that s right. Paul acted in good faith. But he even
tually sold the allotment and went into teaching, first
Packard: in a Centerville high school and then as a professor of
agriculture at the San Luis Obispo State College.
Another incident relating to the dairy program which I
think is worth relating concerns a judgment which I made which
was arbitrary and perhaps wrong. At least it illustrates
a type of weakness often associated with bureaucracy. The
Epstein brothers had taken an allotment together, intending
to develop a sizable herd which was to be fed in a lot with
hay and grain to be purchased on the market. The barns
were to be equipped with the latest milking machines, refriger
ators and the like. The basic idea was sound as evidenced
by the fact that much of the milk in the state now comes
from just such enterprises. But it did not fit into my idea
of the sort of family farm the Land Settlement Board was trying
to develop. 1 rather arbitrarily rejected the Epstein s
application for a loan to start the venture. I have often
wondered what would have happened if these two very intelligent
families had gone ahead with their idea. They were very
cooperative members of the community but sold out and went
elsewhere when their plans were not supported.
Baum: You had to okay, or a committee, had to okay...
Packard: I had to okay the loan.
Baum: Oh, the loan, I see. If they d had the money they could have
done anything they wanted?
Packard: Oh yes.
Baum: Well, I guess that s the control any farmer is under, whether
Baum: he s in a colony or not. He has to get his loan okayed from
the bank or somewhere.
Packard: Yes, that s right. But, in retrospect, I think, I perhaps
would have done better if I had recommended the loans to
them on the basis they wanted. But I followed the principles
of the Board in not doing it. In any case they sold out and
went somewhere else.
Decreasing Demand for Land; Inexperienced Settlers
Packard: By the end of the second year it was apparent that there
was no pressing demand for farms. It was necessary, however,
to sell the land if the project was to be a solvent enterprise,
As a result of these circumstances the Board decided to adver
tise both in the Los Angeles area and in the Middle West.
An attractive Chamber of Commerce type booklet was printed
which described all of the advantages of this state project-
good soil, good water supply, easy credits, agricultural
advice and all the rest. A picture of a small fishing boat
on the Merced river added a sense of charm. But the results
were discouraging. People just did not want to go into
farming, in part, I suppose because of the agricultural
depression. The next move was to send Kreutzer to Chicago
and me to Los Angeles to drum up trade. The Chamber of
Commerce in Los Angeles was very helpful in offering desk
space and publicity. But still no demand.
Baum: Didn t anybody apply?
Packard: Oh yes, a few signed applications but the results were far
from encouraging, in part because some of those who came
were so inexperienced that they had no chance whatever of
succeeding. For example, I received an application from
a man and his wife. They had the required $1,500.00 and had
had an interview with Kreutzer. In their letter to me they
asked me to have five acres of the twenty-acre poultry
allotment planted to alfalfa so they would not be delayed
in getting started. On one fine spring day when the Cal
ifornia poppies were in full bloom, I met the couple at
the Ballico Station on the Santa Fe. I found our new settler
to be a slightly built man who had been a bookkeeper with
no farming experience. But he enthusiastically informed
me that he had taken a correspondence course on alfalfa
and had secured a grade of 100. When we arrived at his
allotment and started to walk through the young alfalfa
field where the alfalfa was mixed with a weed which would
disappear at the first cutting and was harmless, I could
see that Mr. was puzzled. He picked a stem of alfalfa
and said, "What is this?" I replied by saying that it was
what he had gotten a grade of 100 on. The inevitable result
was that his money was gone within three or four months and
I had to employ his wife as a secretary in the office. In
due time I managed to sell his farm for what it had cost
him and the two left for parts unknown.
Baum: Now, to what do you attribute his failure?
Packard: Oh, he was just not a farmer.
Baum: Was it necessary to know about farming, or couldn t he
have gotten enough assistance from you and other agric
ultural advisors to have learned about farming?
Packard: Well, in the first place, he was very much of a city man.
( Laughter ) He had no experience in farming. His approach
was all theoretical. He just wasn t prepared physically
or psychologically to do the kind of physical work required.
Another experience of a different kind involved a
worker who had settled on one of the two-acre farm laborer
allotments. He had a big family and my first involvement
with him came from a protest on the part of the school
teachers who complained that the children all had lice in
their hair. Since the Land Settlement law said nothing
about lice, I had to act on my own. In cooperation with
the teachers, the situation was remedied. My second
encounter came when his neighbors complained about the un
kempt character of his two-acre block. I found that he
planned to establish a small slaughter house on the place.
He assured me that it would be entirely sanitary because
he planned to feed all the waste to the hogs. I again
had to exercise rather arbitrary authority.
To offset this example, I should cite the case of Mr.
Prothero who was one of the original settlers. He was an
experienced poultry man who specialized in turkey raising.
His operations were very successful. I understand that
Packard: he became quite independently wealthy.
There was another outstanding example of success. But
it did not follow the small farm pattern which the Land
Settlement Act had envisioned. A settler came to Delhi
in the beginning and settled on one of the largest allot
ments. It was a ninety-acre tract in the sand dune section
of the colony. He had $40,000.00 to start with and he
knew exactly what he wanted to do. To make a long story
short, he planted his home allotment to peaches and when
the settlement got into trouble and all of the old policies
had been abandoned, he bought several settlers out and was
sold some of the undeveloped land in the Ballico area. As
a result he became the largest peach grower in the world,
and was worth more than $1,000,000.00 at the time of his
Veterans Administration Trainees
Packard: My most difficult personnel problems came from the
veterans who were clients of the Veterans Administration.
Some received monthly checks which were large enough to
enable them to get by with a minimum of work.
Baum: Were these men injured? Was that why they had a pension?
Packard: Yes. They all had some disability.
Baum: But not one that the Veterans Administration thought
would prevent them from farming?
Packard: That s right. They called them trainees. They were given
Packard: certain supervision by the Veterans Bureau, which was
supposed to help them.
One such had settled on a twenty-acre poultry allotment
before I arrived. He was getting $125.00 a month which
had considerable purchasing power at that time. He did
practically no work on his place, but spent much of his
time hanging around town where he could meet incoming settlers.
He never attended community meetings nor participated in
community activities. The time finally came when the Board
started foreclosure proceedings the first of two fore
closure proceedings while I was there. He agreed to accept
a price for the sale of his allotment to be set by a com
mittee of three, one to be appointed by me, another by
him and the third by these two. The committee was finally
appointed and met on his allotment to inspect the place
and to hear both sides of the dispute. The committee had
no difficulty in arriving at a figure which was entirely
satisfactory to me and to him. But his wife took an
unexpected hand in the proceedings by inviting me into the
house where she stood by a cupboard with her hand on a
loaded .25 revolver. She started a tirade against me by
calling me a liar, which under the circumstances I was not
inclined to argue about. The veteran entered the room,
saw what was happening and went quickly over to his wife
and took the gun away. I reacted with haste and got in
my car and drove away. When the time came to serve the
Packard: foreclosure notice I had a difficult decision to make.
His wife had told her neighbors that she would shoot me
if I ever put foot on the allotment again. In retrospect
I realize that I should have had the sheriff serve the
papers, but I somehow felt that my position in the community
was at stake. So, with Shattuck as a witness I drove in,
knocked at the back door, and handed the papers to the
man who accepted them without a word. But his wife pushed
through the door and launched an attack at me which was
ended immediately by the husband who held her while Shattuck
and I drove away. My next meeting with him was at a prune
hearing in Santa Rosa, eight years later. He greeted me
cordially like a long-lost friend. ( Laughter )
Baum: The wife s anger over the proceedings seems to have been
the cause of the trouble.
Packard: Yes that s true. But it was not her fault. She was sick
and consequently not normal. I felt badly about the whole
In another case, the villain in the plot was definitely
the settler rather than his wife. He was a veteranreceiving
aid from the Veterans Administration. The couple had
settled on a ten-acre poultry allotment and seemed to be
making progress. But in order to make things easier I
employed his wife as a stenographer in the office. She
appeared one morning in tears, saying that Charlie had not
returned home that night. I suggested that we drive to
Packard: town and examine the bank account, where she had a deposit
of about $700.00. We found, as I had suspected, that all
the money was gone. The situation was complicated by the
fact that she was expecting a baby in a couple of months.
There was nothing for Emma and me to do but take her into
our home until the baby came and she was able to move to
the Bay Area where she had friends. The last I heard of
the case the man had returned long enough to father another
child before again leaving for parts unknown.
Baum: What did the Veteran Bureau do?
Packard: I don t know. Red Cross paid hospital expenses for the
baby. She remained with us until the baby was two months
There was another case where an Army nurse from Texas
had written saying that she wanted a ten-acre block for
poultry. She wanted to go into the poultry business. I
wrote to her, after she told me something about her experience
and what her assets were. I recommended that she not come.
I said, "I don t think this is the place for you." But
one morning she showed up. "I m Miss Smith, from Texas."
( Laughter ) I said, "I thought I told you that you wouldn t
fit in here too well." She said, "Oh, but I want to. This
is just exactly what I want. And I ve got my mother with
me." Her mother was in her eighties and in a very short
time went completely blind. The two women, however, got
this ten-acre farm and wanted to start in with chickens
Packard: right away. She wanted a poultry house, which was prepared
and put on the property. Max Cook induced her to be sat
isfied with one small unit of her proposed poultry house.
But she wanted a thousand baby chicks to start. I said,
"Miss Smith, I don t think you should start with a thousand
chicks. Start with a hundred and see how you get along."
And so we gave her all the help we could on the theory
of chicken raising. But about a week later I drove by her
place and I called out, "How are the chicks coming along?"
And she said, "They re all dead." ( Laughter ) I said,
"They re all dead, why what s the matter?" She said, "I
fed them hen food instead of chick food and they re all
dead." She then thought she d go into strawberries.
( Laughter ) And one day I got a special delivery letter
from her mailed at the post office which was located within
a hundred feet of my officebut it was a special delivery
letter to me--to go out and help her with the strawberries.
She said she was having difficulty. This sort of thing
went on for a while longer until it became evident to her
that her plan wouldn t work. I remember one sight that
was quite pathetic. During the latter part of the time
that she was there, I went to her place and saw her old
mother, who was blind by that time, sitting in a chair out
on the front porch of her little house picking out the
seeds from sunflowers that they d grown on the place. The
seeds were to go into the feed mixture for the chickens.
Packard: The mother finally died, and there was a funeral service in
Merced for her. Miss Smith gave a beautiful eulogy to her
mother. And then shortly after that she decided that she
couldn t go on any longer and wanted to sell out. I was
able to sell her property to another settler for enough
money to pay her for everything that she had put into it.
So she left the colony with as much money as she had when
she came there. One of the county welfare officers wanted
to put her in an institution as a person unable to care
for herself. But I refused to go along and Miss Smith left
Delhi. About ten years later I met her in Portland where
she was an active and paid member of a Seventh Day Adventist
group, exuding the same enthusiasm that she had exhibited
In another case I managed to escape what might have
been a disaster. A socialist labor leader who was running
a small paper in San Francisco appeared one morning saying
that he had about decided to take out an allotment. He said
that he had never wielded a shovel but that he had wielded
a pen and thought he might like to be a part of this cooper
ative community. After a very short conference I was sure
that we did not need a pen wielder working with some of
our discontents. ( Laughter ) My persistence in urging
his reconsideration of his plan made him a little suspicious.
Besides that I think he had been talking to a disgruntled
settler and was about to resort to the use of his pen.
Packard: He left and I never heard from him again.
Baum: Now these veteran trainees, did they get special assistance-
more than the other settlers?
Packard: Yes. They received monthly checks for disabilities they
may have had. So they came in with an income already es
tablished, which enabled them to get in under the $1,500.00
limitation rather easily. Because where you have an income,
that s even better than having a cash sum at the beginning.
So some of the veterans were let in without the $1,500.00
cash requirement because they had income.
Baum: Did they have any other assistance, other than this little
amount of money? Was there anyone there to teach them
Packard: No. They got no other help from the Veterans Bureau.
They got the same help as everybody else did from the colony,
but nothing special.
Baum: Was there a Major Grant who was the leader of the critical
Baum: Was he a settler?
Packard: Oh, no. Major Grant was employed in the Veterans office
in San Francisco. And he was supervisor of the trainee
Baum: Did he feel this was the wrong kind of work for the veterans?
Packard: Oh, no. He favored the kind of work for the veterans but
he felt that the veterans in the colony were not making
Packard: good and that they would not be able to succeed. That
was his judgment.
Baum: But they were the wrong veterans for that job, for those
Packard: They were either the wrong ones or they weren t capable
of succeeding in the colony. That was his judgment.
Baum: Well then, that was no fault of the colony, was it? Or
did he feel that was the fault of the colony?
Packard: Well, he felt that we had probably taken on some veterans
who shouldn t have been accepted. But he recommended that
some settlers sell out and then go to other properties
and pay more for land than they were paying here.
Baum: I see. So in that instance he did think that the colony
was not a good place for them. He thought they were
suitable men to do farming.
Packard: Well, I don t know what his judgment on that was. He
never talked to me.
Settlers Organize to Demand More Aid from the State
Packard: The inevitable finally happened. A Welfare League was
organized by some of the settlers who were delinquent and
could see no way out unless the State made concessions-
reduced the price of land, extended the time for initial
payments and the like. This protest was entirely understand
able but as superintendent I felt that time would resolve
most of the problems if the Board would support the policies
Packard: which I was following; that is, doing all that I could
to help those who had a chance of succeeding and helping
the failures to get out with minimum losses.
A former preacher who was a settler was president of
the Delhi Settlers Welfare League, an organization of
hundred seventy-one of the two hundred eighty holders of
allotments in the colony. Without mincing words, he emphatic
ally declared conditions in the colony were becoming un
bearable, and stated:
" "We can t get by under present conditions. If we
don t get by, we re going broke. 1 The thing is an
economic problem and he called for solution on an
economic basis. Said he, Conditions in the colony
have gone from bad to worse. For months the settlers
have been coming to my home evenings in twos and threes
and sometimes as many as a dozen at a time. We decided
to organize a league at first, we called the Delhi
Settlers Defense League. Rather than have the name
create an antipathy on the part of the administration,
we changed to Delhi Settlers Welfare League. Almost
all the settlers are behind in their payments. The
contract with the state calls for the forfeiture of
all improvements in case the State Land Settlement
Board decides to cancel our delinquency and the improve
ments are taken as rental.
Of course, any bank would have done this. But we
didn t. None of that was done.
" The price we were forced to pay for land was too
high. The average has been more than two hundred dollars
for raw land. One piece of land, leveled for alfalfa,
just north is for sale for one hundred dollars an acre.
The two-hundred-acre Drew Ranch with all improvements
is offered for two hundred dollars an acre. This is
some of the best land of the Delhi district. It wasn t
the land that brought us here. It was the allurement
of low rates of interest and long term payments. We
were told we could come here with the $1,500.00 with
which to make an initial payment on our farms, bring
the farms to production, and support families with
loans made by the state. Now we are told the state
is without funds for further loans and we can t get
money. At the last election a two million dollar bond
issue for further development of Delhi and for new
settlement projects was voted down and hence there is
no money. The failure of settlers to be able to meet
their payments has cut off the administration from
funds it expected to receive. What we need here is
more money from which we may obtain loans at no interest
on deferred payments for a period of five years, thus
enabling us to tide ourselves over until our farms
begin to yield.
Another settler who declined to permit the use of
his name said, I put $9,000.00 into my allotment and
I m broke. I ve been here three years and have got
two years more to go before the sale of production
from my farm will meet the expenses and keep my family.
The land here is impoverished from seventy years of
grain farming. All of the humus has been taken out
and nothing put back in, making it impossible to produce
sweet potatoes and vegetables on a commercial basis.
To put me over the top would require the state giving
me a new price on my land of $150.00 an acre, instead
of $250.00, and to give me a new contract requiring no
interest on deferred payments for five years. 1
Discussing the situation from another angle the
settler asked, Can the state of California afford
to have this colony go to the wall with commissions
from all over the world coming here to inspect this
colony and with all of the alluring stories that have
been published in periodicals? Can you imagine the
damage that it will do to California if the Delhi
Colony fell flat? There isn t any way out of it
but for the state to take a loss here. It has got
to do something to assist the settlers." "
" "The Delhi Colony is not the failure some of the
Welfare Leagures represent it to be, 1 is the statement
of Dr. C. C. Crampton who is purchasing a sixty-acre
tract and building a modern home. Dr. Crampton is
president of the Delhi Cooperative League."
At this late date (May 18, 1967) I am unsure of the Crampton
facts. They did build a big home. At first, they were
cooperative later joined the dissenters.
Actually, when too many settlers were threatened with
Mrs . :
loss and failure (as they were for many causes) it was
natural to band together to try for "redress of grievances."
In my later judgment, there was the wrong psychology
about a State enterprise--"! m secure the state can t or
won t let me fail ."--"It s the state s bad judgment if this
doesn t work." The biggest percentage of settlers worked
hard and tried to do their part and felt the state wouldn t
let them down.
The atmosphere surrounding the work of the Welfare
League is well-illustrated by some notes which Emma made
at the time. They involved the community church and the
work of a missionary who had been sent to Delhi. He was
vigorously opposed to sin but what Emma did not like was
that I was considered to be the major sinner.
I won t read the notes, but the point of all this was
that Brother Gunn was a missionary from the Presbyterian
Church who was sent to organize this church, which was
organized as a community church, but under the sponsorship
of the Presbyterian denomination.
This was the only church there?
Yes. Naturally the church was open to all who conformed
to baptism and a belief in Christ as the Son of God. Mr.
Gunn was sent as the field organizer and had been working
with a canvass of the community.
The point was that as part of the sermon, which was
very orthodox, fundamentalist, Brother Gunn proceeded to
Packard: tell that it was a slave girl who guided her master to the
Lord and then explained that slavery didn t hold so much in
those days but while people were held in debt and mortgaged
to the limit of their resources it was virtual slavery.
This is from Emma s notes:
"So this was the kind of sermons they listened to
on Sundays! Some of them were already disgruntled.
It didn t take a very subtle person to see that his
sympathies were already with the Welfare League. That
was the one that was organized to take up the settlers
cudgels as against the administration. So they were
organized . "
This tells about the Welfare League:
"And presently he may be a Moses leading the children
of Delhi out of bondage, but what a start for a community
church! The inference through the sermon was quite
plain. That most of the residents were sinners, except
present company. Again, maybe it was only my egotism
that was hurt, but this time the inferences were decidedly
not complimentary to my husband, who, of course, was
the state. He carries out these dastardly acts of
taking a poor man s money from him. The fact that it s
never been done yet doesn t seem to matter. But now
I am in the position of having said I will support
financially any church the people would organize.
And in supporting it I will apparently be supporting
one more force to tear down and destroy the faith of
the community in the land settlement work that was
designed to help them."
Baum: This was when things were really hot, huh?
Baum: Near the end of the trail.
Packard: Yes, so far as I was concerned. Several things happened
as a result of the developing circumstances.
The Land Settlement Board held a meeting in Delhi to
hear complaints from the Welfare League members and to
Packard: make up their own minds as to what the real conditions
were. I was completely satisfied with the results of this
A hearing was held in Delhi by representatives of the
Veterans Administration. One of the trainees who had
been completely noncooperative was assigned the task of
bringing disgruntled settlers in to testify. Every care
was taken to keep me from knowing who testified. I presume
they feared I would act against them. In any case, the record
of this hearing, which was sent to Governor Richardson, was
sent to me for comment. The following is a condensation of
the points raised and my replies:
(a) The price of the land was excessive as compared
to similar land in the vicinity.
(ans.) The price of the land was set after a careful
investigation of 300 farms in the area by the University
(b) The cost of leveling and installing laterals was
more than the printed estimates called for.
(ans.) This is a positive statement with no evidence
to substantiate it. No printed estimate of the cost
of individual leveling and piping were ever made.
(c) Efficient and competent advice and instruction
was not furnished by the state to the degree which might
be expected from the language of the Act and the literature
published by the state.
(ans.) The wording of the Act is as follows: "to demon
strate the value of adequate capital and direction
in subdividing and preparing land for settlement."
The Act also says, "The Board shall appoint such
experts, technical and clerical assistance, as may
prove necessary." I then enumerated the long list
Packard: of services provided by the state. I ended by saying,
"In addition to the services above outlined, two men
were employed full-time to do nothing but give instruction
and help to the trainees. These men were in almost
daily contact with the Veterans Bureau representatives,
who never intimated to the state that the training was
(d) "That in many cases beneficiaries of the Bureau
lost at least a year s time because of the unsatisfactory
work and incompetent development instruction."
(ans.) "Six out of eighteen trainees have not been
in Delhi a year and have experienced no losses. Nine
others made no claim of loss. Three reported a loss
of treeswhich were replaced in each case free of
charge . "
(e) "That the record of quick returns from intercrops
or yearly corps does not substantiate the predictions
made in the literature advertising the Delhi project."
(ans.) "No prediction has been made in any literature
regarding intercrops which is misleading. --No testimony
was given to prove this other than opinion."
(f) "The Delhi Cooperative Association has been of
little practical assistance to the beneficiaries of
(ans.) "The Cooperative Association has been fostered
by the state in every way possible. The activities
have been subsidized by the state, and the officers
of the administration have given time and money to
promote the organization." I then supported this state
ment with figures and facts.
(g) Concerns charges of discrimination against ex-
service men, which I denied.
(h) Concerns the charge that there has not been the
degree of harmony between ex-service men, other settlers,
and the state that there should have been.
(i) Charges that the system of loans to trainees was
somewhat uncertain and variable.
Packard: (j) "That it is doubtful that some of the trainees
should remain in view of the records so far made."
To which I agreed.
(k) "That there is a very earnest desire on the part
of the majority of trainees that their enterprise shall
succeed." I agreed.
The nature of the recommendations is we 11 -summarized
by the following:
"That immediate surveys be made of each beneficiary
in order to determine his present situation, and a
conference held with the state official in order to
ascertain what his future power may be in order to
determine whether the individual trainee shall be
continued or transferred to some other character of
My general reply to this was as follows:
"I feel that the survey proposed by the Veterans
Bureau might be desirable, although the condition
of trainees has already been surveyed several times,
as many as five distinct budgets having been made for
trainees by representatives of the Veterans Bureau.
I feel that enough isi known about them now to make
definite recommendations. Assurance of loans can be
granted provided conditions warrant them, but that is
as far as the state can go."
charges of incompetence I made the following statement:
"The fact that the Delhi project is solvent and
shows a clear surplus of over $250,000.00 is at least
evidence that the state s business has been protected.
The following record of the prices charged by the
state, and the prices recommended by the Concrete
Pipe Manufacturers Association of California shows
that the pipe made by the state which totals more than
140 miles, has been made at a great saving to the state.
Diameter State price Assoc. price
30 $1.40 $2.26
24 1.00 1.50
20 .80 1.02
18 .65 .86
16 .40 .69
14 .35 .55
12 .30 .42
10 .20 .34
6 .15 .27
Packard: The amount charged by the state includes an ample margin
of safety above the cost.
"We invite the closest analysis of our cost accounts
of pipe manufacture, pipe laying and other engineering
work. The leveling has cost considerably less than
the leveling of adjoining farms due to the fact that
the pipe line is made at the lowest cost possible.
The irrigation system is as complete as any in the
State of California and has given excellent satisfaction.
The total cost of irrigation, including the charge of
the Turlock Irrigation District, runs around $4.00
an acre which is a low charge as compared with charges
in other districts of the state. A complete drainage
system is working in connection with the irrigation
system. The results of drainage have been somewhat
spectacular and have been the cause of considerable
interest on the part of engineers interested in this
"A saving of 20% in buildings has been secured as
the service has been paid for by the settlers, and this
can be proved from the figures in our files. Our
building service has been outstanding in its efficiency.
The desire of the state has been to put a minimum
amount of money in buildings and many thousands of
dollars have been saved settlers through this advice.
"The agricultural advice has been sound and the
development of the project so far has been based on
this advice. Over 1,800 acres have been planted to
alfalfa and the yields have been remarkably good. The
varieties of trees and vines have been actually purchased
through state effort. One of the dairy herds on the
settlement had the highest average of any dairy herd
in California in April of this year. In August this
same herd included the highest producing individual
according to the records of the U. S. Department of
Agriculture. The sweet potatoes produced in the settle
ment have been of unusual quality and this has been
recognized by the shippers. Last year s return from
potatoes was not satisfactory on account of market
conditions and lack of shipment. Over three cars of
fertilizer have been handled through the state and as
a result the production of alfalfa has more than doubled.
"In the testimony of Major Bates, in answering this
question-- You haven t received the instruction or
assistance you thought you would receive? , he uses the
following language, "Absolutely not. 1 Taking his
case as an illustration, the state gave him the
Packard: engineering service in the leveling of his land,
designing and supervising the construction of his
buildings, purchased the trees that were put out on
his place and made a hundred replacements of those
that died the first year, due to no fault of the
state s. This replacement was secured through the
nursery. The vines have been cared for, pruned and
trellised according to state advice. At least three
demonstrations have been conducted on his vineyard.
The state has had experts from the University help him
in pruning his trees and vines and in addition to this
personal service and these demonstrations, he has been
given written instruction in practically all the oper
ations that he has followed. The state conducted a
campaign against army worms which infested his vineyard
during his absence from the settlement. I am unable
to think of any development on his place in which
assistance has not been granted.
"In several cases mistakes have been acknowledged
and in most of these cases these mistakes have been
made by settlers who have been employed by the state
in accordance with the provisions of the act. In fact
some of the settlers who testified to many mistakes
made by the state were themselves the cause of these
very mistakes. In spite of the fact the state has
endeavored to employ settlers wherever possible, the
mistakes that have been made have certainly not been
in excess of the normal errors that occur in any
"The handling of the unusual conditions incident to
the light character of the soil and the heavy winds
has been the cause of much favorable comment. The
progress that has been made has been far in excess
of the progress made by any of the old residents of
this district and the losses that have occurred in the
handling of the elements have been no greater than the
losses due to natural conditions in other places.
For example, as much alfalfa has been lost in the
Durham settlement due to the character of their
heavy soil as has been lost in Delhi due to the action
of the wind."
Packard Resigns as Superintendent of Delhi
Baum: What happened next? You seemed to be running into trouble.
Packard: Several things happened. The whole structure seemed to
be falling on my head. I don t recall the exact sequence
of events, but I will continue the enumeration of events
which I started with. The Veterans Bureau recommended
that all eighteen trainees withdraw from the colony.
Baum: Why? Where could they get a better chance?
Packard: Well, not all of the trainees left. Several remained and
made good. I agreed that the majority might not succeed
and should leave. But I certainly did not agree that all
Dr. Mead left on a trip to Australia, leaving Kreutzer
in charge of the administrative duties which he had been
The financial situation was becoming critical. The
money in the original appropriation had been used up,
so Kreutzer and I had to go to Sacramento to negotiate
a loan of $10,000.00 from the State Controller. The
loan was to meet certain payments which would be due
before income would enable us to pay. This emergency was
met and the loan repaid.
Baum: What did you do next when your money ran out?
Packard: We had to go to the Federal Land Bank and make arrangements
with the Land Bank to make loans directly to settlers,
Packard: where we had already loaned money. Upon receiving the
new loans the settlers would pay the loans from the
state. The settlers would then owe the Land Bank instead
of the state. And the state would have money to loan to
other settlers to keep the thing going.
When Mead returned from Australia he immediately
sent his resignation to the Governor, saying that he was
not available for reappointtnent to the Board because he
had accepted a position as Commissioner of Reclamation
Baum: So he didn t get you out of a mess like you were hoping.
Packard: No, he didn t. Governor Richardson, who had never been
a Mead supporter, appointed Mr. Wooster, an old-time
real estate promoter, to the chairmanship of the Land
Settlement Board. His policy, as expressed to me was
"root, hog, or die." Strangely enough, Mr. Wooster
wanted me to stay and sent me a handwritten letter on
Pacific Union Club stationery expressing his confidence
in me. I was>however, completely opposed to Wooster "s
Articles for and against Delhi began to appear, the
most notable being one written by the venerable Edward F.
Adams, father of Frank Adams and founder of the Commonwealth
Club, entitled "The Truth about Delhi."
In view of all this I decided that I could do nothing
in trying to carry out the policies of the original
Packard: Board and sent in my resignation, which was accepted.
Baum: Before you tell about your next job, I have a few more
questions to ask you about Delhi. I wonder if you d like
to read this clipping into the record and then I ll ask
you a few questions.
Packard: After the hearing the committee reported to the legislature
that funds should be appropriated to make necessary adjust
Baum: Adjustments mean reducing the amount they d have to pay?
Packard: Yes, as indicated by the following account. This is
April 15, 1925.
"Three bills designed to bring relief to settlers
of the Delhi Land Settlement Colony passed the assembly
today. One measure appropriates $250,000.00 to pay
existing obligations and operating expenses, to be
repaid to the state with interest. Another bill
amends the Land Settlement Act authorizing a reduction
in the price of unsold lands and a revision of existing
contracts for settlers to meet present price conditions.
The reduction amounts to approximately thirty per
cent. The third measure eliminates interest charges
for the next five years on the two million dollars
loaned from the general fund of the Land Settlement
Board for the development of the Delhi project, this
being necessary to equalize the amount of reductions
in payments proposed to the settlers during the next
five years. Another bill which would appropriate
$350,000.00 for the Land Settlement Board with which
to pay to the state its arrears, which is merely a
method of balancing the books, was amended and prob
ably will be voted on tomorrow."
Baum: Did Dougherty remain on as superintendent there?
Packard: Well, he remained for a while after I left, but finally
sold his farm and left. Paul was very loyal to the Delhi
colony, to Mead, and to me, as evidenced by the following
statement which he made while criticism of the project
Packard: was at its height.
"Conditions are not as dark in the colony as some
of the Welfare Leaguers seem to think. We think the
colony is proving a success. The growth of trees
and vines is better than we had anticipated. If a
man comes here with $2,500.00 cash and with a family,
he s got to go out and get to work to tide him along.
In the second year with alfalfa a man can do much better.
It s much more in the man than in the amount of
capital he has when he comes here. There have been
few failures. We now have 85% of the original settlers.
Those who left were not all failures as some of them
left because of sales or because of other reasons,
among them death in the family bringing them inherit
ances. I think the majority of these people are going
to pull through. Some men fail with $10,000.00,
others made a success with a capital of but $1,000.00
in land settlement. Some settlers who were making
the best success came in with as little as $1,500.00.
The contention of representatives of the Delhi Settlers
Welfare League that lands in the colony have been
priced exorbitantly high is answered by Dougherty
that the price paid averages $225.00 an acre and that
this represents the cost of the land to the state
plus development and a safe margin. This development
work, he points out, includes the installation of
main pipe lines to the allotment boundary and whatever
pumps are required as well as the water rights. Once
the colony is developed, says Dougherty, the land will
be of high productivity and value and adapted to
permanent crops, such as peaches, grapes and the
This appraisal by Paul Dougherty more or less reflects
my own opinion at the time. And it also reflects the
intention of the state when the land settlement bill
was first passed.
Baum: I think, considering the time, Mr. Dougherty s statement
Packard: Later on Dougherty told me that his Thompson seedless
vineyard produced as much as sixteen tons to the acre,
which was a record yield for the state.
Packard: I think the failure at Delhi, at that time, was
simply the forerunner of the failure of tens of thousands
of farms over the state of California that were foreclosed
by the banks and taken over by the banks during the
depression. As Oscar Shattuck said, much later, "If we d
begun the project in 1939, war prices would have put the
thing over without anybody struggling at all. It was
just the wrong decade."
Baum: They said that there were seventy-five farms still open.
At the end of the second year there were seventy-five
farms still available out of the total.
Packard: Yes, I think that was it. Altogether when I left, there
were two hundred eighty five settlers in the colony.
My final act so far as the colony was concerned was
testimony before a hearing that was held in Delhi after
I had left. The hearing was held by a special committee
appointed by the legislature to conduct an investigation
of the colony and the status of the colony. At that time
I was opposed by nearly everyone who attended the meeting.
All the settlers were there and many of them were very
antagonisticpeople whom I had befriended and whom I thought
were my friends had suddenly become very antagonistic
in a very obvious way. If I went up to speak to them I
could see that it was embarrassing, even though they might
have wanted to talk to me, it was embarrassing for t -em to
do it. So I sat through the hearing listening to the
Packard: charges that were being made, many of which were completely
unfounded, and in the evening was asked to express my
viewpoint. At that time I said that I realized that the
situation was bad and that probably adjustments would
have to be made in order to carry the thing through.
But I still thought that if it was supported, it could
be made a success.
What were these notes made for, Mrs. Packard?
I had, for three years, been doing newspaper reporting
for the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Republican and the
Stockton Record . So I had checked all these clippings
and had quite a record and was used to tracking the facts
of things that were going on. So I thought this was
getting so hot and unpleasant that it would be just as
well to have something down about it because we would forget.
And, partly for the sake of the record, I d have something
to refer to. And, partly just for my own satisfaction
to have it down.
Baum: So you just took these as kind of a public diary.
Packard: Well, yes.
Let me just say, we have a record of all the clippings
that Mrs. Packard sent to the papers. And just a few of
the headings will show something of the type of thing
that was going on: "Berkeley Bankers Will Visit Delhi",
"Plan New Station at Delhi Settlement," "Delhi Veterans In
itiate Recruits ," "Farm Bureau Council Meets State Leaders,"
*Mrs. Packard s news clipping books have been deposited in
the Bancroft Library in the Walter Packard Collection.
"Rabbits Menace Delhi, Settlers Plan New Drive," "Vice-
President of the Peach Growers Association Will Meet
Fruit Growers at Delhi," and so forth. "Rules Issued
at Delhi for Use of Water," "Four Southern Pacific Officials
Visit Delhi," "Delhi Boys Form New Scout Group," "Delhi
Peach Men Hear Tree Address., " Old Settlers at Delhi Enjoy
Annual Banquet," "Organize Orchestra in Delhi Section,"
"Demonstration Agent Assists Delhi Group," "Eleven Hundred
Acres Alfalfa Planted at Delhi."
Community type things that went on.
I ve got some further questions for you now. I noticed
that you had a lot of planning in your Delhi program, the
settlers apparently would work with you before they would
go ahead. And there was planning in the way the town
was going to develop. How did the people react to that?
Did they object to that planning?
Not at all. They thought it was fine. They were all very
much for that. And that was one reason why they came to
the colony in the first place because it was advertised
as an area that was planned and where the University was
working with the Land Settlement Board and where conditions
would be, according to the theory, quite ideal. So they
were all very much in favor of it.
So there had already been a selective factor in that those
who decided to come approved of the plan and the idea.
Packard: Oh, yes. They wouldn t have come if they hadn t. They
came there largely because of that.
Baum: Then I suppose we can t use that as an example of how any
population would react to planning, since they were
already selected by that factor.
Packard: From that particular angle I suppose that s true. I don t
know though that people in general are against planning.
They generally like things that are planned out.
Baum: I don t know. Every time you try to plan a city or
anything, or one block, or zoning or anything, you have
a lot of agitation. And some people object to the idea
Packard: They didn t have to come to Delhi. I think the objection
to planning comes in an area that s already established
and the planning may change things. I think here, in a
new area, where you have a new settlement, they would
expect to have it planned.
Baum: We always have this idea of farmers as being people who
are each their own individual planners.
Packard: Yes, that s true. But the farmer is also a part of the
community especially on irrigation projects where he must
work in harmony with others.
* "An Economic Analysis of California Land Settlements at Durham
and Delhi," Roy James Smith, 1937, 424 pp. (Unpublished Ph.D.
thesis of Giannini Foundation)
A PERIOD OF BASIC ADJUSTMENT
A Try at Banking and Loan Work July 1924 - June 1926
Baum: After you left Delhi, what did you do next?
Packard: Anticipating my resignation as superintendent at Delhi,
I had taken a civil service examination for a job with the
Bureau of Reclamation. It was a job which dealt with the
settlement of land on a reclamation project and I thought
that my experience at Delhi would enable me to avoid mistakes
and perhaps do a better job than someone else who had not
had the experience that I d had.
I passed the examination. I saw Dr. Mead, who had
become Commissioner of Reclamation, about three months later
when he was in Berkeley on Bureau of Reclamation matters. He
told me at that time that I had passed the highest in the
written examination, but that he thought that my experience
was not the kind that would be of value to the Bureau.
He said that Mr. Wooster had told him that I had approved loans
to settlers that should never have been approved. And he
said that there were other things where he felt that I
was not competent. This in spite of the fact that every
loan that was approved at Delhi was approved by him, not
by me. I simply recommended loans and they were approved
by him as chairman of the Board. But in any case that cut
off this opportunity for continued public employment.
Packard: I couldn t go back to the University because by that time
the Delhi Colony was getting pretty badly advertised all over
the state and the University, quite logically, could not
take me back. But this does not mean that I was abandoned
by my friends in the University. Quite the contrary. They
were always ready to help when I called on them. Frank Adams,
Charles Shaw, Frederick Bioletti, Knowles Ryerson, Professor
Etcheverry, and later Dr. Harry Wellman, each in his way,
played his part in the shaping of my career after leaving
But it was Howard Whipple, then president of the First
National Bank of Turlock and later a Vice-President of the
Bank of America, who provided my first job in the commercial
world. He recommended me to the president of the Western
State Life Insurance Company who was looking for someone
to head the mortgage loan department.
The job required a great deal of traveling up and down
the state examining properties on which the company had
already made loans and examining property on which loans
were being considered. In my review of what the company had
done, I found that mistakes had been made in judgment that
astonished me. Loans were made on land that I thought was
so inferior that no bank would loan money on them at all.
And I found one case where the appraisal for one loan was
made on an entirely different farmnot the one on which
the loan was granted. I also was very much opposed to the
Packard: attitude of some of the officials of the company who were
in positions to reject or approve loans. In some cases
farmers who had spent a great deal of money in developing
their properties and had good going concerns but were tem
porarily in difficulty were closed out. Although they had
thousands of dollars in equities, they were unable to meet
Having had the attitude that the success of the farmer
was the important consideration, I was galled by what
appeared to me to be a wrong attitude. I began to feel
that I was in a position that I would not enjoy.
Baum: Was this a scheme to get the farms?
Packard: No. This was during the beginning of the agricultural
depression when loans made on farm mortgages were beginning
to be foreclosed all over the state. The Bank of America
took over thousands of farms. All lending institutions did
the same thing. I simply got in at the beginning of the
Baum: Well, I wondered if this Western States Life Insurance
Company had that policy of trying to get the...
Packard: No, not an avowed policy. It was just business. If borrowers
were delinquent, they were foreclosed, and that was that. The
farmers may have been very fine people and making every
effort in the world to succeed and with some prospect of
success, but the company interest came first. This was in
sharp contrast to the attitude that we had at Delhi
Packard: where we were interested in the success of the settlers.
The insurance company was too, but its primary interest was
in getting its interest on its loans. If a man didn t
pay, that was that. He was foreclosed according to the
In retrospect, I realize that I was facing a problem
involving issues and relationships which neither I nor
anyone else understood clearly.
In any case, Mr. Whipple recommended me for another
jobwhich if I made good would be the vice presidency of
the Bank of Palo Alto. I had an interview with Mr. Philip
Landsdale, president of the bank, who offered me the job
which, if I made good, would pay $10,000.00 a year. I was
naive enough to accept the job. The idea of living in Palo
Alto on $10,000.00 a year appealed to all of us, even though
neither Emma nor I had ever thought of me as a banker.
It did not take long to prove that such premonitions were
correct. I simply was not a banker. ( Laughter )
Owens Valley, Consultant for the Los Angeles Department of
Water and Power
Packard: Mr. Landsdale had told me that, as vice president, I
would be a sort of public relations man and that if I
were called upon to do some public service it would be proper
for me to do it. So, when I got a telephone call from the
head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power asking
me if I could go to Owens Valley to study the situation
Packard: and formulate any suggestions as to how the Department
might meet the opposition of the residents of the Valley to
the City s program. I was inwardly delighted because it
seemed to me to be the very kind of problem I would like
to get into. I think Mr. Landsdale was pleased too, because,
by that time, he was beginning to realize that I was not
the man he needed. In any case, I accepted the assignment
which was not to last long. But on the night train to
Mohave I felt, again, that sense of insecurity that had
engulfed me when I left Delhi.
I arrived in Independence during the peak of the crisis,
when a large group of Owens Valley people were physically
opposing the diversion of water by Los Angeles.
Baum: It seems that you went from one hot spot to another.
Packard: Yes, I certainly did. But, although I was getting back
into a field which suited my temperament and training, I
was not entirely happy. I remembered the fight that had
occurred when the Project was first proposed. Job Harriman,
the Socialist candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, had opposed
the plan because Harry Chandler and other propertied interests
in the San Fernando Valley which they owned and which was
to be irrigated by Owens Valley water. Job, whom I knew and
admired, had taken my brother John in as a partner in his
law firm. But many years had passed since those earlier
days and the newly created Los Angeles Department of Water
and Power was headed by staunch liberals who believed in
Packard: public ownership of both water and power.
Thus, although I was representing a powerful corporation,
the L.A. Department of Water and Power, against farmers and
others in Owens Valley, I felt that the overall public
good outweighed the interests of the relatively small number
of people of the Valley, provided their interests were
being properly cared for by the City. I found that the City
was buying land at prices far above any that could be justified
by income and much above the ordinary market price. I found,
too, that production of wealth in the Valley was not very
significant. I was convinced that what the City was doing
would by no means end the life in the Valley. The recreational
opportunities were superb and nothing could lessen the attrac
tiveness of the wonderful mountain scenery. My appraisal
of the opposition interests in the Valley was affected
adversely by the corrupt actions of the president of the
Owens Valley Irrigation District who was the leader of the
fight against the City. He had embezzled thousands of
dollars which he had used in promoting his extensive cattle
business. When he was later sent to the penitentiary the
opposition collapsed. At any rate I made a favorable report,
and was later asked to present the City s case at a public
meeting in Los Angeles.
Baum: What was your duty in Owens Valley exactly?
Packard: I was to survey the area and find out just what causing
these settlers to object. The City was paying high prices
Packard: for the land. The officials in charge felt that the City
was acting justly and that the interests of the growing
population in Los Angeles far outweighed the interests of
the small number of marginal farmers in the Valley. It
was an old, old settlement. People had lived there for a
couple of generations, and it was home to them. It was
an isolated community before the days of automobiles;
it was a little civilization all by itself. They were
closely and emotionally tied to the area. It is a beautiful
valley with the high Sierras to the west. Mount Whitney,
the highest point in the country, was in contrast to Death
Valley, the lowest point in the country, to the east.
The pioneer people just didn t want to move. They got big
money for their land, to be sure, but money didn t compensate.
Many of the farmers had gotten in the hands of real estate
promoters who sold them worthless land on which they could
not make a living. We saw several of these people hanging
around the town of Independence not knowing what to do next.
When I returned to Palo Alto, I realized that my tenure
of office was coming to an end. Mr. Landsdale had a large
cattle ranch bordering the Pacheco Pass in the Coast Range
and suggested that I might spend part of my time helping
him manage the property. But I had no interest in that field
and was not inclined to want to try.
When my position with the Bank of Palo Alto was terminated
I opened a consulting office in San Francisco. Although I
Packard: made my living as a consultant for many years later on,
this first adventure ended within a period of two weeks
or so, because I secured a consulting job with the National
Irrigation Commission of Mexico, which lasted about four
years. I was indebted to Prof. Charles Shaw of the Soil
Department of the College of Agriculture for this assign
ment. The Mexican Commission had asked Prof. Shaw for a
soils man to report on the suitability of the soils in the
various projects the Commission was building and Prof. Shaw
recommended me. This opened another exciting adventure for
me and the family.
MEXICO, 1926 - 1929
Soils Survey Assignments in Guatimape", Western Chihuahua,
Rio Salado, and Other Projects
Packard: My employment by the Comisi6n Nacional de Irrigation
of Mexico began in 1926 on a temporary basis. The Commission
had become deeply involved in an irrigation project in the
state of Durango and wanted a soil survey made of the area
to be irrigated. There was some question regarding its
suitability. I left home believing that I would be gone
three or four months. But as things turned out, I remained
in Mexico until the latter part of 1929.
I reported to the Commission in July 1926. The office
was in a picturesque old stone building called Casa Del Lago,
located in the center of Chapultepec Park. Mr. J. Sanchez
Mejorada, chairman of the Commission, became a lifelong
friend. He was an unusually large man, well-proportioned,
an excellent engineer, linguist, and acutely conscious of
the social problems facing Mexico. I was given a desk for
my headquarters and presented with maps and data on the
Guatimape" project in the state of Durango and was told to
leave just as soon as I felt I was ready. I rented a room
in a Mexican home with the full intention of learning Spanish
Packard: without delay--a task which I neglected shamefully because
the young Mexican men who were assigned to me wanted to
speak English. As I remember it, I never occupied the room
because I left for the field almost immediately.
I was met in Durango by an American engineer, Fred Hardy,
representing the J.G. White Co. of New York. He was an
old Mexican hand, who had a Mexican wife and could, of course,
speak perfect Spanish. We drove the sixty-odd miles to
Guatimapein a model-T Ford, stopping for lunch in a small
adobe town where I had my first acquaintance with a typical
toilet in a small Mexican town. The seats were raised
three or four feet above the floor as a precautionary
measure. The throne, as these seats were called, was
located over a yard where pigs had free play. I found this
arrangement much better than others that I encountered where
you entered the pig yard, picked up a stick provided for the
purpose , and then picked your location with your back to
the adobe wall, while the stick kept the pigs at bay!
In any case, we finally reached Guatimape", which is a
stop on the railroad running north from Durango which was
designed to serve the interests of Hacienda Guatimape", one of
the famous old Spanish holdings devoted to cattle raising.
The fighting bulls sent from Guatimape" to the bull ring in
Mexico City were famous. Juan Lasoya, the owner of the
hacienda had but recently returned from exile in Canada
where he had gone during the Pancho Villa days. He and his
Packard: frail wife were very lovable characters. Some years later
I was a guest in their home for a month or so.
I was housed, with several others, in one of several
high-ceilinged rooms surrounding a court, fifty or sixty
feet square. It was the original hacienda building, made
of adobe, with thick walls. The peon workers lived in
long rows of adobe houses clustered around the main build
ings reminding me of medieval estates I had seen in Europe.
The Guatimape" River, which was to supply the irrigation
water for the project, ran through the hacienda dividing
the building area into two parts. The proposed project
contained about 50,000 acres. The land formed the basin
of a laguna (lake) which had no outlet. A tunnel was to
be driven through the hills to provide drainage. But
I found the soils to be impossible. The content of salts,
particularly sodium carbonate (black alkali) was far above
any possible tolerance. I therefore had to submit an
I found that the land had been sold to the government
by four army generals, one of whom was living on the hacienda
while I was there. I decided to tell the general what I
thought of the project before leaving for Mexico City to
file my report. He said he thought I had a lot of nerve to
talk to him as I did but added that it made no difference
to him because the land had been paid for. He added, too,
that he knew the land was no good. In any case three of
Packard: these four generals were shot before I left Mexicotwo during
an attempted revolution, the other in a brawl. ( Laughter )
In contrast the Mexican technicians who were working with
me were delighted that I would report against a project
that had been approved by an important American engineering
company. The Commission was understandably concerned over
my report and sent two chemists to GuatimapS to check my
findings. They reported a higher concentration of salts
that I had found and the project was abandoned.
The work, however, was not without its comical side.
Two of my assistants, who were supposed to be soils men,
had a difficult time getting adjusted to the primitive
conditions at GuatimapS. At one time I had to go to Mexico
City and left instructions for considerable field work to
be done while I was gone. When I returned I found that
neither of the men had left the hacienda buildings and had
used the small amount of alcohol we had planned to use in
testing for black alkali, for alcohol rubs.
Baum: What was your relationship with the J.G. White Co.? Why
did the Commission hire you?
Packard: I was employed directly by the Commission and had no relation
ship with the White Co. , except as an independent technician
whose duty was to check up on the soils and agricultural
aspects of the projects the company was working on. The
Commission wanted a completely independent study of the
agricultural and economic features of the project which the
Packard: J.G. White Co. had approved from an engineering standpoint.
The Tightness of this judgment was confirmed in the case
of the Guatimape" project which had been approved for construc
tion by the White Co. before I made my report.
Packard: A somewhat similar situation developed on the second
project I was asked to examine. It was on the Papigochic
River in Western Chihuahua, a tributary of the Yaqui. The
chief engineer on the project was a dam expert. His book
of dam construction was a standard text. He had found
a wonderful place to build a dam and was very anxious to go
ahead. But the soil and topography were very unfavorable.
The mesa land to be irrigated was underlaid with an iron-
like hard-pan, often exposed on the surface and generally
too close to the surface for successful crop production.
As it happened, Mr. Frank Weymouth, one-time chief engineer
for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, had been hired by the
White Co. , and was visiting the project for the first time
while I was there. He sought me out and expressed his fear that
the project would not be successful. He supported my
adverse report. He became the chief engineer for the company,
a fact which gave me a good deal of encouragement, because,
by this time, the over-all manager of the White Co. was
ready to "boil me in oil," as he jocularly told Emma at
an Embassy reception. ( Laughter )
Baum: I should think so. ( Laughter )
Packard: There was one incident that was rather interesting. On
the way going out to the project I had hired a car and a
driver in Chihuahua to make this trip, which would take
more than a day. We camped out that night in the patio
of a rancho, consisting of adobe buildings on three sides
and open on the fourth. I was awakened by something
tugging at my pants which I used as a pillow. I raised
up on an elbow to face a Mexican, crouched by my head. He
obviously wanted my pocket-book. He was apparently as
frightened as I, because he ran back into one of the
buildings. Th whole group of Mexicans stood around as
we cooked our supper and breakfast on an open fire but
nothing was said about the night s incident.
My third assignment was also in Chihuahua. The head
quarters were at Meoqui on the Conchos River in the central
part of the state. The project had been rejected by the
J.G. White Company, perhaps because it involved no large
dam. ( Laughter ) After spending some time going over the
area to be irrigated, I recommended that the project be
built. As a result, the engineering features of the project
were re-examined and the project was approved and is now in
The Rio Salado Project
Packard: My fourth assignment was on the Don Martin project
on the Rio Salado in the state of Nuevo Le6n in northeastern
Mexico, not far from the Texas border. In this case the
project involved the building of a dam to store water for
the irrigation of a rather large area on both sides of the
river. The American engineer in charge was Andy Weiss, an
old Bureau of Reclamation man. On examination we found
that much of the land was underlaid with layers of solid
gypsum, which made the project questionable. By that time
Mr. A. Kocher , a veteran soil survey man from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, had been added to my staff.
By making a reconnaissance survey of the soil conditions
on both sides of the river lower down, we were able to select
an alternate area of excellent brown loam soils, well adapted
for irrigation. In facing this discovery the engineers
found that they could get water on the lower land at an
estimated saving of half a million pesos. The project
was approved and is in successful operation.
Chief of the Department of Agronomy of the National Irrigation
Baum: Let s see, you had four temporary assignments?
Packard: No. After my report on the Guatimape" project, the Commission
Packard: appointed me as head of the soils department of the Commission.
My title was "Jefe De Departmento Agronomico del Comision
Nacional de Irrigacion," and I was placed on a salary of
$10,000.00 per year. This was engineered, in part, by
Professor Charles Shaw who had recommended me in the first
place. He had spent a month of his summer vacation in
reporting on a project in Central Mexico and consequently
had an opportunity to confer with the Commission regarding
Baum: Were you paid in dollars?
Packard: No. I was paid in gold pesos which had a stable value.
Sometimes I would be paid by check and sometimes in fifty-
peso gold coins, which was quite a thrill. Silver pesos,
however, were what we used to pay bills. On trips I would
have to carry sacks of silver pesos. When my official
appointment was made, the Department of Agronomy of the
Commission became the official soil survey agency of the
government. A laboratory was established in Mexico City
where all soil analyses were made thereafter.
Baum: What kind of work was done in the field?
Packard: Soil surveys were made with the use of plane tables.
Boundaries of different soil types were recorded as accurately
as possible. A new method was used in studying the soil
profiles. Typical soil areas would be selected and holes
dug to a depth of four feet or more as conditions dictated.
The holes were large enough to permit one man to enter and
Packard: study the soil stratification as a means of determining its
relative suitability for irrigation. Labor was cheap and
the method was useful because it avoided guesswork. The
various types of soil, based upon these rather careful
field studies would be classified, given a name and mapped
in color, following the techniques employed by the Soil
Survey Department of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Where possible the soil maps were transferred to
topographical maps on which the distribution system would
be laid out and the land subdivided into farms of varying
sizes depending upon the character of both the soil and
Problems of Land Holding
Baum: Was your department in charge of land settlement too?
Packard: No, it was not. But your question raises an interesting
issue. The Irrigation Commission was responsible for
developing much needed water supplies. Rainfall in Mexico
is seasonal. Without storage the runoff during the rainy
season left the land dry during the dry months. Only by
storing this runoff could the land be made really productive
Under irrigation almost anything could be grown and in some
cases two or three crops a year could be secured. It was
my responsibility to see that water was developed for the
best land available.
The settlement of the land was the responsibility of
Packard: those in charge of the land reform program. My contact
with this group, unfortunately for me, was very slight.
One reason for this was an understandable disinclination on
the part of the Mexican agrarian leaders to want advice
from the outside.
The land problem in Mexico had its roots in the pre-
Spanish Aztec days when Indian villages had their ejidos,
or common lands, capable of meeting the communal needs
of the people. These ejidos were recognized, at first,
by the Spanish conquerors. But as time went on the village
lands or ejidos were incorporated into large estates by
various means. This anti-social action reached a climax
under Porfirio Diaz whose arbitrary action brought on the
Madera Revolution of 1910, a portion of which I encountered
when we lived in Imperial Valley, as previously recorded.
The first land reform laws were passed in 1915 and later
incorporated in the famous Article 27 of the Constitution
of 1917, which provided for the breaking up of large land
holdings to be distributed to individual landless families.
This alone left the little fellow at the mercy of loan
sharks and others who could exploit their ignorance, their
lack of capital, and their inability to act collectively
in their own individual interests. Many considered the
small holdings to be subsistence homesteads which would
relieve the hacienda owner from a traditional responsibility
for their welfare while still providing him with a cheap
Packard: unorganized labor supply. This was the status of the land
reform program when I entered Mexico. But a great forward
step was made in 1926 through the establishment of a National
Land Bank, in a position to give credit to ejidos in nine
states to start with. Agricultural Credit Societies, subsidiary
to the Bank, were established throughout the country.
Baum: Were you involved in any of this new movement?
Packard: No. I was interested in what was being done but I had
no responsibility in that field. Although I made planned
subdivisions on one or two projects, I was never involved
in actual settlement.
The problems facing the Mexican people are the same
as the problem facing people everywhere. The population
explosion and the inadequacy of the means of production
exert an inexorable influence. When I went to Mexico in
1926 the population was a little over fifteen million.
It is now about forty million and still increasing. The
land problem itself was not different basically from the
land problem faced by the Resettlement Administration in
the United States or the land problem faced by Russia
following the Revolution of 1917. The question is this,
"How can the economies and efficiency of industrial pro
duction be attained in agriculture without losing the social
values associated, traditionally, with the family farm?"
Although I was not involved in the settlement program
I became interested in housing on farms. With the consent
Packard: of the Commission I employed a young architect, named
Arturo Albuto, to work on the housing problem. He was
a graduate of the Architecture School in Mexico City but
was the son of a peon and had been raised under the primitive
conditions of the Mexican rural villages and consequently
understood village life. My purpose was to adapt modern
ideas of convenience, sanitation, and the like but using
adobe as the building materials and using thatched roofs
where conditions made this practical. Some of these designs
are included in the material being submitted with this
Baum: They look like very simple houses to me. But I suppose
they were quite an improvement over what they had.
Packard: Yes, they were simple. They had to be to come within the
financial resources of these very low income people. They
did represent a very decided improvement. This effort was
a beginning which I understand had an effect on building
programs in later years.
An incident will illustrate what I mean. One of my
assistants and I had to spend a night in a typical adobe
house belonging to a sheep herder. The gas in our car
contained water and we had to leave the car and look for
some place to stay. We were picked up by this sheep man
who was riding in a two-wheeled cart pulled by a burro.
He invited us to stay overnight. For supper we had goat s
milk and corn bread cooked in an iron skillet on an open
Packard: fire in one corner of the room. We slept on the floor
in a room with no door, and I had to rescue my leather boots
from a sow and her pigs who wandered in during the night.
After a breakfast of more corn meal bread and goat s milk,
we started to walk to camp about twenty miles away when
we were picked up by some friends who had started a search
for us when we failed to show up for breakfast.
Baum: Then you were responsible for the physical and economic
feasibility of the irrigation projects only.
Packard: Yes. I had no official connection with the ejido movement,
j This does not mean that I was disinterested in the problem.
I conferred with local officials of the agricultural banks,
particularly in the Laguna area of the state of Coahuila--
a rich cotton producing area where a special effort was
made to make the ejido system work. I attended a meeting
in one of the ejido settlements, where plans for the
coming year were discussed. I was impressed by the difficulties
presented in trying to implement a producer-type cooperative.
Baum: Did you think it was a successful system?
Packard: I was unable to make any satisfactory judgement. My
friend, Clarence Senior, whom I worked with in Puerto
Rico some years later, made a study of the ejido system
and published his findings in a book entitled Land Reform
in Democracy in which he extols the system. His analysis,
however, does not convince me that the ejido system provides
a final answer to the agrarian problem.
Packard: I came in contact with two Mennonite settlements, one
in the state of Chihuahua and the other in northern Durango.
They lived in adobe houses with dirt floors. But they
were often in two-story houses and were always white-washed
inside and kept very clean. The houses were located
in villages on the European plan. The farms were large
enough to support a family rather well. A forty-acre farm
was perhaps the average. This was much larger than an ejido
allotment. The Mennonites used tractors and had threshing
machines and the like. As a result of their superior
husbandry their yields were much above the yields on
neighboring Mexican farms. They were tolerated by the
Mexican Government but there was little contact between
the Mennonites and their Mexican neighbors, at least
while I was there.
After finishing the Don Martin project survey I was
assigned to various other projects. Most of the work
however consisted of reconnaisance studies of general areas
where the Commission thought projects might be established.
An important part of my responsibility was to train
Mexican technicians to carry on the work when I might
leave. The "Departmento de Agronomo" became a permanent
institution with responsibility for all soil survey work
in Mexico. A well-equipped soils laboratory was established
Packard: in Mexico City as headquarters for the soils department.
There was a very good feeling among the members of the
group. I amused them by my expression, "All right, let s
vamonos," as I did many years later in Greece by constantly
saying "endoxie pame" (All right, let s go.) The young
men who joined me in Guatimape stayed with me during the
duration of my stay in Mexico. I recall Guillermo Liera
with greatest affection. He was a graduate from the Agricul
tural College in Juarez across the river from El Paso and
could, quite understandably speak excellent English. I
often played tennis with the very charming Durango girl
who later became his wife. I was also honored by being
the godfather of their children. Liera became governor of
the state of Sinaloa and later became Secretary of the
Interior in Mexico City.
Antonio Rodriguez was another of my assistants who
became a close friend. He had been educated in Texas as
an engineer but chose to switch to soils while working on
the GuatimapS project.
One of these men, Mr. Salorzano, was the husband of
President Calles niece. He showed up one morning saying
that he had been assigned to me. I sized him up immediately
as a man who probably would not fit into the organization
at all. He was obviously a politician. But the commission
wanted me to carry on with him in any case, which proved
T! See the book on Sinaloa and the letter from Liera in
1940, in the Packard Papers in the Bancroft Library.
Packard: to be a little difficult. He wouldn t show up until ten
or eleven o clock in the morning, if at all, and never was
able to do anything that was constructive.
After a trip to the Meoqui project where we were to hold
a summer school on soil surveying. Prof. Charles Shaw was
to come down from the University of California to conduct
this summer school and all of the employees of my depart
ment were to be there for special training. Salorzano
was among them. When we got back, and his expense account
came across my desk I found that he was charging fourteen
pesos for a room I knew cost him two pesos. I saw other
items which were exaggerated in the same way. So I said,
"Well, I can t approve this expense account. You re
making more money on your room than some of these other
boys who graduated from the same school you did are getting
as salary. I can t approve this." He was obviously vexed.
He grabbed the account off my desk very irritably and said,
"All right, I ll change it." On examining the new account
the next morning I found the room rent was two pesos. But
the total of the bill was exactly the same as it was the
day before. So I said, "It s the total that s got to be
reduced to a reasonable amount or I will not approve it."
This time he was not just vexed. He was mad and said he d
get it through the Controller anyway. He didn t have to
have my approval. ( Laughter ) And so he sailed out of
the office and I called the head of the Commission, Mr. Sanchez
Packard: Mejorada, and told him what had happened. He said that
that was precisely why the Commission sent Salorzano to me.
They knew he would pad expense accounts and thought that
I would catch it. I was told that the Commission would
back me up and the bill would not be paid.
But three days later I went on another assignment to
the Yaqui Valley in the state of Sonora. I was there for
about a month when I saw in the paper that the commission
had been discharged by the new president, President Portes,
and that a new commission had been appointed. So I thought,
now is the time for me to get back to Mexico City, which
I did. On entering the office of the new commission I
encountered my old friend Salorzano sitting in the seat
of power. He was the executive secretary of the new board.
So, without any discussion at all I said, "Well, Mr.
Salorzano, how much time will you give me?" And he said,
"Can you finish things up in a month, Mr. Packard?" And
I said, "Yes, I can." So that was the end of my job in
Mexico. ( Laughter )
Personal Experiences, Violence and Anti -Government Forces
Baum: Well, what was Mrs. Packard doing when you were in Mexico?
Packard: She remained in California for a little more than a year
and then joined me. This simple statement, though , does
not present the full facts. When I left for Mexico, Clara
was in her senior year in high school in Palo Alto and
Packard: Emmy Lou was not at all well. My appointment was on a
temporary basis at first and Mexico was still in a rev
olutionary period. In view of all of these factors it seemed
wise to have Emma and the two girls remain in Palo Alto, at
least until Clara finished high school.
My mother died in the summer of 1927 and I returned
to Pasadena for the funeral and to be with my bereaved
father for as long a time as I could spare. I took advan
tage of the leave to return to Palo Alto with Emma to
decide what to do about Emmy Lou s illness which had been
diagnosed by Dr. Russell Lee of Palo Alto as diabetes.
On the doctor s advice I took Emmy Lou to the Sansum Clinic
in Santa Barbara where she remained for two months. She
was one of several young persons to be put on insulin.
Both she and Emma became thoroughly familiar with all aspects
of her case and with the use of insulin so it was possible
for her to make the trip to Mexico City when the time came.
But this took time and we decided to have Clara join
me on the Meoqui project following her graduation. I met
Clara at El Paso and took her to Meoqui where we settled
in an adobe house with dirt floors and a big luscious fig
tree in the patio. When my work was finished we went to
Mexico City taking rooms in the Hotel Geneve.
Baum: When did Mrs. Packard and Emmy Lou join you two?
Packard: It was some months later and therein lies a story which
Emma can tell better than I.
September 24, 1926
Walter E. Packard, Chief
of Irrigation Projects
Tells of Work
BEING SPLIT UP
Says President Calles Is
Honest, Capable and
Walter E. Packard, chief of the
division of agriculture of the Na
tional Irrigation Commission of
Mexico, called to Pasadena from
his work in the southern republic
by the death of his mother, Mrs.
Clara A. Packard, finds that Mex
ico, rich in resources but com
paratively poor in ready funds, nas
a bright future under the fairest
and most intelligent president it
has ever had. Far from being
"bolshevistic," the government of
Mexico is proceeding to develop
the country on a sound economic
basis for the good of the people of
the republic, he says.
Mr. Packard, chosen among ag
riculturists of the United States to
lead in the development of the vast
resources in land and water of the
republic of Mexico, has just got
well started towards a survey of
numerous irrigation and farming
projects throughout most of the
states of Mexico, those in the arid
or semi-arid regions about and
north of the City of Mexico, we
left his work in the state of Du-
rango to come to Pasadena, and
will go back immediately to take
up the important work again. Mr.
Packard s friends state that no one
is better qualified to serve the
Mexican government in this vital
work than he, his background be
ing over ten years in investga-
tional and experimental work in
California, two years as traveling
instructor for the University of
California, College of Agriculture,
,uid two years study of agricultural
economics at Harvard University,.
besides being chief aid to F.hvood
Mead, national director of reclamfc-
tioii, for two vears.
Pleased With Work
"Jefe el Departmcnte Keonomico
Nationale Comision de Irrigacion"
is the title on the main entrance
of Mr. Packard s office suite in
Mexico City. His work is said to
have greatly pleased President
Calles, and it is believed that he
will be kept in Mexico for several
years to see that the projects he
recommends are properly carried
out. While in California he will
secure a competent engineer to
take charge of the soil surveys in
the irrigation projects he is now
Contrary to expectations, the
climate in Mexico is delightful at
this time of the year, being similar
to the California spring, ^fr. Pack
ard says. He has experienced
more warm days during the past
week in Pasadena than he has felt
during his three months stay in
Mexico. The chief drawback to life
in Mexico is the poor food and
poorer roads in the country dis
tricts. These he must endure in
helping to build up the agricul
tural industry of the republic. Fri-
joles and tortillas three times a day
is his fare if he can get them, and
the roads are frightful.
Huge Sum Available
Some time ago, the Mexican
government organized the National
Commission of Irrigation, which is
similar to the American Reclama
tion Service, and a revolving fund
of 60,000,000 pesos was voted to
grease the wheels which were to
liquidate for the benefit of settlers
the great latent agricultural and
water resources of the republic.
Mr. Packard was secured as chief
of the division of agriculture in
this commission, and J. D. White,
noted New York engineer, was
hired to take charge of the con
struction of dams and waterways.
The first work to be done was to
survey the projects, find out what
the systems would cost, and report
to the commission. This work is
being done by Mr. Packard with a
large force of American and Mexi
Some very high and costly dam?
have already been authorized and
will be constructed under the new
system. One project in Michoacan
has already been passed by the
commission, and the report on the
Durango projects will be ready
Under Feudal System
Mexico is just now emerging
from a feudal system similar to that
in vogue in Europe some years
ago. The large landed estates or
haciendas were and are held by fam
ilies who leased small farms aver
aging about seven hectares to in
dividual Mexicans. These farmers
raised just about enough to keep
body and soul together. They had
no surplus to trade for clothing,
books, dairy products, implements
or house furnishings.
Under President Calles new sys
tem, these huge haciendas are to be
subdivided into ranches of forty
hectares, or about ninety acres,
and leased or sold to the people on
easy terms. With larger ranches,
the Mexican farmer can raise a
surplus which can be sold, thus se
curing funds for necessities and
so me luxuries, and bettering the
economic condition of the country.
In almost every case the own-
(Continued from Pngc Stvtnittm)
ers of these large estates are co
operating with the government in
splitting up of the huge haciendas
for sale to the people. In some
cases the government buys out the
owners, paying cash; in others the
government puts up half the
money, and in f few the hacienda
owners furnish! all the capital to
develop the water system and
place the farms on sale.
"\Vater is a national asset in
Mexico, and should be here," says
Mr. Packard. "We go to the own
ers of haciendas where there is a
water supply, and first try and in
duce him to subdivide his land,
and construct and finance the ir
rigation projects. We impress upon
him the necessity of conserving
the water for irrigation as a na
tional resource. This is the begin
ning of an attempt to work out the
agrarian problems of Mexico.
"Most of the crops of Northern
Mexico, chiefly Mexican June corn,
red beans or frijoles, chiles and
potatoes, are raised without irriga
tion. The rainfall is sufficient for
the full development of these
crops about three years in five. In
the other two years the farmer
loses his crops, and privation is the
result. We are trying to make
farming a safe economic project
with the aid of these irrigation
projects. These water projects will
be established under the farm ad
viser system, and livestock will be
introduced to supplement field and
orchard crops. A great national
system of highways is also being
"The feeling is very friendly to
wards Americans in Mexico now,
and I am as safe in the interior of
the country now as I am in Pasa- :
Work in Mexico
WALTER E. PACKARD
Agricultural Expert Here Tells
What Republic Is Doing
dcna. The malcontents are being
disarmed as are all tlie people ex
cept government officials. Mexico
is very well policed, and President
Calles is a sincere, honest and
"As regards construction of
Boulder Dam, my belief is that the
Mexican government will request
some sort of treaty setting forth the
exact amount of water which will
accrue to Mexican lands before this
great project Is commenced. This
amount of water, probably, will be
based on that used at the time of
treaty for Mexican lands south of
the Imperial Valley in Lower Cali
Mrs. : Walter had arranged for me to meet him in Mexico City
in the fall of 1927. He assured me that everything was
safe in spite of occasional train derailments and the like.
So Emmy Lou and I went to Pasadena for a few days visit
before leaving for Mexico. But when I emerged from the
ticket office where I had just purchased the two tickets,
a special extra paper was on the stand, carrying the news
that a bridge had been blown up on the line I was to take
and that travel was unsafe. ( Laughter ) I cancelled the
tickets and went back to Father Packard s house to await
developments. In answer to my urgent telegram, Walter
again assured me that I would be safe, especially if I
took the shorter line from Laredo to Mexico City, in part,
because no trouble had occurred on that line.
But as luck would have it, I picked a train that was
blown up. I can tell the story best by reading from a
letter I sent to my mother at the time.
October 25, 19%7
We have been in Mexico City a week today and have
only been held up once and that was on the way down.
We left Laredo about 11 p.m. last Monday, expecting
to be in Mexico City at 8 p.m. Tuesday. I woke about
sun-up Tuesday and looked out to see a wild country much
like Arizona or Texas though with more vegetation-
huge cactus and mesquite trees with mountains or foot
hills in the background. I decided to get up and dress
about 7 o clock. Everyone else on the train seemed
to be asleep. I had just about finished dressing and
was nearly ready to go back to the berth when "Bang"
went a fairly heavy explosion followed by the crack
of rifle shots. I had just been mentally congratulating
myself that now it was daylight we would likely not
be held up. But I immediately recognized the rifle
Mrs. : fire and the smell of burned powder and knew we were
Packard in for something. I wasn t frightened for some reason
but thought of Emmy Lou and crawled on my hands and
knees to the berth. I pulled her onto the floor. She
was laughing, and skeptical that it was a holdup. But
then the other passengers began to appear in their
pajamas. It was funny to see them lying along
the aisle. However, the firing stopped and the conductor
came into the car and told us to get dressed and to
keep away from the windows and that we were safe , they
might go through the car and take our money but would
not hurt us. Some of the men passengers were simply
quaking from fright or nervousness, especially two
government officials. The porter came through and gave
everyone a stiff glass of cognac. I peeped out the
crack in the curtain and right below my window were three
of the revolutionaries, or bandits- -whatever they were.
They were exactly like a Hollywood movie outf it--bright
serapes and mounted on mustangs. All carried rifles.
Of course the train had stopped at the first bang and
there we stood a good four hour ride from the nearest
A strapping American engineer came in from the
coach ahead and said he had had a close call, as he
was in front of the car next to where the blast struck.
They had put a charge of dynamite on the tracks to
blow up the engine or the baggage car to get a big
shipment of gold they thought was being shipped from
Monterey to the Bank of Mexico in Mexico City. The
blast hit the second class coach instead. Mr. Scott,
the engineer, was working with a telephone company and
said as soon as it was safe to venture outside he would
tap the wires that were near the track and call for
In the meantime we watched the bandits, of whom
we counted about forty or fifty, take the strong boxes
out of the express car and drag them about a hundred
yards away and blow them up. They then crowded about
and took whatever there was. In about half an hour they
were all through and rode away through the brush.
Everyone in the car was jabbering in English and Spanish.
The conductor came in and gave us a speech in Spanish--
which was not translated to me. But I found that it
was a polite assurance from the bandits that they had
no intention of bothering the passengers. All they
were interested in was the big loot.
Mr. Scott came in soon after the bandits left and
asked if any of the American women could do first aid.
Mrs. : Up to that time I had no idea that anyone was hurt.
Packard We went three cars ahead and I never hope to see a worse
sight. The peons car was simply in shambles. The
blast had torn out most of the floor in the middle of
the car and six or eight desperately wounded were lying
around groaning. They had already moved some of the
lesser wounded to the other coach. The men found a
first aid kit in the Pullman car and as there was not
a single doctor or nurse aboard we simply had to do
the best we could. I was the only one who knew how to
give a hypodermic, thanks to my insulin training, so
I went at that while the men put tourniquets on terribly
wounded legs. We could find only five shots of morphine,
which was not nearly enough. I gave them to the ones
who seemed the worst and it was hard to say who needed
it the most. One poor chap who had lost a foot had
to go without morphine so I ransacked my own kit and
found enough sleeping tablets to put him under. Later
we found a woman in the other car who needed relief
badly, but all I could find for her was the last of
a little cough medicine, containing codeine, but it
was not enough to do her any good. I had to laugh,
almost, when I found myself about to pour some Williams
shaving lotion down her throat, which was in a bottle
similar to the one containing the cough medicine. We
put splints on ever so many broken legs and then went
around with hot water, cotton and iodine, and sterilized
and dressed as many of the cuts as we could. After
an hour and a half, we had done as much as we could, so
escaped to the diner to get some coffee, as it was
nine-thirty and we had had no breakfast.
The relief train did not come for four hours. Finally
the Mexican Red Cross took the wounded to San Luis Potosi
and we finally went on our way after seven hours delay.
Emmy Lou did not see any of the bad part so she
thought it was quite a lark and thought that we had
something more in the way of experience than Walter or
Clara, who have not been held up once. She had a lot
of fun counting bandits through the crack in the curtain.
She has been drawing them ever since.
I forgot to say we had an armed car attached to the
train but the soldiers were outnumbered three to one
and ran from the train to hide in the brush until the
bandits left which was the best thing for us because
there was no more shooting.
Packard: About a month later Clara and I were in a day coach
attached to a freight train with an armored car full of
Packard: soldiers forming the caboose. The train slowed down at an
isolated spot and the soldiers began firing at horsemen
riding around the train. They had put some ties in the
track to stop the train at a point which seemed favorable
for a holdup. We and the others in the car dropped to
the floor, built up barricades with our suitcases, and waited
for the shooting to stop. I was, of course, frightened
because I had heard enough stories of violence to be cautious.
But Clara was excited and called to me saying, "Now Emmy
Lou can t say she is the only one that has been held up."
In our case the soldiers got out of the car and formed a
skirmish line lying down flat between occasional advances.
Finally the bandits went down into a ravine out of range
and we proceeded on our way after the conductor and the
brakeman removed the ties from the track.
Baum: Were these just bandits?
Packard: They may have been in this case but most of the trouble of
this kind was the work of the Christeros--armed groups fighting
for the Church. Their objective was to embarrass the gov
There was no question about the identity of the attackers
on another occasion when I was on the main train on the
El Paso-Mexico City line. My train, carrying two armored
cars, was preceded by an engine and caboose to serve as
a pilot in case the track had been tampered with. In this
case, the outside rails on a sharp turn had been loosened
Packard: by drawing out the spikes. When the pilot engine hit the
curve it ran off the track and turned over on its side.
Our train stopped and switched one of the armored cars off
the train and carried the soldiers down where they could
fight. As I gathered the facts, about 150 Christeros had
attacked the small group on the pilot engine and caboose.
They were carrying banners reading, "Vive Cristo rey," the
usual Christero slogan. Just what happened I do not know,
except that when our train was pulled up and we had to walk
around the wreck, the soldiers were carrying dead Christeros
from the brush-covered hill and burying them in a trench
dug along the right of way. The engineer and fireman had
been badly burned by escaping steam and were carried to
Aguascalientes in our car.
Baum: Was it common for track to be taken up?
Packard: Yes, it was. It was because of this that the device of the
pilot train of engine and caboose was adopted. That the
trouble encountered was instigated by the Church was well
authenticated by the Church itself.
One time our criada in Mexico City brought us a little
pamphlet published by the Church and circulated surreptitiously
by the people. It listed the things that the Church had
done during the past month--the haciendas they d burned,
the trains they d destroyed, and the bridges blown up.
The fight between the Church and the government started
shortly after I arrived. The Calles regime had confiscated
large Church-owned properties as part of the revolutionary
land reform program. I was in the city of Chihuahua on t h e
Sunday on which the churches were closed. I was awakened
by the unusual silence. I had become accustomed to the din
of church bells in the morning. I got dressed and walked
over to the main cathedral about two blocks frtfn the hotel
where I found soldiers guarding the church entrance and
groups of people standing around wondering what to do.
Although violence was anticipated there was none, at least
where I was. The Church fight continued as long as I was
in Mexico. Every train I traveled on had one or two armored
The attitude of the conservative supporters of the Church
was revealed to me one evening during the Hoover-Al Smith
Presidential campaign. Mr. Gomez Palacio, a Cornell-trained
engineer whom I got to know intimately, expressed his opinion
that if Al Smith should win, the fight against the Church
in Mexico would be stopped. During the conversation he
said that he contributed regularly to the Church s attacks
on trains, etc. The motive, he said, was to embarrass the
government. When I told him that all of the Americans I
had talked to were mad at the Church rather than the
government when a hacienda was burned or a train derailed,
he was nonplussed but unconvinced.
Was all of this trouble a part of the Church fight? What
about the bandit stories we hear about?
Packard: Of course, not all of the troubles involved the Church. There
was one case in Durango, for example, where a bandit named
Galindo almost dominated the area around Guatimape". Nobody
ever dared go out very far alone because they were afraid
of being caught by Galindo and held for ransom. He con
sidered himself to be a kind of Robin Hood. He called
himself General Galindo. One time when the engineers were
examining a possible dam site not far from Guatimape" in
came a cavalcade of horses and the men,with Galindo at the
head. The group rode into camp. Galindo dismounted and,
on seeing the wife of one of the engineers standing by the
entrance to her tent, advanced and introduced himself.
He said he wanted the Chinese cook to prepare a meal for
all his men. They were hungry and wanted something to eat.
When Mr. Hardy, the project manager appeared, he complied
with Galindo s demand. But to be on the safe side, Galindo
had the Chinese cook sample everything before he would
let his men eat or drink.
While waiting for the meal to be prepared Galindo
visited with Mrs. Cosset, whose small daughter was with
her. He took the girl s cup and tied it on his saddle and
gave her his cup in exchange, saying that she should
remember this as a gift from General Galindo. Mrs. Cosset
then said that she would like a memento, too. So Galindo
pulled one of his pistols out of its holster and gave her
a bullet saying that she was the only person who had ever
Packard: received a bullet from Galindo s gun and still lived.
( Laughter )
After lunch he made a talk to his men telling them that
what the Americans were doing was good for his country and that
nothing should be done to interfere with the work. Following
this talk he had a conference with Mr. Hardy, demanding
15,000 pesos as protection money. I never knew whether or
not this protection money was ever paid, but I presume it
Baum: Was this the old protection shakedown?
Packard: Yes, it was. But it had a romantic Mexican touch not associated
with gangland in the states.
Baum: How did it all end, or don t you know?
Packard: The government decided to put a stop to it. One technique
was to have some one of Galindo s family on every train going
in or out of Durango. Mrs. Galindo usually was carried
on the Guatimape 1 run which penetrated Galindo territory.
Finally things got so hot that Galindo agreed to surrender
at an hacienda near Guatimap that was owned by a graduate
from the College of Agriculture of the University of Cal
ifornia. But Galindo sensed a plot and in place of surrender
ing, he left Mexico. The last I heard of him was a rumor
that he was working as a laborer on the Southern Pacific
tracks in California.
Near the end of Galindo s career a group of soldiers
known as the Black Battalion came into Guatimap hacienda,
Packard: carrying a black flag. The leader boasted that he was out
to get Galindo. He did his best but he, rather than Galindo,
met his death. His body was found in a ravine some days
Perhaps these stories are not significant enough to be
included in this account.
Baum: Oh, yes they are. They illustrate a phase of the Mexican
problem which should be understood.
Packard: Well, in that case there are two or three other incidents
which I might tell about.
One time when I was returning from Guatimape" to Durango
by car at night we saw the central part of town all lighted
up. It was midnight when the town was usually dark. When
we reached the hotel we found all of our friends in the lobby
talking about an attack that was expected at almost any
time. A large Christero force was advancing toward the
town from the south. A cavalry unit had been sent out to
stop them, but no word had been received from them. Anxiety
ended when the government force returned with the body of
the Indian leader with a bullet hole in his forehead. His
body was placed on exhibition in the center of the town
There was plenty of precedent for this sort of thing.
I have a vivid recollection of the postcard pictures of
Pancho Villa s bullet-ridden body when he was ambushed coming
into Durango from the hacienda where he was living.
Baum: This didn t occur while you were there, did it?
Packard: Oh no. Villa was killed some years before that.
During part of the time I was in Durango the government
forces were commanded by a general whom I consider to be
a rather despicable character. His headquarters were in
the hotel where I stayed part of the time. He had two
police dogs to protect him from surprise attack. He often
sat at the dining room table with his chair reversed straddling
the chair as he would a horse. He was feared by everyone
because he had despotic powers. I do not know how many
people were shot while I was there, but rumor set the
figure rather high. One story concerned a peon who had
been brought in by the soldiers charged with holding up
a railway station. The general was reported to have said,
"Shoot him tonight, I ll hear the evidence in the morning."
This was no stranger than the incident reported in
one of the Mexico City newspapers during an attempted rev
olution in the state of Vera Cruz. The headline reported
the President as ordering that a captured general should
receive a fair trial and that his body should then be shipped
to Mexico City for burial. ( Laughter )
A psychological type of torture was illustrated by
the way the major domo on a ranch, once a part of the
Guatimapg Hacienda owned by Dr. Gray, was treated.
He was arrested at the order of the general because he was
an ardent Catholic and was supposed to be backing the Church
Packard: in the current fight with the government. He was held in
jail for several weeks and was told at intervals that he
was to be shot that night. Finally he was taken out at
night to the adobe wall where the executions took place,
lined up against the wall, and then told to go home which
he did without argument.
While I was in Guatimape 1 one of the railroad bridges
was blown up by the Christeros. A peon suspected of having
a part in the dynamiting was caught and hung on a telephone
pole which I had to pass when I went back and forth. The
hanging body was supposed to be a warning. It was still
there when I left.
Baum: It doesn t sound like an entirely safe place to work.
Packard: I was, of course, always in danger of being captured and
held for ransom. But there was nothing else to do. I
was there and I seldom felt any fear myself. I didn t
think that anything would happen to me. But I did come
pretty close to danger at different times. One time in
a state in central Mexico, I was making a reconnaissance
survey of quite an area. I was in a car and was driving
on byroads and sometimes just paths going through the
brush. I knew that in that general territory there was a
threat of a battle between the Christeros and the government
forces. I was warned not to go, but again, I didn t think
there was any danger. But when I was going down a narrow
road lined by maguey plants on both sides I was suddenly
Packard: faced by a group of about twenty armed men all on horseback
with cartridge belts across their chests, in good Mexican
style. I had about ten rifles pointed at me and 1 was
ordered to stop. And I stopped. ( Laughter ) I found that
they were agaristas who were friendly to the government.
They thought I was a spy and that I was a very suspicious
character. They intended to arrest me. But the Mexican
engineers who were with me convinced them that it was all
right, that we were working for the government. We had
government papers to prove it. And so they rather reluctantly
let us go.
Another time when I was traveling with the head of the
commission, Mr. Sanchez Mejorada, when we were stopped by
a mob in a village. They carried stones, muzzle -load ing
guns, and knives and were very belligerent. I never
knew just why they were suspicious of us, but they were
very threatening. Mr. Mejorada got out of the car and
walked right into the center of the group. He stood shoulders
above the people around him. He met the mayor of the town
and convinced him that we were all right. And so they let
us on through. But that was a time when I was really quite
Two more incidents, both involving Clara, stand out in
my memory. The first ocurred when we attempted to make
a short cut by driving down a creek bed. When trying to
cross a sand bar, the car suddenly sank to the running
Packard: board in quicksand. The driving wheel just churned up wet
sand. As we surveyed the situation, Indian faces began to
appear through the brush lining the stream. We motioned
for help but not for quite a while did the Indians consent
to help by getting logs and stones to build a solid foundation
on which we could back out. We paid them well and convinced
them that we were friends.
The other incident occurred when we drove into the
town of Ixmiquilpan in the state of Hidalgo. I parked the
car in the inside patio of the hotel. Clara was wearing
khaki riding pants and boots. I noticed that the little
daughter of the proprietor looked rather puzzled. Clara
went to her room and changed her clothes. When she came
out the little girl ran to her mother saying, "Senorita,
sefiorita." ( Laughter ) Later on the patio was filled,
crowded with people watching and betting on a series of
cock fights where the cocks were armed with razor sharp
steel spurs fastened to their legs. Such fights were often
fatal to both birds. The next afternoon I could not find
Clara anywhere around the patio until I entered the bar
room. There she was sitting at a table with three haviendados
in full Mexican regalia including pistols. They were playing
a simple game of matching cards where the money was in
candy pesos which they had purchased for Clara.
There was one incident that illustrated the attitude
of the Spanish-Mexicans toward the Indians. There was a
Packard: big New Year s Eve party given by the American engineers
at Guatimapg who were living in one of the very large hacienda
buildings with rooms surrounding a great court. We invited
everyone to come to the party including the peons on the
property. Many of them came. But the Spanish -Mexicans
stayed away because of the peons attending this party.
We danced with all the Indian girls. We made no distinctions
at all. The next day, in talking to our Spanish-Mexican
friends, we found that they were quite shocked by our
Baum: Yes, it doesn t sound like the snobbery was American snobbery
but upper class Mexican snobbery.
Packard: Yes, exactly. There were two other illustrations of the
same thing at GuatimapS. There were two Texans that operated
a large ranch in the mountains about thirty miles north
of GuatimapS. They invited three American engineers and
myself to spend Christman at their hacienda. It was a
troubled time and it was rather dangerous to make the trip.
The Mexican driver of our car --we had two cars --was very
frightened. We drove to a pre-arranged point where the two
Texans met us with horses.
Baum: Were the Mexican car drivers afraid of being captured by
bandits or by revolutionaries?
Packard: By bandits. We got to the hacienda after a two hour ride
and attended a party that night. The peons came in on
horseback and on foot, all carrying rifles and side arms.
Packard: They tied their horses outside and came in, generally
wearing their very large sombreros and started dancing
in the dining room that had been cleared for the purpose.
I was very particular to dance with every Indian girl, so
there would be no prejudice shown. ( Laughter ) These
guns looked pretty impressive. I didn t want to get involved
in anything. ( Laughter ) But I left the party about one
o clock in the morning and went back to my room. In the
morning when it was time for breakfast. I found the
dancing still going on. So when they left they went out
to where they had their rifles stacked up, took the guns
and went away. That night we listened to the radio and
heard the mounties who were snowed in, in British Columbia,
sending messages to their friends in Eastern Canada.
Still another incident illustrates another phase of
the Mexican problem as I saw it. I was a guest of the
Irsokis whose hacienda joined Guatimape". They had re-
occupied the Casa Grande which had been used by the peons
during the Pancho Villa days. He was rather ruthless, I
thought, in keeping peons away from the vicinity of the
house. He would angrily say, "Eso es mi casa." We drove
around the fields to inspect some special plantings of wheat,
which occupied land almost immediately adjacent to the
long rows of the peons abode houses. Irsoki saw some
stray pigs in the wheat patch and got very angry. He drove
back to the casa grande and got his shotgun. He intended
Packard: to shoot as many of the pigs as he could, I was invited
to go along but declined. I heard some shooting but chose
not to ask questions.
Social Life in Mexico; Influence of Ambassador and Mrs.
We haven t covered the diplomatic scene in Mexico City.
No, we haven t. But it is a very interesting subject
because Dwight Morrow brought a great change in the American s
attitude toward the Mexicans.
You were there before Morrow came down, is that right?
Walter was. I came down the same month, I think.
Could you notice the change in the atmosphere?
Oh yes, quite definitely. Both Mr. and Mrs. Morrow were
very sincerely interested in the Mexican people. They
began by breaking down any social barriers between the
Americans and the Mexicans. One subtle thing they did was
to invite Charles Lindbergh to come to Mexico City during
the height of his popularity. The attitude of the people
toward him was illustrated by the action of an old Mexican
who went to his church to ring the bells when Lindbergh
had just flown over. When asked why he was ringing the
bells he said, with tears in his eyes, "I m ringing them
for that young American who is going to bring peace to my
country." Lindbergh was advertised to arrive, I think,
about nine or ten o clock one morning, but nobody knew
exactly when. Radio communication hadn t been developed
to the point it has now. President Calles had a box seat
in bleachers built in a pasture that was the airport. He
came out early in the morning and sat for hours waiting
for Lindbergh to come. We drove out in a taxi and got
into the crowd. There were thousands upon thousands of
people, waiting, and waiting. I think they waited about
two or three hours. Finally they began looking into the
sky saying, "Eso es! Eso esl" (That is he!) And he finally
The next time I saw Lindy was at the American embassy
that day. And Anne Morrow was there. I remember seeing
her standing by the punch bowl talking to Lindy. Prohibition
was on in America at that time, so the embassy never officially
served anything intoxicating. So the punch conformed to the
laws at home. ( Laughter ) So Lindy stayed for several
days and there were big festivities, and parades in the
street, and dances.
Another thing Mrs. Morrow promoted was the Mexican
dancers. The women from Jalisco had a particularly spec
tacular costume which was perfectly beautiful. Very long,
with a great white headdress and starched skirts, white
and then purple over the white. I don t remember the
details of it now, but they brought those to the football
stadium in Mexico City hundreds of themand each area
had its own particular typical dance in costume. It was
very distinctive and beautiful. Then they had big athletic
It seemed to us that the arrival of Lindbergh sort of
sparked a new attitude on the part of the Mexican people.
There was a new spirit that the Morrows were trying to
develop. Lindy did more than anything else to spark it
all. Then, a little later the Morrows invited Will Rogers
down who was, again, another man who could understand the
Mexican people. And when he arrived at the station in
Mexico City President Calles was there to meet him. Will
Rogers said, "Remember, I m not a candidate for the presidency."
And Calles laughed and said, "That s lucky because we shoot
them before breakfast down here." Well, that was simply
a reflection of the unstable conditions at the time. The
candidate for the presidency, General Obregon had been shot.
No, he was elected president and he was assassinated after
he was elected. But several of the candidates for the
presidency were shot.
Will Rogers went out with the President on a special
presidential train and was, again, a man who created a lot
One time, to show the conditions, we were leaving for
Chihuahua on the El Paso train. And General Obregon had
a private car on the back of the train. As soon as the
3. Mrs. Packard s letters describing this period are included
in the Walter and Emma Packard papers in the Bancroft Library,
Packard: train pulled out he and his aides all came up into the
pulltnan car because they were afraid the private car would
be spotted by dynamiters and blown up. We went very slowly
because of the danger of being derailed. We had armored
cars on the train, in case of any hold up.
Baum: Was this loosening of social relations favored by the upper
class Mexicans, too, or was that mainly an appeal to the
middle classes and the lower classes?
Mrs. : I think it was largely to the upper class because the
Morrows had great wealth and social prestige. Wealth
is respected everywhere. If Mrs. Morrow did it, nobody
else dared do less, so to speak. In their case I think
it was largely the association with government people-
Mexican people in the government. Of course, the old
Diaz crowd were the "outs." Diaz had been defeated long
before, but that element was more or less on the "outs"
now. The new spirit and the new people were coming in
and it was a terribly mixed period. The generals were
politicians, of course, as they are in a good many Latin
American countries. Calles was a general and he was sup
posed, at the time, to be one of the better of the generals.
He did promote this land division and yet it was the custom
there, understood, that the President was supposed to have
two percent of the government contracts. At least, we
were told that. Anyway, Calles had plenty of money.
Baum: More than his presidential salary? ( Laughter ) Well, I
Baum: think that s a Latin American custom.
Packard: In any case the people that we met, the Mexicans, were in
general very high class people. One of the comments I
made at the time shows how I felt. This is a letter to
Professor Elliot Mears of Stanford, professor of geography.
I have been very much impressed with the integrity
and ability of the men in charge of affairs in Mexico.
Their efforts seem to be dominated by a sincere desire
to build up a social order suited to the needs of the
Mexican people. Many of the leaders are idealists.
But the program which has been adopted for the devel
opment of Mexico seems to be founded on a sound basis.
The agrarian reform is being followed up by the estab
lishment of a sound banking system, including a land
bank established on the principle of the Rural Credit
Institutions of Germany. Extensive programs of highway
development, irrigation development, and school exten
sion are being carried out. It will be years before
the results of the work being done are felt by the mass
of rural dwellers. So that there will be little change
in the emigration situation. It is probable that
Mexico will furnish agricultural labor for seasonal
Baum: What is the date on that letter?
Packard: It s not dated, but that would be in the spring of 1927.
At that time I gathered some statistical material
on the population of Mexico. There was a large German
population. This, of course, was after the First World
War. German capital has always gone into Latin America.
Germans are especially influential in Argentina and Brazil.
Of course, there are ex-Nazis among them. German men
tended to marry daughters of propertied Mexicans.
The Chinese were very important in Mexico. I think
there were more Chinese than any other single foreign
I wrote a report at that time, just a tentative report
for Dr. Mears, and this is it.
A report on race relations in Mexico. That sounds very
Daughter Emmy Lou Packard and Diego Rivera
I d like to hear about Emmy Lou s experience with Diego
Our first meeting with him was in Mexico City where
Emmy Lou and I went to join Walter and Clara in the fall
of 1927. Emmy Lou had been encouraged toward art in the
Peninsula School and we had heard much about the Mexican
Open Air Art Schools for the Mexican children, encouraged
and promoted by the artists and the government of President
Calles. Miss Bertha Heise, an artist cousin of Walter s,
told me a great deal about this movement before we went
to Mexico. So I enquired down there about Diego Rivera
who was said to be very much interested in the art work
of children. There were no classes available so I made
bold and went to see Diego, who was working at the time
on a big mural in the Secretariat of Education. He came
down from the scaffold and was very responsive and courteous
about it all and after looking at her work, he asked her
to come back in another week to show him more work. So
we continued doing that at intervals. He was very careful
not to criticize or discourage her. He would make suggestions
about improvement and ask her to come back again to see
him. Under this stimulus, she did a great deal of painting
during the four years we were in Mexico.
What kind of a person was he?
The first impression was of his being a huge man. He weighed
about three hundred pounds and moved slowly ponderously,
but gracefully. He was six feet tall but I remember his
hands were small. He looked very Mexican--black hair and
swarthy skin. He seemed gentle and affable, good-natured
and responsive. He understood some English and we understood
a little Spanish so we could communicate fairly well.
Was this your only meeting with him?
No. We had three other contacts with him here in California
and another in Mexico. We left Mexico in 1930 and lived
again in Palo Alto where Emmy Lou re-entered the Peninsula
School after she finished jr. high in Pasadena her first
year of high school. At that time--about 1931--Diego was
invited to do a mural in the San Francisco Stock Exchange
and he and his wife, Frida Kahlo, were living in the studio
of Ralph Stackpole on Montgomery Street. We went to see
them and invited them down to visit the Peninsula School
and see what that school was doing with children s art.
They came down and made the visit to the school and spent
the night with us at our home, "Casa Contenta," on Menlo
Oaks Drive. Emmy Lou had a Mexican "mural" on the school
wall actually done with poster paints on paperand one
of children and dogs, he liked the Mexican one as he said
it was good memory work, but disapproved of the other one
for not being a "memory" one. He seemed to think she had
the "feeling" and spirit of Mexico in her work.
When we were driving them back to the city, Diego was
nauseated by the "slaughter house" smell of the Pacific
Bone Coal Factory on El Camino Real. Frida was much amused
by the Fuller Paint sign along the highway near Third and
Bayshore where a life-sized man swept a paint brush across
the sign--"El hombre que pinta!" she exclaimed with
delight. I was recently reminded by Clara that we all went
to Rivera s studio for the unveiling of a portrait he had
done of Helen Wills, then at the height of her tennis
career. He had painted a scene in the transom above the
studio entry door of a Mexican mother sitting on the side
walk curbing while her small boy relieved himself toward
the heads of the entering guests! I wonder where that
picture is now? It was not "dirty" just very natural and
true to life in Mexico--at least at that period.
When was the next time you saw Rivera?
That was in the summer of 1940 when the Treasure Island
Fair was organized by San Francisco. Since our visit with
Diego in 1931, Emmy Lou had finished high school at the
Sequoia Union High School in Redwood City and had entered
the University of California at Berkeley. In 1933, Walter
took on a job with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration
and the family moved to Berkeley where we lived for a year
on Rock Lane. While doing Community Theater work in Palo
Alto, Emmy Lou had met Burton Cairns who had just graduated,
cum laude in architecture from U.C., and a romance developed
which ended in an elopement to Reno in the summer of 1934.
She remained in college until the next fall when their
son, Donald, was born on September 27, 1935. She had been
urged to take the editorship of The Pelican as she had been
working as Art Editor of the Daily Californian. However,
when the man who had been chosen as editor dropped out of
college, she returned to U.C. at the January semester in
1936 and became the first woman editor of The Pelican.
Did she finish college?
Yes, in 1936. In the meantime, Walter had been asked by
Rex Tugwell to take charge of the office of Region 9 of the
Resettlement Administration then being organized to meet
some of the problems of the great depression. An architectural
division was organized in this, to take over plans for low
cost housing in rural areas and several of the recent
graduates of U.C. architectural school were hired in this
division. Among them were Burton Cairns, Vernon DeMars,
Francis Violich, and Corwin Mocine, as well as Garrett
Eckbo. All of these men are now on the faculty of U.C.
at this writing, except Burton. Tragedy struck the family
when he was killed in an auto accident while on a tour of
inspection of housing projects in Oregon. While driving
with Garrett Eckbo in a rainstorm, his car slipped off the
narrow highway on a curve and was struck by an oncoming
bus. He was killed instantly and Garrett was in the hospital
for many months with a crushed leg and other injuries.
Donald was just past four years old. Burton was just thirty
and by this time was head of the Division of Architecture
for Region 9. (See clipping, San Francisco News , December 21,
What a tragedy! What did Emmy Lou do after that?
After closing up her apartment in San Francisco, she
and Donald came to Berkeley to live with us for awhile.
She enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts for
one semester to study fresco painting with Moya del Pino
and sculpture with Ralph Stackpole. Then she went to
New York to stay with Frances Adams, a long-time friend,
hoping she could get work in New York. While she was there
the Art-in-Action section of the Treasure Island Fair was
opened. Timothy Pfleuger, one of the leading architects
in San Francisco, was on the Fair Board and he induced Diego
to come to the Fair in 1940 and paint a big fresco mural,
which was designed by Mr. Pfleuger to be installed later
in the Library of San Francisco Junior College (now San
Francisco State College.)
There was much difficulty in getting Diego into th<2
country because of his avowed Communist sympathies. He
came for painter s wages. His helpers were paid by W.P.A. ,
except for a few non-W.P.A. volunteers, like Emmy Lou.
He paid her a small salary out of his own funds.
You mean house painter s wages?
Yes. It seems to me that the mural cost $4,000.00 for
1,650 square feet. I am told that it is now insured for
$100,000.00 where it is installed in the foyer of the
Little Theater of San Francisco City College. Incidentally,
it was designed for a much bigger space and the view of
it is from too close up for the best effect.
You said Emmy Lou was in New York. Did she come back on
a chance she might work on the mural?
Not exactly. I had heard that Diego was looking for assistants,
So I went over to see him at the fair (by this time he spoke
quite good English) and told him of Emmy Lou s situation
and that she had just completed a course in fresco painting.
So I asked him if he had any job for her. He said, "Yes,
I can use her." So I telegraphed her and she came back
and worked on the mural for the rest of the summer.
What kind of work did she do?
She and others did what they call under paint ing, which is
putting on the gray and black undercoat on the wet plaster.
After that Diego drew in the design and painted it in color
on top of the grays and blacks. Diego s chief assistant,
Arthur Niendorf, was often given such technical jobs as
painting in the Shell Building where accuracy of detail
was required. Emmy Lou was allowed to paint in color, too.
She painted most of the blue Bay and such details as the barbed
wire in the Charlie Chaplin panel. He gave her a corner
one day of a Mexican village and said, "Let s see if you
remember your Mexican villages." He stressed the importance
of memory for a fresco painter. She put on the color as
well as the detail in this area and he was satisfied with
it. The mural was designed for the Library of the San
Francisco Junior College (now San Francisco City College)
which had been designed by Tim Pfleuger. Tim Pfleuger
died in the 40 s and the library was not built for a long
time. Tim s brother Milton and the firm continued to
construct the buildings, but decided to place the mural
in the theater instead of the Library.
The mural was finished in 1940, but was not installed until
1961--why was that?
In the first place, the buildings were not yet ready for
it. So the mural was stored in sections. Then about that
time, when World War II was brewing in Europe there was
a great furor over communism and people got very excited
about Diego since he was a professed communist and it seemed
wise to play down the mural and it was stored until 1961.
You may remember that his mural was in the Stock Exchange--
which is headquarters of capitalism, shall we say? ( Laughter )
Was that when Trotsky was murdered?
Yes, Trotsky was assassinated. In fact, Diego at that time
called himself a trotskyite. He changed. He was a variable
person in his ideology. His ideas were based more on emotion
than reason, probably. He was for the Indian, the Mexican-
Indian, the mestizo he was "for the people." When Trotsky
was banished from Russia he went to Mexico and Diego gave
him asylum for a time. Later, they quarreled and Trotsky
moved to another apartment. He was assassinated while
Diego was here working on the mural at the Fair. Frida,
Diego s wife, got word to Diego as quickly as possible.
He was very much frighcened as he always had been much
afraid, himself, of being assassinated.
Did he seem to have an abnormal fear of assassination?
Yes , though I think it would be rather normal in view of
the things that he had been doing. People were being
assassinated who were working on revolutionary activities
and he had been active in promoting the Mexican Revolution.
He had led communist parades in Mexico City and exposed
himself to dangers of that kind.
What did he do about this situation?
Because of this fear, he had always refused to ride in
taxis, so one of Emmy Lou s duties was to drive him back and
forth from his studio to the Fair. Now, he was afraid to
sleep in his apartment on Telegraph Hill, so she drove him
back to Berkeley and he slept in Walter s garden studio
for the next two weeks and had his breadfast with us.
But he went back to work on the mural everyday, coming
back here at night. The mural was under heavy guard but
nothing happened so he finally went back to his own quarters.
What about his wife, Frida? Did she come up, too.
Yes, she was here part of the time during his staythey had
broken up the marriage and he was emotionally upset some
of the time because of that. Frida, herself, was a striking
sight in her Jalisco costume. She had long black hair,
into which she braided strands of bright colored yarn and
would wind this around her head. She often had flowers
arranged in the yarn as well. With this she wore native
Mexican costumes purples and Mexican pinks, with a full
white ruffle around the bottom of the long skirt. When
she walked down Market Street, she practically stopped traffic!
She was "little, but Oh My!" and a very good artist herself.
They were remarried in a simple ceremony in San Francisco
while she was up here.
What did all this emotional conflict do to the mural?
It had its effect, all right. Diego was temperamental by
nature and this did not help any. We especially remember
one dramatic day because we were involved in it until
2 a.m. the next morning. It happened that he did some work
on the mural which did not suit him at all. He was frus
trated all that day and none of his helpers could do anything
right. Finally, with his work on the wet plaster still
unfinished, he threw a temper tantrum, broke his brushes
in two and gouged out the work he had done . Then he said ,
"get me out of here." So Emmy Lou got the car and they
drove on the highway toward Palo Alto. He went sound asleep
and slept and slept and slept. And she drove on and on and
Finally they came to Dinah s Shack near Palo Alto and
Diego woke up and they went to the restaurant. It was
past closing time but the waiters recognized Diego so asked
him in and gave him a feast. After that, they drove back
to the city where he got off at his apartment and she
arrived home in Berkeley about 2 a.m.
Did you know what was happening?
No, but we were becoming very worried because she did not
come home, as she usually phoned us if she would be late.
The first hint we had of something unusual was a phone call
from the two plasterers who followed orders to prepare
the wet plaster for the next day s work. They asked,
"Do you know where Diego is?" I said, "No." "Then do you
know where Emmy Lou is?" Still we had no worX when they
called again at 11 p.m. Diego usually left orders about
the space to be filled by the plasterers which must be
exactly right or the work next day could not proceed.
Diego was very exacting about his technique and if the
plaster was not right, he could throw a fit about it and
most of the crew were afraid of him, though Emmy Lou never
was and probably he liked her the better for that. He was
a very powerful personality and with his huge bulk could
look very menacing. I don t suppose he would have hurt a
fly, but he d make such a show of it that he scared them.
How did this end?
Emmy Lou arrived at our home at 2 a.m. and told us the story.
I don t remember what happened to the mural the next day! !
But it was finally finished and the quote from Diego below
is from a San Francisco paper, with a photo called "Last
Touches," showing him and his assistant, Emmy Lou Packard
working on the mural: "Of the 74 feet x 22 feet mural he
said, in part: I have never painted a better thing, whether
in plastic qualities, composition, or coloring. .. it is
a result of all my previous experiences as a painter:
because it is a synthesis of seventeen years of work. "
The mural was put in storage because the building was not
ready for it and Diego finally went back to Mexico.
Does Emmy Lou think that he influenced her painting?
I can t quite answer that myself. But I can quote a little
from the art critics who judged her exhibit of Mexican
paintings after she spent the next year in Mexico, living
in the home of Diego and Frida, where she assisted him in
his gallery during 1941. Alfred Frankenstein, critic for
the San Francisco Chronicle, said, (Nov. 23, 1953) : "Emmy
Lou Packard, at Gump s, works a switch on the customary
Mexican formula, for she reflects the American scene in
a style clearly beholden to Diego Rivera. This is true,
at least, in her numerous color woodcuts ... .her best achieve
ment, however, is in the water colors. Here Miss Packard
uses a palette as pungent as Gaugin s. ... these water colors
are big stuff. They will inevitably take command of any
room in which they are hung, for a brilliant and positive
personality stands behind them..."
I believe that phase of her work is past since much of
the likeness to Diego lay in the fact that they were both
painting scenes of Mexico. But she has the skill of expressing
much with a few lines, as does Diego and no doubt there was
some unconscious imitation, in method as well as subject
Did this end your association with Diego Rivera?
No. After the Fair was over, Emmy Lou and I drove him
to Brownsville, Texas, where he took a plane for Mexico
City. We drove her car on to Mexico City and she spent
about a year there where she lived with Frida and Diego
in their house in Coyoacan and studio in San Angel. She
did secretarial work, letters and typing for Diego and helped
measure the top floor of the National Palace for the frescoes
he was to paint there. She also prepared canvasses for
painting. She also painted many oils and water colors
which she exhibited at Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San
Francisco on her return home, as cited above.
There was one personal incident that was rather funny.
Emmy Lou and I were having lunch with Sanchez Mejorada.
He was the Chief of the National Irrigation Commission
with whom I had worked in the late 1920 s and a man of
very high standing. And he didn t know that Diego was going
to call for us in the afternoon with his car to take us
somewhere. And so when he showed up and a mozo (a man
servant) came in to announce very excitedly, "Diego Rivera
is outside, he s calling for you." And Sanchez Mejorada
looked at Emmy Lou and at me and said, "Is that so?" And
I said, "Why yes, but he was to come much later than this.
But since he s here I d like to have you meet him." So
we all went out. And Diego got out of his car and was
very gracious and all. Sanchez Mejorada detested Diego,
and was taken aback by his calling for us, his good friends.
And then when he was getting into his car he was so heavy
and fat that he had difficulty getting both of his pistols
into the front seat. He d cram one pistol in and then get
his behind in and then cram the other pistol in. ( Laughter )
He wore two pistols?
Yes. And then we all got in the back seat and we drove off.
( Laughter ) And Sanchez Mejorada was standing with his
mouth open, wondering what had happened to Packard. ( Laughter )
One other incident deserves mention in connection with the
visit Diego made to see the Telesis exhibit our architecture
crew put on at the San Francisco Museum of Art.
What is Telesis?
I can answer that best by quoting from a letter to the San
Francisco Chronicle of May 30, 1966, written by Garrett
Eckbo, now chairman, College of Environmental Design, University
Twenty-six years ago a group of young professional
planners and designers, calling itself Telesis, Envir
onmental Research Group, put on an exhibit called "Space
for Living" at the San Francisco Museum of Art. This
exhibit attempted to deal comprehensively with the spaces
in which we live, work and play and with the services
which they require.
The group of young men mentioned previously as being now
on the faculty were among the members of this group.
Recently I found a letter that I had written to Emmy Lou
while she was in New York and I quote as follows:
The Telesis boys wanted to get Diego to see their
exhibit, so I arranged for him to go over there this
morning. I drove over to Stackpole s house and got
him about 10 a.m. and took him over to Clay Street
where the boys are fixing the exhibit. Vernon (DeMars) ,
Joseph McCarthy, Garrett Eckbo and two or three others
were there. Diego was very much interested in it
really wasand spent nearly two hours with them. The
upshot was that he is going to draw a design for one
pannel for them--and make a statement to be used in the
prospectus they are getting out. He is also interested
in the migrant camps and is going to make a trip to
Yuba City with us and Vernon some time next week. . .
Baum: Does this finish Emmy Lou s association with Diego Rivera?
I do not remember that she ever saw him after she came back
from Mexico. But there was another incident connected with
the mural. Due to an accident while in storage, a hole was
punched in it, about a foot in diameter. Diego was asked
to come back and repair it. He refused to come but he
commissioned Emmy Lou to do the work. She has the contract
and correspondence concerning this in her files. The work
was not done until years after Diego died and the mural
was to be installed at City College in 1961. Emmy Lou
finally did the work of repairing the damage, as well as
the finishing work around the edges and frames of the mural.
She obtained color photographs from Life magazine files and
copied them as exactly as possible, for color. I believe
this covers the whole Rivera association with Emmy Lou.
Two Mistakes and A Lesson
Packard: The mistake I made in buying land in Imperial Valley
when I was superintendent of the Imperial Valley Experiment
Farm was duplicated on a larger scale when I was in Mexico.
While staying in Durango I met Dr. Harry Gray, an eye
specialist who was also interested in land. He came to
Mexico at the invitation of Juan Lasoya, whom he met in
Canada where Gray owned a large wheat ranch. When things
settled down after Villa s retirement, Mr. Lasoya returned
to his Guatimape Hacienda to resume operations. He sold
a tract of 7,000 acres of "temporal" land, that is, rainfall
farming land, to Dr. Gray, and together they got a Mennonite
colony started some miles north of GuatimapS. Although
Dr. Gray had an office in Durango and was known throughout
Packard: the area as an eye doctor, he spent much of his time in
operating his ranch. At planting time in June he would
arrange to have forty or more mules driven overland from
the Laguna district near Torreon to GuatimapS when the
mules were no longer needed in the large cotton fields.
When the corn and oats were planted the mules were driven
All of this rather fascinated me and I was induced to
loan Gray some money for operating costs. One thing led
to another until I found I had to exchange my loan to a
part interest in the property. In retrospect, I can t imagine
why I made this move, expecially in view of my interest
in the land reform program. But I did, and there was no
objection voiced by the Commission when I informed them of
my partnership. In any event, this part of Mexico proved
to be part of the Dust Bowl. The crop which came up with
the first rain looked very promising. But it just didn t
rain again and we hardly got our seed back. I traded what
equity I had left to some Mennonites who, so far as I know,
are still there. Unfortunately the equity was not enough
to pay my debts, so when I returned to California at the
height of the great stock market crash I was a true dust-
bowler. ( Laughter )
This highly educational experience, however, was not
the only one. On a trip from Monterey to Mexico City
during the month which Mr. Salorzano gave me to finish
Packard: my work, I met three men who introduced themselves as pro
spective investors in Mexico. They had a compilation of
endorsements about two inches thick. I recognized many
of the names of nationally known people, including a brother
of the Secretary of the Navy, Denby. I was impressed by
their seeming interest in the development of Mexico through
the investment of American capital and know-how. Dr. Gray
had a dozen large haciendas listed for sale at what seemed
to be ridiculously low prices per acre. This list included
some forest properties in Durango belonging to a Mr.
Hartmann, a German resident of Mexico City, who also owned
or controlled some rather extensive hardwood timber lands
in the tropical lowlands. These properties seemed to be
just what the Hoovers wanted.
Baum: The Hoovers you say. Were they related to Herbert Hoover?
I heard that you had reported unfavorably on a land devel
opment project being promoted by Herbert Hoover s brother in
Packard: No, there was no relationship whatever between H. T. and
Bruce Hoover, the brothers who were the prime operators
in the Mexican venture, and Herbert Hoover. I did advise
against a proposed land development plan on the West Side
of the San Joaquin Valley but that had nothing to do with
the Mexican Hoovers who proved to be completely unscrupulous,
One thing led to another. Through Hartmann s interests,
the manager of the Mexico City branch of the Bank of Canada
Packard: became involved. Having been dismissed from my position
with the Comision Nacional de Irrigacion, as previously
recorded, I agreed to accept a job with the Hoovers as
their Mexican representatives at a promised salary of
$15,000.00 per year. I say promised because they only paid
me $600.00 per month for the few weeks I worked for them.
I collected a long list of options on properties offered
by Dr. Gray and Hartmann and then proceeded to Chicago,
purportedly to meet the board of directors of what
I thought was a corporation. I had become suspicious of
the Hoovers who I found were not interested in my analyses
of the properties. All they wanted to know was the price
and the acreage which, when combined, seemed to provide
a basis for profits in resale rather than in operational
When I got to Chicago, I found that the Hoovers and
their associates were selling "units of interest" in an
enterprise that was to take the properties over for exploit
ation. The "units of interest" said, in fine print, that
the Hoovers would turn the properties over at cost and would
not make any profit until the properties were in operation
and that then their profits would be confined to 2 percent
of the profits. But I knew this to be completely false.
The options I had gathered from Gray and Hartmann were
being turned over to the syndicate for about fifteen times
the option price. When I confronted the Hoovers with this,
Packard: I was told that I would be taken into the inner circle and
would make half a million dollars or more if I went along.
I was not surprised but floored. What kind of a gang was
I dealing with? I laid the matter before the syndicate
attorney whom I soon found to be the legal architect of the
whole deceitful scheme. I collected what money I could and
resigned, not, however, until I had a chance to get the
Better Business Bureau of Chicago to make a photostatic
copy of one of the units of interest, copies of which I
was not supposed to have access to.
I returned to Mexico and exposed the syndicate to the
American Embassy and to the American Chamber of Commerce,
and, of course, to my Mexican friends. A year or so later
I was given a subpoena by a federal marshall in San Francicso
to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago on the Hoover
case. I told my story and on two subsequent occasions I
appeared as a government witness in two trials in Chicago.
The first trial ended with eleven votes for conviction
on every count. The twelfth juror had obviously been
bribed by the Hoovers. The second trial before a judge
failed to convict. I was told by the district attorney
for whom I testified that the judge was hand in glove with
the crooked syndicate attorney.
In any case, I had some satisfaction during the first
trial. I was the first government witness and faced a
battery of seven Chicago lawyers , headed by a man who had
Packard: been chief justice of the Supreme Court in Illinois. I
was able to get a statement in, re the "units of interest."
What followed was interesting. It went like this. Defense
attorney: "Do you have one of those units of interest you
speak about?" Answer: "No, I do not." The defense attorney
then turned to the jury and said dramatically, "This
witness is trying to convince you that these so-called
units exist when, in fact, they do not and never have."
I interrupted to say that his statement was not true.
Defense attorney again: "What proof- have you got?" I
then told of having had the Better Business Bureau make
a photostatic copy of one of the "units of interest." I
said, "I have that copy in my pocket. Would you like to
see it?" The defense attorney said, "No.", and gathered
up his papers to return to his desk for a conference with
his six associates while the jury laughed. ( Laughter )
I wish it were possible to delete this part of my
Mexican experience because I am ashamed of having been
taken in by these two ventures, the partnership with
Gray and the association with the Chicago syndicate. In
retrospect I would say that three factors were perhaps
involved. 1. A desire for big profits and income at the
very height of the post-war boom. 2. My need of a job
when my employment with the Mexican government ended.
(I had lost all contact with any job opportunities in
California and didn t know where to turn). 3. A peculiar
Packard: nostalgic love of a childish Mexican illusion, rooted
perhaps, in the Henty stories of the eighteen-year-old
rider on a black mustang headed for the rim-rock country
and adventure .
I was influenced to a degree by the success which an
American had made of a cattle ranch between Durango and
Torreon. Mr. Bell was representing the Cudahy Packing
Company and seemed to me to demonstrate what could be done
with adequate capital and know-how. His living quarters
were very attractive including a large well-cared-for garden
and fruit orchard. Whatever the factors were that influenced
me , I came out of the Mexican experience a more mature and
much wiser man.
Walter Packard, Emma Packard, Burton Cairns holding Donald, age 3.
Berkeley - 1938.
Walter Packard, Army Educa
tional Corps, A.E.F., France
t r? p c